Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Riba-Free Economy and the Islamic Awakening

This paper written as the Arab Spring unleashed, attributes the cause of conditions in the Middle East, 2011 to finance capitalism and the riba-based monetary order. It was the final paper written before the incarceration of Younus Abdullah Muhammad, who was set to present it in Malaysia just a few months after his arrest. It documents the faulty underpinnings of finance capitalism and how it wreaks havoc on the poor and oppressed and the provides the elements for a riba-free model originating from the Muslim world. As central banking systems teeter on the brink of another bust, this paper imparts fundamental understandings useful in inducing a fundamental reordering of the social-political-economic order of the world.

Riba-free Economy and the Islamic Awakening by islampolicy

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Obama’s Support for Sisi’s Counterterrorism Legislation Highlights the Hypocrisy of War on Radicalization

by Younus Abdullah Muhammad

General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has announced sweeping new “counterterrorism” legislation in Egypt that threatens to illegalize criticism of the regime and to push the country back to the decades-long emergency rule of Hosni Mubarak. The law’s long-term consequences are likely to prove disastrous, and the approach is not unique to Egypt. Claims that slick jihadi propaganda is the primary means of swelling the ranks of the jihadist movement overlook the reality that these policies, ostensibly seeking to silence nonviolent Islamic radicals, are a much more effective tool for jihadist recruitment.

During the reign of Mubarak, the primary opposition was a Muslim Brotherhood that had pledged a commitment to non-violence. Today, Egypt as the world’s most populous Arab country, sits in the middle of a sea-storm of increasingly extreme jihadist aggression. Plans for economic development are dependent on foreign investment and have almost no practical chance of delivering a better life to millions of young Egyptians. By rendering political contestation essentially illegal, counterterrorism measures like the new law effectually make violence the only recourse to tyranny, and with Washington and Arab Sunni states complicit in the emergency legislation, more and more Muslims all over the world will come to view the legislation as deliberate, a conspiracy against Islam generally. Increasing numbers will seek liberation in the jihadi movement.
It is unfortunate that the Obama administration has remained silent as authoritarianism has returned to Egypt. Full military aid has been reestablished. Earlier this month, after reinitiating the sale of F-16’s, Obama expressed his desire for “strategic dialogue” with the leader. It is a return to strategy based on endorsing ‘stabilizing’ dictatorships in the Middle East. It is also a recipe for disaster. That return not only betrays the principles of democracy promotion, it endangers the American people and indicates that the U.S. has learned nothing as it approaches the 14th anniversary of September 11.
The counterterrorism law includes 54 articles and threatens to push the country back to decades-long emergency rule of Hosni Mubarak. . It was essentially passed by dictate, for there is no present parliament operating in Egypt It offers an expanded definition of terrorism that includes any threat to “disturb public order” or “endanger social safety and security.” It highlights the rampant nationalism that defines authoritarianism and defines terrorism as any act that “undermines national unity, social peace and national security.” The effects essentially mandate passive support for the Egyptian government and undermine any opposition to the reinstatement of single-party authoritarianism.
Additionally, Egyptian police and counterterrorism officials are absolved from accountability for the use of force. One article makes it illegal to challenge the “ruling system,” and will likely be utilized to prevent any general assembly, public protest or call to mass movement. It is now criminal to “directly or indirectly” promote terrorism and makes it a cybercrime to promote “ideas or beliefs” that endorse violence. “False news” by journalists is also outlawed and punishable by up to $64,000 in fines. This will effectively eliminate the risk that smaller, non-state media companies will publish pieces critical of the regime. The Egyptian police state has bben reestablished, codified and endorsed by the hegemon in Washington.   

Obama is now an avid supporter. Contrary to initial rhetoric, he’s come full circle.  In July of 2013, just after the military moved against then-president elect Mohammad Morsi, Obama was hesitant stating that, “the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people.” Nevertheless, Obama’s position fell short of classifying it as a military coup. Such a designation would have guaranteed suspension of aid to Egypt under a violation of the Foreign Assistance Act prohibiting “any assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d'etat or decree.”

A few weeks later, when the military unleashed live ammunition on peaceful pro-Morsi demonstrators, the Obama administration also sat silent in yet another example of Washington’s hypocritical application of the definition of terrorism. Thereafter, Egypt and its financial backers in Dubai and Saudi Arabia outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliations altogether, thus documenting complete disregard for Obama’s other initial claim that, “the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties —secular and religious, civilian and military.” Meanwhile, General Sisi explained on Egyptian state-media that Obama only differed with the coup in that the administration wanted the military to wait until a Monday, to avoid the weekend news cycle.

By March of this year, Obama had resumed full military aid to the country with a personal call to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry hand-delivered a letter from Obama to the dictator. Regime spokesman Alaa Youssef described that message explaining, “Obama has expressed his hope that the strategic dialogue between both countries would enhance cooperation in all fields, participate in the comprehensive development sought by Egypt, and enrich the bilateral economic and trade relations.” Of course, there was not a single mention of human rights or democracy.   

The anti-terrorism legislation in Egypt is not a mere Middle Eastern phenomena however. All over the world, the global war on terror, having been rebranded as a war on Islamic extremism under Obama, has become a war on radicalization that now threatens the very essence of free expression democratic societies depend on. In Britain for example, Prime Minister David Cameron has been upholding a campaign promise to battle against ideological extremism. His conservative platform outlines countering Islamic radicalization as “the “struggle of our generation.”

However, Cameron’s war on ideology is no less Orwellian than General Abdul Fatah al-Sissi’s. Similarly, Cameron recently promised to fast-track legislation against groups that “undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places.” The primary targets are also nonviolent radicals. A few high profile arrests threaten to buoy anti-terror legislation already perceived as discriminatory. So too, General Sisi has stated trials for Islamic radicals could be fast-tracked through special courts. The Egyptian leader’s legislation primarily targets the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement that denounced violence decades ago. Both Britain and Egypt ignore the reality that policies like these embolden those calling for violence and only exacerbate root problems.  

Legislation that concentrates on ideology conflates radical belief with violence and will only guarantee perpetual conflict. This seems to be the intended effect of counterterrorism policy everywhere. It suggests that the counterterrorism community itself desires confrontation to the end, until the very existence of Islamism on earth is eradicated.

This sentiment has expanded by way of rising right-wing and anti-Islamic populism. It is aided and abided by an Islamophobia industry that serves to brandish all conservative Muslims as barbarian. Whether in London, Paris, Cairo, or Washington, governments everywhere are utilizing counterterrorism policy and practice to silence dissent and criminalize critique of government policy, particularly if one is an Islamist.

U.S. domestic counterterrorism policy hardly differs. Despite the fact the American Muslim demographic contrasts drastically from its counterpart in Europe, domestic counterterrorism policy and practice has been allocated disproportionately to concentrate on Muslims living in America. A long list of controversial monitoring programs and preventative interventions has been utilized to intimidate critical voices.

These mechanisms operate under the guise of counter-radicalization initiatives, much like in Europe. The NYPD for example recently shut down a covert ‘demographics unit’ designed by a former CIA agent. The program didn’t lead to a single arrest and was criticized for its chilling effect on free speech. It had undercover agents focus on businesses, restaurants and other private arenas, but indicators of potential risk were as innocuous as having Qurans in public display or watching Al-Jazeerah.

The NYPD’s Chief Bill Bratton made it a point to emphasize that the unit’s disbandment was not due to acknowledged civil liberty violations however. He explained to the Daily News editorial board that, “You still need that kind of information… we still know how to get it… and we can do it.” Such sentiment is emblematic of a domestic policy since 9-11 that has effectively intimidated the American Muslim community, a community that could have been a primary ally in a War on Islamic Extremism waged not with weapons but through a narrative of actual democracy promotion. Instead, American Muslim’s trust in government institutions is at all-time lows.

Of course, the military aid, the counter-radicalization theories and the Muslim scare are all a big boon for the military industrial complex and the political leaders of the world that do its bidding, but there can be no doubt that the ineffective measures and inability to quell rising radicalization has produced a great amount of frustration in the counterterrorism community. Rather than look at the problem through an entirely new lens, rather than recognize the way such measures are counterproductive, anger and resentment push support for anti-democratic measures in the West that rival those in Egypt.   
Instead it is argued that all Islamists, nonviolent and violent, must be silenced. That position, given credence by way of government allegiance with ‘moderate Muslims’, is girded in the belief that radical political preachers create the ‘mood music to which suicide bombers dance.’ That’s a fancy way of saying that radical beliefs precede and incite violent action. In fact, very few of those holding radical beliefs ever go on to commit acts of terrorism and there is no established empirical evidence for such a causal relationship.

The one common denominator in the overwhelming majority of empirical research into violent Islamic extremist incidents is actually an attempt to justify or frame violence as a reaction to western policies. Yet, this fact conveniently goes missing from most expert analysis. When pointed to as the actual cause, any citation of western policy is ruled out as conspiracy theory or paranoid delusion. It is important to note that in exposition after exposition, Osama bin Laden claimed that jihadists were engaging in terrorism not because they hate democracy but “because you (the United States) attach us and continue to attack us.”

Bin Laden was the grandfather of the ‘far-enemy’ doctrine, the claim that attacks in the West must be prioritized until western governments are rendered incapable of funding the Middle East’s despots and dictatorships. But the West is not the primary object of bin Laden and other jihadist’s resentment. Flagg Miller, an academic who recently released a book about over 1,500 cassette tapes owned by bin Laden, was surprised and said of the collection, “"What's fascinating is how Bin Laden is speaking about the ways in which the Arabian Peninsula is threatened – but who is the enemy? It's not the United States, as we often think, or the West. It's other Muslims, Al-Qaeda's primary enemy on most of these tapes, most of the time, is Muslim leaders.”

Similarly, the western press hardly recognizes that ISIS mostly rejected the ‘far enemy’ doctrine and instead preferred regional or localized violence, at least until Obama announced his plan to “degrade and destroy” the movement. Shortly thereafter, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani called for lone-wolf attacks on western soil and later ISIS propaganda framed the group as the rightful heirs of bin Laden’s 9-11 legacy. The former Al-Qaeda leader’s position was emboldened in a recent audio release from bin Laden’s son, Hamza, calling all groups to reassert the ‘far enemy’ doctrine. Interestingly, the heir to Mullah Omar and the Taliban welcomed the pledge of allegiance from Ayman al-Zawahiri. Despite popular belief, that represents the first implicit Taliban acceptance of Al-Qaeda doctrine.  

Thus it is fair to suggest that the United States sustained support for dictatorship in Egypt will do far more to promote acts of terrorism than any reference to extremist ideology. This reality was expressed by Senator Patrick Leahy in a July, 2015 letter to Secretary of State Kerry that read, “According to information I have received, the number of militants has steadily increased due, at least in part, to ineffective and indiscriminate operations by the Egyptian military and the lack of licit economic opportunities for inhabitants of the Sinai.”

Were the U.S. and its allies not in such blatant betrayal of the very “set of core principles” Obama claimed to defend at the time of the Egyptian coup, there might be a diminishing appeal of jihadism. Instead, it’s viewed as the only alternative. The only solution is a global grassroots movement dedicated to ending such blatant hypocrisy. This movement must focus on dismantling the entire counterterrorism component of the military-industrial complex. Only then might a paradigm unfold that could first rid that “one indispensable nation” of its own despots and dictatorship, and thereby encourage people across the globe to do the same.  Until then, terrorism at the hand of the state and Orwellian legislation will only enhance radicalization, at home and abroad.

Younus Abdullah Muhammad holds a Master’s of International Affairs and is the founder of IslamPolicy.com. He was recently released from incarceration in the United States and resided in the D.C. Metro area. He can be contacted at islampolicy@gmail.com or on Facebook. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Eid Mubarak - As Ramadan comes to a close... the Situation in Sham must Remain the Focus of us All!

For Eid 2012, I penned the following article from a Federal Correctional Institute in the United States. It addressed the conditions then in Syria and Sham generally and implied that the situation in Sham was a direct representation of the condition of the ummah globally. That message remains true unto today and so rather than post a new article I’m posting it again, three years later, in order to serve as a reminder, for an issue that once galvanized the ummah has now worn on. Today, with many reflecting during Ramadan on the difficulties facing Muslims and Islam in the contemporary age, it is important to remember that most of our difficulties are miniscule in comparison to the people of this blessed land. And we ask Allah (swt) to allow us to remember them!

Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands have been killed in Sham, the fitnah continues. Whether we realize it or not, Sham is a test for this ummah, with all the indications suggesting a progression that will continue until that neoliberal beast and global order beckons the maseeh ad-dajjal (antichrist) and the victorious sect struggles against it. Of course, one of the signs of that era is that the people will no longer mention the one-eyed antichrist and that people of all religious persuasion will follow his misguidance. However, Allah’s Sunnah is to cleanse the ummah with tests and so Sham continues to be a test in the heart of the Muslim world that tests us all. Please remember your brothers and sisters in Sham this Eid and for the remainder of the year.

The Prophet (saws) said that the ummah is like one body, if a piece of it hurts the whole of it suffers. And he also stated that there is a piece of flesh in the body, if it is pure than the body is pure, and it is the heart. Sham lies in the heart of the Muslim world and so its condition impacts the limbs of the ummah, wherever they reside from the West to the East. We are living in times of great confusion, an increased Islamic identity, but an identity that has been tainted, an era of no unified jamaa and, for most, no imam.   The prophet (saws) said that fitnah in Sham will continue, fitnah that, “will not leave anyone of this ummah without giving him a slap; when it is said to him that it is over, it will be extended, and a man will arise a believer in the morning and come upon the evening a disbeliever, until its people are split into two camps, the camp of iman in which there will be no hypcrasy and the camp of hypocrisy in which there will be no iman. When that occurs, expect the Dajjal on that day or next (Sunan Abi Daood).”

So Muslims, as we celebrate the conclusion of the blessed month of Ramadan, let us remember the severe circumstances of our brothers and sisters less fortunate than us across the globe. May Allah (swt) grant us all a blessed Eid, guide us to concern for the Muslims across the globe, protect us from a false dawa that seeks to appease, and make us from amongst the pure camp of iman!  The article follows…   
A Ramadan Reflection: From the Chest to Sham, Taqwa is the Heart of All Affairs
All praise is due to Allah who commanded the Muslims to fast during Ramadan. He (Ta’ala) said,
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُون
O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as was prescribed for those before you that you became al-muttaqun (2:183)
And may the peace and mercy and Allah’s blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) who received the Quran in the holy month and warned the Muslim community when he said:
اقرؤا القرآن و عملوا بهو لا تأكلوا به
“Recite the Quran and act upon it ..and don’t eat or profit from it”
As another Ramadan has passed us by, Al-hamdollillah, it is important for us to reflect upon whether we have recognized its purpose and improved our Taqwa by becoming people that embody the Quranic message in our actions; or whether we have merely abstained from food and drink while devouring the Quranic essence, and thereby its true objective.
Taqwa is a difficult word to define. It is usually translated as ‘God-fearing’ or ‘pious,’ but perhaps the best definition was given by Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (radiya Allahu anhu), who was asked to define it and responded with a question: “When you walk down a forest path covered in thorns, what do you do?” he asked his questioner. “You lift up your clothes, move very slow and take your steps carefully“, he [the questioner] responded, and Umar (radiya Allahu anhu) simply stated,”That, my friend, is Taqwa.
And it is unfortunate that in this age Ramadan has largely lost its connection to the purpose of instilling Taqwa. Instead, in many ways, Ramadan has been turned into an occasion for festivity and entertainment, not unlike the way Christians have distorted their celebration of Christmas so that it is commercialized and void of spiritual purpose. Neglecting the purposes of acts of worship in Islam is a primary reason for the Muslim Ummah’s present degradation, and this Ramadan was significant in that several events in the heart of the Muslim world should have allowed us to recognize that our material and physical circumstances are largely a direct reflection of the state of the heart inside our chests.
The most prominent events are those occurring in Syria, an area destined to play a crucial role in any Islamic revival for its import is included in many ahaadith and isolated in many books of Fiqh as the home of the Taifa Mansoora, the Fustaat (flag) at the end of times where the Abdaal (righteous) gather, help to make Bay’aah to the Mahdi and eventually aid Issa Ibn Maryam (alaihissalaam) in fighting the antichrist. For example, the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) said,
Syria will be conquered, and when you are given a choice of places to settle, go to a city called Damascus for it will be the Fustaat (Fustaat here means city) of the Muslims during the wars of Fitnah and the place of assembly.
Thus, its condition resembles the condition of the entire Ummah, and this is as Allah’s Messenger (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) said,
You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind among themselves resembling one body. So, if a part of the body is ill then the whole body suffers from sleeplessness and fever.
And a proper conception of Islam helps us to understand that our personal conditions are connected to the condition of the global Muslim community altogether and that the condition of any given Muslim community is, at the same time, a direct reflection of the condition of Islam and Muslims across the world. It is for this reason that the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) admonished the companions saying,
He who is not concerned with the general affairs of the Muslims is not one of us.
Unfortunately, it is a lack of adhering to the path of Islam and [a lack of] trekking in a manner of caution andTaqwa that has caused the body of Muslims to suffer from sleeplessness and fever. And today we exist just as the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) described when he said:
The nations will call other nations to stand against you as the eaters call each other to eat from the food in front of them on a large wooden plate.
A person asked the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam),”Will that be because we will be few in number?”
The Prophet replied, “No, You will be great in number, but you will be rubbish like the rubbish of the flood water. And certainly Allah will remove from the hearts of your enemies fear of you and will throw Wahan in your hearts.”
A person asked, “What is ‘Wahan,’ O Messenger of Allah?”
The Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) replied, “Wahan is to love the world and hate death.
And Syria is a perfect sample of the Ummah’s general existence. Despite having a dominant Sunni population, a deviant Alawite minority has ruled the post colonialist nation through a dictatorship managed mostly by a single family. That authoritarian dictatorship has maintained for over four decades, largely due to the rubbish associated with a preponderant Arab racism and post-sykes-picot nationalism united against all manifestations of Islam as a complete socio-political, economic order.
It is a common circumstance all over the Muslim world, but where critics attribute blame to the external coalition of nations conspiring to feast on the Muslim world’s natural resources and civilization, the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) placed blame on the internal condition of the Muslims themselves. The tremors shaking the heart of the Arab world are proportionate to an Islamic Awakening over a generation, and perhaps the most evident lesson about “Taqwa” to take from this Ramadan, is the connection between the state of our spiritual selves and the general physical reality of Muslims everywhere.
The prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) stated,
“Beware! There is a piece of flesh in the body, if it becomes reformed, the whole body becomes reformed, but if it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted and that [piece] is the heart.”
Today both the hearts of the individual believer and the identity in the heart of the Muslim world face all sorts of dialectical rupturing and everywhere glimpses exist of an ascendant Islamic identity which is also in accord with what the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) said, As you are so are the rulers above you. That being said, it becomes apparent that the solution to our contemporary situation is, first and foremost, a spiritual one and Ramadan serves as a continuous annual reminder of the connection between the spiritual and material realms.
This has always been the case. When the Tatars were pushed from Damascus by successful battle duringRamadan in 702 A.H, physical victory was a result of Ibn Taymia’s cleansing the beliefs of the Muslims with texts like his Aqeedahtu Hamawiyaa, written for the people of Hama, a town besieged by the Assad regime today.
Similarly, At-Tabari recorded in his classic work An History that when the Muslims first conquered Syria under Umar Ibn Al Khattab, Heraclius, the Roman emperor asked a Byzantine who had been a prisoner of the Muslims about their condition. The man replied,
“I shall tell you, and it will be as if you are looking at them. They are horseman during the day and monks at night. In the areas they rule, they do not eat except that they pay for it, and they do not enter a house except with a greeting of peace. They stand up to those who fight them until they destroy them.”
Heraclius could only reply, “If you have spoken the truth, they will indeed inherit the land on which I stand.” Surely, their foundation was Taqwa and we remain, as Imam Malik once suggested, “Verily the only thing that will rectify the ends of this Ummah, is what rectified its beginning.
As we push forward after Ramadan, let us remember that Taqwa is the foundation of all we do. That it is manifested in the heart and that our physical condition is dependent on the state of our spiritual selves.
It was for this reason that the noble Shaykh Nassarudeen Al-Albani adopted the Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen’s statement: “Establish the Islamic state in your hearts, and Allah will make it a reality,” even though he disagreed with them. Allah’s Messenger (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) constantly emphasized such principles. He said, “Straighten your rows (three times) and Allaah will bring together your ranks or Allaah will put differences into your hearts,” and he (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) informed us that, “A believer to another believer is like a building whose different part enforce each other.
Today, we Muslims are being tested severely, and our current circumstances tell of potential revival, but it is evident the hearts are tainted by foreign desires. Allah has told us that “Allah has not made for man two hearts inside his body” (33.4). Taqwa is the spiritual garb of the heart that beats for Islam and Muslims, so let us cultivate it wherever we are and recognize that such efforts can only help to bring victory to the Muslims at large.
As individuals and collectives, Allah is testing our hearts. It is as the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) said,
“Trials and tribulations will be presented to the hearts, as a reed mat is interwoven stick by stick. Any heart which absorbs these trials will have a black mark put in it. However, any heart that rejects them will have a white mark put in it. The result is that hearts will be of two kinds: one white like a white stone, which will not be harmed by trials as long as the heavens and earth endure; and the other dark and rusty, like an over-turned vessel; not able to recognize the good, nor reject evil, but rather being absorbed with its desires.”
As an Ummah we are increasingly passing these tests and have witnessed some purification. As a result, a new middle east is formulating in the heart of the Muslim world and circumstances, like those unfolding in Syria, present numerous opportunities to connect the degree of material success to adherence upon the path of Taqwa as outlined by Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, for Taqwa fixates the hearts upon the Quran and sunnah and other superficial displays of Islam absent such a foundation only lead to further sleeplessness and disorder.
Brothers and sisters should use the affairs unfolding in Syria to connect to the global Ummah and to call to adherence to these principles.
The great scholar Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah stated that:
“There are four matters, that when their limits are transgressed harden the heart: food, sleep, speech and sexual intercourse. A body afflicted by disease does not derive nourishment from admonishment or exhortation. Whoever desires to purify his heart then let him give preference to Allah over his base desires.”
Ramadan forces the Muslim to restrain all four of these base desires but only those able to connect refraining from them during the holy month to the cultivation of Taqwa thereafter will cleanse their condition and benefit from the trial. In the same way, the historic trials unfolding in the communities of Muslims across the globe will only produce benefit where they stand upon a foundation of Taqwa that manifests action upon the Quranic path. It is a failure to recognize the purpose behind acts of worship in Islam that makes us those that eat and sell the divine message just like the nations before us. May Allah make us al-Muttaqun.

Eid Mubarek.

Younes Abdullah Muhammad

Jesse Curtis Morton #79274-083
FCI Schuylkill

Sunday, July 5, 2015

7 Principles of Imprisonment - Verily there can be no Islam without Justice

This is the first discussion of a 7 lecture series entitled, "The 7 Principles of Imprisonment." The topic of this sesssion was "Verily, there can be no Islam without Justice." It covers some experiences in prison, the present state of prison in America and in the light of the shariah.  Please join us on Monday's at 11pm NYC time for the other 6 topics in'sha'Allah.

Friday, June 5, 2015

On Crafting Islamic Policy

This document outlines the methodology for political/social science investigation at IslamPolicy.com. I am posting it so that those interested in the manhaj, aqeedah and direction of the site, those that might want to assist or contribute can review the processes.It is also an interesting and unique document that can assist those interested in political Islam generally.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Effectively Promoting Moderation in an Age of Extremism

By Younus Abdullah Muhammad

Almost 14 years after the attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent declaration of a global war on terror, violent Islamic extremism, previously known simply as terrorism, continues to dominate the headlines. Public reaction to the latest wave of Islamic terrorism has been vehement across the globe. Everyone recognizes an enhanced extremism in jihadist groups but few acknowledge that most effort to counter terrorism with force, typically a similar but unreported state-sponsored terrorism, only exacerbates matters. This is particularly true in the West, where punditry of both primary political parties portrays a war between good and evil; a violent Islamic extremism threatens to destroy Western culture and to occupy Western nations.

Current discourse tends to divide Muslims into the good and the bad. Unconsciously many equate the “good” with those supportive of what are haphazardly called “western values,” more properly classified as passive acceptance of western dominance. An extension of this overly simplistic dichotomy then surreptitiously defines “bad” Muslims as any that remain critical of the repressive aspects of “western” policy and practice. While Muslims must condemn dissolute and excessive violence, such passive acceptance of this Manichean perspective cements an almost complete inability to address the root causes of the ongoing conflicts. 

There have been four waves of terror in the modern era, all of them driven primarily by extremist ideologies. The anarchist wave ran from 1880-1920; the Anti-colonialist from the 1920’s to 60’s; the New Leftist from late 60’s to the early 90’s, and the current Religious Fundamentalist wave began in 1979 and continues unto the present. Modern terror is also a product of advancements in communication and evolving revolutionary doctrine. The expositions of bin Laden are not unlike the anarchists Kropotkin and Bakunin.

Terrorist tactics tend to invoke extraordinary, obtrusive and destructive reactions. Surveillance, military and law enforcement measures are typically enhanced and broad and oftentimes illegal application of law blankets suspect populations. In the same way McCarthyism eventually birthed COINTEL in the age of communism, domestic and foreign policy and practice today, particularly in the United States, challenges cherished notions of civil liberties. As George Washington put it, “He who would sacrifice civil liberties for security deserves neither.” Today, individualized IP-addresses and I-phone tracking mechanisms make the national security state less obtrusive, but they also create the prospect of virtual internment camps, enforcing unwritten but punitive laws against dissidence. This helps forego the necessity of more extreme measures and intimidates those that might advocate publically against a system that oppresses the masses. It must be stressed that these current maneuvers overwhelmingly target Muslim populations.

Due to this enhanced scrutiny and discrimination, terrorist movements typically spark the most animosity amongst the populations they claim to be defending. But the overreaction of those they target sustains conflict and simultaneously induces what social movement theorists call ‘radical flank effects,’ where less violent radicals are emboldened on the principle they represent a ‘lesser evil.’ Thus terrorism can be seen as a pragmatic strategy, effective for moving towards a target.

Additionally, law enforcement practice and policy has enhanced a growing Islamophobia. The NYPD, for example, was forced to shut down its ‘demographics unit,’ a special-ops unit contrived by a former CIA official. It was criticized by activists, not only for overstepping rights but for its chilling effect on free expression. The overstepping associated with today’s counterterrorist narrative may prove more extraneous than previous eras. Where other waves of modern terror had 40-year life cycles, the West is already 35 years into a wave of sacred terror which seems, at this moment, to be interminable. Perhaps that is by design but it all suggests that both terror and counterterror tactics only enhance the phenomenon, a never-ending cycle.

Another effect of the Manichean perspective lies in an insolent alter-extremism. The assassination of the French cartoonists epitomized this fundamentally, but mostly unrecognized, issue. Extreme fundamentalist interpretations stem from the faulty analogy of texts, called ‘qiyas’ in Islamic jurisprudence. Extremist interpretations are based on oversimplifications and generalizations that do not consider the specific nuances of events that occurred during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. They also do not account for social change or historical progressions. In the case of assassinating those that defame or depict Muhammad today, a primary fallacy lie in not considering that those residing in the West are not bound by Islamic law, are not living under shariah, and are under no covenant like those that were assassinated for defamation (and actually treason) during the Prophet’s 10 years as a statesman.

Nevertheless, there is a responsibility that comes with power, especially when dealing with the weak. Attacks like those against the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, or the even more nonsensical attempt in Texas more recently by ISIS followers, are ultimately political reactions to antagonistic portrayals, deliberately seeking incitement and publicity. One of the Charlie Hebdo covers posted lewd caricatures of the Prophet of Islam just days after the September 11, 2012 murder of the American ambassador in Libya. Pamela Geller, a primary target in the “Draw Muhammad’, Texas attack has consistently provoked and prodded Muslims at large, expanding the idea that every Muslim in the mosque secretly wants to implement shariah in America and other ignorant conceptions. Provocations like these certainly don’t justify such wanton and senseless violence, but the ultimate reactions are interesting.

Charlie Hebdo was a marginalized publication before the incident, which induced 3 million citizens, many of them Muslims, onto the streets in support of democracy and free expression. Pamela Geller never had so much publicity in her life and her contest will likely become a popular annual event. Nevertheless, a deeper irony is always missing. The Charlie Hebdo attackers were of Algerian descent, a nation the French brutally colonized from 1830 unto the non-colonial era. In fact, the French alongside the British, created the modern Middle East and its authoritarian structures through the Sykes-Picot agreement, a betrayed promise for a united pan-Arab or caliphate-like order. Since that time, western powers have done their utmost to prevent free expression and independent democracy throughout the Middle East. Many true academics point out that Islamic political violence is largely a result of having no other alternative avenue of contestation. The U.S. hegemon has largely assumed the same role. The Obama administration just reestablished full-fledged military ties to the dictatorship in Egypt, amongst other examples. Muslims are not ignorant of these salient realities and their connection to violence. They are simply afraid to speak about it out loud.

To be sure, the recent wave of religious terror is not confined to Muslims. The era includes Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist terrorism as well. It is also uncomfortable for the West and its allies to discuss state and state-sponsored terrorism. Yet, to deny that the overwhelming amount of religious terror stems from those claiming to act in the name of Islam is also deceitful. Unfortunately, many Muslims fail to acknowledge the mere existence of “Islamic extremism.” For example, when an ISIS-inspired decapitation occurred in Texas late last year, many sought to brand it “workplace violence.” This was true of Nidal Hassan’s Fort Hood attack as well.

For years, self-righteous community leaders left extremism largely unchallenged, pretending it didn’t exist or acting as if those adopting the terrorist’s ideology were simply not significant enough to warrant their prestigious attention. Such an attitude subliminally adopts the same excommunication (takfiri) tactic of those they claim to oppose. It is as if to say they are not Muslim at all. Only now, with funding for initiatives that counter violent extremism are leaders coming to the fore. Unfortunately, they have no influence in at-risk populations. In the process, they are being exposed as simple charlatans and their efforts will prove counterproductive as well.

Truth be told, Islamic thought is indeed in desperate need of a reformation and renaissance. In the 11th century, a debate between al-Ghazzali and Ibn Rushd – known as Averroes in European circles- initiated a divide, the consequences of which continue to plague much of Islamic thought unto today. Al-Ghazzali attacked Ibn Rushd’s reliance on ‘scientific knowledge.’ His critique was skeptical that we could really know anything at all about reality, its principles of causality, for ultimately all was determined solely by God. Interestingly, Ibn Rushd’s work was highly influential in Christian and Jewish circles. It helped inspire the Renaissance in Europe On the other hand, al-Ghazzali’s thoughts were misconstrued and led to the adaptation of a detrimental mysticism that still covers Islamic peoples. This fatalism has proven largely responsible for the gradual backwardation of the Muslim world. It is an uncomfortable truth, but it was indeed an anti-intellectual decline that preceded Western colonization.

Today a rigid and anti-rational mindset lie at the root of fundamentalist ideology. Such conceptions lack any appreciation for the application of Islamic principles, while simultaneously accepting positivist advancements in social, political and economic arenas, most of which are in full agreement with the Islamic tradition. Rule following over substance and rote memorization over abstract and critical thought prevails. This despite the fact that all the prophets included in the Quran were serious dissidents within their respective societies. There can be no doubt that outmoded and archaic authoritarian structures have long prevented a progressive political Islam from inducing such a reformation. As the remaining authoritarian governments suppress calls for reform, freedom and electoral political structures, elite networks of privilege supported by western powers, continue to benefit while the masses remain in chains.

However, by monopolizing force in the hands of the repressive state and ignoring populist pushes in the name of protecting ‘interests,’ western nations betray the very principles the supporters of Charlie Hebdo claimed to be defending. This hypocrisy has proven so pervasive and long-lasting that to mention it leads to immediate dismissal and in some cases consequential repression. Such is the core denial that underlies all pride, prestige and privilege. Nevertheless, when terrorism “experts” call for diverse measures that seek to eradicate evil or “degrade and destroy” terrorist movements, they fail even to acknowledge the root causes. In the sophistic rhetoric of politicians we find allusions to such but the policies never include an actual concern for human rights or democratic norms, only blatant hypocrisy and more weapons sales for the military-industrial complex.

The typical sentiment is as Alan Dershowitz explained in his Why Terrorism Works (2002), “The current mantra of those opposed to a military response to terrorism is a plea to understand and eliminate the root causes of terrorism. There are several reasons why this is exactly the wrong approach… The reason terrorism works – and will persist unless there are significant changes in the responses to it – is precisely because its perpetrators believe that by murdering innocent civilians they will succeed in attracting the attention of the world to their perceived grievances and their demand that the world “understand them” and “eliminate their root causes… We must take precisely the opposite approach to terrorism. We must commit ourselves never to ty to understand or eliminate its alleged root causes, but rather to place it beyond the pale of dialogue and negotiation.”

This perspective has sustained and continues to drive much of counterterrorism theory and practice. The paradigm portrayed by politicians and the corporate media has rejuvenated grandiose notions of a global war on Islamic extremism. In the same way colonialism and imperialism have always sought to recruit members of oppressed peoples, this paradigm generates derivative effects that allow simplistic and Manichean distinctions between good and bad Muslims to reign. The consciousness it creates affectively marginalizes all critics and intellectuals that acknowledge the root cause, thus pushing a continuation of the Age of Extremism and sustaining the national security or counterterrorism state, a major boom for the corporations and institutions that benefit most from perpetual conflict.

The primary means of an alternative intervention would be, first, for both sides of this false, but effective dichotomization of the Oriental Islamic and Occidental West, to practice the principles they preach. The Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessing be upon him, stressed that, “the religion is easy, so whoever makes it difficult, it will overtake him.” He also said that “extremists are ruined” and repeat it thrice. The Quran authorizes the Muslim to defend themselves against those that attack them but not to transgress limits. And in explaining warfare the Prophet would advise, “Not to long for encountering the enemy and to turn first to God to request security.” The objective of jihad in Islam, prompting visions of global conquest in the West, has always been to open up an ability for the propagation of Islam, something most possible today, perplexingly, in non-Islamic and democratic societies.

It most also be stressed that it is not merely “bad Muslims” that misconstrue principles embedded in their civilization. America’s founding fathers were enemies to British imperialism, the terrorists of their era. Its founding documents are replete with vehement rejection of tyranny and the inalienable rights of all humans. For example, Benjamin Franklin once remarked to Thomas Paine, the intellectual architect of the American system, that “where liberty is, there is my country.” “Where liberty is not, there is my country!” Paine quipped in reply.  It gets no more anti-imperialist than in these sentiments. It is disheartening to see their message mutated into fascism under right-wing parties currently.

Today “experts” frequently explain, usually indirectly, that Arabs and Muslims generally are not ready for democracy and the rights that accompany it. Instead they are in need of strongmen that can create the type of stability that alleviates the West and its allies’ fears. Consequentially, anti-American protests and protesters are displayed as representatives of an erratic and unpredictable Arab rage. Meanwhile, autocrats and dictators are armed to the teeth as oppressive governments become allies in proxy wars for regional domination.     

To be clear, we are not in Manichean war. As Lisa Stampnitzky highlighted in her important 2013 work Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented Terrorism, “Although evil and irrationality have been central tropes in the discourse of terrorism since the 1970’s, there have always been significant factions of experts who have contested the assumption that terrorists are irrational and the conclusion that terrorism can be attributed to ‘evil.’ Such experts have not been in a position to overturn the politics of anti-knowledge however.”

We all must challenge these faulty presumptions. The clash of civilizations is fueled by extremists on both sides, and extremisms that are only enhancing. Promoting true moderation alongside liberation in an ‘Age of Extremism’ will require diligence and effort that seeks to alter popular consciousness. Criticism of the other cannot be blind to the hypocrisies that drive resentment. Advocating narratives that promote moderation, justice and freedom cannot be sincere unless they are willing to expand cherished rights and privilege to all. It is convenient to hold that human nature is violent and competitive, but in the end we may learn that before one can effectively condemn the extremism of another, they must first undergo an inconvenient self-critique that makes certain they do not have similar faults within themselves. That conception leads to the realization that we do not live in a ‘black’ and ‘white’ world at all and might lead to an effective promotion of moderation and the end of extremism.

Younus Abdullah Muhammad holds a Master’s of International Affairs and is the founder of IslamPolicy.com. He was recently released from incarceration in the United States and resided in the D.C. Metro area. He can be contacted at islampolicy@gmail.com. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Brother Younus - Short Statement on Release

Younus Abdullah Muhammad (Jesse Morton) Announces Release from Imprisonment

Bismillah Al-Rahman Ar-Raheem
All Praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, Seal of the Prophets, upon his family and companions and whomsoever follows him until that inevitable day; to what proceeds:

It gives me great pleasure to be able to announce that after over four years of incarceration, I, Younus Abdullah Muhammad, founder of IslamPolicy.com, have been RELEASED from imprisonment in the United States, wal-hamdulilllah.

This ‘makhrajan’ comes after a reduction in sentence that could have only have come from Allah (swt) and I attribute it to Him solely, the One in whose hand lies my soul. Allah, aza wa jaal, has said in the Quran that, “When harm touches man, he calls to Me for help, then when I have changed (that harm) into a favor from Me, he says, ‘It’s Only because of knowledge that I possess that I obtained it.’ Nay, it is only a trial, but most of men know not.’ (39:40).

While I am no doubt bewildered by the prospects of facing the currents of American society, labeled American Al-Qaeda, I do want to remain cognizant that this opportunity to be a freeman, a husband, a father, and citizen comes from Allah alone. I also want to remind and remember the statement of Abu Dharr that “every blessing that does not bring you closer to Allah is actually a misfortune.” So, I pray that my release is a benefit for me, in this world and the next, and an opportunity to cleanse myself, draw closer to my Lord, improve my pathetic condition and make amends. I’ve left many behind better than myself.

Surely our lives, our provisions and our dispositions are only from Allah, the All-Knowing. And it is to Him that we owe every station of our existence, from birth unto death. He ta ala does not put us through tests we cannot bear, even though stress and anxiety sometimes make us think we are not going to pass through them. The Messenger of Allah (saws) narrated in hadith Qudsi that Allah, subhanahu wa taala, said, “I am as my slave expects Me to be, so let him think of Me as he chooses.” Imam Nawawi raheemahu Allah said about this hadith in his Explanation of Saheeh Muslim that, “The scholars say that expecting the best of Allah is to expect that He will have Mercy on him and relieve him of hardship.”

I remember being flown home in a private government jet after five months of incarceration in Morocco and finding out I was facing life imprisonment in the United States. At that moment, when one’s freedom seems to be lost forever, simply for speaking their mind, the soul has nothing left to do but turn to Allah, aza wa jaal. Today I can guarantee that a relief from hardship comes in ways that are mostly unexpected. The reflective one realizes that Allah relieves hardship in ways that oftentimes connect to pathways of deeper, spiritual healing the. Therefore, we must always pay attention to the experiences Allah puts us through, and try to remember that there are lessons to be learned from each and every passing wind.   

The test of this world is as Ibn al-Qayyim rahmatuAllah alaih elaborated in his own explanation of the aforementioned hadith about the way a servant thinks of his or her Lord that, “Most people – in fact, all of them except those protected by Allah – assume other than the truth, and assume the worst. Most people believe that they are deprived of their rights, have bad luck, deserve more than what Allah gave them, and it is as if they are saying: ‘My Lord has wronged me and deprived me of what I deserve,’ and his soul bears witness to this while his tongue denies it and refuses to openly state this. And whoever digs into his soul and comes to know its ins and outs will see this in it like fire in a triggered explosion…”

I believe that this statement, from this great scholar, largely defines the journey to Allah and the primary test of this difficult world. Lord knows I’ve failed this test as much as I ‘ve passed it, but now I am working to reunite my family, iron out personal complications, remain free and maintain basic sustenance.

The world has shifted a substantial amount since my initial incarceration, and I hope to reestablish ties that might allow me to comment occasionally on topics that remain very dear to me. My primary interests presently include a concentration on the role of hadith interpretation and its influence on contemporary Islamic movements, on U.S. foreign policy in the Muslim world, the state of Islam and Muslims in America, the actual principles embodied in an American system that has been erased from contemporary conceptions (no not the false patriotic fascism promoted by FoxNews), and Islamic politics, economics and society generally.

Additionally, incarceration granted me the opportunity of interaction with and critical contemplation on the counterterrorism community generally. I have been particularly intrigued by what has been classified as countering violent extremism (CVE). While this has led me to contemplate ways of preventing others from throwing their lives away, I remain staunchly opposed to the national security or counterterrorism state and its connection to the elite, neoliberal order, or what Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to as far back as 1961 as the ‘military-industrial complex.’ I believe that today’s counterterrorist, or national security state isn’t merely dangerous to Islam and Muslims, but to humanity and civilization generally.

I must also emphatically state that I absolutely reject the conception that terrorism is justified in any which way and by anybody. I ask Allah to accept repentance for my not having made that absolutely clear in the past. It seems to me definite that we are suffering from an era the prophet (saws) foretold; one marked by ignorant youth who recite the best of speech but do not embody it. If we are to truly stand for the ummah’s liberation, we will have to locate a balanced position between the day’s extremes.

Of course, the next period is going to be the most difficult phase of my reintegration. In America, 70 percent of former inmates return to prison within three years. The barriers to employment, housing and social assistance are significant and the stigma severe. One can only imagine the additional stigma associated with my specific situation. My heartfelt appreciation goes out to all of those that courageously supported me through this. I humbly ask anyone that can assist us (myself, wife and two children) during my present predicament to do so. If you know of any opportunity for freelance journalism or other employment prospects that would enable me to better provide for my family, I would be incredibly grateful.

A beautiful peace in our religion is the wide definition of ‘sadaqah’ (charity). When the ahul suffah wondered whether the rich would be favored by Allah because they had the means to give monetary charity, Allah’s Messenger informed them to make dhikr, tasbeeh and the like. Indeed even a smile in our religion, or words of encouragement, are acts of worship. It is truly an amazing deen for those that practice it and we thank Allah for making us from the Muslimeen!

I look forward to hearing more from some of you soon. You can communicate with me at islampolicy@gmail.com for now or by joining me on my new Facebook (LINK). Please share the attached video with friends and post online, having social support will be crucial to my effective reintegration. I hope that you might also share this message on forums, social media and across the web and that you may contact me with words of support and encouragement. May Allah, ta ala, forgive our sins, guide us to a path that is pleasing to Him and keep us firm upon the sunnah - wal hamdulilahi rabeel al-ameen!