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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Hijacking Islam 

Blogger Saudi Jeans writes that "those Wahabbis are really hijacking Islam." He links to this article in the online Arab News, in which an Arab woman writes about the changing treatment of women at the Grand Mosque:
From Yanbu, where my family lived years ago, it was an easy drive on the weekend to go to Makkah. We’d visit my mother-in-law and all the aunties and other relatives. We’d pray at the Grand Mosque. Then, we’d shop. I never thought twice about hopping in the car and driving to Makkah...

Then, suddenly, about a decade ago things began to change at the Grand Mosque. Yes, the numbers coming for Umrah and Haj seemed much larger. But that cannot explain the difference in the mood and behavior of the crowds. Circumambulating the Kaaba began to require the skills of a wrestler. After suffering the pushing, elbowing and jostling of the crowd, I would return home and usually find that I’d been seriously bruised...

Then, five years ago in the spring, an incident happened in the mosque. Even now when I think of it, tears come to my eyes. It was during the Maghrib prayer. I was standing at the end of a row with my eyes closed, listening to the imam recite. There was a tap on my shoulder. “Ghati Wajhik,” came an insistent female whisper. My eyes flew open. I was being told to cover my face during the prayer. I stared straight ahead. Again the instruction came and again I ignored it. The woman standing behind me moved away. I was not left alone for long though.

While I was on my knees, two women covered from head to toe, except for their eyes, appeared at my side. They had some sort of badge sewn to the front of their hijab. One grasped my right wrist and ordered me in clear English, “Sister, cover your face.” I was shocked. Around me, despite the interruption, other women were trying to continue in their prayer but inquisitive looks were being thrown my way. To make a long and ugly story short, I spent the entire remainder of the prayer on my knees receiving a lecture. I could not escape, as making an aggressive move in the Holy Mosque was unacceptable to me.

I have been unable to return to the Grand Mosque since that day. Every time I consider the idea, I am overcome with a feeling of panic. I have shared my experience with many other women in the hope of finding solace. Sadly, too often the women relate to me accounts that are just as unpleasant or even worse than mine. Rudeness and ignorance should find no foothold in the holiest place in Islam, but somehow it seems that certain people have forgotten the basic tenets of our faith.

The Wahabbis, as Princeton's Michael Scott Doran has put it, "spend a lot of time defining who is and who is not a believer. They start dividing up the bad guys into all sorts of different kinds of bad guys." The Wahabbis do not care that a highly articulated definition of apostasy is far tougher on thoughtful believers than on non-believers. The question is, will Wahabbism's bright lines strengthen Islam even as they harden it, or will they drive the umma into schism?

17 Comments:

By Blogger Myrtus, at Sat May 07, 11:04:00 AM:

Stories like this should be told and retold to uncover the criminal hypocrisy coming from the Arab peninsula.

That whole Mecca thing is nothing but a money making pit for the Saudis if you ask me and I don't care who's to blame, wahabis, salafists, ben ladenists....they're all the same.

My mother made the pilgrimage a few years ago. She was 75 years old and despite all the hardships she had to endure over there, she never once complained, but my brother and sister who went with her came back with absolutely horrific stories about the animalistic treatment that goes on over there. One guy stepped on my mom's head while she was praying an knocked her unconscious... the pushing, shoving, hitting and poking with knight sticks by Saudi police to keep people in line....the filthy dirty outhouses forcing people to hold it longer while risking bladder infections (my sister came back with a nasty bladder infection because of it)...there were women giving birth in massively occupied tents without medical help. Young Muslims who have no business being there, often go there just to have their children brought into the world in their most sacred place on earth. On the way to Mount Arafat the bus broke down in the middle of the desert and the people were left stranded....my brother and sister had to carry mom back most of the way because of her bad knees. I can go on and on, but I don't want to clog up this comment section.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Sat May 07, 11:10:00 AM:

Great Post, Hawk.

Whenever fundamentalist religion hawkers get mixed up in the geopolitical power game, there's no easy way out. Fundamentalists exclude, intimidate, judge, and, due to their literalism, believe that they are serving the whim of the Almighty.

It happened in Waynesville, North Carolina yesterday with the Baptists, and it's happening in Saudi Arabia and anywhere else with a Wahabi Fundie population. Fundamentalists won't be swayed by logic, I'm told by the hawks on the right. So what to do with our American fundamentalists?

Maybe we should put James Dobson and Mullah Omar in a cage together and have them fight it out?  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sat May 07, 03:02:00 PM:

Screwy, on the one hand, I find our own fundamentalists to be annoying and ridiculous. On the other hand, to suggest that there is any equivalence between our fundamentalist Christians and Muslim fundamentalists in either local or global power is ridiculous. In the example you cited, a local nutjob -- the pastor of one church out of tens of thousands -- kick out some Democrats. Who cares? Go to another church. That is possible in Christianity because Christianity has not body of law comparable to Shariah, and no government -- histrionics of the left notwithstanding -- to enforce it even if there were such law. The difference between the two religions is this: The media hold all of evangelical Christiandom responsible for the depredations of a miniscule number of idiots, but they essentially ignore far worse actions by a far larger proportion of Muslims.  

By Blogger Uptown Ruler, at Sat May 07, 03:43:00 PM:

fair enough,

but i seem to recall the crusaders were pretty fundamental. they were christians operating under christian laws with christian leaders.

then there were those nutty german's and their "reich church."
that was a christian church, and ole adolf was hailed by many as a "savior" of the nation.

i also seem to recall the religious wars of europe, which went on for hundreds of years, caused hundreds of 100,000s of deaths. if i recall correctly, these wars were also started by the christian leaders of christian nations operating under christian laws.

though it is true, these examples are from the distant and not so distant past, rather than the present moment, i'd say these histories share a commonality with the present Muslim system and body of law.

cheers!

great discussion on your site, tiger!  

By Blogger John, at Mon May 09, 07:11:00 PM:

Uptown, your sense of history is broken, but a long day convinces me not to correct you.

Except to say: Uh, you're braindead.

Example 1: Uh, no. These were encouraged by the church, but Canon Law has never operated quite as Shari'a has...For instance, there've never been any Canon Law jails. Massive difference.

Example 2: Protestants.

Example 3: If you mean the Wars of Religion, those were hardly approved of by the Church.  

By Blogger Uptown Ruler, at Sun May 15, 11:43:00 AM:

john,

where i appreciate your response and additions to the debate, i would like a little more fullness to your argument, rather than just "your braindead" and "your sense of history is broken."

at least come to the debate with something other than insults, it makes you come off sounding weak- minded and dull.

now if you want to argue the organized churches have never sanctioned religious jails, you can; but the puritans and other more strict churches had a firm grip on the political structures, early in our history.

1. i recall the salem witch trials, for example, during which, i believe people accused of being witches were held by the local authorities under guidance from the church. at this point in our history, church law was public law.

2. are you really going to tell me the crusades were not sponsored by the catholic church?

3. how about the spanish inquisition?

4. how about oliver cromwell?

5. i know a number of people who are thrilled that america has a good, moral christian man like george bush in the white house, yet they will support a war in iraq which causes the deaths of tens of thousands.

6. im going to assume, john, that you have also read a great deal about the dominionists and the dispensationalists sections of the christian conservative movement. i would really like to hear what you have to say about them, in relation to the religious fundementalism of islam.

hopefully, you've had a short day, so you can "correct" me. im ready to learn, truly.  

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