Islam In America

King Abdullah has died. Whither Saudi Arabia?

As The New York Times put it: “The king’s death adds yet another element of uncertainty in a region already overwhelmed by crises and as Saudi Arabia is itself in a struggle with Iran for regional dominance.”

Some places to read about the transition:

“King Abdullah, Who Nudged Saudi Arabia Forward, Dies at 90”

“Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Dead”

“Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, a wily king who embraced limited reform, dies”

“King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia dies”

What do you think will be the trajectory of the Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam in the 21st Century?

The Islamist army with the Boko Haram moniker is at it again. According to Issa Tchiroma Bakary, Cameroon’s information minister, Mabass village in far northern Cameroon was attacked early yesterday (18 January 2015).

Boko Haram killed at least three people and kidnapped four dozen hostages.

In a separate attack in Nigeria also reported by the Associated Press, a suicide bomber killed four people and injured 35 others in the northeast town of Potiskum.

This writer isn’t sure what to think about this turnaround on the part of Duke University’s administration. First they announced they’d do the call to prayer from the Duke Chapel bell tower for Friday’s jummah prayer. Then, yesterday they come out with this press release:

“Duke University has reconsidered a previously announced plan to present a traditional Muslim call-to-prayer from the Duke Chapel bell tower, campus officials said Thursday.

“The call to prayer, or ‘adhan’, which announces the start of a weekly jummah prayer service that has been held in the Chapel basement for the past several years, will not come from the bell tower on Friday as announced earlier.

“’Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,’ said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. ‘However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.’

“Jummah prayers have taken place in the basement of Duke Chapel for many years, and start with the traditional call to prayer chant. Members of the Muslim community will now gather for the call-to-prayer chant on the quadrangle outside the Chapel, a site of frequent interfaith programs and activities, before moving to its regular location for prayers. More than 700 of Duke’s 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students identify as Muslim.

“’Our Muslim community enriches the university in countless ways,’ said Schoenfeld. ‘We welcome the active expression of their faith tradition, and all others, in ways that are meaningful and visible.’”

(Do note that the plan was ONE call to prayer each week, not five each day.) What do you think? Bad timing due to events in France and Belgium? Bad decision to allow the call to prayer? Bad decision to rescind the plan?

Abdelkader Benai, a Muslim born in the Netherlands, has penned a powerful meditation on the Charlie Hebdo massacre in The New York Times.

“When I was 17, I found ‘The Satanic Verses’ tucked away in a school library,” he writes. “I grabbed it, started reading and was mesmerized. Here was a young man struggling with his faith in a faithless world — an immigrant son from a deeply religious home thrown into a world where everything is embraced and nothing is sacred. It confirmed what I had felt deep inside: a free and open society is a threat to religious people. Their religion will be mocked — sometimes even suppressed — and this will provoke anger.”

He says, “What happened last week is not about lack of humor, or a failure to understand caricature. Nor is it about hatred of the West. It’s about anger taking a wrong turn.”

Those who perpetrated the massacre “fell prey to a powerful delusion…. the same delusion I felt as a teenager: that by attacking the messenger your anger will disappear and you will be victorious. But the only way to conquer your anger is to understand where its roots lie. For me the freedom to doubt, to not choose sides and to feel empathy for characters and people with whom I disagree was liberating.”

For Mr. Benai, reason allows him to accept that, inevitably, some people will disagree with him — and that it’s OK, not a cause for murder.