Dutch Version of Controversial Book on Early Islam Released

2 March 2012


The Fourth Beast, a book by British historian Tom Holland making controversial claims about the origins and development of Islam, has been released in a Dutch translation, though in advance of the English publication. According to an article in Radio Netherlands Worldwide the book’s potentially controversial claims include: that Islam emerged as a product of interaction in a multicultural and multifaith environment; that the religion is geographically rooted in Jordan rather than Mecca; and that little historical material can provide authoritative evidence about the life and character of Mohammad.

The article does not provide a Muslim perspective on Holland’s claims, rather stating their “shocking” nature. The review does an expert perspective from Petra Sijpesteijn, professor of Arabic language and culture at Leiden University. Sijpesteijn affirms Holland’s claim that Islam’s historical emergence was deeply influenced by Christianity and Islam, as “it says in the Qur’an itself that it’s a continuation of Judaism and Christianity. [Further], Western researchers generally assume that the Qur’an wasn’t written all at once, and Muslim scholars also recognise that Islam developed over the course of the centuries.”. Sijpesteijn disputes Holland’s assertion that there are no reliable records of Mohammad produced during his lifetime and immediately afterwards, as well as his suggestion that Islam did not arise in Mecca.


British Museum: “Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam”


The British Museum has opened its exhibition on the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that every devout Muslim must make at least once in their lifetime. It is the final part of a series of three exhibitions over the last 18 months on the subject of faith. The major exhibition on the Hajj aims to give visitors a sense of what this pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam, is all about and, thus, lift the veil on a ritual that has remained very much a mystery to many non-Muslims. For more information on the exhibition, see: The British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/hajj.aspx

Dutch MP Angered at Welcome for Mecca Pilgrims

26 November 2011

The Schipol Airport’s practice welcoming pilgrims returning from Mecca with a small room providing mint tea and sweets has angered MP Hero Brinkman of the PVV Freedom Party. Brinkman contrasted the practice with an apparent lack of Christmas decoration at the airport. A Schipol spokesperson explains that due to the upcoming festival of Sinterklaas the airport is not yet decorated for Christmas, but will soon “go all out”. The airport emphasized it is a tradition of many years to welcome pilgrims returning home from Mecca “out of a spirit of hospitality”.

Convert Straddles Worlds of Islam and Hip-Hop

He was a “15-year-old white kid with Dad a diagnosed schizophrenic, rapist and racial separatist and Mom fresh off her second divorce,” Michael Muhammad Knight writes in his 2006 memoir, “Blue-Eyed Devil: A Road Odyssey Through Islamic America.” At home in Rochester, he “listened to a lot of Public Enemy and read ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ and by 16 had a huge portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini” on his bedroom wall.
At 17, Mr. Knight, having converted to Islam, was “running around Pakistan with Afghan and Somalian refugees” and studying “at the largest mosque in the world: Faisal Masjid in Islamabad, which happens to look like a spaceship.”

Mr. Knight now writes that his immersion in the world of Five Percenters made him, in a sense, an insider. He does not accept the literal truth of all their claims (and he is skeptical that all Five Percenters do). But he is no longer an outsider looking in.

In his book’s introduction, Mr. Knight offers a bit of advice to other scholars doing fieldwork: “Keep your guard up and keep your distance. You spend that much time with a culture and fail to check yourself, you’ll fall in love and become your subject.”

How will you know when you have gotten too close to your subject? For Mr. Knight, there were clear signs. In 2008, he made the traditional pilgrimage to Mecca. “Here I am,” he told me, “a quasi-orthodox Muslim in Mecca, walking around the Kaaba” — the shrine Muslims around the world face during prayers — “and I am interpreting it through mathematics, the lessons, Wu-Tang lyrics. I had to make sense of that.”

Religion claims its place in Occupy Wall Street

BOSTON— Downtown Dewey Square is crammed with tents and tarps of Occupy Boston protesters, but organizers made sure from the start of this weeks-old encampment that there was room for the holy.

No shoes are allowed in the “Sacred Space” tent here, but you can bring just about any faith or spiritual tradition.

A day’s schedule finds people balancing their chakras, a “compassion meditation” and a discussion of a biblical passage in Luke. Inside, a Buddha statue sits near a picture of Jesus, while a hand-lettered sign in the corner points toward Mecca.

The tent is one way protesters here and in other cities have taken pains to include a spiritual component in their occupations. Still, Occupy Wall Street is not a religious movement, and signs of spiritually aren’t evident at all protest sites.

Religious imagery and events have been common since the protests began. In New York, clergy carried an Old Testament-style golden calf in the shape of the Wall Street bull to decry the false idol of greed. Sieradski organized a Yom Kippur service. About 70 Muslims kneeled to pray toward Mecca at a prayer service Friday.

Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, who helped organize Friday’s Muslim prayer service in New York, believes religious groups have already amplified the movement’s power. He sees his involvement as a duty, because so many in his congregation are affected by the nation’s economic woes.

“If Moses or Jesus or Mohammed were alive in this day and time they’d be out there guiding and inspiring and teaching these young people,” he said.

German security services warn of targeted radicalization

Pierre Vogel, born in 1978 and also known as “Abu Hamza”, is a German (radical) Islamic preacher. Vogel, a former professional boxer, converted to Islam in 2001 and completed studies in Arabic at an institute in Mecca. He is especially known for his missionary work, trying to persuade young people to convert to Islam. Based on Vogel’s activities as a “hate preacher”, German security services warn of targeted radicalization which may once they have decided to convert.

Muslim Cultural Center in Chicago area appears near approval

A long battle over a proposed mosque in DuPage County is approaching a turning point, and although anti-Muslim sentiment and resistance to mosques in the Chicago area are hardly going away, Muslims appear to be winning this time.

The Muslim Educational and Cultural Center of America, or Mecca, wants to construct a 47,000-square-foot building in Willowbrook, one that includes a school, a recreational center and a 600-person prayer hall. The plan has been scaled back since a county committee rejected an earlier proposal in January, and the smaller building is considered likely to be approved by the DuPage County Board, which has the final say.

The tensions in DuPage reflect wide-ranging antagonism toward Muslim-Americans. Last year, local residents battled mosque proposals in Tennessee, Wisconsin, California and other states. There was a contentious nationwide debate over a proposed Islamic cultural center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan.

US sues school over denial of Muslim pilgrimage

The federal government sued a suburban Chicago school district Monday for denying a Muslim middle school teacher unpaid leave to make a pilgrimage to Mecca that is a central part of her religion.

In a civil rights case, the department said the school district in Berkeley, Ill., denied the request of Safoorah Khan on grounds that her requested leave was unrelated to her professional duties and was not set forth in the contract between the school district and the teachers union.

CBC Journalist Chronicles His Hajj Experience

The Star – November 8, 2010

Canadian Broadcast Corporation journalist Muhammad Lila is chronicling his trip on this website to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca. The website includes daily updates, and dialogues with Canadians at the heart of Mecca’s modern transformation.

French Imam Creates a Mosque in a Box

News Agencies – September 17, 2010
In today’s busy modern world, spare time is an increasingly precious commodity, a truth that has prompted an imam in Paris to come up with an unorthodox solution. For Muslims too busy with work to attend Friday prayers at the local mosque, the imam has designed a portable mosque in box that can be used anywhere. “We can’t always drop things in an instant and go out and pray,” the imam, Hassmem Bounamcha, told news agencies.
The portable unit is meant to substitute a mihrab, or a prayer niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of Mecca. Bounachma told journalists in Paris that he has several different models, ranging from a children’s version that retails for €69 ($90), to a high-end model, complete with loudspeaker, for €450 ($588). The collapsible units are made from rigid cardboard, Styrofoam, plywood or plastic. The portable mosques could be particularly useful for Muslim women in France, Bounachma told the BBC, because the impending ban on burqas in that country could result in keeping them off the streets.