Spritzophrenia

humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

Posts Tagged ‘extreme Islam’

Why Do We Support A Morals Police?

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 10, 2011

A fascinating article reminded me of Saudi Arabia’s morals police. The rest of the article lists some nutters in our own society lest we feel too self-righteous. However, Saudi’s morals police are state sanctioned. How come we make official outcries over torture and human rights violations in countries like China, yet remain remarkably quiet on our Saudi ally?

The religious police in Saudi Arabia are employed in direct order of command from King Abdullah. They are tasked with enforcing Sharia as defined in Saudi Arabia. In addition to having the power to arrest anyone engaged in homosexual acts, prostitution, fornication, or proselytizing of non-Muslim religions, they can also arrest unrelated males and females caught socializing, enforce Islamic dress-codes, Muslim dietary laws (such as the prohibition from eating pork) and store closures during the prayer time. They prohibit the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverages and seize banned consumer products and media regarded as un-Islamic (such as CDs/DVDs of various Western musical groups, television shows and film). They also actively prevent the religious practices of other religions within Saudi Arabia. (Wikipedia)

western music

At the time of writing, various Middle Eastern governments are nervous that democratic protests in Egypt and Tunisia might spread to their countries. (Jordan has already had protests.) I wonder what it would take for something like that to happen in Saudi? I wonder what it would take for our Governments to stand up for justice there?

In May of 2007, a 28 year old man in Riyadh named Ali Al-Huraisi had a run-in with the Saudi CFPVPV. Because they believed that he possessed alcohol, they broke into his house, arrested his entire family, handcuffed him, and then beat him to death. In August 2008, a member killed his own daughter for converting to Christianity. These are just two examples of what is an extremely conservative and brutal organisation– I say again: Sanctioned by the Saudi Government.

Why do we consider these people allies?

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Sepultura | Under Seige
“Religious domain is all I see
Suffocate the scum with mediocrity”
(Saw these guys live in 1991)

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Posted in ethics, Islam, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

My Meal with a Muslim

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 27, 2010

As per my recent posts, last Thursday I met Sarah and Fariha for coffee after work. (Names changed as New Zealand is a very small place). I hadn’t thought I could find someone to meet in such a short space of time, but an internet acquaintance set it up, thankyou Sarah. Sarah is an atheist, with Muslim and Hindu parents who decided not to push either faith on her. Her mother is a “liberal” Muslim, so Sarah also has a lot of knowledge about Islam. When she told me her friend is Bangladeshi, I expected someone with a foreign accent. I was surprised to meet a second-generation Kiwi, intelligent, articulate and funny, working in a respected profession in the city.

Funny— we don’t think of Muslims with a sense of humour, do we?

We three got along well socially and could have talked about general topics the whole time, but I decided to ask what it’s like growing up as a Muslim in New Zealand. I felt the purpose was to share about Islam and non-Islam and didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Fariha talked about her grandparents being some of the first Muslim immigrants in New Zealand, and helping start the first mosque in Daniel Street (now still owned by the community, but not a mosque). I mentioned my view that all New Zealanders are decended from immigrants and that should inform our thinking. It’s something I think us whiteys need to think about more.

I’m reasonably educated about Islam for a Westerner but I learned new things. I understood from what was said that both women are part of a smaller Shi’ite sect. For me, I associate Shiite with Iran, it’s weird to find people from the Asian subcontinent who identify as Shiite, which we discussed. Fariha referred to “the fundamentalists”, indicating that she felt some distance between her faith and the extremists.

I found out I can go to the mosque, as a non muslim. If I do go I want to have a friend there so that I know how to behave. I can’t go to Mecca, even as a tourist, although Sarah was unsure about that. “How would they know?” Both women love the fact that in Mecca everyone is dressed in white and racial and ethnic barriers are dropped. They love the idea of the one-ness of so many different peoples. Fariha hasn’t been on Haj and Sarah said she couldn’t, as a non-Muslim. Sarah said she’s been told there’s no such thing as a non-practicing Muslim, so you either are or aren’t. Hence, she is not a Muslim. However Fariha disagreed, saying there’s a bit of leeway, for example Fariha does not always pray five times a day.

Muslim women

Not Sarah and Fariha

I offered Fariha the opportunity to ask me questions, but it didn’t happen. Being a second generation New Zealander, no doubt she already knows a lot. She said she’d attended a Christian school growing up and had participated in chapel services. She was quite ok with that as Islam “developed from Christianity and Judaism”.

We didn’t talk much about difficult topics. They did agree with my suggestion that “a good outcome of the absolute horror of 9/11 is that it opened up the existence of Islam to many people in the West who had ignored it”. I mentioned I’d read a book by a woman of Pakistani descent which says Arab Muslims tend to look down on non-Arab Muslims. Fariha said she thought that was “probably the case”. She also could understand it “to some degree” as “the Quran was first given to Arabs”, and socio-politically most servants and menial workers in Saudi are foreigners.

We talked about head-coverings, and she said it “isn’t in the Quran”, but in the Hadith. She doesn’t wear a head-covering. She also said such head coverings are a sign of status, these women are copying the Prophet’s wives, something I didn’t know. (My older post on head-coverings here).

They agreed there is a lot of discussion and disagreement within Islam on some topics. Fariha said she was “speaking for herself, personally, not for the whole of Islam”. She said Imams (Mullahs) are “not like priests”, there is much more ability to disagree, it’s much more equal, which I didn’t know. This struck me like the “congregational” Christian way of running their churches; in theory there is no priest-equivalent as they view all believers are priests. We briefly discussed Sufism, and Fariha said she thinks Islam is a bit more about the group experience, than about “personal spirituality”, although that is there too.

Conclusions

Overall, the meeting was worthwhile in my view. I don’t know if Fariha thought so, but I think she did. She expressed at the start that it was nice of me to make the offer, and afterwards emailed Sarah that she enjoyed it.

Santi, who initiated Meal with a Muslim day, is thinking about hard issues, he’s raised some areas to think about. I think a real challenge is to meet with those Muslims who are “fundamentalist” and despise the West. On our side, it also requires the Western “fundamentalist” Islam-haters to be willing to meet. I don’t know how this could happen. Perhaps each side’s “moderates” can work on their more extreme bretheren? I also think that Muslim to non-Muslim dialogue needs to be an ongoing discussion, there are other questions I want to ask. At this point, Sarah, Fariha and myself have no further plans, and I do think “Meal with a Muslim Day” should be proposed as a one-off occasion each time with no further expectations.

One thing that has stayed with me is that when I think about Islam, I am thinking about a person— an intelligent, attractive neighbour whose humanity I want to support. I think this alone makes the experience worthwhile, to personalise beliefs into people rather than “other”. Though I doubt it is an issue for Fariha, I hope and believe the same is true from the other direction.

Can Muslims accept, flourish in and support Western-style “live and let live”? I think so, and I hope so. There is work to be done by both sides, but by such small actions maybe we can improve one part of this confused world.

What Are Your Thoughts?

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Music by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

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Posted in agnostic, god, Islam, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Islam Interfaith Talk: There is Hope

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 27, 2010

I was profoundly moved by this video featuring Eboo Patel, an American Muslim. Please watch it.

While the talk is particularly aimed at the interaction between Christians and Muslims I think everyone needs to watch this, particularly those concerned about Islam in Western countries. My friends in the USA will find this particularly timely.

Seeing we’re here, I’ll add a couple of other useful links:
* Snopes debunks the myth that “Muslims will take over Europe by 20XX”.
* How many Muslims have condemned terrorism? A lot. Take a look at this list.

I wanna be honest: I don’t find Islam attractive or compelling as a religion. However, I do believe we can work together and live together in peace if we will actually listen to each other. Please share this post with those who need to hear this message.

Finally, here’s a useful video from Time Magazine about the current controversy over a Muslim center in New York. Can you see that these are ordinary, well-educated American people? Check out Somewhere, Over The Rainbow.

Also see International Have a Meal with a Muslim Day.

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Posted in Islam | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments »