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Apology without Apologetics | Jonathan Brown

Jonathan Brown PhD

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So I’ve learned a few things over the last couple of days. First, I want to apologize to those hurt by how I addressed the topic of slavery in Islam. I should listen to my wife more.  She always tells me that I talk about things too much like a scholar and not enough like a normal person. Topics like slavery are felt with the heart; I shouldn’t talk about them like a disembodied brain (especially when my body and experiences don’t reflect the subject). Second, when Alt-Right folk bombard you and your family with death threats and rape threats, it takes a toll on the body and spirit. Third, the support I’ve received has been incredible. The calls I got, the messages, the support offered to my family, the advice, they came from all over. In particular, the support I’ve received from academics around the world has literally brought tears to my eyes. Fourth, it’s been amazing to see the Muslim community stepping up to the plate in these tough times. We as a community are really shaping up to meet the challenges ahead. We know our enemy, we know our allies, and we have each other’s backs. We can disagree, sometimes bitterly, amongst ourselves, but we close ranks when one of us is attacked. I would go to the mat for any of you, even those I’ve fought with. No one benefits when the forces of bigotry, Islamophobia or unchecked state power win.

A few important points I’ve been asked about:

1) The many, many articles written by various shades of the Alt-Right about me have one thing in common: a clear agenda.  They take quotes out of context, chop sentences in half, and even flat out make up things that I “said.” I haven’t seen editing this creative since the last Guy Ritchie movie. My favorite is when they assume my description of some event a thousand years ago is me calling for it today. How are academics supposed to teach history if any discussion is assumed to be advocacy? The most complicated issues are also often the ones that we need to discuss the most. How can this happen if people are intimidated into silence?

2) People have been passing around a screenshot of a Facebook post I made in 2015, when ISIS and their sex slavery were dominating the news: Another post taken totally out of context.  Let me explain why I wrote that post: articles about Yazidi women being reduced to sex slaves by ISIS justifiably disgusted people. Many Muslims didn’t know how to handle the fact that ISIS was claiming this was allowed in Islam. What I was trying to do in this post was to say that ISIS’s sex slavery was a revolting symptom of a bigger problem: they had restarted slavery in the first place. And this was the result of a BIGGER problem: they didn’t consider the Muslim governments of Iraq to be real Muslims. That means they didn’t honor the protected status of religious minorities in Iraq, like the Yazidis. One of those protections is that they cannot be enslaved. But even this was just a symptom of a STILL BIGGER problem: ISIS doesn’t consider anyone who is not ISIS to be Muslim. This means they don’t care about the authority of Muslim scholars [of the past], who came to the consensus that slavery is prohibited.

I should have made my point more clearly. In the future, I’ll listen to my wife more and be more sensitive in the tone I take.

3)  Rape in Islam: Rape in Islam is haram (prohibited).  It’s a violation of the rights of a human and the rights of God. Even if there are not the four witnesses required to convict a rapist of the Hudud crime of forced zina (adultery, fornication), the act is still punished in the Shariah as an assault and physical injury, provable by two witnesses or, when appropriate, by circumstantial evidence. Rape as a violation of a woman’s security and autonomy is among the most reprehensible of crimes. It is disgraceful to take my words on this out of context and project them as a justification for violence against women.

4)   Consent for Sex: Here the Shariah historically worked differently from modern laws on marital rape, which originated in the 1970s. But the effect is similar: protection. Within marriage, wrongs regarding sex were not conceived of as violations of consent. They were conceived of as harm inflicted on the wife. And in Islamic history wives could and did go to courts to complain and get judges to order husbands to desist and pay damages.  So yes, non-consensual sex is wrong and forbidden in Islam. But the operating element to punish marital rape fell under the concept of harm, not non-consent.

5)  Slavery in Islam: Muslims began curtailing slavery early on.  In the 1000s, the great Persian scholar Juwayni gave a fatwa that slave girls captured in Central Asia should not be sold as concubines. In the 1780s, the scholar-king of Senegal Abd al-Qadir Kan abolished slavery in his realm and banned the French from slave trading there (note: this preceded the beginning of organized abolition in Britain. In fact, the first abolitionists cited Kan as a model ruler). In 1846 (before Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation), Ahmad Bey, the governor of Tunis, banned the slave trade there and emancipated all slaves in his realm. By 1900, many leading Muslim scholars had agreed that slavery should be prohibited. As Muslim states signed treaties banning slavery in the early twentieth century, the practice all but disappeared (if you’re thinking, hey, what about bonded laborers today or convicts in America… I agree! That’s the whole point I was making in my paper: don’t get fooled by labels that make slavery invisible, look at the realities behind them. Watch the documentary 13th (link)).

A crucial point is that slavery isn’t one thing.  It has varied dramatically across time and space, from the horrors of racist, inhuman chattel slavery on the plantations of the American South to mukataba in the Ottoman Empire. Mukataba was an emancipation contract for a fixed time and with rights to own property and marry; it was closer to being a wageworker in a 19th-century British factory than what we think of as American slavery. In the Islamic world, slaves actually ruled entire states. The ruling dynasty of one empire, the Mamluks, was all slaves. The administrative and military elite of the Ottoman Empire, the most powerful and richest people in the realm, were technically slaves of the Sultan.

In the Quran and Sunnah, the only avenue left for slavery was dealing with people who had been captured in war. All other forms were outright abolished. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) guaranteed them appropriate food, clothing, shelter and no overly taxing labor. They could be disciplined no more harshly than one’s own kids. The Quran instructed owners to make mukataba agreements with slaves if they were fit and able to make it on their own, and Muslim scholars understood that it was better to keep those who were otherwise too old or unable to fend for themselves as slaves rather than setting them free to starve. The Quran and Sunnah made clear over and over that freeing slaves was one of the best deeds a Muslim could do. The Shariah saw freedom as the natural state (asl) of all humans. And, as the legal maxim stated, the Shariah “aimed towards freedom.”

As Muslims spread out across the globe and new peoples and cultures entered the faith, existing traditions of slavery took on an Islamic veneer. Sometimes the humane values of the Shariah prevailed. Sometimes local customs and systems of exploitation continued, moderated only a little by God’s law. Slavery in Islam was never tied to one race, but in certain times and places it could become racialized, as happened with the prevalence of black African slaves in Egypt in the 1700s-1800s.

Slavery of some sort has existed in almost every human society since the dawn of time. Moses, Jesus, the Buddha, Aristotle and Plato all considered the slavery in their times to be accepted features of life. Islam considered slavery, even in its restricted form, to be an ‘incapacity,’ an injustice (zulm), as the Muslim jurist Shaybani called it around the year 800 CE.  But it was an economic and social condition, and it was usually temporary. As economic life changed in the 1800s, Muslim societies saw that this institution could be gotten rid of completely. The great Egyptian scholar Muhammad Abu Zahra summed it up: Islam would welcome a day when slavery was banned.

The deep disgust we feel at slavery is precisely why we need to talk about it. Slavery in Islam raises the critical question of how we as Muslims deal with elements of our tradition that clash with values we feel deeply today. It forces us to think about whether right and wrong change over time. If they do, can we make universal claims about morality? Can we judge people in the past by present-day values, and can the past make moral demands on us today? If, on the other hand, right and wrong are fixed and don’t change over time, then who in history defines them? Jesus or modern human rights? Aristotle or Lincoln? The Quran clearly sought to restrict and regulate slavery in Arabia at the time, and there’s a strong argument that it aimed to end slavery altogether.  The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) freed every slave given to him. But how do I as a Muslim deal with the fact that God and the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) did not abolish slavery altogether? Would it have been too economically disruptive, so that gradual abolition would be better? This was the answer offered by the famous scholar Rashid Rida, who pointed to the challenges America faced in integrating former slaves after the Civil War.

As a Muslim today, I can say emphatically that slavery is wrong and that Islam prohibits it. This has been the consensus of the ulama, and it’s well within the power of states to prohibit what was previously allowed if doing so serves some public interest (maslaha) (this is known as taqyid al-mubah, restricting the permitted). It’s easy for me to say this looking back on slavery in American history, because our American slavery was a manifestation of the absolute domination of one human being by another that is, in my opinion, a universal wrong across time and space.

You can download my first paper on the issue here (download), and follow along for the next two on the subject.

Jonathan Brown is the Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and he is the Director of the Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding. He received his BA in History from Georgetown University in 2000 and his doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 2006. Dr. Brown has studied and conducted research in countries such as Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, South Africa, India, Indonesia and Iran. His book publications include The Canonization of al-Bukhari and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunni Hadith Canon (Brill, 2007), Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World (Oneworld, 2009) and Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2011), which was selected for the National Endowment for the Humanities' Bridging Cultures Muslim Journeys Bookshelf. His most recent book, Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenges and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy (Oneworld, 2014), was named one of the top books on religion in 2014 by the Independent. He has published articles in the fields of Hadith, Islamic law, Salafism, Sufism, Arabic lexical theory and Pre-Islamic poetry and is the editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Law. Dr. Brown’s current research interests include Islamic legal reform and a translation of Sahih al-Bukhari.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Avatar

    J Smith

    February 16, 2017 at 12:06 PM

    “Since God’s Emissary permitted nighttime and surprise attacks against dwellings, and attacked the alMustalaq tribe by surprise—and one knows with certainty that nighttime and surprise attacks against dwellings are lawful because God’s Emissary made them lawful—then no one who attacks or invades the home is prohibited from striking down women and children; and sin, expiation, blood-price, and retaliation do not apply for those who strike them down. This is because one is permitted to attack dwellings at night and by surprise; the occupants do not enjoy the protection afforded by adherence to Islam. However, no one has the right to kill them intentionally when they are clearly identifiable and recognizable as such. The Prophet prohibited the killing of children because they have not reached the age when they can be held responsible for practicing unbelief, and women because they are insignificant in battle. And, moreover, they and the children may be enslaved and thus become a source of strength for God’s religion.” –Imam Shaffii

    Al-Shāfiʿī, Muḥammad Ibn Idrīs, Joseph E. Lowry, and Kecia Ali. The Epistle on Legal Theory: A Translation of Al-Shafii’s Risalah. Edited by Stewart Devin J. (NYU Press, 2015), 129-130.

    • Avatar

      Jean J. Stuart

      February 16, 2017 at 2:46 PM

      Smith,

      It is important to highlight to readers the fact that the Banu Mustaliq just before this tried to attack the Prophet and the Muslims. This is mentioned in many early sources, i.e., Sirah and Maghazi literature. See this for the sources:

      https://discover-the-truth.com/2016/03/04/invasion-of-banu-mustaliq-who-started-the-hostilities-and-aggression/

      Aso highlight the part of being IDENTIFIABLE in your quote. Imam Shaffi’i is NOT advocating for what you’re trying to claim.

      • Avatar

        J Smith

        February 16, 2017 at 3:20 PM

        Imam Shaffii explains in very clear language whether or not women and children may be killed in battle. It’s obvious that his position is that any woman or child that is clearly and unequivocally a woman or child may not be killed. Any women or children that are killed during night and surprise attacks are fair game. Imam Shaffii also quotes the narration “It is narrated by Sa’b b. Jaththama that he said (to the Holy Prophet): Messenger of Allah, we kill the children of the polytheists during the night raids. He said: They are from them.”

        https://sunnah.com/muslim/32/31

        Lastly, Imam Shaffii gives the wisdom for such a ruling. Children should not be held accountable for kufr, women are insignificant in battle, and most importantly, ‘Why kill them when they are valuable to strengthening the religion of Islam by enslaving them?’ These are the wisdoms of why you shouldn’t kill them according to Imam Shaffii, one being their inherent values of slaves. Dead bodies of women and children do not bring any wealth or pleasure.

        • Avatar

          Jean J Stuart

          February 16, 2017 at 5:10 PM

          You sound like a right extremist. The Prophet’s statement was in regards ACCIDENTAL incident. This was the understanding of the Hadith you misquoted from its historical context:

          This is what scholars of the past have stated – from Bulugh Al-Maram footnote 383, classical scholar states:

          “383 – It is not meant that women and children are killed intentionally, but if they were killed by ACCIDENT then the Messenger of Allah means they are not to be blamed.” (Bulugh Al-Maram, compiled and referenced by Imam Ibn Hajr, page 476)

          Source:

          https://discover-the-truth.com/2016/03/12/prophets-first-expedition-invasion-of-waddan/

          The Prophet NEVER endorsed what you’re trying to claim. Go ahead read any of the Ghazwah, you will NOT find a single instance of what you’re claiming:

          https://discover-the-truth.com/2016/03/25/early-expeditions-and-battles-of-islam/

          Stop peddling misinformation.

          • Avatar

            J Smith

            February 16, 2017 at 5:37 PM

            It’s not misinformation, it’s straight from primary sources of the most respected Muslim scholars. You ask me to read books I have already read. You say I’m a right extremist when I hate Trump and the Alt-right. I only care about being as academically honest as possible, something Jonathan Brown used to be until this past week.

            You keep claiming these are my words, they’re not. They are Imam Shaffii’s. It’s your job to claim that the scholar that Muslims owe so much to is actually just going around and speaking without knowledge.

            The hadith of Ibn Ka’b is reconciled by Shaffii. “The meaning of his prohibition against killing women and children in our view, though God knows best, is that one may not intentionally seek to kill them when it is possible to distinguish them from those whom he did not order to be killed. The point of his saying “they are pagans too” is that the women and children and the combatants share two traits: they have neither the legal protection of faith, which would otherwise prevent the shedding of their blood, nor the legal protection of being in an area inhabited primarily by believers, which would prevent an invasion of that area. Since God’s Emissary permitted nighttime…”

            The fact is that Jonathan Brown is playing a game by quoting later scholars so he can get away from THE scholars of Islam. I feel sorry that he feels it necessary to play games and lose his credibility. He used to be honest about these subjects, and now he knows that that honesty is going to destroy him. If he didn’t start going to conferences he probably could have remained in obscurity exploring honestly. Now that he is with Yaqeen he is forced to become a regular old apologist. It’s a real shame because he is very intelligent and well-versed.

            “…they and the children may be enslaved and thus become a source of strength for God’s religion.”

            He knows Shaffii said this and why he said this, and there is nothing he can do about it. I wish him all the best.

  2. Avatar

    Jean J. Stuart

    February 16, 2017 at 2:51 PM

    Dr. Jonathan Brown, are you aware that the Prophet Muhammed made it compulsory to free a slave wherein if they asked for it (See commentaries for Surah 24:33). This was also part of the Zahiri school of jurisprudence. And there is also the case of Ibn Sirin and Umar al-Khattab.

    It was obligatory for the master to enter into an agreement if the slave sought for his freedom. The incident of Huwaytib, Ibn Sirin with Umar, Ata and Amr Ibn Dinar all say it is obligatory to enter into an agreement in order for the slave to buy his freedom. This was one of the reasons the Zahiri school also made it obligatory (wajib) to enter into an agreement (Kitaba) in order for the slave to be freed once the payment was paid:

    “Among the well-known issues in this category is their disagreement about the contract of Kitaba, whether it is obligatory (wajib) or recommended (mandub). The Jurists of various regions said it is recommended, while the Zahirites said it is obligatory. They argued on the basis of the words of the Exalted, ‘And such of your slaves as seek a writing (of emancipation), write it out for them if ye are aware of aught of good in them’, saying that the command (amr) here implies an obligation. When the majority considered the principle that no one is to be forced to emancipate his slaves, they interpreted the verse to indicate a recommendation, so that it would not conflict with this principle.” (Bidayat al-Mujtahid wa Nihayat al-Muqtasid, Ibn Rushd, volume 2, page 453)

    Source:

    https://discover-the-truth.com/2017/01/22/surah-2433-obligatory-to-enter-into-a-contract-to-free-a-slave/

  3. Avatar

    J Smith

    February 16, 2017 at 3:26 PM

    Great article, thank you! JAK

    You are still likely to get trolled for life. Luckily means you are getting popular enough to catch their attention.

  4. Avatar

    Deborah Elaine DeWitt

    February 16, 2017 at 10:58 PM

    Salam,

    As John Lennon famously observed:
    “Woman is the nigger of the world.”

    Brother Professor Jonathan Brown writes that “The Quran and Sunnah made clear over and over that freeing slaves was one of the best deeds a Muslim could do. The Shariah saw freedom as the natural state (asl) of all humans. And, as the legal maxim stated, the Shariah ‘aimed towards freedom.’ ”

    I hope that Prof. Brown will include a chapter in his forthcoming book on slavery addressing the historical women’s struggle toward freedom, touching topics such as, modern sex trafficking, FGM, right to marry/divorce, right of adult single women to live without a wali, a woman’s rights as a parent, lapidation & pornography, equal right to education and access to masjids …

    Shukr in advance.

  5. Avatar

    M

    February 17, 2017 at 3:40 AM

    I tried to learn more about Abd ul Qadir Kan, who Dr Brown says abolished slavery in Senegal. I found several books saying he banned the French from trading and trafficking Muslim slaves through his kingdom, but not that he banned slavery of non-Muslims too. This book says he ousted the incumbent Denyanke dynasty after the Torodbe group complained that Muslims were not being protected from the slave trade. It also says that Muslim slaves were seen as wrong in another part of the region (the Sokoro Caliphate), but slavery of non-Muslims was accepted.

    The History of Africa: The Quest for Eternal Harmony, pp. 151-152

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ssQodjYZgDsC&pg=PA151&lpg=PA151&dq=Senegal+abd+kadir+kan+slavery&source=bl&ots=C2K0Y_1MhD&sig=VPF-TrvhzdsHDKKjfmDupWfQn1o&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiOp4Sm0ZbSAhUHLcAKHdU7CH0Q6AEIKjAF#v=onepage&q=Senegal%20abd%20kadir%20kan%20slavery&f=false

    Does anyone know where Dr Brown’s claim that he completely abolished slavery in general comes from?

  6. Avatar

    M

    February 17, 2017 at 4:52 AM

    Here is the recording of Dr Brown’s lecture.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MpFatRwdPm0

    At 66mins 30 seconds and 77 minutes he talks about the moral question of owning another human and sexual consent of concubines respectively.

  7. Avatar

    Meg

    February 17, 2017 at 7:28 AM

    I am just going to copy and paste my several comments on this issue in response to your article:
    Well, he has his work cut out for him on this issue. At the end of the day….sometimes it is worth pointing out the condition of slaves (prisoners) in US prisons. Truth sometimes is the great equalizer. To believe that slavery (imprisonment/denied freedom) has been abolished….well. It is nonsensical when we know that people can be ‘bonded’ in a type of slavery to the financial system regardless of the fact that they are free to ‘move about’. I think it is an issue that I totally lack knowledge about to be clear and I am glad there are a few scholars out there who can take it up to explain the meaning of ‘those whom your right hand possess’ versus your left. Went down a few posts in the feed and saw one about migrant labor in the US….slaves. In reality. When you think about it….the issues involved in migrant labor/illegal alienship….it’s about people without equality in our society and our society is getting huffy about providing what is provided to ‘captives’ or ‘slaves’ in the Quran as a ‘human rights’ issue. You must take care of your servants. I think our immigration system would truly benefit by expanding the discussion about ‘migrant/slave labor’ to include the word “slave”. A rose by any other name you know. Migrant/illegal laborers: don’t have freedom to move about, can be captured at will, are often sold by their captors (even as prostitutes, cleaners, etc). It’s happening right under our noses. Slavery as a condition (as well as alot of other phenomenon mentioned in the Quran) is …how to explain this…regulated in the Quran, not mandated to occur. It is a condition of humanity that must be addressed by any society and Allah would be negligent if he left out such regulations. Same goes for hitting one’s wife…it sets a limitation on physical contact, it does not order or condone it.
    Sorry for so many posts but your article stimulated by thoughts on the issue. smile emoticon:) Might as well finish my thoughts and get to my real work…the Quran is silent on a few things…like homosexuality…very silent on marital relationships between same sex partners…silent on female circumcision (and male for that matter). One must use ijtihad then and other sources to discover exact or close to it..rulings on those types of things. I hope though my point is helpful and I feel I must restate it because it is SO important: if Islam failed to mention the human condition known as ‘slavery’ (we can say it is abolished but it never truly is abolished in real life)….it would be woefully negligent and leave the destiny of folks who are ‘possessed’ by owners/controllers/traffickers in the hands of men. And that’s why the US is having such a convulsion over immigration issues now on the border with Mexico.

    Meg Swaid BTW, National Geo has a great series going on about human trafficking….you should catch an episode or two if you have time…it’s pretty horrific what happens to these people carted over the border and sold to the highest bidder when their families cannot come up with the cash to bail them out of their situation.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      February 17, 2017 at 8:53 AM

      Dear Meg,

      Thank you for your comment, which is very well reasoned. You lost me, however, when you mentioned that the Qur’an was silent about “homosexuality.” Regardless of what one might understand from that term, Allah is certainly NOT silent about same-sex behavior, which He condemns strongly (particularly penetrative intercourse between men). If the Qur’an is “silent on marital relationships between same-sex partners,” it is only because there is and there can be no such thing as a so-called “same-sex marriage” in Islam. Not only is marriage a necessarily male-female affair, but same-sex sexual relations are forbidden in and of themselves– i.e., forbidden essentially, regardless of circumstances, intent, consent, etc.–and so it’s a moot point altogether. Not sure what you’re getting at when you mention ijtihad in this context. There is no ijtihad on issues that are stipulated by unambiguous Qur’anic texts and backed up by full consensus of the umma. Otherwise, a very good comment on slavery. Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. Avatar

    Yousef al-Khattab

    February 17, 2017 at 4:34 PM

    Asalam 3leikoum wr wb

    Dr.Brown barek Allah feek. Please keep up the great work.

  9. Avatar

    Rahma

    February 18, 2017 at 8:21 AM

    This was a very well written article supported with evidence and valid arguments. May Allah protect you from all the enemies out there. My duas are with you. Your knowledge will always outshine their propaganda.

  10. Avatar

    Sten

    February 18, 2017 at 10:57 AM

    “The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) freed every slave given to him.”

    Mohammed did not free these two slaves:
    “And he bought him for two black slaves, and he did not afterwards take allegiance from anyone until he had asked him whether he was a slave (or a free man) (Sahih Muslim 3901).”

    Mohammed did not free these slave women:
    “The apostle gave Ali a girl called Rayta; and he gave Uthman a girl called Zaynab; and he gave Umar a girl whom Umar gave to his son Abdullah. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 878)”

  11. Avatar

    Saad

    February 18, 2017 at 8:34 PM

    This response is to Ahmed B
    Of-course her reasoning is all well until it comes to a point where you seem to disagree.

    While I will not comment on the hypocrisy that you seem to comfortably accept, the Quran CERTAINLY does not talk about consensual homosexual behavior. There is no doubt how men of Lot were rowdy, but neither did they “refuse” to marry women. They were married and obviously the society had many many members. The whole story is nothing short of degrading strangers and it is absolutely plausible that that the heterosexual members themselves were the cause of these atrocities.

    And if you are so hell bent on thinking Lot story about homosexuals, then you might as well destroy EVERY tall building that is there on planet earth because People of Ad were the ones who created those. Now dont tell me one need to take the whole story in context?

    Focusing on the two verses many make you feel “warm and cushy” and think as if you know the absolute truth. But do justice and read the whole story.

    Of at least there are quite few books which are well written with the law codes are out there. Take your time to read them.

    P.S homosexual behavior was not invented by people of Lot. The evidence of their existence was dated WAYYYY before them in history.

    And there are MANY MANY ways one can argue strongly with good reasoning, against the position of “homosexual behavior is a sin”.

    I am going to ignore lesbian behavior. Now I wonder why God never talked about them so directly. Neither remains no reliable Hadith regarding this matter.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      February 19, 2017 at 9:47 AM

      Saad,

      I’m not sure what you mean by “the hypocrisy that you seem comfortable to accept,” but the Qur’an certainly DOES talk about consensual homosexual behavior. The idea that what is being prohibited is coercion and homosexual rape, rather than voluntary anal sex, is fanciful at best. Allah never once uses a single word that even remotely implies force or coercion when describing the behavior of the people of Lut (as). In contrast, He constantly mentions “you come sexually to men,” “you come to men in lust instead of women,” etc., making it as clear as can be that it is the same-sex nature–and the same-sex nature alone–of their conduct that is being so heavily criticized. This is backed up by the consensus understanding of the Companions and all generations of Muslims from then until our day. When they speak, from the very earliest days of Islam, of the “act of qawm Lut (‘amal qawm Lut),” there is no doubt that they are referring to the act of (voluntary) male-male penetration itself. It would be ridiculous and entirely fanciful to imagine that they were only concerned about rape or some men forcing themselves upon others, and that as long as the gay sex was consensual they would have been fine with it.

      This notion of consent as the ultimate criterion by which the morality of a sexual act is judged has nothing to do with Islam (nor Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion). Rather, it is the mantra of the secular, post-Christian Sexual Revolution in the West that began in the 1960s: as long as there is consent, the behavior is permitted. As Dr. Jonathan Brown makes clear, a man forcing himself on a woman who is in principle lawful to him (i.e., a wife or, formerly, also a concubine) has done something wrong, but the operative consideration here is that he has “caused harm” to her, not that the sexual act in and of itself was haram due to her lack of consent. In any case, there is no sense in Islam in which consent alone is sufficient to render an otherwise prohibited sexual act permissible. Is anyone going to argue that when Allah prohibits zina, He really only means to prohibit rape and that *consensual* sex between two unmarried persons is somehow okay? The dominant view also, based on various adilla, holds masturbation to be haram. Clearly there’s no issue of consent involved there either.

      The prohibition of same-sex behavior in Islam is not “my opinion”; it is ma’lum min al-din bi’l-darura, meaning that it is known by necessity to be part and parcel of the Islamic religion. It is in the same category as the obligatory nature of the five prayers and fasting Ramadan, and the prohibited nature of gambling, drinking wine, male-female zina, etc. All of these items are based on the same kinds of evidence and reach the same level of certitude. Reject one of them and you undermine them all.

      It seems you may have had the misfortune of happening upon the works of someone like Scott Kugle. Kugle is a dishonest and underhanded “scholar” with an agenda. The manner in which he twists texts, plays with language, misrepresents traditional Islamic sources, and pretends to be operating within the established disciplines of tafsir, fiqh, usul al-fiqh, etc. in order to come up with a “gay sex friendly Islam” is nothing short of shocking. It’s even more repugnant on his part because he knows he is writing to a lay Muslim audience that doesn’t know better and he’s taking advantage of their lack of knowledge of the tradition and the sources to pull one over on them. It goes without saying that no serious scholar would give such slipshod work the time of day, but here you have some Muslims going around thinking that there’s actually an argument to be had here.

      Kugle’s work has been thoroughly investigated and critiqued here: http://muslimmatters.org/2016/07/11/can-islam-accommodate-homosexual-acts-quranic-revisionism-and-the-case-of-scott-kugle/

      A very powerful piece from a Muslim with same-sex desires who nevertheless seeks to follow Islam rather than distort it can be found here: http://muslimmatters.org/2016/08/22/from-a-same-sex-attracted-muslim-between-denial-of-reality-and-distortion-of-religion/

      Being dishonest about what our religion teaches and what Allah demands of us is not in anyone’s interest, Muslim or non-Muslim, in this life or the akhira. It’s not worth staking one’s Afterlife on lies and distortions of the universally recognized teachings of Islam. Wallahu l-musta’an.

      Wassalam,
      Ahmad B.

  12. Avatar

    Andy

    February 20, 2017 at 4:23 PM

    Extraordinary how many intelligent and articulate people are spending so much time discussing whether something is allowed or not based on the ramblings of a normal man in 700. I say normal but he was no doubt a charismatic leader who was able to persuade some to follow him and kill for him and loot for him. And like many a cult leader he enjoyed the spoils including the ladies. But why are you all wasting your time debating when the chances that a) there is a god, and b) if there is one he would have sent Mohammed are too ridiculous to waste time on. You are not alone, mores the pity for the rest of us.

    • Avatar

      Guest

      February 23, 2017 at 1:43 AM

      Then why are you here?

      This site is about clarifying misconceptions of the Muslim faith. These scholars have studied and trained in Islamic studies for years in order to keep the Muslim community informed on its on faith. So yes, of course these intelligent people are spending so much time researching the Quran and the Holy Prophet’s (Pbuh) actions, it’s their job.

      “follow him and kill for him and loot for him”

      Could you provide any evidence for the ‘kill for him and loot for him’ statement?
      The early Muslims who followed him, fought under his leadership to prevent the destruction of their (at the time, small and weak) community by the Quraish and other enemies.

  13. Avatar

    gruz fruz

    March 9, 2017 at 7:48 PM

    the article, in my humble opinion, constitutes very weak apologetics. Fact is, Islam allows slavery, and sex with slaves.

    Personally, I consider this as unacceptable, and that is it.

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#Current Affairs

Kashmir: Gateway in Turmoil

Abu Ryan Dardir

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A dark day looms over Indian-Administered Kashmir, a Muslim majority region at the heart of a dispute between Pakistan and India. The two countries are at odds over its governance, with direct impact to the welfare and security of the Kashmiri people. On Tuesday 8-6-19, the Indian Parliament passed a bill that strips Kashmir of statehood and places them under indefinite lockdown.

“Kashmiri leaders are appealing to the world to stop the imminent genocide of Kashmiris. Genocide Watch in Washington, DC has already issued a Genocide Alert for India, the so-called “largest democracy in the world” because it has cancelled citizenship of four million Indian citizens, mostly Muslims. This reflects the early stages of a genocide in process.” –Soundvision.com

Kashmir is home to massive energy resources, such as oil and natural gas, non-ferrous metals, uranium, gold, and is abundant in hydropower resources. These too are factors considered in the political movements of India and China. Kashmir’s geopolitical advantages are no secret, and adding China to the political struggle makes three countries trying to benefit from Kashmir’s geographical position.

Kashmir neighbors the Xinjiang Uyghur borders, and China has played a role in both areas. China’s stronghold on Xinjiang revolves around access to Europe and Central Asia. China needs Kashmir to access the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Kashmir is landlocked between China, Pakistan, and India. Pakistan hopes to use infrastructure built under the CPEC initiative to connect by land directly to both China and Central Asia. With that said, Pakistan wants to take advantage of its geographic positioning by serving as a gateway to Afghanistan, then Central Asia, using the CPEC corridor (the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor), which has parts of that corridor that go through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

This is upsetting India. India’s ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale, made a comment in an interview about CPEC saying it “violates our territorial integrity. India believes the CPEC project undermines Indian sovereignty because it passes through a Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir that is still claimed by India.” India also fears the chances of a People’s Liberation Army presence or even a Chinese naval base in Pakistan’s Gwadar seaport, as part of the CPEC corridor.

India has been working on its own project, International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), it is intended to link trade routes between India and Central Asia, Russia, and Europe. Unlike its competition (Pakistan and China), India is unable to directly trade through the land to those regions using INSTC. To make this corridor successful, India will need to collaborate with Iran and use their ports.

India needs Kashmir, and Modi is using hateful nationalism to get the people to support his actions. The part of Kashmir that is needed is not under India’s control, and must be occupied in order for India to have direct access to Central Asia, Russia, and Europe. 

Birds of a feather flock together.

Israel’s Minister for Construction and Housing Yifat Shasha-Biton, while addressing a conference of Indian realtors’ body Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI), called India an “economic power” with whom Israel shares common values.  India using colonization tactics has made allies with the Israeli government, a master on occupation and oppression. 

“Kashmir is under siege…do not let the enforced silence drown our voices.”:

Please keep the people of Kashmir in your prayers. We cannot sit idly while this occupation continues. SoundVision has shared 5 things anyone in America and Canada can do. 

A message from a Kashmiri

“Around 10 pm, a message flashed across our phones announcing that, as per the request of the central government, all domestic networks were to be shut down indefinitely. All mosques, any place equipped with a loudspeaker, began announcing total curfew from 5 am tomorrow……..

You have stripped us of our rights and incited unrest yet again into a peaceful and beautiful place. This time, I pray, you will not escape the international consequences your actions deserve. Rest assured Kashmiris will not break and Kashmir is not gone. Our stories, our language, our heart and our people are stronger than any country can dream. Even under these circumstances, I am sure inshaAllah one day we will be free. One day, Kashmir will be free.” Sanna Wani via Twitter

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#Islam

Muslims for Migrants | A Joint Letter By Imam Zaid Shakir & Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Zaid Shakir

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Abu Huraira (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) said, “He who gives respite to someone who is in straitened circumstances, or grants him remission, Allah will shelter him in the shade of His Throne, on the Day of Resurrection, when there will be no shade except its shade.” (Tirmidhi, 1306)

He also said, “There is no leader who closes the door to someone in need, one suffering in poverty, except that Allah closes the gates of the heavens for him when he is suffering in poverty.” (Tirmidhi, 1332)

The message is clear, the way we treat the most vulnerable of Allah’s creation has consequences to us both individually and collectively, and both in this life and the next.

As the humanitarian crisis at the southern border deepens, there is a deafening silence from most corners of the American Muslim community. One might ask, “Why should that silence be concerning?” Shouldn’t the nation of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) who was himself an orphan and a migrant sent as a mercy to the worlds be the first to be moved with the images of children in cages? Migration and asylum are God-given rights that individuals and nations would do well to respect. These rights are affirmed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah upon him).

Concerning migration, the Qur’an states unequivocally: 

As for those whose souls the angels take while they are oppressing themselves, the angels will say to them, “What was your former state?” They will respond, “We were oppressed in the land.” The angels will counter, “Was not Allah’s earth spacious enough for you to migrate therein.” (4:97)

 The oppression referred to in this verse specifically focuses on persecution because of faith, but the general meaning of the wording can accommodate any form of oppression which involves the denial of a person’s Divinely conferred rights.

Migration lies at the very heart of the prophetic tradition in the Abrahamic religions. Abraham himself was a migrant. His son Ismail was a migrant. The Children of Israel along with Moses were migrants, as was Jesus. Not only was our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) a migrant, he twice sent many of his Companions (May Allah be pleased with them) to Ethiopia to seek the protection of the Negus. The fact that the Muslim calendar is dated from the migration of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) from Makkah to Madinah indicates the lofty place migration has in the life of the Muslim community and in the consciousness of its members. 

Additionally, history records the massive migrations of those Muslims who fled from oppressive, tyrannical, violent rulers or invaders. One of the most famous examples we can relate in this regard is the massive westward migration of those escaping the advancing Mongol hordes. Among those refugees was the great poet, Rumi, who along with thousands of others fled his home in Balkh, located in present-day Afghanistan, eventually settling in Konya, in the heart of Anatolia. Others migrated for economic reasons. The historian, Richard Bulliet, theorizes that the economic collapse of Khurasan, a once-thriving Sunni intellectual hub in eastern Iran, led to the migration of large swaths of its population to Syrian and Egypt. In his view, the many scholars among those refugees led to an intellectual revival in the lands they settled in.

As for asylum, it can be granted by both the state and an individual Muslim to individuals or groups. The foundations of this principle in prophetic practice was established during events which occurred during the conquest of Makkah. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), as the de facto head of state, issued an oath of protection to the people of Mecca when he declared, “Whosever enters the house of Abu Sufyan is safe. Whosoever casts down his weapons is safe. Whosoever closes his door [and remains inside] is safe.” (Sahih Muslim, 1780) Ibn Ishaq’s version adds, “Whosoever enters the [Sacred] Mosque is safe.” (Narrated in Sirah Ibn Hisham, 4:35)

Those enjoying these protections from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) had not committed a crime and although they had not traveled to another land seeking refuge, the description of their land had changed from one under the authority of the Quraysh to one under the authority of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him). In this “new” land they were being guaranteed safety and subsequently freedom even though they had not yet embraced Islam.

 A related event is Imam Ali’s sister, Umm Hani, granting asylum to al-Harith bin Hisham and Zuhayr bin Ummayya that same day. When faced with the prospect of their execution by her brother, Imam Ali, she locked them in her house and went to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) to inform him that she had granted them asylum. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) responded, “We grant asylum to those Umm Hani has granted asylum to and we protect those Umm Hani has extended protection to.” (Sirah ibn Hisham, 4:42) In other words, the entire Muslim community, globally, is bound to respect the oath of protection or asylum granted by even an individual Muslim.

This idea of the entire Muslim community respecting a grant of asylum extended by even a single Muslim is strengthened by the Hadith:

 The protection of the Muslims is one and the least of them can grant it. Whosoever violates the asylum extended by a Muslim upon him falls the curse of Allah, His angels and all of humanity. Never will an obligatory or voluntary act be accepted from him. (Bukhari, 3172)

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) praised the Ansar of Madinah for how they loved those that migrated to them and preferred them even over themselves. (Quran: 59:9) They bore no resentment to those that migrated to them and sought reward only from Allah for sustaining them. They knew that supporting those in need was only a means of goodness in their lives rather than a burden. These powerful Islamic teachings have been codified by our scholars into a sophisticated system of amnesty, asylum, and respect for the status of refugees.

Hence, when we view the sickening conditions those migrating to our southern borders are exposed to, we should be touched and moved to action knowing that our religion grants those fleeing persecution, oppression, or ecological devastation, the right to migrate and to be duly considered for asylum. Our actions, however, must be based on principle and knowledge. We should further vigorously defend the dignity our Lord has afforded to all human beings, and our obligation to assist those who are suffering from recognized forms of oppression.

We must also understand that the rights to migration and asylum have been codified in the most widely accepted Muslim statement on human rights: The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, Article 12; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 14; the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (ADRDM), Article 27; and the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), Article 22. The United States is a signatory party to the UDHR, and by way of membership in the Organization of American States (OAS), reluctantly accepts the authority of the ADRDM and the ACHR, although she has never ratified the latter two.

Our view on this issue should also be informed by the knowledge of our own country’s history as a nation of immigrants in the Native’s land. It should further be shaped by understanding the way nativist and white supremacist tendencies have fueled xenophobic and exclusivist policies and how in many instances our sometimes misguided policies have created many of our most vexing human rights challenges. It must also be informed by our obligation as American citizens.

For example, we need to understand that the overwhelming majority of families, children and individual adults arriving at our southern border from the “Northern Triangle” of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are fleeing intolerable levels of violence. That violence is not just that of ruthless street gangs, such as MS-13, it also emanates from government-sponsored death squads, many of which were organized and trained by the CIA or the US military at the former School of the Americas based at Fort Benning, Georgia. The infamous Battalion 316 of Honduras was an American-trained death squad responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial killings in that country during the 1980s and into the 1990s as well as the kidnapping and torture of thousands of Honduran citizens during the same period. These death squads are beginning to reappear in the wake of a wave of right-wing regimes assuming power throughout Latin America.

The combination of American political and economic pressure through the mechanisms of neocolonialism used to control and systematically under-develop former and present “banana republics,” the International Monetary Fund (IMF), plutocratic regimes increasingly beholden to Washington DC, integrating the violence of both death squads and drug cartels into their crushing of both popular dissent as well as any attempts at economic diversification and stratification help to create the conditions producing the waves of migrants moving towards our southern border. Long before they sought to cross our borders, our borders crossed them.

Long before they sought to cross our borders, our borders crossed them.

Despite the history, the way that the Trump administration has chosen to deal with the current crisis, largely for cheap race-baited political gain, has challenged the God-given rights to migration and asylum, exacerbated the humanitarian crisis at the border, and diminished the standing of the United States internationally. It is critical to understand, however, that just as the policies producing the floods of migrants from parts of Latin America are not uniquely a product of the Trump administration, Trump is not the first racist to occupy the White House. We could mention Richard Nixon, who famously embraced Kevin Philip’s “southern strategy,” to wrest the south from the control of the Democrats; we could mention the KKK-loving, segregationist, Woodrow Wilson; we could mention the slave-driving, genocidal ethnic cleanser Andrew Jackson, as well as others.

What makes Trump unique, as Greg Grandin emphasizes in his latest book, The End of the Myth, is that Trump is a racist who has appeared at a time America is no longer, via conquest or economic domination, expanding her frontiers. With the ensuing erasure of the myth of American exceptionalism, the “American people” can no longer point to our global economic or political domination as the difference between “them” and “us.” 

Unable to deflect our nagging national problems, one of the most vexing being the race issue, by looking outward, large numbers of white Americans are turning inward with xenophobic frenzy. That inward turn creates a focus on outsiders who threaten “our” rapidly disappearing “purity.” Hence, the border, symbolized by the wall, becomes not just an indicator of national sovereignty, it becomes a symbol of white identity. A symbol Trump invokes with seldom matched mastery. Vested with the passion emanating from the defense of an embattled race, innocent brown children taken from their mothers and imprisoned in overcrowded, feces-stained gulags become easily dismissed collateral damage.

Generally speaking, the same playbook that has been employed against the Muslim and other immigrant communities, specifically refugees from the Middle East, has been employed against the immigrant community as a whole. In far too many instances, America’s destructive foreign policy leaves helpless populations running to our shores, increasingly to be dehumanized and disregarded again in order to pander to the worst of our domestic propensities.

Launchgood.com/migrants, migrants, Muslims

So we call upon the Muslim community to not only assist in efforts to support our migrant brothers and sisters but lead the way. Get involved in advocacy work, support immigrant justice organizations, join the sanctuary efforts and lend yourself and your wealth in whatever way you can to be at their aid. By the Grace of Allah, we have launched a campaign to reunite as many families as we can. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) said, “Whoever separates a mother from her child, Allah will separate him from his loved ones on the Day of Resurrection.” (Tirmidhi, 1566) We hope that in reuniting families, Allah will reunite us with our beloved ones on the Day of Resurrection, and specifically with the beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) in the highest gardens of Paradise.

Imam Zaid Shakir, Imam, Lighthouse Mosque

Imam Omar Suleiman, Founder & President, Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

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#Current Affairs

Were Muslim Groups Duped Into Supporting an LGBTQ Rights Petition at the US Supreme Court?

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Muslim organizations, Muslim groups

Recently several Muslim groups sent an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court to support LGBTQ rights in employment.  These groups argued“sex” as used in the Civil Rights Act should be defined broadly to include more types of discrimination than Congress wrote into the statue.

A little background. Clayton County, Georgia fired Gerald Lynn Bostock. The County alleged Bostock embezzled money, so he was fired. Bostock argues the real reason is that he is gay. Clayton County denied they would fire someone for that reason. Clayton County successfully had the case dismissed saying that even if Bostock is right about everything, the law Bostock filed the lawsuit under does not vindicate his claim. The case is now at the Supreme Court with other similar cases.

The “Muslim” brief argued the word “sex” should mean lots of things, and under the law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act), LGBTQ discrimination is already illegal.  American law has developed to provide some support for this argument, but there have been divisions in the appellate courts. So this is the exact sort of thing the US Supreme Court exists to decide.

The Involvement Of Muslim Groups

In Supreme Court litigation, parties on both sides marshal amicus briefs (written arguments) and coordinate their efforts to improve the effectiveness of their advocacy, there are over 40 such briefs in the Bostock case. Groups represent constituencies with no direct stake in the immediate dispute but care about the precedent the case would set.

The Muslim groups came in purportedly because they know what it’s like to be victims of discrimination (more on that below). The brief answered an objection to the consequences that could come with an expansive definition of the term “sex” to include gay, lesbian, and transgender persons (in lieu of its conventional use as synonymous with gender, i.e., male/female). In particular, the brief responded to the concern that “sex” being defined as any subjective experience may open up more litigation than was intended by making the argument that religion is a personal experience that courts have no trouble sorting out and that, like faith, courts can define “sex” the same way.

While this may be interesting to some, boring to others, it begs the question:  why are Muslim groups involved with this stuff? Muslims are a faith community. If we speak *as Muslims* is it not pertinent to consult with the traditions of the faith tradition known as Islam, like Quran, Hadith and the deep well of scholarly tradition?  Is our mere presence in a pluralistic society enough reason to ignore all this and focus on building allies in our mutual desire to create a world free of discrimination?

Spreading Ignorance

In July of 2017, the main party to the “Muslim” brief, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), was expelled from the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention bazaar.  I was on the Executive Council of the organization at the time but had no role in the decision. The reason: MPV was dedicated to promoting ignorance of Islam among Muslims at the event. The booth had literature claiming haram was good and virtuous. Propaganda distributed at the table either implied haram was not haram or alternately celebrated haram.

For any Muslim organization dedicated to Islam, it is not a difficult decision to expel an organization explicitly dedicated to spreading haram. No Muslim organization, composed of Muslims who fear Allah and dedicate their time to Islam can give space to organizations opposed the faith community’s values and advocates against them in their conferences and events.  Allah, in the Quran, tells us:

immorality

Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows, and you do not know.

It would be charitable to the point of fraud to characterize MPV as a Muslim organization. That MPV has dedicated itself to promoting ignorance of the religion within the Muslim community is not in serious dispute.  The organization’s leader has been all over the anti-Sharia movement.

Discrimination against Muslims is bad, except when it’s good 

The brief framed the various organizations’ participation by claiming as Muslims, we know what it is like to be on the receiving end of discrimination. This implies the parties that signed on to the Amicus petition believe discrimination against Muslims is a bad thing. For at least two of the organizations, this is not entirely true.

MPV is an ally of another co-signer of the Amicus petition, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).  Both have records that show an eagerness to discriminate against Muslims in the national security space. They both applied for CVE grants. Both have supported the claim that Muslims are a national security threat they are somehow equipped to deal with. I have written more extensively about MPAC in the past; mainly, it’s work in Countering Violent Extremism and questionable Zakat practices.

MPAC’s CVE  program, called “Safe Spaces,” singled out Muslims as terrorist threats. It purported to address this Muslim threat. In June of 2019, MPAC’s academic partner released an evaluation Safe Spaces and judged it as “not successful” citing the singling out of Muslims, as well as a lack of trust within the Muslim community because of a lack of transparency as reasons why the program was a failure. Despite its legacy of embarrassment and failure, MPAC continues to promote Safe Spaces on its website.

MPV was a vigorous defender of MPAC’s CVE program, Safe Spaces.  MPV’s leader has claimed the problem of “radicalism” is because of CAIR, ISNA, and ICNA’s “brand of Islam.”

Law Enforcement Approved Islam

In 2011, former LAPD head of Counter-Terrorism, Michael P. Downing testified during a congressional hearing on “Islamist Radicalization” Downing testified in favor of MPV, stating:

I would just offer that, on the other side of the coin, we should create opportunities for the pure, good part of this, to be in the religion, such as the NGOs. There is an NGO by the name of Ani Zonneveld who does the Muslims for Progressive Values. This is what they say, “Values are guided by 10 principles of Islam, rooted in Islam, including social equality, separation of religion and state, freedom of speech, women’s rights, gay rights, and critical analysis and interpretation.” She and her organization have been trying to get into the prison system to give this literature as written by Islamic academic scholars. So I think there can be more efforts on this front as well.

Downing was central to the LAPD’s “Muslim Mapping” program, defending the “undertaking as a way to help Muslim communities avoid the influence of those who would radicalize Islamic residents and advocate ‘violent, ideologically-based extremism.” MPAC was a supporter of the mapping program, which was later rejected by the city because it was an explicit ethnic profiling program mainstream Muslim and secular civil rights groups opposed.  MPAC later claimed it did not support the program, though somehow saw fit to give Downing an award. Downing, since retired, currently serves on MPAC’s Advisory Council.

Ani Zonnevold, the President and Founder of MPV, currently sits on the International Board of Directors for the Raif Badawi Foundation alongside Maajid Nawaz and Zuhdi Jasser.

MPV has also been open about both working for CVE and funding from a non-Muslim source, the Human Rights Campaign, and other groups with agendas to reform the religion of Islam. It’s hard not to see it as an astroturf organization.

Muslim Groups Were Taken for a Ride

Unfortunately, Muslim nonprofit organizations are often unsophisticated when it comes to signing documents other groups write. Some are not even capable of piecing together the fact that an astroturf organization opposed to Islam, the religious tradition, was recruiting them to sign something.

There are many Muslims sympathetic to the LGBTQ community while understanding the limits of halal and haram. Not everyone who signed the brief came to this with the same bad faith as an MPV, which is hostile to the religion of Islam itself. Muslims generally don’t organize out of hostility to Islam. This only appears to be happening because of astroturfing in the Muslim community. Unfortunately, it was way too easy to bamboozle well-meaning Muslim groups.

Muslims are a faith community. MPV told the groups Islam did not matter in their argument when the precise reason they were recruited to weigh in on the case was that they are Muslim. Sadly, it was a successful con. Issues like the definition of sex are not divorced from Islamic concerns. We have Islamic inheritance and rules for family relations where definitions of words are relevant. Indeed, our religious freedoms in ample part rest on our ability to define the meaning of words, like Muslim, fahisha, zakat, daughter, and Sharia. Separate, open-ended definitions with the force of law may have implications for religious freedom for Muslims and others because it goes to defining a word across different statutes, bey0nd the civil rights act. There would be fewer concerns if LGBT rights were simply added as a distinct category under the Civil Rights Act while respecting religious freedom under the constitution.

Do Your Homework

Muslim organizations should do an analysis of religious freedom implications for Muslims and people of other faiths before signing on to statements and briefs. A board member of MPV drafted the “Muslim” Brief, and his law firm recruited Muslim nonprofit organizations to sign on. CAIR Oklahoma, which signed up for this brief, made a mistake (hey, it happens). CAIR Oklahoma’s inclusion is notable. This chapter successfully challenged the anti-Sharia “Save our State” law that would have banned Muslims from drafting Islamic Wills. Ironically, CAIR Oklahoma’s unwitting advocacy at the Supreme Court could work against that critical result. For an anti-Sharia group like MPV, this is fine. It is not fine for a group like CAIR.

CAIR Oklahoma is beefing up their process for signing on to Amicus Briefs in the future. No other CAIR chapter signed on to the brief, which was prudent. CAIR chapters are mostly independent organizations seemingly free to do whatever they want. CAIR, as a national organization needs to make sure all its affiliates are sailing in the same direction. They have been unsuccessful with this in the past several years. CAIR should make sure their local chapters know about astroturf outfits and charlatans trying to get them to sign things. They should protect their “America’s largest Islamic Civil Liberties Group” brand.

Muslim Leaders Should Stand Strong 

American Muslims all have friends, business associates and coworkers, and family members who do things that violate Islamic norms all the time. We live in an inclusive society where we respect each other’s differences. Everyone is entitled to dignity and fair treatment. No national Muslim groups are calling for employment discrimination against anyone, nor should they.

However, part of being Muslim is understanding limits that Allah placed on us. That means we cannot promote haram or help anyone do something haram. Muslim groups do not need to support causes that may be detrimental to our interests.  Our spaces do not need to be areas where we have our religion mocked and derided. Other people have the freedom to do this in their own spaces in their own time.

Some Muslim leaders are afraid of being called names unless they recite certain words or invite particular speakers.  You will never please people who hate Islam unless you believe as they do.  Muslims only matter if Islam matters.

If you are a leader of Muslims, you must know the limits Allah has placed on you. Understand the trust people have placed in you. Don’t allow anyone to bully or con you into violating those limits.

Note: Special thanks to Mobeen Vaid.

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