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Khawarij Ideology, ISIS Savagery: Part One

Shaykh Abu Aaliyah Surkheel

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

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As ISIS continues its murder and violence across the provinces it controls and seeks to control, and as it continues to plague the conscience of the great majority of Muslims around the world, what’s worth recalling is that we’ve seen this before in history with the sect called the Khawarij (anglicized to Kharijites). So before tackling ISIS, let’s look at their forerunners; the Kharajites, to whom their pedigree can be traced.

I

The hadith canons relate that shortly after the battle of Hunayn while the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was distributing charity to a few people whose hearts needed to be reconciled, there came a man with a thick beard, prominent cheek bones, deep sunken eyes, protruding forehead and shaven head. He exclaimed: Fear Allah, O Muhammad! The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) responded: ‘Who will obey Allah if I were to disobey him? Am I not [sent as the] most trustworthy person on earth; and yet you trust me not?’ The man then turned back, whereupon one of those present asked for permission to kill him. But the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: ‘Verily, from the progeny (di’di) of this [man] shall come a people who will recite the Qur’an but it won’t pass beyond their throats. They will slay the followers of Islam and would spare the people of idolatry. They will pierce through the religion just like an arrow which goes clean through a prey.[1]

isis1

Another hadith records that this man’s name was Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah, from the tribe of Tamim, about whom the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) alerted: ‘Leave him; he has comrades whose prayer and fasting will make your prayer and fasting seem insignificant. They recite the Qur’an but it doesn’t go beyond their throats. They shall pass through the religion as an arrow that pierces clean through its prey such that, on inspecting the head; then the shaft; then the fletching; then the nock, would see no traces of blood or viscera on it whatsoever.’[2] Ibn al-Jawzi said: ‘The first of the Khawarij, and the most wretched of them, was Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah … His problem was that he was too puffed up with his own opinion. Had he been granted grace, he would have realized that no opinion was above that of Allah’s Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). The followers of this man were those who fought against ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, may Allah ennoble his face.’[3]

A few decades after this post-Hunayn happening, and as had been prophesied, Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah’s ideological comrades and offspring took on the shape of the very first sect (firqah) to deviate from the main body of the Muslims: the Khawarij (culled from the Arabic word kharaja – “to go out” or “to leave” the main body of Muslims). Indeed, their very name was mentioned by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself, who said: al-khawarij hum kilab al-nar – “The Khawarij are the dogs of Hellfire!’[4] The emergence of the Khawarij as a sect occurred during the caliphate (khilafah) of ‘Ali, in the immediate aftermath of a civil war and its arbitration at Siffin.

Ibn al-Jawzi tells us: ‘‘Ali returned from Siffin and entered Kufah: the Khawarij did not follow. Instead, they settled in Harura. There were 12,000 of them, and they were declaring: la hukma illa li’Llah – “There is no judgement, except Allah’s.” This is how they initially started.’[5]

Imam Muslim narrates from ‘Ubayd Allah b. Abi Rafi‘, a freed salve of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), that the Khawarij came out against ‘Ali, and declared: ‘There is no judgement, except Allah’s.’ So ‘Ali replied: ‘A word of truth, intended for something false (kalimatu haqq urida biha batil).’[6]

Imam al-Nawawi explains: ‘Meaning, the basis of their statement was true. Allah says: The judgement is for none but Allah. [12:40] What they intended by it, however, was to reject ‘Ali’s [acceptance of] arbitration, may Allah be pleased with him.’[7]

As with Dhu’l-Khuwaysirah who, blinded by his warped piety and self-righteousness, thought he had a keener sense of justice than the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), the Khawarij were also possessed of holier-than-thou pretensions and smug convictions. It is this puritanical, embittered self-righteousness – devoid of any true glimmer of knowledge or spiritual wisdom – that is the hallmark of the Khawarij and their ideological cousins who drink from the same murky theological waters today. Of course, along with such fanatical zeal, their other great infamy was takfir – declaring other Muslims to be disbelievers, and spilling their blood because of it.

II

The historians al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir chronicle alarmingly precise accounts of their intimidation, violence and terror. Under the events of 37H/657CE they detail how the Khawarij began terrorizing the countryside around Nahrawan, Iraq, subjecting those whom they caught to an imtihan or “inquisition”. If the answers failed to satisfy their zeal for purity, or agree with their understanding of things, then the punishment was death. Things came to a head when they chose ‘Abd Allah, son of an early companion, Khabbab b al-Aratt, as their victim.

A number of the Khawarij rode into his village for supplies and thought to make an example of him. They fired their loaded questions at him. They first asked him about the caliphates of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Uthman. ‘Abd Allah extolled them all and praised their successive caliphates. So far, so good. They then asked him about ‘Ali, and his state before and after the arbitration or tahkim. ‘He has far greater knowledge about Allah than you do,’ replied ‘Abd Allah, ‘and has much more piety in terms of his religion and possesses greater insight.’ With that, his fate was sealed. They bound and dragged him and his pregnant wife to an orchard laden with date palms, next to a river.

As they were proceeding to kill him, a date fell to the ground, so one of the Khawarij picked it up and put it in his mouth. ‘Do you do that without the owner’s permission and without paying for it?’ said one of his Kharajite comrades. He spat it out instantly. Another Khariji, wielding his sword in threatening circles, accidentally killed a cow that had been wandering behind him. His comrades insisted he should go and find the owner and pay him the full price of the animal. They waited whilst he did so. Thus, having acted most righteously in the matter of the date and the cow, they slit ‘Abd Allah’s throat and then disemboweled his wife. Date spat out, cow paid for, husband, wife and unborn child butchered; and with the clearest of consciences, they purchased their supplies and went on their way.[8]

Theologians have differed as to the precise meaning of the Prophet’s words ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him): ‘They will pierce through the religion (yamruquna min al-din) as an arrow which goes clean through a prey.’ The idea of maraqa – an an arrow ‘piercing’ or going ‘clean through’ its prey with such force and velocity that it exits its prey without any trace of blood or flesh sticking to its tip or shaft, describes emphatically how the Khawarij immerse themselves in religion, but exit straight through it. The question, however, is do they exit the fold of orthodoxy (and become heterodox, deviant Muslims), or do they leave the actual fold of Islam? A minority of scholars went with the latter view; most went with the former.[9] The majority view takes its cue from ‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, who was asked: Are the Khawarij mushrikun? He said: ‘They flee from shirk.’ Are they munafiqun? He said: ‘The hypocrites remember Allah only a little.’ Then what are they? He said: ‘They are our brothers who transgressed against us (ikhwanuna baghaw ‘alayna), so we fought them for their transgression.’[10]

Pages: 1 2 3

Abu Aaliyah is the founder of The Jawziyyah Institute, a leading institute for Islamic moderation and contemporary thought in the United Kingdom. Sidi Abu Aaliyah has been in involved in Dawah and Islamic teachings since 1986. He has translated a number of books from the Arabic language into English such as "The Exquisite Pearls". Abu Aaliyah's written works and audio lectures can be found online.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Amatullah

    August 25, 2015 at 12:37 AM

    One of the MOST informative article around! JazakhAllah khayr for the immense information about the Kharijites. May Allah protect our deen.

    • Avatar

      hadjer

      August 26, 2015 at 2:37 PM

      sister can u tell me how can i have account here to publish a topics about islam

  2. Avatar

    Ibn Islam

    August 25, 2015 at 10:44 PM

    This article highlights some of the traits of the khawarij and links them to isis. However; it does oversimplify this matter. I strongly encourage the author and other scholars to thoroughly elucidate some of the actions of isis, rather than completely dismiss them as. Oversimplifying this matter by describing the actions of this group as “non-islamic”, is not doing justice.
    It is important to put things into correct perspective which it deserves in order not to loose the wide majority audience. Clarification is needed today more than ever because those who know the seerah of the prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wa salam in depth cannot consolidate with generalization of this matter. In no way or form do I support actions of isis, however we need proper guidance in this matter. Making the claim that Islam and the Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wa salam are all about mercy and denying all other actions causes alienation of the young and mature Muslims at large, as well mistrust deviation. Using the “young” card and “lack of wisdom” is the wrong approach. The hadith pertaining to the “foolish” and “young” has its validity without a doubt. Needles to say that the youth has always been at the forefront bringing positive change while the majority of scholars have been remaining passive in the matters of the global Muslim community throughout history.

    In order to consolidate the matter things need to be addressed by those with adequate knowledge:

    1. What constitutes kufr (disbelieve) ie. the 10 nullifers of Islam
    2. How to work towards establishing Islam as a state
    3. What kind of allegiance is permitted to Muslims and to whom
    4. Denouncing the men made systems and upholding the Islamic identity while being part of the society.

    May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala give us the understanding of the right path and make us follow it.

    • Abu Aaliyah

      Abu Aaliyah

      August 26, 2015 at 3:06 AM

      As-salamu alaykum wa rahmatullah.

      I’m surprised at the comment and also rather baffled. I’ve not even got to the part about ISIS yet. I’ve made that abundantly clear at the beginning and end of part one. I’ve also not used the word “unIslamic” about them, since I don’t find that very helpful. Hence your commrbts seem somewhat untimely or misplaced. Surely the reasonable thing to do would have been to wait until the next part, till I actually wrote something about ISIS, before launching your criticisms and allegations.

      One reasons I decided to write something about this (after consulting some of my teachers) is because I wasn’t quite satisfied with much of what was currently out there. A lot of it was just telling us how harsh and unIslamic they are which, as I’ve said, isn’t very helpful. I was hoping to do a little more than that, bi’idhnillah. (Wether I succeed or not remains to be seen).

      A few of those on Muslim Matters know of my work for the last twenty years or so. I hope you believe me when I tell you I’m really not in the habit of tackling issues which I’m not qualified for, nor do I write for popularity. I write with the depth I believe does some justice to the topic, and only after things have been well thought out (even if, sometimes, that takes a year or two before putting pen to paper, as in this case). The end product can still be littered with errors, unhelpful and besides the point; though it’s unlikely to be shallow, or written in ignorance and haste.

      My brother, be patient, pray that Allah guides me to write something of substance, give me the benefit of the doubt, and – if I may ask – try not to be so assuming or judgemental about me.

      You may even be pleasantly surprised at part two; then again, you may not. It’s unlikely that any one single article could ever hit all the proverbial nails on the head in this matter.

      Let’s just wait; like many other sons and daughters of Islam, my heart bleeds for the situation too.

      Here’s hoping.

      Your brother, at your service.

      And Allah alone gives success.

      • Avatar

        Amatullah

        August 27, 2015 at 12:06 AM

        Agree with every word said by bro Abu Aaliyah. The comment by Ibn Islam is misplaced and doesn’t make sense. It was as if the article was read with a prejudiced mind of finding whatever the reader wanted to read and NOT what the article was for!

  3. Avatar

    Kamal Ahmed

    August 27, 2015 at 12:44 PM

    The article clearly has not yet directly touched any aspect of ISIS yet so I dont understand the fuss that brother Ibn Islam is trying to create. The article has only mentioned ISIS two times and that too in the opening paragraph. So my advice to Brother Ibn Islam is to either clarify his position or retract his comment. Jazakallah Brother Abu Aaliyah for the insightful article. Looking forward to the part 2.

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      August 30, 2015 at 6:38 AM

      I am not a Muslim scholar, but the atrocities committed by Da’esh are well documented and space is wasted here by going in to them here in detail. There is no justification for the slaughter going on in Syria by Assad or Da’esh. Innocent Muslims are being slaughtered and starved to death. One group does it under a false pretense of bringing the world pure true Islam. The analogy is pretty obvious, I thought. I fail to understand what details you seek. It’s as if you need convincing that Da’esh is killing innocent Muslims. Are you one of those who think Da’esh is a creation of America?

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      August 30, 2015 at 2:15 PM

      Sorry Brother Ahmed. I did not look carefully at what you wrote and shot off my mouth before having complete understanding. May Allah forgive me. I guess I am of the group that is prejudging Da’esh. Millions of Muslims are suffering. Yassir Qadhi is one who was off the deep end of Salfism, but al hamdullilah, he has pulled back and is a pleasure to listen to these days. For me, I see Muslims doing stupid things in the name of purity and I am very tired of it. I just listened to a lecture where the Imam said that a person has to invite you into their heart. Only Allah has unlimited access. Only Allah has final judgement. One of our primary commands is kindness. Da’esh, I don’t think anyone is debating how kind they are. I lose track of Muslim Matters sometimes. Al hamdulillah for this site and this article. I know, for me, I am pretty familiar with Da’esh, at least from a media perspective, but I am weak on Islamic history and this is what impresses me about this article. I learned the linguistics of why the Khawarij have a second name and the exact start of these “deviant Muslims.” This is valuable knowledge. May Allah reward the author. Those who criticize, may not see, but some of us see their criticism as a defense for Da’esh. Sorry being long and will soon shut up. Our job, after we find guidance, is to assist others in finding Allah’s guidance. The matter of being guided is strictly a matter of the heart and we pray that Allah allows us to be a way for others to escape the fire. We have to win hearts fee sabeelillah. What has that got to do with shooting people, torture and rape? May Allah make us successful as we continue the mission of our Prophet.

  4. Avatar

    tortal

    August 27, 2015 at 5:02 PM

    Sufaha’ al-ahlam would work much better translated as, “of foolish ambitions” or “having foolish notions” or something of that sort.

    When I read the Arabic, it just doesn’t strike me as meaning “weak of intellect”.

    • Abu Aaliyah

      Abu Aaliyah

      August 28, 2015 at 8:29 AM

      Thank you for an alternative translation. However, when one consult the books of commentary on this hadith, one finds that the phrase is understood as a kinayah; a metaphor. It is a metaphor for those who lack depth of knowledge and understand; those who only understand things at a surface level.

      We also learn a valuable lesson, which is that to understand such important socio-political and theologically orientated hadiths, we must beware not to explain them merely by taking their lexical meanings. Rather, we need to rely upon the shariah meanings, as given by the qualified jurists, theologians and commentators.

    • Abu Aaliyah

      Abu Aaliyah

      August 28, 2015 at 8:31 AM

      That said, one can see that these Khawarij, because they were “weak in intellect”, ended up with “foolish ambitions.”

  5. Avatar

    M.Mahmud

    August 27, 2015 at 5:40 PM

    I felt like Muslims were over emphasizing the “foolish youth” aspect of it which might almost be seen as an excuse. The core aspect of it highlighted in this article rightfully is their selfrightiousness and arrogance. It is one thing to be foolish and yet another to combine it with the self pride and contempt these crimins have. I have argued with many of them and they are exceptionally arrogant and often of despicable character.

  6. Avatar

    M.Mahmud

    August 27, 2015 at 5:50 PM

    What is also clear is their lack of respect and proper exaltation of Rasulullah sallahualayhiwasalam. It gets in the way of their stubborn arrogance. They ought to be annihilated like Ad was annihilated. May Allah destroy them very soon.

  7. Avatar

    Joe

    August 28, 2015 at 9:12 AM

    As salaam alykum
    One of the best articles I have read so far on the khawarij!!!
    Reminds me of the series by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks many years ago ”The Kharijites and their impact on Contemporary Islam” – I do not know if Shaykh Surkheel has read the series?
    The conversation between Hadrat Ali RA and Hurqus always gives me pause for thought. Hurqus words can be easily translated to the young angry men we find at our mosques and their facebook comments’, they think (and believe) their actions are for Allah:
    [[“‘The intractable Hurqus confronted Sayyidna Ali and said, “O son of Abi Talib, I fight you not except for the sake of Allah, and for my reward in the afterlife.”
    Sayyidna Ali retorted, “Your kind, Hurqus, is the kind that Allahu Ta’ala refers to in the Quran where He states, ‘Say: Shall We tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they imagined that they were acquiring good by their works‘ (18: 103). Amongst these – and I swear by this in the name of the Lord of the Ka’ba – are you Hurqus!”]]

    To the people of Allah this is the scariest verse in the Quran 18:103 – we ask Allah’s Pleasure through His Mercy and not through our actions.
    A scholar once told me that the spiritual reason for the khawarij and their deviance is that in the first interaction between Hurqus and the beloved Prophet SAW – Hurqus showed disrespect to the beloved. They have no love for our Prophet SAW inwardly.
    Looking forward to part 2.
    Was salaam

  8. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    August 30, 2015 at 6:30 AM

    subhanallah! Great Article…..I learned something today…al hamdullilah!

  9. Pingback: Comment on Khawarij Ideology, ISIS Savagery: Part One by GregAbdul | Souqhub | Blog

  10. Avatar

    Yusuf Smith

    August 30, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    Are ISIS really the modern Khawarij, though? The Khawarij were known, as you say in your article, for exaggerated displays of righteousness and kindness towards non-Muslims and towards animals while they massacred the Believers over petty or ridiculous disagreements. ISIS, like Al-Qa’ida before them, although they do oppress Muslims in the lands they occupy, are not merciful to non-Muslims either in the lands they occupy or in the non-Muslim lands in which they operate (many of which allow Muslims to live unmolested and with greater freedom than in most Muslim countries) where they massacre innocent people, destroy property, menace travellers (notably by hijacking aeroplanes) and behave treacherously and break trusts with both Muslims and others. While they may have been intended to provoke non-Muslims into war against Muslims, and a few Muslims were killed, the immediate targets were non-Muslims. How then are modern extremists Khawarij?

  11. Avatar

    Munawar

    September 4, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    The article by brother Abu Aaliyah is very good & informative. You have drawn good parallels between the Khawarij & ISIS which is very true.
    I think the deeper picture is more disturbing which is as follows:- ( I may be wrong so Allah pardon me)
    The strength of a person is not in his body but in his spirit. The more a person is spiritual the more he is near to Allah the more strong he is. History has proved this in the battle of Badr & even after that when a handful of true spiritual muslims controlled half of the world.
    They fought not for hatred of the enemy but for the love of Allah. Thus they derived their strength from love not hatred.
    Today their descendants depend on a foreign power for their protection. Why?
    The reason is that some vested interests including the descendants themselves attacked our spiritual ethos under the garb of a puritinical Islam & the result is for everyone to see. Country after country which allowed the spiritual Islam to flourish came under attack under one pretext or the other. The first was Afghanistan followed by Iraq , Iran ( this country was saved by the grace of Allah), Egypt & now Syria. It is any bodys guess as to who is funding & supporting these activities. The west is only in the front & its business is to make hay while the sun shines. We cannot blame the west.
    Now their target is India & Pakistan ( although Pakistan today is in deep trouble — again because of the  followers of this puritinical Islam).

    About a fortnight ago we had an article in The Times Of India which spoke of the Salafi & Sufi divide in India & how a rich middle eastern country is pumping money into India to support Salafism.

    In his 2nd part I request brother Abu Aliyah to throw some light on this aspect especially with regard to 2 renowned muslim scholars one of the12th century the 2nd belonging to the 17th century. Both had a puritinical attitude & were obsessed with Jihad. Most of the puritans follow them.

    It is for every one to see the spiritual divide between the Muslim countries.
    But the most disturbing part is the numbers of these puritans is increasing day by day because even if a false sermon  ( under pressure from vested interests ) is delivered from the pulpit of Haram Sheriff it will be considered as true by the lay Muslim.

  12. Avatar

    JAVAD

    September 28, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    Sorry has the part 2 been published yet? i couldnt find it!!

  13. Pingback: » Khawarij Ideology, ISIS Savagery: Part II

  14. Pingback: » 8 Signs of Extremists According to the Prophet ﷺ | Yahya Ibrahim

  15. Pingback: ISIS and Its Faulty Logic « Muslimyouthstoday's Blog

    • Avatar

      AshShifaa

      November 14, 2016 at 8:24 PM

      Indeed

      ..until you will fight them in the armies of the dajjal , goes the hadeeth, if I am not wrong. isis and Israel are buddies btw.. something to think about , Zionists are the armies of the dajjal, their false messiah being the dajjal himself .
      We have to read and study end time prophecy to underhand this ..

  16. Avatar

    Fahad

    November 21, 2015 at 9:37 PM

    Excellent article. Insha’Allah ISIS will be eradicated like their forefathers or Come back to mainstream Islam soon.

  17. Avatar

    Abu ahmed

    December 28, 2015 at 6:05 PM

    Brilliantly put together.
    Very informative.

    JazakaAllah

  18. Avatar

    Jav

    January 31, 2016 at 1:38 PM

    These khawarij separated themselves from the body politic of muslims ie the caliphate.
    The secular nationalist elites are the ones who did this in the 20th century.
    How are you applying it to others and not this group and their descendants whose islam does not go beyond their necks?

    • Avatar

      jule

      April 28, 2016 at 4:39 PM

      i totally agree
      the khawarij did it when the khilafah was florishing, from wat exactly did our brothers from dawlah islamyah seperate them selves from?
      from corrupt kings? or from people whom do not wish to apply sharia? so tell me exactly whom are the khawarij ?
      brings me to the next equation, we try to make parallels between khawarij between present muslim mujahideen whom are harsh with establishing a muslim country run by the laws God gave us.
      would we apply the parallels if abubakr saddiq was amongst us today?
      he was willing to fight every man neglecting the laws of allah he even did fight muslims that abandoned the pay of zakat, while the muslim army was busy fighting in the front lines he himself went to fight these so called muslims.
      i pray every sible day to bring the muslims together and abandon their differences so we can stand as one for one goal.
      that goal is to establish the word of god to be the highest. every one with a different goal must be put in paralel and questioned about whether he is mukhrij.

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#Current Affairs

Muslims Leaders Who Are Also Foreign Agents

When American Muslim leaders are also foreign agents, you need to consider FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Ahmed Shaikh explores how this law may apply to American Muslim leaders who fall into “Team UAE” and “Team Turkey”

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Foreign Agents in the Muslim Community
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Foreign Agents in the US have a meaningful effect on Americans in the United States.  Should Muslims in the United States adopt the foreign policy narrative of the United Arab Emirates?  Should we be against calling the mass killing of Armenians during World War I “genocide?” Can American Muslim leaders and nonprofits be the voice of governments, give them public relations advice and do their bidding?

These questions are largely irrelevant as the American Muslim community already has some activists and Islamic Scholars who are foreign agents.

I am not claiming being a foreign agent is inherently wrong, unethical or somehow prohibited in Islam. In many instances, being a foreign agent is fine, or at least you can find examples where the activity is harmless and maybe even beneficial. Non-Muslims serve as foreign agents, peddling influence and giving advice. Why can’t ordinary Muslims, even Muslim leaders, activists, and Islamic scholars do the same? What we need though is transparency about these relationships, similar to how we keep tabs on people who carry hazardous waste. It’s often a useful and beneficial service, but also, well, hazardous. 

As we have seen from recent cases Imaad Zuberi, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort , it is reasonable to expect more prosecutions of unregistered foreign agents in the coming months and years.

American Team Turkey vs. American Team UAE

My purpose here is not to re-litigate events during the first world war or the UAE’s murderous worldwide batil-slinging foreign policy. It is also not to offer a further critique of American Muslim leaders and scholars who blow smoke for one foreign interest or another. For that, you can read my recent article. Instead, it is to help American Muslims involved with foreign entities to be aware of the law so they can prepare accordingly. 

The “Team Turkey” vs. “Team UAE” saga playing out among the Muslim community’s leadership, including nonprofits and religious leaders, is dangerous, and there is potential legal jeopardy to members of both “teams.” The law in an individual case is often complex, and I am not claiming anyone referenced in this article is a criminal. However, anyone who thinks aspects of this article applies to them should seek legal counsel post haste.

Pariah status may rub off

In the eyes of the US government, the UAE may be up one day, and Turkey may be down. Pakistan is pretty much always “down” no matter who is in power in the United States, so Muslims working with that government and various political parties and institutions in that country should be especially sensitive about being a law enforcement target, even if they believe they are working for a worthy cause. Keep in mind how the Muslim community has been treated historically by the Justice Department. For this or any future US Administration, American Muslim leadership may be low hanging fruit for prosecutors. 

Right now, the UAE, in particular, aggressively buys loyalty, buys people in positions to peddle influence on its behalf. It uses straw donors and funnels its money around the United States through various entities to get what it wants. These tactics work for them now, but it may not work forever. Any Muslim majority country can get “pariah” status and the social and political environment in the United States may turn against that country and its agents.

If the political winds in the United States change against the UAE, their leadership will probably not be affected. Things may be different for their agents in the United States, however. The same may well be true for agents of Turkey. We can learn from their best known non-Muslim foreign agent, former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn

The United States has a long history, going back to its founding, of being suspicious of foreign influence in government and public opinion. Various clauses of the constitution and several laws exist to address this historic concern, though many are quite weak.  The one that Muslim leaders with ties to foreign governments should be most concerned with is the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) 

Anyone who closely followed the Mueller investigation into the 2016 Presidential election is likely somewhat familiar with FARA.  However, of more interest should be the prosecution and guilty plea last year of Dr. Nisar Ahmed Chaudhry, who was prosecuted for activities that are remarkably common for Muslim leaders, especially immigrants.

It’s not a crime to be an agent of a foreign government. The crime, as those paying close attention to current events, will understand,  is in not registering with the Justice Department. In short, it’s a federal crime for agents of foreign entities or people engaged in political or other activities in the statute, with some exceptions, to not register under this law. US Law defines the term ” foreign agent”- it is not necessarily pejorative. It does not mean being a spy.

Indeed, foreign influence-peddling is an entire industry. Often, people who engage in “influence peddling” are not especially sophisticated and may not be paid at all. They may simply be immigrant activists who love their homeland.

In the case of Chaudhry, he pleaded guilty to not registering an unincorporated group he created in his home, the “Pakistan American League,” and his work as a “foreign agent.” His crime? He spoke to officials in the Pakistani government, and worked in Pakistan’s interests in D.C. area government and “think tank” circles by organizing “roundtable discussions.” He was not paid for his work as an “agent” by Pakistan.  All of this is legal, except that he failed to register.

A Law About Transparency

Foreign Agents need to report on their activities or risk fine and imprisonment. Every six months, the US Attorney General issues a report on foreign agents who register under this law to Congress. You can find the most recent report here. These reports offer a helpful description of registered foreign agents operating in the United States, but anyone can take a deeper dive into the reporting if they want to. FARA is about transparency.

FARA does not prohibit speech or activities by anyone. The purpose is to inform the public and government about the source of information used to attempt to influence them. FARA is an old law that US Muslims need in our communities right about now. 

Enforcement of this law had been mostly dormant for years, and the Mueller investigation is said to have given it new life. Registrations under the law are up.

FARA is broader than you might think

FARA is not just for agents of foreign governments. Being an agent of a foundation, royal family, oligarch, or any other entity or person can trigger the same requirements and cause criminal liability for those who fail to register. Many registrations under FARA involve agents of entities and people that are not governments. 

As we have seen from Chaudhry’s case, Muslim leaders, activists, and scholars don’t need to be paid to be “foreign agents” under the law. Congress understood foreign agents could work for nonmonetary benefits. A foreign agent does not need to agree with everything the foreign principal does and says. A Muslim leader who gives certain kinds of advice to a foreign entity may need to register to avoid criminal liability. It does not matter if the foreign principal ignores the advice. FARA is not just a law about foreign lobbying, indeed lobbyists have a separate registration system and law.  Virtually any work to influence public opinion or give advice will fall under the law. There are many opportunities for Muslim leaders to get themselves into serious trouble

Religion or university affiliation may not save foreign agents 

There are exceptions to FARA reporting requirements. For example, diplomats, many journalists, and bona fide trade and commercial enterprises do not need to report.  Say Muhammad is the agent of a Turkish exporter of Turkish delight, selling delicious packaged desserts to grocery stores around the Midwest. Muhammad does not need to register under FARA. 

Similarly, those involved in bona fide religious, academic, or fine arts pursuits are exempt. So if Saad, a US Citizen, is hired by the Saudi government to teach Quran recitation to children of employees of the local Saudi consulate, Saad would not need to register. 

 If, however, the Turkish Delight company asked Muhammad to write op-eds and hold meetings to prevent tariffs on Turkey, well, that’s different. If Saad starts to give public relations advice to his Saudi employers, he should call a lawyer. It’s worth noting that FARA is not the only registration and disclosure statute. A lawyer with expertise in this area can help them sort it out. 

Learn from others

Carrying water for a foreign entity’s political agenda, a regular occurrence by some American Muslim leaders is not bona fide religious or academic activity. Such conduct falls squarely into a danger zone under the law. The US Justice Department has confirmed the religious and academic exception’s narrow scope. The Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, for example, wanted an opinion they are exempt from registration.   They were working on developing a museum, which is an academic institution. However, the Justice Department advised the foundation must register under FARA. The reasons, among other non-nefarious sounding things, were exhibits on bilateral relations between South Korea and the United States.

In 2017, TV station RT America and news outlet, Sputnik, “both Russian-funded but with production companies in the US, registered as ‘foreign agents’ under pressure from the Justice Department.”

Muslim leaders with ties to foreign entities should also look to the example of the American section of the World Zionist Organization. The WZO has appropriately registered itself as a foreign agent. Its work seems reasonably standard for a Zionist organization, though. WZO “participated in workshops, seminars, and conferences and distributed materials to increase support for the foreign principal’s educational, cultural, and religious goals.” The foreign principal was the World Zionist Organization in Israel, not the government of Israel itself. Still, it needed to register. 

Even if someone falls into an exception to FARA, another related statute may well cause liability. So anyone who has to look around for exceptions should check with an attorney. 

Sunshine in the Muslim community

Much of the work against CVE involved learning what Muslim leaders working with governments were up to. Because of the federal “Freedom of Information Act” and state Public Records Acts, we have a better idea of what Muslim leaders have been collaborating with the war on terrorism against our community. The availability of public records has also kept some Muslims away from unsavory funding opportunities. There is always a risk they will be found out. Who needs that drama? As the late US Supreme Court Justice Luis Brandies famously said, “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” 

Some in the Countering Violent Extremism space have looked to foreign governments and organizations, particularly in the UAE. Working against the US Muslim community, which includes naming groups such as CAIR and MAS “terrorist organizations,” and investing in anti-Muslim surveillance is fundamental to UAE foreign policy. Foreign entities are not subject to the Federal Freedom of Information Act or state Public Records Acts.

Covertness can be beneficial when prosecuting the war on terrorism in our communities on behalf of a foreign master. However, security-state contractors working with foreign entities are engaged in an inherently political enterprise and should register. Unfortunately, nobody from the Muslim community in the CVE sector has. They should either start or quit foreign-sponsored CVE altogether. 

FARA is your friend

We have a strong need for transparency among Muslim leaders and organizations. Foreign interests have been looking to influence the US Muslim civil society for several years. It may well be that agents of foreign nation-states or entities in them have valuable things to say. The purpose of FARA is not to deny your ability to hear them and learn from them. However, knowing someone is a foreign agent will help us place the information provided by a Muslim leader, activist or scholar in a better context. 

Muslim leaders and organizations should strongly encourage each other to look at FARA when any foreign entity is involved. If for no other reason, to avoid potential criminal liability.

If you are a Muslim leader, activist or scholar working with a foreign principal, retain legal counsel. You need to know if registration is required. If it is necessary, and it often will be, provide a fulsome disclosure and keep updating it. You can be sure there will be at least a few Muslims reading it. 

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A Closer Look At The Congressional Hearing on Human Rights in South Asia

Hena Zuberi

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Kashmir hearing in Congress
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Expectations on Capitol Hill were pretty low going into the House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation’s historic hearing on “Human Rights in South Asia”. Previously, hearings on India have not been critical and the Kashmiri Muslim point of view has not been discussed.

Chairman of the sub-committee Brad Sherman (D-CA) wasted no time setting the stage for where he wanted to go with this hearing, stating, ”the entire world is focused today on what is happening in Kashmir.” He also pointed to the state of the 2 million-minority population in Assam. Missing from his opening statements were remarks on the state of the rest of the minorities in India, esp. Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and Muslims. Ranking member Ted Yoho (R-FL) was soft on the gross realities of the occupation, highlighting one case of a Kashmiri constituent, and referred to the abrogation of Article 370 as an internal matter of India. He also brought up the Indian talking point of economic progress in the region but this concept was thoroughly dismissed by later testimony and Q&A.

The State department veteran Alice Wells, Acting Secretary on South and Central Asian Affairs seemed woefully ill-prepared for the critical nature of the hearing. Both Wells and Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Destro could not or did not present solid facts and figures about detention and tried to explain away the oppression as “inconveniences”. They were unable to comment or provide clarity on the situation on the ground in Kashmir, with Destro saying, “we are in the same information blackout as you are.” Some of Sec. Wells’s comments were of direct Indian government persuasion.

Several of Justice For All’s talking points were raised during the hearing.

There was commentary on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar asked about the anti-Muslim program. She questioned the panel on the public statements by Indian officials that only Muslims have to prove their birth records. Rejecting the notion that a democratic ally cannot be policed, she said that the United States does that in many situations and “this should not be an exception.”The human rights abuse doesn’t cease to exist even if it is the law. Is it consistent with international human rights?” asked Chairman Sherman, along the same lines.

Destro observed that the appeals process “may disadvantage poor and illiterate populations who lack documentation”. “We are closely following this situation and urge the Government of India to take these issues into consideration,” he added.

”The human rights abuse doesn’t cease to exist even if it is the law. Is it consistent with international human rights?” asked Chairman ShermanClick To Tweet

Wells testified that “violence and discrimination against minorities in India, including cow vigilante attacks against members of the Dalit and Muslim communities, and the existence of anti-conversion laws in nine states” are not in keeping with India’s legal protections for minorities.

Congresswoman Alice Spanberger, (D-VA) a former CIA intelligence officer, asked whether India has shared examples of terror attacks and incidents that have been thwarted due to the communications blockade. When Wells stated that she could not comment, Spanberger asked for a classified hearing so that US officials could give their assessment on the validity of the national security argument of the Indian government. Chair Sherman associated himself with her questioning and vowed to take her suggestion seriously.

Chairman Brad Sherman, as well as several other Congresspeople both on and off the House Foreign Relations Committee, asked several pertinent and critical questions.

Questioning the Indian Government narrative Chairman Sherman asked if the United is “supposed to trust these government of India officials when the government of India doesn’t allow our diplomats to visit?” Representative Sheila Jackson asked if reputable Indian diplomats or journalists had ever been denied entry into any state in the United States?

Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) referred to a report about the detention of dozens of children in Kashmir and said detention without charges is unacceptable. She expressed her concerns about religious freedom in India and said that she proposes to bring a bipartisan resolution in Congress.

Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and David Cicilline of Rhode Island both had a heavy human rights approach to the questioning. Congresswoman Lee asked Assistant Secretary Destro if he would describe the situation as a “humanitarian crisis,” Mr Destro said, “Yes, it is.” She then went on to call the United States government to stop a potential genocide.

Washington has not changed its stance on the designation of the Line of Control. Chairman Sherman brought up the issue of disputed territory to the State Department.“We consider the Line of Control (LoC) a de facto line separating two parts of Kashmir,” answered Wells. “We recognize de facto administrations on both sides of LoC.”

The subcommittee focused on personal testimonies as well as human rights organization Amnesty’s testimony during the second half of the hearing.

Though no Kashmiri Muslims testified, the panel presented electrifying testimonies from Dr. Nitasha Kaul, a Kashmiri and Dr. Angana Chatterji, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Bearing witness to the rising fascism and Hindu nationalism’s grip on India, both witnesses brought up beef lynchings, with Chatterji raising the concern of the genocidal inclinations of the Modi government. 

“Hindu majoritarianism – the cultural nationalism and political assertion of the Hindu majority – sanctifies India as intrinsically Hindu and marks the non-Hindu as its adversary. Race and nation are made synonymous, and Hindus –the formerly colonized, now governing, elite – are depicted as the national race,” said Dr. Chatterji.

Kashmiri witness Dr. Nitisha Kaul stated in her testimony that “human rights defenders, who were already under severe pressure, since August 5 are unable to function in Kashmir. For instance, every year on 30 August, the UN Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons led by Ms Parveena Ahangar, organises a vigil protest involving hundreds of elderly women and men whose sons had become victims of for instance, in the most recent parliamentary elections, the voters’ turnout was very low and in many booths, not a single vote was cast.”

Kaul emphasized the extension of the oppression, by highlighting that this year the peaceful gathering of elderly parents mourning and waiting for their disappeared sons was not allowed. She shared Ahanga’s quote: “This year we have been strangled, and there was no coming there was no coming together because, through its siege, India has denied us even the right to mourn.”

Ilhan Omar challenged Indian journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh’s take that the siege was in place to save Muslim women from “terrorists.” This is a trope that is often used to wage war and is especially used in the so-called “war on terror.” “It is a very colonial move on the part of the nation-states around it as if they are “liberating Kashmiri women,” said Dr. Kaul.

Chatterji bore witness to the woes of Kashmiri women who bear the brunt of the Indian occupational forces’ sexual brutality. “The woman’s body becomes the battlefield,” she said replying to a question by Congresswoman Houlahan from Pennsylvania. Dr. Kaul stated that the 1944 new Kashmir manifesto contained an entire section on gender rights. She spoke on the equity and equality in Kashmir: “They go to protests. Women become heads of households because of dead husbands.”

She also reminded the committee that BJP’s Amit Shah, also part of the government in 2002 and responsible for the program on Muslim community stated that Western human rights cannot be blindly applied here in India.

Representative Wild from Pennsylvania asked why the Indian government would not allow transparency. When human rights organizations and journalists can work in active war zones, she rejected the anti-terrorism narrative pushed by Ravi Batra, a last-minute BJP addition to the panel. “When there isn’t transparency something is being hidden and this is what really concerns me terribly,” said Wild.

A Sindhi-American witness spoke on minority rights in Pakistan, especially the forced conversion of Hindus. This is a concern that needs to be tackled by Muslims as there is no compulsion in Islam and is antithetical to the religion.

During the hearing, Amnesty International reported thousands in detention under the Public Safety Act while the State Department numbered it at hundreds. Dr. Asif Mahmoud, a key organizer, presented the health situation in Kashmir.

The overall situation of the Rohingya was covered and links were made to the start of the genocide in Burma and the parallels in India. The members of the House referred to it as genocide with the State Department still calling it ethnic cleansing.

Although the hearing focused on the current state of Jammu and Kashmir and not much was brought up about self-determination or the plebiscite, Kashmiri-Americans and their supporters left the hearing room satisfied that their voices were heard for the first time in the halls of the US Congress.

What was most concerning point of the entire hearing was that Kashmir was not brought up categorically as disputed territory and the issue was referred to as an integral matter of India. This needs deep, consistent and long-term work by advocates of Kashmir. With the continuous rise of RSS, Indian minority issues need a much sharper focus, and a regular pounding of the pavements of Congress to educate the Foreign Relations committees.

Some action items for American Muslims post-hearing.

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What We Should Know About The Slaying Of An Imam 10 Years Ago In Dearborn

Dawud Walid, Guest Contributor

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informant jibril imam Luqman
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October 28, 2019 marks 10 years since the tragic homicide of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah who was shot 20 times in Dearborn, Michigan by a special FBI tactical squad. The homicide of Imam Abdullah was the culmination of the FBI spending over a million dollars in a so-called counterterrorism investigation which included rental of a commercial warehouse and freight trucks, the purchase of expensive electronic items and payment to at least 3 confidential informants. The raid on that fateful day in which Abdullah was killed and some of his congregants were arrested had nothing to do with terrorism-related charges, yet the imam and by extension the Detroit Muslim community was smeared in the process.

The FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed that agents were compelled to kill Abdullah because he purportedly shot a law enforcement canine during the arrest raid. CAIR-Michigan filed a lawsuit against the FBI for wrongful death and fraud in this matter because there was no forensic evidence that corroborated that Abdullah had a firearm much less shot an FBI dog, which the bureau considered a law enforcement officer. There were no proofs provided that any gunpowder was on Abdullah’s hand or fingertips which would have existed if he had fired a gun, and none of his DNA nor fingerprints were found on the alleged gun. In fact, there was not even a picture of a gun at the scene nor did the Dearborn Police see any gun. The FBI blocked the Dearborn Police from entering the scene of the homicide for over an hour after the shooting which allowed the FBI special tactical team to leave with the purported firearm. In other words, the shooters of Abdullah, who headed back to DC without even being questioned by the Dearborn Police, are the only source that he had a gun. We believe that the FBI used what is known as a throwaway gun in a coverup when they killed the imam.

To add insult to injury that tragic day when Abdullah was shot 20 times including in the back and groin, law enforcement used their helicopter to fly the injured FBI dog, which was most likely shot by friendly fire, to a veterinarian hospital instead of using it to fly the imam to a close-by hospital. When the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan and the Acting US Attorney held a press conference about the incident, it was followed up later with special recognition for “Freddy” the FBI dog while the imam was painted as a type of extremist who wanted to establish sharia in the Westside of Detroit.

To add insult to injury that tragic day when Abdullah was shot 20 times including in the back and groin, law enforcement used their helicopter to fly the injured FBI dog, which was most likely shot by friendly fire, to a veterinarian hospital instead of using it to fly the imam to a close-by hospital.Click To Tweet

The lawsuit which we filed against the FBI was dismissed not because of the merits of our arguments but due to the federal government during the Obama administration suppressing information. The FBI would not release the names of their shooting squad which forced us to name them as John Does. The DOJ countered that we did not have standing on behalf of the family because we did not name actual persons. When we refiled using the names of the Special Agent in Charge and the head of the tactical team, neither who were actual shooters, the DOJ argued that the statute of limitations ran out in our complaint. We submitted an appeal to the US Supreme Court regarding the coordinated suppression of evidence; however, our appeal was denied. We still hold to this day that the FBI wrongfully killed the imam which was followed up by a systematic coverup.

Since the homicide of Abdullah, we now know that government surveillance against the Muslim community and the suspected terrorist watchlists grew tremendously during the Obama years in comparison to the Bush era. Also, the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) which further targeted the community began under the Obama administration. Government spying and the broad usage of confidential informants, some who act as agent provocateurs, in our community are still concerns of ours. Where Americans pray or who we associate with that may have unpopular political views should not be predicates for FBI surveillance. In many cases, this has led to young American Muslims being criminalized. For Imam Abdullah, it led to his demise.

During the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, I ask us all to recommit ourselves to standing for the civil liberties of all Americans to not be mass surveilled and for none of us to aid and abet any governmental programs that facilitate of the violation of our 1st Amendment rights falsely in the name of public safety and national security. Click To Tweet

As my mentor, the late Ron Scott with the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality said when he stood with us in this case, “We are not anti-police; we are anti-law enforcement misconduct.” It is not our position that law enforcement be completely abolished. We are, however, against the unethical usage of informants which is part and parcel of the prolific history of the FBI in targeting prominent Americans such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, whose religious and political views were viewed as threatening by the status quo. During the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, I ask us all to recommit ourselves to standing for the civil liberties of all Americans to not be mass surveilled and for none of us to aid and abet any governmental programs that facilitate of the violation of our 1st Amendment rights falsely in the name of public safety and national security. We never want to see another homicide such as what took place to Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah due to overzealous actions predicated upon misguided FBI policy.

Photo: Luqman Abdullah, second from left. FBI informant “Jibril,” third from left. Credit: Intercept

21 Shots and the Pursuit of Justice: An Imam (Luqman Ameen Abdullah) Dies in Michigan

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