Monday, March 26, 2007

Zurich Conference on Minorities and Women in Middle East

Conference on Status of Minorities and Women in Middle East (in Arabic language)

The following URLs will be of interest to anyone who can read journalistic Arabic. The subject matter is ultra important. “Elaph” is the most widely read online daily.

The conference for the Defence of Minorities and Women in the Middle East is being held in Zurich from 24-26 March, 2007.

The Introductory lecture blames the Ikhwan al-Muslimun for the persecution of minorities & woman: URL:

Another article: "M E Minorities Meet in Zurich"

"News & Opinions about the Zurich Conference":

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Thousand and One Fatwas

By Jacob Thomas

On Saturday, 24 February 2007, the online daily, Al-Sharq al-Awsat published a lengthy article with the title, “Fuqaha al-Tajheel wa Fatawi Hasab al-Talab.” A literal translation would go like this: “The Fuqaha of Ignorance, and Fatwas to Order.” I have taken the liberty of giving it this title, “A Thousand and One Fatwas.”

The columnist began with these words:

“The most recent popular occupations in the Arab world are that of a Faqih (a legal expert, plural is Fuqaha), or a Da’iya (religious propagandist), or a Mufti (the person who issues legal opinions, mostly on ethical matters, his opinion is called a Fatwa; its plural in Arabic is Fatawi.) The qualifications of such persons are: an awareness of the presuppositions of the Islamic faith, plus a memorization of certain Qur’anic texts, as well as an acquaintance with some useful Hadiths. Their pronouncements are readily accepted by illiterate people who number around 65% of the Arab population.”

The article is lengthy, and so I share with the readers of FFI, those salient points that the author cites to prove his thesis regarding the proliferation of this popular and unhealthy type of Islamic “occupation.” He cited several Fatwas that are utterly irrational.

Forbidding or Legalizing Private Lessons

The article related a case in 2004 when the Egyptian Ministry of Education requested guidance from the country’s Mufti, about providing some students with private lessons in those subjects where they happen to be weak. His fatwa stated “that private lessons given by teachers of government schools should be forbidden outside those schools.” Another fatwa contradicted the above-mentioned one by stating that “if those lessons were not obligatory, and took place within the schools, and the tutor did not overcharge the student, then private lessons were all right.” The author went on pointing to the ridiculous nature of the whole discussion that preoccupied the Egyptian press; while such urgent problems as the population explosion, and the shortage of food supplies, hardly received any attention. He added that Egypt’s inability to feed its population makes it dependent on American aid, which amounts to around two billion dollars a year!

A Fatwa Forbidding Football (Soccer)

It took 36 pages to cover a fatwa that forbids football. The argument boiled down to the fact that the game was invented by the Kuffar (plural for Kafir, i.e. an infidel.) It was supported by a reference to a Hadith of the Prophet who had supposedly declared: “Man tashabbaha biqawmen, fahuwa minhom”, i.e. He who imitates others, becomes like them! If this is the case, the author of the article asked, “Why shouldn’t these Muftis forbid the use of the Internet and the computers as well? And if soccer is haram (forbidden), how come that it is the most popular sport in Egypt, and in Saudi Arabia?

A Fatwa Forbidding Sitting on Chairs

In introducing this specific fatwa, the columnist remarked, “This is not a stale joke, but a legal fatwa coming from a Da’iyat known as Um Ins* and who has her own website! She posted these words: ‘Warning: chairs, benches, and large cushions are forbidden, Allahu Akbar!’ In the body of her Fatwa, we read: ‘One of the worst habits in our great nation is the use of chairs.’ She listed three reasons why chairs are haram. ‘First, our righteous ancestors never used chairs. Had chairs been good, our beloved Prophet would have used them.’ The columnist remarked that “Um Ins forgot to mention that none of the products of technology, such as electricity, gas, cars, airplanes, telephones, refrigerators; were ever used by our Prophet and his immediate followers. Is she really sitting on the floor as she issues her fatwas for her website on the Internet?

“Second, she stated in her fatwa that ‘chairs are a Western invention. To use them and be impressed by them implied being equally impressed by their manufacturers who are from the West. How can we ever be impressed by Westerners when they happen to be our enemies?’

The third reason mentioned by this lady for forbidding the use of chairs is shockingly weird; I must be very circumspect in translating it. [Jacob Thomas]

‘The use of a chair or a large cushion causes the person to be relaxed; so when a woman sits on a chair her legs assume a position that makes her sexually excited, and this attracts men or jinns**, to have sex with her … Thus, for a woman to sit on a chair, is a wicked matter, and is tantamount to committing adultery.’

The columnist continued, “The fourth reason given by Um Ins for refraining to use chairs is that ‘by sitting on the floor, a Muslim remembers Allah, and this increases his spirituality as he confesses the greatness of the Creator.’”

A Fatwa that Legalizes Lying and Giving a False Testimony

Our columnist related another bizarre fatwa, “There is a three-page fatwa that gives the green light for a Muslim to lie. This is based on a Hadith: ‘Lying is permitted in the following cases: when a man may lie to please his wife; or during war, or when it brings about reconciliation among people.’”

An Opinion that Forbids the Use of the Letter X, such as in “Explorer”

The columnist in Al-Sharq al-Awsat related this unbelievable story:

“This is not a joke, but I read about this legal opinion in a Saudi newspaper. A businessman applied to the Saudi Ministry of Commerce to copyright a computer program that he called
Al-Mustakshef (Explorer). His application was turned down because the letter X looks like a cross, which would not sit well with Saudis! The businessman wondered why did the Ministry of education not bar the use of the plus sign +, and the multiplication sign X, as well, since both would remind people of the cross?!”

A Fatwa against Learning English

Another example was cited in the article about an absurd fatwa, this time regarding the use of a foreign language among Muslims.

“Again, I am not telling a joke! It happens to be an official fatwa coming from a sheikh that forbad the teaching of English. It was based on a claim by an Islamic jurist ‘that the Arabic language forms the banner and glory of Islam; thus, it is not lawful for a Muslim to speak in another tongue! A person who wants his child to learn English, for example, would be condemned on the Day of Judgment.’”

A Proliferation of Fatwas that Charge People with Apostasy

“Certain sheikhs and propagandists have specialized in issuing fatwas that charge all kinds of people with apostasy. One sheikh compiled a list of “The Apostates in the Arab World.” Seventy prominent Arab writers (Christian and Muslim) are mentioned in this list; and they are all considered worthy of death!”

Finally, a fatwa was issued declaring that ‘Al-Sharq al-Awsat Newspaper is an apostate publication!’”

The columnist commented: “Nothing remains halal*** for a Muslim; he must now keep himself secluded in a corner of a mosque, without leaving it for a moment!

“In conclusion, how can we fail to realize why our nation is lost? It has been left behind in the onward march of scientific and technological advances that are taking place everywhere else in the world. Having shared some of the Fatwas of Darkness and of Ignorance, I cannot help but cry out: O my Allah, where is our nation heading to!?”

This much I shared with the readers of FFI, a portion of the article on the proliferation of fatwas, muftis in the Arab world. I don’t feel that I can add any more comments to this impassioned article that describes so well the pathetic and hopeless state of affairs, not only in the Arab world, but throughout the entire length and breadth of Daru’l Islam.

* Da’iyat Um-Ins: A lady propagandist for Islam who calls herself Um (mother) Ins (Arabic for humans, the very opposite of Jinn)

** Jinn: According to the Qur’an, there are three categories of intelligent beings: Angels (both good and bad), Jinns, and Humans. Jinns may be either good or bad.

*** Halal: Arabic for lawful and permitted things, relating to food and ethical matters.

March 2007

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mini Dictators

“The Mini Dictator”
“Al-Dictator al-Saghir”
By Jacob Thomas

On 30 January, 2007, as I glanced at the Kuwaiti Tanweer website; I noticed an article with this intriguing title, “Al-Dictator al-Saghir.” This Arabic title may be translated as “The Small Dictator,” or “The Mini Dictator.” Here follows my translation of the article, and my comments.

The author began with a question, “Why did so many ordinary and educated Arabs stand up for the tyrant Saddam Hussein and defend him even after his death? And why did so many take pride that they disapproved of the hanging of the dictator, because it took place on the first day of ‘Eed al-Adha?

“I believe that the main reason, why both the ordinary and well educated Arabs took upon themselves to defend Saddam Hussein, is the fact that actually a mini dictator resides in our Arab-Islamic souls. It is this very dictator that causes many to beat their wives in the name of religion, or of manhood. Alas, Arab law is always on the side of the husband, regarding wife-beating as a type of discipline. This very law supports the man who commits a capital crime, on the pretext of defending the family’s honor; and hands out a mere six months jail term for the murder he committed ! Furthermore, such a criminal receives a special treatment in the prison; after all he was defending the reputation of his family! As for those laws that deal with personal status, women always receive the wrong deal. It is the same small dictator within our souls that allows us to beat our children on the pretext that we are disciplining them. It is here also that the law supports this mini-dictator.

“This small dictator does not want to be responsible to anyone. This is why we don’t even try to demand that the big dictator should be responsible for his acts. It is this very small dictator that rules the relation between the teacher and his students. Should we ignore the fact that a student is never able to ask for a review of his case when he receives a low grade for his work? Should we also ignore the tyranny we face whenever we have an application at one of the government’s departments and expect to have our problem resolved? The government’s representative behaves as if he had no regard for any law. Should we go on ignoring the fact that in all Arab countries, all prime ministers are appointed, and not one of them is elected by the people? Should we go on ignoring the fact that it is this dictator who dwells within the souls of those who send people to prison for an infringement of any law? Take for example the laws that deal with publications. As far as I know, anyone who dares to write critically of religious subjects will end in prison, all over the Arab world, with the exception of Lebanon. Do we want to deny the fact that Arab universities are nowadays nothing but intellectual prisons, in the sense that discussions are circumscribed within specific limits?

“Isn’t it this mini dictator, residing within our Arab souls, that allows our “big” leaders to behave above the law, all the time claiming unashamedly that they rule in the name of law? This mini dictator is an Arab product par excellence. No constitution, no rule of law, can deal adequately and properly with this dictator. The reason is, that psychologically, we are predisposed to allow this mini dictator to go on living within us, in order that we, in our turn, may continue to lord it over those who are weaker than ourselves.

“Therefore, the hanging of Saddam Hussein will not lead to the “hanging” of the mini Saddam who resides in our sick souls. This is why we have witnessed many Arabs showing all kinds of grief and sorrow when the big dictator left this world.”

The author of this brief article pointed to a deep-seated problem that has persisted throughout the 1400 years of Islamic history, namely, the absence of freedom and democracy in all aspects of life. Rulers have acted as if they possessed absolute power over their subjects.

While the first caliphs were chosen by the consensus of the leaders of the Islamic Umma in Medina, the caliphate became a hereditary position after the assassination of the fourth caliph, Ali in 661 A.D. From then on, these Islamic leaders ruled as absolute monarchs. I remember in my study of the history of Islam, that one caliph assumed this title:
“Al-Hakim bi-amri-Allah” i.e, “The Ruler by Allah’s Command.”

Coming to our times, most Islamic countries are under dictatorial or authoritarian regimes. This deep-rooted state of affairs clings to Islamic civilization due to the fusion of religion and politics into one entity. Since in Islam, human beings are regarded as Allah’s ‘abeed,* it becomes normal for Allah’s representatives on earth, whether he is a caliph, or a king, or a president, to assume the role of despot or hegemon.

The author of this brief article in describing the situation within the Arab world in his sarcastic style, pointed to the effects, or results of the Islamic theory and practice of government. He did not deal with the source that breeds dictators and dictatorships. It would have been dangerous for him, to point to the undeniable fact that the Islamic tradition is responsible for the persistence of this sad state of affairs. What a hopeless prospect for more than one billion of our fellow-human beings!

*‘Abeed is the plural of ‘abd, the Arabic for slave. Among Arab Muslims, the name ‘Abdallah, spelled sometimes, ‘Abdullah, is quite popular.

Readers who are familiar with Arabic, may access the original text by going to the following URL: