Saturday, February 23, 2013

Obama's Lies about the Origin of the Sequester

by Rick Moran

President Obama has been making a big deal about blaming Congress for the sequester, even saying at one point during his debate with Romney last year, "The sequester is not something that I've proposed," Obama said. "It is something that Congress has proposed."

He either has a short memory or is a bald faced liar, as Bob Woodward points out:
The White House chief of staff at the time, Jack Lew, who had been budget director during the negotiations that set up the sequester in 2011, backed up the president two days later.
"There was an insistence on the part of Republicans in Congress for there to be some automatic trigger," Lew said while campaigning in Florida. It "was very much rooted in the Republican congressional insistence that there be an automatic measure."
The president and Lew had this wrong. My extensive reporting for my book "The Price of Politics" shows that the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors -- probably the foremost experts on budget issues in the senior ranks of the federal government.
Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). They did so at 2:30 p.m. July 27, 2011, according to interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved.
Nabors has told others that they checked with the president before going to see Reid. A mandatory sequester was the only action-forcing mechanism they could devise. Nabors has said, "We didn't actually think it would be that hard to convince them" -- Reid and the Republicans -- to adopt the sequester. "It really was the only thing we had. There was not a lot of other options left on the table."
The president's apologists like to point out that the GOP voted for it, and are therefore culpable. But no one is saying Republicans didn't support the idea of the sequester. The question is who made it up and who is responsible for pushing it?

This is the president's baby and now, he wants to run away from it by blaming it all on his opponents. Very few in the media have acknowledged the president's lies and simply don't report the fact that it was his OMB director who came up with the idea.

It's why the GOP will probably be blamed for any pain caused by the sequester.

Rick Moran


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Philadelphia’s Burqa Crisis

by Daniel Pipes

Reprinted from
Philadelphia, the city where I live, has quietly and unassumedly become the capital of the Western world as regards female Islamic garb as an accessory to crime.

First, a tutorial on Islamic coverings, all of which tend to be called veils in English but fall into three main categories. Some (the abaya, hijab, chador, jilbab, or khimar) cover parts of the body, especially the hair, neck, and shoulders, but reveal the face and identity of the woman; some cover the face (the yashmak) but show the body shape; and some hide the whole body, including the identity and gender of the wearer. The latter – our topic here – is better described as a full-body cover than a veil: it in turn has two types, those that cover the person entirely (the chadari or burqa) or those with a slit for the eyes (the haik or niqab).

By my count, the Philadelphia region has witnessed 14 robberies (or attempted robberies) of financial institutions in the past six years in which the thieves relied on an Islamic full-body cover. They took place in January 2007, June 2007, May 2008, November 2009, October 2010 (two), February 2011, June 2011, December 2011, January 2012, March 2012 (two), and April 2012 (two). The most violent attack took place on May 3, 2008, when Police Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski was killed with an AK-47 in a shoot-out following a successful robbery using burqas; the police then killed one of the criminals.

As the Middle East Forum’s David J. Rusin points out in his detailed survey of Philadelphia burqa crimes, Muslim garb holds two great advantages over other forms of disguise: First, many full-body covered women walk the streets without criminal intent, thereby inadvertently providing cover for thieves; the more full-body coverings around, the more likely that these will facilitate criminal activity. Second, the very strangeness and aloofness of these garments affords their wearers, including criminals, an extraordinary degree of protection. As in other cases (three purchases of alcohol in Toronto state liquor stores by a 14-year-old boy in a burqa; Muslim women not checked at Canadian airports), clerks so fear being accused of racism or “Islamophobia” that they skip state-mandated procedures, such as requiring niqabis to show their faces and establish their identities.

To their credit, some banks no longer allow head coverings. For example, a PNC Bankoffice in Philadelphia boasts a front-door sign stating: “The safety of our employees and customers is our foremost concern. We request that you remove any hats, caps, sunglasses or hoods while inside this financial institution.” Such policies should reduce burqa bank robberies.

But as banks become harder targets, Islamic garb presents a more general danger to soft targets. For example, in the Philadelphia area, assailants donned Islamic garb to rob a real estate office in 2008 and commit murder at a barber shop in 2012.

Not fatal but equally horrific, was the Jan. 14-15 abduction and rape of a 5-year-old child in Philadelphia. A niqabi signed Nailla Robinson out from the Bryant Elementary School pretending to be her mother taking her to breakfast. Investigators believe the two walked a few blocks to where a man awaited them. Nailla then disappeared for nearly a day and was only found the next morning shivering half-naked in a park by a passerby. Last week, the police arrested Christina Regusters, 19, an daycare center employee with prior contact with Nailla. The fourteen charges against her include kidnapping, rape, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, and criminal conspiracy.

The usual two factors noted above were critical to this crime’s commission: the spread of full-body gear (Nailla’s mother, Latifah Rashid, wears Islamic garb, meaning the abductor could plausibly pretend to be her) and the Bryant school staff deferring to a niqabi (completely ignoring the many rules pertaining to the escorting of a child from school).

This survey of Philadelphia’s crisis prompts several reflections: First, almost any Western city at any time could have Philadelphia’s problems. Second, this is deadly serious issue, involving violent robberies, rapes, and murders. Third, as full-body Islamic covers spread, criminals increasingly depend on them. Fourth, government workers need to surmount their timidity and apply normal procedures even to those wearing full-body covers, even in liquor shops, airports, and elementary schools. Finally, this problem has an obvious solution: ban the niqab and burqa in public places, as the national governments in France and Belgium have recently done.

Daniel Pipes


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

American Consulate in Jerusalem Rejects Jews, Focuses on Palestinians

by Daniel Greenfield

Traditionally a consulate in a city with a mixed population should be looking to encompass that  city. Instead the American consulate in Jerusalem has a long history of completely ignoring the large Jewish population of the city and country that it’s in and instead focusing only on Muslims and Palestinian Arabs.

There are Arabic updates but no Hebrew updates. There are celebrations of Muslim holidays and Muslim events, but no Jewish ones. Not only is the consulate acting as if Israel doesn’t exist, but it’s also acting as if Jews don’t exist.

Now the Jerusalem consulate has finally issued a statement explaining its racist Apartheid policies. Its explanation is that the Tel Aviv consulate handles the “cultural, political and economic” affairs of Israeli Jews, while the Jerusalem consulate exclusively handles those of Palestinian Arab Muslims.

As an arrangement this makes rather little sense. A consulate is not an embassy, nor is there any reason for a consulate to reach out only to members of one religious, linguistic and ethnic group. Nor would it be incredibly difficult for the Jerusalem consulate to also conduct updates in Hebrew, a language that most of its public relations employees have to know anyway in order to operate in Israel.

The vast majority of the residents of Jerusalem are Jewish. The American consulate in Jerusalem is choosing to ignore 64 percent of the population of the city because it disapproves of their existence.

The State Department’s attempt to divide Tel Aviv into the Jewish sphere and Jerusalem into the Muslim sphere is a cynical effort at establishing diplomatic facts on the ground. It’s inappropriate and merits criticism and investigation.

Daniel Greenfield


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Palestinians Plan Violence to Force the US to Extract Concessions from Israel

by Khaled Abu Toameh

The Palestinian leadership is hoping that anti-US demonstrations and uprisings will scare Obama and force him to exert even more pressure on Israel.
There are many signs that the Palestinian Authority is seeking to escalate tensions in the West Bank ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to the region next month.

Although the Palestinian Authority probably does not want an all-out confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis at this stage, some Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah believe that a "mini-intifada" would serve the Palestinians' interests, especially on the eve of Obama's visit.

The officials hope that scenes of daily clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the West Bank will prompt Obama to exert pressure on the Israeli government to make far-reaching concessions to the Palestinian Authority.

This is why the Palestinian Authority leadership has been encouraging its constituents lately to wage a "popular intifada" against Israel, each time finding another excuse to initiate confrontations between Palestinians and Israel.

Now the Palestinian Authority is using the issue of Palestinian prisoners who are on hunger strike in Israeli prisons as an excuse to call for street protests and clashes with the Israel Defense Forces.

In recent days, dozens of Palestinian protesters have been injured in clashes with IDF soldiers in various parts of the West Bank. The protests are being held in solidarity with four hunger-strikers.

Before that, the Palestinian Authority used the issue of settlements as an accuse to call for widespread protests in the West Bank.

Before that, the Palestinian Authority leadership encouraged Palestinians to protest against Israeli "plans" to destroy the Aqsa Mosque and replace it with the Third Temple.

By encouraging a "popular intifada," the Palestinian Authority leadership is hoping to bring the Palestinian issue back to the top of the agenda of the US Administration and Israel.

Palestinian Authority officials have in recent months expressed concern over the lack of interest in the Palestinian issue both in the US and Israel.

The Palestinians have been absent from speeches delivered by Obama over the past few months, and the majority of parties that ran in the last Israeli elections did not even mention the Palestinian issue.

But now that all eyes are once again turned toward the Middle East in anticipation of Obama's planned visit, the Palestinian Authority is working hard to draw the world's attention to the Palestinian issue, and hoping to achieve its goal by encouraging clashes between Palestinian protesters and the IDF and Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

Although the violence has thus far remained on a low flame, it is expected to intensify as the date of Obama's visit approaches.

The belief in the Palestinian Authority is that the violence on the ground will push Obama to exert pressure on the Israeli government to comply with the Palestinian conditions for resuming the peace process, namely a full cessation of settlement construction and the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

There is also talk in Ramallah about organizing demonstrations during Obama's visit to the West Bank, where he is scheduled to meet with President Mahmoud Abbas. The demonstrations will be held to protest against US "bias" in favor of Israel.

The Palestinian Authority leadership is hoping that the anti-US protests will scare Obama and force him to exert even more pressure on Israel.

The Palestinian Authority's message to Obama: You must act quickly against Israel before things get out of hand.

It now remains to be seen whether Obama is aware of this attempt to put pressure on him, or whether he will continue to turn a blind eye to the Palestinian Authority's new-old tactic of initiating an escalation with the hope of extracting concessions from the US and Israel.

Khaled Abu Toameh


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Muslims Behead Another Christian Pastor

by Raymond Ibrahim

Does this conflict really revolve around the Muslim desire to never mistakenly to eat unpermitted meat, or are Muslims attacking and killing non-Muslims for being business competitors, while articulating their hostility in the garb of Islamic piety?
A Christian pastor was recently slaughtered in the Muslim-majority African nation of Tanzania. While butchering Christian minorities is becoming increasingly common in that part of the Muslim world, the context for this latest slaughter is somewhat different than the usual forms of Christian persecution under Islam -- such as using allegations of "blaspheming" the name of Muslim prophet Muhammad.

On February 11, Pastor Mathayo Kachili of the Tanzania Assemblies of God Church was beheaded by Muslims. According to the report, a spokesperson from the local police department
said conflicts had been boiling for quite a while now in the area where a section of what are believed to be Muslim leaders had demanded immediate closure of slaughterhouses owned by Christians. He said that a group of youths believed to be Muslims assaulted several Christians using sticks and machetes and attacked a slaughterhouse owner at Buseresere town. During the confrontations pastor Kachili was beheaded.
According to an article in Religious Liberty Monitoring , this latest slaying "has its source in a debate presently raging in Tanzania. Apparently it is a 'long-standing tradition' in Tanzania that Muslims have a monopoly on the meat industry. Recently however, Christians in Geita district, Mwanza region—on the southern shores of Lake Victoria—have entered the slaughtering trade, causing outrage amongst Muslims."

Tensions got to the point that the Minister of State in the President's Office responsible for social relations "categorically directed that the task of slaughtering animals for public consumption should be executed only by Muslims. He said that people of other faiths may slaughter animals if the meat is solely for family/private consumption—but certainly not for sale to, or consumption by, the general public."

But if they still insist on working in the trade, then they must, according to Karl Lyimo of the Citizen, be "ready, willing, able and glad to follow the Islamic rituals to the letter"—which is tantamount to saying Christians need to convert to Islam if they want to remain in the business.

The question is, does this conflict simply revolve around the Muslim desire never mistakenly to eat non-halal [not-religiously permitted] meat, or, as has been know to happen, are Muslims attacking and killing non-Muslims for being business competitors, while articulating their hostility in the garb of Islamic piety?

In Pakistan, for instance—which shares neither race, language nor culture with Tanzania—but shares only Islam, in March 2010, Rasheed Masih, described as a "devoted Christian," was butchered by Muslim men "with multiple axe blows for refusing to convert to Islam." Earlier, the "six men had threatened to kill 36-year-old Rasheed Masih unless he converted to Islam when they grew resentful of his potato business succeeding beyond their own." According to a pastor who knew Rasheed, "As the Christian family [of Rasheed] strengthened in business and earned more, the Muslim men began to harbor business resentment, as Muslims are not used to seeing Christians more respected and richer than them." Eventually he was lured to one of their farmhouses, where he was slaughtered by repeated axe blows. The autopsy revealed 24 wounds.

Where does this idea that non-Muslim minorities must not be allowed to compete with Muslims—certainly not surpass them? In the famous Conditions of Omar (also known as the Pact of Omar), for example, subjugated Christians had to agree, along with any number of debilitations and humiliations, to "not build houses overtopping the houses of the Muslims," as taller houses might imply a higher status. In the Medieval era, Islamic heavyweights such as Ibn Taymiyya—still revered among many Muslims, especially Salafis—issued fatwa after fatwa decreeing that non-Muslims, Christians chief among them, be dismissed from their positions. Centuries earlier, Caliph Harun al-Rashid—otherwise portrayed in the West as a "fun-loving" caliph—also fired Christians from their positions of employment to impoverish them, as well as destroying many churches.

According to the Islamic worldview, subdued "dhimmi" [second-class, "tolerated"] Christians cannot be better-off than Muslims. If they are—despite all the obstacles and debilitations set forth by Islamic law to see that they are not—then, as we are increasingly seeing, many Muslims may be taking things into their own hands.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Independent Shi'ites In Lebanon Challenge Hizbullah

by E. B. Picali


The decline in Hizbullah's public and political status in Lebanon has recently become apparent among the country's Shi'ite population as well. Since the confirmation of reports that Hizbullah is involved in fighting alongside Assad's regime in Syria,[1] more and more independent Shi'ites in Lebanon – including clerics, politicians, journalists, and civil and social activists – are speaking out against this policy, which they claim contravenes the values of the resistance and harms Sunni-Shi'ite relations and the Lebanese interest. It should be mentioned that these critics have long been known as Hizbullah opponents; however, it seems that the erosion in Hizbullah's public and political status among various sectors in Lebanon over the last year[2] has encouraged them to speak out and to increase their criticism of the organization. 

Fearing for its public and political status within the Shi'ite population in the country, and also fearing the establishment of a competing Shi'ite political movement, Hizbullah launched a massive media attack against prominent figures among these independent Shi'ites. The attack was carried out via the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is associated with Hizbullah, and was aimed at portraying these figures as traitors. 

In response, these independent Shi'ites launched a counterattack, claiming that Hizbullah employs ideological and physical terrorism against its opponents in the Shi'ite community, that many Lebanese Shi'ites support it out of fear, and that the Shi'ites have a right to establish a new movement.

Independent Shi'ites Call On Fellow Shi'ites To Support Syrian Rebels 

On August 9, 2012, two Shi'ite Lebanese clerics – the mufti of Tyre, Sayyed Muhammad Hassan Al-Amin, and Supreme Shi'ite Islamic Council member Sayyed Hani Fahs – issued a communiqué calling on Lebanon's Shi'ites "to support the popular intifadas... specifically the just Syrian intifada," since this position "is in line with our faith, humanity, nationalism and Arabism, and our connection to the Muslim [world]." The communiqué added that supporting the Syrian uprising is "a continuation of our Shi'ite heritage, according to which we must fight the oppressors wherever they are and help the oppressed wherever they are, [for] this is required by our religious duty [as clerics]..."[3] Two weeks later, on August 24, 2012, some 70 Shi'ites in Lebanon – clerics and political and social activists, including Muhammad Hassan Al-Amin; his son, journalist 'Ali Al-Amin; Hani Fahs, and political and social activist Luqman Salim – issued a similar communiqué. In it, they called on all those "who wish to preserve the true character and heritage of the Shi'a... to express a brave, true, and sympathetic position regarding the intifadas of the Arab peoples."[4] These communiqués imply criticism of Hizbullah for its political and military support of the Syrian regime.

Clerics Muhammad Hassan Al-Amin and Hani Fahs have been known for many years as opponents of Hizbullah and Iran, and they have repeatedly criticized both Hizbullah's weapons and its loyalty to Iran and the Rule of the Jurisprudent. According to them, Iran exploits Lebanese Shi'ites, harms Shi'ite-Sunni relations in Lebanon, and uses the Palestinian cause to increase its influence in the Arab world. However, it seems that the recent communiqués did more damage to Hizbullah that their previous statements, because they were perceived by the organization as an attempt to harm its status within the Shi'ite community and as a step towards establishing a competing independent Shi'ite leadership, free of Iranian and Syrian influence. 

Hizbullah's apprehensions also stemmed from the fact that there has been an overall decline in its political and public status in Lebanon, and criticism against its weapons and its military involvement in Syria has increased even among elements who, until recently, supported it or were close to it, such as Lebanese President Michel Suleiman. In addition, there are reports of schism within the organization between the military arm, which supports military involvement in Syria, and the political arm, which objects to it.[5] Furthermore, there are reports that Hizbullah's involvement in Syria has sparked criticism even from Shi'ites who are not known as Hizbullah opponents: According to the website Middle East Online, before the publication of their communiqués, Muhammad Hassan Al-Amin and Hani Fahs met with other Shi'ite dignitaries, who objected to Hizbullah's support of the Syrian regime;[6] Sheikh Muhammad 'Ali Al-Jozo claimed on behalf of many Shi'ite families that Hizbullah's military involvement in Syria was threatening their relations with Sunnis in the country;[7] and the daily Al-Mustaqbal reported that Shi'ite circles in Zahle in Western Lebanon had voiced  objection to Hizbullah's involvement in Syria.[8]
Despite Fahs's claim that the communiqué was not an attempt to speak out against the community's political leadership,[9] Hizbullah felt threatened from within and launched an unprecedented media campaign in the daily Al-Akhbar to portray its Shi'ite opponents as traitors who are not worthy of leading Lebanon's Shi'ites.

Pro-Hizbullah Daily Al-Akhbar: These Shi'ites Are Traitors

Hizbullah's apprehension is apparent from the intensity of the counterattack in Al-Akhbar. In September 14-20, 2012, the daily published a series of cables allegedly exchanged between the U.S. embassy in Beirut and the U.S. administration over a four-year period from 2006 (the year of the Second Lebanon War) to 2010.[10] The cables, originally released by WikiLeaks, were published in Al-Akhbar under the headline "The Shi'ites Of The [U.S.] Embassy: Sacrificing Themselves For [Former U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey] Feltman." They deal with the ties between the embassy and various Shi'ite notables who oppose Hizbullah, including former Tyre mufti Sayyed 'Ali Al-Amin; political and social activist Luqman Salim; journalist 'Ali Al-Amin; Ja'fari mufti Ahmed Taleb, son-in-law of Sayyed Fadlallah; Duraid Yaghi, the deputy of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt; Ahmad Al-As'ad, head of the "Lebanese Belonging Movement"; Sheikh Ma'rouf Rahal; Lebanese MP and former minister Muhammad 'Abd Al-Hamid Beydoun; Sheikh Muhammad 'Ali Al-Hajj; former MP Salah Al-Harakeh; Al-Nabatieh Chamber of Commerce head 'Abdallah Bitar; former minister Ibrahim Shams Al-Din; and 'Ali Hamadeh – son of former Parliament head Sabri Hamadeh.

The daily portrayed these officials as traitors who collaborate – some of them for money – with the U.S. embassy's attempts to harm Hizbullah's status among the Shi'ite population and establish a competing Shi'ite leadership.[11] It also accused them as being spies for the U.S. who transfer information regarding Hizbullah and its military activity and advise the Americans on how to operate against Hizbullah, etc. The daily even claimed that Luqman Salim had met with a former advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, and was interested in further talks with the Israelis.

On September 17, 2012, the head of Al-Akhbar's board of directors, Ibrahim Al-Amin, published an inciting and threatening article against these Shi'ites, saying: "Their ties to the U.S. embassy in Lebanon and their participation in U.S. administration activity against the resistance in Lebanon are nothing but a clear and disgraceful form of collaborating with Israel... Do they not fear for their heads when they leave their defiled homes every day?... They should stay away from the fury of the public, [which might] erupt against them at any moment and teach them a lesson... They should know that they, and all their actions, are being watched."[12] In another article on this topic, Al-Amin wrote: "We have no room for traitors in our midst."[13]

Having its associates (such as Al-Akhbar) accuse its critics, rather than accusing them directly, enabled Hizbullah itself to assume an air of pluralism and support for freedom of opinion and expression. Hizbullah minister Muhammad Fneish said: "We bless all independent Shi'ite associations... and respect diversity... But when political disagreements cause [people] to become involved in foreign plans while Lebanon is at war [meaning the 2006 war], these are no longer [merely] political disagreements. However, we treat everyone on the basis of freedom and responsibility, and we defer to the judgment of public opinion."[14]
Fneish stressed that Al-Akhbar was exclusively responsible for publishing the cables: "If some are worried that a newspaper [i.e., Al-Akhbar] published documents, [they should know that] we had nothing to do with it. [The newspaper alone] is responsible for that."[15] However, in statements he made on the matter of the cables, the paper's board head implied that their publication had been ordered by Hizbullah: "For us, the resistance is everything – our identity, honor and future. [Had Hizbullah Secretary-General] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah whispered in our ear that the interests of the resistance required me to stop publishing Al-Akhbar, I would do so without hesitation."[16]  

Independent Shi'ites Respond

Hizbullah's attacks on its Shi'ite opponents triggered swift a response from them, in the form of letters to Al-Akhbar and counterattacks against the organization. Those who wrote to Al-Akhbar denied the contents of the cables,[17] and/or claimed that their statements had been twisted and taken out of context,[18] and/or confirmed certain details of the cables and stood by their statements to the U.S. embassy officials, stressing their right to criticize.[19] Some also complained of incitement against them,[20] and protested that they were no less supportive of resistance than others, alluding to Hizbullah.[21]

Alongside these defensive responses, some of the figures who came under attack – along with their associates in the Shi'ite community, as well as non-Shi'ite writers and organizations – published harsh attacks against Al-Akhbar and Hizbullah, most of which were published in the daily Al-Mustaqbal, the mouthpiece of the Al-Mustaqbal stream, Hizbullah's political opposition. In addition, on October 2, 2012, the Lebanese Civil Gathering[22] held a conference titled "sympathizing with the independent Shi'ite individuals against slander and threats" at the premises of the Lebanese Journalists Union. This conference, which was attended by some of the Shi'ite figures who were attacked, and by other Shi'ite and non-Shi'ite figures, issued a communiqué accusing Hizbullah of being behind the Al-Akhbar publications.

October 2, 2013 conference of the Lebanese Civil Gathering[23]

The following is a review of the criticism leveled by the independent Shi'ites at Hizbullah for its support of the Syrian regime and for its harsh response to their communiqués.[24]

1. Shi'ite Opponents Of Hizbullah Have The Right To Establish A New Shi'ite Movement 

One of the main claims was that the Shi'ites have a right to establish a new movement alongside the two existing ones (Hizbullah and Amal), as reflected in a communiqué issued by the Lebanese Civil Gathering: "Since we are Lebanese, Arab and free, we wish... to restore the original Arab and Lebanese Shi'ite option, which some call 'the third option,' though it is in fact the first and original option. We wish to lend renewed momentum to the cultural view that relies on our own history and culture, and on our faith in belonging to our homeland and coexisting with our partners as part of a modern civil state with a rule of law."[25]

2. Hizbullah Has Permitted Our Blood

One of the central accusations leveled at Hizbullah by its Shi'ite opponents is that it has virtually called for their death and permitted their blood. Journalist 'Ali Al-Amin wrote: "We cannot remain silent in the face of an attempt by anyone to appoint himself prosecutor, judge and executioner."[26] The communiqué issued by the Lebanese Civil Gathering stated: "[The publications in Al-Akhbar] are a call and incitement to murder; they permit [our] blood and call for [our] expulsion... Permitting our blood does not scare us in the slightest. We are sorry to say that we suspect Hizbullah as being behind this behavior [i.e., Al-Akhbar's publications], considering its silence on the matter and its failure to condemn it."[27] Ahmed Al-As'ad, head of the Lebanese Belonging Movement, said that, once Hizbullah stopped intimidating the Lebanese Shi'ites, the independent Shi'ites would become a majority within the community.[28]

3. Hizbullah Is A Sectarian Shi'ite Organization And Promotes Syrian And Iranian Interests At The Expense Of Lebanon

Another accusation was that Hizbullah uses religion and resistance for political purposes that have nothing to do with the real values of religion and resistance. Sayyed Hani Fahs said that Hizbullah's military involvement in Syria causes the public to feel "that instead of Hizbullah serving the resistance, the resistance serves Hizbullah."[29] Dr. Muhammad 'Ali Maqlad said that Hizbullah's support of the Syrian regime serves Hizbullah more than it serves the Syrian regime, and that Hizbullah is a Shi'ite version of Sunni political Islam organizations.[30] Sayyed 'Ali Al-Amin accused Hizbullah of making political use of the religious concept of jihad by referring to its members who were killed in Syria as martyrs who died "while carrying out a jihadi duty."[31]

Tyre Mufti Sayyed 'Ali Al-Amin[32]

These Shi'ite critics of Hizbullah also claimed that its support of Assad against the rebels, who are mostly Sunnis, harms inter-sectarian relations in Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil Gathering stated in its communiqué: "We disagree with any policy that places Lebanese sects, specifically the Shi'ite sect, in a position contrary to the Arab Spring revolutions... We do not want this [position] to pit Shi'ites in Lebanon and the Arab world against the other components of their society [i.e. Sunnis] and pay a hefty price for it... since they [the Shi'ites] are a minority in the Arab region."[33]

In this context, former Tyre mufti Sayyed 'Ali Al-Amin wrote: "The Shi'ite sect and school existed in the region long before the Islamic revolution in Iran. They have lived in this region alongside their [Sunni] Muslim and Christian brothers for hundreds of years, and this coexistence will continue. [The Shi'ite] sect and school do not require Iran's patronage. What has [always] protected this sect is its connection to its environment and its homeland, and its coexistence with its [Arab] nation. We do not accept the slogan: Iran is the defender of the Shi'ite sect."[34]

Further to the claim that Hizbullah evokes the ideal of resistance to defend its involvement in Syria, it was also claimed that the organization supports the Syrian regime on orders from Iran. Ahmed Al-As'ad said: "Hizbullah is connected to the Iranian regime, which is trying, in vain, to save the Syrian regime, and demands that Hizbullah work towards that end [as well]."[35] The Lebanese Civil Gathering communiqué states: "Our disagreements [with Hizbullah] are not related to [its] hostility to Israel or [its demand to] liberate all our lands, but rather to its assuming the role of patron of the Palestinian and Lebanese issues, and its use of these issues as a bargaining chip for negotiating regional [i.e. Iranian] agendas. Our disagreements are not over the defense of Lebanon, but rather over the harming of the country's foundations in the guise of defending it."[36] Sayyed 'Ali Al-Amin claimed that Hizbullah was not independent, but rather carrying out Iran's policy in the region.[37]

*E. B. Picali is a research fellow at MEMRI.

[1] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 916, Struggle Between Forces Within Lebanon Is Reflected In Their Involvement In Syria, January 3, 2013.
[2] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 861, Decline In Hizbullah's Status In Lebanon, July 25, 2012; MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 891, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman Comes Out Against Hizbullah And Its Weapons, October 22, 2012.
On December 4, 2012, the Palestinian organization Ansar Allah, which operates in the Ein Al-Hilweh refugee camp near Tyre and is considered to be Hizbullah's military wing in the Palestinian refugee camps, announced that it was severing all its political, security and military ties with Hizbullah. Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon, December 5, 2012).
[3], August 9, 2012.
[4] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), August 25, 2012.
[5] The Daily Telegraph (Lebanon), October 27, 2012. The report cited Shi'ite sources as saying that this schism had caused the cancellation of Hizbullah's triannual conference, which determines the organization's leadership and course of action.
[6], August 13, 2012.
[7] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 29, 2012.
[8] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), November 19, 2012.
[9] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), August 15, 2012.
[10] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 14, 17-20, 2012.
[11] An October 2012 article in Al-Akhbar claimed that President Obama's chief antiterrorism advisor John Brennan had decided in May 2012 to work to weaken Hizbullah and strengthen moderate Shi'ite elements. Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), October 29, 2012.
[12] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 17, 2012.
[13] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 20, 2012.
[14], October 3, 3012.
[15], October 3, 3012.
[16] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 20, 2012.
[17] For example, Ja'fari mufti Sheikh Ahmed Taleb claimed that he had never met with any U.S. ambassador (Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, September 24, 2012); former Tyre mufti Sayyed 'Ali Al-Amin denied meeting in secret with former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon Michele Sison (Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, September 18, 2012); and former MP Salah Al-Harakeh denied meeting with former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman (Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, September 28, 2012).
[18] For example, Sheikh Ahmed Taleb (Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, September 18, 2012) and former MP Salah Al-Harakeh (Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, September 28, 2012).
[19] For example, former Tyre mufti Sayyed 'Ali Amin and Ja'fari mufti Sheikh Ahmed Taleb (Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, September 18, 24 2012.
[20] For example, Ja'afari mufti Sheikh Ahmed Taleb (Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, September 24, 2012) and journalist 'Ali Al-Amin (Al-Jumhouriyya, Lebanon, September 19, 2012).
[21] For example, former MP Salah Al-Harakeh (Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, September 28, 2012).
[22] An organization founded in October 2011 by Lebanese academics, thinkers and activists, most of them Shi'ite. It advocates establishing democratic civil states in the Arab world and opposes sectarianism. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 13, 2011.
[23] Image: Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 3, 2012.
[24] Non-Shi'ites who condemned Hizbullah's response included, inter alia: Walid Jumblatt, who claimed that this response was  incitement and included an implicit call for murder (Al-Mustaqbal, Lebanon, September 10, 2012); the Media Against Violence organization (Al-Mustaqbal, Lebanon, September 19, 2012); the head of the Editors Syndicate, Muhammad Al-Baalbeki (Al-Mustaqbal, Lebanon, October 3, 2012); and Al-Mustaqbal columnists 'Ali Noun and Bassam Sa'd (Al-Mustaqbal, Lebanon, September 20, 2012, October 10, 2012).
[25] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 3, 2012
[26] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 3, 3012.
[27] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 3, 2012.
[28] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 12, 2012
[29] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 12, 2012
[30] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 12, 2012
[31] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 10, 2012
[32] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 14, 2012.
[33] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 3, 2012
[34] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 10, 2012
[35] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 12, 2012
[36] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 3, 2012
[37] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 10, 2012

E. B. Picali


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Liberal Iraqi Shi'ite Scholar Sayyed Ahmed Al-Qabbanji Calls For Reason In Islam

by Yotam Feldner


On February 18, 2013, the Iraqi media reported that the liberal Iraqi Shi'ite scholar Sayyed Ahmed Al-Qabbanji had been arrested the previous day in Qom,[1] Iran, while visiting family.[2]
Sayyed Al-Qabbanji's revolutionary ideas, especially his focus in the last few years on the need to rationalize Islamic religious discourse and jurisprudence, have made him the bane of the powerful Shi'ite clergy in Iraq, and have sparked accusations of heresy against him there – particularly in the months prior to his arrest in Iran.

The news of the arrest was received with mixed reactions by the Iraqi intelligentsia. While his supporters and fellow liberal scholars and politicians have called for his immediate release,[3] some among the Shi'ite clergy have demanded that Iran prosecute him for "his violations of the sanctity of his [Shi'ite] denomination."[4]
Following the arrest, Iranian intelligence services deputy director Mohammad Mosajadi was quoted as telling Tehran Radio that Al-Qabbanji was spying for Israel and transmitting "coded information" to it. If found guilty of this, he said, Iran would cooperate with the Iraqi government in carrying out the death penalty.[5]
Meanwhile, in the five days since Al-Qabbanji's arrest, the Iraqi authorities have refrained from commenting on the matter.

The following is a review of the philosophy of Sayyed Ahmed Al-Qabbanji.

Who Is Sayyed Ahmed Al-Qabbanji?

If you are an avid follower of the Arab media, Sayyed Ahmad Al-Qabbanji is perhaps the most innovative modern Islamic scholar you' have never heard of. This is not because Al-Qabbanji intentionally stays out of the limelight, but because his defiance of conventional Islamic beliefs has made him persona non grata in Iraqi television studios. Eventually, Al-Qabbanji turned to the Internet, launching a series of weekly public lectures, which were filmed and posted on a dedicated YouTube channel.[6]

Born in Najaf, Iraq in 1958, Al-Qabbanji studied Islamic jurisprudence at the Shi'ite Hawza of his hometown in the 1970s. In 1979, when Saddam Hussein became president, he left Iraq for Syria and Lebanon, and eventually settled in the holy city of Qom, Iran, where he continued his religious education. After returning to post-Saddam Iraq in 2008, he founded and headed the Liberal Islamic Movement in Iraq.[7] He translated into Arabic several books by the renowned Iranian scholar Abdolkarim Soroush, and authored many of his own books presenting his views.

According to some accounts, Al-Qabbanji fought for Iran in the Iran-Iraq war when he was a believer in the Islamic Revolution of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and lost the use of his right arm during that time; in any case, he keeps it concealed beneath his robe and never uses it.[8]
Since returning to Iraq, Al-Qabbanji has been provoking Islamist ire, challenging the basic precepts of Islam, and demanding that they be modified in accordance with modern-day reason. In October 2012, he clashed with his elder brother, Sadr Al-Din Al-Qabbanji, who is the Friday prayer imam of Najaf and a leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. The latter issued a fatwa declaring that "the ideas promoted by Sayyed Ahmed Al-Qabbanji are distorted and un-Islamic... these ideas are part of the war waged by the enemies of Islam, in order to cast doubt on the Islamic religion and its principles."[9]

Soon after the fatwa was made public, Al-Qabbanji responded, saying: "My honorable [brother] was right. I have deviated from his religion, every bit of which I reject. Let them say that I am an apostate and a heretic. It is true. I am an apostate from their religion, which stirs nothing but hatred of the other – a religion devoid of beauty, devoid of love, devoid of humanity... You have made people hate Allah and Islam. You have turned yourselves into Allah's police, proclaiming who is a deviant and who is an apostate…"[10]

Al-Qabbanji's Political Views: Hostility Towards Iran And America

In his lectures, Al-Qabbanji has generally refrained from expressing political views, stating that he would prefer to keep his criticism of Islam apolitical. His public altercation with his brother, however, prompted him to address his brother and to state – rather insipidly for someone of such bold and groundbreaking theological thought – that "The enemies of Islam benefit from the ignorance you spread among the people." He continued: "By Allah, Israel is happy about the existence of that Hawza, and is hostile to the ideas that I present, and so is America. America and Israel have an interest in keeping our people ignorant... When you summon millions of people to perform the tatbir,[11] and all those superstitious rites that were added to our religion, it of course benefits America,. America does not want our people to develop and become like Korea or Japan."[12]

In 2011, Al-Qabbanji's Twitter account began operating;[13] at first, its content mirrored that of his YouTube channel, and then it became an outlet for his harsh criticism of Iran. Al-Qabbanji's tweets about Iran revealed a deep ethnic partiality that does not surface in his public lectures. For example, he tweeted that Iran "sees the Arabs as insects, no more and no less,"[14] and that "Ahmadinejad shakes King Abdallah's right hand, and stabs him with his left hand… On Qom's instructions, he orders his beasts to kidnap Arabs in Lebanon. Away with hypocrisy!"[15]  Also in a tweet, he called Ayatollahs Khomeini, Khamenei, and Sistani "liars" for claiming to be the descendants of Prophet Muhammad. "How can an Arab prophet, whose sons were Arab, have non-Arab descendants?" he wrote. "May Allah cut out their tongues. They are filthy Persians."[16] Somehow, Al-Qabbanji's arrest by the Iranians does not come as an utter shock.

Al-Qabbanji's Critique Of Conventional Jurisprudence

It is mostly Al-Qabbanji's theological ideas – not his below-the-belt punches at Iran, and occasionally at Saudi Arabia – that have sparked all this antagonism. Al-Qabbanji's take on the Islamic religion is entirely unorthodox. In his lectures, he methodically deconstructs the Islamic perceptions of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad, the Koran, the shari'a, and all the taboos of conventional Islam. His underlying assumption is that nothing in religion can be true – not even the Koran – if it does not pass the litmus test of reason.

In a lecture on "Rationality in Jurisprudence," Al-Qabbanji explained the difference between his own perception of the shari'a and that of conventional Islamists. He broke down the conventional perception of the shari'a into the following five principles: The shari'a: 1) is eternal; 2) is total; 3) is beneficial; 4) is uninferable; and 5) trumps reason. 

In other words, he explained, conventional Islam holds that: 

1)  The shari'a transcends time and place; it is as applicable in modern times as it was in the days of the Prophet Muhammad, and will continue to be so until the Day of Judgment.

2)  The shari'a encompasses all aspects of life – economy, society, education, family, politics, and moral values. 

3)  The sharia's rulings reflect benefits and detriments to mankind. If Allah forbids alcohol, for example, it is because alcohol is harmful; if He decrees that prayer and fasting are obligatory, it is because they are beneficial to the worshipper. 

4)  Human beings are incapable of inferring these benefits and detriments through the use of reason – otherwise, there would be no need for the shari'a. For instance, since the human mind is too feeble to understand the necessity of prayer, the shari'a strengthens it, so that it can comprehend this necessity. 

5)  Whenever contradiction arises, the shari'a takes precedence over reason.
Al-Qabbanji explained that the Wahhabis openly adhere to this fifth principle, which is conceptualized in Ibn Taymiyyah's book The Rejection of the Conflict between Reason and the Revelation. "Saudi Arabia is a desert, and their brains have become flat like the desert," he said, again punching below the belt but this time at Iran's nemesis across the Gulf: "They are all extremists. All the Saudis, even the Shi'ites... They have no scholar, no philosopher. They are all superficial."[17]

Modifiable Jurisprudence

As an alternative to the conventional five principles of jurisprudence, Al-Qabbanji proposes a modifiable religious ruling based on fiqh al-maqasid, or the Jurisprudence of the Meaning. According to this theory, jurisprudence should address the meaning conveyed by the revelation, rather than adhere blindly to its literal wording, with no regard for reality or reason. He said: "It is like a man who has a lantern. His friend wants to light his cigarette and asks him: 'Do you have a lighter?' The man answers: 'No, I don't.' It is true that he doesn't have a lighter, but, using reason, he could let his friend light his cigarette with the lantern. A reasonable man would understand that what the man wanted was a light, not a lighter. The Wahhabis and most clerics say: No, we must adhere to the text."[18]

Al-Qabbanji does not entirely write off the sacred texts, but he rejects the first principle of conventional jurisprudence. For him, the shari'a is not always and everywhere valid and reflective of justice. His position does not entail a belief in the relativity of justice. According to Al-Qabbanji, the essence of justice today remains the same as at the advent of Islam, and human beings have not changed either; what has changed, in keeping with the tremendous development of human civilization, is the interpretation of justice and people's perception of it. 

Al-Qabbanji believes that at the advent of Islam, there was rationality in the shari'a, which was "the best of the best of that time."[19] The shari'a, he says, was certainly an improvement over the contemporary Byzantine and Farsi laws, because it treated the ruler and the peasant equally. But humanity has progressed since then, and the Islamic code of 14 centuries ago does not meet the moral standards dictated by today's modern values. Islamic law, therefore, should be modified, he says.

Al-Qabbanji's proposed principles of jurisprudence are based first and foremost on reason, which is "the basis for everything in the modern age."[20] In order to produce viable rulings, there must be harmony between reality and the text, with the nature of Man taken into consideration. When contradiction arises, reason takes precedence over text – first reason, then the Koran, and then the Sunna, he says, because reason is the only means by which is it possible to divine whether something in the Koran is relevant to us or belongs in the past.

The Koran As The (Interpretation Of The) Word Of God

The mere suggestion that anything in the Koran is a thing of the past defies the conventional Islamic belief that views the Koran as the literal word of God, as revealed to the illiterate Prophet Muhammad. But Al-Qabbanji rejects the concept of the Koran as the word of Allah, saying instead that it is full of untruths, contradiction, superstition, and immoral behavior. When the Koran was formed, he says, "there was not a single iota of falsehood in it. It was all true." Today, however, it must be accepted that the Koran rulings were appropriate for their time.[21]
The treatment of women, justification of slavery, and jizya poll tax for Christians and Jews are frequently cited by Al-Qabbanji as examples of how the Koran's rulings were in keeping with what was deemed just and reasonable at the time, but which today are considered  unjust, irrational, and immoral .

So if the Koran is not the word of Allah, what is it? Al-Qabbanji believes that the Koran was created by the Prophet Muhammad, and that the contradictions within it, which are clear to all, attest to its man-made origin. Different intellectuals, however, react differently to those contradictions. He says"The secularists, the Communists, and the atheists say that Muhammad lied to people, which leads them to reject Allah, the Koran, and Islam. The Islamists, on the other hand, say that it is all true and all from Allah. Thus, they deceive themselves, refusing to see the problems. They say: Don't ask, don't raise doubts. They choose blindness. They are all blind. They do not want to use their brains."[22]

Al-Qabbanji believes that "the Koran was created by the Prophet Muhammad, but was driven by Allah. Thus, even though it is not the word of Allah, it is still divine."[23] He believes that the Prophet Muhammad was honest, even though his presentation of the Koran as the word of Allah was false: "He believed from the bottom of his heart that this came from Allah. The divine conscience was talking to him, telling him what to say."[24] He says that the Koran is the Prophet Muhammad's interpretation of the word of Allah, of the divine inspiration, and of the Prophet's experience with Allah; therefore, all ensuing exegeses are "interpretations of an interpretation."[25]

In light of the above, Al-Qabbanji believes that the teachings of Islam should be constantly modified in keeping with the reason of the time: "The problem is that with the passing of time, human conscience has become more sublime. Human reason developed. Values developed. Rights developed. But our jurisprudents maintained the same rulings." 

He continues, "That is the problem. The problem does not lie in the source of Islam. The structure of Islam is in keeping with rationality, with modernity. If we want Islam to be eternal even though reality is mobile, then Islam must also be mobile. It cannot stagnate. The scholars in the religious institutions view Islam as stagnant teachings."[26]
Al-Qabbanji holds Sunni and Shi'ite scholars of conventional Islam responsible for Muslims' backwardness, because they insist on forcing a stagnant Islam upon the public. "Satan is seated in the Hawza and in Al-Azhar," he said, "and his spokesmen are the preachers, who spread superstition."[27]

From The Prophet Muhammad To Osama Bin Laden

Al-Qabbanji's concept of adjustable interpretations of justice and perceptions of reason is also evident in his treatment of the Prophet Muhammad . He rejects the notion that anyone can be infallible – not even the Prophet Muhammad or Imam Ali.[28] He believes that the Prophet was indeed just, but only according to the standard of his time, and only if a distinction is drawn between Muhammad the prophet and Muhammad the political ruler.
As a seventh-century prophet, Muhammad was the epitome of justice, but in his capacity as a ruler, he did many things that from our modern perspective are immoral, Al-Qabbanji says: "For example, the killing of Bani Qurayza. He slaughtered 600 prisoners of war. This was not a divine decree, but the decision of a ruler... He ordered the killing of prisoners of war. According to Al-Tabari, he also ordered the torture of Jewish prisoners... In many cases, the prophet ordered assassinations. 

"You ask, How did [modern] terrorists become terrorists? Have you seen what their Prophet did?!… The rule of the Prophet was in keeping with the reason of his time. If the Prophet were here today, he would absolutely not do what he did when he was a ruler – or else he would be like Osama bin Laden."[29]
Al-Qabbanji's interpretation of the Sunni-Shi'ite rift contributed greatly to his becoming the bête noire of the Shi'ite clergy. To their shock, he claims that Abu Bakr was a legitimate caliph. Again, as he did with the Prophet Muhammad, Al-Qabbanji projects the separation of religion and state onto seventh-century politics He believes that Ali bin Abu Taleb was the only possible choice as imam to succeed the Prophet Muhammad, but that Abu Bakr was the legitimate choice as a political ruler.[30]

21st-Century Humanistic Islam – God Serves Man, Not Vice Versa

As far as Al-Qabbanji is concerned, modern Muslims should adhere to the reason and moral standards of the 21st century, not to those of 14 centuries ago. In a complete reversal of Islamic convention, he declares that Western laws are divine, whereas the laws of the shari'a are man-made. "The laws of the West are based on human rights, on natural rights, created by Allah," he explained. "Allah made Man love freedom. Allah gave Man dignity. Allah gave Man the right of speech. It is the laws that are derived from these rights that are divine."[31]
In Al-Qabbanji's view, the Islam that has developed since the seventh century focuses too much on God and too little on Man – with too much emphasis on ritual, which he deems "the chaff rather than the wheat."[32] He considers several Shi'ite practices, such as the khoms tax, the pilgrimage to numerous tombs, and the countless days of mourning, as a complete waste of time and of public and private funds. He is also critical of the hefty burdens that Islam imposes upon its followers, such as the duty of praying five times a day. "The Islam of Mecca was light," he said.[33] Al-Qabbanji went so far as to claim that 80% of the Islam of today has been added by the jurisprudents, because it serves their interests, increases their wealth, and improves their social status.

This focus on worship is not only wrong, he says, but has failed to produce the anticipated results, as the Muslims have become "the most morally debased people" engaged in terrorism.[34] God, said Al-Qabbanji, is manifest in one's heart, and has no need of all that worship. "Allah serves Man, not vice versa," he declares; [35] it is Man who is sacred and who bestows sanctity upon the texts,[36] and therefore any text that runs counter to one's humanity should be disregarded.

The same is true with regard to heritage. People are born human beings and only later become Muslims, and therefore they should take pride in their pre-Islamic culture, he says. He is critical of the effacement of Iraqi heritage by the totality of Islam; in a lecture in the province of Babel, he told the local audience that they should be proud of their Babylonian culture, of Hammurabi, and of Nebuchadnezzar, regardless of efforts by those who would like to limit Iraqi civilization to the period that followed "the Islamic occupation."[37]
Al-Qabbani explains that the Koran delivered the Arabs from barbarism and polytheism and turned them into a nation – but adds that by now we know that most of the stories that appear in it are incompatible with reason. "There is no point in interpreting them. We should simply omit what contradicts reason."[38] As an example of such unreasonable stories, Al-Qabbanji presents the conventional Islamic notions of Paradise and the Hellfire, stating that the two simply do not exist. For him, the conventional depiction of the Hellfire distorts the image of Allah, who emerges as "a torturing sadist like Saddam,"[39] and the depiction of Paradise is even worse – it is "a sheep pen," where there is "nothing but marriage, eating, and drinking alcohol. There is no feature of humanity there, no creativity, no feelings, no motherhood... nothing but bestial urges. If Allah tells me to enter Paradise, I will be the first to refuse. I would rather go to the Hellfire, because there are human feelings there."[40]


Sayyed Ahmad Al-Qabbanji's theological philosophy is unique among contemporary Islamic scholars, and its importance is further magnified by the fact that it emerged from the heart of Shi'ite erudition. Al-Qabbanji identifies modern Islam's insistence on adherence to the ancient texts as the leading reason for the backwardness of some Muslim populations. For him, this adherence to the texts is not in keeping with the spirit of true Islam. His idea of amending texts to conform to modern reason – an idea markedly premature in light of the intolerance of religious and political institutions – is a significant crack in the wall of the stagnant Islamic discourse. Cracking that wall, however, comes at a price – and that price is currently being paid by Sayyed Ahmed Al-Qabbanji.

* Yotam Feldner is the Director of MEMRI TV. This report is a preliminary version of a chapter in a forthcoming book about liberal scholars in the Arab world.

[1] According to another report, Al-Qabbanji was arrested in Tehran.
[2] Shafaq News, February 18, 2013.
[3] For example, Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din., February 19, 2013.
[4] Iraqi Shi'ite leader Latif Al-'Amidi of the Kufa Islamic Supreme Council, February 18, 2013.
[7] Al-Arabiya TV (Dubai/Saudi Arabia), October 15, 2010.
[8] February 20, 2013.
[9] October 7, 2012. In a lecture, Al-Qabbanji related that another, younger, brother had said that "Sayyed Ahmad must be killed," but that this brother was too cowardly to act on his threat. Lecture on "Rationality in Jurisprudence," October 13, 2012. Following Al-Qabbanji's arrest, one of his brothers, Baqr Al-Qabbanji, said that the family had renounced Ahmed Al-Qabbanji because of his defiance of Islam. February 18, 2013.
[10] Lecture on metaphysics in the Koran, February 2011.
[11] The Shi'ite practice of self-flagellation with chains and knives in order to cause bleeding as a sign of mourning for the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and his family in the Battle of Karbala.
[12] Lecture on metaphysics in the Koran, February 2011. On another occasion, again while engrossed in polemics with his rivals in the mainstream Islamic clergy, Al-Qabbanji compared the Sunni Al-Azhar University and the Shi'ite Hawza to Zionism. "Global Zionism is the source of evil in the world," he explained in the lecture. "They are the millionaires, the mafia, who want to attain hegemony over the world, over the people." Lecture segment titled "The Hawza and Al-Azhar Are the Real Satan," posted April 12, 2012.
[13], later replaced by It is not clear whether the Twitter account is operated by Al-Qabbanji himself or by someone else.
[14] September 1, 2012 tweet.
[15] August 15, 2012 tweet.
[16] August 22, 2012 tweet.
[17] Lecture on "Rationality in Jurisprudence," October 13, 2012.
[18] Lecture on "Rationality in Jurisprudence," October 13, 2012.
[19] Lecture on "Rationality in Jurisprudence," October 13, 2012.
[20] Lecture on "Rationality in Jurisprudence," October 13, 2012.
[21] Lecture on "Rationality in Jurisprudence," October 13, 2012.
[22] Lecture segment titled "It is Impossible that the Koran Is from Allah," posted on the Internet in October, 2011.
[23] Lecture segment titled "It is Impossible that the Koran Is from Allah," posted on the Internet in October, 2011.
[24] Lecture segment titled "It is Impossible that the Koran Is from Allah," posted on the Internet in October, 2011.
[25] Lecture segment titled "It is Impossible that the Koran Is from Allah," posted on the Internet in October, 2011.
[26] Lecture on "Rationality in Jurisprudence," October 13, 2012.
[27] "The Hawza and Al-Azhar Are the Real Satan," posted April 12, 2012.
[28] Lecture on metaphysics in the Koran, February 2011.
[29] Lecture on "Rationality in Jurisprudence," October 13, 2012.
[30] Al-Baghdadiya TV (Iraq), September 1, 2010.
[31] Lecture on "Rationality in Jurisprudence," October 13, 2012.
[32] Al-Baghdadiya TV (Iraq), September 1, 2010.
[33] Al-Baghdadiya TV (Iraq), September 1, 2010.
[34] Al-Baghdadiya TV (Iraq), September 1, 2010.
[35] Al-Baghdadiya TV (Iraq), September 1, 2010.
[36] Lecture on "Placing Humanity in the Center," October 6, 2012.
[37] Lecture on "Placing Humanity in the Center," October 6, 2012.
[38] Lecture on "Rationality in Religious Doctrines," October 20, 2012.
[39] Lecture on metaphysics in the Koran, February 2011.
[40] Lecture segment titled "Shi'ite Scholar Compares Paradise to a Sheep Pen," November 15, 2010.

Yotam Feldner


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.