Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|good articles!! by Ismail Umar Ali|
|07/09/01 at 17:16:43|
|as salaamu alaykum wa rahmatAllahi wa barakatuh,|
hope y'all are well inshaAllah :) surfing I came across some good articles on [url=http://www.awate.com]awate.com[/url] --- not so sure about the site (based in Eritrea?) but some of the articles were very interesting.. check 'em out:
I once made the following remarks during an ongoing discussion:
"Our current civilization is the culmination of man's collective effort through years of toil and is not a
monopoly of the west. Every civilization builds on the achievements of previous civilizations. For
example, western civilization was inspired by Islamic civilization (although modern west never fully
acknowledged it) and Islamic civilization was influenced by Greek civilization which in turn borrowed
from ancient Egyptian civilization and so on."
This was, of course, a simple historical fact but believe it or not, I was taken to task for mentioning
an 'Islamic civilization'. Many Eritrean intellectuals had no inkling of what I was talking about since
they never heard of any Islamic civilization much less of anything 'Islamic' that inspired western
Ignorance of Islam and Muslims abounds not only among non-Muslims but also among Muslims
themselves. The more ignorant a person is of Islam and its history, it seems, the more stereotypical
his view of Islam becomes. This is because the version of Islamic history taught in much of the
world is a history written from a western perspective with its deep-rooted rivalry with Islam dating
back to crusades. A fact that led John William Draper to make the following observation:
"I have to deplore the systematic manner in which the literature of
Europe has continued to put out of sight our obligations to the
Muhammadans [Muslims]. Surely they cannot be much longer
hidden. Injustice founded on religious rancour and national conceit
cannot be perpetuated forever. The Arab has left his intellectual
impress on Europe. He has indelibly written it on the heavens as
any one may see who reads the names of the stars on a common
Note: Muhammadans is a term incorrectly used by westerners to refer to Muslims.
As a result, many Eritreans, trained as they were in the western academic tradition, are not aware
that Islamic thoughts and civilization were indeed the stimuli behind the renaissance movement in
Europe. Many Eritreans never learned about the important contributions made by Muslims in the
fields of medicine, philosophy, chemistry and many other disciplines of knowledge. That is why we
find an otherwise educated intellectual like Hiruy acting like a complete ignoramus when it comes to
Islam and Muslims and it is also in this respect that his glaring errors become totally understandable
and forgivable (I will deal with those errors fully in part II).
But before I deal with the specific charges he so carelessly and wantonly makes throughout his
article, I want to place the whole issue of secularism and 'Islamic fundamentalism' in their proper
The idea of modern secularism was a product of a western mind. It was western thinkers whose
negative experience with religion embittered them towards anything religious that set the tone for
the secular milieu in which we live in. Drunk with the technological marvels of their age, western
thinkers slowly broke away from religion and led the world into the very depths of secularism.
Whereas Islamic civilization flourished in a God-centered world, western civilization (not Christianity
mind you) sprouted in a man-centered world-view. This man-centered way of thinking had no place
for anything that could not be explained scientifically. Since even the most powerful instruments
failed to detect anything supernatural, thinkers like Nietzsche concluded that God must be dead. A
little later, the west brought forth a highly imaginative fellow by the name of Sigmund Freud who
flatly told us that God had nothing to do with our condition - everything, including religion was
explainable in sexual symbolism. Then came Darwin to audaciously puncture our ego by telling us
that we are only glorified monkeys and his theory of 'the survival of the fittest' was to revolutionize
the thinking of many sociologists and political thinkers who expanded it to include almost every
phenomenon known to man. Then came communism, nihilism, existentialism and a host of other
philosophical disciplines that totally repudiated religion.
This secular ethos then spread to the rest of the world due to western military and technological
hegemony that enabled it to impose its own worldview on its helpless colonial subjects. Western
colonialism differed from previous conquests in history in that it was characterized by its systematic
political, economic, cultural and intellectual subjugation of a magnitude unknown before. All the
current confusion in third world countries is partly due to this conflict between indigenous cultures
and the incomplete adoption of alien philosophies. In total disregard to existing indigenous cultures,
the colonizers either ruthlessly imposed their own culture in the name of 'civilizing the natives' or
else opted for total annihilation of the native.
At first, Muslim countries for the most part, were the most ardent admirers of the west and were
among the first to embrace western culture. They naturally assumed that the west, with its high
sounding slogans of liberty, equality and progress would extend that to all humanity regardless of
their ethnic, religious or cultural affiliation. They were soon to be disillusioned, however, as they saw
that all the west was interested in was their petro dollars or in keeping them in economic and
cultural domination. Some, like the late Gamal Abdel Nasser and Sadam Hussein turned to the
Soviet Union that was to treat them even worse. The evidence that the west was only interested in
reaping benefits for itself kept mounting and became so crystal clear that many understandably
started to question western integrity.
Many intellectuals who studied in the west came to the conclusion that if the west can claim
superiority over other cultures, it is only in the technological and economic spheres etc. In the realm
of morality, spirituality and social cohesiveness, it lags far behind many cultures it looks down upon.
As a result many movements sprang up in the modern world to reclaim their cultural heritage and
the Muslim world was no exception. If we understand this multifaceted phenomenon, it will not be
difficult to understand the growing revival of religion in general and the explosive growth of Islamic
movements in particular.
The western media deliberately focuses on fringe elements of these revivalist movements for their
sensational value. We constantly hear about some obscure and sporadic 'Jihad' organizations here
and there but we never hear about the quite Islamic movements like the Tabliqh-I-Jamaat who are
committed to a peaceful reformation of their society and whose followers number in the millions. It
is this lop-sided and exaggerated images of gun-toting Mullahs ready "to annihilate others"(to which
Hiruy alludes) that led a Georgetown University professor to make the following observation:
'The fallout has again been a tendency to equate violence with Islam, to fail to distinguish
between illegitimate use of religion by individuals and the faith and practice of the majority
of the world's Muslims, who, like their fellow believers in other religious traditions, believe in
a religion of peace. Many failed to make the same distinctions with regard to Islam and
Islamic organizations between the actions of a radical minority and the mainstream majority
that were made so easily when, at roughly the same time, the world watched the Branch
Davidian sect, an extremist 'Christian' group in Waco, Texas, kill FBI agents and, protected
by an astonishing arsenal of weapons, hold off federal authorities for weeks'
To this, of course, we can add 'terrorist' actions by the militant Irish Catholic revolutionaries, the
bombing at Oklahoma, recent Serbian atrocities of 'ethnic cleansing' and many others. It is thus
clear that if there was a threat of 'Islamic fundamentalism", there was also a corresponding "Judeo
Christian' threat. What Muslims deny is not the existence of erring Mullahs and fanatical
movements. There will always be such groups in all societies and in all climes. What Muslims
strongly object to is the lumping of all Islamic movements under the fuzzy and convenient heading
of 'Islamic fundamentalism" obscuring the diversity of Islamic movements.
The very term "fundamentalism' is in itself a gross misnomer when applied to the world of Islam
since it is peculiar to the Christian tradition. The term, described as "a movement in 20th century
Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as fundamental to Christian life and
teaching " has no equivalent in Islamic tradition. The main difference between Christian
Fundamentalists and other Christians centered on the belief or disbelief in the inerrancy of the
Biblical text. Although Muslims scholars have differed and continue to differ when interpreting a few
injunctions of the Quran, there has never been a dispute over Quran's infallibility among
mainstream scholars of Islam.
That is why I must point out here, with all due respect to Hiruy's opinions, that his views on 'the
threat of Islamic fundamentalism' are nothing but an archetypical echo of western parochial view of
Islam and Muslims - a view that gained currency simply because the western 'Judeo Christian'
culture dominates the modern world stage.
If Islam poses a threat to the western culture, it is more in the form of an ideological nature. Islamic
system of values squarely and seriously challenge deeply held secular presuppositions. Islam,
more than any other major world religion has an alternate set of detailed guidelines on commerce,
politics, economics, jurisprudence, and on many other societal issues. Being a worldview on a class
by itself, it would be inappropriate to judge its precepts using western standards of morality
particularly since the latter has increasingly become hedonistic in orientation. Western secular
presuppositions can only become an obstacle in understanding Islam.
By striking at the root of capitalistic exploitation (usury and interest) and by placing safeguards
against monopolistic exploitation by the few, Islam also poses a formidable threat to western
capitalism and dangerously jeopardizes the interests of all unethical money lending institutions and
trans-national corporations. That is why some scholars have warned against a 'clash of
civilizations' between Islam and the west.
It is also true that Islam, more than any other religion, exhorts its followers to struggle against
injustice and oppression. The grossly distorted ideal of Jihad that strikes terror in the hearts and
minds of tyrants is nothing but a struggle against injustice and oppression. Although Islam
repeatedly preaches forgiveness and mercy, it is adamantly opposed to turning the other cheek in
the face of tyranny. As such, it has always been a great nuisance to oppressors and a target of
would be imperialists. On this point Pat Buchanan remarks:
'To some Americans, searching for a new enemy against whom to test our mettle and power,
after the death of communism, Islam is the preferred antagonist. But to declare Islam an
enemy of the United States is to declare a second Cold War that is unlikely to end in the same
resounding victory as the first."
Buchanan was astute enough to realize that Islamic revivalism is not an isolated phenomenon but a
deeply entrenched mass movement in many parts of the Muslim world. Unlike communism that
was authoritatively imposed, Islamic consciousness transcends geographic, continental, and political
boundaries. It is lack of appreciation of this phenomenon that prevented western "scholars on
Islam" from anticipating events like Islamic revolution in Iran. It is also this ignorance that astounded
western scholars when Islamic activists fairly and openly won elections in Algeria, Turkey and many
other countries. Among the reasons why western scholars continue to err when appraising Muslim
societies include paucity of competent scholars on the Middle Eastern affairs in general and on
Islam in particular; lack exposure to Islamic values and culture and the secular academic bias that
predisposes them to jump to conclusions.
In his article, Hiruy made a blanket statement about how " the kind of ideology that Islamic
Fundamentalism proposes" can be "anachronistic" to any society. He did not tell us why and how but any person
who is conversant with the rudiments of Islamic jurisprudence would never make such a statement
because Islam contains within its theological framework a sophisticated methodology for dealing
with the changing circumstances of the day. This is achieved through a combination of Taweel
(interpretation), Qiyas (deduction by analogy), Ijtihad (disciplined judgment by jurists), Istihsan
(justice preference), Ijma (consensus), Shura (consultation) and so on and so forth. Since its
inception, Islam has allowed differences of opinion on secondary issues. Not surprisingly, it does
not permit differences of opinion on fundamental issues as these would nullify Islam itself.
In part II, we will look at Hiruy's incomplete and somewhat fuzzy understanding of Islamic penal
code and other related issues. As we all recall, the original subject was religion and government but
since Hiruy chose to specifically attack Islamic Sharia, it calls for a specific Islamic response and
InshaAllah, that is what I will do in part II.
But before closing part I of my article, let me respond to the following comments by Hiruy:
"One is also tempted to ask Ismail as to why he sees it fit for democracy- the rule of man to prevail
over religion which is the rule of God. I hope that does not put Ismail in hot water with his
This reveals a serious confusion about the role of democracy in a given society. Hiruy needs to
understand that democracy is not an arbiter of a system of values but a facilitator of public
participation. No Muslim worth the name would place the 'the rule of man' over 'the rule of God'.
In principle, every religion places its own doctrines above any earthly concerns.
The stark reality no one can deny (expect a hypocrite) is the fact that we live in a world where
competing values interact continuously and simultaneously. It is only natural for a believer in a
certain ideology to wish for an atmosphere where his belief systems reign supreme. A communist
would strive hard to make communism the ruling ideology. Likewise, a true Christian hopes to be
governed in accordance with the teaching of Christianity. The same holds true for purely political
ideologies and other secular beliefs. In like manner, a Muslim hopes and dreams for a Government
that rules according to his beliefs. What could be more asinine than to expect otherwise?
That is as far as the inner sentiments are concerned. But when we have to live in a multi-religious
and multi-ethnic society like ours or where there are competing ideologies clamoring for attention,
democracy provides an avenue for peaceful coexistence. That is why I am for democracy without
abandoning faith in Islam. Happy coexistence, dear brothers and sisters, does not necessitate that
we throw overboard our own convictions. What it calls for is mutual respect and due consideration
for each other's needs.
|Re: good articles!! by Ismail Umar Ali|
|07/09/01 at 17:19:51|
|on sharia |
In part I, we have looked at secularism and ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ in their proper historical and
cultural context. In this section, we will broadly examine the Islamic penal code contained in the
Sharia (Islamic law).
As I have indicated in part I of my article, one of the major obstacles in understanding Islam has
been the secular presumptions that permeate the western academic culture. Edward Said (an Arab
Christian) has estimated that 60,000 books dealing with the Near Orient were written between 1800
and 1950. Most of these books were on Islam and Muslims and most were deliberately falsified
facts about Islam (I will elaborate further on this if the need arises).
In many of these books, Islamic Sharia was distorted beyond recognition. Of the barrage of
derisions that surround the religion of Islam nothing compares to the image foisted upon the
western mind (and by extension upon the rest of the world) of an Islamic society that constantly
indulges in flogging, stoning, and chopping off hands of its criminals. Often, the concept of crime
and punishment in Islam is grossly misrepresented and a judgment rendered using external
standards. Since the western penal code is often used as a standard to judge the Sharia, it may be
worthwhile to look into the current state of the western penal code.
Inherent weaknesses of the western penal code
As we all know, the western penal code has become increasingly lenient towards criminals
gradually reducing their punishments to an easily tolerable, painless experience. Accountability is
lost as serious crimes are explained away as due to some psychological blemish or unfortunate
upbringing. Although the impact of the latter cannot be underestimated and should always be kept
in view, the fact that the penal system in style today has been unable to remedy the circumstances
that lead to crime is in itself a measure of the inherent weakness of the modern western penal
As a naturally corollary to this inherent weakness of the western penal code, jails have been filling
up as never before as rapists, murderers, and burglars flock the penitentiary. Encouraged by the
lighter sentences that awaits them, offenders keep committing the same crimes over and over
again. Some countries are stricter than others and the controversy continues over whether stricter
punishments would yield better results. Criminologists and sociologists continue to debate the
determent value of capital punishment but the fact remains that the modern world continues to be
plagued with gigantic societal problems which - as of yet- been unable to control.
In fact, these problems seem to get worse and worse as a growing number of angry juveniles,
addicts, and gangs enter the scene. This is important to understand because it underscores why
we cannot use a failed standard to judge other systems. In other words, the western world as a
leader in this trend cannot tell the rest of the world to follow its lead when it has failed to put its own
house in order.
Salient features of Islamic Sharia
Now that we have hinted on the major flaws in the western penal code and how it fails to achieve
its goals, what does Islamic Sharia have to offer? In answer, I can only give you a description of
what Islamic Sharia seeks to achieve and what type of society it envisages. It is true, as Hiruy
pointed out that Islamic Sharia punishes a thief by cutting off his/her hand and an adulterer by
stoning. What the Sharia intends to achieve by these punishments and what it has achieved in the
periods when these laws were in force is a highly moral society where the sanctity of the family is
jealously protected and where life and property are held sacred. It must be noted here that the
punishment for adultery is applicable only if the offender is reckless enough to commit the act so
openly as to be seen by four EYE witnesses ( note the emphasis).
Sharia seeks to preserve the sanctity of the familial bond by severely punishing anyone that
threatens the harmony and stability of that primordial social unit. Similarly, severe punishment
awaits those that threaten the sacredness of life and property. The punishment for adultery is
relatively severe in Islam because it views the family unit in high regard and strives to eradicate
anything that jeopardizes its cohesion. That is why it prescribes stoning as a punishment for
adultery and that is also why it prescribes conditional polygamy. The latter is peripheral to the issue
but as it happens to be the single subject that is guaranteed to raise eyebrows in our readers, allow
me to divert to it a little bit.
A detour to polygamy
Monogamy is the norm in Islam but the door has been left open for contractually binding polygamy
(technically polygyny) to serve as a bulwark against undesirable individual or social circumstances.
The question then becomes whether polygamy should be left as an option. Let us together
examine some of the issues surrounding the subject.
In a perfect world, every woman will have a husband and every man will have a wife. We are
destined, however, to live in an imperfect world where this is not the case. Today, in many parts of
the world, women by far outnumber men. This is due to a number of reasons including the fact
that a large number of men die in wars and the mortality rate is higher for males. A major War like
the First World War can leave behind thousands or even millions of widows as it actually did in that
What is the best course of action when we encounter such a situation? Let us forget about
polygamy for a moment and think about other options available to handle this difficult predicament.
Society may insist that every man can have only one wife. In doing so, however, it may
unwittingly contribute to the growth of illicit relationships, prostitution, promiscuity and the creation of
a class of women with illegitimate children and no legal rights as in fact happened in war-torn
France that led a horrified Annie Besant to exclaim: "Monogamy with a blended mass of prostitution
was a hypocrisy and more degrading than a limited polygamy."
If society insists that every man can have only one wife regardless of situational factors, then there
will be a large number of women who will remain single all their life. These single or widowed
women have the option of either remaining celibate all their lives or being mistresses to married
men. The psychological cost of the former makes it too impractical and difficult for most women to
be considered a viable option while the ethical loathsomeness of the latter makes it unacceptable
for most decent women. All other alternatives are equally unacceptable.
Can polygamy offer a better option? Yes. In many cases, it does. In contrast to the above,
Polygamy offers a home, a family and the additional security of full legal rights to women in such
situations. There are women who do not mind sharing a man who treats them respectfully and
equally and there are men who do not mind carrying this awesome responsibility.
Those who object to polygamy on the plea of modernity should realize that some modern societies
are on the verge of accepting homosexual marriages as we speak. In the glorious wisdom of our
age, it is OK to have multiple mistresses, it is OK to be transsexual, it is OK to be transvestite, it is
OK to be gay and it is OK to engage in all kinds of orgies, but it is not OK to be part of a formal,
contractually binding polygamous marriage! Even sadism/ masochism has become more
acceptable than limited polygamy! This is the degree of moral perversion that plagues the secular
world. Now, let us go back to the penal code of Islam.
Conditions under which Islamic Sharia is meant to be enforced
In considering Islamic Sharia, we must first understand that its laws are not intended to be applied
in a society where decadence has taken root or where exploitation runs rampant. The punishment
for theft, for example, is not meant to be applied in an economically oppressive society where the
poor are treated with callous disregard by the rich or where money lenders and bankers charge
exorbitant amounts of interest for every little transaction or where the privileged control the justice
system. Nor is the Sharia meant for a society where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer nor
is it designed for a society where the wealthy receive all sorts of breaks at the expense of the
multitudes or where the poor are constantly thwarted from climbing up the ladder.
To chop people’s hands under such circumstances would indeed be indisputably unjust. That is
why Omar, the third Kalif of Islam pardoned a thief after learning he did so to alleviate his hunger
and proceeded to criticize his own administration for failing to provide for him. The same Kalif also
suspended theft punishment during the year of famine when there was the slightest doubt that
people might be driven to steal due to hunger.
Similarly, the punishment for adultery was never meant to be implemented in a sexually charged
society where one is daily bombarded with subliminal innuendos and frequent sexually explicit
messages or where entertainment industries thrive by producing erotic movies or where writers
achieve instant fame by writing tantalizing stories about steamy love triangles. Nor is it meant to be
applied in a society where adultery has attained new heights of glory in the name of passionate love
or where bars and exotic dancers have become commonplace. Sharia is not intended for a society
where sex and vulgarity dominate people’s consciousness or where, whichever way you turn, one
is sensually assaulted by a bimbo with a skimpy dress or a gigolo in tight jeans. Nor is it meant to
be applied in a society where fun has become synonymous with dancing half-naked in smoke filled
rooms or where people drink to oblivion. Under such circumstances, enforcing the Sharia would not
only be inappropriate but positively murderous.
The Islamic Sharia envisages a different world. It envisages a morally conscious society where the
Baitul Mal (treasury) is constantly filled with Zakat (poor due) and where the Government is
expected to provide for the poor and where consciousness of God pervades people’s thinking and
where success is not measured by riches or money but by piety and good deeds. It also expects a
society where every trace of suggestiveness has been removed and where public nudity or
semi-nudity has been banned and where people walk around in decent attire and where morality is
continuously kept alive.
Islamic Sharia places the responsibility for feeding the poor, employing the jobless, and creating
conditions conducive to morality on the society as a whole and if society fails to provide such an
environment, then the specific punishments will not be resorted to. That is why Omar remitted the
penalty for theft during the year of famine. But if, after providing such a wholesome environment, a
person is irresponsible enough to resort to adultery in full view of four eye-witnesses or commits a
theft when not impelled by hunger, then the Sharia penalties becomes enforceable. In effect, Islam
enters into a contract with the citizen as if to say: It is the responsibility of the ruling body to care
for you and provide you with a wholesome environment but if you still mess up, then we will
consider you a menace to our decent society and you will be punished in such a way that you will
never dream of committing the offense again.
It is testimony to the great deterrent power of such punishments that the punishment for theft was
executed only six times in the span of four hundred years when Sharia was in vogue. Even today,
people who visit Saudi Arabia are struck by the absence of robbery. (Incidentally, this is not an
endorsement of Saudi Arabia’s haphazard enforcement of the Sharia. I am simply making a point
Dear awate.com readers:
I am not trying here to persuade you one way or another. I am merely presenting you with an
Islamic point of view to help you understand why Muslims continue to adhere to their own way of
life. As we have seen, western record on morality and spirituality has been far from laudatory. We
have also seen what Islamic Sharia seeks to achieve and in what sort of society its penal code is
meant to be applied. In doing so, I have necessarily dwelt a little too long on the negative aspect of
But my article is not meant to be a wholesale indictment of western civilization. I am a great
admirer of the western civilization and strongly deplore all stereotypical views of the west. That is
why I have exclusively limited myself to the known evils of the west – weaknesses that are readily
admitted by prominent western thinkers themselves. But no one, except a stubbornly close-minded
person can deny the significant role western civilization played in advancing our civilization to a level
that is both mind boggling and admirable. In recent times, western civilization has done a marvelous
job in leading the world in technological innovation, space exploration, and genetic engineering, just
to name a few and its system of Government has been adapted as a de facto standard by many
countries in the world.
But as dazzling as its achievements are, western civilization has shown many an “Achilles’ heel” the
most obvious of which is in the moral and spiritual dimensions.
Remember we are talking here in general. In the west, there have always been highly concerned
individuals who tried to redirect the civilization to a healthier route. Several western thinkers have
warned against moral relativism and the apathy that was threatening to destroy the human race.
But the lust for power and material domination blinded many western countries from realizing the
risks involved. Dire warnings from several scientists about global warming and the dangers of
nuclear proliferation received little heed from a civilization that has developed such a voracious
appetite for material progress.
The west has a lot to offer. Every one seems to know that. But so far, little attention has been paid
on how to avoid facing the same gigantic problems the west is currently plagued with. I have called
for a spiritual revival in Eritrea simply because I firmly believe it is the better alternative. I see many
Eritreans blindly imitating western modes of thinking and behaving without challenging them but a
civilization that brought us so close to destroying our own planet cannot be considered, by any
yardstick, as a worthy civilization that other people should envy or try to emulate. Instead of blindly
imitating the west, developing countries should learn from the mistakes of the west and perhaps
provide the west with a way out of its misery and thereby save it and the rest of mankind.
That is why I once warned of “the dangers that loom ahead” for Eritrea. I have cautioned that if we
are not careful, the day may not be far away when gay activists will parade proudly through the
streets of Asmara demanding their rights while our teen age daughters will come home pregnant.
Children growing up in a cultural vacuum vacated by religion will not be able to withstand an
onslaught by the relativistic culture of the west. Once secularism, with all its force, captures the
national psyche, there may be no turning back and the ensuing cultural confusion will not be easily
remediable. How well prepared are we to prevent or face this possible calamity, if at all?
|Re: good articles!! by Ismail Umar Ali|
|07/09/01 at 17:07:25|
A few articles on non-violence by some insightful Eritreans, prompted me to share my views on
the subject. This site, hosted by Saleh Gadi, is dedicated to reconciliation. In a way, reconciliation
is a call to non-violence and as a remedy to the endless cycle of hate, mistrust, and confrontation
that beset Eritreans and as a bulwark against violence, reconciliation has no equal. But here, we
have to be extremely careful not to confuse the grand concept of reconciliation with the repugnant
notion of ingratiating ourselves to dictators. The former is a noble undertaking, the latter a
This is not to say that I do not understand and sympathize with the views of those Eritreans that
are calling for non-violence. I most certainly do. Understandably, Eritreans are tired of violence
and tired of fighting. But what many fail to understand, in my view, is that dictatorship and
violence, like Siamese twins, often go hand in hand and that one can't have either without the
other. In other words, where there is a dictatorship, there is always violence and where there is
violence, dictatorship lurks somewhere. Just think of all the dictators you know from Jenghis
Khan to Mengistu and reflect on how many of them plunged their country in blood and terror and
the link will be unmistakable.
And if you think this does not apply to our situation, then I submit to you that you have not fully
deliberated over the enormity of the destruction and suffering our people underwent in the last ten
years. Since independence, the current leadership did not only leapfrog from one conflict into
another with a speed that stunned observers and in a dizzying somersault that left a trail of blood,
tears, and starvation, but also derided every third party that tried to help. I ask: in what way is the
suffering of Eritreans in the last 10 years different than what we have undergone during the
30-year struggle for independence? Considering the staggering death toll, the countless number
of displaced, and the incalculable amount of property loss that occurred in less than ten years,
couldn't a case be made that those years were by far worse than any we had before?
And after subjecting our people to these painful ordeals and immeasurable suffering, has the
author of this turmoil ever repent of his actions? Or did he ever once renounce violence against
his political opponents many of whom still languish in jail? Don't we observe him, even at this
very moment, actively hounding his political opponents irrespective of whether they were
upholders of non-violence or not? And in dealing with other nations, has he ever willingly
negotiated a peace deal to avert an impending war? This being the case, is it at all sensible to
limit our options to non-violence when confronting a leadership that lives and swears by the gun?
"In order to get rid of the gun," Huey P. Newton observes, "it is [sometimes] necessary to take up
the gun." Not surprisingly, tyrants and dictators love movements that limit themselves to
non-violence and will often extol them as heroes and champions. But the common motto of all
dictators being 'might is right', deep down they cannot but scoff at cooperation or conciliation as a
sign of weakness. If they sometimes seem to adapt a conciliatory attitude, it is almost always
to further their own goals. Hence, if we are to prevail over the well-equipped and deeply
entrenched dictatorship that faces us, we need to employ whatever means available to us
including (but not exclusively) armed self-defense.
Here, I do not mean to imply that non-violence has no place in the struggle against dictators.
No. On the contrary, it is absolutely indispensable and mandatory to include non-violent
techniques in our quiver's choice. There are many techniques our people can use to resist
oppression including demonstrations, sabotages, refusal to pay taxes, circulation of underground
publications inside Eritrea, displaying defiant slogans, sit-ins, disseminating democratic ideals etc.
All such acts of defiance have their place and are absolutely essential. But though the power of
such activities cannot be underestimated and their value need to be fully recognized, such tactics,
by themselves, have limitations and are sometimes terribly inadequate to break the back of an
entrenched dictatorship because a powerful dictator can bring to a halt or immobilize unarmed
protestors in a twinkling of an eye - a fact that was hair-raisingly demonstrated when ex-tegadelti
tried to demonstrate in Mai-habar and when high school students were viciously bludgeoned in
When Gandi pleaded with his political rivals to renounce violence against the oppressive British
Empire, some reminded him that all human beings are not mahatma's and that the British are
the least so. Although Gandhi's non-violence played a great deal in achieving India's
independence, it was not the only factor that forced the British out of India. But the vanishing
British Empire found, in Ghandi's non-violence, a dignified exit out of India.
We must ask here: if Gandhi, one of the most vocal advocates of non-violence could use
non-violence against a foreign despot, why didn't we in the sixtieth? In other words, if
non-violence can always bring results, why did the peaceful movement of the 40's and 50's fail
and turn into an armed struggle in the 60's? Or are we stipulating that our forefathers blundered
seriously when they initiated the armed struggle? Or is this a case of condoning violence when it
is directed against a foreign tyrant and denouncing it against a domestic dictator?
I am posing all these questions not for a theoretical diversion but to make you ponder over the
issue and to make you realize that non-violence cannot be adapted at all times and in all
circumstances as the only strategy. Some dictators may respond to non-violence, but ours is
certainly not among them. In fact, self-imposed non-violence is likely to amuse His Excellency
pleasantly and he is likely to spurn such efforts as an imported fanfare of a peculiar sort.
MLK once stated:
"Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and
makes brotherhood impossible
To which Malcolm X retorted:
"I think there are plenty of good people in America, but there are also plenty of bad people in
America and the bad ones are the ones who seem to have all the power and be in these
positions to block things that you and I need. Because this is the situation, you and I have to
preserve the right to do what is necessary to bring an end to that situation, and it doesn't mean
that I advocate violence, but at the same time I am not against using violence in self-defense. I
don't even call it violence when it's self-defense, I call it intelligence."
The keyword above is intelligence. To respond non-violently when cornered by a hungry wolf or
when trapped by a deranged psychopath is to exhibit extreme poor intelligence. Behavioral
psychologists and psychiatrists have long known the phenomenon of incorrigible or hardened
criminals who are beyond psychotherapy. A soft-spoken bully who single-handedly came close
to reducing our 30-year struggle for independence to naught and who managed to wreck havoc
to our entire country in a matter of years and who continues to terrorize his entire neighborhood is
certainly past therapy of any kind. A restraining order is called for to keep him at a safe distance -
perhaps somewhere in Zimbabwe to reunite with kindred souls.
Brothers and Sisters:
If some of you are seriously proposing that we become sitting ducks while we continue to be
pushed around even when we have been so non-violent all these years as those ex-tegadelti
were, you should solemnly consider relocating to a remote planet populated by mahatmas,
dervishes and Yogis. But the fact is we dwell in that part of the galaxy where hooligans, fiends,
dictators, and demons roam freely and where killers and oppressors are more ubiquitous than
rabbis, Sufis, or Mahatmas.
It is important therefore to understand the proper place of non-violence. Non-violence is just one
and only one of the tools available to democratic forces and should never be taken as the only
option because an opposition force whose strategy is limited to non-violence unnecessarily delays
its success by needlessly limiting its full potential. Hence, democratic forces should neither
renounce nor endorse violence but should employ whatever strategy works best in achieving their
goals of total freedom while at the same time doing everything in their power to lessen the
suffering of those caught in the cross fire.
I leave you with the majestic and eloquent words of Thomas Paine:
"Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an
offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my
property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to "bind me in all cases
whatsoever" to his absolute will, am I to suffer it? What signifies it to me, whether he who does it
is a king or a common man; my countryman or not my countryman; whether it be done by an
individual villain, or an army of them? "
The thief in our midst, ladies and gentlemen, did not only kill or threaten to kill his opponents but is
now seeking a legal endorsement (in the form of elections) from the very people he just robbed
and ravaged. Pray, tell me, what could be more insulting than this? What injustice equals this?
|Re: good articles!! by Ismail Umar Ali|
|07/09/01 at 17:08:48|
in response to an article on atheism
What Stone expressed in his last article is of course nothing new. Atheists
from the distant past to modern times have expressed more or less similar
views. We must point out, however, that Stone's views are not classifiable
as a product of pure intellectual atheism due to the vehemently anti-Islamic
and anti-Arabic rhetoric discernible in them. Nonetheless, since we do not
know who this Stone is and since he has crowned himself an atheist, we
will take him as such (for the purposes of this article) and respond
Of course, Stone is within his rights to present and restate his views as
many times as he chooses and we encourage him to do so. What we will
not overlook and what we cannot condone, however, is a
misrepresentation of facts of history. When he relates that the evolution of
religion corresponded to the march of science, he was in fact presenting a
highly jaundiced and a highly slanted view of history. A simple reflection on
the atheism and agnosticism that flourished long before the advent of
scientific method and a cursory analysis of modern monotheism that
continues to thrive in the most advanced nations of earth and among
highly reputed scientific personalities of our age, renders Stone's
postulation outlandish and totally untenable even before we begin to
examine its validity. We will therefore not give it any further consideration
(unless of course someone requests it).
But what Stone, in his own long-winded way, was trying to impress upon
us was that his atheism was a product of his scientific thinking. Unlike
outspoken atheists and agnostics of repute like Bertrand Russell who knew
the boundaries of science, however, Stone rushes in "where angels fear to
tread" and does not quit where his knowledge falls short. In other words,
he does not merely express his doubts about the existence of God (as a
true scientist should) but uppishly concludes that there is no God, no
angels, no demons, no day of judgment, no paradise, and no hell! This is
clearly unscientific because a scientist is supposed to be open about things
science has not been able to fathom. All scientists acknowledge this
limitation of science in deciphering the universe.
That is why Russell, the most vehement critic of religion (particularly of
Christianity) had to concede that there is no "conclusive argument by which
one can prove that there is not a God" which leads us to ask: if such an
eminent philosopher/mathematician could concede lack of evidence to
deny the existence of God, where does Stone's dogmatic certainty
emanate from if not from egotism or ignorance or both?
Not long ago, Stone was residing in the confines of his warm mother's
womb without the foggiest idea what destiny God has in store for him - a
puny, helpless creature with eyes, ears and bones hardly formed. From
this humble beginning God guides him step by step to grow into a fully
functioning human being with a fully developed brain that is capable of both
good and mischief.
If not God, who extended His loving hand and so carefully protected him
and fashioned him into what he became today? His thinking faculty itself
that he so foolhardily uses to deny the existence of the Almighty God is
itself His handiwork and thus a limited machine to perceive the totality of
reality. Coming from such a lowly origin as we all are and knowing our
human limitations compared to the infinite dimension of the cosmos, what
authority makes us pronounce that this grand universe is devoid of purpose
or designer? It is perhaps this conceited side of man - his
absentmindedness about his own lowly origins - that inspired Shakespeare
to pen the following:
"Man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he 's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep"
Far be it from us to portray Stone as "an angry ape' but his "fantastic tricks
before high heaven" will certainly make the angels, archangels and even
demons shed tears of pity over the poor, benighted soul of him that
pompously cried "no god, no angels". It is to describe the likes of Stone
that Allah says in the Quran:
"Doth not man see that it is We Who created him from sperm? yet behold!
(stands forth) as an open adversary! And he makes comparisons for Us,
forgets his own (origin and) Creation: He says, "Who can give life to (dry)
and decomposed ones (at that)?"
And Allah Himself answers the question:
Say, "He will give them life Who created them for the first time! for He is
Well-versed in every kind of creation!- "The same Who produces for you
fire out of the green tree, when behold! ye kindle therewith (your own
In the above verses, Allah reasons with atheists by reminding them that
the same entity that created life is also able to create it again. If God can
create the myriads of stars, the exploding novas, the black holes and the
ever expanding universe, why would He be unable to create Heaven and
Hell or an entirely new dimension with its own set of laws and rules? In
other words: if our intricately balanced and complex universe is a solid
reality that we all perceive, why not another one with a different set of
rules? "Is not He Who created the heavens and the earth", Allah reminds
us in the Quran " able to create the like thereof?' - "Yea, indeed! for He is
the Creator Supreme, of skill and knowledge (infinite)!" (36:78-81.
Thomas Paine came to the same reasoned conclusion about the existence
of God when he aptly remarked that 'revelation is the creation we behold'.
Stone wanted to know why Allah chose "Arabic out of thousands
languages as of [sic] the final message?" We counter by asking why not?
Arabic is a beautiful and rich language and the sublimity and majesty of
Quranic Arabic has never been questioned even by non-Arabs and
non-Muslims (some even described it as a miracle). It has to be
understood, however, that according to Islam, revelation did not begin with
Muhammed. God revealed his message to Jesus (who spoke in Aramaic),
to Moses (who spoke in Hebrew), and to Muhammed (who spoke in
Arabic) among others. He is therefore not showing any partiality towards
It is the view of Islam that God sent prophets and messengers from time
to time to every people on earth to reveal reality in proportion to their
readiness to accept the truth. In other words, though the fundamental
teachings of the unity of God and the importance of doing good deeds
remained the same, detailed moral, ethical and social teachings were given
based on the cultural and intellectual readiness for it. It is for that reason,
Muslims believe, why Jesus (pbuh) told his disciples:
'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them
now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide
you into all truth."
As a messenger of God, Jesus (pbuh) knew that his people were not ready
to receive God's message in its entirety. So he promised them that they
would receive total guidance through the Spirit of truth. Christians translate
the Spirit of truth to mean the Holy Ghost while Muslims consider this
verse a clear prophecy of Muhammed's coming (pbuh). The Christian
viewpoint, however, creates a difficulty since the Holy Ghost is part of the
Godhead according to Christianity and is said to have been with Jesus
during his whole ministry and even before. Therefore, Muslims see
Christianity as having departed from the true teaching of Jesus.
Islam teaches that Christ (pbuh) was a Muslim - one who submitted
himself/herself to God and states that he never claimed to be God or the
Son of God. That is of course, according to Islamic teachings. Islam also
asserts that it is the first and last religion. That is why Abraham, Moses,
Jesus and even Adam among others are considered Muslims because
they all submitted to Allah and delivered whatever message God entrusted
them to convey. They were all true messengers of God whose mission
was to convey the oneness of God and to urge people to do good deeds.
This they did faithfully and were themselves perfect examples of their
teachings. It is thus essentially one message and its source one- God
Islam also maintains that over the years, man kept drifting further and
further away from this essential message of the almighty and kept
corrupting His message and inserting his own ideas and every time that
happened or whenever people have reached a certain level of maturity to
receive a new message, God renewed His message with a new
messenger. Noah, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed and others were thus, a
chain of prophets who came with that mission. According to Islam, for
example, Jesus came to revive and fix excesses in Judaism while
Muhammed (pbuh) did the same to Christianity.
God also says in the Quran that there were other messengers that have
not been mentioned in the Quran. For this reason Muslims cannot say
definitely that Buddha or Krishna or other religious leaders were not
messengers of God since it is possible that later generations corrupted their
message with the passage of time. This, in short, is a lightening brief
synopsis of the view of Islam on prophethood and revelation. And it is this
broad outlook of Islam towards other religions and its holistic view of
religion that made a European observer, familiar with both Islamic and
western cultures to observe:
".. Islam has a still further service to render to the cause of humanity. .. No
other society has such a record of success in uniting in an equality of
status, of opportunity, and of
endeavor so many and so various races of mankind. The great Moslem
communities of Africa, India and Indonesia, perhaps also the small Moslem
communities in China and the still smaller communities in Japan, show that
Islam has still the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of
race and tradition."
He states the above advisedly because the prophet (pbuh), in his farewell
message drove the point home when he emphatically declared: "There is
no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab and for a non-Arab over an
Arab, nor for the white over the black nor for the black over the white
except through Taqwaa (God-fearing)." Can anything be more explicitly
stated about Islam's universal message and its egalitarian concept of the
human family? Is it any wonder then that H.A.R. Gibb (quoted above)
believes Islam has within it the power to "reconcile apparently irreconcilable
elements of race and tradition"?
Stone alleged in his article that there are 'many verses that commanded
violence'. We would like to know where. On the contrary, we know the
opposite to be true. All major religions including Islam, Christianity,
Buddhism etc…not only 'decry' violence but also ardently preach peace. To
emphasize the importance of human life, Islam teaches that if you kill one
person it is as if you have killed all humanity and that if you save one
person it is as if you saved all humanity.
Similarly, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism all condemn violence and
advocate peace. Again, Stone is confusing the actions of some who
profess to adhere to a religion with the teachings of that religion. These are
two distinct issues. As it would not be fair and proper, for example, to
accuse all Eritreans by what Isayas did or did not do in their name, it would
be equally unfair to blame Islam or Christianity for what some irresponsible
Muslims or Christians did at one time or another.
When we said Islam was not spread by sword, we, of course, did not
mean that every individual Muslim from the dawn of Islam to the present
day has been innocent. That would be a ridiculous proposition. If such a
criterion was to be used, there would not be a single religion, party, or
ideological grouping that would remain innocent.
We were referring rather to the absence of a systematic and organized
attempt in the history of Islam's rapid expansion to convert others to Islam
by force. There has been none of that and as we pointed out in our last
article April 16, 2001
reputed modern historians have already dismissed such an allegation as a
product of medieval prejudice against Islam.
Stone equivocates when he tells us we don't need to "consult the pages of
history books" to know whether "holy war" was waged against
non-believers. We notice a shifting argument here because when we
refuted the false allegation that "Arab Moslem invaders occupied our lands
centuries ago", that line was quickly abandoned as untenable and when we
later showed how the allegation was indefensible even globally speaking,
we were are being told we don't need to "consult the pages of history
books"! Let us therefore forget about history and patiently accede to
Stone's request and examine the present. What do we find?
"Islam is the fastest-growing religion in America", Hilary Clinton told Los
Angeles Times in 1996, "a guide and pillar of stability for many of our
people...". "Moslems are the world's fastest-growing group" echoed USA
Today (Feb 1989) and according to Encyclopedia Britannica (vol 12)
"Muhammed was the most successful of all Prophets and religious
personalities.....". "Islam continues to grow in America", CNN told us in its
Dec 15, 1995 issue and added: " no one can doubt that!" Similar views
were expressed by New York Times, 60 Minutes, and many others.
If Islam needed the sword to convert people to Islam, why is it spreading
so fast all over the world today despite the concerted efforts of its
opponents and despite the negative image it has been painted with? What
sword are Muslims using to convert people in the US, Britain, France and
in many other European countries where it is spreading … and spreading
fast? It is thus clear that Islam proliferates today for the same reason it
has in the past: its concordance with human nature and its appeal to the
But in the end, we must accept the fact that no matter what we say and
regardless of how irresistible the evidence we present might be, we will
sometimes run into a brick wall, (or a Stone if you will - no pun intended
here) and we will begin to appreciate and understand what the author of
the following words had in mind when he observed: "What the fool cannot
learn, he laughs at, thinking by his laughter he shows superiority instead of
p.s. prayer and multiparty system:
We acknowledge the fact that we cannot achieve a multiparty system by
prayer alone but in concurring with Stone on this point, we would also be
following the exact dictates of our religion because "God does not change
people's condition until they change themselves" Quran 13:11. In other
words, God helps those who help themselves!
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