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Needed: A Factual Look at Muslims Today -- Including Boko Haram

Abducted Nigerian girls shown 'converted' to Islam in a video released by Boko Haram

Abducted Nigerian girls shown 'converted' to Islam in a video released by Boko Haram

Raheel Raza

Recently, on a radio panel about Islamic sharia law featuring two academics from American universities -- a Muslim Professor of Islamic Studies and a Christian professor of Religious Studies -- it was frustrating trying to keep the conversation on track.

Both professors were preoccupied with "The Golden Age of Islam" and "How Christianity went through a similar crises" and other similarly irrelevant information. The real focus should have been: "What is happening in the name of Islam today and what do we do about the atrocities being perpetrated in the name of sharia as we speak?"

Unfortunately, that question was consistently being buried. For many Muslims and especially Muslim organizations, a discussion about Islam and Muslims usually ends up in defense and deflection. Rarely does the conversation focus on half the population: women. That is the crux of the problem. If women are considered only half-human, why dwell on their human rights?

It is our moral and ethical responsibility, as Muslims, to discuss and debate these issues – even though they may be considered "our dirty laundry."

But how are we going to get there when the only picture most Muslims want to paint is one of grandeur and glory of the past? One way is to take a step-by-step factual look at what is taking place in the Muslim world.

Approximately a month ago, more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in the north of Nigeria by a radical Islamist group, Boko Haram – which loosely translated means "Western education is forbidden." Since then, the terrorists have threatened to sell the girls as slaves, force them into marriage and convert those who are Christian to Islam.

Boko Haram and other extremists are who they are because they openly reject the values that make up liberal democracies as in the USA and Canada. These extremists have not embraced freedom and modernity: their aim is to live like seventh-century Muslims -- in patriarchal, tribal societies rallying against Western values.

It took the global media and world powers time to connect the dots; we in the Western world tend to look at events in Africa or the Middle East through the lens of the individual freedoms, democracy and human rights that we embrace.

Here in North America, education for both boys and girls is a given and taken for granted. In most Muslim societies, however, education for women has become a challenge, as we know from Malala Yousafzai's encounter with the Taliban. Boko Haram, the Taliban of Africa, are terrified of educated, liberated Muslim women. They prefer to keep women under a cloak of darkness.

Add to this a hatred for the West and its values, and you have an explosive combination of violence and faith being pushed upon innocent citizens. The question is, why did this happen and what do they want? Is it just about education? The answer is simple: Boko Haram has been trying to impose its version of sharia on Nigeria for a long time, and inaction on the part of both Nigeria's government and global powers has led to this latest horrific act of abduction.

This is not the first time Boko Haram has terrorized civilians and it will not be the last. Boko Haram's members believe that they are doing what God wants them to do. They justify their acts in the name of Islam, and Muslim leaders are intimidated into silence. As if speaking out would render them unfaithful to their faith. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The terrorists therefore feel empowered and emboldened to continue their horrific acts, while the world watches.

In a recent video, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau says, "These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with... we have indeed liberated them. These girls have become Muslims." It is obvious that Shekau's idea of liberation is to impose his own brand of Islam on the Christian girls who were abducted.

Many apologists among Muslims like to say that Boko Haram are not really Muslims. This is another easy deflection. Deflection is not new. When 9/11 happened, many Muslims said -- and still do today -- that the 9/11 attackers were not "really" Muslims.

But are we deluding ourselves?

Boko Haram leader Shekau, known as "Darul Tawheed," is an expert in monotheism. He studied first under a cleric and then at Borno State College of Legal and Islamic Studies. He states that the members of Boko Haram are following sharia law, so they are self-defined Muslims.

We can find fault in them for orchestrating horrible crimes against humanity, but we can never fault them for being Muslim. They can throw Quranic verses and hurl hadeeth (secondary commentary) faster than we can say "fatwa."

Muslims globally cannot remain under the illusion that because they put out press releases, or state that Boko Haram is "un-Islamic," or not Muslim, they can distance themselves from these crimes against humanity. This is dishonest. If they do not openly condemn Boko Haram and similar groups such as the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood, they are by default supporting those causes.

Boko Haram is part of the same ideology that created Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood. All of them follow a violent, misogynist interpretation of Islam with sharia as their guiding policy. They are wreaking havoc on both the Muslim world and the West.

The sharia that they follow is the sharia that the Sultan of Brunei now wants to impose on his people: it is hostile to women and minorities. Its followers want to persecute gays, bring back stoning and impose the terrifying apostasy laws that are a way of eliminating dissent.

Muslim organizations in North America who are followers of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology have encroached on our system. If they are really concerned about the abducted girls they must first reject the aspects of sharia that are creating monsters such as Boko Haram. This means an open and impassioned rejection of the cutting off hands, stoning, gender oppression and terms such as "armed jihad". This means asking hard questions, such as "how can we live in the 21st Century under archaic 13th century laws"?


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.

After Nigeria, Muslims Must Reform Sharia Laws

Nigerians protest Boko Haram's kidnapping of their girls.

Nigerians protest Boko Haram's kidnapping of their girls.

Tarek Fatah

“They started shouting, ‘Allah O Akbar’, (God is great) and we knew.” Hearing the Islamic battle cry, the 16-year- old girl realized the men in military uniforms, who claimed to be government soldiers sent to protect them, were lying, and were in fact Islamist militants of the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram.

It was just before dawn on April 14 in the northeastern town of Chibok that jihadis of the Boko Haram abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls to serve as sex slaves for their fighters.

Only a handful of the girls realized what was happening and escaped from the trucks taking them to Boko Haram camps in the jungle.

Three weeks have passed and almost nothing has been done to rescue the girls. In fact, on Monday the jihadis kidnapped eight more girls.

Boko Haram has released a video of their leader, Abubakar Shekau, taunting the rest of the world.

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” the Boko Haram leader said with a chuckle as he stood in front of an armoured personnel carrier and two masked fighters wielding AK-47s, the black flag of al-Qaida fluttering behind him.

He invoked Islamic injunctions about female prisoners of war (POWs), saying, “Allah has instructed me to sell them. They are his property and I will carry out his instructions.”

Many of kidnapped school girls are Christians. So far, much of the Muslim world has remained mute about this outrage.

On the international scene, Egypt’s prestigious Islamic institute Al-Azhar urged the Boko Haram to free the schoolgirls. It said, harming the girls “completely contradicts the teachings of Islam and its tolerant principles.”

It is sad to see few Muslim leaders, political or religious, willing to take the bull by the horns and admit, “We have a problem in Sharia law that needs to be resolved.” All many clerics of my faith do is repeat the cliche that Islam means peace.

Then they predictably insist the actions of the Taliban, Al-Qaida, Boko Haram and the jihadi terror groups based in Pakistan are an aberration from true Islam.

But here is the problem.

Both the exegesis of the Qur’an and reading of the Hadith literature speak of sex slavery of non-Muslim female POWs both during and after the life of Prophet Mohammed.

Instead of being courageous and saying while such commandments and permissions may have been valid in the seventh century, they are no longer applicable in the era of the nation-state and human rights, leaders of my community choose doublespeak.

Here is a paragraph from chapter four of the Qur’an, as translated by the most formidable Islamist scholar of the 20th century, Syed Maududi:

“And forbidden to you are the wedded wives of other people, except those who have fallen in your hands (as prisoners of war): This is the Law of Allah.” In his explanation, Maududi goes to great lengths to justify and explain the rightfulness of such rape of non-Muslim POWs.

There are references in the Hadith (sayings of Prophet Mohammed) where sex with enslaved non-Muslim women POWs is discussed in detail.

We Muslims have a choice.

We either develop the maturity to say, such Islamic injunctions do not apply anymore, or we can keep on driving fast-forward in reverse gear, and every time we hit an obstacle that appears in our blind spot, we can blame it on “Islamophobia.”


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

Thu, May 1, 2014 Brunei Formally Adopts “First Phase” of Sharia Law

Sultan Bolkiah, the ruler of Brunei. (Photo © Reuters)

Sultan Bolkiah, the ruler of Brunei. (Photo © Reuters)

Ryan Mauro

Brunei, a small East Asian country bordering Malaysia, will formally implement “Phase One” of sharia law on May 1, undeterred by celebrity boycotts and international criticism. This also means that the Brunei monarchy will have to vigorously teach Islamist doctrine, creating long-term problems for the world.

“Today, I place my faith in and am grateful to Allah the Almighty to announce that tomorrow, Thursday, May 1, 2014, will see the enforcement of sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases,” Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said.

Gay rights activists have persuaded celebrities like actor Stephen Fry and television host Ellen DeGeneres to boycott a luxury hotel chain owned by Sultan Bolkiah named Dorchester Collection. It owns the U.S.-based Hotel Bel-Air and Beverly Hills Hotel. Sharon Osbourne, wife of musician Ozzy Osbourne, asked fans to boycott the hotels.

Bolkiah addressed criticism of sharia’s human rights abuses by saying, “Theory states that Allah’s law is cruel and unfair, but Allah himself has said that his law is indeed fair.”

The top Islamic authority in the country did the same, saying sharia is “just and fair” because “it is not indiscriminate cutting or stoning or caning.” In other words, it’s acceptable because the victims are guilty under sharia, and they go through a legal process.

Bolkiah said Sharia would be implemented in three phases. This is in compliance with the Islamist doctrine of "gradualism." For example, Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi recommended that Egypt wait five years before cutting off hands and “prepare the people, teach them” in the meantime.

The initial phase begins with fines and imprisonment for violations of sharia. Press reports specifically mentioned offenses such as “indecent behavior,” pregnancies outside of marriage, the preaching of religions besides Islam and not attending mandatory prayers on Fridays.

The second phase begins physical punishments, such as cutting off hands and floggings for offenses like theft. The Guardian says this is to be implemented later this year, but Reuters says it will happen around one year from now in 2015.

The third phase starts the executions, including stoning, for offenses like adultery, sodomy and blasphemy. Reports differ as to whether this starts in 2015 or in 2016.

The Brunei government also wants to use sharia as a weapon against domestic opponents.

“They cannot be allowed to continue committing these insults, but if there are elements which allow them to be brought to court, then the first phase of implementing the Sharia Penal Code Order in April will be very relevant to them,” Bolkiah said in February.

It is unclear to what degree the Sharia punishments will affect the non-Muslim minorities. The CIA says 8.7% of the population is Christian, 7.8% is Buddhist and 4.7% belong to other faiths besides Islam.

The State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report says that Brunei had already begun enforcing sharia on a smaller scale—again, in accordance with “gradualism.”

It is illegal to display or encourage “deviant” beliefs in public, with transgressors facing up to three months in prison and a $1,550 fine. It is illegal for members of the opposite sex to be too close to each other. Although drinking alcohol is only illegal for Muslims, a non-Muslim can be arrested for drinking next to a Muslim.

The State Department says that the Brunei government officially follows the Shafi’i school of Sunni Islam, with the constitution saying the official religion “shall be the Muslim religion according to the Shafi'ite sect of that religion.”

The government is discriminatory towards other faiths, including other schools of Sunni Islam. In 2012, a law was passed requiring all Muslim children between the ages of 7 and 15 to get a religious education. Since no accommodations are made for the other schools of Islam, this means that Shafi’i interpretation is instilled in the youth.

Brunei’s implementation of sharia means that it is now a state sponsor of the Islamist ideology. The government and allied Islamic clerics will have to work overtime in justifying the sharia governance system, indoctrinating the masses into believing that it is a reflection of Allah’s will.

Radical Islamic beliefs cannot be contained within borders. They will inevitably spread. An opposition political party in Malaysia is already saying that Brunei’s actions are encouraging it to similarly implement sharia in the areas it controls.

Bolkiah may even try to win Islamist support by exporting the ideology outside of his country. He has a personal net worth of $20 billion, in addition to the resources of the Brunei government at his disposal.

Brunei’s implementation of sharia is awful for its population, but the Islamists it raises will have global ambitions. This ideological support is just as important to Islamist terrorists as arming them with weapons. The government of Brunei may not be directly aiding Islamist terrorists (yet), but its support for their ideology is a major contribution to the jihadist cause.


Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.

Unveiled: A Canadian Muslim Woman's Struggle Against Misogyny, Sharia and Jihad

Unveiled: A Canadian Muslim Woman's Struggle Against Misogyny, Sharia and Jihad

By Farzana Hassan

A testimony of a Muslim woman’s personal struggle to oppose radicalism and misogyny within her faith community. Farzana Hassan challenges the ideas that breed such pathologies among some of Islam’s adherents. She denounces not just terrorism itself, but also excuses for it. Hassan investigates specific reasons behind the prevalent anti-Western sentiment among Muslims and attempts to dispel some of their misconceptions. She also speaks out against against brutal and misogynistic honour killings, and takes an honest look at political Islam and some of its pernicious symbols, such as the burka. The book is an earnest cry for reform within Islam.

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Wed, December 18, 2013 American Muslim Women Not Immune to Islamist Abuse

Muslim women in Patterson, New Jersey (Photo: © Reuters)

Muslim women in Patterson, New Jersey (Photo: © Reuters)

Ryan Mauro

The women’s rights catastrophe in the Muslim world has reached America. Islamist groups and preachers in the U.S. are directly legitimizing the abuse of women or indirectly through advocacy of sharia law, and Muslims and non-Muslims, men and women, must hold them accountable.

Exhibit A is the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA), a group based in California that fashions itself as an authoritative voice of matters of Islamic law. It issues fatwas, or religious declarations, in response to questions from Muslims seeking guidance. Its website has a fatwa bank that will shock anyone concerned about women’s rights.

A fatwa published in 2010 justifies the practice of female genital mutilation:

“Some extremists from the West and their devout followers in the Muslim world would like to brand all circumcision as female genital mutilation (FGM) … all of their propaganda about female circumcision is no more than bigotry.”

One fatwa published in 2007 justifies marital rape:

“As for the issue of forcing a wife to have sex, if she refuses, this would not be called rape, even though it goes against natural instincts and destroys love and mercy, and there is a great sin upon the wife who refuses.”

One reason AMJA advises Muslims against joining law enforcement is because they “might have to arrest a Muslim man whose wife said he ‘raped’ her or forced her.” Another reason is the possibility of “gender mixing.”

AMJA is not a fringe organization whose influence is limited to the walls of its headquarters.

Its Secretary-General is Salah As-Sawy. He is also a co-founder of American Open University and was its Vice President from 1995 to 2004. He is also a co-founder and President of Mishkah Islamic University of North America.

AMJA’s Fatwa Committee includes Dr. Muwaffak Al-Ghaylany, the President of the League of Imams in North America and Imam of the Islamic Center of Grand Blank City in Michigan.

Another AMJA Fatwa Committee member is Dr. Waleed Al-Maneese, Vice President of the Islamic University of Minnesota and president of the board of trustees of Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center. He is also on the board of trustees of the North American Imams Federation.

These are just four AMJA officials. Its website’s "Our Experts" section lists 47 preachers around the world, mostly residing in America. It also separately lists 41 AMJA members.

Then there are the Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in America.

An online article titled "Does Islam Allow Wife Beating?" utilizes the wisdom of Muzammil Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America.

“[I]n some cases a husband may use some light disciplinary action in order to correct the moral infraction of his wife, but this is only applicable in extreme cases and it should be resorted to if one is sure it would improve the situation. However, if there is a fear that it might worsen the relationship or may wreak havoc on him or the family, then he should avoid it completely,” Siddiqi is quoted as saying.

The article then references Jamal Badawi, a member of the Executive Council of the Fiqh Council of North America. He is a founder of the Muslim American Society and used to be listed as a Member At Large of ISNA. A U.S. Muslim Brotherhood document identifies him as a member.

The article quotes Badawi:

“There are cases, however, in which a wife persists in bad habits and showing contempt of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but never on the face, making it more of a symbolic measure than a punitive one. “

The website hosting the article, IslamicFinder.org, is read by many Muslims trying to understand their faith. The Islamic Center of Jersey City in New Jersey links directly to this article from its website. The mosque’s website also defends polygamy:

“If they [non-Muslims] ask you about polygamy, ask them about the sexual promiscuity that is rife in their societies that has brought humiliation to so many women and allowed men to absolve themselves of their responsibilities towards them and towards their children?”

Another mosque at fault is the Islamic Society of Boston, which has deep Muslim Brotherhood ties. In 2004, its website approved of hitting wives and children that are at least 10 years old. It also said to “Hang up the whip where the members of the household can see it.”

“Hitting is not the way to discipline; it is not to be resorted to, except when all other means are exhausted, or when it is needed to force someone to do obligatory acts of obedience,” the website said.

The Muslims of the Americas is another example of the problem. The organization says it owns 22 “villages” around the country, with its Islamberg headquarters in New York being the most notorious. The members are strident followers of a radical cleric in Pakistan named Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani.

The isolation of the 22 communes makes it impossible to know the full extent of what goes inside them. However, a former high-level member of MOA that lived at Islamberg for two years has broken his silence.

The former MOA member says he has first-hand knowledge of women being abused and forced into marriages. He claims he personally saw a 50-year old woman get beaten for a perceived moral infraction.  Two women that used to belong to MOA also told a filmmaker of widespread abuse.

This article is just scratching the surface. These are examples of blatant, public support for abusing females. This doesn’t count the silent supporters of these doctrines. Nor does it include those who indirectly promote these doctrines by advocating Sharia or by exalting Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader, Yousef al-Qaradawi.

These are the same organizations that scream “Islamophobia!” whenever confronted, frustrating the moderate Muslims that want to confront the very real issues in their communities. Contrary to the Islamists’ slurs, standing up for Muslim women is not “Islamophobia.” It’s one of the most pro-Muslim things you can do.


Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.

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