Posts Tagged ‘Islam’


Islam’s Non-Believers
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A new film by Deeyah Khan, above – Islam’s Non-Believers –  follows the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, which supports ex-Muslims, often referred to as apostates or unbelievers, both in the UK and abroad.

The documentary – which can be seen here – provides an important insight into the hidden plight of young people in Britain, many of whom are leading double lives – pretending to still be Muslims including by wearing the veil or attending mosque – in order to avoid ostracisation, abuse and even violence.

Depression, self-harm, and suicide are some of the effects.

According to Sadia, one of the ex-Muslims featured in the film said:

I remember saying to my mum, ‘I don’t think I believe in God anymore,’ And her saying, ‘You can’t tell anybody else because they’ll kill you, we are obliged to kill ex-Muslims,’ and that it would put me at extreme risk if anybody else was to find out, so that conversation ended there.

Given the stigma and risks, it’s hard to know how many ex-Muslims there are in Britain, and internationally, but it’s a growing phenomenon.

The Internet is doing to Islam what the printing press did in the past to Christianity. Social media has not only given countless young people access to “forbidden” ideas and allowed them a space to express themselves where none existed – but it has also helped them find each other, share their stories and see that they are not alone.

This has brought with it courage and hope for the right to live as they choose. It’s become a global resistance movement.
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There are literally millions of us – in every home and “Muslim” family, on every street corner, in every city, town and village across Britain and the globe.

Atheism is ‘breaking like a tsunami’, says a worried official of the Islamic regime of Iran.

The “threat” of atheism explains why the Saudi government has equated atheism with terrorism and Egypt’s youth ministry has joined with the highest Sunni authority, Al-Azhar, to combat “extremism and atheism”.

Atheism is punishable with the death penalty in 13 countries and a prosecutable offence in many more, including via fines, imprisonment, flogging, and exclusion from civil rights, such as losing child custody.

And it is not just “over there” that apostates face persecution but right here in Britain with Imams and respected mainstream “community leaders” legitimising discrimination and/or inciting violence.

In the film, Omer El-Hamdoon, President of the Muslim Association of Britain, justifies ostracisation by saying that Islam’s non-believers are “outside the human norms”:

How we treat people is the same; we don’t discriminate but our love cannot be the same, it’s just human behaviour. Islam is a pragmatic religion, it doesn’t expect people to behave outside the human norms.

[When asked on his position with regards the death penalty for apostasy in an ideal Islamic state, he refused to respond in usual double-speak.]

Shah Sadruddin, another “community leader”, is shown calling for the death of a Bangladeshi atheist blogger:

This son of a bastard is challenging us.
 
O Bangla’s Scholars, O Bangla’s Muslims, wake up! No son of a bastard will remain alive after swearing at my Prophet!

Sadruddin is a teacher/rector at an Islamic academy and madrasah and ran as a Conservative councillor and lost. In a clip for the Conservatives, he says:

I believe in equality, I believe in fairness, I believe in loving the human race and I hate to hate anybody.

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Rayhana Sultan, above left, a young ex-Muslim from Bangladesh, says this form of hate speech can further intimidate ex-Muslims, forcing them back into the closet:

These kind of lectures create an environment that subconsciously teaches devout Muslims to see ex-Muslims or anyone who thinks out of the box as a threat, further ostracising them, de-humanising them, bullying them, so it further creates so much dangers for people to come out as an ex-Muslim.

Whilst apostasy is not criminalised here in Britain, many imams and self-appointed “community leaders” have created a climate where vilification and incitement to violence are permissible, particularly since there is no political will to recognise it as incitement.

Add to this, links to the transnational Islamist movement, British government appeasement of the Islamist movement, multiculturalism as a social policy which homogenises the “Muslim community” and fails to recognise dissent as well as accusations of “Islamophobia” to silence critics and you have a situation where young people born and raised in this country have neither the right nor the choice to think or live as they want.

Identity politics is literally killing us.

Deeyah Khan’s film is often hard to watch – parts of it are heart-breaking – but it also inspires and brings hope by highlighting those challenging apostasy laws and stigma and calling for equality – much like the gay liberation movement has done in decades past.

Clearly, the ex-Muslim movement deserves the support and solidarity of all those more interested in defending human rights and lives rather than religion and the religious-Right.

#IslamsNonBelievers
#NotAlone

Sign a petition calling for an end to apostasy laws.

For more information, visit the website of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

Editor’s note: Islam’s Non-Believers was broadcast by ITV on October 13. In an analysis of the documentary, Luqmaan Al Hakeem wrote:

I came to realise that the majority of their reasons for leaving the faith were emotional and cultural as opposed to being intellectual reasons.

 

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ISLAM: the Christian Heresy

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Depiction of Muhammad in hell for the sin of heresy.

“It was the great Catholic world on the frontiers of which he lived, whose influence was all around him and whose territories he had known by travel which inspired his [Mohammed’s] convictions.”

Today the West often views Islam as a civilisation very different from and indeed innately hostile to Christianity. Only when you travel in Christianity’s Eastern homelands do you realise how closely the two are really connected, the former growing directly out of the latter and still, to this day, embodying many aspects and practices of the early Christian world now lost in Christianity’s modern Western-based incarnation. When the early Byzantines were first confronted by the Prophet’s armies, they assumed that Islam was merely an heretical form of Christianity, and in many ways they were not so far wrong: Islam accepts much of the Old and New Testaments and venerates both Jesus and the ancient Jewish prophets.

Significantly, the greatest and most subtle theologian of the early church, St. John Damascene, was convinced that Islam was at root not a separate religion, but instead a form of Christianity. St. John had grown up in the Ummayad Arab court of Damascus, where his father was chancellor, and he was an intimate boyhood friend of the future Caliph al-Yazid; the two boys’ drinking bouts in the streets of Damascus were the subject of much horrified gossip in the streets of the new Islamic capital. Later, in his old age, John took the habit at the desert monastery of Mar Saba where he began work on his great masterpiece, a refutation of heresies entitled the Fount of Knowledge. The book contains an extremely precise and detailed critique of Islam, the first ever written by a Christian, which, intriguingly, John regarded as a form of Christian heresy related to Arianism: after all Arianism, like Islam, denied the divinity of Christ. Although he lived at the very hub of the early Islamic world, it never seems to have occurred to him that Islam might be a separate religion. If a theologian of the stature of John Damascene was able to regard Islam as a new- if heretical- form of Christianity, it helps to explain how Islam was able to convert so much of the Middle Eastern population in so short a time, even though Christianity remained the majority religion until the time of the Crusades.

 

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The longer you spend in the Christian communities of the Middle East, the more you become aware of the extent to which Eastern Christian practice formed the template for what were to become the basic conventions of Islam. The Muslim form of prayer with its bowings and prostrations appears to derive from the older Syrian Orthodox tradition that is still practised in pewless churches across the Levant. The architecture of the earliest minarets, which are square rather than round, unmistakably derive from the church towers of Byzantine Syria. The Sufi Muslim tradition carried on directly from the point that the Christian Desert Fathers left off while Ramadan, at first sight one of the most foreign and alienating of Islamic practices, is in fact nothing more than an Islamicisation of Lent, which in the Eastern Christian churches still involves a gruelling all-day fast.

— Taken from The Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East, by William Dalrymple

 

As shown by the artwork above, the Middle Ages also viewed Islam has a heresy. In Dante’s Inferno, Canto XXVIII, Muhammad is depicted as “twixt the legs, Dangling his entrails hung, the midriff lay Open to view…” Muhammad suffers the punishment of the schismatics: having his body rent from chin to anus for how he rent the Body of Christ.

 

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Interview with French extremism researcher Olivier Roy

″Radicalisation is not the result of failed integration″

After the attacks in Brussels, Olivier Roy cautions against rashly linking Islam with terrorism. In interview with Michaela Wiegel, the Islam researcher explains the real problem with jihadism

Mr. Roy, do you see a connection between terrorism and failed integration in European immigration societies?

Olivier Roy: I don’t think that Islamic radicalisation is the result of a failure to integrate. That’s only a pseudo-problem. Many of the young people who take up the banner of jihad are well integrated. They speak French, English and German. Islamic State (IS) has established a French-speaking battalion precisely because the young French and Belgians hardly speak any Arabic. The problem is not a lack of cultural integration. Even as they break with their society, the European jihadists remain dedicated to a very Western model. It is nihilistic, which is not at all in accordance with Islamic tradition. They have in many cases developed a fascination with the aesthetics of violence they know from movies and videos. In this sense, they are more like the students who ran amok in Columbine High School or the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.

So immigration and jihadism have nothing to do with each other?

Roy: For me, the high percentage of converts is a very interesting indicator. Nowhere else in Muslim culture is there another organisation like the IS with its 25 percent converts. So cultural explanations alone are not enough to establish what makes IS so attractive. What′s more, young people without an immigrant heritage are also drawn to the idea of jihad.

How then do you explain the terrorists′ invocation of Islam?

Roy: I am not denying that there is a religious dimension. It is important, because it means the jihadists can reinterpret their nihilism as a promise of paradise. Their suicide becomes a guarantee for eternal life. I only want to emphasise that these young people do not come from the Muslim community. Most of them have no religious education and have rarely visited a mosque. Nearly all were previously petty criminals. They would drink alcohol and take drugs.

Symbolic image of jihadists (photo: Colourbox/krbfss)

Fascinated by the aesthetics of violence: ” Even as they break with their society, the European jihadists remain dedicated to a very Western model. It is nihilistic, which is not at all in accordance with Islamic tradition. They have in many cases developed a fascination with the aesthetics of violence they know from movies and videos. In this sense, they are more like the students who ran amok in Columbine High School or the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik”, asserts Roy

 

What role is played by Europe‘s colonial past?

Roy: The left wing’s post-colonial vision is inadequate. In my opinion, Islamist radicalisation can neither be attributed to current foreign policy nor to colonial crimes. These young radicals never talk about the war in Algeria, even if that is where their grandfathers came from. They usually don’t even know anything about it.

Why do so many siblings commit to jihad?

Roy: These are young people who want to make a radical break with their parents’ generation. Their parents have not inculcated them with Islamic culture. By going radical, they view themselves as better Muslims than their parents. Parents in Europe condemn their children for joining the jihad, unlike Palestinian parents, who usually approve of the violent acts perpetrated by their offspring. European parents say: I don’t understand what motivates my daughter or my son. A new conflict between generations is being fought out here. This also explains why it is so often siblings, brothers in most cases, who break away together from their parents. The IS fighters are members of the same generation, siblings or childhood friends.

So, in your view, the terrorists are the result of a particularly vehement generational conflict?

Roy: Most jihadists are “born again”; with radical Islam, they get a new lease of life. That’s why there are so few jihadists who are part of the first generation of immigrants. That generation still grew up in the traditional Islamic faith. It was not until the second generation of immigrants that a break with the past occurred, because the passing down of religious beliefs stopped working. Most terrorists belong to the second generation of immigrants.

Act of collective mourning led by Belgian Prime Minister Geert Bourgeois in Brussels following the attacks (photo: picture-alliance/dap/A. Belot)

Grief and sorrow following the terror attacks in Brussels: 32 people died during the suicide bombings carried out by Islamist terrorists last Tuesday, while 100 of the injured still remain in hospital

So you agree with Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who is against holding a debate on the breeding ground for terrorism?

Roy: No, on the contrary: I want to contribute to the debate on the breeding ground for terrorism. Valls is currently courting populism; he has moved away from the left and become more authoritarian and anti-intellectual. The breeding ground for terrorism has to be researched. To my surprise, I find myself increasingly working with psychologists and psychoanalysts. Risk-taking behaviour among young people has soared, accompanied by a fascination with suicide and violence. We have to devote more attention to this dimension.

Do you think this is a common phenomenon among young people?

Roy: Yes. In Italy, for example, two young people just murdered one of their peer group. When apprehended, the only justification they could give for their act was that they wanted to experience what it feels like to kill. The press has called them crazy. But if the young people had screamed “Allahu Akbar” before the deed, they would be perceived as terrorists.

Your compatriot the Islam researcher Gilles Kepel accuses you of downplaying the Islamic dimension of terrorism.

Roy: The fact that he’s upset is a good sign – it means he is trying to come to terms with my theses. He doesn’t like me pointing out the psychological dimension. In my opinion, though, we urgently need to take a multidisciplinary approach when tackling the phenomenon of Islamist radicalisation.

 

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Interview by Michaela Wiegel

© Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 2016

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor


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Is it the Left that fails to oppose Islamism, or Rightwing Imperialists?

It is commonly asserted that Leftists· refuse to criticise Islam (or theocratic Islam).[1] There are variations on this trope: some claim that Leftists refuse to criticise Islam due to a gratuitous sense of political-correctness;[2] some claim that Leftists are blind to the problems inherent within Islam;[3] and some claim that Leftists are actively supporting theocratic or militant Islam through some kind of insidious political collaboration.[4]

An examination of the relationship between the Right, the Left, and Islamism over the last half-century renders this narrative trivial at best, and deceitful at worst.

The Left and Islamism

It could be granted that due to the post-911 wave of hysterical anti-Muslim bigotry from Social-Conservatives throughout the West, many Leftists have found it difficult to navigate the line between valid criticism of Muslims and anti-Muslim bigotry; in consequence, arguably, many Leftists have been hesitant to condemn the views and behaviour of conservative and theocratic Muslims, for fear of also validating this xenophobia and bigotry.[5]

Ostensibly, however, this situation is extremely recent; over the course of the preceding half-century, the Left (and Left-influenced groups and regimes) actually consistently opposed and battled with militant and theocratic Islamic movements; here are some examples:
· The ʿArab-Socialist regime of Nasser (r. 1956-1970)—despite appealing to Egypt’s Islamic heritage on occasion—outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood movement in 1954 and suppressed the organisation henceforth.[6]
· Following the 1964 Revolution in Sudan, the popularity of the Communist Party—a progressive organisation which had promoted women’s rights over the prior decades,[7] etc.—prompted their Islamist opponents to launch a campaign of violence against the Sudanese Left.[8] Several years later (in 1969), another Leftist coup d’état attempted to reverse the conservative-Islamisation of Sudan and return the country towards socially-progressive socialism.[9]
· The Islamic-Socialist regime of Gaddafi in Libya (r. 1969-2011)—despite appealing to Islamic Tradition in their syncretic Socialist ideology—repressed and imprisoned Islamists.[10]
· The Socialist government of Afghanistan—which gained power in a bloody 1978 coup d’état and continued the modernisation attempts of the prior regime, including the introduction of women’s rights—repressed Islamists and fought against the theocratic Muslim ‘strugglers’ (mujāhidūn) of the region during the 1980s.[11]
· Following the 1979 Revolution in Iran, the emerging Islamist regime of Khumaini was threatened by the secular and progressive Left, which was brutally repressed through mass-executions;[12] in 1983, the Communist Party of Iran was officially outlawed.[13]
· In Lebanon, the Communist Party was perceived as a serious threat by Islamists, who perpetrated numerous mass-killings against their leftwing foes during the 1980s; in 1987, Twelver-Shiʿi clerics in Nabatiye issued fatāwā ordering their followers to kill all Communists in the region.[14]
· At present, one of the most notable groups militarily-resisting I.S.I.S in the Middle East is the socialist Kurdistan Workers’ Party.[15]
A pattern seems to emerge from this history – over the last half-century, the progressive Left (including syncretic quasi-leftwing regimes) has consistently opposed and fought theocratic and militant Islamic movements throughout the Muslim world.

The Right and Islamism
In stark juxtaposition to this recurring Leftist legacy of struggle, the imperialistic Right—particularly the U.S.A and the U.K—consistently supported militant and theocratic Islamic movements and regimes (diplomatically, logistically, and financially) throughout the last half-century, usually against the Left and secular-nationalism; here are some examples:
· 1953 – The C.I.A of the Republican Eisenhower administration attempted to collaborate with the theocratic ayatollah Kashani (an inspiration to Khumaini[16]) to overthrow the irreligious, secular-nationalist Prime Minister of Iran, Muhammad Musaddiq.[17][18]
· 1957 – In order to counter and undermine secular-nationalism and socialism in the Middle East, the Republican Eisenhower administration attempted to style King Saud as the ‘Islamic Pope’.[19] Saudi Arabia is one of the most theocratic Islamic states in history, and despite some occasional disagreements and tension, the U.S.A strongly supported Saudi Arabia from WW2 onwards.[20]
· 1965-1966 – The Democratic Johnson administration of the U.S.A—as well as the Liberal Menzies administration of Australia and the Labour Harold administration of the U.K—supported the coup d’état of Suharto and his conservative-Islamist alliance in Indonesia, which entailed the mass-killing of up to a million leftists, workers, peasants, students, and others by the Indonesian military and their militant Islamist allies;[21][22] the C.I.A. even advised these Muslim executioners to identify atheists and Communists as ‘unbelievers’ (kāfirūn), whose deaths were necessary to religiously purify Indonesia.[23]
· 1970 – The Conservative Heath administration of the U.K attempted to undermine the Marxist rebellion ongoing in Oman by spreading religious Islamic propaganda and air-dropping leaflets with slogans such as: “The Hand of God Destroys Communism.”[24]
· 1970-1981 – Successive Republican and Democratic administrations of the U.S.A (from Nixon to Reagan) heavily supported the Islamist regime of Sadat in Egypt, which introduced Islamic Law (s̠arīʿah) into Egyptian state law and the national constitution[25] and encouraged Islamist groups (such as the Muslim Brotherhood) vis-à-vis the secular-nationalism and socialism predominating in the country.[26]
· 1977-1988 – The Pakistani general Muhammad Ziyaʾ al-Haqq—an emphatically pious Muslim—seized power in a coups d’état and undertook a policy of conservative-Islamisation in Pakistan, including the implementation of Islamic Law (s̠arīʿah);[27] he was extensively and enthusiastically supported by U.S-Republican Reagan[28] and British-Conservative Thatcher.[29]
· 1980s – The Republican Reagan administration of the U.S.A and the Conservative Thatcher administration of the U.K both heavily-supported the mujāhidūn (including proto-Qaʿidah) in Afghanistan against the secular, progressive, socialist government. [30] [31] [32]
· 1988-1992 – The Likud administration of Israel enabled and supported the rise of Hamas vis-à-vis the hitherto-dominant secular and leftwing Palestinian groups.[33][34][35]
From all of this history, an inverse pattern seems to emerge vis-à-vis the leftwing legacy described previously – over the course of the last half-century, the Right—and especially, socially-conservative governments in the U.S.A and the U.K—has consistently supported and collaborated with theocratic and militant Islamic movements and regimes throughout the Muslim world, usually against the progressive and secular Left.

Analysis: Imperialism & Media
This set of facts raises two obvious questions. Firstly: why does the Right consistently support theocratic Islamism, and the Left consistently fight it? No simple answer will suffice to account for either, but the following quote from Chomsky provides some insight:
“The U.S. has always supported the most extreme fundamentalist Islamic movements and still does. The oldest and most valued ally of the U.S. in the Arab world is Saudi Arabia, which is also the most extremist fundamentalist state. By comparison, Iran looks like a free democratic society – but Saudi Arabia was doing its job. The enemy for most of this period has been secular nationalism. U.S.-Israeli relations, for example, really firmed up in 1967 when Israel performed a real service for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Namely, it smashed the main center of secular nationalism, (Gamal Abdul) Nasser’s Egypt, which was considered a threat and more or less at war with Saudi Arabia at the time. It was threatening to use the huge resources of the region for the benefit of the population of the countries of the region, and not to fill the pockets of some rich tyrant while vast profits flowed to Western corporations.”[36]
Secondly: why isn’t this reality reflected within the popular media discourse? Once again, a quotation from Chomsky sheds some light on the subject:
“In short, major media—particularly, the elite media that set the agenda that others generally follow—are corporations “selling” privileged audiences to other businesses. It would hardly come as a surprise if the picture of the world they present were to reflect the perspectives and interests of the sellers, the buyers, and the product. Concentration of ownership of the media is high and increasing. Furthermore, those who occupy managerial positions in the media, or gain status within them as commentators, belong to the same privileged elites, and might be expected to share the perceptions, aspirations, and attitudes of their associates, reflecting their own class interests as well. Journalists entering the system are unlikely to make their way unless they conform to these ideological pressures, generally by internalizing the values; it is not easy to say one thing and believe another, and those who fail to conform will tend to be weeded out by familiar mechanisms.”[37]
For an institutional analysis of the media and the various pressures which distort information, see: Edward S. Herman & Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York, U.S.A: Pantheon Books, 1988).

Conclusion
The popular narrative that Leftists shy away from criticising Islam or Islamism, or that the Left actively conspires with ‘Islamism’, is superficial – since WW2, leftwing movements and governments—including quasi-leftist regimes—have consistently opposed militant and theocratic Islamism. By contrast, imperialistic rightwing governments in the West—particularly the U.S.A and the U.K—have a long and sordid history of supporting some of the worst theocratic and militant Islamic movements and regimes in recent history.
· Meaning: Marxists, Socialists, Anarchists, Communists, etc. ‘Liberalism’ is a pro-capitalist ideology, and therefore on the ‘right wing’ of the economic spectrum; the ‘left wing’, by contrast, is anti-capitalism. Consequently, the common conflation of ‘Liberals’ and ‘Leftists’ (as if the two terms were synonyms) demonstrates a confusion in the claims of those articulating the narrative under consideration; this is exemplified in the following article: Nick Cohen, ‘The Great Betrayal: How Liberals Appease Islam’, Standpoint (January/February, 2015): http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/5886/full

[1] For example: Rick Santorum—in a 2007 speech at the University of Oklahoma—claimed: “I will tell you, I am absolutely perplexed that the radical Left in this country—or even the mainstream Left in this country—does not join in opposing the ideology that we confront: radical Islamists.”

[2] Thus, for example, Harris claims that “the political correctness of the Left has made it taboo to even notice the menace of political Islam, leaving only right-wing fanatics to do the job.”

[3] For example: George Jochnowitz, The Blessed Human Race: Essays on Reconsideration (Lanham, U.S.A: Hamilton Books, 2007), p.35: “Leftist writers now feel free to attack Stalin and Mao, and maybe even Castro, but they remain blind to the excesses of Islamic regimes.”

[4] Notably suggested in Unholy Alliance (2004) by Horowitz and The Grand Jihad (2010) by McCarthy; this is also approximately the thesis of John Miller, Siding with the Oppressor: The Pro-Islamist Left (London, U.K: One Law for All, 2013), which purports to identity a concerted efforts amongst some British-Leftists to support or defend militant and theocratic Islamism, which is allegedly viewed by some as a legitimate “anti-imperialist force”; these same Leftists also allegedly defend Islam in general—which they hold to be “an oppressed religion”—by means of vilification and false accusations of “racism” and “Islamophobia” (Miller, p.6). Although Miller sometimes relies upon insinuation and inference (e.g., the insinuation of perfidy on the part of German for saying “not condone” instead of “condemn”, and their not explicitly citing Washington and Pennsylvania; Miller, p.7), there are three passable examples of this approximate phenomenon chronicled within his report. Firstly: according to an article written by Tina Becker at Weekly Worker, the leadership of the ‘Stop the War Coalition’—whilst condemning Western imperialism and terrorism—declined to condemn ‘the terrorist attacks on the USA, opposition to the Taliban, for democracy and secularism everywhere’, to maximise their support-base. (Miller, pp.7-8; Miller incorrectly attributes the view of Hoskisson to the StWC at large, however; cf. http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/406/building-for-november-18/) The StWC also collaborated with the Muslim Association of Britain, an organisation with some dubious affiliations such as Qaraḍāwī (Miller, pp.8-24.) Secondly: the largely StWC-derived ‘Respect Party’—co-founded in 2004 by George Galloway—has connections to Islamist individuals, groups, and governments (Miller, pp.25-46). Thirdly: the leadership of the ‘Unite against Fascism’ coalition—founded in 2003 and dominated by the Socialist Workers’ Party—has collaborated with Islamist individuals, groups, and governments (Miller, pp.46-56). Vis-à-vis the grand narrative of Leftist betrayal, however, these three examples seem meagre and sporadic.

[5] Thus, Miller’s claim (p.6) that some Leftists consider Islam to be “an oppressed religion.”

[6] Ray Takeyh & Nikolas K. Gvosdev—The Receding Shadow of the Prophet: The Rise and Fall of Radical Political Islam (Westport, U.S.A: Praeger Publishers, 2004), pp.60-61—note that despite their participation in the 1952 Revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed by Nasser in 1954, given the conflict of their Islamic ideology with Nasser’s ʿArab-Socialism (Nasser also conflicted with proper Communists). In 1965, a mass wave of arrests saw the imprisonment of many seminal Islamist theoreticians, and in 1966 the state executed Saʿīd Quṭb, Muḥammad Yūsuf Awas̠, and ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Ismāʿīl. Despite this, Nasser still drew upon Egypt’s Islamic heritage in order to appeal to conservative Muslims. However, Islam was only really referenced as a facilitating-factor for ʿArab history and civilisation.

[7] Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, ‘Human Rights: Sudan’, in E.W.I.C, V.2, p.278: “Historically, the struggle for Sudanese women’s rights was part of the larger nationalist movement. The first organized group of women, the Sudanese Women’s Union, was formed in 1946 as part of the Sudanese Communist Party. After independence, through the 1950s and 1960s, the Women’s Union published its Ṣawt al-marʾa (Woman’s voice) in which numerous issues relating to the political and social status of women were raised, such as polygamy, divorce reform, and female circumcision. Suffrage was extended to women, not at the time of independence, but after the 1964 popular revolution against the Abboud military government, when women openly and enthusiastically demonstrated for popular democracy. Fāṭima Aḥmad Ibrāhīm, a founder of the Women’s Union, was the first woman elected to parliament in 1965. The Women’s Union was also influential in agitating for the reforms in the Sharīʿa law of marriage and divorce that took place in the 1960s and early 1970s.”

[8] Abdullahi A. Gallab—The First Islamist Republic: Development and Disintegration of Islamism in the Sudan (Aldershot, U.K: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2008), pp.63-64—notes the career of the Islamist politician Al-Ḥasan ʿAbd Allāh at-Turābī, which started in 1964: “Under the leadership of al-Turabi, the Islamists gradually became a mainstay of political activism and agitation, sometimes instigating violent campaigns against the Communist Party both on and off the campuses of universities and other institutes of higher education.” According to Abdel Salam Sidahmed—‘Islamism and the State’, in John Ryle, Justin Willis, Suliman Baldo, & Jok Madut Jok (eds.), The Sudan Handbook (Woodbridge, U.K: James Currey, 2011), p.94—the the Communist Party of Sudan was dissolved in 1965 due to the efforts of Islamists, on the charge of ‘atheism’:

[9] Diaa Rashwan (ed.) (Translated by Mandy McClure), The Spectrum of Islamist Movements, Volume 1 (Berlin, Germany: Verlag Hans Schiler, 2007), p.379: “…following the approval of the first draft of the constitution, the May coup took place, let by the Sudanese communist party in alliance with the Free Officers and the Sudanese left. The first statement issued by the coup leaders announced that they had come to burn the “yellow papers”—a reference to the draft Islamic constitution—and to restore the October 1964 revolution’s original progressive and socialist nature.”

[10] Clinton Bennet—‘Chapter 7: States, Politics, and Political Groups’, in Felicity Crowe, Jolyon Goddard, Ben Hollingum, Sally MacEachern & Henry Russell (eds.), Modern Muslim Societies (Tarrytown, U.S.A: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2011), p.163—notes the syncretic Islamic-Socialism of Gaddafi, and also the fact that “Gaddafi has imprisoned many members of Islamist movements.”

[11] For a brief overview of the 20th Century history of Afghanistan and its societal progression (from the Barakzai Kingdom to the Republic of Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the Civil War, and the rise of the Taliban), see: Christian Parenti, ‘Ideology and Electricity: The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan’, The Nation (7th/May/2012): http://www.thenation.com/article/167440/ideology-and-electricity-soviet-experience-afghanistan

[12] Jerald A. Combs, The History of American Foreign Policy, Volume 2: From 1895, Third Edition (Armonk, U.S.A: M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 2008), p.269: “The ayatollah arrested, purged, and executed moderates, Communists, and religious and ethnic dissidents.” Marsh E. Burfeindt, ‘Rapprochement in Iran’, in Thomas A. Johnson (ed.), Power, National Security, and Transformational Global Events: Challenges Confronting America, China, and Iran (Boca Raton, U.S.A: C.R.C Press, 2012), p.190: “The resulting purge led to the firing squad deaths of tens of thousands of middle-class professionals and secularists, often within hours of being taken into custody.”

[13] Ihsan A. Hijazi (‘Communist Party in Lebanon Hurt’, The New York Times (4th/March/1987): http://www.nytimes.com/1987/03/04/world/communist-party-in-lebanon-hurt.html) noted: “Shiite enmity for the Communists heightened after the Iranian Government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini outlawed Iran’s Communist Party four years ago and arrested 75 of its leaders on charges of spying for Moscow.”

[14] Hijazi (‘Communist Party in Lebanon Hurt’) noted the mass-killing of Communists by Islamists, the fatāwā of the clerics to purge all Communists, the persecution of Communist due to their alleged ‘atheism’ by Islamists, and the Iranian involvement.

[15] ‘PKK joins battle against Isil’, Gulf News (15th/July/2014): http://gulfnews.com/news/region/syria/pkk-joins-battle-against-isil-1.1360183

[16] Edward Willett—Ayatollah Khomeini (New York, U.S.A: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 2004), p.37—notes that “Khomeini greatly admired Ayatollah Seyyed Abolqasem Kashani” (who opposed British imperialism): “After the Allied invasion, Kashani was arrested for his anti-British opinions. That made him a hero to the younger members of the clergy. When he was released in 1945, he became closely associated with the Feda’iyan-e Islam. Khomeini paid frequent visits to Kashani’s home.” Elsewhere, Willett (p.34) notes: “Khomeini’s friend Kashani supported Mosaddeq for a time. However, Mosaddeq would not support the Feda’iyan’s demand to apply shari’a law. Kashani withdrew his support and went on to help General Fazollah Zahedi—with the help of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British—overthrow Mossadeq in August 1953.”

[17] Algar, ‘Kās̲h̲ānī’, in E.I.2, V.4, p.696: “With the beginning of the campaign for the nationalization of the oil industry, Kās̲h̲ānī’s importance grew as he came to be one of the chief organizers of mass support for Dr. Muḥammad Muṣaddiḳ’s National Front. He had, too, a number of representatives in the Mad̲j̲lis, a group known as the Mud̲j̲āhidīn-i Islām. Personal differences arose between Kās̲h̲ānī and Musaddik, and Kās̲h̲ānī became alarmed, moreover, at the militant irreligiosity that showed itself in the last days of Musaddiḳ’s rule. He therefore supported the royalist coup d’état of 19 August 1953 that overthrew Muṣaddiḳ.”

[18] According to C.I.A records, the C.I.A attempted to collaborate with religious leaders such as Kās̠ānī: Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror (Hoboken, U.S.A: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008), p.178: “The indispensable Assadollah Rashidian, however, was worried that the mob would not be big enough. He urged Roosevelt to strengthen his hand by making a last-minute deal with Muslim religious leaders, many of whom had large followings and could produce crowds on short notice. The most important of them, Ayatollah Kashani, had already turned against Mossadegh and would certainly be sympathetic. To encourage him, Rashidian suggested a quick application of cash. Roosevelt agreed. Early Wednesday morning he sent $10,000 to Ahmad Aramash, a confidant of Kashani’s, with instructions that it be passed along to the holy man.”

[19] Rachel Bronson—Thicker than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership with Saudi Arabia (Oxford, U.K: Oxford University Press, 2006), p.27—notes a letter from Eisenhower to King ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz mentioning “a shared interest in fighting “godless communism.”” Saudi Arabia was also held to be a counter to the revolutionary secular-nationalism of the Middle East during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Thus, “Eisenhower encouraged Saudi Arabia’s King Saud (reigned 1953-64) to become a political and religious counter to the charismatic Nasser, and the White House began referring to King Saud somewhat optimistically as “an Islamic pope.””

[20] Wynbrandt (A Brief History of Saudi Arabia, pp.195-197) notes the replacement of the U.K by the U.S.A as Saudi Arabia’s key backer during WW2, despite the Saudi opposition towards Zionism (which Roosevelt supported); Wynbrandt (pp.213) further notes the straining of U.S-Saudi relations under the pro-Israeli Truman and later during the 1973 War (Wynbrandt, p.231), but these differences were overcome: the 1979 U.S.S.R intervention in Afghanistan brought “Saudi Arabia and the United States together in creating an army of Islamic fighters, the mujahideen, to battle the Soviets” (Wynbrandt, p.233).

[21] Robert W. Hefner, ‘Chapter 7: Religion: Evolving Pluralism’, in Donald K. Emmerson (ed.), Indonesia beyond Suharto: Polity, Economy, Society, Transition (Armonk, U.S.A: Asia Society, 1999), p.223: “With covert military support, several Muslim youth groups organized violent attacks on PKI headquarters—opening actions in a fiercely anticommunist campaign that would consume the country. By the middle of 1966, hundreds of thousands of real or suspected communists had been slaughtered and the party leadership had been liquidated. Although associations representing Indonesia’s minority religions took part in the killings in some locations, Muslim youth groups working in cooperation with the armed forces were often at the forefront of the campaign.”

[22] Mike Head, ‘Interviews and documents show… US orchestrated Suharto’s 1965-66 slaughter in Indonesia’, World Socialist Website (19th/July/1999): http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/1999/07/indo1-j19.html

[23] Olaf Schumann—‘Multifaith Dialogue in Diverse Settings’, in Viggo Mortensen (ed.), Theology and the Religions: A Dialogue (Grand Rapids, U.S.A: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003), pp.202-203—notes that when Suharto and his Islamist allies took power, they were influenced by the C.I.A: “Communists and atheists and those accused of sympathizing with them were now, according to the advice of the CIA and Western economic “experts,” treated as “infidels” (kâfirûn) and therefore killed or confined to prison camps, and thus the Indonesian nation had become a truly religious one, a “nation of believers,” in accordance with the Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa.”

[24] Ian F. W. Beckett—‘The British Counterinsurgency Campaign in Dhofar 1965-75’, in Daniel Marston & Carter Malkasian (eds.), Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare (Oxford, U.K: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2010), pp.182-183—notes that the British military realised “that Islam could be used against PFLOAG at the very moment that the government information service was being established by Captain Tim Landon. Constantly re-iterated themes were “The Hand of God Destroys Communism” and “Islam is Our Way, Freedom is our Aim.” Leaflets were air-dropped on the jebel. Notices were also predominantly displayed in towns and markets, notably where inhabitants queued at perimeter gates for the customary searches looking for weapons and excessive amounts of food or medical supplies. There was a new government weekly, Al Watan, and, even more importantly, Radio Dhofar began to broadcast throughout the province.”

[25] Anthony McDermott, Egypt from Nasser to Mubarak: A Flawed Revolution (Abington, U.K: Routledge, 2013), p.192: “In 1971, Sadat had the second article of the constitution amended, making sharia a major source of law. In 1977, in the face of the mounting extremism, the government announced legislative proposals such as the death penalty for apostasy and adultery, and whipping for drunkenness.” Some of these laws were not actually implemented, but in 1980 “the People’s Assembly approved an amendment in the second article of the Constitution, taking the whole issue an important stage beyond Sadat’s 1971 amendment – for the change made sharia the rather than a main source of legislation.”

[26] Joel Beinin & Joe Stork, ‘On the Modernity, Historical Specificity, and International Context of Political Islam’, in Joel Beinin & Joe Stork (eds.), Political Islam: Essays from Middle East Report (New York, U.S.A: I. B. Tauris & Co., Ltd., 1997), p.11: “Similarly, there was no hint of any US reproach in the 1970s when the Egyptian government of Anwar al-Sadat, then on its way to becoming the second largest recipient (after Israel) of US economic and military aid, encouraged the Muslim Brothers and its radical offshoots to organize against nationalists and leftists.”

[27] Michel Boivin—‘Ziyāʾ al-Ḥaḳḳ’, in E.I.2, V.11, p.518—relates the political rise of Muḥammad and his overt religiosity, before noting the following: “From 1979 onwards, Zia promulgated a series of Islamic laws hailed by Mawdūdī as the first steps towards the installation of an Islamic state. The first series, known as the “Hudood Ordinances”, created a category of “Islamic crimes”, such as adultery, rape, theft, fornication, etc. These crimes were to be dealt with by special courts with the task of applying the Ḳurʾānic penalties. These courts were themselves placed under the authority of the Federal S̲h̲aria Court, made up of judges and ʿulamāʾ. In 1980, the second series of measures envisaged the Islamisation of the economic sector. Two Islamic taxes, the zakāt and the ʿus̲h̲r, were created. Bank loans were regulated on a basis of the Ḳurʾānic prohibition of usury, ribā. The law envisaged a division of the risks run by the borrower and the lender. Interest was fixed on the basis of a common agreement, and indexed according to the financial performance of the banks.”

[28] Samina Ahmed—‘Reviving State Legitimacy in Pakistan’, in Simon Chesterman, Michael Ignatieff, & Ramesh C. Thakur (eds.), Making States Work: State Failure and the Crisis of Governance (Tokyo, Japan: United Nations University Press, 2005), pp.157-158—notes the strong U.S support for the Ziyāʾ al-Ḥaqq regime, despite its brutality: “Benefiting from billions of US military and economic assistance, as well as US diplomatic support, the Zia regime successfully warded off its civilian contenders for 11 long years.”

In a 1982 speech to Muḥammad, Reagan proclaimed: “President Zia, Begum Zia, distinguished guests, it’s an honor for me to welcome you to the White House this evening.

Mr. President, our talks this morning underlined again the strong links between our countries. We find ourselves even more frequently in agreement on our goals and objectives. And we, for example, applaud your deep commitment to peaceful progress in the Middle East and South Asia, a resolve which bolsters our hopes and the hopes of millions.

In the last few years, in particular, your country has come to the forefront of the struggle to construct a framework for peace in your region, an undertaking which includes your strenuous efforts to bring peaceful resolution to the crisis in Afghanistan — a resolution which will enable the millions of refugees currently seeking shelter in Pakistan to go home in peace and honor. Further, you’ve worked to ensure that progress continues toward improving the relationship between Pakistan and India. And in all these efforts the United States has supported your objectives and will applaud your success.”

Reagan went on to claim: “Our relationship is deep and longstanding.” Finally, Reagan concluded: “And, Mr. President, I propose a toast to you, to the people of Pakistan, and to the friendship that binds our nations together.”

[29] In a 1981 speech to Muḥammad, Thatcher (cited in: Margaret Thatcher, ‘Speech at banquet given by Pakistan President (Zia Ul Haq)’, Margaret Thatcher Foundation (8th/October/1981): http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/104716) proclaimed that due to the threat of Socialism and other reasons, “Pakistan deserves the support of Britain and of all the nations of the world who are genuinely interested in bringing about the withdrawal of Soviet troops. On behalf of Britain, let me confirm to you—Pakistan has our support in the great problems you are facing. As Prime Minister of the country which at present holds the Presidency of the European Community, I can say too that the ten member states of that Community support you. We admire deeply the courage and skill you have shown in handling the crisis.”

[30] William Blum (‘The Historical US Support for al-Qaeda’, Foreign Policy Journal (10th/January/2014): http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2014/01/10/the-historical-us-support-for-al-qaeda/) notes the U.S support for the mujāhidūn in Afghanistan during the 1980s, along with other brutal groups around the world.

[31] Owen Bowcott (‘UK discussed plans to help mujahideen weeks after Soviet invasion of Afghanistan’, The Guardian (30th/December/2010): http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/dec/30/uk-mujahideen-afghanistan-soviet-invasion) notes: “Within three weeks of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the cabinet secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong, was negotiating how to channel covert military aid towards the “Islamic resistance” that was fighting the Russians. Details of how swiftly clandestine weapons routes were opened up to aid the mujahideen emerge from secret cabinet documents released to the National Archives today under the 30-year rule.” Bowcott also records: “Armstrong said intervention “would make more difficult the process of Soviet pacification of Afghanistan and [ensure] that process takes much longer than it would otherwise do; and the existence of a guerrilla movement in Afghanistan would be a focus of Islamic resistance which we should be wanting to continue to stimulate”.” Finally, Bowcott also notes: “The west’s arming of the mujahideen in Afghanistan has been seen as one of the contributing factors in the rise of al-Qaida. Osama bin Laden was a prominent Saudi financier of the mujahideen.”

[32] Martin Beckford (‘National Archives: Britain agreed secret deal to back Mujahideen’, The Telegraph (30th/December/2010): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/8215187/National-Archives-Britain-agreed-secret-deal-to-back-Mujahideen.html) notes the Western support for the mujāhidūn in Afghanistan during the 1980s, including proto-Qāʿidah: “Newly published papers show that one of the country’s top civil servants held a private summit with senior American, French and German politicians at which they decided to provide “discreet support for Afghan guerrilla resistance”. One faction of the Mujahideen fighters, who were also covertly funded by the CIA, went on to become founding members of the al-Qa’eda terrorist network.”

[33] Yael Klein (‘WikiLeaks: “Israel actively supported Hamas”’, Jerusalem Online (4th/August/2014): http://www.jerusalemonline.com/news/middle-east/israeli-palestinian-relations/wikileaks-israel-actively-supported-hamas-6980) notes: “During Operation “Protective Edge”, news leaks website WikiLeaks exposes secret documents which were passed between American diplomats in the 1980’s. These documents allegedly show that Israel was interested in enabling Hamas activity in its beginning, intending to weaken the Palestine Liberation Organization and ending the first Intifada.

Did Israel take part in enabling Hamas to reach its current dimensions and abilities? Documents from the 1980’s belonging to the leaking website WikiLeaks show that Israel enabled Hamas to act in the first Intifada in order to enable it to strengthen, thus to cause a splitting of the Palestinian nation – in order to weaken the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) which was responsible for the Intifada.”

[34] Andrew Higgins (‘How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas’, The Wall Street Journal (24th/January/2009): http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB123275572295011847) notes: “”Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation,” says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994, Mr. Cohen watched the Islamist movement take shape, muscle aside secular Palestinian rivals and then morph into what is today Hamas, a militant group that is sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Instead of trying to curb Gaza’s Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat’s Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, even as he was laying the foundations for what would become Hamas. Sheikh Yassin continues to inspire militants today; during the recent war in Gaza, Hamas fighters confronted Israeli troops with “Yassins,” primitive rocket-propelled grenades named in honor of the cleric.”

[35] Robert Dreyfuss (‘How Israel and the United States Helped to Bolster Hamas’, Democracy Now! (26th/January/2006): http://www.democracynow.org/2006/1/26/how_israel_and_the_united_states) chronicles the rise of Hamas, noting: “And starting in 1967, the Israelis began to encourage or allow the Islamists in the Gaza and West Bank areas, among the Palestinian exiled population, to flourish. The statistics are really quite staggering. In Gaza, for instance, between 1967 and 1987, when Hamas was founded, the number of mosques tripled in Gaza from 200 to 600. And a lot of that came with money flowing from outside Gaza, from wealthy conservative Islamists in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. But, of course, none of this could have happened without the Israelis casting an approving eye upon it.” Dreyfuss further notes: “So there’s plenty of evidence that the Israeli intelligence services, especially Shin Bet and the military occupation authorities, encouraged the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood and the founding of Hamas. There are many examples and incidents of that. But there were armed clashes, of course, on Palestinian university campuses in the ’70s and ’80s, where Hamas would attack P.L.O., PFLP, PDFLP and other groups, with clubs and chains. This was before guns became prominent in the Occupied Territories.

Even that, however — there’s a very interesting and unexplained incident. Yassin was arrested in 1983 by the Israelis. On search of his home, they found a large cache of weapons. This would have been a fairly explosive event, but for unexplained reasons, a year later Yassin was quietly released from prison. He said at the time that the guns were being stockpiled not to fight the Israeli occupation authorities, but to fight other Palestinian factions.”

[36] Cited in: Amina Chaudary & Noam Chomsky, ‘On Religion and Politics: Noam Chomsky interviewed by Amina Chaudary’, Islamica Magazine, Issue 19, (2007): http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/200704–.htm

[37] Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (London, U.K: Pluto Press, 1989), p.8.

by Klingschor


French Cartoonist Zeon Arrested for Anti-Zionist Art

In ostensibly free European countries, you can get in a lot of trouble for the wrong kind of humor – not just (deadly) trouble from jihadists “avenging” their prophet, but trouble meted out by government agencies and police officers.

For instance, in the Netherlands, in 2008, the home office of cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot, a poison-pen critic of Islam,

… was raided by a team of ten police officers who had been dispatched by the Openbaar Ministerie, the federal Dutch DA’s office that works in conjunction with the Netherlands Justice Department. The cops confiscated Nekschot’s computer, his sketchbooks, and other materials, then took him to a detention facility where he spent 30 hours in a concrete cell before being released without charges — but after he had been made to promise to remove eight cartoons from his website.

In January of this year, a week after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, the French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala (above), whose humor dances on the edge of anti-Semitism and sometimes well over it, was arrested on suspicion of

… “incitement of terrorism,” for appearing to offer a [written Facebook] gesture of solidarity with Amedy Coulibaly, the Islamist gunman who murdered four hostages in a kosher grocery store in Paris last Friday, apparently in concert with the terrorists who carried out the massacre at Charlie Hebdo’s offices two days earlier.

Now it’s the turn of a French cartoonist who goes by the name of Zeon. I just learned that one day last week, at 7 a.m., four police officers of the ominously named Brigade de Répression de la Délinquance aux Personnes (BRDP)

… woke the cartoonist to take him before the judge [at] the High Court … of Paris [link added, TF]. A complaint appears to have been filed by the BNVCA (National Bureau of Vigilance against Anti-Semitism).

The complaint focuses on these political drawings:

The judge has indicted the cartoonist [for] incitement to racial, religious hatred, by speech, writing, picture or means of electronic communication. Zeon refused to answer [any] questions. He was set free in late morning.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoons – though often crude and insensitive — didn’t break the law, and it would be hypocritical of the French prosecutors and bien pensants to treat Zeon’s work any differently.

The cartoon with the scale, which Zeon drew in 2009, had been the subject of a legal complaint before, but on that occasion the judge ruled that the statute of limitations had run out. It’s not clear to me why the new complaint would fare any better. Perhaps the goal of the complainant is not to score a legal victory, but to judicially harass the artist.

You don’t have to like the Nekschot, Charlie Hebdo, or Zeon drawings in order to condemn what’s been done to their creators. The fact that all this work is controversial is only more reason to protest the attempts to muzzle these gadflies. People who say uncontroversial things don’t have to rely on free-speech protections; by definition, that valuable shield only benefits those who speak harshly or outrageously.

I would’ve expected the authorities in the land of Voltaire to understand that, and to act accordingly.


Meet America’s first openly gay imam
Imam Daayiee Abdullah

America Tonight
He’s been condemned by other Muslim leaders, and some local imams have even refused to greet him. But Imam Daayiee Abdullah – believed to be the only openly gay imam in the Americas – is proud of his story. He was born and raised in Detroit, where his parents were Southern Baptists. At age 15, he came out to them. At 33, while studying in China, Abdullah converted to Islam, and went on to study the religion in Egypt, Jordan and Syria. But as a gay man in America, he saw that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims had unmet spiritual needs and he became an imam to provide community support. “Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention. And because of the necessity in our community, that’s why I came into this particular role,” he told America Tonight about his journey. His first act as an imam? Performing funeral rites for a gay Muslim who died of AIDS. “They had contacted a number of imams, and no one would go and provide him his janazah services,” he said, referring to the Muslim body cleaning ritual. That pained him. “I believe every person, no matter if I disagree with you or not, you have the right as a Muslim to have the proper spiritual [rites] and rituals provided for you. And whoever judges you, that will be Allah’s decision, not me.” It’s one of the mantras he lives by in his work, even as others condemn him.

A place for everyone

“The beautiful thing about God is that when you change your attitude, and say, ‘God, I need some help,’ and mean it sincerely, God is always there for you,” Abdullah told congregants one night during a regular sermon, known as a khutbah, at the Light of Reform Mosque in Washington, D.C. He serves as the imam and educational director of the mosque, which he helped form more than two years ago to be a safe space for values and practices that other mosques may eschew. During his service, women and men kneel side-by-side and women are allowed to lead prayers – actions that have sparked controversy even among American Muslims. “We do not limit people by their gender or their sexual orientation, or their particular aspect of being Muslim or non-Muslim,” he told America Tonight. “They’re there to worship.” The mosque’s congregants are diverse and represent a wide range of cultures, religious upbringings and sexual orientations.
‘The first time I talked to Imam Daayiee on the phone, I started bawling. I was like, I didn’t know there could be a place like this.’
Laila Ali was raised Muslim, but didn’t feel accepted by Islam, because her beliefs fell outside traditional schools of thought. Then, she heard about Abdullah. “A lot of us started feeling like we only had the choice to either be Muslim in name only and do whatever we want, or leave the religion altogether because there was no place for us,” Ali said. “And the first time I talked to Imam Daayiee on the phone, I started bawling … I was like, I didn’t know there could be a place like this.” Sixty-three percent of the 2.75 million Muslims living in the U.S. are first-generation immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center, many of them coming from countries where same-sex relationships are punishable by law, and in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan, even by death. For its LGBT congregants, the Light of Reform Mosque is a rare safe space. But not all of them are gay. Many are just Muslims looking for a mosque that accepts all kinds. Hanaa Rifaey and her husband Rolly grew up going to local mosques with their families, but they say they didn’t really experience the kind of acceptance the way they do at the Light of Reform. “I think that’s exactly why we’ve wanted to come here,” Rifaey said. “I think it was even more important once we realized that we were starting to have our own family, was that we wanted to have a mosque where our child would feel included and welcome regardless of who he or she had turned out to be.” Imam Daayiee provides other services that are unique for an imam of a Muslim community, like marrying same-sex couples. So far in his 13 years as imam, he has performed more than 50 weddings. “We’re actually out there doing something, making a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

A raging debate

Not everyone is happy with the mosque. “Being an openly gay imam and having been identified as such, I do get a lot of feedback and also kickback, but that’s OK,” he said. “I think that when people are unfamiliar with things, they tend to have an emotional knee-jerk reaction to it.” But Abdullah is firm in his belief that there has never been “one monolithic, isolated” formulation of Islam. “It’s not something that’s new. It’s just like reform and revival within Islam, about every 100, 150 years there have been these discussions and there have been people who have opposed the status quo on these issues,” he said. “So it’s not something that I’m just coming up with as a modern Islamic scholar, but something that has been in existence since time immortal.” Some local imams have refused to greet him, and many others across the country argue his work performing same-sex marriage is not legitimate, and that he should control his “urges.” “Anyone who has an inclination that is not acceptable, they have to control themselves,” Muzammil Siddiqi, a well-known imam at California’s Islamic Society of Orange County said earlier this year when asked about Abdullah. “If someone has an inclination to commit adultery or an inclination to drink alcohol or a great desire to eat pork, I would say the same thing: control yourselves.”
At the heart of the disagreement is the interpretation of Islam. “If you go to most Muslim scholars, they’re going to tell you that homosexual acts are a sin in Islam; that there’s no way around it,” said Dr. Hussein Rashid, an adjunct professor of religion at Hofstra University and contributor to a report on homosexuality in U.S. Muslim communities called the Muslim LGBT Inclusion Project. “I think what we’re seeing now not only in the United States, but worldwide really, is a question of going back to sources and rereading these sources,” Rashid added. “But the tradition was and remains that homosexuality is a sin in Muslim tradition.” The various scholars who contributed to the project’s report emphasized that there is no singular interpretation of homosexuality in Islam. By examining historical approaches in different Muslim cultures, the report challenged the idea that LGBT people are not accepted in Islam. “I think Daayiee is trying to say, ‘Yes, I can be gay and I can be a Muslim, and I can tend to people who are also gay and Muslim,’ that this is part of their identity as a human being and that the religion of Islam teaches people to embrace all aspects of their humanity,” he said.

A growing movement

Though it is unknown how many American Muslims or Muslims around the world are gay, a growing number are vying to be heard. Several recent films have helped to shed light on LGBT Muslims and their everyday realities. The most well-known, “A Jihad for Love,” spans 12 countries in nine languages to share the stories of LGBT Muslims. The film “I Am Gay and Muslim” tracks several gay Moroccan men as they explore their religious and sexual identities. And the coming independent film “Naz + Maalik” follows two closeted American Muslim teens as they grapple with FBI surveillance.
Around the world, new spaces are being carved out.  Last year, a gay-friendly mosque opened in Paris – Europe’s first. Muhsin Hendricks, an openly gay imam in Capetown, South Africa, has for years been leading congregants and preaching that homosexuality and Islam are not incompatible. And in America, LGBT Muslims have some strong support. The only Muslims in the House of Representatives, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., have both advocated for gay rights. The group Muslims for Progressive Values, which helped found the Light of Reform Mosque, also has strong presence in Philadelphia and Atlanta, and is growing. And Abdullah has hope that the message he is working to spread will continue to resonate: “It is our relationship with God and our relationship with each other that really establishes our faith.”

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