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Alex Morton holds the keys to defeating ’Islamism’

Guest post By J. Spooner & Jono Stubbins

Alex Morton holds the keys to defeating “Islamism”. He’s been gracious enough to share them in Conservative Home. Presumably, Alex knows what he is talking about. After all, he was an advisor to Prime Minister Cameron when the UK supported an Islamist jihad in Libya. First he must set up the false premises on which his policy suggestions will be based.

Islamism is a threat both inside and outside the Islamic world on a scale comparable with fascism and communism in the 20th century

This is absurd. The West is largely allied with the major players in the Muslim world. There is no existential threat from without, least of all from within from any imagined fifth-column. Comparing the so-called Islamic State with the capabilities of the militarised Third Reich and the expansionist and nuclear armed Soviet Union is alarmist nonsense.

It needs a comparable response.

This response includes a new World War. Sixty-million people were killed in our most recent World War.

There is an ongoing conflict within Islam, and we are not neutral in this struggle.

The conflict is not “within Islam”. It is conflicts between rival powers with the Muslim World. When Al Qaeda are shooting back at Daesh it has no more to do with Islamic doctrine than the Gambinos fighting the Castellanos has to do with Catholicism.

However, Morton is correct on the following point, “we are not neutral in this struggle” – Wildly inconsistent but never neutral. Examples include: Supporting the anti-Soviet Sunni Jihad in Afghanistan in the 80’s, siding with the secularist PLO in their coup against Sunni Hamas, empowering Shia Iran by invading and occupying Iraq in the 2000s, financing and training Sunni jihadists to overthrow the Secular Gadaffi regime, supporting the Sunni Rebels in Syria and enabling the Wahabbi Saudi Arabian bombing of the Houthis in Yemen.

Not all versions of Islam are compatible with our society. There is no other way of saying this. Islamism believes that government must enforce (almost always a strict version of) Islam, and crucially rejects freedom of religion, thought, and secularism based on its readings of the Quran and the hadiths. It is incompatible with a secular liberal democracy, and is by nature extremist on the Government definition of “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.

Ironically, by the Government’s definition Morton is also an “extremist”.

Not all versions of Islamism are compatible with our society. This much is true, However, disingenuously conflating all Islamist movements with Daesh as Morton does, only muddies the water. Consider that not all versions of Zionism (such as Kahanism) are compatible with our society yet all three major British political parties have significant and influential ”friends of Israel” sub-groups.

The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood predates al-Baghdadi’s monstrosity in Iraq and Syria by almost a century. Contrary to Morton’s vapid claims they have embraced democracy, denounced violence and remain committed to the non-violent protest of the removal of their democratically elected President Morsi in a fascist coup.

This is not to say that Islam, the religion, is incompatible with a secular liberal democracy. There are various more tolerant versions of Islam and some Muslims focus on other parts of the Quran, such as those stating there is no compulsion in religion or action (e.g. verses 2:256 and 18:29). There are good and bad versions of Islam – and most Muslims believe in a mixture of the good and bad elements. But Islamism believes in use of government power and brute force in enforcing its version of Islam on others, and attacks the moderate or tolerant strains.

This is a roundabout way of saying I will reluctantly tolerate an existence with Muslims as long as their faith doesn’t influence their politics i.e. the ethnics don’t get any ideas above their station. This is anti-democratic. Morton is again qualifying under the ”extremist” definition he provided.

True to form he is justifying his own advocacy of oppression through the lie that all Islamists are de-facto violent and anti-democracy. Islamist groups have denounced violence and embraced democracy (despite having already been betrayed by the promise of democracy and suffered terrible atrocities).

Islamists try to demand special treatment for Islam and, once they have it, use it to force their more aggressive version of Islam forward, arguing those who disagree are blasphemous or not respecting Islam. Countries which have tried to placate Islamist extremists became trapped in a cycle in which Islamists are given freedom to bully others, and have used this freedom to drive their version of Islam forward. This is why for Islamists and quasi-Islamist states such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan there is no crime worse than blasphemy – because enforcing their version of Islam is the foundation of their power.

This is a bizarre and predictably disingenuous passage which wouldn’t find itself out of place in Anders Breivik’s Manifesto. Morton buttresses his Muslims as a fifth-column conspiracy with his fabricated fantasies of these undetermined nations who are allowing themselves to be bullied by ”Islamist extremists”. These under-the-boot-of-Muslims tropes are what drives the anti-state and anti-Muslim militants. He then proceeds to connect this imagined fifth-column to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

When I worked in Number Ten, the people who grasped most clearly Islamism’s threat were my Muslim co-workers, because they knew Islamists were determined to destroy more tolerant and decent versions of Islam and replace it with their own cancerous version – using a mixture of theology, guilt and brute force to theorise and terrorise those who oppose them, both non-Muslims and Muslims.

The ambivalence (not shared by David Cameron) in government came from guilt ridden non-Muslims and those Muslims who buy into one of the main Islamist narratives – that no version of Islam is a problem, and only ‘Islamophobia’ is the problem. This ignores the widespread abuse of human rights by Islamist states or states that want to placate Islamism.

Thankfully, Morton worked as a housing advisor to David Cameron and not in counter-terrorism. Morton presents the tired and patently ridiculous strawman of the leftist say “no version of Islam is the problem”. Literally nobody (outside of ISIS supporters) has ever said that ISIS isn’t a problem. This is proceeded by alluding to the ”white guilt” of leftists and the “ISIS or Islamophobia” false dichotomy. His claimed anecdotal evidence is suspect given either his inability to understand the ”Islamist threat” or perhaps more likely his dishonesty in addressing it.

The Left has largely capitulated to Islamism

With honourable and principled exceptions such as Nick Cohen, much of the Left has long since abandoned those who are women, LGBT, minority faiths or nonreligious, and others unfortunate enough to be born where Islamism is strongest. They will speak out against Saudi Arabia, but only in the same breath as condemning the USA’s support for it – because for them this is all about the West. They see themselves as educated multiculturalists but they are, ironically, deeply ignorant about what Islamism is and how it works.

Morton creates the perfect strawman to knock down. That of the self-hating western liberal who for reasons unknown has a secret affinity for Islamism – Which in Morton’s world is al-Baghdadi himself.

Their use of the weasel word “Islamophobia” and attempt to blame every failure in the Middle East on western intervention is deeply harmful.

So there we have it, simply using the word Islamophobia and not Islamophobia itself is ’deeply harmful.

Western intervention has made things worse, but Islamism and the Middle East’s difficulties are part of an internal struggle with modernity that the Muslim world is going through. Islamophobia – as opposed to discrimination against Muslims as individuals, and which should never be tolerated – is a word that Islamists love because they can twist it. Cartoons of Mohammed – Islamophobia. Stopping Islamist indoctrination in state schools – Islamophobia. Concerns about basic human rights in Islamic countries – Islamophobia.

Morton disingenuously lists off a series of non-Islamophobic scenarios to debunk the entire existence of Islamophobia. It’s pure sophistry.

Yet if the Left has capitulated, the Centre and Right have failed to understand what is necessary. In fighting Islamism, there are various key policies – fortunately few of which require legislation:

  • Islam is not to be given special treatment and sensitivity will not prevent enforcement of the law or the same treatment being given to Islam as other religions.
  • Islamists (as opposed to Muslims) are to be excluded from every government funding source, platform, and other official interaction and publicly criticised.
  • We will work with anti-Islamist Muslims wherever possible.

So these are Morton’s supposed solutions? Measures which are already in place? Excluding peaceful Islamists from the democratic process pushes towards the fringes. Closing doors on the democratically elected “taghut” Morsi opens doors for Baghdadi. Morton’s dishonest and coded zero-sum war on Muslims is typically short-sighted and counterproductive. His “Clash of Civilizations” is from the same cloth as the Islamic State’s.

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    • B.D.S

      In the comment section that is. Not articles.

    • B.D.S

      I left this site because apologia for zionism settler colonialism was getting oppressive enough, not to mention the open anti Muslim abuse from random white supremacists.

    • B.D.S

      i am so glad that Disqus introduced the Block option.

    • B.D.S.

      You’re garbage.

    • B.D.S.

      Sarah, what does this words say to you: “Becky high n up yt supremacy is splaining ” ?

  • Just_Stopping_By

    So, using the common definition, your question was: “What would a peaceful democratic regime that imposes religious tenets via state power look like?”

    Well, if you consider the College of Cardinals democratic, the answer might be “The Vatican, after the Papal States disappeared.”

A Trajectory of Manumission: Examining the Issue of Slavery in Islam

By Nathaniel Mathews Originally published on Sapelo Square

A number of years ago I gave a lecture on Swahili coast history to a group of educators and students on Chicago’s South Side. During the Q&A period one older gentleman asked me why I didn’t say more about Muslim-led slavery of Africans in the Indian Ocean. I responded somewhat inadequately that slavery in the Indian Ocean wasn’t a religious issue but an economic one. The gentleman wasn’t satisfied, explaining that he was disappointed in Louis Farrakhan’s silence on the issue and testifying to the continuing presence of slavery in African Muslim countries like Mauritania to this day, explaining that slavery was justified by sharia.

The man in question was not a conservative Christian, nor part of Islamophobia Inc. but rather part of a generation of Afrocentric black nationalists in the intellectual tradition of John Henrik Clarke. He was condemning the practice of slavery globally from his commitment to Afrocentrism and part of the broader tradition of black nationalist liberation politics in in the United States. He wondered why Muslims were seemingly behind in that fight or ambivalent to the practice of enslavement. In spite of my historical understanding of slavery and the slave trade as practices that many non-Muslim African as well as Muslim African societies often willingly engaged in, his words forced me to reckon more seriously with how Islamic law treats the abolition of slavery. I am especially interested in this issue as someone trained as a historian of East Africa, where the abolitionist movement predated and then became part of the first wave of European colonization of Africa, post 1885. My position is that the Islamic tradition has already developed an abolitionist ethos and a strong commitment to liberation, out of a set of social and political struggles, including resistance to European colonialism, that took place in the historical encounters between Islam, Africa and the West in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Afrocentrists often point to the Quran and Hadith’s sanction of slavery. It is true that Islam accepted slavery as a part of Arabian society, but there is no evidence the tradition actively encouraged the taking of slaves. If one wishes to speak of a particular ‘trajectory’ of Islamic interpretation based on the Qur’an and Sunnah, it is a trajectory of manumission, not abolition.1 The Prophet Muhammad assumed that if manumission continued to regularly occur, then slavery could continue to exist without being a trans-generational status, and would eventually die out.

The Prophet Muhammad challenged the practice of slavery in Arabian society by compelling the powerful to care for and protect the less powerful.2 If masters and slaves could share some basic moral assumptions, powerful masters would feel a social obligation to protect and show kindness to their slaves. In Islam this is exemplified by a hadith enjoining the believer to treat their slaves as they would treat their own children.3 Slaves in Islam would (ideally) function more like kin and less like a separate caste of sub-humans.4 Their offspring, again ideally, would be free to assume their place alongside the freeborn. None of these reforms radically challenged the ‘natural’ reality of slavery itself.5

Why didn’t Muslims abolish slavery earlier? This is a valid question and it is worth it for Muslims to reflect very hard and critically about, especially if one is seriously committed to practicing the tradition. But when Afrocentrists ask Muslims why Islam did not abolish slavery, there is a hidden assumption that non-Muslim African societies had already abolished the practice. But in fact many powerful non-Muslim African societies depended on slavery for their wealth and resented European imposed abolition for that reason, for instance, the Asante empire of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


Enslaved Swahili men in Stone Town, Zanzibar, c. 1890 (via BBC News)

Abolition as an ethical dilemma only occurs because we inhabit a very different time from the early Muslims, as well as most pre-colonial African societies. We often forget that for Jesus, Muhammad and other moral teachers of the past, the master-slave relationship was both a fact of life and a metaphor of our relationship with the Divine.6 The more relevant question then, is not ‘why didn’t Muslims abolish slavery?’, but ‘what makes our time different from the time of the early Muslims?’

One possible answer to that question is that we now live in a global society where we take the freedom of an individual as an irrevocable human right. Although this ideal is often traced to Western origins, it is important to note that it has other global, non-Western genealogies that are both Muslim and African. Haitian revolutionaries, among whom were African Muslims, were first among those insisting on this freedom in their struggle to end slavery in the late 1700s. At around the same time, the West African Muslim ruler Abdul Kader Kane sought to abolish the slave trade in his realm, in order to protect his subjects from the French-controlled slave trade at Saint Louis.7

Formerly enslaved Muslims also helped to reshape community perceptions of slavery.  In East Africa especially, the abolition of slavery coincided with the new popularity of Sufi brotherhoods as tools for the mass propagation of Islam. Sufism became the language by which formerly servile people appropriated the message of Islam to undermine the ijma around the social status of slaves and ex-slaves. In Lamu, Kenya, the ‘Alawi shaykh Habib Saleh angered the town’s former slaveholding elite by teaching ex-slaves. In Bagamoyo, Tanzania, an ex-slave from the Congo rose to become a Sufi shaykh and one of the most knowledgeable scholars of the region; he faced strong opposition from former slave owners.8  The first five decades of the twentieth century in Africa revealed Muslims reshaping the consensus on slavery. This process of reshaping ijma was not only an elite scholarly one; it included formerly enslaved Muslims, who contested their rights within the idioms of Islam, molding Islamic cultural repertoires to critique the exclusionary social practices of Muslim elites.

Traditions, Islam included, are not closed caskets but open conversations and debates often characterized by shifting notions of what is permissible. Slavery is one such shifting notion. There is nothing in the Islamic tradition mandating slavery. Thus, the overwhelming majority of Muslims today find slavery distasteful and have no desire to practice it. They have internalized a desire not to own people that is very modern. This is a direct result of the most oppressed and vulnerable elements of human global society forcing the world to accept a more robust and inclusive concept of individual freedom.  Concepts of abolition and freedom are the product of centuries of struggle by enslaved Africans and others to radicalize and decolonize the values of the societies they found themselves forcibly dragged into. They constitute a valuable tool that a range of activists today, from the Rabaa Square protests in Egypt to the garment worker strikes in Bangladesh to Black Lives Matter activists in the US, use to launch more radical critiques of global inequality, exploitation, and other conditions analogous to slavery.


Captured Africans in German East Africa (modern-day Tanzania), c. 1890 (via BBC News)

The Prophet Muhammad’s attempt to protect the enslaved and to grant them protections and rights, without abolishing slavery, was not a moral failing, but the advancement to the limits of what it was possible to envision within his era. If we do not acknowledge this, we will continue to reproduce two stale arguments of past Muslim apologists: that abolition is a Western concept that fetishizes consent and freedom, or that the Prophet Muhammad was an abolitionist. Neither of these are tenable positions, and there are severe moral costs to holding them, that compromise the moral compass of Muslims and leave serious and inquisitive outsiders with a suspicion that Muslims are more interested in theological apologetics than an honest reckoning with history. For instance, it is but a short step from the saying abolition is a Western concept to making the argument, like the late Islamist philosopher Abu Ala Mawdudi,  that we need to retain slavery as a mark of Muslim moral independence from the West.9 And there is simply no evidence from our tradition that the Prophet Muhammad ever contemplated abolishing slavery.

My argument is distinct from both of these extremes. I have argued that Western notions of abolitionist freedom have already fused with Islamic values, and that it is dangerous to try to extract one from the other. There are a number of positive benefits from embracing this position. For one thing, it provides Muslims with a powerful language not only to challenge slavery, but many other forms of similar domination and exploitation that go by different names. It seems to me that Muslims who are using this fusion of moral horizons to critique both Muslim and Western complacency with regards to forms of oppression analogous to slavery are engaged in an urgently necessary and positive reinvigoration of the Islamic tradition.


1  Trajectory hermeneutics originated with Christian theologian William Webb. For more on their use, see his 2001 book, Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis.

2 Jonathan Glassman. “The Bondsman’s New Clothes: The Contradictory Consciousness of Slave Resistance on the Swahili Coast” Journal of African History 32(2): 1991, 277-312.

3 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī º30; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim º1661

4 The walāʾ system then, whatever its faults, was a social compact between master and slave, and thus often a tool of integration of the latter. See Ulrike Mitter. “Unconditional Manumission of Slaves in Early Islamic Law: A Hadith Analysis.” In The Formation of Islamic Law (ed. Wael Hallaq). New York: Routledge, 2008.

5 Unlike the status of ex-slaves even many postbellum Western societies, the formerly enslaved in the Islamic world could raise their status considerably. But that did not erase an existing hierarchy placing the enslaved at or near the bottom of society.

6 Luke 12:43-48; Qur’ān (Sūra az-Zumar) 39:36. The Apostle Paul’s advice to the runaway slave Onesimus in the Book of Philemon is filled with admonishments about a new community of belief between slaves and masters that does not upend the social hierarchy but nevertheless creates a sense of moral obligation between the two.

7 For the Haitian revolutionaries and their creation (not merely co-optation of) Enlightenment values, see Laurent Dubois, “Enslaved Enlightenment: Rethinking the Intellectual History of the French Atlantic” Social History 31(1): Feb 2006, 1-14. For the abolitionists, see Adam Hochschild. Bury The Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free An Empire’s Slaves. London: Mariner Books, 2006. For Abdul Kader Kane and the abolition of slavery in Futa Toro, see Rudolph Ware, The Walking Quran, Chapter 3.

8 For Habib Saleh, see Patricia Romero. “‘Where Have All the Slaves Gone?’ Emancipation and Post – Emancipation in Lamu, Kenya.” The Journal of African History 27 (3): 1986, 497-512. For Shaykh Ramiya, see August Nimtz Jr. Islam and Politics in East Africa. The Sufi Order in Tanzania. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980, 45.

9 Abu Ala Mawdudi was unabashed about this stance. See W.G. Clarence-Smith, Islam and the Abolition of Slavery, 188.

Also read: Responding to “Hoteps”: Three Points On “Islamic” Slavery

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    • Viredae

      Add to that the fact that it was a great virtue to free a slave, so much so that early Muslims sought out slaves, bought them and freed them on the spot.

      So if you had a slave, and you were obliged to feed, clothe and shelter them adequately, you would have an incentive to free them because it would actually be cheaper (and more virtuous) to do so.

    • Islam abolished ALL FORMS of slavery except with regard to prisoners of war, and that was because at the time, there was no alternative.

      What should have been done with prisons after a war? Should have they have been killed, left to die? Women forced into prostitution or starvation? Do you think there was a local United Nations compound in the Arabian desert 1400 years ago where they could take refuge? Taking them as slaves was the “least harm” option available at the time.

      Even before when Islam acknowledged the existence of slavery, the doctrine required that slaves be treated the same as their master, eating the same food, wearing the same quality of clothing, and not being overworked. For the time, that was unheard of.

      Muslim failure to live up to Islamic doctrine doesn’t change Islamic doctrine. They didn’t need the West to end slavery, but rather to properly implement their own doctrine.

    • Khizer


      “Wealthy blacks … commit more crime than poor whites, that’s a fact.” -Jon ‘Aryan Iranian’ Jafari/Tron Certified Woke Race Realist Truther

    • Joey Sanders

      The only reason slavery under Islam is being debated today is because of the white victimization culture spewed on Fox News. “White people were enslaved too by the Barbary Pirates.” There are certain white people trying to minimize their history of black oppression in America.

      Nothing will change the fact that white people enslaved black people in America for hundreds of years. After they freed them, they oppressed them through the Jim Crow laws. Today, they continue to oppress black people through racial profiling and the drug war.

    • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

      The Walking Qur’an by Ware is a great work as well, that I would recommend especially if one is interested in how abolition of slavery preceded the encounter with the West.

Bill Maher’s Use of Opinion Polls of Muslims is Ahistorical and May Justify Violations of Their Human Rights

Bill Maher and George Bush: Closer in thought then we ever knew?

By Ayman Fadel

A friend forwarded me a September 2014 video telling me “you’re swimming upstream in your defense of Islam.” Not knowing I was defending Islam (I see my political stances as defenses of human rights of people, including Muslims.), I replied, “only out of respect for you did I waste 3 minutes listening to Bill Maher.” He then wrote, “Who better than you, to point out where he’s right and where he’s wrong? Please share your thoughts.” Of course, there are many better qualified than me (see after the blog post.) But, after some delay, here they are.

I’m not going to fact check everything Maher said in the interview clip, which begins at 9:45. But as an example of an incorrect fact, Maher said that over 80% of Muslims in Egypt support execution of former Muslims who renounce the religion of Islam. If you look at the actual poll, it is actually 86% of the Muslims who favored making “Sharia the Law of the Land.” In Egypt, the percentage of Muslims who favored making Islamic law the official law in Egypt was 74%. So the number Maher should have cited was 86% x 74% = 64%.

But in this blog entry I accept Maher’s contention that vast numbers of Muslims reject the liberal views that he believes are essential for good society, and I’ll ignore the vast numbers of Muslims who do hold liberal views. I’ll also ignore the polls which show non-Muslims, including populations in the United States, who hold illiberal views.

I’ll ignore the arguments my brother makes on why it is possible for liberal polities to function with people with illiberal views.

My criticism is that Maher’s message is ahistorical and its policy implications are at best unclear and at worst genocidal.

In a few sentences, I want to say what Edward Said said in Orientalism & summarized in Covering Islam. A poll reveals a snippet of a person’s opinion at a given moment. Is the reason the person answered that way, i.e. held that illiberal view, that he or she is a Muslim? Or is the reason that the person’s analysis of his or her country’s history leads him or her to think that only Divine Intervention can improve it? What would a series of polls have revealed about Muslims? Have their ideas changed over time? If so, wouldn’t it mean that their opinions on things at any one time is more a product of their secular, historical circumstances than their religion? And the corollary would then be that a change of their secular, historical circumstances would change their religious opinions.

Are Afghanis who grew up with war and exile since 1979 likely to have liberal opinions? When the “civilized” and “liberal” world established the Zionist entity on Palestinians’ land in 1947 and then ignored Palestinians’ appeals to liberal ideals for 50 years, is it surprising that many Palestinians have come to see those liberal ideals as false? Why did ISIS start in Iraq & Syria? Does the United States’s destruction of Iraq have anything to do with it?

Focusing on the religion of Islam allows United States “liberals” like Maher to completely ignore policies which have contributed to the circumstances which gave rise to illiberal beliefs among Muslims.

Secondly, I ask Maher what does he think good liberals should do with this information. Should they discriminate against Muslims in housing and employment? Should they support policies which kill large numbers of Muslims, like invasions of Muslim-majority countries and unconditional support for dictatorships which promise to suppress Islamists and for Israel, the majority of whose victims are Muslim? Should they regularly accost their Muslim friends, co-workers, neighbors and strangers with criticisms of the religion of Islam? Should liberals oppose zoning of new masjids and private Muslim religious schools and cemeteries? Should they encourage popular culture portrayals of Muslims as bad people? Should liberals approve of any criticism of Muslims or of historical Muslim figures, regardless of their accuracy? Should liberals support ideological tests for immigration?

I’ll listen to atheists’ thoughtful criticism of Muslims, Islam, the Messenger Muhammad ﷺ and religion in general, but I won’t listen to them if they also support violations of Muslims’ human rights, like Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

In the course of writing this blog entry, I looked up other articles criticizing Bill Maher’s statements about Muslims. I did not use them, but I thought I’d include them below for reference.

Sonia Soraiya’s article ends with a passage worth contemplating:

I think Maher confuses compassion with idiocy. Compassion is a quality that has nothing to do with how smart or how right you are. It’s a quality that is at the root of not wanting to make generalizations, and at the root of wanting to say things that do not horrifically offend other systematically oppressed people. I fully believe that Maher doesn’t understand those well-meaning liberals, those politically correct assholes. I would just rather be one of them, I think, than to merely be right; I would like to be able to understand another point of view, from time to time. And especially on a day like yesterday, I would like to be able to feel compassion.

Bill Maher did in fact criticize the idea of a national registry for Muslims, although he did not explain why. I wonder if he would have done so had President Obama or candidate Hillary Clinton had proposed it instead of candidate Donald Trump.

Originally published on AymPlaying

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    • Joey Sanders

      Lol. If you are going to have people on that make dishonest arguments, then why not have a bunch of people on who deny the Holocaust? Have them on all the time spewing their false rhetoric. It’s a debate. Right?

    • silus

      A debate panel without a debate wouldn’t work.

    • Daniel S.

      Maher trotted out the same tired trope that Milo and some other professional haters have re: “few books translated into arabic.”

      They want to talk about translations instead of bilingual/trilingual speakers since they know (or maybe don’t) that muslims definitely speak more languages than americans. Translations become superfluous if you actually, um, learn the original language.

      Also, Maher falls prey to the cottage industry of islamophobes and fake muslims that prop up “the empty kameez” aka Asra Nomani. She thoroughly showcased herself as an airhead on Maher’s show even though she was never on the defensive… she just can’t even hold a conversation.

    • HSkol

      There are victims within any particular group of people. Far louder and more boisterous, however, than any genuine victim – be that of violence, discrimination, or whatnot – are those who victimize themselves with their persecution complexes … only to dig their generalized and non-nuanced belief systems’ heels into the rug and promote victimization of those not like them – at times, perhaps without even realizing as much. Maher is far too full of himself and his own fears to embrace a compassion that just may help to heal this ridiculous little rock we find ourselves on.

    • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

      Thanks for the links

    • Thank you. I’m a big fan of Haqiqatjou’s work.

    • Joey Sanders

      Bill Maher claims to be a liberal, but he uses his show to give a forum to some of the biggest right-wing nuts of all time. He is the one who made Ann Coulter famous through her many appearances on Politically Incorrect. Recently, he gave Milo his own time to rant on his show. Then, not too long ago, he had Roger Stone on. This is somebody who is a known liar, but still, Bill Maher gives him a forum on his show.

      More than any “liberal”, he continues to use his show as a platform of spewing Islamophoic rhetoric that is false. Also, he has had on some of the biggest Islamophobes of all time. This list includes Geller, Gabriel, Nomani, Harris and more.

      This loon continually talks about hating all religions, but he chooses to support Israel which calls itself a Jewish state. He has yet to criticize Jews who think God handed them a deed to a property. I always found it funny that one of the crazy Jews he had in his movie Religulous was a rabbi who did not believe in the existence of Israel.

      Hopefully, one day, his show will get cancelled. Unfortunately that will not be for years to come.

    • 1DrM

      Who died and decided “liberalism” or any other backward “ism” out of the bowels of Europe was the benchmark for humanity? Muslims hold to a higher standard rather then becoming carbon copies of euroPeons.

      Zionism is Maher’s religion so why bother thinking this untalented jester has anything to offer but recycled hasbaRat talking points?

    • Joey Sanders

      You are 100% percent correct.

    • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

      I want to do a comprehensive take down of this trope Maher has been pushing by using the Pew Poll data in the manner that he does. It really is to dehumanize Muslims and justify wars and an assault on Muslims’ human rights.

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:


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 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, 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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    • What makes you think Muslims haven’t taken a stand or that they aren’t outraged? Maybe the problem is that you’re not listening.

      Also, you have some homework to do. Go look up as many terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims as you can find, and look at their actual statements regarding their motive. In every case I’ve ever examined, all or at least part of the STATED MOTIVE is unjust foreign policy, not blind hatred of the “infidel.”

      Where do you live? Are you American? If you are, maybe instead of pointing fingers at Muslims YOU need to take a stand and express outrage at your OWN GOVERNMENT. Tell them to stop attacking one Muslim-majority country after another and to stop covertly supporting terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS. Have you done that??? Or are you too busy casting blame on others?

    • Not sure what you’re talking about. It’s the replies that were user deleted.

      The fact [i]s….. <~ Your opinion. Not fact.

    • Awesome

      It seems that the proregressives have returned, albeit with their agenda being a little more obvious this time. As I have said or alluded to before, it is not a coincidence that Islamophobes and those advocating an anti-Islam, anti-Muslim agenda tend to be Zionists.

      Unfortunately, the “bogeyman industry” is very lucrative, in which even those with a Muslim background are willing to sell their religion (if they even had it to begin with) to try and profit from it, in which is also seems to be alluded to in a hadith:

      It is narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) observed:

      “Be prompt in doing good deeds (before you are overtaken) by turbulence which would be like a part of the dark night. During (that stormy period) a man would be a Muslim in the morning and an unbeliever in the evening or he would be a believer in the evening and an unbeliever in the morning, and would sell his faith for worldly goods.”

      (Sahih Muslim 118, Book 1, No. 220, 213)

    • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

      It comes down to how you are reading the Quran and hadith, which interpretation is being privileged. Extremists in religion are, as I said, more interested in power and their own agenda, than a serious, faithful reading of God’s Word, this is why they are misguided and misguide others.

      There has never been a 100% literal interpretation of scripture, even the Dhahiriyya, resort to figurative interpretation.

      What you seemed to have faced on that site is what is quite prevalent on the web, in which people are mean to one another rather than any issue with literal interpretations.

    • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

      I don’t see where any of the mods are silencing you, I appreciate your questions, they seem sincere.

    • You may know Islam quite well. I simply see no evidence that you do, and some evidence that suggests you really don’t. I don’t think anyone with a solid understanding of Islam would say it can be interpreted any, and suggest there are no consensus of near consensus positions among the scholars. I don’t think so because that doesn’t reflect reality.

      Understand that I don’t care if you ATTEMPT to undermine Muslims. I just pointed out that’s what you are trying to do, and told you that you won’t succeed. Maybe with Muslims who are lukewarm and ignorant of Islam’s teachings, and thus weak in their faith. But those people are fairly likely to leave anyway. As I said, you’re not offering anything fresh or original. You’re repeating the exact same thing we hear everywhere, every single day.

      From my point of view, the only question is whether or not you’re contributing anything useful, and whether or not you should get to use up so much real estate to promote your views. I don’t think people come here to hear someone parrot Maajid Nawaz. I think a lot of people come here to get away from that, and I’m not going to let you ruin their experience. You are not more special and important than the rest of our audience.

Maajid Nawaz and Quilliam: The Money Trail Behind the Propaganda

By J. Spooner and Jono Stubbings

”The crimes of the Israel people! I want to ask you all a question! Who is it, the Israelis or the Palestinians who break the bones of children? WHO BREAKS THE BONES OF CHILDREN!? WHO BREAKS THE BONES OF CHILDREN!? WHO BREAKS THE BONES OF CHILDREN!? WHO BREAKS THE BONES OF CHILDREN!? Who destroys the houses upon the heads of people? Who destroys the houses upon the heads of people? WHO DESTROYS HOUSES UPON THE HEADS OF MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN!? Who invades and occupies every single piece of land from around us? ”

– A supposedly then deradicalised Maajid Nawaz, Al Quds Day, London 2006

As Trump and Netanyahu double-tapped the two-state solution with all the cruelty and clinicism of the IDF commando who murdered the defenseless human-rights activist Furkan Dogan aboard the Mavi Marmara, the supposed two-states advocate Maajid Nawaz was silent. Markedly silent.

His ten-year odyssey which began in 2006 with calling for the destruction of Israel had by 2016 morphed into whitewashing Israel’s apartheid wall, attacking BDS and mirroring precisely the WUJS Hasbara Handbook in lambasting UN Resolution 2334 which condemned the illegal Israeli settlements.

Nawaz attributes his own dramatic metamorphosis to his discardment of Islamism. This is nonsensical. Israel has broken children’s bones. Israel has ”destroyed the houses upon the heads of people”. Israel has ”invaded and occupied”. To conflate all objections to these horrendous crimes with an irrational and anti-semitic Islamist ideology is disingenuous. The ”deradicalisation” of Maajid Nawaz from Islamist propagandist to ”friend of Israel” can be explained by amorality and by the pandering to the vested interests whose donations are keeping the Quilliam Foundation in existence and Maajid Nawaz in three-piece-suits.

To understand the full-cycle evolution of Nawaz from anti-Israel Islamist to first class Israeli PR monger, one must deconstruct his transformation by identifying key factors throughout this decade of deception.


Pro-Israel/Right-Wing Funding: £0

UK Government Funding: £0

Hizb ut-Tahrir Funding: Unknown

According to the official Maajid Nawaz (his) narrative, Maajid has undergone a radical transformation in his Egyptian prison. He has rejected Islamism and embraced secularism and democracy. He explains away his post-release return to Hizb ut-tahrir as a vain attempt to deradicalise his former brothers in the organisation. The reality contradicts this. Upon his release Nawaz held a press conference and proudly declared to all in attendance that “I have become more convinced of the ideas that I went into prison with.” On a July 1st 2006 rally outside the American Embassy in London he demanded the destruction of Israel and its replacement with an ”Islamic State”.


Maajid Nawaz splits from Hizb ut-Tahrir


Pro-Israel/Right-Wing Funding: £0

UK Government Funding: £675,000

Gulf Funding: Unknown

Quilliam launches in April of 2008. It is initially bankrolled by unknown private donors in the Gulf. Funding is pulled in the first (and last) time Nawaz goes firmly against the agendas of his benefactors. Lesson learned. The UK Government plugs the hole with a 675,000 grant covering 2008/2009.

In its founding statement Quilliam laud Shaikh Ali Goma, a Hezbollah supporter, as a “scholastic giant”.

With a language and tone which echoes Nawaz’s Al-Quds day speech but would be altogether alien to it now (”hugely disproportionate killing”, ”murdering Palestinians en masse ”, ”Israeli atrocities ”, ”inhumane operations”) The Quilliam Foundation release a fiery press-release demanding not just the end of Israeli bombing but also the end of the siege of Gaza.


Pro-Israel/Right-Wing Funding: £0

UK Government Funding: £390,000

Having now received the bulk of its Government funding Quilliam begins reaching out to private donors. On two occasions it falls apart at the last moment. Once due to the ”credit crunch” and secondly due to the ”Arab Spring”. This is possibly in relation to the rumoured potential funding of Quilliam by the Gadaffi family who had been violently dethroned.  As Israel’s Operation Cast Lead rolls into January of 2009 Maajid Nawaz signs an open-letter to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urging the immediate punishment of Israel unless their military offensive ceases.

In June of this year, Nawaz pens an opinion piece in the Guardian insisting that Israel cannot and must not be a Jewish State,


Pro-Israel/Right-Wing Funding: £0

UK Government Funding: £159,000

Quilliam issues a (now suspiciously deleted) press release calling for the banning of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s from Britain on the grounds that he ”promotes hatred and violence in support of his religious beliefs”.

In what would be regarded as heretical today by his fans Nawaz argues for the motion that ”Islam is a religion of peace” against his current anti-Muslim fellow-travelers Douglas Murray and Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In December, the Government announces they will be pulling Quilliam’s funding.

Later that month Quilliam announces it has already secured new funders for 2011, the year Quilliam’s official stances on Israel-Palestine will begin to change.


Pro-Israel/Right-Wing Funding: $250,000 ( Quilliam US) / $245,000 (Stuart Family Foundation) / $174,000 (Templeton Foundation) **

UK Government Funding: £27,000

As Government funds dry up and with no successes of note to speak of, the Quilliam Foundation is facing an existential crisis. Having been uniformly rejected by the Muslim community they’ve become devoid of legitimacy. In March the Labour MP Paul Goggins lobbies Parliament for emergency funding of £150,000. Goggins stresses that Quilliam will ”fold” without the injection of cash. The former Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel Robert Halfon also tables a motion requesting continued Government funding of Quilliam.

Ultimately, Quilliam is only offered £40,000. Nawaz says this will only cover his salary and rent for three months. Meanwhile, Quilliam has branched-out into warmongering; tirelessly pushing for regime-change in Libya.

Seemingly doomed, Quilliam seems to have been pulled back from the brink with the registering of ”Quilliam US” as a charity in this year. The US based Quilliam appears to only exist on paper. It’s founding Directors include three Republicans – including war on terror profiteer Chad Sweet of the Chertoff Group – alongside Quilliam’s co- founder Ed Husain. Their registered address has been adopted into the offices of wealthy Makarechian family’s Gen Next – Hardline Republicans who have financially supported the campaigns of Schwarzenegger, Bush McCain and Romney – Schwarzenegger repaid their generosity by appointing Hadi Makerachian to the University of California’s Board of Regents; from where he attempted to strangle criticism of Israel on campus.

Gen Next’s registered charity, the Gen Next Foundation has donated overwhelmingly to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). The ISD is a London-based think tank which collects and organises a variety of the elite policy planning activities of the late Lord Weidenfeld. Lord Weidenfeld was a former Vice-Chairman of the EU-Israel Forum and Political Advisor and Chef de Cabinet in Israel to Dr. Chaim Weizmann in 1949. Weidenfeld was accused by New Statesman writer Dennis Sewell in his 2002 article, ‘A kosher conspiracy?’ of being “’a serious operator at the level of government, editors and media proprietors,’ often used his influence to try and prevent critical media coverage of Israel.” Weidenfeld was a renowned staunch supporter of Israel and has been described as an “adamantine Zionist“. The many pro-Israel causes he laboured for include the Jerusalem Foundation (which helps violate international law by carrying out building projects in the illegal settlements of East Jerusalem) and he even sat on the Board of Advisors for the Israeli intelligence front, MEMRI.

When Quilliam’s Managing Director Haras Rafiq was challenged by MP’s in December 2015 on these unhealthy right-wing affiliations he assured the enquiry that Quilliam US was a separate entity with no association with his own organisation. He was explicit in his denials.

“Quilliam US is a separate entity – it is not a UK entity, it has no trustees or directors sitting on it from the UK”

– Haras Rafiq

Rafiq’s claims were false. 2015’s Tax Filings for the US-based Quilliam show Maajid Nawaz is registered as their Chairman. Interestingly enough and raising suspicions even further, Quilliam US appears to be not only associated with Quilliam UK, but seemingly acting as a conduit for a large part of it’s funding.

According to these annual tax filings, every year since its registration as a charity in 2011, Quilliam US has forwarded on all money they have raised, in the form of a grant “to a foreign charity which has been officially recognised as a charitable entity in the UK for a number of years”, for the purpose of “help(ing) fight counter extremism”. This smoke and mirrors routine from Quilliam appears, on the surface, an act of simple deception, as the ‘UK counter extremism entity’ who is the recipient of these hundreds of thousands of dollars per year from Quilliam US, is never specifically named on the tax filings. In fact, bizarrely, every year’s tax filing shows the ‘Name of organisation’ section is conveniently left blank. To simplify, every year Quilliam US give all their money away to an anonymous charitable organisation in the UK to help fight counter extremism.

This then leads to the inevitable, $300,000 question – where is Quilliam US getting all it’s money from?

There are a lot more unknowns here, mainly due to the fact that there is simply much less public documentation regarding Quilliam US donors. However, it is safe to say that wherever the money is coming from, it suits both parties for them to remain anonymous. This desire for anonymity can be seen, ironically, in the one public organisation that names itself as a donor to Quilliam US, that of the Schwab Charitable Fund. Schwab Charitable Fund is a donor advised fund which preserves the anonymity of donors by not disclosing individual donor names. This fund works hand in hand with Schwab Advisor Services, a business segment of The Charles Schwab Corporation. Forbes has reported that Charles Schwab is a billionaire businessman who, among other things, is an active Republican that has contributed heavily to the Party and individuals, the most recent of which being Jeb Bush.

The Schwab Charitable Fund has proven itself a reliable ally of pro-Israel lobbying groups, donating in excess of half a million dollars to the American Jewish Committee between 2009-2013, as well giving to others such as International lobbyists, the Friends of Israel Initiative. Tax filings show that since 2012, Schwab Charitable Fund has given Quilliam US close to $30,000 per year.  

Curiously, in this year of transition, Quilliam and Maajid Nawaz can be seen to have hedged their bets on Israel-Palestine with precious little being published by either on the conflict.

Importantly, this is also the year that Quilliam begins a vital friendship with arguably it’s most consistent and loyal donor. The Stuart Family Foundation donated close to $250,000 in 2011 to Quilliam, and has continued to give between $150-260,000 annually ever since. Quilliam received $260,000 in 2015 – making it the Foundation’s highest recipient of funds. The website Powerbase describes the Stuart Family Foundation as a “conservative foundation” set up in 1986 which “gives to a range of conservative causes”, and that “According to the Philanthropy Roundtable, grants given by the Foundation are ‘diverse, but … an ideological current … underlies each donation.’”. Over the years, the Stuart Family Foundation has made it perfectly clear which direction it’s ‘ideological current’ is flowing, with previous donees including the likes of far-right, Muslim hating Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, or the John Bolton promoting, war mongering outfit, The Institute of World Politics.

The Stuart Family Foundation has also sponsored former IDF Lieutenant Colonel (Res.) Amos Guiora. A former commander of the IDF’s School of Law turned Utah University scholar, Guiora has worked tirelessly to defend the illegal and inhumane tactic of targeted assassination, his wikipedia page quoted him stating that:

“targeted killing absolutely is the implementation, the manifestation of aggressive, preemptive self-defense based on Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.” Inasmuch as going into Gaza, for example, to arrest a notorious terrorist is “a highly dangerous military operation that would put more IDF soldiers in harm’s way”, he said, “International law does not require Israel to carry out high-risk arrests.”


Pro-Israel/Right-Wing Funding: $265,875 (Quilliam US) / £79,000 (Eranda Foundation) / $250,000 (Stuart Family Foundation) / $331,000 (Templeton Foundation) **

UK Government Funding: £ 0

In 2012, the Eranda Foundation come to the aid of Quilliam to the tune of £79,000. The Eranda Foundation is run by the Jewish billionaire Evelyn De Rothschild whose family were key in the creation of the Israeli State and whose present loyalties can be demonstrated through his generosity to The Friends of The IDF and the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society.

This is the year that Nawaz embarks on his first Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel junket to Israel. Asa Winstanley, investigative journalist at Electronic Intifada explains the purpose of these trips:

Generally what these kinds of delegations will do, increasingly these

days, is they will include a token Palestinian or two in their

overwhelmingly pro-Israel meetings. This will usually be either a

Palestinian Authority representative, or something from a ‘coexistence’

type group, which sounds all warm and fuzzy but which does nothing to

end the violence of Israeli occupation and apartheid.

“These visits are intended to give the delegations a pretence of

‘balance’. However, it is clear that the delegations are very

pro-Israel, and are mainly focused on meeting establishment Israeli

figures, such as the racist leader of the Israeli Labor Party Yitzak

Herzog. This is even admitted by the Israeli organisers themselves –

they state that they purpose of the delegations is to promote ‘Brand

Israel’ and for the members of these delegations to become ambassadors

for Israel back in their home countries.

“But this often backfires, such as most recently with the NFL delegation

to Israel which an Israeli minister intended to ‘present the beautiful

face of Israel’ — due to such blatant propaganda intentions, many of

the players pulled out.

On this LDFI delegation to Israel, Nawaz met the IDF Colonel who designed the illegal apartheid wall that has been constructed on stolen Palestinian land and is larger than the Berlin Wall (or Berlin Fence). However, Nawaz regurgitates the IDF propaganda of the Colonel he speaks with and informs his readers that this racist monstrosity should merely be referred to as a ”fence”.

Disgraced and expelled Israeli official Shai Masot, who was exposed by Al-jazeera earlier this year planning the ‘taking down’ of Pro-Palestinian British MP’s, can be seen here giving his infamous ‘support’ to LDFI at their 2015 Annual General Meeting.


Pro-Israel/Right-Wing Funding: $282,994 (Quilliam US) / £94,500 (Eranda Foundation) / $75,000 (Bradley Foundation) / $175,000 (Stuart Family Foundation) **

UK Government Funding: £ 0

The ultra-Conservative and anti-LGBT Bradley Foundation was identifiied by the Center for American Progress as central wealthy kingmakers in the ”Islamophobia Industry” and appear as a new donor in 2013 follows a similar pattern to Quilliam’s other financiers.

2013 also marks the year of the Tommy Robinson-Quilliam debacle. Robinson is a convicted violent criminal, convicted fraudster, football hooligan, ex-member of the Neo-Nazi British National Party and ”proud Zionist” but is best known for terrorising the British Muslim population as the leader of the EDL. When Quilliam announced his departure from the far-right organisation to much fanfare it was widely considered a coup and Quilliam’s first serious success. Journalist Owen Jones was sceptical; Robinson had targeted a journalist for harassment only the week before, publishing what he believed was his name and home on the internet in a thinly-veiled threat. Jones warned  “My fear is that Quilliam is facilitating the mainstreaming of his bigotry. He hasn’t renounced his views.”

Jones’ fears were shown to be well placed by Robinson himself who following his release from prison established his new anti-Muslim street army with Pegida UK and stabbed  Quilliam in the back by releasing the hidden terms of their arrangement.

Nawaz was shamelessly taking personal credit for deradicalising the far-right extremist but Robinson’s revelations exposed what Robinson describes as a ”You scratch my back; I’ll scratch your’s” PR stunt where in exchange for his household expenses being paid by Quilliam for the entire duration of his pending incarceration he would allow himself to be paraded around by Quilliam to the media as a success-story. Quilliam even recruited the Archbishop of Canterbury to write a character reference letter on his behalf and trained him on how to fundraise. Though perhaps most outrageous of all was Maajid Nawaz’s attempts to have the British taxpayer fund this ”deradicalisation”

A Vice News reporter requests a copy of Quilliam’s annual reports. She is told “there is only one print copy and that that has gone missing”.


Pro-Israel/Right-Wing Funding: $282,994 (Quilliam US) / $20,000 (Sam Harris) / £318,017 and $53,371 (John Templeton Foundation) / $150,000 (Stuart Family Foundation) **

UK Government Funding: £ 0

The ability of the Quilliam Foundation to attract funding in the same year from anti-theist kook Sam Harris and pro-theist kooks of the Templeton Foundation is truly astounding.This Chameleon-like capability of theirs to pander to whoever is signing the cheques, reflects Nawaz’s own business persona and exposes arguably his one true talent.

The emergence of Templeton Foundation heavily investing in Quilliam is bizarre. Ostensibly Quilliam advocates both secularism and liberalism while Jack Templeton was an ultra-Conservative Christian and member of the Christian-Supremacist CNP who spent heavily defending Bush’s illegal war.

The Templeton Foundation has pumped money into anti-LGBT campaigns while bankrolling  the Christian Right Evangelicals the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) a Talibanesque movement whose ex-members warn of an impending ”Christian Jihad”. The Templeton Foundation has also been donors to anti-Islam hate-groups such as Frank Gaffney’s CSP and Zionist Organisations like the Herzl Institute who honoured Jack Templeton’s passing and Michael Oren’s neocon Shalem Center of Jerusalem

In June Nawaz jets off on his second Liberal Democrats Friends of Israel Junket. On this delegation he is present just prior to Operation Protective Edge, whose onslaught results in over 2,000 dead Palestinians; including over 500 children. Seemingly moved, he returns home to attend an anti-semitism rally and attributes responsibility to Hamas for these deaths.

In a stark and strikingly illustrative departure from his 2009 open-letter to Gordon Brown (pre-pro-Israel funding stage) Nawaz attacks and hints at the antisemitism of Baroness Warsi for resigning from Government in protest at the the UK’s lack of intervention as Israel bombed a defenseless Gaza from the skies.


Pro-Israel/Right-Wing Funding: $370,000 (Quilliam US) / / $ Unknown (John Templeton Foundation) / $260,000 (Stuart Family Foundation) **

UK Government Funding: £ 0

Quilliam’s Usama Hassan and Maajid Nawaz are signatories to a Gatestone ad published in the New York Times

Zuhdi Jasser sits on the boards at Nina Rosenwald’s Gatestone Institute and the Clarion Fund and has the unique dishonour of being the only Muslim on earth to be both cited in Breivik’s manifesto and a member of Steve Bannon’s secretive Christian-Supremacist organisation the Council For National Policy (CNP).

Gatestone is a pro-Israel/Neocon think-tank founded by Nina Rosenwald, the heiress who has been dubbed The Sugar-Mama of anti-Muslim hate.” To understand their agenda consider that the Zionist terrorist Anders Breivik’s Manifesto mentions twenty-five of their listed authors. Most notably the Gatestone anti-Islam author “Fjordman,” whom Breivik had been in contact with prior to his terror attacks and was named by Norwegian Police as “an essentially central witness”.

In an apparent act of duplicity Haras Rafiq, the MD of the supposed counter-extremist think-tank Quilliam denied all knowledge of the overt anti-Muslim agenda at the heart of the Gatestone Institute. When presented with evidence by the Home Select Committee (see:  2011) of their blatant Islamophobia he vowed never to allow Quilliam to be entangled with Gatestone again. However, just days later Quilliam’s own Usama Hasan was flanking Zuhdi Jasser and Asra Nomani, on a DC platform “reforming” Muslims.

If there is daylight beyond the superficial between the Clarion Fund and fundamentalist “Jewish Extremists” Aish Ha Torah, it’s not apparent. See:here, here and here. Aish is a pro-Jewish-settler movement backed by the Israeli Government whose members run sites advising on how to “prevent intermarriage”.  Clarion’s founder Rabbi Raphael Shore is a former employee of Aish and is a colleague of Maajid Nawaz at the Times of Israel. The Clarion Project has described Nawaz as “wonderful” and the Clarion/Gatestone/Quilliam  mutual flirtation continues up to the present.

In June, Netanyahu “declared war” on BDS and Zionist billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban pledged “tens of millions” to combat BDS. Paul Makarechian, a Regent of the University of California and member of the Makarechian family funding Quilliam urged the “punishment” of BDS activists as without it “we’re just stating a lot of stuff on paper.”

By October, Maajid Nawaz had already signed an open-letter in The Guardian denouncing BDS.


Pro-Israel/Right-Wing Funding: Unknown (Tax filings not available as yet)

UK Government Funding: £ 0

In June of this year Nawaz enters into a working relationship with pro-Israel billionaire Seth Klarman’s Times of Israel. Through his Klarman Family Foundation he has paid numerous grants to various anti-Islam/Zionist causes including MEMRI, The Middle East Forum, Friends of The IDF and WINEP.

The Washington Institute of Near East Peace (WINEP) is a radical offshoot of AIPAC that once advocated a ”False-Flag” attack to initiate a war with Iran are most notable here as their website lists Maajid Nawaz as one of their ”experts.”

In September, Nawaz uses his newly acquired platform as radio presenter for LBC to make “a very important point about Israel and anti-Semitism” in which he sneakily implies that “Israel’s right to exist” and the “Jewish…right to self-determination” are one in the same. Remember that language matters, as Nawaz himself constantly reminds us.

A couple of months later, he then promises his Neve Shalom audience that he plans to bring Israeli Arabs to the UK to combat BDS and the prestigious SLPC designates him an “anti-Muslim extremist”.

As the year drew to a close Nawaz railed against the passing of UN Resolution 2334 which condemned the illegal colonialist settlements in the West Bank. Slamming the UN’s actions as “deeply biased” and America’s abstention as “despicable,” his article serving the purpose of changing the subject from the actual contents of the Resolution. Nawaz had come full circle. When pressed by Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk, he obfuscated, refusing to be drawn into giving a public opinion on the Resolution, seemingly wary about who his opinion would be seen by. Nawaz had taken up the baton of the Israel-Lobby’s UN Watch, a pressure-group tasked with silencing all United Nations criticism of Israel.

UN Watch merged with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in 2001. Nawaz is promoted by the AJC and has spoken at their events. The AJC honoured Quilliam’s generous patron Jack Templeton Jr in 2010 while  Nawaz sits on a board with UN Watch’s Chief Executive Hilell Neuer; who echoed Nawaz’s attack on Obama and UN Resolution 2334 in Nawaz’s Times of Israel.


Pro-Israel/Right-Wing Funding: Unknown (Tax filings not available as yet)

UK Government Funding: £ 0

The year is young but Nawaz has already attached himself tighter to the spine of the formal Zionist narrative. In January, he conflates anti-Zionism with anti-semitism, rendering Jewish anti-Zionists invisible in the process. This is in stark contrast to his Government funding era when he was explicit – “criticism of Israel is not antisemitic”. His most recent Times of Israel effort is bizarre. He advocates an Israeli peace deal with the Wahabbi House of Saud to counter jihadism and cynically reduces horrendous Israeli crimes to crimes of which Israel is merely “accused of.”

The rapid transformation of Maajid Nawaz from Islamist screaming for the destruction of Israel to moderate and then devolving into a Zionist apologist correlates closely with the sources of his funding. Only Nawaz knows if he holds positions because he is paid or if he is paid because he holds positions. Either way, he is incentivised to drift further right and has been well rewarded for doing so until now. Millionaires and billionaires don’t make donations; they make investments and investing in a secular and liberal Muslim willing to push your propaganda has tremendous payoffs.

** Totals for funds donated to Quilliam from ‘Pro-Israel/Right-Wing’ organisations, are based mostly on publicly available, tax 990 form documents. It is unknown if there are any further donors which either donate privately or from outside the US/UK to Quilliam. Therefore the stated amounts are the minimum totals of funding that are known, and not necessarily entire amounts.  

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    • Tanveer Wan Khanobi

      That’s a lotta upvotes.

    • Fred Perry

      they get a native informant. he allows them to express islamophobic tropes with impunity.

    • I’m late to this threat because this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and give this proper attention.

      Excellent research. Really shows how we absolutely can “follow the money” to Maajid’s magical transition.

      I think the groups sponsoring him have more money than sense. He isn’t making any significant difference among Muslims. He is widely despised and no one listens to him. I think now he’s ore marginalized than ever. What is it they think they’re getting for their $$$?

    • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

      Steve King doesn’t want his country invaded by people who have contempt for his culture and people! No one is invading the US BUT the US actually has invaded nations whose people and cultures it hates and is contemptuous of, like Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • Khizer

      That clears a few things.

Boredom Will Do


Original Guest Article, Part 6/6

By Umar Lee

In 1992 I had just met a young enthusiastic convert to Islam named Randy Royer. In fact I was the first person he met when he walked into the masjid for the first time and I was a witness for his shahadah. Although the two of us both grew-up in St. Louis County our families, neighborhoods, schools, and path to both Islam and political activism was much different.

Randy grew-up in an artistic and educated family and I grew-up in a blue-collar Southern Baptist family. Randy lived in an upper middle-class neighborhood in West St. Louis County  (which I saw as fabulously wealthy at the time) and I lived in the working-class Ferguson-Florissant area.

We were both teenagers at the time and had both done poorly in high school. While we were poor students in school we were both bookish and had a love for learning and bonded over books and being the only two teenagers in a mosque mostly populated by men our parents age.

In 1992, just as in 2016, Washington University in St. Louis, hosted a presidential debate. Randy told me he would be protesting the debate along with a group of his punk rock buddies from West County and invited me to join. That would be the first of many political protests in my life.

I won’t bore you about the slightly amusing details of that day or our run-ins with supporters of President George H.W. Bush. Instead I want to use 1992 to talk about 2016.

1992 featured the fresh face of Democratic Nominee Bill Clinton playing saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show, answering questions about his underwear on MTV,  facing rumors about his womanizing, and answering veterans for his failure to serve in Vietnam. The race also featured H. Ross Perot who like Donald Trump was a billionaire political-outsider promising to run America like a business. Then you had the incumbent President Bush who had all the enthusiasm his son Jeb would display in 2016.

The election of 1992 seemed like a wild-ride at the time. Looking back it seems like a black and white movie or an old action film without modern film-making technology. Nothing in our past has prepared us for the pure crassness and lunacy of the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Randy would go on to be known as Ismail and would become a prominent Muslim activist living and working in Washington, DC. Working for CAIR, AMC, and MAS, Ismail helped win some major civil-rights victories for Muslims. However, it was his activism outside of DC that would lead my friend Ismail to trouble.

Watching the slaughter of Muslims in Bosnia on TV Ismail wasn’t satisfied to just write his Congressman or participate in marches. Ismail went to Bosnia and volunteered to fight with the mujahideen. Later he’d do the same in Kashmir.

Today Ismail is nearing the end of a 20 year prison sentence. Ismail, like a lot of other good and sincere Muslims, fell victim to overzealous federal prosecutions after 9/11.

I never went to Bosnia and Kashmir. Perhaps it was due to my blue-collar upbringing and a keen sense of knowing when something spells trouble or having enough adventure at home.

Ismail sought to help create a more perfect world. Pessimists like myself reject utopian ideologies knowing that you may be able to improve the world a little bit; but humanity is so flawed we will never come near perfection. That’s why I have no problem compromising and voting for a Hillary Clinton or a Chris Koster. Yeah, they’re not great, but people aren’t great and for the moment it’s the best we can do.

On the flip side of the coin you have other utopian believers. They want to Make America Great Again and they’ve placed all of their faith in Donald Trump.  In their utopian vision America peaked in the 1950’s and they want to bring it back. Like all utopian visions, from left to right (Jill Stein included), it can’t be achieved without massive destruction to actual humans.

I mentioned before that Ismail  (and me to be honest) found it too boring to write our congressman. Ismail’s congressman happened to be Richard Gephardt. A flawed congressman indeed with a shady racial past as a St. Louis Alderman. Congressman Gephardt, while we were busy talking about Bosnia, was helping to make St. Louis the biggest hub for Bosnian refugees in America. Today St. Louis is home to a thriving Bosnian community with minarets surrounded by malls.

Sometimes boring will suffice.

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    • JD

      3 men charged in Garden City plot bomb Mosque Somali apartment complex.

      WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) UPDATE (10/14/16): Three men were arrested on Friday for threatening to attack an apartment complex and mosque in Garden City.

      Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall says Curtis Allen, 49, Gavin Wright, 51, and Patrick Stein were all charged with domestic terrorism.

      Beall said the three were planning to bomb an apartment complex and mosque in Garden City occupied by a Muslim community of about 120 Somali refugees.

      Beall said the men planned to carry out the attack on Nov. 9, the day after Election Day.

      He said the men stockpiled a large cache of firearms, and ammunition.

      Beall said the men planned to park vehicles full of explosives at all four corners of the Garden City apartment complex. The men said they wanted to “wake people up”.

      Beall said the men wrote a manifesto, which they wanted published after the bombing.

      According to an affidavit, the were a part of a group called the Kansas Security Force and the Crusaders.

      “These are militia groups whose members support and espouse sovereign citizen, anti-government, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant extremist beliefs,” read the affidavit.

      Beall said the men’s arrest is a part of an eight month long investigation.

      Eyewitness News first learned about the investigation when Liberal police and the FBI shutdown multiple streets in town on Tuesday.

      All three men are currently in the Sedgwick County jail on one count of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.

      If convicted, all three could face life in prison.

      The Garden City Mayor and Police Chief issued the following statements Friday evening:

      “Our community is forever grateful for the protection provided to us every day, but especially today in learning of the thwarted attack on our community. I’m shocked, but at the same time extremely proud of and grateful for the efforts of local, state, and federal law enforcement. Today should also serve as a reminder that vigilance should be a common practice by all citizens. ‘See something, say something’ is a cause we should champion each day even in a rural community like Garden City. I would encourage anyone that sees something suspicious to call 911.”

      Mayor Chris Law

    • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

      It seems they really want to eliminate anyone who doesn’t think like them. On another note, I don’t know how these civilization/race warriors who tout their superiority by looking down on other cultures can ever show their face again.

    • (((Reynardine)))

      As someone who was a very aware fifteen before the Fifties ended, I can say conclusively that the middle class was strong, unions were potent, billionaires (very rare then) were taxed at 90%, and a Republican presidency meant Eisenhower. Granted, few women worked after they were married and fewer had real careers, but for that very reason, divorce meant a man paid *permanent* alimony. As for a grappelheini like Trump, he’d be in jail… after they pulled the hatpins out of him. Do these white oysters want to go back to that? The ones who do, shouldn’t be voting for Trump.

Teju Cole: Charlie Hebdo Finally Steps Away from the Mask

Author Teju Cole

Author Teju Cole

In July of last year, the editor of Charlie Hebdo told Entertainment Weekly the French paper would no longer draw Muhammad-themed cartoons.

Critics decried the decision, accusing editors of caving in into “radical Islamists” in the wake of the murderous attacks on their offices the preceding January. The paper insisted they had done their job in defending the “right to caricature” and questioned why  they were, “expected to exercise a freedom of expression that no one dares to.”

Now it seems they were neither caving in nor moving on, but rather dropping the mask of “satire” alltogether. Painting all Muslims with a broad brush, they ditched their longstanding ruse in favor of a straighforward assault, launched in an article entitled, How did we end up here?

Below is an excellent analysis by Nigerian-American writer, photographer, and art historian, Teju Cole, cross posted from Facebook:

Teju Cole: Charlie Hebdo Finally Steps Away from the Mask

H/T: Yousef

Charlie Hebdo was given last year’s PEN/James and Toni C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award, despite the objections of hundreds of members of PEN. Now, the people of Charlie—who in my view were simultaneously the victims of a terrifying, unspeakable crime, and the producers of an antic and gross publication (nothing wrong with that) that was at the same time deeply prejudiced—finally step away from the mask of “it’s satire and you don’t get it” to state clearly that Muslims, all of them, no matter how integrated, are the enemy.

Historical analogy can be tiresome and too easy, but sometimes it’s the sharpest thinking tool around. Reading this extraordinary editorial by Charlie, it’s hard not to recall the vicious development of “the Jewish question” in Europe and the horrifying persecution it resulted in. Charlie’s logic is frighteningly similar: that there are no innocent Muslims, that “something must be done” about these people, regardless of their likeability, their peacefulness, or their personal repudiation of violence. Such categorization of an entire community as an insidious poison is a move we have seen before.

Read the piece yourself—don’t just react. Read the piece and think through who you wish to be in relation to the kinds of arguments it presents. If I hadn’t carefully scrutinized the url (and thus confirmed that it really is legit), I’d have thought someone was doing a cruel parody of laïcité. The fact that the essay itself is written in English also indicates very clearly that Charlie is aware of its global audience now, of the bigotry that is increasingly popular here in the US, disguised and undisguised.

Meanwhile, you might remember that SOS Racisme, a French “anti-racist” organization, was brought to New York last year to defend Charlie from accusations of racism. One of the founders of SOS Racisme was Laurence Rossignol, the current French minister for women’s rights. This same Rossignol said last week that women who wear the hijab are like the “nègres américains” (American negroes/ American niggers) who accepted slavery.

So, SOS Racisme gets on stage and, on behalf of PEN, gives an award to Charlie Hebdo, and everybody applauds and congratulates themselves for their fine understanding of satire. The same Charlie, in this new editorial, writes: “From the bakery that forbids you to eat what you like, to the woman who forbids you to admit that you are troubled by her veil, we are submerged in guilt for permitting ourselves such thoughts.”

What thoughts? The wish to discriminate freely against Muslims without having to be called out on it. The freedom to draw everyone who is Muslim, or comes from a Muslim family, or is connected to North Africa, or “looks” Arab, into one big universal blood guilt that makes them literally responsible for the horrors perpetrated by a few maniacs. The desire to have this hatefulness lauded as courage.

This is precisely the logic also of the masses who praise Trump for his “honesty”—as though only ugliness could be honest, as though moral incontinence were any more noble than physical incontinence. But when someone sh*ts their pants in a public gathering, we do not immediately congratulate them on their freedom, on their honesty.

I don’t enjoy writing about this—and I certainly didn’t enjoy the endless insults I inevitably receive for daring to even write about it. But the situation is f*cking absurd. It is deeply consequential for Muslim people in France, in Europe, and everywhere where they are minorities. It is consequential for their safety, for their daily lives, for their well-being in the countries they call home. I’m more convinced than ever that PEN, a fine organization whose fierce advocacy of persecuted writers I’m proud to continue to support, in this case got it very, very wrong.

Read the original Facebook post here.

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    • Sam Seed

      Says a rapist to his victim.

    • Awesome

      will you ragheeds ever stop moaning ?

      Will you Islamophobes ever stop whining?

      There’s a local mosque being built? whine, whine, whine

      There’s a Muslim in some public office position? whine, whine, whine

      There’s a Muslim dressing differently than you? whine, whine, whine

      Someone that some people think is a Muslim is crowned “Miss America”? whine, whine, whine

      Someone is publicly wishing Muslims a Happy Ramadan or a Happy Eid? whine, whine, whine

      Someone is offering halal food options to gain more Muslim business and increase profits? whine, whine, whine

      You Islamophobes have to be one of the sorriest bunch of whiners in the world, even worse than children. Grow up please, and stop harassing people with your garbage of hate and fear mongering.

Aqeedah, Allies and the Age of Islamophobia


Part five of a six part series. See parts: I, II, III and IV.

Guest Post By Umar Lee

The Aqeedah (creed) of the Muslim is very near and dear to the believer.  Indeed it separates Islam from kufr (disbelief). Every Muslim is a takfiri in some sense of the word, for example no Muslim believes you can pray to a head of lettuce and refer to that as Islam.

Within Islam there are disagreements between scholars and different traditions and schools of Aqeedah and jurisprudence.  I studied Aqeedah with some of the best teachers America has seen. I will never claim to be the best Muslim or even a good Muslim. I’m very much a struggling Muslim and I always have been.  However, one thing I’ve always taken serious is my Aqeedah.  Even if I’ve flirted with different understandings and teachings I’ve basically always been on, and am on today, the Aqeedah I was taught by Sheikh Ali al-Timimi and the rest of my teachers.

Because of this I’ve been asked many times how can I as an activist be in the streets with and make common cause with atheists, agnostics, communists, druggies, thugs, LGBT activists and others.

For me it is a very simple matter.  Islam promotes justice and I stand with those calling for justice as long as what they call for is just and not in opposition to Islam.  Once they call for things that Islam is opposed to I no longer stand with them on those particular issues.

The same principle can be applied to electoral politics. Endorsing a Democrat or Republican candidate doesn’t mean you’re married to them and everything they stand for, voting isn’t a revolution.  It means you’ve looked at the totality of the candidates and you side with the one who is both the least harmful and has the greatest likelihood to do something good.

In America to participate in either movement politics or political party politics the Aqeedah of the Muslim can hold you back.  Meanwhile, if you take on a liberal, a conservative, or intersectional Aqeedah of non-Muslims, you can have a lot more success. This will get you more jobs, money and patronage. Unfortunately, many Muslims are making this choice. When the opportunity to advance politically arises and Muslim Aqeedah stands in the way it is the Aqeedah that goes away.

While many will see this as simply an example of weak Muslims selling out their religion to please non-Muslims it’s not that simple of a matter. There is a level of rationalization that goes along with this. The belief that yes I’m cutting some corners, and yes some of this may be dodgy from an Aqeedah standpoint, but I’m working towards the greater good.

In an age of Islamophobia Muslims are seeking allies.  There exists real enemies to Muslims and people in America who wish us harm. Therefore, it’s quite natural to grow close to those who are combating our foes and willing to be our allies. However, as my mentor Imam Mahdi Bray would say “politics is dating it isn’t marriage.” We can be allies without being one with our allies, we can stand with people in one area and not in another. We don’t have to completely take on the ideologies of our political friends and we shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice our Aqeedah for political game or more media access.

The dunya (world) is like an ocean during the time of the storm. The waters are difficult to navigate and at times it’s difficult to keep the ship afloat.  Our emaan (belief) guides us out of the rocky waters and once we get to port our Aqeedah is the anchor which will hold us steady. Take away our Aqeedah and we are just adrift at sea.

Umar Lee is an author and freelance writer from St. Louis now based out of Dallas. He may be contacted and found at Twitter @STLAbuBadu

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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    • Augustine25

      I think the more people understand about Islam they less likely they will become allies with people who sincerely practice that faith. The murder of my Armenian relatives proved to me that it isn’t safe to have Muslim neighbors. I think it will take a long period of peaceful behavior – perhaps over centuries – before Muslims can prove they are not a tremendous threat to others.

    • Shaaz Momin

      “O you who have believed, do not make allies of a people with whom Allah has become angry.” [Qur’an 60:13]

      Allah the Exalted forbids taking the disbelievers as allies in the above verse. How can we become their allies, friends and companions on whom Allah became angry with and are cursed.How can we extend to them affection while they have disbelieved in what came to us of the truth.But sadly Our leaders are too much busy in pleasing Kuffars and that’s the reason we are in a awful state.

    • AJ

      Muslim’s current allies are 1) usually people that do not believe and 2) from the LGBT community. I feel that quite a few Muslim political leaders stay tight-lipped about how Islam views homosexuality. I think that is a problem since it sends a message to our youth that homosexuality is acceptable. Also, I notice that many of the atheists will be our allies if it’s related to a cause against Christians but then the moment the Christians are out of the picture, these same allies gang up against Islam in another forum. I think it’s a shaky alliance. I feel that there is more in common between the believers but greater friction with Jews (because of Israel) and with Christians (since the Evangelical type thinks we are not believers since we don’t consider Christ son of God).

    • Jekyll

      Go back to that windeful rational enlightened hole.

    • The greenmantle

      “the human faults that don’t get corrected create the faults that you just mentioned above” I accept that it can happen like that but that it does not always happen otherwise we would be in an even bigger mess than we are now . This is where free will , choice and interlect come in .

      Sir David

  • The greenmantle

    It might be I am open to the concept BUT let me know when all or even a majority of muslims agree in detail on what that means

From Darren Wilson to Islamophobia


Part 4 of 6. See part 1, 2 and 3.

By Umar Lee

The terrorist attacks that brought down the Twin Towers in New York City,  hit the Pentagon in Virginia, and left a plane and its passengers scattered across a Pennsylvania field, occurred more than fourteen years ago.  Yet, despite 9-11 being so far in the rear view mirror, American-Muslims being a staple of modern America, and only a handful of minor incidents since, Islamophobia is now at an all time high.

Much of this is a result of the Islamophobia industry which has been well-documented on this site. I certainly don’t wanna downplay the negative impact of the Islamophobia industry and the agents of hate. However, these forces of hate have been at it for years, so why the uptick in Islamophobia?  Is Donald Trump to blame?  Yes, he partially is, but why did he find such an eager audience?

I’ll trace the resurgence in Islamophobia back to August 9 of 2014. In the small municipality of Ferguson in northern region of St. Louis County, Missouri, a young man by the name of Mike Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson.  Mike Brown laid on the ground for hours in the Canfield Green apartment complex dead in his own blood as a crowd of mourners gathered. Tensions flared that night and the next night the streets of North St. Louis County exploded in anger and grief.  A movement was born.  A movement which at that moment was united and later became divided.

Darren Wilson took a life and never served an hour in jail. With my two arrests in Ferguson (I grew-up in the area) I served more jail time than Wilson.  I grew-up in the racial-tension of North County and it defined our lives and it was now on an international stage. Mike Brown was African-American like most Ferguson residents and Darren Wilson white like most Ferguson cops.

While a movement emerged seeking justice for Mike Brown and other victims of police violence and repression another movement emerged in defense of Darren Wilson and police.  This pro-police movement produced an army of trolls on social media sending out threats and engaging in outright racist language.  As the weeks went on the hate speech increased and it got nastier.

While a segment of protesters and supporters began using the language of intersectional struggle (this segment of protesters associated with Black Lives Matter) the other side began engaging in their own version of intersectional thought.

Researching many of the most vocal pro-police trolls I discovered in addition to their anti-black racism many were also active in efforts against Muslims,  Latino immigrants, and others. When these trolls noticed the prominence of Muslim protesters such as myself, Bassem Masri, Talal Ahmad, Anthony Shahid, Mustafa Abdullah, and others it sent them into a particular frenzy of hate. I received dozens of graphic death threats, had the address of my grandparents published online, and was fired from my job because of the harassment of these trolls.

Today these trolls are still attacking protesters;  but they’ve found new energy in their attacks on Syrian refugees and new champions in Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

It was Ferguson that gave the army of hate it’s new level of vigor. The sight of people in the street demanding justice frightened them. Energized, this same army is now equally focused on Muslims.

In America you’re a part of White Supremacy or you’re a threat to it. Muslims, in whatever form of Islam we choose to practice from Salafeeyah to watered down Me Tooism, are a threat to White Supremacy. The message of Islam destroys White Supremacy.  The life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is an indictment against White Supremacy and the voices of Muslims must be silenced in their minds.

Just as the enemies of Islam have made common cause with those who oppose Latino immigration, African-Americans, and advocates for police reform, so to Muslims must form alliances with those with whom we share a common enemy.

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    • The greenmantle

      Mr Lee himself has been guilty of this in the past unfortunetly attacking both gays and other muslims . I am glad to see he has changed his views .


    • janna

      I really appreciate your response. I found Harry’s Place, some stuff there seem ok though I didn’t dig, just looked at the no platforming of people. What a baffling thing. Being among chameleons, like. I am totally against deplatforming. It seems like a good idea in some egregious case, then the slippery slope kicks in. Seems like the students nowadays have opted for an anti-free speech stance, so it doesn’t surprise that purges follow. In the end nobody is pure enough…

    • janna

      Ilisha, that is why I was hoping someone else who is unconfused would jump in! So please, don’t take it personally. It wasn’t meant that way. I meant silence on the thread.

    • janna

      No sarc at all. Just a mild provocation to break the silence. It seems from the article that the very folks who make it their official business fighting islamophobia are confused about it. Which makes it even more confusing for the rest of us. So, yes, please, let us have a fruitful discussion. (please delete previous, can’t keep my identities straight)

Provoking discussion, not riots: Sandow Birk’s “American Qur’an”


Prof. Zareena Grewal’s Review of Sandow Birk’s “American Quran.”

Originally published at Salon, reposted with her permission.

Imagine yourself in a bland hotel room anywhere in the United States. You’re sitting on the edge of a bed with tightly tucked white sheets, flipping through TV channels without finding anything you can bear to watch. Out of lonely boredom, you open the top drawer of the nightstand. Instead of the requisite King James Bible, you find an English translation of the Quran inviting you to read its pages: “This is a message to all people, to whomever among you desire to take a straight path” (81:27–8).

Americans applauding Trump’s promise to ban all Muslims from U.S. borders might imagine the scenario above as a foreboding future brought on by the “browning of America” and a Muslim fifth column’s “Sharia creep.” Rather than as a sign of the destruction of America, painter Sandow Birk imagined this chance, cross-cultural encounter with the Quran as the conceptual launch of his nine-year journey of reading and reflecting on the Islamic scripture and the War on Terror. The result is his American Qur’an,” an illuminated manuscript published by W.W. Norton as a stunning coffee table art book, ideal as a Christmas or Hanukkah gift, perhaps for a friend or relative on your list persuaded by the fear-mongering of Donald Trump, who claims simply, “We have no choice.”

Birk’s “American Qur’an” intends to introduce the text to American audiences but he is neither inviting his readers to convert to Islam nor illustrating the history of Islam’s founding; the Quran struck him as far too poetic and abstract for such a literal approach. Birk eschewed the irony and satire that have become the knee-jerk impulse of so many Western artists who criticize the specter of Islam by representing the Prophet Muhammad as ugly, bloodthirsty, perverse and savage. In fact, Birk is unflinchingly neutral on the question of the reform of Islam. Contemplative and open-ended, Birk’s paintings collectively comprise a complete English transcription of the Quran bordered by narrative scenes of everyday life in the contemporary United States. In “Smoke,” Birk depicts the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 from the terrified pedestrians’ point of view. He critiques al-Qaida’s terrorism but also challenges the notion that contemporary Muslim political behavior was created and petrified in the seventh century text by analyzing contemporary jihadists alongside extreme forms of taken for granted state violence such as torture, capital punishment, warfare. Birk wants to provoke discussions, not riots, and while “American Qur’an” will likely strike many as controversial, his paintings reveal a welcome depth and seriousness lacking in so much of our national discourse about Islam.

Birk’s illuminated Quran is the first of its kind, not only because it is in English and its scenes are peopled, but also because Birk is not Muslim. For centuries, Muslim artists have created illuminated manuscripts of their sacred text out of faithful devotion. Birk’s relationship to the Quran is characterized by respect but not necessarily veneration. For example, Muslim artists have generally eschewed the human form in art that is explicitly religious and devotional in order to avoid graven images; Birk does not play by such Muslim rules. (Importantly, his paintings never received any Muslim backlash in the form of threats of violence despite years of media publicity and gallery shows.) Birk makes the Quran itself into a cultural criticism tool, a mirror, by making the exotic familiar and the familiar exotic, scrutinizing the beliefs and behaviors of ordinary Americans in much the same way as they typically scrutinize Muslim societies. Birk takes readers to each of the 50 states but also to places beyond the nation’s borders where the U.S. government exerts its power and force, often brutally: landscapes devastated by war in Japan and Iraq, the Guantánamo Bay prison camp in Cuba, and the militarized U.S.–Mexico border. Politically and artistically, Birk is quietly transgressive, and “American Qur’an” is far more interesting and edgy than the formulaic satirical depictions of the Prophet Muhammad that grab headlines.

Birk is driven by a political dilemma that troubles him and could not be more timely: Why can’t Islam be an American religion? Seventy-six percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats polled believe Islam is incompatible with the American way of life. If the Bible, a 2,000-year-old book from the Middle East, is embraced as the very essence of American national culture and identity, why is another 1,400-year-old book from the Middle East deemed incomprehensible, dangerous and irredeemably un-American by so many? Birk’s “American Qur’an” tests both Islam’s claims to universality and the universal citizenship promised by American democracy. Can a white man who is not Muslim accept the Quran’s invitation to read, reflect on and interpret its verses without being accused of cultural trespass? Does the Quran have anything to say to a 21st-century American? Birk’s pairing of an image of a foreclosed house with the chapter titled “The Cheaters” is an emphatic affirmative answer to that question: “Woe to the cheaters, who demand full measure when they take from others, but short them when they measure for them” (83:1–3). As for whether there is room for Muslims in America, Birk suggests that we cannot know who is or is not Muslim just by looking at the people who populate “American Qur’an”; the same holds true for the people who populate America.

In the wake of the gut-wrenching San Bernardino, California, shootings, anti-Muslim discrimination and hate crimes have spiked though they were already on the rise. American Muslims are suffering a backlash and I am painfully aware that my non-Arabic name and unconcealed hair make me less vulnerable than friends and family who “look Muslim.” It is exhausting, frightening and alienating living among so many people who are ready to indict not only my faith but to punish me and millions of Muslims like me for the crimes of a few, crimes that I find just as terrifying as they do.

Growing up in Detroit, my family’s Quran was a cheap, worn paperback that belonged to my maternal grandmother, brought to the U.S. by my mother 40 years ago. The family lore about my grandmother’s short life was a spare mix of sad and inspiring fragments. As a young woman, she lost two of her daughters and their family farm to the war in India before she made a new life as a refugee in Pakistan. In her 50s, and with a greater semblance of peace, she nurtured a new ambition: to learn to read. There was only one book that she wanted to read, and she wanted to read it in its original language, not her native Punjabi. That book was the Quran. So she learned to read Arabic, a language she did not speak or understand, from a tutor, a young girl who had committed the entire book to memory. One page at a time, she worked her way through the book and it was her proudest and final achievement.

As a child, I learned to read Arabic the same way my grandmother did, phonetically, with only a vague sense of what the words meant. While I made my way through children’s primers with large blocky print, my grandmother’s Quran sat on a high shelf, wrapped in a neon pink stretchy material that reminded me of a bathing suit, complete with a single, long spaghetti strap my mother untied when she found a few spare minutes to read to herself. I felt the visceral power of the Quran’s words not in their translated meaning but in their ability to absorb my mother’s attention in a way nothing else could. Sometimes I would call her and she would not hear me, lost in fine black Arabic letters curling across thin, mint green paper.

That’s not to say I grew up in a strict, religious family. My mother taught piety by her example, not lectures. My family practiced Islamic rituals loosely and debated theology hotly. Fatwas were treated for what they were, mere religious opinions that one could take or leave, as numerous and varied as the guests at our dinner table arguing over them. Then one day an old turbaned man on television transformed the word “fatwa” into a license to kill. The world turned upside down over a novel that posited that the real author of the Quran was Satan. My teacher told our class the problem was that Muslims did not understand fiction as an art. He did not seem to understand that art could also be a racial insult. I did not say anything in class or to the teenage boys who called my Muslim friend a fundamentalist and threatened her with a knife at the bus stop. I wanted to share the Islam I knew intimately but all that stumbled out of my mouth was an embarrassed confession that my grandfather bore a striking resemblance to the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Now, as an adult and an Ivy League religion professor, I am far more prepared to field questions about Islam and the so-called clash of civilizations from friends and strangers, students and journalists. Many want me to disown the violence of jihadists as impurities polluting Islam’s peaceful essence; I disappoint them when I explain that interpreting the Quran incorrectly is not enough to put someone beyond the pale of the faith. Others want me to confirm that no institution has caused more bloodshed than religion and that a world without religion would be a peaceful one; I remind them that the 20th century may have been the most violent in history, with its world wars, colonial conquests, revolutions and counterrevolutions—much of the blood spilled in the name of nation-states, and not God. Others want to separate the ugliness of religion from a beautiful set of shared values that they call spirituality. They want me to confirm that Muslims believe in peace, compassion, forgiveness, generosity, and that once we boil religions down to their spiritual “essence,” we are all the same. They are surprised when I challenge the invisible line they have drawn between this thing they call spirituality and this thing they call religion. What if the rules and the martyrdom and the glorified suffering and the desire for power and the regimes of self-discipline blur right into the love and the light? Aren’t we surrounded by secular forms of all of the things we love and hate about religion?

Birk’s transcribed pages force us to confront our fears about how different and similar we might be. Some are frightened by Islam because even “moderate Muslims” believe the Quran is “the literal word of God.” When many Americans hear the expression “the literal word of God,” they misunderstand it to mean that Muslims only read the Quran literally or are only allowed to do so. In fact, a literal reading of the seventh verse of chapter 3 reveals that the Quran contains verses that are self-evident in meaning, as well as allegorical passages and mysteries beyond the comprehension of the human intellect. “[God] has sent down the Book for you. Some of its signs are decisive—they are the basis of the Book—and others allegorical” (3:7). Since the Quran never specifies which verses to take literally or allegorically, Muslims must rely on their communities of interpretation, often led by religious scholars such as jurists and theologians. Muslims have always argued over the Quran’s meanings. After the Prophet Muhammad’s death, an early community of Muslims challenged what they saw as the excessive interpretive liberties of the Caliph Ali, the Prophet’s cousin. They accused the caliph, in his capacity as ruler, of trespassing over the bounds of human interpretation and encroaching on the dominion of God’s law. In response, Caliph Ali brought a Quran to a large crowd. Touching the book, he instructed it to speak and to explain God’s law. Alarmed and surprised, the onlookers protested, “The Quran cannot speak, for it is not human!” This, the caliph explained, was precisely his point. As mere ink and paper, the Quran does not speak for itself. It is human beings who give the book its consequence by reading, reflecting, drawing out meanings and lessons, constructing arguments, all contingent on their recognition of the inevitable limits of human understanding and the limitlessness of the book’s divine truth.

Birk remains unconvinced of any claims of divinity; however, he is seeking answers to big questions. Why are we here? What happens after we die? Why do bad things happen to good people? By virtue of its format, with text boxes partially obscuring scenes, Birk forces us to confront our own biases. In forcing us to try (metaphorically) to peer around the Quran’s words to see what is happening in his scenes, Birk highlights our always partial (in both senses of the word) understanding. His “American Qur’an” teaches us to look with humility, to remember that none of us has a God’s-eye view of our world.

Imagine that the English translation of the Quran you discovered in the top drawer of that hotel nightstand or under your Christmas tree was Sandow Birk’s “American Qur’an.”

Zareena Grewal is associate professor of American Studies & Religious Studies at Yale University and the author of “Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority” (NYU Press 2013) and “Is the Quran a Good Book?” (forthcoming) Follow her on Twitter at @ZareenaGrewal

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    • ShunTheRightWhale

      The whole thing can be viewed on his website:

      This combination of illustrations of American everyday life and the Quran text works quite well at moments, but it does not capture the quintessence of American spirituality: revivalism. Even in Protestant Europe larger hierarchical Churches that maintained tradition dominated religion. Bible lecture surely is an important part of Protestant life in Europe, but that highly emotional form of mass preaching, what message of renewment the bible has to offer in every part for each individual is very American. It’s no wonder most airings of televangelists are exported, like Joyce Meyers (and other proponents of a Prosperity Gospel and what I call “feasibility ethics”).

    • The greenmantle

      until the next question he/she asks

    • The greenmantle

      because he is really El Cid

    • Yausari

      Why are you passive aggressive?

    • JD

      Yea well let me know when you get your Laskhar-e-Bundy under control and then we can have a talk about muslims able to control the actions of every person who happen to follow islam….

      What would you like to discuss?

      How we bombed Iraq which led to the creation of Daesh?

      How nations Wanted to help Syria rebels fighting a dictator but Russia out of it own interest threatened anyone trying to help Syria with retaliation and even provided ASS-ad with SAM missiles which caused rebels to turn to ISIS a small group which grew?

      The fact more muslims die at the hand of ISIS then anyone else? or that Saudi Arabia jordon Bahrain UAE Qatar Turkey all muslim country are fighting Daeshbags ISIS

      Or How we agree ISIS are aholes we like all civilized people condemn there action so why are all muslim who are just trying to go to work and raise there kids are being blamed for the action of few nut balls which 90% of the time blame politics and foreign policy for there actions ?

      or Every Muslim household there is a fear of violence Holocaust type round up and killing to anyone muslims and where people should go hide if that happens ?

    • Eddied

      This publication is truly enlightened. It is forging ahead of the 7th century savager, woman bashing and defunct thought. It must push this rethink further along.The Koran must be salvaged, reworked, simplified and rewritten along American lines in the modern way. Maybe the writers here can carry it through as their contribution to World peace.

    • Jekyll

      Gotta be the dumbest question…

    • Jekyll

      Why are some Jews intolerant and others passive? Why are some Blacks intolerant and others passive? Why are some Christians intolerant and others passive? Why are some Hindus intolerant and others passive? Why are some Arabs intolerant and others passive? Why are some Socialists intolerant and others passive? Why are some Chinese intolerant and others passive? Why are some Germans intolerant and others passive? Why are some Homosexuals intolerant and others passive? Why are some monkeys intolerant and others passive? Why are some Dolphins intolerant and others passive?

      Why you a dumbass?

    • mindy1

      Now that looks a true educational book

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