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Posts Tagged ‘prophet muhammad’

Neil MacFarquhar: reporter of rumors

May 26th, 2012 Comments off
I doubt that the National Inquirer would have run this story.  And don’t you like when MacFarquhar takes swipe at Aljazeera and Al-Arabiyya’s coverage of Syria as if this paper any better?   “On Sunday, the opposition put a video on YouTube making the poisoning claim, which was run by Al Jazeera Arabic and Al Arabiya satellite networks, both of which report virtually anything that puts the government in a bad light….The original claim on the video said an opposition group called Al Sahaba — referring to the original companions of the Prophet Muhammad — had recruited a bodyguard of one of the senior officials two months ago.  The bodyguard struck Saturday night, according to the statement read on the recording. Using a tasteless, colorless and odorless poison, he put 15 drops into a meat stew that had been ordered for dinner, instead of the mere five needed to cause death, the statement said. It said eight senior officials were hospitalized at the elite Al Shami hospital and the staff was secluded, its cellphones taken away and other patients transferred.”

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But Are They “The Good Muslims”?

May 16th, 2012 Comments off

What we talk about when we talk about Egypt’s Salafis
By Haroon Moghul, Religion Dispatches, May 3, 2012

After their strong showing in the Egyptian elections, Salafis are a hot topic. But despite all the talk of Salafis, we still have a difficult time defining Salafism. Take Wendell Steavenson’s recent New Yorker piece, “Radicals Rising,” a portrait of Salafi politicians in Alexandria, Egypt.

Steavenson defines Salafism as “a strain of Islamic fundamentalism that emphasizes the original tenets and practices of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions.” Steavenson’s essay is worth reading—don’t get me wrong. But her definition doesn’t actually distinguish Salafis from most other Muslims.

Islam is rooted in the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad. This applies to Salafis (usually considered Sunni) as much as it does to Shi’a Muslims. For both, Muhammad embodies the Qur’an, and they in turn try to embody Muhammad.

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Not Revolution 2.0: Social Media as Lynch Mob in the Kashgari Case

February 24th, 2012 Comments off

I haven’t commented up to now on the case of Hamza Kashgari, the Saudi journalist who had to flee the Kingdom due to his Twitter tweets about the Prophet Muhammad, and who was then seized in Malaysia and extradited back to Saudi Arabia for possible trial, which could even entail the death penalty. The basic issues of freedom of expression seem clear enough, and the case is even more dismaying because of Malaysia’s role in delivering him back to KSA after he had made his escape. Certainly Kashgari’s tweets were ill-advised for someone living in Saudi Arabia (what parts of “Commission for the P:romotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” and “Religious Police” did he not understand?), but the potentially draconian punishment is provoking justifiable outrage. Background stories here and here if you haven’t been following it.

But there’s another side to the whole Kashgari issue that is worth noting amid all the talk over the past year of the Arab uprisings as “social media revolutions,” “Revolution 2.0,” and so on. In the Kashgari case, it is the social media that have been baying for his scalp.

As this piece in Canada’s MacLeans notes,  the Internet has been playing the role of lynch mob in the Kashgari case. YouTube videos call for his death; chat rooms demand it.

Then there is the battle of the Facebook groups. As of this writing, the “The Saudi People Demand Retribution from Hamza Kashgari (Arabic)” Facebook page has 26,711 members.  “Free Hamza Kashgari,” on the other hand, has 6,700. Of course there are other pages and other forums, but it seems clear that supporters of the Saudi religious establishment are using social media to demand punishment. Though the page itself does not immediately call for his death, many of the posters do. (In contrast, the Grand Mufti of Egypt has noted, “We don’t kill our sons; we talk to them.”)

Yes, social media can be a major organizing tool for revolutionary change. It can also be the modern equivalent of the lynch mob.


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Malaysia deports tweet row Saudi

February 12th, 2012 Comments off

Malaysian authorities deport a Saudi journalist who left his country after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a tweet.
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The Saudi writer who fled for his life

February 9th, 2012 Comments off
An apology by Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari over his controversial tweet about Prophet Muhammad failed to dampen a Salafi campaign against him prompting him to flee his home country.  The issue has turned from a spontaneous reaction into an organized campaign run by a group of disturbed Salafis, which has included death threats.  That’s how a series of attacks quickly escalated against Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari following his tweets on the Prophet Mohammad’s mawlid(birth), which was celebrated on Saturday. Kashgari fled in the wake of the campaign. There are conflicting reports about his current whereabouts. A new twitter account believed to be his claims he headed to Canada while other news reports say he is in Southeast Asia.  The Saudi writer, who wrote for al-Bilad newspaper, did not only receive a deluge of threats. His address and phone number were circulated so that his opponents would know how to find him.

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Behold the Huthis

February 5th, 2012 Comments off


Huthi political rally near Sa’da this week

The ongoing political turmoil in Yemen has been overshadowed, and understandably so, by the increasing bloodshed in Syria, soccer riots in Egypt and lingering resistance by a few Qaddafi supporters in Libya. The past year of protests and revolution, unprophecied by political pundits, reminds me of a giant tire with so many holes that it is impossible to stop the air from escaping, even when one hole seems to be plugged. Meanwhile the road gets bumpier and bumpier in Yemen. Now for the latest recap… about-to-be-former President Ali Abdullah Salih is still in New York receiving medical treatment. He is in principle immune from prosecution, but certainly not immune from the continuing opposition to the excesses of his long rule in Yemen. A recently infused political form of Islam, known as Ansar al-Shari’a (with its own Facebook page) has all but replaced the infamous name Al-Qaida, in the south. The upcoming election, with one emerging compromise candidate for President, hardly seems headed for a democratic exercise apart from name only. Several aid workers were captured earlier this week and then released. And, behold the Huthis…

Al-Jazeera posts a video of a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday in a remote area outside of the northern city of Sa’da. There on a platform etched against a barren landscape, a region less vibrant after almost eight years of conflict with the government that has left the ancient town of Sa’da in tatters, stood Abd al-Malik al-Huthi, the leader of the rebellion. Reports of his death at the hands of a government raid in 2009 are, as Mark Twain once noted about a premature obituary for himself, greatly exaggerated. While I do not doubt the sincerity of those present who celebrated the birth of the Prophet, the political flavor of the event certainly dominated the scenes shown on al-Jazeera.


Abd al-Malik al-Huthi speaking near Sa’da this week

To most outside observers the various political voices raised in Yemen against the regime of Salih tend to be merged into a bundle called “Islamism” with a strong sense that the real culprits are those die-hard al-Qaida agents. [For an excellent appraisal of al-Qaida in Yemen, see the report published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point]. Yemen being a Muslim-majority, overwhelmingly so, it should not be a surprise that Islam is a major form of identity. But politics contort the values of every kind of faith, not just that of those who celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. Anyone who studies the historical sweep of Islam can readily see that there was never a time since the death of the Prophet when there was clear agreement within the Umma. How could it be otherwise, given the diverse forms of identity socially and culturally constructed? The same can be said for any major religion. Even if you think Marx was off the mark in claiming that man makes religion, you must admit that man (and occasionally a woman) distorts religion all the time.

The Huthi rebellion is very much about a travesty of justice, at least for those who belong to the movement. It is not about reviving the millennial experience of the Zaydi Imamate, nor about establishing a new caliphate. Yemen is not about to host a second Shi’a-dominated theocracy. The anti-American rhetoric is there, with good reason given that Salih used much of America’s military aid against his political foes and not on the “terrorists” for whom it was targeted. Unlike Bin Laden, whose original Al-Qaida was headquartered in a foreign land, the leader of the Huthi movement has a stake in rebuilding his own country. Their problem is with the Salih regime, not their fellow Yemenis. Thus, it is not surprising that the Huthis recently formed a political party to participate in the evolving political process. Their activities can be followed online on the website http://ansaruallah.net.

The media focus on Al-Qaida in Yemen obscures the complicated dynamics of the evolving political processes in Yemen. Yes, there are former allies of Bin Laden who happened to be Yemeni and returned to their homeland, but the few who have tried to carry on the fight have not made much headway in damning the United States as the number one problem. Whatever you want to call the various political groups chanting “Allahu Akbar,” remember that their primary goal is to free Yemen from the oppression of the dictatorial state which Salih ran. There is a long list of grievances in the south, as there are in the north. Yemen is also an extremely poor country on an extremely rich peninsula, unemployment is staggering and human development indicators have tanked. No one cause can explain the current turmoil, nor be used to predict the outcome of the revolution that has brought down, almost, the Salih regime. But, do not count out the Huthis as a major player in the coming year.

Daniel Martin Varisco

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‘Charlie Hebdo’ offices burned

November 5th, 2011 Comments off

WSJ, Fire Guts Magazie Offices Amid Controversy Over Caricature, 2 Nov 2011 refers to the firebombing of ‘Charlie Hebdo”s offices in Paris, after the publication of an edition of their satirical magazine which features the Prophet Muhammad.
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N is for nabidh…

June 17th, 2011 Comments off


In a previous post I introduced a delightful read and a handy recipe book entitled Ziryab: Authentic Arab Cuisine by Farouk Mardam-Bey and illustrations by Odile Alliet. The “Logbook” at the end of the text is an entertaining alphabet of stories about Arabic good and drink. Here is the selection on a type of wine that the Prophet Muhammad drunk:

N for Nabidh

In most Arab countries today, the word “nabidh” means “wine.” It used to be quite a different beverage, which was made by macerating grapes, dates, or other fruits for some time in water. The Prophet himself loved it. According to the most authentic hadith, he never let the fruit macerate longer than three days. But such a beverage tends to ferment quickly in the heat, and a furious controversy developed among Muslim lawmakers, about whether or not it was licit to drink it. For most of them, the Malikitesm the Shafi‘ites, and the Hanbalites, as well as the Shi‘a Muslims, it was not permitted, and those who drank nabidh were to be punished with forty or eighty lashes, just like those who drank wine. On the other hand, the Hanafites were nice enough to authorize this drink under certain conditions. And the Mu‘tasilites – Jubba’i among them believed that the faithful could drink it as much as they liked in order to get familiarized on earth with the pleasures awaiting them in the Hereafter.

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A Descendant of the Prophet Gets Married

April 29th, 2011 Comments off

 I’ve heard something about a wedding in London today, but to avoid a haunting by my Irish ancestors I won’t comment at length, except to remind everyone of one Middle East connection: the groom has several distinct descents from the Prophet Muhammad, some of them pretty solidly documented. I’m willing to bet this is the one piece of Royal trivia that doesn’t get mentioned much in the wall-to-wall coverage in Western media.

As I noted in the earlier post linked above, most of it comes through intermarriages between Islamic and Christian dynasties in Spain:

Anyway, she [Queen Elizabeth II] apparently doesn’t just have just one descent from the Prophet, but multiple lines of descent through several of his children and through several of QEII’s own rather varied ancestral lines. Here’s one version of her several lines. There are lines from the Prophet’s daughters Ruqayya and Umm Kulthum, and a couple of lines through his grandson Hussein (so she could add “Sayyida” to her royal titulature), one of which also passes through the line of the Shi‘a Imams to the 10th Imam (and a sister of the 11th), and yet another through Hussein’s brother Hasan (so she’s also a Sharifa), and some other variants of these.

The key is that several descendants of the Prophet married into the Umayyad Caliphal house, and when the last Umayyads fled to Spain (al-Andalus) in 750 AD they carried several Prophetic descents with them. The usual intermarriages of daughters and sisters of the Caliphs with various local rulers in Spain eventually included some marriages with local Christian rulers, which in turn put the Prophet’s DNA into some of the local dynasties of what became Portugal and Castile, and also into the Hapsburg line. Given all the usual intermarriages, she ended up with multiple descents, some coming through Edward IV, but others coming in through various German and other houses later on, the latest through Mary of Teck, wife of George V and the Queen’s grandmother.

And that is the extent of Royal Wedding coverage in this blog.


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‘Reform from the Royal & Clerical Heights of Power!’

April 2nd, 2011 Comments off
(the fatwa forgot to add, Sublime Power) Don’t you just love the Saudi vernacular? It sounds so …so, …so preternatural.
“The official Saudi religious scholars’ fatwa banning mass demonstrations, issued on 6 March, is a lengthy but, for the Muslim reader, a transparent document. It embodies the balancing act that has become necessary for the royal family to maintain its authority. Saudi subjects desire social reform profoundly, and most of them trust King Abdullah to lead them on the path of change. The Saudi monarchy and the religious authorities with which it is allied must channel such demands through existing “Islamic” means of redress, generally consigned to the heading of “consultation”.
But the sixth paragraph cites a hadith, or oral comment, of the prophet Muhammad that includes a severe threat against internal dissent: “The Prophet again said: ‘He who wanted separate affairs of this nation who are unified, you should kill him with [the] sword whoever he is’ (narrated by Muslim).” “Muslim” was Muslim Ibn Al-Hajjaj, an early collector of hadith, recognised by Sunnis as authoritative….
… the meat of the matter:
“The council hereby reaffirms that only the reform and council that has its legitimacy … may bring welfare and avert evil, whereas it is illegal to issue statements and take signatures for the purposes of intimidation and inciting strife … Since the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on the Qur’an, Sunnah, the pledge of allegiance [to the ruler], and the necessity of unity and loyalty, then reform should not be by demonstrations and other means and methods that give rise to unrest and divide the community.”
The meaning is clear: reform measures may proceed, but will be dictated from the royal and clerical heights of power, while dissident discourse and circulation of petitions will be treated as inimical to order and incitement to disorder.…”



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