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How the Progressive Left Wants to Change Islam in America

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By Ismail Royer

Last year, Christian conservatives were outraged when Wikileaks released documents revealing that a foundation linked to billionaire George Soros had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in what the foundation described as a “long-term project of shifting the priorities of the US Catholic church” toward progressive causes and away from socially conservative positions. “It’s exciting to see this long-term process is now underway,” gushed a report on the effort by the group, the Open Society Foundation (OSF).

No one seems to have noticed that the same documents released by Wikileaks describing OSF’s plan to socially engineer Catholicism also reveal that the group has invested heavily in minimizing the religious nature of American Muslim identity and molding it into a progressive ethnic identity. In the same document in which the OSF discusses supporting the “media, framing, and public opinion activities” of liberal Catholic groups in order to “shift national paradigms and priorities,” it also describes its “creation” of organizations with the aim of “creating” Muslim, Arab, and South Asian (“MASA”) leadership. OSF says its

post 9/11 strategy of investing to create the first ever set of organizations designed to create MASA leadership and institutions has borne some fruit. These groups are growing in effectiveness, but lack deep relationships on the ground and are still newcomers to the national civil rights community. This effort, therefore, is a foundation-led initiative to further their institutional strength and expand their influence and capacity.

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In “creating” Muslim organizations and leaders and “expanding their influence,” the key goals of the Soros-linked foundations are: reframing the community as primarily a racial or ethnic identity group rather than as a religious group; emphasizing the community’s support for Democrat-friendly political issues; and weakening the community’s traditional religious teachings such as defined gender roles and the prohibition on same-sex sexual relations.

To be clear, fair treatment for all regardless of race is a goal squarely within the concern of mainstream Islam, and it is one of the qualities of this religion that has attracted millions of Western converts. Likewise, although Islam forbids sexual relations between individuals of the same sex, it does not condemn individuals because of their inner desires and temptations, and the orthodox Sunni community in America has much work to do in ministering to Muslims who may be attracted to those of the same sex and helping them to cope with those temptations. Nor is it appropriate for Muslims to treat openly homosexual individuals harshly in our interpersonal relations, or discriminate against them in matters that would not require us to compromise our faith.

In contrast, the agenda of the progressive left foundations and nonprofit groups described herein is to refashion Islam as a secular identity group centered on ethnic “brownness,” and whose moral compass is the progressive wing of the Democratic party rather than Islamic religious sources. The ideological hook for the changes they wish to effect in the American Muslim community is “solidarity.” The narrative is that since 9/11, and particularly in the Trump era, American Muslims have been increasingly under attack. Progressives want to pigeonhole Muslims as “people of color” — as if being Muslim had something intrinsically to do with race. As the story goes, since non-Muslim people of color and “the LGBTQ community” are also under attack, Muslims should unite in solidarity under the far-left umbrella to fight against the racist, Islamophobic, homophobic system. As explained by the Emergent Fund, a progressive grant-making organization that funds American Muslim groups (as well as something called the “Transgender Gender-Variant Intersex Justice Project”):

The 2016 election results present immediate threats to a wide range of communities who were belittled, criminalized and attacked during the presidential campaign – immigrants, women, Muslim and Arab-American communities, Black people, LGBTQ communities, and all people of color…We will provide resources to defend against what’s coming and to develop innovative strategies to transform our country.

Similarly, the Proteus Fund, a grant-making organization funded by Soros and referenced in the Wikileaks documents as a key player in the effort to “create” Muslim leadership, states that it

…has moved towards an intersectional, racial justice lens to our work with Muslim, Arab, and South Asian (MASA) communities. Our grantmaking, programming, and technical assistance are focused increasingly on how MASA and allied communities, including communities of color, Latinx communities, immigrant communities, LGBTQ communities, and others, have been systematically targeted by biased and discriminatory portrayals and/or policies instituted through legislation, the criminal justice system, or media.

Also in this vein, Solidarity is This, one of the groups created by the OSF as part of its Muslim initiative,  asserts that “the laws, practices, and institutions in the United States” have led to “patriarchal and heteronormative policies that endanger the lives of women, queer people, and transgendered individuals; and to laws and attitudes that target immigrants, refugees, and Muslim, South Asian, and Arab communities.” Precisely why Muslims should oppose “heteronormative policies” is not explained.

Progressive foundations do not merely want to build solidarity between American Muslims and other victim-identity groups; they also want to nudge Muslim attitudes towards the view that same-sex relations are as inherently moral and natural as traditional marriage between a man and woman. The Arcus Foundation and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation have begun pouring money into the Muslim community to sway attitudes towards approval of same-sex marriage. These groups fund Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), whose slogan is: “Our Gender is Human, Our Orientation is Love.” This funding allows MPV to, for example, advocate at UN conferences for “overcoming authoritarian readings of holy books.” MPV is a project of the Human Rights Campaign, which describes itself as “the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans.”  “Quietly and diligently,” says MPV, “we have been building our progressive community, one city at a time, and now one country at a time.” Quietly, that is, until recently: MPV and HRC were at the center of controversy at the most recent Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention when ISNA officials asked them to vacate the booth they had rented in the convention bazaar for promoting values contrary to Islam. MPV issued a press release “calling out” ISNA for its “intolerance.”

Arcus also funds the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, which in turn sponsors the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, or MASGD (“pronounced like ‘masjid,’” the group advises). MASGD says it serves “a community whose members exist at the intersections of multiple oppressed identities,” and that it “aim[s] to increase the acceptance of gender and sexual diversity within Muslim communities.” Arcus has also given funding to Dr. Amina Wadud, recently embroiled in controversy for calling the Prophet Ibrahim a “deadbeat dad,” for “an ambitious three-year effort to develop commentary on what the most influential Islamic texts say about homosexuality, with the aim of disrupting the connections between more conservative interpretations and discriminatory practices.”

“Who’s Sticking Up for Muslim Americans At a Very Scary Moment?” asked the online journal Inside Philanthropy in 2015. Its answer: Proteus, the Soros-funded group. American Muslims too have noticed the support from progressive foundations. They’ve noticed the very real help from liberal groups like the ACLU, and they’ve also noticed the millions of dollars poured into anti-Muslim initiatives from segments of the political right. Thus it is perhaps understandable that mainstream American Muslim organizations would work with progressives and accept funding from them; in many cases, it may even make sense to do so. I myself was represented by the ACLU in a religious freedom lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

But American Muslims need to understand that funding from Proteus, Arcus, and so on is given pursuant to the left’s broader vision of refashioning Islam into an ethnic identity and social justice ideology and absorbing it into the progressive movement. At present, the progressive left does not view its alliance with Muslims as a marriage of equals, as a coalition that works together on issues of common concern but whose members respect their disagreement in other areas. Rather, as MVP proved by trying to spread teachings contrary to mainstream Sunni Islam at an ISNA convention and then aggressively “calling out” ISNA when it objected, the progressive left’s tolerance of Muslims’ social conservatism is temporary and strategic, and they will demand compliance with their moral code if and when they deem appropriate.

The situation of Muslims in America is indeed scary: an openly hostile man occupies the White House, well-funded anti-Muslim propagandists are working overtime, terrorists target the West in an effort to turn public opinion against us, and hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise. Our flattering friends on the left stand with us, while some of them work to mold Islam into something more to their liking. Our challenge in the face of all this is to keep our nerve: for knowledge of right and wrong, American Muslims must look not to expediency or the latest political trends but to the book of Allah, the Sunnah of his Prophet, and the insight of our qualified scholars. We must cooperate with anyone–left, right, or center–for Allah’s sake and in the pursuit of the common good, for ourselves and for our non-Muslim neighbors. But we must have the confidence to resist the temptation to betray eternal truths for temporary and illusory gains. With this moral clarity, we will enter alliances from a position of moral strength and leadership. Without it, we risk losing what makes us Muslims in the first place.

Ismail Royer is Research and Program Associate at the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom (CIRF). The views expressed here are his own and not those of CIRF. Read his blog, agoodtree.net, and follow him on Twitter @_ismailroyer

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Avatar

    HardTruth

    September 20, 2017 at 1:26 PM

    According to Pew’s 2017 study, 60% of young American-born Muslims believe homosexuality should be accepted by society. 55% believe that traditional interpretations of Islam need to change.

    Most American Muslims, especially those born here (like me) are liberal, because those values make sense to us, not because of some shadowy funding by Soros.

    Homosexuality is obviously a sin, but we have no issues with people choosing to engage in those activities. That’s there business, I have no interest in legislating against their freedom.

    If conservative Muslims (most of whom are old and/or not born in America) have a problem with this live and let live attitude (to you your way, and to me mine), they are free to back to Pakistan, or Iran, or Saudi, places where you will be beaten, jailed, or killed, for not conforming to a cleric’s conservative views on Islam.

    For most American Muslims, we prefer the freedom in America. Where we are free to practice Islam as conservatively or liberally as we want, as long as that doesn’t infringe on the rights of other communities to live their lives as they see fit.

    The liberalization of Islam in America has happened, and not from some shadow organization, but from Muslims like me who look at how Islam is practiced in the Middle-East, and look at it here, and know which we prefer.

    • Avatar

      Ismail Royer

      September 20, 2017 at 5:08 PM

      Thank you for your well thought out comment. You might be surprised to learn that, as someone who has lived and travelled extensively in Muslim and non-Muslim countries, I strongly agree with what you wrote in nearly every aspect–but not in all aspects. One important way in which I agree with you is in my belief that I am blessed to have been born in a land with the religious freedom that I believe Islam intends to preserve, but which has been lost in the Muslim world, for various reasons. I also agree with you that homosexuality is a sin. But for the far-left groups who seek to mold Muslim opinion, our belief that homosexuality is a sin is absolutely intolerable. In fact, what the far left doesn’t understand, and what I am trying to warn about in this article, is that religious freedom includes the freedom to believe that certain behavior is immoral in God’s eyes and harmful to families and society. On the contrary, it is part of their agenda that every individual will abandon “outdated” religious morality for the morality of the sexual revolution. If the progressive left cannot convince you of that, then they will try to convince your children. This issue is important enough that we should at least be having this conversation, so again I appreciate your respectful and thoughtful comments. –Ismail Royer

      • Avatar

        khalid

        November 9, 2017 at 3:00 PM

        Of course muslims are free to believe homosexuality is a sin, but they seem to demand that this belief be respected. You’re free from violence and state prosecution not from criticism. But we will call you out on your homophobia, we will demonstrate against you and we will protest your religion for being intolerant. We also have rights to our beliefs. My belief is your religion is silly superstition that is used way too often to discriminate against other people. We do wish muslims would make room for our LGBT members but if not then we will be intolerant to your intolerance. I’m glad people like you keep speaking up on these topics because of a lot of muslims are quiet so they can escape the criticism. Speak louder so your religion is revealed for what it is – a regressive ideology that belongs in seventh century Arabia not the 21st century West.

        Also it’s ridiculous that muslims move to the West and then complain that their beliefs aren’t being accepted and that they’re being conditioned by the West and then simultaneously try and convince us that they are well integrated. Islamophobia is a direct product of how muslims act and behave. That’s why there is no hinduphobia. I just feel sorry for those nominal and liberal muslims who are trying to get on with everybody but are being dragged into this mess by people who can’t seem to adapt to changing times. Go live on an island with other people like you, stop pestering the developed world with this nonsense.

  2. Avatar

    HardTruth

    September 20, 2017 at 9:10 PM

    ISMAIL ROYER,

    You are ascribing positions to liberals that they do not hold.

    Liberals don’t care if Muslims like homosexuality or not. If we think its moral or not. They only care that we won’t use our personal beliefs as a means to restrict the freedom of those who don’t share our views (like fundamentalist Christians attempt to do).

    That’s why most Muslims in America support gay-marriage. Not because we love gay stuff, but because we recognize the rights of people shouldn’t be restricted just because we don’t approve of their personal lifestyle.

    And standing up for these groups pays dividends. When we support their right to gay-marriage, they (and their numerous allies) support our right to build mosques and wear hijab.

    That’s why Muslims, the left, and various minority groups, are natural allies in America. We recognize that together, we can resist the persecution and curtailing of our freedom that the Right-Wing wants to impose.

    • Avatar

      Ismail Royer

      September 20, 2017 at 11:05 PM

      Mr. “Hard Truth”:

      Thank you for your reply, and thank you for your willingness to have this conversation.

      Now, you say that the progressive left movement is not bothered that mainstream Sunni Islam holds same-sex sexual activity to be a sin. In fact, they are deeply bothered by this, and, as I described in my article, they are working hard to change it. So for example, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which bills itself as the largest advocate for the acceptance of homosexuality in the United States, criticized ISNA for not including “queer” and “transgender” programming” at its 2015 convention. Then, when ISNA balked at HRC spreading material advocating the acceptance of homosexual sexual activity in Islam at its 2017 convention, HRC went straight to an extreme right-wing website, the American Spectator, to smear convention attendees who objected as “salafis.” (The right-wing piece HRC helped to create is here: https://spectator.org/pro-lgbt-muslim-group-says-it-was-kicked-out-of-muslim-conference-where-linda-sarsour-spoke/.)

      So why is this liberal group trying to dictate what Muslims teach at their conventions? Why is HRC’s first instinct to punish Sunni Muslims by placing a hit piece with an anti-Muslim far right website the moment Muslims don’t conform to their extreme left version of morality?

      Furthermore, you say that “standing up for these groups pays dividends. When we support their right to gay-marriage, they (and their numerous allies) support our right to build mosques and wear hijab.”

      But this is precisely the amoral, Machiavellian calculus that I’m warning about in my article. We must be clear, first and foremost, that there is no such thing as a right to gay marriage, nor is there such a thing as gay marriage: in this case, there is only illicit sexual relations between two individuals of the same sex. If that’s not clear to you, then see: https://muslimmatters.org/2015/07/20/debating-homosexuality/

      So for Muslims to betray the timeless, noble morality our Prophet (SWS) taught us by trading it for political acceptance would be like those whom the Quran describes threw their revealed book behind their backs: “they bartered it for a small price: what a bad bargain they made!” Aali Imraan 187.

      I also wonder, if the progressive left is so concerned with principles and doing the right thing, why would they only support building mosques and wearing hijab if Muslims support same-sex marriage? Shouldn’t they support those things even if our conscience prohibits us from throwing our endorsement behind same-sex sexual relations?

      Two other important points: (1) there are liberal groups like the ACLU and Public Citizen (Ralph Nader’s group) who help Muslims–and anyone–without regard to what our views are, unlike HRC, Soros-aligned groups, and so on; (2) conservatives who you deride as “Christian fundamentalists” like the Becket Fund, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Catholic Church, the Witherspoon Institute, and the Church of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) have also been very strong in supporting Muslim religious rights because they recognize our shared family values–and they support us despite Muslim organizations’ leaning toward the progressive left under the influences I discuss in the article.

      Finally, be aware that the very same foundation that funds the HRC front group Muslims for Progressive Values, the Arcus foundation, poured millions of dollars into a successful effort to get the United Methodist Church to change its official position on homosexual activity. How did they do it? By funding pro-gay front groups, just as Arcus, Soros, and others are doing with the Muslims. See: https://goodnewsmag.org/2012/01/outsider-influence-over-homosexuality-at-general-conference

      And these same foundations won’t stop until they achieve the same results with American Muslims that they’ve achieved with Methodists and Catholics in the United States–and they’re not even done with those denominations yet.

      I believe that these sorts of shenanigans are exceedingly manipulative and immoral, and that Muslims deserve to know about it. Don’t you?

      –Ismail Royer

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      September 21, 2017 at 12:06 AM

      Funny! You support a cause knowing its a sin because you don’t want to “restrict” people who don’t share “our views”. May I ask who’s going to be your Judge in the Aakhirah? The LGBT community probably? And they gonna send you to Jannah for supporting them? Lol!

      “And standing up for these groups pays dividends. When we support their right to gay-marriage, they (and their numerous allies) support our right to build mosques and wear hijab.”
      Shame on what the people have been reduced to in the name of “tolerance” and “liberation”. You support evil because it pays you? And you think that “preserves” Islam? May Allah mend those who try to “adjust” Islam/muslims to the evil the world has been sprinting towards.

  3. Avatar

    HardTruth

    September 21, 2017 at 1:01 AM

    You sound like one of those radicals who wants to force people to follow your brand of Islam, whether they are liberal or conservative, Muslim or non-Muslim.

    The Muslim World has plenty of countries and groups just like that. Sure, they are oppressive, backward, miserable hell-holes that Muslims are desperately fleeing to try and get to the secular West, but by all means.

    If you feel the need to police peoples lives, who they sleep with, what they drink, how they dress, what they say/think, and want to punish people who offend your sensibilities, you are free to move to Pakistan, Saudi, Iran etc.

    The majority of Muslims in America are liberal, and enjoy being able to practice Islam as we see fit, whether its in a Burkha or Bikini.

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      September 21, 2017 at 3:40 AM

      This is my first time talking to the new “brand” of muslims emerging these days – make-islam-look-good-to-people-by-hook-or-crook.
      Sorry but that isn’t needed at all. Allah is the protector of Deen. Islam is Already great and there is no need WHATSOEVER to stoop it down to suit the needs(evils) of ever-changing world. Today, its LGBT rights, tomorrow it’ll be drugs and then slavery and then some other crap. Are you saying you’ll keep providing your valuable “support” to each of these causes so as to be called the moderate-and-liberal-muslim?

      “Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining GOOD and forbidding EVIL. And it is they who are the successful” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:104]

    • Avatar

      Amatullah

      September 21, 2017 at 3:51 AM

      If you feel the need to police peoples lives, who they sleep with, what they drink, how they dress, what they say/think, and want to punish people who offend your sensibilities, you are free to move to Pakistan, Saudi, Iran etc.

      No brother, certainly not!
      There is no need whatsoever to “police” anyone. Nor should you interfere with one’s wishes BUT that doesNOT mean I agree to my neighbor sleeping with someone else, or my friend taking drugs or my halaqa friend leaving her hijab. It doesNOT mean I find a twisted reason of letting them sin and call it liberation. It doesNOT also mean I shut up and let the world commit atrocities and agree to everything they do.
      I DONOT have a right to enforce but I DO have a right to call the right Right and wrong Wrong. I DO have a right to not agree with every fancy evil the world invents.
      Bro, that is where lies the difference :) Let’s be who we are even when the current flows against us.

  4. Avatar

    Unimpressed

    September 21, 2017 at 2:40 AM

    “Hard truth,” you ought to be named “soft lies.” Your gross overreaction to simple FACTS brought up by Ismail Royer shows that you are deluded and triggered far left extremist. You have no counter arguments, just whining. Your arrogance and ignorance are laughable. You sound like a nutter with your nonsense about “old men who are conservative and need to go back to Pakistan etc.” The nonsense about homosexuality and the bikini clearly demonstrate you have no knowledge of Islam. The majority of Muslim Americans are NOT liberal despite the loud noise made by well financed opportunists who claim to speak for Muslims. You speak for no one but yourself. This is not the first time Islam has been targeted for “change” to conform it with kufr. It failed in the past and inshallah it will fail again. Your failed generation will be rightly looked at as munafiqs who sold out the Deen for political expediency. The only “dividends” you’ll get is kufr.
    Muslims will never compromise our Deen.

  5. Avatar

    Ahmad B.

    September 21, 2017 at 10:05 AM

    Wow, Hard Truth. Scary. Your discourse, conceptual framework, categories, etc. bear no trace of Islamic ideas and values. Have you ever studied the religion beyond the basics? It’s disheartening to see someone so bought into current discourse, with no critical distance whatsoever. You don’t see the emptiness of cliches like “not policing what people want to do privately,” etc.? All law is coercive, the law always “polices” somethings and not others. The question about *what* can rightfully be policed and not has a lot to do with one’s overall ethical system, morals, etc.

    Allah in the Qur’an not only forbids zina, to take one example, as a sin, but actually criminalizes it by instituting a penalty to be carried out by the public authorities (see Surat al-Nur, 24:2). Clearly Allah does not consider sexual conduct to be a purely “private” affair with no measurable public consequences. How do you square that with your facile notion of “not telling people how to live their lives” or “policing what people want to do”?

    Do you hold this attitude for the West only, because it is not Muslim and officially secular, or do you hold these Western, liberal, secular values to be universal? In other words, do you believe governments in the Muslim world are under a moral obligation to endorse same-sex marriage in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Malaysia, etc. in the name of “non-discrimination,” “freedom,” and “equality,” or do you hold that they have the moral duty to protect through the law Allah’s norms and laws regarding things He has legislated for the Muslim community?

  6. Avatar

    Jibreel

    September 22, 2017 at 11:00 PM

    I’m a white convert to Islam of almost 14 years. I was the most active member in my community for a very long time. Now the liberal media has managed to brainwash my beloved community into shifting their anger away from “the kuffar” or “the yahood” and onto anyone with white skin. Now I am personally to blame for their problem, with 99% of their conversations about how my community is an “oppressor” and that it is impossible to be racist to white people. One of my white convert friends posted on an MSA facebook site that Islamophobia was really bad, and one of the kids commented “what the f— do you know about Islamophobia, you’re white no one will do anything to you.” This was a guy who family shut him out and abused him when he converted. It’s almost as if today’s Muslims see their Islam as some sort of birthright, as if they are the chosen people and white people are the kuffar. These SJW Muslims are generally non-practicing, full of anger, and are ready to yell and scream at any white person who enters a masjid. Myself, I can handle my life Al Hamdulillah, I will be ok, I have several friends who will support me but now when one someone converts I think to myself “I give him two weeks.”

  7. Avatar

    AJF

    September 23, 2017 at 5:46 PM

    Muslims are traditionally from honor-shame cultures, with a focus on outward conformity to behavioral norms for the sake of communal integrity.

    The Christian West is traditionally a guilt society, with emphasis on inward beliefs manifested in outward behavior for the sake of individual personal integrity.

    Muslims are now entering guilt societies in the West. They are having children who are more influenced by guilt culture than by shame culture.

    One byproduct of guilt culture is that the accusation of hypocrisy looms large.

    It is a serious matter to claim that you want to demand tolerance for your(Muslim)self, and then turn around and deny tolerance to someone else, like gay people.

    If there is one thing Soros knows how to do, it is how to use guilt and accusations of hypocrisy to manipulate people to do things.

    Muslim young people are easy pickings. Rejected by their natural allies on the conservative right, they have been thrown into the arms of the “tolerant” progressive Left.

    Leftists only ask that Muslims not be hypocritical about their desire for tolerance and extend that tolerance to all oppressed groups, like any good member of a guilt culture would do.

    We all know the consequences if Muslims refuse the entreaties of the Leftists. They will be spat out with contempt and join the ranks of the deplorables, most of whom deplore Muslims. That will constitute another (final) rejection for young Muslims that they would find nearly unbearable.

  8. Avatar

    tib

    September 24, 2017 at 12:31 PM

    I honestly tuned out the second Soros was mentioned.

    I get so tired of prattling on and on about homosexuality. If it doesn’t effect you: let it be.

    But be cognizant off reality: the gay community is not with muslims. Everyone got egg on their face when it turned out that Mateen guy was a heavily closeted self-loathing homosexual lashing out on those pretenses. Even Her Majesty herself was immediately calling for super increased surveilance and opinion molding endeavors.

  9. Avatar

    Inqiyaad

    September 24, 2017 at 11:41 PM

    Very pertinent and insightful! It is uplifting to see the growing efforts at warning about the impact of leftist ideologies on the trajectory of Western Muslim’s state of affairs, and more importantly the impact on their state of Iman.

    I couldn’t agree more with you that attempts are being made to fashion Muslim identity centered on ethnic “brownness” and secular ideals. However, what has been missing is discussion about the prologue to the current state of affairs. Specifically, the attempts at molding the “American (Western) Muslim” mindset to see themselves as an entity separate from the broader Ummah; based on nationality and domicile in “Western” lands. The egocentric nature and sense of superiority displayed in this discourse is definitely problematic; but that is a discussion for another day!

    More relevant to our current discussion are the exemptions attributed by “Western Muslims” to themselves based on residence in “modern” societies, in contrast to the eastern (Muslim) societies which are still attached to anachronistic ideals and defunct culture. Then, it’s only a matter of time (in more than one way) before people start seeing demands for “progress” from the “progressive” left as reasonable. After all, “maqasid” (combined with whimsical and ever transforming standards of justice and well-being) or just plain “different time and place” arguments were mainstreamed and rendered as cornerstones of Shariah (at the expense of primary textual sources) to build “American (Western) Muslim” identity; never mind the mutilation of our Islam that ensued. Will someone display even a semblance of responsibility for opening the floodgates? Rather, even as we see these floodgates opening, the cats (yes, cats!) are still nibbling away at the base of the dam itself!

    “Brown culture is holding us down” vs “White injustice is holding us down”, is there any degree of difference between centering community identity on any one these two battle cries? For the most part, no! To me these both are two ugly sides of the same coin, but the severing of ties (with parents and their generation) makes the first cry just a tad bit worse. Please don’t get me wrong; I too was repulsed by the recent ad hominem directed against you by a certain “not in peace-always hating” person who is incapable of even concealing hypocrisy. But, overall, the preponderant theme has been to drive identity based on antagonism to brown culture rather than one based on celebration of “brownness”. Regardless, I agree that the need of the hour is to reset the fulcrum of our discourse based on the Pleasure of Allah; nothing less than that will suffice!

    May Allah bless you to continue the good work and nurture the good tree!

  10. Avatar

    Khalil

    September 30, 2020 at 12:17 PM

    Liberals aren’t interested in “shaping” Muslim views. They’re interested in building a coalition of tolerant voting communities who seek to ensure freedom from discrimination and an open, inclusive society are not footnotes in American history but real experiences that will serve as hallmarks for muslim, queer, queer muslim and any other identity in the US.

    To do that no one needs to “change your religion” or conspiratorily deceive you into some false shadow religion they’ve created for you. Its as easy as saying- hey, you deserve respect and so do I. Lets speak up in support of each other.

    It actually doesnt require you to not be homophobic. It also does not require you believe LGBTQ people/love/marriage/sex is OK. It also doesn’t require LGBTQ people to think your ninja fashion is stylish or your god is real. Just that we respect each other and support each other’s rights to be by demanding respect for all with our vote.

    The author’s bizarre beliefs betray an inherent homophobia. Its more plausible to believe George Soros has created an Alt-Islam in America than it is to believe that a majority of Muslims actually think being gay is fine… and- in addition- realize its important as a minority community to support the rights of other minorities (the same rights the author depends on LGBT Muslims to defend.

    Muslim Matters is so much more sophisticated than this.

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#Society

Politics In Islam: On Muslims Partaking In Political Engagement In Non-Muslim Countries

Imam Asad Zaman, Guest Contributor

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Some Muslims are convinced that participation in the elections is forbidden. Some even worry that engaging in politics might cause someone to become a kāfir, because it is a matter of walāʾ. Their argument is that participation necessitates approval of and allegiance to unbelief, and thus this makes participants unbelievers. The main verse cited to reach such a position is that Allah, the Exalted, says: “Let not the believers take the disbelievers as awliyāʾ against other believers.” The claim that this verse prohibits Muslims from partaking in political engagement in non-Muslim countries is immensely consequential to our communities, and so we should take care to understand this ayah in detail.

We must first consider the meaning of the word ‘awliyāʾ. It is the plural of the Arabic word waliy. Many English translations of the Qur’an translate this word as “friend,” causing us to understand the ayah above as prohibiting us from taking the disbelievers as friends. But this meaning would directly contradict multiple verses of the Quran and the well-established practice of our noble Messenger .

Clearly we need to examine this verse more carefully. Most dictionaries variously translate the Arabic word waliy to mean custodian, protector, helper, or authority. Typically a waliy is someone who has responsibility, allegiance, or authority over somebody else. For example, in Islamic law, a father is titled the waliy of his children. The word wāli, which is a derivative of the same root, is also used as an administrative title such as governor or magistrate of a place or region.

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My preferred English word for the Arabic word waliy is “ally.” The word is used in English to describe two separate individuals or parties who participate in favor of each other. This word best fits the Quranic context for the word waliy.

According to the Quran, Allah is the waliy of the believers, and the believers are the waliy of Allah. Allah being the waliy of the believers is consistent with the meanings of “custodian,” “protector,” “helper,” or “authority.” Because clearly Allah is all these things to the believers. But these meanings are not consistent with us, the believers, in our relationship with Allah, the Exalted and Mighty.

But the word “ally” can apply to both the superior party and the inferior. Consider two countries who are allies in defense and military matters. While one might be stronger, more powerful, and even dictate its demands to the other, they are still allies with one another. And Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is far greater than any such comparison.

So when Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) describes Himself as the waliy of the believers, it means that we seek His continual guidance, help, and protection. Our role and responsibility in this alliance is not the same, as nothing we do can ever benefit or harm Allah. Allah makes it clear that He is not in need of our protection or assistance, as He is All-Powerful and free from any weakness. We express our allegiance to him through our worship, obedience, reverence, and love. The awliyāʿ of Allah are those who dedicate themselves to perfecting these duties.

Clearly the alliance the believers have with Allah is completely unequal since there is no similarity between the Creator and the creation. While we take Allah as our ally out of our incompetence and dependence, He chooses us as allies purely out of mercy and kindness. And we desperately beg Allah to remain our ally, and to permit us to be allies of Him.

With this understanding of the word waliy, we can now better analyze the verse in question. Notice how the verse’s prohibition against taking unbelievers as allies is not unqualified; it specifies that we must not do so against other believers. We understand from this that it is permitted to make a treaty with unbelievers as long as it does not harm our fellow believers. Our beloved Messenger himself did this when he entered Madinah and made a treaty with the two major tribes of Aws and Khazraj, and with more than a dozen minor tribes pagan and Jewish tribes. The Muslims were expecting major attacks from the idolaters of Quraysh, and so their alliance with neighboring tribes was in the interest of the Muslim community as a whole.

This immediately forces us to question the validity of the military alliance between Israel and Egypt that deprives the people of Gaza of basic necessities. It is this sort of arrangement that the verse seems to warn so starkly against. Let those who partook take heed, as the verse ends with a stark threat: “And Allah warns you of Himself.”

Muslims can be friends with non-Muslims. Muslims can ally with non-Muslims. But a Muslim may never harm another Muslim. “It is enough of an evil for a person to belittle his Muslim brother. The entirety of one Muslim is sacred to another—his blood, his wealth, and his honor.”

And to Allah belongs all good.

Politics In Islam: Muslims Are Called To Pursue Justice

 


Quran 3:28ْ وَِريَنأَكافُِْمْؤِمنُوَنالِْخِذالَنتَتَّقُواِمْنُهْمتُقََّاليَتََّّالأَِسِمَنََّّللاِفِيَشْيٍءإْيِلَكفَلَْٰلذَُمْؤِمنِيَنَۖوَمنيَفْعََْمِليَاِصيُرَءِمندُوِنالْلَىََّّللاِالَِوإَسهُُِۗرُكُمََّّللاُنَفَْويَُحذاةًۗ

Let not believers take disbelievers as allies rather than believers. And whoever does that has nothing withAllah, except when taking precaution against them in prudence. And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the destination.

Quran 2: 25  7ِماِتإُُّظلْخِرُجُهمِمَنالَمنُوايُِذيَنآَُّّيالََّّللاُئَِكَوِلٰولََُماِتۗأُُّظللَىالُِهمِمَنالنُّوِرإْخِرُجونََّطاُغوُتيُْوِليَاُؤُهُمالَُرواأِذيَنَكفَََّهلاَىالنُّوِرَۖوالِرُۖهْمِفيْصَحاُبالنَّاَأَخاِلدُوَنAllah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into thelight. And those who disbelieve-their allies are Taghut. They take them out of the light into darknesses. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.10Quran 10:62-64َوَالُهْمَيْحَزنُوَنِهْمْيَالَخْوٌفَعلََءََّّللاِْوِليَاََّنأَِالإأ-وَنََوَكانُوايَتَّقَُمنُواِذيَنآْوُزَّال-فَِْلَكُهَوالَٰماِتََّّللاِۚذَْْلِخَرةَِۚالتَْبِديَلِلَكِلَوفِياَحيَاةِالدُّْنيَاْبُْشَرٰىفِيالُْهُماللَُمعَِظيال-ْ

Unquestionably, [for] the allies of Allah there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. Those who believed and were fearing Allah. For them are good tidings in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. No change is there in the words of Allah. That is what is the great attainment

Quran 17:111ٌّيِمَوِلهَُُّكنلْميَِكَولَُْملْهَُشِريٌكفِيالَُّكنلْميََولََولَدًاِخذْْميَتَِّذيلََِّالَحْمدُِلِلَِّْلالَوقُِيًراِْرهُتَْكبلَِۖوَكبَنالذُّAnd say, “Praise to Allah, who hasnot taken a son and has had no partner in [His] dominion and has no [needof a] protector out of weakness; and glorify Him with [great] glorification.”12Forty Hadith, Imam al-Nawawi, #35َ،ُكُمْسِلمَْخاهُالََرأْنيَْحِقََِحْسِباْمِرٍئِمْنالَّشِرأٌمبِمَحَراُمْسِلِْمَعلَىالُمْسِلَْوِعْرُضُّلال:

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Politics In Islam: Muslims Are Called To Pursue Justice

Imam Asad Zaman, Guest Contributor

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The pursuit of justice is a core Islamic value. One of the important roles Allah, the Exalted, assigned to His messengers is the task of establishing justice among the people. Allah, the Almighty, emphasized the importance of justice when He prohibited Himself from oppression and declared it forbidden among us humans. Allah is the Lord of all justice and fairness. In His fairness, He commands us to not allow our anger or hatred towards any group lead us to injustice against them. “Be just,” He commands, “it is closer to righteousness.”

Allah, the Most High, commands us to be witnesses for justice, even against ourselves. The concept of “even against ourselves,” is an open call to all people of faith to rise to the occasion, especially where we see systemic or structural oppression. In most such cases, the oppression is carried out in our name, usually by our elected government.

Allah’s emphasis on justice leads many Muslims to worry that if they vote for a president who transgresses against another country, the fault falls on everyone who voted for him. This fear paralyzes Muslim engagement in the American political system. Let us examine the circumstances of responsibility in such cases.

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To be clear, the present governments of almost all countries on Earth, including the so-called Muslim countries operate with corruption and oppression. Taking Egypt as an example, the government’s domestic policies have led to the unjust death and imprisonment of thousands of Egyptian citizens, and their foreign policy enables the perpetuation of Gaza’s destruction. This, however, does not require the average Egyptian Muslim citizen to reject all relationship to the nation of Egypt. The question then arises: how responsible is the Muslim for the actions of his government? Likewise, when the American government acts with injustice at home and abroad, how responsible is the American Muslim for the actions of his government? When the average citizen is not consulted before the execution of military operations, to what degree are we held responsible?

Allah’s Messenger provided for us a balanced approach to engaging with the injustice around us. Abu Saʿīd al-Khudri narrates that he heard the Prophet say,

“Whoever sees evil should change it with his hand; and if he is unable to do so, then he should change it with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then he should hate it with his heart—that is the least of faith.”

Let us take a practical example:

In 2001, President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq. To justify his action, he invented a series of lies that Iraq possessed nuclear capabilities. It took him more than a year to align the power brokers in America and Europe to enable this evil action to occur. Neither the opinions nor the interests of the American population were taken into consideration.

Before the invasion, the public had two concerns: that the justification presented for the war was speculative and unfounded, and the war would result in countless unnecessary deaths. These worries quickly materialized into realities as time proved them to be true. However before the war, various politicians, pundits and opinion makers helped sell this unjust action to the people in order to gain their consent. They are undoubtedly guilty of murder and should be remembered as peddlers of death.

But what was the duty of an average American Muslim? The hadith mentioned above lists three levels of engagement:

Level One:

Someone who was part of the military or legislative authority had a duty in front of Allah to attempt to stop the invasion with action. If he was a congressman, he had a moral duty to vote against the war. If he was a member of the military, any intelligence agency, or government policy group, he had a moral duty to challenge the claims of the war’s proponent’s and provide information to the public so that they can know the truth. This duty applied to the person despite the likelihood that such a course of action would have probably jeopardized their career or their life.

Level Two:

Most Americans were not in the position described in level one. In their case, their duty was to speak out against this act of injustice. They could have written letters to their legislators, participated in protest rallies, held events in congress, and even spoken to their neighbors, classmates and colleagues about how wrong this action was. Any American Muslim who was not under threat of arrest for speaking out, but chose to remain silent still, failed to fulfill his duty to protest the evil.

Level Three:

There is little likelihood that the approach of silence would be justified for most American Muslims. There are countries (such as Saudi Arabia), where people can be arrested, tortured, even murdered if they speak out against the government. A Muslim living in one of these societies has a duty to at least engage with the injustices around them on an internal level, detesting the action from the core of their heart. As for the Muslim who does not detest that millions of innocent people are killed, they should check their heart; they would be missing what the Allah’s Messenger described as, “the least of faith.”

What faith is left in the heart of the Muslim who is not bothered by the death of more than a million Muslims?! Even if his mind is polluted with patriotism, tribalism, nationalism, or an inclination towards military culture, there is no excuse for the lack of humanity that is required for this level of apathy.

Considering the hadith above, our minimum duty is to stand and speak against the use of our tax dollars for such acts of injustice. There were indeed many Muslim and non-Muslim voices of dissent that protested the American invasion of Iraq. In addition to the spiritual duty of speaking out against injustice, it was clear to many what was later proven to be true: the invasion was not good for America. The financial and human loss incurred by this war has not made neither America, nor the world safer.

Many propose that Muslims should react to the injustices in their countries by leaving them. But this evasive approach fails to actually address the injustice. There is a greater, though more challenging, expectation of addressing the injustices from within, especially in a country like America where criticisms are tolerated and protest can lead to policy that is felt around the world. A large amount of the pain, and suffering that is happening to the Muslims today can be stopped from inside America. Our brothers and sisters in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Jordan, Somalia, Kenya, Yemen, Iraq, and Sudan are hoping that we will do something from our positions that will alleviate their suffering. They need our help.

Exonerating ourselves because our government acts without our consent may appease our consciences, but is of no benefit to our global Muslim community.

Such an approach is contradictory to the teaching of the Prophet as made clear by the hadith above. We have the opportunity and ability to speak out against evil, so passive dissent is not an option.

Allah tells us the story of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and al-Khadir 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)  in Surah al-Kahf (peace be upon them both). When they boarded a ship of some men who agreed to give them a ride to their destination, Khadir pierced the boat’s basin, damaging their source of livelihood. Confused, Musa criticized this action, as it seemed like an injustice towards people who readily did a favor for them. What Musa didn’t know was that the men would encounter a tyrant king who had sent his men to seize all boats that were sound and intact. And as these men had helped Musa and al-Khadir, he wished to help them evade this king’s oppressive policy; the minor damage saved them from losing their boat!

The king was an oppressive tyrant. Musa and al-Khadir (peace be upon both of them) did not possess the power to remove the king or prevent the king from his evil action, and so they took action according to their ability. They knew that though they could not save everyone from the injustice, it was still their duty to act within their capacity to reduce the king’s injustice.

The Story of The Secret Believer

Allah also tells us the beautiful story of the secret believer in the Quran, who worked in the unjust government of the Pharaoh at the time of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). We know he had a fairly high status in the government because he was part of their most confidential meetings. This secret believer did not exit the government after he saw the many evil deeds of the Pharaoh’s government. During the discussion in the Pharaoh’s cabinet where they decided that Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was to be killed, this believer rose up and voiced his objections to the injustice, citing historical, logical, and emotional appeals. The meeting, however, concluded with the decision to execute Musa. Having been unable to stop this royal decree, he still made the effort to warn Musa so as to give him the chance to flee.

Allah tells us the beautiful story of the secret believer in the Quran, who worked in the unjust government of the Pharaoh at the time of Musa Click To Tweet

Instead of condemning him for participating in a government founded upon unbelief, Allah exalts his mention in His glorious book. He is our example of speaking truth to power, and the reason for Musa’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)safety from Pharaoh’s plot. This man used his position to obstruct oppression, not perpetuate it.

As Muslim Americans, we live in a non-Muslim country. The decisions and actions of our government impacts all of us living in this country. Disengagement will allow selfish people to make decisions that will result in harm to our communities.

Participation will allow us to follow the examples of proactive engagement so as to prevent harm and ultimately change corrupt systems from within. An all-or-nothing approach will almost always lead to nothing.

Allah, the Exalted, provides these examples so that we can understand the practical role of Muslim in an overwhelmingly hostile society. Even though our environments have not reached that degree, we can still relate to the feelings of being oppressed and ostracized for our faith. Allah’s lesson to us in these stories is that our faith shouldn’t prevent us from trying to change these circumstances.

And to Allah is the end of all matters.

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Podcast: Muslims and The Fenty Fitnah | With Omar Usman and Khaled Nurhssein

Zeba Khan

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American Pop Star Rihanna, who owns luxury fashion line Fenty, featured a song with the voice of Mishary Rashid Al Afasi reciting a hadith from the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) about the end of times at recent lingerie fashion show.

Many are offended, but what’s the best way to respond to the situation?

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Join Zeba Khan as she discusses this with Omar Usman, executive director of MuslimMatters, and Khaled Nurhssein, a community organizer, a local khateeb, and an intermittent student of knowledge.

Many Muslims are offended by pop-star Rihanna's use of a hadith in the music for a lingerie fashion show. What is the right way to respond?Click To Tweet

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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