In defence of Erdogan

Eric S. Margolis

WESTERN politicians and media have been scolding Turkey’s prime minister Recep Erdogan over anti-government demonstrations in Istanbul and Ankara.

What began as a local protest over the foolish plan to raze trees in Gezi Park near Istanbul’s bustling Taksim Square quickly exploded into major protests thanks to the ham-handed response of Istanbul police, who tear-gassed and beat demonstrators. Turkish police have never been famed for gentleness.

Erdogan’s curt dismissal of the crowd as “looters” further inflamed the situation. In the West, Erdogan was accused of growing authoritarianism and trying to remake Turkey into an Islamic state.

Even the normally sensible Economist magazine accused Turkey’s leader of trying to become a new Ottoman sultan.

What hypocrisy. These were the same western newspapers and politicians who ardently backed Turkey’s former governments that were little more than sock puppets for the military. The very same opinion-makers lauded Egypt’s brutal dictator, Hosni Mubarak, as a “statesman”.

So-called NGOs like Freedom House and Amnesty International, cat’s paws for western governments, attacked Erdogan.

The demonstrators in Turkey’s cities were mostly young, secular and indulging in a springtime flash riot, facilitated by new social media and support from abroad.

Many were rightly angered by Erdogan’s wrong-headed decision to take a lead role in trying to overthrow Syria’s government, a key trading partner for Turkey.

Others, by his plans to limit public drinking and the eternal dispute over women’s head scarves.

What we have been witnessing is an attempt by anti-Erdogan secularists and far rightists, joined by members of Turkey’s long quiescent far left, to achieve what they could not do at the ballot box: ousting Erdogan’s moderate Islamic AK party from power.

These are the same forces who made a terrible mess of Turkey when they were in power from the 1940’s until the 1990’s: coups, riots, murders, regular financial crisis, and brutal human rights violations.

The United States and its media have turned against Erdogan primarily because of his clashes with Israel. Pro-Israel groups in the US are now taking the lead in calling for Erdogan’s ouster. Washington’s conservatives see him as too independent and unreliable.

Over the last decade, Erdogan transformed battered, bankrupt Turkey into an economic powerhouse by imposing sound finances and releasing the pent up power of the commercial class that had long been stifled by the cartels and monopolies of the secular leadership for whom the 1930’s anti-Islamic dictator, Kemal Ataturk, remains a state deity.

Ataturk was a great national hero who saved Turkey from being carved up by the western powers, Greece, and the Soviet Union. But he proved a destructive political leader, tearing up Turkey’s historical roots and religion and replacing them with a vague form of 1930’s state fascism.

Erdogan has indeed grown mildly imperious; success and the lack of any real political opposition has gone to his head. But he is not yet a new sultan and shows few signs of trying to become one.

He has brought real democracy to Turkey, financial stability, and brought it close to European social and legal standards.
Syria aside, Erdogan has made great strides in restoring Turkey’s regional leadership and power.

As Turks used to say, “Turkey is the centre of everything.” Erdogan remains the Middle East’s most popular leader.

Turkey’s able president, Abdullah Gul, who may become a rival of Erdogan in elections, has helped calm the waters. Gul remains the good cop while Erdogan the bad.

Remember, in the last election, Erdogan won a landslide in Turkey’s fractured political system, taking almost 50% of the vote in a poll with an over 80% turnout.

Recent demonstrations have sent Turkey’s stock and bond markets into a tailspin, threatening a financial crisis after a decade of calm and steady growth.

Erdogan is on the edge of achieving a real peace with Turkey’s rebellious Kurds – the most important advance in modern Turkish history. One suspects Turkey’s generals, some of them itching to stage a coup, and their foreign allies, are trying to derail Kurdish peace talks by encouraging the demonstrations.

It took the AK Party a decade to defang the generals and push them out of politics. Are Turkey’s pashas trying to stage a comeback?

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist, writing mainly about the Middle East and South Asia. Comments:

Egypt’s Scholars Elect New Mufti

Egypt Elects New Mufti For First Time

CAIRO – Muslim scholars have chosen a professor of Islamic jurisprudence to become Egypt’s new Mufti, the first time the top religious leader be elected since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

“Dr Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, professor of Islamic law in Tanta University, got the highest number of votes and the matter has been sent to the president to issue his decision,” Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Muslim world, said in a statement cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Abdel Karim, a professor of Islamic jurisprudence, was elected on Monday by the newly-formed council of senior scholars.

A panel of Muslim scholars took the decision after “detailed study of the applicants based on scientific legal standards, the adoption of Al-Azhar’s moderate agenda and an estimation of their psychological and moral suitability”, the statement said.

Abdul-Karim will replace Ali Gomaa, who served under Mubarak.

The new mufti is the first ever elected Mufti since the 1952 revolution.

In the past, the position was traditionally filled by top scholars from Al-Azhar, who were generally staunch backers of whoever ruled the country.

“This is the first time Azhar clerics choose an Azhar scholar in balloting,” said Mahmoud Azab, an advisor to Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb.

“This is a new tradition we hope will continue.”

Al-Azhar has sought to position itself as a moderate force above the political fray.

No Brotherhood

The new mufti’s election came amid media reports that Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Rahman al-Bar had been among the candidates, but he did not make it to a short list of three scholars.

“It seems some council members were sensitive to the strong public resistance to Bar’s nomination, which led them to change their mind,” an official in the mufti’s office told Reuters.

The new mufti, Abdel Karim, is not known to hold any political affiliations.

The runner-up, Attiya al-Sayyid Fayad, has written commentaries for the Brotherhood’s website and was reported to have been a member of the Islamist group on whose ticket President Mohamed won the presidential election in June.

Abdel-Karim will be the country’s 19th Grand Mufti since 1895.

The Grand Mufti has a variety of tasks in Egypt. He reviews and ratifies death sentences issued by courts.

He is also responsible for announcing the dates of the months based on a lunar calendar, which in turn determines when the important Muslim fasting month begins.

In response to citizens’ requests, he issues religious edicts, known as fatwas, and he gives opinions over government policies.

Kelantan MB ‘got what it cakes’ as he meets top Penang bishop


Jan 28: While many have welcomed the surprise birthday treat thrown by DAP chairman Karpal Singh – one of the more outspoken critics of PAS – to the Islamic party’s top leader Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, (Chief Minister of Kelantan) the latter’s Northern trip also saw another similar gesture.

Only this time, the cake is presented by Nik Aziz to Bishop Sebastian Francis, who was appointed last year as the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Penang Diocese.

And coming at a time when tension between Muslims and Christians had threatened to rear its ugly head in the open, the move has been well-received by all, especially in the aftermath of the pro-Barisan Nasional Perkasa’s failed attempt at staging a “Bible-burning festival” in the island.

Recalling his meeting with the Bishop at a hotel in Penang, Nik Aziz wrote on his hugely popular Facebook fanpage that his visit had succeeded in its mission to encourage religious harmony.

Meanwhile, activist-blogger Anil Netto reported that Nik Aziz had cancelled another appointment in Penang in order to squeeze in the meeting with Sebastian.

“Nik Aziz touched on the importance of spirituality – which Sebastian wholeheartedly agreed to – and lamented the emphasis on materialism in today’s development models,” wrote Anil.

Sebastian meanwhile expressed concern over the Kelantan Menteri Besar’s health.

“The nation needs your spiritual example,” Anil quoted Sebastian as saying.

Both leaders also agreed that so much energy had been wasted on religious polemics which could have been channeled to more important areas.

“I don’t know what the mainstream media are going to say about my meeting with you!” Nik Aziz had quipped as he posed for a group photo.

Nik Aziz was accompanied by Parit Buntar member of parliment Mujahid Yusuf Rawa and Tasik Gelugor PAS information chief Abdul Rahman Kasim. Also present at the historic meeting was Sister Marie Jeanne from the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic institute for women.

nik aziz and father

When an imam goes to church …

A beautiful video clip of an imam and his colleagues extending the hand of friendship and brother/sisterhood to Christians in Egypt as they celebrate Christmas.


Imam Mazhar Shaheen is from the Omar Makram Mosque in Tahrir Square, Cairo, which is known for its inter-faith initiatives. He visited the nearby Kasr El Dobarah Church, the largest Evangelical church in Egypt, led by Rev Dr Maurice Sameh.

Could this ever happen in Malaysia? It is not impossible, you know. Some day … soon.

A new Malaysia lies over the horizon.

Muslim Brotherhood claims charter ‘approved’ with 64% vote


Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is claiming that the country’s new draft constitution has been passed after the final round of voting in a referendum, even as the opposition has claimed the group engaged in voting fraud.

The Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Mohamed Morsi hails, and the official al-Ahram newspaper reported that about 64 percent of voters supported the constitution, after preliminary results were tallied from the second round on Saturday.

The early results are based on reports from returning officials from the vast majority of stations over the two rounds, which were held a week apart. Official results will be announced by the country’s election committee on Monday, pending appeals.

Exit polls from the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) also showed the constitution passing, an official said. The NSF did, however, allege that there had been incidents of fraud during the vote, and was due to outline these at a press conference on Sunday.

“We’re going to challenge this in the courts, we’re going to challenge this in the streets, we’re going to challenge this until we die, because we cannot recognise this wide attempt to steal the people’s future,” Ahmed Hawary, a spokesperson for the NSF, told Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from Cairo, said that while the results were so far unofficial, the Muslim Brotherhood’s figures on elections have usually been close to accurate. She said that the low turnout figures, however, were of concern to both camps.

“Some 30 percent only of eligible voters turned out to vote in both rounds. once again raising questions of how the leadership of both the opposition and the Islamic camp have failed to appeal to the public and get them to vote in the first place,” she said.

The December 15 first round returned 57 percent in favour of the constitution, according to unofficial data. The vote was split over two days as many judges refused to supervise the ballot.

Backers of Morsi say the constitution is vital to move to democracy, nearly two years after a revolution that overthrew authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak. It will provide stability for a weak economy, they say.

But the opposition accuses Morsi of pushing through a text that they claim favours Islamists and ignores the rights of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, as well as women.

Vice-president resigns

Meanwhile, Egypt’s vice-president announced his resignation even as voters were still going to the polls on Saturday, state TV reported.
Mahmoud Mekki’s resignation was announced just hours before the end of voting in the second and final round of the referendum on the constitution.

Fifty-eight-year-old Mekki, a career judge, said that he intended to quit once the charter was adopted. The new constitution eliminates the post of vice-president.

“I have realised a while ago that the nature of politics don’t suit my professional genesis as a judge,” he wrote.

Late on Saturday, Morsi announced the names of 90 new members he had appointed to the upper house of parliament, state media reported, and a presidential official said the list was mainly liberals and other non-Islamists.

The president’s main opponents from liberal, socialist and other parties said they had refused to take any seats.

Two-thirds of the 270-member upper house was elected in a vote early this year, with one third appointed by the president.

“What happens next is that when the official results are announced on Monday by the higher election commission, we’re expecting President Morsi to call for parliamentary elections in two months from now. And those parliamentary elections are going to be the next serious battle for both camps,” reported Al Jazerea’s Rageh.

Source : Al Jazeera

Woman Right in Egypt Constitution


Women’s rights in Egypt’s draft constitution—that Egyptians will vote for or against in a public referendum in December 15—is one of the most debated issues among supports and opponents of the constitution. Opponents of the draft constitution argue that it undermines women’s basic rights and freedoms. Its supporters, on the other hand, claim that it protects women’s rights, respect, and equality.

In a recent article, I have studied “Minorities and Freedoms in Egypt’s Draft Constitution”.  I believe that hot issues such as women, human respect, justice, citizenship, etc., deserve in-depth studies and readings in order to fairly evaluate the controversial draft that prompted widespread protests across Egypt. It is not fair, of course, to judge something without having a clear perception of it. So, I would cite and study some articles that focus on women’s rights and position in Egypt’s draft constitution to pave the way for better understanding of it.

Honor and Respect

Women, like men, have the full right for honor and respect. All world religions and conventions agree on this principle. In the introductory section, which outlines the basic concepts and principles of the draft constitution, it is stated:

The individual’s dignity is an extension of the nation’s dignity. Further, there is no dignity for a country in which women are not honored; women are the sisters of men and partners in all national gains and responsibilities.

This principle in Egypt’s draft constitution does protect women’s honor and dignity. The above-mentioned maxim “there is no dignity for a country in which women are not honored” clearly assures the State’s and the society’s duties in preserving women’s honor and respect. It is illegal and a punishable crime—by virtue of the above principle—to disgrace or underestimate women in Egypt. Women, moreover, are men’s counterparts and partners who share national gains and responsibilities.

Interestingly, these values and rights of women are well-established in Islam. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said in a hadith, “Women are men’s counterparts.” (Abu Dawud, Sunan, hadith no. 236)

A woman in the Muslim society enjoys high respect and honor by merits of religious, social, cultural, and legal norms. The noble Qur’an commands husbands to deal honorably and kindly with their wives, saying, {And live with them (your wives) honorably.} (An-Nisa’ 4: 19) Therefore, a woman—whether a baby, girl, sister, wife, mother, etc.—should be greatly respected and honored.


Equality for all citizens—men and women–in Egypt is assured and maintained throughout the draft constitution. Women, therefore, enjoy as equal rights as men. It is clearly stated at the very beginning of the draft constitution that “equality before the law and equal opportunities for all citizens, men and women, without discrimination or favoritism” are guaranteed.

In fact, both women and men are equal in Islam. So, Islamic Shari`ah never discriminates between people, men and women. This fact is clear in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). For instance, the noble Qur’an unequivocally emphasizes that men and women are equal: {O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.} (Al-Hujurat 49: 13)

In his well-reputed book, Islam in Focus, Hammudah Abdalati Abd Alati says,

The rights and responsibilities of a woman are equal to those of a man but they are not necessarily identical with them. Equality and sameness are two quite different things. This difference is understandable because man and woman are not identical but they are created equals. With this distinction in mind, there is no problem. It is almost impossible to find two identical men or women.

This distinction between equality and sameness is of paramount importance. Equality is desirable, just, fair; but sameness is not. People are not created identical but they are created equals. With this distinction in mind, there is no room to imagine that woman is inferior to man. There is no ground to assume that she is less important than he just because her rights are not identically the same as his. Had her status been identical with his, she would have been simply a duplicate of him, which she is not. The fact that Islam gives her equal rights – but not identical – shows that it takes her into due consideration, acknowledges her, and recognizes her independent personality.

Support for Working, Divorced, and Widowed Women

Egypt’s draft constitution guarantees full support for working, divorced, and widowed women. The State, therefore, will maintain social and financial support for women in a way that preserves their life, honor, dignity, and wellbeing. Article No. 10 reads:

The State shall ensure maternal and child health services free of charge, and enable the reconciliation between the duties of a woman towards her family and her work.

The State shall provide special care and protection to female breadwinners, divorced women and widows.

Given the above, decent and honorable life for women, like all citizens, will be maintained and promoted by the constitution. This way, the Egyptian society, with its various cultures and faith communities, could enjoy social justice and solidarity. Women and men, whether young or aged, will have equal rights to their country’s public resources and properties.

In conclusion, I see that Egypt’s draft constitution has many points that deserve study and reading. Women’s rights are generally promoted in a way that preserves their dignity, honor, and equality with men. Moreover, Egyptian women, as well as men, have the opportunity to shape their future and freely vote for or against the draft constitution. This manifests women’s real participation in the political and social life in life in Egypt.

Dr. Wael Shihab has a PhD in Islamic Studies from Al-Azhar University and is the Head of the Shari`ah and Fatwa sections at the English web site of  You may reach him at this e-mail address:

Hudud (Penalties) in Contemporary Legal Discourse

On Sunday, January 2, 2011, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, president of the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS), was interviewed by Al Jazeera channel program Ash-Shari`ah wa Al-Hayah (Shari`ah and Life). The interview’s main theme was “Hudud in Contemporary Fiqh.”

From time to time, the question of hudud (fixed penalties in the Islamic Shari`ah) and their application in the modern world raises debates in Muslim and non-Muslim societies. While mainstream Muslims regard the right application of hudud as an integral part of Shari`ah, others see it as a controversial issue that should be open to ijtihad (personal reasoning) on the part of contemporary scholars.

Sheikh Qaradawi, who is known for his vast and deep knowledge of Shari`ah and its essential objectives, wonderfully and distinctively dealt with this thorny topic in his recent interview on Al Jazeera. In the following lines, the main points discussed during the interview are reviewed.


Historical Background

For more than 14 centuries Muslims have resorted to Shari`ah as a means to govern their lives until the Western occupation forces invaded Muslim lands. At that time, the occupiers changed the laws by force, so it was natural that peoples and reformers in Muslim countries fought to restore the rule of Shari`ah, as these countries were mainly Muslim-majority ones.

Sheikh Qaradawi calls for applying Shari`ah while bearing into consideration the changes in time, place, and people themselves, as there are old jurisprudential rulings that are not valid in this modern world. Shari`ah is valid for all times and places; however, the application of Shari`ah needs ijtihad on the part of qualified scholars who consider the changes in today’s world while having deep knowledge of the tenets of Shari`ah.

Shari`ah and Hudud

Shari`ah cannot be divided; it should be dealt with as a whole. In the Qur’an, out of 6,236 verses, only 10 address the topic of hudud directly. These verses were revealed late during the mission of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The hudud laws mentioned in the Qur’an are 4 -or 5 if the one of qisaas (retaliation) is added-. These 5 hudud address qisaas, adultery, qadhf (false accusation), hirabah (highway robbery), and theft.

In order to realize the actual volume of hudud compared to the rest of Islam, many scholars divide Islam into creed, acts of worship, morals, manners, and laws. The laws are divided into civil, economic, family, commercial, criminal, constitutional, international relations laws, and so on.

So why do people focus only on one part of the criminal law and ignore the rest of Shai`ah and Islam? This is because some people — even among Muslims — see this part as a group of distinguishing laws of Islam, because these laws are essentially different from those foreign or man-made laws. Moreover, this is because hudud are the apparent part of Shari`ah to people, though hudud alone are not enough for a thorough application of Shari`ah itself.

However, if the laws related to banning usury or collecting zakah (prescribed alms) are applied, many people will think that the ruler is not applying Shari`ah so long as hudud are not applied.

Apart from this, the phrase hududu Allah mentioned in some verses of the Qur’an is even related to issues like divorce and marriage. Here, the term hudud refers to the features and limits that distinguish what is permissible from what is forbidden concerning jurisprudential rulings.

Hudud in the Qur’an and Sunnah

There are clear-cut hudud established by the Qur’an as mentioned above, with regard to qisaas,qadhf, hirabah, and theft. There are also the zanni (speculative) hudud, which were established by the Sunnah, such as the penalty for drinking wine. Some scholars said it is 40 lashes; others said it should be 80 lashes, while some others, like Al-Bukhari and At-Tabari, said there is no penalty for drinking wine but only ta`zeer (or other less punishment). adultery,

Sheikh Qaradawi notes that he goes for the last opinion, so the punishment could be whipping, imprisoning, or imposing fines.

One of the speculative hudud is also the one for apostasy, which was established by the Sunnah. There are many hadiths, as well as some references in the Qur’an, on killing apostates. However, `Umar ibn Al-Khattab asked an apostate to repent. Also, Imam An-Nakh`iy and Imam Ath-Thawry are of the opinion that apostates should continuously be asked to repent. Moreover, the stoning penalty for a married adulterer was referred to in the Sunnah, not in the Qur’an.

Applying Hudud Is Not a Problem

Although the late Syrian prime minister and great man of law Faris Al-Khoury was a Christian, he was one of the figures most enthusiastic about applying Shari`ah. The problem is not with the application of hudud, but it has to do with the misapplication of them; that is, applying them without meeting their conditions. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prepared the society before applying hudud. He applied the whole of Islam: He performed the Prayers, collected zakah from the rich, and distributed it among the poor, stressing the importance of social solidarity. He also provided jobs for the unemployed. Generally speaking, he made an Islamic life. In that case, the theft penalty could be applied.

But how can hudud be applied when people are unemployed, hungry, sick, orphaned, and homeless? Islam should be established in such aspects first, and then if someone steals, such an act of theft is because of the evil inside him or her.

`Umar ibn Al-Khattab did so by suspending the theft penalty during the Starvation Year, as people were stealing because of need and hunger. When a rich man came to `Umar complaining that his slaves were stealing, after pondering and investigating the matter and knowing that this master had not met the needs of his slaves, `Umar told him, “Go meet their needs first or I’ll cut your hands off.” So, social justice should be applied, and people’s needs should be met, and conditions should be considered in order to apply hudud. Otherwise, hudud may be used as a pretext to oppress people by their rulers.

Moreover, sometimes some individuals steal millions and billions and hudud are not applied to them as they are politically empowered and rich. In the same time, hudud are applied to the weak and the poor. Here, imbalance takes place.

Hudud Are Not the Ultimate Goal

Another point is that when someone commits a crime related to hudud, the authorities should not start with applying the penalty, but any other way out should be sought. A rule, which Muslims agree upon, says, “Let doubt suspend hudud.” Many jurists widen the range of doubt based on the following hadith related by Al-Hakim and As-Suyuti:

“Refrain from enforcing hudud on Muslims as much as you can. If you find a way out for a Muslim, let him (or her) go, as it is better for the imam (ruler) to wrongly forgive than to wrongly punish.”

Islam is not keen on punishing people. Punishments are for abnormal people, who constitute a small portion of society. However, if these people are not punished, corruption will prevail. There is a hadith that says,

“A penalty applied on earth is better for people than rain falling upon them for 30 or 40 mornings.” (Ahmad)

This is because there is no benefit in receiving rains and growing crops while thieves are allowed to steal what hardworking people should harvest.

Conditions and Restrictions of Applying Hudud

Allah has prescribed hudud to deter and purge the wrongdoers. Hudud deter those who commit crimes and prevent them from committing them again; they further discourage other people from committing crimes.

Some people say that the hudud are harsh. In fact, harshness is sometimes required for reform. Another point is,what is the alternative for hudud? The alternative in man-made laws is imprisonment, which does not deter criminals; Some criminals sometimes repeat their evil acts even more shockingly after gaining more experience from their fellow criminals in jails.

Islam’s philosophy of applying hudud with regard to adultery, for example, does not have to do with the act of adultery itself – which is a forbidden act of course due to many reasons -. That philosophy rather has to do with the doer’s committing his or her act publicly, as it is known that the adultery penalty is applied only when four just people (with acceptable testimony) witness the evil act of illegal sexual intercourse, or when the adulterer confesses four times before a judge that he or she has committed that act. In that case, the defendant should be informed of the penalty before he or she confesses.

Moreover, the four witnesses must be just, and the judge must make sure that they are not lying to him. If any of these conditions are not met, the penalty cannot be applied. In that case, the adulterer may have the chance to repent without receiving the penalty.

Another condition for applying hudud is the removal of all dubieties. For example, if someone steals an amount of money from Bayt Al-Mal (the Treasury), he or she should not receive the prescribed penalty (namely, cutting off the his/her hand). This is because some scholars say that the doer of this act already has a share of that public money as he or she is one of the Muslims. However, if the penalty of theft is not applied, another lesser punishment should be inflicted on the doer.

However, when all dubieties are removed, there still remain conditions for hudud to be applied:

1-     A defendant’s committing a crime by free will while knowing that this act or crime is illegal

2-     A defendant’s publicly committing a crime or confessing to committing it.

Ijtihad and Application of Hudud

There are differences among scholars with regard to the application of some hudud. For example, there are differences relating to the meaning of cutting off  a thief’s hand, the accurate place of cutting, and the amount or number of stolen stuff that deserves the penalty. This is natural because jurisprudential details differ, but the basic rulings are agreed upon.

So, if someone steals something that exceeds a certain amount, the penalty is applied. Based on that, if someone steals something less than such a certain value or something to eat, the penalty is not applied. The amount of stolen money should be significant enough for the penalty to be deserved, and this can be subject to ijtihad in our modern time. But generally speaking scholars agree that a thief’s hand should be cut off exactly at the wrist.

It is natural that these jurisprudential differences open the door for contemporary ijtihad, which must be open in order to apply Shari`ah. There are many examples of issues that need contemporary ijtihad. For example, there is a hadith that says, “A Muslim should not be killed in qisaas (equality in punishment) for killing a disbeliever” (Al-Bukhari). So, should a Muslim be killed if he or she kills a Dhimmi (a non-Muslim living under the protection of the Islamic State)? Abu Hanifah and his companions say, “Yes,” as disbeliever in the hadith refers to the disbelievers fighting Muslims, not Dhimmis. This ruling was applied during the Abbasid and Ottoman caliphates as these caliphates adhered to the Hanafi School of Thought.

Another example is the diyyah (blood money) — should it be the same amount of money for both Muslims and Dhimmis killed? Should it be the same amount for men and women killed? I am for paying an equal amount, because Almighty Allah says in the Qur’an (Pay blood money to the family of the slain.) (An-Nisaa’ 4:92)  Thus, Almighty Allah does not differentiate between a man and a woman. Moreover, in qisaas, a man is killed when he kills a woman. So, we should open the door for ijtihad in such issues.

Islamic vs. Secular Penal Laws

The majority of secular laws are in accordance with Shari`ah laws, except for penal laws (those relating to hudud and qisaas). However, the essence of the relation between the Islamic system and the secular ones is one of separation. This is because secular systems represent philosophies that are different from Islam’s.

For example, the secular system does not punish adulterers as it views their act as a right to please themselves. It also does not punish homosexuals as it views their act as a personal right. While it does not forbid usury, Islam sees usury as a matter that deserves waging war against those practicing it. So the Islamic and secular philosophies are different in such a way that they do not complement one another.

There might some sort of integration between these two kinds of systems concerning some civil laws, but this does not mean that the application of secular laws equals the application of Shari`ah, as any system must be adopted along with its philosophy.

Possibility of Applying Hudud Today

It is supposed that when the elements of a crime are complete, hudud should be applied. However, if these elements are not present, then ta`zeer should be applied. Ta`zeer is to be applied by the authority of the imam or judge. Applying hudud is the right of the state. Consequently, no group in any place has the right to apply hudud to a group of people away from the authority of the state.

Hudud may be suspended until there is an Islamic life comprehensively established, with all conditions guaranteed. If these conditions are met in a certain case, hudud must be applied.

There are countries that apply hudud nowadays like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Sudan. But the question is, do they apply hudud properly? This needs to be discussed in detail.

Hudud Debate Grips Malaysia


CAIRO – Hudud has come to the forefront in Malaysia once again after a member of the ruling coalition has criticized plans by the country’s main Islamic party to apply Islamic penalties in the Muslim-majority nation.

“Hudud will not only apply to Muslims, but to non-Muslims as well,” Lim Choon, member of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), told the New Straits Times on Monday, October 22.

Hudud application dominated the party’s 59th annual general assembly, where delegated rejected plans by PAS Islamic party to apply the penalties.

“Our president had mentioned in the past that if you start stoning criminals or chopping off their hands, such acts would deal a severe blow to our country’s economy and damage our country’s social norms,” delegate Khoo Ai Laa said.

PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang said in May that he would seek to amend the constitution to apply hudud if the party won the election.

But his proposal has met strong opposition from his coalition partners, including the secular Democratic Action Party (DAP).

The debate comes amid a changing political landscape in the Muslim-majority country as polls have shown that Malaysians were willing to apply Islamic Shari`ah.

A recent survey of Malaysian Muslim youth showed that nearly three-quarters back the idea for the Qur’an to replace the Federal Constitution as the country’s highest law.

The poll by independent pollster Merdeka Center showed that about 72 percent of Muslims aged 15 to 25 support the Muslim holy book as the highest law while 25 percent disagree.

Political Games

MCA members accused the Islamic party of using hudud as a political weapon to win over voters.

“As the general election looms closer, PAS starts talking about hudud, but they do not address the law’s practicality nor confidently assure non-Muslims that it would not affect them,” said Khoo, who is a representative from MCA Bandar Tun Razak division.

“PAS’ push for hudud is political in nature.”

Richard Yong Sin Onn, a delegate from MCA Pandan division, opines that PAS’ allies in the opposition People’s Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat) should include hudud in its election manifesto.

“This is so that the public will know that there is a possibility that hudud will be implemented if they vote for Pakatan,” he said.

“I believe that voters would abhor such a move (implementing hudud) as they do not want to be governed by religion.”

With an estimated 800,000 members, PAS is the main rival of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s United Malays National Organization.

Hudud are part of PAS’ political agenda and has been one of the pillars of its policies.

A few years ago, PAS enacted the hudud laws in its stronghold in Kelantan to be imposed only on Muslims, who represent about 90 percent of the state’s 1.5 million population.

The laws introduced hudud for theft, robbery, adultery, liquor consumption and apostasy.

Malaysia’s parliamentary elections are due in 2013, but expectations are high that the polls could be called much earlier.

Muslim Malays form about 60 percent of Malaysia’s 26-million population, while Christians make up around 9.1 percent.

Buddhists constitute 19.2 percent, Hindu 6.3 while other traditional Chinese religions make up the rest of the population.

Islamic Revival in Syria Is Led by Women

August 29, 2006

DAMASCUS, Syria — Enas al-Kaldi stops in the hallway of her Islamic school for girls and coaxes her 6-year-old schoolmate through a short recitation from the Koran.

“It’s true that they don’t understand what they are memorizing at this age, but we believe that the understanding comes when the Koran becomes part of you,” Ms. Kaldi, 16, said proudly.

In other corners of Damascus, women who identify one another by the distinctive way they tie their head scarves gather for meetings of an exclusive and secret Islamic women’s society known as the Qubaisiate.

At those meetings, participants say, they are tutored further in the faith and are even taught how to influence some of their well-connected fathers and husbands to accept a greater presence of Islam in public life.

These are the two faces of an Islamic revival for women in Syria, one that could add up to a potent challenge to this determinedly secular state. Though government officials vociferously deny it, Syria is becoming increasingly religious and its national identity is weakening. If Islam replaces that identity, it may undermine the unity of a society that is ruled by a Muslim religious minority, the Alawites, and includes many religious groups.

Syrian officials, who had front-row seats as Hezbollah dragged Lebanon into war, are painfully aware of the myriad ways that state authority can be undermined by increasingly powerful, and appealing, religious groups. Though Syria’s government supports Hezbollah, it has been taking steps to ensure that the phenomenon it helped to build in Lebanon does not come to haunt it at home.

In the past, said Muhammad al-Habash, a Syrian lawmaker who is also a Muslim cleric, “we were told that we had to leave Islam behind to find our futures.”

“But these days,” he said, “if you ask most people in Syria about their history, they will tell you, ‘My history is Islamic history.’ The younger generation are all reading the Koran.”

Women are in the vanguard. Though men across the Islamic world usually interpret Scripture and lead prayers, Syria, virtually alone in the Arab world, is seeing the resurrection of a centuries-old tradition of sheikhas, or women who are religious scholars. The growth of girls’ madrasas has outpaced those for boys, religious teachers here say.

There are no official statistics about precisely how many of the country’s 700 madrasas are for girls. But according to a survey of Islamic education in Syria published by the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, there are about 80 such madrasas in Damascus alone, serving more than 75,000 women and girls, and about half are affiliated with the Qubaisiate (pronounced koo-BAY-see-AHT).

For many years any kind of religious piety was viewed here with skepticism. But while men suspected of Islamist activity are frequently interrogated and jailed, subjecting women to such treatment would cause a public outcry that the government cannot risk. Women have taken advantage of their relatively greater freedom to form Islamic groups, becoming a deeply rooted and potentially subversive force to spread stricter and more conservative Islamic practices in their families and communities.

Since intelligence agents still monitor private gatherings that involve discussion of Islam, groups like the Qubaisiate often meet clandestinely, sometimes with women guarding the door to deter interlopers.

The group is named for its founder, a charismatic Syrian sheikha, Munira al-Qubaisi.

A wealthy woman in her 50’s living in Damascus, who has attended Qubaisiate meetings and who asked that her name not be used because she feared punishment, provided a rough description of the activities.

A girl thought to be serious about her faith may be invited by a relative or a school friend to go to a meeting, the woman said. There, a sheikha sits on a raised platform, addresses the assembled women on religious subjects and takes questions.

Qubaisiate members, the woman said, tie their head scarves so there is a puff of fabric under the chin, like a wattle. As girls and women progress in their study of Islam and gain stature within the group, the color of their scarves changes. New members wear white ones, usually with long khaki colored coats, she said. Later they graduate to wearing navy blue scarves with a navy coat. At the final stage the sheikha may grant them permission to cover themselves completely in black.

Hadeel, a Syrian woman in her early 20’s who asked to be identified only by her first name, described how her best childhood friend had become one of the Qubaisi “sisterhood” and encouraged her to follow suit.

“Rasha would call and say, ‘Today we’re going shopping,’ and that would be a secret code meaning that there was a lesson at 7:30,” Hadeel said. “I went three times, and it was amazing. They had all this expensive food, just for teenage girls, before the lesson. And they had fancy Mercedes cars to take you back home afterward.”

Hadeel said she had at first been astonished by the way the Qubaisiate, ostensibly a women’s prayer group, seemed to single out the daughters of wealthy and influential families and girls who were seen as potential leaders.

“They care about getting girls with big names, the powerful families,” Hadeel said. “In my case, they wanted me because I was a good student.”

Women speaking about the group asked that their names not be used because the group is technically illegal, though it seems the authorities are increasingly turning a blind eye.

“To be asked to join the Qubaisiate is very prestigious,” said Maan Abdul Salam, a women’s rights campaigner.

Mr. Abdul Salam explained that such secret Islamic prayer groups recruited women differently, depending on their social position. “They teach poor women how to humble themselves in front of their husbands and how to pray, but they’re teaching upper-class women how to influence politics,” he said.

The Islamic school where Ms. Kaldi, the 16-year-old tutor, studies has no overt political agenda. But it is a place where devotion to Islam, and an exploration of women’s place in it, flourishes.

The school, at the Zahra mosque in a western suburb of Damascus, is a cheerful, cozy place, with soft Oriental carpets layered underfoot and scores of little girls running around in their socks. Ms. Kaldi spends summers, vacations and some afternoons there, studying and helping younger children to memorize the Koran. Her work tutoring has made her an important figure in this world; many of the younger girls greet her shyly as they pass.

The school accepts girls as young as 5, who begin memorizing the Koran from the back, where the shortest verses are found. The youngest girls are being taught with the aid of hand gestures, games and treats.

The atmosphere is relaxed. The children share candy and snacks as they study, and the room hums with the sound of high-pitched voices reciting in unison. Several girls, preparing for the tests that will allow them to progress to higher-level classes, swing one-handed around the smooth columns that support the roof of the mosque, dreamily murmuring verses aloud to themselves.

After girls in the Zahra school have committed the Koran to memory, they are taught to recite the holy book with the prescribed rhythm and cadences, a process called tajweed, which usually takes at least several years of devoted study. Along the way they are taught the principles of Koranic reasoning.

It is this art of Koranic reasoning, Ms. Kaldi and her friends say, that most sets them apart from previous generations of Syrian Muslim women.

Fatima Ghayeh, 16, an aspiring graphic designer and Ms. Kaldi’s best friend, said she believed that “the older generation,” by which she meant women now in their late 20’s and their 30’s, too often allowed their fathers and husbands to dictate their faith to them.

They came of age before the Islamic revivalist movement that has swept Syria, she explained, and as a result many of them do not feel an intellectual ownership of Islamic teaching in the way that their younger sisters do.

“The older girls were told, ‘This is Islam, and so you should do this,’ ” Ms. Ghayeh said. “They feel that they can’t really ask questions.

“It’s because 10 years ago Syria was really closed, and there weren’t so many Islamic schools. But society has really changed. Today girls are saying, ‘We want to do something with Islam, and for Islam.’ We’re more active, and we ask questions.”

Ms. Ghayeh and Ms. Kaldi each remember with emotion the day, early in President Bashar al-Assad’s tenure, when he changed the law to allow the wearing of Islamic head scarves in public schools, a practice that was forbidden under his father, Hafez al-Assad. The current president, who took office in 2000, also reduced the hours that students must spend each week in classes where the ruling Baath Party’s ideology is taught, and began allowing soldiers to pray in mosques.

Those changes have been popular among Sunnis, who make up 70 percent of the country’s population, but they carry political risks for a government that has long been allergic to public displays of religious fervor.

The government has been eager to demonstrate in recent years, through changes like these and increasing references to Syria’s Islamic heritage in official speeches, that it does not fear Islam as such.

During the weeks of war between Israel and Hezbollah, the government frequently used references to the Islamic cause and to the “Lebanese resistance,” as Hezbollah is called in the Syrian state-controlled news media, to play to the feelings of Syrians and consolidate its support. But it is still deeply anxious about Islamic groups acting outside the apparatus of the state, and the threat that they may lose to state control.

The girls at the madrasa say that by plunging more deeply into their faith, they learn to understand their rights within Islam.

In upper-level courses at the Zahra school, the girls debate questions like whether a woman has the right to vote differently from her husband. The question is moot in Syria, one classmate joked, because President Assad inevitably wins elections by a miraculous 99 percent, just as his father did before him.

When the occasion arises, they say, they are able to reason from the Koran on an equal footing with men.

“People mistake tradition for religion,” Ms. Kaldi said. “Men are always saying, ‘Women can’t do that because of religion,’ when in fact it is only tradition. It’s important for us to study so that we will know the difference.”

Muslim Brotherhood claims victory in Egyptian presidential elections

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood claimed a victory for its candidate Mohammed Morsi on Monday in the country’s first presidential vote since its uprising, but his rival Ahmed Shafiq disputed the announcement.

“The campaign of Dr Mohammed Mursi announced… his victory as president of the Arab Republic of Egypt according to the results reported by its representatives and counting records from all polling stations,” the organisation said in a statement, adding Mr Morsi had won 52 percent of the vote.

“It’s a moment that all the Egyptian people have waited for,” said Mr Morsi’s campaign head Ahmed Abdelati at an earlier press conference in which he confirmed the projected win.

But a Shafiq campaign official said their figures showed Shafiq, who served as prime minister to deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak, leading in the count.

“We reject it completely,” Mahmud Barakeh, said of the Brotherhood’s claim. “We are astonished by this bizarre behaviour which amounts to a hijacking of the election results.”

There were scenes of jubilation at Mr Morsi’s headquarters, where the candidate himself thanked Egyptians for their votes in brief remarks.

He pledged to work to “hand-in-hand with all Egyptians for a better future, freedom, democracy, development and peace.”

“We are not seeking vengeance or to settle accounts,” he said, adding that he would build a “modern, democratic state” for all Egypt’s citizens, Muslims and Christians.

Supporters screamed with excitement, some wiping tears from their eyes. Several hundred held a victory rally in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square after the announcement.

The Brotherhood mobilised their formidable network of supporters to receive tallies from polling stations across the country and deliver early unofficial results, but final official figures are not expected until June 21.

The jubilation at Mr Morsi’s headquarters was overshadowed however by a looming showdown between the Brotherhood and the ruling military, which issued a new constitutional document shortly after polls closed on Sunday.

The document issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces grants the body legislative powers after a top court on Thursday ordered the dissolution of the Islamist-dominated parliament.

The document also gives SCAF veto power over the text of a new permanent constitution, and states that no new parliamentary vote will be held until after a permanent constitution is approved.

The declaration appeared to put the military on a collision course with the Brotherhood, which called the constitutional declaration “null and unconstitutional.”

The document was issued after a Thursday ruling from the constitutional court, which found a third of the parliament’s members had been elected illegally, effectively ordering the dissolution of the body.

The declaration confirmed the military was retaking the legislative power it handed the body in January after its election.

“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces shall exercise the powers referred to under the first clause of article 56 (on legislative power)… until the election of a new People’s Assembly,” the document reads.

Such an election cannot be held until a new permanent constitution is written and adopted by a referendum, it adds.

The writing of the new constitution will be carried out by a “constitutional commission representing all segments of the society” that will have three months to complete its work, the document says.

It also grants SCAF a veto right over any article of a draft constitution it considers “contrary to the supreme interests of the country.”

Egypt’s parliament has already appointed a constituent panel to replace an initial group that was dissolved over allegations it was Islamist-dominated.

But the declaration leaves it unclear whether that panel will be able to continue its work, and gives SCAF the right to form a new panel if the current body “is prevented from doing its work.”

It also stipulates that SCAF “as currently constituted, has the power to decide on all matters related to the armed forces.”

The Muslim Brotherhood and revolutionary youth movements denounced the declaration as a “coup” and the Freedom and Justice Party said it rejected any bid by the military to retake legislative power.

And parliamentary speaker Saad al-Katatni, an FJP member, said the constituent assembly appointed by the parliament would continue its work.

The new political uncertainty comes after an electoral race that polarised the nation, dividing those who fear a return to the old regime under Shafiq from others who want to keep religion out of politics.

The new president will inherit a struggling economy, deteriorating security and the challenge of uniting a nation divided by the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak in February 2011.

Source: agencies