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The Astroturf “Muslim Reform Movement”

By Jonas Spooner & Jono Stubbins

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

-Upton Sinclair

In this present climate of engineered anti-Muslim hysteria and it’s resulting anti-Muslim prejudice and discrimination there exists one career path that has exploded with opportunity for Muslims; that of the “Muslim Reformer”.  However, the ‘Muslim Reform’ kingmakers are not equal-opportunity anointers. Muslim candidates will be heavily-vetted but well rewarded. They must be prepared to sanction the discrimination and the persecution of their Muslim brethren “as a Muslim”. They must be prepared to turn a blind-eye and a silent tongue to the excesses of the Israeli regime. They must be prepared to serve as the exotically named and non-white tools of a manufactured echo-chamber – a propaganda machine actively working against the interests of Muslims.

To understand the value of the ‘Muslim Reformer’ it’s helpful to first understand Gray Propaganda. The Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy states:

The objective of gray propaganda is to advance viewpoints that are in the interest of the originator but that would be more acceptable to target audiences than official statements. The reasoning is that avowedly propagandistic materials from a foreign government or identified propaganda agency might convince few, but the same ideas presented by seemingly neutral outlets would be more persuasive.

Enter the “seemingly neutral” Muslim Reform Movement (MRM). It’s January, 2017,  nativist euphoria is peaking as the demagogue Trump is sworn in as President. This backdrop provides a golden opportunity for the MRM. In league with the Tea-Party backed Republican Kyle Biedermann (who has a penchant for re-creating “gay Hitler”) and Nonie Darwish from the SPLC-listed, AIPAC funded, anti-Muslim hate group the Center for Security Policy (CSP) they sent out a loyalty-oath to Islamic Organisations and Muslim leaders within Texas. The oath is slammed by the American Civil Liberties Union as “un-American” and an affront to the U.S. Constitution.

It is to be Nonie Darwish’s third attempt. Acting as Pamela Geller’s surrogate Darwish had tried the same stunt in 2009 and 2012. The agenda of the founder and President of Arabs For Israel is crystal clear and it certainly isn’t ‘reform’. Darwish considers Islam a “poison” that must be “annihilated”.  To understand why the ostensibly secular-Muslim and progressive Muslim Reform Movement would enter into alliances with anti-Muslim extremists and the Tea-Party’s gay Hitler we must peel back the layers of the organisation itself.

LAYER 1 – The Muslim Reform Movement

Founded in December 2015 the Muslim Reform Movement doesn’t appear to exist much further than on paper. It serves as a credibility vehicle which enables its members to label themselves as “Muslim Reformers” without the inconvenience of ever having to actually reform anything.

Founding member, Zuhdi Jasser candidly observed in 2016 that the Muslim Reform Movement’s greatest achievement to date was their own declaration. This declaration is claimed to be the backbone of the movement, highlighting the three main principles that MRM declare they stand for. One of these three core principles is “Human Rights: Women’s Rights and Minority Rights” in which MRM declares that they “support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by United Nations member states in 1948.”

Upon reading the 1948 UN Declaration, it soon becomes alarmingly apparent that the MRM not only struggles to align itself with these universal standards, but blatantly rejects them. Likening their own declaration to that of the world’s highest governing body is a great idea in theory, however when analysed, this comparison appears extremely hollow and rather deceiving:

1948 UN UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Article 5 “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Now it is worth noting that one of Donald Trump’s major Presidential campaign promises was of course in direct contradiction to this, when he pledged to ‘broaden’ the laws on torture, allowing it to be brought back. High profile members of the MRM such as Nomani have publicly stated that they voted for Trump. In Nomani’s article justifying her vote, she makes no mention of the policy of torture. Maybe it slipped her mind?

Article 12 – “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”. In another rejection of this right and therefore the MRM declaration, see Asra Nomani’s support for heightened police surveillance of Muslims here, Zuhdi Jasser’s here, and Raheel Raza’s here.

Article 14 (1) “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”. This is perhaps the most openly and vehemently rejected of these rights by those within the MRM. Once again, in stark contrast to their own declaration, MRM members have publicly supported and whitewashed Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’. In doing so, the MRM not only shows a distinct lack of empathy for those requiring it the most, but also denies them one of their most basic human rights.

Jasser, Nomani and their acolytes at the MRM will tell you that they have their own good reasons for their support of the above policies. However, while that may or may not be true, they would be wise not to pretend that the MRM is founded in Human Rights, whilst simultaneously opposing them. Some might say it makes them look foolish, while others might not be as kind when discovering this ‘public interest’ group’s ‘greatest achievement’, is based on a lie.

The Muslim Reform Movement’s Members

Zuhdi Jasser:  President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), an organisation heavily financed by pro-Israel and anti-Islam vested interests.  A member of the Christian-Supremacist Council for National Policy. A member of the anti-Islam Gatestone Institute’s International Advisory Council. He sits on the Advisory Board at Clarion for whom he narrated Obsession; a film widely denounced by Jewish leaders for its Islamophobic propaganda and which was cited in the terrorist Anders Breivik’s Manifesto. Consistent Republican Donor.

Asra Nomani: One of the leading “as a Muslim” validators. Has over the years expressed solidarity with the Pamela Geller/Robert Spencer led anti-Muslim protests,  advocated the racial-profiling of Muslims, defended and subsequently participated in Peter King’s McCartyite Muslim Hearings, enthusiastically welcomed the spying-on of innocent Muslims and infamously voted for Trump.

In the week succeeding the January 2017 Quebec mosque shooting, which saw six people shot dead and 19 injured, Nomani tweeted incessantly, sending out over 80 tweets to her 34,000 Twitter followers. Astoundingly however, not one of these tweets even mentions the shooting, the perpetrators and/or expressed any sympathy or solidarity with the victims.

Raheel Raza: Sits on Advisory Board at Clarion. Writes at Gatestone. Director at Tarek Fatah’s Muslim Canadian Congress and President of ‘Muslims Facing Tomorrow’ (MFT).

MFT’s Vice-President is Salim Mansur. He is an academic consultant at Frank Gaffney’s CSP. A Senior Fellow at the Canadian Coalition for Democracies and a board member at the Center for Islamic Pluralism (all pro-Israel). CIP is funded by Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum and it’s Executive Director is the Neocon Stefan Schwartz who also sits on the Advisory Board at Raza’s Muslims Facing Tomorrow.

Hasan Mahmud: General Secretary at Raza’s ‘Muslims Facing Tomorrow.  President of the Muslim Canadian Congress which was founded by Tarek Fatah. Fatah is a Fellow at Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum and gleefully shares stages with the leader of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) of Canada, Meir Weinstein; who speaks of his “good rapport” with Fatah.

Tahir Aslam Gora: His pro-Israel blog is carried by the Jewish Defence League. He appeases them with wildly anti-muslim claims, such as that “bin Laden (is) a hero in most Islamic countries”.

Tawfik Hamid: A registered speaker at Aish’s Hasbara Fellowship. A self-described ‘Muslim Zionist’. Wrote “Why I Love Israel”.

Usama Hassan: A member of the UK based Quilliam Foundation who are heavily funded by Conservative and Zionist donors and whose Chairman Maajid Nawaz is listed by the SLPC as an “anti Muslim extremist”.

Naser Khader: Senior Fellow at the far right, pro Israel Hudson institute, whose donors include occupation advocate and billionaire Seth Klarman. The Hudson Institute has no qualms in funding extremist Israeli Settler Organisations.

Farahnaz Ispahani: The apparent exception to the rule. Doesn’t follow same pattern as her co-’reformers’. However, her husband and former Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani hosts Israel Lobby fundraisers and has worked for Daniel Pipes.

Courtney Lonergan: Described by Robert Spencer as Jasser’s ‘Assistant’. Director with Jasser at the Arizona Interfaith Movement. Works at Jasser’s AIFD. Wherever you find Jasser, Lonergan is not far away.

Arif Humayun: Another one of Zuhdi Jasser’s minions.  Director at Jasser’s American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Makes up the numbers.

LAYER 2 – The Clarion Project

The Clarion Project (formerly Fund) is a non-profit organisation created in November 2006 by Rabbi Raphael Shore of Aish HaTorah. Clarion has been described by the SPLC as an “anti-Muslim group” that “promotes conspiracy theories” and by Jewish Voice For Peace as an “anti-Muslim hate group”. The Council on American Islamic Relations has labelled The Clarion Project as being “part of the inner core of the U.S. Islamophobia network” and Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative observed that “among the members of Clarion’s advisory board are Frank Gaffney, Zuhdi Jasser, and Daniel Pipes, well-known commentators who consistently advance misleading or unfounded notions about Islam.”.

Clarion earned its infamous reputation due to their highly inflammatory style, coupled with an anti-muslim bias which underlines the very nature of their work. In 2015 for example, Clarion released an article from ‘research’ which showed that over 8 million people in the Arab world “support” ISIS, and alarmingly, as many as 42 million hold “somewhat positive” views towards them. This article was penned by Muslim Reform Movement Founder(??), and Clarion Editor, Meira Svirksy. In typical Svirsky style, the article, “ISIS Has at Least 42 Million Supporters in the Arab World”, was loaded with alarmist discourse and fear-inducing rhetoric, both of which complemented its highly questionable research. The Bridge Initiative released its own detailed critique of this study, concluding that it was “premised on conflations, inconsistencies, extrapolations, and misrepresentations”.

‘Inconsistencies’ and ‘misrepresentations’ seem to be a common theme arising throughout the work of the Clarion Project. A report from the independent watchdog, Right Web, on Clarion has observed the following:

Among its many questionable claims, the site asserts that “there are 35 Radical Islamic communities spread across the United States” and that the U.S. legal and financial systems have been infiltrated by “Stealth Jihad.”

Many of Clarion’s “fact sheets” have to do with Iran. One such report, titled, “The Iranian Nuclear Program,” reiterates the claim that “evidence abounds” that the Iranian government “long term desire is to obtain nuclear weapons.”

Echoing arguments pushed by neoconservative-aligned groups in Europe, such as the Henry Jackson Society, Clarion has a dedicated page titled “Eurabia” that has characterized Muslim immigration as a global problem irrespective of religious or political ideology.

Aside from fear mongering, error-prone analysis and pseudo reform movements, Clarion has also heavily invested their pro Israel donations into the creation and distribution of anti-Islam propaganda films, most notably it’s first being 2007’s  Obsession.This achieved little more than igniting irrational fears, fanning the flames of islamophobia and smearing Barack Obama, in what critics argued was an attempt to pave the way for John McCain in the 2008 Presidential Election. Following the release of Obsession, Clarion have released 2008’s ‘The Third Jihad’, 2010’s ‘Iranium’ and 2013’s ‘Honor Diaries’.  

Earlier this year, Asra Nomani tweeted: “On all things, we must demystify the propaganda & follow the money”. In a rare moment of clarity, Nomani hits the nail on the head and makes a good argument for further investigation of the Clarion Project. Analysis of who is funding the organisation can provide vital insight into why they produce disingenuous films and misleading studies like the ones mentioned above.

In 2014, Clarion received $238,000 from the Jewish Communal Fund (JFC). The JFC is the America’s biggest Jewish donor advised fund, an organisation enabling the mega rich to donate whilst remaining anonymous. The JFC has propped up multiple anti-muslim organisations in the past such as Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), provided funding for hardline Zionists such as Aish International (see below), and even financed illegal settlement construction in the Occupied Palestinian Territories via The Jerusalem Foundation. Also in 2014, Clarion received $50,000 from the pro settlement, Irving I Moskowitz Foundation. Moskowitz used this foundation to channel his wealth into building projects of settler movements that work to create a Jewish majority in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Other Clarion Donors have included: The Benjamin Netanyahu-funding billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the conservative christian run Giigle Foundation, fellow anti-muslim financiers The Randolph Foundation and The Snider Foundation, as well as the ‘Sugar Mama of Anti Muslim Hate’, Nina Rosenwald’s affiliate, The William Rosenwald Family Fund.

LAYER 3 – Aish Hatorah (Fire of Torah)

Aish are a Jewish ultra-orthodox outreach (kiruv) movement which attempts to convert secular/atheist Jews to the ultra-conservative Haredi sect. They’ve been described by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic as “Jewish extremists” and “just about the most fundamentalist movement in Judaism today”. Goldberg recalls a conversation he had with Aish representative Ronn Torossian:

“I think we should kill a hundred Arabs or a thousand Arabs for every one Jew they kill…If someone from a town blows himself up and kills Jews, we should wipe out the town he’s from, kill them all.”

Desperate to fight the ‘threat” of assimilation the late Rabbi Noah Weinberg founded Aish in 1974 in a Jerusalem apartment. Its humble beginnings now a world away from the current Aish behemoth which now spans five Continents and is patronised by celebrities and billionaires.

Today they continue the fight against the “problems” intermarriage and assimilation began by their founder Weinstein – Its mission is to “turn the tide of assimilation”. They segregate by gender. Advocate a nuclear “first strike” on Iran. Its Rabbis demand of Jews eventual “ full and complete observance of the entire Torah”. Further, Aish Rabbis preach that families should disown their apostate family members and only halacha sanctioned divorces are “proper” divorces.

However, Rabbi Weinstein had a cause beyond his war on Jewish assimilation and intermarriage; the state of Israel. He personally provided the seed money to establish The Sderot Media Center. Aish’s site explains “Rabbi Weinberg believed passionately in the idea of Israel activism”.  Weinberg’s Zionist tribalism had an appeal beyond the ultra-Orthodox. He recruited non-religious Jews to his cause. The Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) was established to “foster support and appreciation for Zionism” and Aish are a member.  Weinberg’s quote below could be seen as the core motive for the Clarion Project’s incessant dehumanising anti-Muslim propaganda.

“If there is a threat to the Jewish nation, or to the Western world, it cannot be ignored. We must meet the challenges facing us head on and do whatever we can to remedy the situation.”

Both Clarion and Aish deny their involvement with the other but the overlaps are manifold, too many to list. ‘Jerusalem U’, likewise founded by Rabbi Raphael (Robert) Shore also denied their links to Aish. However, the links were proven by former Orthodox Jew Shmarya Rosenberg who describes Jerusalem U as “an Aish Hatorah missionary front meant to prey on unsuspecting non-Orthodox Jews”.

The same Raphael Shore is a former Aish employee and the founder and CEO of Clarion. He has produced all of the Clarion anti-Muslim films. His brother Ephraim heads Aish from it’s headquarters in occupied East Jerusalem. All four of its Directors have ties to Aish Hatorah, while Aish and Clarion once even shared an address.  The many links continue up the present. Clarions forthcoming (secretly funded) propaganda film ‘ Kids: Inside The Terror Factory’ is being made by Wayne Kopping of ‘Jerusalem U” and Shoshana Palatnik, daughter of Aish’s Lori Palatnik.

Aish connections are littered throughout Clarion and, as a result, the Muslim Reform Movement. Previously mentioned Clarion Editor, Meira Svirsky, claimed ownership of the Muslim Reform Movement on behalf of Clarion. Svirsky is part of the faculty at Aish Hatorah and is married to an Aish Rabbi. A petition was subsequently initiated on change.org by the “Friends of The Muslim Reform Movement” urging Trump to meet with the MRM. These “friends” are registered as the Clarion Project. The petition was launched on Clarion’s site by the same Meira Svirsky. The seemingly infinite number of links between Clarion and Aish only serve to reinforce an assumption that many observers are already beginning to make: Clarion was formed to act as an ‘independant’, propaganda arm of the Aish International juggernaut.  

LAYER 4 – The Israeli Government

Aish have received strong support from the Israeli Government. They were granted the final two sites adjacent to the Western Wall.  From here, they installed their “Second Temple” opposite the wall. In 2001 The Israeli Foreign Ministry partnered with Aish to create ‘The Hasbara Fellowship”.

The Hasbara Fellowship had a document leaked earlier this year, part of their propaganda booklet that instructed students of what terminology to use when discussing Israel-Palestine. These instructions include:

Instead of Israeli-Palestinian conflict —> Arab/Israeli conflict

Instead of ‘Settlements’ —-> Neighbourhoods

Instead of ‘Hamas/Hezbollah’ —–> ‘Iranian-backed Hamas’, ‘Iranian-backed Hezbollah’.

MRM and Biedermann: a match made in Heaven?

When the MRM sent out their 2016 founding declaration, it was as expected, largely ignored by those it was aimed at. As Jasser describes below:

We spent significant resources on this outreach over a period of ten months. We reached out through snail mail, e-mail, and telephone to over 3,000 mosques and over 500 known public American Muslims. We received only 40-plus rather dismissive responses from our outreach, and sadly less than ten of them were positive. In fact, one mosque in South Carolina left us a vicious voice mail threatening our staff if we contacted them again.

Unsurprisingly however, this declaration did appeal to the Christian conservative, Texas Republican Representative Kyle Biedermann, and his office reached out to Clarion’s ‘reformers’. The MRM held no issue in collaborating with Biedermann, resulting in the widely discredited ‘loyalty oath’, which among other things, aims to poll muslims on the specifics of exactly what they do and do not believe.

That the MRM and Biedermann’s paths would happen to cross, is down to more than just mere coincidence or political networking. Apart from the obvious embrace of far right ideologies, the two share in common a history of controversies which emanate from, among other things, a broken moral compass. The anti-abortion Biedermann can be seen here dressing as a ‘gay Hitler’ while making a Nazi “sieg heil” salute. Taste it appears, is not his strong suit.  

Furthermore, during a messy divorce/custody battle with his ex wife in a Texas district court, some rather disturbing details emerged. Republican Party-affiliated website TexasGOPVote.com, warned of his chequered past during Biedermann’s campaign run, reporting on and providing court documents that show (among other distressing allegations) a district court “judge called Biedermann a ‘very sick’ man who at one point was ordered to stay 100 yards from his family members and to avoid contacting his daughters by telephone”. The article was titled “Court Documents Say Texas House Candidate Kyle Biedermann Mentally Abused his Children; Was Physically Abusive to Their Mother”, and called for further scrutiny on those “candidates for public office who claim to have conservative values”.  

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  • How is this what I’m doing when I’ve published all of your comments?

    I’m trying to get you to understand the concept of free speech. This is a privately owned blog that offers public access. We don’t have to allow comments AT ALL, but to the extent we do, it’s 100% up to us what is published and what isn’t. If you were to go into a privately own restaurant that is open to the public and scrawl, “I’m a troll!” on their walls, they could deprive you of that venue, and no doubt would. You are free to scrawl that on your own walls at home, just as you are free to start your own blog and say whatever you like there.

    What you are not free to do is impose a comments policy on us here. If you make a pest of yourself, I’ll start deleting your comments, and I won’t feel bad about it. So far you’ve gotten all comments published, and ample replies. But this isn’t a billboard for your new evangelizing mission, or whatever is it you’ve embarked upon since becoming an “ex-Muslim.”

    No one who has visited this site regularly is going to believe that I am “intolerant of opposing views.” I just had a very long conversation with someone named Dennis, and he most certainly had “opposing views.” I was patient and continued that conversation, such that the ball is in his court if we’re to continue. You should probably do more homework before lobbing baseless accusations.

    As for your bit about “hatred for Muslisms,” I merely switched YOUR STATEMENT about Catholics around to make a point. Not for you to take YOUR OWN comment literally, as if I am the one who said it verbatim to you. If you hadn’t missed the point, I wouldn’t have had to illustrate in that manner. The point is you ARE making sweeping and misleading statements about Muslims, when you claimed to refrain from doing the similar in the past about Catholics.

    I didn’t call you an Islamophobe, so your comparison isn’t apt. I don’t even like that word.

  • Wabzi

    “All we can do, if we so choose, is deprive you of a venue.”

    So you admit that this is what you are doing? If so, why would you feel the need to if I am clearly wrong and you are clearly right? And are you intolerant of opposing views?

    And if you are about to claim that you are only intolerant of Islamophobia, you have yet to quote where I have expressed any hatred for Muslims (my family and most of my friends), as opposed to simply criticising some Muslims communities. It’s kind of reminiscent of how everyone who has any criticism of Israel gets labelled an anti-Semite by certain people.

  • We can’t “censor” anyone. Only authorities can do that. All we can do, if we so choose, is deprive you of a venue.

    Your profile is in a default state for this blog, where your comments are pending until they’re approved.

  • I didn’t say you ARE undermining Muslims, but rather that you’re attempting to. So far you’ve said nothing original.

    Why would your opinion sway Muslims? You’re not a scholar, and your understanding of Islam appears to be superficial and skewed. You are an “ex-Muslim” who already voted with your feet, yet you think somehow you can be influential?

  • Wabzi

    I am not personally working towards reform, but I support certain reformers.

    Was taking Christianity out of politics undermining to Christians? Are Muslims who give da’wah undermining non-Muslims? I am not trying to force my beliefs on others, I simply hope that more people move away from a literal interpretation of religion, as I do not believe that literal religious interpretations are helpful to the rights of minorities. If they still insist that the Qur’an is perfect, it doesn’t matter as long as they are decent people. The widespread belief that it is does more harm than good, as the minority of extremists use this to shut down moderates.

    If you know nothing of the movement, you are not qualified to comment.

  • No one is “censoring” you. You’re making a fool of yourself carrying on about it, while meanwhile I’m approving every one of your comments! So far anyway.

  • How you being “censored”? I don’t see a single comment of yours in the trash.

  • Wabzi Shill

    It’s very telling that a certain mod censors anyone who makes a point that she doesn’t agree with, no matter how respectfully you try to discuss genuine issues that you and others face and labels them bigots. I would have been happy to have this discussion with some of the other users, but the censorship just proved that it’s a waste of time.

  • You are very obviously attempting to undermine Muslims. By saying Islam can be interpreted any which way, that there is little or no agreement among scholars, that Muslims need to stop believing the Qur’an is perfect, etc. Maajid isn’t irrelevant to the discussion, because these are the same arguments he sometimes makes, because he has a similar agenda. You aren’t saying anything original, and you aren’t going to succeed where he has failed.

    I’m not going to bother looking up “Agnostic Muslim” for the same reason I’m not going to bother looking up “Halal Pork.”

  • Wabzi

    If you are right and not simply trying to shut down discussion, why do you feel the need to censor me?

  • What does my comment have to do Asia Bibi? You seem obsessed with her.

    Let me help you out by changing your comment a little:

    “but even I don’t generalise and hate on [Muslims]. Nor do I go around spreading bile about how [Muslims] supposedly become intolerant when they’re together.

    Get it now? If you didn’t generalize and spread bile about Catholics, why didn’t you stick with that when you turned your attention to Muslims?

  • Wrong. They are very much in agreement on major issues. There is more agreement than disagreement among the scholars. Obviously “true Islam” is Islam, period. Putting “true” in front of it is redundant, from a Muslims perspective.

  • Wabzi

    Then why would a mod attack me for merely bringing up these issues and accuse me of bullying Muslims? If it’s fine to address those issues, why attempt to silence anyone who does?

  • Wabzi

    1400 of scholarship from how many different schools of thought? And how many different sects of Islam? They are rarely in agreement, so which Islam is the “true Islam”?

  • JSpooner

    Thanks for the background info. “Fake News” around Muslims and Islam predates Trump by 15 years. Problem was that the targets were the “other” so nobody really cared.

  • MichaelElwood

    Wabzi wrote: “Are you performing takfir on people who choose to identify as Muslims now?”

    Islam isn’t an identity. It’s a religion with certain beliefs and practices. It doesn’t make sense to identify with a religion they no longer practice and whose beliefs they no longer subscribe to.

  • MichaelElwood

    Wabzi wrote: “Promoting the idea that it is the infallible, perfect word of God opens several doors to human rights abuses. It’s not always culture alone that leads to wrong and harmful practices.”

    The idea that the Quran is the infallible, perfect word of God doesn’t necessarily open the door to human rights abuses. Indeed, those who do not subscribe to that view are often the biggest promoters of human rights abuses (like Asra Nomani on profiling, Ayaan Hirsi Ali on her support for el-Sisi’s violent crackdown of protesters, etc.). Farouk Peru wrote a decent article on this idea that simply not subscribing to the infallibility of the Quran is some sort of panacea:

    “Radwan shares similar concerns with me about the rise of Islamofascism. But, the solutions he offers are deeply problematic.

    “Radwan’s primary manoeuvre lies in disclaiming the value of reinterpretation performed by reformists and liberals, thereby ‘forcing new meanings’ onto the Quran. In his opinion, this is simply playing into the hands of Islamofascists, who are given some legitimacy by this act and who will then counter it.

    “His own answer is to simply declare the Quran to be fallible, and thus we do not need to concern ourselves debating the issue. Rather we should simply dismiss problematic verses entirely.

    “This tactic seems to me to be born of intellectual laziness. After all, the Quran is open for use by anyone, Muslim or otherwise. The fact that Islamofascists use some parts of the Quran to justify their violence should not mean that other Muslims are ‘forcing new meanings’ onto them if they interpret them in a nonviolent manner. . . .

    “No, the answer does not lie in this fallibility claim. Divine inspiration, authorship and infallibility does not preclude one important factor – interpretation. Radwan conveniently forgets that the Islamofascists read the Quran atomistically (they rip verses out from their textual positions) in order to justify their positions.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/altmuslim/2016/01/the-value-of-interpretation-why-declaring-the-quran-to-be-fallible-is-wrong/

  • MichaelElwood

    Wabzi wrote: “But to the people who attack those of us who want to address issues which affect our lives and affect people we care about (and no, Asra Nomani and her ilk don’t qualify): what do you propose?”

    I propose that you keep addressing those issues. Who or what is holding you back?

    Wabzi wrote: “If you are against reform of any kind, how do you propose to end the persecution of apostates, LGBT people and the restrictions on women in many Muslim communities?”

    I don’t think that people are against any type of reform. But they have a right to demand that these self-styled reformers be credible. The Quran also warns us about phony reformers:

    “If they are told ‘Do not make evil in the land,’ they say, ‘But we are the reformers!'” [Quran 2:11]

    Wabzi wrote: “Fundamentalists who don’t want us to succeed in making our communities more tolerant and inclusive always quote Islamic scripture in order to shut us down.”

    Tolerance ought to be reciprocal. True Muslim reformers, like the Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, found herself being protested by secular fundamentalists because she didn’t subscribe to their dogma concerning the fallibility of the Quran:

    “The mullahs (who are usually Islamic clerics) in Iran were not the only ones upset. Non-religious Iranian women were also dismayed and planned to protest because Ebadi was seeking equality using the Quran as the moral and legal basis. Her action was not a rejection of her Islamic faith, rather an expression of trying to live out the demand for justice and respect for human rights she finds deep within it.

    “For Ebadi, her work on human rights is consistent with her Muslim faith. She wrote: ‘In the last 23 years, from the day I was stripped of my judgeship to the years of doing battle in the revolutionary courts of Tehran, I had repeated one refrain: an interpretation of Islam that is in harmony with equality and democracy is an authentic expression of faith. It is not religion that binds women, but the selective dictates of those who wish them cloistered. That belief, along with the conviction that change in Iran must come peacefully and from within, has underpinned my work.’ Ebadi earlier opposed the Shah and, in recent years, has supported critics of the Islamic revolutionary regime, but she does not support those who call for outside intervention against Iran.”

    http://www.readthespirit.com/bookstore/books/blessed-are-the-peacemakers/more/peacemaker-profiles/profile-shirin-ebadi/

    Wabzi wrote: “How do we stand up to them and persuade others that they do not have to be bound by their ideas, if we can’t change the notion that Islamic scripture is perfect and infallible?”

    There are already Muslim reformers who are standing up to them. For example, Muslim women in India have had some success standing up for their rights:

    “Armed With The Quran And The Constitution, These Women Are Fighting Fundamentalism”

    http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2015/07/muslim-women-in-india/

    “Why instant TRIPLE TALAQ divorce isn’t Islamic”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-4272976/Why-instant-TRIPLE-TALAQ-divorce-isn-t-Islamic.html

    Subscribing to the infallibility of the Quran didn’t prevent these Muslim reformers from standing up for their rights, it actually helped them make a better case. So, why would subscribing to the fallibility of the Quran be a prerequisite to reform?

  • MichaelElwood

    Wabzi wrote: “Every Muslim think they are practicing the ‘real Islam’. Personally, I don’t think there is any such thing. Everyone has their own interpretation of their religion.”

    True, everyone has their own interpretation of their religion, but not all interpretations are created equal. Let me give an example away from religion to illustrate this point. Every Civil War buff thinks that their interpretation of the Civil War is the “real history”. Northerners believe the cause of the Civil War was to preserve slavery. Southerners believe that the Civil War was about states rights and not about slavery. They claim that this interpretation is the “real history” of the Civil War, and those who believe that the goal of the Confederacy was to preserve slavery are wrong. But these interpretations aren’t equally valid. Some interpretations are more valid than others. And saying that their is no such thing as a “real history” of the Civil War is untenable. The interpretation that says that the South went to war to preserve slavery is more valid than the one that says they went to war for states rights. The vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens, was clear about the reason the South went to war. On March 21, 1861 in Savannah, Stephens said:

    “its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the [N]egro is not equal to the white man; that slavery – submission to the superior race – is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

    Similarly, the relativist position is untenable in Islam. Every Muslim, and every non-Muslim, thinks they know about “real Islam”. But these often mutually exclusive “Islams” are not, and can not be, equally valid. Some interpretations are more valid than others. And it’s up to the person making the claim about a particular interpretation of Islamic history or theology to make the case that their interpretation is more valid than the others. Of course, this includes people whose relativistic interpretation of Islam is that there is no such thing as “real Islam”. Just as not all that glitters is gold, not everything that’s called Islamic is Islam.

  • MichaelElwood

    Wabzi wrote: “Back when Christianity in the West was practiced in a more literal manner, people were burning ‘witches’ and killing scientists. Today most Muslims believe that the Qur’an is perfect and is to be taken literally, which hasn’t produced positive results. The case of Asia Bibi is an example.”

    You shouldn’t assume that everything in Christian intellectual history has, or ought to have, a counterpart in Islamic intellectual history. In Christian intellectual history, the extremists tended to be the literalists. However, in Islamic intellectual history, the moderates tended to be the literalists. Prof. Aisha Musa–who collaborated with Prof. Martha Schulte-Nafeh and Edip Yuksel on a translation of the Quran–advocated a more literal interpretation of the Quran than the extremists. She wrote:

    “A literal and holistic reading focuses on the literal meanings of the Arabic text read within the context of the Quran as an entire book, applying the time-honored interpretive principles of tafsir al-quran bil-quran (explaining the Quran with the Quran) and al-asl fil-kalam al-haqiqa (the fundamental principle of speech is literalness). . . .”

    It’s this literal interpretation of the Quran that reformers like Shaykh Hassan Farhan al-Maliki use when they criticize blasphemy laws like the one used against Asia Bibi:

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    Identity is complex. But a religious tradition has the right to define itself. For Sunni Islam Al-Ghazali’s criterion of “takfir” in his Faysal al-Tafriqa (Sherman Jackson has a good translation titled “The Decisive Criterion for Distinguishing Islam from Masked Infidelity), is the standard. Ghazali’s aim was actually a broad tent of various sects to be included in the fold of Islam (which is why Wahabism/Salafism is such a deviation). He wrote, “‘Unbelief (kufr)’ is to deem anything the Prophet brought to be a lie. And ‘faith (iman)’ is to deem everything he brought to be true.” (p.92) I guess you can have a meaningful discussion of what it is and isn’t that the Prophet brought. However, if you are unsure of the existence of the Prophet than you likely believe what the Prophet brought was either a lie, or he was deluded.

    More on identity being complex. I found this an intriguing anectdote in Shahab Ahmed’s book “What is Islam?: The Importance of Being Islamic”
    “An Arab friend of mine tells the story of her engagement to her South Asian future husband. The prospective fathers-in-law, who had never met, had to speak to each other by means of an international telephone call to formalize the matter. Neither spoke the other’s native language, both spoke some English–but not especially well–and neither was familiar with the other’s culture. The Arab gentleman was a self-declared agnostic, while the South Asian practiced a semi-observant sort of traditional piety of the variety I once heard characterized by the expression “He says his prayers just often enough to keep his wife happy!” Needless to say, given this state of mutual foreignness, my friend was more than a little apprehensive as to how the conversation would unfold. “What happened?” she asked her father as soon as it was over, “Did you understand each other?” “Of course we understood each other,” he replied, “We are both Muslims.””
    So yes, I can see how someone may self-describe as “agnostic Muslim” especially if they have been reared in the faith as opposed to converting. However, they shouldn’t be shocked if this is contested or challenged.

  • You used to post as “Awwaaba” and “Awwaaba ShillingfordShillingford.”

    Here’s something you wrote in 2011:

    I was bullied at a Catholic school (I was one of the VERY few Muslims there) but even I don’t generalise and hate on Catholics. Nor do I go around spreading bile about how Catholics supposedly become intolerant when they’re together.

    Too bad you don’t take a similar approach with Muslims now.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    There is an agnostic Muslim movement? Is there a website, reading materials about this group?

    You misunderstood, the purpose of the article is not to detail all Islamic/Muslim reform movements but one self-billed “Muslim Reform Movement,” this is an actual organization.

    The status of the Quran as the perfect word of God in the eyes of most Muslims does not correlate to the said human rights abuses. The reason for human rights abuses are humans. There are reasons why someone is privileging a certain reading of the Quran that leads to human rights abuses, and it usually has to do with power and their interests, not a commitment to God’s Word.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    Thanks for the heads up.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    No one said we are against reform, sadly the term itself has become at least in the west a toxic and polemical word. There are many options for Muslims who want to reconcile their faith in order to address injustices that are passed off as Islam. For some that means that the tradition has the tools and means to do so, for others they take the Tariq Ramadan line that ‘Islam doesn’t need reform, Muslim’s minds do.’ Still others such as as Kecia Ali, Amina Wadud, Farid Esack, Omid Safi, believe in a reform type project but are serious scholars who work within the Islamic frame of reference.
    What you can’t do is expect to be treated as a serious and authoritative voice for Muslims if you self-describe as an “ex-Muslim.” That is not to say that what it means to be Muslim is not more complicated than just what passes off as the juristic and legal definition of certain sects of Islam. That’s one aspect I learned from Shahab Ahmed’s masterpiece “What Is Islam?”

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