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Nationalism? How silly. 9 January 2007

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Iqbaliat, Islam and contemporary society, Land of the pure...and the not so pure.

allama-iqbal.jpgIt is instructive that whilst the concept of the ‘nation state’ as a political or social construct has all but disappeared from Europe, the ‘cradle’ of post medieval nationalism and nationhood, it remains a powerful force in much of the Muslim world, from Egypt to Turkey, and from Pakistan to Malaysia.

This of course, in addition to being inimical to everything Muslims should believe in, and ought to do, is also rather silly. Arbitrary lines in the sand, put there on the whims of our erstwhile colonial masters or representing long-extinct tribal/ethnic affiliations, should not, and cannot, demand fealty from any sane, thinking individual. The ‘rational being’, or even the ‘reasonably sentient being’, should find this absurd: it is perfectly natural, even laudable, to have allegiance to ideas and ideologies, to be loyal to people and to their history, and to love those close to, or similar to, one; but isn’t it absurdly illogical to extend this allegiance, this loyalty and even this love to something as meaningless as a line in the sand, an obscure poem (aka the national anthem) and some random geometric patterns (aka the ‘national flag‘)?

Of course, I am not really saying anything new above (there’s a surprise!) or adding to the sum-total of human understanding, but sometimes, it helps to re-state the bleedin’ obvious by regurgitating, reheating or repeating that which has already been said before, and in this, as in most other cases, the most relevant 20th century Urdu-speaking person to turn to is the ‘Allama himself.

There. If that exciting, enticing and alluring paragraph does not get all the 2.4 readers interested in this post, nothing will. :-)

Without further twitterings from me, here’s Dr Iqbal on ‘Wataniat‘ ie the nation-state as a political construct.

Iss daur main may aur hai, jaam aur hai, jum aur

Saaqi ne bina ki rawish-e-lutf-o-sitam aur

Muslim nai bhi ta’ameer kia, apna harum aur

Tahzeeb ke azar ne trishwai sanam aur

In taza khudaon main baRa sab se watan hai

Jo pairhan iss ka hai, woh mazhab ka kafan hai

Yeh but keh tarasheeda-e-tahzeeb-i-navi hai

Gharat gar-e-khashan-e-deen-i-nabawi hai

Baazu tira tawheed ki quwwat se qawi hai

Islam tira dais he, tu Mustafawi hai!

Nazzara-e-deerana zamanay ko dikha dai

Ai Mustafawi, khaak main iss but to mila dai

Ho qaid-maqaami to nateeja hai tabahi

Rah bahar main azad-e-watan, soorat-e-maahi

Hai tark-e-watan sunnat-e-Mahboob-e-Ilaahi

Dai tu bhi nabuwwat ki sadaqat peh gawahi

Guftaar-e-siyasat main watan aur hi kuch hai

Irshaad-e-nabuwwat main watan aur hi kuch hai

Aqwaam-e-jahan main hai raqabat, to issi sai

Taskheer hai maqsood-e-tijarat, to issi sai

Khaali hai sadaqat sai siyasat, to issi sai

Kamzor ka ghar hota hai gharat, to issi sai

Aqwam main makhlooq-e-khuda bat-ti hai iss sai

Qaumeat islam ki jaR kat-ti hai iss sai


Popery 19 September 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Hypocrisy, Islam and contemporary society.

Just watched the peerless Dr. Zakir Naik being interviewed on ARY by Dr. Shahid Masood (so even liberal Pakistani TV channels are not completely useless!) on the popery (aka jiggery pokery) which is the current flavour of the week for the world’s Islamophobes and anti-Muslim bigots. The good doctor (Naik, not Masood), as is his wont, made some excellent points, which reinforce my thoughts on this whole sordid affair – my own thoughts are summarised below; apologies if they bear little or no resemblance to what was discussed by Dr Naik – he provided the inspiration, not the full song-sheet!

1. Freedom of speech? Bah! Humbug

My own views on the nonsensical and impractical notion of absolute freedom have been recounted in previous posts.

Those who say that Muslims should simply ignore the ignorant have missed the point – accepting such lies and including them in ‘civilised discourse’ does not diminish their impact, but rather, serves to establish and ‘mainstream’ them.

Imagine the furore if instead of quoting some medieval Byzantine loser, the bloke with the funny hat had instead quoted some medieval Catholic on Jews; how about he had started with the blood libel and carried on about sorcery and the ‘murder’ of Christ -nah, even my overactive imagination cannot imagine such an outlandish scenario. A ‘mainstream’ Westerner daring to be even mildly critical of Israel, Jews or Zionism? After what happened to Mearsheimer and Walt, even factual and relevant comment on Israel is beyond the pale, let alone some idiot regurgitating 14th century drivel.

Or imagine the rumpus had he repeated early (and established) Church doctrine on the role and status of women (“they don’t have a soul – thus are not full human beings, if at all“).

But attacking Islam is of course “fair game”, is it?

2. The brazen, bare-faced, shameless cheek of this rascal…
Three words: pot – kettle – black

Actually, how about three more: glasshouses – throw – stones

Should be enough. Okay, okay, I will spell it out.

For the leader of the Catholic church, the world’s leading Christian, to criticise any other religion on the flimsy pretext that the other religion was (in the said leader’s fertile imagination, perhaps?) spread by the sword, is hypocrisy of an unsurpassed magnitude.

Remind me, Ratzinger, me ole chum, which religion came up with the concept of “Holy War”? Louder, please? What? “Holy war” was a construct created and nourished by a previous holder of the same ‘august’ office that you currently occupy? My, my.

So what about Christian atrocities against Jews and Muslims for most of the past 2,000 years? What about the fact that far more humans have been killed by Christians in the name their god, than by Muslims, and the fact that the Christians committing such murders are lauded as lionhearts, chivalrous knights and bravehearts by their co-religionists, whilst the Muslims rightly condemn their far fewer murderous conquerors as misguided ‘black sheep’?

The roll call of horrors visited upon humanity by the followers and adherents of the ‘Cross’ is almost endless; from the Mayas to the Incas, and from the Aztecs to the Australian aborigines; from the Spanish Inquisition to the Salem witch trials, and including the wanton killing and murder of hundreds of thousands of Muslim (and Jewish and Orthodox Christian!) civilians during the previous bout of crusading zeal visited upon Muslim lands…. where does one even begin?

The number of people killed in warfare during the entire 13 year rule of the Noble Messenger in Madinah? 1,018.

The number killed during the six years of WW-II? 60 million.

hmm…yes…its the Muslims who have caused the most bloodshed throughout history. After all, Stalin, Hitler, Genghis Khan, Mao, Pol Pot, et al were all Muslim, right?!

3. The bigger picture

Context, they say, is all important. Well, what is the context these remarks are being made in? Ratzinger (“Ratzy-boy”) may have been a Nazi as a lad, but he is no raving skin-head neo-Nazi now (or at least, not in public).

He is not uttering these fallacies as Joe Ratzy Bloggs, but rather, as the spiritual guide and religious father of 1.2 billion Catholics, perhaps the largest religious grouping on the planet.

This cannot be dismissed as the ranting and raving of a demented xenophobe who has no support in the wider Christian community. This is not akin to some Muslim terrorist in Iraq or Afghanistan coming out with batty ideas that have little resonance in the wider Muslim community and certainly no official or religious sanction, and are condemned by the scholars of Islam. This is just the opposite – what the pope says is official Christian thinking and needs to be understood, addressed and countered in that vein. Rather, Ratzy-boy has thrown down the gauntlet, and its upto Muslims to respond – calmly and sensibly, yes – but also with conviction and knowledge.

So let’s acknowledge his words for what they are – a direct, frontal and aggressive attack on Islam. Let’s also not forget Urban II; when it comes to attacks on Islam, the holder of this office has form!

It seems the head of the Catholic religion wants to re-open theological debates that had been won by Islam already; maybe the tens of thousands of Christians reverting to Islam every year in his own back-yard troubles him. Fine – he ‘s obviously spoiling for a clash of civilisations! Demented and semi-demented Muslim “liberals” go to great lengths to refute, deny and negate Huntingdon’s “clash of the civilisations” ideas; in a way, they do have a point:civilisational schisms and conflicts, leading to thousands or millions of deaths, are something that no decent human could welcome. However, at least (and thankfully!) at the theoretical level, the pope-chappy has expressed his willingness for a”clash of civilisations” – as Muslims, let’s not ignore that either.

4. Bigoted and Ignorant? Well there’s a surprise!

If someone is as keen as Ratzy-boy appears to be to criticise Islam, firstly he should get his facts right or at least, not start with barefaced lies. The Qur’anic verse about there being no compulsion in religion (Surah Baqarah: 256) was revealed in Madinah when the Prophet and Islam were both in a position of strength, and not in Makkah when they were in a state of weakness, as alleged by the Pope – such an obvious error – tut tut – don’t they have papal researchers for this sorta thing?

In any case, the Pope’s central argument, that Islam spread by the sword, is built on lies and untruths. Which extensive Muslims armies went to conquer the whole of Malaysia? What great battles were waged to convert the world’s most populous Muslim country (Indonesia) to Islam? I don’t remember stirring conquests of Tanzania and Timbuktoo; of the Maldives and Madagasgar. In fact, which of the early Muslim wars were religious wars of conquest, the way the Catholic wars were? Not many at all. And there certainly were no conversions at sword-point.

The Muslims ruled Spain for 800 years, creating a society unsurpassed in culture, in learning, in scholarship, in tolerance, in decency, in innovation and in religious freedoms – the majority of the subjects, and many of the important functionaries of the state(s) remained Christian and Jewish. If conversion through sword was Islam’s aim, would all people have been allowed to remain in their original faiths by the most advanced governments the world had hitherto seen? Hardly.

Contrast this with what happened after the “Reconquest” of Spain by the Catholics. Tens of thousands of Muslims and Jews were murdered; within decades, all of them had to practice their faith in secret; with a few more decades, all were forced into exile, killed or converted at the risk of death. With a generation or two, all traces of Islam had been wiped out, through the sword. What a contrast with the 800 years that had preceded it!

Now consider this: if forced conversions were Islam’s aim, would 80% of the people of India be non-Muslim today? Muslims ruled India for over 1,000 years. Many of the Muslim rulers were fairly conservative types, irritable chaps who were not averse to a spot of religious discrimination themselves, especially if it meant more land and more wealth. Yet, they afforded religious freedoms and rights to their Hindu subjects? Let’s face it – the mighty Mughals did not do this because they were weak.

And what about Christianity’s record? Wiping out whole nations, races and civilisations, whether in Australia, Peru, Mexico, or the USA!

The Arabic speaking countries of Western Asia and Northern Africa (aka the ‘Middle East’) have been predominantly and almost continuously Muslim for almost 1,400 years. To this day, 14 million Coptic Christians not only survive as native Arabs but also thrive and have done for centuries depsite 14 centuries of Muslim rule. “Spread by sword” indeed! If forced conversions were what Islam wanted, these and other Arab Christians would not have survived in their preferred religion.

In fact, when the rampaging, pillaging and murdering European Christians, inspired by Ratzy-Boy’s predecessor, arrived in Asia in the 11th and 12th century for the Crusades, they treated the Orthodox Greek Christians and the Coptic Arab Christians with the same inhumane barbarity they reserved for Muslims and Jews. Historical records and contemporary accounts prove that the oriental Christians were far happier living in the regions and cities with the Muslim rulers, rather than being treated like slaves by the chilvalrous European Christian Crusading Knights. Many Christian tribes and communities, not all Arab by any means, fought alongside the Muslims against the European Christians, as they had experienced truly oppressive and inhumane treatment at the hands of the invading Christian hordes.

Doesn’t say much for Ratzy-Boy’s compassion, does it? Or for his scholarship, for that matter…!

Does “religion” subjugate women? 14 June 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Islam and contemporary society.

Cards on the table – I am going to be cheeky today and pass off my comments on Sabizak's blog as a fresh update. Its fresh enough for the 2.4 readers of Bakkah, so hopefully no one will mind frightfully or throw a fit; as a wider point, the treatment of women in Islam is an issue that I have been asked about separately, so let this be the opening gambit in that long discussion over the coming months…

A comment was made, in reference to Dan Brown's "masterpiece"*, that the book would have been far more worthy had it actually delved more into the issue it raised in passing – namely, the role of religion, over the ages, in the subjugation of women. Sounds a fairly innocuous notion, right? Religion, ie all man-made religions, have been oppressive to women and subjugated them – surely there can be no disagreement?

umm…sorry..there can be. I am not sure if religion has played such a central role – sure, it has been used for this end, of course, but then so has everything else. Historically, have religious societies been more intolerant of women's rights than irreligious ones? I doubt it.

As the context is Dan Brown, let's assume that when we talk of man-made religion, we talk of Christianity – focuses the discussion, instead of letting it roam wildly from Buddhism to Judaism, through Hinduism and Shintoism..and not forgetting Mr Cruise's Scientology!

So let's take Christianity – I do agree that the Catholic church must take a lot of blame in oppressing Christian women over the centuries, but then it has a long list of groups it has oppressed, and women probably come behind Jews and Muslims and gypsies, statistically! However, what was before Christianity, was hardly better, was it? Roman Christianity was preceded by the Greek philosophers and the works of some early Greek philosophers were decidedly disparaging towards women. For instance, Aristotle argued that women were "not full human beings and that the nature of woman was not that of a full human person". So, in his view, "women were by nature deficient, not to be trusted and to be looked down upon". In fact, some writings describe that many of the ancient Greek women had positions no better than animals and slaves.

Hence, the subjugation and oppression of women seems to be inherent in most societies, cultures and philosophies – religion (ie Christianity, in this context) is by no means the only or even the main culprit.

Carrying the discussion into our times, I have not come across any substantial body of research which would indicate that women in current-day pagan cultures or societies have historically had a better deal than those, for instance, in Christian Europe. In fact, women in tribal cultures, eg in sub-saharan Africa, or in 'indigenous' communities, continue to live under some pretty appaling regimes – FGM, witchcraft, etc are not only widely practiced but also encouraged..and religion, at least in the form of the three allegedly monothestic faiths, has nothing to do with it.

I have been careful to focus the above on "man-made" religions; my belief, as a Muslim, is that Islam does not fall into that category, and its divine origins ensure that it is completely fair and just towards everyone, in all instances – men and women; workers and capitalists; the rulers and the ruled; and so on. Islam's justice and fairness would be absolute. Sad that the reality is so different – but then the blame for that is with us as Muslims, is it not?

More on that another day…

*PS: I read Dan Brown's (comic) "book", and unsurprisingly, did not think much of it. Who does? Hardly anyone I know. But everyone's read it nonetheless. It takes a perverse sort of "literary" genius to write trash, get the writing universally acknowledged as mindless tripe, but still, convince the very people who deem it to be tripe to fork out their 7 quid to peruse it. A glorious triumph for marketing, perhaps? Or maybe I am just jealous at Brown's gazillions…

We are what we eat . . . 2 May 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Islam and contemporary society.
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George Monbiot, writing in today's Guardian, seems to be confirming what we Muslims always knew – that what we eat determines not just our physical appearance and girth, but also our personality, emotions and thought processes; in the words of one of the authorities on the subject, quoted by Monbiot:

". . . having a bad diet is now a better predictor of future violence than past violent behaviour … Likewise, a diagnosis of psychopathy, generally perceived as being a better predictor than a criminal past, is still miles behind what you can predict just from looking at what a person eats" 

Key excerpts from the article:

Why should a link between diet and behaviour be surprising? Quite aside from the physiological effects of eating too much sugar (apparent to anyone who has attended a children's party), the brain, whose function depends on precise biochemical processes, can't work properly with insufficient raw materials. The most important of these appear to be unsaturated fatty acids (especially the omega 3 types), zinc, magnesium, iron, folate and the B vitamins, which happen to be those in which the prisoners in the 1997 study were most deficient.

A report published at the end of last year by the pressure group Sustain explained what appear to be clear links between deteriorating diets and the growth of depression, behavioural problems, Alzheimer's and other forms of mental illness. Sixty per cent of the dry weight of the brain is fat, which is "unique in the body for being predominantly composed of highly unsaturated fatty acids". Zinc and magnesium affect both its metabolism of lipids and its production of neurotransmitters – the chemicals which permit the nerve cells to communicate with each other.

The more junk you eat, the less room you have for foods which contain the chemicals the brain needs.