Can Ayaan Hirsi Ali Liberate Islam from Islamism?

Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, PhD, Jul 20th, 2017

“Dawa is to the Islamists of today what the ‘long march through the institutions’ was to twentieth-century Marxists,” writes Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her latest monographThe Challenge of Dawa:  Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Counter It.  In it the Somali-born political activist accurately analyzes the threat of, and necessary response to, Islam’s faith-based political ideology, yet the feasibility of her desire to reform this “Islamism” out of Islam is questionable.

Analyzing dawa’s call to Islam, Ali calls for a “paradigm shift that recognizes how violent jihad is intertwined with the ideological infrastructure of dawa,” the “subversive, indoctrinating precursor to jihad.”  Reflecting a commonplace myopic focus on jihadists, President George W. Bush “often referred to a ‘war on terror,’ but terror is a tactic that can be used for a variety of ideological objectives.”  Accordingly, “nonviolent and violent Islamists differ only on tactics; they share the same goal, which is to establish an unfree society ruled by strict sharia law.”

Officials like President Barack Obama, who often appeared “as if he worried more about ‘Islamophobia’ than about radical Islam,” blinded the government to Islamic doctrine, Ali notes.  Therefore “[s]ince 9/11, the United States has committed a series of blunders in partnering with ‘moderates’ who turned out to be either Islamists active in dawa or fully fledged terrorists.”  Additionally, “nonviolent Islamists have benefited from terror attacks committed by jihadists because such attacks make nonviolent Islamists appear moderate in the eyes of Western governments.”

Ali sees positive indications that President Donald Trump is taking a “more comprehensive approach” to “defeat political Islam (or Islamism)” and offers her own proposals for this strategy.  Among other measures, public diplomacy entities like Voice of America should “fight the war of ideas by disseminating a counter-dawa message.”  The United States also should also apply “ideological scrutiny” to immigrants, refugees, and military chaplains.

Ali carefully distinguishes between personally devout Muslims and those following a totalitarian ideology.  “‘Islam,’ ‘Islamism,’ and ‘Muslims’ are distinct concepts.  Not all Muslims are Islamists, let alone violent, though all Islamists—including those who use violence—are Muslims.”  Therefore the “religion of Islam itself is indeed capable of reformation.”

Ali’s distinction between Islam in general and its political elements in Islamism derives from the canonical biography of Islam’s prophet Muhammad in seventh century Arabia.  She contrasts his early prophetic career when he was merely a preacher in Mecca with the polity he and his followers later founded in Medina.  She differentiates between “Mecca Muslims, who prefer the religion originally promoted by Muhammad in Mecca” and “Medina Muslims, who embrace the militant political ideology adopted by Muhammad in Medina.”

Notwithstanding worldwide disturbing polling data, Ali questionably asserts that “Mecca Muslims” are the “clear majority throughout the Muslim world.”  They “are loyal to the core religious creed and worship devoutly but are not inclined to practice violence or even intolerance toward non-Muslims.”  Yet a “fundamental problem is that the majority of otherwise peaceful and law-abiding Muslims are unwilling to acknowledge, much less to repudiate, the theological warrant for intolerance and violence embedded in their own religious texts.”

“Muslim reformers” or “modifying Muslims” form Ali’s third Muslim subgroup.  They “promote the separation of religion from politics and other reforms” and “realize that their religion must change if its followers are not to be condemned to an interminable cycle of political violence.”  Thus the “future of Islam and the world’s relationship with Muslims will be decided by which of the two minority groups—the Medina Muslims or the reformers—wins the support of the Meccan majority.”

Ali’s own analysis of Europe’s Islamic immigration gives an ominous portent for the struggle between Medina and reform.  She observes that “emigration, called hijra, is central to Islam and—more importantly—to the mission of Islamization to this day,” as shown by the exile of Muhammad and his companions to Medina, the start of the Islamic calendar.  True to Muhammad’s Medina example:

Forty or fifty years ago, it was still widely believed that the migration of Muslims to Europe, whether as ‘guest workers,’ immigrants, or refugees, would lead to their secularization and assimilation.  Americans who assume that this will happen in the United States should take note that the opposite has happened.

European Muslims are not the only disappointment for Ali’s Muslim reformer allies like former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani, with whom Ali jointly testified before the Senate on June 14.  She has joined with like-minded Muslims worldwide such as Zuhdi Jasser, who makes in his longstanding “Battle for the Soul of Islam” precisely Ali’s same distinction between Islam and Islamism.  Yet their Muslim Reform Movement has suffered sobering setbacks in America.

Several logical reasons explain why the Muslim reform failures of Ali et al. are not surprising.  Whatever moral inclinations Muslims might have, her Mecca/Medina distinction demands that Muslims somehow eschew Muhammad’s political practice while still viewing him as a religious authority.  Yet as the example of Jews and Christians show, over time mainly orthodox are faithful to religions, not people who split differences over prophetic examples.

By contrast, the liberal spirit advocated by Ali could very well lead freethinkers like her not to orthodoxy, but rather to her atheism or another belief system like Christianity, particularly in light of Islam’s numerous legalisms.  She strives to separate Islamic politics and piety, yet certainly many remain within Islam’s fold not out of sincere conviction, but coercion.  Even in “moderate” Indonesia, Islamic repressionexists in the form of blasphemy laws.

Ali at her Senate testimony raised eyebrows when she ominously described the Netherlands’ second largest party as a “radical right wing group.”  As knowledgeable observers like this author in the hearing room instantly recognized, she was anonymously referencing the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders.  While she has many sound policy proposals, time will tell who is more radical, Ali or Wilders, a strident critic of Islam who has personally explained to this author severe doubts concerning Islam’s reform.

To purchase her autobiography, click here.

Andrew E. Harrod is a researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. He can be followed on twitter at @AEHarrod.

The Challenge of Modernizing Islam

Reformers speak out — and the obstacles they face.

Front Page Magazine, by Robert Spencer, July 18, 2017:

Editor’s note: Jihad Watch writer Christine Douglass-Williams‘ new book, The Challenge of Modernizing Islam: Reformers Speak Out and the Obstacles They Face, is now out now from Encounter Books. Order your copy here. Robert Spencer contributed a Foreword to the book, which we are running below:

“This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed my favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.”

So says Allah in the Qur’an (5:3), in words that have vexed Islamic reformers and would-be reformers throughout the history of the religion. Traditional and mainstream Islamic theology holds that Islam is perfect, bestowed from above by the supreme being, and hence not only is reform unnecessary, it is heresy that makes the reformer worthy of death if he departs from anything Islamic authorities believe to be divinely revealed.

On the other hand, the cognitive dissonance created by having to believe that the one and only God mandates death for apostasy (Bukhari 6922), stoning for adultery (Bukhari 6829), and amputation of the hand for theft (Qur’an 5:38), and sanctions the sexual enslavement of infidel women (Qur’an 4:3, 4:24, 23:1-6, 33:50, 70:30), the devaluation of a woman’s testimony (Qur’an 2:282) and inheritance rights (Qur’an 4:11), and above all, warfare against and the subjugation of non-Muslims (Qur’an 9:29), has led, particularly in modern times, to attempts by believing Muslims to reconcile Islamic morality with contemporary perspectives and mores.

These attempts are fraught with peril. As Christine Douglass-Williams notes in this book, “Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, a Sudanese Muslim theologian who argued that the Meccan passages,” which are generally more peaceful, “should take precedence over the Medinan,” which call for warfare against non-Muslims, “instead of the reverse, was executed in 1985 by the Sudanese government for heresy and apostasy.” Some of those profiled in this book know these perils firsthand: “Sheik Subhy Mansour recounted: ‘If these Muslim Brotherhood people had the chance, they would have killed me according to their punishment for apostasy plus they claim I’ll go to hell.’ Tawfik Hamid noted: ‘The reformists were killed throughout history, including those who rejected the Sunnah.’”

Death threats aren’t the only dangers either. Europe and North America are full of Muslim spokesmen who present themselves as moderate, Westernized reformers, but are actually just the opposite. Foremost among these is Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna, who has been widely hailed as the “Muslim Martin Luther” but has likewise been accused by French journalist Caroline Fourest, who has published a book-length study of Ramadan’s sly duplicity, Brother Tariq, of “remaining scrupulously faithful to the strategy mapped out by his grandfather, a strategy of advance stage by stage” toward the imposition of Islamic law in the West.

Douglass-Williams notes this duplicity: “In a an example of the distinction to be made between moderates and crypto-moderates, after the brutal riots following the release of the Danish cartoons insulting to Muhammad in 2006, Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss-born theologian and grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ramadan explained that the reaction of his co-religionists was a ‘a principle of faith…that God and the prophets never be represented.’” One of her interview subjects, Salim Mansur, observes drily that “non-Muslims went to the wrong Muslim for an understanding of the faith.”

The dominant presence of duplicitous pseudo-reformers such as Ramadan considerably muddies the waters. This confusion couldn’t possibly come at a worse time, when the governments of the West are doing nothing less than staking the very futures of their nations not only upon the existence of Muslim moderates and reformers, but upon their eventual victory within the Islamic community. This gamble has been made despite the fact that there is no general agreement, either inside the Muslim community or outside it, of what “Islamic moderation” actually means, and what “Islamic reform” would really look like.

Against this backdrop, The Challenge of Modernizing Islam is extraordinary, refreshing, and much needed in numerous ways. The interviews that Christine Douglass-Williams conducts with some of the leading moderate Muslim spokesmen in the United States and Canada are unique in their probing honesty. While most interviewers from all points of the political spectrum generally are so happy and honored to be in the presence of a Muslim who repudiates jihad terror that they serve up only softball questions and are content with vague generalities in response, in this book Douglass-Williams asks the questions that need to be asked, and yet are asked only infrequently: How do you explain the various Qur’an verses that call for violence, or are misogynistic or problematic in other ways? How do you propose to convince the vast majority of your coreligionists of the correctness of your position? How is reform possible when the mainstream schools of Islamic jurisprudence mandate death for heresy and apostasy?

The answers vary from thought provoking and searchingly honest to cagey and deflective. And that in itself is illuminating. Not every person interviewed in this book is in agreement with every other, and not every attentive and informed reader will come away from these pages convinced that every person here interviewed is being in every instance entirely forthright. Many believe that the resistance to the global jihad in all its forms has no legitimacy, or cannot be successful, if Muslim reformers are not on board with it. I do not share that view, but the need for Islamic reform is undeniable, and the people here interviewed are among its foremost exponents in the West. We owe them a fair hearing as much as they owe us honest answers to the questions here posed.

In the second half of the book, Douglass-Williams offers a probing analysis of what her interview subjects told her, and provides illuminating ways for readers to navigate through the thickets and avoid hazards that have captured and misled numerous analysts of Islam and its prospects for reform. One of the cardinal services she provides here is the drawing of distinctions in numerous areas where crucial differences and delineations have long been obscured, often deliberately. Her discussions of Islam versus Islamism and Islamic moderation versus Islamic reform are a welcome antidote to the sloppy thinking and cant that dominate the public discourse today. Her examination of problematic Islamic texts is all the more welcome for being even rarer. Her discussions of the controversial and manipulative concept of “Islamophobia” and its relationship to the problems of genuine Islamic reform, and to the role of Israel and how it can help distinguish genuine Islamic reformers from pretenders, are the crown and centerpiece of the book, and examples of the kind of searching analysis that is all too often absent from the public square today, and for that all the more needed.

The Challenge of Modernizing Islam is, therefore, an extremely illuminating book, and not always in the ways that its interview subjects may have intended. That is, as is said these days, not a bug, but a feature. It’s crucial today that genuine reformers be distinguished from insincere deceivers, and naïve idealists from those with genuine plans. Here is a solid beginning in that effort. This book should be read while bearing in mind how the governments of the West are assuming that their newly-accepted Muslim refugees will sooner or later accept the values and mores of the secular West and settle down to become loyal and productive citizens, and how the recent experience of European countries, particularly Sweden, Germany, and France, as well as the United Kingdom, offers abundant reason for concern that this may not be the case.

That same tension between high hopes and harsh realities runs through these interviews, and doubtless through the souls of many of the interviewees. For better or worse, however, any chance for Western countries, as well as non-Muslim countries in the Far East and elsewhere, to enjoy a peaceful future now depends, courtesy of a series of decisions our political leaders have made, upon the victory of Islamic reform. The Challenge of Modernizing Islam uniquely equips readers to make an informed and intelligent evaluation of how peaceful the future of non-Muslim countries is likely to be.

‘The Real Bomb Is in Islam’s Books’

Front Page Magazine, by Raymond Ibrahim, May 3, 2017:

During his visit to Egypt last week, “Pope Francis visited al-Azhar University, a globally respected institution for Sunni Islamic learning,” and “met with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of the government-run Al-Azhar mosque and an Islamic philosophy professor.”  This has been reported by several media and with much fanfare.

The problem is that Sheikh Tayeb, once voted “world’s most influential Muslim,” and Al Azhar, the important madrassa he heads, are part of the problem, not the solution.  Tayeb is a  renowned master of exhibiting one face to fellow Muslims in Egypt—one that supports the death penalty for “apostates,” calls for the totality of Sharia-rule, refuses to denounce ISIS of being un-Islamic, denounces all art as immoral, and rejects the very concept of reforming Islam—and another face to non-Muslims.

Consider, for instance, the words of Islam al-Behery—a popular Egyptian Muslim reformer who frequently runs afoul of Islamists in Egypt who accuse him of blasphemy and apostasy from Islam.  The day after the suicide bombings of two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, the Muslim scholar was interviewed by phone on a popular Egyptian television program (Amr Adib’s kul youm, or “Every Day”).  He spent most of his time on the air blasting Al Azhar and Ahmed al-Tayeb—at one point going so far as to say that “70-80 percent of all terror in the last 5 years is a product of Al Azhar.”

The reformer knows what he speaks of; in 2015, al- Behery’s televised calls to reform Islam so irked Al Azhar that the venerable Islamic institution accused him of “blaspheming” against Islam, which led to his imprisonment.

Now Behery says that, ever since President Sisi implored Al Azhar to make reforms to how Islam is being taught in Egypt three years ago, the authoritative madrassa “has not reformed a single thing,” only offered words.  “If they were sincere about one thing, they would have protected hundreds, indeed thousands of lives from being killed in just Egypt alone, said al-Behery.

By way of examples, the scholar of Islam pointed out that Al Azhar still uses books in its curriculum which teach things like “whoever kills an infidel, his blood is safeguarded, for the blood of an infidel and believer [Muslim] are not equal.”  Similarly, he pointed to how Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb claims that ISIS members are not infidels, only deluded Muslims; but those whom they kill—such as the bombed Christians—are infidels, the worst label in Islam’s lexicon.

Debating Behery was an Al Azhar spokesman who naturally rejected the reformer’s accusations against the Islamic madrassa, adding that the source of problems in Egypt is not the medieval institution, but rather “new” ideas that came to Egypt from 20th century “radicals” like Hasan al-Bana and Sayyid Qutb, founding leaders/ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Behery’s response was refreshing; those many Western analysts who follow the same line of thinking—that “radicalism” only came after thinkers like Bana, Qutb, Mawdudi (in Pakistan) or Wahhab (in Arabia) came on the scene—would do well to listen.  After saying that “blaming radicalism on these men is very delusional,” the reformer correctly added:

The man who kills himself [Islamic suicide bomber] today doesn’t kill himself because of the words of Hasan al-Bana or Sayyid al-Qutb, or anyone else.  He kills himself because of what the consensus of the ulema, and the four schools of jurisprudence, have all agreed to.  Hasan al-Bana did not create these ideas [of jihad against infidels and apostates, destroying churches, etc.]; they’ve been around for many, many centuries….   I am talking about Islam [now], not how it is being taught in schools.

By way of example, Behery said if anyone today walks into any Egyptian mosque or bookstore and ask for a book that contains the rulings of the four schools of jurisprudence, “everything that is happening today will be found in them; killing the people of the book [Christians and Jews] is obligatory.  Let’s not start kidding each other and blaming such thoughts on Hassan al-Bana!”  Moreover, Behery said:

There is a short distance between what is written in all these old books and what happened yesterday [Coptic church bombings]—the real bomb is in the books, which repeatedly call the People of the Book “infidels,” which teach that the whole world is infidel…  Hassan al-Bana and Sayyid al-Qutb are not the source of the terror, rather they are followers of these books.  Spare me with the term Qutbism which has caused the nation to suffer terrorism for 50 years.

Behery does not blame Al Azhar for the existence of these books; rather he, like many reformers, wants the Islamic institution to break tradition, denounce the rulings of the four schools of law as the products of fallible mortals, and reform them in ways compatible to the modern world.  He said that, whereas Egypt’s former grand imam, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi (d. 2010), had “without even being asked removed all the old books and placed just one introductory book, when al-Tayeb [who days ago embraced Pope Francis] came, he got rid of that book and brought all the old books back, which are full of slaughter and bloodshed.”

In short, Behery called on the Egyptian government—and here the Vatican would do well to listen—not to rely on Al Azhar to make any reforms, since if anything it has taken Egypt backwards.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a CBN News contributor. He is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). 

Can Islam ever be reformed?

In case you missed it:  you can view Jasser’s rant here, Robert Spencer’s response here, and Pamela Geller’s response here.

American Thinker, by Nonie Darwish, April 29, 2017:

Muslim reformer Zuhdi Jasser has recently attacked leaders of the anti-Jihad movement in America. He equated them with jihadists when he called them the derogatory word, alt-jihadists, meaning that Americans who speak and write against the evils of Islamic jihad and sharia are just as bad as jihadists. Jasser attacked by name freedom fighters like Stephen Kirby, John Guandolo, Diana West, Clare Lopez, Andrew Bostom, Robert Spender and Pamela Geller.

Jasser claims that he coined the word ‘alt-jihadists’ but in fact Arab media beat him to it when they equated vocal anti-jihad leaders with jihadists. To silence critics of jihad and Islam, Muslim media have habitually come down hard on critics of jihad and Islam and treated them worse than terrorists.

Traditionally, Arab media placed terrorists on a pedestal and called anyone who discouraged jihad “apostates.” But after 9/11, when the evils of Islamic jihad became clear to the world, Arab media was caught in a quagmire; it could no longer openly applaud jihadists who were the heroes of Muslim society. They had to blame critics of jihad who were exposing Islam’s dirty little secret. Thus Arab media started a campaign to equate critics of Islam, sharia and jihad with terrorists.

In 2007 a horrific article was written against Wafa Sultan and myself in the cover of a prominent Egyptian magazine Rose El Yousef, in which we were both condemned as “apostates” who are just as bad as Muslim terrorists, Taliban leaders and the blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, who caused the 1993 world trade center bombing. Note that the Egyptian magazine did not place a photo of Usama Bin Laden, because he was popular among many Muslims.

The article which was entitled “American Style Islam” had Sultan and myself together with three well known Islamists and terrorists wrapped in an American flag that insinuated that America was responsible for creating both terrorists and apostates. The message to the average Arab reader was that Islam had nothing to do with all this worldwide fear of Islam and that America is allowing apostates to speak out against the peaceful Islam. The article warned Muslims against listening or reading such claims coming from America regarding Islam and that all this evil by terrorists is a creation of America.

Articles like that in Arab media were also aimed at scaring and silencing both Sultan and myself. Death threats became a daily part of our life that we had to put up with as price for speaking out to warn America. The progressive Left in America even believed Arab media and joined them in branding us “Islamophobes.”

I have always respected what Zuhdi Jasser was trying to do and avoided contradicting him in public, even though I do not believe that Islam is reformable. I have kept my opinion to myself regarding the false hope Muslim reformers are giving to the Americans regarding Islam. But when Jasser attacked leaders of the anti-jihad movement in America I decided to speak out.

Jasser knows that Arab media calls him ‘apostate’ and ‘Islamophobe’ for his efforts to reform Islam and for his attacks on jihad and sharia. Islam by its nature is considered perfect and unchangeable and any attempt to reform it is considered apostasy.

The majority of Muslims and Arab media have shunned Zuhdi Jasser as an apostate and an Islamophobe. Some of Jasser’s Muslim supporters whom I know personally are in fact apostates, but are trying to help in any way to reform Islam.

Below is an article in Arab media in which critics of Islam, reformers and apostates are all called traitor ‘Islamophobles’ and guess who was included in this attack? Yes Zuhdi Jasser, Walid Shoebat, Walid Fares and myself.

I am not sure what is Jasser’s motivation in attacking leaders of the counter-jihad movement in America, but my guess is that Jasser wishes to get on the good side of Islamic leaders and media in the hope they will start accepting him as Muslim.

Jasser’s reformation movement and criticism of Islam, sharia and jihad have mostly brought Jasser rejection and isolation from the Islamic community. Jasser’s movement, however, have succeeded in convincing US media that there is good and reformable Islam. The West is desperately trying to find that ‘good’ Islam and Jasser is an eloquent representative of that  who meets that need in the West.

But suddenly Jasser discovered that all he has was approval from Western media, but total rejection by the Islamic community, and he had to start appealing to Islam. The seeming solution was to throw a bone to the Muslim community by attacking leaders of the counter-jihad movement. But I refuse to stand by watching the reputation of honorable Americans being smeared in order for the Muslim community to approve of Jasser. I also do not think that this will work, because Jasser has gone too far in his criticism of sharia and jihad and he will not be able to take that back.

The reform Islam movement is nothing new and Muslims have attempted to reform Islam for fourteen hundred years and always failed. Leaders of such movements were often beheaded for apostasy. Jihad and sharia are foundational principles of Islam and no mincing of words will change that. That in addition to lying, deception and terror as approved Islamic tools to stay in control, could never help any reform movement to build on. How can anyone build on a foundation of lies and violence? But the so-called reformers tell us they can and that keeps American media happy and that is all that counts.

Nonie Darwish Author “Wholly Different; why I chose Biblical Values over Islamic Values”

***

 Dr. Stephen M. Kirby’s response in Militant Islam Monitor March 18, 2017:

Zuhdi Jasser Blames “Alt-Jihadists” For The Failure Of Aspiring Muslim Reformers

“Fantasy Islam: A game in which an audience of non-Muslims wish with all their hearts that Islam was a “Religion of Peace,” and a Muslim strives to fulfill that wish by presenting a personal version of Islam that has little foundation in Islamic Doctrine.”

I read Dr. Zuhdi Jasser’s recent article titled “There’s An Emerging ‘Alt-Jihad’ Movement in the U.S. – But It’s Not Muslims Who Are Pushing It.” The fact that he repeatedly mentioned me as one of the “Alt-Jihadists” was no surprise, as he has done this previously. What I found disappointing was his reliance on vague, sweeping statements such as:

“The insidious, myopic, and extreme nature” of the Alt-Jihad.

“The alt-jihad is simple, simplistic, self-serving and dangerous.”

“Alt-jihadists live in a world where truth and intellectual credibility are optional.”

“…the alt-jihad are useful idiots for Islamist jihadists…”

These are not useful phrases if one is serious about discussing the viability of his quest for “Muslim reform.”

However, they are useful phrases for deflecting folks away from the real reasons aspiring “Muslim reformers” like Jasser are failing. As I wrote in an article sometime back, there arereasons why “Muslim reformers” are failing that have nothing to do with the “Alt-Jihad”:

1.”Reformers” create their own new versions of Islam, relying on their own personal opinions and interpretations,and arbitrarily dismissing aspects of Islamic history and centuries of established Muslim scholarship. An example of this is when Jasser recently told Glenn Beck that in order to “reform” Islam, they needed to “come up with” modern myths about Muhammad in order to create “an American type of Islam”; here is what Jasser said:

“We have to come up — call it mythology. Call it what you want. We have to come up with narratives of the Prophet Muhammad that are 21st century narratives and call that reform and renew the branding of Islam to an American type of Islam that’s compatible with our Constitution.”

Jasser is saying that the history of Muhammad, reported over the centuries by authoritative Muslim scholars, is disturbing to 21st Century readers and therefore needs to be recreated.

2.”Reformers” claim to follow the Koran, but actually go against verses of the Koran by arbitrarily dismissing one of the two columns upon which Islam rests: the Sunnah of their Prophet Muhammad (the examples, ways, and teachings of Muhammad that have become rules to be followed by Muslims). Verses in the Koran (e.g. 4:80, 4:115, 33:21 and 59:7) command Muslims to obey and follow the example of Muhammad; Muhammad’s commands and examples are found in the Sunnah. Jasser has not talked about dismissing the entire Sunnah, but with his quest to come up with a new “mythology” about Muhammad he will have to dismiss the parts which make folks uncomfortable in the 21st Century; this means most of the Sunnah will have to go under Jasser’s plan. 3.”Reformers” go against the commands of Allah in the Koran and the teachings of Muhammad by picking and choosing among, and actually dismissing verses in the Koran. For example, in his book “A Battle for the Soul of Islam” (2013 Paperback Edition, p. 252) Jasser made the following statement:

“Nowhere in the Qur’an does God tell Muslims that they must repeat and thus emulate the Prophet Muhammad’s role and actions as a military or governmental leader.”

What Jasser ignored was Chapter 33, Verse 21 of the Koran:

“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.”

There are no limitations here on the circumstances in which Muhammad is to be considered a good example. In fact, as authoritative Koran commentaries (tafsirs) have pointed out for centuries, this verse was actually “revealed” as a result of Muhammad’s military leadership and the example he set for his Muslim warriors during the Battle of the Trench in 627 (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 7, p. 658; Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, p. 900; Tafsir Ibn ‘Abbas, p. 546; and Tafsir Ahsanul-Bayan, Vol. 4, p. 374).

4.”Reformers” personally decide which hadiths (reports about the teachings of Muhammad) are authentic, again arbitrarily dismissing centuries of established Muslim scholarship. For example, in a 2010 radio interview Jasser said he didn’t believe that Muhammad had really spoken what was in the hadith about killing a Jew hiding behind every stone (Time: 17:58). Here is that hadith:

Narrated Abu Hurairah: Allah’s Messenger said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight against the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say, ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.'”

Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 56, No. 2926, p. 113

The collection of hadiths by Bukhari has been considered by Muslim scholars to be the most authoritative collect ofhadiths since the 9th Century. Jasser simply had no doctrinal basis for dismissing Bukhari; it was just his personal opinion.

5.As a result, according to Jasser’s prophet Muhammad the “reformer’s” beliefs are heretical. Here is what Muhammad had to say about this:

Muhammad bin Jarir reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said that the Prophet said, ‘Whoever explains the Qur’an with his opinion or with what he has no knowledge of, then let him assume his seat in the Fire.’

Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 1, pp. 32-33

It was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas that the Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever denies a Verse of the Qur’an, it is permissible to strike his neck (i.e. execute him)…”

Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3, No. 2539, p. 455

Muhammad said: The most truthful speech is Allah’s Speech, and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. The worst matters are the newly invented (in religion), every newly invented matter is an innovation, and every innovation is a heresy, and every heresy is in the Fire.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 2, p. 588

6.Because these “reformers” are heretics, they have little, if any support for their reforms from the greater Muslim community in the United States. 7.Consequently, the “reformers” have to appeal to non-Muslims to help them reform Islam. This would be as if Martin Luther had relied on Muslims for his main support during the Reformation. 8.So what are the chances of success for a Muslim heretic and his non-Muslim followers to change Islam from that which was taught by Muhammad to that which is advocated by the heretic? Zero.

I am not against the theory of “reforming” Islam. At our debate in Omaha some time back, I even told Jasser that I liked his version of Islam better than the version of Islam taught by his prophet Muhammad. But the reality is that the vast majority of the world’s Muslims follow the Islam of Muhammad, not the Islam of Zuhdi Jasser. And I also pointed out that he had noIslamic Doctrinal authority for how he wanted to change Islam and that, in fact, the changes he wanted to make actually violated Islamic Doctrine; Jasser disagreed because he maintained that each Muslim had the right to determine their own Islam. Such is Fantasy Islam, and this is why Zuhdi Jasser and his ilk are failing, all by themselves.

Dr. Stephen M. Kirby is the author of four books about Islam. His latest book is Islam’s Militant Prophet: Muhammad and Forced Conversions to Islam.

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Weaponization of Political Correctness

Secure Freedom Radio, Jim Hanson interview with Dr. James Mitchell, April 19, 2017:

Dr. JAMES MITCHELL, Key architect of the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Program, author of Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America:

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

  • Effectiveness of enhanced interrogation
  • Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s prediction that America would defeat itself

(PART TWO):

Podcast (podcast2): Play in new window | Download

  • The obligation to jihad
  • Terrorism funding through zakat

(PART THREE):

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  • Islamic reform

(PART FOUR):

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  • Three ways to vet immigrants
  • Social media factor analysis

Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s Long Road to Islamic Reform

Egyptian Leader Al-Sisi.

Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, April 20, 2017:

“There has been a lot of positive symbolism” from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi regarding Islamic reform but little action, stated former American Ambassador Alberto Fernandez on April 3 in Washington, DC.  He and his fellow Hudson Institute panelists examined the enormous difficulties confronting any reform of the doctrines underlying various jihadist agendas even as America’s new President Donald Trump prioritizes counterterrorism.

Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom Director Nina Shea opened the panel before a lecture room filled with about 70 listeners by noting the Sisi-Trump White House meeting at that very moment.  Shea observed that America’s important ally Egypt is the most populous Arab country (94 million people) with a quarter of all Arab speakers in the world.  Egypt also has the Middle East’s largest Christian community, the Copts, accounting for an estimated ten percent of Egypt’s population, more than all the Jews in Israel.

Addressing Trump’s meeting with Sisi, Fernandez stated that the “number one issue in for this administration in this regard is obviously writ large the counterterrorism issue,” particularly concerning defeating the Islamic State.  He emphasized the necessity “to find creative, smart, aggressive ways to challenge the appeal of the default ideology in the Middle East today,” namely “some type of Islamism.”  Such ideologies had a long history, as in the 1970s “Egypt was the proving ground for all of this stuff that we saw with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State” involving atrocities against Mesopotamia’s Christians and other minorities.  He recalled visiting Egypt as a young diplomat for the first time in 1984 and seeing policemen guarding every Christian church and cemetery, an indication of this community’s peril.

Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Samuel Tadros, himself a Copt, stated that “there is no doubt that the Islamist message is appealing in Egypt” and reprised his previous analysis of Islamism.  “Islamism seeks to create a state that connects heaven and earth,” an ideology that is still credible in the public imagination and has no viable contenders in the marketplace of ideas.  Despite repeated failures to create this idealized state by groups like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda, the “basic premises of Islamism make sense for an average Egyptian.”

Fernandez and Tadros accordingly dashed any high hopes raised by Sisi’s 2015 New Year’s Day address on Islamic reform to Al Azhar University in Cairo, often considered Sunni Islam’s preeminent theological authority.  Tadros stated that the speech “was general, it was unprepared” while Fernandez noted that “Sisi kind of put out a very enticing marker but there is a lot of work that has to happen which hasn’t even begun yet.”  Although globally the “speech that Sisi gave was very well received,” the follow-on reminded Fernandez of the Arab proverb “she was pregnant with a mountain but gave birth to a mouse.”

While “there is a tremendous amount of space for Islamist extremism in Egypt still” as the 2015 blasphemy conviction of an Egyptian talk show host showed, Fernandez remained unimpressed with Sisi’s Islamic reform advocacy.

There has been a nibbling around the edges.  But you cannot say that the Egyptian government has done something which would be truly revolutionary, that has never happened in the Arab world, which is to have a government on the level of ideology, on the level of textbooks, on the level of the religious establishment really embrace a kind of liberal reinterpretation of problematic texts and concepts that are used by Salafi-jihadists and by Islamists.

“While Washington has welcomed this talk a lot, there are actually a lot of limits to what Sisi can offer in this regard,” Tadros warned.  Sisi “would like to see a reform of the religious discourse, but he has no plan, plus he has to deal with the reality of Al Azhar” as his appeals to reform easy divorce laws had shown.  The “answer from Al Azhar was a very clear public humiliation of the president….This is not debatable, this is the religion as it is; basically don’t talk about these issues.”

Given Sisi’s societal circumstances, Fernandez noted that “even the weak tea that we see with that symbolism actually provokes a reaction” from Islamists like an Islamic State video attacking Sisi as a “slave of the cross.”  Fernandez and Tadros likewise discussed rampant antisemitism permeating Egyptian society as exemplified by Fernandez’s last visit to Egypt three years ago.  The bookstore of the five-star Intercontinental Semiramis Hotel where he was staying had an entire shelf of anti-Semitic literature including the Jew-hatred staple, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and books featuring vampires with Stars of David.

Such intellectual poison is unsurprising given Tadros’ assessment that the “Egyptian educational system remains a disaster; it simply teaches nothing about the outside world.”  A Christian Egyptian friend astounded him once when she related the inquiry of her fellow journalist about where her fiancée would spend his wedding night.  On the basis of the movie Braveheart, the inquiring journalist had obtained the bizarre belief that Coptic women spend their first night of marriage having sex with a Coptic priest.

For Tadros, the journalist’s pitiful ignorance about Copts is no anomaly, even though they are the indigenous people of an Egypt Islamicized after a seventh century Arab conquest.  Among Egyptian Muslims there is an “absence of any actual information about people that they have shared 14 centuries of living together.”  This allows “all these superstitions, these conspiracy theorists, this propaganda by Islamists to fill that vacuum.”

The only bright spot in the panel appeared in Tadros’ estimation most Egyptians considered Sisi, who came to power in a 2013 military overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood, as the only current acceptable political alternative.  “There are huge human rights abuses in the country, but it is also a very popular regime.  I have no doubt that even in free and fair elections President Sisi would win.”  He represents a “certain rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood, a demand for a return to normalcy, to stability.”

Andrew E. Harrod is a researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. He can be followed on twitter at @AEHarrod.

Should Western Governments Empower Reformist Muslims?

My friend Dan Miller has written a thought provoking piece making the case for supporting Reformist Muslims. His argument rests on this main assertion:

I believe that we should help the Muslim reformation to enhance the ability of American Muslims to accept the parts of Islam they want and to reject the parts they don’t want.

This is an issue that I have been grappling with for some time. I have watched many debates and listened to the opinions of ex-Muslims versus Reformist Muslims, most recently in Gaad Saad interviews which I find very informative. I have studied Islamic Doctrine contained in the trilogy as well as the important and influential works by Sayyid Qutb, Abdullah Azzam, S. K. Malik and Ayman Al-Zawahiri. One of my main areas of focus has been the Muslim Brotherhood and their insidious ciilization jihad.

While I usually limit my comments on this blog, having made the decision early on to maintain a “just the facts, Ma’am” approach to a counter jihad news aggregation site, I feel it is time to lay out my position on reform of Islam and the political considerations in official government support of reformists.

First of all, I think we need to be careful with our terminology. I will refer to Islamic Doctrine instead of “Islam” because when people hear the word Islam they automatically think we are referring to the doctrine as well as all Muslims. Second, I do not believe it is helpful to add qualifiers such as “radical” before the words Islam or jihad. Individual Muslims may be “moderate” but Islamic Doctrine is radical. Qualifiers are used in order to not offend Muslims. The terms Islamism, Islamist and political Islam are okay with me because in my mind they denote orthodox Islamic activism.

We must not conflate what indvidual Muslims believe with what Islamic Doctrine says. Islamic Doctrine is fixed. There are many passages in the Quran that warn Muslims against using critical thought to reinterpret the word of Allah. The Sunnah of  Mohammad (Hadith and Sira) also warns against this and Muslims scholars have declared  the “gates of ijtihad” to be closed. Therefore, I consider reformists to actually be “rejectionists” who will have to somehow abrogate all of the content they deem to be incompatible with modernity. This is probably an impossible undertaking since Al-Azhar, the only central authority on Islam, will never agree to it. And it would take generations to achieve the type of cultural and political changes that would be required to effect a reform that the majority of Muslims could agree on. My personal wish is that more Muslims will leave Islam as they learn more about the misogyny, jihad and bigotry in their doctrine.

Most Muslims are not well versed on Islamic Doctrine and rely on their Imams to inform them. This includes some reformers. Westernized Muslims are loathe to confront the ugly truth inherent in their religion. But a public awareness campaign is absolutely necessary and reformers must be held to account on what Islamic Doctrine actually says. This includes sharia. So far, I have not been convinced that reformers like Zhudi Jasser, Raheel Razza and Majid Nawaz are being totally honest about it. But they are at least trying. And to the extent that their efforts are publicized, the worldwide debate advances. More debate is a good thing!

I agree with Dan that we should not judge who is a real Muslim or not. Muslims themselves do enough of that with violent consequences. Rather, we should recognize that some self-identifying Muslims do not adhere strictly to Islamic Doctrine. With support in the West, their numbers may grow.  There are probably many Muslims who are secret apostates.

This brings me to the central question I am pondering here. Should Western governments empower Reformist Muslims? Would their numbers increase enough to make a difference with government sponsorship? Would this be a waste of taxpayer money? Whether you believe that Islamic Doctrine can be reformed or not, should we at least support those who are  willing to try? Should we try to help create a safe space for Muslims to criticize their religion? Can reformist Muslims help with counterterrrorism efforts? If the Muslim Brotherhood is declared a terrorist organization, could we transfer control of American Mosques to reform minded Muslims? As long as we are strictly honest about what Islamic Doctrine says, I am inclined to say yes.

What do you think?

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