You want to be happy, educated and true to the spirit of Islam? Well, good fortune smiles on you: there is no lack of great thinkers eager to walk you through to your destination. The issue of knowledge and education has preoccupied Muslims right from the inception of Islam.
Power is endlessly fascinating. Power is perennially enigmatic. The more complex society becomes the harder it is to define exactly where power resides. How do things happen? Why do things happen the way they do?
The Brotherhood’s current narrative about themselves as God’s elect, living apart from the ‘Egyptian society’, contrasts and overlaps with other modern Islamist narratives.
If you subscribe to the ‘Foreign Policy’ list, and think that Malala Yousafzai and Aung San Suu Kyi (who is happy to turn a blind eye towards the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar) are ‘global thinkers’, then you are clearly not living on the freethinking planet.
In the pre-revolution days, Syrians were ever ready to list ten of their favourite picnic spots, ten of their much-loved restaurants, or even ten of the sects participating in the imaginary happy mosaic. Today, lists of traumatisation leap to the mind: the ten largest refugee camps, or ten major massacres, or perhaps ten of the numerous new militias.
We are at the very beginning of what could be the most serious environmental crisis since the last great Mass Extinction. For the uninitiated, a Mass Extinction is when a significant number of plant and animal species become extinct in a short space of geological time.
I’ll be the first to confess that I’m as guilty of this as anyone. Despite longstanding commitments to theoretical and methodological precepts which tell me I will surely go blind, or at the very least veer into dangerous forms of reductionism if I do it too often, I can’t stop thinking about sects.
There is One God, One Prophet and, allegedly, one international Muslim community – the ummah. There are five daily prayers and five pillars of Islam (profession of faith, zakat, prayer, fasting during Ramadan, and pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj, at least once in a lifetime). There are six, for Sunnis, Articles of Faith (belief in One God; the angels of God; the books of God; the prophets of God; the Day of Judgment ; and the supremacy of God’s will), seven circuits around the Kaaba (when you actually get to Mecca) and seven verses in the Fatiha, ‘the Opening’ chapter of the Qur’an, which has 114 Surahs or chapters. The Prophet had twelve wives; and the Shia have twelve Imams.
It’s soothing to believe that a popular uprising ejected an incompetent Islamist president. It’s not comforting to point out that a popular uprising was on the cusp of doing so, until the generals stepped in, aborted a vital political process, arrested the president, and proclaimed their own ‘roadmap’ for how things will be from now on.
The sign at the entrance to St George Street is unexpected. In a culture given over to the automobile, where atomised individuals in their private, insulated space, drive up to cash dispensers, fast food counters, and to the heart and top of perpendicular offices and dwellings, a sign discouraging the car is unique. But then St Augustine, Florida, itself is quite a unique town.