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"Surely, those who believe, and the Jews and the Christians and the Sabians, whoever have faith with true hearts in Allah and in the Last-day and do good deeds, their reward is with their Lord, and there shall be no fear for them nor any grief."

— Qur'an 2:62

Latest from CIP

New Saudi King Displays Candor on Radical Islam
Unlike President Obama.

Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz  •  March 5, 2015  •  The Weekly Standard Blog

Following the death of Saudi King Abdullah at the end of January, and the succession of his half-brother, now King Salman, 79, many observers of the desert monarchy have speculated on its future.

Almost immediately, King Salman has commenced an effort to clear the air regarding Islamist ideology and its association with terrorism. That's rather unlike President Obama. While he and some other Western leaders claim they are combating radical Islam, they habitually refuse to call it by its correct name. Instead, they employ euphemisms.

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Is Turkey's Erdoğan in Decline?

Veli Sirin  •  March 4, 2015  •  Gatestone Institute

Turkey's Islamist president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may have entered a decline after 11 years of increasing national political command.

Erdoğan proclaims Turkey to be a state of law and a defender of freedom of expression, even though its record in the persecution of journalists is among the world's worst, according to such international media monitors as Freedom House, in its 2014 survey, Democracy in Crisis: Corruption, Media, and Power in Turkey.

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U.S. expert: Involvement of Albanians in the Islamic State (IS) harms image of Kosova liberation war

Blerim Mustafa  •  February 27, 2015  •  Presheva Jonë [Geneva]

The U.S. expert Stephen Sylejman Schwartz, Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, headquartered in Washington, states to the Albanian news agency Presheva Jonë that the involvement of ethnic Albanians in the Islamic State (IS) negatively affects the reputation of Albanians.

"It contributes to evil stereotypes and false claims that the Kosova liberation war was a jihadist effort.

"As in other instances, Islamist radicals are doing the work of Serbia in undermining the reputation of Albanians."

Kosova and Albania are among the few countries in Europe where the majority of the population belongs to the Islamic faith.

Following the emergence of IS, several Albanians have joined the ranks of IS seeking to establish a caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.

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Schwartz Letter to Financial Times: Countries with a claim to the role Turkey seeks

Stephen Schwartz  •  February 26, 2015  •  Financial Times [London]

Sir, Sinan Ülgen asserts, in his article on Turkish relations with the European Union, that Turkey is "the only mainly Muslim nation with a secular democracy" ("Amid a tide of extremism, a mutual embrace that will protect both Turkey and Europe", February 23).

This claim is inaccurate. Bosnia-Hercegovina, although partitioned (with a 45 per cent Muslim plurality), Kosova (80 per cent Muslim), and Albania (70 per cent Muslim) are multi-party, elected democracies with secular constitutions and vigorous, independent media.

None of these three European Muslim communities must contend with civil-military competition for power, interference with freedom of expression, persecution of minorities, or rising radical Islam, such as are seen in Turkey.

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Libraries Burning: From Sarajevo to Mosul

Stephen Schwartz  •  February 26, 2015  •  The Huffington Post

I have been involved with words throughout my life. My father was a writer, publisher, and bookseller. I have been a writer, publisher, and bookseller. I have worked my way through three collections of rare books: one on Communism, one on literary and artistic modernism, one on Islam (with a small sub-set on Sephardic Judaism). I stored the first -- there is no longer a market for volumes of Lenin -- and sold the second so I could live in the Muslim Balkans. I remain surrounded by the last.

But I no longer purchase books for their own sake, or for their novelty. I keep books I will need. And I feel guilty about possessing valuable books when, for 23 years, I have been troubled by memories of their ravaging by ideological marauders.

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Bosnian Muslims Take on ISIS
A model for the Islamic world.

Stephen Schwartz  •  February 24, 2015  •  The Weekly Standard Blog

Muslim political and religious leaders in Bosnia-Hercegovina, which is partitioned between a "Republic of Serbs" and a "Muslim-Croat Federation," have taken firm measures to stop agitation and recruitment for ISIS.

On February 7, according to the Al-Arabiya television network, Bosnian police raided the country's notorious center of Wahhabi fundamentalism, the northern village of Gornja Maoča. The law-enforcement action came after Bosnian Federation Television showed images of ISIS flags displayed in the settlement. (The ISIS ideology is an especially virulent form of Wahhabism.)

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'Mosque war' in the UK

Irfan Al-Alawi  •  February 20, 2015  •  Lapido Media

Most British Muslims, whether emigrants or born in the country, originate culturally in the Indian subcontinent – Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Of some three million British Muslims, comprising close to five percent of the total national census, nearly 40 percent are British Pakistanis. In their identification with Muslim sects, the majority claim affiliation with Sunnism. Within that classification, almost half of British mosques belong to the radical-fundamentalist Deobandi and Wahhabi (so-called 'Salafi') factions.

Deobandis are inspirers of the Taliban and the separatist revival movement Tablighi Jamaat. Wahhabi doctrine underlies the Saudi monarchy as well as the brutal, supposed 'Islamic State' or ISIS/ISIL. The apparent preponderance of Deobandi mosques in the UK is a fact. These are often purpose-built mosques.

Barelwism

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Putin, Al-Sisi, Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Holocaust Remembrance

Stephen Schwartz  •  February 18, 2015  •  The Huffington Post

In another of his pleasant encounters with world leaders, Russian president Vladimir Putin went to Egypt on February 8, staying until February 10. Meeting with Cairo's military strongman Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Putin bestowed on his host a macabre but perhaps characteristic gift: a Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle. According to media, the present was a token of cooperation in a billion-dollar arms sale by Moscow, which must contend with Western sanctions over Ukraine and a resulting economic downturn. Russia will assist Egypt further, in constructing its first nuclear power plant.

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Famous Communists and Islam

Stephen Schwartz  •  February 11, 2015  •  First Things Blog

For some time, an argument has been made that the liberal left, in refusing to examine the problems of Islam, has betrayed its Enlightenment roots. That is, while secular, feminist, and protective of free speech in dealing with its Western peers, the liberal left has been accused of abandoning its heritage in its quest for political correctness regarding Muslims.

In truth, however, the left has a distinguished background of courting Islam as a weapon against Western capitalism. Its most representative figures from the past did so frankly, as the following rehearsal of their statements demonstrates.

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'Freedom for the Ulema:' Interview With Husein efendija Kavazović
Reis-ul ulema of the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina

Vildana Selimbegović  •  February 6-7, 2015  •  Oslobođenje [Sarajevo]

[CIP Note: This important interview with Husein ef. Kavazović, the current reis-ul ulema (chief cleric) of the Muslims of Bosnia-Hercegovina, comes at a vital moment. Bosnia-Hercegovina has been shocked by a series of brutal attacks against Imam Selvedin ef. Beganović, who directs a mosque in Trnovi, a small village in the northwestern Bosnian region of Velika Kladuša. Imam Beganović, our honorable brother, has suffered at least seven knife assaults because of his preaching against Bosnians participating in the terrorism of the so-called "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq. In a reportage by Oslobođenje on January 22, 2015, the mayor of Velika Kladuša, Edin Behrić, denied that terrorism poses a security threat in the area or that an extremist training camp exists there. But Jasmin Šahinović, head of the municipal cabinet, admitted that Imam Beganović had been attacked because of his "anti-Wahhabi opinions." Šahinović concluded, "the mayor sympathized with the imam, whom he visited and supported as a citizen." Šahinović added that people called Wahhabis exist in other cities of Bosnia-Hercegovina, and that if someone breaks the law, they should be held responsible without exception. Recruitment for combat outside Bosnian borders is illegal. Please remember the heroic and virtuous Imam Beganović in your duas. Interview translated and edited by CIP. Original title: "Exclusion is Satanic."]

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Syriza in Athens and Putin in Moscow: An Unholy Alliance?

Stephen Schwartz  •  February 6, 2015  •  The Huffington Post

The sensational victory of the radical leftist Syriza movement in the January 25 Greek elections, with the populist coalition winning 149 of 300 parliamentary seats, has raised numerous questions across Europe and the world. Most of the controversy about this episode focuses on whether Greece will default on its debt, in a crisis for Europe; or leave the Eurozone altogether, which some would consider a catastrophe

Less attention has been paid to the troubling attitudes of Syriza and its leaders in foreign policy, although many hints have appeared in authoritative media.

Syriza has chosen to rule in alliance with 13 deputies from the rightist party of Independent Greeks, which gives the new government a majority. But why did a militant neo-Marxist phenomenon like Syriza find itself wedded to a conservative force like the Independent Greeks?

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review of Prayer in Islamic Thought and Practice

Stephen Schwartz  •  Winter 2015  •  Middle East Quarterly

Katz, associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, has written a thoughtful and at times eye-opening examination of the role of prayer in Islamic societies, part of a series produced by the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton titled "Themes in Islamic History."

Katz's goal here is to restore "ritual to its proper place in the study of the sharia, and legal analysis in its proper place in the understanding of ritual." Thus, she surveys the classical schools of Islamic law, explaining their differences on the details of prayer. But while these distinctions are typically minor (dealing mainly with such matters as the position of the hands or the correct number of prostrations), some have wider implications that resonate today.

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Sorting Out the Saudi Succession

Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz  •  February 3, 2015  •  The Weekly Standard Blog

Following the death of King Abdullah Bin Abd Al-Aziz, at 90 or 91, on the night of January 22-23, Saudi Arabia is very likely to continue its policies of opposition to Iran and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and its participation in the coalition effort against the Islamic State. These alignments are not an expression of mere rivalry between Sunni Saudis and Shia Iranians, or between Saudi fundamentalists and ISIS radicals. They embody a two-front life and death defense of Saudi society. To strengthen national unity in this dual effort, King Salman should pursue the reform course, however slow, initiated by King Abdullah.

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Diplomatic Malpractice

Stephen Schwartz  •  February 2, 2015  •  The Weekly Standard

The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) is a federal program that, since its establishment by Congress in 2001, has granted millions of dollars—$47,750,971 through 2013—to about 800 projects of foreign governments seeking to preserve historic structures and institutions. Administered by the Cultural Heritage Center at the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, AFCP is little known to the American public. Grants are made on the basis of recommendations by U.S. ambassadors for purposes including "the restoration of ancient and historic buildings, assessment and conservation of rare manuscripts and museum collections, preservation and protection of important archaeological sites, and the documentation of vanishing traditional craft techniques and indigenous languages."

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Mecca For Sale

Stephen Schwartz  •  February 2015  •  First Things

Mecca is threatened. The city is the sacred cen­ter of attention for all Muslims. It is the loca­tion of the qibla, or di­rection of prayer, and the destination for millions of participants in the an­nual hajj, the pilgrimage required for all Muslims who can afford it, at least once in their lives. But a remaking of Mecca is underway and has already destroyed much of the city's unique historical and religious heritage.

The damage to the city's Islamic past is motivated by a doctrinal argu­ment. Many locations in and around Mecca are linked to historical figures, and they have served as focal points for prayer. Wahhabi clerics who dom­inate the Saudi kingdom's religious life strenuously oppose these devo­tions on the grounds that they dilute the worship of a single and unique Allah. A fatwa issued by the official Saudi body responsible for religious rulings states:

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Schwartz Letter to Financial Times: Long sentences would give jihadis time to reflect

Stephen Schwartz  •  January 30, 2015  •  Financial Times [London]

Sir, In his study of the Islamist terrorist Amedy Coulibaly ("The making of a French jihadi", The Big Read, January 27), Tom Burgis quotes the French terror expert Gilles de Kerchove in the following context: "As a new generation of jihadis return from Syria and Iraq . . . there are fears that tough criminal sentences could make confirmed Islamists of those who come back traumatised or disillusioned. Mr de Kerchove says that those 'with blood on their hands' must face criminal justice but he also calls for rehabilitation programmes, warning on the dangers of indiscriminately jailing all those who return from waging jihad.

'People are scared and say they want to see them all thrown in jail,' says Mr de Kerchove. 'But it is not the right approach.' "

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In the Aftermath of the Terror Attacks in France
Guest Editorial in Special Issue: Islam, Culture, and the Charlie Hebdo Affair

Stephen Suleyman Schwartz  •  January 2015  •  Science, Religion, and Culture

As a moderate Muslim, who works to unite moderate, traditional, conventional, spiritual, and even conservative (but not radical) Muslims, I must begin any commentary on the French atrocities by rejecting the claim that extremism and terror are not aspects of Islamic history. To declare, as even French president François Hollande did, "these terrorists and fanatics… have nothing to do with the Muslim religion" is inaccurate.

Islam, like other faiths, has been divided between extremists and moderate believers since its beginning. Prophet Muhammad himself was challenged by a radical trend, the Khawarij or "rebels," also known as Kharijites, who declared that anybody who did not conform to the degree of piety they demanded was an apostate and should be killed.

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'Learn to Anticipate, Rather Than Reacting to Events'
Interview with Stephen Sulejman Schwartz

Bedredin Gušić  •  January 23, 2015  •  Bedredin Gusic Blog [U.S.]

GUŠIĆ: How do you see the position of Muslims in the world, in general?

SCHWARTZ: The Muslim ummah is faced with many challenges, including, first, that of violent radicalism exemplified by the so-called Islamic State, and second, that of dictatorships epitomized by the bloodthirsty regime of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria. Any belief that these phenomena are fundamentally different from one another is wrong. The brutality of the alleged "Islamic State" is a product and parallel of the atrocities committed by Al-Assad. Muslims need to repudiate radicalism and to promote social and political justice.

GUŠIĆ: How would you comment on the terrorist attack in Paris on January 7? The consequences of that act are tragic. But how about its causes?

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The Life and Martyrdom of Father Shtjefën Gjeçovi-Kryeziu, O.F.M.
On the 140th Anniversary of His Birth [1874]

Stephen Sylejman Schwartz  •  January 22, 2015  •  Illyria [New York]

Coincidence – "objective chance" as it was called by the great French surrealist writers – plays a fascinating role in spiritual and intellectual life. On January 21, as I was thinking about the life of Father Shtjefën Gjeçovi, O.F.M., I waited for a bus travelling through San Francisco – the city named for St. Francis. When it arrived and I climbed aboard, I saw some young men wearing brown Franciscan robes. They were Americans. I approached them and told them, "God bless you. I am preparing to write about a great Franciscan figure, but I am afraid you will never have heard of him."

When they asked who the person might be, I said, "his name was Father Shtjefën Gjeçovi, and he was an inspiring Albanian educator and folklorist. He formalized the study of customary law."

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Female Genital Mutilation a Growing Problem in Iran

Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz  •  January 20, 2015  •  The Weekly Standard Blog

The hideous practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is neither an exclusively Muslim nor a principally Middle Eastern phenomenon. It exists among non-Muslims through wide areas of Africa.

But in Iraq and Iran, FGM is mainly associated with Kurds. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, which is fighting against the terrorists of the so-called "Islamic State," has pursued a substantive effort to eradicate FGM. As reported here, the KRG parliament introduced legislation prohibiting FGM in 2007. The law was passed in 2011 and forbade, additionally, child marriage, so-called "honor murders," and other abuses suffered typically by women. In 2010, the KRG health ministry produced a plan to eliminate FGM and called on Islamic clergy to condemn the custom.

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The Sheikh AlIslam Fil-Balad Al-Haram Al-Sharif
The Sheikh Al-Islam Fil-Balad Al-Haram Al-Sharif

Salaat ul-janaza [Funeral service] of Sayyid Muhammad ibn Alawi Al Maliki, The Grand Mosque in Mecca, October 2004
Salaat ul-janaza [Funeral service] of Sayyid Muhammad ibn Alawi Al Maliki, The Grand Mosque in Mecca, October 2004

Islam's past
Islam Past: Turkish mosque in Romania
Turkish mosque in Romania
Photos: Stephen Schwartz

Islam's present
Islam the Present Wahhabi vandalism at mosque in Kosova
Wahhabi vandalism at mosque in Kosova

Islam's future
Islam's Future: New mosque in Kazakhstan
New mosque in Kazakhstan

Audio Presentation
Yasawi Shrine
Seek healing in Sufism
by Yasawi Sufi Saparbai Kushkarov of Uzbekistan,
in Uzbek, Russian,
English, and Arabic

Video Presentation
Bin Yilin Turkusu - Saga of the Millennium
Bin Yilin Turkusu
(Saga of the Millennium)

Homage to Seyed Khalil Alinejad
"Homage to Seyed Khalil Alinejad"
Artwork © Jennifer Pawlak
No reproduction or reposting without permission of CIP.

Marje Sistani
Obey your country's laws, Marje Ali Sistani urges Muslims in West.

Stephen Suleyman Schwartz
Stephen Suleyman Schwartz:
Why I Serve as Executive Director of CIP

© 2015 Center for Islamic Pluralism.

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