Muslims must stand together against the scourge of radical Islamism.

Asia Times

JUNE 22, 2017 2:24 AM (UTC+8)

Author: M. Zuhdi Jasser

In the past few years and especially the past few months, radical Islamism has been accelerating its influence among Indonesians. In May a bomb exploded in Jakarta, killing three and wounding 10. This incident, which occurred one day after the horrific attack at a concert in Manchester, England, was not the first time the world’s most populous Muslim country has experienced terror.

Indonesia has long had a reputation for being a model of Muslim moderation and pluralism, yet its problem with radical Islamism is real. From soaring rates of female genital mutilation to violent protests against authors and artists who offend religious hardliners, the country is undergoing an ugly and dangerous radicalization that will traumatize its citizens and leak across its borders, threatening global security.

Ahok abandoned by moderate Islamic scholars

Ahok was accused because of his analysis of a Qur’anic verse which offered a more modern and tolerant apologetic. He claimed that a more modern interpretation of the Qur’an did not prevent Muslims from being led or governed by Jews or Christians. He was not protected and defended by moderate Indonesian Islamic scholars (ulema).

Indonesia, which supposedly is based on a constitution that separates mosque and state, finds itself slipping slowly into the quagmire of theocracy like a frog slowly boiling to death in a kettle of water as the temperature increases daily.

Ahok lost his bid for re-election in April and despite claims by many that his blasphemy case would disappear after he lost the election, he now sits in a Jakarta jail as a troubling example to any who would consider using free speech to counter Islamists.

Islamists are winning on many fronts. Aware that pursuing his own freedom could mean an even more severe sentence, Ahok has withdrawn his appeal of the blasphemy sentence. It is important to note that Ahok was an elected politician and was rich with the social and material capital many Indonesians simply don’t have. Yet he was targeted, has not been able to successfully defend himself, and has not received sufficient public support. If this is the fate of an elected official, what does it mean for everyday people who don’t have his resources?

Popular student killed for his beliefs

Pakistani Mashal Khan was just such a person: a student, a budding poet, a sensitive soul beloved by friends and popular on social media networks. Yet, for online postings some deemed “disrespectful to Islam,” about 20 university students in April stripped him naked in public, beat him, taunted him and tortured him until finally, one shot him dead.

While Mashal was not nearly as well known as Ahok, stories like his are terrifyingly common. Many people in Muslim-majority societies around the world believe, either privately or openly, in punishing those they believe to have insulted Islam.

In the United States, Islamists may not physically lynch “blasphemers,” but they harass, stalk, threaten and bully those they believe have gone beyond the bounds of their interpretation of Islam. This more insidious tactic — of scaring truly moderate Muslims into silence — means that clueless Westerners allow Islamists access to the halls of power, and grant them social legitimacy.

The core of this threat is Islamism — a theopolitical ideology, distinct from the personal faith of Islam, that seeks to establish Islamic states and a caliphate. It’s a system that cannot exist without the censure of dissident voices and the subjugation of anyone — Muslim or non-Muslim — who opposes it. Those who jailed Ahok and those who murdered Mashal Khan are simply taking Islamism to its natural conclusion, and doing the dirty work of non-violent Islamists.

Blasphemy laws violate the very spirit of Islam

We Muslims have nothing to lose by opposing blasphemy laws and the culture that fosters them. After all, we are among its targets, and the failure to address these issues head-on also cultivates mistrust between ourselves and our non-Muslim neighbors. It is my view, as a devout Muslim, that blasphemy laws violate the very spirit of Islam: if faith is professed under duress, but not held by choice it cannot be sincere.

We at the Muslim Reform Movement do not believe that any ideas or religions, no matter how sacred we may perceive them, have any rights whatsoever, but that individuals — those of faith and those who choose to profess no faith — have rights that must be protected at all costs.

We stand in solidarity with Ahok, and with the Mashal Khans everywhere. We call attention to the intellectual, social, cultural, and legal battles being waged for free speech across the planet from Indonesia to the United States. It’s time for all free-thinking peoples to confront the scourge against free speech and individual rights which Islamism poses. To read our declaration and join us, click here.

6/19/2017: Zuhdi Jasser joins Martha MacCallum debating the mission of ISIS, terror attacks and how its impacting Islamic reform.

6/19/2017: Zuhdi Jasser joins Fox & Friends to discuss the attack on Muslims leaving Finsbury Park Mosque after prayer service in London

6/19/2017: Zuhdi Jasser shares his thoughts with Fox & Friends about the van attack on Muslims leaving Finsbury Park Mosque after prayer service in London

The unseen war: The Islamist assault on dissidents.

Asia Times

OCTOBER 20, 2016 11:31 PM (UTC+8)

Author: M. Zuhdi Jasser

Since September 2001, terrorism has dominated the headlines. But there is a much less discussed form of terrorism — assault on dissidents in which the very systems meant to protect them fail and hand them over to their killers.

The attack on dissidents is robbing families of their loved ones, instilling fear in communities, and obstructing many pathways toward deep reform within the House of Islam. It is long overdue for security forces and governments to modify their policies and stand unwaveringly by the universal human right of free speech.

Last month, Jordanian writer and political activist Nahed Hattar was murdered in cold blood outside a local court for “insulting Islam” by sharing a satirical cartoon on his Facebook page.

Hattar was murdered by a “known extremist” cleric as he was facing trial by his own government which opposed his freedom expression. These autocratic and quasi-theocratic governments often light the fuses of radicalism which at times they explode themselves and other times hand over blindly to rogue assassins who they empower.

In Bangladesh, bloggers who question theocracy are slaughtered in broad daylight – this year alone, at least eight dissident bloggers have been murdered. In Pakistan, dissidents and even lawmakers who break rank with the religious establishment are murdered with impunity – often with their own bodyguards tipping off and aiding the killers. When they are not killed, Muslim reformers, dissidents and freethinkers are threatened, stalked and made to live in fear. With the continued advance of Islamic State and those who are inspired by them, the problem is growing.

While some of these cases make headlines, many go unnoticed by the broader public. Worst of all, those who tacitly endorse such crimes are more prevalent than ever. Even in the United States, non-violent Islamists enthusiastically harass reformists on social media and at public events, spotlighting them with slanderous comments, inciting others to hate them, and leaking false personal information about them online.­­

You’d think that the broader society would completely marginalize such malignant actors. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong in many cases.

Nonviolent Islamists who knowingly cause dissidents to be targeted with harassment and threats aren’t just allowed to continue their malicious activities – they are positioned as representatives of the Muslim community in the media and even in the halls of political power, from Washington to London and even at the United Nations. It is when these individuals are granted legitimacy through political and social clout that they become even more dangerous.

For example, in the United States, Islamist groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), whose leadership has targeted members of the Muslim Reform Movement (including myself) as well as women’s rights and LGBT activists, have trained law enforcement on how to treat Muslims – when they themselves incite hate campaigns against minorities within the Muslim community.

At the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) claims to represent all of the world’s Muslims and even purporting to fight anti-Muslim bigotry. However, the OIC’s ideology and resulting actions – which include seeking to criminalize any speech or art they deem “offensive” to their interpretation of Islam – are exactly what inspire radicals to slit the throats of dissidents. Their governments and attendant systems are the malignant cauldrons that brew the ideas, culture, legalisms, and ideologues that suffocate reform.

The OIC, true to its name, has one purpose and that is to maintain control of the “House of Islam” by Islamists and suppress the diverse voices of anti-Islamist, pro-liberty reformers. Each Islamist regime does both domestically and globally. Domestically, they do so either directly or passive-aggressively by giving militants impunity over the murder of reformers, and globally they do so by making the free world in the West believe that Islamism and its attendant sharia states is the only possible form of Islam.

How can this be stopped? Through the education of the Muslim community as to the nefarious aims of Islamist regimes and their sympathizers; and by holding politicians, the media and national security establishments worldwide accountable for their empowerment of the worst within the Muslim community. While we must pay urgent heed to stopping violent extremism, that is only a tactic among many tried by Islamist movements. We must more importantly engage boldly and take sides in the war of ideas within the “House of Islam.” We must disarm non-violent Islamists as the theocrats they are in their war against dissidents, minorities and

The Muslim Reform Movement: Even more necessary a year in.

Asia Times

DECEMBER 6, 2016 4:12 PM (UTC+8)

Author: M. Zuhdi Jasser

On December 4, 2015, Muslim leaders from the United States, Canada and Europe convened in Washington, DC to embark on an urgently needed mission: to demand, as a collective, bold and deep reforms within the Muslim community.

We stood before the press and the global community declaring that we stand for universal human rights; including gender equality, freedom of conscience, LGBTQ rights and more; that we stand for secular governance and the rejection of governance by “sharia” or any other set of religious rules, and more. We stood together as Muslims who reject any form of an ‘Islamic state’ or ‘caliphate’. We happened to have convened during the very week two Islamist terrorists, a couple, Syed Farouk and his wife.

That day’s convening garnered significant media attention. Our members include men and women, Muslims at varying levels of practice, liberals and conservatives. Some have been activists for decades, others were just starting out, compelled to make a difference after yet another year of violent attacks by Islamists the world over made it clear that change simply will not happen without more Muslims putting ourselves on the front lines for reform.

Our December 4, 2015 press conference releasing the Declaration of the Muslim Reform Movement to the world can be seen here:

Since that day, the enemy – Islamism both violent and non-violent – has continued to advance across the globe. Islamist terror in Florida and Ohio, attacks in France, Iraq, Pakistan, India and beyond continue to take innocent lives and create an understandable culture of fear. Meanwhile, many Muslims still find themselves marginalized within their own community spaces: women, Black Muslims, sexual minorities and scores of other vulnerable communities continue to feel ostracized and even persecuted for who they are and what they believe.

Over the past year, our declaration – which lays out both what we stand for and oppose, in clear language – has been posted on mosque doors, and sent to thousands of Muslim leaders across the United States, to mixed reception. Our team has been busy following up with recipients, asking them to sign onto our declaration and be a part of the solution. While some have supported us, others have cursed us – and even threatened to “come after us.” In the coming months, we will publish a full review of this project for the world to see who stands for universal human rights, and who doesn’t.

On this one year anniversary we again ask those Muslims who choose not to be a part of our Muslim Reform Movement and its Declaration to come clean and explain to the world why not. Muslim leaders and public figures need to be held fully accountable locally, nationally, and internationally about what it is exactly regarding our Declaration for Muslim Reform that they find objectionable. That debate about universal human rights is the only path towards, modernity, counter-radicalization, and global security.

Our Declaration is at our landing page and embodied in our hashtag #MyMuslimReform. Now, at our one year anniversary, December 4, 2016, we are asking everyone to support our movement online with the #MyMuslimReform hashtag and in sharing all over social media with Muslims who would join us and our neighbors who would support us.

Ask every Muslim you know what #MyMuslimReform means to them.

We have remained at the forefront on some of the most important issues of our time, those issues which most urgently require reform “within the house of Islam” – female genital mutilation, forced marriage, the targeting of apostates and minority Muslims like the Ahmadiyya, and the continued exportation of radical jihadist ideology from Saudi Arabia into mosques and communities worldwide to name a few.

We at the Muslim Reform Movement are aware that we are fighting an uphill if not generational battle, and we are not unfamiliar with tension and even controversy. We will continue our daily fight for universal human rights and against Islamism – and we ask you to join us. If you care about world peace, human rights, and the protection of pluralism and freedom, we ask you to share our declaration with your friends, family, colleagues and community members, both Muslim and non-Muslim, and to refer people to our presence online (check us out on Facebook and Twitter). We are a grassroots movement of committed, passionate volunteers fighting a massive movement fueled by petrodollars and a cult-like ideology. We need your support, and we welcome your fellowship. Join us across social media and tell us why you stand with Muslims who advocate hashtag #MyMuslimReform.

May 10, 2017: Is Tawhidi the Imam Australia’s been waiting for?

Asia Times

MAY 10, 2017 8:57 PM (UTC+8)

Is Mohammad Tawhidi the Imam we’ve been waiting for?

Author: M. Zuhdi Jasser

Shaikh Mohammad Tawhidi hits all the right notes as the ideal Australian Muslim media darling: a website full of condemnations of ISIS; a friendly visage at rallies, vigils and in the media; and a smattering of criticism from militant Sunnis. He has expressed opposition to unregulated madrassahs (Islamic schools), and says he “doesn’t want burqas running around.” He also insists that Muslims in the West should assimilate, saying that had his father known “so many extreme Muslims” would one day be in Australia, he would never have moved there. He says all of these things while wearing a robe and beard, providing a veneer of legitimacy so appealing to Westerners eager to hear these words in a suitably “Islamic” package.

So, is Tawhidi the imam we have been waiting for? The one who sincerely seeks to advocate for critical thinking within the “house of Islam,” who will work to abolish sectarianism, promote gender equality, combat anti-Semitism, and bring about the reformation many have discussed – but so few have meaningfully supported?

In a word, no. In a few more words: not even close.

Let me be clear: I wish he were. I would welcome such an imam, and offer him my full support. I would use every platform at my disposal to promote his views, and pass the mic to him and his colleagues whenever and wherever possible. I wish I were readying myself to do just that, rather than coming to the unfortunate conclusion that I must instead ask that he be denied this empowerment.

The unfortunate reality of this instantly famous imam seems to be something more than simple opportunism. Rather, things seem much more sinister: Tawhidi may not be the reformist imam of our dreams – but rather simply a radical of a different flavor. Rather than espousing the radical ideology of ISIS, which draws from an extremist interpretation of Sunni Islam, Tawhidi subscribes to its reflection – a nefarious interpretation of Shia Islam. And because the West is so hungry for figures such as the one he appears to be, they are none the wiser.

Archived tweets made by Tawhidi reveal extreme views held by a minority of Shias with regard to the Prophet Muhammad’s family: in them, he calls Aisha (Muhammad’s wife) a “b*tch,” talks about her “experience with semen,” and other vulgarities. He has not only called for a “review” of Islam – but specifically the banning of most Sunni teachings. His is not a reformist project: it is a sectarian project. He is troublingly quick to jump on far-right bandwagons – not because he agrees with their concerns about Islam as a whole – but because aiding them would rush the end of Sunni Islam. His religious and educational programming originates in Bashar al-Assad’s Syria and radical Shia strains in Iraq and Iran. It should cause significant pause that his criticisms extend only to Sunni Islamists – never the Islamists within his own community – and never the regimes of Iran and Syria, the heart of radical Shi’ism.

If Tawhidi wishes to prove his reformist bona fides, we urge him to indicate his clear support for the Muslim Reform Movement declaration, retract his hateful comments that stoke sectarianism, and issue swift, thorough and regular condemnations of Shia radicals and their movements by name as well. He must disclose and sever any ties with the Iranian and Syrian regimes or their supporters in Iraq, commit to the active opposition of sectarianism, and embrace the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

There’s a distinct reason that our work at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is directed at the need for reforms against all forms of Islamism – “political Islam” and all its attendant permutations of an Islamic state mentality. At AIFD, our work is blind to Sunni or Shia with a clear universal mission statement to defend liberty through the separation of mosque and state. Whether Sunni or Shia, all forms of the Islamic sharia state and its admixture of Islamic law and state are doomed theocracies and plagues upon humanity. It makes no difference whether Islamist theocracy has a Sunni or Shia flavor, it is a theocracy and thus supremacist. Tawhidi’s positions, while appealing to many in the West as an apparently bold and courageous “Muslim cleric” against Sunni Islamism, is grotesquely and conveniently unilaterally anti-Sunni Islamist.

Understanding this whole dynamic is, if anything, a distinct teaching moment.

The defeat of Islamism and its movements will never happen if one side of the Sunni-Shia sectarian battle of the Islamists is favored over the other — with the ends justifying the means. The only path towards modernity and defeat of all radical Islamism in Muslim communities is the advancement of liberal ideas against both cancers of Sunni and Shia Islamism. Anything short of that is an exercise in deceptive sectarianism, which will actually only continue the cycle of global Islamism. As the old adage goes, Australia’s Sheikh Tawhidi proves once again that if something is too good to be true, it often is.