Workers’ jihad at Islamic website

“Staff at IslamOnline have gone on strike. But is it about workers’ rights, religious principles or national rivalries?”

Analysis of readers comments on the above Guardian Cif post by Jack Shenker 16 March 2010 – See full post here

Unlike most Cif articles that we analyse this one was not arguing for a particluar view, it was more like a news background report. Yet, Cif readers were again overwhelmingly against.

It is a good example of how badly wrong Cif editorial gets it on anything to do with Islam.

To most readers the significance of IslamOnline was what it stands for rather than any politics going on between the its writers, manages and owners.

Analysis of first 50 comments
Type of comment Votes %
Highly critical of Mr Shenker 2314 85
Neutral/unclassifiable 313 11
Supportive of Mr Shenker 110 4
Total 2737 100

BeeStrikeMan – 265 votes
[Jack Shenker said][“where discussions over homosexuality sit side by side with the latest fatwas on vegetarianism, martyrdom and T-shirts”]

Are you joking?

Some of us actually read Islam Online. We know that it is the website of Qaradawi, who thinks that the Holocaust was a divine punishment, and that it is the voice of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The “discussions about homosexuality” take the form of death fatwas against gays, etc. Here are a few of them:

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503545556

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=Islamonline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503547102

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503543878

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503543082

I mean, seriously. Does the Guardian take us for fools? Why do we have article after article whitewashing some of the most dangerous people in the Middle East, if not the world?

Would you give a white fascist website such positive coverage?

This is just crazy.

duckoftheday – 140
Well I’m consciously drawn to Guardian articles on Islam, mainly because they often wrong, usually partial, and almost always weird.

It’s a strange article on IslamOnline.net that does not mention al Qawadari, a key spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who founded the site.

If you take his views, which are well documented, on sharia family law, jihad, homosexuality and apostasy and project them across the broader canvas of IslamOnline, you would have the politics and jurisprudential position of the site.

With al-Qaradawi at the helm, no organisation can be classed as ‘moderate’ unless the comparison is with the Taliban.

BeeStrikeMan – 157
Oh, and I’d add that Inayat Bunglawala writes for Islam Online as well.

You’ll find that he tends not to say the sort of liberal-sounding things that he says on CiF when he writes on Islam Online.

Funny that!

MoveAnyMountain – 71
…. But for the strikers to try to pass this off as a moderate v. extremist issue is amazingly clever. Given they are the ugly voice of the Muslim Brotherhood.

BeeStrikeMan – 133
Islam Online is not an ordinary religious website.

Most religious websites don’t contain rulings about killing gay people. They might say that homosexuality is a sin. But they don’t say that you should throw gay people off the top of buildings.

I don’t know what is more worrying – that such a website exists and is so popular, or that the Guardian can report on this hate site, while whitewashing the nature of its content.

peterNW1 – 79
I checked a couple of BeeStrikeMan’s links, and IslamOnline’s scholarly advice is indeed vile.

Which is not the impression we get from Jack Shenker …

“So the question of who owns and controls the site is a vitally important one. And that’s the question being wrestled over today, after hundreds of staff walked out in protest over what they say is an attempt by conservatives in the Gulf to hijack the site and force it to pursue a more traditional and hardline agenda.”

This would suggest that IslamOnline had been pursuing a liberal agenda.

Hardly.

BarabbasFreed – 70
Here is an answer re people who leave Islam (“Apostates”)

http://www.islamonline.net/livedialogue/english/Browse.asp?hGuestID=Gz9HCK

“… there are different opinions about dealing with the apostate. Most scholars are of the opinion that he should be informed and asked to recant. If after clarification he insists on his position then he should be executed.

Other scholars are of the opinion that since the Qur?an affirms freedom of religions, apostasy is left to the individual as real accountability will be in the Day of Judgment. Still other scholars, while considering apostasy as an infraction and a potential threat to the stability and integrity of an Islamic state, they do not find decisive and definitive evidence that the apostate should be executed.

At most he may be subject to a discretionary punishment depending on the harm to society caused by his apostasy.”

jackshenker – 36
…. I’ve never defended IslamOnline as some kind of liberal, loving free-for-all – in fact I pointedly linked to a very critical analysis of it by Brian Whitaker to highlight the contentious nature of its claims to be a moderate voice within Islamic circles.

Nor have I ever tried to ‘hide’ the fact that it was founded by al-Qaradawi – that was one of the main points of the news piece that accompanied this Cif article and which mentioned his banning from the US and Britain.

The point of this Cif offering wasn’t to repeat all the info that was already there in the news piece, but rather to give the story some broader context by exploring one interesting aspect of it, namely the way it falls into a wider tussle over the cultural and media landscape of the Arab World.

BeeStrikeMan – 103
…. You write for a liberal newspaper. The most remarkable thing, for a genuine liberal and progressive, about Islam Online is that it contains page after page after page inciting hatred against members of other religions, Muslims who have unorthodox views, and calling for the execution of gays. Not to mention supporting suicide bombings against civilians – which I know doesn’t really count because those civilians include Israelis.

So, your news story is essentially this. Some employees of a website which encourages vicious hatred against minority groups have gone on strike because some even more nasty Salafis have sacked them.

“If all of that equates to me being a closet Yusuf al-Qaradawi acolyte then maybe I should just join the fan club now…”

Well, I don’t know. I don’t think you are.

But isn’t something going really quite seriously wrong at a newspaper, when a journalist reviews a dispute at a website which specifically calls for gays to be killed, again and again, citing the immutable word of God, as mediated through the likes of Qaradawi … and you make reference merely to “discussions over homosexuality”.

This may seem like a story about zaniness in out-of-the-way Egypt to you. Therefore, perhaps, you think that there’s no need to point out the fact that Islam Online encourages its readers to believe that it is their religious duty to establish an Islamic State, in which the fatwas contained on the site become the law of the land.

However, as you point out yourself, this is a website which is read from “Baghdad to Basildon”. Globalisation means that this is a local story for us in the United Kingdom.

BarabbasFreed – 23
Beestrikeman

Actually I tend to agree with JackShenker that Islamonline is relatively more open than a lot of Islamic sites. All that you say is true, and I’ve pointed out its approach to apostacy. But it has a wider range of answers and is more dispassionate than a lot of others. This is a sad indictment of the state of Islamic websites out there. There are flakey and extreme websites of all religions, but that IslamOnline is rated as one of the more open ones shows just where the main range of Islamic websites falls in the extreme scale.

bananachips – 77
jackshenker utter nonsense if this was a BNP web site you would nothing to say , indeed BNP members are bared form writing articles on CIF , while the members of the extreme racist party Hamas are encouraged to. So it would seem when it come to messages of hate CIF does indeed have a twin track approach where all racist are equal vile but some are less equally vile .

Care to explain the difference jackshenker ?

BrianWhit – 19
As Jack Shenker rightly says, I have been very critical of IslamOnline, and I still am. However, it’s important to consider where it stands on the spectrum of Muslim opinion. If you spent a few hours browsing through Saudi Wahhabi websites and then switched to IslamOnline it would probably seem like a breath of fresh air. Similarly, Qaradawi, in some ways, is a lot more “modern” in his views than the Wahhabis.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not praising IslamOnline or Qaradawi, but Muslims could do far worse in their choice of reading.

I have seen no evidence on the site that Qaradawi directly advocates the killing of gay people. He does state that many Islamic scholars think gay people should be killed – which is factually accurate but not quite the same as saying that he personally wants them to be killed. IslamOnline’s usual advice to gay Muslims is that they should repent, pray, read the Qur’an, etc, and hope that God will help them. Muslims who are tempted to masturbate, look at pornography or have straight sex outside marriage are also given similar advice.

Most of what IslamOnline says about homosexuality is actually cribbed from Narth, an American religious-right organisation that believes it can be “cured”.

Rather than “inciting hatred” against other monotheistic religions, IslamOnline tends to make common cause with them (or at least the more conservative elements within them, such as Mormons and the more extreme Catholics) because it views them as potential allies in fighting what it regards as social evils.

AbuYu – 11
As someone who has often made use of IslamonLine content, I think the article is a fair reflection of what I also observe taking place in the struggle for Arab culture.

As for the content of IslamonLine, I feel that most of the previous commentators are trying to impose a Western cultural world view just like everything else. It will will be immensely helpful for them to recognise that there are a few billion people on this planet who might have different views.

Bee StrikeMan. Give it a rest.

BarabbasFreed – 64
AbuYu

So what do you think about how to treat someone who leaves Islam? Should they be executed? Or is opposing this just a “western cultural world view”? If not, what is being done to bring about changes to the dominant understanding that they should be executed.

GarryG – 92
[BrianWhit said][If you spent a few hours browsing through Saudi Wahhabi websites and then switched to IslamOnline it would probably seem like a breath of fresh air.]

So why don’t you spend a few hours on the StormFront website, and then come back and tell us how refreshing the BNP website is?

JimPress – 110
The default setting at The Guardian of defending Islam at all costs is resulting in an ever more bizarre series of twists to hold the team position. When even a thoughtful and decent man like Brian Whittaker finds himself saying things like this – “If you spent a few hours browsing through Saudi Wahhabi websites and then switched to IslamOnline it would probably seem like a breath of fresh air. Similarly, Qaradawi, in some ways, is a lot more “modern” in his views than the Wahhabis” – we’re entering a strange twilight zone of relativity

Brian wouldn’t dream of writing “if you spent a few hours browsing through the C18 website and then switched to the BNP it would probably seem like a breath of fresh air. Similarly, Griffin, in some ways, is a lot more ‘modern’ in his views than the Stormtroopers”. And try replacing “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not praising IslamOnline or Qaradawi, but Muslims could do far worse in their choice of reading” with “don’t get me wrong, I’m not praising the BNP or Griffin, but fascists could do far worse in their choice of reading.”

Unless this perverse defence of a deeply and increasingly unpleasant cult is simply a cynical way of generating hysterical web hits (and, I accept, it might be), then sooner or later the powers that be at The Guardian will have to address the unsustainability of their position.

farfetched – 32
Well done BeeStrikeMan for having the courage to challenge this article. Keep it up!

It puzzles me that the Guardian is so keen to publish piece after piece by apologists for Islam. Are we is the West so afraid of more attacks or being branded racist that we can’t face the facts?

BeeStrikeMan – 29 votes
[Brian Whit said][I have seen no evidence on the site that Qaradawi directly advocates the killing of gay people. He does state that many Islamic scholars think gay people should be killed – which is factually accurate but not quite the same as saying that he personally wants them to be killed.]

Then you’re not understanding what you’re looking at.

Islam Online is a Muslim Brotherhood aligned website. Qaradawi is effectively the Muslim Brotherhood “Sheikh”.

The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to establish a state that establishes religious law as the law of the land, and is guided by clerics (such as Qaradawi). It would be an Iranian style system.

http://www.boston.com/news/world/africa/articles/2007/10/11/egypts_brotherhood_party_details_platform_akin_to_that_of_iran/

Therefore, when Qaradawi describes the religious position, he is also expressing a view on what the law of Egypt should be, were his Muslim Brotherhood to take power.

BrianWhit – 5 votes
BeeStrikeMan:

If you think IslamOnline directly advocates the killing of gay people, then you really ought to provide the link so that everyone can see it.

“Gay executions” (which were not abolished in Britain until 1861) are mainly a preoccupation of western activists. Iran does execute people for sodomy and there are vigilante killings in Iraq – which is bad – but if you talk to gay people in the Middle East that is not usually their biggest concern. What bothers them most is the way they are treated by their families and communities if their sexuality becomes known.

IslamOnline feeds this prejudice by promoting the idea that gay people are either bad (and therefore in need of punishment or repentance) or mad (and in need of a “cure”). From a practical point of view, this is what activists should concentrate on challenging.

BenjaminGeer – 24
Brian, BeeStrikeMan already provided that link:

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503545556

That’s a link to an IslamOnline fatwa where the mufti describes homosexuality as a crime “sufficient to warrant death penalty”.

MiskatonicUniversity – 22
“From a practical point of view, this is what activists should concentrate on challenging”

And what should activists do about a professed liberal paper that speaks approvingly of a website (IslamOnline) that popularises these views, as Jack puts it, from Baghdad to Basildon?

When you say:

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not praising IslamOnline or Qaradawi, but Muslims could do far worse in their choice of reading.”

Really? That is the racism of low expectations. Muslims have been and are capable of much more enlightened views – if you think fatwas on apostasy or Pokemon (a Masonic plot) are improving reading then the really would have lost its way.

Surely the tone of Jack’s article should have been that of condeming much of the content of IslamOnline as vile and hateful and at odds with the natural human desire for equal rights?

The fact that IslamOnline may be brought more closely under the control of the Gulf Arabs may be of minor interest, but given that Qaradawi – an avowed admirer of the Holocaust – is already the site’s leading Islamic scholar, it is difficult to see it becoming very much worse.

BeeStrikeMan – 42
[Brian Whit said][“Gay executions” (which were not abolished in Britain until 1861) are mainly a preoccupation of western activists. Iran does execute people for sodomy and there are vigilante killings in Iraq – which is bad – but if you talk to gay people in the Middle East that is not usually their biggest concern. What bothers them most is the way they are treated by their families and communities if their sexuality becomes known.]

Yes, and the last time that a man was executed in the United Kingdom for “sodomy” was (apparently) 1836.

The point that you’re missing here is that Islam Online is the website of a political movement which (a) wants to enact as the law of Egypt, and the “Muslim world”, the fatwas of clerics and (b) those clerics, whose fatwas it publishes, believe that death is the appropriate penalty for male homosexuality.

So, sure. At the moment, what worries gay people in the Middle East most is that their families and communities shun them.

However, if the Islam Online/Muslim Brotherhood crew took power, then their greater worry would be that they would be executed. This is, after all, what has happened in Iran, where a similar process of enacting religious law has taken place.

I’m not sure why you felt a need to point out that the United Kingdom also executed gay men 200 years ago. I think that it would be very bad if we were to do so again. However, there is NO political movement of consequence in the United Kingdom which is trying to reintroduce the death penalty for homosexuality.

By contrast, there is such a political movement in the Middle East, and Qaradawi and Islam Online play a major role in that politics.

BeeStrikeMan – 39
[AbuYu said][Where the controversy lies is in the differentiation between leaving Islam and ‘high treason’. As you know the latter is punishable by the death penalty in many societies. Leaving Islam as far as I know is not high treason.]

And this is precisely the point. It is fair enough for a religious institution, or members of a religion, to take the position that a person who leaves their religion dooms themselves to damnation, or forfeits the life to come, or even deserves ostracism.

However, if you enact religion as the law of the land, then it is very easy to argue that a public renunciation of religion is in fact a form of high treason. That is, in fact, what a number of prominent Muslim Brotherhood theorists DO say.

It is notable that in Iran, revolting against God is a charge used to support the execution of those who call for full democracy. In other words, calling for political reform is seen as a form of apostasy.

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