Islamic Nonviolence

Nonviolence is the Goal: The Lanternblog Interview with Brian Martin

by Ali

Dustwrapper art courtesy www.bmartin.cc

Editor’s Preface: This interview was conducted by email in 2006. “Ali” is an Iranian blogger and rights activist. His Persian language site can be found at lanternblog.com. As he states in the questions below, his site is censored and the last entry is dated January 2007. Please consult the notes at the end for further information. JG

Ali: Let me start with the basics and as the first question ask you as a thinker and writer on nonviolent movements to give us your definition of nonviolence?

Brian Martin: Nonviolent action includes methods such as petitions, rallies, boycotts, strikes, sit-ins, fasts and setting up alternative political structures. It’s often more informative to give examples of nonviolent action than present a formal definition. These and other such methods avoid physical violence against others, though nonviolent activists themselves may be assaulted or arrested. Nonviolent action is action that goes beyond conventional politics, so it doesn’t include lobbying or voting. Nonviolence can also be something broader, including personal behaviour that avoids oppression and efforts to promote ways of living together that are based on freedom, justice, equality and ecological sustainability.

Ali: I know that you are originally a physicist. As I’m in the field of natural science myself, the next question I ‘d like to ask is how you got into nonviolence research and studies? Can you please explain your starting ambitions for research and studies in this field?

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The Nonviolent Crescent: Eight Theses on Muslim Nonviolent Actions

by Chaiwat Satha-Anand

Book jacket art courtesy usip.org

From 1982 to 1984, Muslims from two villages in Ta Chana district, Surat Thani, in southern Thailand had been killing one another in vengeance; seven people had died. Then on January 7, 1985, which happened to be a Maulid day (to celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday), all parties came together and settled the bloody feud. Haji Fan, the father of the latest victim, stood up with the Holy Qur’an above his head and vowed to end the killings. With tears in his eyes and for the sake of peace in both communities, he publicly forgave the murderer who had assassinated his son. Once again, stories and sayings of the Prophet had been used to induce concerned parties to resolve violent conflict peacefully. (1) Examples such as this abound in Islam. Their existence opens up possibilities of confidently discussing the notion of nonviolence in Islam. They promise an exciting adventure into the unusual process of exploring the relationship between Islam and nonviolence.

This chapter is an attempt to suggest that Islam already possesses the whole catalogue of qualities necessary for the conduct of successful nonviolent actions. An incident that occurred in Pattani, Southern Thailand, in 1975 is used as an illustration. Finally, several theses are suggested as guidelines for both the theory and practice of Islam and the different varieties of nonviolence, including nonviolent struggle.

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Book Review: Against All Odds; The Iraqi Nonviolent Movement

by Judith Mahoney Pasternak

Book jacket art courtesy tadweenpublishing.com

If you follow the Western media, the news from Iraq is almost always bad. A quarter century of war, including 13 years of brutal sanctions, invasion, a no less brutal eight-year occupation, an externally imposed, undemocratic and repressive government, and now the attempt by the Islamic State to remake Iraq in its image — all have resulted in millions of deaths, and the toll keeps rising. “Such a bruised country! No society can withstand such pressure,” declares Indian journalist Vijay Prashad in his foreword to Against All Odds: Voices of Popular Struggle in Iraq [Washington, D.C. and Beirut: Tadween Publishing, 2015].

Yet there is another side to the story of Iraq, one that has been rendered all but invisible in the media, which seem to have no room for the words “hope” and “Iraq” in the same sentence. In February of 2011, in the wake of the Arab Spring, the hunger for a better future for Iraq — a hunger that had been repressed but never suppressed — arose again in force in cities across the ravaged country, in the form of a decentralized mass nonviolent protest movement. Against All Odds is the story of that movement, told in part by War Resisters League organizer and writer Ali Issa, and in part by eight leaders of different segments of that movement.

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Powerful Nonviolent Resistance to Armed Conflict in Yemen

by Stephen Zunes and Noor Al-Haidary

Yemeni protesters wear pink as symbol of nonviolence; courtesy went2thebridge.blogspot.nl

As with the 2011 uprising against the Saleh regime in Yemen four years ago, an unarmed civil society movement is now (April 2015) rising up to challenge the Huthi militia. While media coverage of the tragic situation unfolding in Yemen in recent months has focused on armed clashes and other violence, there has also been widespread and ongoing nonviolent civil resistance employed by a number of different actors. In fact, the most significant setbacks to the Huthi militia in their march southward across the country in recent months have come not from the remnants of the Yemeni army or Saudi air strikes, but from massive resistance by unarmed civilians which has thus far prevented their capture of Taiz, the country’s third largest city, and other urban areas. The resistance efforts have also pressed the Huthi to withdraw their forces from a number of previously held areas, including universities, residential neighborhoods, and even military bases. This kind of nonviolent resistance by ordinary people is remarkable, but it is not new in Yemen.

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Book Review: Badshah Khan and Islamic Nonviolence

by Paul Rogers

Badshah Khan wih Gandhi; photograph courtesy stopwar.org.uk

The story of Badshah Khan, told in Heathcote Williams’ new book, Badshah Khan: Islamic Peace Warrior, London: Thin Man Press, 2015, is a powerful antidote to Islamophobia. Anyone who has also seen Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi will remember the vivid depiction of the Amritsar massacre in April 1919 when British and Gurkha troops under the command of General Reginald Dyer opened fire on unarmed protestors and killed well over 350 people. It was one of the worst atrocities committed by the British in India, but far from the only one.

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Islam and World Peace

by H. Ahmed

Editor’s Preface: This article is from The War Resister, issue 70, First Quarter 1956, and continues our series of essays on nonviolence in Islam. Please consult our Islam category for further articles. Reference and acknowledgments are at the end. JG

“Islam is Peace”; courtesy en.wikipedia.org

In the limited space at my disposal, I will concern myself with the fundamental principles of pacifism in Islam, as taught by the great Prophet of Arabia. As in the case of almost all the other religions, Islam has also been betrayed by its followers, so much so that the other day I came across a rather blunt remark that there is no place for nonviolence in Islam and that Islam does not advocate the establishment of world peace. And it is very often that we come across such remarks.

There is a bar to all knowledge, and that is contempt prior to investigation. Any scholar who studies the original Islam without preconceived ideas will realise that Islam is also a religion of peace and that it also advocates pacifism. It aims at the welfare and prosperity of every human being without the difference of caste, creed, colour or nationality. The teachings of Islam lead one to the golden rule of “Live and let live for mutual forbearance and tolerance”. The Prophet of Arabia declared, “Faith is restraint against all violence”. Further exhorting his followers to non-violence, he said, “Let no Muslim commit violence!” Can there be a clearer injunction than this?

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Popular Nonviolent Resistance in Bil’in: the Interfaith Peace Builders Interview with Ayad Burnat

by Douglas Kerr

Ayad Burnat speaking to Israeli soldiers in Bil’in; courtesy ifpb.org

Interfaith Peace Builders Preface: Bil’in is a small, peaceful Palestinian village 7 miles west of Ramallah. It has continued its struggle to maintain its existence by fighting to protect its land, olive trees, resources, water and liberty. Its population of 1900 live in an area of approximately 1000 acres or 4000 dunams. The residents of Bil’in depend on agriculture as their main source of income, but close to 60% of Bil’in’s land has been annexed to build Israeli settlements and Israel’s Separation Barrier, destroying more than 1,000 olive trees in the process. Israel began construction of the illegal Separation Barrier in April 2004 by appropriating 570 acres (2300 dunams) of Bil’in land. Residents resisted these injustices despite the increase in night raids by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), arrests and injuries of its residents and activists, and two fatalities. Indeed, Bil’in’s residents, joined by Israeli and international activists, have peacefully demonstrated every Friday in front of the Separation Barrier and the IDF have responded with both physical and psychological violence. Working side-by-side with international and Israeli activists, the people of Bil’in managed to achieve recognition by the Israeli Supreme Court in 2007, when it ruled that the route of the Separation Barrier was illegal and must be changed. The Israeli Defense Force, however, toughened its oppression by systematically arresting members of Bil’in’s Popular Committee, namely, those in charge of organizing the nonviolent demonstrations. In 2009, Abdullah Abu Ramah, coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bil’in, was arrested in his Ramallah home. Despite his recognition by the EU as a “human rights defender,” he was found guilty of “incitement” and “illegal protest,” and imprisoned for 16 months. In June of 2011, in accordance with the 2007 Israeli Supreme Court decision, the Separation Barrier was re-routed and 300 acres (1200 dunams) returned to the village. The Wall and settlement projects to date (2015) still occupy 270 acres (1100 dunams) of Bil’in land. Bil’in’s residents continue steadfastly to demonstrate each Friday. They are the subject of the film 5 Broken Cameras, the 2013 Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary film, directed and narrated by Emad Burnat, brother of Ayad Burnat. R.H. Tracy

Douglas Kerr: How did the nonviolent popular resistance to the Occupation first start in Bil’in?

Ayad Burnat: It is now nine years, in December 2004, since we started nonviolent resistance, when the Israeli bulldozers started to destroy the land, the olive trees of the farmers. All of the people went outside, without prompting, to try to stop the bulldozers from destroying their land. Bil’in is a small village with a population of around 1900 and about 4000 dunams [c. 1000 acres] of land. The Israeli government confiscated 2,300 dunams. This land is full of olive trees. It is the life of the farmers in the village, and most of the people in the village are farmers. This land is their life. We started our nonviolent struggle in Bil’in when we saw these bulldozers destroying the olive trees, and we continued. Between December and February 2005, there was a demonstration every day.

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Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing, and Active Hope in the Holy Land; The Shomer Shalom Interview with Sami Awad

by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb

Peace mural Shomer Shalom; courtesy shomershalom.org

Author’s Preface: Sami Awad is a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem, and the nephew of Mubarak Awad, one of the founders of the Palestinian nonviolent movement. [See the interviews we have posted with Mubarak Awad.] When still a boy his uncle gave him the writings of Gandhi, which led to a lifelong commitment to Gandhian nonviolence. Upon finishing his studies in the U.S. he returned to the Palestinian Territories and in 1998 founded The Holy Land Trust, the mission of which is “to create an environment that fosters understanding, healing, transformation, and empowerment of individuals and communities . . . in the Holy Land.” Awad is one of thousands of people in Palestine who resist occupation every day through nonviolent popular resistance. Holy Land Trust works with the Palestinian community at the grassroots and leadership levels in developing nonviolent approaches to Israeli-Palestinian conflict transformation and a future founded on the principles of nonviolence, equality, justice, and peaceful coexistence. Awad has also established the Travel and Encounter Program, which aims to provide tourists and pilgrims with unique religious and political experiences in Palestine, and the Palestine News Network, the first independent press agency in Palestine and a major source of news on life in Palestine today. RLG

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb: Ahlan wa sahlan, Sami. Nonviolent civilian resistance to foreign occupation has been a way of life in Palestinian society. The words sumud (steadfast) and intifada (shaking off) describe the nature of Palestinian nonviolence. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of the history of Palestinian nonviolent civilian resistance and the popular struggle?

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Palestinian Nonviolence: The January 2015 Peace Magazine Interview with Mubarak Awad

by Meir Amor

Meir Amor: About 15 years ago you and I had a discussion that was published in Peace Magazine. The editors of Peace think it would be good to have another talk. So let me ask you first: Does your approach to nonviolence have a religious basis? Do Jewish or Muslim religious authorities consider it compatible with their teachings?

Photo of Mubarak Awad, 2014, by Meir Amor; courtesy nonviolenceinternational.net

Mubarak Awad: Personally, I do it from a Christian perspective. For me, it’s time for us all to learn not to kill or destroy. But I did not push that belief on any Israelis or any Muslims. However, I did study Islam and nonviolence a lot, and I thought it would be great to have a Muslim who was interested in nonviolence so we could have a strong campaign. At that time I was interested in Faisal Husseini (1), a great Muslim who believed in nonviolence. I bought a lot of books about a Muslim who had been with Gandhi — Abdul Ghaffer Khan (2), who said that Islam is a nonviolent religion. I was doing that because the majority of Palestinians are Muslim. We held conferences studying Islam and nonviolence — discussing what jihad really means and Sufism in Islam. Sufis are like the Quakers in Christianity; they believe in peace.

There are many Sufis in Islam, who accept the challenge of nonviolence. It’s a big struggle for them — not only between the Palestinians and Israelis or Arabs and Israelis, but also between themselves, for them to be nonviolent at home and active in nonviolence in their community. They can see that we human beings have brains, not just guns, and can resolve any conflict, however big, by debating, by forgiveness, by conciliation.

But in the past twenty years the world has moved toward radical religion in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. That allows a minority within each religion to start dictating what religion means in a fundamentalist way. Many Muslims want to go back to a caliphate or to Mohammed. Some of them want to be more fundamentalist or more conservative.

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Nonviolence in the Middle East: The Fall 2000 Peace Magazine Interview with Mubarak Awad

by Meir Amor

Palestinian nonviolence marchers, Bil'in Village. Credit: Creative Commons/Michael Loadenthal; courtesy tikkun.org

Meir Amor: Why did you become a leader in the nonviolent Palestinian struggle?

Mubarak Awad: Palestinians had hardly any understanding of nonviolence. Gandhi had not been given a lot of attention in the Muslim world because he was against the creation of Pakistan, an Islamic state. So in the Arab mind nonviolence is just surrendering to the one who has more power.

Before I was expelled from Israel in 1988, my first initiative with Palestinians was to try to develop an educational program of nonviolence in Islam. I went to India to find a Muslim who worked with Gandhi: Abdul Ghaffar Khan, (1) who brought his village of Pathans into a struggle, forming a nonviolent army to help Gandhi. I wrote a book about him and met with religious leaders in Palestine, Israel, and Egypt. I found interested Muslims — most of them Sufis. In Islam, the Sufis are like Quakers in Christianity. In some places they are regarded as heretics. They pray; they dance; they act as if they have oneness with God. In Islam you cannot do that, so the Sunnis and Shiites don’t accept them as real Muslims. They are the ones who started writing about Islam and nonviolence.

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“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi