Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bahrain and Iran - Women's Dress

When I lived in Bahrain in the late 1970s and through the 1980s, I thought Muslim women were steadily evolving away from the covered heads and black cloaks (abayas) of earlier decades. I almost never saw someone with a veil over her face.

True, the Khomeini Revolution forced Iranian women back into black covering from head to foot, but even in Iran, faces-without the forbidden makeup-were unveiled.

When I returned to Bahrain in 2006, after 16 years away, I found the changes in dress startling. Not more modern, as I would have predicted in the 80s, but distinctly more traditional. In the malls, almost all women wore the ankle length black abaya, but its style had changed. No longer a cape that covered the head and extended over the body, the abaya had transitioned to a black, ankle-length dress, supplemented by a black head covering that often included a veil over the face.

Although former students told me that many of the veiled women were from Saudi Arabia, now easily accessible over the causeway that connected the two countries, many Bahrainis dressed the same. "Why the change?" I asked in every conversation.

Diverse explanations were proposed, but all centered on the fact that Muslims felt their faith to be threatened, and dress became a way of affirming their Muslim identity.

Some suggested that the Khomeini Revolution, the Afghan-Soviet conflict, or the Gulf War of 1990 had triggered the concern. Others proposed that the changing role of women, with much greater involvement in higher education and employment, led them to choose conservative dress to demonstrate that a change in life style was not a rejection of the faith.

I returned in 2009 wondering if the trend toward traditional dress had intensified. It had not. Perhaps not enough time has passed for a definite conclusion, but my impression is that fewer women veil their faces and the abaya has become a more fashionable outer covering. The cover picture for my book was taken this year and although most of the girls wear an abaya, it is not the traditional sleeveless cape. Wide, embroidered sleeves are clearly visible. Most of the women wear a black scarf over their hair but in the background are several with uncovered heads and no abaya. This is also what I observed on the street and shops.

Unlike Iran or Saudi Arabia, Bahrain has no laws regulating women's dress. The pressure to conform to what others are wearing, felt by women everywhere, has a major role in determining dress in Bahrain. Probably the choices are more complex there because of the tension between religiously backed tradition and newer trends that assert a changed role for women.

Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have laws governing woman's dress. I had little direct experience with Saudi women's dress on my recent trip, but I spent nearly two weeks in Iran.

As I planned my Iranian trip, I remembered the dress restrictions inaugurated by Khomeini in 1979 and imposed by harsh treatment of women who protested. With this in mind, I borrowed an abaya with sleeves and packed several scarves to cover my head. Although I saw similar garments in rural provinces, I was out of step in the cities, where the women have largely abandoned the ankle-length chador (abaya). The new style is a knee-length, fitted coat-dress worn over pants. Far from shapeless, this manteau is often cinched with a wide belt, producing a rather modern and stylish look.

Other restrictions enforced in the early Khomeini years are also gone. Make-up is universal, and although a scarf is required by law, inches of hair show on all women except those in official positions who wear a uniform black scarf that fits smoothly around the oval of their face. No faces are veiled.

I eventually abandoned my efforts to dress inconspicuously. When I did not wear my borrowed abaya in the cities, I was left with my usual cotton pants and long sleeved shirts. Provided my head was covered, these were perfectly acceptable by Iranian law, but the light colors I normally wear drew attention in a society where women universally wear dark colors. Under a navy blue manteau, an Iranian college girl might wear blue jeans, but the overall effect is dark.

This is not true for school girls for whom pastels are the rule. I saw many girls, aged perhaps 7 to 14, as they left school or were on their way home and all wore pants covered by a knee length tunic with a head covering of the same color. Each school had its distinctive color. Pale blue and pink seemed to be popular choices. Are light colors considered suitable only for children, with darker colors indicating maturity? I could only observe.

Muslim women in all countries dress in compliance to the Islamic mandate that their bodies be covered from neck to ankles. Although Bahrain and Iran are close geographically, women dress quite differently. My tentative conclusion, based on limited time in these two countries, is that women's dress in the Middle East is diverse and evolving. My tentative conclusion, based on limited time in these two countries, is that women's dress in the Middle East is diverse and evolving.


The Other Face of Islam

The Ahmadiyyah movement (Ahmadi) is a sect in Islam which was founded towards the end of the 19th century in Punjab, India, and spread from there to different countries. Most members of the sect are centered in South-East Asia: India, Pakistan and Indonesia, and it numbers 15 Million believers.

The members of the sect preach enlightenment, peace, and brotherhood between nations and love of others. The Ahmadiyyah way opposes religious coercion, and therefore does not support spreading Islam through Jihad, "Holy War". They prefer placatory persuasion. The sect is named for its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (1835-1908), who, at the age of 40, announced that Allah has entrusted him with the task of renewing the Muslim religion and bringing justice and integrity to the world.

The Principles of the Ahmadiyyah obligate its believers to be loyal to their country of residence. A believer of the sect can not defy the laws of his country, so he can live in peace in this world. Muhammad Sharif, head of the Ahmadiyyah in Israel, explains: "As a citizen I am bound to obey Allah, the Prophet and those who lead the country even if I do not approve of the leader". The Ahmadiyyah are forbidden from joining demonstrations, even ones on behalf of peace.

Faced with the traditional Islamic belief, that Muhammad is the Final Prophet, the Ahmadis maintain that even following his death prophecy still remained, and it was transferred to the founder of the sect and his students. The Ahmadiyyah sees itself as a global religion that is supposed to include not only Muslims, but also Christians, Jews and Hindis.

According to Ahmadi belief, Jesus was a man who was neither crucified nor transported to heaven, but was taken down from the tree by his students, traveled to India, where he died at the age of 120 in Srinagar, Kashmir. Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the sect, is in their eyes a reincarnation of both Jesus and Muhammad. He is the promised "Mujaddid". For his followers, he is the "Mahdi", a savior or a messiah, and there are those who see him as a prophet.

Once India split into a Hindu state and a Muslim state, the religious center was transferred to Pakistan. The movement was persecuted in Pakistan for years, and moved its religious activity to London. Today, centers of the Ahmadi movement can be found in many countries. During the hundred years of its existence, the Ahmadiyyah sect has managed to create a well organized movement, including missionary forces, educational institutions and cultivated religious centers, spread over many countries around the world: In Asia, Africa, Europe and America.

The Ahmadis in Israel

According to Muhammad Sharif Odeh, head of the Ahmadi in Israel, the sect has 1500 members in Israel. On the 17th of March 1928, the "Center of the Ahmadi Delegation to the Middle-East Countries" was transferred from Damascus to Kababir village on Mt. Carmel in Haifa. Today the village is a neighborhood of a thousand, surrounded by Jewish neighborhoods. The Ahmadi community in Haifa has a large octagonal Mosque patterned after the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The current head of the sect in Israel is the son of its founder in Israel. The sect has a number of vehicles to spread its beliefs: A monthly magazine named "Al-Busra Al-Islamia Al-Ahmadiyyah" (The Ahmadiyyah Muslim Gospel); a website, as well as a satellite television station, mta.tv.

Although the sect's religious center hosts organized groups from the entire country, not many have heard of it. "It does not interest the media, because we provide no action", Muhammad Sharif Odeh tells Omedia, "Maybe because we do not throw rocks". It is possible that they are ignored because they broadcast a message of "Love for All, Hatred for None", while the media in Israel is deficient in its reporting methods and publishes mainly news items and articles of the "dog bites man" genre.

According to the Ahmadis, the main problem of radical Islam is the distorted interpretation of the Quran that the fundamentalists have adopted. According to Sharif, the problem in Islam, as in other religions, is the total adherence to the words of clerics, whose words are perceived as the words of Allah. "We believe that the interpreter can be mistaken. Let us return to the source rather than to interpretations that divide between people, as if a religious ruling of a cleric is the divine word, similar to what obtains in the Catholic Church, where the Pope is infallible".

Sharif notes that the perception of "Muhammad Baseif", i.e. the call to spread Islam by the sword, does not appear at all in the Quran, nor is it mentioned in the Hadith (Interpretations by Muslim wise men). "It is just an invention of some Sheikh. It does not obligate me, nor any other Muslim".

According to Sharif, the meaning of the word Jihad as it appears in the Quran means a supreme effort, endeavor, and not the interpretation adopted later. They are bound, so they say, by the original interpretation of the word. The call of Jihad, for them is: "Call to your sovereign, and argue with him in the best way possible. Islam clearly states that you can not employ coercion and force in matters of religion and faith".

Elastic Rules

Bu the problem of the Ahmadis is not with normal interpretation, but specifically with an interpretation that "contradicts the text". Sharif defines it: "An interpretation that harms the principles of justice or contradicts science. All the time you need to return to the source, reinvestigate the religion. In Islam the rules are not set in stone, but elastic, and dependent on the changing situation. If there is a scientific development that contradicts an existing interpretation then that interpretation is no longer holy". It should be noted that one of the recent Nobel Laureates in physics, Prof. Abdul Salam, is a member of the Ahmadi sect.

The Ahmadiyyah Movement published an ad opposing the latest comments by the Pope against Muhammad, but which also criticized the "barbaric" reaction, as Sharif terms it, to these comments. Sharif says it would have been better to respond to the Pope with words, "With scientific proof and not by burning churches (Such as after the caricatures in Denmark). Nobody has the right to injure another for no reason. The Quran clearly states that you are forbidden to damage the prayer locations of other faiths".

Radical Islam is a misrepresentation of Islam. The Ahmadi call upon their fellow Muslims "Let us return to the Quran. We will not find any verse in the Quran that forces anyone to accept the religion or a verse that speaks of a Muslim theocracy. The Quran clearly states 'if you are a ruler - rule justly'. If an atheist is fit to be a minister or prime minister, there is no reason not to choose him. I need to choose a person who fits the job professionally, not because of his religion and nationality. We should return to the Quran and not the interpretations that serve as a stumbling block by differentiating between religions and nations. This interpretation has transformed religion into a source of hatred and hostility - into a new form of Paganism. It is an attempt to conquer another in Allah's name". The Ahmadi sect, according to Sharif is a nonpolitical movement and therefore is opposed to involving religion being in political issues.

"As Muslims, We Have Made Terrible Mistakes"

Sharif does not deny Islam's militant past, and notes that "The Muslims have made terrible mistakes". However, according to him it can not be attributed to the core of Islam. The Quran teaches how to treat the enemy. The founder of the sect said, based on the Quran: "The principle is that in our heart we have love for all of humankind. Loving every human is the duty of a good believer. I love humankind as a mother loves her children. The Muslim within you is the part doing its best to bring happiness to all. And that is a universal message, rather than one based on sector".

Muhammad Sharif does not know where the Muslim insult to Jews "sons of monkeys and pigs" derives from. "Some very horrible mistakes resulted from interpretations which originated in Islam", and notes that the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal, furnishes a similar example of horrible deeds inspired by Christianity.

No Religious Distinction

According to Sharif, the Quran is a collection of all holy books which preceded it. "A Muslim has no qualms with any religion. There is no real difference between Chirstianity and Judaism and Islam. Each one complements the other". He states that in the Quran there is a call for an alliance between those who believe in one God, "that we have no god aside from Allah". The sect forbids looking down on others because of their religion and nationality. The prayers in the Ahmadiyyah mosque are the same as in any other mosque, but Sharif emphasizes that "once the rite becomes an end and not a means, religion transforms itself into a form of paganism".

When it comes to the sacredness of Islamic land (The Waqf), the Ahmadiyyah movement also takes a different approach. As Sharif explains: "The Prophet of Islam said that it is better that the Kaaba (The holiest location in Islam) be destroyed brick by brick, than to allow one drop of blood to be shed. Why die for Al-Aqsa? For the holiness of stones?

An Unequivocal Stance Opposing Terror

As a result of his approach, Sharif's stance on terror is clear. Sharif notes that those who executed terror attacks "Received legitimization from religious rulings" and notes that he has managed to make some people transfer from activity in radical Palestinian movement to adopting the Ahmadi views. "Not with Apache helicopters, but by proving to them that terror goes against the Quran". For example, a former terrorist from Tul-Karem, currently lectures at the Ahmadiyyah religious center.

In an interview to Omedia, Sharif also referred to September 11 unequivocally. "It is a terrible thing, even in the midst of a war of self defense. Islam clearly states 'God does not like to create hostility', but even during an attack and in a war of self defense, the Prophet of Islam said clearly to all 'do not kill women and elders, do not kill children, do not kill a woman, do not even harm a tree'. These are the words of the Prophet Muhammad. A true Muslim does not harm others, not by words nor by deeds".

Islam's Treatment of Ahmadis

In the Arab press the Ahmadis are venomously attacked: "They depict us as evil, as collaborators with the English, and even as creatures of the English. They also call us enemies and collaborators with the Jews", and they have even termed us the 'new Islam from Tel-Aviv'. The internet has hundreds of hate sites against the sect and the malevolent preaching against them in the Mosques, before mass audiences, continues.

The Ahmadis in Israel, unlike their brethren in the West Bank, are not ashamed for being part of the sect. "In the West Bank the members of the sect fear to reveal their identity, because there is a new religious ruling issued by the supreme council of the Muftis", says Sharif. "The Mufti of Nablus delivered a ruling last year against the sect characterizing us as converts. This is worse than being a heretic. In the orthodox Muslim approach, those who convert from Islam are sentenced for death".

Sharif notes that the newspaper of the Islamic Movement in Israel "Sauth Al Haq" also terms them converts. The Movement has also published a book against the Ahmadis. This situation has physical repercussions in the Muslim world. Last year, a terrorist entered an Ahmadiyyah mosque in Bangladesh and carried out a mass murder of worshippers during prayer.

Despite the war waged against them, there are new members from the West Bank as well - from Tul-Karem, Nablus, Bethlehem, East Jerusalem, and villages near Jenin. According to Sharif, a few also join from villages in the Galilee and the Sharon. He is happy to note that most of the new members are young and most of them are academics.

The Right of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel

Beyond noting the fact that Ahmadis are loyal to the country where they dwell, such as Israel, Sharif does not hesitate to mention the right of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel, as it appears in the Quran. "It is clearly written in the Sura (chapter) of the People of Israel that this right is granted them by Allah", says Sharif. And he adds: "A prophecy written in the Quran 1400 years ago, clearly declared that God will bring the People of Israel to the Land of Israel from all over the world, and there would be an ingathering of the exiles in the land of Israel - and this enjoins a true Muslim to enter a dialog with the 'People of the Book' (The Jewish People were first called so in the Quran - R.F.) and it states: 'Do not argue with the People of the Book, but only in the most appropriate of ways".

According to Sharif, the Quran does not call for harming a Jew because he is a Jew. He notes the opening Sura that states: "God, bless me as you have blessed them (The Jews)". As for the inter-religious dialogue, Sharif notes that despite his meeting with Rabbi Shaar Yishuv Hacohen, Haifa's Rabbi, there is no inter-religious dialogue of real depth. He believes that "If you know the other well rather than superficially, you will change your opinion of him".

Peace Begins with Moderate Islam

In light of the rampage of radical Islam, it is refreshing to listen to one who clearly corresponds to the definition of "moderate Islam" - the Ahmadiyyah movement. If there is to be a prospect for a better world in general and in our region specifically, it is important that the messages transmitted by the Ahmadis reach attentive ears in the Muslim world, especially Muslims in Israel, and even those within pre 1967 Israel..

The success of this progressive movement would gradually moderate the hate level radical Islam in Israel, i.e. the Islamic Movement and all its wings, including the Southern one (The Southern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel is considered more moderate), so that it would harbor less hatred to Jews and the Jewish State. Then there would be hope for true peace in the region. It is also important for Jews to know of this sect, so that we may understand that there is a different Islam, and the desire for peace begins not only with us, but with them, as well.

Ran Farhi is the political and media matters commentator in "Omedia", The leading site in security and terrorism issues, focusing on the Middle East and matters concerning Israel.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Review of Islam in NYT Book Review

The January 6, 2008 edition of the New York Times Book Review was devoted to "Islam," as the header for the edition boldly proclaims. The edition aims to highlight some of the most relevant historical, literary, political and theological issues informing contemporary discourse around the topic of Islam, as it is found in recent literature. The effort to shed light on such an important subject is laudable. What follows are my comments on the various articles and essays. They follow the order presented in the Book Review. 1. This issue of the Book Review begins with Tariq Ramadan's excellent essay Reading the Koran. Ramadan is able to capture in a concise essay both the simplicity and the nuanced complexity of the Koran (Qur'an). Its simplicity is rooted in its ability to singularly address the believing heart. At this level the Qur'an is simple and universally accessible. Each person finds in its message, filtered through the prism of his or her personal experiences, knowledge, joy, pain, triumphs and setbacks, a distinct intimacy. At this level, the message requires "no intermediary." This is the basis of what Ramadan refers to as the dialogue that exists between the Qur'an and its reader. Ramadan beautifully captures the spirit of that dialogue.

However, the Qur'an is also nuanced and its message can be quite complex at another level, a more complex one that seeks to accurately understand the legal, social, and moral implications of the message. Here, the challenge, Ramadan informs us, is "to derive the Islamic prescriptions that govern matters of faith, of religious practice, and of its fundamental precepts." Here literalism and dogma do not take one very far, although they inform much of the contemporary polemics surrounding discussions of the Qur'anic messages in the pontification of both Muslims and non-Muslims.

As Ramadan mentions, this is a domain that requires the specialized methodological tools of the Qur'anic scholar. It is those tools that allow for the productive application of reason to the divine text. That such an application is possible is illustrated throughout the long history of Islam, and captured in the rich literate we have inherited from the great Qur'anic exegetes. These methodological tools, would include a deep knowledge of the poetry and language of the Arabs, grammar, rhetoric, logic, knowledge of the Meccan and Medinan verses (signs) of the Qur'an, and other sciences that Ramadan does not mention.

Possession of those tools is augmented by the possession of a final, critical one that Ramadan does expound on-a deep spirituality that creates an inseparable fusion between the heart and the mind. It is this fusion that really opens the door to a faithful and deep understanding of the guidance contained in the Qur'an. In Ramadan's words, "Reason opens the Book and reads it-but it does so in the company of the heart, of spirituality."

In our day the need for a deeper reading of the Qur'an has perhaps never been greater, for the vast difference between the society that witnessed the original revelation of the text and the time we live in has never been greater. Hence, there is a tremendous need for a harmonizing between the text and our context, a harmonization that is impossible as long as there is not a deep harmony between the heart and the mind. Ramadan makes this point quite emphatically. If we Muslims are able to effect a reconciliation between our hearts, which are oftentimes blinded by the sometimes luminous, sometimes dark glare of the modern condition, and our minds, which are oftentimes numbed by the seductive illusion of certitude, then perhaps we can help to effect a reconciliation between not only the text of the Qur'an and the context we endeavor to apply its guidance in, but also between the various people vying for preeminence, or simply trying to survive in an increasingly interconnected world.

2. Irshad Manji's review of John Kelsey's, Arguing The Just War in Islam, is plagued by two of the tendencies that characterize her own works-namely, a strong ideological bias and the lack of a deep understanding of Islamic Law, exegesis, and methodology. Both of these tendencies work to undermine the seriousness of her scholarship and the veracity of her conclusions.

An example of the former is illustrated by her comment on Kelsay's statement that in the light of classical Islamic legal reasoning civilian deaths may be justifiable "when an enemy's military resources are deployed in the midst of a civilian population. ...Soldiers whose actions take place under such conditions are excused from the guilt associated with unjust killing." Manji comments, "That ruling would let Israeli Defense Forces of the hook for collateral damage in their 2006 war in Lebanon, since Hizbollah deliberately operated in residential Beirut." Manji's defense of the IDF would be more credible, but no more acceptable, if the destruction caused by the IDF during the war was restricted to the slums of southern Beirut. However, it does little to excuse the killing of hundreds of Lebanese civilians in areas where there was no Hizbollah presence, the wanton destruction of Lebanese civilian infrastructure, and the dumping of hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs on Lebanese fields and arable farmland. Are these to be glibly dismissed as forms of collateral damage that Muslims have no moral or theological authority to question because of a perceived loophole in classical Islamic strategic thinking?

The latter tendency is illustrated by her concluding remarks surrounding the Qur'anic verse that "tells believers that slaying an innocent is like slaying all of mankind unless it is done to punish villainy." She goes on the mention the incumbency of "reform-minded Muslims" reinterpreting this verse. She then concludes that the nature of that reinterpretation "could well be the next chapter in reclaiming Shariah reasoning and the richness of Islam itself." To reduce the reform of Islamic legal thought to the reinterpretation of a single verse, particularly the one is question is a highly untenable proposition.

Although Kelsay's work is probably quite insightful, it is indicative of a genre of writing about Islam that is highly problematic. That literature seeks to explain developments in the Islamic world based on easily sensationalized cultural variables that pale in the face of the analytical strength of other more nuanced ones. In this case the cultural variable is religion. Manji quotes Kelsay as saying, "Those who wish to argue that Islam has nothing to do with the attacks of 9/11 or the tactics of Iraqi 'insurgents' will find no comfort here..."

The implicit assumption underlying this statement is that if we can understand Islam, specifically its legal reasoning, then we can understand why 9/11 occurred or why the Iraqi insurgents choose the tactics they do. I would argue that Islamic legal reasoning has little to do with understanding either. If suicide terrorism is the issue to be explained then Islam would give us little insight into what motivated the Tamil Tigers when they were engaging in arguably the prototypical-and to date the most successful-suicide terror campaign in history. If car-bombing is the tactic to be explained then Islam will do little to explain the ruthless campaigns of the Zionist Stern Gang in Palestine during the 1940s, or the highly effective campaign of the Viet Cong and their supporters during the American campaign in Viet Nam during the 1960s. How does Islam inform the tactics of contemporary Islamic radicals who employ such methods in ways that differ fundamentally from the two groups mentioned above? As Robert Pape demonstrates in the case of suicide bombings it would be far more productive to consider other variables.

If any one thinks that the application of "premodern precedents" goes further in explaining contemporary acts of violence in the Muslim world than globalization, foreign occupation, economic marginalization, inadequate education, and a host of other factors, then that misunderstanding will not only inform flawed policies for dealing with the current crisis, it will also help to perpetuate the type of ignorance that lends public support to those policies.

It is interesting the Book Review did not choose to highlight a publication that deals with the types of explanations I mention above. Pape's, Dying to Win, Michael Scheuer's, Imperial Hubris, and Olivier Roy's Globalized Islam are examples of works that could have been mentioned in this regard. This is not to argue that Kelsay's thesis has no validity. However, its true relevance is highly questionable.

3. Jeffrey Goldberg's, Seeds of Hate, is a review of Matthias Kuntzel's, Jihad and Jew Hatred: Islamism, Nazism, and the Roots of 9/11. Goldberg echoes Kuntzel is seeing the poorly packaged nonsense that is at the basis of Jew-hatred that does exist in the Muslim world as "scandalously ubiquitous." The Muslim world is quite expansive, and it would be a stretch of the imagination to think that the sort of anti-Jewish hatred that appears in pamphlets littering some of the bookstores of the Arab heartland of Islam is widespread in places like Muslim West Africa, the Muslim nations of Central Asia, or the Southern Philippines. Even Goldberg realizes that we are not talking about a ubiquitous phenomenon and more accurately states at the end of his article, "Still Kuntzel is right to state that we are witnessing a terrible explosion of anti-Jewish hatred in the Middle East..."

The dubious nature of Kuntzel's claim along with an indication of the nature of the scholarship supporting it is found his allegation that (in Goldberg's words) "two Muslim leaders in particular willingly and knowingly carried Nazi ideology directly to the Muslim masses." These two leaders are the Palestinian, Amin al-Husseini, and the founder of the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood, Hasan al-Banna. During his lifetime, to say nothing of today, it would be difficult to find a Muslim outside of Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia who had even heard of Amin al-Husseini. Although Hasan al-Banna's ideas would be indirectly influential in the programs of some Islamic organizations, such the Jamaati Islami of India and Pakistan, that influence was largely confined to a few countries outside of the Arab heartland of Islam, and did not extend beyond the Western-educated elite that formed the backbone of such movements. The masses in those lands were always attached to more traditional types of Islamic organizations such as the Sufi brotherhoods.

In mentioning the role of Hasan al-Banna in transferring those hideous ideas from their European birthplace to the Muslim world, Kuntzel gives too much weight to a yet to be resurgent Islam. The role of Arab nationalism, and nationalist thinkers such as Sati al-Husri during the 1930s and 1940s in that transferal is far more significant. Those were the heady days of the Arab nationalist revolution, and nationalist thinkers such as al-Husri, Michel Aflaq and others saw far more to be learned from the mass mobilization techniques, the manipulation of nationalist symbols, and the racist propaganda of Mussolini and Hitler than Islamic figures like al-Banna ever did.

Kuntzel's use of the word "Jihad" in his title is also significant. The juxtaposition of "Jihad" and "Jew-Hatred" seems to suggest that somehow Jew-hatred has something to do with motivating the actions of 21st Century jihadists. Such a linkage would be very difficult to prove. Most analysts of contemporary jihad movements note the almost total neglect both Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have given to the Palestinian problem. When it is mentioned by them or their cohorts, it is usually done so in a language that bespeaks of tokenism. Why then use such language? I would argue that it is an emotive way of obscuring the real issues pushing some Muslims to violence.

The same could be said by the inclusion of the phrase, "...and the Roots of 9/11," in the subtitle. Even those who accept the woefully inadequate official version of the events of that day seldom if ever mention the hatred of Jews as being one of the factors motivating those implicated in carrying out the attacks. It is again curious that Kuntzel would make such a linkage.

Kuntzel does point to a real problem. However, he appears to be overly simplistic in his analysis of its origins, and by implication its solution. To his credit, Goldberg points out this oversimplification. As he implies, the "excess and cruelty" of Israel has to be seen as a factor in the emergence of virulent Jew-hatred in parts of the Muslim world. That does not excuse it. However, it is certainly a factor in explaining it.

4. Fouad Ajami's essay dealing with Sam Huntington's Clash of Civilization thesis is his acknowledgement that Huntington was right all along. It took the events of 9/11 to lead Ajami to see the light. As Ajami states, "Those 19 young Arabs who struck America on 9/11 were to give Huntington more of history's compliance than he ever could have imagined." He further observes that those radicals and their ilk had "overwhelmed the order of their homelands..."

All of this strikes me as strange. As far as I can see it is authoritarian business as usual in all of the Muslim countries that have witnessed the threat of radical Islam. Egypt dutifully crushed Ayman Zawahiri and his minions, forcing them to seek refuge in the caves of Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia has survived the challenge of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda without even a minor disruption in the flow of oil. Even in Pakistan, a land where the radical Muslim youth are seen as most menacing, far from being overwhelmed, President Musharraf, along with the military and feudal land-owing elites he serves as a front for are firmly in charge. No informed observer would believe otherwise. Musharraf has been able to skillfully use various Islamic groups to give the impression of an exaggerated Islamic threat to his western backers; and of course, he is the only one capable of dealing with that threat.

In the most secular of Muslim countries, Tunisia, the vanquished Islamic movement, and its exiled leader, Rashid al-Ghanoushi, show little signs of a comeback. Even in Turkey, where Ajami places an exaggerated emphasis on the Islamists roots of the current ruling party, it is clear that the politicians, regardless of their Islamist origins, tow the army's line and have been forced to engage in many embarrassing compromises to prevent the direct intervention of the avowedly secular military into the political arena. In the Central Asian Muslim republics, brutal repression prevents the emergence of even a peaceful Islamic movement.

Ajami's effort to lend credence to Huntington's thesis leads to an incredible lack of analytical depth. He cites for example the fact that the percentage of the world's population under the direct political control of the west has fallen from 40 percent in 1900 to 15 percent in 1990, whereas Islam's share has risen from 4 percent in 1900 to 13 percent in 1990. Even if we discard the fact that most of the growth in the Islamic realm can be attributed to disproportionately high population growth rates, Ajami's failure to grasp the nature of neo-colonization is telling. The premise of the new colonization is that it no longer requires expensive and politically-damaging direct control. The details of the working of new relationships of domination and control are well known, and their impact on the developing world is well documented.

Ajami's analysis also ignores the economic realities of the current global system. If we were to look at the economic domination of the former colonial powers we would surely find that the forms of economic dependency in the former colonies, and wealth sharing patterns between them and their old vassals has actually worsened. The nature of globalization has rendered whole sectors of the population of many developing countries structurally unemployed or unemployable, even in places like India where a relative handful of people have benefited by the "outsourcing" of IT services.

To make his case Ajami must overlook other critical developments, such as a pervasive western-orchestrated globalization that is just as severe in the Muslim world as it is elsewhere. The young Arabs and Muslims Ajami sees as the "shock-troops of a new radicalism" are wearing blue jeans, blazers and communicating via cell phones and the internet. Their frustration in many instances is bred by the lack of control they have over their life chances because of the vagaries of the global economy.

9/11 notwithstanding, Huntington's clash of civilizations is bad history and it is bad social science. From a historical perspective it would be difficult to argue that Islam and Christianity are two distinct civilizations. They both spring from common roots and are integrated by the dynamics that have forged the peoples of the Mediterranean region into an integrated if oftentimes conflicting whole. The diet, language, dress, and social mores of a Palestinian Christian differ little form those of a Palestinian Muslim. To posit that religion alone somehow casts them into divergent civilizations, civilizations defined by culture no less, is not a sound proposition. If somehow European Christians are distinct from their Latin American or Middle Eastern brethren, something that Huntington seems to suggest, then those differences likely have nothing to do with religion.

The clash of civilization thesis is based on many conclusions that do not stand up to facts. For example, Huntington claims that sharing a common civilization will mitigate conflicts that do occur. Yet the two world wars, fought primarily between the Christians of Europe were the bloodiest and most costly conflicts in history. More recently in the Muslim world the Iran-Iraq War, which raged from 1980 until 1988, leading to the deaths of well over one million combatants, was the bloodiest war in the history of the region despite the fact that both sides were Muslim. Sharing a common "culture" was no mitigating factor in these conflagrations.

Furthermore, the neat fault lines Huntington draws up are not so clear on the ground. Was the 1991 Gulf War an example of a clash of civilizations? The Christian American and Brits teamed up with the Muslim Saudis and Kuwaitis to destroy Muslim Iraq. How do we draw the fault lines in looking at that conflict?

Ajami grudgingly concedes, "I still harbor doubts about whether the radical Islamists knocking at the gates of Europe, or assaulting it from within, are bearers of a whole civilization." I can assure Mr. Ajami that they are not even the bearers of a partial civilization. As Olivier Roy points out they are the children of globalization. Furthermore, unlike the Ottoman Turks when they twice besieged Vienna, they are not knocking at the gates of Europe, and unless some European country grants them a visa they can get no where near the estate.

5. William Dalrymple's review of Ghalib Lakhnawi and Abdullah Bilgrami's The Adventure of Amir Hamza is a welcome addition the Book Review's collection. Such works go a lot further than any number of speeches or educational initiatives to humanize the Muslim world. With so much attention given to the bloody things that lead in the headlines of the coverage given by the western media to the Muslim world, it is refreshing to read about a great work of literature. Dalrymple's concise overview of the development of this genre of writing is lucid and insightful.

His review is also saddening, for as he points out, this art form, along with virtually of all the classical Islamic arts-with the notable exception of calligraphy-are almost dead. In this context, Dalrymple issues a subtle challenge to Muslims when he states, "If the Sackler's "Hamzanama" exhibition was the first time a Western audience has been exposed to the Hamza story, it also served as a wake-up call to Urdu and Persian scholars. It quickly emerged that this epic, said to be the longest single romance cycle in the world, has been almost forgotten." The wake-up call Dalrymple mentions extends far beyond scholars of Persian and Urdu. It is one that should be heeded by all Muslims.

Being a viable and competitive nation includes far more than the ability to produce doctors and engineers, the primary professions most Muslim parents direct their children towards. Without relevant and engaged scholars in the humanities and social sciences, it is difficult to see how the type of Islamic world expressed in the pages of the Hamza tales will be recaptured. That world is a world rooted in the realities that are shaped by real people engaging the world on human terms. It is a world capable of producing great art and literature, a world of subtleties and nuances, a world of heroes and heroines.

A true revival of Islamic civilization does not require a return to the prophetic epoch, nor does it require starting from scratch in the face of the novel contingencies presented by the modern and now post-modern conditions. It will require a deep appreciation of the tradition that emerged from the struggle of Muslims to apply our religion in the world as much as it will require a rededication to the underlying piety that drove that engagement. It will also require the creative imagination illustrated by the many minds that unwittingly collaborated over long centuries to produce The Adventures of Amir Hamza, as well as the creative assimilative genius that produced the distinctive Mughal art form displayed in the Hamzanama.

It is interesting, as Dalrymle points out, that The Adventures of Amir Hamza begins near Bagdad and unfolds in an area encompassing most of the Middle East that has become synonomous with conflict and strife. Bringing about a new day in that region will hinge in large part on how we in the West envision it. Hopefully works like The Adventures of Amir Hamza will help us to view the region and its wonderful people in a more human light.

6. Beyond the Burka, Lorraine Adams essay on the state of Muslim women in western literature is a call for the inclusion of a wider range of voices in literature about Muslim women currently available in the West. Adams points to the highly politicized nature of what gets translated, published, and by implication, effectively marketed. She mentions the case of Hirsi Ali's memoir, Infidel. Because Ali's work, whose truthfulness is dubious, reinforces all of the stereotypes associated with the type of Islam advocated by radical Islamists, today's enemy of choice, it is a best seller and its author fitting for a fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute.

Adams then proceeds to mention the likes of Nawal El Saadawi, the longtime Egyptian feminist scholar and activist, whose scholarship, integrity, and career accomplishments dwarfs those of Hirsi Ali, but whose ambivalence towards the American imperial project has relegated her works-those which have been translated into English-to the back shelves of obscure British bookstores.

Adams also demonstrates the power of the template by a brief examination of the work of the Iranian émigré Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran. The success of that work led to a slew of similar works by Iranian women. Collectively, those works serve to reinforce the stereotypical views most Americans have of the Islamic Republic, but do little to add understanding of the highly complex, highly nuanced Iranian social and political systems. They also unwittingly deny space for other Iranian female voices that are telling different types of stories. This is a dangerous trend in light of the fact that the American public will probably soon be called on to accept some form of military action against Iran. In the absence of understanding, blood unfortunately becomes a very powerful argument.

Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of Adams essay, one that is almost universal when Western women write about Muslim societies, is her failure to mention any works by women who readily and proudly identify themselves as practicing Muslims. She does acknowledge that "moderate Muslims, practicing but tolerant; and radical fundamentalists..." exist. However, her overview of the literature being produced by the women of the Muslim world gives no indication of any literary output from this quarter. It would certainly be instructive and enriching to find out what are the factors motivating such women to take the stands that have taken, and what is their view of the social reality some consider so insidious and demeaning to their gender.

Herein is a challenge for practicing Muslim women in the West, many of whom are fluent in both English and one of the major Muslim languages. Through original works and through translation let your stories and the stories of your sisters be known. It is only through the telling of such stories that the fullness, complexity, and richness of the Muslim world will come to be known. Only then will we begin to approach the fulfillment of the vision of Dedi Felman, who Adams quotes as saying, "We are asking people to recognize the Other not for what they want it to be or anticipate it to be, but for what it is." After all is said and done such an attitude is absolutely indispensable for mutual understanding.


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