January 2010 
Year 16    No.147
Breaking Barriers

‘The pulpits of our mosques have begun  to booby-trap the public’

Dhiyaa Al-Musawi, Bahraini intellectual, says the Arab world is regressing into a language and culture of death. He airs his views in an interview with Abu Dhabi TV

I do not believe in gallows of ideology. Our problem in the Arab world is that we have many gallows of ideology and of accusations, of social
betrayal, on which we try to hang an intellectual, a thinker or a poet every day, just like in the case of Naguib Mahfouz and others. We, I am sad to say, are against creativity and civilisation and against any language that seeks common ground in society. We must have the courage to get rid of the "backward" cholesterol of ideology, accumulating in the arteries of Arab awareness and the Arab mind.

This is not masochism – the kind that psychologists talk about – or self-flagellation. This is the truth. We have not developed, even to the point of admitting defeat. In the past we had a civilisation, in Andalusia and in many other places. But today we are regressing – we export violence, we terrorise whole countries, we threaten national security and many other things. We need to reform and reshape religious thinking because, in all honesty, the pulpits of our mosques have begun to "booby-trap" the public.

Q: In what way?

A: They booby-trap them by generating hatred towards the "other". We have claimed a monopoly over paradise and each of us has recorded it in the land registry in his name.

Q: But the pulpits are under government supervision?

A: Some of them are under government supervision but in some Arab countries, although they are under government supervision, the government itself encourages the booby-trapping. This problem has political reasons but who pays the price? The country, society, civil society and the young man who is being told that black-eyed virgins await him at the gates of paradise and that all he has to do is kill himself, to slaughter himself. He might blow up his family and children to get the virgins of paradise.

This is the language and culture of death. We were not born into this world to die this way. The beauty of man lies in his living for the sake of his homeland, not in dying while booby-trapping others. In the Arab world, we have religious clerics who are beacons (of knowledge) but I think the problem is that we are constantly intimidating the public. We talk only about hell and not paradise at all. The Koran is balanced. It talks about the fire of hell and about the fruits of paradise but we constantly preach about the horrors of Judgement Day, saying that a bald Satan, or a bald serpent, would visit them in the grave. It is constant terror. It is always a dark picture.

Q: Why?

A: Why? That is the problem. Unfortunately, some young man – out of a wrong interpretation of religion… The moment he becomes religious, he ceases to smile and greet others. He accuses some people of heresy and others of sin. He begins all that discourse. He hates music and refuses to dress neatly. His mind is abducted into the dungeons of ideology, I’m sad to say.

Q: Let me ask you a question. If a Shiite, or even a Sunni, becomes a religious cleric yet he listens to music, can the Arab public possibly accept him?

A: In my view, the Arab disposition suffers from many problems. We have destroyed many things, including the beauty of the general disposition. Music is a beautiful thing...

Q: Do you listen to music?

A: Yes, I listen to music, I listen to classical music. I think Beethoven’s symphonies are very beautiful. They are among the masterpieces of human art. I believe that music develops the spirit of man and humbles him. What is wrong in that?

As for the policy of non-violence, I’d like to give you the example of Gandhi, whom I consider a hero. If only we could obtain some of Gandhi’s genes and plant them in the brains of our youth in the Arab world…

Q: In your home, you have pictures of Martin Luther King and Jesus on the wall?

A: In my home, I put up a picture of Jesus because whenever I look at this picture, worlds of peace and love open up before me. It was Jesus who said: "Love thy enemies, bless them who curse thee." We need this beautiful language in our society. I also have a picture of Gandhi, whom I consider to be a very fine person and whose (image) we should plant in the minds of our youth.

Some of us say: "May Allah curse the Jews and the Christians, the offspring of apes and pigs." Is this the language of progress? Is this the language of enlightenment and tolerance? If you had been born in Rome, you would have been Christian, if you had been born in Tehran, you would have been Shiite and if you had been born in Saudi Arabia, you would have been Sunni and so on. How wonderful it would be if all these people could gather in love around the table of humanity.

Nations that read more are the nations that are most respected, like the western nations where people read… When you travel to Switzerland, everywhere you go – on the bus or wherever – you see people reading books. Do you see such sights in the Arab world? The problem of the Arab youth is that they do not read. As Gustave Le Bon wrote in The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, the Arab youth sometimes smile while they are taken to the slaughterhouse. Why? Because they lack awareness; we suffer from illiteracy. Today the Arab world has, according to the UN report, close to 70 million illiterate adults. In other words, 70 million people whom you can booby-trap – against their country and society – because they do not read.

(The above interview, which aired on Abu Dhabi TV on December 29, 2006, was translated into English by www.memritv.org.)

Courtesy: www.mideastyouth.com


Muslim women struggle for peace on International Human Rights Day

New York, December 10, 2009: As the world comes together today to celebrate the 61st anniversary of International Human Rights Day, we, the women of WISE (Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality) demand that violence against Muslim women come to an end.

Violence against women not only affects women and their families but also the communities and societies we live in. Violence impedes women’s development, access to education and health and equal rights in the family, which in turn hinders the progress and development of communities and societies. As the World Economic Forum’s 2009 Global Gender Gap Index points out, 18 of the 25 lowest-ranking countries are Muslim-majority countries. It is time to end the violence against Muslim women and allow our communities to flourish in peace.

Today WISE women leaders around the world are reclaiming the rich legacy that Muslim women have had in the history of Islam in order to end violence against women. Using their Islamic faith to justify and inspire Muslim women’s empowerment, WISE women aim to build a cohesive global movement of Muslim women that will reclaim women’s rights in Islam, enabling them to make dignified choices and fully participate in creating just and flourishing societies. A universal declaration for Muslim women and the cornerstone of the WISE movement, the WISE Compact highlights the basic rights of Muslim women. In particular, it focuses on the need to end violence against women and as its signatories, members of the WISE community commit themselves to the realisation of this endeavour: "We are dedicated to protecting and promoting life by promoting the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health of Muslim women and by eliminating violence against Muslim women." Similarly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states the importance of life and security for all individuals in Article 3: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."

WISE is working in several areas to end violence against women. WISE’s Shura Council, a global council of Muslim women scholars, activists and specialists, recently launched their campaign, Jihad against Violence, which uses religiously grounded arguments against violence. In addition, WISE is collaborating with a number of women’s organisations around the world, including in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Egypt, to improve women’s rights and end violence against women. WISE women from the Noor Educational Centre in Afghanistan are creating the first holistic gender-sensitive imam training programme in Kabul and surrounding areas. In Pakistan, WISE women from the organisation, Bedari, are organising advocacy efforts, including outreach material and street theatre performances, in an effort to raise awareness about domestic violence against women. WISE women from the organisation, Egyptian Association for Society Development, have developed an economic incentive and religious education project to end female genital cutting (FGC) practices in surrounding neighbourhoods of Cairo.

For more information please go to: www.wisemuslimwomen.org.

Courtesy: Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality; www.wisemuslimwomen.org


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