Iqlid

ܐܩܠܝܕܐ | إقليد | κλεῖς

Arab Americans & Houston Hurricane Relief

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I had the pleasure of speaking on the Arab Voices radio show / KPFT and writing for Arab America magazine. We discussed, among other things, my article “Houston Arab Americans Aid Victims of Hurricane Harvey.” You can hear the full show –  HERE –

My article follows below:

Houston Arab Americans Aid Victims of Hurricane Harvey

POSTED ON: SEP 6, 2017

Houston Arab Americans Aid Victims of Hurricane Harvey

By: Emran El-Badawi/Contributing Writer

The now infamous Hurricane Harvey walloped southeast Texas between August 25-29, 2017. After more than one hundred tornadoes, flash flood warnings, and incessant rain, Houston was inundated with as much rain in 4 days as it usually sees during a whole year. The “biblical” storm waters and “record breaking” floods destroyed countless homes, displaced thousands and will cost our nation hundreds of billions of dollars—surpassing the damage caused by hurricane Katrina in 2005.

But Houston is not your average American city. At just over 2 million people, it stands as the fourth largest US city, with a metro area encompassing over six million people. Houston is also the most ethnically diverse city in the US, with the nation’s largest oil refineries and petrochemical plants, and one of the nation’s most active seaports.

So what happens when the largest deluge in American history meets its most cosmopolitan town? The answer can be summed up in one word: community. Almost overnight the city of Houston converged into a single community of human beings, with the sole mission of saving lives and helping those displaced. The outpouring of boat rescuers, first responders, volunteers, and material support for hurricane survivors was unprecedented.

Various communities, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, immigrant, native-born, Republican, Democrat, LGBT, Hispanic, African-American, Caucasian, Asian, Arab American, women and men of every of every stripe, seamlessly converged into one family. In the wake of tragedy, diversity became the city’s salvation—or as they say in H-Town #HoustonStrong!

The Houston Arab American community was, like all others in the city, impacted by the hurricane in some way. Among the 60 plus fatalities is an Arab family who drowned trying to escape flood waters. Numerous members of the community saw their homes flooded and are in recovery mode. Numerous others played an active role in humanitarian efforts throughout the region.

Houston Arab Americans Aid Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Ahmed Abuelaish and Mohamed Kholief, drove all the way from Denver where they live to the Houston suburbs of Richmond and Katy where they have relatives, buying a boat along the way in Forth Worth. Everyday during torrential downpours and deadly floods and for several days after, the pair rescued families stranded in their flooded homes by boat.

For many this was a time when the common bond of humanity surpassed all religious barriers. Salma Taher and her husband Yehia Omar dedicated their time to volunteer at the West University Church of Christ.

Several Arab American homes opened their doors to friends or neighbors who lost their homes. Farah Killidar of Houston, a single parent and professional, took in three families and turned what could have been one of life’s most frightening and gloomy experiences into a slumber party for kids. In the hard hit suburb of Katy, Wael Abou Amin and his wife May Gaafar shared their dry home with families whose homes had lost power, buying extra mattresses when necessary.

The torrential downpours barely subsided in time for the holy day of Eid Al-Adha on August 31. The spirit of the Muslim holiday was felt throughout the Houston metro area as countless Muslims rushed to volunteer their labor and resources at shelters and damaged homes. Several major Houston mosques and Islamic centers served as official city shelters, as did numerous churches, schools, community centers and businesses.

Houston Arab Americans Aid Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Houston Arab Americans Aid Victims of Hurricane Harvey

At the city’s two largest storm shelters, the George R. Brown Center and NRG Stadium, Arab-Americans joined their neighbors and friends to volunteer. The sheer size of the humanitarian effort and the thousands of people streaming in for aid, made the experience a bit chaotic at times. The initial outpouring of support, especially Wednesday and Thursday, produced more volunteers and donations than the GRB, NRG or even the American Red Cross could handle. However, given the magnitude of this national disaster, it was a good problem to have.

None of this stopped Michael Fares and Jess Lane from helping out. Michael teaches Arabic full time at the University of Houston (UH); and Jess graduated from UH not long ago. The couple donated their translation skills, raised funds and transported food and hygiene supplies at local schools, yoga studios and churches.

Back at UH various student groups and initiatives were out gutting homes and clearing debris. Among them were Saudi students from Hand by Hand who teamed up with Habitat for Humanity in the suburb of Meyerland.

The hurricane relief effort pushed Houston small businesses and nonprofits into overdrive. The rain had barely stopped falling and flood waters were still rising on Tuesday when Maysa Zaza, a caseworker at Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, began making food stops. Traveling in a large white van, they almost did not make it. A one hour trip now took over six hours and there were no streets to speak of, just dangerous and possibly contaminated waterways. Maysa and the two brave volunteers sent aid to Houston area refugees, disabled people and even the homeless.

The founders of Promoting Eastern Artisan Collaborative Effort (PEACE), Drs. Rand Omran and Salwan Toumajian, reported that a number of their artists lost their home or property to floodwaters. In addition to raising funds and providing urgently needed supplies to support them, Rand helped provide a fully functional “flood recovery financial aid” online portal for Arabic speakers across the region.

At the Bougainvilleas Event Venue and Café Caspian, business owners Badra Salameh Andrews, Massoud (Max) Bastankhah and Zack Bastankhah used their commercial scale kitchens to cook and supply food for hundreds of veterans combating PTSD at Camp Hope, as well as area refugee communities.

In a similar vein members of the Ramallah Social Club in the suburb of Missouri City, Wafa Baba and Claudia Baba, supplied hundreds of sandwiches to Houston area first responders on account of risking their lives to save others.

Houston Arab Americans Aid Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Rasha Shammaa of West Houston, teamed up with Kat Creech who set up “Recovery Houston.” The organization collects hardware supplies and creates teams of volunteers to go throughout the Houston metro region gutting homes and clearing debris, every day since Saturday.

The stories of Houston’s sons and daughters, Arab-Americans included, saving lives and rebuilding the city are too many to recount. Leaders and members of virtually every organization, contributed in cash or kind. The Arab American Cultural And Community Center, Egyptian American Society of Houston, Syrian American Club of Houston, Bilateral US-Arab Chamber of Commerce, and countless others.

West Houston remains under temporary evacuation until today. Excess floodwaters are still being drained into the Buffalo Bayou, flooding that part of the city. Most schools remain closed. The full extent of the damage will not be appreciated until all floodwaters have receded in the coming months; and a full scale recovery will take years.

In America’s most diverse city; after one of our nation’s most devastating natural disasters, I asked my fellow Arab Americans what part of this tragedy and humanitarian blessing stuck with them the most. What images and sounds are burned into their memory? I was taken aback by two answers. “Fear,” says Maysa Zaza with Alliance, “especially if you’re a refugee and don’t speak the language.” I asked her to explain further, she replies “if you don’t know English you don’t understand the TV and radio warnings, so you don’t know where to go.” The other answer came from Michael Fares. He stopped at La Tapatia restaurant to get a bite to eat last Thursday after a long day of volunteering. “There were about 30 members of the Mexican Red Cross sitting across from us,” and the staff were rushing to serve them. Those men and women risked their lives to save the lives of Houstonians thanks to an open border with Mexico, not a border wall.

Houston Arab Americans Aid Victims of Hurricane Harvey

The sun now shines over Houston. The city walks upon the long road to recovery after hurricane Harvey. The diversity of its citizens and the goodwill of its businesses serve as an example to all America that building bridges—the kinds made of concrete as well as goodwill to all humankind—makes us a stronger nation.

 

Arab America Contributing Writer, Dr. Emran El-Badawi, is program director and associate professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Houston. He has contributed to Forbes, The Christian Science Monitor and made dozens of national as well as international media appearances, including for The New York Times, Al-Jazeera and Association Relative à la Télévision Européenne (ARTE). He can be found on Twitter: @EmranE

 

A letter to Trump, on behalf of Qur’anic Joseph & Author James Baldwin

My letter to the Trump administration has been published by American Values Religious Voices and covered by The Jewish Week. You can read it below.

 

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LETTER 29

EMRAN EL-BADAWI

Program Director and Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies
University of Houston

FEBRUARY 17, 2017

Dear President Trump, Vice President Pence, Members of the Trump Administration and 115th Congress,

America’s native son, James Baldwin, warned us that to describe people as terrorists “is to dismiss their claim to human attention: we are not compelled to think of them at all anymore, except as the vermin that must be destroyed” (The Evidence of Things Not Seen). Your policies against Muslim immigrants and refugees under the pretext of terrorism reopen a dark page in our nation’s history.

America was founded as a nation of immigrants, and Muslims have been part of the American story since the very beginning. Millions of Muslims were among the African slaves who suffered grave injustice and built this nation on their backs. George Washington’s letter to his “great and magnanimous friend” Sultan Muhammad Ibn Abdullah of Morocco and Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an show that America’s founding fathers recognized Islam’s importance for international diplomacy and personal philosophy.

Some two centuries later, however, our current leaders have alienated, even dehumanized, their fellow Muslim citizens, with episodes of racism on the rise on your watch.

Scripture teaches us that long ago, different peoples settled in the land of Egypt as they searched for economic opportunity and an honorable life. Like America, Egypt was once a great nation of immigrants and natives, slaves and masters. Its ruler, Pharaoh, was considered a god: a narcissist and a dictator of the masses. When a young foreign slave named Joseph arrived in Egypt, the Qur’an teaches that his master commanded, “Make his stay honorable. He may well be of use to us, or we may adopt him as a son. And thus We settled Joseph in that land” (12:21).

America is fundamentally a nation of immigrants, a home blessed with honorable sons and daughters, like Joseph, who go on to do great things for their adopted nation. The future of America depends in large part on how your administration treats its Muslim citizens, residents and immigrants alike. Leaders come and go; but diversity and pluralism are here to stay. Like the ancients awaiting a sign from the heavens, we the people endure. We take heart in the words of the Qur’an: “Be witnesses of justice, and let not the hatred of a people prevent you from being just” (5:8).

Sincerely,

Emran El-Badawi

Emran El-Badawi

Program Director
Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies
University of Houston

Where are the Liberals in Syria & Egypt?

Conflict and reconciliation: “Arab liberalism” in Syria and Egypt 

By Emran El-Badawi

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Burhan Ghalioun, former Chair, Syrian National Council

“How did renewed autocracy in Egypt and civil war in Syria impact liberals differently? What lessons can be learned about the nature of liberalism in the greater Arab context from this comparative survey? This chapter seeks to answer these questions, first by following the reaction of liberals to the so-called Arab Spring, comparing a handful of intellectuals and academics in Egypt as well as Syria. The chapter goes on to focus on two of the most prominent liberals in each context, namely Gaber Asfour and Burhan Ghalioun. In each case, the role played by the armed forces vis-à-vis the public was critical to their rapid accession to power, and equally rapid fall….”

CONTINUE READING…

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Gaber Asfour, former Minister, Culture, Egypt

* Full article citation: Emran El-Badawi, “Conflict and Reconciliation: ‘Arab liberalism’ in Syria and Egypt,” Egypt and the Contradictions of Liberalism Illiberal Intelligentsia and the Future of Egyptian Democracy. Eds. Dalia Fahmy and Daanish Faruqi. London: OneWorld, 2017.

Trump’s America, Arabs & everything in between (audio)

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I had the pleasure of sitting and talking with Arab Voices radio talk show host Said Fattouh last month. We discussed, among other things, the U.S. election results, populism, immigration, globalization; Trump’s impact on minority groups in the US; Muslims, Arabs, South Asians in America (contributions and challenges) and Middle East policy. You can hear the full show at the link below.

 – LISTEN HERE –

 

 

Trump’s Presidency is Delaying the Inevitable

The people have spoken. And they elected Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America. Despite winning the popular vote Hillary Clinton lost a much anticipated historic election. Adding insult to injury the Republicans now have full control over Congress as well, and will likely bring about a conservative majority in the Supreme Court. As regressive and disturbing as this may all seem, let us not forget that The pendulum swings widely between liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican almost every election cycle. Its a hard pill to swallow, but life goes on.

But this is bigger than the FBI’s meddling or losing on account Clinton’s e-mail scandal, and maybe even bigger than the Democratic National Committee sabotaging Bernie Sander’s candidacy. As the DNC, liberals and the indeed the world come to terms with this seismic step backwards in American politics, I offer these preliminary thoughts.

On November 9, 2016 the US caught up — as it were  — to the tidal wave of anti-globalization, anti-immigration and white (often Christian) nationalism that has swept through other democracies. The example of Brexit in the United Kingdom, the rise of Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France, the resurgence of NeoNazi groups in Germany, prime minister Victor Orban’s promotion of “Christian identity” in Hungary and even the Likud renewed nationalism in Israel — all suggest a global phenomenon. The reason’s for ‘global anti-globalization’ are many — the Euro-crisis, bank bailouts, collapsing oil prices, class warfare, perpetual war, the Arab Spring, ISIS, and on and on.

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(Dailysabah.com)

In the US the success of the nation’s first African American president stoked deep seated obstructionism — even racism — within the Republican party leadership, who tried to sabotage his presidency for eight years. Since 9/11 2001 the GOP has moved further and further to the right, reinforcing anti-globalization through its invasion of Iraq, courting the Tea Party, “birther” movement” and culminating in Trump’s hate speech. Much of the GOP animosity was directed against Obama’s African race and Muslim ancestry. Furthermore, America has lost most of its manufacturing jobs (some outsourced; others outmoded) and its growing Latino population will be the majority by 2044. Is it any surprise, therefore, that Trump called for building a wall across the Mexican border and banning Muslims from entering the the country?

As the renowned social scientist Zygmunt Bauman expressed about the world’s historical direction, there is a “crisis of humanity” and ‘no one is in charge.’ Across the world people have seen their standard of living decline, or worse they have suffered revolution, war and displacement unseen before World War II. History also teaches us that economic protest can, and frequently does, manifest itself in the form of nationalist xenophobia . The demographics of the world are changing. In other words predatory neoliberalism, ongoing wars in the Middle East and the global refugee and immigration crises are not the only change at hand. In the case of the US there are more and more brown and black people thriving — legally —  around a slowly dwindling caucasian population. There is no going back; and the changing face of America and the world is unfolding before our eyes. Trump’s win is merely delaying the inevitable.

On racism I leave you with the words of Van Jones.

There are serious — even disastrous — prospects of this Trump presidency — losing face before the world, dismantling healthcare for the poor and cutting taxes for the rich, and emboldening white supremacy. However, just as the media was correct to chasten Trump for calling democratic elections “rigged,” we have little choice but to accept the result of such and election, meticulously hold Trump accountable and live to fight another day.

Change is inevitable. This is a rancorous wake up call to change our polity. Will Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein or another third party candidate have a chance in 2020? Will the two party system ever open up? Will our leaders stop pandering to money and start serving the people? Will old white men stop trying to forcibly control or demonize women, LGBTs, African Americans, Latinos and non-white immigrants? Will the US invest in itself and stop (over)policing the world? These are not supposed to be partisan issues. One can only hope that Trump and his GOP appointees will cause the least damage.

When The Largest Oil Exporter Quits the Game (Forbes)

My latest article now on Forbes


University of Houston Energy Fellows

Emran El-Badawi, Program Director and Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies

oil-pumps
(Forbes)

When The Largest Oil Exporter Quits The Game

“We have a case of oil addiction in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is dangerous.” So says Muhammad ibn Salman Al-Saud, deputy crown prince and minister of defense in his highly publicized April 25, 2015 interview with Al-Arabiyya. He continued, “We should treat oil as an investment, not a primary or absolute commodity.”

This is precisely the impulse behind the “Saudi Vision 2030.” The plan was crafted by Prince Muhammad – a young but shrewd visionary in his own right – and its aim is to wean the world’s largest oil exporter of its ‘dangerous addiction’ by 2030.

The 15-year plan comes at a time of historic economic and political instability. Since June 2014 oil prices that typically had been over $100 per barrel fell to below $50 and have not recovered. Going from “hero to zero” cut over 350 thousand energy sector jobs in just one year – 120,000 jobs in the U.S. alone – and starved the Venezuelan economy, literally. Meanwhile much of the Middle East still suffers from war, popular demonstrations and renewed government crackdowns since the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2010/2011.

The Impact of Oil on MENA Societies

Studying the Saudi 2030 Oil Plan, its political context in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and the global energy market became part of my mission as a researcher and educator at the University of Houston. I piloted an interdisciplinary course last summer for UH Energy and the C.T. Bauer College of Business on “Oil, Religion and the Middle East.” In this course, students of engineering, political science and the humanities came together to discuss the impact of oil on MENA societies. We examined in detail:

1. The “oil curse” and the phenomenon of the “rentier state”
2. How the oil and gas sector shapes cultural and social norms
3. Initiatives promoting transparency, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental sustainability.

And what does religion have to do with oil in this region? Everything. Or as Prince Muhammad summarizes, “Our constitution has become scripture, tradition and oil!”

King Salman Al-Saud remains the “custodian of the two holy mosques.” His Kingdom is simultaneously the most powerful member state of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

In other words, Saudi Arabia controls global oil as much as it does modern Islam. Therein lies the gravity of this economic plan.

Vision 2030: Growth, Diversification and Investment

Currently Saudi Arabia remains the largest global exporter of oil at about 360 million barrels per year; it is home to the largest proven oil reserves at almost 260-270 billion barrels (18 percent of global reserves). So how does the leader of the pack quit at the top of his game? Among the plan’s details are three sweeping economic changes:

  1. Selling 5 percent of government-run Saudi Aramco in the largest IPO in history
  2. Reducing government subsidies and introducing taxes for the first time
  3. Establishing a $2 trillion national investment fund

Valued at several trillion dollars Saudi Aramco remains the largest corporate entity in the world – state-run or otherwise. Aramco’s precise value is a state secret, which is a problem for any investor. So the plan calls for increased transparency. The size and importance of the company mean the Saudis are unlikely to give up the strategic value of oil itself. They might instead turn over logistics or petrochemicals to the private sector.

For an investment deal this big there are skeptics as well as optimists– and justifiably so. In sum, a successful IPO is critical to the plan’s execution … and its credibility.

Reducing government subsidies is a must. Since its founding almost a century ago the Saudi welfare state has given generous lifelong subsidies to its citizens. There are no taxes to speak of, and immigrant workers make up 30 percent of the general population. Government hand outs and foreign labor are part of Saudi culture. This might explain why the government has begun to tax immigrant workers but not Saudi citizens – a highly problematic start. How will imposing income, property or utility taxes affect the demographics of the kingdom? What ripple effects will this have on GDP, labor laws, political reform? Only time will tell.

When it comes to his investment, Prince Muhammad is on more solid ground. He claims the “Saudi mindset is a financial mindset” – and he is right. The Saudi central bank holds $117 Billion in US treasury bonds – surprisingly low given its sheer wealth. On the private sector front, the billionaire Al-Waleed ibn Talal, a member of the Al-Saud royal family, has bailed out everyone from CitiGroup to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. This is to say nothing of domestic Saudi investment in infrastructure, healthcare and retail – which are all state of the art. In this vein a $2 trillion investment fund may have a chance of diverting resources from oil towards realizing the prince’s dream to make Saudi Arabia a “global investment powerhouse.”

The plan also calls for diversifying Saudi Arabia’s economy – currently 90 percent oil driven. What other industries can flourish in the desert? The plan aims to spur growth in natural gas, real estate, mining, tourism and other sectors. The plan also calls for creating jobs for both men and women, improving people’s quality of life and – given the government’s religious mandate – improving the country’s morals while empowering its global Islamic prestige. Overall, the stated goals of Vision 2030 are ambitious bordering on inconceivable. But they are steps in the right direction.

Why Now?

For energy economists and historians – even the skeptics among them – the 2030 Saudi Oil Plan is long overdue. It represents a milestone in global energy and geopolitics: using oil wealth to divest from oil. It also comes in the wake of the Kyoto Protocol of 2005, Paris Agreement of 2015, China’s “five year plan” to reduce air pollution and other concrete efforts by the world’s largest economies to cut emissions in response to climate change. By framing the plan as a “vision” and underscoring large government projects, the Saudis are doing business the “Arab way.” President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s “New Suez Canal” has been the region’s most recent marvel, although revenues have been too low to help Egypt’s struggling economy. But the Saudis are thinking much bigger than the Egyptians anyway. It was Prince Muhammad ibn Rashid Al-Maktoum’s 2004 economic development plan, “My Vision,” that transformed Dubai into the opulent global city-state it is today. (The Saudis and Emiratis are also competing for who can build the tallest building in the world – an entirely different matter!)

Saudi Arabia is also fighting a number of foreign as well as domestic battles. Quarrels over succession within the Al-Saud family have persisted for years; Saudi women are increasingly active in their fight for equality and the nation’s youth are increasingly marginalized and open to radical influences. The kingdom is mired in wars in both Yemen and Syria, draining a record $100 billion out of the Saudi economy between 2015 and 2016 alone.

In both wars its arch nemesis is Iran, with whom U.S. president Barack Obama has made a deal. To complicate matters further, today’s record low oil prices are the result of economic warfare between Saudi crude and U.S. shale. In this context, Vision 2030 means the Saudis are desperately getting rid of a depreciating commodity – some analysts say bursting the “oil bubble” – and adjusting their economy for a future where oil may be overtaken by alternative fuel sources. That, however, is a subject for another day.


Dr. Emran El-Badawi is Program Director and Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, at the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, University of Houston. His research examines liberalism, Islamism and the impact of oil and gas on MENA societies. His work includes advising government, legal and business communities on Middle East related projects.

UH Energy is the University of Houston’s hub for energy education, research and technology incubation, working to shape the energy future and forge new business approaches in the energy industry.

Das Glaubensbekenntnis des Gesandten (The Messenger’s Creed Q 2:285)

The following text/audio is a German translation on Q 2:285 to a longer English article on Church canon law and qur’anic law to be published in the near future. Enjoy!

 

Sure 2 Vers 285Das Glaubensbekenntnis des Gesandten

Woran glauben Muslime? Ähnlich wie im Christentum drücken sie das in kurzen, prägnanten Glaubensbekenntnissen aus. Das bekannteste ist die Schahada. Sie lautet: “Es gibt keinen Gott außer Gott und Mohammed ist der Gesandte Gottes.” Es gibt aber noch mehr Glaubensbekenntnisse im Islam.

Von Dr. Emran El-Badawi, Universität Houston, Texas, USA

“Der Gesandte glaubt an das, was ihm von seinem Herrn herabgesandt, und auch die Gläubigen: Ein jeder glaubt an Gott und seine Engel, seine Bücher und seine Gesandten – wir unterscheiden zwischen keinem seiner Gesandten! Sie sprechen: ‚Wir hören und gehorchen! Vergib uns, unser Herr!‘ Und: ‚Zu dir hin ist das Ziel.‘”

Auf diesen Koranabschnitt bezieht sich das, was hier das Glaubensbekenntnis des Gesandten genannt wird.

Teaserbox zur Sendereihe "Koran erklärt" im Deutschlandfunk

Die Sendereihe Koran erklärt als Multimediapräsentation

In der späteren islamischen Tradition erklärt das Hadith-Schrifttum, also die Bücher zu den Überlieferungen Mohammeds, die doktrinären Elemente dieses Verses zu den Grundsätzen des Glaubens – arabisch: arkân al-îmân.

Das sind Gott, die Engel, die Heiligen Schriften, die Gesandten und die Vorherbestimmung. Offenkundig gibt es eine Entwicklung vom “urmuslimischen” Glauben auf Basis des Korans hin zu einem feststehenden Gebilde des “muslimischen” Glaubens auf Basis des Hadith.

Jahrhunderte nach der Offenbarung entstand die Auslegungsliteratur zum Koran. Sie liefert wertvolle kleine Hinweise auf den intertextuellen und historischen Hintergrund von Sure 2 Vers 285. Aber sie erläutert wenig zu den rechtlichen, philologischen und hagiographischen Details.

Dieser Vers ist einer von mehreren Glaubensbekenntnissen im Koran. Um die Doktrin zu bekräftigen, benutzt er die klar umrissene Terminologie der christlichen Glaubensbekenntnisse – und zwar so, wie sie am Vorabend des Islams vorgetragen wurden; oder allgemeiner gesprochen, wie sie in der Spätantike etwa vom 2. bis 7. Jahrhundert kursierten. Hören wir Auszüge aus dem Nicäanischen Glaubensbekenntnis:

“Wir glauben an den einen Gott,
den Vater, den Allmächtigen,
der alles geschaffen hat, Himmel und Erde,
die sichtbare und die unsichtbare Welt.
Und an den einen Herrn Jesus Christus,
Gottes eingeborenen Sohn,
aus dem Vater geboren vor aller Zeit:
….
Wir glauben an den Heiligen Geist,
der Herr ist und lebendig macht,
…..
Wir bekennen die eine Taufe zur Vergebung der Sünden.
Wir erwarten die Auferstehung der Toten
und das Leben der kommenden Welt.
Amen.”

Ähnlich klingt das heute verbreitetere apostolische Glaubensbekenntnis. So wie das Glaubensbekenntnis des Gesandten bezeugen das nicäanische und apostolische Glaubensbekenntnis erstens den Glauben an Gott, zweitens den Glauben an die Vergebung der Sünden und drittens den Glauben an die Auferstehung und das Leben nach dem Tod.

Wenig überraschend widerspricht das Bekenntnis des Gesandten in Bezug auf Jesus Christus und den Heiligen Geist. Die Menschwerdung Gottes und die Trinitätslehre werden zurückgewiesen. Ganz eindeutig heißt es: “Wir unterscheiden zwischen keinem seiner Gesandten!”

Ferner werden das nicäanische wie das apostolische Bekenntnis als Akt einer gemeinschaftlichen Rede verkündet. Es heißt: “WIR glauben an….” Darin spiegeln sich die Ursprünge in den Konzilen und Synoden der Ostkirchen wider.

Dieser Brauch wird im Bekenntnis des Gesandten und dessen Abwandlungen bewahrt. Hier heißt es: “WIR” beziehungsweise “ALLE glauben an….” Gelehrte argumentierten, bestimmte Koran-Passagen seien in Form theologischer Glaubensbekenntnisse ausgedrückt worden, um die christlichen Bekenntnisse, wo sie Trinität und Menschwerdung umfassen, zu widerlegen. Es kann gut sein, dass die vier Verse aus Sure 112 mit Namen “Das reine Gottesbekenntnis” eine solche “Widerlegung” darstellen.

Wohingegen einige längere und diskursivere Koran-Passagen ebenfalls in Form theologischer Bekenntnisse in den Suren 2, 3 und 4 gut als Bestätigung der Doktrin dienen können. Wie in dieser Sendung gezeigt, ist der erläuterte Vers eine dieser Bestätigungen.

Porträt von Emran El-Badawi vor schwarzem Hintergrund. (prov.)

Emran El-Badawi ist Programmdirektor der Middle Eastern Studies und lehrt als Associate Professor. (prov.)

Die Audio-Version musste aus Gründen der Sendezeit leicht gekürzt werden.

Religious Violence in the Middle East: Military Intervention, Salafi-Jihadism and the Dream of a Caliphate

In Spring of 2015 I delivered a talk in Colorado Springs to an audience of military service men and women, civilians and students at the University of Colorado. One year article the talk turned into this article. “Religious Violence in the Middle East: Military Intervention, Salafi-Jihadism and the Dream of a Caliphate,” Journal of Cultural and Religious Studies 4.6 (2016): 396-409 traces the root causes of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other Jihadist groups, offering some brief insight along the way.

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The Old Souk in 2007 (top) and 2013 (bottom) in Aleppo, Syria. (Guardian.com)

Religious Violence in the Middle East: Military Intervention, Salafi-Jihadism and the Dream of a Caliphate

By Emran El-Badawi, University of Houston, Houston, USA

Introduction

The so-called “Islamic State” (IS, ISIS, ISIL), by virtue of its name, forcibly imposed upon the world a religious as well as political agenda. Notorious for its gruesome execution videos, and sophisticated use of media propaganda IS killed over 9 thousand civilians in 2014 alone, the majority of which were Muslims. Yet IS asserts itself as the sole authentic carrier of Islam—an otherwise diverse religious body of 1.6 billion people, boasting fourteen hundred years of history. Its political agenda is realized with every city, province and territory it conquers from the all but collapsed governments of Iraq and Syria. Its signature claim and most salient undertaking has been the return of the Islamic Caliphate, fusing classical Islamic tradition with modern political warfare. However, as a state it is unrecognized by all its neighbors in the Middle East; and as an embodiment of Islam, it has been completely rejected by Islamic clergy and the public faithful.

One should, therefore, ask the question, from where does IS obtain its legitimacy for its approximately 30 thousand plus fighters? How Islamic is the so-called “Islamic State?” Why does IS justify barbaric violence against Sunnis, Shi‘ites, Christians and Yazidis is in the name of Islam? The fact that such minorities and still other more ancient as well as obscure groups have called greater Iraq and Syria home for two millennia is a living testament to the inherent tolerance and pluralism of traditional forms of Islam. So what are the “root causes” for the sprouting of IS’s poisonous ideology and how can we eliminate them? The answers to such questions are complex and hotly debated, among academics and policymakers alike. In order for us to get a complete understanding of IS we first need to examine the social, political and economic struggles that lead to the rise and menacing grip of violent religious fundamentalism in the name of Islam. This examination will take us through the Wahabi ideology of oil rich Arab gulf states, to the Salafi school which rose in the political and socio-economic turmoil of Egypt and greater Syria, and the spread of Salafi-Jihadism as a direct result of US military intervention.

Continue reading HERE!

What about the Orlando Mass Shooting & Islam? [VIDEO]

In my interview with Fox on June 13, 2016 I discuss the problem of homophobia in general, and the necessity of accepting LGBT within the Abraham faith groups. This is a problem traditional Christians and Muslims wrestle with still in the 21st century. Reports prove the perpetrator of the Orlando shooting was a bigot, mentally ill, abusive, criminal to begin with. To date the criminal investigation demonstrate his ties to Islam as incidental, and that his “allegiance” to ISIS/ISIL was attempt to draw attention and credibility, as in the San Bernardino shooting.

Islam in America is “represented” by the majority of its adherents and its institutions–like all other faith based communities.

Professor analyzes Orlando mass shooting [VIDEO]

EE-Fox-26-2016

Finally, something I forgot to mention for lack of time, those who profit from hate domestically and overseas (ISIS, Trump, etc) want Americans divided and squabbling. We should not let them win. America is (used to be!) the last of diversity and tolerance. If we want to prevent another Orlando, Charleston, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine, etc then we need to hold accountable the NRA, gun lobby and paid politicians who profit from and fuel the proliferation of machine guns in crowded spaces (including schools and colleges). 

 

 

 

 

Welfare or Warfare? “Jihad” between the Bible & Qur’an

So what does Jihad really mean? And should we trust angry religious extremists or a handful of media corporations to sell us “holy war” and “war on terror” until the end of days? No. There is another way. It turns out the Qur’an is not foreign at all to ‘western, Judeo-Christian values’ but is, rather, founded upon them. And Jihad–yes Jihad–is a good case to explore.

Forget what you know, or think you know, for a moment and let us examine the very origins of this terminology between the Aramaic (especially Syriac) Bible and Arabic Qur’an. This journey takes us before both Gulf War and World War, before both the Spanish Reconquista and the conquest of Constantinople, before the Crusades and all the way back to the origins of Islam itself in the 7th century, when conflict between Christian churches, Zoroastrian priests and Jewish tribes shook the entire Middle East. One group literally ‘struggled, fought’ to save itself from the chaos of that time and place.

One conclusion I offer up front is that the Qur’an’s speaker and audience originally belonged to an Arab Jewish/Christian community, a community that knew scripture well. The Bible and its many commentaries in the late ancient Middle East form the background of the Qur’an. Its ancient community lived very much between the historical Jesus and the historical Muhammad.

Nizami, Khamseh (wikimedia.org)
Nizami, Khamseh (wikimedia.org)

The doctrine of “struggle (jihad) in the way of God” cited in the Qur’an cannot be separated from charity (infaq) on the one hand or fighting (qital) on the other hand, both of which take place “in the way of God.” What follows is an excerpt (pages 118-121) from my book on The Qur’an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions, released in paperback this month.  (Notes and some special characters have been removed)

The Rabbinic authorities, and by extension, their followers did not welcome the mission of Jesus, nor that of his closest disciples and the rest of his righteous entourage. To the contrary, we recall from the Beatititudes that their suffering is likened to the persecution of the prophets before them. It states,

Blessed are you when people dishonor you (mhasdīn lkūn), persecute you (rādfīn lkūn), and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake (mētūlātī). So rejoice and be glad (hdawū wa rwazū), for your reward is great in heaven (d-agrkūn sagī ba-šmāyā); like this did they persecute the prophets before you (hākanā . . . rdapū la-nbīyē d-mēn qdāmaykūn)(Matthew 5:11–12; Diatessaron 8:35–36)

These words of encouragement amid the persecution they withstood may pre- serve some measure of historicity. They were, furthermore, the subject of discus- sion by Aphrahat’s Demonstration on Persecution as a result his argument against Jewish interlocutors in which the stories of the prophets are narrated, accentuating the significance of persecution (see in relation Chapter 2). Incidentally, the literary style behind this genealogy of persecution reflects that of Q 26:4–190.

At any rate, Matthew 5:11–12 and the reflections of Syriac Christian authors like Aphrahat upon these verses were the inspiration for various qur’ānic passages of encouragement. These verses were likely revealed to Muhammad and uttered by him for the sake of consoling his righteous entourage and persecuted Muslim following as a whole (for example, 2:214; 3:140). In the Qur’ān, they cry out to God in prayer that He may reward them for their faith, sacrifice and endurance of suffering (Q 3:192–194). God responds, stating,

So their Lord answered them, “I do not squander the works of any hard worker among you, neither male nor female, each of you is like the other. As for those who migrated (hājarū), were expelled out of their homes (ukhrijū min diyārihim), and were harmed in My way (wa ūdhū sabīlī)—who fought and were killed (wa qātalū wa qutilū)—I will indeed blot out for them their sins (la-ukaffiranna ‘anhum sayyi’ātihim) and I will indeed enter them into gardens underneath which rivers flow (jannāt tajrī min tahtihā al-anhār) as a reward from God (thawāban min ‘in allāh).” And God possesses the best reward. (Q 3:195)

This verse is—in part—a dogmatic re-articulation of Jesus’s words in Mat- thew, which has been suited to the particular circumstances of Muhammad’s community (migration, expulsion, and retaliation). The Arabic third person plural passive perfect verb referring to those who “were harmed (ūdhū)”—that is, persecuted—encapsulates the Aramaic reference to those who are blessed when people “dishonor you (mhasdīn lkūn), persecute you (rādfīn lkūn), and say all kinds of evil against you falsely.” The qur’ānic and Matthean syntax is also paralleled where the persecution of the righteous entourage is followed by Arabic fī sabīlī, “in My way,” reproducing the Aramaic mētūlātī, “for my sake.” One characteristic which underscores the dogmatic nature of the Qur’ān’s re-articulation of the Gospel text is that where Matthew portrays the righteous entourage as working for “the sake” of Jesus—which is in violation to the strict monotheism espoused by Muhammad—in the Qur’ān they work in “the way” of God. And where their reward is given anonymously in Matthew, God is the explicit possessor and giver of the reward in the Qur’ān. The syntax of both passages continues in parallel as the penultimate statement made is the prom- ise of a “reward” (Arabic thawāb, Aramaic agrā). The final statement in Matthew 5:11–12, namely “like this did they persecute the prophets before you” (hākanā . . . rdapū la-nbīyē d-mēn qdāmaykūn), does not quite match anything in Q 3:195, but is approximated elsewhere in the Qur’ān as it states, “and like this did We create for each prophet an enemy from among the criminals” (wa kadhālik ja‘alnā li kull nabī ‘aduwwān min al-mujrimīn) . . . (Q 25:31; cf. Q 83:29–36), where the Arabic introductory marker kadhālik is analogous to the Aramaic hākanā.

Unlike the Gospels which portray Jesus as a pacifist (Matthew 26:52; although cf. Matthew 10:34), one of the consequences, on Muhammad’s part, of identify- ing the suffering in his own community with that of Jesus in the Gospels was its gradual evolution into an ideology of communal protective warfare, social strug- gle, and internal taxation. The sequence of this evolution is outlined later in this chapter.

We have already seen earlier that Q 3:195 adds those who “fought and were killed” (qātalū wa qutilū) to the list of the persecuted righteous entourage. This is because warfare played a vital role in establishing earliest Islam, not merely as a prophetic tradition, but more importantly as an intertribal, national, state polity, or “ummah.” At its very core, the Qur’ān is concerned with the welfare and protection of the downtrodden members in Muhammad’s community, especially fostering the rights of women and “the downtrodden among the orphans” (al- mustad. ‘afūn min al-wildān; Q 4:127). For this purpose Q 4:74 sanctions fighting on the battlefield and exalts martyrdom. The next verse goes on to implore its believing audience, stating,

So why do you not fight (tuqātilūn) in the way of God and the downtrodden (fī sabīl allāh wa al-mustad‘afīn) among men, women, orphans and those who say, “O Lord release us from this town whose people are oppressive; and create for us, by Your doing, a champion (nasīran)?” (Q 4:75)

Aside from the messianic undertones of the “champion” (nasīr; cf. in relation 1 Samuel 8:4–5; Isaiah 42:13), it is clear from this verse that combat is a communal duty whose inspiration and purpose stems from a strong desire to fend for the downtrodden. In due course, the phrase fī sabīl allāh wa al-mustad. ‘afīn affirms that “the way of God” is itself “the way of the downtrodden.” Concerning those martyred in such warfare, similar to Matthew 5:11–12 and Q 3:195 it states, “And indeed do not think that those who were killed in the way of God (al-ladhīn qutilū fī sabīl allāh) are dead. Nay [they are] alive with their Lord receiving recompense (Q 3:169; cf. Q 47:4).”

As Muhammad’s community grew, projects of migration (hijrah) expanded into military duty (qitāl; see also 4:84; 22:58–60) and, later on, socio-military struggle (jihād; see Q 4:95, 100; 8:72, 74; 9:20, 38, 41, 111 citing in relation the tawrāh and injīl). Concerning this struggle it states,

Indeed those who believe are those who believed in God and his messenger, then had no doubt, and struggled with their wealth and their selves in the way of God (wa jāhadū bi amwālahum wa anfusahum fī sabīl allāh). They are the sincere ones (al-sādiqūn). (Q 49:15; Cf. Q 61:11)

Socio-military struggle (jihād) was waged in the “way of God” (sabīl allāh), which beyond setting the foundation for “holy war” served the greater function of being a community welfare system. This system had two functions. One func- tion required believers to provide voluntary financial support (amwālahum) and the other function required them to provide voluntary military service (anfusa- hum) in the way of God (fī sabīl allāh). Furthermore, by recasting those who struggle (al-ladhīn . . . jāhadū) as the sincere ones (al-s.ādiqūn), this ensured the militarization of the righteous entourage in the Qur’ān.

It is worth mentioning that as the military campaigns of Muhammad’s army began to yield substantial wealth and—perhaps—once they formed a unified polity of sorts, military service lead to the taxation of war booty. Thus 20 percent of all war booty (khums) collected went directly to Muhammad and the poor and downtrodden members of society, including kindred, orphans, the poor, and wanderers (Q 8:41).

On the other hand, those who rebelled (al-ladhīn kafarū) fight “in the way of misguidance” (fi sabīl al-t.āghūt)—where t.āghūt (see also Q 2:256–7; 4:51; 60, 76; 5:60; 16:36; 39:17), its active participle t.āghiyah, “abomination” and its ver- bal form, t.aghā, “to go astray,” (Q 79:37–39; 96:6) are Arabized derivations that came through an Aramaic dialect (from Ethiopic?)25 as is evident from the verbal usage of t‘ā, “to go astray” throughout the Gospels (Matthew 18:12–13; Mark 8:14; 13:5–6; Luke 12:6; John 7:47; and so on).

At any rate, there is an indication in the Qur’ān that the “socio-military struggle in the way of God” (jihād fī sabīl allāh)—precisely because it represented a welfare system that served the poor and downtrodden members of society constituted a sure path to salvation (najāh; Q 61:10–12) and evolved further into the beginnings of internal taxation (nafaqah, infāq fī sabīl allāh; Q 2:195; 9:34; 47:38; 57:10). This argument is supported by the possibility that the function of sabīl allāh as a charitable treasury may be associated with the Aramaic epithet for the “treasury,” that is “the house of offerings of God” (bayt qūrbānē d-alāhā; Luke 21:4) which is discussed later on…

Read the full version HERE!

America: Kiss the Hand of the Immigrant — #IStandWithAhmed @IrvingISD

The young inventor Ahmed Mohamed
The young inventor Ahmed Mohamed

When Educators Need Educating

Today Americans learned of the latest episode in a series of racial, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim events that threatens the fabric of American society. A fourteen year old genius by the name of Ahmed Mohamed who attends Irving ISD, Texas was arrested by police without charge and later released, after he brought to school a clock he engineered and wanted to share wit his teacher and classmates. The “clock” was mistaken for a “hoax bomb” and we all know how to fill in the blanks. A statement released by Irving ISD to parents of children at the school explained that the seemingly “suspicious looking item” (the clock!) “did not pose a threat.” Neither apology nor investigation of the responsible administrators has yet been undertaken.

The good news is that in this particular case, America knows better than those administrators in Irving ISD. President Barack Obama, presidential candidate Hilary Clinton, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google, NASA, MIT and a host of organizations and individuals from the IT, political and media spheres have come out in support of Ahmed. The bad news is that racial, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment has penetrated so deeply into American institutions, so as to mock its public school system. This issue is particularly relevant to me as an educator as well as an immigrant–for obvious reasons.

Built on Immigrants. Built on Race.

America was built on immigrants. “America runs on immigrants.” But it was also built on race–and a particularly unhealthy treatment of non-white populations: Slavery, Jim Crow, Native Americans, Mexican Deportation, Vietnam, Iraq, and on and on. This is where the American dream meets the American nightmare. I need not recount history, but I wonder how many Americans truly understand the importance of immigrants to the United States? The largest economy, leader in global technologies and most powerful military in the world cannot function without brown immigrants. That’s right, America needs immigrants from the Middle East, India, China, Mexico and elsewhere to survive. It is for good reason that the physicist, Dr. Michio Kaku, calls the H1-B (for immigrant workers) the “genius visa” and America’s “secret weapon.”  Otherwise America domestically simply does not produce nearly enough geniuses in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and increasingly Business and other sciences as well–the stuff we all need to live and keep the world moving!

Meanwhile, the public atmosphere in the US (and even overseas in Europe) is rife with anti-immigrant sentiment. Followers of right wing, conservative or evangelical leaders–what I like to call ‘non contributing zeros’–have programmed Americans to disbelieve in science (e.g. climate change, the big bang, etc) and make up a war against ‘terror.’ So is it really any wonder why a school administrator would be ignorant of what a digital clock looks like AND call the cops on a young brown male?

Silicon Valley–where most of the technology in your home, car and business come from–as well as Microsoft, are completely dependent on immigrants to engineer and innovate stuff for our lives. Most American PhDs are foreign born immigrants. Chicago’s famous Sears/Willis Tower–once the tallest building in the world–was designed by Fazlur Rahman Khan, an immigrant. Millions of unnamed Mexican immigrants build Americas homes, produce their food and fill all areas of service. Yet millions more rally behind GOP candidates (Donald Trump and others) to build a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out, as well as to start a new war in the Middle East (Iran).

America’s race problem (terrorism!) is now colliding with its immigrant power. And if we don’t fix the problem, the brains will go elsewhere, leaving the rest behind–permanently. So in conclusion, as long as America is number one, then we all owe an unpayable debt to immigrants like Ahmed Mohamed.

Syrian Refugees: What would Jesus do?

As refugees from the Middle East and North Africa–mainly Syria–pour into Hungary the prime minister of that country is not the only one in Europe concerned with the “Christian nature” of the continent. Countless others would prioritize religious identity, race or nationalism before humanity. Thankfully there are Europeans citizens and government whose hearts are truly great, in Germany, Sweden and elsewhere. If, however, we are really to associate Christianity with turning away humans desperately in need of safety and shelter, and facilitating the largest humanitarian Crisis in modern history, I wonder what would Jesus do? Or at least what do the Gospels teach?

Germany Sept 2015
Germany Sept 2015

The king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

(Matthew 35:34-40)