- They claim to follow Islam. They are 'of the Satan.’ They are enemies of our faith and our nation.
- They are ‘the worst infidels,’ worse than the Jews!
- America should ban their immigration and refuse them refugee status with immediate effect.
- We should be sure not to vote for them! If in doubt, ask us and we will affirm the faith of political candidates in your area.
- Boycott them, befriending them is evil. For sake of God, do not do any business with them. It is better to die hungry than work with them.
- Remove their Qurans from public libraries across the country.
- We can never permit them to to call their places of worship as Mosques.
- They are not a legitimate religion. They are a fraud and a dangerous cult.
- There was a time when war was waged against such infidels. They were killed with the sword. It is unfortunate that this country’s laws do not allow for such punishment.
- We call on the government to outlaw these ‘imposters.’
KKK? Neo-Nazis? Alt-Right? Think again! These calls were made last weekend at a Sunni extremist rally (fundraiser) in Northern Virginia. These demands by two radical groups - ‘Idara Dawat-O-Irshad, U.S.A. Inc’ & ‘Khatme Nabuwwat Center, Inc.’ - mainly comprising of Pakistani American clerics, bear stark resemblance with the demands of white supremacist groups that promote Islamophobia in the U.S. and want these same unconstitutional restrictions on ALL American Muslims. Instead, the Sunni extremist groups were targeting a specific Muslim Community - the Ahmadi Muslims.
In addition to these calls, armed Jihad (Holy War) was repeatedly glorified and America disdainfully and repeatedly referred to as “the land of the infidels.” America’s Ahmadi Muslims - a peaceful reformist Islamic community - were demonized and condemned for rejecting the doctrine of “Holy War.” Referring to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the organizers lamented that he was a ‘false prophet’ who “subdued the spirit of Holy War in Muslims” and served ‘Western interests’ by “discouraging and eliminating the concept of Holy War from Islam.” The speakers gave examples of how the Shariah (their twisted interpretation of it of course) at the time of Prophet Muhammad required that such infidels be fought against and killed. It is often following such open incitement that Ahmadi Muslims are gunned down in countries such as Pakistan where Sunni extremists act with impunity.
Interestingly, organizers at the rally also passed edicts of heresy against America’s Shiite Muslim community. They also engaged in antisemitism, with multiple references to ‘the Jews and the Christians’ being the yardstick for infidelity. I sat quietly through this four-hour long hate fest and reported on it here. (audiostream available)
“The Shias are also Kafir (infidels),” said Omar F. Khan, who serves as director for both groups.
Although we often address the threat of white supremacy in America, this threat of Sunni Supremacy is largely ignored. The rally in Virginia was sadly not a sporadic incident. Although these extremists form a fringe minority within the American Muslim community, and although the majority of Muslim activists (of all sects and denominations) condemned their bigotry as soon as I broke the news on social media, there are still some mainstream Sunni figures who continue to patronize Sunni Supremacist groups.
Chief executive director of CAIR Florida, Mr. Hassan Shibly, is one such figure. He describes himself as a civil rights activist, yet publicly put his weight behind the extremist rally in Virginia. In a message publicly shared on the Khatme Nabuwwat Center's website, Shibly expressed complete support for the rally.
"Salam Mualana Omar, this is Hassan Shibly.. You have every single right under the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution to protect your deen (religion)... There is nothing wrong with all of you making clear the traditional orthodox Sunni perspective.. May Allah reward you guys. You guys are doing very important work... and you shoudn't be bullied by somebody who is upset because they have a fringe opinion that is heretical...You are well within your right to do that. You are doing very important work. I am envious of you. Allah is using you to protect the honor and image of Rasulullah (saw). What a blessing!! What a blessing!! If there is anything we could do to support you in that effort, you could definitely count on us."
Of course Neo-Nazi groups also have the right to spew bigotry and hate. Of course they also believe they are doing the Lord’s sacred work. Of course they also feel bullied by rights activists who call them out on their dangerous rhetoric. And of course, they also claim to have nothing to do with violence. That is not the point. Shibly reduces the substance of what the Virginia rally was about to a mere exercise of free speech and theological disagreement. But such grandstanding masks the assertion of Sunni Supremacy as a legal right as opposed to a moral wrong.
I would happily give my life for anyone to freely hold whatever theological beliefs they chose for themselves. I am also perfectly fine with Shibly disagreeing with my theology. This is NOT about theology. This is NOT about anyone “accepting” my position. Go believe in the flying spaghetti monster for all I care. This is about civil rights. This is about calling out extremism, bigotry and discrimination. This is about American lives, because such pronouncements have the potential to quickly lead to violence. This is about principle. The same principle which compels me to condemn Islamophobia as dangerous and evil. If it is bad when a white supremacist does it, how does it suddenly become Halal when a Sunni supremacist does?
Imagine a Christian leader trying to mainstream the Neo-Nazis by giving them legitimacy on grounds of free speech and downplaying their vitriol as mere “theological difference.” This is the danger in Shibly’s public support of the Virginia hate rally. He ignores the considerable social and moral repercussions of such hate rallies. I reached out to Shibly repeatedly, but despite having read my messages, and despite my informing him of the unconstitutional restrictions on civil rights the rally advocated for, he refused to comment.
Imraan Siddiqi, another CAIR executive, also refrained from covering the Sunni supremacist rally on his Hate Hurts platform that claims to be a watchdog against all hate directed at Muslims. He blocked me on Twitter. Like Shibly, Siddiqi has also categorically refused to identify me as a member of the American Muslim community (takfir), for my Ahmadiyya Muslim affiliation.
I then reached out to Jonathan Brown, a Sunni convert and currently an associate professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, about his views on the ‘Islamophobic’ demands made at the Virginia rally. Even as someone who vocally condemns Islamophobia, he hesitated to condemn the bigotry, insisting that the groups were “exercising their constitutionally protected freedom of religion.” Well, at least Sunni Supremacists know the U.S. Constitution well.
Soon after, Brown posted on his Facebook page saying I was “throwing Sunnis under the bus,” (was I?) and insinuated that I was in bed with Islamophobes, particularly naming Robert Spencer. Interestingly, Spencer thinks I throw “anti-terrorism activists” under the bus when I condemn their Islamophobia, and claims I am in bed with Sunni extremists and ‘Jihadists.’ (Robert Spencer attacking me here, here and here. Pamela Geller attacking me here). I was also accused of “appearing on FOX News.” Well, the only time I did, I was opposing the #MuslimBan. How evil of me.
Sunni supremacy - like white supremacy - poses a great threat to the values of pluralism, inclusivity, tolerance and coexistence we so cherish in the United States.
Needless to say, the vast majority of America’s Sunni Muslims are not supremacists. In fact, Sunni extremist groups hate most American Sunni Muslims too. The keynote speaker at the Virginia hate rally, Mr. Habib ur Rehman Ludhianvi, openly counted Sunni Muslim activists like Linda Sarsour and Khaled Beydoun “with the infidels” for sharing platforms with the Ahmadis and the Shiites.
Sunni supremacists - like any other supremacist group - assert that the only way to affirm and feel good about their own faith is to actively delegitimize other Islamic communities (Takfir) and declare them infidels. This insecurity and arrogance, although bigoted, would be fine if it stopped here. But along with such calls, widespread discrimination and persecution are enforced in countries where Sunni supremacy reigns. This is why the state of religious freedom, even for other Islamic sects, is depressing in these countries. In Pakistan, for instance, Ahmadi Muslims can be jailed for three years for professing Islam, reading the Quran or Kalima (Islamic creed), praying publicly, or for merely identifying as a Muslim. Is there any bigger example of Islamophobia in this age?
It is this Nazi-esque hate-filled and oppressive machinery that Sunni extremist groups want to bring to the United States. And like other supremacist groups, they too feel threatened by dialogue. This is why the organizers at the Virginia rally forbade ‘true Muslims’ from having any dialogue with the ‘infidels.’ Make no mistake again. This is not about theological differences. For if it was, debate would be encouraged, not loathed.
While Sunni Supremacists like Shibly have categorically refused to condemn Pakistan’s faith-based apartheid of Ahmadi Muslims by name, they have expressed full support for groups that support these human rights violations and call for similar civil rights restrictions on tens of thousands of Muslims here in America. As such, they have made the active choice to inject themselves into this important debate.
Apart from this hatred for Ahmadis, Shiites, and other ‘infidels,’ Sunni supremacists often glorify death for apostates and ‘blasphemers’ as legitimate positions, as was seen recently in this Maryland Mosque and in this Wisconsin Mosque. Some - such as the “Khatme Nabuwat” hate groups - go as far as openly glorifying ‘armed Jihad’ in America.
Consider this. A pulmonologist in a reputable healthcare facility in the United States sympathetic to the cause of the Khatme Nabuwat Center recently threatened me to either accept the orthodox Sunni interpretation of Islam or be killed. What else does ISIS say?
“Either accept the true Islam or start giving Jazya. If you don’t accept the two, prepare to fight us.” - A.M.
This radicalization and extremism should be taken very seriously. Like white supremacy, this too has the potential to grow into a terrorizing home-grown monster. This is not about tolerating “free speech” or “theological differences” as Shibly asserts. These are calls to terrorism, radicalization, and apartheid that cannot be ignored at any cost.
So how do we move forward? Here are four important steps we can take to counter this menace.
1. American Citizens: Understand the problem. No, the problem is not Islam. It is not Sunni Islam either. It is extremism by fringe Sunni supremacist groups who find support from a few in the mainstream. These extremists do not speak for us. Rather than ignorantly hate us all, stand with us against these radicals.
2. Media: The media should stop giving mainstream platform to Sunni supremacists like Imam Dawud Walid (CAIR-MI), Hassan Shibly (CAIR Florida), Imraan Siddiqui (CAIR-AZ), Hussam Ayloush (CAIR-LA) etc, on issues related to the American Muslim Community as a whole. How can they speak for me when they adamantly refuse to identify me (and tens of thousands of other American Muslims) as part of the wider Muslim American fabric? How can their voice represent mine when they take pride in excluding me from the American Muslim Community and lend their voice to extremist groups who attack my civil rights and are offended by my religious freedom? We have MANY Muslims - Sunnis, Shias, Ahmadis, Sufis etc - who proudly uphold the tolerance, pluralism and diversity that defines America and Islam. It is such Muslims that speak for American Islam, because when they use the word Muslim, they mean ALL Muslims. I have written about these pluralist Muslims in this piece: Who Speaks for America’s Muslims. For those wondering, yes they are present within CAIR too.
3. Law Enforcement: Instead of blanket surveillance of ALL Muslims, law enforcement should specifically target Sunni supremacist groups that seek to radicalize fellow Americans, and preach a hateful ideology on American soil. Worse, they openly raise funds (and enjoy tax-exemption) while radicalizing our young ones.
4. President Trump’s Administration: It is preposterous that while poor victims of religious extremism and terrorism are banned from America, extremist radicals (there are numerous examples I can cite) continue to visit without any hindrance, and spread their dangerous rhetoric on U.S. soil. When will we revise our immigration/visa policies? I call for allowing innocent immigrants, and vouch for much stricter vetting for extremists who espouse the dangerous views I have outlined above.
The rise of Sunni supremacy in America poses a challenge to the American Muslim Community. While we are happy to see overwhelming ‘white’ condemnation of white supremacy, Muslims must likewise take the lead in condemning and delegitimizing extremist groups that claim to speak for us.
Three of my uncles were jailed in Pakistan for professing Islam as Ahmadi Muslims. I know hundreds who have lost their lives to the ongoing faith-based apartheid. It is repugnant that this menace is now being imported to the West. A Sunni extremist in the U.K. recently stabbed an Ahmadi shopkeeper to death. He was quickly venerated a saint in certain Pakistani circles, and the extremist “Khatme Nabuwwat” group sent out online congratulatory messages to ‘the Muslims of the world.’
It is deeply concerning then that this Sunni extremism has found its way to the United States.