Sajjad Khan (sajjadkhan) Sat 15 Jan 05 15:36
>The most widespread agreed mechanism for resolving differences is >democracy, but apparently you hope for something else. Is suspicion >about democracy widespread among the Muslims you know? Why is this? Agreed, I was making a parallel that an Islamic society could also incept mechanisms to deal with the multitude of differences that currently exist. With respect to democracy, most Muslims support the concept of elections, accountability, the rule of law and good governance. However contrary to popular views, democracy is only one means by which societies can achieve this. Many people including Muslims have argued that democracy in its pure form is impractical and in its current form is oligarchic and hierarchical http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/ted5.htm Hence the need to look at alternative paradigms to achieve the above ends
Sajjad Khan (sajjadkhan) Sat 15 Jan 05 15:52
>Do you plan to expand the scope of the magazine to include matters >relating to other English speaking countries such as the US, <Canada, New Zealand and Australia? Though the magazine addresses several international themes, it obvious has some UK centric articles due to the location that we publish in. However even within these articles such as the BNP (a far right British political party), we hope to address the subject in a way to make generic points. The main point in the article was the need for an intellectual rebuttal of the BNP's positions rather than an over emphasis on seeking legislation to ban them, a position supported by many Muslim groups in the UK. Where topics in the rest of the world including the countries you have mentioned can generate some of these more generic discussion points, we will of course write about them or allow guest wriers to submit articles.
Gerry Feeney (gerry) Sat 15 Jan 05 16:11
Farooq and Sajjad, can you tell us a little about Hizb ut-Tahrir? Also, what is the relationship between the Hizb ut-Tahrir political party in Britain and _New Civilisation_ magazine? I have read various documents written by different spokesmen on behalf of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, such as Dr. Abdullah Robin, and they have consistently stated Hizb ut-Tahrir seeks change through dialogue and peaceful political means, and renounces violence and terrorism. Yet, in the press I've heard Hizb ut-Tahrir referred to in terms such as "dangerous," "subversive," "a threat," etc., and allegedly linked to terrorist activities. How do you explain this apparent contradiction?
Sajjad Khan (sajjadkhan) Sat 15 Jan 05 16:15
>There was also one line "The issue for Islam is not therefore one of >reform..." which appears to be in conflect with the concept of >Islah. Can you clarify this point? We have an article in the next issue on this, but a few points 1 The fact that Christianity went through a period of reformation, it does not necessarily follow Islam has to. Two reasons why Christianity needed reformation was the theocracy and infallibility of its ruling class and secondly its opposition to scientific advancement. Islam on the other hand rejects a theocratic and infallible clergy and as we saw historically Muslims embraced scientific and medical progress in a huge way. 2 Secondly as Islam is 1400 years old, people believe reformation inevitable. Time alone, it would seem, is not enough to render an idea invalid. The revival of ancient Greek philosophy, art and culture was termed a renaissance in Europe. Many of the foundations of the Wests contemporary intellectual and political tradition are associated with three millennia-old discourses still considered valid in the twenty first century. Indeed English common law emerged in the Middle Ages, taking from Roman law and influenced by Norman and Saxon custom; the US Bill of Rights, passed in 1791, reflects the guarantee of due process given by the Magna Carta in 1215 and the English Bill of Rights of 1689. 3 Lastly while reform implicitly discounts the validity of an idea through suggesting that it is in need of alteration, Ijtihad tackles contemporary problems using Islams original principles and rules: it does not demand their alteration but their application. Regarding Islams legislative rules and principles they are founded on a doctrine that addresses problems as those extending from the needs of human beings as human beings; that is to say, not in their racial, regional or tribal context, or as a reaction to a particular social condition; nor as Muslims or non-Muslims, but as human beings. It is not a specific doctrine in as much as it is specific to all human beings. It is a timeless conception of the human condition, for it is not mans nature that changes with the expanse of time, but his material circumstances: the complexity of material and technology, which develop through continuous scientific endeavour. The needs that extend from mans nature - whether basic organic requirements, the need to regulate political, social and economic relationships individually or collectively, or basic instinctual feelings such as for survival, justice and security remain consistent, although their manifestations may change, but not always increase, in complexity and propensity. New world-views, thoughts and beliefs may develop over time and emerge at various points in human history, but these too do not represent a shift in mans fundamental nature, intellect or needs. Since the Islamic system addresses problems as demands extending from this consistent human nature, it is continually applicable and a consistent source of solutions for tackling human problems. Indeed, it is not thoughts, but things that time may render obsolete: an idea is invalidated by identifying its intellectual shortcomings; material things are replaced and considered obsolete as scientific and engineering progress produces increasing material sophistication.
Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Sat 15 Jan 05 17:00
The comparison of Britain vs the US in terms of cultural diversity/multiculturalism is useless. The USA, essentially, was a land with no culture that became what it is by immigration. Very few Americans can trace their generations back more than three or four generations. We're all immigrants here. Our ancestors came here because they could be Catholic, or Jewish, or Amish, or Lutheran or athiest and it was OK. We were founded on the basis of personal, religious and political freedom for all. This is totally unlike the UK or France or Germany which established their national cultural heritage 500-plus years ago. So just because there are problems in France, for example, absorbing a huge influx of uneducated African Muslims - generally economic immigrants from its former colonies - does not mean they will happen here.
Chad Makaio Zichterman (makaio) Sat 15 Jan 05 19:50
>The USA, essentially, was a land with no culture that became what it is by immigration.< Patently false white supremacist garbage. The geographic area now occupied by the United States was home to hundreds of nations before european conquest. In addition to the rather deliberate error of omission with regards to ignoring the presence of indigenous peoples, the anaesthetized/sanitized term "immigration" implies a national portrait which distorts (if not obliterates) at least two major facts integral to the creation of the United States: 1) conquest through hook, crook, sword, and gun is qualitatively different from people just "moving in" to an area; 2) your whitewashed narrative also leaves out the histories and experiences of people who were dragged to the U.S. (often literally), most notably enslaved Africans but also (in smaller numbers) other populations. This form of arrival is also qualitatively different from just "moving in." It is exactly this kind of attempt at fascist revision of history--made possible through the entrenched dominance of (in this case) a "white" mainstream, which demonstrates the failure of multiculturalism. Anything short of a substantively pluralist approach is a recipe for reinforcing unaccountable hierarchy. In this regard, U.S.-based critics of Islamist regimes would do well to take a look in the national mirror, as they have quite a mess of their own to deal with before acting as credible judges.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sat 15 Jan 05 20:53
Forgetting about Native Americans is a common error, even among people who know better. I'm sure it was unintentional. Calling people names doesn't help.
Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Sat 15 Jan 05 20:59
I did say "essentially" for exactly that reason. The fact is the USA is about "E Pluribus Unum." England isn't, nor France, nor Germany, nor Italy.
Cthulhu Saves--in case he's hungry later (jmcarlin) Sat 15 Jan 05 22:44
<sajjadkhan> > Many people including > Muslims have argued that democracy in its pure form is impractical and > in its current form is oligarchic and hierarchical Pure classical 'town hall' democracy, is impractical, true, outside of small villages. That's why we have representative government. There is no question in my mind that currently there are significant problems with how democracy is realized today. But changing that can be a tricky business. There is a 'joke' that the chief cause of problems is solutions. There are many changes I've seen that have made things, on balance, worse. I'm certainly willing to consider other structures, but there is a high barrier of proof that one would have to pass before I decided it was a good idea. To me the root problem with democracy is not in the ideal nor in the basic structures but in the spiritual and intellectual development of people. If this level were somehow to be raised, then many problems we see today would become less if not eliminated. The question is this could be done. > reform implicitly discounts the validity of an idea > through suggesting that it is in need of alteration It seems that you are using the word reform in a differed sense than I would when you refer to altering the idea. Reform could also be focused on changing how it manifests. When we in the US talk about tax reform, electoral reform and other types of reform, we talk about changing how the basic principles manifest: hopefully making the tax system fairer, elections more honest etc not changing their essential characteristics. Even the Protestant reformation could be said to be returning to the very early non-hierarchical history of Christianity before the Catholic church was founded. <the-voidmstr> > The fact is the USA is about "E Pluribus Unum." This is one of the root ideals of the United States. There are endless failures in implementing that idea, to be sure, but I think it is worth endless efforts to get closer to that ideal. Because that ideal states that we should strive to be brothers and sisters to each other as members of one family. It's interesting to me that one of the things I've heard people express about Islam at its best is the same ideal, that Muslims should treat each other as brothers and sisters.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Sun 16 Jan 05 04:02
Is there an English translation of the Quran that you would recommend?
Farooq Khan (farooq) Sun 16 Jan 05 09:17
> tell us a little about Hizb ut-Tahrir?< Hizb ut-Tahrir is an Islamic political party. It was created in 1953 to reverse the decline in the Muslim world by reviving the Muslim world upon the Islamic thoughts. So the party works to bring about an intellectual and political revival based upon Islam in the Muslim world. >Also, what is the relationship between the Hizb ut-Tahrir political party in Britain and _New Civilisation_ magazine?< Members of the party write articles for the magazine just as conservative politicians write articles for the Spectator magazine or Labour politicians write articles for the New Statesman. This is the genre of New Civilisation, a magazine that reflects Islamic political thinking just as the Spectator reflects conservative politics or the New Statesman reflects the politics of the left.
Uncle Jax (jax) Sun 16 Jan 05 09:46
Farooq, back in the 1950's and 1960's, the two predominate anti-colonialist, anti-western streams of thought in the Moslem world were Pan-Islamism and Communism. It appears to me that what has transpired sociologically is that Islamists of the modern era have synthesized these two threads. A lot of the preaching of the radicals today seems to interpret the Quran in a way highly colored by an anti-capitalism that would warm the heart of old Karl Marx!
Farooq Khan (farooq) Sun 16 Jan 05 09:50
>How do you explain this apparent contradiction?< Good question. I think these types of accusations come with the territory. Anybody who works for political change will encounter obstacles. At one time those who opposed the rule of the Church and monarchy were persecuted or those who worked to bring down communism in the former Soviet Union were also viewed by the state as dangerous and subversive. It is to a large extent inevitable that we will face these types of accusations, which is why we challenge anybody who makes such accusations to discussion and debate. In the Muslim world many of you know that representative government is an illusion. Anybody who challenges these dictatorial regimes will be oppressed as was the case, and is still the case in Iraq. This is complicated by the support of the western powers who prop up these regimes to serve western interests. As one example, the Egyptian government led by President Mubarak receives $1 billion in foreign aid - it is the second largest recipient of US foreign aid even though it has one of the worst record of human rights abuses anywhere in the world: "From the Camp David peace accords in 1978 until 2000 (the latest year for which figures are available), the United States has subsidized Egypt's armed forces with over $38 billion worth of aid. Egypt receives about $2 billion annually--$1.3 billion in foreign military financing and about $815 million in economic support fund assistance --making it the second largest regular recipient of conventional U.S. military and economic aid, after Israel. In 1990, the United States also forgave $7.1 billion in past Egyptian military debt in return for Egypt's support of Operation Desert Shield. In addition, Egypt receives excess defense articles worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the Pentagon. The announcement that 23,000 U.S. troops will be based in Egypt to conduct biannual military training exercises (Operation Bright Star) may have longer term implications for U.S. aid to the region, as might Egypt's willingness to support U.S. efforts against the Taliban." http://www.fas.org/asmp/profiles/egypt.htm Human Rights Watch Middle East/North Africa http://www.hrw.org/doc?t=mideast&c=egypt Consequently if one challenges the Egyptian government they are also challenging western imperialism. The nature and purpose of the accusations then become clearer.
Farooq Khan (farooq) Sun 16 Jan 05 10:21
>A lot of the preaching of the radicals today seems to interpret the Quran in a way highly colored by an anti-capitalism that would warm the heart of old Karl Marx!< I don't know about warming his old heart! The reasons why Muslims oppose capitalism is built upon completely different arguments to those of Marx. And the solutions to the economic problems is built completely different principles to communism. The communists view the economic problems and injustices as a consequence of the class struggle in which politico-socio-economic systems are created, destroyed and replaced. Whereas Muslims view the economic problem not as a consequence of a class struggle but rather view the economic problem as the distribution of wealth in society. So for the communists the solution is to create a system in which the class struggle is eliminated by abolishing private property. While in the Islamic economic system institionalises the distribution of wealth by prohibiting the hoarding of wealth which creates a rich entrepreneurial environment i.e. it encourages people to invest their money into new businesses and industries such that economic activity is dynamic. This is a big topic!
Maria Rosales (rosmar) Sun 16 Jan 05 10:36
Marx considered the option of massively redistributing wealth (rather than the means of production) on a regular basis, and concluded that the only way to make it permanent would be permanent violence. Was he wrong about this? How would you do it? Also, I think that you are just using a different definition of democracy than I am used to. Usually democracy is used as an ideal (with equality, freedom, majority rule, and minority rights as sub-ideals within it), and then people argue about how to best implement it. (and also argue about what each of these terms means, of course)
Sajjad Khan (sajjadkhan) Sun 16 Jan 05 12:20
>To me the root problem with democracy is not in the ideal nor in >the basic structures but in the spiritual and intellectual >development of people. >Usually democracy is used as an ideal(with equality, freedom, >majority rule, and minority rights as sub-ideals within it), and >then people argue about how to best implement it.(and also argue >about what each of these terms means, of course) Yes democracy is an ideal, but like with most ideals the key question we need to ask is can it be implemented. Just look at some of the sub ideals you raise many of which in origin contradict with each other. For example majority rights vs minority rights, laws vs freedom, rule of law vs national security. The tensions between these sub ideals are huge and fudging the issues does no justice to building a coherent political vision. Yet this complexity is never discussed in depth when we discuss the need for democracy in the Muslim world. In essence two other problems also exist, democracies have to be representative to get around the practicality point, but as I mentioned previously this tends to lead to representatives being over influenced by the wealthy and the powerful, hence negating the sub ideal of equality. Secondly majority rule does not necessarily lead to sound laws (the majority can be wrong), but even putting this to one side our representatives don't even read the bills being passed.(see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15620-2004Nov26.html. If the goal is good governance, representative government, the rule of law and rigorous accountability then democracy in my mind is quite a distance from achieving this. The problem I see is that we have become obsessed with the process of 'democracy' and forgotten that this should just be a means to a set of more fundamental goals. The US is a good example, just because we see elections every 4 years, does this equate to the fulfillment of these more fundamental goals. Or what about the elections to be held in Iraq in January? I think we are in danger of succumbing to process over substance.
Uncle Jax (jax) Sun 16 Jan 05 12:29
Farooq, it seems to me from my study of history that the classic era of the imperial heights of Islam and the Caliphates ca. 800-1200 CE emphatically did *not* interpret the problems of the distribution of wealth in the manner the radical preachers do today. The orthodox interpretation of that time was positively Calvinist in its approval of blessings bestowed in this world! The poor were poor so that the blessed Creator could test the hearts and hands of the wealthy and mighty. The Sufis and other heterodoxies mostly confined their dissent to ironic fables and fulminations about the fate of the greedy in the afterlife. All we see in history opposing the economic order in a practical sense are the bandit chiefs and the false Mahdis. I do aver that the anti-capitalism of modern radical Islam certainly seems colored quite strongly by the previous generation's romance with communism.
Sajjad Khan (sajjadkhan) Sun 16 Jan 05 13:12
>I'm certainly willing to consider other structures, but there is a >high barrier of proof that one would have to pass before I decided >it was a good idea. Yes I am also aware of the law of unintended consequences and the phrase 'beware of what you wish for.' You are right to be sceptical, but the crucial point is that you are willing to consider other structures. >Reform could also be focused on changing how it manifests> I agree, two points. 1 The underlying principles or texts can remain applicable, what will alter with time is their manifestation. For example an Islamic principle in the ruling system is that the Caliph should receive the 'baiyah' (or oath of allegiance)so that his authority is derived from the population at large. Now this principle can manifest in the form of a local election, nationwide, amongst leaders in civil society, or an indirect vote in the elected consultative assembly. Also when it comes to voting any style maybe adopted postal voting, at the ballot box, text voting, internet etc, all can be used. The key point is that the principle of people transferring authority should be applied. Another principle is that Non Muslims are free to worship, such principles cannot be subject to change by a future Caliph or a vote by a future electorate within a Caliphate. Any such attempt would be validly struck down as 'unconstitutional' 2 This is why it is important to be accurate in the 'reform' discussion. Some people are clear that they want Islamic principles and texts relating to societal matters to be superceded as they see them as medieval and backward. Others use 'islah (reform)' when they actually mean greater application of the texts (ijtihad), so we need to be clear on what we mean by 'reform.'
Cthulhu Saves--in case he's hungry later (jmcarlin) Sun 16 Jan 05 13:51
Thanks for clarifying the meaning of reform. > Yes democracy is an ideal, but like with most ideals the key question > we need to ask is can it be implemented. Just look at some of the sub > ideals you raise many of which in origin contradict with each other. > For example majority rights vs minority rights, laws vs freedom, rule > of law vs national security. The tensions between these sub ideals are > huge and fudging the issues does no justice to building a coherent > political vision. Yet this complexity is never discussed in depth when > we discuss the need for democracy in the Muslim world. This tension would also be true in any system. For Muslims, the tension would exist between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims along with Druze, Alawites not to mention members of other religions or even atheists. Many Muslims trumpet the relatively lenient treatment of Christians and Jews during the hight of the Caliphate, but at the same time there was terrible persecution of another group of monotheists, the Zoroastrians in Persia as well as subjugation of women because of tribalism and lack of moral development. This shows how hard it has been in recorded history to have a truly ideal society. > While in the Islamic economic system institionalises > the distribution of wealth by prohibiting the hoarding of wealth which > creates a rich entrepreneurial environment i.e. it encourages people to > invest their money into new businesses and industries such that > economic activity is dynamic. This is a big topic! That's an interesting idea.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sun 16 Jan 05 14:46
It seems like this conversation has drifted into rather theoretical issues. What short-term, practical goals do you have for your magazine? Is it largely concerned with Moslems in Britain or with international issues?
Michael E. Marotta (mercury) Sun 16 Jan 05 17:42
WHO ARE THE AMERICANS? AND WHAT DO THEY WANT? We are here with Billy-Bob Smith and Bubba Smith (no relation) who have created a website called www.allaboutwhatamericanswant.com to explain to the rest of the world what Americans want. They are also thinking of starting an underground newspaper called NEW IDEAS that will bring new ideas to readers. Billy-Bob Smith: Well, Americans want peace, even if we have to kick some Iraqi butt, or anyone's butt, but you gotta understand that after the World Trade Center, it was whole new ballgame and we were always tired of getting put down by people we saved over and over and it was time to get tough. Other than that, Americans want peace. And Americans want good jobs with good paychecks and we don't want to see our jobs going to Mexico or China. Bubba Smith: Not that we have anything against the people in those places, but we just want our jobs back. That's something that people in other countries don't understand about Americans. They think that because we are _for_ America that we are _against_ them, but we are not. It's just like gays. I am not gay and Billy-Bob is not gay, but we don't have anything against gays as long as they don't come on to us. Or it's like women. We like women, you know, but that doesn't mean that women shouldn't get paid as much as men when they do the same job. Billy-Bob Smith: Right, that's because Americans are really all about fairness and equality. Some Americans are assholes but you can't judge everyone by the actions or words of a few. Bubba Smith: Right, well, that's part of being American, too, is that we don't blame a whole group of people just because some Blacks are on welfare or some women are lesbians or some Iraqis bombed the World Trade Center. Billy-Bob Smith: Right. And you know, it isn't just about kicking butt in Iraq, either, because this week the Huygens probe landed on Titan and that was pretty spectacular if you saw those pictures. America leads the world in outer space exploration and we are proud of that. Bubba Smith: So, all in all, Billy-Bob and me just want to say that America is a big country with a lot of people and we want the world to be our friends, but if anyone wants to mess with us, then bring it on. But other than that, I think that a lot of Americans see the time when the whole world is American, not just like today with McDonald's in India, but with a United Nations that really works more like a worldwide United States. Where we might have like Senators from each nation but congressmen from each district, so that we have a balance of powers. Billy-Bob Smith: Right, I think that most Americans could live with the rest of the world not being Christians as long as it was not against the law anywhere to celebrate Christmas, especially, you know, with Jesus and Santa Claus. Of course, this depends "cultural literacy." That's where everyone watches the same movies and TV shows so that we all know what is going on. I mean, like, with Yasser Arafat dead, things are going to change in the Middle East. Bubba Smith: Or maybe not. Americans are pretty much all aware of the fact that history changes and yet it doesn't, you know. So, for most Americans, that means that we don't worry about the past. We look to the future. Americans are basically optimists, except when there is high unemployment. Billy-Bob Smith: Well, that's all for now.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Sun 16 Jan 05 19:15
I can see the effectiveness of your magazine within and without Islamic communites in England, Europe, and Africa and possibly here, but when I look at Indonesia or the Middle East, or the republics of Russia they seem pretty closed to your ideas. Am I off-base in that estimation and what are you hoping for in establishing changes within those regions?
Gerry Feeney (gerry) Mon 17 Jan 05 07:18
Sajjad, in the hard copy of _New Civilization_ that I have, I found the editorial, written by Abdullah Robin and yourself, to be interesting and thought-provoking. Would you mind posting the text of it here, for the benefit of our readers?
Farooq Khan (farooq) Mon 17 Jan 05 08:40
>Is there an English translation of the Quran that you would recommend?< I would recommend that you read a Quran that has both the Arabic and English translation together with some CD's which have recitation of the Quran in Arabic so you can begin to appreciate the Arabic language, and the Quranic style. My favourite is the translation by Muhsin Khan and Hilali because it has good references: http://islamicbookstore.com/b8089.html I would also recommend that you read some tafsir (explanation) of the Quran such Imam al-Qurtubi's tafsir: http://www.islamicbookstore.com/b7775.html I would also recommend that people read books about the Islamic sciences which cover subjects such as usul ul-fiqh which is the methodology to derive Islamic solutions/rulings to human problems. This is a useful online reference: http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/
Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Mon 17 Jan 05 09:15
Islamic science? Whatever might that be?
Members: Enter the conference to participate