Report finds Muslim world has made huge progress in debate, discussion of Islam since 9/11

Titled “The State of Debate in Islam: Theological Developments in the Muslim World Since 9/11,” the report is one in a series from the TBI marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. (Screenshot/Shutterstock)
Titled “The State of Debate in Islam: Theological Developments in the Muslim World Since 9/11,” the report is one in a series from the TBI marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. (Screenshot/Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 08 September 2021

Report finds Muslim world has made huge progress in debate, discussion of Islam since 9/11

Titled “The State of Debate in Islam: Theological Developments in the Muslim World Since 9/11,” the report is one in a series from the TBI marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. (Screenshot/Shutterstock)
  • Study is part of a series published by the Tony Blair Institute marking 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
  • Despite the successes, report author Usama Hasan believes that there is still more that can be done

LONDON: Governments in Muslim countries and senior Islamic clerics have made great progress in reclaiming Islam from extremists, according to a report published today by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI).

Titled “The State of Debate in Islam: Theological Developments in the Muslim World Since 9/11,” it is one in a series from the TBI marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. It analyzes the effects they have had on the global political landscape and on discussions surrounding Islam.

The report, written by Usama Hasan, a senior analyst for the TBI Extremism Policy Unit and a practicing imam, highlights more than 120 declarations, fatwas and edicts issued by Islamic scholars over the past 20 years in an attempt to confront the threat of extremism, including the 2002 Makkah Declaration.

He also outlines the lively, ongoing debate and discussion in the Muslim world since 9/11, and concludes that the fundamentalist-dominated discussion of Islam of the 20th century is being replaced by a 21st-century narrative that is more progressive, and more open to the world and other religions.

“Despite often going underreported, there has been significant progress over the last 20 years to confront extremist leadership and their destructive perversions of Islam,” Hasan writes.

“Governments, policymakers and decision-makers should take note of the intense ongoing debates in the Muslim world, they should enable and support those voices and forces that are more open, inclusive and universalist. Such forces are durable allies in efforts to build a shared, equitable future for humanity.”

Hasan told Arab News that he welcomes the societal reforms taking place in Saudi Arabia, describing them as “very important and very welcome.” He said he has spoken to a number of Saudis, especially women, who are “delighted” with the reforms being carried out under the directives of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

But despite the progress that has been made he believes more can be done, not only in terms of dialogue and debate between Muslims but also on the non-Muslim side.

He cites a few rare examples of occasions on which the discussion in the West has reached a high-profile level, including then-US President Barack Obama’s speech to the Muslim world at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University in 2009, and the work of a handful of British ministers with faith leaders. However these kind of things are not happening often enough, according to Hasan.

“I think, certainly from Western governments and from non-Muslim world governments, there should be more outreach,” he said. “Perhaps there hasn’t been enough understanding at governmental levels, in terms of policy.

“I’ve been to a number of international conferences (on the subject) and the outreach from the non-Islamic world tends to come from the interfaith community, where you will have a number of leading interfaith leaders and bodies. But with the decline of religion in western Europe and the US, that often doesn’t filter up to a governmental level.

“With a newly victorious Taliban in Afghanistan, an entrenched Khomeinist regime in Iran, and Al-Qaeda and (Daesh-affiliated) groups around the Muslim world, the struggle between fundamentalists and progressive Muslim voices will continue over the next few decades,” he added.

Regarding the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, Hasan said it is in the best interest of the entire international community, and not only the Muslim world, to engage more with its leadership in an effort to broaden its approach to Islam. He believes the Gulf Cooperation Council can play a wider role in this.

“If the military solution hasn’t worked, the diplomatic, dialogue-based efforts could bear fruit,” he said.

“What I would have liked, in an ideal world, with all of this excellent theological engagement within the Islamic world and the non-Islamic world it would be great to see the Taliban mullahs involved.

“It’s in everybody’s interest to engage more with the Taliban, showing them the sense in having a more progressive, pluralistic approach to Islam.”

While threats from Al-Qaeda and Daesh remain, Hasan said it would be “suicidal” for the Taliban to repeat the hard-line policies imposed during its last stint in power, between 1996 and 2001. And its leadership will be “very keen” to ensure extremist groups do not carry out another large-scale attack on the scale of 9/11, he added.

Hasan’s report also attempts to explain how the fundamentalist, extremist interpretation of Islam functions, using classical Islamic concepts — the ummah, the caliphate, the sharia and jihad — to justify their ambitions.

“Because Islamism is based on knitting together very particular interpretations of these four Quranic terms, mainstream Islam must confront these interpretations head on, especially by emphasizing inclusive and broader understandings of these terms that are more in harmony with the progressive spirit of the modern world,” he writes in the report.

But as long as healthy and constructive debate continues between the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds, Hasan remains optimistic about the future and the role Muslims can play in helping to find practical and lasting solutions to the challenges facing humanity, including climate change and improving human rights.

“I’m an optimist by nature, but I think you have to be realistic as well,” he said. “I think that struggle will continue; developments aren’t without opposition from some quarters.

“But the trajectory shows — and all the indications with globalization, the world opening up and surveys show — young Muslims and young Arabs want it to open up. The forces pushing toward it are strong.

“It won’t be easy but history is on our side, and while there will be sacrifices along the way I’m very optimistic.”


Pakistani capital partially closed as banned religious party marches on Islamabad

Pakistani capital partially closed as banned religious party marches on Islamabad
Updated 23 October 2021

Pakistani capital partially closed as banned religious party marches on Islamabad

Pakistani capital partially closed as banned religious party marches on Islamabad
  • Outlawed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party wants its leader released from prison, French envoy expelled

ISLAMABD: Authorities blocked several thoroughfares in the Pakistani capital on Friday after the banned religious party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan began a march on the Pakistani capital to force the government to release its top leader and expel the French envoy to Islamabad.

TLP has been protesting about the incarceration of it chief, Saad Rizvi, and demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in France last year.

After Rizvi’s arrest in April, violent demonstrations by TLP supporters erupted in major Pakistani cities. Six policemen were killed and more than 800 people were injured, according to official figures, in protests that lasted a week.

Protesters are marching from Lahore, Punjab province, where the TLP leadership is based.

Authorities have partially shut down the country’s capital and other major cities by blocking major roads and arteries with shipping containers after the TLP leadership on Thursday threatened to march on Islamabad and stage a sit-in until their demands were met.

“Our march has started now from Lahore to Islamabad,” Saddam Bukhari, a TLP spokesperson, told Arab News on Friday afternoon. “Thousands of people are accompanying us, and we will reach Islamabad to register our protest.”

Islamabad and adjacent Rawalpindi have already deployed heavy contingents of police at and around the Faizabad Interchange — a junction between the twin cities.

“Everything is normal so far in Islamabad,” Zia-ul-Qamar, an Islamabad police spokesperson, told Arab News. “The riot police and other law enforcement personnel are deployed in the city to maintain law and order.”

The Lahore High Court recently declared Rizvi’s detention as illegal while approving a petition filed by his uncle against his continued incarceration.

The Punjab government, however, filed an appeal against the court’s verdict, saying the bench had not considered the intent and purpose of putting the TLP leader’s name on a list of proscribed individuals and entities to ensure the maintenance of public order.

The Punjab government also said it had intelligence reports that TLP activists were planning a major protest rally in November and were waiting for Rizvi’s release.

Founded in August 2015, the TLP has made the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad central to its politics. The party has built a wide base of support in recent years, rallying around cases of blasphemy, which are punishable by death in Pakistan.

It was banned following April’s protests.

Rizvi became the leader of TLP in November last year after the death of his father, Khadim Hussein Rizvi.

Related


Swedish teen rapper killed in Stockholm shooting

Swedish teen rapper killed in Stockholm shooting
Updated 23 October 2021

Swedish teen rapper killed in Stockholm shooting

Swedish teen rapper killed in Stockholm shooting
  • The son of Swedish actress Lena Nilsson, Einar grew up in southern Stockholm and often referred to the criminal scene in the area in his work

STOCKHOLM: Award-winning Swedish rapper Einar, who has topped the country’s charts, was shot and killed in Stockholm, police and media said Friday as police hunted for suspects.

The 19-year-old Einar, who raps in Swedish, was the most streamed artist on Spotify in Sweden in 2019.

He was shot several times outside an apartment building shortly before 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Thursday.

Ambulance personnel administered first aid but he died at the scene, Stockholm police spokeswoman Towe Hagg told AFP.

Police have opened a murder investigation.

“We are actively working to figure out why it happened and who can be behind it,” Hagg said.

In line with usual practice, the police have not yet confirmed the identity of the victim. But Sweden’s mainstream media identified him as Einar, whose full name is Nils Kurt Erik Einar Gronberg.

Many of Einar’s songs reference a life of crime, including drugs and weapons. He had public feuds with rival artist Yasin, who in July was jailed for 10 months for his role in a planned kidnapping of Einar in 2020.

The plan was ultimately aborted, but Einar was abducted several weeks later without Yasin’s involvement.

Einar was beaten, robbed, photographed in humiliating conditions and blackmailed, according to prosecutors.

The kidnapping was part of a broader case involving 30 suspects in a criminal network accused of a variety of crimes.

Among the suspects was another rapper, Haval Khalil, who was sentenced in July to two-and-a-half years in prison for complicity in the kidnapping and who has also had public spats with Einar.

The verdict was appealed and the case is currently being heard by the Svea Court of Appeal, which is expected to go on until December.

Einar had been called to attend the trial as a plaintiff, but was not planning to do so, his lawyer Rodney Humphreys told AFP.

“The same way he didn’t attend the trial in the district court,” Humphreys said.

The Aftonbladet newspaper reported Friday that Einar was living with a “price on his head” after a series of threats against him which had escalated recently.

Einar himself was one of several suspects arrested for a stabbing at a restaurant in central Stockholm earlier this month.

The son of Swedish actress Lena Nilsson, Einar grew up in southern Stockholm and often referred to the criminal scene in the area in his work.

He started his career posting songs to social media, and broke through in 2019 releasing “Katten i trakten” (The cat in the area), which hit No. 1 on Sweden’s singles chart.

He won several music awards, including Swedish Grammis.

Fans and friends expressed their grief on Einar’s social media.

“Einar was a real brother to me and I will miss him so much. We just released our first record last week and it feels so strange since I spoke to him just a day ago,” producer Trobi wrote on Instagram.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that “it is a young life that has been lost, and I understand that he meant a lot to many young people”.

“It’s tragic that another life has been lost,” he told news agency TT.

Another lesser-known Swedish rapper, 23-year-old Rozh Shamal, was also killed in a 2019 gangland shooting.

Sweden has in recent years struggled to rein in rising shootings and bombings -- usually settlings of scores by gangs and organised crime involved in drug trafficking.

As of October 15, 273 shootings had been recorded with 40 people dead so far in 2021, according to police statistics.

During 2020, 47 people were killed in 366 shootings in the country of 10.3 million people.


Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis

Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis
Updated 22 October 2021

Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis

Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis
  • ICRC has since increased its efforts in the country while other organisations were also stepping up, Director General Robert Mardini said
  • The UN on Thursday announced it had set up a fund to provide cash directly to Afghans

DUBAI: The Red Cross on Friday urged the international community to engage with Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers, saying that aid groups on their own would be unable to stave off a humanitarian crisis.
Afghanistan has been plunged into crisis by the abrupt end of billions of dollars in foreign assistance following the collapse of the Western-backed government and return to power by the Taliban in August.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has since increased its efforts in the country while other organizations were also stepping up, Director General Robert Mardini said.
But he told Reuters that support from the international community, who had so far taken a cautious approach in engaging with the Taliban, was critical to providing basic services.
“Humanitarian organizations joining forces can only do so much. They can come up with temporary solutions.”
The United Nations on Thursday announced it had set up a fund to provide cash directly to Afghans, which Mardini said would solve the problem for three months.
“Afghanistan is a compounded crisis that is deteriorating by the day,” he said, citing decades of conflict compounded by the effects of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mardini said 30 percent of Afghanistan’s 39 million population were facing severe malnutrition and that 18 million people in the country need humanitarian assistance or protection.
The Taliban expelled many foreign aid groups when it was last in power from 1996-2001 but this time has said it welcomes foreign donors and will protect the rights of their staff.
But the hard-line Islamists, facing criticism it has failed to protect rights, including access to education for girls, have also said aid should not be tied to conditions.
“No humanitarian organization can compensate or replace the economy of a country,” Mardini said.


UK court increases jail term for Muslim-hating far-right terrorist

UK court increases jail term for Muslim-hating far-right terrorist
Updated 22 October 2021

UK court increases jail term for Muslim-hating far-right terrorist

UK court increases jail term for Muslim-hating far-right terrorist
  • Michael Nugent, 38, celebrated the Christchurch mosque massacre and distributed bomb-making manuals online
  • Previous sentence of 42 months did not reflect the “gravity” of his crimes, judges said on Friday

LONDON: A convicted white-supremacist terrorist who shared bomb-making instructions online and celebrated the Christchurch mosque massacre has had 18 months added to his jail term by appeal-court judges in London.

Michael Nugent, 38, shared on the Telegram messaging app manuals that showed how to create homemade bombs and firearms, and described the attacks on worshipers at two mosques in New Zealand in March 2019 as a “game-changer.”

In June a court in Kingston, London, convicted him of terror offenses and jailed him for 42 months. But on Friday his sentence was increased to five years after a challenge by the UK’s attorney general, who argued that the penalty was not harsh enough given the seriousness of the crimes.

Nugent was said to have “honored” right-wing terrorists such as Brenton Tarrant, who shot and killed 51 people and injured 40 when he attacked the mosques in Christchurch. Tarrant live-streamed the atrocity on Facebook.

The Independent newspaper reported that Nugent created a video celebrating the attacks to mark the first anniversary of the outrage. In his diary, he wrote that ethnic minorities should be “sent home” and “sterilized,” adding: “Terrorism is the only way out of it.”

Judges said on Friday that the 42-month sentence Nugent was handed in June did not reflect the “obvious gravity” of his online radicalization efforts, which included running Telegram groups that could host up to 200,000 members.

A prosecutor said: “This channel attracted and became a safe haven for anyone who wished to post messages expressing and encouraging extreme racial hatred and violence toward black people.”

Nugent was apprehended after he passed instructions for making bombs and firearms to an undercover police officer who joined his channel.

His defense tried to argue that the terrorist’s actions were a product of deteriorating mental health, but Richard Smith, head of London’s Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: “Nugent freely shared his abhorrent extremist views with others over a messaging app and he passed on manuals detailing how to produce deadly weapons and explosive devices. This is another case which shows how harmful online extremism is.”


Greece tourism rebounds but still suffers from COVID-19

Greece tourism rebounds but still suffers from COVID-19
Updated 22 October 2021

Greece tourism rebounds but still suffers from COVID-19

Greece tourism rebounds but still suffers from COVID-19
  • Foreign tourists seeking sun and sand are the driver of Greece's tourism industry
  • Pandemic travel restrictions kept most away in 2020 and battered the sector

ATHENS: The number of foreign tourists arriving in Greece has rebounded strongly this year, central bank data released Friday showed, but the key tourism sector still remains far below pre-pandemic levels.
Foreign tourists seeking sun and sand are the driver of Greece’s tourism industry, which accounts for a fifth of the overall economy, but pandemic travel restrictions kept most away in 2020 and battered the sector.
Greek central bank data showed that the number of tourist arrivals has jumped 80 percent this year to over 8.6 million.
Meanwhile, spending by tourists during the first eight months of the year has shot up by over 135 percent to nearly 6.6 billion euros ($7.7 billion), the Bank of Greece said in a statement.
But those figures are still far off the level in 2019, before the pandemic, when some 21.8 million tourists spent 13.2 billion euros.
Ahead of the peak summer tourism season, Greece ran a major campaign to voluntarily vaccinate most residents if its Aegean islands, its most popular travel destinations, to help lure back foreign tourists.
Most of the arrivals came from Germany, Britain, France and the United States.
Greece’s economy contracted by 9.0 percent in 2020, due in no small part to the drop in tourists.
The government expects the economy to rebound 6.1 percent this year and grow by 4.5 percent in 2022.