Archive for the ‘Islamist Tyrannies’ category

The Great Price of “Blaspheming” against Muhammad

May 15, 2017

The Great Price of “Blaspheming” against Muhammad, Gatestone InstituteRaymond Ibrahim, May 14, 2017

Because the word of a Christian “infidel” is not valid against the word of a Muslim, accusations of blasphemy, often with little or no evidence, routinely lead to the beating, imprisonment, and possible killing of Christians and other minorities every month in Pakistan.

“The available evidence in all these cases suggests that charges were brought as a measure to intimidate and punish members of minority religious communities… hostility towards religious minority groups appeared in many cases to be compounded by personal enmity, professional or economic rivalry or a desire to gain political advantage.” — Amnesty International.

“Iran sentences a 21-year-old man to death for ‘insulting Islam’ … after confessing when police promised he would be pardoned if he came clean.” — Daily Mail.

A few days ago in Pakistan, a Christian pastor who has been “tortured every day in prison” since 2012 when he was first incarcerated, was sentenced to life in prison. Zafar Bhatti, 51, is accused of sending “blasphemous” text messages from his mobile phone; but human rights activists contend that the charge “was fabricated to remove him from his role as a Pastor.” His wife, Nawab Bibi, says:

“Many Muslim people hated how quickly his church was growing; they have taken this action to undermine his work. Yet despite their actions the church grows. I wish our persecutors would see that Christians are not evil creatures. We are human beings created by God the same God that created them although they do not know this yet.”

She adds, “There have been numerous attempts to kill my husband — he is bullied everyday and he is not safe from inmates and prison staff alike.” In 2014, he “narrowly escaped assassination after a rogue prison officer,” Muhammad Yousaf, went on a shooting spree “to kill all inmates accused of blasphemy against Islam.”

Bhatti is one of countless Christian minorities to suffer under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which has helped make that country the fourth-worst nation in the world in which to be Christian.

Asia Bibi, a Christian wife and mother, has been on death row since 2010 on the accusation that she insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad. According to Section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code:

“Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Because the word of a Christian “infidel” is not valid against the word of a Muslim, accusations of blasphemy, often with little or no evidence, routinely lead to the beating, imprisonment or killing of Christians and other minorities every month in Pakistan.[1] An Amnesty International report from 1994 summarizes the situation:

Several dozen people have been charged with blasphemy in Pakistan over the last few years; in all the cases known to Amnesty International, the charges of blasphemy appear to have been arbitrarily brought, founded solely on the individuals’ minority religious beliefs… The available evidence in all these cases suggests that charges were brought as a measure to intimidate and punish members of minority religious communities… hostility towards religious minority groups appeared in many cases to be compounded by personal enmity, professional or economic rivalry or a desire to gain political advantage. As a consequence, Amnesty International has concluded that most of the individuals now facing charges of blasphemy, or convicted on such charges, are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their real or imputed religious beliefs in violation of their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Other Christians accused of blasphemy never get the chance for even a mock trial and are dealt “justice” at the hands of angry mobs — such as the young Christian couple burned alive on a spurious accusation of blasphemy in November 2014. A report from 2012 found that “Since 1990 alone, fifty-two people have been extra-judicially murdered on charges of blasphemy” in Pakistan.

Last month, three burqa-wearing sisters shot and killed a man accused of committing blasphemy in 2004. “[W]e couldn’t kill him at the time because we were too young then,” they explained.

Also last month, a 23-year-old college student “was killed and another seriously injured by a vigilante mob for allegedly ‘publishing blasphemous content online.'” The incident occurred on campus; the mob was yelling “Allahu Akbar” throughout.

Although Islam’s blasphemy law is most associated with Pakistan, several other Muslim nations use it to persecute Christians and other minorities. Days ago, around the same time Bhatti was being sentenced to life in Pakistan, in Indonesia, Ahok, the Christian governor of Jakarta, was sentenced to two years in prison on the charge of insulting Islam and desecrating the Koran.[2] Similarly, on March 30, a report appeared saying, “Iran sentences a 21-year-old man to death for ‘insulting Islam’ … after confessing when police promised he would be pardoned if he came clean.”

JAKARTA, INDONESIA – MAY 09: Members of various hardline Muslim groups celebrate after Jakarta’s Governor was convicted of committing blasphemy on May 9, 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Hardline Muslim groups gathered outside Jakarta’s court during the trial of Governor Basuki Tjahaja Pernama known widely as “Ahok”, who was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday after being found guilty of blasphemy as the trial continues to threaten social harmony in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation. (Photo by Ed Wray/Getty Images)

Earlier this year in Algeria, Samir Chamek, a 34-year-old Christian man, was sentenced to a year in prison after a court found him “guilty of insulting Islam and its prophet over items he posted on his Facebook page.” They were described as “accusing the prophet Muhammad of terrorism and murder and comparing the prophet to Hitler, mentioning the persecution and massacre of the Jews.” Also in Algeria, last August, a Muslim convert to Christianity was sentenced to the maximum five years in prison for saying that the light of Jesus will outshine Islam and its prophet Muhammad on social media, which the court ruled as “blasphemous.”

In October, in Ethiopia, four Christian girls — aged 18, 15, 14, and 14 — handed out a booklet entitled, “Let’s speak the truth in love.” Because it challenged Islamic accusations against Christianity, local Muslims deemed the book blasphemous and rioted. They attacked a church and assaulted Christians. The girls were arrested and, after a brief court hearing on November 15, sentenced to a month in prison.

As in Pakistan, Muslims mobs and “vigilantes” often take “the law” into their own hands. In March, in India, a Muslim-turned-atheist “was hacked to death by a four-member gang” of Muslims. Last September, a Christian writer and activist was murdered outside of a courthouse in Jordan. The 56-year-old man was earlier arrested for sharing a “blasphemous” cartoon about the Islamic prophet Muhammad. As he was walking into court to stand trial for “contempt of religion” and “inciting sectarian strife,” a man dressed in traditional Muslim garb shot him to death.

Last August, in Nigeria, after two university students got into an argument, the Muslim student accused the Christian student of insulting Muhammad. Soon a mob of Muslims assembled and said the Christian must die. Then they savagely beat and nearly killed him. The following day, mobs of Muslims rioted and vandalized Christian campuses and churches.

Such nonstop accusations, incarcerations, murders, torture and death penalties meted out to non-Muslims on the mere accusation of “blasphemy” — at the hands of mobs, vigilantes, and court judges — call into question any claims of tolerance, modernity or pluralism in many Muslim-majority nations.

Raymond Ibrahim is the author ofCrucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians(published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).

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[1] At least one but often more blasphemy-related cases appear practically every month in Pakistan and are documented in the monthly “Muslim Persecution of Christians” reports. The following are incidents that occurred in the last report, January 2017:

  • An evangelical Christian was arrested on charges of blasphemy and faces the death penalty. According to a complaint by a Muslim, Haji Nadeem, Shahbaz Babu desecrated the Koran by writing his name on some pages, tearing them up and then scattering them on the street in front of a mosque. Although the Muslim admits he did not see the accused in the act, Babu—whom rights activists say is “completely illiterate”—was nonetheless arrested. In a nation where the mere accusation that an infidel insulted Islam could get the non-Muslim killed by the mob, executed by the state or simply imprisoned, Babu’s defenders wonder at the notion that he “is supposed to have desecrated the Qurʾān in secret, but then left the evidence for everyone to see.” Others say that he was disliked by the mosque because several members had stopped attending it and listening to the evangelist who is popular in his region.
  • An imam in Lambanwali accused an elderly Christian of writing and sending to him a series of “derogatory letters” in which he defamed Islamic prophet Muhammad. Once the blasphemy accusation was made, police promptly stormed the Christian’s home in the night and arrested his entire family. Although the man denies the accusation—correctly pointing out that only a suicide would do what he is accused of doing in Pakistan—he “is likely to face an imprisonment of 10 years while there are assumptions that Section 295-C might be invoked in order to aggravate the punishment to death penalty,” said the report.
  • A blasphemy case was registered against Shaan Taseer—son of Salman Taseer, a human rights activist and defender of persecuted Christians who was assassinated by Muslims—for saying “Merry Christmas.”
  • Five Christian rights activists were known for their public opposition to the country’s blasphemy laws all went missing within the same week.

[2] The blasphemy controversy erupted when a video appeared online of Ahok saying that many Muslims misunderstand Koran 5:51 — which commands Muslims not to befriend Jews and Christians. That a Christian would dare try to distort the Koran’s call for hostility against Christians and Jews in order to boost his chances at reelection was deemed blasphemous enough to prompt mass riots and calls for his death in Indonesia.

Political Islam Is Today’s Anti-American ‘Long March Through The Institutions’

March 27, 2017

Political Islam Is Today’s Anti-American ‘Long March Through The Institutions’, The Federalist, , March 27, 2017

(I agree with nearly everything Hirsi Ali says, except for her last paragraph:

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

As written, what she proposes comes dangerously close to, and could easily be construed to be the same as, Canada’s new “anti-Islamophobia” law. We should not be required to be tolerant of Islamism or any other ideology; we should be free to criticize it for being what it is. Those who try to defend it should be as well, disgusting though they may be. 

The First Amendment recognizes our right to freedom of speech because it helps good to prevail over evil; the possibility that it may occasionally permit the reverse is not a valid argument against freedom of speech. It may be an argument — which I reject — that we are no longer capable of living in a free society. Criminalization of free speech because it may be considered “intolerant” of any religious or political view can be the end of free speech and produce a society congruent with that which the Islamists desire. — DM)

 

It cannot be said often enough that the United States is not at war with Islam or with Muslims. It is, however, bound to resist the political aspirations of Medina Muslims where those pose a direct threat to our civil and political liberties. It is also bound to ensure that Mecca Muslims and reforming Muslims enjoy the same protections as members of other religious communities who accept the fundamental principles of a free society. That includes protection from the tactics of intimidation that are so central to the ideology and practice of political Islam.

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It is refreshing and heartening that President Trump acknowledges the need for an ideological campaign against “radical Islam.” This deserves to be called a paradigm shift.

President Bush often referred to a “war on terror,” but terror is a tactic that can be used for a variety of ideological objectives. President Obama stated that he was opposed to “violent extremism” and even organized an international summit around this subject. Yet at times he made it seem as if he worried more about “Islamophobia” than about radical Islam.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, Obama declared: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” In what follows, however, I shall refer to “political Islam” rather than radical Islam.

Political Islam is not just a religion as most Western citizens recognize the term “religion,” a faith; it is also a political ideology, a legal order, and in many ways also a military doctrine associated with the campaigns of the Prophet Muhammad. Political Islam rejects any kind of distinction between religion and politics, mosque and state. Political Islam even rejects the modern state in favor of a caliphate. My central argument is that political Islam implies a constitutional order fundamentally incompatible with the U.S. Constitution and with the “constitution of liberty” that is the foundation of the American way of life.

Yes, Islamists Have Everything to Do with Islam

There is no point in denying that political Islam as an ideology has its foundation in Islamic doctrine. However, “Islam,” “Islamism,” and “Muslims” are distinct concepts. Not all Muslims are Islamists, let alone violent, but all Islamists—including those who use violence—are Muslims. I believe the religion of Islam itself is indeed capable of reformation, if only to distinguish it more clearly from the political ideology of Islamism. But that task of reform can only be carried out by Muslims.

Insisting that radical Islamists have “nothing to do with Islam” has led U.S. policy makers to commit numerous strategic errors since 9/11. One is to distinguish between a “tiny” group of extremists and an “overwhelming” majority of “moderate” Muslims. I prefer to differentiate among Medina Muslims, who embrace the militant political ideology adopted by Muhammad in Medina; Mecca Muslims, who prefer the religion originally promoted by Muhammad in Mecca; and reformers, who are open to some kind of Muslim Reformation.

These distinctions have their origins in history. The formative period of Islam can be divided roughly into two phases: the spiritual phase, associated with Mecca, and the political phase that followed Muhammad’s move to Medina. There is a substantial difference between Qur’anic verses revealed in Mecca (largely spiritual in nature) and Qur’anic verses revealed in Medina (more political and even militaristic). There is also a difference in the behavior of the Prophet Muhammad: in Mecca, he was a spiritual preacher, but in Medina he became a political and military figure.

It cannot be said often enough that the United States is not at war with Islam or with Muslims. It is, however, bound to resist the political aspirations of Medina Muslims where those pose a direct threat to our civil and political liberties. It is also bound to ensure that Mecca Muslims and reforming Muslims enjoy the same protections as members of other religious communities who accept the fundamental principles of a free society. That includes protection from the tactics of intimidation that are so central to the ideology and practice of political Islam.

Background on Today’s State of Affairs

The conflict between the United States and political Islam in modern times dates back to at least 1979, when the U.S. embassy in Tehran was seized by Islamic revolutionaries and 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days. In the decades that followed, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania reminded Americans of the threat posed by political Islam.

But it was not until the 9/11 attacks that political Islam as an ideology attracted sustained public attention. The September 11, 2001, attacks were inspired by a political ideology that has its foundation in Islam, specifically its formative period in Medina.

Since 9/11, at least $1.7 trillion has been spent on combat and reconstruction costs in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The total budgetary cost of the wars and homeland security from 2001 through 2016 is more than $3.6 trillion. Yet in spite of the sacrifices of more than 5,000 armed service personnel who have lost their lives since 9/11 and the tens of thousands of American soldiers who have been wounded, today political Islam is on the rise around the world.

Violence is the most obvious—but not the only—manifestation of this trend. Jihadist groups have proliferated all over the Middle East and North Africa, especially where states are weak and civil wars rage (Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Syria, not forgetting northern Nigeria). Islam-inspired terrorists also have a global reach. France is in a permanent state of emergency, while the United States has been profoundly shaken by terror attacks in Boston (the Marathon bombers); Fort Hood, Texas; San Bernardino, California; Orlando, Florida; and Ohio State University, to name but a few.

Of the last 16 years, the worst year for terrorism was 2014, with 93 countries experiencing attacks and 32,765 people killed. The second worst was 2015, with 29,376 deaths. Last year, four radical Islamic groups were responsible for 74 percent of all deaths from terrorism: the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda. Although the Muslim world itself bears the heaviest burden of jihadist violence, the West is increasingly under attack.

How large is the jihadist movement in the world? In Pakistan alone, where the population is almost entirely Muslim, 13 percent of Muslims surveyed—more than 20 million people—said that bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets are often or sometimes justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies.

Disturbingly, the number of Western-born Muslim jihadists is sharply increasing. The United Nations estimated in November 2014 that some 15,000 foreign fighters from at least 80 nations have traveled to Syria to join the radical jihadists. Roughly a quarter of them come from Western Europe.

Yet the advance of political Islam manifests itself not only in acts of violence. Even as billions are spent on military intervention and drone strikes, the ideological infrastructure of political Islam in the United States continues to grow because officials are concerned only with criminal conspiracies to commit acts of violence, not with the ideology that inspires such acts.

According to one estimate, 10−15 percent of the world’s Muslims are Islamists. Out of well more than 1.6 billion, or 23 percent of the globe’s population, that implies more than 160 million individuals. Based on survey data on attitudes toward sharia in Muslim countries, total support for Islamist activities in the world is likely significantly higher than that estimate.

What Scholarship on Political Islam Says

There are two sets of academic literature aimed at helping policy makers grapple with the threat of radical Islam. In the first set, Islamic religious ideas form a marginal factor at best. Authors such as John Esposito, Marc Sageman, Hatem Bazian, and Karen Armstrong argue that a combination of variables such as poverty and corrupt political governance lies at the root of Islamic violence. They urge the U.S. government and its allies to tackle these “root causes.”

For these authors, devoting attention to religious motives is at best irrelevant, and at worst a harmful distraction. They are not concerned about political Islam as an ideology, only about individual acts of violence committed in its name.

A second set of scholars—which is growing in importance—sees a radical ideology derived from Islamic theology, principles, and concepts as the driving force of our current predicament. Scholars such as Michael Cook, Daniel Pipes, Jeffrey Bale, and David Cook, and authors such as Paul Berman and Graeme Wood, acknowledge that factors such as poverty and bad governance are relevant, but argue that U.S. policy makers should take seriously the religious ideology that underlies Islamist violence.

The failed polices since 9/11 (and even before) in the struggle against radical Islam were built on false premises derived from the first set of literature, which absolves Islam wholly of the atrocities that it inspires. As the failure of American strategy since 2001 has become increasingly clear, however, the view has gained ground that the ideology underlying Islamist violence must be tackled if our efforts are to be successful.

This view is not only held by a few Western scholars. All over the world, there are now Muslims who are engaged in a long-overdue process of reassessing Islamic thought, scripture, and laws with a view to reforming them. These Muslim reformers can be found in positions of leadership in some governments, in universities, in the press, and elsewhere. They are our natural allies. An important part of our future policies in the war on Islamic extremism should be to encourage and empower them.

It’s Time to Understand Dawa

From 9/11 until now, the dominant Western response to political Islam has been to focus only on “terror” and “violent extremism.” This approach has failed. In focusing only on acts of violence, we have ignored the ideology that justifies, promotes, celebrates, and encourages those acts. By not fighting a war of ideas against political Islam (or “Islamism”) as an ideology and against those who spread that ideology, we have made a grave error.

If Islamism is the ideology, then dawa encompasses all the methods by which it is spread. The term “dawa” refers to activities carried out by Islamists to win adherents and enlist them in a campaign to impose sharia law on all societies. Dawa is not the Islamic equivalent of religious proselytizing, although it is often disguised as such by blending humanitarian activities with subversive political activities.

Dawa as practiced by Islamists employs a wide range of mechanisms to advance the goal of imposing Islamic law (sharia) on society. This includes proselytization, but extends beyond that. In Western countries, dawa aims both to convert non-Muslims to political Islam and to bring about more extreme views among existing Muslims. The ultimate goal of dawa is to destroy the political institutions of a free society and replace them with strict sharia. Islamists rely on both violent and nonviolent means to achieve their objectives.

Dawa is to the Islamists of today what the “long march through the institutions” was to twentieth-century Marxists. It is subversion from within, the use of religious freedom in order to undermine that very freedom. After Islamists gain power, dawa is to them what Gleichschaltung (synchronization) of all aspects of German state, civil, and social institutions was to the National Socialists.

There are of course differences. The biggest difference is that dawa is rooted in the Islamic practice of attempting to convert non-Muslims to accept the message of Islam. As it is an ostensibly religious missionary activity, proponents of dawa enjoy a much greater protection by the law in free societies than Marxists or fascists did in the past.

Worse, Islamist groups have enjoyed not just protection but at times official sponsorship from government agencies duped into regarding them as representatives of “moderate Muslims” simply because they do not engage in violence. Islamist groups that have been treated in this way include:

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
The International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT)
The Islamic Society of Boston

For organizations engaging in dawa, the main elements of the strategy are:

  • to have well-organized Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood claim to speak on behalf of all Muslims, while marginalizing Muslim reformers and dissidents.
  • to take ownership of immigration trends to encourage the “Islamization” of Western societies by invoking hijra, the emigration of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina.
  • to reduce women to the status of reproductive machines for the purpose of demographic transformation.
  • to take advantage of the focus on “inclusion” by progressive political parties in democratic societies, then to force these parties to accept Islamist demands in the name of peaceful coexistence.
  • to take advantage of self-consciously progressive movements, effectively co-opting them.
  • to increase Islamists’ hold over the educational system, including some charter schools, “faith” schools, and home schooling.

Typically, Islamists study target societies to identify points of vulnerability. In the United States, Islamists focus on vulnerable African-American men within prison populations, as well as Hispanic and Native American communities. Recent targets of Islamist infiltration include the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter.

Agents of dawa also systematically lobby private-sector organizations, governments, and international bodies:

  • They seek to pressure governments to accede to Islamist demands on the grounds of freedom of religion or status as a religious minority.
  • They urge the United Nations and the European Council to combat “Islamophobia” by devising what amounts to censorship guidelines for politicians and journalists and by punishing those who dissent.
  • They press institutions such as the Associated Press to distort the language they use to suit Islamist objectives.
  • They wage sustained campaigns to discredit critics of radical Islam.

The Sinews of Dawa

The global infrastructure of dawa is well funded, persistent, and resilient. From 1973 through 2002, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spent an estimated $87 billion to promote dawa efforts abroad. Josh Martin estimates that, since the early 1970s, Middle Eastern charities have distributed $110 billion, $40 billion of which found its way to sub-Saharan Africa and contributed heavily to Islamist ideological indoctrination there.

Nongovernmental organizations in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia continue to distribute large sums overseas to finance ideological indoctrination and activities. Powerful foundations such as the Qatar Foundation continue to grant financial support and legitimacy to radical Islamic ideology around the world.

Many Islamic charitable foundations use zakat (mandatory charity) funds to mix humanitarian outreach with ideological indoctrination, laying the ground for future intolerance, misogyny, and jihad, even if no violence is used in the short term. When informal funding mechanisms are included, the zakat funds available could reach “hundreds of billions of dollars” worldwide each year.

The Key Problem Is Using Our Freedoms to End Them

Let it be said explicitly: The Islamists’ program is fundamentally incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, religious tolerance, the equality of men and women, the tolerance of different sexual orientations, and other fundamental human rights.

The biggest challenge the United States faces in combating political Islam, however, is the extent to which agents of dawa can exploit the constitutional and legal protections that guarantee American citizens freedom of religion and freedom of speech—freedoms that would of course be swept away if the Islamists achieved their goals.

In 2010, one senior American intelligence analyst summed up our predicament: “In the US there are First Amendment issues we’re cognizant of. It’s not a crime to radicalize, only when it turns to violence . . . America is thus vulnerable to a threat that is not only diversifying, but arguably intensifying.”

To give just one example: A cleric in Maryland, Imam Suleiman Bengharsa, has openly endorsed the Islamic State, posted gruesome videos, and praised terrorist attacks overseas. As of February 2017, however, he remains a free man and U.S. authorities insist nothing can be done against him because he has not yet plotted to commit a specific act of violence. One expert has said that Imam Bengharsa “can take his supporters right up to the line. It’s like making a cake and not putting in the final ingredient. It’s winks and nods all the way.” This is what we are up against.

The global constitution of political Islam is formidable. The Muslim Brotherhood, with its numerous American affiliates, is an important component, but not the only one. Even if one were able to eliminate the Brotherhood overnight, the ideological infrastructure of dawa would remain powerful. The network of radical Islamist preachers, “charities,” and organizations that perpetuate political Islam is already well established inside and outside the United States.

To resist the insidious advance of political Islam, we need to develop a strategy to counter not only those who use violence to advance their politico-religious objectives—the jihadists—but also the great and complex ideological infrastructure known as dawa, just as we countered both the Red Army and the ideology of communism in the Cold War. Focusing only on “terror” as a tactic is insufficient. We ignore at our peril the ideological infrastructure that supports political Islam in both its violent and its nonviolent forms.

It is not just that jihad is an extension of dawa; according to some observers, it is dawa by other means. Put differently, nonviolent and violent Islamists differ only on tactics; they share the same goal, which is to establish an unfree society ruled by strict sharia law. Institutionally, nonviolent Islamists have benefited from terror attacks committed by jihadists because such attacks make nonviolent Islamists appear moderate in the eyes of Western governments, even when their goals and values are not. This is known as the “positive radical flank effect. Ian Johnson, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, observed:

Al Qaeda was the best thing to happen to these [Islamist] groups. Nowadays, our bar is so low that if groups aren’t Al Qaeda, we’re happy. If they’re not overtly supporting terrorism, we think they’re okay. We don’t stop to think where the terrorism comes from, where the fish swim.

Dawa must therefore be countered as much as jihad.

Yet, as things stand, dawa cannot be countered. Its agents hide behind constitutional protections they would dismantle unhesitatingly were they in power. In 2017, Congress must therefore give the president the tools he needs to dismantle the infrastructure of dawa in the United States and to counter the spread of political Islam at home and abroad.

While recognizing that our freedoms are sacrosanct, we must also remember the wise words of Karl Popper, who memorably identified what he called “the paradox of tolerance,” namely that “unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.”

If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise.

But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols.

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

As a Muslim, I am Shocked by Liberals and Leftists

March 25, 2017

As a Muslim, I am Shocked by Liberals and Leftists, Gatestone InstituteMajid Rafizadeh, March 25, 2017

(Please see also, Dr. Majid Rafizadeh: Why the Islamist State of Iran is So Dangerous. — DM)

It is the fear of this violence, torture and death, wielded by extremist Muslims, that keeps every person desperate to obey.

If liberals are in favor of freedom of speech, why do they turn a blind eye to Islamist governments such as Iran, which execute people for expressing their opinion? And why do they not let people in the West express their opinion without attacking them or even giving them the respect of hearing what they have to say? They seem, in fact, like the autocratic people from whom I was fleeing, who also did not want their simplistic, binary way of thinking to be threatened by logic or fact.

As, in Islam, one is not allowed to attack except to defend the prophet or Islam, extremist Muslims need to keep finding or creating supposed attacks to make themselves appear as victims.

Finally, a short message to liberals might go: Dear Liberal, If you truly stand for values such as peace, social justice, liberty and freedoms, your apologetic view of radical Islam is in total contradiction with all of those values. Your view even hinders the efforts of many Muslims to make a peaceful reformation in Islam precisely to advance the those values.

If you had grown up, as I did, between two authoritarian governments — the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria — under the leadership of people such as Hafez al Assad, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, you would have seen your youth influenced by two major denominations of Islam in the Muslim world: the Shia and the Sunni. I studied both, and at one point was even a devout Muslim. My parents, who still live in Iran and Syria, come from two different ethnic Muslim groups: Arab and Persian.

You also would have seen how the religion of Islam intertwines with politics, and how radical Islam rules a society through its religious laws, sharia. You would have witnessed how radical Islam can dominate and scrutinize people’s day-to-day choices: in eating, clothing, socializing, entertainment, everything.

You would have seen the tentacles of its control close over every aspect of your life. You would have seen the way, wielded by fundamentalists, radical Islam can be a powerful tool for unbridled violence. It is the fear of this violence, torture, and death, wielded by extremist Muslims, that keeps every person desperate to obey.

My father was brutally tortured — justified by some of the fundamentalist Islamic laws of the ruling governments in both Iran and Syria. The punishment extended to my mother, my family, and other relatives, who were tormented on a regular basis.

What was even more painful was, upon coming to the West, seeing the attitude of many people who label themselves liberals and leftists, towards radical Islam.

These liberals seem to view themselves as open-minded, but they have a preconceived way of thinking about Islam: to them, it seems, there is no radical Islam, Islam is only a force for the good, Islam can do no evil.

How could they not see the way extremist Muslims exploit some aspects of the religion of Islam to legitimize its acts? How could they not even acknowledge that radical Islam, a force that threatens to destroy the planet, let alone my family, exists?

Instead, many liberals would criticize me or attempt to turn a blind eye, as if I were accidentally making some embarrassing mistake. They seemed instead to love being surrounded by Western Muslim “scholars”, those who are apologetic towards radical Islam and — notably — have never actually lived in a Muslim country under the strangling grip of the official fundamentalist laws, sharia.

Why do many liberals, who criticize Christianity and religious conviction in general, appear to open their arms to radical Islam so affectionately? Why are so many liberals, who call themselves the robust defenders of peace, social justice, and freedoms, apologetic for all types of fundamentalist Islamist laws?

If, as liberals argue, they support women’s and LGBT rights, why, by their silence, do they condone gays executed and women subjugated on a daily basis throughout most of the enormous Muslim world? If liberals are in favor of freedom of speech, why do they turn a blind eye to Islamist governments such as Iran that, based on the government’s radical, theocratic laws, execute people for expressing their opinion? And why do they not let people in the West express their opinion without attacking them before even giving them the respect of hearing what they have to say?

Liberals argue that they are in favor of critical thinking, but they do not like anyone challenging their “comfort zone”. They seem, in fact, to be just like the autocratic people from whom I was fleeing, who also did not want their simplistic, binary way of thinking to be threatened by logic or fact.

Even if a person is from a Muslim country, and has direct experience with extremist Islam, many liberals will strenuously avoid this information. They seem not to want their apologetic view of radical Islam to be questioned or contradicted. They apparently have no desire to open their closed minds on the subject. The thought of a question evidently wounds them, as if an answer would mean that they were turning their backs on the ongoing crimes against humanity. How come, then, that so many liberals appear resistant to seeing that the crimes of radical Islam are those crimes against humanity? And at present, the largest?

Second, these liberals — indulging in faulty, sophisitic, logic — seem to think that if they criticize Christianity and Islamists criticize Christianity, then Islamists will like them for hating the same thing. In the same vein, many liberals hate the U.S. Republican government and many radical Muslim groups hate the U.S. Republican government, so perhaps many liberals think that Muslims will like them for hating the same government? Sadly, as these liberals will soon find out, the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.

Third, and more fundamentally, sympathizing with all kinds of Islamist practices and radical Islam seems to fit a wider narrative of bashing the West and white people for “imperialism, colonialism, and any sense of superiority”. Unfortunately that view fails to take into account that there have been no greater imperialists the Muslim armies; they conquered Persia, the great Christian Byzantine Empire in Turkey, North Africa and the Middle East, virtually all of Eastern Europe, most of Spain, and Greece.

As, in Islam, one is not allowed to attack except to defend the prophet Muhammed or Islam, extremist Muslims need to keep either finding or creating supposed attacks to make themselves appear as victims.

Anjem Choudary, a radical British Muslim cleric, was sentenced late last year by a British judge to five and a half years in prison for encouraging people to join the Islamic State. (Image source: Dan H/Flickr)

Many liberals, not knowing the background, buy into this claim. By siding with the “other”, they probably feel a moral superiority: they are helping a cause, championing the “other” and rescuing a “victim”! But this moral superiority is both superficial and misplaced. It is more like that of the proverbial boy who murders his parents and then asks the judge for mercy because he is an orphan.

Maybe that is why, when many liberals hear criticism of radical Islam and the nuances of some aspects it, they refuse to hear it. For them, as radical Islam is not being depicted as a victim anymore, this view does not offer them the comfort of being morally superior defending victims. Ironically, that is the same motive for many radical Islamists: feeling morally superior defending Islam. The liberals then become confused, and do not know how to answer because I am a Muslim, have grown up there — not a Western Muslim who has never lived in a Muslim society. I am not even a Western conservative, with whom the liberals are also at odds. Many liberals, like all people happily married to a fantasy, and despite towering evidence, will stick to the fantasy and to their binary way of thinking. It is like trying to tell your friend that the stripper he wants to marry might not want to stay home, make babies and cook. He is so emotionally addicted to his dream that he will do anything to protect it.

Finally, it goes without saying that, as with all of us, liberals too attempt to preserve their financial and political interests. These material and social investments are also threatened by hearing from Muslims who have endured oppression and torture under radical Islam. Those liberals seem to suspect, correctly, that this new information might create some kind of conflict of interest, so possibly decide it might be safer not to hear it in the first place. Instead, again to protect their investment, many liberals and leftists ignore or criticize Muslims such as these.

Finally, a short message to liberals might go: Dear Liberal, If you truly stand for values such as peace, social justice, liberty and freedoms, your apologetic view of radical Islam is in total contradiction with all of those values. Your view even hinders the efforts of many Muslims to make a peaceful reformation in Islam precisely to advance the those values. In addition, sadly, your view towards radical Islam actually contributes to the violence and the repression of millions of people — women, children, slaves, and all those people whom you claim you want to protect. These are the true victims. They are subjugated, dehumanized, terrorized, tortured, raped and beaten on a daily basis by the practitioners of radical Islam and the religious laws of sharia, which are at the core of that fundamentalism. It is time to open your eyes and your minds and see what is staring at you.

How Pakistani Law Enshrines Extremism and Weakens Counter-Terror Efforts

February 24, 2017

How Pakistani Law Enshrines Extremism and Weakens Counter-Terror Efforts, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Ammar Anwer, February 24, 2017

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Pakistani extremists have killed nearly 50,000 people since 9/11. But government ineffectiveness has stymied efforts to contain terrorist violence. The government and military often are not on the same page, or have chosen a narrow and selective approach towards extremism, fighting one outfit and at the same time supporting the other.

For instance, former President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged that Pakistan cultivated and possessed a soft spot for the Afghan Taliban. In addition, Pakistan has failed to take a firm stand against Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a radical outfit famous for its hateful rhetoric against India. The U.S. designated the organization as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2001, and the United Nations designated it as a terrorist outfit in 2005.

Lately, signs of hope have started to emerge. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief of Staff General Raheel Sharif seem to agree about extremism and also seem to lack the selective approach that their predecessors had often adopted. As evidence, more than 250 people have been arrested for propagating hate speech, and a ban has been imposed on loudspeakers, which were often used to promote sectarian violence.

In addition, Pakistan launched a host of military operations against militants, including 2014’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which targeted militant groups including the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani Network. As a result, most of North Waziristan is now controlled by the military.

The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2015, complied by the international research group the Institute for Economics and Peace, analyzes the impact of terrorism on the global community. The report conceded success of Zarb-e-Azb and stated, “Pakistan was the only country in the ten most impacted countries that saw a decline in deaths” but still ranked third in the world.

Pakistan still has a long way to go to eradicate Islamist extremism.

Pakistani law remains an obstacle to accomplishing this goal. Its constitution paves the way for religious intolerance as the following examples show:

Declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims

Discrimination against Ahmadis began shortly after Pakistan’s inception in 1947. In 1953, a series of violent attacks was instigated against the Ahmadiyya community in Lahore. The Lahore riots resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims.

In 1974, due to the strong pressure from fundamentalists, Ahmadis were officially declared non-Muslims in Pakistan. To this day Ahmadis suffer religious discrimination and persecution while the state shows no inclination toward amending the law or eradicating the discrimination.

Ehtaram-e-Ramadan Ordinance

The Ehtaram-e-Ramadan ordinance was passed in 1981 during the tenure of General Zia-Ul-Haq, and is part of the constitution. It prohibits public eating during Ramadan’s fasting hours. It is a blatant violation of religious freedom for non-Muslims and secular Muslims. The ordinance requires that restaurants remain closed during fasting hours. Violations are punishable by up to three months in prison or a fine.

But vigilantes often take this law into their own hands. During the last Ramadan, an elderly Hindu man was badly beaten for eating publicly.

Pakistan’s contentious blasphemy law

Blasphemy is the act of insulting, showing contempt or a lack of reverence for God or that which is considered sacred. The blasphemy laws are now enshrined in section 295 A, B and C of the Penal Code, with their focus to protect Islam.

Pakistan uses this controversial law at a level unparalleled in any other country. The law has had a disproportionate impact on minority communities. Minorities, which comprise just 4 percent of Pakistan’s population, are targeted in more than half of the 702 total blasphemy law cases. The laws routinely are used to target religious minorities like Hindus or Christians for personal or political motives.

This action contradicts Pakistan’s constitution which guarantees the right to profess religion, equality of citizens and protection of minorities.

The law perpetuates an environment of intolerance and discrimination. To guarantee equal treatment and fundamental rights, the blasphemy laws must be eliminated or dramatically changed. Without this improvement, the state will never be able to achieve peace, tolerance and equal human rights.

Conclusion

The facts are before us, though they might be difficult to face. However, as Aldous Huxley said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

We in Pakistan cannot claim that we are fighting a war against extremism if there are extremist tenets within our constitution. Until we change those laws, the fight can never be won.

The Washington Post’s Inadvertent Boost to Steve Bannon

February 8, 2017

The Washington Post’s Inadvertent Boost to Steve Bannon, AlgemeinerRuthie Blum, February 7, 2017

stevebannonStephen Bannon. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

In yet another attempt to discredit US President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen (Steve) Bannon, the Washington Post inadvertently did just the opposite.

In a piece on Friday, national reporter Matea Gold revealed that she had obtained a draft of a movie proposal written in 2007 by Bannon – at the time a Hollywood filmmaker – aimed at warning viewers about radical Muslims turning the US into the “Islamic States of America.”

According to Gold, the envisioned three-part documentary, titled “Destroying the Great Satan: The Rise of Islamic Facism [sic] in America,” was to open with a scene showing the flag on the US Capitol building emblazoned with a crescent and star, while chants of “Allahu Akbar” emanate from inside. The purpose of the film, she said, quoting its outline, was to caution not only against jihadists, but against the “enablers among us.”

These unwitting Americans, with the “best intentions,” wrote Bannon, according to Gold, were the media, the Jewish community and government agencies engaged in appeasing Islamism and paving “the road to this unique hell on earth.”

While detailing the document, Gold made sure to remind readers that its author is the same Bannon who helped Trump forge his executive order restricting entry into the US of citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries. This unsubtle juxtaposition was supposed to give credence to the claim, widely circulated prior to and since Trump’s election, that Bannon is both an antisemite and an Islamophobe.

But the stab at a double whammy fell flat on its face. If anything, Gold’s account was cause for optimism about Bannon’s role in the administration that is taking shape in Washington.

Indeed, anybody outside of Israel who grasped 10 years ago that radical Islamism was a force not only to be reckoned with but guarded against in the West is a person who has been paying attention. Despite the national trauma caused by the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, Americans quickly covered themselves in ostrich feathers and put their heads in the proverbial sand, hoping that the war against Al-Qaeda, being fought far from their homestead, would remain something they might catch a glimpse of on the nightly news, but not feel, smell and taste.

Unlike Israelis – virtually all of whom are soldiers even when in civilian clothes – citizens of the United States are blessed with a choice about the extent of their involvement in matters of national security and defense. As a result, many can and do go through life without ever encountering men and women in uniform, let alone march alongside them.

This is a true mark of freedom that should be cherished. But when forces bent on destroying the country and everything it stands for rear their ugly heads, resting on one’s laurels is not an option; nor is having a commander-in-chief in the Oval Office who lives in liberal la-la-land. Yet that is precisely what American voters opted for – twice – in the past eight years. Talk about begging to be lulled into pre-9/11 complacency.

Bannon is by no means the only American who saw the writing on the wall. But he is among the few today with access to the president’s ear. That he realizes the threat posed by both radical Islamists and their Jewish and other “fellow travelers” is a help, not a hindrance, at a time when the greatest state sponsor of global terrorism just received billions of dollars with which to build nuclear weapons.

It is too early to tell whether Team Trump is up to the monumental task at hand, or how much influence Bannon will have on the course of events. But two things bode well: the Washington Post’s expose of his unmade film, and the satire show “Saturday Night Live”’s portrayal of him as the Grim Reaper.

A Muslim Reformer Speaks Out About His Battle Against Islamism And PC

January 30, 2017

A Muslim Reformer Speaks Out About His Battle Against Islamism And PC, The Federalist, January 30, 2017

dr-jasser

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser stands at the forefront of the Muslim Reform Movement (MRM), which celebrated its first anniversary on December 4, 2016. He and representatives from fourteen other Muslim reform groups formed the MRM, which held its inaugural press conference on December 5, 2015.

There, they announced their two-page declaration of principles that discusses counterterrorism, human rights, and secular governance. In a nod to Martin Luther nailing his 99 theses to the door of the All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517, several MRM members then taped their principles to the door of the Islamic Center of Washington DC.

The following is an interview with Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, CEO of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) and co-founder of the MRM. Jasser is a physician and former U.S. Navy officer whose parents fled Syria. Jasser agreed to reflect on the MRM’s one-year anniversary, the current battle between reformists and Islamists, and the Syrian Civil War.

The Muslims Working to Reform Islam

Q (Postal): What is the MRM, and what are its main objectives?

A (Jasser): The Muslim Reform Movement is a coalition of diverse Muslim organizations and leaders. We wanted to articulate the versions of Islam that we knew and loved, and that were compatible with modernity. We determined that the clearest way to define ourselves was to create a simple “declaration” of principles and goals. The declaration is a firewall of principles that we as Westerners and “modern Muslims” who believe in freedom, liberty, and universal human rights would not compromise.

Whether it is the rejection of any Islamic state and its identity, any caliphate (a global unification of many Islamic states), or the institutionalization of sharia (Islamic jurisprudence as interpreted by Islamic jurists), our Muslim Reform Movement felt that the only way to truly counter-radicalize Muslims is through an unapologetic defense of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and modern society. Our principles stand in stark contrast to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights (of 1991) which was based in the interpretations of sharia of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Q: What events spurred the creation of the MRM?

A: While each of us began separate journeys against Islamism after 9/11 (and some even before), it was the Arab Awakening that brought us all together. So-called “secular” military dictatorships across the Muslim majority world have been profoundly suffocating critical inquiry. (I say “so-called” because these dictatorships essentially govern with sharia.)

I would, for example, put Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Syria in this category, though Turkey is a waning democracy cum Islamist dictatorship and Iran is an outright theocracy. Muslims cannot reform their interpretations of Islam under the boots of regimes that manifest interpretations of Islam through blasphemy, apostasy, and treason laws.

The Arab Awakening signaled to Muslims across the world that there was an opportunity for renewed critical thought by the people against the religious establishment and its tyrannical regimes. Unfortunately, since 2011, and perhaps even in the last 1,000 years, the Islamists were far better funded and organized. These opportunities gave way to large-scale violence, war, and chaos rather than heralding reform and modern institutions. Tunisia is thus far perhaps the one exception.

We reformists observed the rise of radical Islam’s attacks against the West since 9/11, and realized that we have a responsibility as Americans, patriotic Westerners, free thinkers, Muslims, and parents to counter and defeat the ideological underpinnings of Islamism.

Q: What accomplishments of the MRM have you seen in the past year? What are its goals?

A: Our greatest accomplishment to date is our declaration. While we are disappointed in the relative silence from most Muslim leaders, we recognize that their avoidance and inability to critique it has also demonstrated that it is on target. Our declaration has also withstood scrutiny from those who have been skeptical of the capacity of Muslims to have modern interpretations of Islam.

Given that we seek to counter a global theo-political establishment, our growth has certainly not been as rapid as we would like, but we are proud of how far we have come in a year.

Our successes as a coalition are highlighted by the successes of each of our respective organizations and leaders. I encourage readers of this interview to look into the works of each of these leaders, and help them make them known. Raheel Raza, Sohail Raza, and Hasan Mahmud with Muslims Facing Tomorrow in Toronto; Imam Usama Hasan with Quilliam Foundation in London; Asra Nomani, journalist and author; Farahnaz Ispahani, former member of Pakistan’s parliament, in Washington DC; Naser Khader in Denmark; myself, Courtney Lonergan, and Arif Humayun with our AIFD in Phoenix; Salma Siddiqui with the Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations in Canada; Tahir Gora, author, journalist, activist, in Toronto, Canada; Tawfik Hamid, Islamic thinker and reformer, Oakton, Virginia, to name a few, have all continued to grow in their programmatic reach.

We had our second annual retreat in Phoenix in October 2016 and expanded our strategic plan for the next few years. In 2017, we hope to see government, academia, media, and the interfaith establishment begin to give reformist Muslims from the MRM an equal seat at the table of any public conversations regarding Muslims and Islam.

On the government front, domestic and foreign policies should be directed by a “liberty doctrine” which engages Muslims positively on the principles embodied in our declaration and refutes those who reject any part or all of the declaration. Homeland security and foreign policy needs to focus more on “countering violent Islamism” rather than the nebulous “countering violent extremism.”

Q: In the MRM’s inaugural press conference, you said American mosques that reject the MRM’s declaration of principles are part of the problem, while those that accept the principles are part of the solution. How many mosques did the MRM approach? Did most of these mosques accept or reject these principles?

A: We spent significant resources on this outreach over a period of ten months. We reached out through snail mail, e-mail, and telephone to over 3,000 mosques and over 500 known public American Muslims. We received only 40-plus rather dismissive responses from our outreach, and sadly less than ten of them were positive. In fact, one mosque in South Carolina left us a vicious voice mail threatening our staff if we contacted them again.

We will continue to persevere with our outreach. On the one hand, we see the open hypocrisy of American Islamist groups effectively working together to sign documents, such as the recent “Open Letter to Donald Trump.” But to get their attention as reformists against Islamism, we face an uphill battle. If it’s grievances against Americans, people quickly sign on to almost anything. But getting people to sign on to an internal honest declaration of reform is like pulling teeth.

I can guess why we had shortcomings in outreach. If we had more funding, we could study this more scientifically. “Muslim” and “Islamic” institutions are often Islamist and thus unlikely to sign on to our declaration. Some estimate that 70-80 percent of Muslim organizations and mosques in the U.S. are die-hard Islamist. However, this needs to be put into an appropriate context. American Muslims, especially Sunni, are not tied to any clergy or organized “mosque” for faith practice or membership so the majority (60-70 percent) of American Muslims do not regularly participate in mosques or established Muslim institutions.

No one knows truly how that majority of Muslims feels about Islamist ideologies. National security is in desperate need of helping us study that. Our MRM is dedicated to creating new Western Muslim institutions outside the mosques and outside the “establishment” Islamist leadership to appeal to Muslims estranged from Islamist political tribalism. We have not been able to effectively reach out to the majority of Muslims because of resources and the absence of effective platforms.

The Muslim Reform Movement Versus Islamism

Q: What are the key differences between Muslim reformers and Muslim Islamists?

A: Reformers reject any Islamic state and its legal apparatus empowered through sharia. Reformers believe that individual Muslims have a right to publicly criticize Muslim thought leaders and their legal interpretations. Islamists believe that democracy is majoritocracy and thus in countries where Muslims are a majority, the national identity should be “Islamic” or “Muslim” and sharia should govern the legal system. Islamists believe that the rights of all citizens come from Islam and the state’s legal system and public discourse should be based upon Islamic precepts and exegesis. They view the mosque and its pulpit as the center of that political movement.

Reformers, however, believe that the rights of all citizens come from God and thus all citizens, Muslim and non-Muslim, are created equal and the legal system and public discourse should be based in reason. Reformers believe rights belong to human beings, not to ideas, while Islamists believe that the legal system should protect certain ideas (like Islam) from public defamation. Islamists believe in some form of a theo-political system domestically, and ultimately globally in some form of caliphate. Reformers believe in secular governance, and reject any and all forms of the Islamic state and the global caliphate.

We at AIFD are currently working on a formal response to the “Letter to Baghdadi” signed by Western Islamists. While it admonishes the head of ISIS, Sheikh Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi for illegitimacy in declaring jihad, establishing an Islamic state and a caliphate among other interpretations of Islamic law by al-Baghdadi, it is also a full-throated defense of an Islamic state, a caliphate, armed jihad, and other Islamist fundamentals that stand in stark contrast to Western secular liberal ideals and universal human rights.

Q: Do you believe the MRM is seeking to reform Islam itself, or Muslim interpretation of Islam? Does such reform require a change in the way Muslims interpret doctrine, or does it require Muslims to adopt humanist values apart from Islam?

A: Your question is the very reason we called this movement the Muslim Reform Movement rather than Islamic reform. If you define Islam as Wahhabi Islam or Salafi Islam, then yes we are reforming that. However if you define Islam as the Islam of the God of Abraham then we believe we are simply modernizing the interpretation to one commensurate with twenty-first century universal principles of human rights.

We understand that many may feel that Islam at its core or at its founding was problematic. But what should matter to the free world is not the origins of Islam but how Muslims are interpreting Islam in the twenty-first century.

We reformists are Muslims who are reforming the interpretation of Islam away from an Islam tied to the political construct of an Islamic state and sharia. Like the Founding Fathers of America, who sought to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s by preventing the establishment of religion by government, we too seek to interpret Islam in a way that separates mosque and state. Just as Muslims can embrace medical, natural, and computer science, we can embrace political science beyond the constructs of the seventh century.

Q: In the last 30 years, Saudi Arabia has spent more than an estimated $100 billion to fund the spread of Wahhabism worldwide (in contrast to the $7 billion the USSR spent spreading communism from 1921 through 1991). How does the MRM hope to compete with these vast Saudi expenditures?

A: That’s the elephant in the room. The West needs a major information program to advance ideas of liberty. The hope is that the free world will take the side of liberty, and theocracies and quasi-theocracies will fall.

Q: You and other members of the MRM have criticized the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the past. CAIR’s vision, mission, and core principles at first glance appear to be liberal and tolerant. What are the MRM’s concerns with CAIR?

A: The MRM believes, of course, that civil rights—chiefly, freedom of speech and religious expression—are cornerstones of our democracy, and we absolutely support efforts to protect these. CAIR can, to the untrained eye, seem to be in support of these principles as well.

However, this Hamas offshoot is hardly a true champion of civil rights. They silence dissidents, and initiate and actively support campaigns targeting LGBT Muslims, ex-Muslims, and more generally all anti-Islamists. Any cursory review of their practices reveals that they are not the progressive element they claim to be. On the contrary, they represent the very worst elements within our community.

They are, in essence, one of the centerpieces of the DC lobby of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The OIC is today’s “neo-caliphate” and it seeks to keep the West on constant ideological defense apologizing for its so-called “Islamophobia.” That defensiveness then prevents us in the West from dealing with the deep ideological cancer of the Islamic state (sharia state) identity movements.

Q: You and other members of the MRM have also criticized the Muslim Brotherhood. There are currently bills in both the House (H.R. 377) and Senate (S. 68) that, if passed, would designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Do you support that legislation, and why or why not?

A: Personally, I support the designation of the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. This is a group that has been responsible for the targeting of Christians, Jews, and dissidents, the persecution of minority Muslims, and the abuse, torture, and murder of women, gay people, and other marginalized groups. It has also made significant efforts to export its hateful ideology internationally.

I think we have to be strategic with regards to the global “Ikhawni” or Brotherhood movement. I would compare it in the Cold War to fighting the militant version of communism as embodied in the Soviet threat, versus other versions of communism. Odds are there are links between communist parties and global Soviet sympathies but outlawing “communist parties” would have made counter-ideology and monitoring far more difficult.

Similarly with the Ikhwan, Turkey’s AKP, Tunisia’s Ennahda, and so many other Islamist parties are part of the “Ikhwani” movement. We will never defeat all of their common Islamism by declaring them terror groups. Authoritarian regimes in the Middle East have proven that such designations often serve as arson to the Islamist fire.

Q: What are your thoughts on branding any criticism of Islam as “Islamophobia?” Does such branding have any impact on your reform efforts?

A: I have spoken about this for well over a decade, and invite your readers to look at my and my organization’s discussions of this. While some anti-Muslim bigotry is real, “Islamophobia” is a word often thrown around by Islamists to silence any critical discussion of Islam, Muslims, and—most significantly—the common pathways of radicalization from Islamism.

The obsession some have with “Islamophobia” means that these conversations are censored if not entirely shut down, and reformers like me are maligned, harassed, and threatened not just from within our community, but from those outside of it as well.

Non-Muslims in particular need to learn that it is not bigotry to discuss radicalization. It is bigotry to hate people based on their religion, appearance, gender, sexual orientation, or race. It is not bigotry to want to combat a force—Islamism—that in fact promotes bigotry and violence against all marginalized peoples.

The Syrian Civil War

Q: As an American of Syrian descent, whose parents fled Syria for the United States in the mid 1960s, what if anything do you think the United States should do to resolve the Syrian refugee crisis?

A: America must remain a refuge for the downtrodden and oppressed who share our values. But in order to remain so, we must also remain the safest country in the world, committed to our principles and to promoting them in the world. We are and will always be “the last best hope” for freedom and that “city on a Hill” for those who seek liberty.

I have advocated at great length for a robust vetting system against any and all Islamists, whether violent or nonviolent. I have also advocated for comprehensive integration programs that help new arrivals integrate their Muslim and Arab identities with their identities as American residents and perhaps future citizens.

Q: Are you concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood will rise to power in Syria currently, or in any post-Assad Syria?

A: There is always the concern that an Islamist force will replace a dictatorship, but this question is also often used to advocate for inaction against brutal dictatorships. Further, it is not even the primary question on the table right now, as far as I’m concerned.

Several years ago, this question was used to allow Assad to remain in power. Today, over half a million people are dead, including many of the very reformers and lovers of liberty that could have saved my parents’ homeland from the twin evils of Islamist theocracy and secular fascism.

Make no mistake, Assadists and their Iranian benefactors are the Shia jihadist side of the Islamist coin opposite the Sunni Islamists of ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood. The truth is that whatever emerges first from this genocide may be intensely problematic, and we will have to address that as well. Most revolutions often need multiple iterations before there is ever a chance for liberal democracy. But first, we must address the ongoing genocide.

Q: How do you see the Syrian civil war ending?

A: First, I don’t call this a “civil war.” It is not. It is a conflict wherein the people rose against a dictatorial regime, and that regime responded with genocidal mass rape, torture, and murder, aided by the Russians, Iranians, and global inaction. In the end, Syria could become a more formalized Iranian or Russian proxy, or it could be taken over by radical elements that are anti-Assad, anti-Ba’ath, and anti-Khomeinist. Remember, the Sunni Islamists are fueled and radicalized by their Saudi, Qatari, and Turkish Islamist benefactors.

The only solution to this Shia-Sunni Islamist stalemate is to build a third pathway of secular liberalism and civil society away from all forms of Islamist tyranny. As in the Cold War, the West needs to slowly work with those groups who share our values with a long-term vision rather than futile and ineffective short-term whack-a-mole programs.

The author would like to thank Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser for participating in this interview.

Amnesty International Attacks Democracies, Forgives Islamist Tyrannies

December 9, 2016

Amnesty International Attacks Democracies, Forgives Islamist Tyrannies, Gatestone Institute, Giulio Meotti, December 9, 2016

“Morally bankrupt.” — Salman Rushdie, author with a $600,000 bounty from Iran’s regime on his head, speaking of Amnesty International.

Amnesty sponsored a rally in Brussels, where Islamist speakers celebrated the 9/11 attacks, denied the Holocaust and demonized gays and Jews.

It seems that Amnesty turned its back on the battle of human rights in favor of a grotesque anti-Western bias. The Economist accused Amnesty of “reserving more pages to human rights abuses in Britain and the United States than in Belarus and Saudi Arabia.”

Amnesty’s secretary general compared Soviet forced-labor camps, where millions died of hunger, cold and executions, to a US military base where no prisoner has died, and which has prevented countless innocent civilians from being blown up.

“Canada is obliged to arrest and prosecute Bush for his responsibility for crimes under international law including torture”, said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Americas programme director. Amnesty also charged Obama of “war crimes.”

Alan Dershowitz summarizes Amnesty’s definition of Israel’s “war crimes”: “Whatever Israel does to defend its citizens.”

A report by NGO Monitor detailed Amnesty’s “systematic flaws in the reporting of human rights abuses; limited understanding of armed conflict leading to erroneous claims and incorrect analysis; and violation of the universality of human rights, including a consistent institutionalized bias against Israel through double-standards.” There are even Amnesty’s officials who called the Jewish State “a scum state.”

 

According to Amnesty International, the centers that host migrants arriving in Italy, known as “hotspots,” are like concentration camps. This is what you learn from Amnesty International’s new report, which accuses Italy of nothing less than “torturing” migrants. The report features a sequence of testimonies, never proven, that describe methods worthy of a South American military junta.

The report validates Salman Rushdie’s accusation against Amnesty International: “Morally bankrupt.” The Wall Street Journal added two more charges against the famous Western non-governmental organization (NGO): “Anti-American fervor and intellectual confusion”.

In the new Amnesty International report, a “witness,” under the name of only “Adam,” speaks of “a kind of clamp with three ends” by which Italian policemen allegedly grabbed his testicles. Evidence? Medical reports attesting to this violence? The version of the Italian police? Not in the wonderful world of Amnesty International, where a Western democracy can be safely accused of “torture” with flimsy, sub-standard, unverifiable “evidence” — the same as Amnesty’s many spurious charges against Israel. The Italian police and Interior Ministry denied all the charges, calling them ridiculous.

Already in February 2016, Antonio Marchesi, president of the Italian section of Amnesty, said: “Those in Italy who have committed acts of torture can sleep soundly.” A month ago, Amnesty issued a similar report on the immigration centers in Australia, another democracy denounced as a “torturer” by this now badly-degraded NGO that won the now badly-degraded Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.

The world owes a debt of gratitude to Amnesty — it fought hard to free political prisoners held by Communist regimes during the Cold War, and those held by South Africa’s Apartheid regime. But those days are gone. Now Amnesty keeps betraying its symbol: the light of its small candle trapped in barbed wire.

In 2005, Irene Khan, then secretary general of Amnesty, described the American detention center in Guantanamo Bay as “the Gulag of our time.” She compared the Soviet forced-labor camps, where three million people died of hunger, cold and executions, to a US military base where no prisoner has died, and which has prevented countless innocent civilians from being blown up.

It seems that Amnesty International abandoned the battle of human rights in favor of a grotesque anti-Western bias. This shift is why the British weekly, The Economist, accused Amnesty International of “reserving more pages to human rights abuses in Britain and the United States than in Belarus and Saudi Arabia.” This is the same muddled moral equivalence that probably led Amnesty International to use the same language for Italian “hotspots” as for the Saydnaya prison in Syria, run by the regime of Bashar al Assad.

If Guantanamo is the new Gulag, why not demand the arrest of its commander-in-chief? This is precisely what Amnesty did two years ago, when it asked Canada to arrest George W. Bush. “Canada is obliged to arrest and prosecute Bush for his responsibility for crimes under international law including torture”, said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Americas programme director. Amnesty’s also charged Obama of “war crimes”. The Western “war on terror”? According to Amnesty, “it is sowing fear“. US drone strikes? A “war crime.”

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The NGO has also accused Israel of “war crimes.” Alan Dershowitz summarizes Amnesty International’s definition of Israel’s “war crimes”: “Whatever Israel does to defend its citizens.” A report by NGO Monitor detailed “Amnesty’s repeated examples of “lawfare”; systematic flaws in the reporting of human rights abuses; limited understanding of armed conflict leading to erroneous claims and incorrect analysis; and violation of the universality of human rights, including a consistent institutionalized bias against Israel through double-standards”. There are even Amnesty’s officials who called the Jewish State “a scum state.”

In the name of “protecting human rights,” Amnesty International has even excused Islamic extremism. The secretary general of Amnesty, Claudio Cordone, said that “defensive jihad” is not “antithetical” to the struggle for human rights. He said this in response to a petition on Amnesty’s relationship with CAGE (formerly CagePrisoners), the NGO founded by Islamic extremist Moazzam Begg that campaigns for the release of acclaimed jihadists.

One prominent leader of Amnesty, Karima Bennoune, author of the book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, wrote:

“During my years at Amnesty I shared the concerns about torture in Algeria, but I could not understand the organization’s paltry response to the violence of fundamentalist groups.”

She is not the first Amnesty official who has flung criticism at her own organization. Amnesty suspended one of its senior officers, Gita Sahgal, for having expressed some concerns. “To be appearing on platforms with Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender is a gross error of judgment,” she wrote.

There was a time when Amnesty International defended the victims of ideological repression, such as the wife of Soviet writer Boris Pasternak, Olga Ivinskaya, who spent years under arrest and persecuted for her husband’s refusal to bow down to the Kremlin. Now, the Times of Londonhas documented links between Amnesty International officials and Islamists.

Today, Amnesty evidently considers freedom of expression something to use with “responsibility,” as Amnesty claimed during the Mohammed cartoons crisis. Is freedom of speech the right to say whatever you like, about any topic, whenever you want? Not according to Amnesty International, the watchdog group that today would apparently have lectured the great Soviet dissidents to write with “responsibility.”

Amnesty International sponsored a rally in Brussels, where Islamist speakers celebrated the 9/11 attacks, denied the Holocaust, and demonized gays and Jews. Before that, Amnesty refused to punish an official, Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty’s UK campaign manager, who tweeted: “Israeli regimes [sic] response to our Gaza report: Amnesty is ‘a propaganda tool for Hamas & other terror groups’ (#JSIL?).” The hashtag “#JSIL” is used on Twitter to compare Israel with the Islamic State terrorist organization by replacing “Islamic” with “Jewish” in the group’s common alias, ISIL. Amnesty also sponsored a speaking tour of Bassem Tamimi, a Palestinian militant who promotes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Given Amnesty International’s embarrassing record, it is at least doubtful that the Italian police and authorities are “torturing” migrants whom they have so generously been rescuing at sea for more than two years.

Some in the Western “human rights establishment” have crossed the red line that separates the defense of human rights, even for terrorists, from complicity and collusion with repressive totalitarian ideas.