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Showing posts from April, 2011

The Ghosts of Al-Hajjaj in the Muslim World

A dervish, whose prayers met with answers, made his appearance, and Hajjaj Yusuf, calling him, said: ‘Utter a good prayer for me’, whereon the dervish exclaimed: ‘O God, take his life.’ He replied: ‘For God’s sake, what prayer is this?’ The dervish rejoined: ‘It is a good prayer for you and for all Muslims.’ [Gulistan: Shaykh Sa’di] Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf al-Thaqafi (40-95 A.H.) was a tough military general who later became governor in the service of Umayyad rulers. In 73 A.H. he was sent by Abd-al Malik ibn Marwan to Makkah to bring the territory under Umayyad control. His seize of Hejaz resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent inhabitants. Although he was a brilliant orator, a highly gifted man of literature and an effective administrator, history remembers him mostly for his cruelty whose campaign had killed such Islamic luminaries as Abd-Allah ibn Jubayr (RA). So, it is not difficult to understand the prayer of the saint, quoted by Shaykh Sa’di. The Muslim experience since

Goldhagen’s book is worse than half-truths

Book Review: Worse than War by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Public Affairs, New York (2009), First edition, 658 pages. Harry Truman, the thirty-third president of the United States was a mass murderer. He twice ordered nuclear bombs dropped on Japanese cities… In effect, Truman chose to snuff out the lives of approximately 300,000 men, women, and children. Upon learning of the first bomb’s annihilation of Hiroshima, Truman was jubilant, announcing that “this is the greatest thing in history.” He then followed up in Nagasaki with a second greatest thing. It is hard to understand how any right-thinking person could fail to call slaughtering unthreatened Japanese mass murder. The above passage comes from Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s book – Worse than War. With such a real honest-to-goodness statement found in the first few pages, I was drawn into reading the book soon after it went into circulation. Unfortunately, like many readers, I was dismayed to find that his was yet another disingenuous a

The New York Times on Israeli Luminaries who pressed for a Palestinian State

Last Tuesday, the New York Times posted a very important news item about Israel. Unfortunately, the news did not draw the kind of attention many would have love to see. Here it is: Israeli Luminaries Press for a Palestinian State By ETHAN BRONNER Published: April 19, 2011 JERUSALEM — Dozens of Israel’s most honored intellectuals and artists have signed a declaration endorsing a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders and asserting that an end to Israel’s occupation “will liberate the two peoples and open the way to a lasting peace.” The signers plan to announce their position on Thursday from the same spot in Tel Aviv where the Jewish state declared its independence in the spring of 1948. The page-long declaration is expected to be read there by Hanna Maron, one of the country’s best-known actresses and a winner of the Israel Prize, the country’s most prestigious award, which is granted yearly on Independence Day. Of the more than 60 who had signed the declaration by Tu

The Secular Talibans in France -- are they any better?

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) was an English philosopher who formulated some of the fundamentals of European liberal thought: the right of the individual; the natural equality of all men; the artificial character of the political order; the view that all legitimate political power must be “representative” and based on the consent of the people; and a liberal interpretation of law. He famously said, “A free man is he that ... is not hindered to do what he has a will to.” Obviously, the French Republic is a far cry from Hobbes’s notion of freedom. Last week, neo-Taliban Sarkozy’s government gave birth to two new crimes: hiding one’s face in public and encouraging another to hide her face. Sarkozy has made it clear that Muslim women who hide their faces are not welcome in France. The French government believes that “to hide the face breaches minimal needs of social life.” So hiding one’s face in public is now a misdemeanor, with a €150 fine and/or civic training to teach the criminal the n

Treatment of Captives in Islam

The treatment of captives in Islam set it on a higher moral level than every other system that preceded it. The prophet Muhammad (S) ensured that they be treated with kindness. So, we find that captives of the Battle of Badr were better fed than those who were entrusted to hold them. Many of those poor companions of the Prophet (S) remained hungry while they fed those captives. So overwhelming was the influence of kind treatment of the non-Muslim captives that many of those former captives quickly embraced Islam, let alone renouncing violence against the nascent Islamic state. This tradition continued throughout the Caliphate of the righteous companions. During his rule, Caliph Umar made it illegal to separate related prisoners of war from each other, after a captive complained to him for being separated from her daughter.[Naqvi (2000), pg. 456] These principles were also honoured during the Crusades, as exemplified by sultans such as Saladin and al-Kamil. For example, after al-Kami

America’s Bankruptcy – not just limited to its failing economy

Working late hours on Friday, the congressional and White House negotiators finally agreed on a plan to pay for U.S. government operations through the end of September while trimming $38.5 billion in spending. Lawmakers then approved a measure to keep the government running for a few more days while the details of the new spending plan are written into legislation. Actual approval of the deal is expected in the middle of next week. In the end, all sides claimed victory. For Republicans, it was the sheer size of the spending cuts. For President Obama and Senator Reid, it was casting aside Republican policy initiatives that would have blocked environmental rules and changed a program that provides family planning services. The deal came together after six grueling weeks as negotiators virtually dared each other to shut down the government. Although the U.S. still remains the world's largest economy, and has the most powerful military, the most dynamic technology companies and a hig

Terry Jones – the hateful provocateur

Remember Christian pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida? He caused an international uproar last year by threatening to burn 200 copies of the Qur’an, the Muslim Holy Scripture, on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Among others, the overall commander of forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, had warned at that time that such an action could provoke violence in Afghanistan and could endanger American troops. Jones subsequently promised not to burn the Qur’an. Last month, on March 20, however, with only 30 worshipers attending, Terry Jones held a self-styled mock trial of the Qur’an in which he presided from the pulpit as a judge. Sitting in judgment was a jury of 12 members of his church. Punishment was determined by the results of an online poll. Besides burning, the options included shredding, drowning and facing a firing squad. Jones said voters had chosen to set fire to the book, according to a video of the proceedings. So the

The Dying Days of a Dinosaur

It takes long time for carcass of an elephant to decay compared to small animals like a rat. The signs are all too visible these days that the United States of America is dying or decaying. It is not as strong economically as it used to be some two decades ago. However, contrary to conservative right-wing claims, the process of its downfall did neither start with the bailout of the Wall Street moguls in 2008 or 2009 nor with the election win of Obama. Pinpointing a definitive time for this beginning of decline in super status is not an easy one since pundits will differ for a plethora of reasons. I would like to believe that it started with Bush Jr.’s two wars in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003). By all counts these American wars have been pyrrhic wars for this giant nation, the same way it was for King Pyrrhus of ancient Epirus in 279-80 BCE. In both of Pyrrhus's victories against the Romans, the latter suffered greater casualties than Pyrrhus did. However, the Romans had a mu