Wednesday, February 29, 2012

R.I.P. Davy Jones

The Monkees were my heroes when I was, well, too young to know better. Oh, to be too young to know better again! Farewell Davy! A bit of my tender youth goes with you!

Gods Bless America

You might also want to check out: Gods Bless the Navy SEALs.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"The Core Of All Magickal Work" (On Ivo Dominguez' new book)

"In it's fullness, a Circle can contain a richness so complete that if all of Wicca were lost except for the way to cast a Circle, and its symbolism, the faith would renew itself from that one seed."

Ivo Dominguez is a true Renaissance Man among modern Pagans, Witches, and Magicians. And the full range of his expertise and experience as a teacher, elder, adept, researcher, writer, and visionary all come together in his book Casting Sacred Space: The Core of all Magickal Work.

Ivo has the (almost unheard of) ability to combine very practical and accessible instruction in the basics of Magick with just the right amount of theory and background. The result is that the student is able to slowly build up an understanding of Magick without being overwhelmed by mystagogical arcana. And what makes Ivo's magickal teachings even more valuable (and unusual) is that he not only grounds his magick solidly in the Pagan tradition, but in the most well-known and arguably most widespread tradition of modern Paganism: Wicca. This book could (dare we hope?) go a long way toward eradicating the (all-too-often, it must be admitted, all-too-well-deserved) stereotype of Wiccans as "Fluffy-Bunnies", "McWitches", "Playgans", "One-Book-Witches", etc. In a word, Ivo shows how you can have it all: Wicca plus real Magick and real Paganism.

But don't take my word for it: here is what T. Thorn Coyle has to say in her Forward to the book:
"A strong Magician or Witch fully shoulders her responsibility. This book of castings is not only an amazing compendium of innovative ways to move and shape energy forms; it also serves as a comprehensive primer on how to change the individual in order to better change the world. The work is placed in the context of other systems of magick should one wish to broaden one’s scope of knowledge and mastery, while providing enough information for beginning these unique practices from any level of experience and study. There are many treasures here. I hope that the magick held in this book not only intrigues you with its sheer novelty, but also spurs you onward and inward with its potential. If we read carefully and practice diligently, we will learn to change and be changed, in accordance with our ever-strengthening knowledge and will.
And here is how Ivo describes what he sets out to do in the book (from the Introduction):
"Casting Sacred Space is meant to provide a safe and sane introduction to the knowledge and techniques needed to embark upon journeys into magick. The first half of the book supplies some philosophical and theoretical underpinnings in order to make the castings offered in the second half of the book accessible and effective. Hopefully, a balance between theory and practice has been struck that will encourage the development of both understanding and proficiency in the creation of sacred and magickal space . . . .

"This book explores a number of approaches to the creation, delineation, and understanding of ritual that open the way to sacred space. The entry into sacred space is one of the most direct routes to the fountainhead of spiritual and metaphysical experience. For most of us, the thrill of the experience that called us to our paths is heralded by crossing the borderline into a wider universe. When you took your first step onto your path of magickal and spiritual development, did you not long for the strange skies of the otherworlds, conversations with the Shining Ones, keys to the gates, or the smell of flowers in a Faerie glade?"

Here is the book's page at the publisher's website: The Casting Sacred Space page at Redwheel/Weiser.

Of course the best way to buy the book is from a Pagan owned and operated local bookstore, like Bell, Book and Candle in Dover, Delaware; or The Crystal Fox in Laurel, Maryland.

Oh, and while I'm listing links, here is the author's Facebook page: Ivo's Facebook Page.

And, finally, here are some reviews of Casting Sacred Space: The Core of all Magickal Work (the review from DailyOm has more of Thorn's Forward and more of Ivo's Introduction):

What Makes Rick Santorum Vomit

On September 7, 1960, a full page ad appeared in the New York Times stating that the fact that John F. Kennedy was a Catholic was a "legitimate issue" in the presidential campaign. This add was sponsored by a group of Protestant ministers headed up by Norman Vincent Peale.

Having been attacked very publicly by a prominent group of respected conservative Protestants, how did Kennedy respond? He went straight into the lion's den, so to speak.

On September 12, just five days after the NYT ad appeared, Kennedy addressed a group of 300 conservative Protestant evangelicals in Houston, Texas. He told them plainly and simply: "I believe in an America where there is an absolute separation between church and state." And then he asked them if they had any questions. And he had the whole damned thing televised. Live.

In the biography, JFK: An Unfinished Life, Robert Dallek describes the atmosphere surrounding the famous speech that Kennedy gave to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12, 1960 as follows:
Religion remained an obstacle. On September 7 [1960], the New York Times carried a front-page article about the ironically named National Conference of Citizens for Religious Freedom, an organization of 150 Protestant ministers led by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale; they said that the Roman Catholic Church, with its dual role as both a church and a temporal state, make Kennedy's faith a legitimate issue in the campaign. Like Kruschev, one member declared, Kennedy was 'a captive of a system.' Although the clergymen were all conservative Republicans eager for Nixon's election (and were guilty of transparent hypocrisy in doing what they said Kennedy's church would do -- interfere in secular politics), their political machinations did not cancel out the effects of their warnings.

Estimates suggested that unless this propaganda was countered and the anti-Catholic bias overcome, Kennedy's religion might cost him as many as 1.5 million votes. The Kennedy campaign quickly organized a Community Relations division to meet the religious problem head-on. James Wine, a staff member at the National Council of Churches, headed the operation. Wine was as busy as any member of Jack's campaign team, answering between six hundred and a thousand letters a week and using lay and clerical Protestants to combat the explicit and implicit anti-Catholicism in so much of the anti-Kennedy rhetoric.

A highly effective and much publicized appearance made before a group of Protestant ministers in Houston, Texas, on September 12 helped. Bobby, Jack's campaign staff, Johnson, and Rayburn all advised against the appearance. 'They're mostly Republicans and they're out to get you,' Rayburn told Kennedy. But Kennedy believed he had to confront the issue sometime, and he wanted to do it early in the campaign so that he could move on to more constructive matters. 'I'm getting tired of people who think I want to replace the gold at Fort Knox with a supply of holy water.' he told O'Donnell and Powers. In fact, his knowledge of Church doctrine and ties to the Church were so limited that he brought in John Cogley, a Catholic scholar, to coach him in preparation for the appearance.

Although he saw his speech and response to audience questions, which were to follow his remarks, as a crucial moment in the campaign, Kennedy went before the audience of three hundred in Houston's Rice Hotel Crystal ballroom (and the millions of television viewers across the country) with no hesitation or obvious sign of nervousness. The sincerity of what he had to say armed him against his adversaries and conveyed a degree of inner surety that converted a few opponents and persuaded some undecided voters that he had the maturity and balance to become a fine president.
[pp. 282-283]
This was not the first time that Kennedy had tackled the issue. Here is how Dallek describes the way Kennedy responded to reporters who asked about his religion when he first announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination on January 2, 1960:
As for the likely debate to erupt over his religion, he also gave an unqualified response. He acknowledged that it would be a matter of substantial discussion. But he saw only one concern for voters: 'Does a candidate believe in the Constitution, does he believe in the First Amendment, does he believe in the separation of church and state.' Having said that, he dismissed the issue as one that had been settled 160 years ago and concluded that he saw 'no value in discussing a matter which is that ancient, when there are so many issues in 1960 which are going to be important.'
[p. 244]
The bigots who were attacking Kennedy for being Catholic were nothing other than the 1960 forerunners of today's Tea Party movement and their ilk. Kennedy succeeded in publicly shaming these bigots in a way that I doubt any 21st century American politician would be capable of pulling off today.

JFK is long gone, but the same religious bigots are still with us, even if they have changed their stripes very slightly. Today the evangelical theocrats have a bigger tent, and they now include Catholics and, perhaps, even Mormons. But these are the same people (sometimes quite literally) who opposed having a Catholic president while claiming to support "religious freedom" and who opposed Civil Rights in the name of "individual liberty".

Kennedy's speech is brilliant, and its brilliance will echo through history. I guess Santorum can take some comfort in the fact that there is no one like Jack Kennedy in modern American politics.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Hamza Kashgari: a roundup of some recent news and views

  • "We are all Hamza Kashgari"
article in the just released 48th issue of Wasla, the journal of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information. Here is a link to the journal, but it is mostly in Arabic (including the article on Kashgari). And here is a link to an English language description of this issue's contents.

by Cabalamuse, a Morrocan blogger, who notes: "Ironically, it hasn’t been two years since Prince Saud al-Faisal said to an American journalist that Saudi Arabia is 'breaking away from the shackles of the past.'"

by Jonathan Manthorpe writing for the Vancouver Sun. The article critiques Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's human rights record, with special attention to the extradition of Hamza Kashgari back to Saudi Arabia.

by Kurdish journalist Nazik Zada, who writes "Sometimes I wonder what century the leaders of Saudi Arabia think they live in. In the age of globalization, Internet and social media, they should know that every abuse would be recorded, every lash will be written about, and every Saudi woman deprived of a vote will be supported by millions of other women around the world.

An interview in Lebanon Now with Sultan al-Qassemi, who is a columnist, blogger and Emirati royal family member.

And finally here is a video from a protest at the Saudi embassy in Ottowa, Canada. The protest took place yesterday, Sunday, February 26, 2012, and was sponsored by Muslims for Progressive Values, Canada:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hamza Kashgari Case Not Going Away

Although the western mainstream media is doing its best to downplay or even completely ignore the case of the imprisoned 23 year old Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari, the world-wide campaign on his behalf is gathering momentum and shows no sign of losing steam.

The London based human rights group Article 19 has released a statement and put together a helpful timeline of events:
Saudi Arabia and Malaysia violate rights of Saudi tweeter

The group Anonymous may or may not be behind the flooding of the Chicago Tribune's Facebook page with messages in support of Hamza Kashgari (link). And Anonymous also may or may not be behind this youtube video in support of Kashgari.

Gulf News has reported another twitter related religious controversy in Saudi Arabia: a Saudi national named Hamoud Saleh Al Amri, who lives in Mecca, has reportedly posted tweets about his conversion to Christianity, leading to calls for his arrest, trial and execution:
Another Saudi wades into controversy for insulting tweets

This appears to be the same Hamoud Saleh Al Amri who has been arrested previously for similar reasons in 2004, 2008, and 2009, according to a 2009 story from the fundamentalist Christian missionary group Compass Direct:
Authorities Release Christian Blogger

I am not a big fan of Richard Cohen, but his column two days ago in the Washington Post on Hamza Kashgari is getting a lot of attention, and that is a good thing:
The plight of Hamza Kashgari

And there continues to be outrage in Malaysia in response to the dastardly (that's right: dastardly) role of the Malaysian government in delivering Kashgari over to the Saudis, including ongoing legal efforts to expose the literally criminal behavior of the Malaysian officials involved in violation of international law and the Malaysian Constitution:
Kashgari's habeas corpus application struck out (New Straights Times, Singapore)

Meanwhile, Islamic scholar Dr. Wael Shihab (writing for OnIslam.Net) is trying to have it both ways in his little essay Tweets on the Prophet: Islamic Thoughts. On the one hand, Dr. Shihab comes out against any punishment for Kashgari, saying that "misunderstanding isn't apostasy". But the clear implication is that actual apostasy should still be treated as criminal activity! Also, Dr. Shihab insists that Twitter, Facebook, etc, need to adopt a "Code of Ethics" that will protect only "responsible freedom of expression", while systematically censoring anything "attacking people’s beliefs, honor, or values"!

Lastly, the Middle East Media Research Institute ran a piece yesterday that is notable for documenting a broad spectrum of responses to Kashgari's case both inside Saudi Arabia itself and elsewhere in the Arab world:
Controversy in Saudi Arabia Over Journalist's Tweets about the Prophet Muhammad

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Al Jazeera's "The Stream" on Hamza Kashgari

Al Jazeera's "The Stream" has a good collection of up-to-date information related to the Hamza Kashgari case:

A significant highlight of what you'll find there includes an English language translation of the full text of a long poem written by Kashgari last year titled "Out of Time: A dialogue with the Prophet". The three tweets posted by Kashgari that resulted in the accusations against him were excerpts from this longer poem.

They also have a video of a senior Saudi cleric calling for Kashgari's execution, and another video from 2009 of another Saudi cleric explaining why Islam is incompatible with freedom of thought and expression.

Al Jazeera has also found what they claim to be the "only known legal precedent" for Kashgari's case: a Saudi who was imprisoned for almost 20 years for the crime of "jokingly insulting" Muhammad. Ironically, this man, Hadi Al Mutif, was only released from prison earlier this year!

Al Jazeera has also collected snapshots of an Arabic language Facebook group calling for Kashgari's execution, news about protests in support of Kashgari around the world, and more. Check it out.

It is worth noting that Al Jazeera has actually done a better job of reporting on this case than the western mainstream media!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A prayer to Julian

"Oh mighty Julian, great in wisdom and rich in understanding,
I salute you as the seeker of truth that you are.
It was the evil-minded ones who made your name apostate in their ignorance,
and upon them does their own evil return in full at this time.

"Hear me, great Julian, man of knowledge that you are,
summon the men and women of reason to come forth at this time
and bring truth to the world again.
Inspire your fellow truthseekers throughout the world
to arise and bring light and freedom to all.

"Oh noble and lordly Julian, wisest of the Emperors of Rome,
as your most loyal and admiring comrade,
I ask that you help us in our quest for truth and knowledge.
Help me to do my part to bring about
the return of the light in this dawning new age,
and lead me to wisdom.
Inspire now the great awakening among all mankind.
So be it!"

by Linda Seekins

[Linda recently shared this prayer on the Julian Society discussion group:]

"Muslims must speak up against the Kashgari scandal": Hussein Ibish

Hussein Ibish is well known in progressive circles as a peace activist, an outspoken advocate for the Palestinian cause, and for his many years of work combatting discrimination and stereotyping against Arab-Americans. He is a very popular speaker and has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard (here is a clip of him on the Colbert Report where he "helps Stephen determine whether or not Obama is a secret Muslim").

Ibish identifies himself as both an agnostic and a Muslim. He was a founding member (in 2004) of the Progressive Muslim Union, from which he later resigned (the group is now defunct). He was the Communications Director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) from 1998–2004, and he is currently a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine and Executive Director of the Hala Salaam Maksoud Foundation for Arab-American Leadership.

Ibish is arguably the most prominent member of the Muslim community in the West so far to speak out clearly and forcefully in defense of Hamza Kashgari.

The following statement was published today by Ibish at the Now Lebanon website (link) and also on his blog (link):

It’s hard to know where to begin in cataloging the outrages associated with the arrest of Hamza Kashgari. The 23-year-old Saudi columnist was recently detained on trumped-up “blasphemy” charges, for which he potentially faces execution.

First, Saudi extremists took umbrage at some tweets in which he expressed admiration, disapproval and bewilderment at various aspects of the Prophet Mohammed’s legendary life. This outrage was orchestrated by clerics as part of a campaign to increase their power.

Second, the Saudi state reacted by appeasing the fanatics and ordering Kashgari’s arrest for “blasphemy.” In effect, they confirmed the ability of extremists to dictate the agenda of, if not bully, the government on religious matters.

Third, Kashgari had already left the country to evade persecution, but was apprehended by Malaysian authorities in Kuala Lumpur, possibly with the assistance of Interpol, and returned to Saudi Arabia. So at least one foreign government and possibly a multilateral policing agency have connived in this travesty.

Fourth, the Saudi government says it may seek the death penalty for Kashgari. There can be no freedom of conscience or religion where blasphemy is a crime, but the Saudi state has never respected or acknowledged either of those principles. Yet Kashgari hasn’t committed blasphemy. All he did was express complex religious feelings. And it is shocking that a government would consider executing, or even prosecuting, anyone for either of these “crimes.”

Fifth, while there have been some limited efforts to protest this scandalous injustice and intercede on behalf of Kashgari’s life and liberty, they have thus far been insufficient. Muslim states, governments and individuals have an especial, and urgent, responsibility to categorically oppose this outrage.

Muslims, including Saudi officials and citizens, are properly vociferous in denouncing Islamophobic misrepresentations of Islam as an inherently violent and intolerant religion. Doctrinally and historically, it is clearly not. However, the reputation of Muslims and Islam is also, and far too often, called into severe disrepute by the conduct of some important Muslim-majority states claiming to act in the name or defense of Islam.

The persecution of Kashgari, not by cynical Saudi clerics weeping hysterically on YouTube, but by the state itself, is another disturbing reflection of this phenomenon. One cannot claim to be tolerant or opposed to violence while considering beheading someone for expressing mild religious doubts about a figure who, in his own lifetime, reportedly insisted on his own status as a fallible human being.

The government of Saudi Arabia doesn’t represent the norm or authority for the Muslims of the world. But it is a large and influential Muslim state and is claiming to act on behalf of Islam in this ugly affair.

Silence implies consent. If Muslims don’t want their religion to be misrepresented by such actions, they must openly and loudly repudiate them. And, if there is any virtue or truth in religion, it hardly needs enforcement on pain of death.

The good news is that because he is a relatively prominent Saudi citizen, and the case has become a minor international cause célèbre, Kashgari is unlikely to be executed. The pattern in such cases suggests that if he shows “repentance” or there is an international outcry, or both, Kashgari’s sentence may initially be harsh but will almost certainly be commuted.

The most likely outcome is that Kashgari will end up sometime in the next few years permanently relocated to another country. Kashgari is lucky that he’s not from a remote village or irrelevant family or, worse, a migrant worker. In that case he might really need to start contemplating bearing his neck to the sword.

This scandal is indicative of a broader growth of intolerance in Saudi social and religious rhetoric of late, which also comes in the context of Shia unrest in the Eastern Governorate of Qatif. Extremist clerics have been upping the ante at every stage over the past few months, and clearly believe that they have just won an important victory. They are now demanding the cancellation of cultural and book festivals. At public events, their thuggish, unauthorized and un-uniformed street forces, known as the “Mohtasbeen,” have been reportedly trying to upstage the official religious orthodoxy beadles, the “Muttaween.”

While non-Muslims cannot honestly claim that Saudi Arabia represents Islam, Muslims cannot dismiss the kingdom as irrelevant either. Saudi Arabia’s religious and cultural influence, byproducts of its wealth and custodianship of the two most holy Muslim sites, is undeniable. The extremist shift in Saudi social and religious attitudes therefore has troubling implications.

Nobody can force the Saudi state to behave in a reasonable manner if it doesn’t want to. But all other Muslims can and should make it clear that they strongly disapprove of the persecution of Hamza Kashgari and the mentality that lies behind such actions.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"It is not by teaching but by nature that humanity possesses its knowledge of the Divine."

"The traditions of our ancestors, and those which we possess coeval with time itself, no arguments can overthrow, not even if wisdom has been attained by consummate intellect."
[Euripides, Bakkhai, lines 201-203, ca. 400 BC]

"There are Gods, for the knowledge of them is self-evident."
[Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus, ca. 270 BC]

"The historians of the various nations have given us their accounts -- accounts, it goes without saying, that offer us a very one-sided version of their national religions, and a biased view of the religions of surrounding peoples. The prophets of the Jews and their great hero, Moses, wrote the history of their people in a way designed to favor their beliefs. The Egyptian view of the Jews, not surprisingly, is quite different. Yet behind these views, these national prejudices, is an ancient logos that has existed from the beginning -- a logos, so it is said, maintained by the wisest men of all nations and cities. This logos has been held not only by the sages among the Jews, but by the wise men of the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Indians, Persians, Odrysians, Samothracians, and Eleusians. The Galactophagi of Homer, the Druids of Gaul, and even the Getae (for example) believe logoi very close to those believed by the Jews -- indeed, before the Jews. Linus, Musaeus, Orpheus, Pherecydes, Zoroaster the Persian, and Pythagoras understood these logoi, and their opinions were recorded in books which are still to be consulted."
[Celsus, Alethes Logos, Hoffman translation/reconstruction, p. 55, ca. 150 AD]

"The Christians ignore the good offices of the Dioscori, of Herakles, Asclepios and of Dionysus, and say that these are not Gods because they were humans in the first place. Yet they profess belief in a phantom god who appeared only to members of his little club, and then, so it seems, merely as a kind of ghost."
[Alethes Logos, p. 71, ca. 150 AD]

"An innate knowledge of the Gods is coexistent with our very essense; and this knowledge is superior to all judgment and deliberate choice, and subsists prior to reason and demonstration. It is also counited from the beginning with its proper cause, and is consubsistent with the essential tendency of the soul to The Good. If, indeed, it be requisite to speak the truth, the contact with Divinity is not knowledge. For knowledge is in a certain respect separated [from its object] by otherness. But prior to the knowledge, which as one thing knows another, is the uniform connexion with Divinity, and which is suspended from the Gods, is spontaneous and inspeparable from Them. Hence it is not proper to grant this, as if it might not be granted, nor to admit it as ambiguous (for it is always unically established in energy); nor are we worthy thus to explore it, as if we had sufficient authority to approve or reject it. For we are comprehended in it, or rather we are filled by it, and we possess that very think which we are in knowing the Gods."
[Iamblichus, On the Mysteries (Taylor 2004) p. 23, ca. 315 AD]

"It is not by teaching but by nature that humanity possesses its knowledge of the Divine, as can be shown by the common yearning for the Divine that exists in everyone everywhere -- individuals, communities, nations. Without having it taught us, all of us have come to believe in some sort of Divinity, even though it is difficult for all to know what Divinity truly is and far from easy for those who do know to explain it to the rest."
[Julian, Against the Galileans (Hoffman 2004) p. 93, ca. 360 AD]

"If long passage of time lends validity to religious observances, we ought to keep faith with so many centuries, we ought to follow our forefathers who followed their forefathers and were blessed in so doing.... let me continue to practice my ancient ceremonies, for I do not regret them. Let me live in my own way, for I am free."
[Symmachus, Relatio 3, ca. 390 AD]

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Update on Hamza Kashgari

Here is a very informative update on Hamza Kashgari from the blog "Saudi Jeans", which I just added to my own blogroll (this is a blog by Ahmed Alomran, a Saudi national who currently works for NPR):

Just a quick update on the Hamza Kashgari case since many people have been asking: The young man is now in detention, his family visited him and he is reportedly in high spirits and being treated respectfully. Several sites and petitions have been set up to support him and call for his release.

Prominent human rights lawyer Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem has announced that he will defend Kashgari, arguing that he will push for this case to be handled by a committee in the information ministry instead of a Sharia court.

Meanwhile, several people on the right are claiming that Hamza is a member what they believe is a “sleeping cell” to spread atheism among Saudi youth. Al-Hayat has a thinly sourced story saying public prosecutors are likely to summon people that supported or agreed with Kashgari, which opened the door widely for something like a witch hunt.

People like Mohammed al-Hodaif are accusing Abdullah Hamidaddin of being the cell leader but so far they have failed to provide a strong evidence to support their claims.The two men faced off on TV today where al-Hodaif threatened Hamidaddin, who is currently traveling to the US, to return to the Kingdom for a trial in a Saudi court.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

British Muslim cleric publicly states that apostates should be killed.

The website "Islam in Europe" has just posted the following report (link):
British Muslim cleric Haitham al-Haddad participated in a debate in Amsterdam this past Friday. Asked by a member of the audience who left Islam what the cleric thought of him, al-Haddad told him apostates should be killed in an Islamic country.
It's all on youtube: here is a direct link to the exchange in question (at 39m4s).

An Iranian man who had left Islam asked the cleric, "My question is very simple: what do you think about me?"

The cleric replied: "Apostasy deserves, once the requirements are met, capital punishment in an Islamic state. And I can state this openly, I am not trying to hide it."

Below is a brief description of Haitham al-Haddad from his web page at the Islamic Research Foundation (link), an organization devoted to "the proper presentation, understanding and appreciation of Islam, as well as removing misconceptions about Islam - amongst less aware Muslims and non-Muslims."
Haitham al-Haddad is a London-based Islamic Scholar and a prominent Muslim community leader. He was born and raised in Saudi Arabia and is of Palestinian origin.

Shaykh Haitham sits on the board of advisors for a number of key Islamic organisations in the United Kingdom, including the Islamic Sharia Council. He currently holds the position of chair person and operations advisor for the Muslim Research and Development Foundation– a think tank aiming to find solutions based on the original teaching of Islam, for Muslims living in the west (website:

He has studied for a number of decades and gained proficiency in many Islamic sciences under the tutelage of world-renowned scholars.

Shaykh Haitham holds a B Sc (Honours) in Law and Sharia from Omdurman University in Khartoum, Sudan. He also holds a B Sc in Computer Science from the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Saudi Arabia. He is currently pursuing his P hD in Islamic Law at SOAS in London.

Shaykh Haitham is qualified to deliver religious verdicts with a specialization in Islamic Jurisprudence and its principles, Islamic Law and Islamic Finance. He had edited a number of Islamic books in Arabic and is in the process of completing four more books in English (to be published soon).
Here is the whole debate (over 1 hour and 15 minutes worth):

Friday, February 17, 2012

Muslim Voices In Defense Of Hamza Kashgari

There actually are some voices being raised among Muslims condemning the persecution of Hamza Kashgari. This is certainly worth taking note of, at least for the sake of giving credit where credit is due.

by Tehmina Kazi
As of 6pm (UK time) today, 7,894 people had signed a petition urging the Saudi government to drop all charges of blasphemy against Hamza Kashgari, a columnist for the Jeddah-based daily Al-Bilad. Kashgari, 23, had sparked outrage for detailing an imaginary conversation with the prophet Muhammad on his Twitter account, in which he addressed him as an equal: "I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more."

After generating over 30,000 fevered responses (including a number of death threats), Kashgari deleted the post and issued a formal apology. However, this did not stop the juggernaut. As of 6pm (UK time) today, A Facebook page entitled "The Saudi people want the execution of Hamza Kashgari" had 26,632 members – a figure that sadly dwarfs the number who had signed the petition to save him.

by Myriam Francois-Cerrah, a British Muslim and Oxford PhD student
The case of Hamza Kashgari has entered a new and deeply worrying phase as Malaysian authorities have deported the 23-year-old journalist back to Saudi Arabia, where he currently risks execution. There has been widespread and rightful opprobrium of the Saudi government’s response but few seem to question the official Saudi line that their indignation at alleged blasphemy is behind the call for the death penalty. Specifically, the government claims Hamza’s tweets, in which he appeared to express irreverence for the Prophet, is the source of its vendetta.

by Jalees Rehman
Last week, the Saudi writer and blogger Hamza Kashgari tweeted about Prophet Muhammad and his tweets caused an unanticipated fire-storm of outrage among many Saudis. They formed an "electronic lynch mob" and responded with hate-filled tweets, Face-book posts, comments, threats and YouTube videos, calling for the arrest and punishment of Kashgari.

by Shalah Khan Salter, Muslims for Progressive Values (Canada)
When I was 23 years old, I drew a hooded white figure on posters that advertised a special lecture at my university. It was to be delivered by an up and coming leader, starting a new federal political party. I had read the leader had ties to racist groups in Alberta.

I defaced the posters wherever I found them on campus.

If I had been caught, would I have been beheaded?

Such may be the fate of 23-year-old Hamza Kashgari, a Saudi writer who messaged via Twitter an imaginary conversation with the Prophet Muhammad a week ago, around the time of Prophet Muhammad's birthday.

press statement by Malaysian Muslim women's group
Sisters in Islam (SIS) is deeply disappointed that the Malaysian government has deported the Saudi blogger Hamza Kashgari without due process. This deportation was carried out despite the absence of an extradition treaty between the two countries and the probability that Hamza might face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia for alleged blasphemy.

Home Minister Dato Seri Hishammudin Hussein’s statement that we have an agreement with other countries to always return their citizens should they ask for them is therefore questionable. In the absence of an extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia, under what legal provision did Hishammudin act in deporting Hamza Kashgari?

statement by the Center for Policy Initiatives, Malaysia
The BBC, reporting on Hamza Kashgari’s deportation from Kuala Lumpur back to his native Saudi Arabia, said the charge hanging over the young man’s head of insulting the Prophet Muhammad is considered blasphemous in Islam and punishable by death.

Kashgari, 23, fled his country was detained upon his arrival here on Thursday en route to New Zealand where he was planning to seek political asylum. A journalist, Kashgari was recently sacked by Saudi daily al-Bilad where he had a column.

Three allegedly blasphemous tweets were made about Muhammad on the prophet’s birthday (Maulidur Rasul) last week and sparked vociferous calls for the death penalty to be imposed on him.

The climate of fear and caution has been such that – even merely for the purpose of reference – it’s difficult to find Kashgari’s tweets reproduced in reputable websites (although some independent blogs have carried them). One website which initially reproduced them has withdrawn the tweets.

by the Islamic Renaissance Front
The Islamic Renaissance Front strongly condemns the deportation of Hamza Kashgari over his allegedly offensive tweets.

Due to the irresponsible and cowardly actions of the Malaysian government in enabling the deportation, Mr Kashragi now faces the possibility of the death penalty in his home country of Saudi Arabia for the simple act of demanding his right to practice the most basic human rights – freedom of expression and thought.

"Why you won’t see Muslims adopting the ‘right’ to insult Prophets"

Hamza Kashgari and the Divide Over Free Speech
Dr. Abdul Wahid, writing for the NewCivilization.Com website

The case of Hamza Kashgari is one that I think most people in the West simply don’t understand.

Even those who are not hostile to Islam find it hard to reconcile European notions of free speech – established after many battles with the religious establishment – with cases like this one, where a Saudi writer and poet has been extradited from Malaysia at the request of the Saudi regime after being accused of insulting the Blessed Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

Kashgari appears to have posted the disparaging and offensive remarks on Twitter in a month when Muslims around the world remember his birth.

Thankfully, it’s been reported that Kashgari has retracted them, removed them from the web and apologized for making them, all of which ought mark the end of the matter.

Yet there has been much focus on the remarks of the Saudi ‘king’ calling for his arrest and that he was even extradited by Malaysia to face a possible death sentence. It’s been said that Abdullah al Saud has simply used this case for political reasons, and the outrage he has expressed is little more than hypocrisy by the regime.

It’s a pretty safe allegation to make, given that hypocrisy in this regime is more abundant than oil and sunlight in the ‘kingdom’ they dominate. Other than the fact that the regime doesn’t govern, run its economy or foreign relations according to the standards of God and His Messenger, it is infamous for its ill treatment of pilgrims who spend their life’s savings to visit the Prophet’s mosque out of heartfelt love. The accusation of playing politics may also be true, since the regime has been very concerned about growing disquiet, both from a younger generation and from its Shia community. It’s argued that by arresting Kashgari, Abdullah ibn Saud can send a strong signal to dissident voices.

Yet, this affair does draw a sharp distinction between Islamic standards and secular liberal standards – and it is important not to gloss over this aspect, for various reasons I will discuss.

Islam is a belief system that has encouraged accounting political authority since its earliest days. Even the Prophet faced questions and scrutiny by the people he ruled over. His closest companions, who succeeded him in political authority as Caliphs, faced (sometimes harsh) questioning by citizens in the state – men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim. The accounting of authority is considered not so much a right but a duty in Islam. The questioning of scholars is a norm – since there is no priesthood in Islam. Moreover, Islam – in its so-called golden age encouraged intellectual inquiry, debate and scrutiny.

So how is it, secular commentators may ask, that an insult to the Prophet can be a capital offence.

Yet it is important for people to know that this response is not some fringe or aberrant opinion. According to any orthodox reading of Islam, in an Islamic state (for the record, the Saudi ‘kingdom’ lacks legitimacy as an Islamic state) someone proven to have insulted the blessed Prophet and who did not retract what they said would indeed be punished by execution.

In his beautiful book about the status of the Prophet of Islam, known as ‘Al Shifa’, (the full title translates as ‘Healing by recognition of the Rights of al-Mustafa), Qadi Ayyad ibn Musa (1083-1149) – an Islamic scholar and judge from Granada in Andalusia, Spain – not only addresses characteristics of the Prophet – but also mentions the verdict on those who disparage him in any way.

One may certainly criticise the cynical false allegations of blasphemy in places like Pakistan that we may have come across. Or we can criticise vigilantism, where emotional people might act as judge and executioner without the legal authority to do so – for the rule of law in Islam is extremely important. Indeed, the Prophet explicitly said “Nobody has the right vested in him to establish anything from the Hudood without the Sultan (authority of the State).” [Baihaqi]

So the magnitude of the sin of any insult to the Prophet is without question; and the prescribed punishment from the judicial authority (if proven and the person did not retract and repent) is well established in Islamic law.

So why discuss it.

Firstly, a frank explanation of Islamic values gives a more honest engagement between Muslims and non-Muslims, which is important at a time when some Muslims may feel uncomfortable about responding to these issues for fear of being labelled ‘extremist’. There is, amongst some Muslim commentators, a desire to speak out positively for the Prophet but a reluctance to discuss capital punishment in liberal societies, fearing a backlash on these issues [which rather illustrates how liberal societies can be as supremacist as they sometimes accuse others of being].

Secondly, for a Muslim hearing the orthodox Islamic view on this issue, it is a sobering reminder of the magnitude of the offence according to Islam. Even if we don’t live in a land where there is an Islamic legal authority to try and punish anyone found guilty of the offence, being reminded of the standard laid down for centuries steers us away from the kind of flippant manner of addressing the Prophet’s of Allah that has become so common in secular Europe. Indeed, the Kashgari case shows how secular values, globalised via satellite and internet, have had an affect on individuals in the Muslim world; all the more likely because states like the Saudi state are intellectually arid from an Islamic perspective and tend to deal with people by discipline and not with stronger arguments, when individuals mimic a western discourse.

Thirdly, secularists love to use such issues to twist or erase any Islamic law or value that contradicts secular liberal norms that dominate the world today. Such attempts have been made before, and will be made again, but should not go unchallenged, and the traditional Islamic standard should be presented – and indeed Islamic values as regards respect for the Prophets should be championed.

If people understood the Islamic framework on the limits of speech (and every society and value system has a limit), they might see that it addresses something that secular Europe has lost; and which some people mourn the loss of.

When Western Europe developed its attitudes to ‘free speech’ in response to the hegemony of the Catholic Church, arguments about theology were seen as a challenge to political authority, so defiance of the papal authority became integral to people speaking their mind; and people fought for a right to question beliefs.

But, what started in this way went far beyond what was first envisaged. Over several decades challenging papal authority shifted to denigration of God and His messengers; and eventually to a situation where to insult others is a badge of pride. Humour is built around it; politicians thrive on it; and yet others will argue that disrespect has grown in society – and antisocial behaviour along with it. People in Europe respect the Prophet Esa [Jesus] as the source of their moral viewpoint and legal system on many issues (even if they don’t think of him as a prophet) – but they don’t think twice about ridiculing, parodying and mocking his name and cannot see how it undervalues that morality and legal system that has underpinned social relationships for centuries.

The Islamic Shari’ah welcomes intellectual inquiry and debate, and political accountability. It allows humour, art and cultural expression. But it draws a red line at the sanctity of God and His messengers – all of them, not just the Prophet Muhammad .

Muslims ought to celebrate that a red line separates the legal and moral standard for society, the Lawgiver and His messengers – from those who execute those legal and morals – the citizens and their rulers.

Dr. Abdul Wahid is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy and Prospect magazine. He can be followed on Twitter @abdulwahidht or emailed at

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thomas Pooley, Hamza Kashgari, and the right to blaspheme

In 1857 Thomas Pooley, a well-digger in the small English village of Duloe, was ordered to appear before the local magistrate after having been formally charged with multiple counts of the crime of blasphemy. The charges against Pooley were based on sworn statements claiming that he had been seen writing blasphemous statements on fences and walls around the village (twitter not having yet been invented). Pooley not only answered the summons voluntarily, but told the magistrate forthrightly that he was of the opinion that "the blackguard Jesus Christ ... was the forerunner of all thievery and whoredom."

Pooley was tried on July 30, 1857, and convicted on four counts of blasphemy for which he was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment. The trial and conviction transformed Pooley from just another village eccentric (who had been listed in the 1851 census as a pauper) into a nationwide cause célèbre. Freethinkers, atheists, secularists, and others mounted a sustained public campaign on Pooley's behalf. Eventually several members of Parliament personally intervened in the case, and Pooley was freed after serving 5 of the 21 months.

The movement to free Pooley was spearheaded by George Holyoake, who also raised funds for Pooley and his family. Holyoake was a Chartist, an Owenite, a Co-operatist, a Malthusian, a Comte-ist, a feminist, a socialist, an atheist, and an all-around trouble-maker and egalitarian rabble-rouser. He is credited with being the first to popularize the use of the term "secularism" in it's modern anti-religious sense (this attribution is vouched for by both the Catholics and the atheists). For more on Pooley's case look at this old post of mine: Blasphemy, and also at this paper by Iain Rowe: The Case of Thomas Pooley: A Reinvestigation.

Can anyone point to anything faintly resembling the vigorous "free-thought" movements that thrived in the West over 150 years ago (or, for that matter, to the Enlightenment which was already in its heyday 250 years ago)? With the life of Hamza Kashgari now in the balance, where are the voices of outrage from "moderates" and "reformers" in the Muslim world? And where are the bravely freethinking George Holyoakes of Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, etc.?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the case of Hamza Kashgari presents a golden opportunity to those who claim to be (and are claimed by others to be) "moderate" Muslims: now they have the chance to prove themselves. How easy it would be for them to go on Al Jazeera, CNN, etc, and to simply and clearly articulate their principled opposition to the very idea of criminal prosecution based on the free expression of religious ideas and to call, in no uncertain terms, for the immediate unconditional release of Hamza Kashagari and the dropping of all charges against him! Think of the sensation that this would cause.

But where are the "moderates" when we (and especially Hamza Kashgari!) need them? Where are the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Council of American Islamic Relations ? Where are Daisy Khan and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf? Where is congressman Keith Ellison? Where is everyone's favorite smooth-talking Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan? And where are all the "progressive" Islamophobia-mongers and interfaith-dialogue peddlers?

Let's hear no more about "moderate" Muslims, unless and until we hear from them that they will stand up to the Wahhabists and others who call for the blood of apostates, blasphemers, and infidels. Muslims will never be free until they have the freedom to express their own thoughts about their own religion. Such freedom must go far beyond being allowed to politely disagree when and if that is considered acceptable by the "authorities". Muslims must be free to question, criticize, reject, renounce, and even ridicule every aspect of their own religion. And most importantly of all, genuine religious freedom for Muslims must include the right to leave Islam and then to embrace some other religion, or no religion at all. Until such freedom exists in the Muslim world, Muslims will continue to lag centuries behind even the hide-bound puritanical society of mid-nineteenth-century Victorian England (a time and place when women had fewer rights than they do today in the Islamic Republic of Iran)! And until that time Muslims who live in the West will continue to enjoy far greater freedom to practice their own religion, as they themselves freely choose to do so (and only if they choose to do so!), than any Muslim who lives in a Muslim-majority country, no matter how "moderate" or "modern" that country might claim to be.

more blasphemy at
e g r e g o r e s:


UPDATED: Supporters of Hamza Kashgari "should be tried for apostasy"

Call to try those who supported Saudi blogger
By Habib Toumi, GulfNews Bureau Chief, 00:00 February 14, 2012

[This GulfNews article directly below by Habib Toumi gives a much more detailed account than the one in the Asia News International article I originally had for this post. Scroll down for the ANI article.]

People who encouraged a controversial Saudi columnist facing charges of blasphemy could be summoned by the public prosecutor, a report has said.

"The public prosecutor in Jeddah is filing a lawsuit against Hamza Kashgari on charges of disrespecting God and insulting Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in his Twitter account," sources told Al Hayat daily.

The sources said that public prosecutor in the Red Sea city of Jeddah was likely to summon people who expressed support or agreed with him on the social network, the daily reported yesterday.

"The public prosecutor, as the attorney for the society, has the right to summon anyone who encouraged the defendant or who is connected to matters that motivated his action," Abdul Aziz Al Zamel, a legal consultant, said, quoted by Al Hayat.

The prosecutor is based in Jeddah, the city where Hamza Kashgari posted his tweets on Prophet Mohammad's (PBUH) birth anniversary before fleeing to Malaysia, the sources said.

According to Saudi daily Arab News, "a number of Saudis have called for the trial of all those who tweeted support for Kashgari, saying they were equally guilty."

"Those who supported the contents of Kashgari's tweets are considered criminal exactly like him," Khalid Abu Rashid, a lawyer and a legal consultant, was quoted as saying. The sentence to be passed on Kashgari should be imposed on his supporters too, he said.

The lawyer, however, said it was important to use the written texts to differentiate between two things in this case.

"If the support was for general principles like freedom of expression, then this is a different matter, but if the support was for the attacks on Allah and His Prophet (PBUH), then the supporters should be tried for apostasy," he said in the report quoting Al Eqtisadiah newspaper.

The Arabic daily said that individual and collective calls were made to the Prosecution and Investigations Commission to try Kashgari and all the bloggers who supported him in his blasphemy.

The 23-year-old columnist was deported on Sunday by the Malaysian authorities who arrested him at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

On Sunday, a Malaysian daily reported that Kashgari was deported back home hours before his lawyers managed to get a High Court injunction to stop the deportation.

The lawyers, led by R. Kesavan, said that they obtained the injunction at 1:30pm on Sunday, but were told that Kashgari has been put on a plane at 10am.

The injunction was an order to the police, the Home Ministry, as well as the Subang and Kuala Lumpur International Airport immigration authorities to stop Kashgari's deportation, the daily said.

However, Home Minister Hesham Al Deen Hussain yesterday denied the claim, saying that no court order was issued to prevent his repatriation.

"There was no injunction. No court order was given to prevent us from returning him to Saudi," the minister told reporters. "If there was a court order, we would abide by it, but there wasn't, so don't make up stories. We have never failed to obey the justice system," he said, quoted by The Malaysian Insider.

The columnist is a Saudi Arabian national wanted by his home country to be tried in the justice system for his offence, the minister said.

"I will not compromise. Do not look at Malaysia as a safe transit... Do not think you can come in and out of Malaysia. He is a foreign national, he is wanted by his own country of origin," he said.

Hussain said allegations made by several parties that the columnist would be killed if he was deported were "illogical."

"Allegations that he would be executed, abused, do not make sense. The country being accused is a dignified country. These are serious allegations against Saudi Arabia," Hussain said, quoted by the daily. The home minister said that there were no requests made by Interpol for Kashgari to be returned to his country of origin.

Deportation decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and not all those apprehended are sent back, Hussain said.


Supporters of Saudi columnist accused of blasphemy, abusing Prophet, may face court summons

Riyadh, Feb 14 (Asian News International): People who have supported a young Saudi Arabia columnist, who was accused of blasphemy and for abusing Prophet Mohammed, could be summoned by the public prosecutor.

"The public prosecutor in Jeddah is filing a lawsuit against Hamza Kashgari on charges of disrespecting God and insulting Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in his Twitter account," sources told Al Hayat daily.

Sources revealed that public prosecutor in Jeddah was likely to summon people who expressed support or agreed with him on the social network.

According to Saudi daily Arab News, 'a number of Saudis have called for the trial of all those who tweeted support for Kashgari, saying they were equally guilty.'

"Those who supported the contents of Kashgari's tweets are considered criminal exactly like him," Gulf News quoted Khaled Abu Rashid, a lawyer and a legal consultant, as saying.

The lawyer, however, said it was important to use the written texts to differentiate between two things in this case.

"If the support was for general principles like freedom of expression, then this is a different matter, but if the support was for the attacks on Allah and His Prophet, then the supporters should be tried for apostasy," he added.

Meanwhile, the 23-year-old columnist was recently deported by the Malaysian authorities, despite fears that he may face execution Saudi Arabia. (ANI)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hamza Kashgari forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia by "moderate" Malaysia

Multiple media sources (see links below) are reporting that Hamza Kashgari has been extradited from Malaysia back to Saudi Arabia.

On Saturday, February 4th, Kashgari posted three tweets that were officially ruled to constitute "blasphemy" and the order for his arrest came from both the highest Islamic authorities in Saudi Arabia and from the King himself. Kashagari fled for his life and had hoped to receive asylum in New Zealand, but he was arrested when at Kuala Lumpur airport, where he was to make a connecting flight to New Zealand. As soon as they had Kashgari in custody, Malaysian authorities contacted the Saudi government and began the extradition process.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

"We cannot separate Islam from the government in Malaysia." (On Malaysia and the Myth of Moderate Islam)

This post contains a short list of links to articles that present the case for Malaysia as an example of moderate Islam. The last article linked to, based on a speech given by the Prime Minister of Malaysia while visiting Turkey in February of 2011, is also repeated here in full.

I am not linking to rabid right-wing denunciations of Islam. I am linking to things written by those who sincerely believe that there is a good Islam and a bad Islam, and that Malaysia represents a very positive example of good Islam.

The first article was written by Nazry Bahrawi, a Research Associate at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore, who, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, cautions against too much of a good thing when it comes to moderate Islam.

The second article is by Jiesheng Li, a doctoral candidate at the Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham, who argues that in the wake of 9/11 "Malaysia’s actions were to change the international perception of Muslims worldwide and indirectly help to steer Muslims away from joining extremists or terrorist groups."

The third article is written by and Evangelical Christian who states with enthusiasm that " While Democracy and Islam do not usually go hand in hand, in Malaysia they co-exist with a surprising degree of harmony."

The final article is based, as already mentioned, on a speech given by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, from which the quote in the title of this post is taken.

The immediate inspiration for this post is the arrest in Malaysia this week of a young Saudi journalist, Hamza Kashgari, fleeing for his life, after he was officially declared, by the King of Saudi Arabia himself, to be an "infidel", for which only one penalty exists in Saudi Arabia: death. The "moderate" Malaysian police were waiting for Kashgari when he landed in Kuala Lumpur airport, where he had hoped to make a connecting flight to New Zealand. And the "moderate" Malaysian police immediately contacted the Saudi Arabian government and began making arrangements to turn Kashgari over to those who wish to put him to death for his blasphemies.

  1. Moderate Islam in Southeast Asia and Egypt, Oct. 28, 2011
  2. Moderate Islam as a base with pragmatism, Jan., 2008
  3. On Malaysia’s Moderate Muslims and why you should care The Evangelical Outpost, Oct. 14, 2010
  4. "Moderate Islam is what Malaysia offers the world." (Bangkok based news site) Feb., 2008 [The full test of this article is given directly below.]

ISTANBUL, Feb 25 [2011] (Bernama) - Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia has proven that its system of governance, based on moderate Islam, has worked and can be a good model for other countries in the world to emulate, especially Islamic countries.

He said in view of what was taking place in the world today, it was important to ensure that the system of administration adopted was working.

The key consideration, he said, was that "if you have a system, would it work to produce good and effective governance?" Najib said this as a panellist at the Global Movement for Justice, Peace and Dignity Conference, here, Wednesday.

The session was recorded by BBC World News to be aired by the channel at a later date. It was moderated by BBC journalist Zeinab Badawi.

The other panellists included Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, Paramadina University of Indonesia president Dr Anies Baswedan and Arab Business Council co-founder/vice-chairman Khalid Abdulla-Janahi.

Najib said a good and effective governance could deliver the goods and services to the people.

"A good system allows the people to participate in the system, it empowers the people to decide their own destiny.

"In case of Malaysia, it is very much like Turkey. Without having to blow our own trumpet, we have a modern system, much like Turkey.

"Therefore, we can offer the Malaysian model because it has worked. From a relatively poor nation whose economy was based on agriculture, we have moved to industrialising the economy.

"Now, we have planned initiatives for the next phase. We have a very detailed roadmap of transformation. The next wave of transformation is to become a high-income nation," said Najib.

He said the success of a system was not just about numbers but also about whether it could improve the quality of life, and about good values, ensuring fairness, rule of law, being inclusive, having social safety net and caring for the poor.

"These are the things that we have put in place in Malaysia. So, in this regard, I believe we have something to offer to the world." Nevertheless, he said, every nation would have to look at its needs based on its own peculiarities and had to make adjustments to the values, to empower the people to a more prosperous and better future.

When asked by Zeinab Badawi whether the Malaysian model was a better model for an Islamic country than the Turkish, Najib's response which drew laughter from the audience was, "I have to be careful on this as I am in Turkey." The Malaysian prime minister said it was an important thing for Malaysia to choose its own destiny.

"And the way we have developed our political structure is that Islam plays an integral part in the country's policies and administration.

"We cannot separate Islam from the government in Malaysia. But having said that, it is also Islam that is moderate that we apply in Malaysia. For example, Islam in Malaysia is not associated with violence, Islam in Malaysia is benign and that is being practised by and large," he added.

The conference was jointly organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia and International Movement For A Just World (JUST) in conjunction with Najib's three-day official visit to Turkey from Feb 21-23. (Bernama)