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THE GREATEST MISCONCEPTION OF ISLAM

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

…..continued

Muslims are violent, terrorists and/or extremists.Islam encourages terrorism

In this second decade of the 21st century that is probably the biggest myth and misconception about Islam headlined by the events of recent years and without doubt giving rise to Islamophobia by the constant stereotyping and bashing in the media.

Unfortunately, every day we hear the words 'Islamic, Muslim fundamentalist, ISIS etc.' linked with violence. There is so much killing, murder and mayhem in this world: Yet when Muslim civilians are killed when their mosques are targeted and blown up, when missile and drone attacks take place killing them these acts are never attributed to the religion of the perpetrators.  

We hear the words ‘Allah u Akbar’ used by these perpetrators.It literally means ‘God is greater’ or ‘God is the greatest.’ Throughout their day and especially in prayer, Muslims use this term to remind themselves that Allah is greater than the beauty and ugliness of this world.  

Islam literally means 'submission to God' and is derived from a root word meaning 'peace'. Islam is misunderstood in the world of today. Perhaps this is because religion doesn't dominate everyday life of people’s lives in the West, whereas in Islam it is considered a 'way of life' for Muslims and they make no division between secular and sacred in their daily lives. Therefore their lives must be lived as directed in the Quran. 

When it seems that the world has gone mad with the killing of innocents it must be reiterated that the religion of Islam places great value on the sanctity of life, and even sets out very specific rules for war. The latest atrocity being the killing of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, who were mercilessly mowed down by a truck driven by a French / Tunisian.

The people who commit these dastardly acts have their own agenda and they do not represent Islam, they may refer to themselves as an Islamist group but their manner, conduct and actions of this are totally out of sync and contrary to the Quran and teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which constitute the basis of Islamic belief, law and jurisprudence.

The Quran is very specific about killing: "…that if anyone killed a person unless it be for murder, or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind…"  (Quran 5:32)

Nowhere does Islam permit the killing in fact Islam completely forbids the killing of innocents. Like Christianity, Islam permits fighting in self-defence, in defence of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes.  It lays down strict rules of combat, war and self-defence therefore, is the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law. 

The Qur'an says: ‘Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors’. (Qur'an 2:190). ‘If they seek peace, then seek you peace.  And trust in God for He is the One that hears and knows all things.’ (Qur'an 8:61).

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) prohibited and banned the targeting of non-combatants (the old, the women and children, Priests and other religious leaders etc.) and other non-combatants including people sitting in places of worship. Also during conflict, one cannot destroy property (including places of worship like Churches, Temples or Synagogues), or kill livestock, destroy trees or vegetation.

He went further to say: ‘Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees.  Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not steal from the booty. It is not permissible to kill a person who is not hostile. Spread goodness and do good, for God loves those who do good.’ Hence, Muslims are forbidden to carry out any unjustifiable acts of aggression.

Another misconception is that Jihad means Holy war.

The Arabic word for war is not jihad. The term Jihad is the Arabic word that means to struggle, or to strive. Muslims believe that there are two kinds of jihad. The main 'jihad' is the inner struggle of the soul which everyone wages against egotistic desires for the sake of attaining inner peace by living a life that is in congruence to Quranic teachings.  It is also a struggle to build a Muslim community based on social justice and human rights according to Quranic values.

The other meaning is that of a military or armed struggle. The armed struggle can be defensive or offensive.  The defensive jihad is fought when Muslim lands are invaded and the lives of people, their properties and existence are threatened. Muslims may fight back the invading enemy in self-defence. In the offensive jihad those people are fought who suppress the spread of Islam from reaching the people. However there is no compulsion in accepting Islam – it is up to the individual.

The Quran says: ‘Let there be no compulsion in Religion: truth stands out clear from error; whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things’. (Quran2:256) And: ‘unto you your religion, unto me my religion’ (109:6). ‘Allah forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for your faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them; for Allah loves those who are just. (Qur'an 60:8)

There was a recent meeting held in Paris. The following is part of a release issued by UNESCO on its findings on religion issued during the first week of July 2016 should make critics of Islam to step back and think a little more deeply.

The United Nations body released a statement that revealed that UNESCO had partnered with International Peace Foundation six months back to study all religions of the world and find out which was most peaceful amongst all.

“After six months of rigorous study and analysis, we have concluded that Islam is the most peaceful religion,” Robert McGee, head of comparative studies wing of International Peace Foundation declared in a press conference that was attended by UNESCO officials too.

When asked about the terror attacks being carried out in the name of Islam, including the recent ones in Dhaka and Baghdad, the UNESCO official denied that it had anything to do with Islam.

“Terror has no religion,” he said, “Islam means peace.”

To document this official recognition, UNESCO will issue certificates to interested Muslim bodies, which can choose to display them at various places …….. etc. (End Quote)

Religious hatred is not a part of Islam, the Qur'an speaks of human equality and how all peoples are equal in the sight of God.  ‘O mankind! We created you from a single pair, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another.  Truly, the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you in piety.  And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted with all things’ (Qur'an 49: 13)

Whilst cowardly and dastardly attacks are claimed to be in the name of Islam, the bottom line is that how could one claim to be a Muslim when one disobeys and goes against the decrees and commands of Allah as laid out in the Quran?

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DIS Parley Committee selection disingenuous 

25th November 2020

Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.

This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.

The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.

On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members.  The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.

The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.

The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed.  The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.

The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.

If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.

So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.

The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption.  Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.

The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus.  So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS.  They demand a start from a clean slate.

The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.

Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.

Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.

In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.

Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.

The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.

There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.

But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.

There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.

He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.

The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.

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The Maccabean Uprising

25th November 2020
Jewish freedom fighters

 Jews drive away occupying power under the command of guerrilla leader Judas Maccabees but only just

Although it was the Desolation Sacrilege act, General Atiku, that officially sparked the Maccabean revolt, it in truth simply stoked the fires of an already simmering revolution. How so General?

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Atomic (CON)Fusion

25th November 2020

For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way. 

I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However,  the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’.  Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.

No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.

I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century.  Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?

The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.

In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”

The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying  ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.

  • Nothing happens until something moves
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started

and

  • Act or be acted upon

All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD!  This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.

To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts:  *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”

As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide.  What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. ..so they end up driving around in circles’.

As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.

JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated.  Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”

2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.

.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.

Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!

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