Maldives overcomes Islamic opposition and appoints two women as Supreme Court judges

Of note:

Male, September 5 (Maldives Independent): In a historic vote on Tuesday, parliament confirmed the president’s nominationsof former judges Dr Azmiralda Zahir and Aisha Shujune Mohamed as the first female justices of the Supreme Court.

Both nominees were approved with 62 votes in favour. Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed Abdulla cast the sole dissenting vote while Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim abstained.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party controls 65 seats in the 87-member People’s Majlis.

Shujune, whoresignedfrom the civil court in 2014, was among the first two female judges appointed to the bench in 2007. Dr Azmiralda was the most senior female judge in the country until herresignationfrom the High Court in May 2016.

President Solih’s nomination of the pair last month sparked a backlash from religious scholars who contended that Islamprohibitswomen from serving as judges.

Clerics condemned the move on Twitter and some shared an opinion issued by the fatwa council, in which the advisory body backed the view that women cannot pass judgment on criminal matters or property disputes. There was a consensus among scholars of all sects of Islam that judges must be male, they said. Some scholars from the Hanafi sect say women can adjudicate civil matters and family disputes but most scholars do not agree with any exceptions, the council noted.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party, which is part of the MDP-led ruling coalition,backedthe council’s opinion but acknowledged the lack of consensus on the question. The party called for respect of differing opinions on disputed matters and appealed against branding people as disbelievers or apostates. A person who endorses an incorrect opinion should not be considered a sinner, it added.

Tuesday’s confirmation vote came after parliament’s judiciary committee evaluated the nominees, both of whom were sent for approval after endorsement from the Judicial Service Commission.

During the final debate, MDP MPs reiterated the ruling party’s stance that the appointments would be an important step towards empowering women and achieving gender equality. Opposition lawmakers also backed the appointment of women to the bench and Independent MP Ahmed Usham commended the nominees as qualified and capable individuals.

The former judges were nominated after parliamentamendedthe Judicature Act to increase the size of the Supreme Court bench from five to seven justices.

Source: Maldives overcomes Islamic opposition and appoints two women as Supreme Court judges

Female imams lead prayers, a first in France

Of note:

Several French Muslim women are trying to lead prayer sessions in France. They face major opposition, but on Saturday two French women who converted to Islam led the country’s first non-segregated prayers where wearing of the veil was not compulsory.

Eva Janadin and Anne-Sophie Monsinay led prayers before a congregation of 60. Men and women kneeled, side by side, in a room in Paris hired for the occasion.

For security reasons the location remained secret: an indication that fundamentalist Muslims are still struggling with the move towards a more “inclusive” expression of Islam in France.

Un temps de prière mixte et progressiste, où le port du voile n’est pas obligatoire. «Nous apportons notre pierre à la construction d’un islam de France adapté aux acquis de la modernité», explique l’imame Eva Janadin

In a report by Le Parisien, Ann-Sophie Monsinay said they had faced opposition but that thankfully “there had been more encouragement than threats”.

Source: Female imams lead prayers, a first in France

Liberal backbencher accuses his own government of ‘pandering’ to Sikh separatists

By way on context, Brampton Centre has the lowest percentage of Canadian Sikhs of the five Brampton ridings (7.8 percent), with the other ridings ranging from 13 to 33.8 percent). Other significant religious groups include Muslims and Hindus (8.5 and 9.6 percent respectively, all figures from the 2011 NHS:

MP Ramesh Sangha seemed to place the blame on Sikh Canadian cabinet ministers and other MPs, noting that Trudeau supports the status quo in India

South Asia-related politics is again causing turbulence for the Liberal government, as one of its own MPs charges that his party has been “pandering” to Sikh separatists, threatening Canada’s relations with India in the process.

Ramesh Sangha, who represents Ontario’s Brampton Centre riding, delivered the surprising critique of his caucus colleagues during a recent Punjabi-language television interview. His comments revive an issue that has been an irritant for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for more than two years, flaring up during his ill-fated tour of India last year.

Indian officials have previously accused the Liberals of trying to win favour with Canadians pushing for an independent Sikh homeland — known as Khalistan — in the Punjab region of India. Punjab’s state governor even charged that Trudeau’s four Sikh cabinet ministers are Khalistanis. They have strenuously denied the accusation.

It is less expected to hear such complaints from a member of the government itself — two months before a federal election.

“There is no doubt, there cannot be two opinions that the Liberal party is pandering (to) Khalistan supporters,” Sangha said in the interview on 5AAB, a Punjabi-language channel based in Mississauga, Ont. “One thing is for sure, when we raise this issue, it will raise an anti-India slogan or demand the division of India on some ground. In that, ultimately our relations, the Canada-India relationship will certainly develop cracks.”

The interviewer asked if he thought the party had a “soft corner” for Khalistanis. “It does,” he responded.

But Sangha seemed to place the blame on those Sikh Canadian cabinet ministers and other MPs, noting that Trudeau himself has made clear he supports the status quo in India.

“(The prime minister) said in strong words that we don’t want a divided India, we want a united India and we will work for that,” said the MP. “Sikh ministers, MPs of our Sikh brotherhood, these brothers of mine, they have their own … These are their own views and as long as they demand it, it is viewed that they are separatists. When this view surfaces, India also voices its hard view.”

He said his observations were not based on being friends with Capt. Amarinder Singh, the Punjab state governor, but stemmed from his role with a Canada-India parliamentary association.

“I have observed this issue very closely,” Sangha said.

The MP, a lawyer serving his first term in Parliament, could not be reached for further comment Monday.

A statement from Trudeau’s office did not address Sangha’s remarks directly, but firmly denied the government was sympathetic to the Khalistani movement.

“Canada’s position on a united India is unwavering and we are unanimous as a government on this issue,” said the statement. “Canadians have the right to freedom of expression and speech and they have the right to peacefully express their views.”

Sikh-Indian tensions have played an over-sized role in Canadian politics in recent years, thanks in part to the large concentrations of electorally active Sikh-Canadians in several swing ridings in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta. Almost all those constituencies voted Liberal in the 2015 election.

The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced concern previously about Trudeau and other Liberals appearing at Sikh-community gatherings that also featured tributes to alleged terrorists, and objected to a 2017 resolution passed by the then Liberal-dominated Ontario legislature that declared a 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India a “genocide.”

Singh, the governor of Punjab, fanned the flames further when he alleged the same year that the four Sikh-Canadian cabinet members were Khalistanis, and refused to meet with one of them, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

Singh did sit down with Sajjan and Trudeau on the prime minister’s state visit to India in February 2018, voicing satisfaction at their strong rejection of the separatist movement.

But the issue caused the Liberals more trouble on that trip when it came to light that a convicted Sikh terrorist, Jaspal Atwal, had been invited to two official functions, including one where he was photographed with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, the prime minister’s wife.

And yet, government attempts to get tough on alleged Sikh extremists have also proven politically tricky for the Liberals.

The latest edition of an annual Public Safety Canada report on terrorism released in December 2018 mentioned Sikh extremism for the first time, sparking outrage among community leaders who felt the citation tarred the religion as a whole. The report’s wording was later changed to talk about unspecified separatist movements in India.

Punjab governor Singh, in turn, criticized that change, and later accused Canada of “covertly and overtly” supporting Sikh extremists, suggesting India might need to pursue sanctions against this country.

Source: Liberal backbencher accuses his own government of ‘pandering’ to Sikh separatists

Election news has outdated ideas about social conservatives

Part of the Policy Options series on the elections with Ray Pennings of Cardus painting a more nuanced picture of social conservatives, noting the range of views and that they are generally not single issue voters.

Also noteworthy, is the increased religiosity of immigrants as various surveys have shown:

It seems surprising that just 15 years ago, Parliament’s vote redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships passed 158-133 with 16 MPs absent. Ninety-three Conservatives, 32 Liberals, five Bloc Quebecois MPs, and one New Democrat (as well as two Independents) cast a “social conservative” (so-con) vote on this question. These dissenters knew they were swimming against strong cultural trends, but were still part of the mainstream in their political parties.

Much has changed since then and the upcoming federal election campaign will test the commitment of Canadians and their political leaders to tolerance and including people whose views may not fit today’s cultural mainstream.

Current trends and the so-cons

For example, the Liberals and NDP today require MPs to take socially liberal positions; it’s no longer acceptable to leave certain issues to individual conscience.  Conservative leaders perform a delicate dance, insisting party policy rejects attempts to re-open issues like abortion or same-sex marriage, while ostensibly defending the free speech and conscience of so-cons within their party.

Given trends during the last two decades, so-cons feel more ostracized and marginalized than ever. Whether it’s on abortion (Morgentaler 1988), LGBTQ issues (same-sex reference 2004, Trinity Western 2018), prostitution (Bedford 2013), or euthanasia (Carter 2015), Supreme Court of Canada decisions have catalyzed significant socially liberal turns.

Few so-cons, therefore, expect politics to answer their concerns. Most political appeals for their votes contribute to a cynical mood at best. They also feel profoundly misunderstood.

The so-con label is one that, for the most part, is imposed, not chosen.  The small percentage who embrace the label are divided between purists and incrementalists.  Most voters who fit the so-con profile are silent observers. For them, “so-con” is a reluctant identity, disowned because it is most frequently heard as an epithet or insult. The coverage of so-con issues in politics and media tells a story in which they do not recognize themselves.

CBC and the Angus Reid Institute partnered in 2016 to conduct a comprehensive poll that examined the values, beliefs, priorities, and identities of Canadians. As a result, the poll suggested five basic mindsets among the electorate. The mindset dubbed “faith-based traditionalists,” including so-cons, made up 20 percent of the population, the survey found. The group was over-represented among immigrants in Canada less than a decade and visible minorities. And whereas 11 percent of Canadians said they attended religious services weekly, a third of this cohort did.

In their 2017 book Religion and Canadian Party Politics, David Rayside, Jerald Sabin and Paul E.J. Thomas attempted to map the policy outcomes of religious activism in an increasingly secular context. They concluded that reality was far more complex than the popular narrative assumed. For example, assuming all so-cons hold the same views on such issues as abortion and sexual diversity is somewhat outdated, they noted. Another recent factor (at least since the 2015 federal campaign) is the increased prominence of minority religions, which has added to what the authors termed “a new ‘axis’ of contention…centered on the place of minority faiths in the social fabric.”

So what does all of this mean for media coverage of so-cons and their potential influence on the 2019 federal election campaign?

First, nuance is required in defining so-con issues. Few so-cons expect politics to solve their issues, certainly not in the short-term.  For example, on abortion, a typical church bulletin includes notices about pregnancy support centres, adoption, counselling programs, and other hands-on activities; these far outnumber political messages.

It would also be a mistake to reduce so-cons to single-issue voters on hot-button issues. We know this because those “faith-based traditionalists” in the 2016 poll overlap significantly with the one-fifth of Canadians labelled as “religiously committed” in a 2018 Cardus and Angus Reid Institute study. These two surveys, based on different criteria and tested through at least four polling samples between 2016 and 2018, point to similar conclusions. The “religiously committed” group tended to be more pro-immigrant than the overall population; and were less white and Christian than typically presumed. Forty-nine percent of Canadians born outside the country reported, in the 2018 poll, receiving material support from faith-based communities on their arrival and 63 percent relied on faith communities to form a community or network.

Environmental issues are also significant for many faith communities, given that stewardship of creation is a significant theme in most religious traditions. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s faith toolkit for churches includes environment among priority concerns. Likewise, poverty relief is a significant concern, demonstrated by hands-on involvement and financial support for faith-based social service agencies.

Looking for signs of respect

Being used as fodder in a political culture war context has a perverse impact. Religious pro-life supporters, convinced that abortion involves something more than a collection of tissue, are expressing love for their neighbour. Some do it caringly, others less delicately. However, the declaration that anyone who veers from a publicly accepted orthodoxy is violating human rights is debilitating to democracy. Remember the Canada Summer Jobs attestation debacle – when the beliefs of potential employers, including anti-poverty groups and church camps, disqualified them from government grants? That sent a loud message that so-cons were unwelcome in public life.

Quebec’s new secularism law takes things even further. Turban-wearing Sikhs, and those of any faith wearing religious symbols, are effectively being banished from provincial public service. While religious freedom in Canada is very different than in countries where believers risk their lives to follow their convictions and worship, denying privileges in society based on people’s beliefs still matters greatly. During the October 2019 federal election campaign, so-cons will undoubtedly look for signs of genuine respect as they consider how to cast their ballots.

Fifteen years has marked a hasty change in the place that so-cons have in Canada. Most so-con Canadians, who like others pay relatively little attention to politics but vote as a matter of responsible citizenship, face an increasingly hostile culture. They view themselves as good citizens, loving their neighbour through their personal relationships and also by donating and volunteering in their faith communities and neighbourhoods. But those stories are rarely reported. So-cons only see themselves in the news when others declare how outdated or unwelcome so-con views are.

That hostility is seen in the numbers. When a Cardus-Angus Reid Institute study in 2017 asked if the presence of religion in public life was a net positive or a negative in society, the results were startling. Those who were religiously committed, regardless of tradition, were more positive about the contribution of others, including those of different faiths. Those who were least religiously committed were reluctant to acknowledge the benefit to society of anyone but themselves.

Sadly, it would seem that the constructive involvement of faith in Canadian public life has taken a back seat to a culture war mentality with so-cons perceiving themselves on the defensive.

The question for political leaders and the media is the extent to which so-cons will be respected players in the 2019 campaign game or be tossed around as a political football. While the resistance offered by a group religiously committed to live by the Golden Rule may be less militant than other political actors, the upcoming campaign will still test Canadians’ commitment to tolerance and inclusiveness toward those whose views may not be in the cultural mainstream.

Source: Election news has outdated ideas about social conservatives

Identity politics in the West: Islam – no longer the bogeyman

Not sure that this is the case but interesting read:

When the head of the economic wing of Germanyʹs CDU party, Carsten Linnemann, publishes a book titled “Political Islam does not belong in Germany”, SPD party member Thilo Sarrazin interprets the Koran under the title “Hostile takeover”, and Germany’s new defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, chairwoman of the CDU party, explains on her first trip to the Orient how the Bundeswehr’s Tornado reconnaissance planes are stopping the caliphate of the “Islamic State” from rearing its ugly head again, we may get the feeling that we’ve hit rock bottom.

We are scraping at the last vestiges of some already quite solidified dregs. All that talk about the Islamic menace, the Islamic challenge, the Islamic threat so keenly cultivated in the West over the past thirty or forty years has now run dry.

Not long ago German policymakers were still busy planning hundreds of new positions in the police forces and intelligence services to observe and track down political Islam. But in the meantime it seems to be dawning on the more alert minds among us that Islam is not (or no longer) an appropriate spectre to be combatting.

This trend is somewhat linked to the situation on the ground. Political Islam has lost its inner credibility, across all the forms in which it appears.

The failure of political Islam

The authoritarian regime of the Islamist Erdogan is wobbling: Turkey is weaker now than it was ten or fifteen years ago, when Recep Tayyip Erdogan was “only” a democratically elected prime minister and could present Islam as a source of inspiration for modern governance. The radiance of his early days has faded.

The AKPʹs political swan song: “the authoritarian regime of the Islamist Erdogan is wobbling: Turkey is weaker now than it was ten or fifteen years ago, when Recep Tayyip Erdogan was ʹonlyʹ a democratically elected prime minister and could present Islam as a source of inspiration for modern governance. The radiance of his early days has faded,” writes Buchen

The Sunni Muslim Brotherhood was not able to rise to power anywhere, with the exception of its brief interlude with Mohammed Morsi in Egypt. The fact that the latter collapsed and died while acting as a defendant in court resonates with its own symbolic power.

The heir to the throne of the “Keeper of the Holy Places” of Islam, Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, has been exposed to the whole world as a cowardly murderer.

The caliphate of the “Islamic State” has foundered, vanished from the map. Who would have thought that possible? Talk shows aired in 2015 made mention of the name “Islamic State” a dozen times at least. Coming from the mouths of academic and non-academic experts, it had a ring of permanence, of a lasting challenge.

That talk has turned to ashes. Even criminal organisations have to abide by certain rules in their internal relations and forms of provocation against the general social norm if they are to survive for long. This is ancient knowledge, recorded for posterity by the Jewish-Arab philosopher Bahya ibn Paquda, who lived in Zaragoza in the 11th century.

Fragile existence

Al-Qaida and its competitor, the “Islamic State”, continue to exist in the supra-national underground; this cannot be denied. But they are fragmented, and the rivalry between the two groups vying for leadership in the violent spectrum of Islamism is now leading to some curious phenomena.

In Yemen, Al-Qaida got its hands on an unreleased propaganda video made by its rival and used it to expose the “Islamic State” to public ridicule. And here we are in the midst of a satire, which the British film “Four Lions” presented as early as 2010 as a suitable form for portraying the Islamic menace, long before the current CDU leadership took up the subject in all seriousness and without any black humour.

It is of course intellectually risky to name Erdogan, the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammad bin Salman and al-Qaida in one breath. But it’s a risk that those warning of the threat of political Islam are only too glad to take. It is after all part of their raison d’etre. If we want to be realistic, though, we have to look this construct or – to put it in ultramodern terms – “frame” squarely in the eye.

The French scholar Olivier Roy was perhaps the first to recognise the pitfalls of this way of looking at the world and to discern the real weaknesses of “political Islam”. His book – “L’echec de l’Islam politique” (The failure of political Islam) – was published way back in 1992.

Roy warned against trying to explain modern Islamism, particularly its most radical manifestations, based on Islam alone. Trying to derive the current phenomena mainly from the nature, history and culture of Islam runs the risk of constructing something that does not stand up to a realistic and enlightened diagnosis of the present.

Roy pointed out that contemporary Islamism is instead a by-product of the globalised world, of its unshakeable belief in progress and its forms of communication. These forms and thought patterns are so pervasive that Islamism must be understood more as a reflection of modernism (or post-modernism) than as a new edition of classical, original Islam. Simply believing everything the Islamists claim about themselves makes things too easy.

Olivier Roy met with a great deal of resistance to his insights. 11 September 2001 then seemed to furnish incontrovertible proof of the Islamic threat and its overwhelming importance.

But what has happened since then? Wars have been waged to eradicate this threat. Military interventions in Islamic countries have come one after the other. Thanks to the immense resources thrown at the project, several advances in military technology have been made in the process, the perfecting of remote-controlled drone war, for example.

But wiser minds agree today that no progress has been made in resolving any problems. While a partial problem like Osama bin Laden was “solved”, many new ones have been created. What is the situation like today in Afghanistan, in Gaza, in Yemen, in Libya, in Mali, in Syria and in Iraq? An error seems to have been made in the analysis of the underlying issue. Olivier Roy was right from the start.

Islamic states in dissolution

The dire new problems do not consist of ever-new Islamist movements that throw themselves in the paths of the invaders and their helpers and strike with steadily growing brutality in the countries of the West. They consist of the disintegration of entire societies, the dissolution of regional structures and the collapse of what were once quite sovereign states.

Successfully allied against the USA and its partners in the Middle East: it would be a mistake to attribute the regional successes of the Islamic Republic to the power of Shia fundamentalism, i.e. to a further manifestation of “political Islam”. In the chaos that prevails, Iran appears to some – despite or because of its anti-American rulers – to be a force for order whose claim to regional leadership is accepted as being the lesser evil

In the resulting chaos, those who have somehow survived to this point can appear to be strong. They include – besides Israel – the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Although the mullahs are skating on thin ice in their domestic policies, they are succeeding in their foreign and regional efforts in exploiting the weaknesses of their main opponent, the USA, and its alliances. Iran has mobilised Shia allies on a large scale. The conflict between Shias and Sunnis is indeed a major factor in the Middle East today.

But here as well it would be a mistake to attribute the regional successes of the Islamic Republic to the power of Shia fundamentalism, i.e. to a further manifestation of “political Islam”. In the chaos that prevails, Iran appears to some – despite or because of its anti-American rulers – to be a force for order whose claim to regional leadership is accepted as being the lesser evil.

Islam is breaking up on its own and no longer fits the image of a major enemy. Donald Trump has been quicker to grasp this than the leaders of the CDU and those who oppose the “Islamisation of the West”. At the beginning of his presidency, his identity policy still focussed on imposing entry restrictions on citizens of certain Islamic countries. In the meantime, however, he has begun directing his rage more at blacks who live in cities he describes as “rat and rodent infested messes” and “Hispanics” who want to cross the border from Mexico or live “illegally” in the USA and who should be deported.

Giving way to old-fashioned racism

Islamophobia is segueing into old-fashioned racism. The new enemy in Western identity politics are people of colour, those who speak a different language and those who are judged to be somehow or other inferior. Racism has the advantage of being more comprehensive. Of course, Muslims are also included.

The trend has long since washed up on Europe’s shores. Arab clan criminality, the frightening reproductive power of Africans, uninhibited by civilisation, or their genetic predisposition to pushing children in front of ICE trains: it is impossible to overlook the shift in the discourse on the question of identity.

The hairdresser Alaa S. from Chemnitz was not sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for an alleged but unproven knife attack because he is a Muslim, but because he is an asylum seeker and refugee. Without thorough indoctrination in racist dehumanisation, it would not be possible to let refugees drown in the Mediterranean, or to turn away those who are rescued from Europe’s coasts for days and weeks on end. The duplicity of events taking place at America’s and Europe’s southern borders has already been noted, and rightly so.

Demonstrators in front of Berlinʹs Brandenburg Gate, “#indivisible” against racism and right-wing populism: of course this new racism is provoking resistance. Those affected are raising their voices. Many citizens reject such identity politics, partly on the basis of the historical experiences in America and Europe. They are aware of the fact that the prosperity of our middle classes is bought on the backs of people in other parts of the world. Climate change threatens to make this truth even more evident

Of course this new racism is provoking resistance. Those affected are raising their voices. Many citizens reject such identity politics, partly on the basis of the historical experiences in America and Europe. They are aware of the fact that the prosperity of our middle classes is bought on the backs of people in other parts of the world. Climate change threatens to make this truth even more evident.

In time, one could cynically say, there will come a further intensification of the discourse. The American journalist James Kirchick tells the tale of a “race war of the left”. He sees “white men” as victims of a new racism practiced by progressive forces. Kirchick turns perpetrator into victim and victim into perpetrator. This follows exactly the same line as Donald Trump, who set out at the beginning of his term to put an end to the “carnage” his white followers were allegedly suffering from and to restore their rights.

Kirchick’s essay on “the leftʹs race war” was published on 15 August under exactly that title on the website of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. That’s not a good sign. “Race war” was a key term in Adolf Hitler’s vocabulary. He already used it early on to describe the political programme of the Nazis. What do Kirchick and the F.A.Z. insinuate as being the intentions of “the left”?

When asked, the F.A.Z. responded that the author had addressed the “political debate in the United States, which is being carried out partly with racist arguments”. The newspaper deemed the text to be “an important contribution to the debate.”

The victory of global capitalism and liberal democracy are apparently the end of the story. To some, it would appear, any means are justified to enable this culmination – something of an eternal coronation – to continue as undisturbed as possible under “white supremacy”.

Source: Identity politics in the West: Islam – no longer the bogeyman

With hajj under threat, it’s time Muslims joined the climate movement

Given the dependence of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries on oil and oil revenues, strikes me as secondary issue in relation to climate change. However, it might provide an entry point for discussions:

According to research published last week by US scientists, hajj is set to become a danger zone. As soon as next year, they say, summer days in Mecca could exceed the “extreme danger” heat-stress threshold. The news comes just weeks after over 2 million people completed their journey of a lifetime. The environmental threat to the holy pilgrimage is a panic button for British Muslims like me, signaling that the climate crisis is endangering an age-old sacred rite.

Hajj is a pillar of Islam that I’ve yet to undertake, and the physical endurance required will only become more gruelling in coming decades – scientists predict that heat and humidity levels during hajj will exceed the extreme danger threshold 20% of the time from 2045 and 2053, and 42% of the time between 2079 and 2086.

Environmental stewardship may well be advocated by my faith – the Quran states that humans are appointed as “caretakers of the Earth” and the prophet Muhammad organised the planting of trees and created conservation areas called hima – but it hasn’t mobilised Muslims on a mass scale for what the world needs now: a global eco-jihad.

Fazlun Khalid, founder of Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences and author of Signs on the Earth: Islam, Modernity and the Climate Crisis, has been on a green mission for over 35 years, but his biggest challenge has been to motivate Muslims. “Islam is inherently environmental, but modernity has induced all of us to distance ourselves from nature. The reason I don’t give up is my grandchildren – what kind of planet will they inherit? How can they perform hajj under those conditions?”

Khalid previously gathered a team of scholars and academics who drafted the Islamic declaration on climate change adopted at the International Islamic climate change symposium in Istanbul in 2015 (an event co-sponsored by Islamic Relief, a global charity that is again calling on Muslims to take action now if they want to safeguard the pilgrimage for future generations). Maria Zafar of Islamic Relief UK said: “Hajj has physically demanding outdoor rituals which can become hazardous to humans. It isn’t only Mecca, other sacred sites will be at risk too, like the religious sites in Jerusalem, the Golden Temple in India – it will affect what we hold dear to our hearts. We think that climate change is distant from us, but there is no area of life that it won’t touch.”

If we are truly to tackle a catastrophe as huge as the climate crisis, we have to make it personal. Without a personal stake, it remains an abstract and we unite in perpetuating it. So if money is the only form of emotional investment for some, and if economics wields more power than the will to save our planet, we must use it. Next year Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 summit, so let’s pressure the country to consider the financial threat due to a loss of religious tourism. Hajj is lucrative: economic experts have said revenues from hajj and umrah (a lesser pilgrimage undertaken any time of year) are set to exceed $150bn by 2022.

Source: With hajj under threat, it’s time Muslims joined the climate movement

Ground shifts in Indonesia’s economy as conservative Islam takes root

Of note:

Arie Untung, a former video jockey for the Indonesian offshoot of MTV, says he used to drink alcohol regularly and – back then – was a jeans-clad, spiky-haired rocker who was only a nominal Muslim.

But he says his religious fervor was rekindled by online preachers promoting more conservative interpretations of Islam, which are gaining ground in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country and bringing profound changes in its economy.

Untung has now reinvented his career by linking up with other celebrities to run a sharia (Islamic law)-friendly entertainment business in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, including hosting popular Muslim prayer festivals.They are part of a growing body of “born-again” Muslims driving social changes that are also having an economic impact, encouraging everything from Muslim-targeted housing to sharia banking.

“We have become some sort of like endorsers, the endorsers of Allah,” said Untung, who now sports a beard and a more restrained hair style, referring to his celebrity colleagues.

The celebrities, who jointly have over 20 million followers on Instagram and Twitter, are part of what has become known as the “hijrah” movement in Indonesia and, according to Untung, aim to make an Islamic economy more mainstream.

Hijrah, Arabic for migration, is used to refer to Prophet Mohammad’s journey from Mecca to Medina to escape persecution, and represents the beginning of the Muslim era.

Indonesia’s 215 million Muslims have traditionally been moderate and their beliefs often included elements of mysticism and local customs.

The number of conservatives is now growing and more companies have embraced Islamic branding and marketing, said Edy Setiadi, secretary general of the non-profit Shariah Economy Society.

Restaurants have raced to secure halal certification, which means they comply with Islamic law. There are now hospitals where drugs are halal compliant and shampoos claiming to be suitable for headscarf wearers. Japan’s Sharp sells refrigerators labeled halal.

“PEACE OF MIND”

Many born-again Muslims are young, earn regular salaries and prepared to go the extra mile to feel they are living an Islamic lifestyle, said Setiadi.

“They don’t think about how much they spend, they just want peace of mind,” he said in an interview at his office in Jakarta.

Conservative Islamic groups were largely repressed during the 32-year rule of strongman Suharto, but since his downfall in 1998, they have emerged as a growing force, although officially, Indonesia remains secular.

During April elections, President Joko Widodo, a moderate Muslim, picked elderly conservative cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate, a move seen as helping him secure more Muslim votes for his re-election.Amin, chairman of the Ulema Council of Indonesia, a group of clerics, has promoted laws for Islamic banking and mandatory halal certification and his vice presidency may usher in more incentives for the Islamic economy, analysts say.

A report by Thomson Reuters, the parent of Reuters News, estimated Indonesians spent more than $219 billion on halal food, tourism, fashion and cosmetics in 2017, compared to $193 billion in 2014.

Islamic banking assets were 486.9 trillion rupiah ($34.26 billion) by June 2019, representing more than 300% growth in the last nine years, even though they remain less than 6 percent of total banking assets at around $580 billion.

There has been particularly rapid growth in demand for halal food, modest fashion and Islamic travel, Dody Budi Waluyo, a deputy governor of Bank Indonesia (BI), told Reuters.

“BI sees a potential growth in the sharia economy amid demand for products certified halal and a halal lifestyle,” said Waluyo. He said the central bank and the government were trying to pin down the sharia economy’s share of GDP, and could not vouch for the accuracy of some estimates of the sector accounting for 40%.

MUSLIM HOUSING

Some housing developments now target Muslims, like the Az Zikra gated community near Jakarta, which offers 400 households “the chance to follow in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad.”

At its center is a mosque, built using a grant from late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and it hosts an archery range and horse riding, both pastimes regarded as favored in Islam.

In 2014, Indonesia adopted measures to make companies label whether products are halal, although the deadline was pushed from last year by as much as 7 years amid concerns from industry that the move could cause chaos and threaten supplies.

Still, marketing of halal products is becoming mainstream.

At a halal exhibition held in Jakarta last month, a foundation cream from Korean cosmetics line SOS Beauty was being offered to women in colorful headscarves.

“This doesn’t close your pores, so when you go to wudu, this will let the water come through,” said Lisa, a company representative, referring to the Islamic ritual washing of parts of the body, including the face, before prayers.

At Thamrin City, a popular 10-storey mall in central Jakarta, Muslim fashion stalls have taken over space in areas once occupied by sellers of traditional Indonesian batik.

Yesi, who runs a shop there called “Al-Fatih”, said her popular products were khimars, headscarves that go down to the stomach, and niqabs, veils that cover most of the face, at prices ranging from 20,000 rupiah to 200,000 rupiah ($1.40-$14).

Media Kernels Indonesia, a data consultancy, said its research showed words like “hijrah” and “halal” were mentioned on social media over 5,000 times in the past 30 days indicating Islamic phrases were being used more in product marketing.

“This wouldn’t happen without the demand or trend in society,” said company founder Ismail Fahmi.

Source: Ground shifts in Indonesia’s economy as conservative Islam takes root

The Legitimate Islamic Right — A Frank Discussion

Interesting and more nuanced take from an organization that tends towards anti-Muslim commentary:

A frank discussion needs to be had about the legitimate Islamic Right, namely religious Muslims who are politically and socially conservative but not Islamists. Too often, religious Muslims and Islamists get lumped together in the same category, but in reality, opposing Islamism is about opposing a political ideology, not just conservative views.

Extremism is about politics, not faith. The difference between an Islamist extremist and a regular Muslim religious person is whether they see their faith as a totalitarian political solution, not how religious they are.

Unless countering Islamism draws a firm line there, it will consistently exclude the reasonable Islamic right.

The Religious Islamic Right

Theological differences aside, religious people from the Abrahamic faiths share more social and political beliefs than they disagree with, namely, the values of social conservatives.

Social conservatives hold a set of views about how societies should be arranged. These views prioritize community over individualistic loneliness, conservation over consumerism, and tradition over novelty. Above all, they prioritize marriage and the home.

There is nothing unique to what is sometimes called the “Judeo-Christian” tradition about these views. They are just as prevalent in Islam among religious Muslims.

For example, according to a 2013 cross comparison of religious attitudes on abortion conducted by PEW, the Islamic position on abortion is on par with the theological views of Christianity and Judaism. Most Islamic theologians view it very negatively, although it is permissible up to four months.

Regarding dating, the views are also similar. Religious Muslim families in America have been known to use informal networks of aunts and grandmothers to secure dates that might lead to marriage for young men and women too pious to date casually.

This is very similar to the shidduch system of Orthodox Jews. It’s also something that a lot of Christian conservatives, many of whom frown on modern sexual norms, might find more appealing for their own children.

For these reasons, a lot of Muslims used to vote Right wing. A 2001 Zogby poll, quoted by The Atlantic in a piece titled “How the GOP Won and Then Lost the Muslim Vote,” indicated that 42% of American Muslims voted for Bush, as opposed to 32% for his opponent Al Gore.

If Right-wing people view expression of these sorts of views as extremist when displayed by Muslims, but as laudable when displayed by members of their own faith, that is holding Islam to a different standard.

Of course, we are not talking about the cases where such religious systems become oppressive and involve coercion, restricting personal freedoms or even violence, it is unacceptable. Culture is never an excuse for abuse. But where there is no abuse, these attitudes are simply conservative.

What About Sharia?

Islam is not like Christianity. Sharia is a total code for life which draws on the rich Islamic tradition of scholarship to guide daily conduct. Although there are many different opinions on what sharia is, most Muslims agree that it is very important.

However, the point that Islamic Right differs from the Islamists is that the Islamic Right does not agree that sharia should become the law of the land – either at this time or even in the future.

Granted, many Muslims who are deeply religious may feel in theory that a global caliphate which implements sharia would be the best system of government. There’s just the “small matter” of who would be the caliph, and how to ensure the judges and administrators are decent people devoted to truth and justice, and not power hungry lunatics.

In order for them to pledge allegiance to a particular caliph, they would have to see some pretty clear evidence that this guy was in fact acting with the authority of Allah.

Evidence such as the coming of the mahdi, an Islamic messianic figure, and direct intervention by supernatural forces would be such indications.

In the meantime, they are content to live normal lives, follow their interpretation of sharia privately and live within under a democracy and secular law.

In fact, such views do not differ from those of religious Christians and Jews who also look to a future where the world will be run according to the “kingdom of God.”

Other religious Muslims would go further still and argue that sharia should never be imposed as state law.

Politics Not Faith

It is difficult to gauge accurately how many Muslims hold these views. What can be determined is which ideologies are dangerous and abusive and which are not.

The point is that it is unreasonable to expect Islam, alone among world religions, to cut off and excise its religiously conservative component to appease anxious non-Muslims.

If social-conservatism is a vital and necessary part of the national political conversation (and it is), then Muslims have just as much right to express that through their faith as anyone else.

What is reasonable is to highlight where that conservatism goes too far. The line, as always, is where it starts aggressing on someone else’s rights.

Any political ideology which seeks to impose religious conservatism as state law is the problem. It’s one thing to prefer the hijab for personal and spiritual reasons for yourself. To try and force others to wear it is something completely different.

In the meantime, barring any coercive circumstances, the “Judeo-Christian” conservative Right should open their doors to the Islamic Right — Muslims who share the same values as they do — instead of pushing them into alliances with the Left.

Source: The Legitimate Islamic Right — A Frank Discussion

The Irony Of Conservative Christians’ Opposition To Immigration

Interesting take:

President Donald Trump’s base simultaneously cares deeply about defending Christianity and restraining immigration.

It’s a stance we’ve come to expect, but there’s an irony to this. At a moment when more and more Americans are unaffiliated with religion, immigration is providing a counterbalance.

In fact, nothing would do more to strengthen Christianity than embracing undocumented immigrants. Most undocumented immigrants come from Latin America, so 83 percent are Christian. If they were all expelled, the United States would lose 9 million Christians. By contrast, legal immigrants tend to come from countries like India, Pakistan and China, with majority non-Christian populations.

Beyond that, it is well known that for the past few decades Latino immigration has energized, and in some ways saved, the Catholic Church in the United States. About 40 percent of American Catholics are Hispanic, and they’re more likely to say religion is “very important” in their lives than white Catholics.

What’s less acknowledged is that Latinos have also bolstered evangelical communities. Some 16 million evangelicals are Hispanic, and about 15 percent of all immigrants are evangelical.

Beyond the specifics, I’d argue that immigration has been a key factor in strengthening religious freedom in the U.S. New immigrants are more likely to be religious and to say it’s important in their lives than the general population.

Going back through history, immigration has repeatedly injected energy and piety to the American religious landscape.

From our country’s founding, diversity has been important to ensuring religious liberty. When James Madison guided the creation of the First Amendment, he believed that a “multiplicity of sects” would be more important than “parchment barriers.” Having a variety of religions or Christian denominations would prevent one religion from dominating the others, and therefore help create a fluid religious marketing place that would encourage religious vibrancy.

In the United States, religious diversity has flowered in three different ways: homegrown religious entrepreneurship (American-created religions like Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventism or Jehovah’s Witnesses); denominational splintering, and finally, immigration.

In the case of immigration, the positive effects may not be evident right way. Throughout American history, the arrival of new immigrants practicing minority religions has often prompted backlash, as happened throughout the 19th century with Irish Catholics. In 1835, Samuel Morse, who would later invent the telegraph, warned that foreign countries were sending us “their criminals” because America hadn’t erected the right “walls.” He also complained that he and his allies were being unfairly attacked by a liberal media that was “on the side of your enemies.”

But the Catholic influx not only enriched American life in countless ways, it strengthened religious freedom by making it impossible for Protestant majorities to impose their faith approach on others. For instance, until Catholics objected, public schools in the 19th century had insisted on teaching the Protestant translation of the Bible to children. Catholics demanded that if the Bible were to be taught, their translation had to be included too. This established the idea that religion can only live in public places if other religions are invited to participate too.

At another point in the 19th century, Protestants became worried about a different group of immigrants flooding across the border – Mormons coming from Canada. Horrible persecution ensued. In 1838, the governor of Missouri proclaimed that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace.” Over time, the growth and persistence of the Mormons forced Americans to expand their definition of religious freedom.

In the 1920s, efforts to restrict immigration were driven in part by the fear that too many Jews had arrived from Eastern Europe. By World War II, though, America decided that Jews needed to be incorporated as full partners in the pluralistic model and that their presence demonstrated something inspiring about the nation. Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower cast religious freedom and pluralism as a sign of America’s moral superiority over fascism and communism.

Eisenhower became the first president to use the term “Judeo-Christian.” He explained, “Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is. With us of course it is the Judeo-Christian concept, but it must be a religion that all men are created equal.”

In 1993, Congress proposed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which more deeply enshrined key modern principles of religious liberty. Tellingly, the bill’s main sponsors were religious minorities with immigrant ancestors: Charles Schumer and Stephen Solarz, both Jewish, in the House, and Ted Kennedy, an Irish Catholic and Orrin Hatch, a Mormon.

Over America’s history, immigration has helped fuel a virtuous cycle for religious freedom. Immigration has brought energy to religious institutions – and has prevented just one denomination from becoming powerful enough to squelch liberty.

Madison didn’t argue explicitly for immigration as a lubricant for religious freedom’s mechanisms. But he did argue for variety. It turns out that immigration has been a major reason this system has worked so well.

Source: The Irony Of Conservative Christians’ Opposition To Immigration

York Centre, Eglinton-Lawrence could be most affected by not moving election date

More details and assessments of the election date and its likely impact on orthodox Jewish voters. Based on the 2011 National Household Survey, Canadian Jews form 5 percent or more of the population in 14 ridings (RM Ridings Jewish 5 percent):

Experts say they will be watching a few key ridings in and around Toronto as they try to gauge how Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Pérrault’s decision not to recommend moving the Oct. 21 election date to accommodate Orthodox and other observant Jewish voters will affect the election outcome.

“The chief electoral officer is an independent official. None of the parties are accountable for the decisions made by his office, so I don’t imagine that there will be much, if any, political fallout,” said Frank Graves, president of Ekos Research, in an email statement to The Hill Times. “The impact for the Liberals and other parties might be if the Jewish vote turnout is dampened by this decision. I am not certain that will be the case, but I don’t think that would be an important factor in the next election, although it might be a modest factor in a few ridings.”

Mr. Graves said in past elections, Jewish Canadians primarily voted Liberal, but “that has not been the case for some time. The Conservatives did quite well with the Jewish vote under Harper, and I am guessing they will continue to do so.”

Mr. Graves added that the Liberals also do “fairly well” and that he is unclear how “a relatively small vote, which does not lean dramatically one way or the other, which may or may not have reduced turnout, will have much impact in October.”

According to data collected over the past six months by Campaign Research, Jewish Canadians favour Liberals over Conservatives, 42 per cent to 36 per cent. This data is not broken down by riding, or whether those polled strictly observe every holiday. A 2018 study titled “2018 Survey of Jews in Canada by the Environics Institute, the University of Toronto, and York University reported Jewish Canadians preferring the Liberals over the Conservatives by 36 per cent to 32 per cent. This data is also not broken down by riding or religiosity.

Eli Yufest, CEO of Campaign Research, and Quito Maggi, CEO of Mainstreet Research, said that statistically, the more religious an individual is, the more likely they are to vote for a Conservative Party. An article published in the Canadian Political Science Review by Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme, a University of Waterloo sociology professor, found that in 2011 “religious citizens were overall more likely to vote Conservative.”

Finding accurate statistics on the number of Jewish Canadians, and their level of religiosity, in a given riding is difficult because the census only asks about religion every 10 years. The 2011 census asked about religion, and reported 309,650 Jewish Canadians. The 2016 census did not, nor was Jewish included as a checkable box in the ethnic origin section. There was, however, a space where respondents could write in ethnicities that weren’t listed. As a result, the 2016 census reported only 143,665 Jewish Canadians, a 53.6 per cent decline in just five years. Though the percentage of Jewish Canadians has been steadily declining since 1991, the rate of decline is much lower than that, according to Statistics Canada.

On July 26, Statistics Canada released a report that sought remedy the errors of the 2016 census. The report estimated that if past response patterns remained consistent, the number of Jewish Canadians would be between 270,000 and 298,000.

Further complicating the effort to accurately count the number of Jewish-Canadians is the 2018 report by the Environics Institute, the University of Toronto, and York University. It estimated there were 392,000 Jewish-Canadians in 2018.

In the report, the authors said because “Canadian Jews constitute only about one percent of the Canadian population, the use of standard survey research methods was not a feasible option given the high costs of using probability sampling to identify and recruit participants.”

To try and produce as accurate a report as possible within the available budget, they surveyed 2,335 individuals online or over the phone between Feb. 10 and Sept. 30, 2018. It focused on Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Winnipeg, the cities with the largest Jewish populations in Canada. The data were weighted according to population, age, gender, and marital status. The study was not fully based on probability sampling, meaning a margin of error cannot be calculated.

The Environics study breaks down the Jewish population by city, not riding, like the census does. The 2011 census reports the five ridings with the largest percentage of Jewish residents as Thornhill (22.04 per cent), Mont-Royal (22.07 per cent), Eglinton-Lawrence (16.87 per cent), York Centre (14.37 per cent), and Toronto-St Paul’s (12.11 per cent).

The 2016 census has the same ridings in the top five, but with lower numbers in a slightly different order. It reports Thornhill (13.4 per cent), Mont-Royal (8.4 per cent), York Centre (7 per cent), Eglinton-Lawrence (6.6 per cent), and Toronto St. Paul’s (4.5 per cent).

Of those five ridings, four are held by Liberals. Thornhill is the only Conservative riding, held since 2008 by Peter Kent. 338 Canada’s Philippe Fournier categorizes Mont-Royal, held by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, as the only truly safe seat. In 2015, Mr. Housefather beat Conservative nominee Robert Libman by just under 14 percentage points, or 5,986 votes. Thornhill and Toronto-St. Paul’s, held since 1997 by Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, are considered likely to stay in Conservative and Liberal hands, respectively.

Despite 338 Canada’s projection, Mr. Maggi said he is going to be watching Thornhill.

“If the Orthodox community votes in substantially lower numbers, given where we see the overall Liberal numbers in Toronto and the GTA right now, that riding could be competitive,” he said.

The 2011 census reported 34,956 Jewish Canadians in Thornhill, while the 2011 census reported 15,025. Mr. Kent won by just under 15 percentage points in 2015, or 13,516 votes.

Mari Canseco, president of Research Co, and Mr. Maggi both said York Centre will be the riding most affected by the decision given the close 2015 election and the number of voters who could be affected.

Liberal incumbent Michael Levitt, who is Jewish, won by just 1,238 votes in 2015, and 338 Canada has it leaning Conservative heading into October. The 2016 census reported 7,270 Jewish Canadian residents, whereas the 2011 census reported 14,551.

Mr. Canseco said the margin of victory in 2015 already meant York-Centre would be competitive in 2019. He hesitated to say if lower turnout in the observant Jewish community would benefit a single party, though, because “it’s tough to try to look at the decision as something that is going to bring down turnout for a specific party and not others, because we just don’t have the data for it.”

The 2018 Quebec provincial election coincided with the same Jewish holiday, Shemini Atzeret. The election was also not moved, and the heavily-Jewish riding of D’Arcy-McGee saw turnout drop by 26 points, from 72 per cent in the 2015 provincial election to just 46.5 per cent in the 2018 election.

338 Canada lists Eglinton-Lawrence as a toss up. In 2015, Liberal Marco Mendicino won Eglinton-Lawrence by 3,490 votes, or 6.25 percentage points. The 2011 census reported that there were 19,903 Jewish Canadians living in the riding, while the 2016 census reported just 7,490.

Mr. Mendicino is running again, and is being challenged by Conservative candidate Chani Ayreh-Bain. Ms. Aryeh-Bain is Orthodox Jewish herself and was one of the lead plaintiffs in the original case that sought to get Elections Canada to move the election date.

Ms. Aryeh-Bain said she was disappointed by Mr. Perrault’s decision, and that she is dedicating a “fair amount of resources to the Orthodox community.”

She said she will focus on informing voters of the various options available to them. Elections Canada also said in a statement that they would be working with Jewish organizations and members of the Jewish community to inform voters of their options. Ms. Areyh-Bain said that even though there are alternative options, it will still be difficult for members of the observant and Orthodox Jewish community to access them.

“The options aren’t great, because the advanced poll days all fall on either the Sabbath or a holiday, or the eve of Sabbath or the eve of a holiday, so they’re really pressed for time,” she said. “The only other option is to vote at a returning office, or use an absentee ballot. It’s really not ideal.”

Mr. Maggi said he didn’t expect the fact that the government did not move the election date could be used as political ammunition against the Liberals.

“It’s important to remember the Jewish community, just like any other community, has other ballot box questions. I don’t think this issue of the election date is going to be the single ballot question. Those people still care about the same things that most of the general population care about, education, health care, the economy and jobs, the environment. Those are much more likely to be ballot box questions for any group, regardless of their ethnicity.”

Source: York Centre, Eglinton-Lawrence could be most affected by not moving election date