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Ending FGM and Forced/Child Marriage: Inspiration from the Girl Summit

Raheel Raza

 If North America could only take a lesson from the UK, we could solve a huge problem that exists on this continent as well. 

It was a great honour to be invited to attend the 2014 “Girl Summit” in the UK which was hosted by the UK Government and United Nations Children’s Fund.

But before I got there, I had to get a badge. Having experienced government bureaucracy in other countries, it was a pleasant surprise to reach Whitehall and find everything in order. That’s when I first discovered that there were 600 delegates coming to the summit. We were told that the program for the summit would only be available at the actual entrance to the event.

So I made my way to Walworth Academy on July 22 early in the morning. The security was very tight and media swarmed all over the place. When I got the program, I understood why. Starting with Ban Ki-Moon in the opening plenary to Sheikh Hasina, the female Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and David Cameron. It was a high profile event.

The theme of the summit was “A Future Free from FGM and Child and Force Marriage.” As an activist for women’s rights my entire adult life, I know how hard it has been to bring women’s issues on the front burner, especially those issues that are taboo to discuss or debate. So, it was with great pleasure that I started listening to the conversation around me.

When the documentary Honor Diaries was released, one of the criticisms against it was, “Why is the focus on Muslim majority societies?” Well, I got the answer at the summit. Today, in areas of the Muslim world ruled by despots like ISIS and Boko Haram, forced and underage marriage and FGM are being promoted – while in the UK, a country where these practices did not originate, an international charter is being drawn up to end FGM and forced/child marriages in this generation.

I felt proud and motivated to be part of the Honor Diaries movement which is still cutting-edge in breaking the barriers of silence.

Speaking of Honor Diaries, I was inspired by the number of women at the summit who had seen the film and commented on it. Jaha Dukuray found me in the crowd although she was being filmed by The Guardian, and we had a few moments of bonding.

All VIP’s were welcomed into the summit compound by the “Pandemonium Drummers,” so when we heard drumming, we knew someone important was entering. This is how I saw Malala Yousafzai and her father walk in.

I ran up to Malala to give her an Honor Diaries DVD and scarf and her handlers tried to brush me off, but I said, “Malala belongs to the same heritage as I am from, so her movement belongs to all of us, and I am from her homeland.” I managed to give her an Honor Diaries DVD and scarf before she was whisked away.

Later, I went to the plenary and, on the way, I saw the VIP and media room, so I just walked in with my journalist cap on. Here, I was able to meet many people face-to-face. An African girl walked up to me and said, “You are my hero.” I was a bit taken aback.

She introduced herself as Alimatu Dimoneken who is an FGM survivor and had seen Honor Diaries. She said my family reminded her of her family. I also met Malala’s father and gave him another DVD just to ensure that he has a copy. He promised to visit when he comes to Canada as we spoke the same language.

Then I met John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Canada. As a fellow-Canadian I was proud of his being the facilitator for a session on “Action for Change.” I also met Gordon Campbell, our Canadian High Commissioner in Britain.

 All of them spoke out against FGM and forced/child Marriage. Hina Jilani, Supreme Court Advocate from Pakistan, was there and she said, “It’s time to make governments accountable for their duties towards their citizens, and International relations need to be strengthened to change social policy.” 

At a later session, Malala was on a panel with Sheikh Hasina. Malala spoke about her visit to Nigeria to meet with the families of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. She is an impressive and eloquent speaker (without notes), and she said, “It’s we who create a culture in which women can’t be educated – so we can change those cultures that go against human rights.”

Her solution: educate all girls. Sheikh Hasina spoke about a move in Bangladesh to make education free for all girls until graduation.   

Heads of African states spoke about commitments, targets and change. But nowhere is the change more obvious than in the UK where the problems have been immense but, so too, have the solutions.

Prime Minister David Cameron made a surprise appearance. He spoke with great conviction about the changes made in the UK legal, justice and educational systems to tackle FGM and child/forced marriage. Not only have they invested finances into this movement but manpower as well. He said it’s now mandatory in the UK for teachers and doctors to report signs of FGM or forced/child marriages. Parents will be convicted. At the time he spoke, 21 countries had signed up with the Girl Charter as well as 230 organizations. I was able to present him with an Honor Diaries DVD as well.

Jasvinder Sanghera of Karma Nirvana who also appeared in Honor Diaries was up front and center having worked on forced marriages since her organization was formed. She introduced me to many of the movers and shakers in the field.

Over lunch, we had a short screening of the forced marriage clip from Honor Diaries, and there were some good questions. One young South Asian girl asked, “What about the victims?” and later she came to me and told me her story.

She is of Pakistani origin, born and brought up in London. She was only 12 when she came home from school one day and was asked to wear a bridal dress and married off against her will to a man much older than her because the family had decided that was her future.

She was not allowed to continue her education, and two years later, she gave birth to two kids. She was sent to Pakistan, came back and decided to leave her abusive husband for which she was ex-communicated from her family.

She managed to educate herself and now has grown-up children and spends her time counselling women like herself. The need for support systems for women in her situation became very apparent.

Later in the summit there were celebrities like actress Freida Pinto. I left inspired by what I had experienced. If North America could only take a lesson from the UK, we could solve a huge problem that exists on this continent as well. 


Raheel Raza is an award-winning author, journalist, and filmmaker on the topics of jihad and sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality, and diversity. She is one of nine women's rights activists who took part in Clarion Project's film "Honor Diaries" which breaks the silence on honor violence against women.

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The author, Raheel Raza, third from left with participants in the Girl Summit including Jasvinder Sanghera (left)of Karma Nirvana. Both Raza and Sanghera appeared in Clarion Project's latest film, Honor Diaries.

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Presbyterian Church Divests From Israel, Ignores Persecuted Christians

Raymond Ibrahim

Why is it that self-professed Christians completely ignore the horrific Islamic persecution of fellow Christians in the Middle East, while grandstanding against the Jewish state for trying to defend itself against the same ideology that persecutes Christians?

Days before the recent Israel/Hamas conflict erupted, the Presbyterian Church in America withdrew $21 million worth in investments from Israel because, as spokesman Heath Rada put it, the Israeli government’s actions “harm the Palestinian people.”

Soon after, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and was asked if he was “troubled” by the Presbyterian Church’s move.

Netanyahu responded:

It should trouble all people of conscience and morality because it’s so disgraceful. You know, you look at what’s happening in the Middle East and I think most Americans understand this, they see this enormous area riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions. Then you come to Israel and you see the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians—Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East. So most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation. You know I would suggest to these Presbyterian organizations to fly to the Middle East, come and see Israel for the embattled democracy that it is, and then take a bus tour, go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq, and see the difference. And I would give them two pieces of advice, one is, make sure it’s an armor plated bus, and second, don’t say that you’re Christians.

It’s difficult—if not impossible—to argue with Netanyahu’s logic. Indeed, several points made in his one-minute response are deserving of some reflection.

First, the obvious: Why is it that self-professed Christians completely ignore the horrific Islamic persecution of fellow Christians in the Middle East, while grandstanding against the Jewish state for trying to defend itself against the same ideology that persecutes Christians?

And he is absolutely right to say that the persecution of Christians in the Mideast has reached a point of “savagery of unimaginable proportions.” Perhaps the only thing more shocking than the atrocities Mideast Christians are exposed to—the slaughters, crucifixions, beheadings, torture and rape—is the absolute silence emanating from so-called mainline Protestant churches in the U.S.

Note also the nations Netanyahu highlighted for their brutal persecution of Christian minorities: Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Indigenous Christians were markedly better off in all three nations before the U.S. got involved, specifically be empowering, deliberately or not, Islamist forces. Now, according to recent studies, Christians in all three nations are experiencing the worst form of persecution around the globe:

  • Libya: Ever since U.S.-backed, al-Qaeda-linked terrorists overthrew Gaddafi, Christians—including Americans—have been tortured and killed (including for refusing to convert) and churches bombed. It’s “open season” on Copts, as jihadis issue a reward to Muslims who find and kill Christians. This was not the case under Gaddafi.
  • Syria: Christians have been attacked in indescribable ways—wholesale massacres, bombed and desecrated churches, beheadings, crucifixions and rampant kidnappings—since the U.S.-sponsored “Arab Spring” reached the Levant.
  • Iraq: After the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein, Christian minorities were savagely attacked and slaughtered, and dozens of their churches were bombed (see here for graphic images). In the last decade, Christians have been terrorized into near extinction, with well over half of them fleeing Iraq.

If the Presbyterian Church has problems with governments that persecute people—in this case, the Israeli government’s purported treatment of Palestinians, hence the Presbyterian Church’s divestment from Israel—perhaps it should begin by criticizing its own government’s proxy war on fellow Christians in the Middle East.


Christians are also being targeted in the Palestinian Authority territories—by the very same elements the Presbyterian Church is trying to defend.

In 2012, for example, a pastor noted that “animosity towards the Christian minority in areas controlled by the PA continues to get increasingly worse. People are always telling [Christians], 'Convert to Islam. Convert to Islam.' ” And in fact, the kidnapping and forced conversions of Christians in Gaza is an ugly reality.”

More recently, nuns of the Greek-Orthodox monastery in Bethany sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urging him to respond to the escalation of attacks on the Christian house, including the throwing of stones, broken glass, theft and looting of the monastery property. “Someone wants to send us away,” wrote Sister Ibraxia in the letter, “but we will not flee.”

Sadly, the hypocrisy exhibited by the Presbyterian Church is not limited to that denomination. Some time back, 15 leaders from various U.S. Christian denominations—mostly Protestant, including the Lutheran, Methodist, and UCC Churches—asked Congress to reevaluate U.S. military aid to Israel, again, in the context of supporting “persecuted” Palestinians.

Yet nary a word from these same church leaders concerning the rampant persecution of millions of Christians at the hands of Muslims in the Middle East—a persecution that makes the Palestinians’ situation pale in comparison.

Other Protestants do find time to criticize Muslim persecution of Christians—but only to blame Israel for it. Thus, Diarmaid MacCulloch, a Fellow of St. Cross College, wrote an article in the Daily Beast ostensibly addressing the plight of Mideast Christians—but only to argue that the source of Christian persecution “in the Middle East is seven decades of unresolved conflict between Israel and Palestine.”

In reality, far from prompting the persecution of Christians, the Arab-Israeli conflict is itself a byproduct of the same hostility Islamic supremacism threatens all non-Muslims. The reason hostility for Israel is much more viral is because the Jewish state holds a unique position of authority over Muslims unlike vulnerable Christian minorities who can be abused at will (as fully explained here).

Little wonder, then, that more Arab Christians—double the number of each of the preceding three years—are now joining the Israel Defense Forces.

They know they can count on basic human rights protection from Israel -- more than from many of their fellow Christians in the West. After all, beyond the sophistry, distortions and downright lies emanating from some of these Christian denominations, the fact remains: Both Jews and Christians are under attack from the same foe and for the same reason -- they are non-Muslim “infidels” who need to be subjugated.


Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War in Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, April 2013). He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum. Mr. Ibrahim's dual-background—born and raised in the U.S. by Egyptian parents —has provided him with unique advantages to understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets.

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A church bombed by Islamic extremists in Kirkuk, Iraq

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Threat of Nuclear Iran Looms Due to the West's Weak Resolve

Shahriar Kia

The sixth and final round of talks between the Iranian regime and P5+1 is quickly running its course toward its self-imposed July 20 deadline, at which time world powers and the Iranian regime are supposed to reach a final agreement on Iran’s illicit nuclear program.

The sixth and final round of talks between the Iranian regime and P5+1, which started on July 3, is quickly running its course toward its self-imposed July 20 deadline, at which time world powers and the Iranian regime are supposed to reach a final agreement on Iran’s illicit nuclear program and curb the nuclear capabilities of a regime that has already proven to be a regional and global threat without nuclear weapons.

The talks were initially launched with a lot of pomp and ceremony. Accordingly, a lot of optimism was pumped into mainstream media, mainly centered on the positive changes that would supposedly occur now that the Iranian regime’s new president Hassan Rouhani had assumed office, and his foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was at the helm of Iranian negotiating team.

Western states rushed to the negotiating table, offering the Iranian regime many concessions and not demanding much in return, seemingly forgetting that this same regime has so far defied six U.N. Security Council resolutions, and Rouhani has previously bragged about how he had duped the West and preserved the Iranian regime’s nuclear project during his 2003-2005 nuclear tenure.

Also being ignored is the proven fact that no matter who is up front, it is the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who has the final say on important matters, the nuclear project included.

Now, after many months of ongoing talks, it turns out that the Iranian regime had nothing new to offer and insists on preserving its nuclear program and its potential to produce nuclear arms.

Even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who had touted the talks and had high hopes over the prospects of reaching a solution to Iran’s nuclear deadlock, now feels a little disgruntled and dubious about the whole affair.  “What will Iran choose?” he wrote in his June 30 op-ed in the Washington Post, “Despite many months of discussion, we don’t know yet.”

With a few days left on the schedule, many sticking points remain between Iran and world powers, including the number of centrifuges, the much-debated Arak heavy water reactor, the possible military dimensions of the program and the regime’s ballistic missile program, which could be used to launch nuclear warheads to intended targets.

If recent remarks by Khamenei are any indication, the gap between the Iranian regime and world powers is too great and isn’t likely to be bridged within the next weeks. Acknowledging that it is at a critical milestone, the Iranian regime’s supreme leader made it clear in a session with high-profile regime officials that his regime needs 190,000 SWUs (Separate Work Units) as compared to the 10,000 that the international community is willing to concede. He also dismissed any notion of shutting down military facilities or giving up on nuclear research.

Khamenei took advantage of the weak resolve of the international community to taunt the West and affirm that any attempts at further sanctions or possible military action against his regime would fail.

The best result that the talks could yield is a bad deal, one which allows the Iranian regime to preserve its capacity to create a nuclear bomb and make a break for it at a time of its choosing. The only amount of relief U.S. President Barack Obama might draw from the situation is that the catastrophe might not come to pass on his watch.

The alternative will be an extension to the talks, which will buy the mullahs more time to continue their nuclear program at its current pace while allowing them to enjoy sanctions relief that the West has conceded according to the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action.

Either way, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran will continue to loom on the horizon, and the international community will at best succeed in kicking the can a little further down the road.

What’s more disappointing is that the international community seems to ignore the fact that the real weapon of mass destruction in Iran is the regime itself, with its outdated religious fascist mindset and its policy of exporting Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism to the region and worldwide.

Even without nuclear bombs, the Iranian regime is already responsible for the ongoing crises in Syria and Iraq – to mention just a few – and the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the region. Furthermore, Iran has seen a spike in executions and human rights violations during the tenure of Rouhani, the self-proclaimed “moderate” president much touted by the West.

None of the above will dissipate when the final agreement over the Iranian regime’s nuclear program is penned, be it on July 20 or at a later date. Given its nature, the Iranian regime will never be a contributing force to peace and stability in the region, a fact that Obama and the other members of the P5+1 seem to miss altogether – or deliberately ignore.

The real solution to the grievances that the international community faces regarding the Iranian regime is not to engage it but to overthrow it and replace it with a democratic alternative.

This was the focus of a huge gathering held in Paris on June 27 by the Iranian diaspora, in which more than 100,000 people from 69 countries attended, representing all generations and walks of life in Iran.

The huge crowd had rallied around one cause: regime change in Iran.

Speaking at the convention, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton described the Iranian regime’s nuclear program as “the principal threat to peace and security in the region.”

“Combined with the regime’s roll in financing terrorism,” he said in his speech, “the ayatollahs have been the principal cause for the destabilization of the Middle East, resulting in conflicts that are erasing national boundaries and fostering the collapses of the regional states.”

His thoughts were seconded by many of the 600 parliamentarians and political figures who attended the conference from U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East, representing a wide spectrum of political tendencies.

“There is only one sure way to secure the world from the threat that this regime in Tehran represents,” said former U.S. senator Joseph Lieberman, who was among the first speakers at the event. “It is for the Iranian people to overthrow these tyrants, and for freedom loving people throughout the world to support this next great revolution.”     

Comparing Iran with other countries in the region that have either undergone or are undergoing regime change in recent years, former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani argued, “[R]egime change in Iran is easy.” Alluding to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its leader, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, he added, “There is an alternative in Iran, an alternative that stands for democracy, stands for freedom, stands for human rights, stands for the rights of women, is led by a woman, and most importantly at this time in our history, it stands for a non-nuclear Iran.”

The NCRI, the main opposition of the Iranian regime, was the first party to blow the whistle on Iran’s secret nuclear program in 2002, and has since provided the international community with valuable information about Iran’s nuclear sites and activities.

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the NCRI, was the keynote speaker of the event. She made it clear in her speech that the Iranian regime could not be trusted, saying, “[The mullahs] want to take advantage of the West appeasement policy as much as possible to buy time and leave open the path to acquiring nuclear weapons.”

She stipulated that, in addition to the dismantlement of all its nuclear facilities, the Iranian regime must be forced to accept additional protocol and full inspections of its sites, plus unrestricted interviews with all those involved. She also emphasized that the Iranian regime must be held accountable for its record of blatant human rights violation and its role in the genocide of the Iraqi and Syrian people.

Rajavi underscored that the Iranian people want regime change, and change in Iran will be possible “through the Iranian people and their resistance.”

While reiterating her commitment to replacing the regime in Iran with a non-nuclear republic based on separation of church and state, gender equality and the abolishment of capital punishment, she emphasized, “The time has come for the international community to stand with the Iranian people.”

Making the wrong choices – especially in the Middle East – has become the hallmark of the Obama administration’s foreign policy in the past five years. The effects are clearly visible in Syria and Iraq today.

Despite his botched attempts, Obama continues to try to rein in the Iranian regime through appeasement and concessions, an endeavor that is doomed to fail again. Now at a critical juncture, he can either continue to side with the criminal, illegitimate dictatorship ruling in Tehran, or, for once, make the right choice and stand with the Iranian people and their resistance for regime change in Iran, an undertaking that will definitely help promote peace and stability in the region and across the world. 


Shahriar Kia is a press spokesman for an Iranian opposition  group housed at Camp Liberty in Iraq. Kia says the group, the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, also known as MEK), advocates for a democratic, secular Iran with separation of church and state and gender quality that is nuclear-free. He graduated from North Texas University and currently resides in Iraq. His Twitter handle is @shahriarkia 

You can read Kia’s previous interview with the Clarion Project here

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Iranian nuclear negotiators (Photo: © Reuters)

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Jasser: How Islamism Restricts Religious, Civil Liberties

M. Zuhdi Jasser

This Ramadan, we should reflect on how Islamism itself restricts our religious and civil liberties, and how it promises to poison interfaith relations and our engagement with broader American society. 

Islam’s holiest month, Ramadan, is a time for intense personal and community reflection. As we abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset, we are given an opportunity to feel a new level of gratitude for our blessings, as well as to share more of what we have with the less fortunate. No denials, no excuses.

As Americans, we are free to accept or reject any tenet of our individual religions. Individuals are also free to reject faith entirely without fear of state reprisal. As a practicing Muslim, I fast during Ramadan, observe the five daily prayers, give to charity, read Qur’anic scripture, and adhere to a range of guidelines prescribed by my faith, such as abstinence from alcohol and pork.

I have practiced my faith not just as a civilian, but also as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy. I have never experienced any conflict between my American identity and my Muslim faith. If anything, the fact that we have the freedom to practice any religion or none makes me freer to practice my faith with sincerity than I would be in any Muslim-majority society where a particular interpretation of the faith is coerced. In many Muslim-majority societies, the fast is enforced by law or social coercion, prayer times are mandated, and work schedules are modified during the month of Ramadan.

As a Muslim, I must ask myself: Is a coerced practice of Islam as meaningful—and as rewarded by God—as one freely chosen? The logical answer is no, that in order to sincerely practice one must have the choice not to. “Doing good works” requires no personal fortitude if no other option exists. 

Freedom of religion is the first right in the US Constitution because without it, no other right can stand. The Founding Fathers, who espoused a range of personal views when it came to God and faith, shared a common commitment to individual liberty. It was their vision that America would be a nation wherein faith would be a matter of personal choice and the expression of it an inalienable and protected right. It is this understanding that my family embraced as patriotic Americans the moment they arrived here in the 1960s to escape the persecution of Syria’s Baathists. 

Contrarily, while it is certainly true that anti-Muslim bigotry exists—including efforts by some to prevent the building of mosques and to restrict our religious rights—it is also true that we Muslims, like all Americans, are protected by the United States Constitution and a whole host of laws protecting our civil rights.

Further, Muslims are not alone. Other religious minorities, in fact, continue to face a much higher level of persecution than we do. According to the FBI, 66% of hate crimes against religious groups over the last decade targeted members of the Jewish community, while 12.1% of these crimes targeted Muslims.

Some Muslims point to the rise of “anti-sharia” legislation as an indicator of the oppression of Muslims in the United States. Indeed, bills like the one proposed in Tennessee have been far too broadly written, seeming to make any gathering of Muslims an illegal act. (This bill was later amended).

Yet, on the other hand, those bills which did not explicitly identify sharia but more appropriately targeted those foreign laws which violate American standards of gender equality and religious freedom (like the Michigan law) were in fact supported by many Muslims, including our American Islamic Leadership Coalition. On either side of this debate, the American system is designed to give us room to comfortably support or actively dissent against policies and people who fail to fairly represent us. 

Because issues related to Islam and Muslims are so often in the media, individuals with malignant intentions, including both anti-Muslim bigots and Islamist supremacists, will do everything in their power to exacerbate tensions and stoke fear in their respective bases.

In this month of atonement, we Muslims must honestly reflect upon the reality of the global scope and scale of religious repression done in the name of Islam (Islamism). Sure, Muslims have every right to advocate for our own civil liberties, but we must not be hypocritical.

We must use our freedoms to protect, from the threat of Islamism, the values upon which this nation was founded: individual liberty for all people. We Muslims have a unique responsibility to be at the forefront of efforts aimed at countering the encroachment of Islamism in our private and public institutions, including courts. These efforts needn’t restrict freedom of speech for Islamists; in fact, it is both un-American and dangerous to push abhorrent speech underground, where it can easily foment into radicalism. 

Many Americans struggle with how to react and are rightfully concerned about the growing reach of political Islam at home and abroad by nations and movements empowered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). There is no getting past the fact that the militants of Al-Qaeda, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, and the Taliban and the larger theo-political movements of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat Islamiya share the anti-freedom ideology of Islamism. 

Some rush to condemn anything associated with Islam, from the construction of mosques to the wearing of the hijab (headscarf). Of course, while these things have been manipulated by Islamists, they are not “Islamist.” Rather, they are things Muslims also use and wear as part of our personal faith practice. Conflating personal faith practices with theo-political movements, activists and lawmakers run the risk of both empowering Islamists and contradicting core American values. 

Ultimately, while we need the support of non-Muslim allies, the primary responsibility of reform falls on Muslims ourselves. This Ramadan, we should reflect on how Islamism itself restricts our religious and civil liberties, and how it promises to poison interfaith relations and our engagement with broader American society.

During Ramadan, we feel the lack of sustenance in the daylight hours, reminding us how central food and water are to our ability to survive. We should use this month to reflect on the fact that religious liberty, protected by a secular government, is the primary if not the only guarantor of our own religious freedoms.

As American Muslims, we have not only the privilege of living in this great nation but also a tremendous responsibility to use our freedoms in such a way that we empower others to be free. By making efforts to celebrate and advance American ideals of liberty and freedom as we do at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Muslims can help to advance an urgently needed message: that liberty-minded Muslims are the solution to both combating radical Islam and to eliminating the poison of bigotry.


Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is the president of the Phoenix-based American Islamic Forum for Democracy,  founded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States as an effort to provide an American Muslim voice advocating for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state. He is the author of Battle for the Soul of Islam. Dr. Jasser served 11 years as a medical officer in the U. S. Navy and was Staff Internist for the Office of the Attending Physician to the U.S. Congress. Jasser was the narrator of Clarion Project's film "The Third Jihad" about the threat of Islamic extremism in the U.S.

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Dr. Zuhdi Jasser speaks at a press conference supporting the NYPD's anti-terrorism programs.

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Jihadi Rhetoric: Deadly Consequences Ignored by West

Raymond Ibrahim

While the Western mentality, so used to seeing and hearing about the latest fad, may deem the Islamist approach as static or insipid, it is, quite the contrary, immensely effective for its purposes, and thus dangerous.

I just spent the better part of the day reading and listening to sermons by the leaders and jihadis of the new “caliphate” in Mesopotamia, the Islamic State (formerly “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”).

I did so in the vain hopes of learning something “new.”

But it was absolute déjà vu—taking me back to a decade ago, when I was reading and translating the Arabic writings and speeches of al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, as collated in The Al Qaeda Reader.

Now as then, it’s the same Koran verses; the same hadiths of Islamic prophet Muhammad waging and praising jihad; the same threats of hellfire for the munafiqun (hypocrites or lukewarm Muslims); the same carnal rewards in the now or hereafter for those who join the “caravan” of jihad.

Consider for instance the following opening words of a recently released short video from the Islamic State titled, “There is No Life Without Jihad”:

If you wish to know the way to glory and power, to goodness, security and joy, you must learn that there are no rights without jihad, no justice without jihad, no dignity without jihad, no security without jihad, no future without jihad, no life without jihad, no life without jihad.

After this rather hackneyed opening, one Abu Muthana, a jihadi from Britain, appears quoting some more of the usual Koran verses, hadiths, and ulema, in this case, Imam Qurtubi, who wrote that “jihad gives life.”  Finally he summarizes the goal of the jihad—in case anyone is still not sure—namely, to fight until “the law [Sharia] of Allah is implemented and the caliphate restored.”

To reiterate, there is little new or original in the videos and communiques from the Islamic State.  Just static Islamism.

If one turns to the speeches of other Islamic and jihadi groups around the world—from the African groups such as Boko Haram (Nigeria) and al-Shabaab (Somalia), to Asian groups such as Abu Sayyaf (Philippines) and the Islamic Movement (Uzbekistan)—it’s the same thing, same themes, same scriptures, same quotations, same exhortations, same condemnations.  Only their temporal circumstances and vicissitudes of victory or defeat differ.

While the Western mentality, so used to seeing and hearing about the “latest” or “newest” fad, may deem the Islamist approach as static or insipid, it is, quite the contrary, immensely effective for its purposes, and thus dangerous.


Consider: It’s the same exact message—of supremacism, hate, and violence, capped off with divine sanctioning—repeated over and over again, from a myriad of sources and organizations, all of which claim authority.

One can think of few better ways to brainwash and indoctrinate young and impressionable minds—to the point that they eagerly embrace death, including through suicide (AKA “martyrdom operations”).

Nor is this message of jihad, conquest, and death-to-the-infidel, limited to the verbiage that transpires among terrorist organizations; instead, this sort of rhetoric has spread far and wide, thanks to modern technology—including the Internet and social media—and the rich Gulf States, chief among them Saudi Arabia, which have seen to it that the jihadi books and passages being quoted are available to all and sundry.

Indeed, and has been demonstrated repeatedly, such jihadi rhetoric is regularly used in mosques all throughout Europe and America—explaining why an inordinate amount of jihadis in Syria and Iraq, such as Abu Muthana,  the aforementioned “Brit,” are in fact from the West.

If the West, in the name of “religious freedom,” is still too fretful to monitor and ban such sermons, in Egypt—a Muslim nation in the heart of the Islamic world—the post Muslim Brotherhood government has come to understand the necessity of outlawing “certain” kinds of sermons and preachers from the mosques, specifically, those about jihad against infidels and apostates.

Of course, such a move sounds extremely “anti-freedom” to the liberal mentality; the New York Times bemoaned it, without considering that such a clampdown on sermon topics actually combats terrorism and saves human lives.  For example, the overwhelming majority of attacks on Egypt’s Christian Copts occur on Friday—the one day of the week Muslims congregate in mosques to hear sermons.

Ultimately, however, such a move from Egypt—an Islamic nation—is an indicator of just how problematic unregulated (i.e., jihadi) sermons can be: if “moderate” Muslims are fearful from the repercussions of “radicalized” sermons, shouldn’t we “infidels” be even more wary of them?

In the end, there’s good news and bad news in all this: the good news is that one need not be familiar with the constant communiques, videos, and messages emanating from this or that jihadi group—for they are all recycled, all the same.  To hear one, is to  hear them all.

The bad news is that, due to the severe lack of common sense and censorship in the form of political correctness that plagues the West, the rhetoric of jihad and its unvarying message of hate remains wholly unintelligible.

If the jihadis, like parrots, are forever repeating each other—and compelling other parrots to join them—Western leaders and politicians, like ostriches, are forever sticking their heads in the sand, lest they acknowledge the cacophony of hate surrounding them, and us.


Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War in Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, April 2013). He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum. Mr. Ibrahim's dual-background—born and raised in the U.S. by Egyptian parents —has provided him with unique advantages to understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets.

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Islamic State imam in Mosul preaches jihad. (Photo: YouTube screenshot)

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Wake Up to Reality: Palestinian Authority a Terrorist Organization

Mudar Zahran

While some argue that freedom of speech is sacred, it seems the only freedom of speech the PA allows is the one that incites terrorism.

While Israel prays for the safe return of three Israel teenagers kidnapped by terrorists last week, although Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas tepidly defended the search for the teens -- comments for which many Palestinians attacked him -- the official PA daily wrote that "Israel itself is behind the 'kidnapping'," alleging that the three boys were soldiers when in fact they were students, two in high school, and the kidnappings were celebrated by people, glorifying the kidnappers and passing out sweets.

The Fatah Facebook page then published a cartoon showing the three kidnapped teenagers as rats bearing the star of David with the caption "The Master Stroke".

Keep in mind that the PA exerts extreme monitoring and control over social media used by Palestinians in the West Bank. A Palestinian man was jailed for six months for "liking" an anti-PA post on Facebook. The PA, therefore, is fully responsible for encouraging the celebrations of the kidnappings over Palestinian social media.

Responses such as these should help the world -- which has been trying to force a peace agreement with the PA down Israel's throat -- wake up to the reality that the PA is a terrorist organization that has been inciting acts of violence and radicalism, and should be treated as such. Its leaders should be recognized as terrorists who deserve jail rather than a red carpet treatment in Western capitals.

The first thing the world should remember is that the PA is now officially united with Hamas, a terrorist organization that pledges to destroy a sovereign nation, Israel, and establish a Muslim caliphate. Financing the PA now is therefore financing terrorism.

Yet, despite uniting with Hamas, the PA will still apparently be receiving generous financing from the U.S., Canada and Europe.

The UK, with the best of intentions, offers an average of $135 million a year to the PA for development; nonetheless, the Guardian newspaper reported that the money, always fungible, was instead being used by the PA to finance terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails -- thus inadvertently financing more terrorism.

In addition, it is no secret that the PA officials have been stealing hundreds of millions of dollars of the aid money intended to improve the livelihoods of my people, the Palestinians, with no sign that Western aid to the PA ever filters down to the Palestinian public.

Instead of financing the PA leaders' lavish lifestyles, the world might finally start questioning the PA's institutionalized incitement of terror and hatred to my people which they relay daily through media, education and the religious institutions.

Ever since the PA came into existence, it has been keen to mass-produce and institutionalize the hatred of Jews and also the West. With their government-controlled TV shows that teach children how to kill Jews, and textbooks that preach hatred for Israel, the PA and Hamas are directly and fully responsible for each and every terror act committed by Palestinians, including the kidnapping of the three teenagers.

Is this what the West is so breathless to support?

Ironically, the PA is claiming no responsibility for the kidnappings. However you cannot be running TV, newspapers and social media encouraging terror and murdering Jews and then claim that you are innocent when acts of terror happen.

Another reason for kidnapping the three teenagers, of course, is also the regular prisoner-release agreements forced on Israel. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and held for five years then released in a prisoner exchange agreement for more than 1,000 terrorist prisoners who were let out of jail. Such deals have been openly encouraged and blessed by the PA leader. In other words, the PA encourages the kidnappings of Israelis to exchange them with terror prisoners.

The world should therefore understand Israel's position when it recently called off releasing yet more terror prisoners in a deal promoted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. These releases just encourage the kidnapping of more Israelis.

As a Palestinian, I do not wish for any of my people to be in jail; nonetheless, I cannot sympathize with those who kill children and innocent civilians. I also know that releasing those prisoners in "swaps" sets a bad example, and even encourages more of my people to commit acts of terror: They see they can be released in a few years in a prisoner exchange brokered by the West.

Would the U.S. or Europe agree to give its cities and parts of its soil to a terrorist organization to establish a country the way Secretary Kerry has been pushing Israel to give up most of the West Bank and return to pre-1967 borders?

Also, if the US or any European country were facing terror attacks from any neighboring country, wouldn't it seek to build a barrier to protect itself from that country? The U.S. already has a fortified wall along parts of its border with Mexico to stop illegal immigration -- an offense not by any means close to any of the terrorist acts that have claimed the lives of thousands of Israeli civilians over the years. Therefore, can the world keep blaming Israel for having a security barrier?

Can we Palestinians blame Israel when the barrier never existed before Hamas and the PLO started launching terror attacks on Israel on a daily basis? Yes, the wall looks sad and ugly and depressing, but if Israel's neighbors proclaim every day that their sole desire is to displace Israel, what else -- apart from surrender -- can Israel do?

We Palestinians know that Israel welcomed us with open arms before the PA came and brought terror-preaching with it. And yes, there have always been constant acts of Palestinian terrorism. But PA terror has became a major industry -- in which terrorists are pampered, protected, financed, employed and glorified by the PA -- with streets, soccer stadiums and summer camps named after them. And Europe breathlessly joins in.

Israeli measures towards securing the safety of its citizens as well as that of the Palestinians, have been demonized by the world and the so-called Palestinian sympathizers, who choose to ignore the fact that Palestinians' lives have become harder because of the terrorists and not because of Israel.

A Palestinian businessman, for instance, who frequently passes illegally into Israel to buy his products, said: "Most people are mad at those who kidnapped the kids…[because] When they commit such acts, we rejoice, celebrate for Israel's suffering, then sit down and worry if we will be allowed into Israel for work and medical treatment. To me, such a kidnapping only destroys the livelihood of my four children. This has to stop, for our own sake."

The PA is a terrorist organization, and its leaders are terrorists who deserve international arrest warrants rather than a red-carpet treatment in Western capitals. The PA has been an inciter of terror; it jeopardizes the safety and livelihoods of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

This tragedy should remind the world that the PA -- and organizations like it -- is a threat to all of us and should not be rewarded with still more funds for terrorist behavior. For the sake of both Israel and the Palestinians, it is not Israel but the PA that should be boycotted, excluded and even dissolved.

Editor's note: See the following video in which PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas admits that the PA send terrorist to kill Israelis. Abbas says, "I demand [the release of] prisoners because they are human beings, who did what we, we, ordered them to do. We -- the [Palestinian] Authority." 



Mudar Zahran is a Palestinian writer, academic and civil rights activist from Jordan. Before being forced into exile in the United Kingdom, Zahran was serving as the Economic Specialist and Assistant Policy Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Amman. He also served the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

This article appeared originally on

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Palestinian militants from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) fire into the air during a rally in the West Bank city of Nablus. The PFLP is part of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO),a terrorist organization run by PA Chaiman Abbas.

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Paralyzed World Looks on to Orgy of Jihadi Terror

Tarek Fatah

The world is ablaze in an orgy of jihadi terror and war in the lands of Islam and no one seems to know what to make of it, let alone how to resolve the crisis.

The world is ablaze in an orgy of jihadi terror and war in the lands of Islam and no one seems to know what to make of it, let alone how to resolve the crisis.

The brutality of this mayhem was best captured in a deeply disturbing video released on the Internet by jihadis fighting for the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

It shows a bearded, young ISIS fighter in full battle gear posing for the camera with a decapitated head in his hand.

On cue from the cameraman, the jihadi fighter lifts the head, turns towards it and says, "Hello, my name is John."

Both men then break into laughter, after which the cameraman derisively remarks, "Why doesn't John look like he died of natural causes?"

The decapitated head is then thrown to the ground as another ISIS man can be heard off camera joking: "This guy died of natural causes by a knife ... It cut his throat", to which the cameraman guffaws, "Natural causes - the mujahedeen ... Natural cause for an apostate," before chanting the Islamic battle cry, "Allah O Akbar."

This desecration of a dead body is not an isolated incident.

Just last year the Taliban were filmed playing football with the decapitated heads of beheaded prisoners - fellow Muslims.

And while much of the Islamic community is in a state of denial, blinded to the atrocities being committed by their co-religionists across the globe, the rest of the world watches in shock.

In Kenya and Nigeria Islamists are targeting Christians while in Iraq and Pakistan they are killing Shia Muslims, who Saudi-funded clerics have designated as "Kaffirs'", non-believers in Islamic disguise whose founders, they falsely claim, were Jews.

The apologists among us claim these atrocities are not part of the Islamic rules of war, but that does not withstand scrutiny.

The fact is, no less a person than the grandson of Prophet Muhammad was beheaded in battle by fellow Muslims on Oct. 10, 680. His decapitated head was paraded in the streets of Damascus.

The eminent Egyptian Islamic reformer of the 20th century, Ali Abd al-Razik, writes in his book Islam and the Fundamentals of Authority that within a year of Prophet Muhammad's death, political disputes among the Muslims were settled by public beheadings.

Raziq writes about one incident of early Islam when the celebrated Muslim general Khalid Ibn Walid made a cooking pot out of the decapitated head of another Muslim general, Malik ibn Nuwairah, after defeating him in a battle and beheading him as a POW.

Fortunately, Canada is the only western country that has a critical mass of liberal Muslims honest enough to acknowledge the fact that not all of our history is as unblemished as our parents and clerics wanted us to believe as children.

The slaughters we read about in Syria, Kenya, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan have common factors.

They're the same ones that feature in the so-called honour killings and female genital mutilation of girls in the UK, Canada, America and Europe, as well as in much of the Arab world and Africa.

Those factors are Islamism and sharia.

The sooner we Muslims acknowledge this truth, the better equipped we will be to join the rest of humanity as partners in peace for our common good.

If not, we may well end up in the scrap heap of history.​


Tarek Fatah, is a Canadian writer, broadcaster and anti-Islamist Muslim activist. He is the author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and the founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress.

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ISIS prisoners moments before their execution.

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Sharia and Honor Killing: No Way Around the Source

Hasan Mahmud

Denial of sharia sources for honor killings and FGM has only given us the destruction of countless Muslim women and a bad name to Islam

I feel strongly offended to see how scores of articles and speeches on topics such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and honor killing often bypass the secondary Islamic documents supporting these issues. This attitude of denial has only given us the destruction of countless Muslim women and a bad name to Islam.   

Records of the empires of Hammurabi, Assyria, Napoleon, Rome and more show that honor killing goes across culture, region and religion. Historically, a woman’s “chastity” is the property not of herself but her family. As this phenomenon now is dominant in Muslim societies, we should look into how sharia law impacts this brutal culture.

Family members of a girl or woman – mostly men -- kill her for “bringing shame to the family” by not fulfilling their expectations of love, sex, clothing, behavior, intimacy, fidelity – including even a flirtation with men on Skype, Twitter, through SMS, etc. Even chatting on Facebook is prohibited, as declared by Sheikh Abdullah Al Mutlaq, a senior scholar in Saudi Arabia.

Let us look at real scenario. After the sister/daughter is killed, there are two sets of sharia law to apply:

Case A - “Punishment of intentional killing is death”. But, “A killer cannot be put to death if one or all heirs of the victim pardon/s him or take Blood Money”- Codified Islamic Law Vol 1 – 41, 44 (The Codified Islamic law is a three volume compilation from mainly Hanafi law written by six Islamic scholars and published by the Islamic Foundation, Bangladesh.)

As the family already lost the victim, they do not want to lose another one (the killer). So, the killer may be ordered to pay blood money to his own family. It is also quite natural that one or all of the heirs of the victim pardon/s the killer. Politically and financially powerful killers in Muslim countries can easily force the victim’s poor helpless family to take the blood money and “pardon” the killer. In this case, the state is powerless to prosecute the killer.

Case B - “Parents and Grandparents will not be punished (by Hudood) for killing sons or grandsons.”- Shafi’i law # o.1.2.4 & Codified Islamic Law Vol 1-65B. [Hudood are Islamic laws stating the limits ordained by Allah and including the deterrent punishments for serious crimes]

It does not mention daughters or granddaughters but in essence, it applies to them too. This law was based on so-called Sahi Hadith (Prophet’s examples); see Sahi Ibn Majah Vol 4- 2661, 2662, Sahi Tirmiji 1404, 1405 & 1406:

These man-made sharia laws and hadiths are the main tools of legitimizing violence in the name of Islam and are one of the main reasons of growing global Islamophobia. We Muslims must apply our right to reject those laws based on logic and human rights.  

Application of these laws varies, but honor killers are hardly punished. This brutality is supported by some vote-seeking local politicians in Pakistan. From the Quran and the Prophet we can successfully defeat all kinds of oppression of women in the name of Islam except FGM and honor killings.

Unfortunately, I did not find enough support to defeat those from Islamic sources.

We have a long way to go. Education/enlightenment is the only key. The West cannot achieve sustainable peace leaving the Muslim world behind; we also cannot achieve sustainable peace leaving our women behind by oppressing them.

The author is member of advisory board of World Muslim Congress, General Secretary of Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada, and Canada-Representative of Free Muslim Coalition.  


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There Is No HAPPY in Iran Under the Mullahs

Elaheh Arj, National Council of Resistance of Iran Women’s Committee

It would be wise for all those appeasing the mullahs’ in the West to note that Rouhani’s deceitful smile represents the true image of the totalitarian regime in Iran. 

At dawn Sunday morning, June 1, a very resilient political prisoner, Gholamreza Khosravi, 49 was executed for supporting the Iranian resistance group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) and for standing firm against the dictatorship in Iran.

Khossravi spent 12 years of his life in the mullahs’ regime dungeons under severe torture and harassment. The mullahs’ henchmen and torturers considered Gholamreza as the key person in the April protest and resistance of political prisoners in the Ward 350 of Iran’s notorious Evin Prison.

The news of Khosravi’s execution came despite widespread international calls to halt the hanging. A day earlier, Canada's Foreign Minister had condemned the regime; Amnesty International issued an urgent call, saying that Mr. Khosravi had been deprived of a fair trial "in total disregard of both international law and the Iranian law" and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, said he was, "Shocked and saddened by Iran's execution of a political prisoner in flagrant violation of international law!"

Despite all efforts from defenders of human rights, the regime carried on with the execution on one of the most important religious holidays when all wanted to celebrate the birth of the prophet’s grandson. Thus, thus happiness was stolen not only from Khosravi’s family but from his fellow countrymen as well.

What should the response be to this inhuman act? Other political prisoners, the people of Iran and those living abroad who have fled Iran because of the tyranny understand that the only real response is to resist even more now until the regime is overthrown.

It would be wise for all those appeasing the mullahs’ in the West to note that Rouhani’s deceitful smile represents the true image of the totalitarian regime in Iran. What is behind Rouhani’s smirk is the step-up of human rights violations in Iran, which is under his control.

The Iranian people’s dark days arose when the mullahs’ took power in Iran. From the onset of their reign, they have formed over dozens of suppressive police forces, including women police - aka “Fati Komandos” - to terrorize the state. Now as the weather starts to get hot, the regime in Iran warns of plans to further clamp down on women and youth on the pretext of engaging in “norm-breaking behavior.”

The Commander of the State Security Forces has announced that up to 18,000 “mal-veiled” women were arrested in 2013. The regime’s offensive has been marked by the stationing of mixed-gender teams of morality police in Tehran’s main squares.

In Tehran, seven people were recently arrested last week for appearing in a YouTube video set to the Pharrell Williams song “Happy.” Their crime? Apparently, dancing and just being happy under the mullahs is a crime. Almost everyone reacted to the arrest of the “Happy” dancers, referring to it as something sadly ridiculous, even though it is a reality for the people living under the mullahs in the Iran of today.

Perhaps only within a short time in office of the new “moderate” president, Rouhani, are eyes slowly starting to see the truth behind him?

Living in such an atmosphere is like having watch dogs waiting for your move, 24/7. It is not hidden from anyone that the mullahs ruling Iran have killed all forms of happiness for the past 35 years when they instituted their rule and suppression of freedom under the name of Islam.

Instead of boasting about Rouhani’s message from Twitter claiming that the happiness of all people in Iran is their right, we should ask him why so many executions have taken place under his tenure, and why have his government’s inhuman policies become so institutionalized that the beheading of a young girl by her father in Kermanshah for having a boyfriend, receives no condemnation? And, if using the banned social networks is a crime, then why is he using it?

But he has done one good thing for sure. He was successful in deflecting the public’s attention away from the nuclear crisis as well as his funding of Hezbollah. And he has gotten Syria’s Assad to stop pestering him on his affiliations with other demons.

The truth is that happiness is the right to all and only when Rouhani and all his other friends ruling Iran are overthrown, will the people of Iran truly dance HAPPY. 

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A hanging in Iran (Photo: © Reuters); inset: Gholamreza Khosravi

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Muslims Must Rise Up to Fix Sharia Laws

Ahmed Vanya

If Muslims really believe in Islam and have full confidence in their religion, they must be willing to meet all the challenges truthfully and honestly, and own up to their problems.

Sharia and Islamic laws have received a great deal of scrutiny since the events of 9/11. The negative news about sharia, where Muslims act violently and base their behavior on Islamic laws, seem to be never ending and coming from all over the world. The latest round of bad news is coming out from the countries of Nigeria and Sudan.

For a number of years, the militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria has been causing all kinds of trouble: fighting against the government, burning churches, schools, and killing and abducting people. Their stated goal is to build a pure and pristine Islamic state, without any influence or interference from Western values. They recently kidnapped over 200 girls and are planning to sell them as sex slaves or concubines. News of the kidnapping has garnered a great deal of media coverage.

Leaders of Boko Haram are validating their violent actions by saying they are mandated by Islamic law or sharia, but Muslim leaders and organizations around the world have condemned their actions, denying that the actions of the group have anything to do with Islam or sharia and its values.

While it is perfectly understandable that Muslims in general do not want to have anything to do with the many violent actions perpetrated by Boko Haram, the important question that needs to be asked is: Does Islamic law or sharia condones or accepts slavery and concubinage in principle?

Although, there are many different versions of Islamic laws, and many different interpretations of Islam using the principles of sharia, all forms of Islamic laws accept slavery and concubinage--from the dawn of Islam in the 7th century, till the present day and age.

Under the literal interpretations of the jurisprudential rules of sharia, accepted by most mainstream Muslim scholars and jurists, there is no way of banning the heinous and repugnant institutions of slavery and concubinage in principle, except letting it slide in practice, especially when Islamic supremacists are not in power.

The reason for this is because the rules and conditions for turning free men and women into slaves, the way to treat and maintain them, and when to release them, are all mentioned, regulated and allowed in numerous places in the Quran and the Hadith (recorded sayings and conducts of prophet of Islam). The Quran and Hadith are the two basic, foundational scriptures of Islam, from where the sharia laws and principles have been deduced by the Islamic scholars over many centuries.

The Prophet Mohammad and his companions did indeed practice slavery and concubinage, but they were men of that time. Muslims should seriously ponder the following questions: Do we really need to blindly imitate everything they did in the 7th century Arabia to be just and ethical? Would the Prophet Mohammad, as a true prophet of God, practice slavery and concubinage, if he were to appear in the present age?

Another case, that is related to Islamic law and that has gained a lot of negative media attention, is the case of a Sudanese woman who has been convicted by a court in Sudan on the charge of apostasy under sharia law.

Setting aside the intricacies of the case at hand, the important question to ask is: In general, is it a crime for a person to change one’s belief or religion, i.e. apostatize, under the laws of Islam?

Many Muslim leaders and organizations, especially in the West, are pointing out to several verses in the Quran, chief among which is the verse Q 2:256, which states: “There is no compulsion in religion,” which apparently supports freedom of belief and religion.

But Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who is accepted and revered by many mainstream Muslims as a top Islamic scholar in the world, has stated that apostasy is a grave threat to the whole Muslim community and that it is the duty of all Muslims to fight against it in all forms.   

Also he has stated: "The Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-`ashriyyah, Al-Ja`fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed."

 This is not only Sheik Qaradawi’s personal opinion, but also the opinions and judgment of numerous authoritative classical scholars of Islam throughout the ages. Not only that, in many Islamic countries, apostasy is a criminal offense prescribed under the law.

How come all of these jurists and scholars seem to be unaware of the Quranic verses giving freedom of religion? Whom are we to believe?

These two cases are only the tip of the iceberg. For Muslims, who have the stomachs, the hearts of compassion, and the sense of equity and justice, there are many websites documenting the violent misdeeds of fellow Muslims perpetrating atrocities against both Muslims and non-Muslims, in the name of Islam, using blasphemy laws and apostasy laws, plus unequal and unfair treatments of women, religious minorities, dissidents and non-conformists.

It is easy to ignore and turn a blind eye to such bad news for some narcissistic Muslims, who want to hear only praise and acclaim, and accuse those who are reporting Muslim misdeeds as purveyors of hate and Islamophobia.

But if Muslims really believe in Islam and have full confidence in their religion, they must be willing to meet all the challenges truthfully and honestly, and own up to their problems.

All of these cases of apostasy, blasphemy and slavery very well illustrate the deep problems with the Islamic laws as they developed, solidified and achieved consensus, primarily during the medieval age. It is now high time that  each and every Muslim stand up and speak up to reform sharia laws, else it is likely that many Muslims in the future generations are going to get disillusioned and apostatize en masse, as it happened before in one place history.

During the 1930s, in British India, Muslim women apostatized wholesale in order to escape the strict version of Islamic divorce law they were under (Muslim women needed to wait 90 years to get a divorce under Hanafi law, even if abandoned by their husbands), and one eminent Muslim scholar had to devise a legal stratagem to provide a loophole to stem the tide.

It is reasonable to assume that many Islamic scholars know the dysfunctional nature of the Islamic laws, but they are afraid of not only losing their livelihoods but also their lives, by stepping in front of the masses. Also, in many cases, they do not have the appropriate knowledge and learning to carry out the reforms on their own, especially without a strong ecclesiastical support structure.

There are many versions of the Islamic laws, but all of them, as they stand now, unfairly discriminate against non-Muslims, against every woman and allow the practice of human bondage under prescribed conditions.

Despite all of this, it is not true that all the Islamic laws are so bad that they need to either fixed or abandoned entirely. The majority of sharia laws have to do with religious rites and rituals. Hence, it is vital to separate religious laws and authority from state control and regulations. Muslims should be free to practice the aspects of sharia which are purely religious and ethical in nature.  We should not throw the baby with the bathwater, but if we wait too long, the water would become too cold and kill the baby, and there would be no other choice but to get rid of both together.

Islam does not have a centralized authoritative church structure; the religious authority is weak and diffused. Therefore, it is vital for the ordinary Muslims to rise up and ask their leaders to renew and revitalize Islamic laws by abandoning the strict literal approach, and by using the God-given faculty of reasoning and learning from history and nature.

While is true that only an expert chef can cook an excellent meal and that only a skillful architect can build a beautiful building, one does not have to be an expert to taste a lousy meal and see an ugly building. Every Muslim can see that the present condition of sharia needs reform, and it needs reform badly due to centuries of stagnation.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity and victimhood, organizing a series of Islamophobia conferences one after another, Muslims should be promoting and organizing deep-rooted internal reforms by holding conferences, discussions, seminars and open-debates.

Instead of superficial, cosmetic, skin-deep beatification to impress the uninformed non-Muslims, Muslims should be concentrating on deep structural reforms to bring out the true beauty of Islam by self-examination and self-criticism.

There are many bright and learned Muslims all around, they just need the space, the security and the freedom to come up with good ideas for reforming the Islamic laws. Any society that does not protect its dissidents and mavericks is not going to come up with new ideas for renewal and reform. Instead will stagnate badly and languish unhappily.

Honesty is the best policy; there is no dignity in deception. No use in holding up the head when one is a badly suffering from diarrhea from behind; everyone will see it sooner or later.

Muslims are over 1.5 billion strong today, but will it remain strong always, espousing, literal and unfair ethical norms, in the ever interconnected world, where nothing remains secret or hidden for very long?

In Muslim societies, there is always the threat of blasphemy and the religious reformers have to fear for their lives before they can open their mouths. In the West, especially in the U.S., where the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and expression, that is where the  best chance is for the ordinary American Muslims to successfully carry out a program to enhance, renew and reform Islamic laws.

Unfortunately, most leading Muslim American organizations are using the religious freedom provided by the First Amendment as a shield to protect sharia wholesale and thereby putting all Muslims and all aspects of sharia--the good and the bad-- at terrible risk and jeopardy.

The objective of sharia, the project of finding God’s way, was never a finished project in history. The prophet of Islam died without ever holding a copy of the Quran, Hadith or any sharia law book in his hand. It is the duty of each and every Muslim to renew their faith in every age, so that, it is relevant to every situation and hopefully approximates to the true Will of the Creator on a continuous basis.

In the following video of Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Qaradawi says that if not for the Islamic law that one who leaves Islam is to be killed, there would be no Muslims left in the world:


Ahmed Vanya is an electronics engineer based in San Jose, CA and a fellow at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD).

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