Issues of the Day

Libya: Return of the King?

Four years after the fall of the Qaddafi dictatorship, it is painfully clear that Libya is not better off than it was five years ago. Indeed, its security and economic conditions are much worse. Factionalism–and now barbaric Da’ish affiliates–are racking up an ever greater death toll; causing unspeakable misery to civilians; destroying the economy; tearing apart what remains of Libya’s institutions and threatening to tear apart the country itself as a unified entity. It is even threatening Libya’s neighbours and indeed international security. The Arab Spring, for all its early euphoria, has failed Libya miserably.

Possibly for want of another viable solution in the foreseeable future, a grass roots movement in Libya that supports the restoration of the 1951 Libyan Constitution has sprung up. The 1951 Libyan Constitution was for a constitutional monarchy and lasted until the coup in September 1969.

Perhaps the first tangible sign of this to the outside world was the Libyan Foreign Minister’s statement at an Arab League meeting in 2014 publicly calling for the return to the constitutional monarchy. He called for the “return of the constitutional monarchy as a uniting symbol for the country”. The Foreign Minister named Prince Mohammed el Hasan el Senoussi as the heir to the throne, consistent with the rules of succession within the 1951 Constitution itself and the Royal Order.

Around that time, there was also an interesting article in The National Interest entitled “The Case for Monarchy in Libya”. The article explains that “the Western intervention in Libya…came at the price of emboldening some of the least democratic elements in the Arab world. A return to the past could help…thanks to their considerable influence, the Senussis found the common denominator between the various strains of Islam and the multitude of Libyan tribes….What’s more, they have maintained their clout to the present day, as many tribal leaders are open to the idea of establishing a constitutional monarchy”.

More recently, there were further signs that this movement might be gaining traction:

  1. In August 2015, 10 members of the CDA, the committee tasked with writing a constitution, signed a petition urging their colleagues to adopt the 1951 constitution and calling for the return of constitutional monarchy. The petition cited “deep disagreements” inside the CDA as a reason for their move, explaining that the return to monarchy is the only solution to the current crisis.
  2. Again in August 2015, Al Arabia Al-Hadath wrote about the demand of members of the Constitution Committee to return to the constitutional monarchy of 1951, noting that they believe it to be the best solution for Libya under the current conditions and referring to a large movement on the ground in Libya supporting this idea.

The article noted that “Members of the committee for the preparation of a new Libyan constitution demanded the return to the monarchy that ruled Libya prior to Qaddafi’s era…they added that the current situation in Libya, with its many divisions and deteriorating security conditions, prevent the committee from writing a new constitution and also prevent the Libyan people voting on it….(this) demand of the members of the Constitution Committee is not the first… there is a large movement in Libya calling for the return to a constitutional monarchy.”

  1. Billboards appeared in mid August 2015 across Zliten City (160 kms east of Tripoli) calling for the return to a monarchy in Libya.
  2. The Mayor of Al-Baidha who is a prominent Libyan in a city where a major tribe is based (and where the internationally recognized Libyan government has its offices) has officially issued a letter to the internationally recognized parliament declaring his support for the 1951 independence constitution. Referring to the “civil war” in Libya and the “killing of Libyans by Libyans”, he concluded by saying: “I see the necessity to return to constitutional legitimacy by reinstating the independence constitution and returning to what the country was in August 31, 1969 as a starting point for re-establishing a constitutional country.”

  1. Then, later in August, there was another statement, this time by the Federal Bloc in Eastern Libya, a prominent political bloc encompassing a number of important tribes and serving parliament members, that endorsed a return to the 1951 Constitution and a constitutional monarchy. Alwasat reported that the President of the  Federal Bloc said: “a return to the unamended 1951 Constitution is the best solution and the only one that can allow Libya to get out of this difficult phase and to reunify the country which has been split into cities, tribes and governments. He repeated the demand for the return to a constitutional monarchy.”
  2. There are currently numerous social media references to a grass roots organisation in every major city called the “Movement for the return of the Constitutional Monarchy” backed by local businessmen and the local population via donations).

What does this all mean?

All of this points to a gathering national movement supporting the return of a constitutional monarchy in Libya. The goal of the movement  is not a personality cult but unity, stability and prosperity for the Libyan people through a concrete symbol: a constitutional monarchy. With no other solution in sight, and things getting still worse, Libya may yet see the return of the King. 


Anwar Ibrahim is currently a prisoner of conscience.  He is being held in solitary confinement in Sungai Boloh prison in Malaysia.  He is serving a five-year sentence handed to him at the end of a criminal trial that has been roundly condemned by human rights groups inside Malaysia and around the world. His jailing proves how important it is for countries to have strong institutions of governance, judicial independence and a free media.  Anwar Ibrahim is in prison today because he is fighting for these things in Malaysia.

Anwar Ibrahim was deputy prime minister of Malaysia from 1993 to 1998, is a former member of parliament for the People’s Justice Party and until April this year was leader of the opposition.  He is respected around the world as a leader and statesman committed to principles of justice, fairness and the rule of law.  We have recognized Anwar Ibrahim in this annual list in the past not only for his success as a Malaysian politician but also for his vision as a Muslim democrat who has done much to bridge the widening gap between Islam and the West.

Anwar spent six years in solitary confinement from 1998-2004 after being accused of sexual misconduct and corruption while serving as the Deputy Prime Minister. That trial was roundly condemned by the international community.  The trial was plagued by judicial misconduct, fabricated evidence, intimidation of witnesses and manipulation of public opinion through government-controlled media.  His incarceration and beating at the hands of the police force sparked a nationwide movement for reform in Malaysia called Reformasi which continues to influence Malaysian reformers today.

In June 2008, just months after making historic gains in Malaysia’s 12th General Election, Anwar was charged again with sexual misconduct. This time his accuser was a former intern who, in the days before filing a police report against Anwar, had private meetings with police officers who had been involved in the fabrication of evidence against Anwar in the 1998 trial. This individual also met with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was then Deputy Prime Minister.  The ensuing trial was similarly riddled with judicial misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, police misconduct and fabrication of evidence.  Initially, Anwar was acquitted of all charges in January 2012. But the acquittal was overturned on appeal and Anwar was finally convicted and sentenced on February 10 2015.  His prison conditions are difficult and his health has suffered. His family has limited opportunity to visit him.

Anwar Ibrahim had the option to live in exile.  But when asked about his willingness to face another lengthy prison sentence, he said he remains committed to fighting for reform in Malaysia.   Having secured 53% of the popular vote in elections that took place in May 2013, Anwar Ibrahim has demonstrated his message for reform resonates with a majority of the people in his country. If he fled, Anwar said, what example would that leave for other Malaysians who dream of a better future.


According to the UN, the Rohingya Muslims are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, and have been described: “among the world’s least wanted”. Living in the state of Rakhine (Arakan) in western Myanmar (Burma) where they account for about five percent of Myanmar’s population of nearly 60 million, they are a people who nobody wants.

The Myanmar government classifies them as stateless Bengali Muslims, and the Bangladesh government refuses to acknowledge them. Many have fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh (where they receive no aid), or along the Thai-Myanmar border (there have been reports of boatloads of Rohinga being abandoned in the open sea). They have been subject to all kinds of persecution and recently they have become targets of violence by Rakhine Buddhists. The Burmese army and police have been accused of targeting Rohingya Muslims through mass arrests and arbitrary violence. A number of monks’ organizations that played a vital role in Burma’s struggle for democracy, have taken special procedures to block any humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya community. The scale and viciousness of the attacks has increased in the past few years and has finally prompted some statements from the Dalai Lama and from human-rights champion Aung San Suu Kyi (of Myanmur). Strangely, the Myanmar government, while doing nothing to stop these massacres and ethnic cleansing, has been feted by the US and other governments who see the country as an economic and strategic (i.e. against China) opportunity. President Obama visited the country in 2012, and hosted President Thein Sein in 2013.

This last year has seen more international media exposure to the plight of the Rohingya with international conferences being held about their plight, and with a high-profile letter by several Nobel peace prize winners calling the situation of Rohingya in Burma “nothing less than genocide”.


Since the very beginning of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, the holy sites of the Old City of Jerusalem have been under attack, particularly Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, one of Islam’s three holiest sites. The explicit goal of these attacks and violations is to build the ‘third temple’ on the site of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa.

Attacks & Violations

In recent years economic, social, political and physical attacks on Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa have intensified. Calls for the demolition of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, once the preserve of extremists and fundamentalists, have now become pervasive, commonplace and to be found even in mainstream media. This, coupled with an almost daily violation of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa by violent settlers and their ilk make the partition or even destruction of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa a distinct possibility. The partition of the Ibrahimi Mosque into Jewish and Muslim parts in neighbouring Hebron in the early 1990s is the blueprint for these ambitions for one of Islam’s most holy and sacred sites.

Breaking of a Taboo

On 28 February, 2012, during a meeting for the Arab League in Doha, Qatar, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made a plea for Muslims to visit Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa. On April 18, 2012, HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, accompanied by the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Ali Goma’a, broke what had been, in some parts of the Islamic World, a 45-year taboo by visiting Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa in order to pray there and support the beleaguered Jerusalemites. The visit was viewed as controversial in Egypt, but set off a change of public opinion in the Islamic World. During the trip to Jerusalem, the Prince and the Grand Mufti also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This visit was much appreciated by the Christian community of Jerusalem.

Palestinian-Jordanian Agreement on the Holy Sites of Jerusalem

The Agreement signed between His Majesty King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the Holy Sites, signed on March 31st 2013, reaffirmed the following:

His Majesty King Abdullah II is the Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, and has full right to exert all legal efforts to safeguard and preserve them, especially Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, defined as the entire al-Haram al-Sharif (of 144 Dunums).

Historic principles upon which Jordan and Palestine are in agreement as regards Jerusalem and their common goal of defending Jerusalem together, especially at such critical time, when the city is facing dramatic challenges and daily illegal changes to its authenticity and original identity.

The status of East Jerusalem is Palestinian sovereign occupied territory, and that all post-1967 occupation practices or aggressions against Jerusalem are not recognized by any international or legal entity.

Hashemite Custodianship of the Holy Sites started in 1924, and Jerusalem was physically part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan from 1948 until 1967, and legally until 1988, when Jordan severed ties with the West Bank (excepting only the Holy Sites and the Awqaf or Religious Trusts). Thus from 1988 until 2013, there was some ambiguity as to the status of the Holy Sites. After Palestine became recognised as a state in November 2012, a treaty between Jordan and Palestine became absolutely necessary not merely to avoid any disputes between Jordan and Palestine, but more importantly, to enable Jordan and Palestine to jointly legally protect the Holy Sites in Jerusalem against Israeli (official or unofficial) incursions, physical destruction and illegal annexation.

Road to Jerusalem Conference

An international conference, ‘Road to Jerusalem’, comprising leading religious scholars, academics, politicians and various other leaders was held in Amman, February 2014. The conference rejected the fatwa of Shaykh Qardawi banning Muslims from visiting occupied Jerusalem. It issued the following communiqué:

  1. Exerting efforts to achieve the unity of the Arab and Muslim Ummah and at the very least agree together on the constants, the most important of which are the protection of the Ummah’s holy sites and religious antiquities in Jerusalem; and continuing to defend the rights of the Palestinians and the justness of their cause; for under division and fragmentation, none of the Ummah’s substantive goals can be achieved.
  2. Reminding the Ummah that financial and personal sacrifices must be made to defend the Ummah’s religious holy sites and religious antiquities, its land and its people.
  3. Supporting Jerusalemite institutions, be they educational, medical or social, in a manner that guarantees that they continue to be sustainable and steadfast.
  4. Supporting the projects of Jerusalemites related to housing, religious endowments (awqaf) and their upkeep; and supporting committees for zakat (required alms giving) and for social, medical and economic welfare.
  5. Supporting the projects of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration and Maintenance of the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Noble Dome of the Rock.
  6. Supporting the efforts to care for Christian holy sites and protect them from Judaisation and confiscation.
  7. Calling on the scholars of the Muslim Ummah and its khutabaa’ (preachers) and its du’aat (those who invite to the faith) to discuss the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque in their sermons, particularly their Friday sermons, and to supplicate for its freedom away from occupation and to ask the Almighty for the gift of praying in it for Muslims.
  8. The conference pays tribute to the struggle of the state of Palestine and its insistence on Jerusalem being the capital of the Palestinian state; and its insistence on Palestinian sovereignty over all the occupied territories of Palestine including Al-Quds Al-Sharif and the holy sites.
  9. The participants pay tribute to His Majesty King Abdullah’s speech before the UNGA in which he clarified that the Blessed Al Aqsa Mosque is a sacred Islamic waqf as important as the Blessed Kaa’ba and that any invasion or division of the site of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa would be viewed, not only as a breach of Israel’s obligations, but as profound aggression against 1.7 billion Muslims, one quarter of the world’s population.
  10. The participants pay tribute to the role of Christian churches and the heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem for preserving the Pact of Omar and their holy sites and for rejecting the occupation. The conference urges the heads of churches in Jerusalem and around the world, through their influence and representation in the international forums and media, to defend the Pact of Omar and the historic relationship between their Jerusalem churches and Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Islamic Waqf.
  11. Thwarting the Jewish narrative that aims to Judaise Jerusalem, its holy sites and all of Palestine in international arenas including academic and educational forums, international organisations, media institutions and social networking channels. As an offshoot of the Road to Jerusalem Conference, a committee shall be established that will be dedicated to monitoring the Jewish narrative on all fronts and will prepare counter-studies that will refute it.
  12. The conference calls on the universities and schools in the United States of America, the European Union countries, among others, to revise the exclusivist Judaisation narrative of the history of Jerusalem and Palestine in many school and university books.
  13. The conference absolutely and categorically rejects the support of the occupation government and its implementation of the plans of Jewish extremists for spatial or temporal division of the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque. The conference calls upon His Majesty King Abdullah, the custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, to defend the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque in all Arab, Islamic and international arenas, forums and organisations.
  14. Reiterating the religious importance of the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy sites, particularly among the young; and repositioning the cause of occupied Palestine as a prominent topic in educational curricula in the schools and universities of the Arab and Muslim worlds.
  15. Studying the suggestion to make a percentage of the proceeds of Hajj committees and trusts in the Muslim world a religious endowment (waqf) that goes towards the financial support of the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the people who are steadfast within it.
  16. Holding the United States of America responsible for the continuing arrogance that Israel has displayed; and for the aggressions committed by Jewish extremists against the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and Muslim and Christian holy sites and religious antiquities, actions which could lead to a religious war. The United States uses its veto power at the UN Security Council whenever it is invited to veto vote on decision that requires Israel to implement resolutions of international legitimacy.
  17. Forming a “Palestine Committee” in every Arab and Muslim parliament to monitor violations against holy sites and religious antiquities and finding ways to resist them.
  18. The conference praises the following fatwa issued by the scholars from all over the Muslim world who participated in the Road to Jerusalem Conference:

First: The scholars participating in the Road to Jerusalem Conference see that there is no difficulty in religion (la haraj) for the following segments to visit the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem:

  1. Palestinians wherever they may be, in or out of Palestine and regardless of their nationalities.
  2. Muslims with passports from countries outside the Muslim world.

Second: In all cases, the following conditions must be observed:

  1. That it does not lead to normalisation with the occupation which may cause harm to the Palestinian cause.
  2. That the visit supports and assists Palestinians and not the occupiers; and here we affirm that any transactions including buying, selling, dealings, accommodations and transportation undertaken must benefit the Palestinians and the Jerusalemites and none other than them.
  3. That visitors enter with Palestinian or Jordanian tourist groups and stay clear of programmes run by the occupier.
  4. It is preferred that trips to Al-Aqsa be within the routes of Umra and Hajj trips as much as possible and in an effective and collective manner that achieves the significant religious benefit of this; and in a manner that supports the Palestinian economy and particularly, the economy of Jerusalem; and politically with the aim of protecting Al Aqsa and the religious antiquities.

Amman, 29th Jumada Al Akhira, 1435 AH / 29th April, 2014 AD


On Friday 23 September, 2011 at the UN headquarters in New York, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority submitted a request for formal recognition of a Palestinian state along pre-1967 lines. Most responses have been overwhelmingly in favour of Abbas’ move, with  133 (68.9%) of the 193 member states of the United Nations having recognised the State of Palestine. On 29 November 2012, the UN General Assembly passed a motion changing Palestine’s “entity” status to “non-member observer state” by a vote of 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions.

In May 2015, The Vatican became the third country in Europe to officially recognize Palestine, following Iceland (2011) and Sweden (2014). There are now over 130 countries worldwide officially recognising Palestine, but with the USA still strongly backing a right-wing Israeli government which has publicly declared that there will be no Palestinian state, and with the growing onslaught of settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, many commentators feel that the two-state solution is dead.


The Gaza Strip, bordering Egypt and Israel, covers approximately 25 miles by 4—7 miles and has a population of 1.7 million people. Israel withdrew its occupying force in 2005, but the Gaza Strip has been subject to a crippling economic blockade since 2007. Attempts by international peace activists to break the blockade have led to fatal confrontations with the Israeli Defence Force. Border skirmishes between the Palestinians and Israelis happen consistently, and have in 2008—2009, and in 2012, and in 2014 led to massive destruction and killing in Gaza by the combined might of the Israeli air, navy and ground forces. The 2008—09 conflict saw approximately 1,400 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths. There was international outcry at the number of civilians, particularly children, who were killed, and there was much evidence of the use of banned weapons (white phosphorous) by Israeli forces. The 2014 onslaught was even worse than the previous ones, and there was much international condemnation, including large public demonstrations worldwide, over the number of Palestinian civilian deaths (over 2,000) and casualties, particularly children.

The PNA has now joined the International Criminal Court and in June handed in its first submission of evidence of Israeli war crimes in what is the first step for a full ICC inquiry into abuses committed during last year’s Gaza conflict. The onslaught in Gaza has also given impetus internationally to the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel.


The past few years have seen a troubling trend of systematic grave desecration and destruction of religious places carried out by various Wahhabi groups in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Mali, and Egypt. With the fall of ruling powers resulting from the Arab Spring many Wahhabis have decided to utilize power vacuums that opened up in Libya and subsequently Mali to ravage these lands by destroying all signs of their holy sites, which according to their puritanical view are heretical, pagan-like places of grave worshipping, despite the fact that the vast majority of Sunni scholars throughout history have held them to be valid and even praiseworthy to maintain.  Spurred on by extremist preachers, the destruction of centuries old heritage continues to spread to other countries despite it being condemned by all other Muslims as sacrilege. DA’ISH have continued and widened the scope of the destruction to include ancient sites and relics as well. The destruction over the last few years includes the following:


  • June 2014: The shrine of Fathi al-Ka’en is bulldozed.
  • July 2014: The tomb of Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, is blown up; the shrine of Imam Sultan bin Asim Abdullah ibn Umar ibn al-Khattab (grandson of Umar ibn al-Khattab), in the Makhmour area southeast of Mosul, is destroyed by IEDs.
  • September 2014: Al-Arba’een Mosque in Tikrit, containing forty tombs from the Umar era, was blown up.
  • Other sites destroyed in 2014 include: the shrine of Arnaout, the shrine of Ahmed al-Rafa’i, the famous Sunni Sufi saint, and the shrine of  Sheikh Ibrahim, all in the city of Tal Afar.
  • Prominent Shia sites destroyed in 2014 include: al-Qubba Husseiniya Mosque and the shrine of al-Imam ‘Awn al-Din (one of the few structures that survived the 13th-century Mongol invasion, destroyed by DA’ISH in July 2014), both in Mosul, as well as Jawad Husseiniya Mosque, Saad bin Aqeel Husseiniya Shrine, Qaddo Husseiniya, and the Mosque of the Martyr of Lashkar-e-Mullah, all in Tal Afar.
  • January 2015: DA’ISH bombed large parts of the Nineveh Wall in al-Tahrir neighbourhood.
  • February 2015: DA’ISH blows up the 12th century Khudr Mosque in central Mosul; burns books from Mosul libraries; destroys ancient artifacts at the Mosul Museum and the archeological site at Nimrud, a city that dates back 13 centuries BC.
  • March 2015: The Hamou al-Qadu Mosque in Mosul, which dated back to 1880, is bulldozed to the ground.
  • June 2015: The Tomb of the Girl, in Mosul, bulldozed.

Between the fall of Mosul in June 2014 and February 2015, DA’ISH has damaged or destroyed at least 28 historical religious buildings. During the time period spanning June 2014 to August 2015, DA’ISH had destroyed eight churches in Iraq. Iraq has also been particularly hard-hit by large scale looting of historical artifacts: at least nine major sites have been affected.


  • 2011: The tomb of Sheikh Rih, a prominent Sufi sheikh, was demolished in Azaz, northern Syria.
  • March 2013: Ammar ibn Yasir’s shrine in al-Raqqah was destroyed.
  • April 2013: The minaret of the great Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo was destroyed and looted.
  • October 2013: Mosque of Sheikh Ajjan Al-Hadid shelled.
  • Other sites destroyed in 2013 include: the shrines of Sheikh Aqeel in Manbej, Sheikh Ma’badi, Sheikh Abdullah, Sheikh Badawi, Sheikh Hilal, and Muhammad al-Na’san, all in or around Aleppo.
  • March 2014: Uwais al-Qarni’s grave destroyed (while the surrounding mosque was destroyed entirely in May 2014); Al-Saliheen Mosque in Yalda damaged and  looted; a stone that is said to have had the footprint of the Prophet Ibrahim was removed.
  • January 2015: The grave of Sheikh Muhammad al-Nabhan in Aleppo was destroyed and exhumed; the school and houses next to it were also damaged.
  • May 2015: ISIS destroyed the Lion of al-Lat and other statues at the historical site of Palmyra (Tadmur).
  • June 2015: The graves of Mohammed bin Ali, a companion of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, and Nizar Abu Bahaa Eddine, a well-known Sufi scholar whose tomb was built 500 years ago.
  • July-August 2015: The temples of Baalshamin and Bel at Palmyra a well as three of the best preserved tower tombs, including the Tower of Elahbel, were destroyed by ISIS.

Reports by the Directorate of Antiquities in Aleppo indicate that 90 percent of Sufi shrines have been destroyed. At least five major archeological sites were destroyed or looted, including: Palmyra, the Mar Elian Monastery, Apamea, Dura Europos, and Mari. In total, at least 23 sites have been damaged by shelling, six by looting, and 14 by armed occupation.


  • April 2011: The tomb of  Sidi Abdel Rahman in Qalyoub, as well as five other tombs, were destroyed.
  • May 2011: The shrine of Sheikh Zuweid was bombed by an unknown group.
  • August 2013: The tombs of Sheikh Hamid Abu Jarir in central Sinai and Sheikh Salim Al-Sharif Abu Jarir in the Bir El Abd area were destroyed using IEDs.

DA’ISH’s leader, al-Baghdadi, referred to the destruction of the pyramids and Sphinx as a religious duty upon Muslims.


  • October 2011: The Sidi al-Masri Mosque in Tripoli was vandalized and damaged extensively.
  • January 2012: The cemetery of Sidi Ubaid in Benghazi was wrecked and 31 corpses were stolen.
  • August 2012: The tomb of a 15th-century scholar Abd as-Salam al-Asmar in Zliten, about 160km (100 miles) southeast of Tripoli, was destroyed along with burning of the neighbouring library, which housed a huge number of books and manuscripts dating back centuries; al-Shaab al-Dahman Mosque in Tripoli, named after the Sufi scholar Abdullah al-Shaab, who fought the Spanish colonialists, and which contained many graves, was bulldozed; the grave of the grand Sufi sheikh, Ahmad Zarruq was exhumed.
  • March 2013: The al-Andalusi Mausoleum in Tajoura, a national monument that dates back more than 500 years, was destroyed.
  • May 2013: The Hamid Hudairi tomb in Sebha was extensively damaged.
  • March 2015: Sufi shrines near Tripoli destroyed by sledgehammers and bulldozers.
  • Other sites destroyed include: the tomb of Sidi Mahmoud (d. 955 CE) in 2012.


According to officials, Islamists in Tunisia have attacked almost 40 tombs, the most prominent being:

  • January 2013: The tombs of Sidi Bou Said (in the village named after him), Sidi Baghdadi in Monastir, and Sidi Amor Bouzid in Awlad Chamakh, were damaged by arson.
  • February 2013: Sidi Bin Abd al-Jabbar’s tomb in Jammal, was damaged by arson.


Timbuktu is known as the “the city of 333 saints” and has many ancient mosques and tombs, and hence, UNESCO has placed the city on its list of endangered world heritage sites.

  • June 2012: Ansar Dine fighters completely destroyed the mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar, the tombs of Sidi El Mokhtar and Alfa Moya, and thirteen other sites.
  • July 2012: The doors to to Sidi Yahya’s Mausoleum were broken down; the shrines of Sidi Elmety, Mahamane Elmety, and Sidi Mahmoudou were destroyed with hoes and chisels.
  • September 2012: The mausoleum of Cheik El-Kebir was destroyed.
  • Other sites destroyed include the tomb of Almirou Mahamane Assidiki in Goundam in 2012.


  • Early 2010: The tomb of Sheikh Ali Mumin was destroyed and exhumed.
  • the tomb of Sheikh Ali Tairi
  • March 2010: The tombs of of Sheikh Mohammed Bimalo, leader of the Qadiriyyah order in the early 20th Century, Sheikh Mohyiddeen Ali, and Sheikh Hassan Muallim Mumin, founder of the Idrisiyyah order in Somalia, were destroyed and exhumed.


  • April 2011: At least 41 persons were killed and more than 100 injured when two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the shrine of Sufi saint Ahmed Sultan, popularly known as Sakhi Sarwar, in Dera Ghazi Khan District of Punjab.
  • July 2010: At least 40 persons were killed and 175 others injured when three suicide attackers blew themselves up inside the shrine of Lahore’s patron saint Syed Ali Hajwairi popularly known as Data Gunj Bakhsh.

Since 2010, a month rarely passes in Pakistan without a suicide bombing taking place. Some of these attacks target mosques and shrines.


  • February 2015: The 800-year-old tomb of  Sufyan bin Abdullah in al-Hota town, Lahij province was destroyed. Bin Abdullah was famed for having fought for Saladin in 1187 CE, when he ousted the Crusaders from Jerusalem.


  • 2011: At least 43 Shia mosques, including the ornate 400-year old Amir Mohammed Braighi mosque, and many other religious structures were destroyed.

In addition to this destruction, one can add the tragic assassination in August 2012 of Said Afandi, the Muslim Sufi leader of Dagestan. An outspoken critic of Wahhabism, the leader was murdered by a female suicide bomber.


While most media coverage of interfaith deals with interfaith conflicts there have been significant progress in interfaith dialogue. Amongst the more prominent projects are the following: A Common Word (ACW) The ACW started as an open letter written in 2007 from a group of 138 Muslim scholars and clerics addressed to Christian leaders everywhere.  The ACW has become the catalyst behind a global bridge-building effort between Christians and Muslims. ACW focuses on the common ground between both religious communities, highlighting points of commonality found in the commandments to love God and one’s neighbour; (see:

The Catholic-Muslim Forum:

This is one of the public fruits of the ACW initiative. It is a meeting of prominent Catholic and Muslim religious leaders and scholars to be held every three years. The first Catholic-Muslim Seminar was held in the Vatican in 2008, and included an audience with HH Pope Benedict XVI. The second forum was at the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ in Jordan in November 2011. The third forum was held at the Vatican in November 2014 and included an audience with HH Pope Francis.  The meeting’s final statement was titled “Working Together to Serve Others”. It recalled that the Forum focused on three questions in particular: working together for the benefit of the young, boosting interreligious dialogue and serving society

The World Interfaith Harmony Week

Extending the principles of A Common Word to include people of all faiths, and those with no faith, King Abdullah II of Jordan in his address to the UNGA 2010 proposed ‘Love of God and Love of Neighbour’, or ‘Love of the Good and Love of Neighbour’ to designate the first week of February, every year, as a World Interfaith Harmony Week (WIHW). A month later, the resolution, a brainchild of HRH Prince Ghazi, the Chief Advisor for Religious and Cultural Affairs to HM King Abdullah II’ was adopted. The first week of February is now observed as an official week and has seen hundreds of events each year in dozens of countries with up to 50,000 attendees at the events. The second annual week, held in February 2012, saw a large increase in gatherings. The third WIHW in 2013 saw the inauguration of the WIHW Prize ($50,000 in total) Established by the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought. Three prizes are on offer for the best events held. The 2015 winners were announced as follows:

First Prize: Universal Interfaith Peace Mission (Dr Allama G R Chishti) of Pakistan.

Second Prize: Mrs Gisela Jahn and Dr.Beatrix Jakubicka of Germany

Third Prize: World Interfaith Harmony Week Toronto Steering Committee of Canada

More information: Download RISSC’s A Common Word: Between Us & You, 5th Anniversary Edition for free at To learn more about the WIHW visit their website at:


The International Initiative for the Islamic Integral Professorial Chairs.

The sciences of traditional Islamic knowledge are very poorly understood in the Islamic World, and taught only in selective, abbreviated versions. Fundamentalism increasingly rules the mosques while secular academic methodologies rule the institutes of learning in the Islamic World. Even in the West, though Muslims have donated hundreds of millions of dollars to create professorial chairs and academic centres in leading western universities, these chairs and centres are invariably run or occupied by non-Muslims (or secular Muslims), and so the centres and chairs–funded by Muslims!–wind up being hostile, or at least unhelpful, to traditional Islam. This situation is leading to intellectual and spiritual impoverishment in the Islamic World, a rise in fundamentalism, and ironically, at the same time, a rise in secularism. The purpose of this initiative is to restore knowledge and teaching of traditional Islamic orthodox high culture and scholarship in philosophy, theology, mysticism, jurisprudence, Qur’anic exegesis, sociology, history and Arabic language and grammar in the Islamic World in combination with traditional Islamic teaching and preaching methods. The goal of this initiative is to set up around 50 Integral Chairs in the Islamic World each as a waqf (religious endowment) in mosques and universities combined, occupied by practicing Muslim scholars, and dedicated to the intellectual and spiritual legacy of the greatest Muslim scholars and sages. Thereafter, an international institute to connect and support their activities must be established. The Integrals Chairs project, the brainchild of HRH Prince Ghazi, the Chief Advisor for Religious and Cultural Affairs to HM King Abdullah II, was officially launched on January 30, 2012 in honor of the 50th birthday of HM King Abdullah II ibn Al-Hussein, under whose name the waqfs for the first two chairs were established:

  • The first chair, The Integral Chair for the Study of Imam Al-Ghazali’s Work at the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Quds University formally launched in January 2013 with Professor Mustafa Abu Sway as the first Integral Chair.
  • The second chair, The King Abdullah ibn al-Hussein Waqf for the Integral Chair for the study of Imam Fakr al-Din al-Razi’s Work at the King Hussein bin Talal Mosque, the University of Jordan and W.I.S.E. University launched in 2014 with Professor Farouk Muhammad Arif Hasan. For further information see


HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad and the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought co-organized–together with Rev. Prof. Paul S. Fiddes, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Oxford and Director of Research, Regent’s Park College, Oxford–a two-day open symposium on ‘Love in Three Abrahamic Religions’ at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford, celebrating the fifth year of the issuing of A Common Word, on October 12-13th 2012.

This led to the establishment of a fellowship at the RPC, University of Oxford, dedicated to the study of Love in Religion, co-funded by RABIIT. The fellowship post is to be held by a Muslim Hafith of the Qur’an and a Christian clergyman alternatively. It will be the first fellowship dedicated specifically to the study of love as such in a major university for centuries, and God willing, the beginning of many such fellowships in major universities all over the world.


In celebrating the World Interfaith Harmony Week’s 5th Anniversary, the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought (Amman, Jordan) produced, in collaboration with Sami Yusuf and Andante Records, the World’s first Interfaith Anthem, The Gift of Love. The lyrics of the song are based on the Two Commandments of “Love of God, and Love of the Neighbour.”

The message of The Gift of Love and the World Interfaith Harmony Week is not one of syncretism and theological unity. Rather, we remain, as people of all faiths, distinct and free in the practice of our individual faiths and religions. Theological differences do not preclude loving one another. All religions order loving one’s neighbours and being kind to them. In the age of globalization, the world is a village and all its inhabitants are our neighbours.

The filming took place with a cadre of world-class talent. A R Rahman from India contributed to the musical side. Siros Kerdouni, a world-class director from Los Angeles, flew into Amman to direct production. Sourcing staff, filming, using aerial shots (including shots taken from helicopters over the immaculate Wadi Rum in Southern Jordan), and handling logistics were all handled in a record amount of time and on a tight budget.

Filmed on location in Jordan and in East Jerusalem, the video beautifully captures some of the symbolic sites in Jordan, including the King Hussein Mosque in Amman, the Citadel, the Holy Baptism Site, Petra, and Wadi Rum, with exclusive shots also filmed in Jerusalem. The idea of the video draws on all faiths, no matter the belief, in coming together to express the message of love.