Sidi Joram van Klaveren shares his remarkable personal journey as a former far-right Dutch lawmaker who had been fiercely critical of Islam and why he chose to became a Muslim in 2019 while he had been penning a book meant to be anti-Islam.
Joram van Klaveren was a lawmaker in the Party of Freedom, led by Dutch anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders, from 2010 to 2014. During that time, he advocated a burqa ban, a ban on masjid minarets and a ‘de-Islamization‘ of the Netherlands. In February 2019, he announced his conversion to Islam. The Islamophobic polemic he had been penning morphed into a rousing defense of the faith.
Overall, the world status of Arabs prior to Islam was nothing to boast about; at best, they deserved a mention only in the footnotes section of a historical study of the era. The political and legal structure of Arab societies was in chaos; the belief system was absurd. At the best of times, they were no better than underlings of either the Persian or Roman Empire.
Arabs glorified and blindly followed the religion of their fathers and grandfathers, no matter how misguided and superstitious their beliefs were. And so they faithfully worshipped idols. Every tribe had its own idol: Hudhail ibn Mudrikah worshipped Suwaa’; the tribe of Kalb worshipped Wadd; Mudhaj worshipped Yahghooth; Khayawaan worshipped Ya’ooq; and Himyar worshipped Nasr. Both the Khuzaa’ah and Quraish tribes worshipped Isaaf and Naailah. The idol Manaat was situated on the seashore, and was glorified by all Arabs in general, and by the Aus and Khazraj tribes in particular. The idol Al-Laat was in Thaqeef, and Al-‘Uzzaa was situated above Dhaat ‘Ariq; these latter two idols were considered by the Quraish to be the greatest of idols.
Other than these main idols, Arabs worshipped a countless number of lesser idols – idols that individuals could take along on journeys and that were small enough to be carried around or placed in homes. In his Saheeh Bukharee related that Abu Rajaa Al-Utaaridee said, “We used to worship a stone. If we found a better stone, we would shoot the first one away and take the second one (as an idol). And if we could find no stone, we would gather a mound of earth; then we would bring a sheep and milk it over (the mound). And then we would walk around it (as an act of worship).” Such polytheistic practices prevented Arabs from knowing Allah glorifying Him, and having faith in Him They claimed that the idols were only intermediaries between them and Allah but that was of course an unacceptable excuse, if they even meant it is an excuse. Their idols and the practice of idol worship controlled their hearts, deeds, and all aspects of their lives, thus leaving little room in their hearts for the glorification of Allah. Allah said:
“It is only those who listen (to the Message of Prophet Muhammad ), will respond (benefit from it), but as for the dead (disbelievers), Allah will raise them up, then to Him they will be returned (for their recompense) . ” (Qur’an 6: 36)
Only remnants of the religion of Ibraaheem – which had reigned supreme in the early days of Makkah – remained, and even those remnants were subject to distortion. True, Arabs performed pilgrimage to Makkah; but they came to worship idols, and the pilgrimage season was a time not of piety, but of mutual boasting over worldly glories. As for the purely Monotheistic beliefs of Ibraaheem , Arabs added superstition and falsehood to them, thus making it very hard to see in the new beliefs the original teachings of Islamic Monotheism. And as such, Arabs had cut off all religious ties to Ibraaheem in fact, they were closest in their beliefs and practices not to the People of the Book, but to the polytheistic Brahmans and Buddhists of India.
Despite widespread ignorance and polytheism, there were some individuals, albeit very few in number, who refused to worship idols, and instead worshipped Allah alone. They are now known as the Hunafaa, which is the plural of the word Haneef a person who is a pure Islamic Monotheist. They are called Hunafaa because they were following the religion of Ibraaheem whom Allah referred to in the Qur’an as being Haneef Allah said:
“Ibraaheem (Abraham) was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a true Muslim Hanifaa (Islamic Monotheism – to worship none but Allah Alone) and he was not of the Al-Mushrikun (Qur’an 3: 67)
One such Haneef was Zaid ibn ‘Amr ibn Nufail – may Allah have mercy on him – who refused to worship idols and to eat Islamically unlawful food, such as blood, an animal that is slaughtered by other than Allah’s Name, or an animal that is not slaughtered but dies of natural causes.
Another example of a Haneef – a pure Monotheist who followed the religion of Ibraaheem and Ismaa’eel – was Qiss ibn Saa’idah Al-Iyaadee. Qiss worshipped Allah alone, without associating any partner with Him in worship; and he was known for his intelligence, wisdom, insight, and noble character. He believed in resurrection after death, and would, prior to the advent of Islam, give glad tidings about the coming of Prophet Muhammad In Dalaail An-Nubuwwah, Abu Nu’aim related that Ibn ‘Abbaas said, “Verily, Qiss ibn Saa’idah would preach to his people in the marketplace (‘Ukaadh); he said in one of his sermons, ‘The truth shall become known from this direction/ and he pointed with his hands towards Makkah. They (i.e., the people gathered around him) said, ‘And what is this truth (or who is the bearer of this truth)?’ He said, ‘A man from the children of Luai ibn Ghaalib will invite you to the Word of Sincerity (the phrase of Tawheed), to the eternal life, and to bliss and happiness that never ends. So when he invites you, answer him (by accepting his message). Were I to know that I will live until the time he is sent, I (would consequently know that I) will be the first who will hasten to him (in order to become a follower) Qiss did end up being a contemporary of the Prophet , but he died before the Prophet received revelation for the first time.
Some Arabs became Christians; others became Jews; but neither Christianity nor Judaism had a substantial number of followers in the Arabian Peninsula. For that matter, even planet worship and Magianism caught on to a very limited degree among Arabs. Despite the presence of minority religious groups in the Arabian Peninsula, the vast majority of Arabs were – until the advent of Islam – die – hard idol worshippers.
Berlin’s neutrality law bars the wearing of overt religious symbols and clothing for state employees on duty.
Justice Boyer said the city state’s so-called neutrality law weighed stronger than the right to free religious expression [AP]
A court in the German capital, Berlin, has ruled that the city was right to bar a Muslim teacher, who wears a hijab (headscarf), from taking classes in a primary school, rejecting her discrimination complaint.
Justice Arne Boyer said on Wednesday that the city state’s so-called neutrality law, which bars the wearing of overt religious symbols and clothing for state employees on duty, weighed stronger than the right to free religious expression.
“Primary school children should be free of the influence that can be exerted by religious symbols,” said Martin Dressler, a court spokesman.
The court, however, found that the young woman, who was not publicly named and did not appear at the court hearing, is allowed to continue teaching older vocational students in a Berlin public secondary school.
The ruling, which was still subject to a possible appeal, was expected to impact a wider debate on the issue in Germany, where rules on the hijab differ between the 16 federal states.
The hijab is a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion.
German national law bans all civil servants from covering their faces (this includes the wearing of niqabs and burkas – the full veils worn by some Muslim women) except for when it is required for health and safety reasons, such as firefighters wearing breathing masks.
However, there is no nationwide ban on civil servants wearing the Muslim hijab, and many states weigh the tension between freedom of religion and civil servants’ neutrality rules on a case-by-case basis.
The predominantly Catholic state of Bavaria recently ordered Christian crosses, which already hang on walls in schools and courtrooms, to also be fixed in the entrance halls of state administration buildings.
Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled in 2015 that a general ban on teachers wearing headscarves was against the right to religious freedom. States have different ways of dealing with the issue.
Despite preventive efforts by the government, prostitution in Sweden is becoming increasingly organized as more foreign-born women and men are lured or forced to sell sex. Recently, this bitter trend expanded to include refugee children.
Prophet, Muĥammad, who had come to confirm the revelations already received, whom the jews were eagerly awaiting and about whom they had been boasting before the pagan Arabs. With him, they used to tell those Arabs, ‘our victory would be complete.’
كفرهم كان لمجرد العناد الذي هو نتيجة الحسد لا للجهل، وهو أبلغ في الذم؛ لأن الجاهل قد يعذر. الألوسي: 1/322
Ibn Abbas said, “The Jews used to invoke Allah (for the coming of Muhammad ) in order to gain victory over the Aws and Khazraj, before the Prophet was sent. When Allah sent him to the Arabs, they rejected him and denied what they used to say about him. Hence, Mu`adh bin Jabal and Bishr bin Al-Bara’ bin Ma`rur, from Bani Salamah, said to them, `O Jews! Fear Allah and embrace Islam. You used to invoke Allah for the coming of Muhammad when we were still disbelievers and you used to tell us that he would come and describe him to us,’ Salam bin Mushkim from Bani An-Nadir replied, `He did not bring anything that we recognize. He is not the Prophet we told you about.‘ [Ibn Kathir]
And when there came to them a Book from Allah confirming that which was with them – although before they used to pray for victory against those who disbelieved – but [then] when there came to them that which they recognized, they disbelieved in it; so the curse of Allah will be upon the disbelievers. (2:89)
Rabbi “Šim‘on ben Yohai” شمعون بن يوحاي is an eminent Jewish Rabbi from the second century.
According to the jewish site: Chabad.org
Simeon ben Yohai, Rabbi: (c. 100-160 CE) Mishnaic sage and mystic, student of Rabbi Akiba. When he evoked the wrath of the Roman authorities, he, together with his son Eleazar, hid in a cave for thirteen years, where their needs were miraculously provided for. He authored the Zohar, the most fundamental kabbalistic work.
In myjewishlearning.com, we read:
Simeon Ben Yohai (also known as Shimon bar Yochai), a famous rabbi of the second century CE, was a disciple of Rabbi Akiva and a colleague of Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Jose. Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai’s opinions in halachah are referred to frequently in the Talmudic records of the debates and discussions …
The secrets of rabbi simon ben yohai:
These are the secrets that were revealed to R. Šim‘on b. Yohai when he was hiding in a cave on account of (the persecutions of) Caesar king of Edom (i.e., Rome). He stood in prayer forty days and forty nights, and began thusly:
A senior member of Germany’s right-wing Alternative for Deutschland party has caused a stir by converting to Islam.
Arthur Wagner, who was until recently a member of the Brandenburg state legislative committee, said his decision to become a Muslim was a ‘private matter’.
But members of his party have repeatedly stressed that Islam ‘does not belong’ in Germany and that multiculturalism and mass migration are bad for the country.
At the time of the migration crisis – when Angela Merkel unilaterally declared that over a million people could come to Germany from around the world – Wagner said the chancellor was making a ‘huge mistake’, Tagesspiegel reported.
He explained: ‘Germany is mutating into another country.’
Wagner has resigned his senior position with the party for ‘private reasons’, according to an AfD official quoted in Berliner Zeitung.
Daniel Friese added that the party believes in the German constitution’s provision for freedom of religion.
‘Mr. Wagner resigned on January 11 from the state board on his own volition. Only afterwards was it known that he had converted to Islam,’ Friese said.
Despite his views on the migration crisis, however, Wagner is also well known for his voluntary work with refugees in his hometown of Falkensee.
He once admired Merkel, but after the mass movement of people into Germany he said he had made a ‘gigantic mistake’ about her.
It is AfD’s ‘mission’ to ‘save this country,’ he added.
He was previously a member of her Christian Democrats party.
Wagner declined to comment on his conversion. ‘He does not want to speak with the press. He believes it is a private affair,’ the party spokesman said.
The AfD became Germany’s third largest party in parliament after last September’s general election.
Academics, imams and prison workers widely agree that conversions to Islam are now commonplace in Australia’s prisons.
Robbie Maestracci, a community outreach worker with the Islamic Council of Queensland, pays weekly visits to Muslim inmates in the greater Brisbane area. He believes there is a prominent trend of conversions to Islam among detainees.
“Without a doubt there is … We’re constantly being made aware of new names of people who have embraced Islam or names of people who are wanting to embrace Islam. At least every two weeks, there’s another name or two being added to our list,” Maestracci says.
Michael Kennedy, a veteran detective of 20 years, knows more than most about the subject. Since leaving the New South Wales organised crime squad he has studied Islam and incarceration extensively as an academic at the University of Western Sydney.
Kennedy has maintained contact with a “lot of good crooks” met in his former life. They exchange letters now and again. His correspondents drift in and out of jail, giving him a unique insight into the place of religion in prison.
“They’re pretty easy to talk to. One in particular I’m thinking of, I said [name removed], ‘did you get religious?’”
“He said ‘Oh no, but a lot of people do, it’s the way you get by. It’s the way you’re able to deal with what’s happened to you.’
“You’re isolated from all the people that you know in your life, whether good people or bad. You need to connect with someone about something.”
In this reading, the discovery of religion is essentially a coping mechanism, and a way to forge a shared identity in the dog-eat-dog world of prison.
Kennedy says more often than not it’s a positive influence, which can open a pathway to rehabilitation. It gives inmates some semblance of structure and provides a motive to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
“I actually don’t think it’s a bad [coping mechanism], but some would argue that it is,” he said. “If you think about it, from my point of view, it gives them a bit of hope.”
The best publicly available information comes from a 2013 census of NSW prisoners, which suggests Muslims remain a minority, although one that is overrepresented. The census showed Muslims accounted for about 9.3% of the state’s prison population compared with 3.2% of the NSW population.
Muslim inmates pray in the yard at Goulburn correctional centre where the prisons boss admits the Supermax facility is a hotbed of Islam. Picture: Sean DaveySource:News Corp Australia
“Inmates suspected of, or identified as, holding radical views are closely monitored by experienced and well trained staff, and moved away from other inmates if necessary.”
But Jones believes there are risks in segregating already radicalised offenders from the general prison population, an approach not adopted in Victoria, where they are dispersed.
A spokeswoman for Corrections Victoria said it disperses prisoners “wherever practicable” and “according to their assessed level of risk and individual needs”.
“This approach aims to prevent extremist views being continually reinforced by like-minded prisoners,” she said.
Ali Kadri, the vice-president of the Islamic Council of Queensland, believes there is no real evidence suggesting prisoners are becoming radicalised.
He believes, ultimately, religious conversions are a force for good.
“Not just that, we find people who have always been socially isolated and are living a life in crime finding faith in prison and feeling apart of a community, so they have more motivation to behave than they did before,” Kadri says.
“We believe that faith, not just Islam, has the potential to help people who are in that situation, to find the right path.”