CAIR Hilarity: We Welcome “Significant, Healthy Debates” Among Muslims

hypocrisyIPT News
June 23, 2016

He might have been trying to be ironic. But Corey Saylor seemed to be playing it straight Monday when he claimed that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wants “more empowered voices”in the future to “let the public at large see more of us talking about the full spectrum of views that exist within the Muslim community.”

We could hear the spit-take all the way from Arizona. That’s the home of Zuhdi Jasser, who founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) and the Muslim Reform Movement. Both groups embrace a “separation of mosque and state” and stand against the Islamist victimization agenda pushed by CAIR.

For that, CAIR repeatedly has called Jasser names in attempts to discredit and silence him. It tried to block his appointment to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2012 and tried unsuccessfully to have him ousted two years later.

Saylor’s comments about embracing debate came during a news conference to unveil CAIR’s latest report on groups it says are pushing “Islamophobia” in the United States, along with their funders. The report includes the AIFD among organizations “whose primary reason for existence is to promote prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims.”

While simultaneously calling for more empowered Muslim voices, CAIR accuses Jasser, a Muslim, of promoting hatred and prejudice against his faith because he disagrees with CAIR politically. For example, following terrorist attacks like the slaughter at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, or last November’s multi-pronged attacks in Paris, Jasser will talk about the radical Islamist ideology that drives the violence. CAIR, on the other hand, insists it has nothing to do with religion.

Rather than welcoming “the full spectrum of views,” as Saylor claimed, CAIR wants to “marginalize debate,” Jasser said in an interview. “They simply want to continue their sense that Islam has a PR problem, and it’s not a reform issue, that it needs to happen in the separation of mosque and state. The Islamists don’t ever want to recognize they are Islamists or that they do try to collectivize our community into a political movement. Because once they did that, they’d have to recognize that there are diverse voices that reject Islamism and their Islamist platform.”

It happened to him again last week. Jasser spoke in Birmingham, Ala., about curbing Islamist extremism and the terrorism done in its name. “No, it’s not all Islam that’s the problem, but there’s a problem in the house of Islam that needs to be addressed,” Jasser said.

A local television station turned to CAIR and a local mosque for reaction. “They said he’s a part of the problem and is only spreading Islamophobia,” the story said.

CAIR’s report, done in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender, also includes the Investigative Project on Terrorism among 33 “inner core” organizations that, like AIFD, exist to gin up hatred of Muslims and Islam. IPT “claims to investigate the activities and finances of radical terrorist groups, but makes all of Islam culpable,” the report said.

No supporting evidence is provided.

It is a false claim. In fact, IPT frequently cites Muslims who oppose Islamism, ranging from liberal UK reformist Maajid Nawaz to Jasser, an American Navy veteran and physician. But we also have exposed many of CAIR’s skeletons and emphasized its roots in a Hamas-support network in the United States created by the Muslim Brotherhood. We also frequently showcase radicalism exhibited by CAIR officials.

Saylor’s statement about embracing debate echoes a recommendation in CAIR’s formal report: “Empowering a diverse range of legitimate voices to persuasively contribute, particularly in the news media, to the views of Islam and American Muslims within public dialogue.” [Emphasis added.]

CAIR, the statement implies, reserves the right to tell the public which voices qualify as “legitimate.” CAIR’s stated objective, therefore, is at odds with its own definition of how debate can occur.

Saylor’s full statement further exposes the shallow nature of the claim CAIR wants “more empowered voices.”

“Our major holiday, Eid, is a topic of significant debate,” he said Monday. “When is it going to happen – because it’s based on a moon cycle? So if we can have these kind of healthy debates we want all of those voices to be trained and go out and speak to the public at large.”

First, debate is limited to “simple practices of certain dietary requirements, or prayer or calendar issues,” Jasser said. “None of the diversity that they’re talking about is related to core issues of universal human rights.”

Second, CAIR must ensure those engaged in debate are “trained” to participate.

“That’s the hypocrisy,” Jasser said.

When CAIR officials speak of diversity, Jasser said, they’re referring to ethnic/national background. Muslim Americans come from all over the world, from the Middle East and Asia.

“Islam is an idea. It’s not a race,” he said, so true diversity includes different views about the faith and its application in modern life.

“When it comes to intellectual diversity, they’re completely missing in action,” Jasser said.

CAIR equates criticism of scholars or certain Islamist dogma with hate, he said. “They, with self-righteous indignation, refuse to accept the fact that somebody can love the community and love their faith and still be very critical of what is normatively felt to be Islamic law. That is un-American. Imagine somebody telling some of them that they are not good Americans because they disagree with this policy or that policy.”

CAIR largely has ignored the Muslim Reform Movement and has not commented on the specific principles its members enumerated.

The Muslim Reform Movement issued a public Declaration of its principles. Among them:

We support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by United Nations member states in 1948.

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

We are for secular governance, democracy and liberty. We are against political movements in the name of religion. We separate mosque and state. We are loyal to the nations in which we live. We reject the idea of the Islamic state. There is no need for an Islamic caliphate. We oppose institutionalized sharia. Sharia is manmade.

To be true to its own call, CAIR needs to embrace these ideals or publicly explain why it will not. That might lead to an outcome Saylor said with a straight face that he wants – “More empowered voices” and “significant, healthy debates going on among ourselves every year, every day.”

Now that would be a news conference worth watching.

Obama White House Turns To Islamists Who Demonize Terror Investigations

by John Rossomando
IPT News
December 28, 2015

Jihadist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris have Americans on edge. Yet part of the Obama White House’s response to the attacks has been to invite Islamist groups that routinely demonize the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies to the White House to discuss a religious discrimination. “If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away,” President Obama said in his speech following the San Bernardino attack.

But partnering with such organizations sends the wrong message to the American people, said Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AFID).

“I think it says a lot when the president uses those organizations that have an ACLU-type mentality. They should have a seat at the table. That’s fine,” Jasser said.  “But not to include groups, which have completely different focuses about counter-radicalization, counter-Islamism creates this monolithic megaphone for demonization of our government and demonization of America that ends up radicalizing our community.”

A White House spokesperson acknowledged to the Investigative Project on Terrorism that the Dec. 14 meeting on countering anti-Muslim animus included Hassan Shibly, executive director of Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Florida chapter. The same forum – attended by Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes – also included Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates; Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab-American Institute (AAI); Mohamed Magid, imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS); and Hoda Hawa, director of policy and advocacy with the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) among others.

The White House guests, or the organizations they represent, have long histories of criticizing counter-terror investigations. CAIR leads the pack. Its Philadelphia chapter is advertising a workshop, “The FBI and Entrapment in the Muslim Community,” which features a spider with an FBI badge on its back, spinning a web of entrapment around an image of a mosque. The workshop “provides the tools needed to prevent entrapment of community members to become terrorists in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Since 9/11, CAIR has repeatedly taken the side of defendants accused of financing or plotting attacks, calling their prosecutions a “witch hunt” against the Muslim community.  For example, CAIR denounced the prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, who turned out to be the secretary of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s governing board, as “politically motivated” and a result of the “Israelization of American policy and procedures.”

A year ago, CAIR similarly protested the incarceration of Aafia Siddiqui, aka “Lady Al Qaeda” – convicted in 2010 of trying to kill two FBI agents. The protest came after the Islamic State (ISIS) offered to spare the lives of executed American photojournalist James Foley and aid worker Kayla Mueller in exchange for Siddiqui’s release.

CAIR also denounced the December 2001 shutdown of the Holy Land Foundation for Hamas support, saying, “…there has been a shift from a war on terrorism to an attack on Islam.”

Demonizing law enforcement and spreading “the idea that America and Western societies [are] anti-Muslim – the whole Islamophobia mantra is part of the early steps of radicalization so that Muslims get separated out of society,” Jasser said. “These groups certainly aren’t on the violent end of the Islamist continuum, but if there’s a conveyer belt that goes towards radicalization then it certainly starts with this siege and separatist mentality.”

CAIR has used such inflammatory imagery and rhetoric for years, with its San Francisco chapter removing a poster urging Muslims to “Build a Wall of Resistance – Don’t Talk to the FBI” in 2011 after the IPT reported on it.

Later that year, a CAIR-New York official told a Muslim audience that FBI agents would break the law to force them to talk. That includes threats and “blackmail, seriously blackmail; that’s illegal,” Lamis Deek told the audience. “But they’ll do it.”

Jasser blames CAIR and others which spread similar rhetoric for the increased fear of Islam and Muslims in America since 9/11 because they refuse to discuss Islamic extremism and the role Muslims have in fixing the problem.

1324“This creates a climate where people don’t trust us to be part of the solution,” Jasser said. “People say that if you aren’t part of the solution then you are part of the problem, which creates more fear and distrust.”

Neither Jasser nor the AIFD, which advocates for “liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state,” were invited to the White House meeting. Also shut out were Jasser’s colleagues in the new Muslim Reform Movement, whose members “reject interpretations of Islam that call for any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam” and stand “for secular governance, democracy and liberty. Every individual has the right to publicly express criticism of Islam. Ideas do not have rights. Human beings have rights.”

The White House did not reply to a request for comment about Jasser’s characterization of these groups; however, it previously said it engaged CAIR because of “their work on civil rights issues” despite the group’s Hamas ties.

Former FBI Associate Deputy Director Buck Revell also finds the White House’s choice of Muslim groups troubling.

“It’s a very confusing time and circumstance when you have the White House dealing with people who have fronted for the Muslim Brotherhood and are the spokespeople for Hamas in the United States and you bring them in for a conference at the White House and say they are supposed to speak for the Muslim community in America,” Revell said. “It’s unhelpful to have the White House essentially fronting for groups that want to make it harder to reach the jihadists in our society and in effect flush them out.”

Khera’s group Muslim Advocates has a pending lawsuit against the New York Police Department regarding its surveillance of mosques and other Islamic institutions using undercover police officers and informants.

“One of our key priorities at Muslim Advocates is ending racial and religious profiling by law enforcement,” Khera says in a YouTube video supporting the suit. “We’ve done work to combat profiling by the FBI, by Customs and Border Protection and now more recently we’ve had concerns about the way the New York Police Department – the nation’s largest police department – has been conducting itself.”

Like CAIR, Khera has called the FBI’s sting operations and informants against potential jihadists “entrapment operations” that rope in individuals who might otherwise never engage in terrorist activity.

CAIR’s Shibly also used the entrapment narrative in a June 2014 blog post in which he argued that the “FBI entrapment program targeting the Muslim community” was an example of tyranny. Many other CAIR representatives, such as Michigan director Dawud Walid, previously alleged the FBI has “recruited more so-called extremist Muslims than al-Qaida themselves.”

AAI stops short of embracing the entrapment narrative but labels surveillance programs by the NYPD and other government agencies “unconstitutional, ineffective, and counterproductive.” New York’s Mayor Bill De Blasio disbanded the NYPD unit responsible for infiltrating the city’s mosques and Muslim gathering places looking for potential terrorists in April 2014 under pressure from Muslim groups.

Another group, the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA), which counts Magid as a member, published an article in 2008 written by Hatem al-Haj, a member of its fatwa committee, giving religious justification for not cooperating with authorities. Al-Haj wrote it was “impermissible” for Muslims to work with the FBI because of the “harm they inflict on Muslims.”

However, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), which formerly accused the FBI of entrapment, conceded in 2013 that informants can be useful detecting terror cells and keeping them off balance.

“To be fair, informants at times can be effective in counterterrorism investigations even against cellular structures. Because terrorist groups are concerned about their operational security, fear of informants can create and increase tensions within a terrorist cell. As a result, it may generate enough paranoia that a cell may abandon a planned operation,” MPAC said in its 2013 report “Building Bridges to Strengthen America.”

Looking for jihadis before they strike is a bit like looking for a “needle in a haystack,” so sting operations are useful in finding them before it’s too late, according to Revell.  He says such operations can be useful in preventing the next San Bernardino.

“If you don’t find them when they are talking jihad and you have to wait until they take an action then it’s too late to be able to prevent casualties and ensure that the public is safe,” Revell said. “There certainly is knowledge among those looking to do any type of jihadi activity that there is a force out there that is countering them and that they need to try to cover their activities to the greatest extent possible.”

In the past year, the Islamic State (ISIS) has published at least two documents instructing its jihadis how to evade being lured into stings by the FBI or other law-enforcement agencies.  The ISIS manual “Safety and Security guidelines of the Lone Wolf Mujahideen” devotes a chapter to evading FBI stings by testing the weapons they receive prior to using them in an attack.

Khera’s organization stood front and center in 2011 when Muslim groups called on the Obama administration to purge FBI training materials that they deemed offensive.  Shecomplained in a Sept. 15, 2011 letter that counterterrorism materials then being used to train FBI agents about Islam used “woefully misinformed statements about Islam and bigoted stereotypes about Muslims.” Such allegedly misinformed statements included characterizing zakat – the almsgiving tax mandate on all Muslims – as a “funding mechanism for combat” and that “Accommodation and compromise between [Islam and the West] are impermissible and fighting [for Muslims] is obligatory.”

Yet numerous Muslim commentators, including from the Herndon, Va.-based International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), describe zakat as a funding mechanism for jihad. A footnote for Surah 9:60 found in “The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an” published with editorial assistance from IIIT, says that zakat can be used among other things to help “(4) those who are struggling and striving in Allah’s Cause by teaching or fighting or in duties assigned to them by the righteous Imam, who are thus unable to earn their ordinary living.”

The AMJA issued a fatwa in August 2011 stating that zakat could be used to “support legitimate Jihad activities.”

Top Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi similarly states in his book, Fiqh of Jihad, that zakat may be spent to finance “the liberation of Muslim land from the domination of the unbelievers,” particularly against Israel and India in Kashmir.

Numerous Islamic charities have been cited or closed down in connection with terrorist financing since the September 11 attacks. Qaradawi’s actions back up his words. In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the Union of Good, a network of charities headed by Qaradawi, for Hamas fundraising. That same year a federal court jury convicted the founders of the Richardson, Texas-based Holy Land Foundation (HLF) for illegally financing Hamas.

“The government’s policy has inflicted considerable harm,” MPAC’s Salam al-Marayatiwrote in 2001 after federal authorities closed the Benevolence International Fund (BIF). “By effectively shutting down these charities, it has given Americans the false impression that American Muslims are supporting terrorists. It has also given the Muslim world a similarly false impression that America is intolerant of a religious minority.”

Representatives of MPAC, CAIR and Muslim Advocates each condemned the HLF prosecution or its subsequent verdict.

In the end, the White House’s decision to empower these groups sends a mixed message to the American people that it isn’t fully interested in rooting out the causes of jihadist terror and preventing future attacks.

‘They don’t speak for me’: New Muslim groups reject CAIR representation

Jasser says CAIR does not speak for him - or a lot of other Muslim Americans. (Associated Press)

Jasser says CAIR does not speak for him – or a lot of other Muslim Americans. (Associated Press)

Fox News, by Malia Zimmerman, December 18, 2015:

Within hours of a terror attack that left 14 dead in Southern California, the nation’s best-known Islamic advocacy group held a press conference with the killers’ family – and Muslims around the country cringed.

In the days following the Dec. 2 attack in San Bernardino, Council for American-Islamic Relations representatives partially blamed U.S. policy for terrorist attacks, accused gunman Syed Rizwan Farook’s co-workers of making fun of his beard and sought to downplay comments by Farook’s father linking him to ISIS. Like Muslims throughout the U.S., CAIR officials condemned the attack, but too often with what sounded to critics like subtle caveats.

“CAIR is a primary obstacle in the effort of many honest American Muslims who recognize our need to own up and lead long-overdue reforms against the root causes of radicalization: Islamism and its separatism,” said Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, an ex-U.S. Navy officer who founded and heads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.

For would-be reformers like Jasser, reclaiming the faith begins with taking back control of Islam’s image. He and other increasingly outspoken Muslim-Americans say true moderates must be honest and unequivocal in condemning acts of violence carried out in the name of Islam. Most of all, they are tired of the Washington-based nonprofit claiming to speak for them.

“CAIR’s information is marketed and packaged so it seems that they speak for all of us, but they don’t speak for me and my group,” said Raheel Raza, president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. “CAIR does not and has never represented the majority Muslim voices which are as diverse as Muslims in America.”

Muslims Facing Tomorrow is one of more than a dozen moderate Islamic groups from the U.S., Canada and European countries that have joined the Muslim Reform Movement, an alliance put together by Jasser.

The Muslim Reform Movement rebukes violent jihad, advocates for a separation of “mosque and state,” and celebrates individual freedom, human rights and gender equality, and secular democracy, according to its founders, who also reject the idea of an Islamic State and its Sharia Law.

“We are in a battle for the soul of Islam, and an Islamic renewal must defeat the ideology of Islamism,” read a statement from the group, which formed following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris and met for the first time in Washington just two days after the San Bernardino attack.

CAIR does not publicly support an Islamic State, Sharia Law in the U.S. or acts of violence. But moderate critics from within the faith say CAIR’s reflexive tendency to raise moral equivalence arguments or warn of backlashes against Muslims even as it condemns terror attacks does them no favors. In addition, CAIR’s past links to Hamas, having been named an unindicted co-conspirator in a 2007 federal trial involving the Palestinian terrorist group, make it easy for critics to doubt its sincerity – and by unfair extension, that of other Muslims.

Jasser goes even further, questioning the true agenda of CAIR.

“CAIR may condemn the acts and means of radical violent Islamists, but no one should be fooled for a moment that CAIR’s singular fixation on stoking the flames and raising funds off the exaggerated narrative that Muslims are under siege by ‘bigoted Americans’ is not a major part of the separatism that radicalizes members of our Muslim communities,” Jasser said. “They are feeding the global movement against America.”

CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper didn’t answer specific questions posed by FoxNews.com about the organization, only providing a link to two CAIR reports on its website, including one critical of Jasser.

Founded in 1994 with a stated goal to “enhance understanding of Islam,” CAIR has grown to 32 chapters in 20 states. The self-styled anti-defamation and civil rights group operates on $3 million in donations a year, and also solicits contributions for special projects, such as $500,000 from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, to fund distribution of the Koran in the U.S.

According to its website, CAIR was formed “to challenge anti-Muslim discrimination nationwide.” The group touts its status as the most frequently quoted American Muslim organization as evidence of its success in “providing an Islamic perspective on issues of importance to the American public.”

While some critics allege CAIR is tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and federally designated terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, CAIR has in the past called such accusations “false and misleading.”

The U.S. Department of Justice listed CAIR and other large Muslim organizations in 2007 as unindicted co-conspirators in a terrorism-related trial in Texas brought by the government against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development charity and five of its officers.

The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and its officers were accused of funneling millions of dollars in donations to Hamas and found guilty of providing material support for terrorism, leading to the federal government shutting down the organization in December 2001. The FBI broke off its ties with CAIR as a result of the case, even though CAIR was not directly tied to any of the criminal activity.

“CAIR has a strategy of delegitimizing U.S. government counter-terrorism operations, often distributing articles that make it sound as if the War on Terror is manufactured by the FBI and a Zionist/anti-Muslim conspiracy machine,” said Ryan Mauro, national security analyst for the Clarion Project, a New York-based nonprofit that monitors Islamic terrorism. “They reflexively cast doubt on the agency, rather than the terrorism suspect, almost every single time that an arrest is announced.”

Jasser’s group hopes to bring together progressive Muslims who share American values, practice their faith in their own way and reject the idea that one agenda-driven group speaks for them.

“We want to wake up the 85 to 90 percent of Muslims in the U.S. who are sitting at home, who don’t go to mosques, but love their religion,” Jasser said.

Also see:

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Center for Security Policy, Dec. 17, 2015:

Islam 2.0 – 

With Dr. Zuhdi Jasser

Dr. ZUHDI JASSER, Founder and President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy: TRANSCRIPT

PART ONE: Podcast: Play in new window | Download

  • Growing movement for Islamic reformation
  • Notable individuals in the Muslim reform movement

PART TWO: Podcast (podcast2): Play in new window | Download

  • Examination of why some moderate Muslims are afraid to speak out against radical Islamism
  • Importance of ideology in reforming extremism interpretations of the faith

PART THREE: Podcast (podcast3): Play in new window | Download

  • A Muslim reformer’s view on today’s popular depiction of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad
  • Rescuing the interpretation while still adhering to the original script of the Qur’an
  • Interpreting the Qur’an in the modern age

PART FOUR: Podcast (podcast4): Play in new window | Download

  • Countering radicalization at its roots
  • Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s stance on former administration’s enforcement of the First Amendment
  • The plight of balancing humanitarianism in times of grave national security concerns

#ExMuslimBecause Trend Stands Up To Extremists

1317by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
December 18, 2015

Is this the real Arab Spring?
Shortly after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, Maryam Namazie, director of the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain(CEMB), created the hashtag “#ExMuslimBecause” on Twitter. The result was a firestorm, through which tens of thousands of ex-Muslims across the world declared their apostasy, many gathering courage from the brave and often poignant words of others.

But just as quickly as their courage spread, the words of these former Muslims were soundly condemned by many others who remain within the faith.  Tweeted someone calling himself @hammamovic, whose avatar shows a clean-shaven young man in a black T-shirt, “I’m Muslim, I’m not a terrorist, but you, the #exmuslims who left Islam, must be killed. You make Terrorism.”

His words speak directly to the impetus behind Namazie’s movement, and behind the founding of the CEMB, which, according to its website, was formed “in order to break the taboo that comes with renouncing Islam.”  That taboo is as powerful as it is perverse: For Muslims, leaving the faith is punishable by death.

Yet apparently, that risk of death is one many are prepared to take in order to continue with life on their own terms. And the number of such courageous ex-Muslims seems to be more than anyone anticipated. “By early Friday morning,” reported Ali A. Rizvi, an #exMuslim himself who wrote about the phenomenon for the Huffington Post, “#ExMuslimBecause was the UK’s top trending hashtag. We heard from secret LGBT Saudis; women who had been forced into marriages; closeted atheists in Egypt and Pakistan tweeting under pseudonyms young women disowned by their families in the US; and more.”

Among them were “@Yas” from Canada, who wrote: “#ExMuslimBecause my own mother told me I should be killed because I didn’t believe the same things she did”; “@SamSedaei, who tweeted: “#ExMuslimBecause I was told I was a Muslim. But then I learned that religion is not a gene and being born to believers doesn’t make you one”; and Rizvi himself, who posted, “#ExMuslimBecause No REAL God should need protection from bloggers and no REAL prophet should need protection from cartoons.” Other notable posts include @LibMuslim’s “#ExMuslimBecause misogyny, homophobia, stoning ppl to death and killing apostates don’t suddenly become ‘respectable’ when put in a holy book” and Heina Dababhoy‘s “#ExMuslimBecause I got tired of suppressing my compassion twds LGBT+ people in the name of a deity claiming to be most compassionate.” For her part, Maryam Namazie, who has been busy adding to the conversation, also observed, “#ExMuslimBecause my being unveiled is NOT the cause of earthquakes or other calamities.”

But many Western Muslims who share their views have refused to take part, insisting that one can be Muslim and still support liberal ideals. “I do think that a lot of the questions that are coming out of the #ExMuslimBecause are issues that Muslims need to take on – such as gender equality and gay rights,” says Ayesha Akhtar, a Bangladeshi-American artist and activist living in New York.  The phenomenon is “complicated,” she says, but adds, “I think that this hashtag and all the tweets, posts, stories that come out of it deserve a round of applause, especially from Muslims, who want religious freedom to dress and live according to their faith – because the right to religious freedom must correspond with the right to be free from any religious affiliation. In a truly liberal, tolerant society, one cannot be one without the other.”

Ibn Warraq, a particularly outspoken Muslim apostate and the author of Why I Am Not A Muslim, agrees, though he is skeptical that one can remain Muslim and still hold such secular, humanist viewpoints. The hashtag, he says, “will help those who think along similar lines. It will give them moral support, reassure them that they are not completely depraved, mad, or evil. They are not alone.”

In other words, while it may seem like a mere Twitter trend, it’s a trend that potentially has very real political punch. True, 25 years after the Salman Rushdie affair, Warraq observed via e-mail, “it is still impossible to avow one’s atheism in public. All the atheists in the Islamic world keep their atheism online. But I think that is beginning to change.”

This is of greater importance in the Muslim world than in the West where, for people like Akhtar, it is possible to consider oneself a practicing Muslim while maintaining Western ideas.  That ability, in fact, is allowing many Western Muslims to start trying to change the narrative – one that, until now, has largely been led by conservative Islamic organizations such as the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and by Muslim fundamentalists. Earlier this month, M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American-Islamic Forum for Democracy, established the Muslim Reform Movement in concert with 13 other practicing Muslims, including activist Asra Nomani and Farahnaz Ispahani, a former member of the Pakistani Parliament. The group published a nine-point “declaration,” confirming their shared belief in free speech, freedom of religion, equal rights and condemning violent jihad.

But such secular, contemporary viewpoints – let alone outright apostasy – would be impossible in an Islamic country, notes Warraq, who is also the founder of the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society (an organization that ironically bears the acronym ISIS). While it works in the West, ultimately, he says, “There is no Islam a la carte.”

Yet even for Muslims in the West, there are risks. Some are excommunicated from their families. Others are attacked by Muslims in their communities, either physically, verbally, or emotionally. When Namazie spoke at Goldsmiths, University of London on Nov. 30 at the invitation of its Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist Society, for instance, the school’s Islamic Society (ISOC) repeatedly disrupted. Making matters worse, Goldsmiths’ LGBT and feminist societies  defended the Islamic Society’s actions.

Never mind that the ISOC supports the wearing of burqas and other garments that many claim oppress women. Never mind that Namazie, a woman, was bullied by (mostly male) Muslims in the audience. Never mind that the Islamic Society itself has invited speakers who defend jihadists, including Zara Faris, who frequently refers to events like 9/11 as “So-called ‘Muslim’ terrorist attacks.'” Never mind its support for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel. Never mind that the Society accused Namazie of depriving its members their right to free speech in their efforts to protest against her, but failed to see an assault on free speech in their own efforts to silence her.

Ironically, it is exactly Namazie’s movement, says Warraq, that puts the lie to the concept of “Islamophobia” in the first place. “The unwritten subtext of such a charge is, of course, that the person so accused is ignorant, racist, and bigoted,” he wrote in an e-mail. “But the existence of millions of Middle Easterners, and South Asians, who are now atheists refutes the claim that all those critical of Islam must be racists. Islam, in any case, is not a race. Second, the young Egyptians, Saudis, Iraqis and others who have firmly rejected Islam, have had experience of Islam from the inside; many of them have studied Islam to a very advanced level, and hence cannot be guilty of ignorance. And yes, they did read the Koran in the original Arabic.  They know the social consequences of imposing Islam on the general populace: lack of freedom, those freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and which we in the West take so much for granted. The charge of Islamophobia is an effective way of curtailing all rational discussions of Islam.”

Goldsmiths notwithstanding, the response to #ExMuslimBecause suggests that Warraq may be right. If so, this would be an important step in the fight against Islamic extremism, because only if we can talk about the subject openly and frankly, debating the issue from all angles with the freedom that Western, enlightened culture holds as its core value, can we ever defeat those who would take that freedom from us.

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser: How to Win the New Cold War Against Muslim Theocracy

Published on Mar 8, 2015 by Rebel Media

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy tells TheRebel.media’s Brian Lilley how the West should fight the spread of Muslim supremacism here and abroad.

American Islamist Coalition Launches with Empty Rhetoric

CAIR Again Shows It Can’t Stand Other Muslim Viewpoints

IPT, By Steven Emerson:

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) waged a new attack Tuesday on anti-Islamist Muslim Zuhdi Jasser, asking that a federal commission investigate Jasser’s financial supporters.

Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, also serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). CAIR and other Islamist groups tried to block that appointment in 2012. Now, CAIR wants the USCIRF to investigate Jasser’s donors, who also give to other groups CAIR doesn’t like. The AIFD received $45,000 from the Abstraction Fund from 2010-12, a letter from CAIR’s Corey Saylor said.

The New York-based fund also gives money to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the Middle East Forum and Jihad Watch. All, Saylor claimed, play an “active role in spreading anti-Islam prejudice.”

“At issue here is the reasonable concern that arises regarding Dr. Jasser accepting financial support from anti-Muslim groups while he is serving on a commission advocating for religious freedom,” Saylor wrote.

What a load of nonsense. As we have shown, CAIR and others toss around accusations of “Islamophobia” as a means of stifling criticism and deflecting attentionfrom their own shady records. Jasser is a devout Muslim who repeatedly points out that Muslims are freer to practice their faith in the United States than anywhere else in the world. He calls out the victimization narrative promoted by CAIR and other Islamist groups.

In response to CAIR’s attack Tuesday, Jasser posted a link to a 2011 IPT reportshowing CAIR solicited money from Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad praised Gaddafi’s rambling, 100-minute speech to the United Nations General Assembly for having “an impact in the hearts of many people in the world.” Awad later sought financial help from Gaddafi to underwrite a program to give away 1 million Qurans to government officials and the general public in America and to help start up a new foundation.

In addition, State Department records obtained by the IPT show CAIR solicited huge donations during 2006 trips to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Despite that, CAIR continues to label information about its foreign financial support as “Internet Disinformation.”

“CAIR’s operational budget is funded by donations from American Muslims,” its website says. (To see a debunking of CAIR’s “disinformation” claims, click here.)

Tuesday’s letter was CAIR’s second to the USCIRF about Jasser in the past month. It also took statements Jasser made during a recent television appearance to argue that he would “deny religious rights to Muslim military personnel.” In fact, Jasser – a Navy veteran – said that during his service “I was able to practice my faith, fast, pray, and I never saw the need for” new policies allowing for beards, turbans and other religious garb for active duty military members.

It’s fine to debate that point. But CAIR’s ongoing campaign to strip Jasser of his position shows they don’t want debate. They want a monopoly on determining what is acceptable for American Muslims to believe.