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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Israeli Ambassador to USA Slams SPLC for “Practicing Intolerance”

derm

Ambassador Ron Dermer said that the Southern Poverty Law Center claims to defend tolerance for those who “look different,” but works to suppress those who “think different.”

CounterJihad, December 16, 2016:

While accepting an award for defending freedom Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, gave a rousing speech centered on the importance of a vigorous debate especially on the touchy matter of politicized Islam.  At the same time he charged the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has come under substantial criticism for recklessly painting even noted Muslim reformers as “extremists,” with trying to stifle this debate.  The SPLC, Dermer said, had asked him not to come and accept the award.  “The SPLC and others who asked me not to come here tonight claim to support free and open debate,” he said. “But in reality, they seem to want to stifle debate. They preach tolerance for those who look different. But they are in effect practicing intolerance to those who think different.”

“Unfortunately,” he added, “some have amended that famous Voltairian dictum to be “I hate what you say and I will never defend your right to say it.  I will defame you as an extremist. I will label you a racist and a bigot. I will put you on the blackest of lists that should be reserved for Nazis, for the Klan, and for the true enemies of mankind.”

This stifling of debate is dangerous, he suggested, because it cripples our ability to think carefully about one of the great dangers to Western political liberty.  He spoke specifically about the harm done to Muslim reformers by these attempts to silence debate.

[M]y point is that Islam, like other faiths, has evolved – and I see no reason why it cannot or will not evolve again.  So do not assume that the forces ascendant in the Muslim world today will be the same forces ascendant in the future.  Whether that happens or not will mostly depend on changes that will come from within the Muslim world. But the pace and extent of those changes depends partly on us as well.  It depends on not painting all Muslims with a single brush and not declaring nearly one-quarter of the world’s population irredeemable.  It depends on recognizing that the greatest victims of militant Islam are those Muslims who do not accept its unforgiving creed.  And it depends on helping those who seek to reform Islam from within.

Let me read you the words of one of those reformers.

“I’m really offended when people are intimidated, terrified and killed under the pretext that such practices are part and parcel of divine teaching ordered by God.  I feel offended when destruction and sabotage are promoted as a heavenly triumph for God on earth. I swear that nothing could ever be built on destruction, demolition or murder.”

Those words were not scrawled by a dissident languishing away in some dungeon in the Middle East. Those words were spoken last week at a religious university by Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. the President of Egypt.

And here is another voice from the Middle East commenting about terror attacks perpetrated in the name of Islam

“Their only link to Islam is the pretexts they use to justify their crimes and their folly. They have strayed from the right path, and their fate is to dwell forever in hell…They think – out of ignorance – that they are engaging in Jihad…Is it conceivable that God…could order someone to blow himself up or kill innocent people? Islam, as a matter of fact, does not permit any kind of suicide – whatever the reasons or the circumstances.”

[Those words] were delivered three months ago in Arabic in a televised speech by Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco.

Dermer went on to challenge the audience to recognize the importance of such words by the leaders of Muslim nations, while not assuming that this meant that the challenge of militant political Islam would fade on its own.  Proposing an analogy to baseball, but also citing Osama bin Laden’s doctrine about “the strong horse,” Dermer said that winning teams attract more recruits.  Making sure that militant Islamists continue to lose is therefore an important part of the struggle.

The SPLC responded by suggesting that Dermer was merely trying to draw attention away from the fact that he had accepted an award from a group on their black list.  That he accepted the award, the Freedom Flame award, was something Dermer made much of in his speech.  He described the award as “prestigious,” and thanked the Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney — also on the SPLC’s list of extremists — for a lifetime of work built around an “unwavering commitment to freedom – for America, for Europe, for Israel, for everyone.”

In addition to the criticism of the SPLC’s list of “extremists” in its recent black list, the SPLC has had to apologize for overreach in this matter before.  It made one such apology when it withdrew its criticism of Dr. Ben Carson, currently described by Scientific American as “just what the doctor ordered” as nominee for Housing and Urban Development.  In addition, the SPLC has been accused of its own extremist ties on the political left.

Islam is a religion of peace and war—and it’s not bigotry to acknowledge it

Getty Images

Getty Images

The Hill, by Shireen Qudosi, Sept. 28, 2016:

Last week, I warned a House Homeland Security Subcommittee that Islamist pressure groups were making it impossible for my fellow Muslims to do the crucial work of reforming and liberalizing Islam. Within hours, these grievance professionals were attacking me for Islamophobia and bigotry.

I’ve spent the last 15 years since the 9/11 attacks working toward reform in Islam; I recognized that, in order to change the potent and dangerous tone of the politics of global Islamism, Islamic theology must advance, as well. I am grateful that Rep. Scott Perry (R-Texas) chaired a Oversight and Management Efficiency Subcommittee hearing, “Identifying the Enemy: Radical Islamist Terror,” and gave me opportunity to tell Congress about my work with the Muslim Reform movement.

In order to defeat radical Islamist terror, we must first normalize our relationship with Islam itself, treating it the way we do Christianity, Judaism or any other religion over the last century. My fellow Muslims must be able to countenance criticism of Islam, from within and without—the theology, the political ideology, everything. Only by approaching the religion’s tenants with a new spirit of inquiry can we ever disentangle the Islamic faith from the Islamism that is a metastasizing threat to human rights around the world.

We must not be afraid to approach and contend with the complexity of Islamic law and history, the good, the bad, the ugly and the viscously anti-democratic. Muslim grievance professionals and well-intentioned liberals whitewashing the aspects of the Qur’an that conflict with the values of American society in the 21st Century do us no favors. “We must realize,” I said in my opening statement, that “we are dealing with a political ideology that is parasitically feeding off a religion that is already complex by being both peace and war.”

According to sacred Islamic sources themselves—not hated Islamophobes—the Prophethood of Muhammed was, in fact, both peaceful and war-mongering. Indeed, the Prophet would have been viewed as a violent terrorist to his opponents. I encouraged the audience to not withdraw from threats of bigotry, racism and “Islamophobia.” Muslims will find that, first, we do not suffer when we are offended; even more importantly we will learn that no ideas are above scrutiny, including our own most cherished ones.

Within hours of the hearing, however, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) launched an attack on me in a breathless video hit piece, alerting the world that I “call[ed] the Prophet Muhammad a ‘Warmonger’ and Islam Terroristic.” They branded my criticism Islamophobic—choosing to ignore that I, too, am a Muslim. Do I have a right to critique my religion without being called a bigot?

On social media, Zahra Billoo, Executive Director of CAIR San Francisco, and the Executive Director of CAIR Los Angeles, Hussam Ayloush, piled on, opened up a flood of hate Tweets that has jeopardized my personal security.

They are well aware that, by framing my historical assessment of early Islam as an attack on the Prophet, they are potentially marking me for death, either as an apostate or a slanderer, under Islamic law. They’ve opened up a flood gate to a not insubstantial number of Muslims that will do anything to protect their Prophet against slander. In this way, organizations like CAIR are no different than the most extreme radicals or Islamic states.

Islamist groups like CAIR use shame tactics and exclusionary practices to silence minority voices of reform in Islam – voices like mine – all the while crying that they themselves are a minority in America deserving of special protection. Even more alarmingly, many on the left and in the media instinctively defend aspects of Islam they neither practice nor understand; what they believe to be a chivalrous defense of Muslims has the effect of keeping Islam frozen in time.

In their attack, CAIR has proven my point: Muslim grievance professionals are quick to silence minority voices in Islam, reinforcing the idea that Islam doesn’t require any change or modernization. Worse, however, is the signal these groups send to non-Muslims: that any criticism aimed at liberalizing aspects of the faith—even from Muslims themselves—is tantamount to bigotry and Islamophobia.

This must stop in order to pave the way for real reform, like the embrace of human rights for women, Jews, the LGBTQ community, and others. This is the sometimes painful and messy work that needs to be done to make Islam just another religion in America.

Shireen Qudosi is a Muslim Reformer who lives on the West Coast. She writes at Counterjihad.com

Islamic Jihad’s Most Effective Weapons

(Artwork by Shutterstock.com.)

(Artwork by Shutterstock.com.)


PJ MEDIA, BY DAVID SOLWAY, AUGUST 24, 2016:

Recently I published a pair of articles proposing in the first a series of severe legislative measures to curtail, if not eliminate, the carnage of jihad inflicted upon innocent people in all walks of life, and suggesting in the second that Islam, unlike Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths, should not be entitled to the protection of the First Amendment. In the sequel, I received a couple of messages accusing me of promoting a “final solution.” One from a former colleague read: Bravo. Your final solution is so simple and elegant. Another from a friend read, in part: Implicit in all your articles is that Islam…should or be made to disappear. The case against Islam taken to its extreme begins to sound very close to a “final solution.” Do we want or should we want to go there? 

My former colleague appears never to have read the Islamic scriptures and ancillary texts and obviously has little knowledge of Islamic history. My friend is considerably more erudite but seems, nonetheless, to believe that direct and aggressive confrontation is not the proper route to take. To imply that I, a Jew, am advocating a “final solution,” an Endlösung, is at the very least rather tactless. It is also, as I hope to show, the height of folly. What I said in my articles is that the terror apparatus needs to be dismantled without delay or equivocation, and that we have to go to the source of the violence, Islam itself. I was not advocating killing anyone, or rounding Muslims up in cattle cars and shipping them off to concentration camps, or burning  ghettoes and no-go zones to the ground.

I said in particular that terror mosques have to be investigated and if necessary shut down (military-grade weapons have been found in a German mosque, but jihadist-inspired sermons are also heavy weapons), that no-go zones have to be disarmed and opened to safe public dwelling, that Sharia, a draconian atavism incompatible with our constitutions, should be outlawed, that unscreened immigration simply has to stop, and that the status of Islam as a “religion” entitled to the shelter of the First Amendment is a legitimate issue to be debated—at least until the Koran, Hadith, Sira, schools of jurisprudence, etc. are sanitized, if ever.

My friend replied to a stern rebuke in partial walkback fashion. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you’re advocating an actual “final solution,” that’s absurd…Explicit in your many articles is that any decent, self-respecting, tolerant Muslim should…defect from Islam (reject the Koran, for all the reasons you have been laying out for years). Their example, taken to the extreme, would have Islam disappear gently into the night, which would be like a “final solution.” That’s all I’m saying. He continued: What your latest article doesn’t allow re. religious protection is a reformation within Islam, which I believe has already begun.

The question is: how long are we willing to wait for this putative reformation to bear fruit? I see a few “moderates” here and there trying to effect change, but they are having little appreciable impact, and most still adhere to the adulation of Mohammed, turn a blind eye to the dictates of their faith, or pretend the offending passages, with which the scriptures and commentaries are replete, mean something other than what they explicitly say.

A substantial and rooted reformation of Islam is the pipe dream of the cowed and complaisant who cannot face the indigestible fact that Islam is at war with us, has been at war with the Judeo-Christian West (and other civilizations) for fourteen hundred years, and shows no sign of relenting. I’d also suggest—assuming reform were conceivable—that my proposals, if taken seriously, might accelerate the reform my correspondent is piously wishing for. With terror mosques closed and fundamentalist Islam in official disgrace, true reformers might gather momentum. But this is only a thought-experiment.

The exception to the rule of Islamic hegemony, according to Supra Zaida Peery, executive director of Muslim World Today, appears to be Azerbaijan, with its history, at least since independence from the Soviet bloc in 1991, of “egalitarianism, democracy, and rule of law.” Such advancements are possible only where the Islamic scriptures are studiously disregarded, which reinforces the argument that canonical Islam is anti-freedom and an ever-present danger.

Ms. Peery admits that traditional Islam, honor codes and all, is making a comeback. Azerbaijan also enjoys strong relations with Erdogan’s Turkey, a political alliance that provokes a degree of skepticism respecting Ms. Peery’s claims. Everything considered, I would agree with Danusha Goska’s critical review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’sHeretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now—a book which claims that Islam is susceptible, however tardily, to modernization. Goska writes: “We must confront jihad for what it is: a timeless and universal threat that requires an equally timeless and universal response.”

I have nothing against Muslims practicing their faith in their homes, as long as they don’t take its injunctions to rape, enslave, subjugate and murder in the name of Allah literally, and I have nothing against imams sermonizing from an extensively expurgated Koran—though their temples should have no greater legal status than, say, a Masonic clubhouse.

Meanwhile we line up at airports, remove our shoes, wait interminably to be processed, and expect to be groped—followed by the apprehension, shared by many, that the flight we have boarded may disappear off the radar. Meanwhile theFrench police are patrolling the beaches lest some “scantily clad” woman or child is knifed by some offended Muslim, as happened not long ago, a Jewish man in Strasbourg is stabbed by an Allahu Akbarist, seven people including a six-year-old child are injured in a “fire and knife” attack on a Swiss train, and an American tourist is stabbed to death in London’s busy Russell Square by a Somalian. “He’s still here, he’s still here,” were the dying woman’s last words, and indeed he is.

Meanwhile entire cities go into lockdown and people are warned to stay indoors after another jihadist onslaught. Meanwhile Pew polls report that young, second-generation Muslims—those we thought were Westernized “moderates”—increasingly favor death for apostates and gays and harsh punishment for criticism of Islam. Meanwhile countries are being swarmed with military-age “refugees,” a troubling number of whom are estimated to be ISIS plants or sympathizers; German intelligence official Manfred Hauser warns that ISIS has infiltrated the migrant hordes and set up a command structure in the country. Patrick Poolereports that the first two weeks of August 2016 have seen five dozen incidents of Muslim-related domestic insurgency in Europe. (As I write, a Muslim convert armed with detonation devices has just been shot by the RCMP in an Ontario community.)

The very conduct of our lives has changed—it’s called the “new normal.” We now hear from the lips of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls that we will have to “learn to live with terrorism.” Is this OK? Are we prepared to accept the limitations upon our traditional freedoms and the ever-present threat of violence upon our persons as a customary aspect of daily life in the hope that one day in the indefinite future the “religion of peace” will become a religion of peace? As things stand, our enemies are laughing all the way to the future.

More to the point, the irony very few observers wish to acknowledge—and certainly not my interlocutors—is that it is no one and nothing but Islam that is pursuing a “final solution “—and not only for Jews.

Read more

Muslim Reporter Stops Newscast to Call Out Who’s Really Responsible for Terrorism…And It’s on Fire

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

IJ Review, by Mike Miller, April 9, 2016:

A Saudi Arabian newscaster interrupted her own program recently to strongly condemn radical Islam and acts of terrorism. Host Nadine Al-Budair criticized Muslim “hypocrites,” who claim terrorists “do not represent Islam or the Muslims.”

Al-Budair provided multiple examples, including: “People who spilled the blood walk at a dead man’s funeral, and cry.” She asked: Why do we shed our own conscience?

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Saudi Writer Asks How Muslims Would Feel if Christians Were Blowing Themselves Up and Trying to Convert Muslims The Blaze, by Sharona Schwartz, Feb. 29, 2016

A Saudi journalist asked her readers in a recent article to imagine how Muslims would feel if Christians were blowing themselves up on their streets and if Christians were trying to convert Muslims, two activities associated with jihadist groups such as the Islamic State.

Nadine Al-Budair, a liberal Saudi journalist who lives in Qatar, asked the provocative questions in which she essentially switched the words “Muslims” with “Christians” to challenge her readers to condemn Islam-fueled atrocities.

The Middle East Media Research Institute posted translated excerpts this week from her article, which was published in December by Kuwait’s Al-Rai newspaper:

Imagine a Western youth coming here and carrying out a suicide mission in one of our public squares in the name of the Cross. Imagine that two skyscrapers had collapsed in some Arab capital, and that an extremist Christian group, donning millennium-old garb, had emerged to take responsibility for the event, while stressing its determination to revive Christian teachings or some Christian rulings, according to its understanding, to live like in the time [of Jesus] and his disciples, and to implement certain edicts of Christian scholars […]

Imagine hearing the voices of monks and priests from churches and prayer houses in and out of the Arab world, screaming on loudspeakers and leveling accusations against Muslims, calling them infidels, and chanting: ‘God, eliminate the Muslims and defeat them all.’

Al-Budair praised Western countries that have offered Middle Eastern migrants asylum, jobs, free education and health care only later to be attacked.

She asked readers to visualize if those who they welcomed into their country later “consumed by hatred and bloodlust … killed our sons on our streets, in our buildings, in our newspaper [offices], in our mosques and in our schools.”

“Imagine a Frenchmen or a German in Paris or Berlin leading his Muslim neighbor [somewhere] in order to slaughter him and then freeze his head in an ice box, in a cold and calculating manner … as one terrorist did with the head of an American in Riyadh years ago,” she wrote.

The writer contrasted the West’s treatment of Muslims who have “been on [Western] soil for years without any fear or worry” with the Muslim treatment of Christians:

How would you react if a European blew up a theater in your city or a cafe that your son frequents? What would you do if you heard curses against your religion and faith every Sunday, as they hear [against theirs] from some of our imams on Fridays and other days?

Imagine being in Amsterdam, London, or New York and knowing that students [there] learn as part of their curricula that you are an infidel, and that killing you is jihad that leads to the virgins of paradise. Would you extend your stay there to the end of the summer, or stay away? [Would you] blow yourself up [as the Muslim terrorists do], or would you do less than that: [Merely] conquer your rage and demand to ban Christians from entering Arab countries. What would you do?

Al-Budair warned that the West’s welcoming policy toward Muslims could end as a result of frustrations with Islamic terrorism that is fueled by the “extremist curricula” taught in the Middle East. She pointed to anti-Muslim statements like those made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as an example of the changing tide of public opinion toward Muslims.

See more excerpts from her article at MEMRI.

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In his recent post, Signs of an Incipient Islamic Reformation?, Dan Miller asks – Might recognition of the Islam-terrorism nexus be a step toward the moderation of Islam? Apparently, the censors let Ms. Al-Budair message get through. Why? 

Obama Says Islam Needs Modernist Reformation

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a point at a National Security Council meeting in February 2016. (Photo: Pete Souza/White House)

U.S. President Barack Obama makes a point at a National Security Council meeting in February 2016. (Photo: Pete Souza/White House)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, March 15, 2016:

For the first time, President Obama said that Islam needs a modernist reformation. This is what was missing from his speech at a Maryland mosque (see video below) on February 3, which presented a critical opportunity where Obama could have had his “tear down this wall” moment.

In a comprehensive interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama referred to his speech in Cairo at Al-Azhar University in 2009, saying:

“I was hoping that my speech could trigger a discussion, could create space for Muslims to address the real problems they are confronting—problems of governance, and the fact that some currents of Islam have not gone through a reformation that would help people adapt their religious doctrines to modernity.”

Obama also said, “There is a need for Islam as a whole to challenge that interpretation of Islam, to isolate it, and to undergo a vigorous discussion within their community about how Islam works as part of a peaceful, modern society.”

The Cairo speech was written to chip away at two boulders standing in the way of such a reformation, he explained: The scapegoating of Israel, which serves to distract Muslims from self-reflection and concerns about wholesale negative impressions of Muslims.

“I do not persuade peaceful, tolerant Muslims to engage in that debate if I’m not sensitive to their concern that they are being tagged with a broad brush,” Obama argued.

Here, a word of caution is due: Not every “reformation” is equal. As Raymond Ibrahim explains, the hardline Islamic movements that President Obama wants swept away actually are a reformation movement. In fact, Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and “Wahhabism” founder Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab styled their movements as “reformist.”

President Obama’s qualifier of a modernist reformation is helpful in guarding against these types of reformers. But again, another word of caution: Democratic elections are not necessarily the engines of this modernist reformation, since Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood participate in them.

One interesting point in the interview is when Jeffrey Goldberg reflects on President Obama’s early closeness to the democratically-elected Islamist leader of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who was then prime minister and is now president of Turkey).

Goldberg writes that Obama now “considers him a failure and an authoritarian.” Obama’s mistaken hope in Erdogan and his deceitful “moderate Islamism” should be a hard-earned lesson.

An equally surprising part of the interview is when Goldberg explains how President Obama has noticed Indonesia “move from a relaxed, syncretistic Islam to a more fundamentalist, unforgiving interpretation” (Goldberg’s words). Obama saw the proliferation of the hijab in Indonesia as indicative of this trend he is concerned about and for which he largely blames Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

Obama’s statements about the need for an Islamic modernist reformation are certainly welcome, but the right goal can only be achieved with the right strategy.

Similarly, the right reformation can only be achieved with the right reformers. And we have no reason to believe that the current administration has picked them, much less come up with a strategy to empower them.

Watch President Obama’s Baltimore mosque speech:

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.

Nonie Darwish: Egypt At A Crossroads

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Atlas Shrugs, by Nonie Darwish, Jan. 4, 2016:

The cards are stacked against Islamic reformers in 2016. Even the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is encouraging a reformation in Islamic education and preaching, is currently facing a strong movement of discontent from Al Azhar’s Islamic leadership.

It is against the grain of Islam for Muslims to self-criticize, and those who do must constantly apologize and emphasize that they are not speaking about Islam the religion, but are speaking about the interpretation. This is because those who call for any reformation are automatically accused of apostasy by Muslim leadership. Islam resists and refuses to focus on self-criticism or internal analysis in its preaching to its followers. Only one form of criticism is allowed in Islam, and that is the one directed against the non-Muslim outside world. That has always been the common form of preaching in Islam.

Not only Muslim preachers, but also Muslim political leaders, are expected to give fiery speeches against the outside world, but never against internal causes of trouble, especially if they’re related to Islam or Sharia.

Al-Sisi is the first Muslim leader in recent history who openly speaks of the need for a reformation in Islamic education. That makes him a new kind of Muslim leader, and unquestionably an exceptional and courageous one.

A year ago, Al-Sisi spoke before the leadership of the highest Islamic Sunni institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, and challenged the clerics to take the lead in an effort to examine their own teachings and source materials for interpreting Islam. He emphasized he was not critiquing the religion (of Islam) but the need for a “religious revolution” in the thinking that is “antagonizing the entire world.” Again, just a couple of weeks ago on December 22, al-Sisi reiterated his appeal to Islamic leaders to modernize and promote “changes in approach” for the sake of peaceful coexistence with all races and religions.

Even though Al-Sisi is widely popular among the majority of Egyptians who are fed up with the impact of political Islam on Egyptian society, there are forces of insurgency coming from Al-Azhar and the Muslim Brotherhood, which is far from being a dead movement in Egypt.

Egypt is at a crossroads, and the efforts to keep Egypt moderate are being constantly challenged from all directions: radical Muslim groups from inside Egypt, the impact of ISIS in the Sinai, the instability and terror on the border with Hamas in Gaza and the terror challenge on Egypt’s Western border with Libya. Even the Southern border of Egypt is not free of turmoil coming from the Islamic State of The Sudan.

Even though the West and the so-called “moderate” Muslims are hopeful for an Islamic reformation movement coming out of the Middle East, the prospects are grim. Reformists are being strangled from all directions, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which was condemned as an illegal terrorist organization by the Egyptian government, is getting stronger globally with global headquarters, not in Saudi Arabia, but in London and Istanbul.

Worst of all is the Obama administration’s refusal to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, have given it acceptance and even respectability at the international level and also inside the Middle East.

The weak state of Egypt’s economy and its shrinking income from tourism after several terror attacks on tourists in the Sinai are additional factors making it difficult for Al-Sisi’s reformation plans to succeed.

The stunning and rapid success of ISIS, its successful terrorism on the West, the sleeper cells in Europe and the US, Obama’s withdrawal from the Middle East, and his reluctance to fight ISIS, all are additional factors in favor of ISIS winning the Middle East. The same factors are working against the political stability of Egypt, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia, which just recently beheaded a Shiite cleric, together with a total of 47 Shiite protesters.

The year 2016 is the last year for the Obama administration, and Islam jihadists know that their golden opportunity to run wild and form a lasting Islamic State in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East will probably end with Obama’s term in office. We are looking at a very rocky 2016.

AFDI Geller Fellow Nonie Darwish is the author “The Devil We Don’t Know” and president of “Former Muslims United,” a program of the American Freedom Defense Initiative.