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Qanta Ahmed, MD

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The Evolution of an Anti-Islamist Muslim

Posted: 06/03/2012 1:41 pm

In the years since 9-11, every Muslim has been compelled to confront his or her identity.

Matters were brought into particularly sharp relief for me on that day, because I was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia when the Towers fell. Within hours, I discovered my sentiments of loss and sorrow were not widely shared, either by Saudi colleagues or by fellow Muslim expatriate workers, many of whom had been trained in New York City like myself.

This came as a terrible shock to my Pollyanna naiiveties at the time. I realized the version of Islam my parents had given to me wasn't widely accepted. Our faith always centered on pluralism, deep reverence for other monotheisms and an acknowledgement of our beliefs as Muslims to have been informed by the believers preceding Islam, as the Qur'an explicitly acknowledges.

On my 2001 return from Saudi Arabia, I began to record my experiences in a manuscript that would become my first book, In the Land of Invisible Women. Realizing I would be representing two versions of Islam- mine, and that espoused by Sunni Wahabi theocracy of Saudi Arabia -I needed to broaden my reading around key areas.

It was in my reading that I discovered the political ideology termed Islamism, and the many strains of contemporary radical Islam, both violent and non-violent. I learned unlike my own experience, many Muslims struggled with a pervasive sense of inferiority influencing all their beliefs, sense of justice and identities leading to deep and rather novel resentments. The fascist supremacy of Islamist ideologues was therefore a predictably appealing, if very frightening development, which, to my perspective was completely alien to the Islam I knew.

In the wake of 9-11, I saw Osama bin Laden feted as a hero in Pakistan. On one 2008 trip I recall a Pakistani driver in Karachi explaining to me why, years after 9-11, Pakistani families still named their newborns Osama. He was still recognized by many as a 'defender' of Islam, a 'warrior-savior'.

Nothing could be more offensive to my beliefs as a Muslim or my principles as a human being. This was extraordinarily difficult to reconcile with the knowledge that Islam condemns murder, and particularly the execution of non-combatant civilians in any setting. In my mind Bin Laden and his sympathizers had renounced Islam by their acts and represented nothing more than violent terrorists.

Over time the Islamist voice has become increasingly prominent, both in the West and the East: whether advancing the intrusion of ritual symbolism of Islam into the public space - for instance the battle for the niqab in the public arena in France, the demands for the veil to be permitted in FIFA soccer tournaments - or the most recent debacle involving the vilification of the NYPD for their counter terrorism efforts drawing false accusations of Muslim profiling.

Banning Lady Gaga from performing in Indonesia, or violent protests against Muslim writer Irshad Manji, the examples of Islamist actions are countless. Pakistan, the country of my parental heritage, is especially disturbing because Islamists are in full control of the constitution, judiciary and public discourse, resulting in some of the worst abuses against minorities anywhere in the world.

Throughout the world, the Islamists' goal is one and the same: to stoke the fires of unwitting Muslims into believing in their own manufactured sense of victimhood as a means to exploit both the uninformed Muslim and, often times, the liberal democracies where we make our homes.

Claiming persecution, discrimination, profiling or victimization liberal democracies are pressured in relinquishing not only their own sense of identity but also significant concessions in a shared public space which truly belongs to everyone, irrespective of faith and not merely the 'victimized Islamist Muslim'. It is this last fallacy, of collective victimhood, that most fuels my drive to expose Islamism for what it is - a weak yet vicious imposter for a great religion, an imposter which seeks to exploit and devour both Muslims and non Muslims it its pursuit for power and dominance.

In this country Islamist organizations seek to drown out the complex, heterogeneous and multifaceted community of Muslims in America. Their goal is to promote a unified sense of disadvantage and debasement of Muslim Americans. In fact, demographic data point in exactly the opposite direction- Muslims in America are more rapidly economically mobile than anywhere else in the world making it very hard to equate this reality with a fantasy of a disadvantaged marginalized American minority. They struggle to claim the right to represent all Muslims and become the owners of the Muslim American narrative but anti Islamist Muslims like me are here to challenge and ultimately overturn their audacity.

This very belief lead to my defense of the NYPD, a defense rooted in Islamic principles which demand every Muslim meet his duty to his society, its protection, cohesion and enhancement. I wrote about this in the Wall Street Journal at some length. Unfairly vilifying the NYPD in the way the AP reports have accomplished -published without balanced context or true expert analysis - has been enormously destructive to post 9-11 New York.

In my practice as a physician I am honored to attend to a great many law enforcement officials, whether the NYPD policeman on patrol, commanders operating counter terrorism task forces, federal bureau officials, or many other experts. Understanding their work and the toll it takes on them makes clear to me the enormous sacrifice these Americans (many of whom are also Muslim) and their families make to safeguard us at times of crisis and in between. We cannot tear these institutions (which the public likes to forget are made of individuals) in this fashion. That is the height of ingratitude and ignorance.

As a Muslim it is very simple to argue theologically against the Islamists. Islam is nothing if not justice. Any injustice committed or pursued in the name of Islam is anathema to the believing Muslim and counter to the ideal which is Islam. Muslims must remember their duty not only to themselves or their Maker but also to their society wherever they find themselves.

There is no place for Muslim claims of supremacy. The Prophet Mohammed (SAW) himself admonished his followers not to make claims of supremacy over Moses, or indeed any other messenger of God. The Qur'an repeatedly reminds the Muslim that 'to each is sent a Law and a Way' and to each they must 'judge themselves by their Law and their Way'. Islamist Muslims overlook this.

Our role as believers is to cooperate and collaborate and enhance the world, not to oppress, discriminate, exclude or persecute others. Major Muslim democracies around the world, foremost Pakistan and Indonesia have departed from these foundational principles and in doing so have renounced their rights to call themselves Islamic.

They are operating as Islamist Supremacists who legally persecute Muslim and non-Muslim minorities to extinction through execution and do so with impunity. Worse they seek to propagate extraordinarily vicious blasphemy laws into the wider field of international law through the Organization of the Islamic Conference seeking to confine and then suffocate free speech- which, along with free press is the bulwark of any vibrant democracy.

These are not the ways of Muslims. These are the ways of fascists. Fortunately organizations like The Lawfare Project provide anti-Islamist Muslims like me a platform from which to challenge these abuses and misuses of international law and a critically intelligent means to understand the impact of Islamist Lawfare.

In my position of privilege and opportunity, if I do not oppose this, I am failing in my duty to American society and in failing American society, I fail as a Muslim. I am reminded of a saying attributed by the Prophet Mohammed by one of his companions recounting it to an early believer:

"Whoever sees a wrong and is able to put it right with his hand, let him do so; if he can't, then with his tongue, if he cant, then with his heart. That is the bare minimum of faith".

This, having both hand, tongue, and heart, I am committed to I live by.

Much of this article was recently published following my interview with National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro, Fellow at The Clarion Fund, concerning my motives to confront contemporary radical Islamism. You can read our animated dialogue here. My thanks to Ryan Mauro and all his colleagues at Clarion Fund's Flagship Educational Website http://www.radicalislam.org/ which has been exploring anti-Islamist Muslims and their growing voice. I am grateful for their efforts and the opportunity they provide me.
 

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