The Third Jihad

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American Muslim Women Struggle With Increased Animosity

by: 
Codi Robertson
Teaser: 

Due to a backlash following recent ISIS attacks, American Muslim women face an increased level of hostility.

According to a recent Huffington Post editorial written by Salam Marayati, the president of Muslim Public Affairs Council, 2015 was a banner year for American Muslim women.  But given the recent ISIS attacks in the Western world, is this actually true?

Maira Salim, a 21-year-old American Muslim college student, reveals the new hostility she has encountered living in Wichita, Kansas, her home city.  

“One day [I] was at a traffic light when a woman rolled down her window and screamed, “Go back to your own country.” Nothing like that had ever happened before. The woman drove on while Maira sat there, scared and then angry, wishing she had yelled back that she was in her own country.”

After the attacks in Paris, a Sedgwick County commissioner in Wichita showed a crowd a slideshow of criminals named Muhammad after declaring that he had been politically correct for too long.  

Young women like Maira not only face hostility in America, but also uncomfortable and offensive situations caused by negative stereotypes that permeate.  A friend of Maira’s, also an American Muslim woman shared her frustration and disgust regarding “‘problematic white boys’ who express interest in having a submissive wife, saying, ‘I’m going to marry a woman like you.’”

This hatred and contempt Muslims feel is directed towards them is what inspired Rana Abdelhamid to create The Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment, “an organization which provides Muslim and Jewish women with training in self-defense, social-entrepreneurship, and leadership.”  

For Rana, self-defense is a good way to empower women because it gives them agency over their own bodies.

During one of her self-defense workshops, she remarked, “It’s disheartening to hear how almost every single woman in that space felt insecure, felt she had to be way more careful walking out of her home, doing mundane day-to-day tasks like going shopping for groceries, or taking a bus.”

With all of this being said, it is true that there are members of ISIS in America, with investigations taking place in every state, often the result of persuasive usage of social media.  So, the seemingly irrational fears that many Americans have are frequently based on an understandable fear of terrorism.

But, while there is certainly reason to be cautious, it is wrong that those Muslims in America who are not extremists must endure the undeserved hate and prejudice caused by fear, and feel unsafe and unwelcome in their own country. 

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Illustrative picture. (Photo: © Reuters)

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No More Shadow Boxing – It’s for Real now

by: 
Dr. A. Rahman
Teaser: 

As the war of words between Saudi Arabia and Iran morphs into physical violence, does anyone really care about the real victims, such as the millions suffering in Syria?

Saudi Arabia, the self-proclaimed leader of the Muslim World (albeit the Sunni World), is becoming bolder and bolder and now it has come to the stage to say enough is enough – no more shadow boxing, no more covert operation, no more proxy war – it is going to be bare knuckle fight now, frontal head-on collision with its despicable rival, Iran.

What had been brewing up for decades at low levels between the Sunni Saudi Arabia, promoting the virulent Salafi/Wahhabi ideology, and the Shia Iran, following Hazrat Ali as the rightful successor of Prophet Mohammad, has now come to a head. In fact, this schism between the Sunni and Shia sects is almost as ancient as Islam itself. So there is nothing new in it. But what is new now is the speed with which it has blown up after centuries of dormancy. It has all the potential to tear up the very fabric of Islam as we know it today.

To find out the root cause of this extraordinary explosion of animosity, one has to look back simultaneously both to the geopolitical-religious rivalry within the Muslim World of today, particularly in the Middle East and to the palace infighting in Saudi Arabia itself. As these two incongruous conflagrations merge, it creates a situation to sweep away the very semblance of religiosity and descend the whole thing into vicious politico-military clash.

Let us look at the geopolitical-religious situation first. In 1932, a daring and very ambitious, ruthless soldier by the name Abdulaziz ibn-Saud overran the capital city Riyadh militarily and beheaded Ikhwan, the then ruler of Riyadh, and established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after the Saudi dynasty. But to bring the fractious regions of Arab land, he needed religious legitimacy – Allah’s surreptitious blessings – to fulfil his political ambitions. Help was at hand when he revived an alliance drawn between his forefather Mohammad ibn-Saud and the preacher Abd-al Wahhab in 1744 whereby ibn-Saud and his dynasty would protect the Wahhabi dynasty in exchange of owning the proprietary right of Wahhabi ideology.

Wahhabi ideology is the virulent form of Salafism which draws its roots to selective interpretation of Quranic teachings and Prophet Mohammad’s lifetime practices (Hadith). Strict interpretation of Sharia Laws and selective Quranic verses pertaining to infidels, women, war victims, retribution etc. were all at the heart of Wahhabi ideology. The Islamic State (IS) / ISIL follows verbatim the Wahhabi ideology and all those beheadings of innocent civilians, journalists, voluntary workers and so forth are all justified under the Wahhabi ideology and Sharia Law.

Saudi Arabia along with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is the country that sponsored and supported the Free Syrian Army (FSA) right from the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011. This FSA was nothing but the Jihadists trying to overthrow the Alawite Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria under the guise of fighters that would to some extent appeal to the West. When the FSA failed to get Western military support for over two years, it shed the veneer of moderate freedom fighters and assumed its true color of vicious Jihadists, called IS/ISIL.

Saudi Arabia with its vast oil wealth spent more than 50 billion dollars over the past 50 or so years propagating and promoting Wahhabism throughout the whole world. At the same time Riyadh spent hundreds of billions of dollars aiding and abetting Jihadi activities of FSA/IS/ISIL, al-Nusra, Taliban, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and so forth. All of these terrorist outfits are creating havoc under the encouraging gaze of a Sunni bloc headed by Saudi Arabia. Also Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined in this Sunni fight in order to remove Bashar al-Assad, the Alawite (Shia) president of Syria.

Political ascendency for the Sunni bloc was going well until Saddam Hussein’s Iraq fell victim to Western wrath. The fall of Sunni Iraq and the subsequent rise of a Shia government tilted the power balance in the Middle East in favour of Shia Iran. On top of that, despite four and half years of financial and military support by Saudi Arabia to Jihadists in Syria, Bashar al-Assad is still standing. These are the things Saudi Arabia dreaded most and is unwilling to accept.

Things didn’t look too bright for Saudi Arabia on the home front. When Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud became king at the beginning of last year, eight of the 12 surviving sons of the founding monarch wanted to oust him and replace him with the younger Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, who was the interior minister. Moreover, Prince Ahmed, a relatively moderate person, seems to have the majority support of the Islamic clergy. This all adds up to very bad news for the new king.

In order to counter Prince Ahmed’s threat or perceived threat, King Salman is veering towards extremism in Wahhabi ideology and a hard line towards Iran. The Saudi execution a few days ago of the leading Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr is an example of such extremism. Saudi military adventure in Yemen is obviously another example.

When faced with official Iran’s anger and Iranian public protest, including setting fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic ties with Tehran. Other countries such as Bahrain and Kuwait, which have sizeable Shia populations, as well as Sudan are wading into this Shia-Sunni conflict in support of Saudi Arabia. There were demonstrations against Sunnis in Shia-majority countries and vice versa. Extremist Sunni clerics enounce Shias as heretics and demand they should be killed. The Islamic schism is well and truly sweeping across the Muslim world. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are gearing up for a final showdown.

This sectarianism is happening when there is a need for rapprochement between the rival wings of Islam for the sake of peace in Syria, Yemen and other religious flashpoints. The suffering of Syrian people – victims of religious proxy war – are simply indescribable. More than 450,000 people have already died, nearly 900,000 injured, almost four million people became refugees and over a million – men, women and children – risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea to come to safety in Europe. These are the sufferings of the real people - the real innocent people - when religious leaders are fighting from their palaces for political and religious supremacy. Human lives to them are cheap products to be sacrificed for their victory. Inhumanity in religion has crossed all boundaries of decency. If this is what religion preaches or tolerates, then one can make one’s own conclusions

Dr. A Rahman is a retired nuclear scientist and columnist. 

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Muslim Reform Movement Kicks Off in Washington, D.C.

by: 
Raheel Raza
Teaser: 

The time has come that when people ask, “Where are the Muslim voices?” everyone should be able to say “here they are!”

There is a buzz on social media today about a new Muslim Reform Movement, and any of you are wondering what this is all about. Here is some background:
The Paris terrorism attacks seemed to be the last straw for many Muslims like us who abhor violence in the name of our faith. So we decided to do something about radical Islamist extremism growing by the day and threatening the future of our next generations.

A group of reform-minded Muslims gathered in Washington, D.C. for a brainstorming session. While we were there, the San Bernardino terror attacks took place, and we quickly realized that we have reached the tipping point. This made our work even more urgent.

This initiative was started by Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, an ex-naval officer of the US Navy and now a physician. He invited thinkers, academics, activists and two imams from Copenhagen, London, Ottawa, Toronto, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Portland to gather for a 24-hour summit.

We discussed and debated what we could do to go beyond words and start taking some action.After intense talks for two days, in which we debated terminology, ideas and theology, we came up with a declaration and a course of action.

On Dec. 4, we jointly presented the declaration at a press conference hosted at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.:

Following the press conference, some of us went to a place founded by the most diabolical country in the world which funds terrorism and is the root of our problems: the Saudi-funded mosque in Washington DC. Here, we posted the first declaration on the door – despite threats and intimidation from the administration.

A few brave men from our group led the way for us as we reclaimed our first space – three women prayed in the main section of the mosque. This is ground breaking not just for all mosques but particularly for this one. We were nearly arrested, but we persevered and left the stamp of the Muslim Reform Movement on their grounds.

The declaration is noted below with names of the signatories. This is a work in progress and our aim is to invite all our friends and neighbors – people of faith and those of no faith – to join our movement, because we can’t do this alone.

The time has come that when people ask, “Where are the Muslim voices?” everyone should be able to say “here they are!”

 

MUSLIM REFORM MOVEMENT

Declaration

We are Muslims who live in the 21st century. We stand for a respectful, merciful and inclusive interpretation of Islam. We are in a battle for the soul of Islam, and an Islamic renewal must defeat the ideology of Islamism, or politicized Islam, which seeks to create Islamic states, as well as an Islamic caliphate. We seek to reclaim the progressive spirit with which Islam was born in the 7th century to fast forward it into the 21st century. We support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by UN member states in 1948.

We reject interpretations of Islam that call for any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam. Facing the threat of terrorism, intolerance, and social injustice in the name of Islam, we have reflected on how we can transform our communities based on three principles: peace, human rights and secular governance. We are announcing today the formation of an international initiative: Muslim Reform Movement.

We have courageous reformers from around the world who will outline our Declaration for Muslim Reform, a living document that we will continue to enhance as our journey continues. We invite our fellow Muslims and neighbors to join us.

A. Peace: National Security, Counterterrorism and Foreign Policy

1. We stand for universal peace, love, and compassion. We reject violent jihad. We believe we must target the ideology of violent Islamist extremism in order to liberate individuals both in Muslim-majority societies and the West from the scourge of oppression and terrorism.

2. We stand for the protection of all people of all faiths and non-faiths who seek freedom from dictatorships, theocracies and Islamist extremists.

3. We reject bigotry, oppression and violence against all people based on any prejudice, including ethnicity, gender, language, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression.

B. Human Rights: Women’s Rights and Minority Rights

1. We stand for human rights and justice. We support equal rights and dignity for all people, including minorities. We support the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

2. We reject tribalism, castes, monarchies, and patriarchies and consider all people equal with no birth rights other than human rights. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Muslims don’t have an exclusive right to “heaven.”

3. We support equal rights for women, including equal rights to inheritance, witness, work, mobility, personal law, education, and employment. Men and women have equal rights in mosques, boards, leadership and all spheres of society. We reject sexism and misogyny.

C. Secular Governance: Freedom of Speech and Religion

1. We are for secular governance, democracy and liberty. We are against political movements in the name of religion. We separate mosque and state. We are loyal to the nations in which we live. We reject the idea of the Islamic state. There is no need for an Islamic caliphate. We oppose institutionalized sharia. Sharia is manmade.
2. We believe in life, joy, free speech and the beauty all around us. Every individual has the right to publically express criticism of Islam. Ideas do not have rights. Human beings have rights. We reject blasphemy laws, which are a mask to restrict freedom of speech and religion. We affirm every individual’s right to critical thinking, and seek a revival of ijtihad [independent interpretation of the legal sources, the Qur'an and the Sunnah].
3. We believe in the freedom of religion, and the right of all people to express and practice their faith, or non-faith, without threat of intimidation, persecution, or discrimination or violence. Apostasy is not a crime. Our ummah–our community–is all of humanity, and not just Muslims.

We stand for peace, human rights and secular governance. Please stand with us!

December 3, 2015

#MuslimReform

Facebook: Muslim Reform Movement
Twitter: @TheMuslimReform
Instagram: @TheMuslimReform
Gmail: MuslimReformMovement@gmail.com
Please find us on Change.org

Tahir Gora, goratahir@yahoo.ca (Canada, Toronto, author, journalist, activist)

Tawfik Hamid, tawfikhamid@gmail.com (US, Islamic thinker and reformer)

Usama Hasan, usama.hasan@Quilliamfoundation.org (UK, Imam, Quilliam Foundation)

Arif Humayun, arifhumayun@comcast.net (US, American Islamic Forum for Democracy Senior Fellow)

Farahnaz Ispahani, ispahani.haqqani@gmail.com (Author and Former Member of Parliament, Pakistan)

M. Zuhdi Jasser, Zuhdi@ZLiberty.com (US, President, American Islamic Forum for Democracy)

Mohamad Jebara, imam@cordovacenter.org (Canada, Ottawa Imam, Cordova Center)

Naser Khader, naser@khader.dk (Denmark, Member, Danish Parliament, Muslim democracy activist)

Courtney Lonergan, courtney@aifdemocracy.org (US, American Islamic Foundation for Democracy, Community Outreach Director, Professional facilitator)

Hasan Mahmud, hasan@hasanmahmud.com (Canada, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, expertise in Shariah)

Asra Nomani, asra@asranomani.com (US, Journalist, Author)

Raheel Raza, raheel@raheelraza.com (Canada, Founder, Muslims Facing Tomorrow)

Sohail Raza, Razzazz55@gmail.com (Canada, Director in Forum for Learning, Vice President of CPCMO-Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations)

Salma Siddiqui, salma@magma.ca (Canada, President, Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations)

#MuslimReform

 

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Dr. Zuhdi Jasser at the press conference for the Muslim Reform Movement

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Turkey’s Inexorable Descent to Extremism

by: 
Dr. A. Rahman
Teaser: 

Islamism is ripe in the country, women are in veils, Muslim Brotherhood is all but in name running the country and Islamic terrorists are patronised by the incumbent administration.

Turkey may be viewed by the developing countries as well as by the Muslim world as an advanced industrialised country very much in tune with the Western democratic system. But this perception is largely misplaced and very much out of date now.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a supremely enigmatic nationalist and visionary leader, picked up Turkey from its darkest hour in 1923 when the Ottoman Sultanate was abolished and a modern, secular republic was born. He became the first president of the republic and run the country as president until his death in 1938.

He introduced a number of revolutionary reforms to the Islamic state, such as the abolition of all out-dated Islamic institutions, the emancipation of women, introduction of Western education system, legal codes, dress and the replacement of Arabic script with Latin ones. It was not for nothing that he was accorded by his countrymen the title ‘Ataturk’ – Father of the Turks.

Fast forward time by 80 years from 1935 to 2015 and you would see Turkey in exact reverse situation to that of 1935. Islamism is ripe in the country, women are in veils, Muslim Brotherhood is all but in name running the country and Islamic terrorists are patronised by the incumbent administration.

How did this unprecedented reversal of Turkey’s predicament take place, even though Kemal Ataturk is still highly revered and the country maintains a façade of Western democracy? The answer lies solely with the mind set of present president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who over the past 12 years or so has taken Turkey away from the secular state into the fold of Islamism.

Erdogan, a semi-professional footballer in his early life, comes from an Islamist political background who founded the political party called AKP in 2001. As an aggressive and manipulative politician, he managed to become the prime minister within just two years in 2003 and remained in that position until 2014 when he became the president.

Only a month ago, he managed to get re-elected (by duplicitous means) and gain the overall majority in the parliament. Now, it is feared, that his autocratic streak will be unleashed to the full.

The Syrian war just across the border has pushed Erdogan’s Turkey to the forefront of the conflict, more like Pakistan in 1979 in the Afghan war. Whereas the Afghan war had only a limited number of protagonists – Islamists comprising mujahedin (jihadi fighters) supported by Pakistan, Arab States and America against the Afghan government supported by the USSR – the Syrian conflict is infinitely more complex and convoluted. The number of protagonists is literally endless and alliances and adversities between them keep changing all the time.

Although the FSA was started by the Syrian people to oppose Assad, it did not come about spontaneously. Foreign powers encouraged and instigated its formation, with Turkey one of the key players.

The main objective of the FSA is to depose the legitimate government of Bashar al-Assad (as legitimate as any of the Middle Eastern dictators are).

Erdogan’s administration and Wahhabi Arabs (both Sunni) had visceral antipathy towards the Alawite Assad (Shiia) and hence it can be said that the centuries old internecine Shiia-Sunni conflict is being played out in Syria now.

When America and the West started supporting the FSA, the cheerleader Erdogan allowed jihadists from across the globe and war materials from the Arab states to pass through his country undeterred. Only when ISIL/ISIS was spawned about two years ago declaring their ambition to create an Islamic caliphate coving not only Iraq and Syria but also Saudi Arabia and other smaller Arab States, Arabs did realise that they have created a monster, a Frankenstein and gradually pulled back. Erdogan had nothing to fear from this but all to gain as the Islamic State was planning to swallow the Kurds.

The arrival of Russia had changed the whole complexion of the Syrian conflict completely, to the detriment of Erdogan. Erdogan wants to destroy Assad and the Kurds and help the Islamic State, whereas Russia (as well as Iran) want exactly the opposite. America and the European Union want to demolish the Islamic State, but do not want to be seen in the company of Russia!

The downing of Russian bomber plane last on November 24, 2015 by Turkey was nothing but a vicious step by him to provoke Russia into a direct conflict with the NATO and thereby let the Islamic State get respite from the Russian assault. The Russian plane was, even according to Turkish version, in the Turkish territory for only 17 seconds and when it was shot down it was outside its border. It may be pointed out it is the first time a Russian war plane had been shot down by a NATO member state since the end of Korean war in the early part of 1950s.

This madcap Erdogan is taking Turkey backward, which is a direct opposite of what Kemal Ataturk had intended. Turkey’s prospect of joining European Union is all but gone and its existence in the NATO should be severely questioned.

There is the uncanny similarity between the Turkey of today and Pakistan of the 1980s. Like Pakistan, Turkey will be the hotbed of Islamic terrorists and that will devour the whole country. It is sad to see an advanced Muslim state reverts to primitive conditions only due to religious blockheadedness of a single person.

Dr. A Rahman is a retired nuclear scientist and columnist. 

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Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan gives the Muslim Brotherhood 4-fingered "Rabia" sign in solidarity with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. (Photo: © Reuters)

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Fighting the Battle; Missing the War: The Root of Islamist Violence

by: 
Dr. A. Rahman
Teaser: 

It must be realised that the Islamic State is only the symptom, the messenger, not the originator of this depraved ideology. 

The world is undoubtedly at a critical juncture dealing with the grotesque violence of the Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS). The Islamic State is hell bent on punishing the West for attacking their occupied lands in Iraq and Syria while the West wants to put an end to the Islamic State’s barbarity and have declared war on them in retribution to Paris atrocity.

The West is rightly outraged by the Islamic State’s heinous crime of attacking and killing innocent civilians who were going about in their normal day-to-day lives. But the Islamic State thinks it is doing exactly what their religion asks them to do. Admittedly there are strong elements of visceral antipathy of the Islamic State operatives towards the West, but the main driving force comes from the scriptures of the religious book of Islam, the Quran.

There are numerous specific verses in Quran where Allah’s directives are defined clearly. Verse 2:191 prescribes: Kill disbelievers wherever you find them. If they attack you, you kill them. Such is the reward for disbelievers. Verse 4:89 says: Do not take any of your disbelievers as allies. If these disbelievers turn away, kill them. Verse 5:33 says: Those who ‘spread corruption’ (a vague term widely believed to include blasphemy and apostasy) should be killed or crucified. Verse 5:33 states: The thieves, male or female, should have their hands cut off.  Verse 47:4 prescribes beheading of disbelievers encountered in jihad. Verse 2:193 reads: Allah says that you keep fighting until there is no more persecution and everyone on earth is a Muslim. Then you can stop killing people. There are numerous other exultations of grotesque violence and killing in Quran.

Although many religious scholars claim that most of these verses are metaphorical and should not be taken literally, the adherents of fundamentalist ideology (Salafists/Wahhabists) reject these scholars as revisionists. If the Quran is the message from Allah, why would He give the message in metaphoric terms, they argue? Indeed, why would He prescribe killing and beheading people when He simply meant treating them firmly?

Dismissing all these interpretations (or re-interpretations) of Quranic verses, Salafism/Wahhabism (a particularly virulent version of Sunni ideology) clung on to fundamentalist ideology of Islam as it existed at the time when Islam came into existence.

Saudi Arabia, for political purposes, is the strongest advocate of Wahhabism. The kingdom has spent more than $50 billion over the past 50 or so years promoting Wahhabism, not only in Saudi Arabia but throughout the world. From financing mosques, madrassahs, Islamic Centres, etc. worldwide, Saudi Arabia and its cohorts of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries have been funding terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda, al-Nusra and the Islamic State and so forth to promote and propagate Wahhabism.

It should be remembered that Saudi Arabia is the land where Islam came into being in its own language and culture and, hence, the country rightfully takes the proprietary role for this religion.

The standpoint of the fundamentalist Salafism/Wahhabism is that Islam is the last and final message from the ‘Almighty’ Allah; it is immutable and sacrosanct. In other words, whatever is there in the holy book, it is the final word from Allah and no human beings can change it.

Islamic fundamentalists thus adopt forceful and aggressive positions to silence any dissent (especially when confronted with modern scientific refutations or differences of opinions). Killing of humanists, secularists and, bloggers in general, in Bangladesh, in Pakistan and in other countries by vicious and barbaric Islamists show this attitude.

The atrocity in Paris is a clear indication of the Islamic State’s opposition to Western values, Western culture. The West at long last has woken up to realising and facing this existential threat from the Islamic State.

But it must be realised that the Islamic State is only the symptom, the messenger, not the originator of this depraved ideology. The Islamic State can be bombed out, its jihadists can be evaporated by the West, but until and unless the root which created and nourished this ideology and spawned the Islamic State is taken out, the Islamic State in a new form, in a new name, in a new place will keep popping up.

The French President has declared war on the Islamic State. But unless this war is extended to fighting the corrupt ideology of Wahhabism, his war will be no more than a mere battle. The West may have to fight such battles many times, in many places and for many years. But the source which nourishes the root must be taken out, otherwise the green shoots of the Islamic State will keep popping up everywhere leading to the recurrence of this gratuitous violence.

A Rahman is an author and a columnist.     

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A soldier patrols in Paris due to the threat of Islamist attacks (Photo: © Reuters)

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What Should Muslim Groups Do to Fight Extremism?

by: 
Elliot Friedland
Teaser: 

We spoke with the chairman of the UK's Conservative Muslim Forum, Mohammed Amin, also an interfaith activist. Mr Amin spoke with us about his approach to tackling extremism within the Muslim community. 

Mohammed Amin is the Chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum, an organization affiliated with the UK's Conservative Party.

He was formerly a leader within the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an organization with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, and is one of the founders of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester.

Outside of interfaith he worked in finance as a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers.

He gracicously agreed to speak with Clarion Project's Dialogue Coordinator Elliot Friedland about Muslim organizations in the UK and efforts to counter-extremism.

His website can be found here

The author is speaking in a personal capacity. The views expressed in the interview are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Clarion Project. All images and links to other other pages contained in the interview were chosen by Clarion Project and not by the author.

 

Clarion Project: You called on Muslim organizations to take a more active role in challenging extremism. Why do you think they have not done so until now?

Mohammed Amin: As a preliminary point, Muslim organizations vary, just as there is a very wide spectrum of views amongst individual Muslims. Some organizations such as the UK think tank Quilliam are very clear about the ideological aspects of extremism amongst Muslims.

Looking at those UK Muslim community organizations which have been insufficiently effective at addressing extremism amongst Muslims, I believe there are a variety of factors which have held them back.

The most important factor is that many are unwilling to acknowledge that a flawed understanding of Islam underlies the belief systems of the terrorists that we are talking about. Instead, they contend that the sole cause of such terrorism is grievance with British foreign policy such as its support for Israel, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.

While such grievances are regularly cited by terrorists and are undoubtedly an important motivating factor, in my opinion they cannot be the sole cause of terrorism amongst Muslims.

As I have written on several occasions, as well as having a cause to fight for, it is also absolutely essential for the terrorist to believe that what he is doing is a virtuous activity in the eyes of God. That is a theological position. It is irrelevant that the terrorist may be relatively ignorant about Islam, as indeed many are. He will not kill innocent people unless he holds that theological position, even if he does not know what the word “theology” means. Accordingly, bad theology costs lives.

Since these UK Muslim community organizations refuse to accept that the religious beliefs of the terrorists matter, they are unable to compose any form of meaningful approach to addressing such terrorism. Instead they simply issued statements condemning terrorists and pointing out that terrorism is not Islamic.

As a contrast, Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri fully appreciates that the terrorists have a theological position. He has written a 600 page "Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings" to demonstrate why that theological position is entirely unsupportable, and there is a review of the fatwa on my website. Recently his organization Minhaj-ul-Quran, which has a significant UK branch, has produced a curriculum intended to provide an Islamic education which will reduce the risk of young Muslims being radicalized.

 

 

Clarion: Organizations such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the MCB which you mentioned in your piece frequently condemn terror but themselves promote Islamist views. What do you think is the most problematic thing about groups like that?

Amin: I generally avoid using the word “Islamist” because it is too elastic. A word that encompasses both political parties that operate entirely within a lawful democratic framework such as the AK Party in Turkey or the PKS (Prosperous Justice Party) in Indonesia and also encompasses terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and ISIL is not a very useful adjective.

While I have been on the CAIR email list for six or seven years, I have only had brief contact with a few individuals from the organization when they were visiting Europe. My perception from a distance of CAIR is that they are a civil rights campaigning organization very much like the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Beyond that I am unable to comment on their views.

Conversely I know the MCB (Muslim Council of Britain) very well. For the period June 2008 – June 2010 I was an elected member of the MCB’s Central Working Committee. During that period I was also Chairman of the MCB’s Business and Economics Committee which made me a member of their wider leadership team. Since then I have remained on friendly terms with the MCB and am invited each year to their Muslim community leadership dinner and regularly meet members of their leadership at various public events in London.

The MCB has about 500 affiliated organizations. A significant number of them have been heavily influenced by the Indian subcontinent’s Jamaat-e-Islami founded by Abul Ala Maududi and the Middle East’s Muslim Brotherhood founded by Hassan al-Banna.

In my opinion two principal factors impair the MCB’s effectiveness in seeking to prevent young British Muslims being radicalized.

Firstly, in practice the MCB tries hard to avoid upsetting any of its member organizations. Accordingly any statements that it issues are bland. This precludes it taking positive positions such as encouraging British Muslims to join the police, the armed forces and the security services that I would regard as non-contentious.

As part of writing this interview response, I carried out some Google site searches on the MCB website to see what they have said about the police, the armed forces and the security services.

While there is a document produced about six years ago celebrating the Muslim contribution to the British war effort in World War I, I found nothing that could be interpreted as encouragement to join the contemporary armed forces. Similarly I could not find any encouragement to join the police or to join the security services. However I came across many documents which refer to the police and the security services in a generally critical tone.

Secondly, from many documents on the MCB website, it is clear that the MCB considers that the religious views of the Muslim terrorists in question do not matter. Accordingly it is left with little meaningful to say apart from condemning terrorism. When doing so it sometimes explicitly connects the terrorism to British foreign policy and sometimes remains silent on the foreign policy point.

Since the MCB does not believe that the religious views of the terrorists matter, it has nothing to say about the distorted religious views that ISIL promote to people it is seeking to radicalise. Indeed it rejects the entire concept of radicalisation.

In my view the MCB’s refusal to accept that the theological views of terrorists matter arises from an unvoiced fear that if they accept that the terrorists are motivated, to any extent, by religious views, this will be pounced upon by anti-Muslim bigots and used to promote the (entirely incorrect) view that Islam causes terrorism.

 

 

Clarion: What can non-Muslims do to best support anti-Islamist Muslims without being accused of bigotry?

Amin: The first thing that non-Muslims can do is to acknowledge and share the condemnations of terrorism that are regularly issued by Muslims when terrorist attacks are perpetrated by Muslims.

At an individual level I am completely fed up by regularly encountering non-Muslims who ask “Why don’t Muslims condemn terrorism?” Such people are either both blind and deaf, or they are wilfully choosing not to see the many condemnations that are issued. That led me to start a page on my own website as a compendium of Muslim condemnations of terrorism.

Non-Muslims should also do more to share the analysis of terrorism and its causes that is offered by many well informed Muslims such as the Quilliam think tank and Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri.

Finally non-Muslims should do more to publicize and celebrate the significant contribution that Muslims are making to every society in which they live, particularly Britain and America. They should also be vigorous in combating anti-Muslim discrimination.

 

 

Clarion: When there are terrorist attacks like the ones in Paris, what do you think the best responses are from both Muslims and non-Muslims respectively?

Amin: The most important immediate response from both Muslims and non-Muslims is to provide every assistance possible to the security services and if necessary the medical services such as blood donations.

In the longer term, both Muslims and non-Muslims have an obligation to work hard at building a cohesive society by maximizing interaction across religious boundaries. That is one of the reasons I am Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester, as well as being active in other interfaith organizations.

Muslims in particular have an obligation to actively combat the pernicious false narrative that is peddled by those seeking to radicalize young Muslims; a narrative which falsely paints Britain, America and other European countries as being at war with Islam.

Britain and America are in my view amongst the best countries in the world in which to live as a Muslim.

 

 

Clarion: Finally, what is your favourite thing about being a Muslim that keeps you in the faith and makes you proud to be part of it?

Amin: For me Islam is simply the monotheistic faith that was practiced by all of the Old Testament prophets, and by Jesus (peace be upon him) as well as by Muhammad (pbuh). While this belief in the continuity of the religion is an integral part of Islamic teaching, in my opinion too many Muslims have forgotten it or never learnt it.

Instead they focus entirely upon the time of Muhammad (pbuh) as if Islam was a completely different religion from Judaism and Christianity and with no connection to them.

Although Jews Christians and Muslims have many religious disagreements with each other, just as Jews have many religious disagreements with other Jews, Christians with other Christians and Muslims with other Muslims, in big picture terms I see these three groups as belonging to one religion rather than three.

The differences between the three are minor compared with the differences between them and other religions such as Hinduism or Buddhism.

As with Judaism, Islam is strictly monotheistic whereas Christianity has a very different understanding of the nature of God while stating that it is monotheistic. The only real difference I see between Islam and Judaism is that Islam does not have the concept of a chosen people.

I am a Sunni Muslim for the simple reason that I do not believe that the Prophet Muhammad designated any successor. He had ample opportunity to designate a successor in a manner that would have left absolutely no doubt amongst the Muslims of that time had he wished to do so.

The key principle of Sunni Islam that matters to me is that there are absolutely no intermediaries between me and God, since Sunni Islam has no concept of a priesthood or a religious hierarchy.

Like Malcolm X I deeply value the way that Islam brings together people regardless of ethnicity or nationality.

My father taught me that I should fear God, but fear no man. That has been a powerful influence on my life since the fear of God liberates you from all other fears.

 

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A demonstrator wearing a pro-Muslim Brotherhood headband protests against the visit of Egypt's President Sisi. (Photo: © Reuters)

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Paris: Connecting the Dots

by: 
Raheel Raza
Teaser: 

Since 9/11, the West has been waffling in the quicksand of political correctness and refusing to call a spade a spade. Until they do, attacks like those in Paris, New York, Mumbai, Boston and Ottawa will keep happening again and again until they engulf all of us.

This blog appeared originally in the Toronto Sun and was reprinted with permission from the author

Once again terrorists have struck at the heart of Europe. My cousin who lives in Paris writes, “Paris, my City of Lights is in darkness — but this, too, shall pass.”

Will it pass?

Our reaction is deep sadness at the loss of innocent lives but also anger at the fact that this attack is not unexpected, knowing the track record of ISIS and their ilk.

Reaction across Europe is that this madness is now a reality, hitting close to home. For some leaders in the West, the discussion is whether ISIS should be called Daesh, ISIL or something else? Let’s not deflect the real issue.

For some Muslims on social media and those I have spoken to over the past two days, the victim card is already being played out. I met a young newly-elected Muslim MP who said, “I hate the word ‘terrorist’ because we don’t know who they [the perpetrators] are.”

Seriously? Across mainstream media, self-appointed analysts are spouting their expertise to conclude that the culprit turned out to be none other than ISIS — surprise!

We fully agree that the perpetrator this time is ISIS. But the same type of cowardly terrorist attacks have taken place even before ISIS was in existence. Why can’t we connect the dots to the heart of where the violence is emanating from?

Former prime minister Stephen Harper was one of the first Western leaders to point out that Islamism is the biggest threat facing Canada. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron called radical ideology “the struggle of our generation.” French President François Hollande says this is a declaration of war.

We agree. However this declaration of war from radical Islamists happened on 9/11 when planes crashed into the twin towers in New York. What other well articulated argument do we need to understand the enormity of the threat?

Since 9/11, the West has been waffling in the quicksand of political correctness and refusing to call a spade a spade. Until they do, attacks like those in Paris, New York, Mumbai, Boston and Ottawa will keep happening again and again until they engulf all of us.

Just connect the dots:

• The export of Wahabi ideology has been taking place successfully for more than three decades.

• Trillions of dollars have been used to support this program.

• The inability of democratic Western nations to challenge Saudi Arabia and Iran on their human rights record.

• Non-integration of Muslims into countries where they migrate or seek refuge.

• The push for unreasonable accommodation that white liberal guilt offers these immigrants.

• No challenge to messages of hate being spouted from mosques — especially against Christians, Jews and Hindus.

• The ability of notorious Muslim organizations who say they represent all Muslims to work with impunity with government bodies.

• Finally the refusal of Western democracies to brand terrorist organizations as terrorists.

Defense Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan just said that Canadians should not fear ISIS. With due respect, Canadians while not being afraid, should be very concerned. The perpetrators are within us and unless law enforcement takes drastic action on the issues mentioned above, terrorists will strike again.

There is no need to pray for Paris unless we connect the dots, understand the players and their motives and take action accordingly.

 

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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A Dark Day for Turkey

by: 
Lonna Lisa Williams
Teaser: 

No court of law or parliamentary procedure could defend AK Party leader Erdogan's dictator-like actions. 

This article blog appeared originally on Digital Journal

On live television, Turkish police closed a TV news station in Istanbul allegedly linked to a foe of President Tayyip Erdogan. Is this the end of journalistic freedom in Turkey or the end of Islamist leader Erdogan?

I watched a live TV broadcast on YouTube yesterday; it was more riveting than a spy film. I could not stop watching history play out before my eyes. Samanyolu Haber showed the invasion of the Kanalturk TV news station by Turkish police. The police, dressed in combat helmets and body armor, pressed their shields against Istanbul citizens and journalists. They sprayed mace across a barrier erected to protect the news station, and some of it deflected against clear plastic umbrellas. An armored police combat vehicle, that would be illegal in Europe or America, shot streams of water from its rooftop canon nearby.

No court of law or parliamentary procedure could defend AK Party leader Erdogan's dictator-like actions. As I saw a plain-clothes police officer shoving a water-soaked journalist who was close to tears, I wondered if such scenes played out in Nazi Germany before World War II. However, there was a difference: this police officer sported a full Islamist beard, which was previously forbidden among public employees during the secular democratic influence of Ataturk, the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey.

My Turkish husband watched with me, pointing out details I would have missed on my own. We sat at our dining table in China where I teach Journalism and Writing for CyberSpace at an American-style university. It was almost noon here near Shanghai but only 7 a.m. in Istanbul.

"See, that is a CHP (People's Republican Party) Parliament Member in that gray suit. It is illegal for the police to touch him, but they just shoved him. He comes from Ataturk's own democratic party and is there at the news station to show support for free speech."

Ordinary Istanbul citizens, who live in apartment buildings near Haberturk news station, clapped their hands in peaceful protest of the police actions, as if to say, "Good job, Erdogan. You've really done it this time."

Inside the station, the news team continued their live broadcast until the last possible moment. Police called in a firefighter who cut the steel barrier's lock outside. I saw big metallic shears and bare hands trying to stop them. Then armed hordes entered the building. Police stood guard outside the door as journalists, looking stressed and full of sorrow, walked out in a single line, their press badges dangling around their necks. Other news stations continued covering their downfall, focusing on the faces of the men and women who walked silently past.

People held up banners that read "Free Speech Cannot Be Silenced" as the crowd chanted those words in Turkish and continued clapping. News sources from around the world covered this story and shared these images.

As those reporters walked out of their occupied station, it looked like the end of free journalism in Turkey. I remembered my own experiences in Istanbul, where my husband was tortured at a police station, we were both attacked by police during a peaceful street rally, and I was nearly arrested for a photo I'd published. I covered this news for Digital Journal and turned it into a Kindle book. I walked with them in 2013, and I walk with them now.

Journalists from all over the world walk with them. They do not face defeat alone.

"Maybe Erdogan has lost his mind through his lust for absolute control. Maybe the effects of chemotherapy from his cancer—that he tries to hide—have affected him," my Turkish husband observed. "In any case, this is a dark day for Turkey."

 

Lonna Lisa Williams teaches English, Writing for CyberSpace, and Journalism an American-style university in China. She writes books about surviving cancer, travel adventures, Turkey, science fiction, and fantasy.  Lonna was a journalist and photographer for a California newspaper, and she regularly contributes news articles and photo essays to “Digital Journal” and “Yahoo.”  Follow her blog or find her on FacebookTwitter, and Youtube

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Reframing the Arab-Israeli Conflict

by: 
Ryan Mauro
Teaser: 

The popular way of looking at the conflict is to see it simply as a dispute over land. But let’s face facts. This conflict is not primarily about land at all.

 

"The art of reframing is to maintain the conflict in all its richness but to help people look at it in a more open-minded and hopeful way.”  – From Bernard Mayer’s “The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution”

Can we look at what is going on in Israel today – and the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole – “in a more open-minded and hopeful way”?

After all, the current trouble is nothing new. Arabs have been stabbing and murdering Jews for 100 years, long before the modern State of Israel came into being. The Hebron Massacre in 1929 is just one incident that springs to mind.

And with no substantial political or military solution on the horizon, how can we possibly reframe things?

Well, the popular way of looking at the conflict is to see it simply as a dispute over land. This narrative accuses Israel of occupying the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. And if Israel will just give these areas back to the Palestinians, they will instantly lay down their stones and knives and Jews and Arabs will live together happily ever after.

Of course though, every time Israel has “given back” land, the Arabs use it to launch further attacks on Israel, with Hamas tunnels and rockets from Gaza being the most obvious and recent example.

Yet, strangely enough, most of the world’s leaders and media still buy into this theory.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at Harvard University said last week, "a massive increase in settlements” has led to the current "frustration and violence."

But that concept is as flawed as the failed peace process itself.

The Arab-Jewish conflict was ablaze long before Israel came along. For example, Arab rioters with knives, pistols and rifles ran rampant through Jaffa on May 1, 1921, beating and murdering Jews and looting Jewish homes and stores. They killed 27 Jews and wounded another 150. 

And because similar conflicts rage in more than 25 other countries today – Afghanistan, Angola, Nigeria, Syria, to name but a few – the symptoms indicate a more serious problem.

This is not a common cold to be cured by a Jewish country evacuating this piece of land or agreeing to that concession.

It’s a cancer of the most virulent strain…spreading rapidly throughout the entire free world.

Let’s face facts.

This conflict is not primarily about land at all.

Those malignant cells terrorizing Israel today are infected with the same disease as the forces destroying 2,000-year-old archaeological treasures in Syria, beheading, raping and massacring Muslims and non-Muslims across the Middle East and detonating suicide bombs in Turkey, Bali, Indonesia. And the list goes on.

The bad guys – whom the world refuses to acknowledge as such – are out to impose radical Islam on the world. They want to obliterate Israel, America, Christianity and even other anti-Islamist Muslims – “infidels” in their eyes. And that includes innocent Palestinians suffering at the hands of Hamas & Company.

In short, the entire civilized world is at risk.

I'm talking about ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, the PKK, Hezbollah and dozens of similar organizations.

An entire society – connected to a daily drip of vitriol and hate from birth, brainwashed by a well-oiled system of education, media and religious rhetoric – ready and willing to kill and die in the name of the anti-Semitic Jihad of Intolerance.

And that’s why the current situation in Israel is not a localized “few days of rage,” “a wave of terror” or even “a Third Intifada.”

What’s happening is yet another symptom of a global Third Jihad.

The first jihad lasted from 622 – 750 AD, after Mohammad’s armies conquered all of Arabia and most of the Middle East, North Africa and Spain. 

The second jihad started in 1071, when Islamic armies conquered Constantinople and spread into Europe, India and further into Africa. It eventually began to peter out when the Muslim Ottoman army was vanquished at the Battle of Vienna in September 1683.

And radical Islam’s pursuit of world domination has never stopped.

Countries and cultures ignored the threat or reacted too slowly and were swallowed up by the relentless radical Islamic monster. So much so that there are now 57 countries in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC. 

The Third Jihad is upon us.

This is the deeper, more sinister nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is not simply a war over settlements, land or the Temple Mount.

It’s a religious battle. A clash of two diametrically opposed world views.

Between the sanctity of life and the culture of death.

And that definitely removes the conflict from the Middle East, away from the Israeli government, rolling responsibility to the feet of anyone who believes in a just and righteous world.

Is that “more open-minded and hopeful”?

Well, it could be. Continuing the cancer analogy, things will get worse until someone – preferably sane world leaders and a responsible media – makes the correct diagnosis.

 

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.

This blog appeared originally in the Jeruslaem Post and was reprinted with permission.

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Does it Matter if ISIS Really Shot Down the Russian Plane?

by: 
David Harris
Teaser: 

While we wait for Sinai crash site investigators' results to be published, the truth is the Islamic State scored a victory whether it did it or not.

The international media spent much of the last 24 hours mulling the question of whether Kogalymavia Flight 9268 crashed or was shot down by the Islamic State over the skies of Sinai, Egypt.

The truth is, in many ways it really does not matter.

ISIS did the damage when its Sinai branch Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the crash and the deaths of 224 people, even producing a video supposedly of the murderous act of terror.

That got the tongues wagging – almost to the extent that the enormous loss of life became a sub-plot. Headlines the world over focused on the ISIS whodunit:  Could they? Couldn’t they? But that debate no longer matters – Lufthansa and Air France immediately announced they would no longer fly over Sinai airspace.

ISIS’ public-relations war, its scare tactics and the paranoia it has instilled in many of us are all moral victories for this tiny army of rag-tag volunteers from around the globe.

And here I am, guilty as charged, a day later, still talking about the Islamic State and its possible role in the fate of Flight 9268.

The only potential benefit in this instance is that ISIS is messing with Russia – not some Western government that may put "human rights" ahead of the war on terror. Moscow could well see this as a red flag to a bull – ignoring the truth of whether ISIS was or was not behind this, preferring to use it as a pretext to (properly) attack ISIS in Syria, where it challenges Russia’s partner President Bashar al-Assad.

Sometimes we have to play the enemy at their own game and defeat them. Sometimes we have to hope the Russians will do the dirty work for us.

 

David Harris is the editor-in-chief of Clarion Project.

 

 

 

 

 

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