Posts By: Hakim Khatib

by Hakim Khatib 

Authoritarian regimes and religious institutions in the Muslim majority world see eye-to-eye on the topic of atheism. United by their fear of losing control over their populations and their desire for conformity, consecutive governments have pushed for unfair restrictions on their subjects’ beliefs since their inception. But even in society, non-belief remains a taboo. Should atheists in Muslim majority world become more vocal?

With the increasing number of persecution and punishment cases as well as discrimination campaigns against atheists in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa, another question arises as to whether Islam establishes discriminatory demarcations to atheism or there are other factors that play a crucial role.

Since March 2018, the Parliamentary Committee on Religion in Egypt has been preparing a bill to criminalise atheism in Egypt. This move is one of many Egypt has recently undertaken to combat atheism. The proposed law consists of four articles. The first article defines Egyptian state’s understanding of atheism; the second criminalises atheism and imposes severe punishments upon atheists; the third stipulates that the penalties are lifted when a person abandons his/her atheistic beliefs, and the fourth is that the penalties for atheism prescribed by law should be “very strict”.

As If There Is One Islam

It is not inaccurate to say that there is no one version of Islam that we can speak of. There are different, and sometimes competing and conflicting interpretations of Islam. Therefore, to be speaking of Islam’s tolerance or intolerance of atheism and other religions is more likely to be futile. It is futile because there is no unified definition of Islam that applies to the beliefs of the majority of those who describe themselves as Muslims. Thus, a representative version that encompasses all Muslims is simply a myth.

Thus, a phrase such as “in my version of Islam” is very common in Muslims’ narratives. In this sense, there are Muslims, who tolerate freedom of religion and even protect it, while others trample such freedom under their feet.

In fact, there are several contradicting verses on atheists and nonbelievers in the Quran. There are verses in the Quran such as “there is no compulsion in religion,” which emphasizes the freedom of choice. However, there are other verses in the Quran that argue otherwise such as “fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and his messenger (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the scripture (Jews and Christians).”

While Islam itself does not speak, its scriptures provide precepts for social inclusion and exclusion. It is the task of Muslims to organize and communicate the scriptures in order to bring them to life in a pluralistic society.

Regimes Thrive for Conformity 

Anti-atheism is more likely to find roots in Muslim and Christian teachings and traditions of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

by Hakim Khatib

Atheism remains one of the most extreme taboos in Saudi Arabia. It is a red line that no one can cross. Atheists in Saudi Arabia have been suffering from imprisonment, maginalisation, slander, ostracisation and even execution. Indeed, atheists in Saudi are considered terrorists. Efforts for normalisation between those who believe and those who don’t remain bleak in the kingdom.

Despite constant warnings of Saudi religious authorities of “the danger of atheism”, which is, according to them, “equal to disbelieving in God”, many citizens in the kingdom are turning their back on Islam. Perhaps inter alia the Saudi dehumanising strict laws in the name of Islam, easy access to information and mass communication are the primary driving forces pushing Saudis to leave religion. Unfortunately, those who explicitly do, find themselves harshly punished or forced to live dual lives.

By Hakim Khatib

Radicalisation is a phenomenon that has been striking not only in parts of Asia and Africa but also in the heart of Europe. While the number of Muslims in Germany is estimated by 4,7 millions (5,8%), 70% of the almost 900,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in recent years are believed to be Muslims. It is undeniable that there is discrimination in Germany, and it is equally undeniable that more on issues of integration and conflict prevention should be done. Thus, could effective integration processes prevent radicalisation of the Muslim youth in Europe?

By Hakim Khatib

It is estimated that a number between 27,000 and 31,000 foreign fighters have been flocking to Iraq and Syria since the breakout of the war in 2011.

An updated assessment of the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq shows that there is a significant increase in the number of foreign fighters travelling to Syria. Data provided by the Soufan Group in 2014 estimated that the identifiable number of foreign fighters is approximately 12,000 from 81 countries. It was also believed that the number of foreign Jihadists coming form Western countries does not exceed 3000: “Around 2,500 are from Western countries, including most members of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand”, according to Soufan’s initial report on Foreign Fighters in Syria. Now the number exceeds 27,000 foreign fighters from at least 86 countries.

by Hakim Khatib

A Jordanian writer, accused of sharing a cartoon considered offensive to Islam, killed two weeks after his release from prison on bail.

A perfect assassination starts with demonizing of a person and ends with a condemnation of the assassin.

On 25 September 2016, the prominent Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar, 56, was shot dead ahead of a trial before the courthouse in Jordan’s capital Amman. He was accused of sharing a caricature deemed offensive to Islam on his Facebook page. Hattar was an outspoken leftist, secular writer and a self-described Christian atheist, known for his controversial views on issues regarding refugees, his support of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his hostility to movements of political Islam.

According to the Jordanian state news agency Petra, an armed man fired three shots at the writer at close range in front of the courthouse ahead of a hearing.

The long-bearded shooter, who was wearing a long grey robe characteristic of ultra-conservative Muslims, was identified as the 49-year-old Jordanian imam Riad Ismail Ahmed Abdullah, from one of Amman’s poor neighbourhoods – Hashmi. The perpetrator, Abdullah, was referred to the state security court on terrorism-related charges and might face the death penalty.

But why was Hattar arrested in the first place?

Given the current Middle Eastern scenario, one may reasonably hold the argument that the on-going turmoil in the Middle East owes its burden equally to the Machiavellian Anglo-American policies in the region and the harrowing failure of the Muslim governments/leaderships in the Middle East to rationally respond to those challenges. But are there any dimensions beyond religion?

by Hakim Khatib

Here we go again. Recent terrorist attacks against another European capital city in less than a year continue to shake the core of world politics. It is worth to note that terrorist attacks are not only happening against European states, but also against other countries, most notably Turkey and Indonesia. Is it a clash of cultures, religions, or it is merely politics? How do we keep serving Daesh (Islamic State)?

By Hakim Khatib

Islamic State (IS), previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has shown nothing but destruction, chaos and sectarianism. Through terror strategies, they rapidly spread over great parts of eastern Syria and north and central Iraq. Their new recruits came from all over the world, but mainly from Islamic countries. Arab countries had the biggest share of recruits. While IS was assembling supporters and sympathisers, Sunni Clergymen constantly called for ‘material and moral’ support to the Syrian rebels, and accordingly, thousands of foreign fighters flooded into Syria for Jihad. According to a Soufan Group research in 2014 on the foreign fighters in Syria, it is estimated that the highest number of foreign fighters came from Tunisia (about 3,000), Saudi Arabia (about 2,500), Morocco (about 1,500), Russia (about 800), France (700), Turkey and the United Kingdom (about 400 each). These numbers exclude the Syrians and Iraqis who are already in IS.

By Hakim Khatib

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been increasing recently. Although the narrative developed to describe the execution of a Saudi Shiite cleric, Nimr Al-Nimr, as a sectarian dimension of the Kingdom’s policies towards Iran, Saudi Arabia’s goals are not principally fuelling the Shiite-Sunni divide. The Saudi executions were partially an attempt by Saudi Arabia to severe ties with Iran and push the tensions forward. Lifting sanctions against Iran, coupled with oil prices plummeting to around $32 per barrel remains a frightening nightmare for the Saudis.

Following the execution of Al-Nimr, diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran trembled. Iran promised Saudi Arabia that it would pay a high price over the execution of Al-Nimr, whereas the latter described the Iranian criticism of its judicial system as “blatant interference” in its internal affairs.


By Hakim Khatib 

After five years of the Syrian war, we can recognize “four” conflicting parties on the ground – Assad, ISIS, rebel groups and the Kurds. Each one of these conflicting parties has regional and international backers, who ironically do not agree with each other about whom they are fighting for or against. The Syrian regime is backed by Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias. ISIS is backed by the flood of global Jihadists from all over the world. Rebel groups are backed by Gulf States, Turkey, Jordan and the US. The Kurds are supported by the US. While in the media, we always say “the Syrian conflict, crisis or war”, I wonder what makes this war that much Syrian. It is rather a war on the land of Syria, in which more than 50% of Syria’s population have been displaced, over 220 thousand have been killed, and many more have been injured or imprisoned. According to Amnesty international, more than 12.8 million Syrian people are in “urgent need of humanitarian assistance”. In addition to this humanitarian catastrophe, most of the Syrian land and infrastructure have been destroyed. So what is that Syrian about the Syrian “war”?

by Hakim Khatib

Using religious frameworks in political contestation and mobilisation processes has become more eminent in recent decades spiralling an intricate debate on the conceptualisation and implementation of such references in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region The contradiction, it is argued, mainly lies in the compromising nature of politics and the relatively dogmatic nature of religion. Accentuated by inaccurate media coverage and primordial analytical frameworks, it has become tempting to see religion as responsible for conflicts and underachievement in the MENA region.

In the conventional sense, Islamic movements are often held responsible for incorporating religion in political processes. However, this is not always true as the nondemocratic states in the MENA region and elsewhere in the Muslim majority world had constantly attempted to control ideological power – Islamic religion and its organizations in this case – before Islamic movements even came to exist in the form we know today. The power struggle among political, yet conflicting actors over ideological power emerges from ideology’s distinctive form of social organization to legitimatize specific forms of authority and to solve contradictions in society.

by Hakim Khatib

When the Iranian revolution embarked against Muhammad Reza Shah’s regime in the late 70s, it wasn’t a social revolution aiming at changing the society, but rather a political one with legitimate demands similar to what Syrians once were looking forward to achieve in 2011. When all this started in Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the most central and inspirational figure in the Iranian revolution was still in exile. This is a story that happened 35 years ago and we cannot but see the rhyming of its events with the current Syrian imbroglio.

by Hakim Khatib

The assassination of the man in charge of thousands of prosecutions including the controversial death sentences against Muslim Brotherhood followers paved the way for the incumbent Egyptian president for a one-time knockout against dissent once and for all.

Speaking at the military funeral of Hisham Barakat, the Prosecution General of Egypt killed in a car bomb on June 29, the President Abdulfattah Al-Sisi threatened to amend the laws to make them responsive to the implementation of justice. “Under such circumstances, courts are useless and so are laws,” said Al-Sisi promising to carry out any death or lifetime sentences against what he called “terrorists”.

by Hakim Khatib

Syrian government has used barrel bombing in hundreds of locations over the past year. The latest Human Rights Watch (HRW) report reveals staggering violations of human rights and increase of war crimes.

The report mentioned that Al-Assad regime used a wide range of weapons, including improvised explosive barrel bombs to put an end to opposition forces.

von Hakim Khatib

In den letzten drei Jahrzehnten haben sich die politischen, ökonomischen, sozialen und kulturellen Strukturen unserer Welt auf verschiedenen Ebenen radikal verändert. Das Interesse am Islam ist nicht nur in wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten und Zeitschriften gestiegen, sondern auch in allen anderen westlichen Medien. Dieses Interesse wurde unter Anderem durch die Islamisch-Iranische Revolution von 1979, die Fatwa gegen den Buchautor von „Die satanischen Verse“ Salman Rushdie 1989, die Golfkriege Anfang der 90er Jahre, den Balkankonflikt als auch die Einwanderung von Migranten mit islamischem Hintergrund in Europa gefördert.

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