Thought Archive

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring Hath Come

What can be more primeval than the rebirth of Nature. In the Region where the Letter, the Agriculture and Religion were born, Man even before those had celebrated the budding festival of spring, for it was the to cultivate crops, tend animals ready to mate and collect berries and flowers

Thus I claim that Novruz is the oldest celebration known to Humanity. It is for all of us who live in the Middle East and Central Asia - the region where Spring is the best season of all.

Everyone claims with equal validity that Nowruz is theirs to cherish: Zoroastrians, Muslims, Bahais and Alawites. In reality it is as close to the Men's Natural Religion as the day could be. It is just the First Day of Spring, a day when not a single vice and wretchedness is celebrated, but Ours and Nature's Maker is worshipped - The One who made it all possible for us - to breathe, to sing and to make merry.

Nowrūz (Persian: نوروز, various local pronunciations and spellings) is the traditional Iranian new year holiday celebrated by Iranian, Turkic and many other peoples in West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, Northwestern China, the Caucasus, the Crimea, and the Balkans.
Nowruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the Iranian year. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox (start of spring in northern hemisphere), which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday, it is also a holy day for adherents of Sufism and the Bahá'í Faith.[1] In Iran it is also referred to as an Eid festival, although it is not an Islamic feast. Alawites and Nizari Ismailis also celebrate Nowruz.[2] The term Nowruz first appeared in Persian records in the second century AD, but it was also an important day during the time of the Achaemenids (c. 648-330 BC), where kings from different nations under the Persian empire used to bring gifts to the emperor (Shahanshah) of Persia on Nowruz.[3]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hands Off China!

Emotions always carry the day - especially if these emotions are about China, which Westerners can not live without but still fear.

Chinese leaders are in angry denial of the criticism of their handling of the cituations that is so untimely - just before olymplics. "There is ample fact and plenty of evidence proving this incident was organised, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique," Chinese leaders say.

But even if this is not true, and recent events were just sporadic protest aganst the Chinese, the following is true. What right have other countries to interfere criticise and object to the way most populous country in the worlds conducts its internal affars. Of course, Tibetan independence is fashionable in many Bohemian or not so Bohemian circles in the West, but - despite equally gruesome persecution of Uighur Muslims in Xinjang region - barely a squeak comes from the West on treatment of Uighurs in China. I empatise with Tibetans, but I see that Tibet is highlighted in the West for two reasons: 1) Presumed cultural affinity of liberals with Tibet and 2) desire of conservatives to see China's wings clipped.

Almost every ethnic minority in China is discriminated against simply because of the cultural incompatibilty of the Chinese with those minority cultures. China is not intent on forcing people to adopt to Chinese way of life but the assimilation is happening anyway, because China dominates these regions, and it is through China that people in these remote regions gain access to the World.

But China is an empire which took hold of those territories in fair conquest. It has thus a right to govern those as long as it exercises a fair judgement and does not commit mass murder. No evidence of the Nazist policies has been observed and China brought prosperity to otherwise backward regions. Only by internal force, this great country should break apart violently or without violence.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friends and Foes of Azerbaijan

Now look who's talking at the UN. To get a break from Israeli-Palestine confict dignitaries decided to spend some time pondering heavy thoughts about forgotten war in the Caucasus. Our Shia co-believers in Iran have abstained as was expected, whilst majority of other Muslim countries have voted in favor. Algeria abstained for an unknown reason (Question for Riri - are there Armenians out there or what?) Arbiters of fairness from United States have voted against the resolution for quite understandable reasons, and here they are at one with Mother Russia. What I do not comprehend is India's voting patterns, which are consistenly anti-Azeri (from previous UN resolutions) even though our relationhsip is generally cordial. I wonder if there some kind of Aryan solidarity amongst "Ancient Civilizations" in play.

Whilst we can not and should not act against USA due to our dependent position, some political action should be taken against France and French business interests in Azerbaijan, even if largely symbolic for her unquestionable support of Armenia through the years. Turkey whose EU membership is on the line was not afraid to stand firm against France in the genocide raw last year. Azerbaijan has much less to lose.

General Assembly of UN adopts resolution reaffirming territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, demanding withdrawal of all Armenian forces. Text of declaration can be read at Today.Az

"Seriously concerned that the armed conflict in and around the Nagorny Karabakh region of Azerbaijan continued to endanger international peace and security", the General Assembly on Friday reaffirmed Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, expressing support for that country’s internationally recognized borders and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all Armenian forces from all occupied territories there. B y a recorded vote of 39 in favour to 7 against , with 100 abstentions, the Assembly also reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Azerbaijani population to return to their homes, and reaffirmed that no State should recognize as lawful the situation resulting from the occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories, or render assistance in maintaining that situation. (See below for voting details.)

Vote on Occupied Territories of AzerbaijanThe draft resolution on the situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan (document A/62/L.42) was adopted by a recorded vote of 39 in favour to 7 against, with 100 abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Colombia, Comoros, Djibouti, Gambia, Georgia, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Moldova, Morocco, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Yemen.

Against: Angola, Armenia, France, India, Russian Federation, United States, Vanuatu.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Age of Reason

It is always pleasant to learn something new in any area, but especially pleasant if it concerns Islamic history, onto which many in the West, so arrogantly pronounce judgements by assuming to know everything. Recently I have made an unexpected discovery while searching for the sources of Islamic Fundamentalism.

Islamic Reformism was a significant movement occupying minds of almost all ruling and clerical classes who clearly saw muslim countries lose superiority, economies and finally independence itself to the West. All leading voices of the 19 century argued for reform. The challenge of 19 century was crucial – how to compete with the West and yet stay independent, but the stakes went higher. It was obvious that Europeans would invade and rule directly, if urgent solutions were not found. While Ottoman Empire survived and staved off defeat, its Egyptian vassals under heirs of moderniser Muhammad Ali did not. After it had build the Suez canal, Egypt found itself – after heavy and indiscriminate borrowing – directly in depth to French and British banks and became insolvent. A military coup instigated by officers of newly modern Egyptian army was also the first attempt at nationalization to save Egypt from foreign creditors. It had failed and in 1882 British occupied Egypt under pretext of protection of Suez.

Basically it was becoming clear that despite its lip service to liberty for all, the West had no intentions to give liberty to other races and was on the road to enslaving them all. In these conditions there had to be two solutions: either to fight a losing battle of the sword or reform internally to be able to compete later. At the time answer was the latter, and beyond local battles with the West, there was no “jihad”-inspired backlash. Terror as the method of war was not yet born.

Two figures loomed large on the Sunni Islamic Reformism side in Middle East, and at the time quite known in Europe – like Tariq Ramadans of their day– Jalal-ad-Din Afghani and Muhammad Abduh.

Reformers like them said that Muslim societies had fallen behind the west because they had strayed from the core strength of Islam which celebrated science and reason and abhorred superstition. They had become antagonistic to change ossified and did not innovate with the result of the West racing ahead. There was generally little resistance to the idea that things had to change among all ruling classes and progressive clergy.

Abduh – who after being exiled and arrested by British eventually returned to become a Grand Mufti of Egypt – was also a consistent believer in the triumph of reason and berated a rigid ideology based on uncritical interpretations of hadiths, and went even further indicating importance of scrutiny and free speech to question many tenets. Both men strongly opposed irrational tendencies in Islam and opposed mystical Sufism which they saw as not scientific and full of ossified rituals. They have probably despised the folk religion with its cult of saints and holy places and thought of ways to challenge it through modernized education.

Now you might thing that the Islamic Reform movement was not opposed to the West, but it was not so. It was Sharia bound traditionalist headed by mainstream ulema, who in their stupor were ready to not only oppose but support foreign rule, provided their traditions were respected. Reformists invariably sided with nationalist cause. It was true in Russia (including my native Azerbaijan, whose Muslim democrat leaders eventually formed a republic in 1918), India and Egypt. Reformism in India created Iqbal and Ali Jinna and Turkish one Young Turks and their heir – Ataturk.

Reformists ultimate goal was the Islamic renaissance akin to the Arabic Golden age where spirit of scientific inquiry flourished; their future did not have not skimpily dressed women and binge drinking - they still saw the West as flawed in many respects. Afghani was also called a father of Pan-Islamism, which was a pro-Caliphate movement that can be constructed as a early version of Islamic “Fundamentalism” and Hizb-ut-Tahrir party. He toured many Muslim and European countries and served as an advisor to Ottoman Sultan and king of Afghanistan in their reforms.

Because some Reformists used to advocate a return to pious practices of Salafis – the early followers of the Prophet who, the Reformists believed, were guilded by Reason – these Reformists called themselves Salafis too, just like today’s West adversaries.

So in a twist of fate modernizers of 19 century became heirs to puritanical Salafis of today. Of course, on any Jihadi website the Reformists of 19 century are criticized as Jewish sell-outs – in one, Afghani is called a Judeo-Mason for example - but links between later Muslim Brotherhood and early Islamic Reform movement are obvious. Both were born out of desire to understand reasons for failure and derived their strength from critical and untraditional interpretation of the scriptures. However, the answers they have provided were different. There was the reason for the change of emphasis – it was because 20 century was a disaster and disappointment for Muslims, especially its second half, where it became clear that reforms had not worked and the West firmly and unconditionally established itself as the ruler of the World. Slowly but surely those who supported the modernism and innovation were tainted by association with the oppressors. This was the beginning of a new and more difficult chapter.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Last Caliph

On the blog which linked to Riri's I have found a damning injuctions against the destruction of Khilafah.
On the 28th of Rajab 1342AH, corresponding to 3 March 1924CE, the Khilafah was destroyed at the hands of the colonial powers with the assistance of collaborators such as Mustafa Kemal. Allah (swt) has obligated us to rule by His Law and ordered us to shield the Ummah with the Khilafah state.
I have an amblivalent attitude to the Califate as it has been destroyed by Ataturk, but I do want to come to his aid. He has done the unthinkable and in order to save the heartland of Ottoman Empire from the Western Domination stood against the alliance of Sultan and Allies to preserve independence of the Turkish State in the time of peril. The alternative was a foreign domination under a Western protectorate with monarchies of the type created or propped-up in Iraq, Jordan and Egypt.

The Turkish national movement, as the details explained in Turkish War of Independence forms a Turkish Grand National Assembly, secured formal recognition of the nation’s independence and new borders on July 23, 1923 through the Treaty of Lausanne. The National Assembly declared Turkey a republic on October 29 and proclaimed Ankara its new capital. After nearly 700 years, the Ottoman Empire had officially ceased to exist. However, under Allied direction and diktat, the Sultan pledged to suppress such movements and secured an official fatwa from the Sheikh ul-Islam declaring them to be un-Islamic. But the nationalists steadily gained momentum and began to enjoy widespread support. Many sensed that the nation was ripe for revolution. In an effort to neutralize this threat, the Sultan agreed to hold elections, with the hope of placating and co-opting the nationalists. To his dismay, nationalist groups swept the polls, prompting him to again dissolve parliament in April 1923. The National Assembly abolished the Caliphate on March 3, 1924. Abdul Mejid was sent into exile to France along with the remaining members of the Ottoman House, marking the official end of the "Ottoman Caliphate".

It is interesting to note that the last "Caliph" Abdulmejid II was an urbane and an intellectual.
He served as Chairman of the Ottoman Artist's Society. He is considered as one of most important painters of last period Ottoman art. His paintings of the Harem, showing a modern musical gathering, and of a woman reading Goethe's Faust were displayed at an exhibition of Ottoman paintings in Vienna in 1918. His personal self-portrait can be seen at Istanbul Modern.

For Turkey Ataturk did a right thing, destroying a poweless institution which had become an instrument in the hands of would-be colonizers. The effects of what this decision for a long time for other Sunni Muslims were minimal; this was until now when people living in a historical warp want to return to a political equation which did not exist for many centuries. Some Sunnis feel that re-creation the Caliphate will give Muslims a purpose the so lacked in the past.