Ahmed: ‘Hussein’ should be a point of pride for Obama

Americans these days can be divided into three categories: those who think Obama is a Muslim (and thus a likely terrorist) because his middle name is Hussein; those who think it is an inconvenience for Mr. Obama to have a Muslim sounding middle name; and those who are above this bias because, after all, what’s in a name?

I do not fit into any of these categories, at least in part because I am an international student and not American. I think it is wonderful for Mr. Barack Hussein Obama to have the middle name he does. And I find it disgusting that there are some people who ridicule Mr. Obama just because of it.

The name Hussein, of course, has its roots in Arab-Islamic culture. Hussein is Arabic for “the little beautiful one,” and it is one of the most common names among Muslims, probably the most popular after Mohammad and Ali. And not without reason. The historical figure Hussein was a maternal grandson of Prophet Mohammad, a son of Ali (the fourth Caliph of the Muslim Empire) and is revered by Muslims all over the world.

What make Hussein so important are not his family connections, but what he achieved and what he stood for.

Hussein was killed in a military encounter, not in a “jihad” against Jews and Christians. He was not a professional soldier and certainly not a terrorist. Instead, he was a scholar and a politician who ran for caliph, but was killed in the process. It was none other than the incumbent caliph, Yazid I of the Umayyad dynasty, who killed Hussein.

Yazid I was the son of Muawiyah I, the fifth caliph of the Muslim empire. On his deathbed, Muawiyah chose his son Yazid as his successor. This was a turning point in Muslim history, since to that point the caliphate was quasi-democratic: The person who had the most popular support would become caliph. But by choosing his son as his successor, Muawiyah was essentially changing the nature of the caliphate to that of a dynasty. And this is what Hussein, and other scholars, rose up against.

Hussein went a step further and declared his intention to become caliph. He, with seventy of his closest relatives, advisors and followers, was on his way to Kufa, a city where he enjoyed popular support, when he was overtaken by an army dispatched by the new caliph, Yazid. The army cornered Hussein and his men and offered them two choices: an unconditional surrender and pledge of allegiance to Yazid or imminent death. Instead of surrendering to Yazid and endorsing his dynastic designs, Hussein chose to fight. He and all the males in his camp died that day. The band of 70 was no match for the imperial army that had humbled Persia and Byzantium. But Hussein set an example for generations to come by refusing to give in to a tyrant and standing up for the right thing, even against heavy odds. And this is why Hussein’s death is mourned to this day by millions of people around the world.

Given the significance of the name Hussein, I feel disgusted when people make fun of it. I feel disgusted when people suggest that being Muslim is somehow synonymous with being a terrorist. I feel disgusted when even the suggestion that a person might be a Muslim is seen as mudslinging, an allegation which should be refuted. Colin Powell was dead right when he asked whether there is something wrong with being a Muslim in this country.

Is there something wrong with it? We know Obama is not a Muslim, as he is a Christian instead. But is there something wrong with him having a Muslim father, or with having a Muslim middle name?

I know America will grow out of this. There was a time when being black in America was a problem, when being Jewish was a problem, when being Catholic was a problem. So if being a Muslim in America is a problem today, we know that this too will go away, that eventually people will be judged by their achievements, not by their names.

Barack Obama should be proud to be named after a man of such stature. America would be lucky if President Barack Hussein Obama turns out to be even one -tenth as brave as the Hussein who had the courage to say no to a tyrant.

Syed Salah Ahmed is a sophomore in Saybrook College.


  • ellio


  • Brad Kileen

    It should not be a point of pride, nor a point of shame. It's just a name. Simply looking at his policies will give voters all the proof they need to know he's a terrible candidate. Having said that, America is not a muslim nation.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent insight

  • Recent Alum

    Interesting that the author does not appear to have ever heard of Saddam Hussein.

  • Jerome

    USA is suspicious of Muslims due to the fact that the majority of them here supported the policy reasons behind the 9-11 attacks as espoused by al-qaeda. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that USA is more tolerant than most societies towards Muslims while Muslim societies in general are severely intolerant towards minority Christians, Jews and Hindus living in them. Take for example Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Indonesia. I hope that International students like Ms. Ahmed will strive to change the treatment of minorities within Muslim majority societies with as much fervor as she does to change USA to be more tolerant of Muslims here.

  • Usama Shaikh

    @ Jerome

    Mr Jerome, with all due respect if you think that al-qaeda and Saddam Hussein's supporters, which doesn't means Afghanistan and Iraq respectively, represent majority of muslims, you definitely need to take a look at world's atlas. You will find out that the muslim population is spread around the world, and the people who supported the attacks, as you have alleged make a minute part of muslims themselves.

    You are giving examples of Pakistan , Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Indonesia as intolerant towards Christian, Jew and Hindu minorities among them, please provide proof to your allegations; or simply visit these places and meet people and ask them for yourself. If you think that the political turmoils or war, as in Iraq, have affected the minorities, you need to reconsider the situation because this has effected every national of that country, without asking the person about his religion.

    Still, if you think there is maltreatment of minorities among muslim majorities I would be more than happy to make a difference, and remind muslims of those areas that the religion protects the interests of religious minorities as strongly as for every muslim themself.

    Hats off Mr. Salah for this article, that was a piece of history re-lived.

  • Not yet an alum

    Recent Alum-

    You seem to have missed the point. The author of this column wants us to look beyond the fact that Saddam and Barack have a name in common and see what deeper connotations that name could carry if we would let it. Think of King Hussein if it helps you.

    I am reminded of the summer of 2004, when I accompanied my half-Pakistani friend on a trip to look at colleges. One night we stayed with some cousins of her father's who had a six-year-old son named Osama. "A dangerous name," his father told us, and you could hear the sadness in his voice at the thought that even a little boy was not safe from the connotations one man had given his name.

  • Another Not yet an alum

    I agree with Not yet an alum's comments about the column.

    I don't agree with Usama Shaikh in that there is no intolerance in Muslim countries. For example in Saudi Arabia it is illegal to practice any religion other then Islam. America (together with Canada) is probably one of the most tolerant countries in the world. Muslim countries, and even Europe, lag far behind.

    As for Brad Kileen's comment, America is not a Muslim nation, but neither is it a Christian nation, or a Buddhist nation etc. The first amendment makes that very clear.

  • Alcibiades


    individuals in muslim countries are far more likely to believe that al-Qaeda was NOT behind the attacks of 9/11.



    this has nothing to do with Barack Obama and it is an embarrassment to the US that anyone would think of voting against him simply because his father was Muslim.


    I'm voting against Barack Obama for other reasons.

  • Fatima Ghani

    Thanks Salah.

    General Powell's comments mean a lot to American Muslims, and a lot for America's future.

    To those who want to make generalizations about the views of contemporary Muslims (which, it is important to note, is very separate from the views dictated by Islam), I have some good news for you: You can! And you can base it on facts! (Uh-oh.) Here is the link to an extensive seven-year, post-9/11 survey conducted by Gallup, which sets the gold standard in polling and opinion research, across forty countries, covering a representative sample of over 90 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims.


    Most of you will be surprised by the results, and that by itself is a sad thing. Perhaps for that you can blame the people here: smearcasting.com

  • Anonymous

    Props Salah. Thank you for speaking out against ignorance and bigotry.

  • Jerome

    Usama Shaikh: Is it legal to have open worship places in Saudi Arabia or for that matter any country in the Middle East for Hindus or Buddhists? There are millions of migrant workers from India and other Asian countries living in these Middle Easters countries. Do not lecture me about visiting these countries because I have.

  • SK

    The comments on this column are as interesting as the column itself.
    At least Muslim countries are not as bad as China (where people in Tibet were attacked just because of their race) and India (where Hindutva mob riots against Christians and Muslims see to be a routine).

  • Alum
  • Jerome

    SK: The Muslim countries are worse than India or China. In India and China, people of different religions are able to build temples, churches, mosques and worship as they please. China of course places more restrictions but there is nevertheless equal tolerance of all religions. India is a constitutional democracy with full freedom of religion. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Oman, Iran and other states with predominant Muslim populations are "Islamic States" with no tolerance for religious minorities. In many of these countries, even visitors are not allowed to bring in Bibles or other religious texts. Public religious meetings are forbidden except for Muslims. The treatment of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries is deplorable. See the 60 Minute Story on Dubai workers . . . Dubai being the best place in the Middle East for freedom for laborers:
    While Dubai is a Western style country it is also steep with Arabic tradition. "We are not talking about a democracy here," says Dr.Younsi. Foreigners have few rights and all the power is contained by those steeped in tradition. A social pyramid exists with the Emiratee on top and the non-skilled or semi-skilled workers at the bottom. This level of worker is viewed as an expendable indentured servant.

    According to HRW, 880 construction workers were killed on the job in 2005 and while the national average wage is $2,500 per month the construction workers earn between $106 and $250 per month.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that there is religious intolerance in various Muslim countries, however your extreme generalizations about China & India's tolerant behavior and your accounts of Pakistan are way off their mark if not absurd and completely false.
    Lets take India first and talk about the number of Muslims killed in Gujarat Genocide in 2002. Not only muslims, in fact, I can provide you with news clips about christians being murdered by hindu fundamentalists. India might be a "constitutional democract" but it is first a predominantly hindu state and there is nothing that the government can do to curb the popular sentiment. You should go live in India, talk to cab drivers, auto rickshaw drivers, doormen, majority of whom incidentally happen to be Muslims, you will realize that they might have a mosque to go pray at, but they face social discrimination on a daily basis.
    China is a whole different story, havent you ever seen the Falun Gong protesting on cross campus against the intolerant behavior of chinese government? Were you at Yale when President Hu came to visit? You should have seen the protests.

    Lastly, Pakistan. According to your definition of religious tolerance, if a country allows other religions to build a temple/mosque/church/synagogue, they are very tolerant towards religion. Now if you look at Pakistan (have you lived there or been there as you claim about the middle east?), there are Hindu temples, Zoroastrian temples, there are churches, in fact cathedrals. Some of the best schools in Karachi and Lahore (Pakistan's biggest cities) are operated by the Catholic Board of Pakistan and the Parsi communnity. Having studied at one of the christian missionary schools amd thus interacting a lot with christian minorities, I must tell you that they are given all the religious freedom they require. From public prayers to scripture lessons to sunday mass, it was all there and trust me they did not do it silently (no one expected them to do so), the church bells were heard in the city loud and clear (unlike the US where mosques do not give the call of prayers on loud speakers).

    To conclude, there is religious intolerance among Muslim countries, but firstly it is not just a Muslim thing, secondly religious intolerance arises due to certain factions in the society and is never a majority opinion (even in the case of Saudi Arabia), thus there is intolerance in all countries including US, UK and Canada and it is wrong of you to say that US is perhaps more religiously tolerant than others. And it is even more wrong to bundle up all the Muslim countries and declare that they are intolerant towards other religions.
    For some of the countries that you name like Iran (which incidentally has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East after Israel, I got my fact from Roya Hakakian, published author, american persian jew) and the Middle east, there are other factors that work against religious minorites and not just the different religion. For example, the whole being an Arab and a non-Arab mentality in the Middle East, farsi speaking or otherwise in Iran. Lastly, Muslims in Pakistan, Iran, and the Middle East will first be intolerant towards a member of the opposite sect (shia or sunni) before they attack a christian, if you do not believe this, again we can see historically how many shias have been killed in pakistan compared to christians or in iraq.

  • Anonymous

    Furthermore, in Pakistan Christmas, Easter and other religious holidays of Christians and of other religions are not only celebrated openly but also given a very positive coverage in the local media.

    (Not by the person above)

  • scientist

    omg im so going to this thing. thanks ydn!

  • SK
  • Jerome

    Are you joking that Pakistan is tolerant of Christians and Hindus? I have Hindu and Christian friends from Pakistan who are no longer living in Pakistan due to Taliban like persecution. Remember that Pakistan sponsored the Taliban even in Afghanistan. Internet is full of articles about Pakistani intolerance for Christians, JEWS,Hindus and the shia. (http://www.speroforum.com/site/article.asp?id=16554&t=Pakistani+Christians+told+to+convert+or+die)

    UK and USA are much more free for Muslims than most Muslim states are for non-Muslims. There is no question about it. No matter how you spin it.

  • UH

    1) As I said before, Jerome, Pakistan is not perfect, there are extreme people in every society including US and UK. Pakistan is no different.

    2) Pakistan does not have a significant jewish population at all, and if there was, Pakistani-Jewish relationship has to do with political reasons rather than religious reasons.

    3) Internet is also full of articles where Christians and Hindus are seen living normal lives in Pakistan. here are some examples, Danish Kaneria, a hindu from Karachi, is currently one of the top Pakistani cricketers, Hundreds of thousands of Sikh pilgrims come to Pakistan every year (Lahore to be exact) for their annual pilgrimage, Pakistan provides ample security measures for their journey and always welcomes them. I have already written about Christians, research some of the top openly Christian schools in Pakistan, no one has ever asked them not to preach christianity or to stop practicing their religion. here are the names of some school you might want to look up: Saint Patrick's high school, Saint Paul's, Saint Joseph's and Saint Mary's. Also if you have time check out Mama Parsi and BVS High School for boys, the top Parsi high schools which also house zoroastrian temples adjacent to the buildings.
    If you are not satisfied, I can provide you with ample internet links to support the evidence that there is ample evidence of religious tolerance in pakistan. And by the way Indian Muslims and Christians have also been issued the same notice that they should either convert to hinduism or die, again source can be provided.

    4) How many hindu and christian friends do you have from Pakistan? Having lived in Pakistan and studied in the biggest Christian school in the country, I have hundreds of Christian friends and several hindu friends. Furthermore, I also have a ton of friends who have been persecuted in the US, including myself, however, i believe that an argument cant just be based on the fact that oh I know more people who have been persecuted than you and therefore I am correct.

    There are several take home messages that you keep on missing. I would not waste my time writing them all again as I already wrote them last time, please understand that making a generalized statement does not help. If you sit down and analyze you will realize there are more factors playing a role than just religion, for instance, Shia and Sunni problems (that is sectarian violence on a historical political issue).

    The situation is not as black and white as you make it. There is religious intolerance in Saudi Arabia, I agree, but is it just because of religion, I disagree. The same is the case with the rest of the Middle east, India, China, US and the UK.

    The main reason why I like the author's article is because of the reasoning that he presented, indeed the art of argument is one of the most important things that you can learn from yale. So focus on being specific and back your argument with a fact, generalizations lead to disagreements and hinder development. We are here for a dialogue and not to throw dirt at one or the other section of the community. There is good in every society yet there is evil in every society as well.

  • Anonymous

    It's funny how people are criticizing Muslim counties on the basis of stereotypes. But you know what, I don't blame you (jerome) for hating on Muslims. If a Christian blew up my home (or one of my countries major monuments) I don't think I could ever think of a Christian as a peace-loving, tolerant creature. If you were an Afghani kid who woke up one morning to find that your father was killed by a US landmine maybe you would think differently about US being tolerant to Muslims.
    In case you didnt know, the Saudi Arabia that you scorn so much for intolerance to religious minorities is one of America's precious allies. Religion and politics are two separate things and unfortunately, will always be mixed together in order to manipulate people. It is important to realize when you're being manipulated to believe something, regardless of your race, religion, nationality. Otherwise, you're stupid, or like most Yale students, a tool.

    Hussein is a name. If a US president has an ethnic name, it is something to be proud of because it celebrates the diversity and accepting attitude towards minorities that the US is proud of. If the name happens to have negative connotations and people can't get over that--then Americans are indeed stupid ( as the popular stereotype goes. Boy, don't we love stereotypes?)

  • Anonymous

    While I believe strongly in the author's views,and while I too believe that someday America will outgrow its obsession with names and race, I also want to highlight the phrase, "not an American." What if this situation were reversed and say, an Afghan man with the surname Goldstein were to run for the presidency of his nation. I, as "not an Afghan" could easily write how Afghanistan should outgrow its obsession with names, but is it likely that my words would be heard, let alone my message received? While tolerance is priceless, and someday the world will surely move towards acceptance, there is no reason why an American must accept the greatness of the name Hussein any more than a a Pakistani should accept an Isaac or Joseph. A name is a name, and must be no more if it is to bring peace rather than conflict.

  • SK

    I didn't know of any jews in South Asia

  • UH

    I must commend the author of post #22.
    I couldn't agree with you more.

    And thanks to the author of #21, that is exactly what I have been trying to say all along.

  • Anonymous


    Not that it is exactly relevant to the debate but you might find in interesting to know that both Isaac and Joseph are in face respected and revered names among the Muslims because they believe both of them to be prophets. Among others that the Muslims think were once prophets are also Moses(I believe that Jews don't refer to Moses as a prophet but as a messenger of God to which I would like to point out that when Muslims call someone a prophet, they mean that he is a messenger of God not divine) and Jesus. A lot of the anti-Muslim sentiment in the west, I believe comes from ignorance. The most shameful thing, however is that we are in one of the best centers of learning and education in the world and most of us still base our opinions of Muslims on biases and stereotypes instead of factual knowledge - knowledge like Islam refers to Jews and Christians as 'people of the book' and asks Muslims to come to common terms with them or knowledge like the first Islamic state in Madina consisted of Jews and Christians apart from Muslims who lived extremely peacefully under Muslim rule. Perhaps you need to take a class in the cultures in Medieval Spain; Medieval Spain was ruled by Muslims under whom Jews, Christians and people of many other faiths lived harmoniously until the Christians attacked, finished the peaceful coexistence. Medieval Spain is the only example from history besides Medina, where people of so many faiths coexisted together and it was ruled by Muslims. If those states were Muslim states and they did accommodate other faiths, it is perhaps not because of the teachings of Islam that there is some racism in some Muslim countries(like all the counties in the west which we so comfortably ignore) but because of other reasons; reasons that might be political or because of the resentment generated in Muslim societies recently because of their mistreatment by us. For once let us rise above our biases; let us actually try to gain true knowledge and let us try to make a difference for the better to all people, whether Jews, Christians, Muslims, of any other religions or not of any religion at all because before anything else we are humans - persons of the same one great family. So Let us treat each other as brothers and sisters and not as enemies. Let us be one!

  • Jerome

    The biggest difference between US, UK, India, China, and Muslim countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt is that the latter countries are "Islamic" states by their constitutions and are not secular. In these countries, Islam is recognized as the official religion of the state. By definition, religious minorities have less rights in such states. Of course Pakistan has Christians and Hindus living in the country just as Egypt and Iran has Christians and Jews living in them. In some of these countries, the minorities are tolerated by the Muslim populations. In others, they are derided, persecuted and margianilized. I agree that certain people within these countries are more tolerant than others. However, the issue is not the tolerance of the citizens. Rather, the issue is the treatment of minorities by the state. Since the official religion is Islam, religious minorities do not enjoy the same freedoms in Pakistan, Afganistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Iran, Sudan and other Muslim states by law. Implying that they do is equivalent to the "separate but equal" policies of the US against racial minorities 50 years ago. Until these countries become secular states with equal rights rather than states preferring sharia law, religious minorities will be second class citizens under the law. It is unfortunate that the Muslims from such countries conveniently fail to realize this. There must be an internal movement within Islam to separate the mosque from the state (rather than the continuous struggle (jihad) to further involve the mosque in state affairs and establish "Islamic" states). If such a movement is successful, the world would be more peaceful in areas such as Xinjiang province of China, Kashmire, Sudan, and elsewhere in which Muslims seperatists advocate Islamic states.

  • robert99

    Intolerance towards Christians and other religions? Try bringing a bible into Saudi Arabia. As I recall, a couple of little Christian girls were beheaded in Indonesia due to fanatcism. And I do recall that the Buddha of Bamiyan was dynamited by muslims in Afganistan. Well, nobody's perfect.

  • UH

    Bringing Kashmir in this debate is completely pointless since the issue is deeper than just muslim separatists trying to create a muslim state. Another place where you are generalizing.
    First off, my problem with you have been simple, do not bunch up all the muslim countries into one. Saudi Arabia and UAE are technically monarchies and so are a bunch of other middle eastern arab countries. Whereas Pakistan, Indonesia and others are "So-called democracies".
    The difference in governance should be enough to make you understand the reasons behind persecution of minorities and other factions of the society. In Saudi Arabia women face more persecution than a christian man will if he goes there carrying a bible.
    Let me also clarify that there is no sharia law in pakistan and there never was a sharia law in pakistan. You do not have your facts right. Very few countries have the sharia law, mainly Saudi Arabia and they have different reasons for having it. You see the Saudi family legitimizes its rule through its own interpretation of religion and uses the religious scholars for its own benefit. The Saudi government has nothing to do with Islam otherwise, most of them do not even practice Islam at all.
    Pakistan is another complicated issue and can not be dismissed by saying it is another Islamic state, because firstly it is not an islamic state, and secondly no matter what you call your state if it is comprised of 99% people, who follow one religion, that state will have leanings towards that religion, India is the biggest example of this and as you claim it is a pretty secular state. The ground reality in India is very different from what you percieve.
    In most Muslim countries, it is the rulers (dictators, which the "extremely tolerant USA" supports and nurtures) use the name of religion to opress the masses and get their own way with them. Same with Iran, the Mullahs heavily use the religion to legitimize themselves and assert their power on daily lives of iranians.
    If a christian is persecuted in one of these countries, so is a poor man, a woman, and anyone who raises his voice against the ruler. It does not matter what their religion is. But when these leaders kill their political opponents and imprison poor people and make riches for themselves, no one cares. It is the ruling elite in most Muslim countries (incidentally established or empowered by colonial powers or the US) that is the root of the problem and not Islam or being Muslim.
    So if Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, etc are to be blamed, then the US and the UK are direct culprits as well for being best friends with the monarchy in Saudi Arabia, for promoting and supporting every single dictator in Pakistan and every other Muslim country.
    Again and again I am trying to say that the world today is not black and white as you try to make it. Religion no longer is the driving reason for action in most states, (I am not talking about on an individual level, being quite aware of the Talibanisation problem in Pakistan and afghanistan. There will always be fundamentalists in every religion), however it is the hunger for power, control and money that feeds to more persecution and believe me then it does not matter which religion you belong to. If you are not of any benefit, these dictators and monarchs will persecute you.
    Thus the issue is about tolerance at the ground level and not state level as you predict. Because if it was at the state level, then the US might prove to be one of the least tolerant, with japanese-origin people sent to concentration camps during WWII and then the treatment of Muslims in government offices and airports today. But what makes the US, a tolerant country is its people and its diversity, which allows it to accept all kinds of people with an open mind.
    If the US had a similar dictatorship as one of Muslim countries that you keep on talking about, you would see firsthand what it means to be persecuted without any religious prejudice.
    There is no need for any internal movement from within Islam, there is need of general education, awareness, provision of basic necessities of life, employment and reduction of poverty. If the US, the UK, etc worked for even one of these goals and try to empower the people of these countries rather than their rulers, there will be no popular religious fanatic sentiment, there will only be the rational harmonious existence, but then again it is unachievable and seriously the US does not care since it has people like you to believe that it is such a tolerant nation that it can get away by supporting quite a bit of intolerance in other countries.

    p.s. The Taliban were supported by the US as well at some point in time, including Osama bin laden, but thats a completely different topic not to be discussed, so there is no point in bringing them in this debate.

  • Jerome

    UH: You are mistaken as to the solution. There must be greater separation of the mosque and state in these countries by law, not just regime change to a democracy, in order for real reform to take place. Iraq and Afghanistan have technically become democracies after the recent wars but they are by no means safe for religious minorities. In terms of the Muslim identity, please do not forget that Pakistan was created because of the Hindu Muslim conflict by Muslims. Pakistan is a direct result of Islam exercising its dominance over government (or Islam being used as the ultimate identity for power). Pakistan is 99% Muslim because the Muslims intended to be as such. Kashmire issue resulted from Pakistan. The Islamic Ummah despite of where they are located sympathizes with and supports separatist movements all over the world in the name of Islam. Thus, the infidels like me identify Muslim conflicts as such because the Islamic Ummah identifies them as such.

  • UH

    Once again you simplofy things without looking at the full picture.
    I did not say that the solution is democracy, I said the problem was lack of education, poverty, law and order, and public empowerment. If people have a say in the governing of their country, things will improve.
    Iraq and Afghanistan are a joke in the name of democracy, do not even go there.
    Given the number of Allied soldiers in those countries, I think it is hardly just the fault of the democratic iraqi or afghan government when religious minorities are being persecuted. It is a fault of both the parties, the allied armies have failed to implement the so-called democracy that they wanted to enforce. At the same time, if you educated the new generation of Afghans you will see results and peace in the region. A superficial democracy is not the solution, people first need to be educated about their rights and their responsibilities to their country and to mankind. That is when a democracy or something close to democracy will work.

    Firstly the hindu muslim conflict was promoted by the colonial power of the time, our beloved UK. Hindus and Muslims had lived in relative harmony for hundreds of years (there were battles and problems but most were directed towards gaining rule of India rather than religious conflicts), it was only once the british start meddling with India that it became a bigger issue.
    Secondly, even though Pakistan was made for muslims (or at least thats how history portrays it), the leader of the independence movement, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was a secular man who did even practice Islam. In fact, after Pakistan came into being, in his first speech he outlined his vision of a secular state.
    I will quote some stuff from his speech on 11th of August, 1947 (3-4 days before Pakistan officially became an independent nation).

    "The first and the foremost thing that I would like to emphasize is this - remember that you are now a sovereign legislative body and you have got all the powers. It, therefore, places on you the gravest responsibility as to how you should take your decisions. The first observation that I would like to make is this: You will no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State.
    And more impotantly, "You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the business of the State."
    "Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State."

    These three quotes describe what kind of a man he was and what he envisioned Pakistan to be. But alas, power hungry elite and feudal lords, poor uneducated masses made Pakistan what it is today.
    The answer to problems of extremism and religious intolerance is education not democracy or war.
    I rest my case.
    You can read the whole speech at this website http://pakistanspace.tripod.com/archives/47jin11.htm
    Their source is as follows:
    Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Speeches and Statements as Governor General of Pakistan 1947 - 48. Published (1989) by Government of Pakistan, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Directorate of Films & Publications, Islamabad

  • Anonymous


    I am appalled by your lack of knowledge and impartiality, especially considering that you are supposed to be at one of the best places of learning in the world.

    I agree with UH quite a lot but what he/she failed to mention and what I would like to add is that even though Pakistan and most other countries do not have shariah enforced in them, Shariah by no means makes non-Muslims second grade citizens. They have equal rights as the Muslims and in fact Muslim governments are strongly urged to safeguard their rights. Please do not be so foolish as to consider Taliban ruled Afghanistan as a good example of Shariah law; that's equal to calling Hitler's rule a democracy. A better example of Shariah Law being fairly administered is the Muslim rule in Medieval Spain.

    Now before we go ahead arguing further, I request you Mr. Jerome to write more academically; at least quote your sources. Right now all you are doing is stating your messed up beliefs and assumptions as if they are facts. It would be a good idea to study a little, things you try to talk so authoritatively about.

  • Anonymous

    I would like to add to the comment above that a good metaphor for being a non-Muslim under Shariah law is being an atheist at Yale whose logo is "For GOD, for country, for Yale".

    I'd say that as oppressive as a true Shariah law is supposed to get.

  • Jerome

    Shariah law presumes that law as codified by Muhammed is divine and perfect. Non-Muslims would obviously denounce sharia law as incompatible with modernity. Yet, non-Muslims are forced to comply with sharia law in these countries. As such, by definition, the nonMuslims become second class citizens. I am appalled at the Muslims here that are advocating and defending such regimes and intolerant practices.
    The question remains whether it is possible to establish secular states in Muslim lands without Islam being adopted as the official religion. Would Muslims around the globe support Iraq and Afghanistan being secular states? The answer clearly is no. Muslims would unite in condemning the West establishing its secular perspective on Islamic lands if this was done.

  • Anonymous

    I personally think that non-Muslims would only denounce Islamic Law if they have as inaccurate a knowledge of Shariah as you do. Do you even know what it says, what it is? It is not what the Taliban enforced; that was extremism, highly condemnable!

    I will again refer to the Muslim State in medieval Spain, which you will find every educated person praising not condemning and it had Shariah rule.

    As I said before, I would appreciate if you show how you reached your firm conclusions. I hope they were not formed by watching Fox News.

  • Anonymous

    "as such, by definition… citizens"… would you mind stating the definition jerome?

  • Anonymous

    im impressed, jerome, how you conveniently ignore all logical arguments and assert your views anyway without responding to them directly 😀

  • Simon

    No reasonable non-Muslim would ever want sharia law imposed on them no matter how fair or good it is.

  • yale '11

    Shariah presumes that Muhammed’s law is devine and discriminates against non-Muslims in myriad ways. Even under liberal sharia practices, infidels cannot publicly demonstrate their religious practices and cannot proselytize Muslims. Infidels also have to pay jizya, a special tax for not believing in Muhammed’s message. The testimony of a non-Muslim is not equal to the testimony of a Muslim man etc.

  • Muslim

    Why do people keep repeating the word "infidel"? Muslims don't call Christians and Jews infidels. The term for them in Islam is "people of the book". The word infidel was actually coined by the Catholic Church, and was used to describe Protestants, Muslims and Jews.

    Non-Muslims have to pay Jizya, but that is because they cannot be forced to joined the army. It's a tax, not on their religious belief, but on them not having to serve in the army.

    Also the Jews had their golden age in Muslim Spain, that is, Spain under Shariah Rule. Compare this to the treatment they received in Europe. The same is true for the Orthodox Church.

    An excellent article by Noah Feldman on Shariah Law

  • Anonymous


    non-muslims are allowed to publicly demonstrate their religious practices under shariah law

  • Anonymous

    Adding to #39, an Islamic state can possibly engage in a war which has to do with religious ideology and beliefs and I'm pretty sure that a person who does not believe in that ideology would not want to risk his/her life fighting for it. Thus Jizya is in actuality a very favorable rule for non-Muslims.

  • Unbelievable

    It is appalling that some Muslims at Yale would actually advocate for shariah law to become dominant in secular states and are espousing the virtues of shariah law!

  • Unbelievable

    Medieval Spain may have been a favorable society for non-Muslims but most people would rather live in secular states and would not want to return to such an imagined utopia.

  • Anonymous

    imagined? how? i think it was real… yale professors think it was real.

    no one is saying that a secular state should have shariah law… that would not leave it a secualr state, it would become islamic! what is probably being said however, is that a muslim state is not unjust in administering shariah law to it's non-muslim citizens if shariah is administered fairly and not like it's administered by extremists who frankly terrorize people in the name of shariah. i call the taliban rule terrorism, it was not shariah rule only a horrible misuse of the word.

    do you know that the nazi's claimed that the roots of their movement were in Christianity? do you think it would be fair to judge christianity on the basis of what the nazi's did? i don't think so. i think it would be unfair to christianity which i believe advocates peace and good deeds and good treatment of christians as well as non-christians. i think that judging islam on the basis of the actions of terrorists, of the taliban and al-qaida is also unfair because islam also advocates peace and good deeds and good treatment of both muslims and non-muslims.

    Oh and Simon (#37), please re-read what you wrote, "No reasonable non-Muslim would ever want sharia law imposed on them no matter how fair or good it is.". it does not make much sense. in a state where a particular law(any law not necessarily shariah) is democratically enforced and is fair and good to all it's citizens should be quite acceptable. note however that it is necessary for it to be democratically enforced and fair to it's citizens.

  • Kevin

    Learn to live and let live. The alternative is a world in which different religions would fight for dominance as to the law that controls. Jews will fight for Mosaic law and Hindus for Dharmasastra to be applied. Catholics would prefer their doctrines as adopted by the Vatican and the Muslims prefer Shariah. All are certain as to the divine nature of the applicable law.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Kevin here. We need to learn to co-exist. It is necessary before we are able to do that, however, to learn to respect each other because if we think that a certain faction that we want to co-exist with advocates terrorism and takes away women and minority rights then we will frankly not be able to respect them and hence will not want to co-exist with them. If we think that a certain people are terrorists then our morals would dictate that we condemn them and not live with them peacefully. Hence it is necessary that we first educate our selves about each other in good spirit and try to clarify misconceptions if any that we might have. If you find something that disturbs you about a particular belief, go talk to a friend or any other reasonable person of that belief about it and try to find out what the other side of the perspective is and how they justify all that to themselves. Good things can come out of it.

  • Anonymous

    I can respect Muslims. I cannot respect some Muslims' advocacy for shariah law and Islamic states in countries that are predominantly Muslim any more that I can respect Communists advocating Communism or another political ideology. While shariah law may have had benefits to some Muslims in some societies in the past, it is religious law that arose from Islam and nonMuslims would prefer secular, modern and relevant law to apply to them despite of the society. A state should not endorse one religion over another.

  • Anonymous

    Israel is a Jewish state; I wonder why people don't have a problem with them being a Jewish state. I personally think they have a right to be a Jewish state as long as they treat their non-Jewish population fairly and if their majority population democratically decides for Israel to be a Jewish state. Similarly it is alright for a state to be a Muslim state if it's public democratically decides that way and they treat their non-Muslim population fairly and give them their rights.

    Now, it is totally inconceivable and unfair in the U.S. to implement laws of a particular faith because of the diverse nature of it's people but you must understand that it's not the case in the Muslim states where more than 90-95% people are Muslims. Imagine their being a secular state and its parliament which has a large percentage(larger than 67%) of people who believe that a certain law should be implemented. Religious or not, how can you tell me that they do not as a parliament or a congress have the right to pass it and implement it. It is their democratic right to implement fair laws of their choice. #47, you have to know what the Shariah states to compare it to communism. I insist that it is fair and it is not the extremism that takes place in Africa or that took place in the Taliban rule. In your mind you still think of that when you think of Shariah. All I'm asking is to actually learn what it says. You will be surprised as to how close it is to the current political views held in secular countries (though the conservative end of course). For God's sake, please do not associate terrorist Taliban rule to Shariah. It is as unfair as associating Nazi rule to Christianity.

  • Open Mind

    80% of the United States is Christian. That's a strong majority and USA could have easily become a Christian theocracy. None of us would prefer that.
    By the way, Sudan is only 70% Muslim and some are fighting for a Muslim state with Shariah law in Sudan. Bahrain is only 81% Muslim. UAE is similar. Non-Muslims laborers in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries are not even counted. (Tangentially, it is intellectually dishonest to suggest that Hitler was establishing a Christian state. He was a devoutee of social darwinism as evident from his policies and an agnostic or atheist at heart when it came to religion).

    There is no doubt that Islamic countries would enjoy greater opportunities and freedoms for its Muslim and non-Muslim populations if the governments would focus less on a particular religious tradition and more on secularism, individual autonomy and welfare. Doing so would promote peace and freedom throughout the Muslim and non-Muslim world. The alternative current Islamic regimes are totalitarian dictatorships preferring one religious tradition over another and exercising different standards for the oligarchs and the masses. These governments stifle intellectual curiosity and creativity and suppress economic advances in the process. They also inflame sectarian religious fervor leading to radical Muslim factions. It would be beneficial for these countries to adopt secularism and differentiate the mosque from the state. Such change can only occur from within Islamic thought.

  • Anonymous

    Open Mind, your post is ridiculous. Which dictatorship are you talking about? There is not a single dictatorship in the world which applies Shariah Law. You know why. Because dictatorships are illegal under Shariah Law.
    Saudi Arabia is monarchy, but even they are not orthodox orthodox Muslims. Wahabism is considered by a majority of Muslims in the world to be too extreme.
    Iran too does not have what was traditionally described as Shariah law. Never in the history of Islam have Mullahs ruled a country. The job of scholars is to study and teach, not to govern countries.

    Shariah Law has become a bad word in western vocabulary, even though it was the legal system of a quarter of the world for more than 1200 years. As Professor Andrew March described it,
    "Shariah law is Roman law par excellence."

  • Muslim

    Harvard Law School has an Islamic Legal Studies Program…

  • Open Mind

    Shariah law . . . another communist like philosophy. Proponents claim that authentic shariah law is not practiced anywhere in the world and that only they can bring such a utopia into practice just as Communists claiming that true Communism was not practiced in China, USSR or Cuba. Authenticity of communism and Sharia law of course are nebulous and subjective.

  • Anonymous

    Open Mind, you won't understand, would you? Communism, capitalism, all these are relatively modern philosophies. Communism failed, capitalism keeps hitting road bumps (*financial crisis*).
    Shariah Law is tried and tested. Again, it was the legal system of a quarter of the world for more than 1200 years.

  • Anonymous

    Open Mind… you aren't very open-minded are you? why do you insist on associating Communism with Shariah when you haven't put forth a single argument to prove that it is the case. Secondly, why do you and other people like you not have a problem with Israel being a Jewish state? Would their Christian, Muslim and other populations not have more rights(according to you parallel reasoning for other religious states) if it is declared secular? Why is it okay for Israel to be Jewish?

  • Open Mind

    1) It is an absolutely ridiculous and idiotic stand that any non-Muslim should be compelled to adopt or comply with shariah law. Non-Muslims by definition deny that such law is divine and that they should be applicable. Perhaps a better compromise would be to give the option of applying shariah law in addition to modern laws for Muslims and nonMuslims.

    2) Israel is a Jewish state but its laws are very liberal. Current Israeli law is not Mosaic law. Israel protects the rights of minorities.

  • Anonymous


    It's true that Israel has liberal laws but then again so does Pakistan because it still has basically the same laws (along with India) that the British left it with. Therefore in that sense I don't see much difference. The objection that was raised earlier was about the appropriateness of there being a state in today's world which affiliates itself with a certain religion. The overwhelming response was that just by the state's subscription of of a certain religion, the people who do not believe in that religion become second grade citizens. Some people correctly disagreed with this reasoning and hence came Israel's example.

    Secondly, Shariah law is just a code of rule which might as well have had no religious connection. It's only because of the taboo that has gotten associated with it over time that people like you come around and make claims about it without knowing a single thing of what it says. Shariah's usefulness or lack thereof should have nothing to do with whether it is consider divine or not. People should rather evaluate it on it's lawgiving merits. Having said that, all Muslim countries whose law has anything to do with Shariah, apart from Saudi Arabia, already work on you proposed formula - Shariah is mainly just utilized for legislation involving inheritance whereas for most other things countries have their own modern laws.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the person above - association of a law with anything whatsoever should not be a basis for determining it's applicability or merit. It's like saying that a law that a person in the U.S. comes up with should only be applicable for the Americans - it would be unfair to have people who are not American's follow them in their countries.

  • Open Mind

    If Shariah law was not Muslim, then we would not be having this conversation. Of course it matters to Muslims. Muslims accept it not because it is virtuous but it is divine and advocated in Koran. Don't try to push the same on non-Muslims. That's what is happening to minorities in the so called Muslim dominated societies in Middle East and Africa. But you can continue to live in your jihadi make believe world as your parents taught you in Pakistan.

  • Anonymous

    oops, your open-mindedness leaked all on the floor so you had to resort to personal racial slurs….

    thats the best way ive ever seen to avoid answering hard logical questions; use racial slurs to anger other people and make them loose their rationality just like you…

    anyway keep at it sir…. keep livig with your false beliefs and lack of any open mindedness whatsoever….keep on calling every other voice of muslim reason jihadi even if it is advocating peace…. just as your parents taught you in israel…

    p.s.: you are as open-minded as the fox news network is

  • Open Mind

    Pakistani is not a racial term. It is a country, not a race. The ethnic term would be perhaps "South Asian." The most ignorant people that I have met are from Pakistan. They seem to have the biggest sense of Muslim identity although their fellow Muslims in the Middle East spit on them. Forgive me if you are not Pakistani. Your logic implies that you are. I have no connection to Israel btw. You cannot be advocating peace if you insist on pushing shariah down people's throats when they protest against its vile doctrines.