Abducted Nigerian girls shown 'converted' to Islam in a video released by Boko Haram
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.
Nigerians protest Boko Haram's kidnapping of their girls.
“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.