[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating about Islam and reflects a wide variety of opinions and approaches. It does not reflect the views of the Critical Currents in Islam page or of Jadaliyya.]
“Egypt puts 13 people including Zyad Elelaimy on ‘terrorism’ list” Al Jazeera (18 April 2020)
Egypt has added thirteen people, including former legislator Zyad Elelaimy, on the country's "terrorism list" for collaborating with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
“Men in Uniform Torched Mustafabad’s Farooqia Masjid, Assaulted People Inside: Locals” The Caravan (10th March 2020)
This article chronicles the attack on Mustafabad’s Farooqia Masjid through a series of in-depth interviews conducted with three survivors and their immediate families. This article posits that the attack on Farooqia Masjid is one of many that targeted the Muslim community amid the violence in northeast Dehli, which began after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kapil Mishra issued an ultimatum. That is, if the sit-in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 at the Jaffrabad metro station was not cleared within three days, the matter would be taken out of the Delhi Police’s hands.
“Sri Lanka: Due Process Concerns in Arrests of Muslims” Human Rights Watch (23rd April 2020)
This report notes that shortly after the Sri Lankan government implemented a COVID-19 funeral policy (mandatory cremation), which is biased against Muslims, there has been an increase in hate speech against Muslims and several arrests have been made on prominent figures from the Muslim community. This report critiques the actions of the Sri Lankan government for utilizing the global pandemic to promote discrimination against Muslims instead of improving communal relations in the country.
“How Saudi Arabia’s religious project transformed Indonesia” The Guardian (16th April 2020)
This article focuses on the Saudi soft-power apparatus in Indonesia and argues that the legacy of Saudi proselytisation in Indonesia has contributed to the rise of religious intolerance, jihadism, and the consolidation of power of Indonesia’s leading Islamist political party. Through an analysis of the Indonesian word Arabisasi (Arabization), the author posits that the term reveals a generalised anxiety over “Saudi money” in both Indonesia and the world. Moreover, the author also argues that international Saudi actors such as universities, state-adjacent global charities, and independent businessmen have also played influential roles in shaping the Islamic community in Indonesia.
“The Salafi-Asharite Divide: How a Centuries-old Theological Conflict Has Re-emerged in Syria” Chatham House, Syria From Within (March 2020)
An analysis of how Syria’s internal tensions have resulted in an increasing reinforcement of ideological divisions and polarization between Salafis and moderate Sunnis within the Syrian opposition.
“The PMU is getting more aggressive in Iraq” Foreign Policy (7 April 2020)
Sh‘i militias have taken on a new role in Iraq since the assassination of Iranian military commander, Qassem Soleimani.
“How Istanbul won back its crown as the heart of the Muslim world” The Guardian (18 April 2020)
Turkey’s largest city is slowly but surely being seen by many as a safe haven for those persecuted across the Middle East and North Africa—from Uighur refugees to Arab activists displaced by revolutions to young Saudis and Iranians fleeing ultra-conservative regimes.
“In Turkey, political Islam is getting in the way of rational health policy” Washington Post (26 March 2020)
Turkey’s governmental religious authorities have been in a harsh tug of war amidst the coronavirus pandemic, as medical authorities in the country faced a difficult opponent in the Directorate of Religious Affairs—now a key institution in the fight against COVID-19.
“Extremists in Northern Mozambique Declare Goal of Caliphate” Voa News (13 April 2020)
An Islamist group in Mozambique that has been terrorising the northern part of the country for years now appear to be taking a blunter stance against its citizens, ransacking government and military institutions, and openly taking control of districts.
“On Secularization and the Coronavirus in Iran” Religious Matters in an Entangled World, Utrecht University (29th March 2020)
This article suggests that the coronavirus pandemic in Iran mediates the secularization of public attitudes in two ways. Firstly, the pandemic increases citizens’ already prevalent anti-theocratic political attitudes. Secondly, the pandemic sharpens the epistemological differentiation between Islam and the natural sciences.
“Coronavirus pandemic triggers waves of Islamic-themed myths on social media” AFP Fact Check (24th April 2020)
This report observes and debunks a trend of social-media posts containing false religious-themed claims about the virus. For example, this report discredits several misleading videos and social media posts which claim that specific nationalities have been converting to Islam because COVID-19 “does not affect Muslims.” An Arabic version of this post can be found here: (https://factuel.afp.com/ar/nhy-lgrb-wqbl-kthyf-l-lslm-kwrwn-lmstjdw-yugrq-mwq-ltwsl-bkhbr-khylyw).
“Hate Against Indian Muslims: Widening Gulf?” Deccan Herald (24th April 2020)
This article observes that diplomatic relationships between the governments of India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have been deteriorating in the wake of the vilification drive against Indian Muslims and Islam in India after several individuals contracted COVID-19 after either attending an event organized by Tablighi Jamaat or interacting with those who were present. The author observes that the increasingly visible public outcry from important personalities within the GCC against Hindutva and its backers is that the campaign mounted after the Jamaat event was not restricted to Indian Muslims, but on Islam per se.
“CoronaJihad is Only the Latest Manifestation: Islamophobia in India has Been Years in the Making” Human Rights Watch (1 May 2020)
Recently, there have been numerous physical attacks on Muslims in India, including volunteers distributing relief material, amid falsehoods accusing them of spreading the virus deliberately. This article discusses the rising Islamophobia in India and how the pandemic has given many people fuel to target Muslims more.
“‘Divine Retribution’: The Islamic State’s COVID-19 Propaganda” The Diplomat (24th March 2020)
This article focuses on the irony in the rhetoric of the Islamic State (IS) with regards to the current COVID-19 pandemic. On the one hand, while IS has spoken of the virus as God’s divine retribution to China for the treatment of domestic Uyghur Muslim communities, the group also chides its followers for applauding the toll that the virus is taking. Moreover, the catastrophic impacts of COVID-19 in Iran has also provided fodder for IS to reinforce anti-Shi‘a sentiments.
“Islamic Authority and Arab States in a Time of Pandemic” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (16th April 2020)
This article provides an analysis of how Arab governments are mobilizing official Islamic institutions, who have gained citizens’ trust for their religious learning and social roles, to ensure national compliance with social distancing and other preventative COVID-19 measures. Enlisting Islamic authority may prove crucial in compensating for the public’s low trust in the regime’s information outlets and officials, which could lead to public health disasters. Subsequently, Islamic institutions could emerge from this pandemic with newfound privileges and social clout.
“The Coronavirus Is Empowering Islamophobes — but Exposing the Idiocy of Islamophobia” The Intercept (14th April 2020)
This article focuses on how COVID-19 has been instrumentalized by multiple media outlets around the world to fuel Islamophobia. However, this article also posits that the present global pandemic has exposed the ridiculousness of anti-Muslim sentiments.
“Have COVID-19 and Iran tensions doomed Coalition anti-ISIS strategy?” Atlantic Council (1 May 2020)
The repercussions of the turning point Iraq is currently going through and its effect on neighbouring nations are significant. But what comes next in the struggle against the terrorist group ISIS, and how will the US-led anti-ISIS coalition be affected by tensions with Iran?
“With the World Busy Fighting COVID-19, Could ISIS Mount a Resurgence?” TIME (29 April 2020)
Recent violent attacks by ISIS offer a stark reminder that the group remains active, despite the global coronavirus crisis hitting most nations hard. Some fear that the pandemic may result in a resurgence of ISIS attacks as they capitalise on the instability sweeping the world.
“How Jihadi Groups in Africa Will Exploit COVID-19” Council on Foreign Relations (3 April 2020)
Some analysts expect jihadi groups with histories of brutal violence in Africa to take advantage of the global pandemic we find ourselves in, amid the panic, chaos, and confusion likely to occur should the number of cases across the continent reach uncontrollable levels.
“Tablighi Jamaat: The group blamed for new Covid-19 outbreak in India” BBC (2 April 2020)
The Tablighi Jamaat has come into the spotlight after an event they held in Delhi has led to a number of COVID-19 clusters across the country. Who is this group and why were they meeting in such large numbers in the Indian capital?
Arts and Culture
“In Pictures: A Ramadan Unlike Any Other” CNN (25th April 2020)
This article illustrates how Ramadan is celebrated in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic from Nepal to Spain and Turkey. The various images from around the world show how the global pandemic has affected the usual festivities.
“Pakistan PM: Learn ‘Islamic’ values from Turkey’s Ertugrul” Middle East Monitor (28th April 2020)
This article focuses on why Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, endorses the Turkish drama “Ertugrul.” The prime minister argues that the series promotes a lifestyle that is more in-tuned with Pakistani culture as opposed to Western and Bollywood films which he claims have “diluted” their culture.
“Ramadan and coronavirus: 10 life hacks for healthy eating during holy month” Middle East Eye (23 April 2020)
Food blogger Amira Ibrahim discusses eating habits in Ramadan across the MENA region, and how Muslims can choose healthier alternatives to sugar and fat-based cultural dishes.
“Pakistan's Ramadan TV specials drop lavish prizes” Reuters (Published 29 April 2020)
Pakistan’s popular Ramadan TV games shows find themselves exchanging lavish prizes for simpler, more sombre shows in light of COVID-19.
“Ramadan period drama with Jewish characters stirs debate in Middle East” Reuters (27 April 2020)
Saudi-controlled MBC has attracted both criticism and praise for its new show, “Umm Haroun,” at a time when many Gulf states have extended overtures to Israel, and found common ground in their stances on Iran.
RELIGION AND RELIGIOUS PRACTICE
“The Sound of Solidarity? The Adhan and the Possibility of a New Civic Body in Europe” Contending Modernities, University of Notre Dame (17th April 2020)
This article observes that for the first time in history, Germany and the Netherlands have allowed the adhan to regularly penetrate public space. This article posits that this new phenomenon signals the transformation of the sociopolitical power of a soundscape as well as a nationscape. The author contemplates if the inclusion of the adhan within the public sphere will eventually lead to a new type of solidarity, which is founded upon Muslims, Muslim immigrants, and their European counterparts listening to each other.
“The Facial Crisis of Shiite Iran” Religious Matters in an Entangled World, Utrecht University (7th April 2020)
This article argues that the policies of the theocratic regime in Iran have led to a rising public aversion to religion in the country. Such public resentment and mistrust have been exacerbated by the current global pandemic. Yet, this has not always been the case. During the cholera pandemics of the nineteenth-century, the clerics played a leading role in galvanizing the public. Thus, through a visual analysis of digital media, this article elaborates upon how the clerical power has slowly waned in Iran.
“The Material Semiotics of Halal: Neoliberal Islam in Practice” Anthropological Theory Commons (12th April 2020)
This article focuses on the recent development of the halal certification and the impact of this certification on the original conception of halal amongst consuming Muslims. The author argues that halal certificates are now perceived by Muslims as the only reliable route for practicing Islam whereas previously, the concept of halal was founded upon trust produced through the consumption and trade within a community of shared values.
“US: 'Historic' Ramadan call to prayer echoes in Minnesota city” Al Jazeera (24th April 2020)
This article posits that the Minneapolis Cedar-Riverside adhan is the first publicly broadcast call to prayer in a major American city. The executive director of Minnesota’s Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) explains that the call to prayer can provide solace for the Muslim community by reminding them of the feeling of togetherness despite the current restrictions on group congregations.
“Charity Gains New Importance for Muslims Observing Ramadan Amid Economic Shutdowns” NPR (24th April, 2020)
This article posits that the notion of charity, an essential part of Ramadan, is gaining prominence in light of rising unemployment rates due to the current pandemic.
“Parking lot prayers: Muslims in Jaffa and Jerusalem improvise for Ramadan” Reuters (28 April 2020)
The novel coronavirus has Muslims in the ancient port city of Jaffa praying their Ramadan night prayers in an empty parking lot, and while using social-distancing markers.
“Iran plans to reopen mosques in areas free of coronavirus, president says” Reuters (26 April 2020)
President Hassan Rouhani announced his country’s plans to reopen mosques in areas free of coronavirus, as Iranians begin to return to shops, bazaars, and parks.
“Islam’s holiest sites emptied by coronavirus crisis as Ramadan begins” Reuters (24 April 2020)
The holy month usually draws hundreds of thousands of Muslims from all over the world to the Grand Mosque in Mecca, but this year worshippers have had to watch prayers on TV as the coronavirus crisis continues.
“Too poor to buy, too scared to meet. Palestinians face joyless Ramadan” Reuters (23 April 2020)
As authorities ordered the closure of schools, wedding halls, restaurants, and mosques, Palestinian Muslims across the country face a holy month without the usual celebrations, large family gatherings, and night prayers.
“Egypt loosening some lockdown restrictions for Ramadan; coronavirus toll rises” Reuters (23 April 2020)
Though coronavirus cases have now reached their highest toll since February in Egypt, the country’s prime minister declares it will relax restrictions on businesses and night-time curfews.
“Ramadan during Coronavirus - With a virtual community” Qantara (20th April 2020)
This article describes how traditions, rites, and rituals associated with Ramadan have been changing due to the current global COVID-19 pandemic. Religious leaders from Saudi, Egypt, Morocco, and even Europe have agreed that community rituals must be limited to religious rites within the family circle. In this period of the pandemic, living rooms have been turned to mosques within families.
GENDER AND SEXUALITY
“Turkish ruling party, lawyers clash over cleric comments on homosexuality” Reuters (27 April 2020)
Turkey’s ruling AKP defended a cleric as he claimed that homosexuality causes illnesses, leading to a clash between party officials and lawyer associations across the country.
“London Muslim gay pride festival postponed over coronavirus crisis” The New Arab (17 March 2020)
London’s first ever Muslim LGBTQI festival was set to happen in April but has now been postponed to December. Named “ImaanFest,” the event is said to include workshops on sexuality, intersectional identities, and an afterparty with live entertainment.
“RuPaul's Drag Race: Jeff Goldblum receives backlash for Islam comments to Jackie Cox” Independent (25 April 2020)
Hollywood’s Jeff Goldblum has been the subject of major backlash after asking a contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” if Islam is “anti-homosexuality” and “anti-woman.”
“Ramadan under lockdown is encouraging Muslims to talk about the way they worship” The Conversation (29 April 2020)
How the Islamic holy month of Ramadan is being celebrated differently this year across the world, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This article covers what Ramadan means for the increasingly visible queer Muslim communities worldwide, new philosophies and ideas on centuries-old Islamic law during these unusual times, and discussions on Friday prayers conducted online.