How the Rushdie affair has inspired some fine Arab writing

A mention in the Daily Telegraph:

As it happens, it was the Rushdie affair that inspired the book in the first place. The essay writing contest was the idea of the Ammar Abdulhamid, a US-educated Syrian who became disillusioned with radical Islam after the fatwa issued against Rushdie by Iran. He pointed out to the American Islamic Congress that while the Muslim world had vast, well-organised networks of people pushing extremist visions, nobody was doing the same thing for liberal ideas. “What we need is an essay contest on liberty with significant cash prizes,” he said.

A few thoughts on modernity

First posted on my short-lived blog Tharwalizations. 

Many if not most of the main problems facing us in the region and hindering the process of change and modernization therein are psychological in nature. One such problem is the inability of our people to reconcile themselves with the necessity of making that crossover from the traditional to the modern. Instead, most seem to believe that they can keep one leg in each world thus maximizing their benefit, that is, they think that they can avail themselves of all those advantages that modernity has to offer while holding on as hard as they can to traditional values.  Continue reading

The Mohammed Cartoons: European Society and Freedom of the Press

The violence that followed the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in several European newspapers has raised questions about European models of social integration and underscored that their debates at home can have dramatic implications abroad. The story has also raised questions about freedom of the press and self-censorship in the media. In a world threatened by a clash of civilizations, does freedom of the press include the right to offend the most sacred beliefs of others? In a time of fundamentalist terrorism, can we allow violence and the threat of violence to determine the content of our speech?

To examine these issues, the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution and the Heinrich Böll Foundation hosted a panel on The Mohammed Cartoons: European Society and Freedom of the Press. Commentary was provided by Ammar Abdulhamid, Visiting Fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy; Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Die Zeit; David Ignatius, The Washington Post; and Claus Christian Malzahn, Der Spiegel. The briefing was moderated by Philip Gordon, Director of the Center on the United States and Europe.

The New Rushdiesque!

First posted on my short-lived blog Tharwalizations. 

Indeed, it is happening again: protests and condemnations giving way to riots, arson and pandemonium. Just as Khomeini needed to use the Rushdie Affair to stoke the dying fires of his revolution, so now are the myriad Arab dictatorships, most notably the Syrian one, using an, at worst, unwise decision by a Danish publisher to rally the masses to the cause and divert their people’s attention, no matter how momentarily, from their corrupt authoritarian and inept rule. Indeed, a new Rushdiesque is unfolding, albeit a rather mediocre one. For Arab rulers cannot produce but mediocrity. The scenes in Damascus and Beirut are but a simple testament to this little macabre truth. See in this regard as well the blogposts by TabsirLlano EstacadoMental Mayhem and Religious policeman.

Few Secular Observations Regarding Islamic Reformation

A paper presented at a conference in Europe 

Abstract

The rise of Islamic Radicalism makes it more necessary than ever to come up with an equally Islamic alternative that can appeal to the Muslim peoples in the course of time. This alternative cannot be produced without reevaluating the very fundamentals of the Islamic faith, history and worldview, a process that will most likely assume the proportions of a full-fledged Reformation.

The argument here is that such a Reformation is indeed a must for the sake of salvaging the meager remains of Muslim identity and empowering the Muslim peoples to take a more active  part in drawing up their future destiny(ies). The desired reformation, nonetheless, will need to satisfy certain secular conditions first so as to prove viable on the long run. After all, its influence is bound to extend beyond the sphere of practicing and believing Muslims to involve all the peoples of the world, religious affiliations notwithstanding.   Continue reading