Satan’s Eating Habits: Is It Acceptable to Eat with the Left Hand?

Diyanet, Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, has become one of the most popular trending topics on social media lately. On Feb. 3, Diyanet’s latest religious decree caused an uproar. On its high-traffic, interactive web page — where the public can post questions and religious experts share their replies — a controversial topic recently appeared.

The question was simple, but odd: “Is it acceptable to eat with the left hand?” The expert’s answer, based on a well-known saying of the Prophet Muhammad, advised Muslims to eat and drink with the right hand and to teach their children to do the same because the “devil eats with the left hand.” On YouTube, one can find several Turkish Islamic leaders speaking about this issue. The public was angry about the response and asked about people who are born left-handed or have a missing hand or arm. The Islamic decree does provide room for exceptions for medical reasons.

Yet Diyanet promptly became a target of Turks’ anger and sarcasm. For example, the Hurriyet daily newspaper’s veteran columnist Ertugrul Ozkok joined in with a satirical piece in which he wonders: When Earthlings eventually travel to Venus — which rotates in the opposite direction of the other planets — will it be permissible to eat with the left hand?

It is interesting that in Turkish, the verb to “to eat” can also mean to intrude on someone’s belongings or rights. Ismet Ozel, a prominent Islamist poet, penned the famous line, “To be a transgressor has not received as much attention as eating with the left hand in this country.” That truth has been widely quoted lately.

But during this hoopla, transgressions haven’t gone unnoticed. The public’s anger has extended to one of the most pungent criticisms of Diyanet: why Diyanet has not spoken out against corruption, nepotism, unaccounted-for government practices and even the directorate’s own exponentially growing budget. Murat Muratoglu, a Sozcu Daily columnist, said, “The budget for the Education Ministry increased 8.8%, while Diyanet’s rose 13.2%. … Now Diyanet’s [2018] budget is at 7.7 billion liras [some $2 billion]”

The Anger Hasn’t Ended There.

On Feb. 12, news broke that one of the best-known imams, Ihsan Senocak, had resigned from Diyanet. Senocak had been suspended in November after controversy over his position that women who wear pants are sinners destined for hell. Then in February, Senocak advised that a man should refrain from kissing the hand of his young mother-in-law because it could lead to temptation.

It’s not just these social and cultural commentaries that put Diyanet in the line of fire, but also its involvement in politics. In February, Diyanet’s director harshly criticized the United States for its alleged human rights violations in Iraq, saying it had killed “1 million civilians.” He added, “Our soldiers move slowly in Afrin because they adhere to Islamic stipulations. They make sure that not one innocent is harmed, and that is the rule of Islam. That is what Muslim soldiers must do.”

Could President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Ask For A Better Ally?

These are only a few of the significant actions that — just in the first half of February — made Diyanet the target of angry social media users. As readers following Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse know, we share one or two stories about Diyanet every month, and the frequency of Diyanet news is much higher in the Turkish media. So why, in a country where the press is under strict controls, is bashing the highest religious authority permissible? Why are people being prosecuted for criticizing the Turkish-bashed Free Syrian Army, but not Diyanet?

Al-Monitor posed this question to senior members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as well as scholars and Diyanet imams. The short and most common answer was that this is because AKP leadership uses Diyanet as a measuring tool to gauge public reactions.

But it goes beyond this crucial purpose. There are three more possible explanations why the AKP allows, encourages and sometimes even initiates Diyanet-bashing.

First, much of the time the issues generated distract the public’s attention from more substantial political issues. One senior AKP official told Al-Monitor, “If there are documents about corruption emerging from the United States or from within Turkey, the best [thing to do] is to distract the public. The safest way to do that without losing the Islamist support is to [pit] secular groups against pious Muslims.”

Second, criticism of Diyanet solidifies the AKP’s Islamist core. When Diyanet makes the news with some controversial edict, we see all the anger and resentment of secular groups come gushing out. These critics aren’t prosecuted, but their reactions are recorded, filed and redistributed to pious groups to constantly remind them that if the AKP loses elections, secularists — who are depicted as Islamophobic — will target pious Muslims with a vengeance.

One pious sociology scholar told Al-Monitor, “I know wrongs have been done since the July 15 [2016] coup attempt against innocent people by the government. My conscience is heavy with the deteriorating human rights and particularly the suffering of the poor. But I have two teenage daughters who just started wearing the hijab and they see this hatred by secularists.” She showed me some Facebook posts as examples. “I have to keep quiet about Erdogan if I want my kids to survive.”

The last and most important reason Diyanet-bashing is permissible is that it performs a role like that of the safety valve of a pressure cooker. So many segments of the population — from leftists, Alevis, Kurds and women to the Muslim Brotherhood — who dare to criticize the government or Erdogan and his family are censored, prosecuted and silenced. But criticizing Diyanet is allowed because even in the most oppressive regime, there are venues to vent.

Soon, Diyanet is also likely to become the forefront of a battle between Turkey and the European Union. EU member countries, particularly Germany, that host significant numbers of ethnic Turks fear that Diyanet collaborates with Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency to gather human intelligence not only in Turkey, but also in the EU.

The AKP skilfully employs Diyanet to mould public opinion, vent pent-up public pressure and solidify the Islamist base. There are possibly other purposes we can’t discern due to the lack of transparency and accountability in Turkish politics.

But you can bet that the AKP’s high echelons consider any criticism against Diyanet as direct criticism against Islam and Erdogan. So even though Diyanet-bashing seems like a safe venue for angry AKP critics at the moment, it very well be providing a false sense of security.

Visit here: The War Within Islam

Source URL:–is-it-acceptable-to-eat-with-the-left-hand?/d/114449


Abadi’s Islamist Alliance: A Gloomy Picture for the Future of Iraq

On Sunday 14 January, a spokesperson for Ammar al-Hakim’s National Wisdom Movement announced a trilateral alliance for the upcoming elections consisting of his own National Wisdom Movement, the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Victory and Unity list. Since al-Abadi primarily came to power to appease the Sunni community and is generally seen as a moderate figure, his decision to join Hadi al-Amiri’s PMF alliance took Iraq watchers by surprise. However, all of three days later, the coalition fell apart.

Before the failed alliance attempt, rumours had it that the current prime minister would form an alliance with Moqtada al-Sadr’s nationalist movement, either before or after the elections. This would not only have been in line with their shared nationalist and anti-corruption narrative, but would have also made political sense.

Facing competition for the highest office from Islamists like Nouri al-Maliki and the PMF’s al-Amiri, the Prime Minister would have been best placed in al-Sadr’s camp to secure a second term in office. As the cleric’s designs upon the office of prime minister have been unclear and his troubled past would make Sunnis distrustful of having him at the helm of affairs, al-Abadi was sure to be the prime ministerial candidate for the nationalist movement.

Since the prime minister had already decided to contest the elections on a separate cross-sectarian list rather than as part of his Islamist Da’wa party, it was expected he would join forces with the nationalists.

His decision to align himself with the former PMF leaders was even more surprising in light of his fierce opposition to the militia leaders’ participation in the upcoming elections. The prime minister also repeatedly stated that he aims to bring the PMF under state control – a move that would not have helped his short-lived alliance.

Immediately after the coalition formation, analysts still gave the prime minister the benefit of the doubt. Al-Abadi’s unexpected choice of the PMF was mostly seen as a result of Iranian interference. Tehran allegedly brokered the alliance which placed al-Abadi in the Islamists’ camp.

Although Iranian influence must have played a role, sources indicated to The New Arab that al-Abadi was the one setting conditions, and thus took the initiative to form the coalition. The move can therefore be best explained by pure electoral calculus and not Iranian influence.

Both the PMF and the Prime Minister lay claim to the victory over the so-called Islamic State (IS). An alliance between both actors would have brought to life a grand coalition that could ride the wave of support generated by the defeat of IS. It would have also presented the Shia constituent with a clear political option and prevented their vote from being split between the two parties. Despite his discourse on nationalism and cross sectarianism, the prime minister’s only concern seems to have been beating Nouri al-Maliki for a second term, which the alliance would have facilitated.

The move was also a testimony to al-Abadi’s political savviness, an attribute not often associated with the prime minister. While his recent victories against the Kurds in Kirkuk raised al-Abadi’s approval ratings, Hadi al-Amiri was the country’s most popular politician. As al-Abadi would most likely have been the main candidate as Prime Minister in the nationalists’ camp, the Prime Minister must have convinced al-Amiri to give him the top spot. Thus, by forming an alliance with the militia leader, Abadi guaranteed his position as prime minister and would have also neutralised his biggest challenger apart from al-Maliki.

The move also isolated al-Maliki himself. Thanks to their troubled history al-Maliki cannot form a coalition with al-Sadr, which left the former prime minister with only his ideological allies in the PMF. By forming an alliance with the PMF, Abadi left al-Maliki without allies and no chance at the premiership.

Al-Amiri would have also provided Abadi with qualities he allegedly lacks in challenging al-Maliki’s vote bank. Despite his decisive response to the Kurdish issue, al-Abadi came to power because he was seen as a weak leader who could lead the reconciliation with the Sunnis. Therefore, al-Abadi needed al-Amiri to provide the list with the necessary credentials to present as a strong Shia Islamist coalition.

The entire episode also paints a gloomy picture of Iraq’s future. Had al-Abadi formed a coalition with al-Sadr’s movement, they would have made for a formidable opponent against the Shia sectarians in the upcoming elections. Their alliance could have formed the basis for a cross-sectarian nationalist government with strong potential to address the country’s ills and lead the reconstruction efforts.

However, al-Abadi chose to align himself with the Shia sectarians. This completely undermines his entire discourse and demonstrates his lack of interest in tackling sectarianism and corruption in the country. As the Iran-linked PMF is widely known for their abuse and retaliatory attacks against Sunnis, a government composed of these militias would facilitate the continuation of Sunni repression, further marginalising the minority. By attempting to form a coalition with this sectarian organisation, Abadi legitimised the perpetuation of this practice.

Apart from delegitimising his nationalist discourse, joining hands with al-Amiri also completely undermined the Prime Minister’s international credibility and thereby his ability to attract reconstruction funds. Although European countries like Germany have already offered Baghdad credit lines to fund its reconstruction, these same countries have also called for an inclusive solution to the Iraqi conflict.

A new sectarian regime in Iraq would subvert this ideal of inclusiveness and would make donors wary of the new government’s intentions. This will lead to diminished international support for reconstruction, of which the Sunni community will again bear the brunt.

While IS’ devastating rule of Sunni areas has made the terrorist group highly unpopular, new organisations can carry the torch. Recently, al-Monitor reported that new groups consisting of Naqshbandi fighters and former allies of Saddam Hussein have cropped up in the sectarian hotbed of Kirkuk. Unlike IS, nationalist groups like Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN) resonate with the local population. If they are allowed to grow, they can reenergise the Sunni insurgency.

Just like al-Maliki, al-Abadi rose to power not by virtue of his strength but because of his weakness. Just like al-Maliki, he too may now plunge the country into further sectarian conflict. Another Iraqi leader has succumbed to the sweet taste of power.

Visit here: The War Within Islam

Source URL:–a-gloomy-picture-for-the-future-of-iraq/d/114452

Humanity above All! How Sikh Charity Khalsa Aid Is Helping Syrian Refugees


Humanity above All! How Sikh Charity Khalsa Aid Is Helping Syrian Refugees

Muslim Leader In Telangana Town Attempts Suicide Over Syria Massacre, Broadcasts It Live On Facebook

Muhammad Ali Jinnah Didn’t Want a Separate Country: Farooq Abdullah

Glaciers melting in Gilgit-Baltistan due to CPEC project

Pakistan shells villages and posts in Poonch

Jamaat-e-Islami Hind’s chief: Iran very successful in fighting terrorism


South Asia

Top Secular Writer Stabbed In Bangladesh

Foreigners among 13 ISIS Militants Killed In Jawzjan Airstrikes

Sri Lanka Peace NGO Urges Government To Take Immediate Deterrent And Punitive Measures Against Anti-Muslim Violence

Militants suffer casualties in premature bomb explosion in East of Afghanistan

Gunmen kill 3 of a family and abduct 2 others in Ghazni province


North America

Invading Iraq ‘The Single Worst Decision Ever Made’ – Trump Hits Bush

US Offer Turkey to Expel Kurds, Split Manbij in Northeastern Syria


Arab World

Syria: Terrorists Seizing People’s Food Stuff in Eastern Ghouta

Forced Recruitment by Kurds Reported Again In Northeastern Syria

Turkish air strikes kill 36 pro-Syrian govt fighters in Afrin

Over 26,000 Kurdish Fighters Killed, Captured in Turkish Army Operation in Northern Syria

Eastern Damascus: Terrorists Fleeing Battlefields amid Rapid Advances of Syrian Army

Syrian Army Seizes Control over More Terrorist-Held Regions in Eastern Damascus

Turkish Army Occupies More Kurdish-Held Regions in Northern Syria

More Senior Terrorist Commanders Killed in Clashes among Rival Militants in Northwestern Syria

Army Repels Terrorists’ Attack on Gov’t Positions in Eastern Damascus



Groups of Extremists Storm Al-Aqsa Mosque

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Receives a Message from Kuwait’s Emir

Benjamin Netanyahu to talk with Trump about attending embassy opening

No missile talks unless West gives up its nukes: Iran

IRGC Official: Iraqi Popular Forces Not to Retreat against US Plots



Pakistan Loses 50pc Market Share In Kabul

At Least 17 PTI Lawmakers in KP Allegedly Sold Votes in Senate Election: Sources

‘Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N Wins Big In Parliament’s Upper House Polls’

Rights activists gather for recovery of Raza Khan

PML-N gains Senate control amid surprise PPP showing

30 Pakistani doctors aspiring to attend conference in India await visas



Eight Dead, 12 Seriously Wounded In Attacks on Burkina Military HQ, French Embassy

Egypt court dismisses rulings on Red Sea islands transfer



Anti-Muslim Hate Crime Surges in Germany

Freedom Instead of Islam’: Brutal Anti-Migrant Fight Riles German Town


Southeast Asia

Sarawak Chief Minister Pledges to Amend State Laws to Allow Converts To Renounce Islam

Nepalese Muslims Society holds interactive programme.

Visit here: Islam and Pluralism

Source URL:!-how-sikh-charity-khalsa-aid-is-helping-syrian-refugees/d/114472

Praying At Mosques Built From ‘Haram’ Proceeds Is Valid, Says Penang Mufti

Praying At Mosques Built From ‘Haram’ Proceeds Is Valid, Says Penang Mufti

Far-Right Extremists Preparing For ‘War against Islam’, Report Warns After Terror Plots Exposed

Hindu Community Celebrate Colourful Festival of Holi across Pakistan

In Iraq’s Mosul, Hundreds Fear Arrest for Sharing Names with Jihadists

Expelled AIMPLB Member Maulana Nadvi Disassociates Himself from Ram Mandir Issue

Southeast Asia

Praying At Mosques Built From ‘Haram’ Proceeds Is Valid, Says Penang Mufti

Indonesian Christians Flogged Outside Of Mosque for Violating Sharia Law

Indonesia considers house arrest for ailing radical cleric

Parliament: Singapore is not immune to Islamophobia, says K. Shanmugam

DAP rep slams non-Muslim body over its silence on apostasy

Despite top court ruling, lawyer insists Indira Gandhi’s kids still Muslim



Far-Right Extremists Preparing For ‘War against Islam’, Report Warns After Terror Plots Exposed

Teacher Tried To Raise Army of Jihadist Children At School Rated As Outstanding

UN: War crimes being committed in Syria’s Ghouta must be prosecuted

German extremists launched 950 attacks against Muslims in 2017: Ministry

Rohingya repatriation process should include UN



Hindu Community Celebrate Colourful Festival of Holi across Pakistan

Public Hanging: CCI Members Concerned over Chairman’s Vague Stance

Court Can Ask Govt to Act against Non-Muslims Pretending To Be Muslims: Lawyer

Islamabad, Moscow hold talks, agree to improve ties

Six suspected terrorists arrested from Balochistan

Role of non-Muslim Senators in upper house


Arab World

In Iraq’s Mosul, Hundreds Fear Arrest for Sharing Names with Jihadists

The Signs That Iran And Saudi Arabia Preparing For War

Tahrir Al-Sham Takes Back Lands Lost to Rival Terrorists in Northwestern Syria

More Civilians Killed, Injured in US Airstrikes in Northeastern Syria

Terrorists’ Senior Mufti Assassinated in Northwestern Syria

Several Turkish Elite Forces Killed in Clashes with Kurds in Northern Syria

Alleged 9/11 plotter’s torture takes centre stage in Guantanamo hearings



Expelled AIMPLB Member Maulana Nadvi Disassociates Himself from Ram Mandir Issue

Denied Permission for Syria Rally, Telangana Youth Attempts Suicide

Pakistan summons Indian envoy over ‘unprovoked firing’

Fugitive LeT Commander Surfaces in Video with Hizbul Mujahideen Militants

J&K: Militant returns home after mother’s appeal


North America

Trudeau’s Trip, Extremism Reproduced in Canada, And Reforming Islam

Canadian Teen Who Plotted ISIS Attack in U.S. Says ‘Frustration’ Turned Him to Violence

Iraq ‘will never allow US bases on its soil’

ISIL conducted over 4600 attacks worldwide in 2017, despite major territorial loses: NATO

UN rights body to hold ‘urgent debate’ on E. Ghouta


South Asia

After Kabul Peace Meeting, US Sees Hope for Negotiated End to Afghan War

Bangladesh court extends bail for Khaleda Zia until March 13 in corruption case

Myanmar defends troop build-up on Bangladesh border near Rohingya camp

Clash among Taliban and ISIS leaves 3 dead, 5 wounded in Nangarhar

Top TTP leader with Al Qaeda links killed in US airstrike in Paktika

Anti-Muslim violence in eastern Sri Lanka sparks concern



The Rheumatology Doctor Who Helped Terror Group Morph into ISIS

At Least 17 Dead As Turkish Jets Attack Pro-Government Forces in Afrin

Prominent cleric shot dead while praying in Yemen’s Hadhramaut

Turkey arrests two Greek soldiers ‘on espionage charges’



Foremost Nigerian Islamic Scholar Advocates Death Sentence for Drug Dealers

Al-Shabaab Kills 11 in Separate Attacks in Somalia

UN experts warn of intensified terrorist threats in Sahel

Boko Haram Militants Kill Aid Workers at Military Base in Nigeria

Gunmen attack army headquarters, French embassy in Burkina Faso

Suicide attack outside Mogadishu kills 3 people

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

Source URL:,-says-penang-mufti/d/114471

Two Poems That Show an Islamic Tradition of Celebrating Holi and Colours

These translations from different colloquial dialects of North India – which may be collectively referred to as Hindustani – engage with the festival from a tangent. The Kaafiby Bulleh Shah asserts the Sufi’s right to celebrate Holi as much as anyone else, while remaining steeped in his faith, even as it aligns itself with the Vrindavan traditions.

Amir Khusrau’s Qawwali is an ecstatic jubilation of the colour and aura of his master Hazrat Nizamuddin’s presence. It comes from the ecumenical Chishti tradition that has always advocated generosity to all, irrespective of their religion. Both are hallmarks of the syncretic inheritance of India.

Kaafi attributed to Bulleh Shah

I will play Holi beginning in the name of the Lord,

Saying bismillah.

Cast like a gem in the name of the prophet,

Each drop falls with the beat of Al-lah, Al-lah,

Only he may play with these colourful dyes,

Who has learnt to lose himself in Allah.

“Am I not your lord?” asked the Lover,

And all maids lifted their veils,

“Everyone said, yes!” and repeated:

“There is only one God.”

I will play Holi beginning in the name of the Lord,

saying bismillah.

— Translated by Maaz Bin Bilal

Madan Gopal Singh explains and sings the verses attributed to Bulleh Shah

The original in Roman script

Hori khelungi, keh bismillah.

Nam nabi ki ratn chadi, boond padi Allah Allah.

Rang rangeeli ohi khilave, jis seekhi ho fanaa fi Allah.

“Alastu bi rabbikum”* Pritam bole, sab sakhiyan ne ghunghat khole.

“Qaloo Bala,”** yun hi kar bole, “la ilaha illallah”

Hori khelungi, keh Bismillah.

*Excerpt from Quran 7:172

** Excerpt from Quran 7:172

Qawwali attributed to Amir Khusrau

There’s colour today, O mother, there’s a glow today,

In my beloved’s home there’s new colour today.

I’ve met my beloved, I’ve found him,

In my own yard,

It’s radiant today!

There’s colour today, O mother, there’s a glow today.

I’ve discovered my saint, Nizamuddin Aulia,

Nizamuddin Aulia, he is my saint!

I have travelled far and wide, here and abroad,


It’s your person, your glow that’s tinged my heart.

You’ve lit up the world, the universe is lit,

Never have I seen such splendour,

Whenever I look around, he’s there with me.

There’s colour today, O mother, there’s a glow today.

— Translated by Maaz Bin Bilal

The original in Roman script

Aaj rung hai hey maan rung hai ri

Moray mehboob kay ghar rang hai ri

Sajan milaavra, sajan milaavra, moray aangan ko

Aaj rung hai……..

Mohay pir paayo Nijamudin aulia

Nijamudin aulia mohay pir payoo

Des bades mein dhoondh phiree hoon

Toraa rung man bhayo ri……,

Jag ujiyaaro, jagat ujiyaaro,

Main to aiso rang aur nahin dekhi ray

Main to jab dekhun moray sung hai,

Aaj rung hai hey maan rung hai ri.

Visit here: Progressive Muslims

Source URL:

Are Saudi Arabia’s Reforms For Real? A Recent Visit Says Yes

Hearing the emphatic modernization message of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a visitor can’t help wondering: Is this for real? Are the young leader’s proposals for change supported by the religious leadership and the public in this traditionally very conservative country?

Making reliable forecasts about Saudi Arabia is impossible for an outsider. But I can offer some data points gathered during a trip here, where I heard strong support for reforms from young Saudis interviewed on the street as well as a senior Muslim cleric.

Whether MBS, as he’s known, can succeed with his transformational agenda is still an open question. But he has a key ally in Sheikh Mohammad al-Issa, since 2016 the head of the Saudi-backed Muslim World League. Speaking through a translator, Issa endorsed a series of recent moves by the crown prince that he said are backed by his colleagues among the Ulema, or senior religious leadership.

Issa began with the symbolic issue of women driving cars, which will be allowed beginning in June. “Women driving was never a religious issue. It was about habits and culture,” Issa said. “Extremists wanted to connect it to religion,” but many members of the Ulema “welcomed the decision.” Similarly, he said the religious scholars backed MBS’s move to curtail power of the religious police. “The religious police took authority that did not belong to them. Nobody has rejec­ted this. It was a wise decision.”

Issa also voiced tolerant views on women’s dress. He said that whether women wear the black cloak, known as an Abayah, or face-covering Niqab “is not something important.” But he said that woman in all Muslim countries should continue to cover their hair.

Asked about predictions from some analysts that there will be a religious backlash against these changes, Issa said this view was “absolutely incorrect.” He explained that his colleagues among the Ulema accept that “these reforms will assist in better understanding and in developing the society in general.”

When I pressed him on why Saudi Arabia had backed such a conservative brand of Islam for so long, seeming to offer support to religious fundamentalists, he answered: “We should not escape from the fact that there were mistakes, and then they were correc­ted. . . . It is our duty to face this extremism.”

Issa attracted attention in the West in January when he wrote a letter to the director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington that described the Nazi campaign of extermination as “among the worst human atrocities ever.”

The new Saudi stance against radical Islam has an operational side, too, which I saw in a visit Monday to a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, known as ETIDAL, or moderation. Under a giant dome, several hundred analysts sit at computer screens watching Arabic social media traffic for signs of support for extremist groups. There’s a slightly ominous “Big Brother” quality to the oversight, but it answers Western demands that the Saudis get tougher about combating extremism in their midst.

What do ordinary Saudis think about these changes? Official statements and polls are controlled, and there’s limited private polling in Saudi Arabia. The best alternative I found during a short visit was simply to walk up to a half-dozen young Saudi men in a public area and ask them what they think. The venue was an outdoor cafe in the Thager Plaza in northwest Riyadh.

To be sure, this was hardly a scientific survey. But every one of the young men voiced spontaneous enthusiasm for changing the old ways. Especially popular was MBS’s anti-corruption crackdown, in which 381 wealthy Saudis, including some prominent princes, were rounded up at the Ritz-Carlton here last November and required to pay about $100 billion in restitution before most were released.

“This is the beginning of justice. The prince is the same as any other citizen. That’s something!” said Rakan al-Dossery, 26, a counsellor at a local high school, of the anti-corruption drive. “The entire world is changing. It’s not a surprise for the kingdom to be changing,” said Abdul-Aziz al-Faraj, 29, a bank teller.

One young man named Moab said that in addition to his bank job, he has just opened a shop selling mobile-phone accessories, a business once dominated by Yemeni expatriates. Explained Faraj: “A while ago, the average Saudi wouldn’t think of starting a business. All he wanted was a government job.”

This is the door that seems to be opening in the kingdom — toward a more modern, more entrepreneurial, less-hidebound and more youth-oriented society. It’s a top-down, authoritarian process, for now. But it seems to be gaining momentum.

Visit here: Islamic Society

Source URL:

I Saw a Genocide in Slow Motion

Sono Wara spent the day crying. And even after her tear ducts emptied, her shirt was still wet from leaking milk.

Her newborn twins had died the previous day, and she squatted in her grass-roof hut, shattered by pain and grief. She is 18 and this was her first pregnancy, but as a member of the Rohingya ethnic minority she could not get a doctor’s help. So after a difficult delivery, her twins lie buried in the ground.

Sometimes Myanmar uses guns and machetes for ethnic cleansing, and that’s how Sono Wara earlier lost her mother and sister. But it also kills more subtly and secretly by regularly denying medical care and blocking humanitarian aid to Rohingya, and that’s why her twins are gone.

Myanmar and its Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, are trying to make the Rohingya’s lives unliveable, while keeping out witnesses. Some 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in recent months, but the fate of those left behind has been less clear, for Myanmar mostly bans foreigners from Rohingya areas. The government fired a warning flare when it arrested two Reuters journalists for reporting on an army massacre of Rohingya; the reporters face up to 14 years in prison for committing superb journalism.

Entering Myanmar on a tourist visa, I was able to slip undetected into five Rohingya villages. What I found was a slow-motion genocide. The massacres and machete attacks of last August are over for now, but Rohingya remain confined to their villages — and to a huge concentration camp — and are systematically denied most education and medical care.

So they die. No one counts the deaths accurately, but my sense is that the Myanmar government kills more Rohingya by denying them health care and sometimes food than by wielding machetes or firing bullets.

This is my fourth trip in four years to cover the Rohingya, a Muslim minority despised in a mostly Buddhist country, and initially I used the term “ethnic cleansing.” But along with many human rights monitors, I’ve come to conclude that what is unfolding here probably qualifies as genocide.

Scholars at Yale University and the U.S. Holocaust Museum have already warned that this may be genocide, as has the United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. This genocide sometimes consists of violent attacks, but now mostly of denying food or medical care.

“These tactics are right out of the genocidaires’ playbook,” said Matthew Smith of Fortify Rights, a human rights group specializing in Myanmar, also called Burma. “Underfeeding and systematically weakening a population has been characteristic of other genocides.”

Sono Wara was unable to receive any prenatal or emergency care. In a crisis, a Rohingya can request police permission to go to a government clinic down the road that serves the general population, but it lacks a doctor, and Rohingya are often fearful of being attacked. They also must pay for a police escort at the clinic, adding to the cost.

“I was afraid to go,” Sono Wara said in a catatonic voice. “The clinic doesn’t care about Rohingya.”

On top of her physical and emotional pain is a constant fear. Her village wasn’t attacked in the August wave of violence, but, Sona Wara said, “That could happen here.” In 2012, people from a nearby village attacked with machetes and killed her mother and sister.

One theory is that Myanmar is trying to create such misery and fear that the Rohingya will flee on their own, so that the army doesn’t need to bother with the messy business of massacres. Sono Wara said that she and her husband have discussed trying to escape to Malaysia — a perilous journey that often involves rape, robbery and death.

Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing became impossible to hide with the exodus in August of Rohingya bearing stories of massacres and pogroms. In interviewing those refugees late last year, I was particularly shaken by the account of a woman, Hasina Begum, who told me how soldiers had executed the men and boys in her village, had made a bonfire of their bodies and had then taken the women to a hut to be raped. “I was trying to hide my baby under my scarf, but they saw her leg,” Hasina Begum said. “They grabbed my baby by the leg and threw her onto the fire.”

What’s happening to those left behind in the villages is a more banal kind of brutality. In one remote hamlet reachable only by boat or footpath, I saw a stunted 4-year-old, Umar Amin, being bathed by his big sister.

I pulled out a MUAC strip, used to assess child malnutrition by measuring the upper arm, and Umar Amin was in the red danger zone, signifying severe acute malnutrition. He can’t walk or talk and desperately needs help, but he has never been able to see a doctor.

International aid groups are ready and eager to help children like Umar Amin, but the government often blocks them, especially in northern areas near the Bangladesh border. It is difficult to understand this denial of humanitarian access as anything but an intentional policy of grinding down and driving out the Rohingya — one reason I see this as a slow-motion genocide.

What of “The Lady,” Aung San Suu Kyi, who won her Nobel for her resolute struggle for the human rights of Myanmar? She is now the effective leader of Myanmar’s government and has emerged as not only an apologist for this genocide, but also as complicit in it.

Suu Kyi does not control the army, which committed the massacres, but she has helped keep aid groups away. She has also tried to erase the existence of the Rohingya, rejecting the term and saying that they are merely illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. (In fact, a document from 1799 shows the Rohingya was well established here even then.) And it is her government that is proceeding with the criminal case against the two Reuters reporters.

I was able to get a tourist visa because I was leading a segment of a tour sponsored by The New York Times Company to Myanmar. The visa came with a stern warning that I must not do any reporting. In general, I believe that journalists should obey the laws of countries they visit, but I make an exception when a regime uses its laws to commit and hide crimes against humanity.

In one case on this trip, I arrived after dark so I would be less likely to be spotted. In others, villagers advised me on what paths to take to avoid the police. To get to two villages, I took a boat around a police checkpoint.

Visit here: Progressive Muslims

Source URL: