There are those within conservative Islam who argue that women have no place when it comes to discussing or analyzing Islam; that’s men’s work. They may have custom on their side, but they don’t have history.
Saudi Gazette translates an article from the Arabic daily Al-Hayat in which the writer points out the actual historic role women have played in the intellectual sphere of Islam.
Ibn Hajr, a man tutored by women
Zainab Ghasib | Al-Hayat
While the rights of women are being violated and so-called scholars who pretend they are learned continue to belittle and distort the image of women, Islam has painted a colorful image of women since the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and up until the last days of the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258).
Women began to be viewed with disrespect during the Ottoman times in which most rulers enjoyed numerous slave girls and mistresses. Nevertheless, even in that era there were many well-educated female scholars. During the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750) there lived a woman called Sakina Al-Hussain (may Allah be pleased with her). She held classes regularly at her home that were attended by poets, intellectuals and thinkers—people who wanted to learn from her. She judged poets and critiqued poems. More importantly, no thinker or scholar opposed her even though there were many great scholars around at that time.
There was another great woman named Wallada Al-Mostakfi who lived during the last days of the Umayyad Caliphs. She had also opened her home to scholars, thinkers and intellectuals who attended her sessions and learned from her.
Saudi Gazette reports that young Saudi women are not content to lead the kind of lives their mothers led. As a result, many are choosing to remain single into their 20s and 30s instead of being married and becoming mothers themselves in their teens. Not everyone is pleased.
JEDDAH — Amna Fatani knows she wants a brilliant career and a life different from that of Saudi women of her mother’s generation who married early, usually to a husband not of their own choosing.
The 27-year-old, studying for her master’s degree at Georgetown University in Washington and hoping to someday realize her ambitions, is part of a growing number of Saudi women choosing to remain single through their 20s and into their 30s as they pursue other ambitions.
The trend has ruffled conservatives who see it as an affront to the very foundations of the Kingdom, where rigid tribal codes have long dictated the terms of marriage.
“My friends and I have reached a point (where) we’re very specific about what we want,” she said. “I need someone who trusts that if I need to do something, I can make the decision to ask for help or choose to do it alone.”
Saudi women stand at the center of a societal pivot between the Kingdom’s push for greater women’s education and rights to work, and laws that give men final say over their lives.
While all the major Islamic organizations condemned the attack on Charlie-Hebdo magazine, they seem to all be also condemning the magazine and its penchant to insult things many hold dear. Arab News reports on the backlash to the magazine’s most recent cover.
They’re missing the point.
Free speech is free: that is, it is not limited by government; it is not properly the target of vigilantes, no matter how righteous they think themselves. Further, there is no right to being free from insult, abuse, or hurt feelings.
Assume there is such a right. Who, then, draws the lines?
I am sure that Jews and Christians who are abused by sermons in mosques might take exception to the freedom given those imams. Are the imams to be shut down and jailed? In some countries, they would indeed face punishment at the hands of government, but those countries do not adhere to principles of free speech. Citing laws — bad laws — against “hate speech” or “blasphemy,” some countries do punish speech that hurts feelings. What they mean by “free speech” is “positive speech about things we all agree with.” That might work in a homogenous society where everyone thinks the same, or in bee hives and ant nests, but it’s both impossible and impractical to try and impose such a regime on human beings.
RIYADH/CAIRO: Iyad Madani, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, has denounced the publication of sacrilegious cartoons by French magazine Charlie Hebdo Wednesday, calling the move “insolence, ignorance and foolishness.”
He said: “Freedom of speech must not become a hate-speech and it must not offend others. No sane person, regardless of doctrine, religion or faith, accepts his beliefs being ridiculed.”
Prominent Saudi scholar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Ghamdi said that publication of the latest image was a mistake. “It’s not a good way to make the people understand us. Jesus or Moses, all messengers (of God) we should respect,” and should not be made fun of in pictures or words, Ghamdi said. “I believe it will make more problems.”
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestinian lands, Mohammed Hussein, said such cartoons “fuel feelings of hatred and resentment among people” and publishing them “shows contempt” for Muslim feelings.
Let me be clear. I’m not picking on Muslims here. Even France, even after the slaughter at Charlie-Hebdo, doesn’t get what free speech means.
Following a snowstorm in northern Saudi Arabia, Saudis started posting pictures on the Internet. Among the pictures were those of snowmen and snowwomen they’d built. This led to a fatwa from a Saudi cleric who cautioned against the creation of images of living beings, something forbidden in Islam according to various hadith.
Well, that created its own storm, one where users of Twitter and other social media inquired whether snowmen were a pressing issue within Islam, whether clerics didn’t have more important work to do.
The sheikh backed off a bit, acknowledging that it might be okay for kids to play in the snow and, anyway, the snow will melt.
Scholar sparks controversy with edict on snowmen
Saudi Gazette report
DAMMAM — A controversial sheikh has issued an edict stating that building snowmen with clear facial features is a depiction of Allah’s creations and is forbidden in Islam, Al-Hayat reported.
With the Huda snowstorm hitting north of the Kingdom, many Saudis made the most of the rare weather and posted various videos and photos.
They include a video featuring a man giving directions to another to Berlin as if it was only an hour away.
The phenomenon also brought out the artistic skills of Saudis as many posted Photoshopped pictures of themselves among polar bears and penguins to give the illusion that Saudi Arabia was completely coated with snow.
Writing in Arab News Saad Dosari finds himself in general agreement with the sentiments addressed by Abdulrahman Al-Rashed. Muslims need to take a serious look at how they’ve permitted terrorism in the name of Islam to grab hold and threaten individuals and groups around the world.
When words turn into bullets
What is more evil? To commit a crime or to back it through reasoning and justifications. I would argue that the crime itself is completed once the criminal act is over, you kill someone, he is dead, you blow up a checkpoint, the damage is done, it could lead to ramifications, but the act itself is already part of history. But when you reason and theorize any crime, you are actually preparing for a next wave of violence. You are keeping the evil concept of the crime alive, breeding more brutality and barbarity.
Last week, history repeated itself, another attack, new blood spilled, more lives lost in the name of Islam. Gunmen with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine in the heart of Paris, blindly wounding and killing whomever happened to be on their way.
After all these years of terrorism in the name of religion, it is pointless to defend Islam from the massacres committed under its banners…
…For us Muslims everywhere in the world, we need to stop and revisit our culture and traditions, to go back to the pristine teachings of Islam. This religion has been sent to the world with nothing but mercy, why some of us are depriving it of its holiest message?
Commenting on remarks made by publisher Rupert Murdoch, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed agrees that it is the responsibility of Muslims to act against the “jihadist cancer” that is infecting the body of Muslim societies. It is Al-Rashed, in an editorial for Asharq Alawsat, here picked up by Al Arabiya TV, who identifies these extremists as “fascists,” noting how their actions and beliefs mirror those used by the fascist states of the early 20th C. “Equivocation and silence” no longer cut it in dealing with the problem, he says.
Murdoch: Muslims bear responsibility for terrorism
Protests against recent terrorist attacks in France should have been held in Muslim capitals and not in Paris because Muslims stand accused in this case; embroiled in this crisis and expected to declare their innocence. The tale of extremism began in Muslim societies and it’s with their support and silence that extremism grew into terrorism which is harming people across the world. It’s of no value for the French people, who are the victims here, to take to the streets to condemn the recent crimes. What’s required here is for Muslim communities to disown the Paris crime and Islamic extremism in general.
Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch said on Twitter on Friday: “Maybe most Moslems [are] peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” In another tweet, he added: “Big jihadist danger looming everywhere from Philippines to Africa to Europe to US. Political correctness makes for denial and hypocrisy.”
In an op-ed for Asharq Alawsat, Adbulrahman Al-Rashed comments on the recent flurry surrounding Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghamidi’s appearance on TV with his unveiled wife and declaration that Islam does not require women to be veiled in order to protect their modesty. In addition to receiving a negative reaction — and threats — from some, the Grand Mufti also jumped in to state that he was in error.
Al-Rashed points out that by going on TV in this way, the sheikh has opened new ground for discourse in Saudi Arabia. Instead of private conversations undertaken in homes, issues of modernization and reform are now finding public fora, including social media. This, he says, can only be for the good.
Why did Saudi Arabia’s Sheikh Ghamidi succeed?
The enormity of stock market losses, the drop in oil prices for the first time in years, ISIS massacres, terrorists’ attacks in Riyadh and its suburbs and the football fever have all faded in Saudi Arabia this week in the shadow of one single story. Sheikh Ahmad Qassem al-Ghamidi appeared with his unveiled wife on television. According to Saudi local standards, this is tantamount to a nuclear bomb and the story soon developed into a controversy that hasn’t settled yet on all platforms and levels.
This may seem like a silly issue in any other Muslim country but in Saudi Arabia it has shocked and angered many and become an amazing surprise to those in support of Ghamidi’s move. The event thus confirms a severe division within Saudi society which consists of movements that express its diversity. Some threatened to sue Al-Ghamidi, though I don’t know over what! While other considered him a modernizing pioneer whom history will immortalize. The certain truth is that Sheikh Ghamidi has shocked Saudi public opinion and reshuffled views once again – although many before him have made such a move, he’s actually the first cleric to do so. Ghamidi has assumed influential religious posts and has accepted to be challenged by his rivals who accused him of hypocrisy and advising others of what he cannot do. It’s on colleague Badria al-Bishr’s show on MBC television that Ghamidi appeared with his unveiled wife in defiance of others, and Saudi media arenas became gripped in this controversy ever since.
Arab News reports that a number of Saudis are planning to sue Sheikh al-Ghamdi. As al-Rashed notes in his piece, however, what grounds they might find for suing is a pretty big question.
A couple of days ago, the former head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Mecca said that there’s no religious obligation for Muslim women to cover their faces. Today, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti says that’s mistaken. He points to two verses from the Quran which he says do require covering.
Retract remarks and repent, Grand Mufti advises Al-Ghamdi
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH – Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Aal Alsheikh has asked Sheikh Ahmad Al-Ghamdi, former Makkah chief of Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Haia), to repent for his recent comments on niqab (face veil) which have created a lot of controversy in the country.
During a local program presented by Dr. Badriya Al-Bishr, a prominent Saudi media personality, Al-Ghamdi said women were not required to wear niqab (face veil). Al-Ghamdi was accompanied by his wife without a niqab.
Grand Mufti said there are Quranic verses that say hijab (head cover) is obligatory for each and every Muslim woman and that women should cover their faces, MBC.net reported. Alsheikh cited the following Quranic verses:
Al Arabiya TV carries a piece from Associated Press noting that Google — who owns YouTube — will have another day in court today to argue that an earlier decision that forced it to take down the notorious video of “Innocence of Muslims” was erroneous. The earlier decision was based on the copyright claim of an actress who appeared in the film (for all of five seconds). Google is arguing that she did not have a valid copyright claim, but that the producer/director of the film did.
The court argument has nothing to do with the substance of the film, but is entirely based on copyright law, which is a mess in itself.
Associated Press – Los Angeles: A federal appeals court will reconsider a decision to order YouTube to take down an anti-Muslim film clip that sparked violence in the Middle East and death threats to the actors from those who considered it blasphemous to the Prophet Muhammad.
An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena will hear arguments Monday by Google, which owns YouTube, disputing the court’s decision to remove “Innocence of Muslims” from the popular video sharing service.
A divided three-judge panel ruled in February that actress Cindy Lee Garcia had a copyright claim to the 2012 video because she believed she was acting in a much different production than the one that appeared.
According to this report from Arab News, the Saudi government will be installing closed-circuit TV cameras in mosques to monitor the performance and speech of clerics, most of whom are drawing some sort of salary from the government.
There has been increased concern that some clerics — both imams and muezzins — are promoting religious extremism. With over 75,000 mosques as of 2012, the government is unable to put human monitors in place. Where it has done so, it has found problematic preachers on occasion. These have been removed from their positions, but the government fears (probably correctly) that it is missing some. TV monitoring just might help identify the others. Of course, if the monitors aren’t on their toes….
Mosques in the Kingdom will soon have close circuit cameras and a smart control system to monitor imams and muezzins (prayer callers) as they perform prayers, religious rituals and deliver sermons. The move will help record any irregularities or violations in the mosque.
According to Abdullah Al-Howaimel, undersecretary for administrative and technical affairs at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance, all mosques will be managed by the electronic system that automatically records the activities in mosques.
“The study of the project has been completed but its implementation will be done in stages,” Al-Howaimel said.
Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al-Jazirah in which the writer worries the issue of jinns and the ridicule the belief in them occasions in foreign media. He’s troubled that social media report on all sorts of jinn behavior, but notes that because they are cited as real in the Quran, they must be real. The comments to the article demonstrate that belief in them is very widespread within Islamic communities around the world, and why not, as they are given reality by the very word of God?
This is, of course, awkward in a world where modern science and medicine tend to attribute the manifestations and behaviors of jinns not to external beings whom have never been investigated scientifically, but instead tend to look toward internal issues on the part of the observer.
Until there are a few dozen scientific experiments done on jinns in laboratories, belief in them will have to remain a matter of faith. Ridicule over what no one other than a believer can apprehend is just something that will have to be borne.
The problem becomes acute, however, when people are condemned to death by Saudi courts for dealing with jinns. Causes unknown to science are problematic for non-believers. Instead of legitimate cause, they see irrational behavior and violation of basic human rights.
Saudis are stuck in a hard place, between what they are told they must believe as the word of God and what few other than Muslims accept as fact.
Saudis and the jinn
Fahd Bin Jleid | Al-Jazirah
THE international and Arab media last week published a story and photograph of a boy who is said to be Saudi. The boy’s father had taken the photograph and on seeing it several days later, discovered a smiling and naked jinn next to his son.
“And say, ‘O my Lord! I seek refuge with thee from the suggestions of the Evil Ones. And I seek refuge with Thee O my Lord! Lest they should come near me.’” (Holy Qur’an verses 23:97-98).
Science is still incapable of detecting and monitoring jinns. Some non-Muslim scientists deny the existence of jinns. Yet, some of us claim to have successfully photographed them with digital cameras?
The way the Western media portrays Saudis’ belief in jinns is a very disturbing; something needs to be done to prevent further mockery.
It is we who are responsible for this negative media coverage because it is the local media that is obsessed with publishing sensational news stories.