Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mainstream Islamic Culture, and a more modern view

I don't like to get too involved in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict because it is filled with misinformed outrage. I generally like to leave it at, Both sides need to stop. However, that actually makes me a radical, since a huge crowd has built against Israel alone, the Zionists. As such, my examination and reflection has taken me to the basics. The Arab Muslims have been manipulated by their leaders, who they have followed in large numbers, to hate the Jews. They rejected the UN proposal, or any idea of a compromise, in 1947, then made war on May 15, 1948. Take it from there to its logical conclusions. I found two Muslim views which demonstrate the distinction between the overwhelming mainstream Arab Muslim culture, and getting free of that. Ministering to the Upwardly Mobile Muslim By SAMANTHA M. SHAPIRO Published: April 30, 2006 Early one gray Friday morning in late December, Mona K. left her parents' house in a residential neighborhood in Alexandria, Egypt, and headed downtown to Al Amirat, a wedding hall facing the Mediterranean Sea. She was going to see Amr Khaled, a Muslim TV preacher. Khaled's devotional programs are broadcast on Iqraa, a Saudi-owned religious satellite channel, and together with millions of other mostly young Muslims in the Middle East and Europe, Mona is a loyal viewer. Olaf Blecker for The New York Times Amr Khaled. Olaf Blecker for The New York Times Getting His Word Out: It wasn't until sales if Khaled's first tapes, sold by street vendors, hit 50,000 that an Egyptian TV network took notice. I traveled with Khaled in Egypt, England and Germany last winter, listening to him speak to large crowds and small groups. Many of his followers had stories much like Mona's. Her family, as she was growing up, was traditional — she prayed fairly regularly, and she always fasted during Ramadan — but not extremely religious. She had been listening to Khaled's sermons and watching him on television since a friend took her to one of his talks when she was a teenager. She was blown away. Khaled was different from any religious speaker she had ever heard. He wasn't an imam; in fact, he didn't have any official religious credentials at all. He was young, just 38, and like Mona he'd had a secular education. He had worked as an accountant for Cairo's most prestigious firm. On TV, he dressed in stylish European suits or jaunty sweaters and polo shirts — no long robes — and he spoke not in classical Arabic but the way she did, peppering his sermons with Egyptian slang. He told emotional stories about the Prophet Muhammad that often concluded with simple, satisfying morals and a list of practical lessons to apply in the week ahead. He used modern Western terms, saying that Islam "empowers" women and that the Prophet Muhammad was "the first manager" and held "press conferences." Unlike traditional Muslim religious leaders, Khaled didn't parse the finer points of Islamic law or get too deeply into political questions — he emphasized that he wasn't qualified to speak on either. He talked instead about how to be successful and happy and how to enjoy life while avoiding sin. On his TV show and in his frequent public appearances, he told his audiences how much Allah loved people, how merciful Allah was and how easy it was to earn his forgiveness. Khaled was tall and athletic and masculine, but he had a gentle demeanor, and when he prayed with his audience, he often broke down in tears. Khaled is especially popular among women, who are drawn in part by the fact that he addresses them directly in his sermons and emphasizes their central role in Islam — he has pointed out that the first convert to Islam and the first martyr to die in jihad were both women. He compares women's bodies to pearls, so precious that they require a thick shell of covering. He once told his followers that when the Prophet's wife Aisha had her menstrual period and was moody, Muhammad always made extra efforts to "display love and compassion." As she watched and listened to Khaled's sermons, Mona grew more excited about Islam. She began praying more often. She tried fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, which the Koran recommends. Once, Mona wrote a letter to Khaled asking for "Islamic guidance" concerning a personal problem. Khaled receives thousands of letters and phone calls a week from young people asking for his advice on everything from whom to marry to how to pray to what to do if they think they might be gay. "He replied back with the most tender words," Mona recalled when I met her. (She asked that I not use her full name.) "He sent a card, and it said, 'If you want to ask me anything else, consider me like your elder brother!' It wasn't copied and pasted — he really reads your letters and gives you his thoughts, and he is so tender and most adorable." When Mona arrived at Al Amirat that morning, a few bubbly young volunteers stood at the entrance with clipboards. One of them checked Mona's name off the list, and then Mona headed upstairs to a ballroom painted maroon and gold and hung with chandeliers. It was crowded; about 250 middle- and upper-class young professionals and university students were milling around. There was a stage at the far end of the room, where men in suits who looked to be management consultants were setting up projection screens for a PowerPoint presentation. None of the men in the room wore traditional beards, which Khaled says are optional — he himself has no beard at all, just a neatly trimmed mustache. All but one of the women in the room were wearing hijabs, or head scarves, which Khaled says is a requirement of Islam. Some women were fully covered by what amounted to burkas: in addition to robes and head scarves, they were wearing veils that cover the face and eyes, and gloves to cover their hands. Other women had negotiated a compromise between piety and fashion; they wore hijabs trimmed with pink lace around their faces, or they wore them with jeans or electric blue eye shadow. My Life as an Egyptian Muslim Radical Dr. Tawfik Hamid reveals the indoctrination of Egyptian youth and the election of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. by Rabbi Shraga Simmons Dr. Tawfik Hamid (pronounced taw-feek hameed) was born and bred in Egypt. While attending medical school in Cairo he joined the Muslim terror organization Gamaat Islamiya, where his colleagues included Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of Al Qaeda. Using the powers of his intellect, Dr. Hamid was eventually able to pry himself away from the extremist indoctrination and embrace a far more moderate and tolerant version of Islam. Currently, Dr. Hamid is a Senior Fellow and Chair for the Study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. His book, Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam, has been hailed as a manifesto on how to neutralize the threat of radical Islam. Dr. Hamid spoke with this week from his home in Washington DC. In a wide-ranging and candid interview, he offers insights into the recent election of Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt; the possibility of a nuclear Iran; and the key to revitalizing Islam as a “religion of peace.” Dr. Tawfik Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you – who grew up in a liberal household, the son of an orthopedic surgeon – become a member of a radical Islamic group? Dr. Hamid: I was a normal kid occupied with school and hobbies such as sports, stamp collecting, chess and music. Although my parents were secular, I had a desire to find God. I always believed that God and the world are aligned, but I never connected my heart to my mind. Then I took a biology class where I learned about the molecular structure of DNA. I felt that I’d discovered an expression of God in the world. This was the beginning of my spiritual journey. Unfortunately my zealousness for God led me to the darker side of Islam. You joined Gamaat Islamiya, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization dedicated to the violent imposition of Sharia law. How did that come about? Dr. Hamid: I was at medical school in Cairo. Studying anatomy and physiology increased my belief in God and made me more enthusiastic about Islam. The radicals were on the lookout for people like me. I was recruited and indoctrinated in three psychological stages: 1) hatred of non-Muslims and dissenting Muslims, and 2) suppression of my conscience. At that point I was open to accepting the third psychological stage: violence in the service of Allah without guilt. What specific goal did they have for you? Dr. Hamid: I met Ayman al-Zawahiri, now the leader of al-Qaeda, who was one of the top postgraduate students in the medical school. He dreamed of forcing the West to conform to a Taliban-style system where women are obligated to wear the hijab, are legally beaten by men to discipline them, and are stoned to death for extramarital sex. I was groomed to go to Afghanistan to join other young Muslims in training for jihad, to perform crimes in the name of God. My sponsors pledged to make all the logistical and financial arrangements. I was excited to go because my personal dream was to be an Islamic warrior, in accordance with the verse: “When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks” (Koran 47:4). This seemed the easiest way to attain my purpose in life and to guarantee my salvation in the afterlife.

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