05/09/2013 Leave a comment
Director, scholar and broadcaster…
25/05/2013 Leave a comment
While it may have been written 14 centuries ago, the letter Khalifah Ali ibn Abi Talib wrote to Malik Ashtar is just as, if not even more relevant to us today.
May Allah SWT help us return to the noble wisdom of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and his loyal companions, may Allah bless them.
Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
25/11/2012 1 Comment
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Defend the Internet from the greedy banksters, crooked politicians, charlatan pastor-mullahs and other freaks who desire to destroy it!
“Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: The greatest jihad is to speak the word of truth to a tyrant.”
~ Mishkat, Book of Rulership and Judgment, ch. 1, sec. 2
Google is calling for a massive internet uprising in the wake of censorship bills that will ruin internet freedom forever! They have dedicated the page www.google.com/takeaction to raising awareness concerning this madness; it is very important that we continue to keep our Human Family’s link to one another open, to flourish freely.
“A free and open world depends on a free and open Internet. Governments alone, working behind closed doors, should not direct its future. The billions of people around the globe who use the Internet should have a voice.”
Should the proposed changes go ahead, the internet will quite simply cease to be, as whatever would be left would no longer be the internet! Not only would this impact on our liberties, but it would harm our economies through reduced networking opportunities, damage the cause for representative government and destroy our Human Family’s hopes of a brighter, more peaceful world tomorrow, less restricted by national borders and the unnecessary conflict between nations.
On behalf of the future, we ask those of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
We the People of the Internet have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one; therefore we address those who would tyrannise us with no greater authority than that with which Liberty always speaks. We declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us.
Governments and corporations have no moral right to rule us, nor do they have the means to stop us!
Together we can and will move forward to bring into being a brighter tomorrow, but in order to do that, we all need to work together and defend the right to freely communicate without interference from greedy banksters, crooked politicians and charlatan pastor-mullahs who would stand in the way of our collective vision.
Sheikh Salahuddin Abu Sophia
09/07/2012 1 Comment
Below is the text of The Final Speech of the Great Dictator, delivered by the character, the Jewish Barber, in Chaplin’s 1940 film, The Great Dictator. The Jewish Barber was played by Sir Charles Chaplin.
I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible – Jew, Gentile, black men, white…
We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each others’ happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.
Greed has poisoned men’s souls; has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind.
We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all.
Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children; victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.
To those who can hear me, I say “Do not despair.”
The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.
Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder!
Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have a love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate!
Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural.
Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!
In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it’s written “the kingdom of God is within man”, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power.
Let us all unite.
Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill their promise. They never will!
Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people!
Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance!
Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.
Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!
04/07/2012 Leave a comment
“Happy Independence Day, to all my friends in the United States of America! God bless America, may she return to and embody the noble virtues upon which she was founded.”
~ Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
~ United States Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
01/09/2011 Leave a comment
By Sheikh Daoud Rosser-Owen
The famous Tudor dramaturge, Christopher Marlowe, wrote circa 1592 to the Prologue of his play The Jew of Malta, “I count religion but a childish toy, And hold there is no sin but ignorance”.
While I don’t agree with him about religion, nor the solitariness of the sin, I certainly hold with him that ignorance is sinful. I don’t mean ‘ignorance’ as in simply not knowing something. I mean ‘ignorance’ as refusing to find out. Indeed, in these days of the easy accessibility of information through the Internet and widespread literacy, I would consider such ‘ignorance’ not merely to be a sin, but worse – a willful and inexcusable self-indulgence. And, as it affects Islam and Muslims in the British Isles and even elsewhere in that putative entity ‘The West’, outrageous and with the wrong people positively dangerous. It should be needless to say that this works both ways.
At the moment it is quite common, even fashionable, among many to denigrate and anathematise the Shari’ah, used as a shorthand for Islamic Law or more accurately as one for the degenerate legal systems applied in certain Muslim countries – which is not at all the same thing.
There is also the understandable reaction to a more immediate problem of the ignorant demands from certain Muslims of Britain, and their umbrella organisations, for the application in the UK of some concept that they describe as “Shari’ah” or “Islamic Law”, but which is actually little better than an Islamic label stuck crudely over some imported cultural or customary code that in all too many dimensions touches Islam itself only notionally.
It is sadly true that there is some justification for these responses.
However reacting from ignorance is not helpful. Yet what else can people do when they are let down by those whose professional duty it used to be (according to the Great John Delane, sometime Editor of The Times, in his famous editorial “The Earl of Derby remarked…” of Friday, 6 February, 1852) “to educate and inform” but who nowadays seem to take it as being to promote ignorance and dissention? Few people are orientalists, and the generations who were born, grew up and served in the Empire have largely passed out of public life.
The aim of this essay is an attempt to fill in the gap abandoned by journalism. It is largely adapted from my monograph (as yet unpublished because not quite complete) on Tory Fundamentalism and Muslim Ideas of State, and it has been revised in the light of two Reports recently released on Islamophobia: that by Spinwatch, “The Cold War on British Muslims” (available to read at http://www.scribd.com/doc/61402174/The-Cold-War-on-British-Muslims and as a PDF at http://www.spinwatch.org/images/The_Cold_War on_British_Muslims_July_2011.pdf) and that by the Center for American Progress, “Fear, Inc. The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” (available to read and to download as a PDF at http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/08/islamophobia.html).
It is possible that I actually was the first to coin the word “Islamophobia” in an Editorial I wrote in Q-News International in early 1995 – I had formed the word as a derivative from, and allusion to, “homophobia” – which was picked up by the Runnymede Trust’s Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, set up in 1996, in its first Report “Islamophobia: a challenge for us all”, published in 1997. On reflection, seeing how things have developed more towards outright hatred of Islam and Muslims rather than an irrational fear, it would have been more appropriate for me to have called it “Islamomisia”. I had toyed with the idea, and dismissed it as being too academically obscure for a newspaper editorial.
About two years ago, in I think 2008, there was published in one of the UK’s daily broadsheets the results of a survey among Muslims, largely in the Midlands and north-east of England, asking whether they wanted Shari’ah in the UK. Many answered ‘yes’, but the questions remain what did the respondents understand by the request, did they think that there was a realistic possibility of it actually happening, or were they reacting to some massive hypothetical “If”?
Much has been made of the apparent results of this poll. So, following from this, what does the word Shari’ah mean for the average UK Muslim – or the proverbial ‘Muslim on the Clapham omnibus’ – and the average UK non-Muslim? And what does this actually mean for them at the operative level of daily life?
There used not to be an educated person unfamiliar with that verse from Jeremiah (6:16), “interrogate de semitis antiquis quae sit via bona et ambulate in ea” (ask after the old paths where is the good way and walk in it). This “good way” (via bona) is the well-trodden path of the prophets and patriarchs, and is the Way of Truth that all these have called people to follow.
The Muslims do not see their Way as being different from this but as a continuation of this well-trodden path, though all communities at various places, times, and circumstances have needed specific guidance for their conditions. As stated in the Quran “for every one of you We have ordained a Code and a Good Way” (li kulli ja’alna minkum shir’atan wa minhaja)(Q5:48). This via bona is none other than the Shari’ah – a ‘well-trodden path to that watering hole’ (which is what the word actually means) of laws and conduct derived from what has been sent down from the Almighty from which the Mosaic Law of the Torah, much of the Canon Law of the Christians, and the corpus of Islamic Law drink deep. To Muslims, each of these Abrahamic Faiths (as the late Professor Isma’il al-Faruqi, al shahid, termed them) has its own Shari’ah: its own track (semita) on the Way (via) of Truth.
02/02/2011 Leave a comment
By Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
There was a story in the New York Times a few days ago about how the “revolution” in Tunisia was sparked in December by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old, befuddled roadside green grocer. Like so many young Arabs, he was born poor and only dreamed of providing for his siblings and his mother. He had been to college, where he studied law, but had found no employment possibilities. So, given the basic dignity often found in people in places like Tunisia, he chose to humble himself and find a halal means to generate some income. But he kept running into problems with the police and government inspectors until the fateful day in December when they confiscated his cart and his produce, saying he didn’t have a proper permit, and leaving him with an unpaid loan with which he’d bought the goods. At the station, upon attempting to reclaim his cart, he was slapped and humiliated publicly. His already deferred dreams had clearly dried up. Bouazizi left an apologetic note for his mother and set himself on fire in front of the local government building.
Four weeks later, the protests sparked by his death brought down the government of President Zine el Abdidine Ben Ali, who’d ruled Tunis with an iron hand for 23 years.
I have had the good fortune of visiting Tunisia many times. During my last visit, which was in the early nineties, I was harassed by the Mukhabarat (secret police), and the family that I was staying with was also questioned. That left a bad taste for me, and I decided not to return to the country and have not been back since.
Mukhabarat notwithstanding, my experience of the Tunisians is that they are wonderful people. They are known among Arabs for being kind and gentle. They are slow to lose their temper and quick to lend a hand to a stranger. I remember seeing young men selling beautiful bundles of jasmine flowers that had such a powerful scent that you could smell a seller coming your way long before he reached you.
Tunisia is a stunningly beautiful country with a great history and a bright and talented people, but corruption, cruelty, and the ineptitude of leaders unable to gauge the frustration of their people has led to the current crisis. Like so many Muslim countries, its government has been run largely by a family operation with a tribal mentality that was milking a population dry.
When the government was brought down this month, President Ben Ali fled with his wife, Leila, to Jeddah of all places; terrible floods in the port city inauspiciously welcomed him. It seems that Jeddah is the choice retirement haven of ex-African Muslim tyrants, including the former dictator Idi Amin of Uganda. Sometimes, birds of prey flock together in unlikely places. No doubt, Ben Ali has millions, if not billions, of dollars in his Swiss accounts, but even Europe, despite its dire need of cash, didn’t want him. Options diminish quickly for these men once they’re out of political power, but where odiousness closes doors in some places, great wealth obviously opens them in others.
The irony is that such tyrants usually rise to power because the people want to get rid of tyranny from a previous source. Years ago, I was in the house of the great Tunisian scholar, Shaykh Shadhili Nayfar, who was from a proud Andalusian family that had fled to Tunis with the collapse of Muslim Spain. Shaykh Shadhili had been the dean at al-Zaytuna University, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. He studied rare manuscripts and had a great library in his home that researchers could use. Since he was a former Member of Parliament in Tunisia, I asked him about the country’s history. He told me that during the anti-colonial movement to rid the country of the French, the scholars of al-Zaytuna University were very powerful indeed, but the single most unifying force was around the politician, Habib Bourguiba, and the scholars of al-Zaytuna debated long and hard whether or not to back Bourguiba, as he was an avowed secularist and had no commitment to the religion.
Shaykh Shadhili said that the scholars opted to support Bourguiba because they thought he would help the Tunisians oust the French, and they could deal with him thereafter. However, little did these scholars realize that Bourguiba would be worse than the French and would, in fact, turn against them before they could do anything about him. This seems to be the great lesson of revolutions and coups: With rare exceptions, they bring in new governments that are as bad or worse than the ones they ousted. The man who just fled from Tunisia to Jeddah had taken the government from a decrepit and delirious Bourguiba promising the Tunisians that the age of tyranny was over. Hah.
An intriguing aspect of the current Tunisian situation is the absence of ideology. This is a genuine uprising of people who are sick and tired of the corruption and cruelty of a state apparatus. Monarchs of old practiced the tradition of benevolence. They were not always benevolent but were raised with the understanding that they were there to serve the people. These pathetic Arab rulers who overthrew those monarchs practice the worst types of cronyism and nepotism, placing their sons on their “thrones,” and they thrive in an environment that is driven by family and tribal allegiance. The cracks have been showing for a while. And now, in Tunisia, it has all come tumbling down.
The lessons of history are worth heeding. Tunis, once called Carthage, had a mythical queen, Dido. According to legend, she killed herself on a funeral pyre due to her despair at being scorned by Aeneas, who abandoned her to Rome. The historical Hannibal led a Tunisian army to Rome to rid Tunis of Roman persecution, but he failed, and Rome’s vengeance led to the salting of the soil in Tunis and the destruction of Carthage that lies in ruins today near the capital. The Muslim world now has its share of misguided, petty Hannibals who think that by attacking Rome, they will restore the glory of “Carthage.” Yet, their attacks only provide the necessary excuses for the Empire to salt the soil of Iraq and Afghanistan.
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While the Tunisian Dido didn’t accomplish anything through her suicide by fire, our poor green grocer, Mohamed Bouazizi, has ignited the Arab world in flames, achieving in death what he could not in life – sense of purpose and meaning – indubitably more than all the suicide bombers around the globe combined. His was an act of a desperate man who chose not to kill others but instead to light himself on fire in protest. This was the sacrificial tactic that Buddhist monks used during the Vietnam War, and their actions had a massive impact on the psyches of Westerners. When a situation becomes so desperate that people choose to leave the world rather than to stay in it and struggle, the message to the surviving ones is clear: it is time for a change. Well that change is happening in Egypt and other places in the Muslim world. Let’s hope for the best and pray for these poor, suffering people who deserve far better than their leaders have given them.
Suicide is rare in the Muslim world, but it’s increasing. God makes life generally bearable for people, so they will choose even highly difficult situations over the option of checking out. Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, which begins with “To be or not to be,” reminds us that in taking our own lives, we may be fleeing to troubles far greater than the ones prompting us to flee.
An odd aspect of the reaction to Bouazizi’s suicidal act is that some Muslims will surely condemn it, since suicide is clearly prohibited in Islam, but these same Muslims will justify the actions of suicide bombers, now euphemistically called “martyrdom operations” (‘amiliyyat istishhadiyyah) on Arabic newscasts. The justifiers point out that suicide bombing is an act of defense, and their only real weapon at that.
But the similarities and differences of a suicide and suicide bombing are worth contemplating. In Bouazizi’s mind, suicide was his only weapon of defense against an unjust Tunisian government that would neither listen to him nor even let him earn a livelihood selling vegetables without having to bribe some low-level official to get the piece of paper that would enable him to do so. A suicide bomber, as the social science studies show, is also in a similar state of despair, and straps bombs to himself so he can kill himself and other people about whom he knows nothing. The assumption the suicide bomber makes seems to be, “My life and my people’s lives are miserable, and no one is doing anything about it, so it might fix things if I sacrifice my life and take a bunch of other people’s lives too.” Hence, some people just being on an Israeli street corner become a target, irrespective of whether they support or oppose Israeli aggression against Palestinians. What makes such suicide bombing more honorable than Bouazizi’s suicide?
Suicide is suicide, it seems to me, but it becomes truly heinous when one decides to take others with him using indiscriminate methods of mass destruction. I cannot sit in judgment of the Palestinians who have resorted to such measures nor the Chechnyian women who lost husbands and children and in acts of savage revenge killed themselves and others. I am not in their shoes, and I cannot fathom the depth of their despair. However, I do not condone the act of suicide bombing or any form of suicide, as I consider both to be of the same ilk, and in fact the former is worse in my estimation due to the extended harm to others. And I do judge the notion that suicide bombers are somehow not really committing suicide (because they are taking the lives of others) yet our Tunisian green grocer deserves to go to hell because he is committing suicide. He is not seen as a martyr, but the suicide bombers are viewed as noble martyrs because along with their own lives they took some possibly innocent bystanders; hence, in this view, suicide bombers deserve a martyr’s honor and paradise. I must admit, I just don’t get it; I think those who promote this notion need to study Mizan al-amal and the other great texts of ethical theory in our tradition.
Like copycat suicide bombers who now proliferate all over the Muslim world, we are seeing copycat self-immolators in places like Egypt, Algeria, and even Mauritania. Dr. T. J. Winter said, “Suicide bombing is an extreme way of shooting oneself in the foot.” The Muslim world deserves better strategies for dealing with very real social issues as well as better leadership, clearly.
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Though suicide is haram, the simple protest of this Tunisian street vendor did more to change the status quo and put real fear in the hearts of the tyrants than all of the suicide bombers. We must devise better and more civilized ways of dealing with our differences, as we live in an age of nuclear power, machine guns, aerial bombings, and global news cycles that expose us to the pain and suffering of peoples in far off places.
Many people in the West have no idea how much the Arab on the street suffers from humiliation under unjust rulers and their petty minions. I have a friend who is a beautiful young Arab man from the desert. Unlike some of his compatriots who come to the West and have promiscuous relationships, he chose to honorably marry an American woman while he was studying here. Now, upon returning to his homeland, he is struggling to get a visa for her, as his country does not allow its citizens to marry outside their land without first obtaining permission from the ministry of interior. He now simply waits for the whim of some petty bureaucrat to issue his wife a visa so that she can join her husband and meet his family.
Like our green grocer, people can only take so much.
The great American novelist, writer, and poet, Langston Hughes, wrote:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore…
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over…
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Our green grocer went to university with dreams; but his dreams did not materialize, and so in desperation he turned to selling vegetables to earn an honorable livelihood. Yet he was not allowed even to fulfill that pitiful deferred dream. They should have just let the man sell his vegetables, but they didn’t, and the fire was lit. Already those flames have spread to Egypt, and we watch with fear and trepidation for the well-being of our Egyptian brothers and sisters, hoping and praying for their future and that of Egypt, the heart of the Arab world, which now is engulfed in the bonfire of revolution.
Sorry for the delay in posting a blog. If you knew why, you would sympathize. I really appreciate the prayers and well wishes so many of you expressed. Thank you and God bless you. Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Jeddah also who are suffering from devastating rainfalls that have left many homeless.