Archive for the ‘Fundamentalism’ Category

Kiwi family stunned about expulsion

Friday, March 19th, 2010

– This is the sort of thing I’ve written about before.  See and .  Western nations that think multiculturalism is good need to be a bit less naive.  If we cannot go to their countries and practice our beliefs, then why should we allow all of them to come to ours and setup ethnic enclaves within our cities?  Parity – not prejudice – is the concept here.

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A New Zealand family kicked out of Morocco for teaching Christianity to Muslim orphans are safe on their way to Spain, their family says.

Aucklanders Chris and Tina Broadbent and their two young children were given an hour and a half to pack and leave the orphanage run by the Village of Hope charity before being given an armed escort to the border.

They had been voluntarily working at the village for the last 18 months.

Mr Broadbent’s father, Dr Roland Broadbent, told NZPA Christian material had been found at the organisation.

In Morocco it was illegal to convert Muslims to Christianity, but as the group had been left alone for nearly two years, Dr Broadbent said it wasn’t clear why the orphanage workers were suddenly forced out of the property, leaving the 33 children with nowhere to go.

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Hardliners closing portal to paradise

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Rahman Baba, “The Nightingale of Peshawar”, was an 18th-century poet and mystic.

He withdrew from the world and promised his followers that if they also loosened their ties with the world, they could purge their souls of worries and move towards direct experience of God. Rituals and fasting were for the pious, said the saint. He emphasised that divinity can best be reached through the gateway of the human heart – that we all have paradise within us, if we know where to look.

For centuries, Rahman Baba’s shrine at the foot of the Khyber Pass has been a place where musicians and poets have gathered, and his Sufi verses in Pashtun made him the national poet of the Pathans.

Then, about 10 years ago, a Saudi-funded Wahhabi madrasa was built at the end of the track leading to the shrine. Soon its students took it on themselves to halt what they saw as un-Islamic practices. On my last visit, I talked about the situation with the shrine keeper, Tila Mohammed. He described how young Islamists now came and complained that his shrine was a centre of idolatry and superstition: “My family have been singing here for generations,” said Tila. “But now these Arab madrasa students come here and create trouble.

“They tell us that what we do is wrong. They ask people who are singing to stop. Sometimes arguments break out – even fist fights. This used to be a place where people came to get peace of mind. Now when they come here they encounter more problems, so gradually have stopped coming.”

“Before the Afghan war, there was nothing like this. But then the Saudis came, with their propaganda, to stop us visiting the saints, and to stop us preaching’ishq [love]. Now trouble happens more and more frequently.”

Behind the violence lies a long theological conflict that has divided the Islamic world for centuries. Rahman Baba believed passionately in the importance of music, poetry and dancing as a path for reaching God, as a way of opening the gates of paradise. But this use of poetry and music in ritual is one of the many aspects of Sufi practice that has attracted the wrath of modern Islamists. For although the Koran does not ban music, Islamic tradition has always associated music with dancing girls and immorality.

At Attock, not far from the shrine of Rahman Baba, stands the Haqqania, one of the most radical madrasas in South Asia. Much of the Taleban leadership were trained here, so I asked the madrasa’s director, Maulana Sami ul-Haq, about what I had heard at Rahman Baba’s tomb. The matter was quite simple. “Music is against Islam. Musical instruments lead men astray and are sinful. They are forbidden, and these musicians are wrongdoers.”

Nor were Sami’s strictures limited to the shrine’s music: “We believe there is no power but God,” he continued. “I invite people who come here to return to the true path of the Koran. Do not pray to a corpse: Rahman Baba is dead. Go to the mosque, not to a grave.”

This sort of madrasa-driven change in attitudes is being reproduced across Pakistan. There are now 27 times as many madrasas in the country as there were in 1947: from 245 at independence, the number has shot up to 6870 in 2001. Across Pakistan, the religious tenor has been correspondingly radicalised: the tolerant, Sufi-minded Barelvi form of Islam is now out of fashion in northern Pakistan, overtaken by the more hardline and politicised Wahhabism.

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Women flogged for wearing trousers

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

CAIRO – Sudanese police arrested 13 women in a raid on a cafe and flogged 10 of them in public for wearing trousers in violation of the country’s strict Islamic law, one of those arrested said.

The 13 women were at a cafe in the capital, Khartoum, when they were detained by officers from the public order police, which enforces the implementation of Sharia law in public places.

The force, which is similar to the Saudi religious police, randomly enforces an alcohol ban and often scolds young men and women mingling in public.

One of those arrested on Friday, journalist Lubna Hussein, said she is challenging the charges, which can be punishable by up to 40 lashes.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Hussein said.

Islamic Sharia law has been strictly implemented in Sudan since the ruling party came to power in a 1989 military coup.

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Pakistan, the Taliban and Nuclear Weapons

Friday, May 8th, 2009

swat-taliban1This story has really grown legs.    In spite of strong assurances from President Obama, that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are in no danger of falling into the Taliban’s hands, the number of stories on this topic seem to be increasing by the day.   I know that in private discussions with friends via the Internet and over coffee at Starbucks, many people are concerned about this and many people have opinions on what should be done about it.

Here are a series of stories I’ve culled in the last week or so:

– from The New York Times May 3rd

– from The New York Times May 4th

– from The BBC May 4th

– from The New York Times May 5th

– from Spiegle International May 6th

– from The BBC May 6th

– from The Council on Foreign Relations May 6th

And, if that’s not enough, then follow this link which results when one Googles for “Obama Taliban Nuclear Weapons”.

I’ve written previously about all of this as well here and here .

If Pakistan falls and the Taliban gain access to their nuclear facilities (or even only part of them), it will likely become one of the bigger stories of the 21st century.  Stay tuned.

When is enough?

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

tree_huggerI’m a liberal – I make no bones about it.   I believe women are my equals and that people of all shades and sexual proclivities have the same rights that I do.  I believe that governments should exist to serve their people and not merely to maximize opportunities for Capitalists.

In short, on most questions, if there’s a liberal and conservative axis, you’ll find me on the liberal end of things.

But, I have some exceptions – places where liberals might shun me.

If an individual’s committed violent crimes repeatedly and is obviously incorrigible, I see no point in the state locking them up and feeding them for the rest of their never-to-be-paroled life.   Terminate them – and let’s move on.   When you’ve got a cancer, you cut it off.

Guns?   I’m not at all sure that we all need military assault rifles.   But, I do like what the U.S. Second Amendment says … and why it says it.   When governments lose their way, citizens need a way to have their say.

Nanny States?   I think they go way too far sometimes.   As the Buddhists say, ‘Everything in balance’.   Laws should be balanced and mete out the same punishments to both the rich and the poor.  And victim-less crimes should be recognized as the oxymorons that they are.

And I’m all for cultural diversity – to a point.   If your culture believes that you are one of the chosen or the saved and you also believe that I’m not, or if your culture believes that women belong to men, or if your culture believes in slash and burn agriculture, or female genital mutilation, or in casual and needless cruelty to animals, or that some men are just better than others and thus have a right to rule them, then I think it’s probably time for for your culture to go – sorry.

But, if you like to wear a small square hat and dance outside at the new moon, or paint your house bright red, blue and gold, or if carrying a dagger and wearing turban are your thing, or if you are a strict vegetarian or anything else that doesn’t mess with our common biosphere or with other’s folk’s rights, then good on ya, I say.

We all need to live and let live, honor and respect each other and realize that this small planet belongs to all of us.   If your cultural beliefs deprives some people of their freedoms, if your cultural beliefs are messing the with common environment we and all of our descendants are going to have to share, if your cultural beliefs are all about trying to corner and monopolize money, knowledge, political or military power over the rest of us – then bugger off.   How can I make it plainer?

, , , , , , , , , , and are all examples of what I’m talking about.

What’s this rant about?

So what, you wonder, is this little rant about?   Well, it’s about a couple of things that have come together in the last few days.

Just the other day, The U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, pointed out that the government of Pakistan is buckling before pressure from the Taliban.   The most recent and telling example of this was when the Pakistan government ‘allowed‘ the Taliban, who control the Swat Valley and, indeed, much of the northwest of Pakistan, to practice Sharia Law there.   And they, of course, did this hoping that it might result in peace with the Taliban.islamabad-pakistan

Then, just days later, we hear that the Taliban are now taking over areas adjoining the Swat Valley and forcing the people there to adopt the Taliban’s rules and killing or driving off anyone who opposes them.

Mortal Threat

The Pakistani government, in deep denial, is losing ground against the Islamic insurgents and it badly needs to decide which side it is on and get focused.   Clinton said, speaking to U.S. lawmakers, that Pakistan’s government has abdicated to the Taliban in agreeing to impose Islamic law in the Swat valley and the country now poses a “mortal threat” to the world.

I don’t think she’s exaggerating the ‘Mortal Threat’ business.   Pakistan has nuclear weapons (are you paying attention here?) and Pakistan is a weak state literally crumbling before strengthening Taliban insurgent forces.   If that’s not the definition of ‘Mortal Danger’ for the rest of us, I don’t know what is.

Then, finally, a friend of mine sent me the a link to the following video.   I encourage you to stop now, click on the video and then return here to continue reading after you are done.

Click here for the video: 

Got that?  A suitcase full of four pounds of Anthrax?   This guy has very little idea of how to try to get along with other cultures.   And, as someone who considers himself pretty liberal and tolerant, I find myself seriously wondering what we should do about people and movements like this.

Yeah, right!

Yeah, right!

I have a little movie of my own that plays over and over in my head when I think about this stuff.   It involves a time in our not too distant past when other tyrants were on the loose and wanted to take over the world.  Back then, a lot of time was spent trying to appease the beast, trying to see their good side, assuming that if we were nice, they’d be nice to.   And in my little movie, I see Neville Chamberlain getting off the plane from Germany over and over again and proclaiming, “Peace in our Time.

There’s a nice biography/documentary around about the life of Winston Churchill and it makes your skin crawl to see how very long and hard the British tried to ignore the Nazi monster and how, in the end, it almost cost them their freedom.   And without a doubt, it did cost them the loss of a lot of British lives that were lost unnecessarily because of how trusting and unprepared they were when the German Nazis finally took of their ‘Nice Mask’ and showed the world who they really were.

And here in the U.S., we refused to get involved until the Japanese literally brought the party to our shores and, like the British before us, we then suddenly had to get over our idealism and isolationism and start a massive and desperate game of catchup.

Islam is OK

So, what am I saying here?

islamFirst, let’s be clear.   I am not anti Islam.   Of the many millions of Islamic people in the world, it is only small fundamentalist core which wants to push their agendas by any means possible, who believe that terrorism is a valid tool in their struggle to make the world over in the image they want and who believe their every action, no matter how reprehensible, is blessed by their God.  But, I believe that the vast majority of Muslims in this world would simply like to live and get along just like we would.   So understand, please, that it is only these intolerant crazies that I am on about here.

Weapons of mass destruction have changed the face of warfare forever.   The leverage that can be exerted by the use of a biological or nuclear weapon can be totally out of proportion to the size of the group wielding it.   We’re not in the world anymore where we need large armies to fight our conflicts.    We’ve all been very lucky since the end of the  Second World War.   Because, in spite of our many conflicts, we’ve managed to keep the nuclear and biological genies in their bottles so far.

symbol-biohazard1symbol-nuclear1

But ask yourself, if the Taliban take over Pakistan and gain control of the weapons there, do you think it is going to turn out well for us?

Yes, I’m a liberal – but I have limits and I think for our own survival, we all should have limits.

If we think we can cure the cancer of radical Islamic fundamentalism, then by all means, we should try.   But, if we don’t think we can cure it, then we are only wasting valuable time while it spreads and becomes more and more intractable.

What should we do?

That’s a tough question. But, while we think about it and consider various half measures, those who want to destroy us and make the world over into a prison of intolerant fundamentalism, wherein women are property and human rights are irrelevant and where we all have to worship as they tell us or die, are moving inexorably forward towards the possession of nuclear and biological weapons.

This is not a place we can allow history to go.

Their culture is toxic to our future and to the future of a world based on multiculturalism,  tolerance, sustainability, science, democracy, religious freedom and human rights for everyone.   They want to take us back to the 7th century – and I, for one, don’t want to go.

In truth, I don’t know what we should do nor when we should do it.   But I see what some have called a ‘clash of civilizations‘ coming.

Some folks think that there must be something more we can do to defuse their animosity.   But, when I look at the deep roots of why they do what they do, I despair that there’s more we can do – save move forward to the final chapter in this story of human history.  The chapter in which we realize that there can be no reconciliation with a blind faith determined to convert the world to its vision or die trying.   A chapter in which we see, finally, that they will keep coming at us relentlessly until they have either won or until their vision of Islam is extinguished from the world.

We are too nice for our own good.   We will wait and wait, hoping for a way out of this quandary, and all the while we’ll be risking that they will acquire deadly weapons of mass destruction.   We may, in our tolerance and goodness, wait too long and suddenly find ourselves in a very desperate world.

But if they cannot be turned from their course, in the end, we will, we must, use whatever force it takes to eliminate their threat to our survival.   In the end, we’ll  recognize that if human civilization has a cancer and we want to advance rather than regress, then the cancer must be cut off for the greater good of the whole.

These are tough thoughts for a liberal to espouse.   But, if you’ve got  better ideas, I’d love to hear them.

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– Some additional related stories:  and and

Executed for daring to elope

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

– Stone age values have no place in this modern world.  Women are the equals of men and men and women have the right to choose their beliefs.  I’m pretty liberal but if you want to push me beyond those two statements you are going to find it tough going.

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Their crime was falling in love. Their punishment: death by firing squad. Bound and blindfolded, a young couple were shot at close range in southern Afghanistan – for daring to elope.

Abdul Aziz was 21 years old. The girl he ran off with was just 19. Her name, Gul Pecha, means flower.

Officials said the pair were tried by a Taleban court, found guilty of “immoral acts” and sentenced to death. The Taleban denied involvement.

Administrators say the couple’s parents were complicit in their fate. But that has not been confirmed.

Gul and Abdul were both from Lukhi village, in Nimroz province. Their home district borders Helmand, where a large number of Western troops are based.

They were gunned down, together, on Tuesday. Witnesses said they were shot in front of a local mob by men with AK47 assault rifles.

“They had fled their homes to the neighbouring village, because their parents refused to let them marry,” said Nimroz’s Governor, Ghullam Dastagir Azad. “Their parents tracked them down and handed them over to the Taleban.”

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Disobedience of edicts has deadly consequences

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

– I’m as much a environmentalist liberal as the next fellow.  But sometimes, I think, “Enough is enough”.   The planet’s small enough as it is and we’ve got to work out how to get along with the biosphere that we’re all dependent on without destroying ourselves during the learning process. 

– We just don’t need or have time for fundamentalist idiocy like this. 

– Sorry, if that’s not PC enough.  But, we’re 10 folks in a boat built to hold six.   And I can think of a few who should go over the side now.   Sorry.

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Militants who have seized control of swaths of Pakistan’s Swat Valley have set today as a deadline for men to grow beards or face retribution.

In the latest edict issued by Taleban forces seeking to impose Islamic law on an area once celebrated as a tourist destination, men have been told to begin growing beards and to wear caps. Barbers in the Matta area, a militant stronghold, have been ordered to stop offering shaves, and have posted signs in their shops asking customers not to request them.

The Swat Valley, just five hours from Islamabad, has gradually fallen under the control of militants headed by the cleric Maulana Fazlullah. Despite claims by the Pakistani Army that they are successfully confronting the extremists, local residents say up to 80 per cent of the valley is outside Government control.

In recent weeks the militants’ tactics have become increasingly extreme. Corpses of people who have fallen foul of the Taleban have been strung up in trees and markets have been ruled off-limits to women.

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Thinking about a thousand-year depression

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

– An excellent piece from The Automatic Earth; a Blog I’ve just started following.

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Cyclical terms like “recession” and “depression” are looking less appropriate by the day. It’s like calling the period between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance a “depression”.

I know the our situation is vastly different from the state of the world in Roman times, but the idea that we could be on the brink of a fundamental reset of civilization is intriguing, to say the least.

I’ve been convinced for several years that we are looking at the convergence of a set of wicked interlocking global problems — ecological problems (climate chaos, the death of the oceans, fresh water shortages etc.), energy shortages due to fossil fuel depletion, and overpopulation with the resulting pressure on the global food supply. This convergence is happening under the umbrella of the current global financial collapse that constrains our ability to respond to any of these problems individually, let alone any further problems that might emerge from interactions between them.

This unfortunate collision makes the future of our civilization very murky indeed. Writers like James Howard Kunstler, John Michael Greer, Carolyn Baker and Sharon Astyk (along with people like Stoneleigh and Ilargi at The Automatic Earth) have been warning about the possibility of a generalized, unrecoverable collapse of modern civilization for a while now. They have generally been derided by the mainstream as millennialist prophets of doom — driven more by their own subconscious fears and dark desires, their research full of confirmation bias.

The events unfolding around us now, however, cast their optimistic mainstream critics in a somewhat different light. None of them — even the Roubinis and Krugmans – have fully appreciated the severity of the world’s financial predicament. Their comforting bromides (and even their more pessimistic utterances) have been overwhelmed by events on a weekly basis. It has become clear that for all their careful analysis of trunks and tails, nobody truly understood the shape of the entire elephant.

This evident failure of comprehension brings their entire analysis into disrepute. And that should make us ask – if they failed to comprehend the underpinnings of a calamity in their own domain, what does that say about the possibility that they also failed to understand the dangers being trumpeted by the doomers they have derided?

After all, we are seeing the same outcome in the climate crisis as in the financial one – the trends are uniformly negative, and are unfolding much faster than the professionals in either field predicted. There are new signs from world bodies like the International Energy Agency that the same situation is developing with respect to the world’s oil supply – the more pessimistic members of the Peak Oil crowd appear to be heading for vindication.

So, following a “major, rapid contraction” (aka collapse), could our civilization end up staying on the mat, unable to rise from the ashes of our former glory? That’s unknowable of course, but hardly inconceivable. Several factors give that speculation some foundation.

The first confounding factor is the spectre of irreversible climate change. That could irreparably damage the world’s food production capacity through shifts in rainfall and the reduction of snow and glacial cover that supplies much of the world’s fresh water for agriculture.

The second factor is the permanent depletion of the compact, high-density, transportable energy supply represented by fossil fuels. We’re putting a lot of effort into developing electrical alternatives, of course. There are two major challenges in the way, though. The first is the relative infancy of the industry, and the fact that it will require both capital and fossil fuels to enable its continued growth. The second longer term problem is that the use of electricity requires a higher level of technology in the infrastructure needed to manufacture, distribute, store and convert it into work. This may not seem like much of a a problem today, but if our global industrial civilization goes into a decline, growing parts of the world may find the maintenance of such infrastructure increasingly difficult.

A third factor that may get in the way of recovery is the depletion of easily-recoverable resources such as metals. The decline in the average quality of various ores being mined today is well documented, and is likely to continue. While recycling can recover much of the metal currently discarded as waste, recycling facilities capable of producing enough output to feed our civilization’s needs do not yet exist. They would face the same hurdles as the build-out of electrical supplies I described above.

You might think that such a situation will take so long to develop that we will be able to address the situation before it gets quite that dire.

One consideration that works against that hope is that human beings are not, for all their cleverness, fully rational creatures. Research has shown that most of our “rational” decisions are made at a deeply unconscious level, to be dressed up with rational justifications only upon their emergence into the conscious mind some time later. The truth of this proposition can be seen all around us in the competition between environmental remediation and economic imperatives, in the obstruction of alternative energy development, in our repeated creation of financial bubbles — in all the myriad ways in which we as a society work tirelessly against our own best interests as individuals and as a species.

Even worse, events have recently shown a terrifying ability to outstrip our expectations, in both speed and severity. We may not have nearly as much time left as we think. A lack of time coupled with an inability to respond rationally (or even to accept the evidence of our eyes) does not bode well for the future of this civilization.

It’s conceivable that our current civilization will never regain its feet after this storm has burst upon us. We will endure as a species no matter what happens, of course, and it’s even probable that we will rise to new heights. It’s also quite possible that the rebirth of this Phoenix will take a long, long time and that those new heights will be unrecognizable to someone raised in today’s world of 401(k)’s, Credit Default Swaps, automobiles and gigantic concrete cities.

– To the original:

– Research thanks to Kael for this.

The Triumph of Ignorance

Friday, November 21st, 2008

– George Monbiot is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers.  

– I agree with him.   Fundamentalism does make and keep people stupid.  And it is one of the great shames of America that is has evolved into a powerful force here.

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By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 28th October 2008

How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the US come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance? Was it charity that has permitted mankind’s closest living relative to spend two terms as president? How did Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle and other such gibbering numbskulls get to where they are? How could Republican rallies in 2008 be drowned out by screaming ignoramuses insisting that Barack Obama is a Muslim and a terrorist?(1)

Like most people on this side of the Atlantic I have spent my adult life mystified by American politics. The US has the world’s best universities and attracts the world’s finest minds. It dominates discoveries in science and medicine. Its wealth and power depend on the application of knowledge. Yet, uniquely among the developed nations (with the possible exception of Australia), learning is a grave political disadvantage.

There have been exceptions over the past century: Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton tempered their intellectualism with the common touch and survived; but Adlai Stevenson, Al Gore and John Kerry were successfully tarred by their opponents as members of a cerebral elite (as if this were not a qualification for the presidency). Perhaps the defining moment in the collapse of intelligent politics was Ronald Reagan’s response to Jimmy Carter during the 1980 presidential debate. Carter – stumbling a little, using long words – carefully enumerated the benefits of national health insurance. Reagan smiled and said “there you go again”(2). His own health programme would have appalled most Americans, had he explained it as carefully as Carter had done, but he had found a formula for avoiding tough political issues and making his opponents look like wonks.

It wasn’t always like this. The founding fathers of the republic – men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton – were among the greatest thinkers of their age. They felt no need to make a secret of it. How did the project they launched degenerate into George W Bush and Sarah Palin?

On one level this is easy to answer. Ignorant politicians are elected by ignorant people. US education, like the US health system, is notorious for its failures. In the most powerful nation on earth, one adult in five believes the sun revolves around the earth; only 26% accept that evolution takes place by means of natural selection; two-thirds of young adults are unable to find Iraq on a map; two-thirds of US voters cannot name the three branches of government; the maths skills of 15 year-olds in the US are ranked 24th out of the 29 countries of the OECD(3).

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– research thanks to Van

Lawyers Broadside Mideast Bloggers, Media With ‘Hisba’ Lawsuits

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

– We in the U.S. say we are the beacon of freedom in the world.   And perhaps we are the freest country but I seriously question how we go about trying to spread the wealth of freedom.   We give a large amount of money every year to Egypt (Egypt and Israel are our two largest aid targets).

– But it is hard to see where any of this has been conditioned on advancements in Egyptian human rights and freedoms.   Apparently, we prop up their bullshit because they’ll support ours – hardly an active strategy for improving the world.  I would prefer to see us ‘walk our talk’.   Some might argue that in the short-term it might frustrate some of our geopolitical aims but I would assert that in the long-term it would gain us the genuine respect that wears better over time.

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CAIRO – Lawyers across the region have taken to filing ‘hisba’ lawsuits against bloggers, journalists and intellectuals in an effort to stem the flow of what they deem heretical Islamic ideas. In Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4 blogger Roshdi Algadir was arrested for a poem he posted on his blog roshdi.maktoobblog.com.According to the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Algadir was beaten and forced to sign an agreement to never again publish work on the Internet.

Hisba was established in early Islamic jurisprudence to enable individuals to publically discuss matters of religion. Leading Islamic scholar, Gamal al-Banna said that in the past it was “a construct used to promote the good and criticize the bad. Every individual in an Islamic society is responsible for the actions of the society.”

In more recent times, since the ascension of increasing radical notions of Islamic thinking in the region, hisba lawsuits – which are cases filed by private people in the name of protecting state interests – have been used to stifle rather than promote public discourse on Islam. Essentially, in modern times, hisba has been used as a means of accusing commentators of apostasy, a claim with far reaching consequences in Muslim societies.

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