New Saudi body to discredit terrorist use of Islamic teachings – The National

While the centre may have some impact in terms of reducing the credibility of those who interpret Islamic teachings to justify violence and thus violent extremism, it will do nothing to minimize the negative impact of fundamentalist Salafism:

Islamic scholars have welcomed a Saudi royal decree to establish a religious centre that will monitor interpretations of Prophet Mohammed’s Hadiths to prevent extremists from using them to justify acts of terror and violence.

The Saudi ministry of information said the King Salman Complex for the Prophet’s Hadiths will become the leading authority on modern day use of the prophet’s teachings, which are used in Islam to govern all aspects of daily life.

Extremist groups have used interpretations to justify heinous acts and urge their followers to wage war in what is an often misinterpreted understanding of “jihad”.

The Saudi ministry of foreign affairs announced that the centre, which will be located in Madinah, will carry out further study the second authoritative source of Islamic teachings “to better understand the meanings of the Hadiths”.

The body, which was announced on Tuesday night, will look to “eliminate fake and extremist texts and any texts that contradict the teachings of Islam and justify the committing of crimes, murders and terrorist acts”.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s most senior Islamic authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al Sheikh, thanked the king for issuing a royal decree to establish the centre.

Sheikh Dr Mohammed bin Nasser Al Khazeem, vice president of general affairs at the Holy Mosque in Makkah, meanwhile said the King Salman Complex for the Prophet’s Hadiths will aim to bring the true meaning of the Hadiths to light and curb extremists’ interpretation of them.

“To learn and understand the Hadiths. To liberate people from the darkness of thought, the extremism and misinterpretation of the book of God, and the teachings that have been passed down to us through the Prophet,” he said.

The chairman of the centre has been named as Sheikh Mohammed bin Hassan Al Sheikh, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, which serves as Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body.

Saudi Arabia has government centres for Islamic study which establish a universal method for teaching Islam both in the kingdom itself and abroad in Saudi Arabia’s many state-sponsored schools.

However, the study of the Hadiths, which number in the thousands and are equivocally interpreted, have often been less studied and been the source of debate since their origins more than 1,400 years ago.

The new centre will be overseen by a council of senior Islamic scholars from around the world, according to the decree, and will look to establish a more international interpretation of the teachings.

Saudi Arabian clerics, who have historically been dominated by Al Sheikh family, are the originators of the Wahhabi doctrine.

Wahhabism offers a stricter version of Islam that looks to the early days of Islam as the ideal by which to govern modern life and teaches the doctrine in its mosques, universities and schools abroad.

Source: New Saudi body to discredit terrorist use of Islamic teachings – The National

Advertisements

Worlds of Islam, Michael Jackson collide in Egyptian film | Fox News

Interesting and risky film to make:

An Egyptian ultraconservative Muslim preacher hears on his car radio news of the death of Michael Jackson, the pop singer he idolized in his teens, and he becomes so distraught he crashes his car.

The news of the passing of the King of Pop is the start of a crisis of conscience for Sheikh Khalid Hani, the main character of the movie “Sheikh Jackson,” Egypt’s first feature film to focus on the religious movement known as Salafis, followers of one of the strictest interpretations of Islam.

It follows Sheikh Hani, a Salafi, as his love for Michael Jackson throws him onto a bumpy journey to discover his own identity, mirroring how Egypt’s conservative society is torn between its Islamic and Arab traditions and Western culture in an age when television, telecommunications and social media bring together people and cultures from all corners of the world.

“I no longer cry while I am praying. That means my faith is faltering,” Hani confides to a female psychiatrist in one scene. Crying while praying, he explains, reflects his fear of God.

The film goes beyond examining Salafis, says the director, Amr Salama. “It’s about humanity … It tells you that one’s identity is not a single dimension or an unchangeable thing,” he told The Associated Press just days before “Sheikh Jackson” premiered in the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month.

It’s a journey Salama has some experience in: He was a huge Jackson fan in his teens and then became Salafi during his university years, before moving away from the movement.

Salafism is one of the most closed, uncompromising visions of Islam. Its doctrine is primarily built around what its followers believe is emulation of the actions the Prophet Muhammad. They are easily recognized by their chest-long beards, robes that reach to just below the knees. They shun music, film and dance and outside influences seen as decadent. Salafi women wear the all-covering niqab, including veils over their faces.

Followers view life as a little more than a transitional phase and are contemptuous of worldly pleasures. Immortality in heaven is their chief goal.

When Hani goes to the psychiatrist — who he thought by her ambiguous name was a man — he asks her to put on a headscarf during their sessions. She refuses, and throughout their talk, he can’t look at her. When she asks him the last thing that made him feel alive, his response comes from Salafi doctrine: “I bought my shroud and wrote my will.” He occasionally sleeps under his bed, convinced that it is the closest thing to being inside a grave, thus a reminder of his mortality.

But Jackson’s death revives in Hani the obsession with the singer he had in his teens, when he imitated the star’s look and dance moves. It earned him the nickname “Jackson,” but also the disapproval of his macho father.

“He is effeminate,” the father says of Jackson. But Hani’s mother whispers to him, “He is the world’s best singer. But keep that as our little secret.” When the mother dies young, Hani’s father turns into a serial womanizer and becomes violent, beating Hani for imitating his idol.

When the adult Hani discovers his own daughter — around six or seven — watching videos of Beyonce, he tears out the Wifi and denounces “dancing to the devil’s tune.”

The film, which is to be released in Egyptian cinemas later this month and which Egypt has put forward as a candidate for a best foreign film Oscar nomination, goes into delicate territory.

Source: Worlds of Islam, Michael Jackson collide in Egyptian film | Fox News

Manchester attack: It is pious and inaccurate to say Salman Abedi’s actions had ‘nothing to do with Islam’ | The Independent

Patrick Cockburn on Salafism and Saudi Arabia’s role in spreading fundamentalism. Bit over the top in terms of wording used, but basic point about Saudi Arabia’s role valid:

In the wake of the massacre in Manchester, people rightly warn against blaming the entire Muslim community in Britain and the world. Certainly one of the aims of those who carry out such atrocities is to provoke the communal punishment of all Muslims, thereby alienating a portion of them who will then become open to recruitment by Isis and al-Qaeda clones.

This approach of not blaming Muslims in general but targeting “radicalisation” or simply “evil” may appear sensible and moderate, but in practice it makes the motivation of the killers in Manchester or the Bataclan theatre in Paris in 2015 appear vaguer and less identifiable than it really is. Such generalities have the unfortunate effect of preventing people pointing an accusing finger at the variant of Islam which certainly is responsible for preparing the soil for the beliefs and actions likely to have inspired the suicide bomber Salman Abedi.

The ultimate inspiration for such people is Wahhabism, the puritanical, fanatical and regressive type of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia, whose ideology is close to that of al-Qaeda and Isis. This is an exclusive creed, intolerant of all who disagree with it such as secular liberals, members of other Muslim communities such as the Shia or women resisting their chattel-like status.

What has been termed Salafi jihadism, the core beliefs of Isis and al-Qaeda, developed out of Wahhabism, and has carried out its prejudices to what it sees as a logical and violent conclusion. Shia and Yazidis were not just heretics in the eyes of this movement, which was a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, but sub-humans who should be massacred or enslaved. Any woman who transgressed against repressive social mores should be savagely punished. Faith should be demonstrated by a public death of the believer, slaughtering the unbelievers, be they the 86 Shia children being evacuated by bus from their homes in Syria on 15 April or the butchery of young fans at a pop concert in Manchester on Monday night.

The real causes of “radicalisation” have long been known, but the government, the BBC and others seldom if ever refer to it because they do not want to offend the Saudis or be accused of anti-Islamic bias. It is much easier to say, piously but quite inaccurately, that Isis and al-Qaeda and their murderous foot soldiers “have nothing to do with Islam”. This has been the track record of US and UK governments since 9/11. They will look in any direction except Saudi Arabia when seeking the causes of terrorism. President Trump has been justly denounced and derided in the US for last Sunday accusing Iran and, in effect, the Shia community of responsibility for the wave of terrorism that has engulfed the region when it ultimately emanates from one small but immensely influential Sunni sect. One of the great cultural changes in the world over the last 50 years is the way in which Wahhabism, once an isolated splinter group, has become an increasingly dominant influence over mainstream Sunni Islam, thanks to Saudi financial support.

The culpability of Western governments for terrorist attacks on their own citizens is glaring but is seldom even referred to. Leaders want to have a political and commercial alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf oil states. They have never held them to account for supporting a repressive and sectarian ideology which is likely to have inspired Salman Abedi. Details of his motivation may be lacking, but the target of his attack and the method of his death is classic al-Qaeda and Isis in its mode of operating.

The reason these two demonic organisations were able to survive and expand despite the billions – perhaps trillions – of dollars spent on “the war on terror” after 9/11 is that those responsible for stopping them deliberately missed the target and have gone on doing so. After 9/11, President Bush portrayed Iraq not Saudi Arabia as the enemy; in a re-run of history President Trump is ludicrously accusing Iran of being the source of most terrorism in the Middle East. This is the real 9/11 conspiracy, beloved of crackpots worldwide, but there is nothing secret about the deliberate blindness of British and American governments to the source of the beliefs that has inspired the massacres of which Manchester is only the latest – and certainly not the last – horrible example.

Source: Manchester attack: It is pious and inaccurate to say Salman Abedi’s actions had ‘nothing to do with Islam’ | The Independent

ICYMI: Will Saudi King’s Indonesia Visit Change Face of Islam? – The Atlantic

More on the worrisome aspects of Saudi Arabia:

When Saudi Arabia’s King Salman landed in Indonesia on Wednesday, he became the first Saudi monarch to visit the world’s largest Muslim-majority country since 1970. Officials in Jakarta had hoped the visit would help them strengthen business ties and secure $25 billion in resource investments. That’s largely been a bust—as of Thursday, the kingdom has agreed to just one new deal, for a relatively paltry $1 billion.

But Saudi Arabia has, for decades, been making investments of a different sort—those aimed at influencing Indonesian culture and religion. The king’s current visit is the apex of that methodical campaign, and “has the potential to accelerate the expansion of Saudi Arabia’s cultural resources in Indonesia,” according to Chris Chaplin, a researcher at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asia. “In fact, given the size of his entourage, I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be a flurry of networking activity amongst Indonesian alumni of Saudi universities.”

“The advent of Salafism in Indonesia is part of Saudi Arabia’s global project to spread its brand of Islam throughout the Muslim world,” said Din Wahid, an expert on Indonesian Salafism at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN) in Jakarta.

Salaf is Arabic for “forebear,” and Salafism is a Sunni movement that advocates a return to the Islamic traditions of the Prophet Muhammad and his contemporaries. It arose in reaction to 18th-century European colonialism in the Middle East, but it took particular root in Saudi Arabia in the hands of the influential preacher Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Al-Wahhab’s alliance with the House of Saud in 1744 cemented Wahhabism as the spiritual backbone of the Saudi Arabian state. And in the 20th century, Saudi Arabia, which had become fabulously oil-rich, started to invest its considerable resources in propagating its ideology abroad.The heart of Indonesian Salafism is the Institute for the Study of Islam and Arabic (LIPIA), a completely Saudi-funded university in South Jakarta whose campus was abuzz the day before the king’s visit.“It’s really great that our two countries are becoming closer,” said one student who, like most of the other male students at LIPIA, had a wispy beard and wore cropped pants, per hadith verses stating that covering one’s ankles connotes arrogance. “I’ve been reading all the news about the royal visit. I hope to further my own studies in Saudi Arabia, God willing.”

LIPIA’s doors opened in 1980. Its ostensible purpose is to spread the Arabic language, and there’s not a word of the country’s official language, Bahasa Indonesia, on its campus—not a bathroom sign, not a library book. Tuition at LIPIA is free for all its 3,500 students. Music is considered bid’ah, an unnecessary innovation, and is prohibited, along with television and loud laughter. Men and women do not interact; classes of male students attend live lectures on one floor while female students watch the same lecture, live-streamed, on a separate floor.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs accredited LIPIA in 2015, which bodes well for the university’s push to open four more branches across the archipelago. Hammed al-Sultan, head of LIPIA’s Arabic language department, was confident that the satellite campuses would open by the fall of this year. But they will need their own green lights from the ministry, which has voiced concerns about whether they will uphold moderate Islam and Indonesia’s state philosophy of Pancasila, which enshrines religious tolerance.

When I asked whether LIPIA Jakarta already does this, al-Sultan said, “Pancasila … sorry, what is that again?” A LIPIA representative acting as our translator quickly briefed him on it. Al-Sultan said, “Yes, our integration of Pancasila is in progress, since it was a requirement for our accreditation two years ago.”

Muhammad Adlin Sila of the Ministry of Religious Affairs was more frank. “We are concerned about some alumni from LIPIA who are big fans of khilafah [the caliphate of the Islamic State].”

Ulil-Abshar Abdalla, a LIPIA alumnus who now runs the Liberal Islam Network, said he found the university’s theological climate oppressive when he attended in the early 1990s. “Theology, which is a mandatory subject there, is only taught by committed Wahhabis, and I really think their ideology is antithetical to traditional Indonesian Islam, which is usually syncretic and relaxed,” he explained.

Source: Will Saudi King’s Indonesia Visit Change Face of Islam? – The Atlantic

In Pakistan, tolerant Islamic voices are being silenced | William Dalrymple | The Guardian

Saudi Arabia’s support for its particular form of Islam is contributing to extremism, not making the world a better place:

Last week, only three days after a suicide bomb went off in Lahore, an Islamic State supporter struck a crowd of Sufi dancers celebrating in the great Pakistani shrine of Sehwan Sharif. The attack, which killed almost 90, showed the ability of radical Islamists to silence moderate and tolerant voices in the Islamic world.

The attack also alarmingly demonstrated the ever-wider reach of Isis and the ease with which it can now strike within Pakistan. Isis now appears to equal the Taliban as a serious threat to this nuclear-armed country.

The suicide bombing of the Sehwan shrine is an ominous development for the world, in a region that badly needs stability. It is an Islamic shrine where outsiders, religious minorities and women are all welcomed. Here, 70 years after partition and the violent expulsion of most of the Hindus of Pakistan into India (and vice versa with Muslims into Pakistan), one of the hereditary tomb guardians is still a Hindu, and it is he who performs the opening ritual at the annual festival. Hindu holy men, pilgrims and officials still tend the shrine.

But the wild and ecstatic night-long celebrations marking the Sufi saint’s anniversary were almost a compendium of everything Islamic puritans most disapprove of: loud Sufi music and love poetry sung in every courtyard; men dancing with women; hashish being smoked. Hindus and Christians were all welcome to join in the celebrations.

Since the 1970s, Saudi oil wealth has been used to spread such intolerant beliefs across the globe

A radical anti-Sufi movement is growing throughout the Islamic world. Until the 20th century, ultra-orthodox strains of Islam tended to be regarded as heretical by most Muslims. But since the 1970s, Saudi oil wealth has been used to spread such intolerant beliefs across the globe. As a result, many contemporary Muslims have been taught a story of Islamic religious tradition from which the tolerance of Sufism is excluded.

What happens at the Sehwan Sharif shrine matters, as it is an indication as to which of the two ways global Islam will go. Can it continue to follow the path of moderate pluralistic Islam, or – under the pressure of Saudi funding – will it opt for the more puritanical, reformed Islam of the Wahhabis and Salafis, with their innate suspicion (or even overt hostility) towards Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism?

Islam in south Asia is changing. Like 16th-century Europe on the eve of the Reformation, reformers and puritans are on the rise, distrustful of music, images, festivals and the devotional superstitions of saints’ shrines. In Christian Europe, they looked to the text alone for authority, and recruited the bulk of their supporters from the newly literate urban middle class, who looked down on what they saw as the corrupt superstitions of the illiterate peasantry.

Hardline Wahhabi and Salafi fundamentalism has advanced so quickly in Pakistan partly because the Saudis have financed the building of so many madrasas that have filled the vacuum left by the collapse of state education.

Source: In Pakistan, tolerant Islamic voices are being silenced | William Dalrymple | Opinion | The Guardian

My radicalized son chose the other Islam

Powerful statement from an obviously distraught mother:

My son embraced the harsh, isolating view of the Wahhabis. He was encouraged to reject any information from non-Saudi sources. He scorned moderate imams and his parents. He learned to speak Arabic, read the Koran and form his own legal rulings. But since he’d never lived under a totalitarian regime, he broadcast their teachings openly. You mix a few ounces of religious fervour with a pound of a dogmatic, irrational ideology and you end up with extremists and terrorists. That’s the concoction ultraconservatism offers. His teachers and friends criticized him and withdrew. Now they claim they don’t know him.

They offer no guidance to men who take Wahhabism to its inevitable extreme. There is no authority among them who can rein in people who let their emotions or lusts inform their religion. No one among them takes responsibility for what they teach. If a follower becomes mentally ill, he will be scorned, perhaps accused of demonic possession.

Wahhabism or Salafism is the same Dr. Frankenstein that created the monstrous Islamic State, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda. It’s a politically motivated, pseudo-religious cult designed to extinguish the free-thinking liberality of moderate, traditional Islam. Salafism, fed by petro-dollars, teaches political obedience to Muslim rulers as a religious obligation.

Wahhabism is one of the vehicles by which ignorance is spread. Ignorance of Islamic history, Islamic law and modern politics fuel that vehicle. Ignorance should not be spread by religious leaders.

Here in Canada, religious teachers should be held responsible for what they teach and how their students interpret their teachings, especially when those teachings have led to the kind of chaos, strife and destruction Wahhabism has caused. Men like my son have taken sail on the ship of ultraconservatism, and his mentors have abandoned him and set him adrift. He was not a radical until he was radicalized.

And even when it does not lead to violence, extreme fundamentalism, in any religion, means living apart from society, with little or no integration.

My radicalized son chose the other Islam – The Globe and Mail.