Saturday, January 31, 2015
It is astonishing that the debate in Western circles on what (or what not) to do about ISIS has seemed largely innocent of history and indifferent to the pattern of consistent futility and failure in the West’s efforts to impose its will on the non-Western world.
A new movement that claims to restore the lost power and glories of Islam, is actually the ultimate stage in the crisis that has afflicted the Arab Muslim civilization since its loss of unity in the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the last political manifestation of a united Islam.
The rise of a radical popular movement demanding that a lost golden age be restored to a fragmented and culturally distraught society occurred at least twice in 19th-century China (the Taiping and Boxer rebellions) and in colonial India (the so-called Sepoy Mutiny) and Sudan (with the Mahdi Mohamed Ahmed, to take only the best known instances of such uprisings against imperial powers.
This is a modern phenomenon. In the West during the medieval Age of Religion the promised paradise was held to exist outside of time and would only be opened at the end of the dolor of earthly existence by the arrival of the Messiah. The Millennium marked the end of secular time, when human history would have run its course and the “Thousand Years” of heavenly reign begun—as promised in the Book of Revelation.
Marxism was the secular translation of that religious promise, promulgated by the new prophets: Marx himself, Engels, Mao Tse-tung. A secularized prophecy was necessary because God had been assassinated in the European Enlightenment.
On both sides, the Palestinian conflict has acquired the quality—to borrow the adjective contrived by Israeli politicians—of an “existential” struggle. Death to the loser.
Israel was eventually confirmed in its impulse to possess all of the Holy Land, at whatever cost to the Palestinians, initially dismissed in Israeli propaganda discourse as an insignificant body of wandering tribesmen.
In Bush’s government, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2008, “Democratic state-building is now an urgent component in our national interest” reflecting a “uniquely American realism” teaching that it is America’s job “to change the world,” and in its own image.
The two sides in this renewal of George W. Bush’s War Against Global Terror—Jews and Christians in the West and their Arab enemies—both consider themselves “people of the Book” and descendants of the Prophet Abraham. They have now become in their own minds actors in the apocalyptic destiny described in the Book of Revelation.
Many American Evangelical Protestants have convinced themselves that contemporary American foreign policy can only be understood in such a context.
Moreover, Washington’s conduct since 2001 has undermined or deliberately subverted institutions of international order to which, in the past, the United States was a leading contributor.
The codes of international justice and morality, developed in the Western community of nations since the 17th century, have when expedient been disregarded or rejected, with demands that the United States be exempted from the jurisdiction of international law and even from what until recently were accepted norms of international morality concerning human rights and national sovereignty.
An assimilation of modern totalitarian influences, values, and practices occurred in the United States after 2001, with state assassinations, selective drone killings, disregard of due process, torture, and permanent incarceration without trial justified by American leaders in their conduct of what has amounted to a war, not really of religions, as such, but between absolutisms, the one religious, and the other, ours, a political culture of extreme and solipsistic millenarian nationalism.
Americans have attempted to make themselves oligarchs of the modern Arab Islamic world, introducing invasions and wars whose actual effect has been to envenom an immense part of the Arabs of the Middle East and validate the vengeance they and their leaders have sought to inflict on us.
What the previous attempts accomplished was destruction and the generation of seething hatred of the United States in much of the Islamic world.
Washington has now appointed itself leader of still another and predictably unsuccessful military intervention, in which tens or hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, if this continues, may eventually die.
Friday, January 30, 2015
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John R. Allen conspired with General David Petraeus to sabotage the Syria peace plan at the Geneva 1 Conference. President Barack Obama had him placed under surveillance and managed to prevent his appointment as head of NATO. However, he managed to stay in office despite the charges against him (while Petraeus was forced to resign from the leadership of the CIA). Become commander of the anti-Daesh Military Coalition, he supports the shenanigans that General Petraeus leads from the Kohlberg Kravis Roberts Global Institute. He is director of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the think tank of "liberal hawks".
When, in 2001, President George W. Bush decided to place Syria on his list of targets to destroy, he had three objectives:
Breaking the "Axis of Resistance" and encouraging Israeli expansion;
Laying hands on the huge gas reserves;
Reshaping the "Broader Middle East".
Laying hands on the huge gas reserves;
Reshaping the "Broader Middle East".
Several months ago, I explained that the Daesh project corresponds with the new US map of the division of the Middle East, published by Robin Wright in The New York Times in 2013 . In continuation of the Sykes-Picot, the US plan aimed to further drastically reduce Syria. Also, when the US - after having waited for Daesh to complete the ethnic cleansing in Iraq for which they had been created - began bombing the jihadists, the question arose as to whether the liberated areas of Daesh would or would not be returned to Baghdad and to Damascus.
As the United States has refused to coordinate its military action against Daesh with Syria, and in view of the fact that Russia is preparing a peace conference, "liberal hawks" in Washington have set new goals.
The "peace" plan of the "liberal hawks" consists therefore in achieving the original goals by dividing Syria in two: an area governed by Damascus and another by "moderate rebels" (read: the Pentagon). The Republic is to have the capital and the Mediterranean coast; the Pentagon: the Syrian desert and gas reserves (that is to say the Daesh zone liberated by the bomber raids of General John Allen). According to their own records, "liberal hawks" would leave only 30% of the territory to the Syrian People!
- Remodelling map according Robin Wright
The principle is simple: at present, the Republic controls all major cities except Rakka and a small part of Aleppo, but no one can claim to control a vast desert, neither the government nor the jihadists. So the Pentagon suggests that what is not clearly governed by Damascus rightfully belongs to its mercenaries!
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Abu Nasr Al-Farabi (872 – 950)
Also known as Alpharabius. Arab scientist and philosopher, considered as one of the preeminent thinkers of medieval era.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
In 9th century Spain, Muslim inventor Abbas ibn Firnas designed a flying machine -- hundreds of years before da Vinci drew plans of his own.
- Bridge Mill: The bridge mill was a unique type of watermill that was built as part of the superstructure of a bridge. The earliest record of a bridge mill is from Córdoba, Spain in the 12th century.
- Vertical-Axle windmill: A small wind wheel operating an organ is described as early as the 1st century AD by Hero of Alexandria. The first vertical-axle windmills were eventually built in Sistan, Persia as described by Muslim geographers. These windmills had long verticaldriveshafts with rectangle shaped blades. They may have been constructed as early as the time of the second Rashidun caliph Umar (634-644 AD), though some argue that this account may have been a 10th-century amendment. Made of six to twelve sails covered in reed matting or cloth material, these windmills were used to grind corn and draw up water, and used in the gristmilling and sugarcane industries. Horizontal axle windmills of the type generally used today, however, were developed in Northwestern Europe in the 1180s.
Mercuric chloride (formerly corrosive sublimate): used to disinfect wounds
Cutting edge! Countless surgical instruments in a modern medical theater were brought to us by Al Zahrawi (Father of Modern Surgery). Thanks to his monkey nibbling on his lute string, the Muslim doc discovered that catgut used for internal stitches would dissolve naturally and could also make medicine capsules.
Renowned for stunning calligraphy, it should come as no surprise that the fountain pen was developed in in the Arab world. The demanding Sultan of Egypt Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah insisted that his minions create a pen that wouldn’t cause ink stains. And the fountain pen was born, making your handwriting look more beautiful since 953 AD.
Ahh pay day - well known instigators of reckless spending, we have the ancient Arabs to thank for our monthly cheques. The first recorded instance of a written pledge for goods instead of cash comes from the Arabic saqq. Although somewhat obsolete in the world of PIN codes, their legacy will remain.
Since cleanliness is a central part of the Quran, it should come as no surprise that soap originates from the region. Keeping greasy hair and smelly pits at bay for centuries, Muslim brainboxes as early as 2800 B.C. were working up a lather in Babylon. Perhaps the most useful invention of all time, wouldn't you say?
With scorching temperatures and a plethora of desert creepy crawlies, it’s no wonder that the Arabs devised the first vaccinations. Muslim Indians brewed a successful vaccination for smallpox as early as 1000 BC but it wasn’t until the wife of the British ambassador in Turkey began exporting it to Europe in 1724 that it went viral.
Although the Chinese are credited with inventing saltpetre gunpowder, the Arabs figured out that the saltpetre gunpowder can be purified using potassium nitrate. In the 15th century, Arabs invented a rocket which they called a “self-moving and combustion egg”, and they called the torpedo a “self-propelled pear-shaped bomb”.
Islamic architecture is known to be the first style of architecture to adopt pointed arches. Europe’s gothic architecture later borrowed this characteristics for their cathedrals. The Middle East itself has moved out of its gothic teenage phase and, as shown by the Gulf, is now into opulent buildings like the Burj Al Khalifa in Dubai.
As the world goes camera crazy and snaps up selfies, let’s remember who we should thank for Kodak moments! Ibn al-Haytham, the “father of optics,” was the first person to realise that light enters through the eye and with this knowledge, he crafted the first pinhole camera. The world has been anything but camera-shy since.
Monday, January 26, 2015
Islamic Democracy refers to a political ideology that seeks to apply Islamic principles to public policy within a democratic framework. In practice, there are three kinds of political systems in the Muslim-majority countries today; the basis of the distinction between them has to do with how comprehensively Islam is incorporated into the affairs of the state:
- Secular democracies, in secular states such as Azerbaijan and Turkey, that do not recognize any religion as its state religion and, therefore, does not incorporate religious principles into its public policy and other state affairs.
- Religious democracies; that recognize Islam as its state religion and a source of legislation, such as Malaysia and Maldives. The application of religious principles into public policy varies from country to country, since Islam is not the only source of law, such as Pakistan.
- Theocracies; that endeavor to institute Sharia, in full force, and offers more comprehensive inclusion of Islam into the affairs of the state. Presently, Iran is the only example of an Islamic state in the form of Islamic republics.
The concepts of liberalism and democratic participation were already present in the medieval Islamic world. The Rashidun Caliphate is perceived by its proponents as an early example of a democratic state.
The key features of Islamic governance that I have found in Islamic sources – Quran and the Prophetic precedence (Sunnah), and contemporary Muslim discussions on the Islamic State – are Constitution,Consent, and Consultation. Muslims who seek to implement the Shariah are obliged to emulate the Prophet’s precedence and, given the rather narrow definitions of Shariah and Sunnah that most Islamist operate with, there is no escape for them from the three key principles identified here. While these principles need to be explored and articulated in the specific socio-cultural context of different Muslim societies, it is important to understand that they are essential.
The compact, or constitution, of Medina that Prophet Muhammad adopted provides a very important occasion for the development of Islamic political theory. After Prophet Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE, he established the first Islamic state. For ten years, Prophet Muhammad was not only the leader of the emerging Muslim community in Arabia, but also the political head of the state of Medina. As the leader of Medina, Prophet Muhammad exercised jurisdiction over Muslims as well as non-Muslims. The legitimacy of his sovereignty over Medina was based on his status as the Prophet of Islam, as well as on the basis of the compact of Medina.
As Prophet of God, he had sovereignty over all Muslims by divine decree. But Muhammad did not rule over the non-Muslims of Medina because he was the messenger of Allah. He ruled over them by virtue of the compact that was signed by the Muhajirun (Muslim immigrants from Mecca), the Ansar (indigenous Muslims of Medina), and the Yahud (several Jewish tribes that lived in and around Medina). It is interesting to note that Jews were constitutional partners in the making of the first Islamic state.
The compact of Medina can be read as both a social contract and a constitution. A social contract, a model developed by English philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, is an imaginary agreement between people in the state of nature that leads to the establishment of a community or a State. In the state of nature people are free and are not obliged to follow any rules or laws. They are essentially sovereign individuals. However, through the social contract they surrender their individual sovereignty to a collective one and create a community or a State.
The second idea that the compact of Medina manifests is that of a constitution. In many ways, the constitution is the document that enshrines the conditions of the social contract upon which any society is founded. The compact of Medina clearly served a constitutional function, since it was the constitutive document for the first Islamic state. Thus, we can argue that the compact of Medina serves the dual function of a social contract and a constitution. Clearly the compact of Medina by itself cannot serve as a modern constitution. It would be quite inadequate, since it is a historically specific document and quite limited in its scope. However, it can serve as a guiding principle to be emulated, rather than a manual to be duplicated. Today, Muslims worldwide can emulate Prophet Muhammad and draw up their own constitutions, historically and temporally specific to their conditions.
An important principle of the Constitution of Medina was that Prophet Muhammad governed the city-state of Medina by virtue of the consent of its citizens. He was invited to govern, and his authority to govern was enshrined in the social contract. The constitution of Medina established the importance of consent and cooperation for governance.
The process of bayah, or the pledging of allegiance, was an important institution that sought to formalise the consent of the governed. In those days, when a ruler failed to gain the consent of the ruled through a formal and direct process of pledging of allegiance, the ruler’s authority was not fully legitimised. This was an Arab custom that predates Islam, but, like many Arab customs, was incorporated within Islamic traditions. Just as Prophet Muhammad had done, the early Caliphs of Islam, too, practiced the process of bayah after rudimentary forms of electoral colleges had nominated the Caliph, in order to legitimise the authority of the Caliph. One does not need to stretch one’s imagination too far to recognise that in polities that have millions rather than hundreds of citizens, the process of nomination followed by elections can serve as a necessary modernisation of the process of bayah. Replacing bayah with ballots makes the process of pledging allegiance simple and universal. Elections, therefore, are neither a departure from Islamic principles and traditions, nor inherently un-Islamic in any form.
The Quran, too, recognises the authority of those who have been chosen as leaders, and in a sense extends divine legitimacy to those who have legitimate authority.
O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among you. [Quran 4:59]
The third key principle of Islamic governance is consultation, or Shura in Arabic. This is a very widely known concept, and many Islamic scholars have advanced the Islamic concept of Shura as evidence for Islam’s democratic credentials. Indeed, many scholars actually equate democracy with Shura.
…and consult them in affairs (of moment). Then, when thou hast taken a decision put thy trust in Allah. [Quran 3:159][righteous are those] …who conduct their affairs through [shura baynahum] mutual Consultation. [Quran 42:38]
Muslim scholars dispute whether the Quranic injunction for consultation is advisory or mandatory, but it nevertheless remains a divine sanction. Pro-democracy Muslims see it as necessary, and those who fear democratic freedoms and prefer authoritarianism interpret these injunctions as divine suggestions and not divine fiats. The Prophet himself left behind a very important tradition that emphasised the importance of collective and democratic decision making. He said that “the community of Muhammed will never agree upon error.” Consultative governance, therefore, is the preferred form of governance in Islam, and any Muslim who chooses to stay true to his faith sources cannot but prefer a democratic structure over all others to realise the justice and wellbeing promised in Islamic sources.
There is much in Islamic sources and Islamic tradition that is favorable to making democracy the vehicle for delivering the products of Islamic governance, such as social justice, economic welfare, and religious freedoms. I am convinced that Islam is not a barrier to, but instead a facilitator of, democracy, justice, and tolerance in the Muslim world. That said, for that to happen, Muslims must revisit their sources and re-understand them without a bias against things that they erroneously label as Western. Democracy is inherent to Islamic values and Islamic historical experience.
Al-Raysuni, Ahmad. Al-Shura: The Quranic Principle of Consultation (London: International Institute of Islamic thought, 2011).
El Fadl, Khaled Abou, et al. Islam and the Challenge of Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004).
Esposito, John L., Mohammed A. Muqtedar Khan, and Jillian Schwedler. “Religion and Politics in the Middle East.” Understanding the Contemporary Middle East (Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000).
Esposito, John L. and John O. Voll. Islam and Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
Haykal, M. H. The Life of Muhammad (trans.) Ismael R. Al Faruqi (Indianapolis: NAIT, 1988), pp. 180-83.
Khan, Muqtedar. “Shura and Democracy.” Ijtihad.Org.
Khan, M. A. Muqtedar. Debating Moderate Islam: The Geopolitics of Islam and the West (Salt Lake, Utah, University of Utah Press, 2007).
Khan, Muqtedar Khan. “Islam, Democracy and Islamism after the Counterrevolution in Egypt.” Middle East Policy XXI.1 (2014): 75-86.
Khan, M. A. Muqtedar. “The Islamic States,” in M. Hawkesworth and M. Kogan (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Government and Politics, (London: Routledge Press, 2003).
Siddiqui, A. H. The Life of Muhammad (Des Plaines, IL: Library of Islam, 1991).
By M.A. Muqtedar Khan is Associate Professor in the department of Political Science and Contributors International Relations at the University of Delaware and a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.