At a time when the entire world of Islam is under intense attack from external enemies, most of them directly or indirectly associated with the United States of America, the sole superpower of the modern world, it is sometimes easy to forget the key objectives facing Islamic movements. Defending our lands and societies from outside attack is undoubtedly essential, but our main objective must be the establishment of Islamic institutions and orders in our own societies, most importantly Islamic political orders.
The end of the year is often a time for looking back and reflecting on events past. This is particularly the case in Western countries, where the new year coincides with the annual Christmas break, the main holiday period in most Western countries, although it is no longer a particularly Christian or spiritual occasion. This year, the Islamic new year follows very soon after the new year on the Gregorian calendar; in fact, 2008 will be a rare Gregorian year because it has two Islamic new years, as the year 1430AH will begin at the end of next December.1
Alan Greenspan’s recently published memoirs cut through a great deal of the official American bluster about the US involvement in Iraq, going straight to the heart of the matter. “I am saddened,” he wrote, “that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”
Many people reading the recent news from Darfur may be confused. On October 25, just days before peace talks on the conflict in Darfur were due to begin in Libya, anti-government rebels in Darfur were reported to have attacked oil installations in the neighbouring region of Kardofan, kidnapping two foreigners and warning other foreign oil workers that they had a week to leave the country or they would face similar attacks. The start of the talks in Sirte were then delayed because rebel groups refused to take part.
For a little while last month, as Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepared to address the American people in a series of media opportunities and a high-profile speech at Columbia University during his visit to New York to address the General Assembly of the UN, it appeared that we were back in the days when former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami was championing “dialogue between civilizations”, to the delight of Western liberals who hoped that the “reformists” might bring Iran back into the West’s sphere of influence – their definition of civilization.
Asked about the lesson of fasting, Imam Husain (r.a.) is reported to have replied that “the rich should feel the pangs of hunger and appreciate what the poor have to endure, and therefore share Allah’s bounty with them.”As Muslims begin the month of Ramadan later this month, they should think of the suffering of their brothers and sisters in Palestine, and Ghazzah in particular.
One little-noticed story in the international media last month was the reported arrest and interrogation of 40 men in Egypt, allegedly for having links with al-Qa’ida. According to reports first carried in Al-Masry al-Yom, an independent Egyptian daily newspaper, the men were actually arrested in April but news of the arrests was deliberately not released. Subsequent media investigations have unearthed further details, many of them inconsistent.
June turned out to be a month of speeches and conferences for this writer. It began with Imam Khomeini memorial programmes in the UK. These were followed by a visit to South Africa, which was as special as always, and where I spoke at a conference organized by the local office of Crescent International, along with Zafar Bangash and Imam Muhammad al-Asi, as well as speaking at a couple of smaller events. At end of the month there was a major conference on Islamic unity in London, attended by a number of senior figures from around the world, at which I also presented a paper. Inevitably, discussions were dominated by two or three topics: Iraq and the tragic blood-letting there; the problem of sectarianism; and, because they were in the news at the time, the recent developments in Palestine in particular.
This month, as in every June since 1989, Muslims around the world will hold prayer meetings, lectures and other events to mark the anniversary of the death of Imam Khomeini, who died in Tehran on June 4, 1989, a decade after the Islamic Revolution in Iran with which he will always be associated. The usual speakers -- such as this writer -- will give the usual speeches, focusing on the usual aspects of his life and character.
At the end of April, western human rights and charitable bodies organized a series of events to mark the fourth anniversary of the outbreak of fighting in the Darfur region of western Sudan. During this period, Darfur has become a by-word for human tragedy, with the Sudanese government of Omar Bashir being blamed for perpetrating a “genocide” against “African” tribes-people in the region, with the help of the notorious Janjaweed, described as militants belonging to “Arab” tribes, supported and equipped by the Sudanese government.
Iqbal Siddiqui on the desperate need of an Islamic movement in Pakistan..
It is difficult to imagine the scenes on the ground in the small and remote Somali village of Hayo on January 9, when a heavily-armed American AC-130 gunship appeared in the sky and “rained gunfire” into the village.
There was uproar in Egypt last month when a small number of students at al-Azhar University, supporters of the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, wore black uniforms and balaclavas, and performed martial arts exercises, during a protest against the university authorities. The government immediately condemned what they said was evidence that the Ikhwan has a secret military wing.
Malaysia is the favourite Muslim country for many Western Muslims. The reasons were not difficult to see when this writer visited the country last month; Malaysia can perhaps be characterised as Muslim but not too Muslim. You can eat halal food wherever you go, there are suraus (prayer rooms) in malls, hotels and most other public buildings, and virtually all Muslimahs wear hijab. But in terms of their development, modernity, looks and general atmosphere, Kuala Lumpur and surrounding urban areas such as Petaling Jaya feel more like Islamised versions of cities in the West than Muslim cities like Cairo, Damascus, Tehran, Karachi or Jakarta.
We at Crescent routinely criticise “extremists” of various kinds within the Islamic movement, whether they be sectarian extremists, or militant extremists, who regard military jihad as the be-all and end-all of the struggle of the Islamic movement; or religious extremists, who reduce Islam to nothing more than personal or spiritual religiosity.
The “silly season” is an annual feature of British life: the period every summer when the country’s politicians depart the Westminster village for their holidays and the newspapers have to scrabble around for something else to write about in order to keep readers interested.
One feature of current events in the Middle East is that the three Islamic movements that perhaps deserve the greatest respect and recognition from the global Ummah are standing together against the onslaught from the West.
The protests that have erupted around the Muslim world in support of the Muslims of Lebanon and in protest at the Israelis’ war on the country have been dominated by placards of Hizbullah’s leader, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah.
In May, Lebanon marked the anniversary of the Hizbullah’s successful expulsion of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in 2000. For Muslims around the world, the Hizbullah success was a triumph for the courage and steadfastness of its members in the field of battle and in the far more complicated arena of Lebanese politics.
Working on the preparations for the Dr Kalim Siddiqui Memorial Conference in April provided an opportunity to go back and read many of his writings after many years. What was truly remarkable about them was how much of what he wrote years ago, in what were apparently very different historical times, remains as fresh and relevant today as it was at the time.