Friday, August 25, 2006

Nadine Chandrawinata

The Miss Universe contestant from Indonesia, Nadine Chandrawinata, has strutted about in a bikini, to the displeasure of some.

The Majelis Ulama Indonesia, MUI, also complained, and went even further, saying that Indonesia should not participate in the contest at all.

Source :

The Miss Universe contestant from Indonesia, Nadine Chandrawinata, has strutted about in a bikini, to the displeasure of some.

Nadine Chandra Winata, the reigning Miss Indonesia, who was born in Germany but has some Indonesian parentage, appeared in a bikini at a Miss Universe 2006 photo shoot for their annual calendar, despite the fact that she could have chosen to wear a one-piece swimsuit.

Latifah Iskandar, a parliamentarian from the PAN party was one who let it be known that Indonesian girls should not engage in such activity:

I’m sad that there are still Indonesians like that, at this time wer’e concerned about the issue of pornography. It’s very inappropriate.
(Saya sedih masih ada orang Indonesia yang seperti itu, pada saat kita prihatin dengan pornografi. Ini sangat tidak patut)

The Majelis Ulama Indonesia, MUI, also complained, and went even further, saying that Indonesia should not participate in the contest at all.

The MUI rejects (Miss Universe) primarily because it emphasises beauty and the body. This can be seen in the appearance of the contestants. Secondly, the MUI rejects the clothes they wear.
(MUI menolak karena pertama penekanannya kepada kecantikan dan keindahan tubuh. Itu terlihat pada penampilan calon-calon Miss Universe itu. Kedua, pakaian yang dikenakan para kontestan sama sekali ditolak oleh MUI)

said one Amidhan of the MUI in Jakarta and he added that a new fatwa was not in the offing because a previous one condemning public indecency and pornography was already sufficient. He advised that a new contest should be set up:

Why not have a contest that doesn’t emphasise beauty but instead ability, intelligence, and spirit as human beings who are moral and religiously observant?
(Kenapa tidak dilakukan misalnya dengan penyelenggaraan yang tidak menekankan kepada kecantikan dan keindahan tubu, tetapi lebih kepada kemampuan, kecerdasan dan spirit sebagai manusia yang bermoral dan bertaqwa.)

Nadine however was not alone in her choice of the two-piece outfit. Miss Malaysia, Melissa Ann Tan, a girl of Chinese descent, also sported one. Of the 86 finalists who appeared in the swimsuit session only three chose to cover their belly buttons - Misses Serbia, Turks & Caicos and Kazakstan.

Update July 21st

The womens’ wing of the Islamic Defenders Front, the Mujahidah FPI, have reported Nadine Chandrawinata to the police for indecency. FPI lawyer Adnan Assegaf, who accompanied Mujahidah Secretary Noni Supriyanti Budiani, gave the following explanation:

We have reported Nadine Chandrawinata as she has harassed Indonesian women by appearing in vulgar poses at the Miss Universe 2006 contest on behalf of Indonesia.

He added that Nadine’s participation in the event, which is being held in another country, the United States, was against Indonesian culture which, he claims, does not permit women to wear bikinis in public.

Besides Nadine, the FPI, who have been on a recent reporting-to-the-police-spree (see Krisdayanti & Playboy, Playboy the Third, Joanna Alexandra & Fla Priscilla, Andara Early), also reported some people connected with the Miss Indonesia contest and thought to be active supporters of Nadine, namely Mooryati Sudibyo, Wardiman Djojonegoro , Mega Angkasa , Kusuma Dewi and Artika Sari Devi, who the FPI says:

…have supported and financed the departure of Nadine. So they can be charged with engaging and participating in activities forbidden by the law.

The law in question is edict number 02/U/1984 which apparently forbids the holding of beauty contests where they conflict with the moral and religious standards of the people.

Noni Supryanti Budiani explained further:

We didn’t only report Nadine, it’s not fair if we just report her. Don’t allow Nadine to be used anymore.
(Kita tidak hanya melaporkan Nadine. Tidak adil kalau kita melaporkan Nadine saja. Jangan-jangan Nadine diperalat lagi.)

About 100 Mujahidah loudly demonstrated outside the Jakarta police station where the complaint was filed.

Nadine says, to Antara, that she is unconcerned about the actions of the FPI back home in Indonesia.

It’s their right if they want to report me to the police. But one thing is for sure - my participation in the Miss Universe contest is to make Indonesia known in the international arena.
(Itu adalah hak mereka kalau ingin melaporkan saya ke polisi. Tapi satu hal yang pasti, keikutsertaan saya di ajang Miss Universe ini adalah untuk mengharumkan nama Indonesia di kancah internasional.)

She says she is not at all depressed about the matter.

I don’t feel down at all after hearing about it. It just makes me want to advance to the next round even more.
(Mental saya sama sekali tidak down mendengar hal-hal seperti ini. Malah semakin membuat saya mantap melaju ke malam final.)

Alas, however, Nadine did not make the cut for the next round of twenty contestants, the news of which caused the dismay and almost visible pain of many in Indonesia, a country where the Miss Universe competition is taken rather seriously indeed and where the performance of the nation’s representative is viewed as a not insignificant matter of national pride.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

MUI On Problematic Local Laws

The Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) says there are no regional regulations that apply Islamic law.

In a joint statement with various Islamic social organisations the Ulema Councile said that it was a myth that certain city and provincial administrations had promulgated laws that could be said to be forms of sharia.

Source :
The Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) says there are no regional regulations that apply Islamic law.

In a joint statement with various Islamic social organisations the Ulema Councile said that it was a myth that certain city and provincial administrations had promulgated laws that could be said to be forms of sharia.

What they are are rules which have the spirit of sharia, they are for the good of society, and they have been agreed upon by many political parties who are the representatives of the people.
(Yang ada adalah peraturan yang di dalamnya terkandung nilai-nilai syariah, dan itu untuk kebaikan masyarakat, dan telah disetujui oleh banyak partai yang menjadi wakil rakyat.)

said Maruf Amin, the chairman of the MUI. The laws in question were simply anti-sin laws and what’s more they had proven to be effective in reducing the incidence of sinful behaviour in the areas in which they had been put into force, he added. There was also no conflict between the laws and the national criminal code or the constitution.

Maruf Amin went on to explain that the regional laws were simply a means to prevent the destruction of the nation from pornography and public indecency.

He also was moved to complain about the anti-”premanism” campaign claiming that it was an attempt by certain groups to put Islamic groups in conflict with the government. He hoped that the government wouldn’t take the bait and said that any attempt to rein in Islamic groups would harm the unity of the nation. But he hoped that the organisations in question would not resort to violent means to get their point across.

Islam and its Challenges in the Modern World

By: Dr. I. Bruce Watson

Islam today is facing challenges from within and from the wider world. The critical problems are the fundamental tensions within Islam. The attitudes and criticisms common in the outside world can be ignored as misguided or hostile, but the tensions within Islam throughout the world must be confronted. In a simple geographical sense, Islam has to come to grips with its changing centres. The religious centres define the heartland: Saudi Arabia maintains its guardianship of the shrines at Mecca and Medina, and the conduct of the hajj, against the claims of Shii Iran, the Shii tradition, and other sects disillusioned with Saudi Arabia's credentials within the ummah. Saudi Arabia enjoys much of its strength to repudiate other claims because it remains the economic centre of the ummah. It takes a combination of the incomes of Kuwait, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Yemen even to come close to Saudi Arabia's oil wealth. However, this wealth is based on finite resources, and in the years to come the economic centre will shift to those parts of the Muslim world with sustainable resources and reproductive assets. West Asian financial investments recognise this long-term problem, but they remain overwhelmingly located in the Western and non-Muslim economies. The intellectual centre of Islam is Al-Azhar in Cairo. The ideas and attitudes taught here are spread throughout the ummah, particularly through the population centres of Islam: Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Malaysia. The relative power of the different centres is shifting. Over time the claims on and against the heartland from and by the peripheral Muslim communities will exacerbate the tensions already present. The conservative centre will be under greater pressure from the more vigorous, prolific and liberal Muslim societies on the periphery.

Dr I. Bruce Watson is a Lecturer in South Asian and Islamic History at the University of New England, Armidale, Australia; Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Islamic Studies at UNE; Assistant Editor of "South Asia"; Member of the International Editorial Committee of "Periodica Islamica".

Islam today is facing challenges from within and from the wider world. The critical problems are the fundamental tensions within Islam. The attitudes and criticisms common in the outside world can be ignored as misguided or hostile, but the tensions within Islam throughout the world must be confronted. In a simple geographical sense, Islam has to come to grips with its changing centres. The religious centres define the heartland: Saudi Arabia maintains its guardianship of the shrines at Mecca and Medina, and the conduct of the hajj, against the claims of Shii Iran, the Shii tradition, and other sects disillusioned with Saudi Arabia's credentials within the ummah. Saudi Arabia enjoys much of its strength to repudiate other claims because it remains the economic centre of the ummah. It takes a combination of the incomes of Kuwait, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Yemen even to come close to Saudi Arabia's oil wealth. However, this wealth is based on finite resources, and in the years to come the economic centre will shift to those parts of the Muslim world with sustainable resources and reproductive assets. West Asian financial investments recognise this long-term problem, but they remain overwhelmingly located in the Western and non-Muslim economies. The intellectual centre of Islam is Al-Azhar in Cairo. The ideas and attitudes taught here are spread throughout the ummah, particularly through the population centres of Islam: Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Malaysia. The relative power of the different centres is shifting. Over time the claims on and against the heartland from and by the peripheral Muslim communities will exacerbate the tensions already present. The conservative centre will be under greater pressure from the more vigorous, prolific and liberal Muslim societies on the periphery.

Despite the ideals promoting an equitable and productive material life, the overwhelming majority of Muslims experience living standards which are hardly enviable by any standard. This frequently appears to be a greater paradox in the wealthy oil-producing Muslim countries. Where justice and brotherhood are recommended by the ideals, in such countries we see the conspicuous consumption of the very rich, the purchase of very expensive military technology and armaments, and we see the exploitation of 'guest workers': fellow Muslims from Palestine, Pakistan, the Philippines, among others. The plight of these groups was obvious during and after the Gulf War in 1990-1991. Unemployment of masses of people; rapid urbanisation; unbalanced development - all need to be addressed quickly by the ummah, if the ummah is to become the social force of international Islam. The wide imbalances in the distribution of incomes and wealth between Muslim societies are obvious, but since effective redistribution is not happening within most Muslim societies it is unlikely to occur to any major degree between different Muslim societies.

Development investment in Muslim countries is slow simply because investors are put off by the more extremist agitations and the perceptions in the West about Islamic legal proscriptions of such financial mechanisms as interest. Muslim investors appear quite happy to send their money into the non-Muslim economies, where greater profits are available and the political and social circumstances are much more settled. In other cases, where people are trying to help their communities they often encounter problems from unlikely sources. The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh has been lending small sums of money, mostly to rural women so that they can engage in small enterprises, but also to collective groups. The sums are small and the interest is fixed, with the principal being repaid first and the interest calculated on the diminishing principal. Twenty per cent interest per year still seems high, but it is tiny when compared with the twenty per cent per month or ten per cent per day demanded by the traditional money-lenders, or the compound interest at Bangladesh's commercial banks. The Grameen Bank lends money to people who would not be eligible in the normal commercial sense. People are helped to determine the best way to satisfy their needs and are helped by the bank's officers in the villages. The Grameen Bank goes out to its clients and it permits the good sense and honesty of its clients to prevail: it has a recovery rate of some ninety eight per cent. The bank faces conflict from the traditional money-lenders, the commercial banks which claim that the scheme is too small to create the economic growth necessary in Bangladesh, and from the Muslims who see the scheme emancipating women in the villages. The bank fulfils the ideals of Islamic thinking, but is attacked by established interest groups defending their interpretation of Islamic practice.

Economic frustration and unequal opportunities are fertile breeding grounds for dissent and protest. Equally important is the failure of most Muslim governments to confront the demands of general education. "Modernity, the circumstance of being 'modern', is, in a central sense, inescapable. It is the necessary context for every tolerably well-informed life-journey undertaken in the contemporary world."[1] Being modern does not mean being Western but it does mean that some degree of secular knowledge will have to be given far greater prominence in Muslim epistemologies. Dr Mahathir bin Mohamed has made the point that there can be no separation between secular and religious knowledge because all knowledge, all life, is encompassed by Islam. It is interesting that so prominent and successful a Muslim leader as Dr Mahathir had to tread a fine line: advocating on the one hand an independent and progressive Muslim attitude to acquiring the widest possible knowledge, while placating the traditional sensibilities by insisting on the moral rectitude of learning as the only way to protect the faith. There are Muslim intellectuals working to understand what it means to be a Muslim in the modern world, but they do not receive the prominence given to the extremists in Western reports. Western media are more interested in the violent and emotional than they are in quiet, but deeply significant, debates about the eternal values that remain, despite the anarchic individualism of Western communities, the essence of being human. Not only are Muslim intellectuals under pressure from the conservative elements of their own societies, they are not receiving the recognition and support they deserve from the West. Yet it is at this level of ideas and reassessments that Muslim leaders will have to convert the de facto modernisation of their societies into general acceptance. The renaissance of ijtihad will be needed to reinterpret the principles of Islam, to retain the critical moral core while jettisoning the dubious accretions of traditional and worldly Muslim authorities.

The whole panoply of modern knowledge and technology is acceptable, but its Western manifestations are to be avoided if all they achieve is the perpetuation of the Muslim world's dependence on Western developments. A fundamental problem here is that which bedevils Western societies: can the use of and reliance upon new technologies alter perceptions, change desires, force social changes? Do the people who create and maintain the new technologies become the new high-priests. All knowledge and technology entail more than the physical and objective characteristics; they also contain the moral questions about how the new technologies should be used, what controls should be placed on them and who should be responsible for the implementation of the regulations. These are moral questions the simply secular authorities cannot answer, if only because utilitarian arguments lead us only to numerical quantities not qualitative priorities.

There is a very real danger involved if Muslims are not critical enough of Western world perceptions and if they take things for granted. There needs to be an increase in criticism in the light of Islam criteria. Without a heightened critical faculty Muslims are in danger of considering

"Islam as a partial view of things to be complemented by some modern deology rather than as a complete system and perspective in itself, whose very totality excludes the possibility of its becoming a mere adjective to modify some other noun which is taken almost unconsciously as central in place of Islam...He who understands the structure of Islam in its totality knows that it can never allow itself to become reduced to a mere modifier or contingency vis-a-vis a system of thought which remains independent of it or even hostile to it." [2]

The main danger arises if Muslims accept the more extreme view of the difference of Islam and the insistence on establishing 'the third way'. If everything Western is to be discarded, then the creative and productive dynamism inherent in Islamic traditions will be suppressed yet again. Is Islamic resurgence giving enough attention to the challenges of poverty and hunger, disease and illiteracy? Have Islamic resurgents gone past, or are they still stuck on, their rhetoric regarding education and knowledge, science and technology, politics and administration, economics and management in their preferred Islamic order? To what extent have Islamists become pre-occupied with forms and symbols, rituals and practices? Do they regard laws and regulations in a static rather than a dynamic manner ? Is there a tension between the extremists' positions and the principles of the Quran and sunnah about the roles of women in society and the place of minorities in Muslim societies? Is the main problem a betrayal of the spirit of the Quran in the extremists' exclusiveness in a variety of matters ranging from charity to politics? Are the activities of extremists encouraging sectarianism in the umma through their insistence on their interpretations being the only correct ones? Have extremist views contributed to the factionalism and fragmentation of the ummah. [3]

The moral question is at the heart of the matter. Fazlur Rahman stated the position precisely. Islam needs: "some first-class minds who can interpret the old in terms of the new as regards substance and turn the new into the service of the old as regards ideals". [4] Can the modernists who want modernisation without Westernisation expect to realise their hopes? There is evidence enough in Western society that modernisation, with all its technological developments, has radically changed values by putting traditional attitudes under pressure and then instituting a new ethic.

Untrammelled economic growth and development has resulted in consumerism, institutionalised selfishness, ill-gotten wealth, rising expectations, laxity in sexual behaviours, the dissolution of the family, essentially independent electronic media, the influx of foreigners and foreign values, the materialism of modern science and technology and greater amounts of secularism. [5]

In an Increasing Secular World, can Islam unite a Modern Society?

Western secular politics is based on the notion that sovereignty belongs to individuals who select their governors through political consensus arrived at during free and regular elections. Islam believes, in theory at least, that sovereignty belongs only to God and that a legitimate temporal government is so only for as long as it implements God's will and the Sacred Laws. Whatever the theory asserts, the reality is that governments have to find the equilibrium that produces social prosperity and harmony under the guiding impulses of a strong moral code. The problem is made more complex when the moral code is itself subject to sectarian divisions: between orthodox and heterodox claims to revelation and legitimacy. We have to return to the questions: whose Islam, what Islam, where and when? It is clear that in states which have declared Islam as the ideology of political order, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, there has been little reduction in domestic conflict or the reduction of conflict with their neighbours, Muslim or otherwise. In these states there is little real evidence of effective redistribution of wealth or substantial economic and social benefits flowing down to the general population. The benefits promised by Islam are not being realised.

In the Muslim communities with an emphasis on the secular ideology of politics, such as Turkey and Egypt, the general welfare is only slightly better, although there appears to be a greater freedom of belief and action. The majority of Muslims live under governments with a qualified acceptance of a secular ideology. These states have taken Western models for modern political and social institutions and have imbued them with a strong Islamic character. [6] The problem remains: how does Islam deal with public morality and public order? What institutional frameworks can define, separate, and regulate private vice and public morality? What arguments can be raised in favour of, and against, the devout who insist that there exists already a definitive, well-known and comprehensive path revealed by God? In our reflections on the issues, we must remember to distinguish between the genuinely devout people and those utilising religious symbols to promote their own positions.

Political Islam is under challenge from its own rhetoric and message to be self-critical: to live up to its own standards; to live up to the principles it espouses and demands of others; to avoid and denounce excesses committed by governments and movements that identify themselves as Islamic; to take or share responsibility for the failures of Muslim societies, and not simply to blame the West for all the problems. [7] One of the central questions will be the treatment of minorities under Islamic governments, and the behaviour of Muslim minorities in other countries. At present the political ideology of Islam cannot entertain an equal and pluralist society of Muslims and non-Muslims. [8] This is not just a matter of tolerance: it entails the recognition in ideal and reality of the unqualified equality and citizenship rights of people of all faiths irrespective of whether they are male or female. The role and influence of political dissent, trade unions, and the media will have to be re-examined along with the social and legal issues. A new equilibrium will have to be reached between the legitimate demands of the individual and the legitimate demands of the society in which he or she lives.

In the same way, Muslim minorities will need to reach a new accommodation with the ruling groups in their countries. Indian Muslims (about one hundred millions, or twelve per cent of the population), and Muslims in the Philippines (about six millions, or eight per cent of the population), will have to control the extremist elements within their communities. The examples of Pakistan and Bangladesh are clear demonstrations that separatism is not a viable option. Religious homogeneity is no more capable of establishing a harmonious society than is the ethnic homogeneity being attempted by the Bosnian Serbs. The spread of Islamic terrorism into the emerging Muslim states in Central Asia, in Africa, as well as the sporadic outbreaks in Western countries, will need to be suppressed. At the same time the legitimate demands of Muslim minorities must be recognised by the governments of their countries. Some fifty million Chinese Muslims cannot be ignored even within a population as large as China's.

In international terms, Islamic states are increasingly significant economically, financially and politically. Across the ummah local interests and national politics appear to be more important than simple identification of interests based on Islamic traditions. The Islamic states antipathetic to the West (Libya, Iran, Iraq, Yemen) are balanced by those which are firmly supportive (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Brunei). This is not to say that the states with positive relations with the West are not critical of the West. Many of the criticisms of leaders such as Dr Mahathir, Lee Kuan Yew, and Goh Chok Tong (Prime Minister of Singapore), among others, are incisive and go to the heart of many of the problems in the West.

Despite the overwhelming global influence of Western ideas, the West, of course, is not a monolithic presence. The twentieth century has proved beyond any doubt that the ideals espoused in the West do not prevent hypocritical justifications for untenable attitudes towards the rest of the world, nor do they prevent total war between European nations.

The West has to understand Islam; not because Islam is the next great threat, but because Islam contains so many ideas and moral values that the West, for all its rampant secularism, still shares. The West must also recognise the diversity of Muslim experiences across the world. Muslim societies do not only suffer from 'Islamic' problems; they suffer the same problems long familiar in the West: political, economic, ecological, social and moral development. As such, these are shared human experiences and the beneficial resolutions: in science, technology, medicine, education should also be shared equitably. If Western nations believe in the value of their defining concepts: individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, and the separation of church and state [9] then they will have to be shared through sympathetic dialogue, not forced upon others. The idea of contending world views which define the good states from the bad states will have to be scrapped. It has not worked in the West's relationships with China, where the hypocrisy of the West's stance on human rights has been highlighted by the West's attitudes towards Algeria and Bosnia. Western support, especially that by the United States, for the authoritarian regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Pakistan while denigrating other exclusive Islamic authorities in Iran, Syria, Iraq, and the Sudan, does not generate confidence among Muslim societies around the world. Western nations supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, yet helped to oppress Palestinians through support for Israel. The continued existence of Israel is not negotiable, but the ways in which Western nations have treated the concerns and sensibilities of the Palestinians have not been sympathetic enough. Neither have the more aggressive Muslim attitudes helped the situation.

Western attempts to propagate ideas about Western civilisation as 'universal civilisation' have resulted in significant reactions against a new imperialism: 'cultural imperialism', 'human rights imperialism', and so on. The religious revivals and reaffirmations of local, traditional values, among the younger generations in Islamic and Hindu cultures especially, are often reactions against the insidiousness of Western cultural influences.

Just as Western societies must reassess their ideas about the superiority of their ideals, so too must Muslim societies understand that their traditions need reinterpretation. It is pointless for the ulama to keep on insisting that Islam is not simply a different tradition: it is a superior tradition. In this light Western ideas are not only inferior, they are inapplicable and irrelevant to Islam and Muslim society. [10] At the level of ideals the arguments depend eventually on the leap of faith: whether divine authority rests in the Torah, the Bible or the Quran. People who accept the superior divinity of only one of these not only have the problem of repudiating other claims, they must also address the people who do not accept the authority of any divine revelation. It is useless to quote the authority of the Quran to people who do not accept it. The arguments have to be conducted on other levels: rational and empirical levels. Here the ideals can be seen to have been debased over the centuries by the practical realities of living. This does not mean that the ideals are worthless, but it does mean that demands for a return to the simplicity of Islamic principles must be tempered by courageous and clear-sighted analysis of the differences between the Quranic ideals and their historical development.

Islam and the West have much to offer each other. Nothing productive will develop while the dominant attitudes are those of suspicion, bigotry, and fear. Islam once played an essential role in preserving knowledge during the ignorance and barbarism of Europe's 'dark ages'. The rediscovery and refinement of this knowledge helped to set Europe on the road to its modern dominance of science and technology. The grip of worldly and corrupted religious leaders was broken in Europe. At the same time the suppression of ijtihad and rational dissent within Islamic societies by similar sorts of rulers caused the decline of the Islamic world, permitting the Europeans to indulge in imperialism and colonialism from the eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. A sympathetic exchange of knowledge, flowing this time from Western societies to Islamic societies, may well revivify Islam and permit Islamic societies to enjoy a more creative and significant role in the modern world.

Simple material transfers are not enough. There has to be a reworking of the central ideas in both societies. It may seem an obvious point, but in the bigotry of the religious confrontation it is necessary to emphasise that non-Muslims must recognise as a fact God's revelation of truth to Muhammad. If we can accept our own monotheistic traditions and the role of prophets we must recognise the genuine prophetic claims of others. We can critically examine the traditions but we must do so from recognition and knowledge not from denigration and outright rejection. Islam offers much to Western societies presently dominated by the anarchic demands of rampant 'isms': individualism, materialism, consumerism and secularism.

Islam has preserved the central position of moral values as the defining character of human society. Francis Lamand, President of the French Association 'Islam and the West', considers that: "Islam can contribute to the rebirth, in the West, of three essential values: the sense of community, in a part of the world that has become too individualistic; the sense of the sacred; and the legal sense. This can be the contribution of Islam to Western societies". [11] In return the West has to control its arrogance and reassess its stance towards the rest of the world. The notion of there even being a 'rest of the world', from whatever perception, is something we all have to change.


1. Shabbir Akhtar, A Faith for All Seasons: Islam and Western Modernity (London, Bellew, 1990), p. 104

2. Sayyed Hossein Nasr, Islam and the Plight of Modern Man (London, Longman, 1975), pp. 131-132.

3. For an interesting treatment of this issue see Chandra Muzaffar, 'Dominant Western Perceptions of Islam and the Muslim', The Thatched Patio, Vol. 6, no.3 (1993), pp. 25-26. See also Shayk Fadhlalla Haeri, The Elements of Islam (Shaftesbury, Element Books, 1993), esp. pp. 129-35, 143.

4. Fazlur Rahman, Islam and Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual tradition, (Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 139.

5. P. J. Vatikiotis, Islam and the State [1987], (rep. London, Routledge, 1991), p. 67.

6. J. L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? (New York, Oxford, 1992), p. 78.

7. Ibid., pp. 206, 209.

8. Vatikiotis, Islam and the State, p. 97.

9. S. P. Huntington, 'The Clash of Civilisations?', Foreign Affairs, Vol. 72, no. 3 (1993), p. 40.

10. Vatikiotis, Islam and the State, p. 16.

11. Cited in M. A. Yamani, 'Islam is not an enemy of the West', rep. Australian Muslim News, Vol 1, no. 5 (1994), p. 9.


[Dr I. Bruce Watson is a Lecturer in South Asian and Islamic History at the University of New England, Armidale, Australia; Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Islamic Studies at UNE; Assistant Editor of "South Asia"; Member of the International Editorial Committee of "Periodica Islamica".]

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Brief History of Palestinian Problem

The origin of the Arab-Israeli conflict can be traced back more than a century, when Jews began to immigrate to Palestine in 1882, not as individuals but as a part of a political movement. Further, an assurance given in 1917 by Arthur Balfour promised a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Even before the Balfour declaration, Arnold Hottinger said, there about 80.000 Jews immigrant were already in the country.

The move made by the British angered the Palestinian as well as other Arabs and resulted in an eruption of violence that was to continue to the present day. The persecution of Jews under Hitler has its role in the swelling number of Jewish immigrant to Palestine, besides their claim that the land was theirs by virtue of God’s will and historic rights.

The battles between Zionists and Arabs inevitably took place. British troops intervened in some battles in an attempt to put an end to the acts of violence, but still it seemed that the British purposely helped the Zionists to win in Palestine. With the rise of Germany military power and British’s fear of losing credibility with the Arabs, the British changed their policy. Zionist immigration was to be limited and the purchase of land was prohibited by the British. But the status quo was just as unsatisfactory from the Zionist point of view as it was from the Arabs. The Arabs had sacrificed too much money and energy to be satisfied with a ‘Jewish national home’. While the Jews also refused the limitation of immigration.

Because of the suffering of the Jewish refugees who had just been freed from camps and hiding places in Central Europe, the whole western world suggested the British authorities to abolish the quota system or at least to raise the quotas. In all this, the Zionists had much more effective representative in the west than had the Arab, for Zionism had its disposal a great many talented men and first-rate links with the press.

However it may be, British decided, under the pressure of pro-Zionist European and American public opinion, to return their mandate to the United Nations. In 1947, UN issued a resolution recommended the partition of Palestine into two states, one Arab and the other Jewish.

The Arabs, however, attempt to reverse what they viewed as an injustice. After six months of fighting between Arab and Jewish forces the Palestinian and Arab volunteer forces were defeated. Following this, Ben Gurion on 14 May 1048 announced the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel. The remaining portions, West Bank and Gaza Strip, came under the control of the Jordanians and Egyptians. More than one million Palestinian forced to leave their homes.

Israel collaborated with France and Britain defeated the Egyptian army in the Suez war, during which Israeli forces occupied Sinai and Gaza Strip. Later, they were ordered by the UN to evacuate Sinai. In 1967, Israel attacked and destroyed the air force of Egypt, Syria and Iraq. This known as the Six Days War. Within six days the Israelis occupied the remaining 20% of Palestinian lands, which were under Jordan and Egypt. They also reoccupied Sinai Peninsula and the portion of Syrian land known as Golan Heights.

The Arab defeats gave the Palestinians an opportunity to become more active, thus, the Palestinian Liberation Organization founded. After the war in Sinai and Golan Heights, Egypt under Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel, which brought to Egypt’s isolation for several years by the Arab world.

Since 1967, PLO established relation with most countries of the world and launched guerilla attacks from any Arab countries, mainly Jordan and Lebanon. PLO forced to leave Lebanon following the Israeli invasion of Southern Lebanon and the eventual takeover of Beirut.

After more than 20 years of discrimination, the jailing of tens of thousands of Palestinian men and women by the Israeli forces, the Palestinian launched their uprising or “Intifadah”. They fought with all means available including stones, knives, boycotts and strikes.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Brief history of Sanusiyah movement

The Sanusiyah is a sufi brotherhood based in Libya and the central Sahara founded by Muhammad bin Ali al-Sanusi (1787-1859). The Sanusi brotherhood is well known for its role in the resistance movement against French and Italian colonialism, but it was formed as a strictly religious brotherhood based on the doctrine of the Shadhiliyah order.

Muhammad bin Ali al-Sanusi was born near Mostaganem in Algeria. In his early life he studied Sufism and Islamic sciences including law and tradition in the reformist environment of Fez. In 1823 he moved to Cairo and later to Hijaz to continue his studies. In Mecca he studied under the guidance of Ahmad bin Idris, a well known sufi teacher. Soon afterward, when Ibn Idris left for Yemen, al-Sanusi was in charge of his students and built the first lodge at Abu Qubays outside Mecca in 1827. In 1841 he returned back to North Africa settled in Cyrenaica and founded his new organization.

The Sanusiyah is commonly known as a “revivalist” brotherhood but its doctrine is not different from other traditional Sufism. It disapproves of excess in ritual, such as dancing or singing. Its great emphasis is on the role of the prophet and on following his example. Al-Sanusi wrote several books arguing for the right of ijtihad. He put this into practice by incorporating elements usually found in Shafi’i school but still maintaining his way to be a Maliki one.

The structure of the organization was simple and centralized. The local lodge had very little autonomy and was ruled by three or four officials appointed by the center. The core area of the organization was a desert that of the Bedouin of Cyrenaica. The order also had a number of urban lodges and into non-Bedouin areas like Tripolitania and Fezzan in western Libya as well as in Hijaz. It spread across the Sahara to the east of Lake Chad.

The brotherhood was not at all militant; rather, it promoted learning and piety among its adherents. It also had a strong work ethic, particularly to the building and upkeep of new lodges and development through agriculture. The brotherhood became an important factor in the development of Trans-Saharan trade. The center of the order was established in Jaghbub, on the Libyan-Egypt border, but later on moved to Kufa in the middle of Libyan desert in 1895. The French, who were moving toward Lake Chad saw the Sanusiyah as an activist and inimical force and opened hostilities at the Bir Ali Lodge in Kanem in 1901. The Sanusiyah were caught unaware and withdrew. But they quickly took up arms, and the population in the region fought the French in the name and under the leadership of the brotherhood until the Sanusiyah were forced to withdraw around 1913-14.

When Italians invaded Libya in 1911, the Sanusiyah order was not targeted as enemies, but when Turkey withdrew from Libya the following year, the Sanusi leader Ahmad al-Sharif raised the call for jihad and led a large Bedouin force against the invaders. The Sanusi held the Italians at bay for several years, but an attack on the British forces in Egypt led to the brotherhood’s defeat. Al-Sharif was replaced by his cousin, Muhammad Idris. After the rise of fascism in Italy, the struggle became a more purely Bedouin one led by tribal leaders like Omar Mukhtar, while the Sanusi led by Idris was in exile in Egypt. During this time, which lasted until 1932, the Sanusi organizational structure of lodges was largely destroyed. When the modern state of Libyan was created and in 1951 was made king of Libya. He was removed by the coup of Mu’ammar Qadhdhafi in 1969. Later on the religious Sanusiyah brotherhood had become a monarchical order. Today the order is not tolerated in Libya, and outside Libya only a few lodges remain, including the oldest one at Abu Qubays near Mecca.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Islamic revivalism in Turkey

By the time of the death of Mustafa kemal Ataturk in 1938, Turkey was securely on its way to becoming a dynamic modern state. Kamal never for a moment swerved from his aim to make Turkey becoming a Western state, a European state. The westernization of the country through radical reforms and secularization was opposed by religious section of society and the democrats. But Kemal’s rule was one of uncriticized, and suppressed every one who opposed him. Until 1945, there was only one political party in Turkey, the Republican Party.

His successor, Ismet Inonu, wanted to build a consensus and therefore permitted members of opposition, who were more sympathetic to Islam, to enter politics. A real relaxation of militant secularism, however, came only after the introduction of multiparty politics in 1945, when the ruling CHP (Republican Party) recognized that the competition for vote against the Demokrat Party required the manipulation of Islam.

Consequently the CHP began to undo some of its earlier reforms. In 1948 pilgrims were permitted to visit Mecca. The following year, a faculty of Theology was opened in Ankara. Then religious education was restored to the classroom, and sacred tombs that had been closed down in 1925 were reopened.

Despite the concessions, the Republicans lost the election in 1950. The Democrats continued the policy of liberation and gained great popularity, especially by restoring the Arabic Azan and lifting the ban on religious radio broadcast. With political liberalization, the Islamic sentiment that had gone underground reemerged and became vocal. More people attended mosques, and new ones were built through out the land. There was a growing demand for religious literature. These developments exposed the fundamental weakness of the Kemalist’s reforms, their failure to reach deeply into society. Thus, even though the social institutions associated with the dervish orders were destroyed, their influence remained strong and began to reassert itself by 1950.

Nonetheless, there was no question of going back to an Islamist under the shariah or permitting the sufi orders to stand in the way of change. When some Sufis attempted to regain their influence, their leaders were prosecuted with the full force of the law, by the supposedly pro-Islamist DP (Demokrat Party).

The military coup of 1960 opened a new chapter in the political life of modern Turkey. The military regime introduced new institutions, including a liberal constitution that guaranteed social justice, the right to strike, and freedom of expression. As a result, a Worker’s Party (TIP) was formed and challenged the policies of the ruling classes. The establishment responded by mobilizing “Islam as the antidote to communism”.

The Justice Party, successor of the Demokrat Party, managed to capture power but lost ground simultaneously to the right and left. The Republican Party picked up most of the lower class urban votes. In the eastern region it lost ground to Milli Nizami Partisi (National Order Party), led by Necmettin Erbakan, who enjoyed the support of the Naqshabandis. An Islamist was soon entrenched through out the bureaucracy, posing a threat to secular education. The MNP banned by the military regime but regrouped as the National Salvation Party. The NSP again banned in 1980.

When political activity was partially restored in 1983, the Motherland Party led by Turgut Ozal, a former member of NSP, assumed the mantel of political Islam. But Muslim opinion in Turkey, radicalized by the Iranian revolution, wanted a more militant party to support. The Welfare Party, NSP reincarnation, attempted to meet these radical expectations. It emphasized the struggle against feudalism, imperialism, and fascism.

Generally speaking, Turkey in the 1990s is a country that feels comfortable with Islamic political and cultural discourse. It has become the part of the Islamic world and participates in most of its activities, often playing a leading role. It sees itself as a bridge between the west and the Islamic world and takes its Islamic identity seriously. This trend is likely to continue.

Monday, January 30, 2006


One of the successor states created from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Turkey became the first secular state in the Muslim world. Kamal abolished the Sultanate in November 1922, and Turkey became a Republic in 1923 with Kamal as its president, and Abdul Majid as the caliph of the Muslims. The abandonment of the shariah and the adoption of a secular legal system based on Western codes of law, as well as the declaration of a secular republic in 1928, were radical departures from tradition.

By the 13th century, when the Ottoman state was created, Islam was well established under the influence of such sufi orders like Naqshabandiyah, Mawlawiyah and Bektashiyah (the heterodox Bektashiyah order was particularly influential because of its intimate connection with the Jannisary corps, the heart of the Ottoman army.). The balance between the official Islam of the ulama and the popular, folk Islam of the Sufis began to turn in favour of the ulama in the 18th century.

The orders, as well as the ulama, had been able to maintain a certain autonomy vis-à-vis the state due to the revenues of religious foundation or awqaf. But the sultans began to restore their authority over these foundations, and finally Mahmud II brought them under the control of the newly created Inspectorate of Evkaf. He incorporated the ulama in his state by creating an office of Shaikhul Islam, which was transformed into a civil servant with consultative function. Later Shaikhul Islam became a member of the cabinet appointed by the sultan. The process of rationalizing and secularizing continued, accelerated with the Tanzimat reforms, until the founding of the state in 1923.

Meanwhile, however, the Ottoman regime stressed the Islamic character of the state and society as a response to the growing nationalism of its Christian subjects and increasing imperialist encroachments on Muslim lands in Asia and Africa. Mustafa Kemal was quite emphatic about this, noting that the nation whose preservation and defense we have undertaken is composed not only of one ethnic element.

After dissolving the sultanate in 1922, the Kemalist wanted to make the caliph as a symbol figurehead, but the ambitions of Caliph Abdul Majid supported by Kemal’s opponents, forced the government to abolish the caliphate in March 1924. All educational institutions were placed under the Ministry of Public Instruction and all cases related to dogma and ritual of Islamic faith were placed under the Directorate of Religious Affairs.

The Kurdish rebellion of February 1925 led by the Naqshabandi Shaikh Sa’id caused the Kemalist to launch a program of reforms that effectively removed Islam from political life and secularized society. The dervish orders and sacred tombs were closed down in 1925. The practices such as fortunetelling, magic, cures by breathing performed by Shaikhs, Babas, Sayids, Murshids ect became illegal. Purdah and polygamy were abolished. The wearing of the Fez was outlawed and men were required to wear hats. The Gregorian calendar was adopted along with the twenty-four-hour clock. The Swiss civil code replaced the shariah, depriving the ulama of their traditional source of influence. Later in 1928, the Assembly voted to remove the words “the religion of the Turkish state is Islam” from Article 2 of the constitution, completing the process of disestablishing Islam.

The Kemalist held that the purpose of these radical reforms was not anti-Islamic but political; to remove the jurisdiction of religious leaders to the hands of the Directorate of Religious Affairs. Kemalist daily, “Hakimiyet-I Milliye”, had written “we can sincerely claim that our revolution has more of religious than an irreligious character…. To think that a nation can live without any religion is nothing less than denying humanity, sociology and history”. The fact is that Islam became an instrument of government policy, but was presented as a rational and scientific religion.

Out of Kemalist expectation, the Menemen Incident of December 1930, in which Darvish Mehmed, a Naqshabandi devotee, called on the people to destroy the regime, proved that the people had failed to understand the reforms. The ideology known as Kemalism was launched in 1931 and written into constitution in 1937. Its core was the six, Fundamental and unchanging principle of of Replubicanism, Nationalism, Populism, Statism, Secularism, and Revolutionarism. Islam was nationalized in January 1932, with the Quran being read in Turkish, followed by the Turkish Azan.

Arab Nationalism

Arab nationalism can be understood as a political movement of a twentieth century product. However, it may originate with the presence of the Arabic language itself or with the Arab’s social, intellectual and political culture. Arab nationalism aims at the political reunification of all Arabic speaking states and their transformation from a ‘kulturnation’ into a ‘staatnation’. The movement of Arab nationalism acquired its present form only gradually, from 19th century. Though the sense of Arab nationalism based on national collectivity started since the Arab language was spoken, but politically it emerged clearly along with the emergence of Young Turk in the Ottoman Empire.

When Young Turk came to power in the Ottoman Empire, it tried to abolish the old Turkish policy of diverse ‘religious state’, which had previously lived together, and to replace it by a new ‘Ottoman policy’. Arnold Hottinger wrote, “The fact that the Turkish element began to appear more and more as the most reliable element among all the ‘Ottoman citizens’ had its effect on the racial policy of the nationalists. In practice it amounted to the first class ‘Ottoman citizens’, the Turks, being differentiated from the second class ‘Ottoman citizens’, the religious and ethnic minorities”. The Arabs which were the largest and most important among minorities reacted to this and demanded to separate from this empire, in which they were nothing but second class citizens, and to set up their own states.

The lost of Ottoman control over the route from Black Sea to Mediterranean Sea humbled the Empire and led to the decline of Ottoman power was one of the factors which contributed to the development of Arab nationalism. The invention of printing press opened up the media to propagate the doctrine and spirit of Arab nationalism. It has an important role in the growth of Arab nationalism by publishing the speeches and articles written by the Arab nationalist writer.

World War I marked the beginning of an explicitly political phase. Sharif Husayn, the ruler of Mecca, and his sons, in collaboration with Britain and France and with the active help of T. E. Lawrence, rebelled against his sovereign in far off Istanbul to establish a single Arab kingdom in its Arab provinces.

Prof. Z. N. Zeine of Beirut, in his book, “Arab-Turkish Relation and the emergence of Arab Nationalism”, comes to the conclusion that a sense of Arab nationhood and Arab nationalism only developed later. At first, preparatory period of this development began with the Young Turk Revolution and as reaction to their nationalism. Arab nationalism only became effective in extensiveness during the World War, under the pressure of the Turkish occupation and the methods used by the Turkish against the Arab civilian population. It then grew under the pressure of the European mandates, which were established after the war, into a general movement for emancipation.

The idea of mandates was born in Versailles. Arab provinces were divided between France and Britain according to the secret 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement. Palestine and Iraq became mandates while Lebanon and Syria came under the mandates of France. All that left to the Arab was the Arabian Peninsula. In November 1917, British Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, promised Palestine as a national home for the Jews.

The Arab consider this division of their lands among the victors of the first World War a betrayal. They insisted insisted that an Arab kingdom was promised to them, since to some extant they liberated themselves by their own efforts from their Turkish overlords. Directed against European domination, the basic we/they dichotomy of nationalism facilitated the movement’s politicization.

Following the establishment of the Arab League in 1945, the disastrous end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war made Palestine a core issue in the Arab politics and its relation with outside power. Egypt and Syria united under charismatic leadership of Nasser, which resulted to the emergence of the United Arab Republic between 1958 and 1961, aimed at the establishment of a unified Arab state. A conservative Pan-Islamic strategy promoted by Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco, opposed the radical Arab nationalism and emphasized the convening of Islamic conferences.
The Arab region was shaken to its roots in 1967 by the third Arab-Israeli war. The magnitude of Arab defeat restructured regional leadership, culminating in the decline of revisionist forces and the rise of the oil-producing powers.

The policy of Arab territorial state was changed after 1968. They were more tempted by the riches of the oilfields than the hardship of battlefields. Egypt approaches with Israel, culminating in the 1978 Camp David Accords, seemed a threat to Arab nationalism. In Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988), Syria, Libya and Algeria supported non-Arab revolutionary Islamic Iran instead of an Arab Iraq. Harrased on two sides by territorial ‘raison d’etat’ and revolutionary Islamism, Arab nationalism was severely wounded, though not dead.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Muhammad Ali Pasha

Muhammad Ali was born in the late 1760s in the small port of Kavala. His father was an Ottoman soldier of Albanian origin and a tobacco trader. When Selim III raised an army in 1798 to send to Egypt against Napoleon, the governor of Kavala in Thrace supplied three hundred men, the second in command being Muhammad Ali. The peace Amiens in 1802 and the British evacuation of the Nile found Muhammad Ali responsible for several thousand Albanian and Bosnian troops.
When the British left Egypt in 1803, Ali sided with the Mamluks and drove the Turkish government from Cairo. He then played one Mamluk faction against another. Finally, with the aid of the Cairo populace, he chased the Mamluks, deposed the new governor who just arrived from Istanbul, and was recognized as governor by the citizens of Cairo. Later he was appointed Pasha of Egypt by Selim and asserted his full submission to him.
Finances cramped him severely. War in Lower Egypt, and the passage of troops, had reduced the Delta to Barrenness. Previously, taxes and levies supported an Egyptian army, but Muhammad Ali found little to levy and taxes quite insufficient. In order to raise fund he surveyed all land holdings, seized land grants upon which payment to the state were in arrears, abolished the ancient system of land tenure, and expropriated the remaining fiefs (multazim).

As land taxes increased, Muhammad Ali turned his attention to commerce and established a government monopoly on the export of grain, in which the profit often reached 500 %. Irrigation system was improved, which provided water all the year around, and doubled the production of the land such as wheat, barley, beans, rice, sugar, sesame, indigo, short staple cotton, and later Egypt was able to export long staple cotton in large number.

Besides finance improvement, his other successful endeavors were sanitation and education. When great plagues and cholera raged every year, he organized a more effective quarantine and appointed committee for sanitation, which was given enough fund and absolute authority. The result is the general improvement of health condition and the restriction of the visitation of the diseases.

The first schools established by Ali were for the military. Most of the instructors in these schools were French. Egyptian boys were often sent to study in France and England. The polytechnic schools were founded, preparatory schools to feed the polytechnic were organized in Cairo and Alexandria, and medical college was established. In connection with the schools a government press was set up at Bulaq near Cairo. Newspapers printed in both Arabic and French. These educational activities made Egypt a leader of the Arab world in the intellectual life.

Muhammad Ali continued to make some improvement. Alexandria was transformed into Mediterranean city resembling Marseilles, Genoa and Naple. Construction for public use was carried out on a large scale, including barracks for the army, dockyard for the navy, office buildings for bureaucracy, schools, hospitals, palaces ECT. The Mahmudiya canal was dug, and country roads were improved and widened for better transportation.

Organization of the finances of Egypt and destruction of the Mamluk power enabled Muhammad Ali to widening his rule. He dispatched his able sons on military expeditions to the Hijaz, Sudan, Crete and the Morca. In 1833, Crete, Egypt, Syria, Adana and Tarsus were assigned to Muhammad Ali, for which he agreed to pay 150,000-Pound sterling a year tribute to Istanbul. His son Ibrahim governed Hijaz and Ethiopia consisting a few Red Sea ports, and later he became the governor of Syria also. Ali’s other son took Sudan and founded the city of Khartoum.

When Muhammad Ali declared his independence, Ottoman forces invaded Syria but were destroyed at Najib by Ibrahim in 1839. Five days later, Mahmud II died, and before July was out the Turkish fleet deserted to join the Egyptian at Alexandria. Muhammad Ali was now master of the situation, and the Porte prepared to surrender to his demands. However, a joint note from Austria, England, France, Prussia and Russia informed that they were concerned with the developments within the Middle East and recommended that no action be taken on Muhammad Ali’s claims without their approval. Later, after he refused the Treaty of London in 1840, signed by British, Russia, Prussia and Russia, Muhammad Ali had to face the military action against the four powers. Acre was captured by British-Austrian troops. Forcibly, Ali recalled his son Ibrahim from Syria and accepted the British term.

The defeats of 1840 and the diplomatic negotiation of 1841 gave Muhammad Ali full power in Egypt, but left him and old and broken man. However, ha has proved that he was a great ruler of Egypt who has reformed Egypt to modern country. He lived on until 1849, however, in 1847 the government passed to his grandson, Abbas.



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