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American Muslims and Religious Freedom FAQ - Interfaith Alliance

Insisting on the fundamental diversity of Islam, Hoodbhoy writes:. Every essentialist statement ever made about Islam should be weighed against this paragraph, with which virtually all objective scholars of Islam would agree. Moreover, the differences among Islams are sometimes vast. The history of Islam is replete with accounts of divergences in the theory and practice of the religion.

In the first years—from CE to around CE, the so-called formative period of Islamic thought, according to W. Montgomery Watt in a book of that name—a transition occurred from the original oral traditions of Islam to a written tradition that came to be widely accepted by Muslim scholars. There is much controversy today about exactly what happened during this period, since the territory of Islam was at that time expanding enormously and many special arrangements were made by Muslim conquerors with local leaders throughout the conquered lands, permitting the orderly conduct of life to continue.

Different schools of Islamic law sprung up in different regions, with varying implications for future development.

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When the Quran the words of Allah as dictated by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad , the Hadith stories of the Prophet , and the Sunna the ethos of Islam as practiced by the Prophet were finally articulated, there were already many conflicting interpretations of these texts. Today Islams comprise an enormous variety of beliefs and behaviors. What is routinely practiced by one group may be forbidden by another. Nearly everybody knows a Catholic who almost never attends mass or who practices birth control, or a Protestant who believes in heaven but not in hell.

Many of us who are familiar with variations in religious practice and belief among both Christians and Jews may not realize that similar variations exist among Muslims. The obvious reason is lack of personal contact with Muslims. However, if you have lived where Islam is common, and especially if you have Muslim friends, you probably have observed some of this diversity and may even take it for granted.

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In Muslim-populated areas, tales of religious contradictions—some trivial, some not—abound and may at first seem incongruous to non-Muslims. I ignored it. It must be the hand of God. Descriptive labels are often treacherous. While there is little overlap between Sufis and Wahhabis, for example, each sect, as presently constituted, includes a wide range of beliefs and behaviors. I consider myself a Muslim fundamentalist. There is nothing fundamentalist about putting an airplane through a building. All parties have been too long accustomed to blaming others for the problems they face.

Their attention should be directed to his criticism of the West:.

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We ought to take these exhortations seriously on at least two accounts. All the same, he manages to use his Islam cleverly to exploit the long-festering anger of Muslims, especially in the Middle East, toward the West. We would be foolish to acquiesce in this perverse strategy. The Arabic word for catastrophe is nakba , and this was to be only the first such nakba experienced by the Arabs during the twentieth century. The rage of Arabs and other Muslims continued to grow throughout the rest of the twentieth century, not because of any teachings of Islam as such but as a result of the forced domination of Muslims by Western nations, which increased with one nakba after another.

The first was the onset of the Cold War, which ended the period of European ascendancy and polarized the whole world, including Muslims, between the United States and the Soviet Union. Then another major nakba occurred in —the greatest nakba of all in most Arab eyes—when all the Western nations collectively imposed the formation of Israel with no apparent concern for the fate of half a million non-Jewish Palestinians not only Muslims but also Christians and secularists. Arab humiliation grew as the United States both strengthened Israel militarily against the Palestinians and other Arabs and armed Middle Eastern dictators during the Cold War in return for their often cruel support in the struggle against the Soviet Union.

Their success in getting the meeting with Wilson owed much to their sacrifice as soldiers in the British army fighting and defeating the German-Ottoman alliance. Edwin Montagu, Secretary of State for British-ruled India, arranged the meeting because he believed that the British empire, as the biggest Muslim empire in the world, had a moral responsibility to listen to the Indian Muslim case for the preservation of the Ottoman caliphate.

Several Indian Hindu leaders joined the meeting, making clear their solidarity with their fellow Indian Muslim brethren and their support for the Ottoman caliphate. This conversation at the Paris Peace Conference in does not reveal a clash between an Islamic world and a Western world. It reveals one complex and interdependent world.


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The Muslims were loyal supporters of the multi-faith British empire, cooperating with Hindus, and had fought against the Muslim soldiers of the Ottoman empire during the First World War. They did not see Westerners as any kind of enemy, and made their case for the Ottoman caliphate according to international norms about national self-determination and imperial peace. Since the Iranian Revolution of , Western journalists and radical Islamists popularised the idea.

In their view, contemporary Pan-Islamism draws on ancient Muslim ideals in pursuit of restoring a pristine religious purity. According to this account, Pan-Islamism is a reactionary movement, in thrall to ancient traditions and classical Islamic law. This Pan-Islamism not only survives but thrives in the contemporary world, and is a civilisational artefact deeply at odds with modern times. It began with the advent of Islam, in the 7th century, and has continued virtually to the present day. It has consisted of a long series of attacks and counterattacks, jihads and crusades, conquests and reconquests.

Yet, contrary to this dominant view of an eternal clash with the Christian West, Pan-Islamism is in fact relatively new, and not so exceptional. Closely related to Pan-Africanism and Pan-Asianism, it emerged in the s as a response to the iniquities of European imperialism. T he idea of an ancient clash between the Muslim World and the Christian World is a dangerous and modern myth.

It relies on fabricated misrepresentations of separate Islamic and Western geopolitical and civilisational unities.

Pan-Islamists in the age of empire did not have to convince fellow Muslims about the global unity of their co-religionists. By racialising their Muslim subjects with references to their religious identity, colonisers created the conceptual foundations of modern Muslim unity. Like Pan-Africanists and Pan-Asianists, the first Pan-Islamists were intellectuals who wanted to counter the slights, humiliations and exploitation of Western colonial domination.

They did not necessarily want to reject the imperial world or the reality of empires. Like Pan-Africanists and Pan-Asianists, Pan-Islamists emphasised that European empires discriminated against Africans, Asians and Muslims, both within empires and in international affairs. All three challenged European racism and colonial domination, and promised a better and freer world for the majority of human beings on Earth. European colonial officers began to worry about a potential Muslim revolt when they saw how the modern technologies of printing, steamships and the telegraph were creating new links among diverse Muslim populations, helping them to assert a critique of racism and discrimination.

Yet there were no Pan-Islamic revolts against colonialism from the s to the s. The alleged threat of Pan-Islamism made its first notable appearance in the West during the First World War, in part because the Ottoman and German empires promoted it in their war propaganda.


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  • By the s, with the fading of the colonial world and its replacement by a world of independent nation-states, the political projects of Pan-Islamism, Pan-Africanism and Pan-Asianism had almost disappeared. They had, however, won many of the intellectual battles against racism, defeated colonial arguments of white supremacy, and helped to end European imperial rule. Disappointments about the failure of Africa, Asia and the Muslim world to become comparable in equality and freedom to the West also contributed to the declining status of the pan-nationalisms.

    By the s, African and African-American intellectuals grew more pessimistic about the key Pan-Africanist dream of gaining racial equality for black people in the modern world, and making the whole of Africa prosperous and free. The Pan-African vision of uniting newly independent, weak African nations to create the necessary synergy of a federative global power and give them both liberty and prosperity has not materialised.

    Although there is still an international organisation — the African Union — it is ineffective, and far from achieving the goals of Pan-Africanism. The hopes of the Pan-Africanist generation, from Dubois to Frantz Fanon, for a future decolonised Africa remain a lost project for the next generation. The first Pan-Islamists were highly modernist proponents of the liberation of women and racial equality.

    On the other hand, with multiple great powers such as China, India and Japan, the decolonised Asia of today would have made the early 20th-century Pan-Asianists proud. Yet 20th-century Pan-Asianism took a complex course. Pan-Islamism has also proceeded in a series of fits and starts over the past century. From Turkey and Egypt to Indonesia and Algeria, the idea of Muslim intellectualism and global Muslim solidarity empowered 20th-century nationalist leaders and movements.

    The Turkish Parliament had abolished the Ottoman caliphate back in , and by the s that caliphate was almost forgotten. Nearly a fifth of the way into the 21st century, however, Pan-Africanism and Pan-Asianism seems to have vanished but Pan-Islamism and the ideal of Muslim world solidarity survives. The answer lies in the final stages of the Cold War. It was in the s that a new Muslim internationalism emerged, as part of a rising political Islam. It was not a clash between the primordial civilisational traditions of Islam and the West, or a reassertion of authentic religious values.

    Let us go through some of them and take a closer look at what Allah says. Please have an open mind and read through these verses again and again. Allah and his messenger announce that it is acceptable to go back on our promises treaties and obligations with Pagans and make war on them whenever we find ourselves strong enough to do so Further, make him march in a chain, whereof the length is seventy cubits! This was he that would not believe in Allah Most High. And would not encourage the feeding of the indigent!

    So no friend hath he here this Day.