Emily's blog

A Muslim’s Case for Islamic Reform

Secular and religious Turkish women took to the streets to protest against Prime Minister Erdogan, who sparked outrage when he delivered two fiery speeches attacking abortion and Caesarean births as

Secular and religious Turkish women took to the streets to protest against Prime Minister Erdogan, who sparked outrage when he delivered two fiery speeches attacking abortion and Caesarean births as "secret" plots designed to stall Turkey's economic growth in May 2012. (Photo: @ Reuters)

Ahmed Vanya

Since the attacks of 9/11, there have been plenty of discussions about Islamic reform and a number of wide-ranging searches for reformers who are—or would be—leading such projects. There are those who say that Islam needs reform; those who say Islam does not need reform and those who say Islam cannot be reformed.

Among Muslims, there are those at one end of the spectrum that totally reject the idea of reform, whereas others in the middle desire a limited amount of reform and, on the other end of the spectrum, those who are calling for a total, open-ended, inside-and-out reform and reconstruction of Islamic theology and societies.

The idea of reform and renewal is not actually new in Islamic history, as there have been a number of reformist and revivalist movements throughout many Muslim societies. The important things for Muslims at this juncture in history is to figure out whether reform is necessary and, if so, what the reform’s goals must be and what mechanisms to use to make it happen.

The five pillars of Islam are essential to the faith, so there is no serious effort by any credible groups or persons to reform them. These basic pillars are not a threat to anyone. However, beyond these five pillars, there are a whole host of issues that must be carefully examined.


How Sharia Was Formed

We need to understand how Islamic law, or the Sharia, was formed and the role played by the interpretations of fallible people.

The limited comprehension of mortal human beings limits understandings of Islam and any interpretation of it. Historical Islam, as interpreted and understood by human beings, is not constant or infallible. It has evolved through every age and time based on the outlooks and mentalities of Muslims interpreting it.

Over a span of several hundred years after the passing away of the Prophet Mohammed, the Muslim scholars developed a set of principles known as the Sharia (The Way to Allah) and the Fiqh/Ahkams (understandings, commandments and laws).

The Sharia/Fiqh, as developed over the centuries, did not come directly from Allah, nor did it come from the unadulterated legacy of the Prophet Mohammed.

The Quran was progressively revealed to the Prophet Mohammed over almost 23 years and then compiled into its present form several decades after the passing away of the Prophet Mohammed.

In most cases, the Quran does not provide the background or context of the messages in sufficient detail. This was not a problem when the Prophet Mohammed was alive to explain it, but when he passed away without any contemporaneous notes left behind, the so-called “occasions of revelation (asbab-ul-nuzul)” were constructed over generations into the Sunna and Hadith.

The scholars worked for generations in writing commentaries and then commentaries on the commentaries, called the “tafsir.” In order to reconcile contradictory passages, the theory of abrogation (nasikh-wal-mansukh)—the canceling or superseding of one Quranic passage in favor of a newer passage—was invented, without prophetic or divine guidance.

Scholars in the first 300 years of Islam after the Prophet Mohammed’s death determined which records of the his sayings and conduct (the Sunnah) would make it into the books of Hadith, giving different accounts varying degrees of authenticity and reliability. This science of Hadith authentication (ilm-ar-rijal) concentrated on the piety and personal character of the narrators, and not the historical accuracy or logical consistency of the narrators’ reports.

No matter how meticulous and pious these scholars were, they were humans subjected to all the imperfections and limitations of being human beings. Plus, they worked in a highly charged political atmosphere, rife with sectarian conflicts between Muslims for power, wealth, glory and religious fanaticism.

This encouraged misinterpretation and altogether fabrication of hadith, both in terms of content and the chain of narrators. The hadith collection projects were neither done contemporaneously when the Prophet was alive, nor were sanctioned by the Prophet or his immediate successors, the so-called “Rightly Guided Caliphs.” The collections were approved by later generations based on the perceived need (darura) and the consensus (ijma) of the scholars of the time.

The sharia is the codified consensus of these human scholars. Therefore, sharia is man-made and fallible. And because traditional Islam is based on this sharia, it has absorbed a lot of the values of the times in which the sharia was formed. As a result, traditional Islam has rough edges intermingled with a great deal of ethical goodness and serene spirituality.

In forming the sharia, the jurists’ method was to follow the literal meaning of the clear-cut texts. Enormous effort has been spent in analyzing the lexical semantics and the linguistic morphology of the texts, at times employing casuistry and engaging in hair-splitting. This came at the expense of a historical-critical method marshalling a whole range of analytical methodologies to uncover deeper and fuller meanings.

These scholars categorized all human acts into one of five categories: obligatory, recommended, neutral, frowned upon and prohibited. It is important to note the ambitious goal of this sharia project: to categorize every human act—past, present and future—in order to be consistent with Allah’s will.

However, the creation of God is so immense that no human project can encompass His will fully and completely. It is true that the message of the Quran is valid for all times and places, but it mustn’t be interpreted literally by fallible human beings without having the full context available.

We have God-given reason (aql) so we can continuously work and use trial-and-error to get closer to the will of the creator. The accumulated experiences of human history must be incorporated into our understanding of the texts.

If God wanted us to follow blindly, then He would have given us an oracle or a search engine that would spell out all His detailed instructions for every question. Instead, He gave us ethical guidance in the form of the Quran and a brain.

One can see a similar phenomenon when looking at the history of Christianity. At the dawn of Christianity, the Christians were persecuted severely, but when they triumphed, they not only persecuted non-Christians but also got mired in internecine bloodletting for long periods of time.

Again, Christianity is not fundamentally a violent religion but with the attainment of power, combined with the values and mentalities of the Middle Ages, it got transformed from a peaceful and humble lamb to an intolerant, fire-breathing dragon inflicting many deaths and much destruction.


The History of Reform in Islam

There have been a number of revivalist and reformist movements, especially since the decline of the great Islamic empires, as permitted by the Islamic doctrine of ijtihad, or independent rethinking.

There are a number of reasons for the failure of these previous reformist movements.

First, the reform movements felt that adhering very closely to the literal meaning of texts kept them closest to the divine intent behind them. Instead of emphasizing the spiritual and ethical meanings, they focused on the letter of the texts.

Next, they overlooked the true nature of the sacred texts and presented their interpretations as foolproof and comprehensive. Also, the whole mental outlook and the ethos have been highly conservative and very suspicious of change and innovation.

Lastly, ignoring the continuous revelations to mankind provided from the arts, history and natural sciences resulted in stagnation and ossification and superficial interpretive changes, without transcending static interpretations.

The invention of the printing press and translation of the Bible into the vernacular languages made the Bible and its message more accessible to the masses and facilitated the reform of Christianity. In a parallel fashion, we now have the internet empowering Muslims worldwide to be better informed and ultimately take back their religion from the clutches of outdated dogmas.


Seven Essential Elements for Reform

My recommendations for a renewal (tajdid) and reform (islah) are as follows:

1. Acknowledge deep problems in classical Islamic thought.

These problems are an inevitable product of God’s message passing through imperfect human minds. We do not need to throw the baby out with the bathwater by rejecting traditional Islam wholesale, but we should continuously work to improve our understandings.

2. Educate About the Formation of Sharia.

We must educate everyone about the sacred texts and how sharia was formed by humans interpreting them. We must make a solid case for avoiding literal interpretations and instead include all the relevant facts and analytical methodologies, textual and contextual and experiential.

3. Reform Traditional Sharia.

The first step is separating the religion from the state. The core of Islam—the five pillars—are not about political governance. Traditional Islamic scholars can be experts on matters of ritual and worship and they are free to voice their opinions, but they must not be allowed to issue edicts for everyone to comply with.

4. Promote and Protect Freedoms

We must acknowledge that medieval misinterpretations are responsible for issues like slavery and concubines; blasphemy and apostate laws and unfair discrimination against women, minorities and non-Muslims. These are not consistent with universal human rights and freedoms or the fundamental Quranic principles of justice (fairness) and mercy.

5. Accept the Equality of Humanity

Instead of demeaning and rejecting non-Muslims as kafirs or infidels, which are historically loaded terms, we must acknowledge the basic humanity and equality of everyone and accept that all of us, believers and non-believers, are all seekers of the Truth (Haqq) in our own way. This demeaning of non-Muslims must stop both in public and behind closed doors.

6. Hope and Patience

Be hopeful for a bright future for Islam, but do not expect quick changes. In fact, it might take generations. Therefore, assiduously cultivate the young but do not neglect the older believers.

7. Avoid False Reformists

There are many Muslim individuals and groups claiming they stand for reform and ijtihad, but if they do not embrace the above items, they are not for real reforms consistent with the universal values of justice and mercy.

Most of the leading Muslim organizations around the world, including in the United States, fall short in regards to the reform agenda. That is because they are basically stuck, running around in circles within the deformed and misguided man-made theology.

The leading Muslim groups in the U.S. defend this highly illiberal traditional sharia by using the freedoms of religion and speech. They are rightly worried about harsh rhetoric that puts all Muslims under a single dark cloud, but they are not willing to take the necessary steps of reforming the sharia.

These groups do not want to stand up to the Wahhabi/Salafis, the political Islamists like Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami and the Deobandi and the Tablighi groups, either because they are a part of them or are sympathetic to them.



Reforming traditional sharia is necessary and it is not apostasy. Doing so is in the best interest of Muslims and non-Muslims.

The U.S. government has been turning a blind eye to the problematic nature of pro-sharia American groups and the importance of Islamic reform. It is unconcerned as long as these groups are not directly involved with violence, but these groups contribute to the radicalization of Muslims because the traditional sharia they support is inimical to the basic concepts of the U.S. Constitution.

The events of the so-called “Arab Spring” that began in 2010 and turned into the “Arab Winter” have amply demonstrated that the reform of religious ideas among Muslims is essential. This Islamic reform must take place before successful and meaningful political reforms can happen that lead to vibrant, prosperous, truly democratic and just Muslim societies.

Ahmed Vanya is a Muslim-American activist and an electronics engineer in San Jose, California. He is a fellow with the American-Islamic Forum for Democracy.

Malala and the Conspiracy Theorists

Malala speaks at the UN a little more than a year after the shooting. (Photo: © Reuters)

Malala speaks at the UN a little more than a year after the shooting. (Photo: © Reuters)

Raheel Raza

Ever since Malala Yousafzai -- winner this month of the Nobel Peace Prize -- came on the scene in October 2012 in a shocking way, after being shot in the face by the Taliban at the age of 15, I have been watching the conspiracy theories unfold.

One of the highlights of The Girl Summit, hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron in the UK last July, was that Malala attended, along with her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai. As a fellow Pakistani, I congratulated him on Malala's successes and for being the model father that every girl would want to have. He said thank you but acknowledged, sadly, that in Pakistan there is a lot of hostility against them.

This did not come as a surprise. Not everyone is proud of Malala. Sadly, Pakistan has not fully celebrated its Nobel laureates, and conspiracy theories still abound.

The first Nobel peace prize for a Pakistani was given to Mohammad Abdus Salam, a theoretical physicist, who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to electroweak unification. For this, he was alienated and rebuked in Pakistan because he belonged to the Ahmadiyya community. He was also called a spy. He eventually left Pakistan and died in the UK in 1996.

Malala -- at 17, an incandescent example of peace, hope, women's rights and the struggle for freedom -- for her bravery in standing up to the barbarians who call themselves Taliban ["students"], will, if she returns to Pakistan, likely be killed. She has been alienated from her homeland.

According to the conspiracy theorists, Malala's father is a CIA agent and arranged for the CIA to come and shoot her in the face. The rest is scripted by the "big bad West."

One blogger writes that Malala hates Pakistan's military. I believe it is the other way around. While Pakistan's military has lost three wars, this young girl stood up to the people who nearly destroyed her country. She essentially stole the thunder from the military, and the humiliation is hard for the military to digest.

Malala has never spoken ill of Pakistan in any of her public appearances or speeches.

The elite are jealous because they feel Malala got a free ride to the West, while they struggle to send their children abroad to study. They complain that there are other girls also fighting for justice. But how many of them have been shot and then continued to fight for justice?

Bureaucrats in Pakistan are disgruntled because the area that Malala comes from (Swat Valley) has slipped out of the hands of the government. To them, Malala represents success in the face of a failed state for which the bureaucrats are responsible.

The religious fundamentalists are incensed because Malala is a girl. Only that. A girl who has stood up to the establishment and said openly that she will fight not only for women's rights but, more importantly, for the right of girls to be educated. In a country where a huge chunk of the national budget and aid from foreign countries goes towards the military, Malala represents hope for the masses who are illiterate.

The Malala Fund has already helped thousands of girls, from Nigeria to Syrian refugees. The Global Partnership for Education, which works in low-income countries to ensure basic education for all, announced in June that a grant from the Malala Fund would support a first-ever youth delegation to a world education conference in Brussels. Malala has spoken of a special interest in the rights of children in developing countries.

Perhaps most of all, Malala announced that her mother has just learned to read and write. Malala is a charting a course from which our younger generations will only benefit.

I would so like to see the day that Malala would be welcomed back in Pakistan, with the whole country cheering. She deserves it.


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.

Reprinted from GatestoneInstitute.org with permission from the author

Exposing Islamism: Rage and Outrage

A Christian Pakistani man is beaten by police after the houses in his village were burned down by Islamists. (Photo:© Reuters)

A Christian Pakistani man is beaten by police after the houses in his village were burned down by Islamists. (Photo:© Reuters)

Dr. Qanta Ahmed

Ben Affleck’s fury and Bill Maher’s puzzlement in the now notorious TV segment made for a collision that perfectly captures America’s misunderstanding of Islamism, a totalitarian imposter of Islam. Impassioned, both men skidded headfirst onto the perilous battlefield where civil pluralistic Islam is pitted against Islamism. It’s a messy battle for non-Muslims and atheists alike, as the segment showed. But for Muslims caught in the crossfire, it’s a bloodbath.

Recently, I addressed the Hillel House at Rutgers University on human rights in the Islamist World — matters on which I have worked, as a physician and a Muslim woman, for many years. The Hillel House filled with a sea of youths from diverse backgrounds: Jewish men and women, Muslim men and women, many ethnicities, a uniquely American tapestry.

The students listened as I spoke of Riyadh, Malakand, Mingora, Karachi, and the many places in between; I described how Islamism legitimizes lethal intolerance of women and minorities of Muslim and other faiths, how Islamism eliminates democratic freedoms, and how it places anti-Semitism at the core of its theology.

I described the Pakistani teenager I met in Malakand — groomed as a Taliban suicide bomber — who had pulled back from the brink of self-detonation. I recounted the fears of Christian nurses at Karachi’s Ziauddin Hospital, whispering to me how they worried about fabricated charges of blasphemy, which is punishable by death in Pakistan. I quoted Father Edward Joseph, who spoke with me at Pakistan’s largest Catholic Diocese: “Just as Christ had his Cross to bear, so, too, do we,” he said, as we sadly studied the blast damage to the cathedral windows, scars of an Islamist bombing. Finally, I recounted my own experience as a Muslim woman in Saudi Arabia, and the burdens of state Wahhabiism as I had lived them.

With great anticipation, I invited questions. Leaping up, a Muslim man explained that his father had been executed by the Pakistani Taliban. The room was silent in sympathy when he launched into an angry diatribe ridiculing my depiction of Islamism. I shouldn’t be speaking of Islamists, he said. Why was I calling his father’s assassins “Islamists” when those Taliban terrorists were acting “outside of Islam”? Quickly he went onto discredit my identity as a Pakistani, labeling me an Islamophobe.

Other Muslims also told me that by speaking up about Muslims who are suffering in Islamist societies, I was intentionally stoking the Islamophobic climate on the Rutgers campus. One woman gestured to her hijab, her face flushed, shouting: “Who are you to talk about these victims, when you aren’t even visibly Muslim?” For good measure, she added that I was personally responsible for the post 9/11 escalation in the harassment of veiled Muslim women.

I was stunned.

All this occurred after I had detailed my own experiences as a victim of misogyny and gender apartheid and after I had discussed the body of work I’ve assembled by meeting Muslims and other victims of Islamist retribution around the world.

I had touched a nerve. Exposing Islamism is intensely threatening to its sympathizers. Islamism — an explicitly totalitarian transnational movement that politicizes and fictionalizes Islam so that it becomes a vehicle for oppression —hides beneath the veil of true Islam. Attempting to unveil it enrages many Muslims.

Islamophobes take little interest in nuance. As Muslims, we are 1.6 billion in number, in multiple denominations. Islam’s practitioners include over 180 nationalities (68 of them here in the United States). But despite the intense American focus on us since 9/11, our diabolical split is overlooked — not the Sunni–Shia divide but the gulf between Islamists and non-Islamists.

Liberals such as Ben Affleck similarly ignore nuance. Unable to distinguish between pluralistic Muslims and nonviolent Islamists, they mistakenly champion nonviolent Islamists as innocuous Muslims. In fact Islamists, even nonviolent ones, are diametrically opposed to the fundamental values of diversity and pluralism that pluralistic Muslims celebrate; nonviolent Islamists are a direct threat to the liberal secular democracy that enshrines humanism.

In all the fracas, anti-Islamist Muslims such as I, caught in the squeeze, are easily silenced. Just as Maher left anti-Islamist Muslims out of the dialogue, so, too, the Muslim students at Rutgers sought to exclude me. It was far more important to them to suffocate and shame me than to advocate in behalf of vulnerable fellow Muslims. In struggling to silence me, they revealed themselves as — at the very least — Islamist-sympathizers.

Their tactics – organized disruption, attacks meant to ridicule my appearance as un-Islamic and delegitimize my personal and ethnic identity — are strategies to evade engagement on the fundamental question of why Islamism is not Islam. This is how Islamism works, and this is how it is at work on the beleaguered American campus.

Concerns about the contraction of public space and free speech on American campuses are rising, whether those who are marginalized are Christians, as Princeton scholar Robert George recently discussed, or liberal secularists, or figures of controversy such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who provoked such outrage among Brandeis students and faculty that the university cancelled plans to award her an honorary degree. For Muslims who dare to step into the debates central to Islam today, the space for reasoned discourse is shrinking. We face derision and worse if we discuss jihadist ideologies and acts, Islamists’ war on secularism (such as the attack on polio programs in Pakistan or girls’ education in Nigeria), or the totalitarian ambitions of Islamists as revealed in the Arab Spring or in mere academic debate on American campuses.

Hillel director Andrew Getraer informed me that Rutgers was known for its “militant climate” and that the students who had disrupted my talk were Muslim members of SJP (Students for the Justice of Palestine). SJP has a track record of abusive and combative — even violent — public disruptions such as the one I experienced. SJP is an on-campus branch of the national Muslim Students Association. Its actions seem to warrant its identification as a radical student group. Trying to understand what happened, I corresponded with former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy. “Who were these students?” I asked him. He wrote:

The Muslim Student Association (MSA) was the foundation of the Brotherhood’s infrastructure in the U.S. in the 1960s. MSA now has about 600 chapters in the U.S. and Canada. Heavy-duty indoctrination programs groom students for Muslim Brotherhood membership. Several top terrorists got their start as leaders of U.S. MSA chapters. MSA considers itself the same organization as the Islamic Society of North America, even though ISNA started about 20 years later. (ISNA, of course, is the Brotherhood’s main umbrella organization in the U.S. and was proved in a 2007–08 trial to have played a big role in financing Hamas.)

His final remark captured my own unease: “I wish they were just students, but there is much more to it.”

Driving home late that night, I felt alone. Mine was the only vehicle on the road. In the steady rain, it was hard to see too far ahead — much like being an anti-Islamist Muslim, which is lonely work that leads me to I know not where. As my desolation deepened, the words of Hillel the Elder surfaced: “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And when I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

And I knew, despite my distress, that I was compelled, through commitment to my conscience, to confront Islamism. I was reminded of what the Prophet Mohammed urged each Muslim to do: expose injustice. I knew the words well:

Whoever sees a wrong and is able to put it right with his hand, let him do so; if he can’t, then with his tongue; if he can’t, then in his heart, and that is the bare minimum of faith.

Soothing myself, I knew in my core that in exposing Islamism, I was doing just that. Consoled at last, in the company of prophets, into the dark, I drove on.


Dr. Qanta Ahmed has been a physician for 23 years and has practiced in the United Kingdom, the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She appeared in Clarion Project’s film, Honor Diaries as a subject expert. She is the author of In the Land of Invisible Women details her experience of living and working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and has been published internationally in 13 countries including in translation and is now in its twelfth edition. She is also a frequent op-ed contributor and speaker worldwide.

Reprinted from National Review Online with permission of the author.

How Radicals Become the New Moderates

Imam Shehryar and Farooq Khan's Stance on ISIS on the show Bilatakalluf with Tahir Gora (Episode 163)

Imam Shehryar and Farooq Khan's Stance on ISIS on the show Bilatakalluf with Tahir Gora (Episode 163)

Raheel Raza

The debate about "Moderate Muslims" has gone viral. From Bill Maher to Ali Rizvi in his Huffington Post article, it is trending.

As someone who used to call herself a moderate, I am now moving away from that terminology. One reason is a recent interview a cable TV talk show called Bilatakalluf.

On the program were two members of The North American Muslim Foundation (NAMF) -- Imam Shehryar and Farooq Khan -- and the discussion was about ISIS and being a Canadian Muslim. Below is a translation of some of the "quotable quotes":

  • "I honestly think the news about ISIS is extremely exaggerated – there are other interests fanning the flames -- we do not know if ISIS is Muslim or not, could be anyone."
  • "When we look at history and the way the West has lied, it is obvious... I refer to Iraq -- this drama has been done before, so the reports we are getting are not credible as they are coming from Western media, which has a track record of being No. # 1 liars -- once you tell a lie over and over again it becomes credible -- look at the Jihad/Sharia hype?"
  • "We must establish authenticity of the [beheading] TV clips -- it is a man wearing a niqab so how do we know whether he is a Mossad guy or ISIS?"
  • "I have heard reports that some people living under ISIS are peaceful -- at least the Sunni areas are better patrolled."
  • "Having a Caliphate is an integral part of faith. Every believing Muslim prays for a true Khalifah."

And on the topic of Canadians going for Jihad?

  • "There are one million Muslims in Canada... only 0.13% have "allegedly" joined ISIS, and they have gone for many reasons -- it is a hot issue with media -- 150 Jewish Zionists have gone to Gaza for a one-sided slaughter."
  • "Mossad had an integral part in creating Hamas. The PLO Al-Fatah meetings in 1960's were held in the house of a guy who was an Israeli agent -- a Jewish Zionist Israeli agent."
  • "There are vested interests -- 1.8 million Muslims cannot be digested by the powerbrokers so they aim to keep the area troubled -- the grand policy of the West is to have rivers of blood flowing -- they don't say it, but they are at war with the Muslims. The West will keep propping up proxy groups so that the violence does not end."

There is more, but suffice it to say that this was enough. Today, that is the voice of so-called moderate Islam. This cable program reaches over 100,000 homes across North America. These are the voices heard in Muslim homes, where they have credibility because they come from an Imam and his sidekick who are well dressed, well-spoken and articulate. In one short interview, the two speakers had ensured that: a Zionist conspiracy is in place; Western media are liars and cannot be trusted; ISIS is not really dangerous; the West is at war with Muslims, and that the killing must continue to adjust the world population.

Is there concern that most Muslims will believe what was said on this show? Yes. They live within the "Box of Islam," where the majority of Muslims hide today, to avoid facing reality. They are not interested in discussion or debate; they look upon the best years of Islam as during the early Caliphates. This boxed and packaged version of Islam was first branded by Iran's then Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who wanted to export his revolution in the late 1970s. At that time, the branding was that of a fiery bearded Mullah with an extreme message.

Since then this brand of Islam has taken on a modern, moderate look; it is "the new normal." Today, it is being exported largely from Saudi Arabia on the wings of billions of petro-dollars in an unobtrusive packaging. Case in point: There is a version of the Quran that is given away free at Dundas Square in Toronto, where the opening prayer has been tampered with. The original ends with the words "keep us on the straight path and not the path of those who have gone astray." To the "Dundas" version have been added the words "like the Jews and Christians."

This brand of boxed and packaged Islam has been so cleverly and cunningly marketed through the mosque pulpits, print media and electronic media that most Muslims do not even know what has hit them. It is beamed directly into their homes and hearts; they are not encouraged to dissent. This point was made by the imam on the Bilatakalluf talk show: he said that Muslims should not speak out on Western media about sectarian issues or about violence within the faith. He went on to say that those Muslims who do speak out are liars desperately seeking the limelight. So most Muslims either stay silent or deflect the problems into conspiracy theories.

"Boxed" Muslims therefore now believe (among other issues) that anyone who does not toe their line of Islamist thinking is an infidel and will go to hell; anyone who leaves the faith by choice is an apostate (the punishment for which is death); homosexuals should be thrown off the highest cliff; Sharia law and jihad are benign; an authentic Muslim woman must wear a niqab or at least a hijab; every problem across the Muslim world is due to outside influences; adultery should be punished by 100 lashes, and that hanging and amputation of hands is justified.

Then there are those who have moved outside the box -- scholars, reformers and academics who, like me, are considered heretics but are still part of the faith. We do not accept the branded, "boxed" version of Islam that is trying to pass itself off as mainstream Islam.

We believe that there are many paths one can follow and that there really is "no compulsion in religion" (from the Quran); that all believers are equal; we accept that there is special mention of "people of the book" in the Quran that includes Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians, whom we must respect.

Sharia law needs to be reformed and brought into the 21st century; we cannot live with archaic laws any longer. Armed jihad is no longer valid. The Quran asks women only for modesty, but the hijab has become a political symbol. The Quran does not speak about killing homosexuals but prohibits lust; and beheading, hanging and cutting off hands should be abolished along with slavery.

The author Ibn Warraq says that "moderate Muslims" do exist, but that he does not believe "Islam is moderate." He is also not optimistic about how quickly moderate Muslim theologians will be able to bring about a religious reformation that will be acceptable.

What does this make us who are genuinely moderate? Progressive, liberal or heretics? Whatever we are "branded," we will continue to speak out and light a fire under the feet of all of us: the reform needs to begin.


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.

http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4792/boxed-packaged-islamThis article appeared originally on GatestoneInstitute.org

'Ideas Are Much More Powerful Than Guns'

Elliot Friedland

"Ideas are much more powerful than guns" - Stalin

A 17-year old girl had her face blown off with a shotgun the other day. It doesn't really matter where, although it happens to have been Jordan. Her father was incensed at her choice of husband. He was not arrested.

He did it for his honor.

This Jordanian man did not hate his daughter. He just loved honor more. This is borne out by the man's next action, going hunting for her husband, driven mad with grief and blaming him for "making a killer out of him." Just as the English poet Richard Lovelace wrote in the early 1600s in To Lucasta, going to the Wars, "I could not love thee Dear, So much, Loved I not Honor more."

Understanding this is the key to understanding this issue. A person can believe, genuinely and utterly and totally, that honor is so important, that without it nothing else matters. Understand that a person can believe in honor to the extent he is willing to take a shotgun and spatter his daughter's brains all over his neighbor's kitchen.

It is not so very long ago that Western young men in frock coats shot each other at absurdly early hours of the morning because one thought the other had cheated at cards and the second refused to apologize. They weren't crazy. They weren't monsters.

They did it for their honor.

Ideas have power. Men have, in certain cultures, an idea that their self-worth -- their honor -- is bound up (among other things) in the sexual chastity, perceived or real, of "their" women. That there is a thing called honor, and it is something that must be protected whatever that cost.

Only by identifying the problem in this way can it be combatted. Appeals to outside standards will not be taken seriously. Mocking it as barbaric is as unhelpful as it is ignorant. After all, did Westerners not once kill for honor also?

If a man continues to believe that his honor and therefore his self-worth and the worth of his family is bound up in the sexual decisions made by his female relatives and that killing them is the only way to expunge the shame, then these killings will continue. Laws, incriminations, social exclusion -- nothing will halt these killings unless this root cause is addressed.

The process of stopping honor violence first and foremost involves acknowledging the problem for what it is: an idea. 


Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

To Combat the Islamic State, We Must Reform

Islamic State militants execute Iraqis

Islamic State militants execute Iraqis

Tawfik Hamid

The guiding principle of the Islamic State (IS) is that Muslims must fight non-Muslims all over the world and offer them the following choices: Convert to Islam, pay a humiliating tax called "jijya," or be killed. This violent doctrine was the primary justification for the Islamic conquests by the early Muslims.

Following the latest in a long string of inhumane and barbaric attacks by the IS, who offer only these three options to non-Muslims, it becomes mandatory to ask whether this principle that the IS uses is Islamic or Un-Islamic.  

In other words, can a young Muslim become more religious -- and more obedient to Allah --without subscribing to this ancient brutality? Will he be able to find an approved Islamic theological source or interpretation that clearly contradicts this principle, or at least teaches it in a different way (i.e., contextualizing it in time and place)?

The sad answer is: NO, he cannot.

Traditionally there are five sources for Islamic Law: the Quran, the Hadith of Prophet Mohamed (such as Sahih Al-Buchakry), the actions of the disciples of Mohamed (Sahaba), the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and the Tafseer (or Interpretations) of the Quran.

If a young Muslim were to do some research to examine whether what the IS is doing is in fact Islamic or Un-Islamic, he would find some shocking results.

The literal understanding of the Quran 9:29 can easily be used to justify what the IS is doing.

Quran 9:29: "Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humiliated."

But perhaps this young Muslim will decide to see if the Hadith of Al-Buchakry may explain it differently. The following Sahih (authentic) Hadith in Al-Buchakry also supports the violent IS ideology.

Sahih al-Bukhari 6924-Muhammad said: "I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: 'La ilaha illallah' (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and whoever said 'No God other than Allah' will save his property and his life from me."

Feeling uncomfortable with the literal interpretations of such texts, the young Sunni Muslim might try to find an answer in the actions of the Sahaba. Sadly, the Sahaba (Disciples of Mohamed) were the ones who first used these principles to justify the Islamic conquests and the subjugation of non-Muslims to Islam.

The fourth source for Islamic law is the four schools of Islamic Jurisprudence, namely: Al-Shafeii, Al-Hanbali, Al-Hanafi, and Al- Maleki. These four schools, without a single exception, support the principle that Muslims must fight non-Muslims and offer them the following choices: Convert to Islam, pay a humiliating tax called "jijya," or be killed.

The fifth, and last hope for a young Muslim to hold a less horrific view of Quran 9:29 is to find a Tafseer (an interpretation or commentary) that interprets it differently.

A basic search of almost ALL approved interpretations for the Quran supports the same violent conclusion. The 25 leading approved Quran Interpretations (commentaries) that are usually used by Muslims to understand the Quran unambiguously support the violent understanding of the verse.

So where might a young moderate Muslim find a non-violent understanding for such a verse?

Saying that "Islam is the religion of peace" or condemning the IS as being "un-Islamic" without condemning the principle that Muslims must fight non-Muslims to subjugate them to Islam is not just hypocritical but also counterproductive as it hides the true cause of the problem and impedes the efforts to solve it.

Similarly, not calling the IS the Islamic State (to avoid using the word Islamic) -- as suggested by some Islamic scholars -- is not going to change the painful fact that the IS is using an approved and unchallenged principle of the Islamic theology. Such scholars need to work on providing peaceful alternatives to the current violent theology instead of asking the world not to call the IS the Islamic State.

In brief, there are certainly many "moderate "Muslims." Until the leading Islamic scholars provide a peaceful theology that clearly contradicts the violent views of the IS, however, the existence of a "moderate Islam" must be questioned.

Important note: a modern and peaceful interpretation of Quran 9:29 is available at "Modern Interpretation of the Quran" [in Arabic] written by the author of this blog. The book (which could currently be the only available peaceful interpretation for the verse) has not been approved yet by the leading Islamic institutes but has gained more than two million followers (Likes) mostly from young Arabic speaking Muslims since it was created in May 2013.


Dr. Tawfik Hamid is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of a terrorist Islamic organization JI with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri who became later on the second in command of Al-Qaeda. Hamid recognized the threat of radical Islam and the need for a reformation based upon modern peaceful interpretations of classical Islamic core texts. Dr. Hamid is currently a Senior Fellow and Chair of the study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.


U.S. Has Power to Stop Blockade on Iranian Dissidents in Iraq

A Camp Ashraf shooting victim

A Camp Ashraf shooting victim

Shahriar Kia

In an unprecedented move, U.S. President Barack Obama chose in previous weeks to help the Yazidi and Turkmen communities in northern Iraq, who were besieged by the Islamic State (IS). The measures undertaken included humanitarian-aid drops as well as military support aimed at protecting the beleaguered communities and providing them with life-saving assistance. Following the U.S. intervention, other countries, including Britain, France and Germany contributed to the effort.

The decision, which some refer to a turning point in Obama’s foreign policy, is a testament to the fact that the international community can and must do more to prevent humanitarian crises across the globe.

In contrast, there are glaring instances of other catastrophes that could have been prevented with much less effort, but were abandoned and allowed to develop at the cost of many innocent lives.

The massacre at Camp Ashraf is one such example.

Last year in late August, the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cut off the water and power of Camp Ashraf, a refugee camp in Iraq’s Diyala province inhabited by 100 members of the Iranian opposition group PMOI/MEK (the first party to reveal Iran’s illicit nuclear project in 2002). In tandem, Iraqi forces also prevented the delivery of food and medicine supplies to the camp’s residents.

Subsequently, the refugees and their representatives and lawyers abroad warned the U.S. and UN of an imminent catastrophe, but their calls fell on deaf ears. Absent a firm intervention – or any intervention for that matter – by UNAMI (the UN body in Iraq) and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the Iraqi government found the boldness to continue intensifying its repressive measures against the residents without fearing reprisal by the international community.

The crisis became exacerbated and eventually culminated in the September 1 massacre, where Iraqi Special Forces taking direct command from the Prime Minister’s office staged a brutal raid against the camp, murdering 52 residents and abducting seven others, including six women.

All victims had received solemn and explicit promises by the U.S. and the UN for their safety and security, promises that proved their worthlessness when they were gunned down and abducted by Iraqi forces trained by the U.S. military.

The U.S. and UN didn’t even bother to investigate the heinous crimes, and confided in al-Maliki – the perpetrator of the crime itself – to do so. After a year, not a single person has been arrested and the hostages have not yet been released.

Human Security Center, an independent global think tank, recently published a report in which the incident was thoroughly investigated and al-Maliki’s government was found responsible for crimes against humanity. HSC also criticized the West for its shortcomings in upholding its commitments to the residents of Camp Ashraf and its disinterest in addressing the plight of this community of Iranian dissidents, which continue to suffer at the hands of the government of Iraq.

Now, as we mark the first anniversary of the tragic and brutal massacre, the government of Iraq continues to suppress the Iranian refugees, who now reside in Camp Liberty in the vicinity of the Baghdad International Airport. For the past three weeks, the nearly-2,800 residents of Camp Liberty have been deprived of fuel, food, medicine and other basic humanitarian needs by the Iraqi government, which according to international law amounts to an act of war crime.

These actions follows an unofficial trip to Iraq by a high-profile Iranian delegation, in which Iranian officials demanded that their cronies in the Iraqi government mount pressure against Camp Liberty residents.

Due to the fact that the camp’s infrastructure is in a poor state and that all activities in the camp depend on electricity produced by fuel-consuming power generators, this illegal measure has set the stage for the occurrence of an imminent humanitarian crisis, threatening the lives of thousands of innocent refugees.

Even more concerning is the obvious parallel between the intensifying blockade against Camp Liberty and the events that led to the September 1 massacre, hinting that a similar plot being hatched by the Iraqi government and the Iranian regime. The consequences of inaction in this case are not hard to guess.

In a conference held in Paris on the first anniversary of the September 1 massacre, dignitaries from different countries warned against the imminent perils that threaten the residents of Camp Liberty and called on the U.S. and the UN to live up to their commitments regarding the safety and security of the 2,800 refugees who are all protected persons.

The speakers underlined the fact that the international community should not remain silent in face of this crime against humanity and thus allow another humanitarian catastrophe to unfold at Camp Liberty.

The stark difference between the plight of Camp Liberty residents and that of the Turkmen and Yazidi communities is that the source of their miseries isn’t the Islamic State but the government of Iraq itself, an entity that is supposedly an ally of the United States. This means that President Obama does not need to go out of his way with airstrikes and military intervention to remedy the situation.

Washington holds more than enough sway over Baghdad to rein in its criminal behavior and force it to lift the siege on the residents of Camp Liberty without firing a shot. The U.S. government can easily have the committee in charge of the camp replaced with persons that are not affiliated with the Iranian regime.

This would also send a strong message to Tehran, which is orchestrating the siege on Camp Liberty and is trying to take advantage of the current power vacuum in Iraq to expand its influence and strike against the PMOI/MEK, an organization that has proven its worth and value to the international community time and again.

Nothing justifies the continued idleness of the U.S. and UN in addressing the developing crisis in Camp Liberty. If the past serves as a prologue, another disaster lies at the end of this road unless clear, concrete measures are taken to end the five-year oppression of Camp Liberty residents.


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

Norway’s Muslims rally against ISIS, but not against ‘Armed Jihad’

A sign at the protest against the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in Norway.

A sign at the protest against the Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in Norway.

Tarek Fatah

“We have to kill each and every one of them, wherever we find ISIS.” Yezen Al Obaide was speaking to me amid last-minute preparations in the pouring rain for a rally Monday by Norway’s Muslims against the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.

As hundreds gather in Oslo’s historic Gronland neighbourhood with signs saying “No to ISIS”, Obaidea, one of the organizers of the event, told me as he arranged the podium:

“Our Prophet Mohammed had prophesized that evil men will emerge and spread terror in the name of Islam and we Muslims were ordered to kill them wherever we found them.”

Norway has been home to radical Muslims for quite some time.

In one event in Oslo last year, 4,000 Muslim attendees raised their hands in support of sharia law and the killing of gays. A week before the protest, their leaders urged Muslims in the country to back ISIS.

The Monday protest was intended to help stem the rising tide of Islamic radicalism.

2014-08-25 16.48.46-1I talked to many Arab and Somali women in hijab, and asked them if they renounced the doctrine of armed jihad, or opposed the use of sharia as a source of public law. Not one was against jihad, but they all insisted they were against ISIS.

Later, the crowd of more than 5,000 Norwegians, including hundreds of Muslims, marched to Norway’s parliament, where Prime Minister Erna Solberg spoke.

She quoted the Prophet Mohammed saying, “If one of you sees something wrong, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; if he cannot, then with his heart and this is the weakest faith.”

Mehran Marri, exiled leader of Balochistan’s Marri tribe in Pakistan’s war-torn Balochistan, where ISIS affiliates are fighting Baloch nationalists, also attended the protest, but thought political correctness was in play.

Mehran Marri

Mehran Marri (right) with protest organizer Yezen Al Obaide (left)

Marri told me marching against ISIS was not enough.

“We cannot fight ISIS without fighting the doctrine of jihad and without exposing the bankruptcy of Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran,” he said.

“Too many leaders in the West are reluctant to identify the elephant in the room, which is Islamism. If they cannot fight the ideological foundation of ISIS, then we will see the ISIS cancer spread.”

I was hoping to see Emmy Award-winning, Oslo-born Muslim filmmaker Deeyah Khan, who had to flee Norway after harassment from Islamists, but she was not there.

Also missing was Norwegian activist Aliaa Magda al-Mahdy, who received death threats after she uploaded a picture of herself menstruating and defecating with another woman on an ISIS flag.

I asked Khalid Thataal, who came to Norway from Pakistan in 1970, why Islamists often dominate the Muslim discourse in Norway. He told me, “It’s because Islamic leaders have stifled any secular or humanist discourse among Norway’s Muslim community.”

Deeyah Khan told me in an email, the harassment she faced at the hands of Norway’s Islamists was not isolated.

“A Norwegian-Pakistani comedienne, Shabana Rehman, has been threatened and harassed for years, a young female Somali author was attacked and beaten in the streets of Oslo.”

Nevertheless, she said, the event was a step in the right direction.

The fact the keynote speaker was 19-year old Faten Al-Mahdi, a young woman who denounced the radical Norwegian group Profetens Ummah as “The Devils Ummah”, shows there is light at the end of the Muslim tunnel, but we have miles to go before we rest.


Bullied for Criticizing Hamas by Own Mosque: Dr. Zuhdi Jasser

Left: Dr. Zuhdi Jasser speaks at a press conference. Right: a Hamas terrorist.

Left: Dr. Zuhdi Jasser speaks at a press conference. Right: a Hamas terrorist.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser

What happens in Syria, Egypt, Iraq or Gaza has an impact every day right here in the Valley [Scottsdale, Arizona].

Even in America, leading Muslim organizations and clerics bully with threats of ostracism those Muslims who dare to dissent. Old-guard ideologues, too, used to monopoly control, make it crystal clear to their Muslim critics: Take us on and we will make an example of you as a traitor to the Muslim community (the ummah).

On July 28, Muslims around the world celebrated Eid al-Fitr (Holiday of the Feast) marking the end of our holy month of Ramadan, a spiritual month of daily fasting from all food and drink. In Ramadan, we focus on scripture, self-reflection and atonement. My family and I attended the holiday Eid prayer service at the Islamic Center of the Northeast Valley of which we are longtime members.

Little did we know Imam Yaser Ali, a Valley attorney, would use this otherwise joyous family holiday occasion to target me in the presence of my wife and children.

With more than 500 local Muslims in attendance, he riled up the crowd, demanding a community "effort" against those Muslims "who go on Fox News and speak ill against our Muslim brothers and sisters … who make the mosques look bad." These individuals, he said, "hate Islam" and "vilify Muslims."

While Mr. Ali never had the courage to say my name, no doubt remained in the mosque, or later on social media, that he was referring to me. He finished his tirade with "they are not from amongst us … they don't represent us; we, the Muslim community represent one another, and we care for our brothers and sisters in Palestine."

Apparently, the Scottsdale mosque's leadership decided, or at the minimum voiced no disagreement, that for Muslims this Ramadan it is not Hamas, al-Qaida, ISIS, Boko Haram, the Muslim Brotherhood, or the evil regimes from Assad's Syria to Iran or Saudi Arabia or even radicalized American jihadists in Syria that deserve targeting from the pulpit, but only a local, reform-minded activist — Zuhdi Jasser.

This imam meticulously described what he knows too well would garner me a death sentence as a munafiq (hypocrite), or murtad (apostate), for the crime of riddah (apostasy, treason) according to the interpretation of Shariah law accepted by Saudi Arabia and most Muslim-majority countries.

What was the crime prompting my metaphorical flogging in the presence of my wife, children and friends' families on this holiday?

A few days earlier I had criticized the radicals of Hamas on national television for their supremacist Islamist doctrine hatched from the Muslim Brotherhood that daily and viciously oppresses the people of Gaza. I urged Hamas to stop the war mongering, refusal of cease fires, and launching of thousands of rockets that victimize Palestinian women, children and families, and I criticized CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations).

To Imam Yaser Ali that was worthy of takfir, a declaration of public apostasy. The mosque board and audience responded to his call to action against me, a Muslim he described as of "those who hate Islam," with a resounding "inshallah" (God willing).

In the days to follow, local social media filled with subtle and not-so-subtle threats against me and my family from some rather prominent Valley Muslims.

While the venue was new, the mantra was a cheap rehash of the old, scorched-earth smear tactics peddled by the CAIR. Right after declaring me the enemy of all Muslims, Mr. Ali spoke of the so-called religious obligation to donate generously to CAIR. This was all reminiscent of the May 9, 2014, sermon, visiting CAIR-LA director Hussam Ayloush, who regularly takes to Twitter with other CAIR directors tocall me an "Uncle Tom" and a "monkey," gave across town at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe to slam me as an "Islamophobe."

While CAIR claims to simply be a Muslim civil-rights organization, in response to a U.S. Senate inquiry, the FBI is on record since 2009 that, "until we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and Hamas, the FBI does not view CAIR as an appropriate liaison partner."

In the meantime, the growth of our reform groups like the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and our coalition of anti-Islamist Muslim groups makes Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups like CAIR livid. Their monopoly on American Muslim voices is in jeopardy so their bullies advance absurd claims like Muslim criticism of Hamas is equivalent to criticism of Islam or all Muslims. The vitriol against our work is only increasing because of our success at exposing their un-American and oppressive ideas, as well as our refusal to be deterred.

Their silence on the terror tactics of Hamas speaks volumes to terror apologia. Why is it that so many abuses of Muslims by Muslims go undiscussed – yet when the Jewish state acts, it becomes an Eid sermon?

All politics are local. Islamism (political Islam) is a mind-numbing, theo-political groupthink that fears and smothers critical thinking. Not only over there but here. Muslims squander this rare opportunity to reject both the evils of Arab fascism and Islamism for a new third path, the path of liberty.

It is heartbreaking to reflect that my family and I have been members of the Scottsdale mosque since long before its construction. Their board asked me to gather interfaith support and speak for our congregation at a rather hostile Development Review Board meeting in November 2001.

I recall having to publicly admonish a Scottsdale City Council member on religious liberty who suggested we "delay the project for a more appropriate time". On Sept. 11, 2002, I authored a paid advertisement in The Arizona Republic on behalf of ICNEV condemning al-Qaida and distancing our faithful from their barbarism. I also taught Islamic history for the mosque youth "Sunday school" until 2008.

What a difference a decade makes.

Intimidation and intolerance, from the bully pulpit by imams like Yaser Ali, are symptoms of a much deeper and broader conflict between political Islam (Islamism) and modernity — and more specifically, liberal democracy. Reform will not come easily. It must come from within, driven by both love for our faith and frank public critique of our leaders.

But it cannot be done without the support of our non-Muslim allies, for universal human rights, freedom of conscience and, indeed, American security hang in the balance.


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.

Just a Bit More Beheading than We Are Used To

American journalist James Foley before he was beheaded by a jihadi from ISIS who is suspected to be from London.

American journalist James Foley before he was beheaded by a jihadi from ISIS who is suspected to be from London.

Douglas Murray

Who is surprised? That is one question I have most wanted to know since the video was released of the murder of American journalist James Foley.

The politicians keep expressing it. And interviewers have kept asking people whether they feel it. But who can honestly say that he was surprised to learn that the murderer of the American journalist turned out to be a "British" man?

Did anyone really still think that a British Islamist would not be capable of doing this? Why wouldn't he, if he is capable of doing it in Syria or Iraq?

After all, it was only last year that two other Islamists beheaded one of our own soldiers – Drummer Lee Rigby – in broad daylight in London. And it is only twelve years since another Londoner – Omar Sheikh – arranged the abduction and decapitation of another American journalist, Daniel Pearl.

What is shocking is that expressions of "shock" seem to be regarded as an adequate response. Prime Minister David Cameron has pronounced himself "appalled" by the act, and made clear that he "utterly condemns" it. As though anyone should ever have expected him to think otherwise.

But this is to a great extent what government policy is reduced to in Britain, as in the United States. Politicians briefly break off their holidays in order not to do anything much, but to be seen to be doing "something." And they then make sure to stand in front of the cameras and say how opposed they are to "something."

It is the denigration of people in positions where they actually could do something, to the level of the commentariat.

The question, as written here before, is not how sorry any one political leader feels about such savagery, but what they are going to do about it. And here in Britain, we are in something of a bind. We can deal with fringe details.

But we are incapable of having the real debate or taking any real action that is needed. In lieu of such action, the political classes are left floundering, desperate to cling to any point, however unimportant, in order to look as they are acting.

So in the wake of the release of the Foley murder video by ISIS, the British Labour party's Shadow Home Secretary attempted to take political advantage of this affair.[1] The truth is that the Labour party seized on this debate because it was the debate they knew best, and the one they are most comfortable going round and round on.

Even the remarks of the former Conservative party Security Minister -- Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones -- who was reduced, on the BBC's Today program, to suggesting that the solution to tackling ISIS is to engage more in social media campaigns against the group. Neville-Jones is regarded as somewhat hawkish. But that even people of such stature are reduced to this, reveals something important.

Atrocity after atrocity is perpetrated by Muslims radicalized in the UK, and the debate over what to do about it remains bizarrely circumscribed and ineffectual. Surely somewhere in the conversation and response should be the expression of a desire for a strategy against ISIS which has at its base the utter eradication of the group -- wholesale battlefield victory against them, killing their members and leadership in their entirety.

Would that not be a desirable objective? I have yet to hear a mainstream politician suggest this or even talk in these terms. Indeed, there has been debate in the UK press suggesting we should hope that some of these ISIS killers come back to Britain, realize that jihad was all a phase and then head off to university for the start of a new term.

And then there are the longer-term objectives. Since writing about it in this place, a number of other media have finally picked up one of the most concerning statistics to show the failure of integration at which we are staring in Britain: that more British Muslims are fighting together with ISIS than with the UK Armed Forces.

This is just a tip of the problem. On a BBC show after news of the murder of James Foley, I found myself discussing these matters with young British Muslims. All condemned the act. One – the Ahmadiyya Muslim in the group – was superb in his utter abhorrence of violence perpetrated in the name of Islam and his repeated and sincere expressions of pride in Britain and British achievements in the world. But among the others?

Well one of them -- a nice and nicely presented young man said that this was totally abhorrent because "a non-combatant should not be treated like this." "Well sure," I was forced to say. "But why only non-combatants? Is there a time when even 'combatants' -- or anyone else -- should be treated in this way? And who is to say who is a combatant and who not?"

Even more concerning was a young woman from Nottingham who spent as much time as possible talking about the "alienation" and "rejection" which a lot of young Muslims feel. It was repeatedly pointed out to her that there isn't a young person of any religion or background who does not feel alienation at some point.

The vital question then, is not just whether such a sense of grievance is justified, but whether there are people seeking to manipulate and then play into such grievances and what extremes some individuals might urge vulnerable minds to as a result.

A snapshot of my fellow guest's own thinking was available in her own condemnation of the murder. The beheading of James Foley was terrible, she stressed, because among other things "we don't know what [his] views were."

Here again a little peep-hole into a mainstream and radical world view becomes possible. What if James Foley had not been -- as he appears to have been -- a man with a deep desire to bring out the terrible stories and sufferings of the region, but someone who was ambivalent to them?

What if he had been the most pro-intervention bomb-them-all-to-hell right-winger? Or a member of the Republican Party? What if he had been a Zionist? Or a Jew?

There are poisonous attitudes and lies going around unmolested in this country. And they are one of the causes of the repeated international shame that is coming down upon us.

These ideas -- hatred and suspicion of the actions of Britain, America, Israel and our other liberal, democratic allies -- act as the background music to radicalization. This music plays to exactly the sort of people who are going out to fight with ISIS and exactly the sort of people who think that although they might condemn a beheading in this circumstance, it isn't always a cut-and-dry issue.

The BBC is reporting about the voice of James Foley's killer: "Some experts think the accent sounds like the man comes from London, as it is a mixture of multicultural speech patterns often heard on the streets of the city."

It certainly does sound "like the man comes from London." And as I recall saying after the last decapitation performed by a British man, the unspoken British deal on multiculturalism appears to come to light at such moments.

The deal -- the acceptance and accommodation -- appears to be that mass, uncontrolled immigration has brought us all sorts of benefits, including a greater variety of food and cheap labour. The downside is that we have to put up with, among other things, a bit more beheading than we have been used to.

But much of the political class appears to be content with this bargain. I beg to differ. As horrors like those of this week mount, a great many more people might feel that way too.

[1] The Home Secretary said the problem was the government's watering-down of Control Orders -- which had been brought in by the former Labour government. Control Orders give the state the ability to put someone under 24-hour surveillance or house arrest, necessitated by the then Labour government's unwise signature of the European Convention on Human Rights.

True, the coalition government – under pressure from the Liberal Democrats in the coalition -- very slightly watered these Orders down to satisfy critics. But this has nothing to do with this case.

So far as anyone knows the murderer of James Foley is not somebody who slipped any surveillance measures in the UK. And rather obviously a TPIM or Control Order being slapped on an individual -- however British -- is no use if that particular individual is at present beheading American journalists inside the no-go-zone of the Islamic State.

That this was the best the Labour opposition could come up with is telling.


Douglas Murray is a writer, journalist and commentator. He was the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion from 2007 until 2011 and is currently an associate director of the Henry Jackson Society. Murray appears regularly in the British broadcast media and writes for a number of publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Spectator.

This article appeared originally in GatestoneInstitute.org


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