Attempt in Saudi Arabia to restore and reform Islamic law is welcome

17/02/21

There can be no doubt that these reforms signal a major theological shift, and if implemented successfully, will prove to be a watershed moment in the history of Sunni Islam.

The crown prince’s announcement is also a courageous attempt to break the state-ulema nexus that has been the cause of Muslim intellectual and economic backwardness for centuries.

It would appear from recent reports that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is making good on his 2017 promise that he would return the country to a moderate Islam and “eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts.” Last month, The Washington Post disclosed that the kingdom had started purging its textbooks of anti-Semitic and misogynistic content, and this month Reuters revealed that four new laws — the personal status law, the civil transactions law, the penal code of discretionary sanctions and the law of evidence — are being finalised with the ultimate aim of codifying the entire Muslim law in consonance with the principles of shariah and best international practices. Saudi women have welcomed the move, with lawyer Dimah Al-Sharif expressing the hope that it will empower both women and society in general.

There can be no doubt that these reforms signal a major theological shift, and if implemented successfully, will prove to be a watershed moment in the history of Sunni Islam. The crown prince’s announcement is also a courageous attempt to break the state-ulema nexus that has been the cause of Muslim intellectual and economic backwardness for centuries — a fact convincingly exposed by scholar Ahmet T Kuru in his new book Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment. It was this nexus that buttressed the post-Prophetic Muslim expansionism started by Muawiya in 661 CE with the launch of the Umayyad Caliphate. Questionable traditions (hadiths) were fabricated in the name of the Prophet to scripturally entrench the dynastic ambitions of the ruling family. These hadiths otherised rival tribes and communities, and marginalised women.

Quran’s original Arabic text is free of misogyny and does not encourage any kind of ethnically directed hostility. In fact, it speaks of salvific inclusivity and shows respect for non-Muslim places of worship (2:62, 5:69, 22:40), besides inviting “people of the book” (an inclusive term for followers of all religions) to coexist peacefully on the basis of commonalities in their value systems (3:64).

If Muslims find themselves estranged from this equalitarian message, it is thanks to the havoc wrought over the centuries by exegetical interpolations which relied on dubious hadiths to introduce sectarian ideas into Quranic translations. For instance, an eschatological hadith in the collection Sahih Muslim attributes an anti-Jewish comment to the Prophet. Yet another hadith in Sahih Bukhari states that the Prophet considered women to be intellectually deficient because “the evidence of two women is equal to the witness of one man.”

The anti-Jewish statements attributed to the Prophet go against the verses mentioned above, and the misogynist hadith is based on a complete misunderstanding of the verse 2:282 which instructed Muslims of that period to have their legal agreements witnessed by two men, and “if two men are not available, then a man and two women witnesses of your choice so that if one of them errs (an tazilla), the other can remind her (fatu zakkira).”

A careful reading of this verse would show that there is nothing in it that alludes to the inferiority or the intellectual inadequacy of women. Thanks to centuries of suppression, women of that period were not conversant with the intricacies of business transactions. Islam sought to change this. Men were asked to accord legal status to women by recognising their right to give evidence which was so far denied to them.

The prescription that there may be two female witnesses in case a male witness is not available, was, therefore, a convenience given to women. The verse makes it clear that the second woman will come into play only if the first one “errs” and if she does not, then the transaction will be concluded with a male and a female witness.

This is proved by the fact that in three other contexts (4:15, 24:4, & 65:2), the Quran speaks of witnesses in gender-neutral terms. Put differently, the evidentiary stipulation mentioned in 2:282 was specific to those times, and only for legal or financial transactions. It cannot be generalised and made applicable in perpetuity to lower the intellectual or legal status of women.

One hopes that the historic attempt by Saudi Arabia to theologically defenestrate anti-Semitic and misogynist content, and codify the Muslim law in line with the egalitarian principles of the Quran will go a long way in restoring the Prophetic originality of Islam and influence Muslim societies across the world to do the same.

This article first appeared in the print edition on February 17, 2021 under the title ‘A more equal faith’. The writer is an independent researcher and the secretary-general of the Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought

This article was first published in Indian Express

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Indian Express

France’s push against ‘Islamist separatism’ should be supported

05/10/20

This grab taken from a video obtained by AFP shows French police detaining an alleged suspect after several people were injured near the former offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo following an attack by a man wielding a knife in Paris on September 25, 2020. (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday unveiled a set of laws to fight what he described as the threat from radical Islamists and other extremists. The centrist president said he wanted to put the French republican values on the frontline in the battle against the divisions in society. Macron reiterated that he wanted Islam in France to be a positive part of society. “I’m not saying we need to create a French style of Islam, but that there can be a solid partnership with the French state,” he said. “The best way we can do that is by freeing it from foreign influence.”

The French president’s overhaul comes close on the heels of the bloody knife attack outside the former offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The attack has been described by French officials as a case of Islamist terrorism.

France has traditionally been a beacon for reformers. However, it is currently at a cultural and societal crossroads. Those who have been following French domestic politics will understand this at once. President Macron’s proposed neo-liberal “reform” of France’s retirement system which was established at the end of the Second World War and the yellow vest protests that only the corona pandemic managed to disperse are obvious examples. However, the traditional French values of liberty, equality, and fraternity must remain unchanged.

It is sad to see that among those who top the list of what needs to be reformed are Muslims — such as the ones who committed the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Of course, it is important to stress that not all Muslims are terrorists, but sadly many terrorists in the past few years have been Muslim — or have claimed to be.

One only has to compare words to actions to realize that religious reform in the Kingdom is real

Faisal J. Abbas

This is not to say there are no glowing examples of French Muslims doing amazing things. There are many — doctors, politicians and football players, such as Zinedine Zidane, Hatem Ben Arfa, N’Golo Kante, Karim Mostafa Benzema, Wissam Ben Yedder and Houssem Aouar — who are perfectly integrated into French society. Another example is that of the singer Mennel Ibtissem, whom Arab News En Français interviewed recently. Despite the success she has enjoyed on shows such as “The Voice,” she was subjected to the worst kind of cyberbullying, simply because she is Muslim and later because she removed her turban. There is, of course, the danger that these cyberattacks might become actual physical ones.

Of course, many will take my words with a pinch of salt, saying that they come from the editor in chief of a Saudi Arabian newspaper based in Riyadh. Many will point a finger at the Kingdom, saying that it has often been the source of extremism. Of course, at the same time — for racist or other political agendas — they will unfairly refuse to accept the reforms made in the country by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is on the record as saying, “We want to take the Kingdom back to moderate Islam.”

Others will repeat religious extremist conspiracy theories suggesting that Saudi Arabia, along with other moderate Arab states, secretly support those who propagate Islamophobia to win publicity points.
However, one only has to compare words to actions to realize that religious reform in the Kingdom is real, brave and is for the benefit of the whole world.

Sheikh Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, a former Saudi minister of justice who now heads the highly influential Muslim World League (MWL), told me in a 2018 interview with this newspaper: “I think no Muslim can call a Muslim woman an infidel or question her values because she has never worn a hijab. The Muslim woman, if she does not wear hijab … is not an infidel and does not depart from Islam.”

In Belgium in 2017, he said Muslims should respect the laws, culture and customs of the non-Muslim countries in which they live, even if they felt that to do so violated their faith. If they (Muslims) were unable to legally persuade the local authorities to respect their wishes, they should either obey local laws or leave, Al-Issa advised.

We, at Arab News, have also played our part and we acknowledged that in the beginning was the word. As such, we realized the influence of radical clerics’ words on the hearts and minds of followers of different religions worldwide. With this realization in mind, in 2019, we at Arab News launched a series called “Preachers of Hate” — a series that names and shames radical preachers, from all religions and nationalities, and we started with our own in Saudi Arabia.

To support President Macron’s drive, we are pleased to translate this series into French and launch it today. It will include profiles of all the extremist preachers that we exposed in the past, along with some additional French ones.

We at this newspaper will do our part, but the French authorities must do theirs as well. “I believe that the most important thing is to control those who convey hate speech from inside or outside the country — separatists, racists, anti-Semites. Such speech is contrary to the values of the French Republic,” French Sen. Nathalie Goulet told Arab News last July. She was commenting on a news report that French lawmakers had finally recommended a preaching ban on clerics affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group classified by most countries as a terrorist group.

Of course, if President Macron is serious about freeing French Muslims from the malign influence of outsiders, then French authorities must also seriously look into the devastating impact Qatar has had ideologically — despite its “soft power” acquisition of historic buildings and the purchase of Paris Saint-Germain.

Qatar is the Muslim Brotherhood’s main global financier and backer. To understand the impact of the evil ideas of this group, we recommend skimming through the horrific videos and fatwas our research team found on Yusuf Qaradawi, the Doha-based Muslim Brotherhood preacher.

A good start for French investigators might be a fascinating book entitled “Qatar Papers — How the State Finances Islam in France and Europe,” by French investigative reporters Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot. The book reveals how Qatar is pouring hundreds of millions into Muslim Brotherhood-controlled organizations across France.
Bonne chance!

Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News. Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home

Saudi Arabia and UN’s fight against terrorism lauded at launch of ‘virtual expo’

08/07/20

Abdallah Al-Mouallim is chairman of the advisory board to the UNCCT. (UN Photo)

  • The UNCCT was set up in 2011 to promote international counter-terrorism cooperation

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has been a crucial partner alongside the United Nations in countering terrorism, the Kingdom’s UN ambassador said.

Abdallah Al-Mouallimi made the comments as the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) launched on Tuesday a “virtual expo” into its work.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been a crucial partner alongside the United Nations in countering terrorism and extremism,” Al-Mouallimi, who is chairman of the center’s advisory board, said.

“It is my intention to underscore the continued Saudi support for the UNCCT as the Centre of Excellence in countering terrorism,” he added.

The UNCCT was set up in 2011 to promote international counter-terrorism cooperation and support member states implement the global counter-terrorism strategy. Saudi Arabia funded the project with $110 million.

Al-Mouallimi hosted the launch of the virtual expo on Tuesday.

The expo “showcases the Centre as a global leader in preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism through capacity‑building efforts around the world,” the UNCCT said.

The virtual expo will run for four weeks online.

This article was first published in Arab News

If you want more interesting news or videos of this website click on this link  Arab News Home