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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.

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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15 Comments

15 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!

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Africa is a blessed continent with resources and biodiversity that would impress anyone. Africa’s history in Islam (while neglected) played a major role, it was home to the first country to welcome the Muslims and allow them to practice freely. After the spread of Islam trough traders, regions across Africa became hubs for knowledge and trade. The richest man in history hailed from Africa and was Muslim, and his name was Mansa Musa. The riches of Africa have always sought after. People from all over the world have aimed to to do business or exploit the blessed continent. Unfortunately, the history of Africa is filled with strife, bloodshed, slavery, and holocausts. This rings true till today. The purpose of this article is not to dwell on the past, be it Arab influence or colonization. The events going on today needs out attention, we have ignored the struggles of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Africa long enough. 

The first major scramble for Africa was in the 19th century, when Europe carved it up like it was their property. The second was during the cold war, when East and West seek allegiances of newly independent African states. We are witnessing a third scramble that is less obvious, and more behind the scenes with “investments” and “wars”. It can be described as a cold war between China and America. 

African mines

Some see the resources they have like oil, chocolate, rare earth minerals, diamonds, etc. as a blessing (investors mostly), but to the people living through this every day it is a curse. Oil or mineral dependent countries in Africa suffer from enclave industrialization, limited diversity in their economy, and vulnerability to price shock. While this is happening, they see decay in their agriculture, manufacturing, and other trades. The continent is still traumatized by five centuries of exploitation. It is no easy obstacle to overcome. What we are seeing will only get worse as oil production is expected to peak in 2025, world scarcity will increase, and we will see more wars around oil. For the last decade, China has been using “soft power,” basically using money for leverage. This comes in the form of aid, trade, infrastructure projects, and loans. This is a plot to make them a superpower in the region. America, on the other hand, is doing what it has been doing since 1776, it is confronting Africa as a “battlefield,” basically running operations or anti-terrorism projects in dozens of countries that the American public is unaware of. 

One example is South Sudan, and the American campaign to split the Muslim country of Sudan to two. Before the split, China reportedly had invested $20 billion in Sudan. With American interventions occurring, China watched the events unfold. After the split the newly inaugurated president of South Sudan flew to China to secure an $8 billion investment. By 2013, China controlled 40% of their largest crude oil producers and was importing 77% of the country’s output. After unrest and bloodshed occurring in Libya, Mali, Sudan, etc, China has established a stronger effort with peacekeeping officers to protect their oil interest. As one superpower implements one tactic, another superpower follows its traditional method. Last year in Niger, American soldiers, including two commandos, were killed. This was surprising to me as I was unaware of American military operation in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world with Muslims making 98% of its population.

We have seen a dangerous rise of commandos in Africa. In 2006, under Bush, 1% of deployed commandos were in Africa, by 2011 under Obama it had risen to 3%. It does not stop there, before stepping down from office, in 2016, 16.5% of American commandos deployed were deployed in Africa.

In 2006, only 70 special ops were deployed across the continent, in 2014 we have 700 deployed special ops in Africa. “None of these special operations forces are intended to be engaged in direct combat operations,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem. Despite this declaration, despite the deaths of soldiers in Niger, U.S. commandos keep finding themselves in situations that are indistinguishable from combat. 

In March of 2018, the New York Times released an article of 10 unreported attacks of American troops between 2015 and 2017. Despite these attacks and distrust towards the region, the Pentagon built a $100 million drone base in Agadez, Niger, regardless of the people’s concerns towards a base being built near their home. Our worldly desires is fueling this new scramble for Africa. Our need for resources, technology, and fuel comes at a cost. This cost manifests itself as the development of the rentier state (eventually developing into a kleptocracy across Africa, professional soldiers ruling the resource-rich lands or an expansion of the “war on terror”. 

Here are a few theoretical solutions, some are to be initiated by the government and some rely on people-power movements. The government needs to reduce corruption and that can be done through a menu of policies created to control and maintain corruption. Controlling corruption can be done through; changing the selections of national agents, modifying the rewards and punishments systems, and restructuring the relations between national agents and users to reduce monopolies. Another venue the government can explore is directly distributing resource revenues to the people. This is practiced in Alaska, and has been wildly successful. Finally, the government can invest the resource revenues in social development. Harnessing the revenues for human development to include education, healthcare, job training, and housing will lift up the urban and rural poor. 

The people can pressure the government to pursue any of those ideas mentioned. A power-people movement can look different depending on the need. One idea is that consumers in the West to boycott African minerals due to corruption and/or exploitation. This can develop into “smart boycotts” where we use internet hedge funds to attack corporations that exploit and feed into corruption. Developing campaigns like “blood diamonds” in the past have been proven effective to generate awareness and bring vital change. The same was done with the ivory, and now even China has laws making the product illegal.

People-power movements work and have helped locals rid of unwanted corporations in their region. Ken Saro-Wiwa, was a leader of the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta, he rallied against the abuses of the Nigerian military regime and the oil pollution created by multi-national companies, which resulted in a change of consciousness for the better. 

In his words: “Whether I live or die is immaterial. It is enough to know that there are people who commit time, money and energy to fight this one evil among so many others predominating worldwide. If they do not succeed today, they will succeed tomorrow.”

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#Current Affairs

CAA – NRC Row: Why There Is More To It Than An Attack On Secular Ethos

indian economy caa
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‘Indian Muslims have nothing to fear. No one knows what CAA/NRC is all about. They are simply protesting because they are misled’, thus proclaimed a former classmate of mine who himself left India for brighter prospects during PM Narendra Modi’s regime but continues to believe in his promise of ‘acche din’ (good days).

Today the whole of India is divided over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which is to be followed by the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Thousands of students from India’s premier institutions like Jamia Milia Islamia, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, IITs and IIMs are thronging the streets to protest against the bigoted law.

The ripple effect has even reached top educational institutions across the world including Harvard, Oxford, Yale and MIT. From lawyers to celebrities to academicians, people across the world, belonging to different religions are raising their dissent against the law which is deemed to be against the secular fabric of the Indian Constitution.

What is this law all about?

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) provides an accelerated path to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities from three countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is an official record of all those who are legal Indian citizens. So far, such a database has only been created for the northeastern state of Assam which has been struggling with the issue of illegal immigration for a long time. In Assam 1.9 million people were effectively rendered stateless after NRC and were put into detention centers. Out of these 1.9 million, around 0.6 million are Muslim.

On November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah declared during a parliamentary session that the register would be extended to the entire country.

Why the uproar?

At first glance the CAA seems to be a harmless law, which the government claims was made to help those who are facing religious persecution. However, the question arises why only those suffering religious persecution? Millions of people are suffering persecution in the name of race, region or language in India’s neighboring countries.

Even if we talk about just religious persecution, why does the law only accommodate those from three neighboring countries? Rohingyas are suffering brutal persecution in Myanmar. Christians are suffering in Sri Lanka. Tibetans have been persecuted because of their beliefs.

Many people opine that the CAA is not problematic in itself. It becomes problematic when it’s seen in conjunction with NRC. When NRC is implemented, millions of people will be declared illegal due to lack of documents in a country where the masses live in villages and documentation is a complicated bureaucratic process with a high error rate. According Professor Shruti Rajagopalan, the State Of Aadhaar Report 2017-18 by IDinsight, covering 2,947 households, found that 8.8% of Aadhaar holders reported errors in their name, age, address or other information in their Aadhaar letter (Aadhaar is the identity number issued to Indian residents). In the NRC, a spelling mistake can deprive one of citizenship and 8.8% affects over 120 million people.

They will be rendered stateless and sent to detention centers with inhumane conditions. Out of these ‘illegals’, everyone but Muslims can seek accelerated citizenship under CAA.

The fact is that even if we view CAA alone, the very act of offering citizenship on the basis of religion goes against the fundamentals of secularism and equality as mentioned in the Indian constitution.

UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has termed the CAA as “fundamentally discriminatory”.

In this context, it’s also relevant to understand the revolt that is happening in the north eastern state of Assam. While the rest of India is against CAA and NRC for exclusion of Muslims, the people of Assam are protesting against the inclusion of 1.3 million undocumented Non-Muslims, as identified in the NCR. According to them, if these foreigners are granted citizenship under CAA, they pose a threat to the language and culture of Assam.

Police brutality against protesters

Student fraternity across the world was shocked when students of Jamia Milia Islamia who were peacefully protesting against the CAA were brutally attacked by police forces. Police accused students of destroying public property and fired tear gas shells, beat them up mercilessly and even open fired at them. They barged into the library, mosque and even the women’s hostels without authorization.

Video footage shot by students and reviewed by Reuters show students, including women, hiding beneath desks in the library, cowering in restrooms, jumping over broken furniture in an attempt to flee. It was later verified that none of the students had anything to do with some of the buses that were set ablaze outside the campus.

Reports of even more horrific police brutality surfaced from Aligarh Muslim University. A student’s hand had to be amputated after a tear gas shell hit him and exploded. Hundreds of students were severely injured.

Section 144 of the Criminal Code which prohibits any gathering of 5 or more people has been imposed across the entire state of UP. Internet has been shut down in several parts.

Videos showing police destroying properties of innocent Muslims in UP have surfaced which the ‘Godi media’, a term coined for PM Modi’s lapdog media, refuses to acknowledge. Innocent youth are being dragged out of their homes and their properties are being seized on the accusation of destruction of public property. Death toll has crossed 22. Thousands are in custody.

It’s not surprising that Narendra Modi is being compared to Adolf Hitler.

India’s secular ethos

Religion based politics is nothing new in India, the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue and Gujarat riots being two of the most glaring examples.

However, in day to day life ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, Aapas mein sab bhai bhai’ (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians are all brothers) has not just been a slogan but a way of life.

Muslims in India have held prominent positions in every sphere of life, be it arts, literature, sports or leadership and have been admired by Hindus and Muslims alike.

The current BJP government aims to change all of that with its RSS-inspired fascist ideology of Hindutva – Hindu nationalism andHindu rashtra’ (nation).

India’s faltering economy and dejected youth

One of the heartening aspects of the CAA/NRC uprising is that it is not being seen as just a Muslim struggle. It is rightly being seen as a struggle to uphold the secular ethos of the Constitution of India. However, there is more to this struggle which is being led by the youth of the country.

Underlying the CAA-NRC struggles is the country’s deep disappointment with PM Modi’s lofty promises of ‘acche din’ (good days) which gave the country a new hope . Among other things he promised to make India an economic superpower. Today the nation’s economy is in doldrums which has led to frustration and dejection in the youth.

IMF’s last forecast for India was 6.1% growth in 2019. This has slumped to 4.9%. Unemployment is at a 45-year high and industrial growth rate is negative.

One of the major reasons for the economic slowdown has been the government’s radical decision of demonetization in 2016 which sent the entire country in a turmoil and failed to achieve any of its stated objectives. Small businesses took a further hit with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

At a time when the government’s primary concern should have been the faltering economy, the government diverted the country’s attention to the Babri Masjid -Ram Janmabhoomi issue. As soon as that ended it announced the CAA and NRC, continuing its propaganda of Hindu nationalism as opposed to real issues faced by the nation.

At this critical junction the economy can be expected to take a further hit by the cost of the implementation of the CAA and NRC exercise.By conservative estimates, nationwide NRC will cost Indians a whopping 500 billion rupees in admin expenses alone. Add to it the massive cost of building and maintaining detention centers across the country and the nation looks set for an economic and logistical nightmare.

Today the educated youth of the country is voicing its frustration at the price the country has been paying due to the government’s fascist ideologies. They no longer want the world to know India for its age old mandir-masjid disputes, mob lynchings, communal riots, human rights violations, poverty or illiteracy.

The current uprising is not just against one particular law.The people, especially the youth of India are protesting for their rights to work together as one nation to take the country towards being an exemplary democracy and an economic superpower.

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