Most frequently asked questions

About Islam

“To those against whom war is made permission is given (to fight) because they are wronged and verily God is Most powerful for their aid. (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right (for no cause) except that they say ‘Our Lord is God.’ Did not God check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure. God will certainly aid those who aid His (cause); for verily God is Full of Strength Exalted in Might (Able to enforce His Will).” (22:39-40)

“Fight in the cause of God those who fight you but do not aggress; for God loves not aggressors. And slay them wherever you catch them and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith. But if they cease God is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they cease let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.” (2:190-193)

“Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power including steeds of war to deter the enemies of God and your enemies and others besides whom you may not know but whom God knows. Whatever you shall spend in the cause of God shall be repaid unto you and you shall not be treated unjustly. But if the enemy incline towards peace do you (also) incline towards peace and trust in God: for He is the one that hears and knows (all things). Should they intend to deceive you truly God is sufficient for you: He it is that has strengthened you with his aid and with (the company of) the believers. And (moreover) He has put affection between their hearts: not if you had spent all that is in the earth could you have produced that affection but God has done it: for He is Exalted in might Wise.” (8:60-63)

“And the Firmament has He raised high and He has set up the balance (of Justice) in order that you may not transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance.” (55:7-9)

Views of the Islamist movement today are better represented by Zaynab al-Ghazali who headed the women’s division of the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood under its founder Hassan al-Banna.  She wrote that  “Islam has provided everything for both men and women. It gave women everything–freedom, economic rights, political rights, social rights, public and private rights. Islam gave women rights in the family granted by no other society.

Women may talk of liberation in Christian society, Jewish society, or pagan society, but in Islamic society it is a grave error to speak of the liberation of women. The Muslim woman must study Islam so she will know that it is Islam that has given her all her rights.”

You can read more about her jihad to establish women’s Islamic rights to a place in public life in contravention of a secular Egyptian society that had been forced in to the Victorian mold that held a woman’s place is in the home by its British colonial occupiers at: http://www.jannah.org/sisters/zaynab.html

This seems like a trick question. Since those men to whom you refer won’t let women leave the house, what opportunity would homebound women have to see men?

But in fairness, those men cover their own bodies almost as much as they would cover the women’s. They wear long flowing outer garments, cover their hair, and hide their own face behind a long beard. The oppressive laws they advocate are aimed at segregation of men and women and thus may be considered evenhanded in their suspicion of the sexual drive.

Such laws should be opposed because they are oppressive and not on the debatable premise that they are predicated on any spiritual inferiority of women.

Halal is like the Jewish concept of kosher although not as complicated. The Islamic method of slaughter strictly prohibits the conception of carrion such as the already dead animals your correspondent accuses Muslim butchers of using and explicitly prohibits cruelty to the food animals. The accusations of excessive violations of food codes are imaginary. When I instructed a hotel hosting an event of ours to use a Halal Butcher for the dinner they inspected the shop themselves and told me that they had NEVER BEFORE SEEN SUCH A CLEAN BUTCHER SHOP and were considering using it for all their catered dinners.

The Qur’an spells out clearly what is halal in the opening verses of Surah 5 (The Tablespread, a reference to the miracle of Jesus, peace be upon him, of the loaves and fishes):

  1. O ye who believe! fulfil (all) obligations. Lawful unto you (for food) are all four-footed animals with the exceptions named: but animals of the chase are forbidden while ye are in the Sacred Precincts or in pilgrim garb: for God doth command according to His Will and Plan.
  2. O ye who believe! violate not the sanctity of the Symbols of God nor of the Sacred Month nor of the animals brought for sacrifice nor the garlands that mark out such animals nor the people resorting to the Sacred House seeking of the bounty and good pleasure of their Lord. But when ye are clear of the Sacred Precincts and of pilgrim garb ye may hunt and let not the hatred of some people in (once) shutting you out of the Sacred Mosque lead you to transgression (and hostility on your part). Help ye one another in righteousness and piety but help ye not one another in sin and rancor: fear God: for God is strict in punishment.
  3. Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat blood the flesh of swine and that on which hath been invoked the name of other than God that which hath been killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a headlong fall or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you completed my favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any forced by hunger with no inclination to transgression God is indeed Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful.
  4. They ask thee what is lawful to them (as food): say: Lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure: and what ye have taught your trained hunting animals (to catch) in the manner directed to you by God; eat what they catch for you but pronounce the name of God over it: and fear God; for God is swift in taking account.
  5. This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book [i.e., Jews and Christians] is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them.

American Matters

From the Qur’an:

“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are Signs for those who know.” (30:22)

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (49:13)

From the hadith:

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white – except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware: do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.” Farewell Pilgrimage Sermon

“Whosoever of you sees wrongdoing, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so [i.e., lacks the power], then [let criticize it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then [detest it in] his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim]

In the past there have been numerous false allegations of government schools forcing children to play-act at being Muslims under the cover of teaching world culture or religion. These allegations have usually been blatantly false. An amicus brief filed by the CALIFORNIA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION and NATIONAL SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION suggests that the case of US 9th Circuit re Byron, Calif School Unit on Islam may be different.

Although the circuit court ruling is unpublished, by overturning the lower court, it appears as if the circuit court may be saying that forcing non-Muslim students to imitate Muslim ritual is not a violation of the students’ (or at least the parents’) freedom of religion is because the students are only play-acting a fantasy. In other words, the religious innocuousness of the act is predicated on the presumed REJECTION of the act’s religious significance. This is not Muslims imposing their will on Christians, it is secularists making a mockery of religious ritual per se.

If I am correct, then it seems to me that the plaintiffs doomed their own case by erroneously presenting it as a matter of the school imposing Islam on the students. The school, which rejects all religion, is not exalting Islam above Christianity but demeaning both. Had the plaintiffs used that approach they might have won. Instead they asked the court to address a narrow question: Was the school trying to turn the students into Muslims? It is no surprise that the court answered no. To the degree that that the government school system has any religious purpose it is to secularize the students.

Perhaps now some Muslim group should sue the school using the correct argument. If not, then maybe some Hindu group will sue the schools when they start forcing Muslim children to insincerely profess their adoration of Krishna.

American Muslims, no less than Muslims abroad, condemn the disrespectful tone, the libelous intent, and above all the ignorance demonstrated by the cartoons published in the Danish press.

However, it is not the place of U.S. officials to comment on what Danish newspapers choose to do. Muslims can and should boycott the newspapers that print such garbage, but the U.S. government does not support those newspapers and what they publish is not the American government’s business.

Further, those Muslims who are engaged in a secondary boycott against all Danish businesses are guilty of the same sort of collectivist discrimination engaged in by those Americans who blame all Muslims for Sept. 11.

Muslims in France or Egypt might call for the Danish government to threaten the newspaper in question because government censorship is a way of life in those countries.

Censorship is not part of American culture and therefore only those Muslims who oppose free speech in America should ask the Danish government to engage in censorship. But if they succeed in eroding free speech in America, let them understand that they shall be the first to be suppressed.

Concerned as all human beings must be over allegations regarding conditions at Guantanamo Bay detainment center, what should be of most concern to Americans is the attitude taken by the administration and its defenders. At the same time that they insist that the Geneva conventions don’t apply, they insist that any transgressions that may have occurred should, like the disgraceful conduct at Abu Ghraib, be blamed solely on the lower level soldiers and not on the senior officials who established a policy that condones torture.

Most chilling, is the complete lack of concern for whether the detainees are guilty or innocent. No formal charge has been made against them, and their designation that they are “enemy combatants” has been unproven despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated that such allegations must be subject to some kind of judicial review. The administration seems proud of the fact that it has released a few dozen of the 500 (after years of incarceration without cause) but unconcerned that most of the others may also be innocent, even of being enemy combatants let alone of the terrorism.

There is an enormous amount of chutzpah in the unrelenting pressure the administration exerted against Newsweek to leverage a technical error in its article exposing some of the abuses into a retraction of the whole article when more flagrant deceptions regarding Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and the rationale for the war on Iraq (as demonstrated by the scandal of the Downing Street memo) are dismissed as irrelevant. Finally, it is important to note that the administration has indicated in the Padilla case that it does not consider itself restricted to non-citizens in selecting its targets for extra-judicial treatment.

We propose that the government immediately review the status of the detainees and formally charge any who are indictable of a crime, and either release or classify as a prisoner of war any who are not indictable. Those charged with crimes should then be indicted and given a speedy trial. Those held as POWs should be accorded their rights under the Geneva conventions and International Law. Those who are released should be given an apology for being held without just cause. Finally, the world community needs to immediately address the issue of the threat of indefinite detention of prisoners of war. It is not only a question that affects the detainees at Guantanamo, but Americans and others being held in Iraq. People from all over the world are subject to the risk of being held hostage on unsubstantiated suspicion of being somebody’s “enemy.”

No nation has a right to intervene into the internal affairs of other nations. The United States is no exception.  When nations join the United Nations they agree to adhere to certain standards of human rights.  Should they fail to abide by these standards, complaints may be lodged against them and dealt with in accordance with the standards to which they have subscribed.

The death penalty should only be applied as a punishment for willful murder or for widespread criminal activity of a most serious nature, such as terrorism. However, because the criminal system in the United States has been unable to enforce the death penalty in a fair handed manner, especially as regards the racial and ethnic backgrounds of the perpetrators, and because of the frequency with which people have been convicted of capital crimes and later shown to have been innocent, I believe that there should be a moratorium on the death penalty until such time as these flaws in the system can be fixed.

On Extremism

Asking if you can talk an extremist out of being an extremist is dealing with labels instead of with realities. The reality of the hudna is (1) it was the practice of the Prophet and (2) the Qur’an commands “If the enemy inclines towards peace then do you incline towards peace and trust in God for He is the one that hears and knows all things (8:61).

The extremists of the Prophet’s day didn’t like it when he established the hudna with the Quraish, but they had to accept it. Of course, some modern extremists may be more wiling to rebel against the Hamas leadership than 7th century extremists were willing to rebel against the Prophet, but wouldn’t their rebellion alienate them from the majority and wouldn’t that alienation be a good thing?

I sincerely believe that we are not in a war between civilizations but in a war WITHIN civilizations. In that war those who propose a hudna are allied with us and those who would resist it are allied with those Western extremists who mistake prudence for treason.

A considerable number of Saudi (Wahabi) preachers hold the views described in the article “Global Jihad” and they do promote their ideas abroad, sometimes get support from the Saudi government, and have a small but scary following outside the country. Further, many of the violent extremists who have obtained so much bad press for Muslims lately have been in part inspired by such preachers (as well as some from our other U.S. government ally Egypt).

Having said that, however, I must say that I find the exaggerated tone and spin in the article and the sloppiness of the report on which it is based appalling, especially insofar as it contradicts the fact that the number of American Muslims who buy in to this view is miniscule and some of the mosques mentioned in the report have policies completely opposed to the views the article seeks to associate with them. Even Joe McCarthy never claimed that owning a copy of Das Kapital in your library made you a Marxist!

Here are some specific comments:

Many Wahabis do believe it is forbidden to be friends with Christians and Jews, but this is not necessarily a call for “hatred” of Christians and Jews. The Qur’an demands that Muslims be tolerant of the People of the Book and makes clear that there is no reason not to be kind and just to those who do not fight against Muslims. Of course, there are some Christians and Jews who feel they have a religious obligation to fight against Muslims (perhaps former CIA man James Woolsey is amongst them).

It is sad that Freedom House would choose to attack the Wahabis for having doubts about democracy. Anyone who believes in moral absolutes (including liberty) will have doubts about a system in which people can make up laws willy-nilly. Substitute “libertarian” for “Wahabi” and get: “[Libertarian] documents promote contempt for the United States because it is ruled by legislated  civil law rather than by libertarian natural law. They condemn democracy as unlibertarian.” I am not denying the authoritarian nature of the Saudi system (totalitarian, however, is an overstatement, given their jealous protection of the right of privacy), simply saying that opposition to human-invented positive law is not necessarily authoritarian, let alone totalitarian.

The article suggests that the millions of Muslim immigrants to the United States are here not because they like America better than their homelands, but because they are actively seeking to destroy our country. This will be cognized as palpable nonsense by any American not too bigoted or narrow-minded to have Muslim friends and acquaintances.  The notion that naturalized Muslim Americans are religiously opposed to becoming naturalized American citizens is a self-contradiction.

American Muslims do not condemn Sufis or Shi`a. While one can find the same kind of sectarianism between American Sunnis and Shi`as as divides American Catholics and Protestants, American Muslims are very open to Sufi ideas. While it is unfortunate in the extreme that some Muslims can’t distinguish between opposing the Israeli apartheid and opposing Jews, the authors of the article demonstrate a similar lack of discernment when they lump together opposition to Israel with belief in the authenticity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Some of the same mosques which they accuse of possessing literature that condemn participation in the American political process are leading the voter registration drives among Muslims. The bottom line is that this article and the report on which it is based do not have their sights trained on the Saudi extremists who write and promote intolerance, but on the Muslim mosques that they claim have these books in their libraries (for whatever reasons). In other words their target is not intolerance, but freedom of expression. The effect of such articles and reports is not to decrease Muslim bigotry, but increase bigotry against Muslims.

We make no attempt to track every atrocity done by every religious denomination. Nonetheless, we agree that it is important to state that all such brutality against innocents whether it is done by or to Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Shi`a, or Sunni. deserves strong condemnation and swift justice.

The Qur’an warns: “…Did not God check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries churches synagogues and mosques in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure. God will certainly aid those who aid His (cause); for verily God is Full of Strength Exalted in Might (Able to enforce His Will).” (22:40, A. Yusuf Ali, trans.)

Palestinian Cause

The main reason for HAMAS’s victory was that voters sought an alternative to the corrupt, failing and fractious FATAH regime. The corruption of FATAH was well known, but their use of American tax money for what were really campaign purposes in the days before the election was an embarrassment that drove home the point of their corruption to the Palestinian voters. The main failure of the FATAH regime was their inability to conclude a peace treaty within the Oslo framework.

The Palestinians had abandoned their objection to the existence of the state of Israel on pragmatic grounds, that they should obtain sovereignty and peace and they had been given neither. Further, it is widely believed among Palestinians that Mahmoud Abbas is prepared to abandon the Palestinians’ right to return to their homes guaranteed by International law.

HAMAS was seen as the only viable alternative to FATAH’s failures, an organization that had provided the kinds of services the PA could not, that is largely free of corruption, and that would be less prone to unacceptable compromises. Finally, FATAH divided its support among rival factions while HAMAS’s united front allowed it to get more seats than their 44% popular vote would command had FATAH been unified.

There is widespread concern that HAMAS’s commitment to the destruction of the state of Israel, especially given the violent history of its military wing, makes it unsuited to negotiate peace in the Middle East. Further there is the fear that even if HAMAS moderates its views or overlooks them as irrelevant to its new role as representative of the Palestinian people, that Israel will nevertheless refuse to accept it as a negotiating partner.

These obstacles, however, may not necessarily be insurmountable. They were, after all, the same argument put forth against PLO/Israel negotiations before Oslo, or for that matter put forth against the possibility of an East-West peace before American-Soviet detente became a reality. HAMAS has already expressed its willingness to include FATAH in the new government, has built bridges to the Christian Palestinians, and showed by its observance of the PA’s truce with Israel that it can behave pragmatically even while adhering to its fundamental positions.

In any case, Mahmoud Abbas remains the President of the PA for the time being and it is with him that the Israelis must negotiate. HAMAS has already announced that they will not obstruct Abbas’ negotiations with Israel. Whether Israel will give HAMAS the opportunity to join in the efforts for peace is a more difficult question, but it is in Israel’s interest to do so and America has a great deal of influence with Israel and could be helpful if it chooses to be.

Yes. HAMAS largely observed the PA’s truce with Israel despite Israeli provocations. Even the most fanatical Muslim extremists accept that long-term truces are part of Islamic law. This is really in Israel’s hands as the Qur’an commands, “If the enemy inclines towards peace, the do you incline towards peace and trust in God.”

In all probability the loss of Western aid would be made up for by an increase in aid from other sources, less favorably inclined towards Israel, which would remove some of the incentives for HAMAS to show patience with the peace process or with problematical Israeli actions.

Speculation is best postponed until after the Israeli elections in March. Nonetheless, I think that it is most likely that Israel will proceed with extreme caution. At the moment the world community understands their concerns, but it could hurt them to press their point too far. The country that has been led by Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon undermines itself by protesting that leaders of other governments are associated with terrorism.

Peace remains a long shot, but the recent shake-up actually makes peace a little bit more likely. The old situation was a stalemate. Now that the Palestinians have a new, freely elected parliament there is an opportunity for a fresh start, one with the authority of legitimacy. It was said that “Only Nixon could go to China.” “Only Sharon could unilaterally remove Israeli settlers from Gaza.” By the same token, perhaps, “Only HAMAS can make a lasting peace with Israel.”

These groups are significantly different from one another.

Hamas did not engage in single act of terrorism until Baruch Goldstein massacred the worshipers at prayer in Hebron. Hamas broadened its target’s not so much for Goldstein’s slaughter of 29 innocents, but for the IDF murders of the noncombatant demonstrators protesting the massacre. Yes, I condemn Hamas’s decision to adopt the tactics of their oppressors. Yet defenders of Israel who condemn those acts by Hamas refused to condemn (or even mention, usually) the provocations that spawned them. In fact, Hamas has repeatedly offered to end all acts against civilians if Israel would end its policy of shooting down Palestinian civilians, an offer which has only elicited the consistent Israeli response, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

I condemn terrorism on both sides. However, I do not call either Hamas or Israel a terrorist organization because both insist that they do not intentionally target innocents. See, for example, the response of both to the Goldstone Report that charges that Hamas killed three civilians and the IDF killed over 1,000 civilians during the invasion of Gaza. Both insisted that the deaths attributed to them were not intentional. A real terrorist organization, like al-Qaeda, is not embarrassed by civilian deaths and makes no effort to mask it as a “mistake” (as does Hamas) or “collateral damage” (as does Israel).

one must distinguish between the destruction of a state by democratic or peaceful means and destruction of a people by aggression. No state has any right to exist except by the consent of the governed. Israel came into existence not by the consent of the inhabitants of the land, by the pretense that the indigenous people of the land then called Palestine did not really exist and the enthusiastic endorsement by the founding fathers of modern Israel (Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett) of the policy of “ethnic transfer” to rid the land of its non-Jewish inhabitants.

This policy is echoed in Netanyahu’s protests that allowing Palestinians to return to their homes would mean the “destruction of Israel.” Perhaps it would, but it would be by a peaceful and democratic means. It was Meir Kahane, the founder of the terrorist Jewish Defense League who embarrassed moderate Zionists by stating bluntly what those such as Netanyahu say by indirection: a state that is mostly non-Jews cannot be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time.


Still have questions?