Saturday, November 01, 2014

"House of Debt" by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi - a Review

This was an easy to read book that presented the deep economic realities and principles behind the great recession of 2008 in an easy to read format and language.  The general thesis is that the run-up in the household debt before the recession was the real disease that fueled the loss of spending that turned an ordinary recession into a great recession.  They also looked into the issue in historical context where they analyzed the run-up in hose-hold debt before other recessions in the past.  They see a strong correlation between the two.

The book in general presents the material with sound foundation that makes it difficult to refute the deductions that they made.  There are some points where I do not understand their point completely, for example:

Presentation of a Saver/Creditor seems biased
The book presents two groups of people: creditors/savers vs debtors.  That is not a problem and is generally how loans would work in an economy - but their picture of savers as some rich folks living in their mansions and receiving millions in interest payments and totally immune from the rest of the economy seems exagerated. 

In terms of number of people, a very large group of these savers is made of retiries who are now living off their investments in 401K and pensions.  So rather than picturing Mitt Romney, they should instead picture a retired couple in their seventies who own a $100,000 home debt-free but have a meager income of $3,000/month where $1,000 may be coming from social security, $1,000 from a pension and $1,000 from their retirement accounts.  Out of the monthly income of $3,000; $2,000 would have been exposed to the super-safe investments.  If this couple lost 30% of their $2,000 - that will be quite significant for them and could be comparable to the loss that debtors faced.  But the down side is that moral argument would suggest that putting this couple in this termoil was totally unfair and on top of that they do not even have the ability to utilize other resources to create extra wealth.  For example if they were to dive into their home equity, most likely they will never be able to get it back.


Is it realistic to end the demand of "super-safe" investments?
The demand of the super-safe investments have more to do with the pension funds than the Mitt Romneys.  With aging populagtion, is it realistic to suggest that this demand is goverment's responsibility that should be funded only through government securities?  I see following flaws with this line of reasoning:
  1. The impact of Euro Zone on this reasoning.  Poorer countries will find this quite problemetic.
  2. Even without this, telling someone in Spain that the security of their retirement depends on the Spanish government will not go very well.
  3. Even in an economy like US, is this avenue enough to supply safe investments to the aging population?
Can SRMs (Shared Risk Mortgages) compete with traditional mortgages?
A great insight that the authors provided was the difference between the performance of mortgages that were kept at the bank vs those that were securitized.  I think same will extend to this. 

If shared risk mortgages become mainstream, it will be legitimate for them to be more intrusive.  For example in a traditional mortgage, bank requires homeowners to have insurance.  In case of SRM - they may become more intrusive and require, for example, maintainence schedules, specific services, etc.  So in general the debtor may be bothered more.  Secondly the demand for super-safe investments would still exist so a person with good credit will find traditional mortgages to be cheaper and less intrusive.  This will imply that people with good credit will end up choosing traditional mortgages and rest will end up choosing SRMs and we will end up in the same type of mess again.

If generalize this to all types of loans, a person with good credit and good business plan will choose a bond vs seomeone gaining equity in their holding (house or business).  So I don't think that when there is a demand for super-safe investments - that these models can ever compete to get people that are more credit-worthy.

Negative Interest rate is a must
The authors discussed the negative interest rate concept and that is very intriguing.  That needs to be central in the overall scheme.  Something where, for example, savings above a certain limit should be taxed if they have not been touched in a year.  Something like 2.5% tax will go a long way.

Complete Picture
I dont think interest based economy will ever lose out to equity based for providing super-safe solutions.  Such a solution becomes practical only when interest based products are completely taken out of the picture.  Interest based products provide a very easy option to the savers and they will be willing to forego some profits if they are forced to compete with the equity type solutions.

A better overall solution when interest does not play a part for housing market will be as follows:

  • Demand for super-safe investments will force the market to create genuine products that are more conservative.  For example mortgage houses that would assist buyers in buying houses.
  • So for example if I like a house worth $100,000 - I will have a local mortgage house partner with me.  They will see a reasonable rental value for that property. 
  • So lets say that house's reasonable rental value is $1,000 per month.  If I put 20% down, that means the rent for me is $800. 
  • Such a setting provides a relatively conservative medium that is relatively safe for the savers that are funding the mortgage house.
  • I have the option to start buying more equity.
  • So lets say a few years later I sell the house for $80,000 and by then I had 30% equity.  This means that I will get 30% back on the sale.  Conversely if the house sold for $120,000 - I will still only get 30%.
  • Ideally a market of say 10,000 homes will have more than a few of these mortgage houses that would be competing but it will be in all of their interest to not let the value of houses drop too much.  That incentive will help in not letting the prices fall too much.
  • If prices did fall - that will be happening because there is an excess supply of houses which will naturally imply that rental value would go down and so in that case my rent will go down as well.
Similarly if I am a business owner with a sound plan and I want to expand, I will be forced to go into the equity market and get some investments.  So in the overall scheme we will end up with a solution where interest plays no part and when a shock comes it will spread evenly.

Central to this concept is negative interest on savings.  If someone has more than one year's income in liquid assets that is a burden on the overall economy.  I think anything above six month's salary should be taxed at a rate of for example 2.5%. 

So if Mr. Romney has $2M in excess of the threashhold of six month income in liquid assets; and he sees this 2.5% tax ($50,000), he is not going to like giving this tip to Mr. Obama and would aggressively look at ways of reducing it - and only avenue he would find are equity based solutions.  That will be good for everyone because no one really thinks that the government doing transfer payments is a good solution.

But realistically there will be some tax collected in this bucket.  It is important that this tax is earmarked for specific accounts and not for general fund.  Some uses may be:
  • Running of this system so that it does not create an additional burden on the government
  • Some welfare services that are focused on lower income households
  • Helping conservative funds like mortgage houses

Conclusion
This book presents the subject eloquently and concisely.  And more importantly backed by data.  It does not look like we have learnt much from the last debacle and we are back to our old ways at the macro economic level.  So in a few years we will most likely see another great recesstion and maybe at that time this work could predict that a few years before it happens.  Maybe that will make us all understand that the real problem is the idea of super-safe investments that rely on interest.  When interest is removed from the economy that will lead to a better economy for everyone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Violent movie reaction uncalled for, un-islamic

Published in Oshkosh Northwestern on September 19, 2012

Last week a despicable movie was released on youtube as a cheap publicity stunt. Following that we saw an array of wonderful trailers of the movie from around the world. We saw trailers of the movie in Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, India, Australia, and Libya. In Libya the promoters of the movie really outdid themselves where they killed the US Ambassador to show the world how true the movie really was.

Movie itself is a disgrace to the idea of free speech – but the response by these thousands of protesters is a disgrace to the human race. Even an elementary study of Islam shows clearly that it does not prescribe any punishment for blasphemy and that Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) faced such ridicule in his own life but never avenged it. Regardless of how bad the movie was, all Muslims must focus their energies on the inhumane response. It is sad that most official condemnations of these protests somehow indicate that real reason was the movie. This is the general apologetic attitude of the Muslims that is at the core of this mess.

Whereas Islam does not prescribe any punishment for such speech, many Muslims wrongly consider it their duty to avenge it. In recent years it has reached new lows where Pakistan’s penal code prescribes death penalty for blasphemy. Several other Muslim countries are moving in this direction as well and unless the civilized world checks this trend we would see more of this – not less. An eleven year old mentally disabled Christian girl in Pakistan was recently put in Jail simply because she was accused of blasphemy. Another Christian woman Asia Bibi is also languishing in a Pakistani jail for this accusation.

If Muslim countries create such laws then why is the world surprised at the reaction of these mobs? Such laws, approved by democratic parliaments, represent the deeply held principles of the people. If their core principle is that a blasphemer deserves to die then shouldn’t we expect that if a blasphemer is not killed that mobs would demand it? If a serial killer is set free, wouldn’t there be outrage anywhere in the world?

Unless we see the issue in its proper context that the core values held by many Muslims with regards to blasphemy is contradictory to Islam and civilized people everywhere – we will not be able to understand it. In a situation like this, Muslims – especially those enjoying the freedoms of the western world, must step forward and not only condemn the symptoms but also the disease. They must call for moderation in the attitudes of the Muslim countries and demand that such arcane laws be removed from their books and they must strive to create open and inclusive societies.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Good Bye Mr. Zuckerberg. I am done with facebook

Hello Mr. Zuckerberg

I hope this letter finds you surrounded with the millions of your virtual friends and may you earn several more points on farmville.

I want to thank you for the opportunity for allowing me to be part of the well thought-out social network that you created for us (from your dorm room while sobbing over your girlfriend's rejection).  At the time of this post (7/5/2011) I have hundreds of friends on your social network - I don't know what would happen to those deep rooted friendships when they are left in ether with no worthless "updates" to foster them.

I am not complaining and I am not going to write a long blog about "why facebook did not delete my account but only deactivated it".  I understand that nothing is free and I was privileged to be in this precious space provided by you to enjoy the company of so many "friends".

When I leave facebook, I doubt that it will leave any mark on this giant empire because as I leave it several thousand more will join it.  As "Playboy" magazine loses its subscribers to death many new ones are born and in the same vain, I am sure no permanent mark will be left.

But I would nevertheless let you know about some of the less than perfect features that you have taken great pains in incorporating:


  • Privacy - what privacy?  You have so eloquently said yourself that even the limited privacy (if any) that facebook offers was a mistake and if done again even that would not be incorporated.  I really respect your opinion ("People vs Larry Flynt" granted you that absolute right) but I would beg to differ.  Privacy is what humanity is all about.  Those who spill their guts in public are closer to dumb animals rather than enlightened human beings.  Those who spread rumors are guilty of a moral crime - not merely exercising their Zuckerberg given right.
  • Selling my information so cheaply!  You could atleast charge a bit more;  atleast we would then not feel so bad.  Using my information to show me something is one thing but to sell my information to some no-name third party!  Or did you never imagine that something like that could ever happen
  • Whats the deal with those embarrassing posts from some of my friends?  You know those "Dad walks in ... crap".  Was that some feature that every facebook user accepted as well?  And if they accepted why am I subjected to that?  Oh because there is no fundamental right to privacy - I forgot.
  • And what about that "well thought out" photo tagging feature.  You really did not foresee any abuse?  Or did I also sign up for other people's Zuckerberg given right to tag anything as my picture and I am supposed to "Find those people and un-friend them".
  • Do you really not have any close friends?  and what about family?  What about siblings, close relatives, and those who you know from work?  Are these privacy boundaries totally unknown to you?  Let me educate you on this God given sphere that the rest of us enjoy.  What you tell your wife or sibling may not be appropriate for those other hundreds of friends!  I know you will say "well that is in our policy" or that "you don't have to post on your wall" - I know, as I said I am not complaining and I will not file any lawsuit - just telling you about the small things in life in the real world.
  • What the hell were you thinking with Social Ad pairing?  Sometimes I wonder if your IQ is 20 or 200?  You really think if I like some company - I automatically want all of my friends to know about it?  Really?  And you were so confidant about it that by default everyone got this enabled.  So if someone "likes" a certain drug's ad, you in your immense wisdom thought it will be completely appropriate that all of their friends would like to see their picture next to that ad whenever that ad was displayed.

So please do not mind that I am returning this great gift back to you - I can only pray to God that you do not abuse the information that you have on me in your vaults.  

Whats next for me?  I can't say that I am done with social networking web sites - not that this is an essential part of our internet experience, just that I am only human.  Every social networking site is not the same but none of them are essential.  There is a certain difference between Playboy magazine, People magazine, and National Geographic magazine.  To each their own!

So long
Saad Ahmad

Monday, April 04, 2011

Does Quran allow/promote beating of one's wife?

This is a recurring question that is raised in the context of domestic violence among Muslims.  The assertion is that verse 4:35 of the Holy Quran allows or promotes this.

The short answer to this accusation is simply that it does not allow beating of the spouse or causing her any bodily harm.  Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) has said generally to the men "do not beat them"; and more specifically that "husbands who beat their wives are not the best among men".

This question has been answered wonderfully by Hadrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (Khalifatul Maseeh IV)



The problem at hand has several dimensions.  There are those who have simply translated "wazriboohunna" really badly as "beat them" thus causing confusion.  But more central is a general effort to discredit Islam in general and present it as a religion of violence.  In this article I will try to explain this matter in a coherent fashion keeping in mind the overall philosophy.  We often get so involved in answering accusations that we lose the big picture.

Islam's view on society at large
First we need to understand how Islam views the society at large.  According to 42:12 Allah is the Creator and Source for everything and the basic unit of the society is us - in pairs.  So family is the basic unit of the society.  Then, according to 42:39, to make decisions these units create a system where they discuss their affairs to come up with decisions for the challenges they face.

A deeper understanding of the various attributes of Allah tells us that while Allah is the absolute source of all these attributes and these attributes rest in Him in complete perfection, we must try to live these attributes to the best of our abilities and within the limitation and rules that He has created for us.

One of these attributes is Unity of Allah.  Allah is the only one who is absolutely Unique.  Allah attributes the harmony in the universe to His unity.

As the society is formed, this is a generally accepted principle that executive authority in the society should be ultimately kept in a single person or a single constitutional body.  There are checks and balances in our societies but we need to have a person about whom we can say "buck stops here".  In our country we have president, across the pond we have prime ministers.  There is not a single example of a developed civilization that was led by two, three, or many leaders at the same time.  Such an effort would create confusion and chaos - in fact such efforts are termed "rebellion" or "civil wars".

So as we go down to the basic unit, same principle must be kept, i.e. a family must have a unique person about whom we can say "buck stops here".  A family needs a structure just like a society needs a structure and chaos will always follow when this unity is taken away.  This is all the verse 4:35 is saying, that men are the guardians of the family.

So what gives the moral authority to a president to govern our affairs?  The simple and generally accepted answer, supported by the commerce clause of the US constitution as well, is that the president is the head of the system that controls the overall finances of our society.  That is the second point that 4:35 is making that men have that authority because they provide for the family.  This verse can also be translated as "they have authority as long as they provide for the family" - implying that men who do not provide also lose the status of the head of the household - exactly like a government that fails to meet the needs of the people loses the moral authority.  British lost the moral authority to rule the US because they stopped acting like a provider.


What is guardianship of a family?
The issue of guardianship becomes an issue of contention without any regard to what it entails.  The responsibility on men is enormous.  Hadrat Umar (2nd successor of Prophet Muhammad(sa)) is reported to have said that "women have the upper hand in the society".  Man of the house is responsible for the family to the society at large - exactly how the government of a country is answerable to God about the welfare of its citizens.  According to Islam, the whole family has rights over every cent that the man has or makes - but wife, who has complete right to property and inheritance, does not have to contribute anything.  It will be "ihsaan" or extreme favor on her part if she does.


Along with this, the man is also responsible for welfare and protection of the family; exactly how modern societies view the role of the government.  A man cannot shy away from this responsibility without abdicating his status as the head of the household.  When the government of Pakistan shows its inability to curb extremism within its borders, does the world at large give the government a free pass? No - we expect the government to live up to its responsibilities and that is exactly what the role of the man is in a family.

If family is in danger from within or without - man is responsible to the government and to God for the ultimate welfare.

Is government about welfare and protection or about punishment?
All governments have an ultimate right to exact punishment on its citizens - but is that the central focus of a government?  When our founding fathers were creating the USA, did they just want to create a system through which they can put people in jail?  Reducing this verse to a verse that allows wife beating is like reducing the US constitution to a system that was created to take over people's homes.

If one member of the society commits harm to another member, or to the authority of the government itself, does the government not have the obligation to resolve such conflicts?  Today, isn't the whole world pressuring the government of Pakistan to bring its house in order to save the rest of the countries of the world?

But this is not why countries gain independence.  Governments are made to serve the citizens.  Idea that government is "of the people, for the people, and by the people" is not a cliche.

Man's status of Qawwam is also about protection of the family - not about punishment
The same analogy applies to the man of the house.  I have not done a detailed study - but it will be interesting to find out how many Muslim men who beat their wives also keep peace in their family?  and provide for their family?  Actually many such men steal from their wives and demand large dowries at the time of their weddings.

This verse is also saying the same thing.  The word "wazriboohunna" implies that they can use their bodies to stop actions that hurt their families.  It does not imply that they should exact injury - if that were the intention, Quran should have said "wazriboohunna zarban".  To understand this we must also understand that when we are dealing with such delicate matters, a good Muslim is very prudent.  For example Muslims were treated very badly during the early years but they did not raise arms in their defence because Allah had not allowed it at that time - they refused to even defend themselves until Allah allowed it.

So, if we take a very narrow view and say that a man is not allowed to use his body to stop an act which could hurt the well being of other members of the family or of other families - how should a man deal with the following examples:
  • Woman severely beats the children
  • Woman is guilty of stealing
  • Woman is guilty of creating unrest in the family - from ordinary matters to extraordinary that could threaten the society at large
Islam says that man is still responsible.  He cannot say that "I tried to tell her that beating the children is not a good idea but she did not listen" - no he must use necessary means to protect the children.

So the reader will be quick to say "but man can also beat the children or steal, etc - what about that".  The answer is simple; would it be fair to put the same responsibility on the woman?  If man beats the children - would it be fair to ask the woman to stop him using her body?


But still - why allow physical punishment at all?
That is a fair question - but we have to first understand what is the nature of this so called physical punishment.  We have already established "beat" is not correct as the intention must not be to inflict harm.  And this is not a brand new question that someone just discovered - same question was posed to the Prophet (sa) himself and he replied:
  • There must not be any mark due to this (Tirmazi: ch. on Rida)
  • He generally said that those who beat their wives are not the best among men (Kathir iii)
  • To use something like a miswaak (toothbrush)
And we know that Holy Prophet (sa) himself never ever committed such an act (There are some blogs and comments on the web - but they all stem from lack of knowledge of Hadith and basic knowledge of Arabic.  There is absolutely no reliable evince of even a single incident that attributes such an act to the Holy Prophet(sa)).

So then another fair question will be, what is the point of mentioning it if all it implies is that 
  • Don't do it because if you do it you will not be the best among men
  • Or use toothbrush - which really is quite comical if used as a tool for this. 
The answer is evident in the verse itself and by the verse that follows it.  This is a mark in the escalation.  Wife may be showing rebellious attitudes but may think that nothing will come off it because of any variety of reasons.  This symbolic gesture implies that now the limit has been reached and the next step is divorce.  The very next verse is talking about those eventualities. 

So when a husband shows his displeasure by other means mentioned in the verse, there is always the next escalation point; but once this point is reached - it is to just tell the wife that the couple is reaching a point of no return.  When we consider the limitations prescribed, it provides a complete picture.  Such a gesture certainly is better than a yelling match that could ensue otherwise.  


Understanding it in the modern context
As societies evolve they create other institutions to improve the harmony.  At a global level we went from completely sovereign nations to creation of a United Nations.  We are trying to see if an idea of international court of law can work.  Similarly 42:39 suggests that members of a society can create laws. In presence of such laws certain permissions become void according to 4:60.  So while the verse in question is not abrogated, if society creates laws that limit certain permissions - those limitations have to be followed by Muslims according to Quran.  This idea is not an innovation - during the reign of the second rightly guided successor of Prophet Muhammad (sa), Umar (ra) temporarily modified the law governing divorce to save the abuse that was hurting women.  The details of that are beyond the scope of this article but the basic assertion is that when society creates laws, it becomes mandatory for Muslims to abide by them.



Conclusion
In conclusion, I would invite you to read a great article by my friend Haris Zafar titled "Islam and the Quran require us to honor, Not Abuse, women".  Everything that Quran says has a larger social and world view behind it.  We may agree or disagree with that view but we should at least honestly try to understand it.

Domestic abuse is a serious matter - but that is not because of any religion.  According to some statistics 1 in 3 women in our country is abused - there is no Islam here.  Those who commit such coward acts do not go and first study the holy scriptures and then come up with "oh, God wants me to beat my wife".   This verse does not provide relief to the Muslims who beat their wives, instead it convicts them.



Appendix - Use of zarab in Holy Quran
Ref Arabic
Meaning Usage
2:27

yazriba illustration Allah disdains not to give an illustration as small as a gnat or even smaller...
2:61

izrib Strike And remember the time when Moses prayed for water for his people, and We said: ‘Strike the rock with thy rod,’
2:62

zurebat smitten And they were smitten with abasement and destitution
2:73

izrebuhu compare Compare this incident with some other similar ones
2:274

zarbanmoveThese alms are for the poor who are detained in the cause of Allah and are unable to move about in the land
3:113


Same as 2:62
3:157


Same as 2:274
4:95


Same as 2:274
4:102


Same as 2:274
5:107


Same as 2:274
7:161


Same as 2:61
8:13

IzrebuSmiteWhen thy Lord revealed to the angels, saying, ‘I am with you; so give firmness to those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Smite, then, the upper parts of their necks, and smite off all finger-tips.’

The context here is an armed conflict.  Refer to the detailed commentary
8:51


Same as 8:13
13:18


Same as 2:27
14:25


Same as 2:27
14:26


Same as 2:27
14:46


Same as 2:27

You can see all of the references by clicking here.









Saturday, March 19, 2011

If ICNA represents Muslims, King hearings are justified

I recently came across ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America http://www.icna.com) periodical titled "The Message (March - April 2011)".  I was impressed by its focus on youth especially considering the recent tragic events when Muslim youths have been involved in crimes against the United States.  One article titled "Letter to would be Mujahid" - by Imam Zaid Shakir on page 33 caught my attention.  I was pleased to see that finally ICNA has taken a positive approach and would teach the Muslim youth living in US - how Islam demands that they be loyal and faithful to this country.  But I was saddened (but not surprised) to note that it was totally opposite.  And if Muslims in America choose to belong to such organizations, King hearings are totally justified.  Muslims should cleanup our own house first ...

The summary of the article basically is that you, Muslim youth, should not take part in these Jihads against America because:


  • If you do it, American, Indian, and Israeli military will kill more Muslims
  • American middle class, which is insecure, will get galvanized and support these wars against Muslims
  • Mujahideen cannot win a war against America because they could send nuclear bombs and your AK-47 will not be able to defend against it.
  • The networks in Afghanistan are probably CIA created networks anyways
  • In your hunt for jihad, you may get trapped in an FBI sting operation like Antonio Martinez or Mahomed Osman - the Somali kid in Oregon.
I was saddened to see that this was the best a Muslim Imam could do to teach Muslim youth that they should stay away from creating unrest in the society that they live in and have pledged allegiance to.  He never mentioned that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that love of country is part of the faith or that Quran demands that we must follow those who have authority over us, or that creating unrest in the land is never allowed and several verses in Quran demand that.  All this imam said was "Don't try it because you may get caught".  Really! that is the best an Imam can teach? 

Does he teach that "Don't steal because police may catch you?" or "Don't tell a lie because you may have to face the consequences?"  Is that their Islam? - that has absolutely no moral basis.  What if FBI says that henceforth there shall be no sting operations and CIA is abolished.  Would it suddenly become acceptable in the eyes of this imam to join these networks?  

Muslims today have forgotten everything that Islam has taught them and they get excited about the wrong stuff.  What these FBI sting operations should have told them was that something is missing in their mosques and young folks are getting mixed signals and they should have countered with a focused teaching that tells them the positive message - that regardless of if you are successful or not; waging war against America is simply wrong and against the basic teachings of Islam.  You should not do it because Islam demands that you keep your pledge of allegiance to this great nation - and not that you may get caught or that American middle class is naive and stupid and your actions can galvanize them against Islam.

A Muslim is one who leads and does not care about the surroundings.  If whole environment is saying a wrong thing - Muslim should still do the right thing - but sadly these headless organizations do not have the decency, courage, knowledge, and wisdom to teach the real message of Islam.

I am a Muslim and I do not trust that organizations like ICNA are sincere in their condemnation of terrorism - what about one who is a non Muslim.  If ICNA and such organizations are sincere - I have a simple litmus test for them.  Just answer following questions:

  1. According to your religion (not local laws); what should be the punishment if someone gives up Islam as their religion.
  2. According to your religion (not local laws); what should be the punishment if someone commits blasphemy against our beloved prophet Muhammad (may peace of Allah be on him)
  3. According to your religion, what does the pledge of allegiance (a pledge that every naturalized Muslim immigrant has taken) mean according to Islamic principles.
I have posed this simple question to many Muslims who belong to such organizations and they always hide behind "well in America there is freedom of religion so ...." - that is not my question!  If you really believe in such crap like death for an apostate or for a blasphemer; I would be stupid to believe in your answer to #3 as yes.  A person who does not share American values for first two questions would never take the pledge of allegiance to the US seriously and that is the real problem for Muslim youth - not the FBI sting operations.

Then we come to these infamous hearings.  Again the focus should have been to find what is lacking in our mosques.  Are we really teaching the young kids how important is it to be loyal, decent, and good citizen?  How it is immoral to create any type of unrest in the society? No they all get enraged about someone who is holding the hearings on it.  I am not happy about these hearings either but organizations like ICNA and their supporters are the reason for it.

If ICNA represents Muslims in America and Muslims in America choose to participate in its activities and do not try to disband such an organization, then it is the duty of FBI to use any available tool at its disposal to protect the American citizens.  

To know about a real, forward looking, sincere voice about Islam, visit http://www.muslimsforpeace.org/

Addition - 3/20/2011
I found this original article at muslimmatters.org (http://muslimmatters.org/2010/12/16/letter-to-would-be-mujahid-imam-zaid-shakir/).  I put a note on that about this response - next day I was banned from the site!

Addition - 3/20/2011
I found another reference to the article by the author himself at http://www.newislamicdirections.com/nid/articles_comments/answers_to_would-be_mujahids/.  I posted a comment that the site did not publish:


With all due respect, the logic is seriously flawed.  Waging war against America by Americans is wrong because love of country is part of faith, and creating unrest is unislamic, and we need to keep our pledge of allegiance. We cannot hide behind "women and children deaths are wrong" - even killing US military persons is wrong or destroying infrastructure is wrong too.
Muslims need to take a positive stance for loyalty and not hide behind such explanations.
Following is my response to Imam's letter
http://saadahmad.blogspot.com/2011/03/if-icna-represents-muslims-king.htm

Addition - 3/20/2011
To be fair to the author, I also found another writing by him http://www.newislamicdirections.com/nid/articles/responding_to_the_fort_hood_tragedy/ in response to the fort-hood tragedy where we has taken a little better stance that the pledge of allegiance is to be taken seriously but overall it is still below par.  Muslim mosques and imams need to ingrain this value in the children. He still leaves ambiguity by constantly comparing it to American wars elsewhere and also keeps talking of a strategic dimension to his plea for giving up Jihad.  Waging war against America by Muslims is a moral issue - not a strategic one and there must be no ambiguity when conveying such a delicate message to children and young adults.  No amount of injustice done by American forces elsewhere justifies even the tiniest act of creating any type of unrest in America by an American Muslim.  This needs to be the simple unambiguous message.  


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Muslim scholars - judged by the blasphemy laws

Most Muslims - especially those in Pakistan think that the laws against blasphemy are justified.  Those who are deemed "progressive" only want procedural changes.  So in this post I will take some quotes from the scholars of Islam and indicate the clauses of the blasphemy law of Pakistan that they have violated.  Keep visiting this blog as I would build on it.

Syed Abul Ala Maudoodi
He is the founder of the "Jamat Islami".  One of his basic philosophies was that in order to reform the society control over the government is essential.  Lets see some of his quotes:

(Hadrat Ayesha (ra)) had become too bold against the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and had started to raise her voice against the Holy Prophet (pbuh).  [Weekly Asia Lahore 1957.  Volume 15 - Page 17].  Blasphemy Law 298-A applies
Hadrat Abu Bakr acted against the spirit of Islam [Tarjaman ul Quran Volume 12].  Blasphemy Law 298-A applies
Hadrat Usman was guilty of giving special treatment to his friends and relatives and gave them special considerations.  [Khilafat o Malookiat pp 105].   Blasphemy Law 298-A applies 
Brailvies vs Deobandies
Brailvies are a subsect of Hanafi sect which is one of the subsects of the Sunnis.  In Pakistan JUI (Noorani) is one of the prominent religious political party that belongs to this school.  The founder of Awami Tehreek Dr. Tahir ul Qadri also belongs to this sect.
Deobandies are another subsect of the Hanafi sect.  The "Tableeghi" jamat in Pakistan, Majlis Ihraar and Majlis Tahafuz Khatm-e-Nabuwwat are all offshoots of this sect.

Here are some of the beliefs of Brailvies:
  • Holy Prophet (pbuh) did not have a shadow.
  • Holy Prophet (pbuh) knew ghaib (or that which is unknown or known only to God
And in contrast the Deobandies consider the Holy Prophet (pbuh) as a human being and subject to the limitations and deny the two beliefs about the Holy Prophet (pbuh)

Blasphemy Law 295-C applies - it just depends on who files the complaint!

Founder of Deobandi Sect - Maulana Muhammad Qasim
"Hypothetically speaking if a new prophet comes after the Holy Prophet (pbuh), even then the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) will remain intact" [Tehzeer-ul-Nas pp 28]
It is interesting that the founder of the Deobandi sect says this but this is where the Majlis Tahaffuz-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwwat started.  People need to understand that this stuff is politically motivated!

Anyways, since all Ahmadies are subjected to 295-C why should he be spared!

Hadrat Shah Waliullah
He does not need any introduction.  He says:
"(Khatam-e-Nabuwwat means that) after the Holy Prophet (pbuh) a prophet with a new law cannot come" (Tafheemat-e-Ilahiya pp 55)
Same belief as Ahmadies so  295-C applies.

Why stop here, lets apply these to the companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh)
  • When Hadrat Ayesha (ra) was accused, during that time several companions would come under the jurisdiction of 298-A.  Since this law does now allow the accused to provide an explanation, the fact that later on all of these companions changed their point of view is irrelevant.
  • Recall the war between the two groups of the companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) where Hadrat Ayesha was on one side and Hadrat Ali was on the other - 298-A  applies on both sides.
  • After compiling the Holy Quran, Hadrat Usman burnt the copies of the Holy Quran that were not according to the final prepared manuscript.  295-B  applies.
Conclusion
The so called moderates need to realize that they cannot hide behind words in this case.  The problem is the law itself and not procedural matters.  The law itself invites abuse.  This law did not exist in Pakistan from 1947 to 1985 - did we see blasphemy rampant in Pakistan during that time?  And since 1985 we have thousands of case - what is the reason?

The law also creates heroes because the death penalty is reserved for the most heinous crimes in any society.  All societies give some latitude to a person who would take law in their own hands when the crime in question warrants the death penalty.  Such people are often defended under "temporary insanity".  The mere existence of this law puts someone who speaks their mind on a religious matter in the same category as a murderer and that should not be acceptable to any decent human being.

While conversing with Pakistanis, they often think that such laws cannot be touched or that they are too volatile.  Well mark my words unless these laws and other laws like these are repealed totally and completely, extremism will increase.  Ofcourse most Pakistanis will be quick to blame the west for every ill in Pakistan but do some basic study and see extremism in Pakistan before and after 1985.

You can refer to http://saadahmad.blogspot.com/2011/01/mess-called-blasphemy-laws-of-pakistan.html to see the text of these clauses.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The mess called "Blasphemy Laws of Pakistan"

During the first week of January 2011, Governor of the largest province of Pakistan, Punjab was assassinated by his own security guard because he had called for modifications in Pakistan blasphemy laws.  Note that his stance was quite guarded as he did not call for its repeal but just modification.  I would consider his stance below par but in Pakistan even getting that much was no less than a miracle.

After that his assassin became a hero.  Even people living in US, Canada, and Europe were hesitant in calling this what it was.  Pakistan President and chief minister of Punjab did not attend the funeral of the governor.  Leaders of several parties openly said that the governor was to be blamed for his own death.

Quite sadly, majority of the people of Pakistan support these "blasphemy laws" and they have no idea about what is in it.  So here it goes (These are taken from http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/legislation/1860/actXLVof1860.html):

Section 295-B
Whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur'an or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.


Section 295-C
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.




Section 298
Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes any gesture in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, or with both.


Section 298-A
Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of any wife (Ummul Mumineen), or members of the family (Ahle-bait), of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), or any of the righteous Caliphs (Khulafa-e-Rashideen) or companions (Sahaaba) of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.


Now many Pakistanis will read this and say "so what is wrong with that?"  So lets see some scenarios:

  1. Defiles or "damages" Quran or an "extract".  You do not need to be a rocket scientist to see how ridiculous such a language is.  The word "kafir" (disbeliever) is in Quran so is the word for Satan.  Similarly many authors start their writings with "Bismillah" (in the name of Allah) and several newspapers carry some extracts of Quran and then later on these same newspapers are found on the street corner.  
  2. Directly or "indirectly"  "defiles" the sacred "name" of the Holy Prophet (sa).  Again the language is very ambiguous and about a few weeks ago a person was charged for throwing a business card with name "Muhammad" written on it.  Really it is not a joke.  And what about "indirectly" - it makes it completely subjective.  For example I find it offensive to say as some Muslims suggest that Holy Prophet (sa) did not have shadow because it questions his humanity; should I then press charges against everyone that holds that belief?  Some Muslims suggest that at certain times the Holy Prophet (sa) lied as a strategy - I find it offensive and so on.  Personality that is accepted as the most influential in the history of humanity will generate controversy - even among Muslims.  I find those who suggest that the Holy Prophet (sa) used sword to spread the message of Islam (as suggested by Maulana Maudoodi) to be the most offensive accusation against Islam!
  3. Defiling the sacred name of the wives of the Prophet - can anyone guess who is this targeted for?  The conflict that arose between Hadrat Ayesha and Hadrat Ali is a historical fact and different Muslims have different perspective on it.  Similarly conflict between Hadrat Ali and Hadrat Ameer Muavia etc.  According to this, probably the "scholar" called Zakir Naik is guilty as well for saying "razi allah" after Yazid's name.  Some Muslim sects suggest that Hadrat Imam Hussain was also at fault in the tragedy of Karbala.  Can Muslims not even discuss their own history openly?

Real Story
In fact these laws were originally made just to target Ahmadi Muslims and are brainchild of General Zia ul Haq.  But lets not blame him for everything the "elected" legislators have ratified all of these laws.  The problem is that when you make bad laws, they will end up shaking the foundation of a society even if the target was someone else - because such laws provide an opportunity.


That is what happened here as well.  Ahmadies are still the largest victim of these laws but people have now started using these laws to settle old scores and to push their point.  


In lieu of this, the stance of the late governor was quite timid.  Anything short of total repeal should be unacceptable to any decent human being - yet he was targeted and most people blame him for his own murder.  But then we are talking about decent humans and there are probably none left in Pakistan.