Walking Egypt back from the brink of anarchy by Ebrahim Rasool and Ebrahim Moosa, Friday, August 16,

Washington Post op-ed “Walking Egypt back from the brink of anarchy” by South African Ambassador to the United States Mr Ebrahim Rasool and Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University.

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Return to Dictatorship in Egypt

Today Egypt returned to the previous 50 years of dictatorship with the declaration of the state of emergency by the military and the killing of dozens of protesters. The Egyptian army liberated Egypt from imperfect democratic rule and replaced it with dictatorship, reversing the gains of the 2011 revolution with the consent of the cheering Tahrir masses who welcomed the army takeover in July. So much for those who complained of the Islamofascism of the Muslim Brotherhood! What is the name of this fascism? What about unalloyed fascism?

The tragedies of July and August and the loss of life were all avoidable.

Still wishful thinking in Western political circles claim it is not a coup. Heard of an ostrich? Western governments expressed “regret” at the killing of non-violent protesters and called for “restraint.” Really? What restraint if there are no consequences for the military junta in Cairo with dollars and euros flowing into their already lush coffers.

Don’t expect any condemnation from the White House for the catastrophe in Egypt. A President and a White House that prefer extra judicial killings of people around the world via drone attacks can hardly be torchbearers for the rule of law and human rights!

Yes, the situation in Egypt is complex. The Muslim Brotherhood are no angels. They have to take their share of blame for the tragic state of affairs. But undermining the democratic process created an alternative that is infinitely worse.

It might be apt to take a leaf from the pages of history.

Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”

It does not require rocket science to configure what will happen in Egypt in months and years to come, following Niemöller’s reasoning. Based on Egypt’s record of dictatorship and authoritarianism one can anticipate a scenario, heaven forbid, that goes like this.

“Today they came for the Muslim Brotherhood, and the right thinking people of Egypt said nothing, for they were not from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Then they came for the liberals, and the right thinking people of Egypt said nothing, because they were not liberals.
Then they came for the democrats, and the right thinking people of Egypt said nothing, because they were not democrats.
Then they came for the workers, and the right thinking people of Egypt said nothing, because they were not the workers.
Then they came for the people, and the right thinking people of Egypt said nothing, because they were not the people.
Then they came for the right thinking people of Egypt, and there was no one left to speak for what is “right,” for “thinking,” and for the “people.”

Darkness descends on Egypt!

Seeing their folly of at first blessing the military junta, Egypt’s religious leaders, Shaykh al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb and Coptic Pope Tawadros II are only now condemning the deaths of hundreds of civilians. Seeing the writing on the wall honorable sirs? One way of showing remorse is for these religious leaders to ask General Abdelfattah el-Sisi to step down and be held accountable for his deeds. Then they should each resign for their massive errors of judgment that have irreparably harmed Egypt.

Morsi blundered horribly, if not criminally. But the coup by the military junta has created a worse situation. More distressing is, of course, the failure of Egyptian intellectuals, the majority of whom have swung in favor of the military junta, following the logic of being “Sultan’s Jurists” -Fuqaha al-Sultan. Long live the courageous intellectuals who have offered balanced criticism and not succumbing to beguiling rhetoric and flawed logic.

Posted in Africa, Foreign Policy, Islam & Democracy, Middle East, middle east, Muslim Ethics, US Politics | Tagged | 16 Comments

End of Ramadan

End of Ramadan.

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End of Ramadan

Saudi Arabia، Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia have announced the end of Ramadan and the celebration of `Id al-Fitr or Eid al-Fitr tomorrow, Thursday 8 August, 2013 as a the first of the Arabic month of Shawwal 1434 AH. Oman, however, will continue to fast on Thursday and will hold the feast on Friday. In South Africa too the crescent was not sighted so the Muslims there will have to fast out the month of Ramadan to the maximum of 30 days and the 1st of Shawwal will be on Friday.

Now we will have a scenario where Oman and South Africa will have a lunar calendar at variance from those of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. I do not have an update on Egypt. All this will impact 70 days later with the calendar for hajj. Again those countries that ended Ramadan later will most likely be out of sync with the hajj calendar. India and Pakistan have yet to announce their sightings on Thursday. It is not clear what US Muslims who follow sighting will do. They might follow the Middle East’s sighting or they might insist on local crescent sighting and that decision will be made in several hours time. The Islamic Society of North America had announced in advance the beginning and end dates for Ramadan based on calculation and accordingly `Id al-Fitr is tomorrow Thursday 8 August 2013.

It is not even clear to me whether the crescent was sighted in the Gulf. The Minister of Justice of the UAE said “that after a number of legitimate measures, as well as several contacts with neighboring countries, it was established that Wednesday was the last day of Ramadan.” No mention was made of sighting. However a Qatari source reports that sighting took place

Islamic lunar calendar confusion continues until proper scientific conventions are adopted and the lunar calendar is predictable and certain and not subject to the vagaries of sighting.

Posted in Islamic Law/Ethics, Middle East, Muslim Ethics, Pakistan, South Africa, Uncategorized, US Politics | 1 Comment

Ramadan 2013 Early Crescent Flutters

Today Gulf News reported that the Saudi Supreme Court, the judicial authority charged to announce the new based on testimonies of crescent sightings, met on Tuesday in order receive news of sightings. This surprised many observers since if there were testimonies of crescent sightings it would result in the anomaly of a 28 day Ramadan lunar calendar. No such crescent sighting was reported and Ramadan moves to 29 days. If there is sighting on Wednesday 7 August 2013 then `Id al-Fitr will take place on Thursday 8 August. This is the calendar based on naked eye sightings. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) in recent years adopted a scientifically based lunar calendar and according to that calendar Wednesday 7 August is the last day of Ramadan. With this sensible approach this Ramadan and the entire Islamic calendar for decades will be predictable and certain. Unfortunately, this remains a minority view. A good number of US mosques still follow either sighting or follow the decisions of the Middle East. This year Turkey and some European countries began fasting on Tuesday 9 July 2013 which synchronized with the ISNA/FCNA calendar.

A very energetic discussion took place on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ebrahim.moosa.92

An article of mine promoting the views of Shaykh Ahmad Muhammad Shakir, a leading jurist and hadith scholar is available at http://ebrahimmoosa.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/ashakirmoosa.pdf

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Brain, mind and culture in Muslim theology


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Timbuktu Manuscripts: Civil War and the Documents of Civilization



“There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism” Walter Benjamin

Today I received an update on the status of the Ahmad Baba library in Timbuktu following news that it might have been torched as the rebels retreated.


Dr Shamil Jeppie, who heads the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project (www.tombouctoumanuscripts.org) and is also associate director of the Huma (Institute for humanities in Africa) University of Cape Town, released the statement below. It is reassuring until further eyewitness testimony confirms or denies what he has learnt at this point.ImageImage

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Morsi’s Last Chance: by EBRAHIM MOOSA for ISLAMiCommentary on DECEMBER 8, 2012:

President Mohammad Morsi of Egypt should scrap his tough guy image and appetite for power grabs. In canceling the decree that gave him sweeping powers, he took a step in the right direction tonight. But he is not out of the political woods yet. He should show that he cares more about Egypt than he cares about his own power. If not, his days are numbered, and Egypt’s future is in danger.

Army rule and authoritarianism lurk in the shadows. Military circles are already rumbling. If Morsi threatens to enforce marshal law in future, he will only hasten his own decline. Yes, the opposition are a cantankerous and obstructionist bunch of losers, but it was Morsi who handed them a cause and made them look like winners.

First Morsi should get the word out to the opposition that he is serious about forming a government of national unity. He should give people like Egypt’s Conference party leader Amr Moussa, Constitution party founder Mohamed ElBaradei, and other key figures positions in his cabinet and use them optimally. ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, should be given a ministerial position to fast-track science and technology development so that Egypt can compete with India and China and create jobs. Moussa, former Egyptian foreign minister and past Arab League head, could be given the health ministry.

Continue reading …

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Informed: Taliban way of thinking

“The Taliban don’t oppose women’s education per se, they just oppose a Western, secular education for ANY Muslim. In addition, I understand that the Taliban justified the shooting [of Malala Yusufzai] using the Khidr reference from Surah 18 (The Cave) i.e. people with superior spiritual discernment can murder disobedient children who will only spread mayhem in the community if allowed to live.”

A reader of my blog posted the above comment on my website. I thank him for the information. His efforts attest to the virtues of crowd sourcing. The correspondence informed me how the Pakistan Taliban-think. I am, of course, generously assuming that the word ‘think’ has a place in the scorched-earth vocabulary of the Taliban. What scares me is how a twisted theology fuels their frenzy of maiming and murdering anyone who disagrees with their ideology and version of Islam. The Pakistani Taliban and their Afghan counterparts have destroyed secular schools, especially women’s schools and killed many young women, the most recent being the attempt on the life of education activist in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, Malala Yusufzai.

Here is the twisted theology of the Taliban, whose conduct truly tarnishes the image and reputation of Islam. The Qur’an has an allegorical story about an episode in the life of the Prophet Moses and his encounter with a mysterious figure called, Khidhr, the Evergeen One. Khidhr is famed for trying to teach Moses the hidden meaning of things in the world. Things have an obvious meaning and a more mysterious account. Only God and those whom God had entrusted with the mysterious meanings of things can grasp things beyond the apparent. Even prophets deputed by God do not have access to such insights. Therefore, Khidhr is unique in the world and plays an allegorical role; nothing he says can be taken literally. Even the Prophet Muhammad did not claim Khidhr-like powers and he always played by the rules. Moses too was outraged by the conduct of Khidhr and finally parted ways with the Evergreen One.

What angered Moses is that Khidhr fixed a wall belonging to a community who refused to feed the two of them; then he sank a boat belonging to owners who gave them a ride and finally, he also killed a youth. All these events outraged Moses. Khidhr then disclosed to Moses that his actions were not without reason and provided explanations. He fixed the wall, he said, because a treasure belonging to underaged kids was buried there and they were not ready to receive it; the boat, he said, was to be confiscated by a tyrant king on the other shore therefore sinking it was a way to preserve it for its owners who could later dredge it for their use. And the youth, explained, was killed because he would adopt unbelief in adulthood, a prospect that would make his parents grieve and cause them pain. Hence, pre-emptive killing!

Khidhr serves as the omniscient eye of the Divine. But the things he talks about, are matters we do not understand and points to the mysterious ways in which the Divine acts in the world. That is the moral of the story: humility in the face of Divine omniscience and power. No one is required to imitate Khidhr in his acts. Instead, we are taught to be like Moses and be outraged by such unlawful conduct and part ways with folk like Khidhr.

Never in all of Islamic history has any theologian or jurist ever justified pre-emptive actions or deeds like killing someone without justifiable reason or confiscating property unlawfully from others. Anyone doing so will experience the full lash of the law. Anyone who claims to know what will definitively happen tomorrow already inhabits a dubious theological status. Anyone who kills someone today because he or she knows such a person is going to kill someone or hurt someone tomorrow is nothing but a despicable murderer.

So the Taliban claim to have superior spiritual insight? So they claim to be Khidhr-like? When did God announce that these miscreants are His emissaries? Who anointed them? If this is what they believe and how they justify their actions, then Muslims have an entire cabinet of theological verdicts to highlight their blasphemy.

A mysterious account in the Qur’an, described as the allegorical verses have been put in service of an evil cause. Many murderers hear voices in their heads and say that they were driven by these voice to commit their craven acts. This is just another crazed account of murderers wrapped in the language of Islamic theology. I trust that the people of Pakistan and elsewhere will see through this twisted ruse of using a Qur’anic story to justify the murder of innocents. These Taliban are not Khidhr, they are crazy.

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Signs of Hope in Pakistan

My readers might have noticed that I was totally silent following the attempted assassination of the courageous young education activist Malala Yusufzai from the Swat region. I was silenced by a deep disgust at the deeds of these Pakistani Taliban criminals. Anger, outrage and depression do not explain my emotions. One part of me wished that a contingent of soldiers or vigilantes hunted down the miscreants and mete out a fate the criminals never ever contemplated. But I soon realized such anger solves little. Outpouring of support for Malala by senior generals were a good sign but the criminals are still at large. Only bringing them to book followed by an exemplary trial and a just punishment is what the world awaits. As Malala convalesces in a British hospital another ray of hope shone out of Pakistan. A court threw out the charges of blasphemy against Rimsha Masih, another young Christian girl tormented by a Muslim cleric we are told. We look forward to see the outcome of the trial of this cleric for making scurrilous charges and bringing Pakistan into disrepute. The wheels of justice move slowly but they define a character of a society. Right-thinking Pakistanis, I am sure, will think hard and long and address the causes as to why women are frequently and violently targeted in their society. Reform starts with the will and willingness of ordinary Pakistanis who opt for positive change. Commentators like myself will be more than willing to share the success of those activists with the world. These few events: the widespread condemnation of the Pakistani Taliban for their crimes and ending prosecution of a Christian girl on trumped up blasphemy charges, all give hope.

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