Qatar Diplomatic Crisis: Some Background Analyses

Abdullah al-Ahsan

The decision by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt on June 5 to sever diplomatic and commercial relations with Qatar has created an unprecedented political uproar in the region. Similar crises had emerged before too, but this time the assault seems much severe. It is more severe this time not only because some other small players such as Maldives, Mauritania and Yemen have joined the group, the unpredictable President Trump has come forward with his support for the action. With the closure of Qatar’s air, sea and land links disrupting its exports and imports particularly affecting food supplies the situation has turned grave. A gleeful Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defense minister is also reported to have praised the measures against Qatar because he finds “many possibilities of cooperation in the struggle against terror” in the action. Is Qatar so dangerous for the rest of the world? What has the tiny Qatar done to cause so much of “security threat” to neighboring countries and beyond?

 What is Qatar’s Fault?

Qatar has been accused of supporting terror groups and the Palestinian Hamas has been identified as one of those groups. But what kind of assistance has Qatar really provided to Hamas? Has Qatar provided Hamas with arms to fight Israel? The fact is that Israel and Egypt have jointly blocked Gaza, causing huge humanitarian affliction for the people in the Strip. Yes, Qatar has sent humanitarian assistance to Gaza and perhaps granted visa for some Hamas leaders to temporarily reside in the country. But is it Qatar’s fault that the people of Gaza have elected Hamas to represent them? Should Qatar then have ignored sufferings of the people of Gaza? In this context one should be remember that King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, founder of modern Saudi Arabia, was a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause. He strongly protested against President Truman’s decision to recognize Israel in 1948 and rejected an American grant for Saudi Arabia. He strongly believed that the US had violated the rights of Palestinians by supporting the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine. The King’s position on the issue was no different that the position that Hamas holds today on the question of Palestine.

Qatar has also been accused of supporting the Egyptian Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). What sort of assistance has Qatar provided to MB other than humanitarian? More than half a century ago when Egyptian MB encountered persecution at home, many of its members sought shelter in Saudi Arabia. Wise leaders in Saudi Arabia did provide them with shelter but as a result Saudi Arabia benefitted a lot too. At a time when Saudi Arabia had very few educated and trained manpower, highly professional and qualified MB members made significant contribution to what is Saudi Arabia today. Why have the MB members lost Saudi goodwill? Answer to this question may be connected to the current crisis.

What is the Real Reason behind the Crisis

According to an analyst, “The real reason behind the diplomatic fallout may be far simpler, and once again has to do with a long-running and controversial topic, namely Qatar’s regional natural gas dominance.” But this may be too simplistic. David Hearst of the Middle East Eye in an article “Three potential motives behind the tension between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours,” identifies “to finish the job started in June 2013 when Morsi was toppled” as one of the motives and to us this makes sense. Morsi was a MB member who is the only civilian in Egypt’s history who was elected by the people. If a terrorist is defined as “a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims” as has been defined by the English dictionary, then who is a terrorist? Morsi, the only civilian who was elected president of the country in a credible election; or Sisi, who usurped power from Morsi by force? Fundamentally the ancien regimes in the region didn’t seem to have been happy about 2011 uprisings and seem to hold Qatar responsible for educating people to stand for their rights.  Therefore Qatar’s fault was to establish Aljazeera news networks, bringing BBC’s Doha debate to the country, establish think-tanks, and a number of American universities to Qatar to educate not only Qataris but also everybody in the region. Why are the accusers against Qatar so afraid of education? Do they consider the people in the region foolish? Don’t the people understand what is good and what is harmful for them?

Harassment of Pilgrims in the Holy Mosque

Saudi authorities are reported to be preventing Qatari nationals from entering the Grand Mosque. If this true, the Saudi authorities are not only violating the teachings of Shari’ah, they are also breaking the commitment that King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud made to representatives of Muslims from all over the world. After capturing Hijaz, where the holy mosques are located, in 1924 from the Hashmites the King declared the territory as the trust of Islam and in 1926 in a conference he received mandate from Muslim leaders to administer facilities for pilgrims. At a time when most Muslim nation states had not yet emerged, these Muslim leaders were the real representative of the Muslim world.

It should be noted that this could not have been achieved without the support of the British colonial administration which originally favored the Hashimite Sharif Hussain. However, Muslims all over the world were very critical of the Hashimites because of latter’s support for the British against the Ottomans and the British were trying to pacify particularly their Indian subjects. The Khilafat Movement was very strong at that time. Ibn Saud’s diplomacy succeeded: he was able to secure not only the British patronage; he also secured long term financial support for his Kingdom in exchange of providing services to pilgrims.

Timing of the Action against Qatar

The timing of the action by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE is important. Why have they taken this rather extreme step now? These countries were already concerned because of the Arab uprisings of 2011 but became furious since the Egyptian MB received peoples mandate in 2012. While holding Qatari news media for such developments, they perhaps thought that Trump presidency would facilitate them achieving their mischievous objective to eliminate the popular movement. However, they don’t seem to know the fact that the United States has a constitution which ensures checks and balances. No matter how unpredictable a president could be, the President can’t impose his whimsical determination on the nation. More than a week has passed and there is no sign that the embargo against Qatar is receiving US support. In fact Trump’s tweets and statements have been challenged by a number of government institutions including the State Department and the Pentagon.

Role of the Muslim World

In this context it is painful to see the statement by the General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) asking Qatar “to honor its previous commitments and agreements signed within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), particularly with regard to ceasing support for terrorist groups and their activities and ending media incitement.” Does the OIC want Qatar to abandon its commitment to humanitarian causes? Particularly in this month of Ramadan? Such an act will not only violate the teachings of Shari’ah, but also OIC’s Cairo declaration of Human Rights and the UN declaration of Human Rights. It should be remembered that when the OIC was established, its general secretariat was supposed to be located in Jerusalem. But since Jerusalem was under Israeli occupation, the Saudi King Faisal persuaded OIC member states to temporarily host the OIC headquarter in Jeddah. Now Saudi Arabia seems to have made the OIC its home property. Recently it has fired its Secretary General reportedly on the recommendation of Egypt without even consulting other members of the organization. In this context one must note that Al-Azhar’s fatwah on the role of Qatar is shameful.

As for other Muslim countries, on top of the vassal governments in Yemen and Libya tiny Maldives and Mauritania have declared their support for the Saudi/ UAE gang. But heavy weights such as Turkey and Iran have come forward with their strong support for Qatar. Turkey has even come forward with military assistance for Qatar. This is a very timely gesture on the part of Turkey. It is unfortunate that Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan are almost silent on the crisis. Does one need to take side in such conflicts? Haven’t Kuwait and Oman, GCC member countries, declared their position? Can’t one declare position on the basis of principles? Has it been ethically and Islamically correct to declare such an war-like embargo against the brotherly country Qatar during the month of Ramadan? The Saudi led action against Qatar is wrong because the blockade seems to have been mainly against food supplies to Qatar. It is almost unimaginable for a common Muslim to force any individual to starve to death in such a mischievous manner.

The Israeli Connection

The leaked email correspondence of UAE’s ambassador in Washington has demonstrated “that there is a growing axis between some of the Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Israel.” Therefore Avigdor Lieberman’s gleeful desire for cooperation in the excuse of security should not surprise observers of ongoing developments in the region. Many other Israeli leaders also have also been cheerful and hopeful about the possible outcome of Qatar crisis. According to the Jerusalem Post “Israel benefits when it is not the center of attention and certainly when it is not under pressure. This is a boon for the government.” Zionism’s greater Israel project has already succeeded in splitting Iraq and Syria into many sectarian pieces, the Gulf crisis will perhaps extend that sectarianism and tribalism to the extended region. This is not suggest that Israel alone is responsible for the civil war in Iraq and Syria but Israel knows very well how take advantage of the youth that has lost hope and suffers from severe economic difficulties. And Qatar’s failure as a moderate force in the region is bound to create despair, hopelessness and frustration among the youth, not only in the region but throughout the world. This will create opportunities for conspirators to recruit potential extremists to carry out seditious activities.

Will Qatar Succumb to Pressure?

David Hearst in the article quoted above has predicted that, “out of the havoc they are wreaking, a new, autonomous and modern Arabia will, eventually, emerge.” We would like to add that this new modern Arabia will be based on principles of caring for one another, human dignity and self-respect; not on the basis of superiority of race, tribe or lineage. Qatar has survived similar attacks in 2014 and came out strong. This time too it is expected to demonstrate its resilience. Enemies of Qatar perhaps had designed to create food shortage in Ramadan thinking that the country would succumb to pressure immediately. However, they must have miscalculated the level of spiritual strength that Ramadan brings to believers. One must not underestimate the strength of spirituality of Qataris.

It is interesting to note that the social media in these countries seem to have reacted sharply against the measures against Qatar. That is why they have now banned people even from publishing expressions of sympathy towards Qatar in the social media. This is a sign of desperation and usually defeated parties adopt such subscribe to such acts. There is a strong possibility that Qatar will come out much stronger from this crisis.

A version of this article originally appeared in Anadolu Agency on 14/6/2017

Recent ‘blasphemy’ protests in Jakarta

Protests against governor not only down to ‘blasphemy’ case; also down to accumulation of discontent over other incidents

Alwi Alatas

JAKARTA

On Sept. 27, 2016, the governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, gave a speech in the Thousand Islands regency in North Jakarta.

The complete speech was posted online by the local government. A shortened version of the same speech went viral spawning immediate controversy.

Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), or the Indonesian Ulama Council, subsequently issued a fatwa that the governor — a Christian of ethnic Chinese descent — had committed blasphemy. MUI is a top Muslim clerical body in Indonesia that represents all Muslim organizations, including Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah.

Following the fatwa, some people filed a police case, but seeing that the police were unresponsive and inclined towards protecting the governor, they started a rally for Ahok’s imprisonment. However, few Muslim intellectuals, most of whom are considered liberal, rejected the fatwa of MUI as well as the blasphemy claims.

Accusations

In Ahok’s speech, he suggested that Muslim opponents were using the Quran to deceive and fool Muslim voters by invoking a verse, Surah Al Maidah 51, as part of a conspiracy to delegitimize his position as governor and oppose his campaign for a second term on the grounds of religion.

While doing so, however, his speech — which appeared to have a derisive and demeaning tone — unnecessarily seems to have emphasized that the Muslim voters were themselves “gullible and foolish” to subscribe to such “seemingly obnoxious religious beliefs” in the first place, something that immediately angered many, who found it to be blasphemous. The translation of the part of his speech considered blasphemous is provided below:

“Ladies and gentlemen, you may not vote for me because you’re deceived by [people] using Al Maidah verse 51 and so on. That’s your right. So if you feel you can’t vote [for me] because you’re afraid to go to hell after you’ve been fooled, that’s fine. This is your personal calling. This program will continue regardless.”

Surah Al Maidah 51 talks about the prohibition for Muslims against taking the Jews and the Christians as allies, which consequently is a prohibition against taking them as leaders.

This is the meaning of the verse and the accepted interpretation among scholars in Indonesia. Thus, it immediately became controversial when Ahok belittled the interpretation of the Muslim Holy Book. Regardless of his real intentions, his speech offended not only common Muslims but also Muslim scholars.

After evaluating the video of the speech, MUI stated that Surah Al Maidah 51 explicitly prohibits Muslims from appointing Jews and Christians as their leaders and that it is the duty of Muslim scholars to convey the meaning of the verse to the Muslim community.

MUI categorized the speech of the governor as being akin to insulting the Quran and the Muslim scholars who had conveyed such an interpretation. It is important to note that Indonesian law has provisions for punishment against blasphemers, and takes into account the fatwas of MUI and public reactions. Several people have been imprisoned in the past for blasphemy, including some for claiming prophethood.

The governor, however, rejected the accusations and initially fought back, calling his opponents politically motivated and racist.

Later, however, he apologized to Muslims without clearly admitting to making a mistake. He stated that he had no intentions to insult the Quran and the Ulama, claiming his words were misunderstood. Many Muslims, however, believed he had intentionally offended the Muslim community and that despite his apology, he deserved to be punished.

Widespread protests and the president’s attendance

Several Islamic organizations initiated a new front in the wake of MUI’s fatwa. This front, Gerakan Nasional Pengawal Fatwa Majelis Ulama Indonesia (GNPF-MUI), or National Movement to Guard the Fatwa of MUI, has so far organized two demonstrations and a prayer gathering in Jakarta, with spontaneous public participation, alongside other demonstrations in several other Indonesian cities.

They gathered to urge the police chief and the president, both known to be close to the governor, to be fair and not to shield him from the due process of law.

The first protest in Jakarta was held Oct. 14, marching after Friday prayers from Istiqlal Mosque in the capital’s center, to City Hall. The second was held Nov. 4 and was attended by Jakartans as well as those from outside the city. It saw demonstrators move from Istiqlal after Friday prayers to the national palace to bring forward their grievances to the president, who, instead of meeting them, delegated other high officials to receive GNPF leaders — a move which caused anger and frustration among the demonstrators.

However, during a third gathering in the area surrounding the national monument (Monas) Dec. 2, the president joined the demonstrators just before Friday prayers. The gathering was also attended by people from outside Jakarta, from regions as far as Papua, at the eastern tip of Indonesia, to Ciamis, more than 250 kilometers (155 miles) away from the capital.

Questionable role of media and administration

The police tried hard to obstruct the gatherings and to prevent the participation of people from outside Jakarta, but to no avail. The two biggest Muslim organizations in Indonesia, NU and Muhammadiyah, did not advise members to join the protest, yet their members kept flooding the gatherings and protested alongside the other protesters.

The gatherings, however, were neither objectively nor actively reported by most mass media, but information about them rapidly spread on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — new tools to voice public dissent as well as a new battleground between opposition voices and those still backing the governor.

Some media reported that the number of people who attended the second and third gatherings were only in the range of thousands, at most 200,000 people, but others, such as Republika and Metro News, admitted that the protesters on both occasions numbered well over a million.

Peaceful protests and non-Muslim participation

The gatherings were generally peaceful, although some violence occurred during the second protest. In the third gathering, activists peacefully gathered around Monas in the morning and left the area soon after Friday prayers. By sunset, the area had been evacuated by protesters and cleaned of their accumulated trash.

There were allegations against some politicians of financially supporting the rallies for fulfillment of their political agendas, mainly directed against former President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono. While the involvement of some politicians in this protest movement is probable, there is no indication that they were in control of the masses and the agenda.

Despite the prevalence of public misgivings among Indonesian Muslims against the country’s largely Christian ethnic Chinese economic dominance, there were no observable anti-Christian or anti-Chinese activities in the protests. In fact, some non-Muslims and Chinese attended the rallies.

Enemy to the poor — controversial legacy of Governor Ahok

Outside of the blasphemy case, other factors have played a considerable role in the protests against the governor.

The public outburst is probably an accumulation of discontent over various incidents involving Ahok. Despite some of his policies being appreciated in Jakarta, the governor is seen by many Indonesian Muslims as very arrogant, rude and at odds with Muslim aspirations. He has tried to ban the practice of slaughtering animals in public places, such as mosques and schools, during Muslim sacrificial days (Eid al-Adha), the tradition of takbiran (saying the takbir — “Allahu Akbar”) on the streets of Jakarta at night at the end of Ramadan, and wished to legalize the selling of liquor and to localize prostitution.

He has also been accused of speaking offensively and displaying rude behavior on several occasions. In one live interview with Kompas TV, for example, he repeatedly used inappropriate words despite being warned by the host several times.

However, the most controversial of his actions may have been his economic policies that overtly favored the rich, especially ethnic Chinese, while adversely affecting and humiliating the poor. The governor fervently supports the reclamation of Jakarta Bay — the creation of an artificial island in the northern part of Jakarta to be filled with apartment buildings — despite court rulings to the contrary.

The governor has also worked towards forcefully evicting the poor from several areas in Jakarta — most of whom are indigenous Muslim locals — with the justification that they have no land titles, despite the inhabitant’s claims of having lived in these areas for several decades.

This policy may reduce the slums and make the city of Jakarta appear cleaner and more beautiful, but it does so at the cost of undermining the humanity of the underprivileged. The eviction moves have been violent and tended to ignore the voices of the poor. Although the government has provided flats for those evicted, these people still have to pay rent, but many of them have been dismissed from their previous occupations as they were located near their old dwellings.

Incidents such as these have deeply affected Ahok’s popularity, not only in Jakarta but also in other parts of Indonesia. Thus, when people heard his comments on the Quran, anger and fury spread quickly, culminating in several mass demonstrations in Jakarta and other cities in Indonesia. So far, they have expressed this anger through peaceful demonstrations and gatherings. But the question remains, until when?

Role of protests in achieving unity and a common platform

The demonstrations, aside from being a platform for the expression of Muslim discontent, have helped with something much more important. For many demonstrators, Ahok is no longer the main issue, issues faced by the Muslim community are now what really matter.

The demonstrations and the prayer gatherings have brought the Muslim community together, and helped them achieve something that was unthinkable and always viewed as impossible before. Many Muslim groups — for whom it had been previously impossible to stop criticizing or cursing fellow Muslims, let alone unite with them — are now setting aside their egos and walking together hand in hand for one purpose.

Though the leaders of some Muslim organizations have felt reluctant in joining the protests in the open, their members have unhesitatingly joined the other protesters. They have managed to unite under one leadership, taken to the streets in large numbers and showed that they are able to convey their aspirations in a very dignified manner.

Yet, the road is a long one, with no destination in sight and many challenges lie ahead.

After the third protest, Habib Rizieq, the main leader of GNPF, warned the government that a revolution will occur if Ahok is not punished for his blasphemy.

Is Indonesia going to witness a revolution in the near future, like in the Middle East, or will it be a different kind of revolution? Will it benefit Muslims and Indonesians in general, or not? Or will a legal decision against Ahok influence the case to move into another socio-political direction?

With hope, anxiety and earnest prayers, Jakarta and the whole of Indonesia is still waiting to see what will happen in the future.

*This article originally appeared on December 31, 2016 as an opinion piece for Anadolu Agency

*The writer is historian and social observer, and author of 26 books on history, religion, society and other topics.

Dr. Maung Zarni on the Rohingya Muslim Genocide in Buddhist Burma/Myanmar

28 November 2016

By Maung Zarni

A journalist asked me a few questions to get sound bites and quotes.  I turned them into a more comprehensive interview. Thought this may serve as a succinct backgrounder if you are interested in the contextual view of the current annihilation phase of the Rohingya genocide.

Why do you as a Buddhist and Burmese support Rohingys when your whole country, the military, the NLD and the society, hate and want to evict them as a group?

Historical evidence clearly indicates today’s Rakhine coastal region to be an ethnically and religiously diverse shared homeland for both Rakhine and Rohingya for centuries.  This is also the region that had far greater historical interaction and inter-mingling with the Bay of Bengal-based communities of present-day east coast of India, Bangladesh (East Bengal) than the central plains of Burma, where today’s dominant, ruling group, the Burmese,  have been based. I therefore support unequivocally the right of return for Rohingya people – close to a million by now – whom the Burmese have purged since the first army-organized large scale operation in 1978. There are more official reasons which compel me to support the Rohingyas and their cry to live in Northern Rakhine.

First, the governments of Burma, including the senior most leaders of the Burma Armed Forces embraced officially and verifiably Rohingya people as one of the ethnic minorities of the Union of Burma.  Second, Rohingyas are like any other ethnic minorities along Burma’s porous and long borders with China, India, Thailand and Bangladesh, whose presence and identities predate the emergence of present-day Burma. Burma as we know it is a colonial product of negotiations amongst the Burmese nationalists, ethnic minority leaders and the British colonials, and its borders were drawn artificially, splitting up these borderlands communities into members or citizens of new nation-states. As early as 1950’s the Burmese leaders, both civilians and military, acknowledge the presence and adjustable identities these borderlands people.

I know this because my own late great-uncle was a senior commander stationed in Rakhine, who was Deputy Chief of the predominantly Rohingya administrative district named Mayu District, after Mayu River in Northern Rakhine.

In addition, there are over 1,3 million Rohingyas – by Burma’s official, conservative estimate – that continue to live in what you may call ‘vast open prisons’ where the ethnic cleansing is taking place. The Burmese government of ex-general Thein Sein proposed to the visiting UNHCR head in August 2012 to effectively evict them and transmigrate them to other countries, with UN financing.  UN rejected the proposal on grounds that Rohingyas are not refugees. They are the country’s people, born and bred there, and it is the Burmese state’s responsibility to look after them.

Even without discussing the genocidal acts committed by the Burmese regime, the fact that it refuses categorically to register the birth of every single Rohingya new born makes Burma a major violator of international law, for instance, the Child Right Convention, which entitles all new-born infants, the right to a nationality. My country is verifiably in the wrong, in terms of facts and international law, not to mention on grounds of Buddhist principles of compassion and human kindness.

Is Aung San Suu Kyi ignoring the plight of the Rohingyas?

Aung San Suu Kyi is not simply ignoring or lukewarm about the plight of Rohingyas.  She is personally complicit and now officially guilty in making their plight worse by the day.

She is reportedly very “racist” towards the Muslims, and she unilaterally made the decision to NOT allow any Muslim MP in her party during the 2015 election, effectively pandering to the majoritarian anti-Muslim electorate. She shares the Burmese generals’ concern about the growth of Muslim population and she shares their military’s institutionalized view that Rohingyas are illegals or just colonial era migrants with no root in the country. By cleansing her now nominally ruling NLD of all Muslim MP candidates and representatives, she has practically aligned herself with the army, her key partner.

Why is there so much majoritarian racism towards Rohingyas and Muslims?

It is important to note that the ground-swell of Islamophobia is to a large extent the outcome of decades of Myanmar military’s anti-Muslim propaganda.   The generals turned racists and purged the armed forces of Muslims at all levels.   and they turned sight on to the society at large.  Beyond communal prejudices between Buddhists and Muslims,  the hatred, fear of Muslims among the majority Burmese, as well as other non-Rohingya non-Muslim minorities is just unprecedented. This anti-Rohingya and anti-Muslim popular hatred is akin to Nazi Germany’s popular and official anti-Jew sentiments.     That is why, Aung San Suu Kyi, pandering to the military and popular racism towards Rohingyas is extremely troubling.

Have the international communities not actually created enough pressure on Myanmar to treat the Rohingyas fairly?

The mythical international community has known the persecution of the Rohingyas for decades – in fact since 1970’s.   There is plenty of evidence and documentation from the Rohingyas, from human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights, embassy reports, UN reports, etc.      But the UN has failed to take any real and concrete measures or actions to stop a member state violating blatantly all major international human rights laws and treaties – like the Rome Statute Article 6 (Genocide Convention of 1948), Child Right Convention, CEDAW.

The failure of the UN and the failure of the Burmese leaders to address the needs of the ROhingya to lead a peaceful normal productive community life in their own homeland of N. Rakhine is going to have major negative ramifications for Burma, region and the world. In an otherwise fractured Islamic world, Rohingya genocide is the one issue that anger 1.7 billion Muslims around the world.  That anger will in due course translate into radical actions to end the Rohingyas’ plight.

Maung Zarni is a Burmese democracy advocate, human rights campaigner, and a former research fellow at the London School of Economics. He lived and worked in the United States for 17 years.

OPINION – How huge China investment in Bangladesh affects region

$38 billion Chinese investment in Bangladesh: Changing dynamics in geopolitics of South Asia?

Mohammad Hossain

KUALA LUMPUR 

In a major move of its kind, Bangladesh and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding on strengthening investment and production capacity cooperation in mid-October, with Bangladesh set to receive $24.45 billion in bilateral assistance from China for 34 projects and programs.

Combined with a further $13.6 billion in Chinese investment in the form of 13 joint ventures, the sum of $38.05 billion is the biggest ever assistance pledged to Bangladesh by any single country.

The agreement is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s initiative to promote and implement China’s Silk road economic belt under its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative — a trade and infrastructure network for connecting at least 60 Asian countries with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.

The agreement is highly significant, not just because of the purported economic benefits that it will bring to both Bangladesh and China, but also because of the substantial geopolitical implications that it portends. This becomes all the more important in light of the changing political and economic dynamics within the South Asian region, shaped by the interests of emerging superpowers, such as India, in addition to those of existing heavyweights, such as China and the United States.

Back in March, Bangladesh and India signed a $2 billion agreement to implement socio-economic development projects in Bangladesh and strengthen bilateral relations, in what had been hailed as the “biggest line of credit that India had extended to any country so far”.

At the time, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the move as “clever and unexpected”, and a “checkbook coup” that would bowl the Bangladeshis completely in the face of China’s checkbook diplomacy.

Furthermore, in accordance with the “Make in India” policy of Modi — whereby under the line of credit a minimum of 75 percent of goods and services needs to be of Indian origin and must be procured from India — the agreement is expected to create 50,000 jobs in India.

The latest Bangladesh-China agreement, however, dwarfs that, leading to speculation of a “zero-sum game” being played out between India and China over Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, however, dismissed that when asked Oct. 14 in an interview with Indian daily The Hindu whether that investment could jeopardize ties with India.

Hasina said Bangladesh would maintain “good relations with everyone”.

“The purchasing power of our people will increase, and who will be the bigger beneficiary of that in our region? India. India is best poised to benefit from the Bangladeshi market.”

Despite China’s deep pockets, its interests in Bangladesh are less strategic and more economic and commercial. Unlike India, whose relationship with Bangladesh is strategic-cum-military, and is seen as a mark of its supremacy and ambitions in the South Asian and Indian Ocean regions.

This apparent competition between India and China over Bangladesh is part of a much wider rift between the two countries on the international stage.

In what can only be termed as conflicts of political and economic interests of two rising superpowers, India’s Look East policy, which aims to balance India’s relationship with the West and the East, are at odds with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Moreover, India is not keen on the idea of joining in on Beijing’s proposed economic corridor linking Bangladesh, Myanmar, China and Northern India as part of the Belt and Road initiative.

The tensions between the two countries were evident in the context of the recently held BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) conference in Goa, India, where the issue of Pakistan figured in pivotal terms in defining Sino-India relations.

China’s strong ties with Pakistan via the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, its move towards blocking India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and its blocking of India’s attempt to add Masood Azhar (the founder and leader of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, active mainly in the Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir) to the UN’s list of terrorists, clearly sets the tone from its side.

India, on the other hand, has had deteriorating ties with Pakistan, most recently over the issue of Kashmir and its refusal to join the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Pakistan, and its emphasis towards trying to strengthen strategic ties with the U.S. and Russia, instead of China.

Moreover, the BRICS-BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) Outreach Summit, held after the main BRICS summit Oct. 16, was more than a move towards potential synergizing between the two frameworks — it was meant to signal the rise of India as the “leader” of BIMSTEC while at the same time downplaying the continued relevance of SAARC in light of the increasingly strained India-Pakistan relations.

It is in this context that the Chinese move to woo Bangladesh, traditionally seen as a strong Indian ally in the subcontinent, through massive investments, will be of concern to India.

India’s growing strategic relations with the United States — itself historically more of an ally of Pakistan instead of China — speaks volumes regarding how India perceives its relationship with China.

Incidentally, recent U.S.-Pakistan relations have been relatively weak compared to U.S.-India relations, considering the strategic weight of India vis-a-vis China in the eyes of the U.S.

Former U.S. Ambassador to India Frank Wisner, speaking at a recent Conference on Foreign Relations (CFR) event entitled New Geopolitics of China, India, and Pakistan, said India was “hugely important” in maintaining a balance of power throughout the Asia Pacific for the United States, and that it was a two-way street.

“India sees the United States and its relationship with us as part of its ability to secure itself in the long term and manage its own relations with a rising Chinese power,” Wisner said.

In the meantime, the role of Bangladesh has not been just that of a passive recipient of foreign developmental aid from either India or China.

The government of Sheikh Hasina has actively responded to Modi’s Look East policy, the most recent manifestations of which have been its being part of a coordinated effort at boycotting the now-postponed SAARC summit in Pakistan and its pro-India stance on the issue of unrest in Kashmir.

At the same time, Bangladesh has balanced its act with China through bilateral trade; China is the largest trade partner of Bangladesh, while Bangladesh is the third largest trade partner for China in South Asia.

In this light, a close Bangladesh-China partnership, whether as part of increased BRICS-BIMSTEC economic cooperation or the proper utilization of the recent Chinese funds as planned, will surely ensure continued close, if not greater, Bangladesh-China collaboration in the future.

Bangladesh premier Hasina, now in her seventh consecutive year in power, can be credited with setting up a stable regime in Dhaka, through tight control on socio-economic activities, activities of the political opposition and the media. Stable long-ruling autocratic governments have long been seen as conducive to trade and developmental activities in the Asian region, and recent investment activity alludes to the realization of just that perception.

Another of the wild cards in terms of regional diplomacy is the role that counterterrorism can play in bringing countries closer, and Bangladesh’s recent counterterrorism efforts have resonated with regional and global powers India, China and the U.S., despite being criticized by international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International as being sweeping and misdirected at political opponents.

The political opposition in Bangladesh, namely the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Islamists led by Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, have not been able to effectively counter or circumvent the strict and at times oppressive measures of the government.

Their lack of strong alternative leadership and farsighted planning, coupled with a strong government clampdown on political opposition, has rendered them weak and unable to carve a voice in the rapidly changing dynamics of the country or the region.

*This article originally appeared on November 10, 2016 as an opinion piece for Anadolu Agency

*The writer is a political analyst and researcher in the Department of History and Civilization at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)

ANALYSIS: Kashmir is burning

The death of Burhan Wani in July this year has focused attention on conflict between Indian forces and Kashmiris

Dr. Abdullah Al Ahsan

KUALA LUMPUR

Kashmir is again burning. Since the killing of Burhan Wani, a 22-year-old Kashmiri, by the Indian security forces on July 8 every day one or two Kashmiris are being killed.

“Who Was Burhan Wani and Why Is Kashmir Mourning Him?” — a Huffington Post article — provides some background information.

According to the article, on YouTube on 7 June this year, about a month before his death, Burhan Wani explained why he took up arms against the Indian authorities.

Although the Indian authorities took little notice of Burhan Wani’s warning, the people of Kashmir seem to have taken him seriously. That is why the Indian authorities are currently experiencing trouble in maintaining what they call law and order.

Why did Burhan Wani take up arms against India? One needs to know history of the territory, how Indian troops got involved in Kashmir and what kind of treatment the people of Kashmir receive from the Indian occupying forces.

Indian involvement in Kashmir

The story of Kashmir dispute is long and well-known as one of the oldest unresolved conflicts in UN history. In 1948 alone, the UN Security Council adopted six resolutions on Kashmir but achieved little in securing peace on the ground.

In one resolution the UN decided to hold a plebiscite for the Kashmiri people to decide their future, but this never happened.

The first chief of the UN mission in Kashmir, Sir Owen Dixon — a senior Australian judge — later wrote in a report he was not able to hold the plebiscite because of the presence of “large numbers of regular soldiers of the Indian Army as well as the State Militia and police” in the state.

“I could not expose a plebiscite conducted under the authority of the United Nations to the dangers which I believed certainly to exist,” he said.

India landed its regular troops in Sri Nagar, Kashmir’s capital city, on Oct. 27, 1947 on the pretext of helping the Maharaja to quell a tribal revolt. Ignoring UN resolutions on the subject, in October 1949 the Indian Constituent Assembly incorporated an article in its constitution declaring Kashmir within Indian jurisdiction.

In 1951 India conducted an election in which 73 out of 75 seats in Kashmir Assembly were elected uncontested. Why and how so many seats were won uncontested? The authorities simply did not allow any opposition to join any democratic process. Then in October 1956 the same Assembly adopted a resolution declaring Kashmir as an integral part of India.

However, it must be noted that not all Indian officials working in Kashmir were brutal and cruel. B. K. Nehru, who served as Delhi’s appointed governor of Kashmir from 1981 to 1984, said in a statement: “From 1953 to 1975, Chief Ministers of that State [of J&K] had been nominees of Delhi. Their appointment to that post was legitimized by the holding of farcical and totally rigged elections in which the Congress party led by Delhi’s nominee was elected by huge majorities.”

In fact, the situation in Kashmir did improve significantly for some years. However, it deteriorated significantly after 1987 when the Delhi administration went back to its old ploy.

A Newsweek article has pointed out that: “When New Delhi has used a heavy hand — most notably, throughout the 1990s — this has resulted in increased popular alienation and increased Pakistani support both for indigenous Kashmir militants and for non-Kashmir attackers infiltrated across the LOC Line of Control between Azad Kashmir which is administered by Pakistan and Indian-occupied Kashmir.”

However, the Indian authorities continued to blame Pakistan for the unrest in Kashmir. Recently the conflict escalated following Burhan Wani’s death.

Surgical strike

In response to the uprising of the people of Kashmir, India again accused Pakistan of sponsoring Kashmiri fighters from across the border. But the surgical strike seems to have backfired. Ever since the strike not only the violence has increased in Kashmir, it has created political uproar between the government and the opposition.

On Sept. 30 India claimed to have conducted and killed scores of “militants” in a surgical strike inside Azad Kashmir. Indian press and opposition parties were full of praise for the Indian Army. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal praised Narendra Modi “for strikes on militant bases across the Line of Control”.

He also “asked the prime minister to expose Pakistan, which has flatly denied the army operation across the de-facto border”.

Soon, however, this turned out to be a political controversy between the opposition and the government. Kejriwal was accused of being “Pakistan’s spokesperson”.

Prime Minister Modi also joined the debate. According to The Hindustan Times: “His word of caution came against the backdrop of demands that the government should present proof about the cross-LOC raids to counter the smear campaign by Pakistan.”

With patriotic sentiment running high amid soaring tensions with Pakistan, Union minister Uma Bharti said leaders who cast “doubt over the army’s surgical strike should take Pakistani citizenship”.

The “surgical strike” claim has also attracted international attention. The New York Times reported: “On Saturday, Mr. Rustam, 22, pointed in that direction and said the Indian troops never left their posts. ‘They are lying,’ he said. ‘They never crossed the LOC.’ A group of villagers standing nearby nodded in agreement.”

University of Chicago professor Paul Staniland in a Washington Post article has pointed out that: “The India-Pakistan crisis is not occurring in isolation.” He also highlighted how Pakistan was trying to downplay the escalation.

Indian diplomacy, propaganda

India, however, seems to have been engaged in a war in all fronts. On Sept. 22 Malaysian intellectual and human right activist Chandra Muzaffar made an appeal to the international community to stand up in support of the people of Kashmir.

In response, one Malaysia-based Indian diplomat wrote a letter in The Sun Daily claiming “the article is misinformed, misleading and lacks objectivity”. The Sun Daily conversely declined to publish a response to the diplomat.

Indian authorities are simply ignoring the real issue. The Newsweek article on the subject has rightly pointed out that: “For India, the key lesson is to address the root cause of its problem in Kashmir rather than merely blame its woes on Pakistani meddling. The root cause is Delhi’s inability to make the population of Jammu and Kashmir feel that they are truly part of the Indian nation.”

Naturally this approach has created frustration among the youth and there has been a sharp rise in extremism and violence in the region. Burhan Wani is a perfect example of the sort of frustration that the Muslim youth suffers today. The Huffington Post article narrates:

“Speaking to Youth Ki Awaaz, Muzaffer Ahmed Wani, Burhan’s father, explained why his son couldn’t be held back: ‘Almost everyone here has been beaten up by the Army. You also must have had your share. But everyone didn’t become a militant. It depends on how much one can take. Yeh aap ki ghairat pe depend karta hai (It depends on your self-respect). Someone’s ‘Ghairat’ got challenged time and again, so he decided to answer back. Others decided to stay quiet. My son couldn’t bear to see the atrocities and the humiliation, so he was forced to choose the path which he is on right now.’”

Rise of extremism

There is no doubt that extremism and fanaticism are on the rise in the world today. And yes, many Muslims are involved in many extremist and fanatic activities. The war on terror has only created more terror.

However, one must also admit that the world body, the UN, has failed to resolve the world’s two oldest conflicts — Palestine and Kashmir — to the satisfaction of Palestinians and of the people of Kashmir. Since the beginning of the new century conflicts have spread to Afghanistan, Iraq on the initiative of some Western powers and to Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and to many other parts of the world with the participation of many Muslim governments.

Attempts have been made to introduce democracy in the Muslim world which has ended up only with hypocrisy. Kashmir is a good example of such democracy. Some are suggesting to the people of Kashmir as well as to Pakistan to learn how to live with a big neighbor. The way Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim have accepted Indian supremacy; Pakistan also should learn to adopt a pragmatic approach toward India.

One fundamental matter that many observers and counter terrorism ‘experts’ do not seem to understand is that Islam not only rejects the idea of human beings are not born with sin and they are not born in lower-caste families because they committed sins in their previous life, Islam stands very strongly for human dignity and promotes justice, equality and transparency.

Burhan Wani seemed to have been motivated by Islamic teachings but unfortunately he did not receive proper guidance about how to respond to injustice, dishonor and indignity in his homeland. The faster the Indian administration and the rest of the civilized world learn to respect and implement human values such as human dignity and transparency, the faster they would recover from the current catastrophe.

*This article originally appeared on October 11, 2016 as an opinion piece for Anadolu Agency

*The writer is a professor of Comparative Civilization in the Department of History and Civilization at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). 

The Gulen Movement: The Soft Khawarij

Mohammed Asim Alavi

This paper tries to find similarities between the Kharijite and Gulen cultist Psychologies. It does neither talk about the so called Gulen movement as a whole nor of the good people who joined  it with sincere intentions. The target audience of this article is the Muslim youth outside Turkey, as they do not have access to a wide range of materials on the Gulenist cult as those inside enjoy.

The Kharijite Methodology

There are many ways to kill people, destroy institutions and scuttle developments. There are fatal methods and non-fatal. In the Muslim world fatal methods are used by the dumb and irrational idiots. Their savagery is straightforward and clear like the sunlight. They do not fear slander or negative public opinion about them. They believe that the more inhuman their methods are the more their anger can be released. The world beyond their fiefdom is not important for them, as if such a thing does not exist at all.

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Artist’s impression of Ibn Muljam

The Khawarijite used the straightforward painful methods to wreak havoc on the Ummah. Khawarijites were a deviant sect, which according to most scholars is not unbelievers. Even great Sahabas like Ali, Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas who directly faced them did not classify Khawarites as unbelievers. This sect emerged during the Khilafah of Uthman Radhiallahu Anhu (644-656 CE). They were people of radicalistic tendencies, new entrants to Islam who came from far-flung areas, without a proper understanding of the religion, yet they practised Islam in rigid and meticulous ways. Historians say, they would recite the Qur’an in groups like bees buzzing; their level of ascetism was very high that their leaders abstained from food and rest for long hours and spent most of their time in worship. Later they joined Ali Radhiallahu Anhu. They were not satisfied with Ali on a number of issues, eventually going to the extreme extent of claiming that Ali, the rightly guided Khalifa who had been promised paradise by the Prophet (PBUH), does not rule according to what had been revealed by Allah. Nevertheless, it was they who killed Uthman and Ali (Radhiallahu Anhuma). When they began shedding the blood of Muslims and destroying their properties, Ali waged war against them. Kharijite leader Abdul Rahman Bin Muljam himself killed Ali with a poisoned sword. Their appearance was foretold by the Prophet (PBUH) in the following Hadeeth:

Yusayr ibn ‘Amr said: I said to Sahl ibn Hunayf: Did you hear the Prophet (PBUH) say anything about the Khawaarij? He said: I heard him say – and he gestured with his hand towards Iraq –: “From there will emerge people who recite the Qur’an, but  it will not go past  their collarbones. They will pass out of Islam as an arrow passes out of the prey.” Al-Bukhari (6934) Muslim (1068). (In Al Bukhari’s another report),”They will kill Muslims and leave idolaters. If I were to live to see them, I would punish them just as the nation of ‘Ad was punished.”.

In another Hadeeth reported by Abu Dawood and graded as Sahih by Albany, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “(They) will come with beautiful words and evil deeds”.

Our day’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Lavant (ISIL) is the exact incarnation of the Khawarijites. Kharijite ideology is built upon three important pillars:

  1. All other Muslims are Kafirs
  2. No allegiance to governments
  3. Spilling the blood of Muslims is lawful because their corruption reached a level beyond reform.

The Juhaiman Methodology

The infamous Makkan Rebellion occurred exactly on the first day of Hijri 1400. Juhaiman Al Otaibi was from a sound lineage, a radicalized deviant. This former officer of the Saudi National Guards studied in the Islamic university of Madinah, under respected scholar, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Al Baz (May Allah show mercy on him). Since early 1970s Juhaiman used to preach a radical ideology in parts of Saudi Arabia. He was able to gather a group of followers from Saudi Arabia and many other Arab countries. Juhaiman was a motivating orator and skilled organiser. He had a sharp yet destructive mind, he was obsessed with the idea of changing society by radical means. He called Saudi rulers to bar women’s education and employment, ban TV, expel non-Muslims from the land and put an immediate halt to the westernization process in the country. By westernisation in his conservative country he could not have meant except the negligible amount of cultural changes occurring amongst the youth of his time such as men wearing shorts in football. He proclaimed that the Saud ruling family by being corrupt and ostentatious had lost legitimacy. Once he and a group of his followers were imprisoned but later released after recommendations by the Ulema that they were not a threat. His antics were not taken fairly seriously until they climaxed in the Makkan rebellion.

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Juhaiman Al Othaibi proclaiming the arrival of Mahdi near the Maqam

Juhaiman met Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Qahtani, also of sound lineage, from the descendants of the Quraysh with roots in Madinah, who later became his brother in law. Both were pious yet poisonous and lived frugal life styles. This was where the real story began. His obsession for radical change made him to invent a quicker way to capture leadership. Juhaiman once told his brother in law, he saw in a dream that he (Qahtani) is the awaited Mahdi. Although the Mahdi was fake, Juhaiman could have actually seen the dream and it could be a bad dream from Shaitan. Juhaiman wrote the script for the Mahdi and designed everything in accordance with the descriptions given in the following authentic Hadeeth:

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) as saying: The Last Hour would not come before a person of Qahtan comes forth driving people with his stick (Sahih Muslim)

Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri said: “The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘The Mahdi is of my lineage, with a high forehead and a long, thin, curved nose. He will fill the earth with fairness and justice as it was filled with oppression and injustice, and he will rule for seven years.’” (Sunan Abi Dawud)

The Prophet (PBUH) said: Disagreement will occur at the death of a Khalifah and a man of the people of Madinah will come flying forth to Makka. Some of the people of Makka will come to him, bring him out against his will and swear allegiance to him between the Corner and the Maqam(Inside the Ka’bah). An expeditionary force will then be sent against him from Syria but will be swallowed up in the desert between Makkah and Madinah. When the people see that, the eminent saints (Abdaal) of Syria and the best people of Iraq will come to him and swear allegiance to him between the Corner and the Maqam.

They both devised a plan to seize the Ka’bah and force the pilgrims and worshippers to pay allegiance to Muhammad Abdullah Al Qahtani. Over 500 of his followers-Saudis and foreigners, all radicalised top to bottom- who were trained in handling fire arms, entered Haram in several disguises. Weapons were smuggled in coffins. After Fajr prayers on the first day of 1400 Hijri (21 November 1979), Juhaiman stood up, snatched the microphone from the Imam and proclaimed that the Mahdi had arrived. He said Qahtani resembled all the descriptions of the Hadeeth about Al Mahdi. His followers took positions and wielded their guns to force people to pay allegiance to the fake Mahdi. The scene appeared as if Al Qahtani was brought before the people forcefully to pay allegiance. People were confused and many even believed the story to be true and paid allegiance. This had put the Saudi authorities in an awkward position as spilling blood in the Haram is forbidden. The Fitna continued for two weeks, many policemen were killed by the rebels. The authorities consulted the Ulema and chief among them, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Baz. The Ulema gave the Fatwa to break the siege by any means. The siege was broken and over 100 pilgrims and worshippers lost their lives. Juhaiman and around 67 of his followers were given death penalty and executed. This Fitna was marked as a very dark event in the history of Islam. Juhaiman had told Sheikh Muhammad Ameen Shanqeeti, the only visitor allowed to see him before his execution, that he did all that he did only for the sake of changing the society.

Gulen’s invention of a new methodology

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Fethullah Gulen reflects the pacifist Islam

Fethullah Gulen’s Hizmet movement is a cult. A cult is generally defined as “a system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object” (The Oxford Dictionary. It possesses almost a four decade history. It began as a movement for the revival of Islam, but over time as new ideas developed it evolved to become a cultist formation, in which the cult leader became an object of veneration. Discussion about its social, cultural, educational and humanitarian activities is beyond the scope this article. There is no doubt about Fethullah Gulen’s Islamic scholarship and original thinking; about his recital of the Qur’an and daily rituals; his moral integrity. However, as far as his methodologies are concerned, the present Gulen is not the Gulen of the past. He is a two faced man – one for the world’s public consumption as a non-violent advocate of tolerance, peace, social service and inter-religious harmony. The other as the leader of a society designed on the methodology of Freemason Secret Society, with a secret agenda to capture power by any means, first in Turkey and then rest of the world. Gulen’s former right hand man and his biography writer, Latif Erdogan (Not related to President Erdogan), has rightly named his latest Turkish language book on Gulen as, “The Smiley Face of Shaytan”. Gulenist method is amazingly novel in the history of Islam. Some analysts argue that the presently evolved Gulen cult’s closest resemblance can be found in the Hashasheen (The English words, “assassin, assassination” were derived from this root) of the 11th century.

Hashasheen was a secret killer gang founded by the Shiite Fatimid caliphate. Its leader was Hasan Al Sabbah. Its main objective was to annihilate all threats on the way of Fatimid expansion in the regions where Abbasside and the Seljuk were ruling. Its methodology was rooted in Taqiyah. The Seljuk became the protector of the Abbasside and together fought the Hashasheen and put an end to the gang. The Hashsasheen became so effective that statesmen could not roam around without body armour and people could not leave their homes out of fear. They wore disguises and would patiently wait for years to reach their targets. They would learn the local dialects and try to stay close to the statesmen they were to kill. By making sacrifices and seeming trustworthy, they were often promoted to bodyguards of statesmen or servants in the palace. They would wait for years until the order came. Since this matter is beyond the scope of this article, those who want further details can find in the Turkish newspaper, Daily Sabah of 10th August 2016.

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Artist’s impression of Hashasheen leader Hasan Sabah

The Gulen cult in its present shape is a state of its own within a state. It has an armed wing, not by its own, but completely fed, trained and armed by the state. It is a highly skilled force in absolute devotion to the cult leader, not loyal to the state which sustains it; it acts without any legal hurdles because it is sanctioned by the state. The wing has a police force, a regular army, air force and navy – all are legal entities. No branding such as Al Qaida, Boko Haram, no Muslim identities such as turban, beard, and in most cases not even Arabic names. These are the signs that come to a Westerner’s mind when he is reminded of Islamic radicals. Further, its judicial wing, business conglomerates, media, civil administration unit, educational institutions et al worked in total freedom. Gulenists within the government made sure that no one interferes in their work. Hurdles were crippled by subtly painless means or by legal warfare with the tag of the state.

You can kill people without  killing them physically, by destroying them psychologically. Countries can be paralysed without demolishing their infrastructure, there are many poverty stricken countries with ample resources but unable to rise up due to wrong policies, foreign pressures and internal squabbling. We often hear stories of peoples’ futures being ruined by opponents in painless ways, and families and organizations being torn apart. This method is more effective and destructive than physical killing. An elusive and shrewd person with strong willpower and crooked mind can commit this to achieve his goals. He creeps through people’s weaknesses and reaches the top by smashing others under his feet. He legitimises all means to reach his goals.

Universal Imam’s Brain?

Gulen is an elusive man. Elusive people are not naturally inclined towards personal publicity. It is hard to figure out what is in elusive men’s minds; they are skillful in camouflage and giving various perceptions about themselves. Gulen possesses great mastery in this. Occasionally he would appear in the media with medical practitioners checking his blood pressure, this trick is aimed at giving the impression that his presence in the US is solely for medical reasons and he needs people’s sympathies. This attitude is quite contrary to leaders and public personalities who usually keep their health situations secret.

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Medical checkup with eyes focused on the camera

Elusive people are level-headed and normally they like to live in seclusion; by their nature they prefer to give leadership to a selected circle and do not have a mass appeal like popular leaders. They speak of lofty ideals using jargon that the common man does not understand. You will find them active in their own circles and passive and less talkative in somebody else’s circle. In a circle with outsiders, they will pretend to be attentive and contributing, but in reality their minds will be occupied in scheming. As an elusive person knows his leadership limits so he trains followers to give leadership in areas where he is weak. An elusive leader appears to be with everyone, but in reality he is only with his own people.

Unlike the temperamental Arab environment, Gulen grew up in a pacifist religious environment of Turkey. The irony remarkably visible here is that Arab despots and kings used violent methods to suppress anti-establishment voices in their countries. They contained the socio-political aspects of Islam that they found a threat to them and allowed the general parts related to worship and transactions. Whereas, Ataturk’s Turkey embarked on a mission to completely sweep what they described “The Arabs’ religion” from all walks of social life. Generations of people were trained on atheist and secularist foundations. Ataturkists produced a thoroughly irreligious secular generation who pushed Islam to the extreme margin. These generations for the past one century or so were holding the helm of the country’s affairs. They designed an education system to view any and all signs of Islam as backward and irrational. To revive Islam in such a strange environment a pacifist, non- political, non-confrontational approach was to be designed. Those revivalists who advocated this pacifist approach developed unique ways to attract adherents. They made sure their outward appearance resembles that of any secularist. They wanted to send a message across the thoroughly secularised society that Islam is compatible with their westernised lifestyles. They even tried to maintain an exclusive identity from other traditional Sufi groups in Turkey, although they had a close affinity with them on private levels. They showed that they can coexist with drunkards and the morally corrupt ones.

Gulen is a product of this mindset. He is a man of extraordinary talent as Juhaiman was. But Juhaiman did not possess Gulen’s shrewdness, foresight and elusivity. The difference between them was, unlike Juhaiman’s temperamental approach, Gulen settled in the pragmatic approach. Juhaiman’s mission short-lived whereas Gulen’s thrived against all odds. He displayed extraordinary levels of adoptability with secularist and military rulers of Turkey. Juhaiman would have viewed committing suicide is better than befriending secularists. If a person could coexist with such a wicked individual as Turkey’s coup leader and self-appointed former president, the late Kenan Evren with an anti-secular mission then that person is indeed extraordinarily shrewd. Gulen’s most productive period before AK party, according to some Turkish analysts, was under former president and freemasonry leader Suleiman Demirel. Both found a convergence of interest in containing resurgent Islam in Turkey. These secularists and Freemasons thought Gulen is a pet that can be used to neutralise the political formation of Islam spearheaded by Ustaz Nejmeddin Erbakan, but Gulen outfoxed them too. These secular politicians by nature are short-sighted and ideologically bankrupt, inclined to use violence and deceptive means to suppress opponents. When they are confronted with a logical argument they resort to violence, because that is the means they are masters at. This is the reason why they legitimised coups and undemocratic actions against elected governments in Turkey. As they view the world from a narrow scope, the more they accumulate power the more secure they can be. In their indulgence in the luxury of power, they are detached from the common folks. They have a weakness which a shrewd person can utilise to his advantage. That weakness is their hunger for power and concern for their own security.

To outfox Erdogan

It is President Tayeb Erdogan, whom Gulen tried to outfox but failed. Erdogan is not short- sighted as his predecessors. President Erdogan is a man of vision in his own mark, charismatic, people-friendly and not power hungry (Just forget about the west which venerates Egypt’s coup leader Al Sisi but demonise Erdogan who dominates Turkish politics for the last one decade and half, continuously winning free and fair elections with over 50% of votes; is a man whose popularity after the coup attempt is as high as 80%). Erdogan’s vision is the main problem for Gulen. His vision is  a combination of various aspects, which none of his predecessors had possessed. That combination includes, Wasatiyah (Moderately balanced) Islam, democracy, free market economy, justice and human welfare. Gulen thought a person with such a broad vision is poisonous for him than a secularist dumb whose only objective is attaining immediate worldly pleasures. According to Latif Erdogan, Gulen never loved President Erdogan but found a most favourable condition under Erdogan to bolster his agenda (Latif Erdogan’s interview with Aljazeera’s Ahmed Mansoor ). Can a shrewd person like Gulen coexist with a person who says, “I carry my coffin and do not tolerate another parallel structure within the state”? This elusive cult Imam utilised the magnanimity of Erdogan and schemed with his followers to infiltrate vital state institutions. Erdogan trusted Gulen and allowed his followers to occupy important positions in the government; proliferate in business. It is only under AKP government that Gulenist schools, business establishments and media organs flourished. President Erdogan and former Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu said, they themselves made recommendations to some foreign governments in favour of Gulenist schools. Gulen in reciprocation betrayed them like a common turncoat.

AK party’s cooperation with the Gulen movement has another important dimension. The bulk of its vote base since its foundation came from ordinary people, small scale businessmen and people of conservative religious backgrounds with little secular education. After forming its first government in 2001 the party faced a shortage of likeminded people with sound professional qualifications to run the affairs of the country. Country’ machinery was occupied by the so called white Turks who hated Islam with a colonial mindset. Gulen supplied the qualified workforce required to a significant extent. Then Prime Minister, Erdogan embraced them with an open mind.

As his parallel empire grew unprecedentedly in the free environment availed to him under AKP government, the over-confident Gulen felt that his time of openly dictating terms to the rulers has just arrived. Probably for the first time during the 2011 general election, he gave a name list of 100 followers to then Prime Minister Erdogan to be included in the AKP candidate list. Erdogan rejected the list on the basis, although they were professionally qualified, none of them were popular among the people. This enraged Gulen. To display his remote- controlled power he gave some shock treatments to the government with the purpose of impressing upon them that no ruler in Turkey can bypass his whims. When it became clear to him that he cannot coax President Erdogan with his pressure tactics, he activated more unethical ways to paralyse the government. The arrest order of intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan by Gulenist prosecutors and fabricated corruption charges on President Erdogan and his family members or the so called 17 December 2013 coup attempt were perpetrated. According to Latif Erdogan, Gulen regretted after its failure in the timing of this coup attempt. After these traitorous acts, the government took a tough stance and began to purge them from the security, judicial and civil services. Gulen, the outwardly peaceful preacher of virtue, lost his patience fearing his empire will collapse and ordered the orchestration of the most horrible coup of 15 July 2016 that modern Turkey ever saw. But unfortunately, the awaited Mahdi’s calculations have backfired. After the heroic Turkish people in their millions said No to the Gulen cult, the Imam Mahdi became a hostage in the hands of Islam’s enemies. He makes pleas to them, “This Erdogan is an evil, a threat to western democratic values, he wants to establish a theocracy similar to the one the Iranian Mullas have established; I am your most trustable partner in the Muslim world; my protection is your protection”. This is how he pleaded with the west:

At a time when Western democracies are searching for moderate Muslim voices, I and my friends in the Hizmet movement have taken a clear stance against extremist violence, from the Sept. 11 attacks by Al Qaeda to brutal executions by the Islamic State to the kidnappings by Boko Haram……… Mr. Erdogan in recent years has arbitrarily closed newspapers; removed thousands of judges, prosecutors, police officers and civil servants from their positions; and taken especially harsh measures against Kurdish communities (The universal Imam tries to say here that Turkey’s fight against PKK terror is fight against the Kurdish people which is a total lie). He has declared his detractors enemies of the state…. For the sake of worldwide efforts to restore peace in turbulent times, as well as to safeguard the future of democracy in the Middle East, the United States must not accommodate an autocrat who is turning a failed putsch into a slow-motion coup of his own against constitutional government.(Excerpts from Op-ed, Fethullah Gulen, New York Times-25 July 2016).

Indeed the west has become protector of Gulen and his close followers, but as for the believers, Allah is sufficient as The Protector.

Allah is the Protector of those who have faith (Surah Al Baqarah:257)

What worldly benefits Gulen wants to gain?

Gulen’s intention has always been to establish a Sultanate in Turkey based on a liberal and skimmed form of Islam. I have personally attended a Gulenist Iftar programme in Colombo, Sri Lanka where, at the time of Iftar along with Azan the recitals of Buddhist, Christian and Hindu scriptures were played. We have never seen such mixing of religious rituals in our culture although we live as minority. This is not at all possible without a Fatwa from Gulen. Islam certainly encourages tolerance and harmonious coexistence with people of other religions. When peoples of other religions were running away, Islam stood alone and showed the beauty of coexistence by practice. The Madinan Charter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the best example for this. But to descend to this level of assimilation with other religions is totally against Islam. An important strength of Islam is its preservation of its unique character and self-identity. Other religions lost their unique character on account of their intense assimilation with each other. As a result a Buddhist, Hindu or Christian is unable to differentiate his true religion from falsehood. Gulen’s promotion of this degree of skimmed Islam has far reaching consequences. It is in some sense similar to the Din-e-Ilahi promoted by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. According to Wikipedia, “(It) was a syncretic religion propounded by the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great in 1582 AD, intending to merge the best elements of the religions of his empire, and thereby reconcile the differences that divided his subjects. The elements were primarily drawn from Islam and Hinduism, but some others were also taken from Christianity, Jainism and Zoroastrianism”

Gulen possesses the smartness of getting along with any Turkish ruler – He seems to be possessing the characters of a sly fox and an octopus waiting in ambush. But, come 2010 we can observe gradual changes in this character of him. It was a time when he rolled up his sleeves and said, enough is enough to AK Party. Secret signals were passed down the command line to the followers to march toward the takeover. This was where Shaitan crossed in the path of this pragmatic and reclusive universal Imam and whispered him to hurry up. This process continued until the 15th July 2016 coup attempt.

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Gulen rides on shoulders of all Turkish leaders towards his goal

A natural question arises as to what worldly benefits Fethullah Gulen wants to gain by doing all these acts. A pious man who does not even have the pleasure of a married life in this world, an Islamic scholar with a number of books to his credit, an initiator of several academic and research institutions of outstanding quality has nothing to gain by orchestrating a violent coup in his own country. He lives a reclusive life in a village in the USA, whose only profession is giving religious advice to his followers to do good deeds and serve humanity. Can one imagine that such a harmless person masterminded a coup? What else can be his objective other than seeking the pleasure of Allah Almighty and attaining eternal bliss in the paradise?

This question should be eqaully posed to Kharajite leader Abu Muljam and the Makkan rebel Juhaiman. Abu Muljam found it perfectly allowed in Islam to kill the Prophet’s son in law and fourth rightly guided Khalifa.  Juhaiman found that spilling the blood of innocent Muslims in the most sacred place on earth, the House of Allah, for a Mahdi he fancied in his imagination was based on an Ijtihad. Both were religious, fulfilling their obligatory acts like Salat, fasting and immersed in the reading of the Qur’an. Yet, our fourth Khalifa, Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) decided to wage war against the Kharijites. Equally, knowing very well that Juhaiman was a religious man, the Saudi Ulema issued a Fatwa that his execution has a valid Shariah base.

The cult leader’s intention is the problem here. Although it is visibly pure, by nature it is impure like the leaders of Boko Haram, Al Shabab, ISIL and others. In the history of Islam many non-extremist deviant sects have appeared, who did not promote violence. They went out of Islam on account of their perverted beliefs and illegitimate actions. Purity of intention alone does not make a person truthful. Purity of intention, legitimate means and legitimate objectives are the criteria for actions to be accepted in Islam. Allah SWT says in lucid manner:

Most of their secret conferrings are devoid of good, unless one secretly enjoins in charity, good deeds, and setting the affairs of men right. We shall grant who ever does that seeking to please Allah a great reward (Surah An Nisa: 114)

Imam Ibn Rajab Al Hanbali commented on the above Qur’anic verses as follows:

Allah describes enjoining almsgiving, goodness, and reconciliation as good deeds in and of themselves. This is because such deeds benefit the people. However, Allah  only  promises  a reward  to  those  who  carry  out  these  deeds  “seeking  the  good  pleasure  of  Allah”.  Therefore,  if a person performs  these  good  and  beneficial  deeds  for  the  sake  of  Allah,  then  the  deeds  will be good for him as well as for those who benefit from his deeds.  If  he  had  other  ulterior motives, then these deeds will be of no good for him ( مكحلا و مولعلا عماج)

The lesson to learn here is that if an action of a person and its end result are disastrous for the Ummah, he should be dealt with according to what the Shariah demands.

The cult’s Principles:

Going by several pieces of evidence available as articles, first-hand accounts of former associates, intelligence reports and findings it becomes clear that the cult’s ideology is built upon the following principles:

1. Cloned followers. Though Gulen publicly did not claim, his followers believe he is the awaited Mahdi, and some of them have gone to the extent of believing he is the Al Maseeh(The Messiah); His words are incontestable. Latif Erdogan says, “Although Gulen knows about these belief by his followers, he never admonishes them to stop it; His silence on it means his tacit approval”. They equally believe that he is nearer to them than their jugular vein (Habl Al Wareed), which is absolutely contrary to Muslims’ belief, as the Qur’an says, it is Allah who is nearer to Habl Al Wareed (Surah Al Waqiah). Since he is so, his Fatwas are final for them. They are like cloned sheep. With regard to religious knowledge they have pawned their brains to Gulen to think for them. Hüseyin Gülerce, former chairman of the board of trustees of the Journalists and Writers Association (GYV) and the Director General of Zaman newspaper, both powerful media arms of the nefarious network in an interview with Daily Sabah newspaper of 2 August 2016 said, “Gülen is like a prophet for them. The followers assume that Gülen makes conversations with the prophet every Thursday. They think what Gülen says are the words of the prophet; Gülenists gather “himmet” saying that what they give will be monitored by the prophet. Himmet is a type of alms or donation, in this case given to affiliated charities.

As a result of 100 years of anti-Islamic form of secularism in Turkey, generations of people, particularly from the upper echelon of society, are deprived of opportunities to acquire Islamic knowledge from a variety of sources in a broader sense. Gulen cult followers are no exception to this whose only source of knowledge is what comes out of his mouth. Hence they believe what he says is true and cannot be false. In such situations it is all reasonable for them to believe that Gulen possesses some supernatural powers. If Gulen talks facts from classified top state secrets supplied to him by followers of his secret cells, if he talks of past events and future moves of the government, or predicts future happenings on the basis of his experience his followers will certainly attribute them to his supernatural powers, not to stolen state secrets.

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Huseyn Gulerce, former editor of Gulenist mouthpiece, Zaman Turkish Daily

Testimonies of high ranking military and civilian officers, some of whom with Masters and PhD degrees from prestigious universities and fine track records in their careers are surprising. Caught in the secret web of blind obedience to the purported “World Imam”, they have lost their brainpower to think on their own in religious matters. This in the first place is un-Islamic. Islam promotes critical thinking in all affairs, including Tawheed (The oneness of Allah). The Qur’an itself brings forth a conversation between our Lord and Prophet Ibrahim as a way of teaching all of us sound critical thinking.

And recall when Abraham said: “My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead,” Allah said: “Why! Do you have no faith?” Abraham replied: “Yes, but in order that my heart be at rest.” He said: “Then take four birds, and tame them to yourself, then put a part of them on every hill, and summon them; they will come to you flying. Know well that Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise (Al Baqarah:260)

A critical thinking mind is always an enquiring mind. It is how Allah SWT has created human beings. Men of sound thinking power go to the length of questioning the existence of supernatural beings and miracles. A strong believer in the existence of the Almighty Allah is not an exception to this. The Qur’an encourages man to believe in Allah not through blind obedience but by exploring, observing the nature and logical thinking. A logical thinker with a sound mind will certainly discover that there is a creator for everything and that creator is One and Almighty; he would not accept any religious matter without a counter-question. A fine quality of the servants of The Most Merciful is described as follows:

who, when they are reminded of the revelations of their Lord, do not fall at them deaf and blind (Al Furqan:73)

The attitudes of those pundits who follow Gulen’s orders blindly are similar to idol worshipping pundits of the highest eminence. They may be eminent scientists, philosophers or statesmen. They excel in utilising their critical thinking to discover marvels, but when one questions their logic in worshipping idols that they made with their own hands, they become deaf and blind. We have learned the history of a late eminent Indian leader who was in the habit of drinking cow urine in the belief that it is the urine of God.

Secondly, becoming a blind follower of a man and carrying out his orders against the state which they have promised to protect and be loyal to by oaths is prohibited in Islam. Through this man’s Fitna top state secrets have fallen onto the hands of foreign intelligence agencies.

Kahraman Sakul of Istanbul Sehir University gave the following information to Al Monitor web portal on the 2 August 2016:

….Soldiers in the covert networks are obliged to carry out the orders passed on to them by their civilian “older brothers.” No Gulenist in uniform knew any other officer of the same affiliation. This is best explained by the testimony of Muhammed Uslu, a civilian working in the private secretariat of the Prime Ministry who was also the “older brother” of Lt. Col. Levent Turkkan, the senior aide to (Turkish Chief of General Staff) Akar. We were amazed to hear how Uslu received the daily recordings of the office of the Chief of General Staff and passed them on to another civilian brother he didn’t even know.

The group that constitutes the core of the secret network would spread the unquestionable instructions to lower levels, where the only requirement was to carry them out. This blind obedience also meant that many bright Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) officers with master’s and doctorate degrees were passing on what they learned to “older brothers” they didn’t even know…..

The Gulenist disloyalty to the state which feeds it goes against the basic principle of Islam. There is no harm for a person to be loyal to a particular Jama’at or a leader, if that person is obliged under an oath. If a person has taken an oath with a government to serve it and protect its interests wholeheartedly he is obliged to abide by that oath. However, if the state commits crimes against humanity or conspires against Islam, then that person has permission to break his loyalty. The subject of loyalty to the government by Muslim citizens have been dealt extensively by eminent scholars like Allama Yusuf Al Qaradawi. Those who want further research on the subject can read those writings. Allah SWT says:

Believers! Do not be unfaithful to Allah and the Messenger, nor be knowingly unfaithful to your trusts (Al Anfal: 27)

Imam Maududi comments on these verses as follows:

‘Trusts’ embrace all the responsibilities which are imparted to someone because he is trusted. These might consist of obligations arising out of an agreement or collective covenant. It might also consist of the secrets of a group. It might also consist of personal or collective property, or any office or position which might be bestowed upon a person by the group (Tafheemul Qur’an)

Enes Kanter, the US National Basketball Association player of Turkish origin, tweeted in the aftermath of the 15th July coup, that he is ready to sacrifice his life for Gulen. After being disowned by his parents for his support for Gulen, he changed his surname to Gulen. These kinds of unfettered devotions by a disciple to his master are not beyond human nature. Man can be hypnotised to dance to the tune of the hypnotiser; he can equally be instigated into sacrificing his life to another person, wreaking havoc and creating fitna. The source of this instigation is not necessarily to be holy or divinely. The Vietcong fought against US invasion of Vietnam vehemently; the LTTE fought the Sri Lankan forces with the same vigour. During the Second World War the Japanese men jumped into enemy ships with suicide jackets and killed themselves while destroying those ships. Several guerrilla forces across the world engage in warfare with enormous self-sacrifice, certainly not for the sake of gaining God’s pleasure.  Man can be brainwashed to love a cause, hate a community, incited to kill and commit suicide for a cause. How many millions have sacrificed their lives for nationalist causes? Through meticulously planned training young people can be moulded to think, believe and act in particular ways. So, Enes Kanter’s standpoint is not unique in that sense.

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Enes Kanter’s Devotion to Gulen is not unusually great

However, cloning of people by Gulen in countries and societies where Islamic knowledge is firmly rooted and diverse may not be easy. Certainly, some people may join various arms of Gulen cult, but for commercial and professional purposes. There are remote chances for the cult to find adherent as devoted as Enes Kanter in such societies. They may find conspirators and rogues outside Turkey to do their menial work such as destabilising Turkey for money. Such scums are aplenty around the globe.

2. Pyramid Structure

Gulen cult’s administration has been structured on the Pyramid system, where the top leader is the ultimate source of inspiration and instruction. This is similar to freemasonry outfits, which are famous for erecting secret pyramid structures of administration. Gulen’s structure may or may not be a rigid pyramid structure, but the basic idea remains so.

Testimonies of Latif Erdogan and Hüseyin Gülerce confirm its pyramid structure. Gülerce said: “Gülen has always been the general director, editor-in-chief and columnist of the Zaman daily. This never changed.” He added that Gülen always had the last say for the pages and especially the front page every day”. What a rigid and weird structure? On the one hand Gulen says, I am residing in the USA to be closer to my doctors. On the other hand, he controls even the daily’s front page lead story which is published thousands of miles away over the Atlantic in Istanbul.

Latif Erdogan told Al Jazeera, that the scripts for the 2013 and the bloody coup attempt of 15th July 2016 were written by Gulen himself.

Gülerce says, Gülen is at the top of the pyramid and is the only one who knows the most confidential things. According to Gülerce, there are only two people around Gülen who have the privilege to know about some of the most confidential information. Osman Şimşek and Cevdet Türkyolu know what Gülen has always been up to. Explaining that Gülen has “strictly confidential henchmen” in Turkey, Gülerce said these men, who are called imams, deal with the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), police and judiciary. “Adil Öksüz and Mustafa Özcan are only two of the imams.

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Gulen cult’s pyramid structure – Courtesy: Daily Sabah

Man is fallible and impotent without the help of Allah SWT, it is only prophets of Allah who are infallible. No man is perfect; it is only Allah who is perfect. Man is created with haste, shortsightedness and false pride. Neither man nor his nature is omnipotent. He is neither self-sufficient nor self-existing; nor is his powers limitless. In fact, he is weak, frail, needy and destitute. He is dependent on a multitude of forces to maintain his existence, but all of them are not essentially and totally within his control. Allah SWT has assured His protection for prophets from sinning. Prophets had contact with the Almighty through Angel Jibrail. These are the exclusive privileges of prophets. One person through his extraordinary talents and marvellous achievements can go up the ladder to the peak. This does not make him a supernatural being. The gravest mistake Gulen made is to sit on top of the pyramid and undertake the responsibility of making every decision by himself. After tasting success in several projects on a global scale, and after apparently having deceived the Turkish state, the CIA and their foreign handlers, Gulen and his followers have become bullish.  The cloned followers thought our Hoca Efendi (A title used to call Gulen out of respect) does not make mistakes. They believed he is immune from erring, hence will always take the right decision. Some went to the extent of believing that he possessed some supernatural powers, because many of his decisions were miraculously successful. So they obeyed his commands blindly. They miserably failed to realise a universal fact that human might has limitations. One day you can wield power but on the other day another party comes to usurp your power. Power and strength never remain in one hand permanently. Wielding power is a historical cycle and it is Allah Almighty that causes power to change hands. It is Allah who creates opportunities for man, it’s upon man to clearly perceive these opportunities and get maximum use of it. They believed that the West and some Arab despots will protect them forever.

Their inflated sense of self-confidence paved the way for their doom in Turkey. After the 15th July coup the universal Imam’s empire collapsed like in a controlled demolition.

3. Ends justify the means

A major pillar on which Gulen has built his cult on is the Machiavellian principle, “End justifies the means”. An Islamic project cannot be based on these Shaitanic principles. If these treacherous principles are the foundations of Islam, then there is no meaning for justice (Adl) and Ihsan (Doing good/virtue). It will render the following Qur’anic verses absolutely meaningless

Surely Allah enjoins justice, kindness and the doing of good to kith and kin, and forbids all that is shameful, evil and oppressive. He exhorts you so that you may be mindful.(Surah Al Nahl:90)

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Fethullah Gulen gives lessons to followers at his Pennsylvanian retreat

Islam enjoins Muslims to strive for the supremacy of the religion of Allah on earth. But that is not through the Machiavellian principle, “End justifies the means”. Through the Machiavellian principle one may be able to establish a world empire on the foundations of secularism, greed, cut throat competition, crass consumerism, and proliferation of immorality like the Europeans. An Islamic system can never be established through falsehood, deception and lies as the objective of establishing Islam’s supremacy on earth is not to attain worldly gains. It is to fill the corrupt world with lofty ideals such as justice, brotherhood, exalted morals and a divine belief system based on Tawheed. If a person thinks that he can establish these lofty ideals through foul means, he is then indeed deceived by Shaitan, as it is the evil one who bids people to indecency and deceptive acts. The Qur’an says:

“Believers! Do not follow in Shaitan’s footsteps. Let him who follows in Shaitan’s footsteps (remember that) Shaitan bids people to indecency and evil(Surah An Nur:21)

Allama Yusuf Al Qaradawi says: “The end justifies means” is not a maxim of Shariah, nor is “Secure your right even through wrong-doing”. This can never be, for the Shariah demands that right should be secured through just means only. This is what the Prophet taught us when he said: “Verily, Allah is good and does not accept but what is good (part of a long Hadith reported by Muslim), (Al Halal Wal Haram – Yusuf Al Qaradawi, chapter:1)

Yes, in situations of war Islam has allowed the use of deception as the Prophet (PBUH) said, “War is deceit”(Bukhari-3029). That too within the boundaries of ethics of war. Khalifa Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) gave stern warnings to his commanders on the limitations of using deceptions. “It was narrated that Abu Muslimah said: “‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab said: ‘By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if any one of you were to point to the sky [i.e., a gesture to imply that he will not harm him] to make a polytheist come down to him and then kill him, I would kill him for that” (Sheikh Muhammad Salih Al Munajjid – Islam Q&A)

Gulen and his followers are using Taqiyah. Taqiyah is used by the Shiah. They generally define Taqiyah as: “concealing the truth, concealing belief in it, concealing one’s true beliefs from those who differ from one and not showing openly that which may lead to negative consequences in religious or worldly terms”(Quoted by Islamqa.info from Al Mufeed). Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said: “They (Shiah) regard taqiyyah as one of the basic principles of their religion, and they tell lies about Ahl al-Bayt (the Prophet’s family), the extent of which is known only to Allah. They even narrated from Ja‘far as-Saadiq that he said: “Taqiyyah is my religion and the religion of my forefathers.” But taqiyyah is one of the signs of hypocrisy; in fact in their case, they say verbally that which is not in their hearts, and this is the essence of hypocrisy” (ىواتفلا ةعومجم, 13/263).

This type of Taqiyah is an open licence to act as an avowed hypocrite, spread lies and falsehood. Taqiyah is in stark similarity with the duplicity upon which the Jewish culture is built. Taqiya gives one the power to infiltrate the Sunni ranks and act as if he is wholesome Sunni; it makes one crooked enough to hide his true identity and create discord between people and communities; it makes a person an exceptionally talented spy. These are not mere fantasies, but are based on dark experiences the Muslim world went through. There were situations where users of Taqiyah had collaborated with the Zionists and Freemasons in order to destroy other Muslims. In Islam, it is not a general licence for one to act like a hypocrite. It is permitted only in life threatening circumstances in dealing with non-Muslims, not within the Muslim Ummah.

Permission for using Taqiyah is based on the following Qur’anic verse:

The believers may not take the unbelievers for their allies in preference to those who believe. Whoever does this has nothing to do with Allah unless he does so in order to protect himself from their wrong-doing. Allah warns you to beware of Him for it is to Allah that you will return (Al Imran: 28).

Imam Ibn Katheer explained:

The words “except if you indeed fear a danger from them” mean: except in the case of one who fears their evil in some countries or at some times. In that case, he may dissimulate (use taqiyyah) by changing his outward behaviour (to protect himself from their evil), without changing what he believes and intends in his heart. For example, al-Bukhari narrated that Abu’d-Darda’ said: We smile in the faces of some people when our hearts are cursing them (inwardly). (Tafseer Ibn Katheer- 3:28)

Al-Qurtubi said:

The basic principle concerning taqiyyah is that it is not permissible unless there is the fear of death, severing of a limb or extreme harm, and there is no report to the contrary as far as we know, except that which was reported from Mu‘aadh ibn Jabal among the Sahaabah and from Mujaahid among the Taabi‘een. (ةيهقفلا ةعوسوملا, 13/186-187-Kuwait)

Imam Abul A’la Maududi said:

This means that it is lawful for a believer, helpless in the grip of the enemies of Islam and in imminent danger of severe wrong and persecution, to keep his faith concealed and to behave in such a manner as to create the impression that he is on the same side as his enemies. A person whose Muslim identity is discovered is permitted to adopt a friendly attitude onwards the unbelievers in order to save his life. If he considers himself incapable of enduring the excesses to which he may be subjected, he may even state that he is not a believer. One should not be overwhelmed by the fear of other human beings to the extent of losing the fear of Allah. Human beings can harm a man but the most they can do is to ruin his transient, earthly life. Allah, on the other hand, can subject him to everlasting torment. If one is constrained in extraordinary circumstances to resort to a prudent concealment of faith (taqiyah) in order to save one’s life, this concealment should remain within reasonable limits. The most one is permitted to do is to protect one’s life and property without jeopardizing either the interests of Islam or of the Muslim community as a whole, and without causing loss of life and property to other Muslims. One must never allow saving one’s own life to lead to the propagation of unbelief at the expense of Islam and to the dominance of unbelievers over Muslims. Here the believers are warned that, no matter how dangerous the circumstances surrounding them, they cannot escape Allah’s reproach if they give substantial aid to those rebelling against Him, and cause any harm to Allah’s chosen religion, to the community of believers or to any individual believer. For, it is to Allah that one will ultimately return for reckoning (Tafheemul Qur’an – Surah Al Imran:28)

Nevertheless Gulen has taken Taqiyah as an effective tool to attain his deviant worldly goals. I would not be surprised if the Gulen cult wins in this world, in the way the world Zionists are winning in several fronts. Winning depends on the devastating fire power one possesses, material wealth, sophisticated training and meticulous planning. In a worldly sense those who possess all these would have the upper hand in war and non-war situations. Nevertheless, in a conflict between the truth and falsehood, certainly it is the truth that will, Insha Allah, triumph. A belief system based on distorted theories, spreading falsehood in the name of the Qur’an and fables cannot stand for the truth.

and say: “Truth has (now) arrived, and Falsehood perished: for Falsehood is (by its nature) bound to perish.”(Al Isra:81).

Based on the above argument one can come to the conclusion that for Gulen to use Taqiyah and Machiavellian principle he should have declared, a) Turkish government is in Kufr, 2) He is in a situation of war.

3.1 The way how Taqiyah was effectively used:

  • A British Conservative MP, was paid more than 10000 Pounds to author a report which focused almost exclusively on actions by the Turkish government against Gulen-linked organizations and brought about accusations against Turkey of violating human rights. The research was commissioned by the Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF).
  • Senior government officials, businessmen, political party leaders, journalists, actors, heads of nongovernmental organizations have been targeted by the FETO when they refused to cooperate. Some of these people were put in prison based on false accusations, or even killed.
  • Through large scale court cases initiated by Gülenist police and prosecutors, hundreds of military officers were put in prison and expelled from the army on the basis of fabricated documents.
  • The organization uses secretive methods for communication:
    • Taking an oath that promises strict obedience and loyalty to the cult
    • Special encrypted communications, such as ByLock, Tango, Eagle
    • Using “one-dollar bill”s with special serial numbers in accordance with their rank, in order to show their allegiance with the organization
    • Using code names in order not to reveal their identity
    • Disseminating  coded   messages   hidden   in   Gülen’s   sermons   and interviews
  • Those members who broke their oaths are severely punished. They are not only cast out of the cult from which they benefit in many ways but also subjected to a lynching campaign socially, economically and psychologica
  • In addition to harsh consequences of leaving the organization, members are also financially rewarded to stay in the cult, through illegally gained assets, privileges, employment etc.
  • Currently Gülen himself is the “prime suspect” in 55 different criminal indictments.
  • Exposing confidential  information  belonging  to  state  for  political  or  military espionage purposes,
  • Violating the confidentiality of private life,
  • Unlawful recording of personal information,
  • Forgery of official documents, fabricating crimes,
  • Destroying evidence,
  • Money launderin
  • In 2002, Prof. Necip Hablemitoğlu was killed in front of his house, while he was writing an investigative and critical book on Gülen. Hablemitoğlu’s wife has long voiced the involvement of Gülenists in the murder of her husband citing previous death threats. The judicial process has been blocked many times by the Gülenist police officers and judges until recently. The investigation was reopened in 2014 and has made considerable progress since then.
  • The Turkish Court has found concrete evidence of the involvement of Gülen followers in the assassination of Hrant Dink, a well-known Turkish-Armenian journalist, in 200 Colonel Demirkaya, one of the 15 July coup plotters arrested in the latest operations, is the key person in Dink’s killing.
  • The Group also used its adherents to launch judicial and administrative investigations based on forged evidence against certain people to discredit or force them to work with t The involvement by the Gülenist judges and police during the Ergenekon, Balyoz (Sledgehammer) and other high profile cases are the main examples. In these cases, military officials, opposition MPs and journalists were accused of plotting a violent coup to oust the government. It later turned out that these cases were based on fabricated evidence, and that most such fabrications were produced by the Gülenists in the police.
  • Journalists who had written about the Gülen machinations in these trials endured slander campaigns and threats of a Journalists Barış Terkoğlu, Barış Pehlivan, Soner Yalçın, Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık served time in prison because of their work that showed Gülen’s infiltration into the state. Şık was writing a book on Gülen’s presence in the police force, while Şener was investigating the links of Gülen’s disciples with the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
  • In 2010 upon the orders from Fetullah Gülen, the exam questions and answer keys of the Public Personnel Selection Examination (KPSS) were stolen and handed out to the certain FETO mem The members with high scores were placed strategically in the critical state bodies.
  • Ahmet Zeki Üçok, a military prosecutor, carried out a comprehensive investigation into the Gülenists in the armed forces in 200 He discovered a large secret network within the army. He identified many members of this unlawful organization by their names. However, he could not complete his investigation as he was detained on the grounds that he tortured certain witnesses by “hypnotizing” them and also as part of the Sledgehammer case. He spent almost five years in prison. Immediately after the botched coup attempt, he declared that the leaders of the coup matched perfectly the list that he had. Referring to the F-16s that bombed the Turkish parliament he recalled the words of now-retired Col. Selçuk Başyiğit: “We are now very strong. We have F-16s, F-4s that will take off with a single order of Fethullah Gülen.” Üçok’s findings were corroborated by many soldiers who fought against the coup attempt or by those soldiers who were the victims of the Sledgehammer case.
  • Gulen issued Fatwa allowing his female followers to remove their headscarves arguing it is from the trivial issues of Islam. This facilitated Gulen followers to enter universities at a time when the Hijab was banned in public life; it also helped them to occupy important positions in the governme
  • He issued another Fatwa allowing his followers in the armed forces to consume liquor for the purpose of deceiving their secularist colleagues.   Gulen’s argument was that this is important for getting promoted to senior positions in the armed forces.  Both are based on the Marchiavellian principle of Ends justify means.

The beaten cobra and the charmer – questions for critical minds

There are strong possibilities that Gulen as a beaten cobra to become a rallying point for the enemies of Turkey and its Islamic revivalist currents. A cobra after being beaten and is not dead, will not rest until its venom is released. Many Arab despots, the Zionist state and majority of Western rulers hate President Erdogan and Turkey. They deal with him as a necessary evil while hiding their anger. Abdul Fattah Al Sisi’s Egypt has already expressed its willingness to embrace the Gulen cult. Following an instruction by Gulen his followers have been flocking with their families to Egypt and establishing their businesses since last couple of years. They have transferred huge amounts of wealth too. Gulenist newspaper, Zaman has its online Arabic edition coming from Cairo. According to reports in the Arabic press, Sisi’s henchmen are exploring the possibilities of introducing Gulenist methodology in Egypt as a counterbalance to Ikhwan Al Muslimoon. The report says, they expected such a role from Egyptian Salafists and Sufis, but both have proved incapable to stand as a counterbalance to Ikhwan due to lack of clear vision and far-reaching programmes. Gulen’s methodology in the fields of education, health, culture, media and social service with some modern Islamic flavour can be used as a model in this endeavour. Hence, it is no surprise at all that Sisi finds a willing partner of coup in the person of Gulen. In accordance with the dictum, “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”, both will stretch their wings together to demonise President Erdogan and Turkey.

David Hearst, a former lead writer for the British newspaper, The Guardian, writing in The Middle East Eye magazine on the 29th July 2016, revealed a stunning information that, the United Arab Emirates’ government collaborated with coup plotters in Turkey before the unsuccessful attempt was launched, using exiled Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan as a go- between with the US-based cleric accused by Turkey of orchestrating the plot.

The discussion whether Gulenist cult actually needs Arab money for this particular coup or whether this Palestinian bloodsucker siphoned off the Emarati money bag are beyond the scope of this article. But this revelation clearly shows the desperation these bankrupt Arab rulers have plunged into. Their desperation to pull down President Erdogan by his legs is indicative of some mental disorder. Due to this disorder they will indulge in more evil acts to destabilise Turkey with anyone.

As far as Turkey is concerned now the need to display a human face does not exist. All Gulenist secrets have been revealed and there is nothing to hide. Now only the devilish face of Gulen will be operational.

Every statement of Gulen has an outer meaning and an inner meaning. The generality of Gulenist sheep would go with the outer meaning as words of the awaited Mahdi. Only the closest minions of the cult would get a grasp of the inner meaning. These minions would have understood the feelings, “The occupation of your lands by the Crusaders was not  something serious; At least they did not overpower your daughters and wives” (تسوب ةيكرت) that Gulen expressed in a sermon in Pennsylvania on the 20th August, as a call to the Christian world that “You are better for us than the Turkish rulers”. Through this statement  Gulen  gives  a  secret message to his  followers  residing  in  the  western  world  to  activate  their  “inter-religious dialogue  canon”.    As  the fight  against  his  outfit  is  suffocating,  this  is  a  viable  strategy.

Gulen cult is the perfect Muslim partner for US-Israel. There are powerful apolitical Sufi formations in the Muslim world which the West tried to use against the resurgent Islam, without any tangible results. Further, forming and arming of radical outfits across the Muslim world also do not yield the desired results. Chalking a multi-faceted path – apolitical, non- political, political, Islamic, non-Islamic, liberal in the west, illiberal among the conservative Muslim populations – Gulen cult has practically proved to the West that it is the right partner to counter resurgent Islam.

An argument is being floated that the cult is being accused as a CIA product without any solid evidence, and such accusations are totally un-Islamic. We should not forget the fact that we live in a world where intelligence agencies live in darkest secrecy surrounded by firewalls. Finding solid evidence about their partners in crimes is possible only in one of the three situations, a). When the agency decides to divorce the partner, b). When the agency wants to inflame enmity between two parties, c). When a member of the agency decides to sell top secrets for personal gains.

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Gulenist compound in Pennsylvania. It is unbelievable that a Muslim cleric who is not even a citizen of the US built such a splendid compound on 25 acres of land in the world’s only superpower. It is total absurdity to think that the US does not have any vested interests in the Gulen movement

Man by using his God-given intellect and observing peoples’ actions can come to some conclusions about their behaviour, tastes, interests and affiliations. We learn in literature that face is the index of mind.

The Qur’an indicated to Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) that there are other ways to know the opponents than merely by being shown their faces.

“If We were to so will, We could have shown them to you so that you would recognise them by their faces, and you would certainly know them by the manner of their speech. Allah knows all your deeds” (Surah Muhammad: 30).

After the bloody coup of 15th July 2016, when the matter was ultimately decided by the Turkish people about the cult’s true identity, CIA has become its charmer. Graham Fuller, former chairman of CIA, was one among others who fought for granting a special status for Gulen in the US. This special status is termed as, “alien of extraordinary ability”. These are open truths.

Turkish newspaper, “Hurriyet Daily News”, reported on the 31st August 2016 that Zafer Dur a prosecutor in the Izmir province probing the financial links of the Fethullah Gülen movement as saying, the organizational structure of the group is the same as the Mormon Church and the Church of Scientology in the United States, claiming that all three groups were founded by U.S. intelligence.

A natural question arises, how it would be possible for a person with some Muslim identity to build a large network of schools, universities, businesses and social services in around 160 countries, with a net worth of 500 billion US dollars. None of the Muslim movements have been as successful as the Gulen movement for almost a century. It is virtually impossible for them to build such a vast empire. There are many countries in this list which are hostile to any and all forms of Islam. But Gulenists operate without any problems. They indeed had faced problems in some former Soviet Union countries, but that was only when the authorities discovered some of Gulenist school teachers were found to be working for CIA. Come to Gulen’s domicile, the USA. The Cult owns the largest number of charter schools numbering 140 across the country, where an estimated number of 6,000 students study, funded by the government to the tune of $500 million annually. It is indeed surprising for a person, who is neither born in that country nor grew up there, to hold such a swathe of influence. Does he speak their language? No!

Robert Amsterdam, founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP law firm, which Turkish government has hired for its fight against the Gulenist Cult in the USA, says, (Daily Sabah: 20 August 2016) “Mr. Gülen has been brilliant in seizing on the charter school mechanism, which in the U.S. is unregulated. So, he has gone in this system where there are other schools engaging in some of what he engages in, probably not to the same extent.

Amsterdam further says:

“This is an incredibly sophisticated difficult story for people to comprehend, that an imam without knowledge of the U.S. could penetrate state, local and federal politics in this way. “It frankly does not seem believable. I have to think Mr. Gülen had his own abi (“Aabi”- elder brother in Turkish. Abis are people in-charge of Gulenist lodges. They are the ones taking care of the younger ones in the cult), because otherwise it makes no sense,”

Latif Erdogan told Aljazeera, Gulen once told him that, although he gives frequent briefings to the CIA, he feels inferior to give those briefings to officers as young as 25 years.

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Latif Erdogan, Gulen’s Autobiography writer

Gülerce also shared such information. He said,

Gülen, as a retired imam, is not capable of carrying out all this. He gets professional help from the CIA. There were high ranking Gülenist police officers who travelled to the U.S. for training. Gülenists are trained by the U.S. in perception management and psychological warfare. You cannot make it without professional help. Around 100 imams travel to Pennsylvania three times a year to get orders from Gülen. Does the U.S. not follow closely the periodical travels of 100 imams? Does Washington have nothing to say about this?

The future

If the coup attempt was successful in Turkey some dramatic changes would have happened. They are:

  • Fethullah Gulen, the universal Imam of the cult returning to Turkey flanked by his followers, like Ayatollah Khomeini returning from Paris in 1979 to Iran after its revolution
  • President Erdogan either arrested or killed if he resisted during the operation for his arrest
  • Europe and the US stamping the coup as legitimate
  • Arab despots and their minions rejoicing, Egypt restoring diplomatic relations, UAE granting the huge projects to Turkish companies that it cancelled earlier
  • Turkey plunging into a civil war, its army demoralised, economy collapsed
  • Millions of Muslims across the globe despairing of Islamic revival in Turkey

By the grace of Allah SWT nothing of this sort happened. By their selfless and heroic response the Turkish people demonstrated that the spirit of this Ummah is not dead; the taught to the West, the dubious champions of democracy, how to defend democracy. When President Erdogan called the people on the night of the coup to fill the streets and resist the putsches, people from all walks of life responded overwhelmingly and flocked in their thousands. They risked their lives to safeguard their dignity and freedom. This amply shows the love they have for their leader. On the other hand, there were Gulen cult soldiers who dared to capture and kill him. If they had the naked courage to commit the crime of high jacking F16 fighter jets to finish off a legally elected president, an ugly act which even remotely civilized countries has never seen, there is no crime in human imagination that they cannot commit to eliminate him. The Gulen cult has lately proven itself to be the Trojan horse to be used by the West to destroy Turkey.

President Erdogan is one of the greatest leaders this Ummah is endowed with. It is he who has filled the vacuum created by the fall of the collective leadership of Khilafa Uthmaniya (Ottoman Caliphate). In the last 100 year history this Ummah did not see a strong and charismatic leader as Erdogan. His leadership resembles the leadership of our great leader and Islam’s second Khalifah, Umar Bin Al Khattab. Obviously Erdogan is not Umar, but there is Umar  in Erdogan. A keen observer will  find President Erdogan bestowed with many leadership qualities of Umar Al Khattab.

We are in a fierce ideological struggle with Western materialism. It is a brazen truth that the West is ideologically bankrupt, a fact no fair minded person can contest. Look at the violent and imprudent ways they respond to Islamic revival, if they are truly ideologically sound, they should respond in a fitting intellectual way.

In the present century revival, Islamic movements have displayed extraordinary talent in striving to build a sound and just civilization on earth. They have gone through trial and error; success and failure, however their track record shows that they are ascending and their revival cannot be halted by any force. Rise and fall, victory and defeat do not shake their determination. They view this world as a temporary abode with full of challenges and struggle; a struggle where one party would gain the upper hand at one time and another at the other. They understand that their duty is to continuously strive in the path of Allah (SWT), without expectation for any worldly gains. This category of people indeed had a peaceful sleep. Can the blessed Islamic revival achieve success? The truth is that it is already on the path of success and has, time and again, successfully circumvented all kinds of enemy onslaught.

In dealing with Islamic revival, the west and its Arab allies are firm believers in violence, force, manipulation, deception and all sorts of illegitimate actions in the guise of democracy. This shows that they are in a dubious past. With their destructive mindset they invite trouble onto themselves.  As the Qur’an describes theirs is an evil tree which is not solidly grounded.

The enemies  of  Islam are grieved when a fortune  smiles on us; they are  happy when misfortune befalls us. But if we are steadfast and true to our covenent with Allah, they cannot shake us.

If anything good happens to you they are grieved; if any misfortune befalls you they rejoice at it. But if you remain steadfast and do right their designs will not cause you harm. Allah surely encompasses all that they do (Al Imran:120)

The writer is a social activist based in Sri Lanka. He can be reached at asimalav@yahoo.com. His twitter handle is @AlaviAsim

Do Muslims Have Equal Right to Free Speech?

Md. Mahmudul Hasan

Professor Julian Petley of Brunel University London in his book Censoring the Word (London: Seagull, 2007) mentions that “all democratic countries possess laws that curtail media freedom in one way or another (the UK has over 60)” (p. 29).

Andrea-Tereza Nitisor in “Speaking the Despicable: Blasphemy in Literature” (2009) states:

“Blasphemy laws still exist in the penal codes of many countries, including European states that boast secular democratic values” (p. 110).

Section 295-A of the Penal Code of 1860 that Bangladesh, India and Pakistan governments use to proscribe written words or to ban writers was introduced by British colonizers during the colonial period. All these facts do not suggest that the West is a site of, or advocate for, limitless free speech.

Western media outlets largely maintain a consistent policy of not maligning Judaism and Christianity and their holy symbols. What is more, most European countries have laws that criminalize Holocaust denial and ban hate speech (especially against the Jews). In 2006 a Vienna court sentenced the British academic David Irving (1938 –) to three years in prison for denying the Holocaust of the European Jews. Imams in masjids in the West are under constant surveillance and sometimes secret agents monitor especially the content of their khutbahs (Friday sermons).

Recently, Russia has banned Ali Muhammed al-Salabi’s book Abu Bakr Siddique, the First Caliph. In the last one decade or so, the country’s Justice Ministry has blacklisted over two thousand titles including a number of classical Islamic books.

The above deliberation shows that free speech restrictions are not a Muslim monopoly, as they exist in many non-Muslim countries on earth. However, a binary of absolute freedom of expression in Western countries and its restriction in Muslim societies features quite prominently in the discourse of free speech ban and intellectual proscription.

Whether freedom of expression should be absolute or there should be some sort of cap on its exercise has generated lively discussion over time. Classical British scholars who intellectually fought against censorship and promoted freedom of expression do not support unbounded or irresponsible exercise of free speech.

John Milton (1608 – 1674) defended free speech and wrote Areopagitica (1644) to oppose the intellectually stifling Licensing Order that the British government passed in June 1643. However, he did not support unconditional right to freedom of expression and wanted religious and political authorities to be watchful over its possible misuse. As he states:

“I deny not, but that it is of greatest concernment in the Church and Commonwealth, to have a vigilant eye how books demean themselves as well as men; and thereafter to confine, imprison and do sharpest justice on them as malefactors” (p. 151).

Another champion of free speech John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) “defines liberty as the right of the individual to think and act as they wish, providing that they harm no one else by doing so” (Petley p. 46).

In our contemporary time, the Egyptian writer and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz (1911 – 2006) describes the limits of freedom of expression in an interview with Mohamed Salmawy thus:

“We need to differentiate between free speech and disrespect for religious symbols. Every man has the right to stretch his arms, for example, but not to the extent that he hits the face of the person next to him” (Al-Ahram Weekly On-line (9–15 Feb. 2006).

I put a similar analogy below which may help illuminate this debate further. Car drivers have to follow traffic rules. They are supposed to stop when traffic lights are red and are allowed to go when the lights turn green. However, this rule is not absolute. Because even if the lights go green but there are cars ahead unmoving, the driver behind cannot exercise their right to go. That is to say, s/he is supposed to consider the presence of the car(s) ahead before s/he exercises their right to go even when the traffic lights are green.

Writers and artists are entitled to freedom of expression, but at the same time they should consider other people’s right to be different and not to be hurt or affected by the irresponsible exercise of freedom of expression. In other words, writers and artists should fully respect other people’s cultural values and sentiments and their right to subscribe to other belief systems.

Therefore, the right to free speech is perhaps a suspect virtue. In other words, writers and commentators may have the right to say what they want and artists, to express what they think or feel curious about. But they are morally obligated to maintain some degree of checks and self-censorship, and consider the socio-religious values and conventional morality that people cherish in a given cultural setting. A book or an artistic piece that insults people’s long-held views, beliefs, convictions and cultural practices and thus can potentially incite violent street demonstrations and can cause death/s is perhaps better not to be produced at all.

Perhaps, the debate, whether or not freedom of expression is absolute, may remain a contentious issue for a long time. However, it is almost certain now that Muslims are currently the primary victims of a conceivable hypocrisy in the free speech discourse. While Muslim societies are maligned for a perceived lack of freedom of expression, Muslims do not have equal right to freedom of expression. The following discussion may clarify this more.

Prominent scholars who are opposed to laws against Holocaust denial include many prominent western non-Muslim academics and commentators. It is perhaps their legitimate intellectual right to seek to decriminalize the denial of the Holocaust and such an academic stance does not harm any. However, if the list of prominent commentators against the laws against Holocaust denial included eminent Islamic scholars, the reaction of Western establishments and mainstream, dominant media would have been understandably different.

Let us examine another example. Soon after the tragic fall of the Twin Towers in New York in 2001, the British writer and Nobel laureate Doris Lessing (1919 – 2013) made a characteristically iconoclastic statement. She said: “It was neither as terrible nor as extraordinary as the Americans think.” She refused to toe the line with Western political and media establishments and exercised her right to take a divergent view. But imagine if an Islamic scholar of Lessing’s stature took such an unconventional intellectual stance! What would be the repercussion and media outcry!

In the wake of the recent Charlie Hebdo tragedy, many commentators showed the courage to critique the magazine’s editorial policy of exclusively maligning Islam and Muslims. Again, if the majority of the commentators critical of Charlie Hebdo were Muslims in such a sensitive time, many Islamophobic analysts would have jumped to the conclusion that the followers of Islam are pathologically anti-freedom of expression and that something is seriously wrong with the religion.

Also bear in mind the fact that Russian rulers’ proscription of over two thousand titles has not provoked the trial of their religion. But Islam is regularly on trial for any reported misdeeds committed by any of its followers. Moreover, most often the slogan of free speech is actually an excuse for free license to denigrate Islam and to caricature its adherents. For the sake of a healthy intellectual culture globally, the dismantling of hypocrisy and double standard in the discourse of free speech is a crying need and long overdue.

References:

Milton, John. “A Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing”. In The Works of John Milton, vol. 1. London: Millar, 1753.

Nitisor, Andrea-Tereza. “Speaking the Despicable: Blasphemy in Literature.” In Ali Riaz ed. (Re)Reading Taslima Nasrin: Contexts, Contents & Constructions (pp. 109–23). Dhaka: Shrabon Prokashani, 2009.

Petley, Julian. Censoring the Word. London: Seagull, 2007.

This article originally appeared on 03 March, 2015 on the website onislam.net

*Dr. Md. Mahmudul Hasan is with the Department of English Language and Literature at International Islamic University Malaysia. He is the author of ‘Free speech, ban and “fatwa”: A study of the Taslima Nasrin affair’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 46(5) 2010: 540–552.