What if Rajiv Gandhi hadn’t unlocked the Babri Masjid in 1986?

This article first appeared in the online version of the newsmagazine
‘Outlook India’ (issue dt. 23 August 2004) at the URL
http://outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20040823&fname=UCol+Koenraad&sid=1

In 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi gave in to Muslim pressure in the Shah Bano affair. Overruling a secular court�s decision that the repudiated wife Shah Bano was entitled to alimony from her ex-husband, he enacted a law abolishing the alimony provision in conformity with the Shari�a. Since India, unlike secular states, already had religion-based Civil Codes, this concession merely brought the minor matter of alimony under the purview of the prevailing arrangement. More importantly, it prevented riots.

Only months later, Gandhi restored the balance by giving the Hindus something as well: he ordered the locks on the Ram Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid in Ayodhya removed. Until then, a priest had been permitted to perform puja once a year for the idols installed there in 1949. Now, all Hindus were given access to what they consider as the birthplace of Rama, the prince posthumously deified as an incarnation of Vishnu.

Fundamentally, this decision didn�t alter the Ayodhya equation. Architecturally, the building was and remained a mosque, while functionally, it had been and continued to be a Hindu temple. That is why in my opinion, not taking this decision wouldn�t have changed the Ayodhya developments except in their timing. The different players, their strategies and goals, and their resolve to pursue these, all remained the same. The Babri Masjid Action Committee and the Vishva Hindu Parishad would have gone about their �business� just the same.

However, the VHP would have been forced to continue pushing the rather petty demand for removing the locks, rather than move on to the more ambitious and more mobilizing next step of planning the construction of a new temple. Most probably, the BJP would likewise have reaped smaller dividends from such a campaign. In 1989, it might not have jumped as high as 86 seats. Conversely, Congress might not have lost the North-Indian Muslim vote to the Janata Dal. In 1989, it could have remained just strong enough to cobble together a coalition rather than leave the initiative to the unwholesome and unstable Janata-BJP-Communist combine. So, at the level of party politics, Rajiv Gandhi�s decision may have made a big difference. Continue reading “What if Rajiv Gandhi hadn’t unlocked the Babri Masjid in 1986?”

“Danish Queen Masterminded Muhammad Cartoon Affair”

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark was the villain behind a hate campaign against Islam and Muslims which culminated in the Danish Cartoon affair. At least that is what some Danish imams maintain. On 30 September 2005 the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. According to the imams it was the Queen who instigated this when in April 2005 she urged the Danish people to resist Islam.

This allegation was made to Arab newspapers, officials and politicians by Danish imams, touring the Middle East nine months ago in order to stir up hatred and violence against Denmark. The imams claimed Margrethe had urged the Danes to fight the Muslim minority in the country.

This information was revealed last Summer by the Danish Foreign Ministry, which had been informed by Det Dansk-Egyptiske Dialoginstitut, the Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute. The imams also claimed that the Danish government and the Danish people were behind the hate campaign. Hanna Ziadeh, the media researcher for the Det Dansk-Egyptiske Dialoginstitut, said the imams’ aim was to make the entire Danish people responsible for the Muhammad cartoons.

The imams also told the Islamic world that their voice was excluded from the Danish media and that more “horrible reviles” against Islam were being planned in Denmark, including blasphemous films and threats to burn down mosques. Ziadeh said the information he gathered was only from about ten interviews given by the imams to as many large Middle Eastern newspapers. However, the imams talked to many more Arab media, including several TV stations. Only a small part of the false information which the imams spread in the Middle East is actually known in the West. Continue reading ““Danish Queen Masterminded Muhammad Cartoon Affair””

How $30 Billion US Aid package to Israel impacting Gaza Siege, and Southland Muslims.

Press Release – Believers Vs. Unbelievers: The Manipulated Clash

  For Immediate Release
Press contact :
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January 25, 2008 Temecula, California.  While our country is completely preoccupied with the election and the looming recession of our economy, Israel — our American government’s close ally who just received our generous $30 billion aid package — is engaging in what has been called a war crime and genocide against the Palestinian population in Gaza.

Human Rights organizations of all religious persuasions have been speaking out against the Gaza siege, joined by an expanding outcry from non-governmental and governmental organizations throughout the world.    While leaders of the Muslim community in the US are calling for a special prayer during the Muslim Friday Prayers today, MuslimBridges.org is calling on all Churches and Synagogues to join with Muslims in prayers, and denounce the Israeli siege during the Jewish services on Friday night and Saturday, and the Christian services on Sunday.

Israel has imposed a complete lock-down of Gaza, this most densely populated place on earth. That means not only sealed borders and no access to food or medicine, but gas and electricity are also shut down. It is more than a miserable existence; it is a slow death.   Many are now calling it a war crime.  This siege intensified immediately after the $30 billion generous aid package was handed to Israel during the recent President Bush visit to Israel.

“Israel thinks it can get away with it because we are too busy with our problems, but this time it is different. Now people are fed up and recognize that Israel is often the aggressor behind our mess.  What really concerns us now is that other crises may surface, such as a war with Iran, or another scandal bigger than the Mohammed cartoon, just to shift the attention away from the Gaza Siege,” said R. Shahman, an activist with MuslimBridges.org.

In anticipation of a potential scandal, MuslimBridges.org is looking to the Interfaith community to publicly denounce hate and slander against Muslims, and communicate to all people of faith that slander is not a result of “clash of religions,” Rather it is a clash of “Believers Vs. Unbelievers,” often manipulated for political reasons to avert attention from the real challenges facing all of us.

MuslimBridges.org applauds the support of all believers from Churches and faith-based organizations such as the Rabbis of NETUREI KARTA in Monsey N.Y., who make a clear distinction that Judaism absolutely rejects Zionism and speak out against the brutal occupation of Palestine by Israel.   This is in complete contrast to the so called “Top Rabbis of Israel” who are advocating genocide and carpet bombing against all Christians and Muslims in Gaza, “ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings” said Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu — one of the most senior theocrats in the Jewish State (The Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2007).

“We hope and expect our friends in Churches and Synagogues will denounce the Israeli siege, and any possible slander, just as every Islamic Center and Muslim organization in the US is providing a clear position standing against terrorism, putting it in writing and signing the Fatwa against terrorism,” stated Mrs. Shahman

Leaders of Churches and Synagogues are encouraged to participate in the following actions:

  1. Power of prayer:  To Join with Muslims in prayers for Peace and Justice in Palestine, the occupied Land.   May God ease the suffering and bring about a peaceful solution.
  2. To denounce the use by Israel of American taxpayers’ money to starve Gaza into a slow genocide and to demand a freeze on all aid given to Israel paid for by our tax money. The following Links are offered on MuslimBridges.org so that every member of a church or synagogue can simply send a clear message to our elected officials demanding immediate intervention.
    Contact White HouseContact your SenatorContact your Representative
  3. To educate congregations that slander, hate and siege and slow death of a rival group has no place in faith.  Educational tools, articles and books are available through MuslimBridges.org.

###

MuslimBridges.org is a non-profit faith-based California Corporation founded in December 2006, and run one-hundred percent by volunteers.  It was founded with the mission to help spread peace, and to build bridges between people of all faiths-Jews, Christians and Muslims.  The website, launched on Jan 22, 2007, is non-commercial, not-for-profit and does not accept donations.  For additional details on the organization and the programs please visit:  http://www.muslimbridges.org/.

Dutch Muslims urge calm over Quran film

Freedom of expression is Secularists screaming & shouting criticisms of Islam & Muslims, making insulting movies, music, plays, etc. & its against Freedom of Expression when Muslims protest the injustice being done & standing up for their RIGHTS.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch Muslim group appealed Thursday for calm at home and abroad in reaction to an anti-Quran film a right-wing politician says he is making.

Geert Wilders, leader of the far-right Freedom Party, says his film will portray the Quran as a “fascist book” that incites violence and intolerance of women and homosexuals.

The Dutch director of a previous film critical of Islam was murdered by a Muslim radical on an Amsterdam street in 2004, prompting a backlash that included the torching of several mosques.

The moderate National Moroccan Council said Thursday it will try to “neutralize the threat” posed by the upcoming film, which Wilders says is still under production.

“At the moment, practically all Muslim groups … are working to ensure a peaceful and responsible reaction” to the film, said the group’s chairman, Mohamed Rabbae, at a news conference in The Hague.

“We will have succeeded if, after the film, Mr. Wilders is frustrated,” Rabbae said. “If he sees there are no riots and Muslims are cleverer and more democratic than he thinks.”

Wilders has yet to find a broadcaster prepared to air the film once it is finished. But he has said that if he cannot find one, he will post it on the Internet.

Even though it is uncertain the film will ever be broadcast, the government has put cities on alert for possible violence. It has also warned its overseas embassies about a possible reaction similar to the one that erupted across the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad printed in a Danish newspaper in 2005.

“That a 10-minute film that’s never been shown may lead to riots, boycotts and other bad things, says everything about the nature of Islam,” said Wilders in an open letter Thursday. “Nothing about me.”

Wilders’ party holds nine of the Dutch parliament’s 150 seats.

In the past, he has said that half the Quran should be torn up and has compared it with Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf.” He has claimed the Netherlands is being swamped by a “tsunami” of Islamic immigrants.

Wilders said his film will not closely resemble “Submission,” the short film written by right-leaning former Dutch lawmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

“Submission” criticized the treatment of women under Islam, citing Quranic verses that appeared to justify abuse.

The film’s director, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered in 2004. A Muslim extremist shot him numerous times, slit his throat and used a knife to pin a letter to his chest threatening the life of Hirsi Ali. She now lives in the United States under 24-hour guard.

Rabbae said his group represents the majority of the more than 850,000 Muslims living in this nation of 16.3 million.

The group also will call on Dutch Muslims who feel victimized or insulted by the film to file criminal complaints against Wilders for racial or religious vilification.

© 2008 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Science and the Islamic world—The quest for rapprochement

Internal causes led to the decline of Islam’s scientific greatness long before the era of mercantile imperialism. To contribute once again, Muslims must be introspective and ask what went wrong.

Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy

August 2007, page 49
This article grew out of the Max von Laue Lecture that I delivered earlier this year to celebrate that eminent physicist and man of strong social conscience. When Adolf Hitler was on the ascendancy, Laue was one of the very few German physicists of stature who dared to defend Albert Einstein and the theory of relativity. It therefore seems appropriate that a matter concerning science and civilization should be my concern here.

The question I want to pose—perhaps as much to myself as to anyone else—is this: With well over a billion Muslims and extensive material resources, why is the Islamic world disengaged from science and the process of creating new knowledge? To be definite, I am here using the 57 countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) as a proxy for the Islamic world.

It was not always this way. Islam’s magnificent Golden Age in the 9th–13th centuries brought about major advances in mathematics, science, and medicine. The Arabic language held sway in an age that created algebra, elucidated principles of optics, established the body’s circulation of blood, named stars, and created universities. But with the end of that period, science in the Islamic world essentially collapsed. No major invention or discovery has emerged from the Muslim world for well over seven centuries now. That arrested scientific development is one important element—although by no means the only one—that contributes to the present marginalization of Muslims and a growing sense of injustice and victimhood.

Such negative feelings must be checked before the gulf widens further. A bloody clash of civilizations, should it actually transpire, will surely rank along with the two other most dangerous challenges to life on our planet—climate change and nuclear proliferation.

First encounters

Islam’s encounter with science has had happy and unhappy periods. There was no science in Arab culture in the initial period of Islam, around 610 AD. But as Islam established itself politically and militarily, its territory expanded. In the mid-eighth century, Muslim conquerors came upon the ancient treasures of Greek learning. Translations from Greek into Arabic were ordered by liberal and enlightened caliphs, who filled their courts in Baghdad with visiting scholars from near and far. Politics was dominated by the rationalist Mutazilites, who sought to combine faith and reason in opposition to their rivals, the dogmatic Asharites. A generally tolerant and pluralistic Islamic culture allowed Muslims, Christians, and Jews to create new works of art and science together. But over time, the theological tensions between liberal and fundamentalist interpretations of Islam—such as on the issue of free will versus predestination—became intense and turned bloody. A resurgent religious orthodoxy eventually inflicted a crushing defeat on the Mutazilites. Thereafter, the open-minded pursuits of philosophy, mathematics, and science were increasingly relegated to the margins of Islam.1

Ottoman Empire astronomers

Figure 1

A long period of darkness followed, punctuated by occasional brilliant spots. In the 16th century, the Turkish Ottomans established an extensive empire with the help of military technology. But there was little enthusiasm for science and new knowledge (see figure 1). In the 19th century, the European Enlightenment inspired a wave of modernist Islamic reformers: Mohammed Abduh of Egypt, his follower Rashid Rida from Syria, and their counterparts on the Indian subcontinent, such as Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Jamaluddin Afghani, exhorted their fellow Muslims to accept ideas of the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution. Their theological position can be roughly paraphrased as, “The Qur’an tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” That echoed Galileo earlier in Europe. The 20th century witnessed the end of European colonial rule and the emergence of several new independent Muslim states, all initially under secular national leaderships. A spurt toward modernization and the acquisition of technology followed. Many expected that a Muslim scientific renaissance would ensue. Clearly, it did not.

What ails science in the Muslim world?

Nasser Hamdan/AUS

Figure 2

Muslim leaders today, realizing that military power and economic growth flow from technology, frequently call for speedy scientific development and a knowledge-based society. Often that call is rhetorical, but in some Muslim countries—Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pakistan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Nigeria among others—official patronage and funding for science and education have grown sharply in recent years. Enlightened individual rulers, including Sultan ibn Muhammad Al-Qasimi of Sharjah, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar, and others have put aside some of their vast personal wealth for such causes (see figure 2 and the news story on page 33). No Muslim leader has publicly called for separating science from religion. Is boosting resource allocations enough to energize science, or are more fundamental changes required? Scholars of the 19th century, such as the pioneering sociologist Max Weber, claimed that Islam lacks an “idea system” critical for sustaining a scientific culture based on innovation, new experiences, quantification, and empirical verification. Fatalism and an orientation toward the past, they said, makes progress difficult and even undesirable.

In the current epoch of growing antagonism between the Islamic and the Western worlds, most Muslims reject such charges with angry indignation. They feel those accusations add yet another excuse for the West to justify its ongoing cultural and military assaults on Muslim populations. Muslims bristle at any hint that Islam and science may be at odds, or that some underlying conflict between Islam and science may account for the slowness of progress. The Qur’an, being the unaltered word of God, cannot be at fault: Muslims believe that if there is a problem, it must come from their inability to properly interpret and implement the Qur’an’s divine instructions.

In defending the compatibility of science and Islam, Muslims argue that Islam had sustained a vibrant intellectual culture throughout the European Dark Ages and thus, by extension, is also capable of a modern scientific culture. The Pakistani physics Nobel Prize winner, Abdus Salam, would stress to audiences that one-eighth of the Qur’an is a call for Muslims to seek Allah’s signs in the universe and hence that science is a spiritual as well as a temporal duty for Muslims. Perhaps the most widely used argument one hears is that the Prophet Muhammad had exhorted his followers to “seek knowledge even if it is in China,” which implies that a Muslim is duty-bound to search for secular knowledge.

Such arguments have been and will continue to be much debated, but they will not be pursued further here. Instead, let us seek to understand the state of science in the contemporary Islamic world. First, to the degree that available data allows, I will quantitatively assess the current state of science in Muslim countries. Then I will look at prevalent Muslim attitudes toward science, technology, and modernity, with an eye toward identifying specific cultural and social practices that work against progress. Finally, we can turn to the fundamental question: What will it take to bring science back into the Islamic world?

Measuring Muslim scientific progress

The metrics of scientific progress are neither precise nor unique. Science permeates our lives in myriad ways, means different things to different people, and has changed its content and scope drastically over the course of history. In addition, the paucity of reliable and current data makes the task of assessing scientific progress in Muslim countries still harder.

I will use the following reasonable set of four metrics:

  • The quantity of scientific output, weighted by some reasonable measure of relevance and importance;
  • The role played by science and technology in the national economies, funding for S&T, and the size of the national scientific enterprises;
  • The extent and quality of higher education; and
  • The degree to which science is present or absent in popular culture.

Scientific output

A useful, if imperfect, indicator of scientific output is the number of published scientific research papers, together with the citations to them. Table 1 shows the output of the seven most scientifically productive Muslim countries for physics papers, over the period from 1 January 1997 to 28 February 2007, together with the total number of publications in all scientific fields. A comparison with Brazil, India, China, and the US reveals significantly smaller numbers. A study by academics at the International Islamic University Malaysia2 showed that OIC countries have 8.5 scientists, engineers, and technicians per 1000 population, compared with a world average of 40.7, and 139.3 for countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (For more on the OECD, see http://www.oecd.org.) Forty-six Muslim countries contributed 1.17% of the world’s science literature, whereas 1.66% came from India alone and 1.48% from Spain. Twenty Arab countries contributed 0.55%, compared with 0.89% by Israel alone. The US NSF records that of the 28 lowest producers of scientific articles in 2003, half belong to the OIC.3

The situation may be even grimmer than the publication numbers or perhaps even the citation counts suggest. Assessing the scientific worth of publications—never an easy task—is complicated further by the rapid appearance of new international scientific journals that publish low-quality work. Many have poor editorial policies and refereeing procedures. Scientists in many developing countries, who are under pressure to publish, or who are attracted by strong government incentives, choose to follow the path of least resistance paved for them by the increasingly commercialized policies of journals. Prospective authors know that editors need to produce a journal of a certain thickness every month. In addition to considerable anecdotal evidence for these practices, there have been a few systematic studies. For example,4 chemistry publications by Iranian scientists tripled in five years, from 1040 in 1998 to 3277 in 2003. Many scientific papers that were claimed as original by their Iranian chemist authors, and that had been published in internationally peer-reviewed journals, had actually been published twice and sometimes thrice with identical or nearly identical contents by the same authors. Others were plagiarized papers that could have been easily detected by any reasonably careful referee.

The situation regarding patents is also discouraging: The OIC countries produce negligibly few. According to official statistics, Pakistan has produced only eight patents in the past 43 years.

Islamic countries show a great diversity of cultures and levels of modernization and a correspondingly large spread in scientific productivity. Among the larger countries—in both population and political importance—Turkey, Iran, Egypt, and Pakistan are the most scientifically developed. Among the smaller countries, such as the central Asian republics, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan rank considerably above Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Malaysia—a rather atypical Muslim country with a 40% non-Muslim minority—is much smaller than neighboring Indonesia but is nevertheless more productive. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and other states that have many foreign scientists are scientifically far ahead of other Arab states.

National scientific enterprises

Conventional wisdom suggests that bigger science budgets indicate, or will induce, greater scientific activity. On average, the 57 OIC states spend an estimated 0.3% of their gross national product on research and development, which is far below the global average of 2.4%. But the trend toward higher spending is unambiguous. Rulers in the UAE and Qatar are building several new universities with manpower imported from the West for both construction and staffing. In June 2006, Nigeria’s president Olusegun Obasanjo announced he will plow $5 billion of oil money into R&D. Iran increased its R&D spending dramatically, from a pittance in 1988 at the end of the Iraq–Iran war, to a current level of 0.4% of its gross domestic product. Saudi Arabia announced that it spent 26% of its development budget on science and education in 2006, and sent 5000 students to US universities on full scholarships. Pakistan set a world record by increasing funding for higher education and science by an immense 800% over the past five years.

But bigger budgets by themselves are not a panacea. The capacity to put those funds to good use is crucial. One determining factor is the number of available scientists, engineers, and technicians. Those numbers are low for OIC countries, averaging around 400–500 per million people, while developed countries typically lie in the range of 3500–5000 per million. Even more important are the quality and level of professionalism, which are less easily quantifiable. But increasing funding without adequately addressing such crucial concerns can lead to a null correlation between scientific funding and performance.

The role played by science in creating high technology is an important science indicator. Comparing table 1 with table 2 shows there is little correlation between academic research papers and the role of S&T in the national economies of the seven listed countries. The anomalous position of Malaysia in table 2 has its explanation in the large direct investment made by multinational companies and in having trading partners that are overwhelmingly non-OIC countries.

FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS

Figure 3

Although not apparent in table 2, there are scientific areas in which research has paid off in the Islamic world. Agricultural research—which is relatively simple science—provides one case in point. Pakistan has good results, for example, with new varieties of cotton, wheat, rice, and tea. Defense technology is another area in which many developing countries have invested, as they aim to both lessen their dependence on international arms suppliers and promote domestic capabilities. Pakistan manufactures nuclear weapons and intermediate-range missiles. There is now also a burgeoning, increasingly export-oriented Pakistani arms industry (figure 3) that turns out a large range of weapons from grenades to tanks, night-vision devices to laser-guided weapons, and small submarines to training aircraft. Export earnings exceed $150 million yearly. Although much of the production is a triumph of reverse engineering rather than original research and development, there is clearly sufficient understanding of the requisite scientific principles and a capacity to exercise technical and managerial judgment as well. Iran has followed Pakistan’s example.

Higher education

According to a recent survey, among the 57 member states of the OIC, there are approximately 1800 universities.5 Of those, only 312 publish journal articles. A ranking of the 50 most published among them yields these numbers: 26 are in Turkey, 9 in Iran, 3 each in Malaysia and Egypt, 2 in Pakistan, and 1 in each of Uganda, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, and Azerbaijan. For the top 20 universities, the average yearly production of journal articles was about 1500, a small but reasonable number. However, the average citation per article is less than 1.0 (the survey report does not state whether self-citations were excluded). There are fewer data available for comparing against universities worldwide. Two Malaysian undergraduate institutions were in the top-200 list of the Times Higher Education Supplement in 2006 (available at http://www.thes.co.uk). No OIC university made the top-500 “Academic Ranking of World Universities” compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University (see http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/en). This state of affairs led the director general of the OIC to issue an appeal for at least 20 OIC universities to be sufficiently elevated in quality to make the top-500 list. No action plan was specified, nor was the term “quality” defined.

An institution’s quality is fundamental, but how is it to be defined? Providing more infrastructure and facilities is important but not key. Most universities in Islamic countries have a starkly inferior quality of teaching and learning, a tenuous connection to job skills, and research that is low in both quality and quantity. Poor teaching owes more to inappropriate attitudes than to material resources. Generally, obedience and rote learning are stressed, and the authority of the teacher is rarely challenged. Debate, analysis, and class discussions are infrequent.

Academic and cultural freedoms on campuses are highly restricted in most Muslim countries. At Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, where I teach, the constraints are similar to those existing in most other Pakistani public-sector institutions. This university serves the typical middle-class Pakistani student and, according to the survey referred to earlier,5 ranks number two among OIC universities. Here, as in other Pakistani public universities, films, drama, and music are frowned on, and sometimes even physical attacks by student vigilantes who believe that such pursuits violate Islamic norms take place. The campus has three mosques with a fourth one planned, but no bookstore. No Pakistani university, including QAU, allowed Abdus Salam to set foot on its campus, although he had received the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his role in formulating the standard model of particle physics. The Ahmedi sect to which he belonged, and which had earlier been considered to be Muslim, was officially declared heretical in 1974 by the Pakistani government.

Ishaque Choudhry

Figure 4

As intolerance and militancy sweep across the Muslim world, personal and academic freedoms diminish with the rising pressure to conform. In Pakistani universities, the veil is now ubiquitous, and the last few unveiled women students are under intense pressure to cover up. The head of the government-funded mosque-cum-seminary (figure 4) in the heart of Islamabad, the nation’s capital, issued the following chilling warning to my university’s female students and faculty on his FM radio channel on 12 April 2007:

The government should abolish co-education. Quaid-i-Azam University has become a brothel. Its female professors and students roam in objectionable dresses. . . . Sportswomen are spreading nudity. I warn the sportswomen of Islamabad to stop participating in sports. . . . Our female students have not issued the threat of throwing acid on the uncovered faces of women. However, such a threat could be used for creating the fear of Islam among sinful women. There is no harm in it. There are far more horrible punishments in the hereafter for such women.6

The imposition of the veil makes a difference. My colleagues and I share a common observation that over time most students—particularly veiled females—have largely lapsed into becoming silent note-takers, are increasingly timid, and are less inclined to ask questions or take part in discussions. This lack of self-expression and confidence leads to most Pakistani university students, including those in their mid- or late-twenties, referring to themselves as boys and girls rather than as men and women.

Science and religion still at odds

Science is under pressure globally, and from every religion. As science becomes an increasingly dominant part of human culture, its achievements inspire both awe and fear. Creationism and intelligent design, curbs on genetic research, pseudoscience, parapsychology, belief in UFOs, and so on are some of its manifestations in the West. Religious conservatives in the US have rallied against the teaching of Darwinian evolution. Extreme Hindu groups such as the Vishnu Hindu Parishad, which has called for ethnic cleansing of Christians and Muslims, have promoted various “temple miracles,” including one in which an elephant-like God miraculously came alive and started drinking milk. Some extremist Jewish groups also derive additional political strength from antiscience movements. For example, certain American cattle tycoons have for years been working with Israeli counterparts to try to breed a pure red heifer in Israel, which, by their interpretation of chapter 19 of the Book of Numbers, will signal the coming of the building of the Third Temple,7 an event that would ignite the Middle East.

In the Islamic world, opposition to science in the public arena takes additional forms. Antiscience materials have an immense presence on the internet, with thousands of elaborately designed Islamic websites, some with view counters running into the hundreds of thousands. A typical and frequently visited one has the following banner: “Recently discovered astounding scientific facts, accurately described in the Muslim Holy Book and by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) 14 centuries ago.” Here one will find that everything from quantum mechanics to black holes and genes was anticipated 1400 years ago.

Science, in the view of fundamentalists, is principally seen as valuable for establishing yet more proofs of God, proving the truth of Islam and the Qur’an, and showing that modern science would have been impossible but for Muslim discoveries. Antiquity alone seems to matter. One gets the impression that history’s clock broke down somewhere during the 14th century and that plans for repair are, at best, vague. In that all-too-prevalent view, science is not about critical thought and awareness, creative uncertainties, or ceaseless explorations. Missing are websites or discussion groups dealing with the philosophical implications from the Islamic point of view of the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, chaos theory, superstrings, stem cells, and other contemporary science issues.

Similarly, in the mass media of Muslim countries, discussions on “Islam and science” are common and welcomed only to the extent that belief in the status quo is reaffirmed rather than challenged. When the 2005 earthquake struck Pakistan, killing more than 90 000 people, no major scientist in the country publicly challenged the belief, freely propagated through the mass media, that the quake was God’s punishment for sinful behavior. Mullahs ridiculed the notion that science could provide an explanation; they incited their followers into smashing television sets, which had provoked Allah’s anger and hence the earthquake. As several class discussions showed, an overwhelming majority of my university’s science students accepted various divine-wrath explanations.

Why the slow development?

Although the relatively slow pace of scientific development in Muslim countries cannot be disputed, many explanations can and some common ones are plain wrong.

For example, it is a myth that women in Muslim countries are largely excluded from higher education. In fact, the numbers are similar to those in many Western countries: The percentage of women in the university student body is 35% in Egypt, 67% in Kuwait, 27% in Saudi Arabia, and 41% in Pakistan, for just a few examples. In the physical sciences and engineering, the proportion of women enrolled is roughly similar to that in the US. However, restrictions on the freedom of women leave them with far fewer choices, both in their personal lives and for professional advancement after graduation, relative to their male counterparts.

The near-absence of democracy in Muslim countries is also not an especially important reason for slow scientific development. It is certainly true that authoritarian regimes generally deny freedom of inquiry or dissent, cripple professional societies, intimidate universities, and limit contacts with the outside world. But no Muslim government today, even if dictatorial or imperfectly democratic, remotely approximates the terror of Hitler or Joseph Stalin—regimes in which science survived and could even advance.

Another myth is that the Muslim world rejects new technology. It does not. In earlier times, the orthodoxy had resisted new inventions such as the printing press, loudspeaker, and penicillin, but such rejection has all but vanished. The ubiquitous cell phone, that ultimate space-age device, epitomizes the surprisingly quick absorption of black-box technology into Islamic culture. For example, while driving in Islamabad, it would occasion no surprise if you were to receive an urgent SMS (short message service) requesting immediate prayers for helping Pakistan’s cricket team win a match. Popular new Islamic cell-phone models now provide the exact GPS-based direction for Muslims to face while praying, certified translations of the Qur’an, and step-by-step instructions for performing the pilgrimages of Haj and Umrah. Digital Qur’ans are already popular, and prayer rugs with microchips (for counting bend-downs during prayers) have made their debut.

Some relatively more plausible reasons for the slow scientific development of Muslim countries have been offered. First, even though a handful of rich oil-producing Muslim countries have extravagant incomes, most are fairly poor and in the same boat as other developing countries. Indeed, the OIC average for per capita income is significantly less than the global average. Second, the inadequacy of traditional Islamic languages—Arabic, Persian, Urdu—is an important contributory reason. About 80% of the world’s scientific literature appears first in English, and few traditional languages in the developing world have adequately adapted to new linguistic demands. With the exceptions of Iran and Turkey, translation rates are small. According to a 2002 United Nations report written by Arab intellectuals and released in Cairo, Egypt, “The entire Arab world translates about 330 books annually, one-fifth the number that Greece translates.” The report adds that in the 1000 years since the reign of the caliph Maa’moun, the Arabs have translated as many books as Spain translates in just one year.8

It’s the thought that counts

But the still deeper reasons are attitudinal, not material. At the base lies the yet unresolved tension between traditional and modern modes of thought and social behavior.

That assertion needs explanation. No grand dispute, such as between Galileo and Pope Urban VIII, is holding back the clock. Bread-and-butter science and technology requires learning complicated but mundane rules and procedures that place no strain on any reasonable individual’s belief system. A bridge engineer, robotics expert, or microbiologist can certainly be a perfectly successful professional without pondering profound mysteries of the universe. Truly fundamental and ideology-laden issues confront only that tiny minority of scientists who grapple with cosmology, indeterminacy in quantum mechanical and chaotic systems, neuroscience, human evolution, and other such deep topics. Therefore, one could conclude that developing science is only a matter of setting up enough schools, universities, libraries, and laboratories, and purchasing the latest scientific tools and equipment.

But the above reasoning is superficial and misleading. Science is fundamentally an idea-system that has grown around a sort of skeleton wire frame—the scientific method. The deliberately cultivated scientific habit of mind is mandatory for successful work in all science and related fields where critical judgment is essential. Scientific progress constantly demands that facts and hypotheses be checked and rechecked, and is unmindful of authority. But there lies the problem: The scientific method is alien to traditional, unreformed religious thought. Only the exceptional individual is able to exercise such a mindset in a society in which absolute authority comes from above, questions are asked only with difficulty, the penalties for disbelief are severe, the intellect is denigrated, and a certainty exists that all answers are already known and must only be discovered.

Science finds every soil barren in which miracles are taken literally and seriously and revelation is considered to provide authentic knowledge of the physical world. If the scientific method is trashed, no amount of resources or loud declarations of intent to develop science can compensate. In those circumstances, scientific research becomes, at best, a kind of cataloging or “butterfly-collecting” activity. It cannot be a creative process of genuine inquiry in which bold hypotheses are made and checked.

Religious fundamentalism is always bad news for science. But what explains its meteoric rise in Islam over the past half century? In the mid-1950s all Muslim leaders were secular, and secularism in Islam was growing. What changed? Here the West must accept its share of responsibility for reversing the trend. Iran under Mohammed Mossadeq, Indonesia under Ahmed Sukarno, and Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser are examples of secular but nationalist governments that wanted to protect their national wealth. Western imperial greed, however, subverted and overthrew them. At the same time, conservative oil-rich Arab states—such as Saudi Arabia—that exported extreme versions of Islam were US clients. The fundamentalist Hamas organization was helped by Israel in its fight against the secular Palestine Liberation Organization as part of a deliberate Israeli strategy in the 1980s. Perhaps most important, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the US Central Intelligence Agency armed the fiercest and most ideologically charged Islamic fighters and brought them from distant Muslim countries into Afghanistan, thus helping to create an extensive globalized jihad network. Today, as secularism continues to retreat, Islamic fundamentalism fills the vacuum.

How science can return to the Islamic world

In the 1980s an imagined “Islamic science” was posed as an alternative to “Western science.” The notion was widely propagated and received support from governments in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere. Muslim ideologues in the US, such as Ismail Faruqi and Syed Hossein Nasr, announced that a new science was about to be built on lofty moral principles such as tawheed (unity of God), ibadah (worship), khilafah (trusteeship), and rejection of zulm (tyranny), and that revelation rather than reason would be the ultimate guide to valid knowledge. Others took as literal statements of scientific fact verses from the Qur’an that related to descriptions of the physical world. Those attempts led to many elaborate and expensive Islamic science conferences around the world. Some scholars calculated the temperature of Hell, others the chemical composition of heavenly djinnis. None produced a new machine or instrument, conducted an experiment, or even formulated a single testable hypothesis.

A more pragmatic approach, which seeks promotion of regular science rather than Islamic science, is pursued by institutional bodies such as COMSTECH (Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation), which was established by the OIC’s Islamic Summit in 1981. It joined the IAS (Islamic Academy of Sciences) and ISESCO (Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) in serving the “ummah” (the global Muslim community). But a visit to the websites of those organizations reveals that over two decades, the combined sum of their activities amounts to sporadically held conferences on disparate subjects, a handful of research and travel grants, and small sums for repair of equipment and spare parts.

One almost despairs. Will science never return to the Islamic world? Shall the world always be split between those who have science and those who do not, with all the attendant consequences?

Figure 5

Bleak as the present looks, that outcome does not have to prevail. History has no final word, and Muslims do have a chance. One need only remember how the Anglo–American elite perceived the Jews as they entered the US at the opening of the 20th century. Academics such as Henry Herbert Goddard, the well-known eugenicist, described Jews in 1913 as “a hopelessly backward people, largely incapable of adjusting to the new demands of advanced capitalist societies.” His research found that 83% of Jews were “morons”—a term he popularized to describe the feeble-minded—and he went on to suggest that they should be used for tasks requiring an “immense amount of drudgery.” That ludicrous bigotry warrants no further discussion, beyond noting that the powerful have always created false images of the weak. Progress will require behavioral changes. If Muslim societies are to develop technology instead of just using it, the ruthlessly competitive global marketplace will insist on not only high skill levels but also intense social work habits. The latter are not easily reconcilable with religious demands made on a fully observant Muslim’s time, energy, and mental concentration: The faithful must participate in five daily congregational prayers, endure a month of fasting that taxes the body, recite daily from the Qur’an, and more. Although such duties orient believers admirably well toward success in the life hereafter, they make worldly success less likely. A more balanced approach will be needed.

Science can prosper among Muslims once again, but only with a willingness to accept certain basic philosophical and attitudinal changes—a Weltanschauung that shrugs off the dead hand of tradition, rejects fatalism and absolute belief in authority, accepts the legitimacy of temporal laws, values intellectual rigor and scientific honesty, and respects cultural and personal freedoms. The struggle to usher in science will have to go side-by-side with a much wider campaign to elbow out rigid orthodoxy and bring in modern thought, arts, philosophy, democracy, and pluralism.

Respected voices among believing Muslims see no incompatibility between the above requirements and true Islam as they understand it. For example, Abdolkarim Soroush, described as Islam’s Martin Luther, was handpicked by Ayatollah Khomeini to lead the reform of Iran’s universities in the early 1980s. His efforts led to the introduction of modern analytical philosophers such as Karl Popper and Bertrand Russell into the curricula of Iranian universities. Another influential modern reformer is Abdelwahab Meddeb, a Tunisian who grew up in France. Meddeb argues that as early as the middle of the eighth century, Islam had produced the premises of the Enlightenment, and that between 750 and 1050, Muslim authors made use of an astounding freedom of thought in their approach to religious belief. In their analyses, says Meddeb, they bowed to the primacy of reason, honoring one of the basic principles of the Enlightenment.

In the quest for modernity and science, internal struggles continue within the Islamic world. Progressive Muslim forces have recently been weakened, but not extinguished, as a consequence of the confrontation between Muslims and the West. On an ever-shrinking globe, there can be no winners in that conflict: It is time to calm the waters. We must learn to drop the pursuit of narrow nationalist and religious agendas, both in the West and among Muslims. In the long run, political boundaries should and can be treated as artificial and temporary, as shown by the successful creation of the European Union. Just as important, the practice of religion must be a matter of choice for the individual, not enforced by the state. This leaves secular humanism, based on common sense and the principles of logic and reason, as our only reasonable choice for governance and progress. Being scientists, we understand this easily. The task is to persuade those who do not.

Pervez Hoodbhoy is chair and professor in the department of physics at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he has taught for 34 years.

References

  1. 1. P. Hoodbhoy, Islam and Science—Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality, Zed Books, London (1991).
  2. 2. M. A. Anwar, A. B. Abu Bakar, Scientometrics 40, 23 (1997).
  3. 3. For additional statistics, see the special issue “Islam and Science,” Nature 444, 19 (2006).
  4. 4. M. Yalpani, A. Heydari, Chem. Biodivers. 2, 730 (2005).
  5. 5. Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Centre for Islamic Countries, Academic Rankings of Universities in the OIC Countries (April 2007), available at [LINK].
  6. 6. The News, Islamabad, 24 April 2007, available at [LINK].
  7. 7. For more information on the red heifer venture, see [LINK].
  8. 8. N. Fergany et al., Arab Human Development Report 2002, United Nations Development Programme, Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, New York (2002), available at [LINK].

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Masters of torture – Dwarfing Abu Ghraib

Few years ago, a Palestinian family immigrated to the US and settled in Southern California.  The father is such a wonderful man, he has a “Gold Tooth” quite visible once you see him smile.  How he got his gold tooth is the subject of this story full of twists and turns, injustice, sadness, patience, and hope for liberation.

Unable to get any work in the occupied territories, he managed to get a work contract in Saudi Arabia.

With hard and honest work, he was doing very well and things really looked good for a change.  After a couple of years of non stop work, he was missing his family, and could not take the separation any longer.  He arranged to take a full month vacation and unite back with his family in the occupied territories.

The flight was short, but once he arrived, he had to follow strict security procedure by the Israeli authorities.  He heard many comments about the many gifts he brought for his family.  He explained about his absence for two years, finally was able to go home after 8 hours of intensive questioning and searches.

He made it home at last.  He was excited; his family was beyond joy to see him.  It was almost the perfect reunion.

In the middle of the night they woke up to the sound of loud commotion and knocking on the door.  “BAM BAM BAM open the door”, “Open the door now. BAM BAM BAM”. Continue reading “Masters of torture – Dwarfing Abu Ghraib”

Pagans as Patriots: Freedom vs. Prejudice

The U.S. Air Force recently released new data indicating that Pagans (sometimes called Wiccans) have nearly 1,000 registered members, more than Muslims or Jews. Of course they should have their own chaplain in the military since there are Pagan adherents serving their country. Pagans are as entitled to having their religious needs met as are Southern Baptists. Religious freedom is religious freedom is religious freedom. That cannot be said too frequently today.

Paganism is very poorly understood. It is sometimes called “the Old Religion” as it claims to be a revival of indigenous religious traditions violently suppressed by Christianity as it spread throughout Europe. Contemporary Pagans or Wiccans celebrate diversity and put a high premium on personal responsibility and not doing harm. Feminists such as Feminists have been prominent in contemporary Wicca or Paganism and emphasize the repressed Goddess traditions and the spirituality of women as expressed in witchcraft.

Paganism has an important role to play in American religious culture as it explicitly regards women as capable of embodying the sacred. It has been my personal experience that conservative Christianity in particular regards all women, regardless of their faith, as vaguely Pagan. Christian conservatives do not value women’s religious leadership as highly as that of males. Women are called the “weaker vessel” and considered less capable of embodying the sacred. This is why women are not ordained by Catholics and conservative Protestants. Women are deemed incapable of “imagining Christ” despite the fact that Genesis 1:27 clearly states that both female and male are created in the image of God. Continue reading “Pagans as Patriots: Freedom vs. Prejudice”

Mark Twain and the Sins of Our Race

War Foretold

When I resorted to Mark Twain’s writings I attempted to escape, at least temporarily from my often distressing readings on war, politics and terror. But his “The Mysterious Stranger”, although published 1916, still left me with an eerie feel. The imaginative story calls into question beliefs that we hold as a “matter of course” – a favorite phrase of his. It summons the awful tendencies of “our race”: our irrational drive for violence, be it burning ‘witches’ at the stake or engaging in wars that only serve the “little monarchs and the nobilities.” 

As the Iraq war rages on, Twain’s words ring truer by the day. “The loud little handful will shout for war…Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will out shout them and presently the anti-war audiences will thin and lose popularity. Before long you will see the most curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men. And now the whole nation will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open.

“Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after the process of grotesque self-deception.” 

Twain, whose genius undoubtedly surpasses time and space, wrote the above passages nine decades before the world’s leading statesmen, President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair forged their case for war, based on falsities and refused to examine any refutations; they rallied millions, investing on their ignorance and blind patriotism to carry out a war whose outcome is akin to genocide. Continue reading “Mark Twain and the Sins of Our Race”

Muslims challenge Christians’ use of Cordoba mosque

 

Europe Features

By Sinikka Tarvainen Jan 3, 2007, 8:29 GMT

‘; var PageContent= ‘Cordoba/Madrid – Few buildings are as emblematic of Europe\’s Muslim past as the Great Mosque in Cordoba.

\nThe southern Spanish city was once the capital of Moorish Spain, where the mosque was promoted as the third Islamic pilgrimage site after the Kaaba of Mecca and the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

\nDeclared a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1984, the stunning mosque pays tribute to the architectural and artistic achievements of Muslim Spain, which also shone as a beacon of science and scholarship in 10th-century Europe.

\nCordoba residents still often call the building \’mezquita\’ (mosque), though it has in fact been used as a cathedral since the 13th century when Christian troops conquered the city from the Moors.

\nA mysterious dim light typical of Catholic churches now surrounds the forest of pillars ending in red-and-white-striped arches, which has been compared to a Muslim tent in the desert.

\nA Catholic altar, a choir stall and chapels have been erected inside, mingling with Islamic features such as the mihrab or prayer niche.

\nSo who does the building, with a prayer hall measuring 23,400 square metres, belong to?

\nIs it the heritage of Arab-Berber-Spanish Moors, who ruled large parts of Spain for some 800 years and for whom emir Abd ar-Rahman I started building it in the 8th century?

\nOr does it belong to Christians, who completed their Reconquest of Spain from the Moors in 1492 and whose King Charles V financed the mosque\’s definitive conversion into a cathedral in the 16th century?

\nUntil recently, few Spaniards questioned the Catholic Church\’s exclusive use of the building, but the arrival of some 800,000 mainly Moroccan Muslim immigrants over the recent years has raised new questions about the sanctuary.

\nThousands of Spaniards have also reclaimed their Muslim roots, converting to Islam in cities such as Granada, once a Moorish stronghold.

\nMansur Escudero, a convert who heads Spain\’s Islamic Board, prayed in front of the mosque recently to claim Muslims\’ right to use it for prayer.

\nThe board has written to Pope Benedict XVI, proposing that the mosque be turned into an ecumenic temple where Christians, Muslims and representatives of other religions could pray together and \’bury past confrontations.\’

\nIt has sent a similar letter to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

\nSpain\’s Islamic organizations have distanced themselves from Osama bin Laden\’s call on Muslims to \’reclaim Al-Andalus,\’ the traditional name for Moorish Spain.

\nThey condemned the 2004 Madrid train bombings, staged mainly by Moroccan Islamists, which killed 191 people.

\nThe mosque, a building with an \’enormous symbolic power,\’ could show the way for a \’universal spirituality,\’ Audalla Conget, secretary of the Islamic Board, told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in a telephone interview.

\n\’Spain could be the key that opens the door to peace,\’ he says, recalling the Moorish period when Christians, Muslims and Jews lived in a relative harmony.

\nAfter the Reconquest, however, Spanish identity was largely based on a militant brand of Catholicism as a sign of differentiation from Islam.

\nIt is only recently that Spaniards have begun toning down traditions which could be offensive to Muslims, for instance removing a statue of Saint James \’the Moorslayer\’ from Santiago de Compostela cathedral.

\nSome villages have modified traditional plays or spectacles in which \’Christians\’ kill \’Moors.\’

\nRicardo Blazquez, the head of Spain\’s Episcopal Conference, initially showed sympathy towards the idea of Muslims praying at the Cordoba mosque, but the conference quickly issued a statement saying he had not authorized any Islamic prayers at the cathedral.

\nCordoba bishop Juan Jose Asenjo rejected the Islamic Board\’s request, saying joint use of the temple would confuse believers and promote religious indifference.

\nThe Vatican has rejected earlier petitions by Muslims to pray at the Cordoba mosque, but Conget was hopeful that Benedict XVI would have a more favourable attitude.

\nThe Cordoba bishop\’s negative answer contrasts with \’interesting gestures\’ by the pope, such as praying at an Istanbul mosque, he said.

\nA spokeswoman at the Cordoba bishop\’s office declined to comment, saying the office had \’nothing to add\’ to what the bishop said earlier.

\n© 2007 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur‘; PrintArticle();//–>

Cordoba/Madrid – Few buildings are as emblematic of Europe’s Muslim past as the Great Mosque in Cordoba.

The southern Spanish city was once the capital of Moorish Spain, where the mosque was promoted as the third Islamic pilgrimage site after the Kaaba of Mecca and the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Declared a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1984, the stunning mosque pays tribute to the architectural and artistic achievements of Muslim Spain, which also shone as a beacon of science and scholarship in 10th-century Europe.

Cordoba residents still often call the building ‘mezquita’ (mosque), though it has in fact been used as a cathedral since the 13th century when Christian troops conquered the city from the Moors.

A mysterious dim light typical of Catholic churches now surrounds the forest of pillars ending in red-and-white-striped arches, which has been compared to a Muslim tent in the desert.

A Catholic altar, a choir stall and chapels have been erected inside, mingling with Islamic features such as the mihrab or prayer niche. Continue reading “Muslims challenge Christians’ use of Cordoba mosque”

Muslims in Spain

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Written by http://www.euro-islam.info
Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Demographics

 

Spain’s interaction with the Muslim world extends back to the 9th century and Islamic expansion into Europe. Most Muslims were expelled in 1492, although there is strong evidence that some did remain behind and publicly proclaimed Catholicism but privately practiced Islam. This tendency faded over time, and the Muslim presence in Spain disappeared until the 1960s.

 

 

 

Initially, many Moroccans entered the tourist industry on the Mediterranean coast. They were primarily undocumented and transient, often attempting to get into France. The profile of these Moroccans began to shift, and they began to come from the Spanish protectorate area in northern Morocco, and settle in Catalonia.

 

As countries further north of Spain began controlling immigration more tightly, many immigrants began settling in Spain so that by the late 1970s it is estimated there were 100,000 Moroccans in Barcelona.

 

Since the 1980s most of the growth of the Muslim population has been due to family reunification. Current estimates put the Muslim population of Spain at 500,000, predominantly Moroccan.

 

Other points of origin include Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq whose citizens came as students and entrepreneurs. By 1977 these numbers expanded to include Palestinian refugees, and in 1979 Iranian refugees. While socially important, demographically their impact is minimal.

 

An important group of Muslims in the country is composed not of migrants, but of converts. In the 1970s there seems to have been a marked increase in the number of Spaniards accepting Islam. Various theories have been put forward as to why this might be the case, including the need to recover an authentic Spanish identity by look back at the period of Muslim rule. The result has been that in the mid-1990s converts had founded over half the Muslim groups. Current estimates place their numbers at 6,000 individuals.

 

Labor Market

 

Muslim immigrants tend to be employed in the lower sectors of the economy, such as service and labor.

 

Education

 

The OECD collects data on education from various statistical agencies within the country, the majority of which comes from census data from the year 2000. The OECD classifies educational achievement using the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED): ISCED 0/1/2: Less than upper secondary; ISCED 3/4: Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary; ISCED 5A: “Academic” tertiary; ISCED 5B: “Vocational” tertiary; ISCED 6: Advanced research programs. 0-2 are considered low, 3-4 as medium, and 5 and above are considered high. This data is not reported by religion, but does have country of origin as reported by the respondent. It is thus possible to construct an approximate picture of the educational achievement of the population in the country with ancestry from predominately Muslim countries. One significant problem is that some countries, such as India and Nigeria, have large Muslim populations but the immigrant population cannot be readily classified as predominately Muslim or non-Muslim. As such, the educational data is split by predominately Muslim origin, predominately non-Muslim origin, and a separate category for those whom classification would not seem justified. Proportions are for all reported data, individuals with no reported ancestry or education are excluded.

 

High

Medium

Low

Muslim

11%

13%

76%

Non-Muslim

20%

17%

63%

Indeterminate

17%

20%

63%

 


 

State and Church

 

In Spain, although special treatment of any religious organization is considered illegal, the state does have agreements with the Vatican that give the Catholic Church unique rights. Some, but not all, have been extended to Islam and other faiths, although these religions do not receive state funding through the tax system. Despite the legal status of Islam, recognized in 1992, there have been di Continue reading “Muslims in Spain”

Galloway’s last punch at Blair

Sense & Insensibility
Galloway’s last punch at Blair
Shahnoor Wahid

If you are wondering who has most gall among the present lot of British MPs then you will invariably end up with the name George Galloway, the Labour MP, for a number of reasons. This gregarious and wickedly witty MP with a runaway tongue is known for his anti-Bush and Blair utterings, which, at times, even his staunch supporters find difficult to digest.Galloway has an everlasting reservoir of invectives, all tailor-made, to launch his attacks on his two prized political enemies. He has been the most vocal critique of the Iraq policies of Britain and the USA, and he never tried to hide his feelings in private or in public.

But many across the world found his way with words not quite palatable, which, more often than not, touched upon the profane, to say the least. But, no doubt, this burly politician is pure entertainment to the non-political and non-partisan audience. Continue reading “Galloway’s last punch at Blair”

Kemalist Ideology- Turkish National Secular Movement

Kemalist Ideology (“Atatürkçü Düşünce”), also known as Kemalism (“Kemalizm” or “Atatürkçülük”) and Six Arrows, is based on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk‘s six principles (Altı Ok) during the Turkish national movement. The principles were not defined as an ideology during the life of Atatürk, but formulated later on. It constitutes ground rules for state nationalism in Turkey.

History

The history of the concept of Kemalism can be traced back to Second Constitutional Era of the Ottoman Empire. The political experience of the Ottoman Empire, through Tanzimat, and the First Constitutional Era of the Ottoman Empire were synthesized into Kemalism.

 

Republican People's Party logo, and six principles as arrows

 

Republican People’s Party logo, and six principles as arrows

The Republican People’s Party was established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on October 29th, 1923, about a week before the declaration of the Republic of Turkey on the September 9th. The party uses the ideology to symbolize itself. Continue reading “Kemalist Ideology- Turkish National Secular Movement”

What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico?

5 April 2007
by Guest Blogger

by Noam Chomsky

Unsurprisingly, George W. Bush’s announcement of a “surge” in Iraq came despite the firm opposition to any such move of Americans and the even stronger opposition of the (thoroughly irrelevant) Iraqis. It was accompanied by ominous official leaks and statements—from Washington and Baghdad—about how Iranian intervention in Iraq was aimed at disrupting our mission to gain victory, an aim which is (by definition) noble. What then followed was a solemn debate about whether serial numbers on advanced roadside bombs (IEDs) were really traceable to Iran; and, if so, to that country’s Revolutionary Guards or to some even higher authority. Continue reading “What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico?”

Civilian Claims on U.S. Suggest the Toll of War

Joao Silva for The New York Times

On March 11, 2004, Miad Matar got $2,000 from Sgt. Guadalupe Sorola after her husband was killed by American forces at a checkpoint in Iraq.

By PAUL von ZIELBAUER

Published: April 12, 2007

function getSharePasskey() { return ‘ex=1334116800&en=f824038cf51e05bc&ei=5124’;} function getShareURL() { return encodeURIComponent(‘http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/12/world/middleeast/12abuse.html&#8217;); } function getShareHeadline() { return encodeURIComponent(‘Civilian Claims on U.S. Suggest the Toll of War’); } function getShareDescription() { return encodeURIComponent(‘The military has paid $32 million to Iraqis and Afghans for noncombat-related killings, injuries and damage.’); } function getShareKeywords() { return encodeURIComponent(‘United States Armament and Defense,Iraq,Afghanistan,American Civil Liberties Union’); } function getShareSection() { return encodeURIComponent(‘world’); } function getShareSectionDisplay() { return encodeURIComponent(‘International / Middle East’); } function getShareSubSection() { return encodeURIComponent(‘middleeast’); } function getShareByline() { return encodeURIComponent(‘By PAUL von ZIELBAUER’); } function getSharePubdate() { return encodeURIComponent(‘April 12, 2007’); } In February 2006, nervous American soldiers in Tikrit killed an Iraqi fisherman on the Tigris River after he leaned over to switch off his engine. A year earlier, a civilian filling his car and an Iraqi Army officer directing traffic were shot by American soldiers in a passing convoy in Balad, for no apparent reason.


Multimedia

A Sampling of Civilian ClaimsGraphic

A Sampling of Civilian Claims Continue reading “Civilian Claims on U.S. Suggest the Toll of War”

“The True Furqan” a fake Qur’an of the21st Century by USA

Muslims everywhere have found “The True Furqan” a fake and this so called Quran opposes many Islamic beliefs. In one of its ayats it describes having more than one wife as fornication, divorce being non-permissible and it uses a new system for the sharing out of the will, opposing the current one. It states that Jihad is HARAAM. This book even goes as far as attacking Allah, Subhanahu WA Tahala! The two American printing companies; “Omega 2001” and “Wine Press” are involved in the publishing of “The True Furqan.” We must stop the distribution of this book. The book can also be found at: http://www.islam-exposed.org
This site should be shutdown.

Allahu Akbar!

whaat do the americans have to say about it<american misinformation>

A New American Quran?

Evangelical Christian group writes book challenging the Quran
During 2004 and 2005, allegations in several countries claimed that the United States was trying to impose a “new American Quran” on Muslims.

These claims are false. A small, private evangelical Christian group in the United States has written a book called The True Furqan, which seeks to convert Muslims to Christianity, but this group has no connection with the U.S. government. Furqan is another term for Quran. Continue reading ““The True Furqan” a fake Qur’an of the21st Century by USA”

Huge Protest in Iraq Demands U.S. Withdraw

April 10, 2007

Huge Protest in Iraq Demands U.S. Withdraw

BAGHDAD, April 9 — Tens of thousands of protesters loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric, took to the streets of the holy city of Najaf on Monday in an extraordinarily disciplined rally to demand an end to the American military presence in Iraq, burning American flags and chanting “Death to America!”

Residents said that the angry, boisterous demonstration was the largest in Najaf, the heart of Shiite religious power, since the American-led invasion in 2003. It took place on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, and it was an obvious effort by Mr. Sadr to show the extent of his influence here in Iraq, even though he did not appear at the rally. Mr. Sadr went underground after the American military began a new security push in Baghdad on Feb. 14, and his whereabouts are unknown. Continue reading “Huge Protest in Iraq Demands U.S. Withdraw”

Iran Says It Can Enrich Uranium on a Large Scale

April 10, 2007

Iran Says It Can Enrich Uranium on a Large Scale

NATANZ, Iran, April 9 — Iran said Monday that it was now capable of industrial-scale uranium enrichment, a development that would defy two United Nations resolutions passed to press the country to suspend its enrichment program.

The announcement was greeted with skepticism by Western diplomats and nuclear experts, who said the declaration seemed to have more to do with political showmanship than technical progress. While reporters were invited to the country’s main nuclear complex at Natanz, they were not shown any evidence that enrichment of uranium, the step needed to make reactor fuel or bomb fuel, was under way.

In a speech on Monday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that if the West did not end its pressure against Iran to halt the production of uranium, Iran would review its policy of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear monitoring entity. Continue reading “Iran Says It Can Enrich Uranium on a Large Scale”

Britain Now Says Captives Can’t Sell Their Stories

April 10, 2007

Britain Now Says Captives Can’t Sell Their Stories

LONDON, April 9 — After howls of protest from former military commanders, opposition politicians and relatives of service members who had been killed, Britain’s defense secretary, Des Browne, on Monday abruptly reversed a decision to allow some of the sailors and marines captured by Iran to sell their stories to the media.

The ban came too late to prevent 2 of the 15 captives, released last week after 14 days, from recounting their experiences in return for payment. Continue reading “Britain Now Says Captives Can’t Sell Their Stories”

Growing Islamophobia

President Bush reacting to the unearthing of the alleged bombing plot over the Atlantic August 10 remarked: “This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation.”

On Aug. 7, during a press conference from his ranch in Texas, he said terrorists “try to spread their jihadist message – a message I call … Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism”. A moment later, he said “Islamo-fascism” was an “ideology that is real and profound”. White House spokesman Tony Snow told the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” Aug. 11 that the president will continue to use the phrase.

This is not the first time that Bush and members of his Administration have used this deliberate coupling of Islam with evil ideologies or actions, such as fascism or terrorism. Bush referred to “Islamo-fascism” in his address to the National Endowment for Democracy, Oct. 6, 2005. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) addressing Christians United for Israel (CUFI) held their first Washington-Israel Summit in Washington D.C., July 2006, declaring “Islamic fascism is a mosaic…” Continue reading “Growing Islamophobia”