LibForAll Expands Operations in North America

 
Joins Forces with Distinguished Fellow Members
of the American Islamic Leadership Coalition
 

Acting upon a request of LibForAll co-founder Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid (1940 - 2009), LibForAll Foundation has begun to systematically expand its operations in North America, to address the threat of Islamist extremism and the intense polarization of Western societies in the face of this danger.

 

Following on the heels of our successful launch of The Illusion of an Islamic State in Brussels and Washington DC, LibForAll is working with fellow members of the American Islamic Leadership Coalition to “defend the U.S. Constitution, uphold religious pluralism, protect American security and cherish genuine diversity in the practice of our faith of Islam.”

 

The AILC is a group of more than 25 organizations and leaders representative of the overwhelming “silent majority” of Muslims in America—who span a wide gamut of religious beliefs and adhere to diverse social and cultural practices. AILC members range from “secular” Muslims and those committed to the private practice of their faith, to renowned ulama (religious scholars) associated with LibForAll, whose profoundly spiritual understanding of Islam rejects the instrumentalization of religion for political purposes, whether by so-called “religious authorities” or the state.

 

LibForAll’s network of spiritual ulama—whose pluralistic and tolerant understanding of Islam is shared by a significant percentage of Muslims living in the West—can play a major role in helping to marginalize and discredit those who seek to promote the ideology of religious hatred, supremacy and violence that underlies and animates terrorism. For the enormous theological legitimacy and authority possessed by these ulama enables them to refute the extremist (i.e., highly politicized) view of Islam propagated by the Wahhabi/Muslim Brotherhood lobby which seeks to influence public policy in the West, to serve its global ambitions.

 

AILC Proposes Key Revisions to the Obama Administration’s
Latest National Strategy on Counterterrorism

 

On July 19, the American Islamic Leadership Coalition issued a policy communiqué noting both improvements to, and glaring omissions in, the Obama administration’s recently released National Strategy on Counterterrorism (NSCT).

 
 
The AILC commended the NSCT for, among other things:
 
  • Correctly identifying ideology (specifically, “a distorted interpretation of Islam”) as a key enabling factor of al-Qa’ida-style terrorism (page 3). From a counter-radicalization perspective, we believe this is the single most important concept in the document. If wisely and courageously pursued to its logical conclusion, this insight could indeed lead to “a future in which al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents are defeated—and their ideology ultimately meets the same fate as its founder and leader” (page 2).
 
The communiqué also expressed a number of concerns, including:
 
  • [The NSCT] appears to reflect a largely pro forma, rather than substantive, approach to countering extremist ideology and the radicalization of Muslims in the U.S. and abroad. This reticence constitutes a potentially fatal weakness within the NSCT, and appears to perpetuate the misguided policy—pursued by both Republican and Democrat administrations—of refusing to address the ideology of religious hatred, supremacy and violence that underlies and animates Islamist terrorism. This refusal allows and encourages both Muslim and non-Muslim extremists to conflate Islam with al-Qa’ida’s ideology, without having to confront or intellectually respond to substantive challenge. This accelerates a crisis of misunderstanding and mutual recrimination that fosters the spread of anti-Western attitudes and conspiracy theories among Muslims, while fueling a growing fear of Muslims in the West.

  • Fails to define al-Qa’ida’s ideology, and its relationship to Islamist ideology and movements in general. Recognizing the vital role that ideology plays in al-Qa’ida propaganda, recruitment and terrorism, the NSCT employs the term “ideology” no less than 20 times within a 17-page document. To cite a prime example: “Countering this ideology… is an essential element of our strategy” (page 3). Yet nowhere does the NSCT actually define al-Qa’ida’s ideology; explain its historical antecedents; discuss how, why, where and among whom it tends to metastasize; or clarify the precise nature of its relationship to Islamic theology in general, of which it is merely said to be “a distorted interpretation.” Correctly understanding and identifying this ideology, in all its facets, is vital to defeating al-Qa’ida and its affiliates, which rely upon this ideology to radicalize and generate new recruits, both in the U.S. and abroad. We understand our government’s trepidation and reluctance to address specifics, when it comes to a theo-political ideology that is progressively embedding itself in one of the world’s great religions. But, make no mistake, there can be no successful counter-terrorism strategy that fails to identify and address Islamist ideology. Freedom-loving members of the AILC stand ready to assist public policy makers in this difficult and delicate process.

  • Provides no criteria for determining with which Muslim groups the Administration will conduct its outreach programs. Our nation’s long-term security depends, to a significant extent, upon American Muslims countering Islamism and its violent offshoots. Yet the report fails to mention the fact that Muslim communities are highly diverse, rather than monolithic. In seeking to discredit al-Qa’ida’s ideology, it is counterproductive to engage and empower groups that share an ostensibly (or tactically) “non-violent” form of that same ideology, as partners in what should be a systematic, long-term effort to undermine and discredit their highly politicized and distorted understanding of Islam. Unfortunately, well-financed Muslim Brotherhood, Wahhabi and Jamaat-e-Islami legacy groups—inspired by an Islamist ideology that substantially parallels that of al-Qa’ida itself—have been organizing in North America for nearly fifty years. Their members have, in many cases, acquired significant influence in American society under the guise of promoting a “moderation” that exists in word only, while actually seeking to intimidate, marginalize and otherwise silence those who hold a truly pluralistic, tolerant and spiritual understanding of Islam. The AILC was founded, in large part, to dispel this illusion, and to help unite the vast, silent majority of Muslims in the U.S. and Canada, to reclaim our religion from those who merely claim to speak in our name.
 

Finally, the AILC recommended specific revisions to the NSCT, in order to increase its effectiveness. These include:

 
  • The U.S. government should clearly and publicly define the ideology of al-Qa’ida that we seek to “defeat” (page 2), and realistically acknowledge its intimate links with Islamist ideology and political movements in general. Ignorance and/or lack of honesty in this arena is no virtue. This necessarily entails discussing, and addressing, the manner in which theocratic regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia export their Khomeinist and Wahhabi/Salafi ideologies worldwide, thereby fueling the spread of Islamist terrorism, and strengthening other Islamist groups such as the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood’s global da‘wa (proselytism) movement;

  • The U.S. government should distinguish between the religion of Islam and Islamist ideology (“a distorted interpretation of Islam”), whose adherents seek to conflate their own political agenda with the religion of Islam itself. Reverence and respect for the religion of Islam does not and should not entail submission to the dictates of an ambitious minority of Muslims who seek to instrumentalize religion for the acquisition of worldly power;

  • The U.S. government should acknowledge the diversity of American Muslims, and recognize that genuinely pluralistic, tolerant and spiritual Muslim leaders possess the theological legitimacy, authority and credibility required to counter Islamist ideology and movements from within Islam, and should be encouraged and supported in their efforts to do so;

  • The U.S. government should engage non-Islamist Muslim groups to help develop and implement effective counter-radicalization programs, which affirm the principles of liberty and individual rights, within an Islamic narrative;

  • This engagement should facilitate the production of compelling content (“narratives”) and their distribution, through proactive use of the internet, which is one of al-Qa’ida’s primary means of ideological indoctrination and recruitment;

  • The U.S. government should support the development of robust, on-the-ground efforts to expose the brutal reality of Islamist oppression, violence and terror, and broadcast the message of Love, Mercy and Compassion—which fosters respect for human dignity and individual rights—to Muslims throughout the world, couched within the narratives of Islam, and the specific cultural and historical framework of the various linguistic regions to which these messages are disseminated.
 

“While we applaud the administration‘s recognition that it must work with Muslim organizations to implement change, we are concerned that they do not realize the diversity of thought within Muslim communities and thus may not engage with a truly representative group of organizations,” said AILC member Manda Zand Ervin, president of the Alliance of Iranian Women.

 

According to AILC member C. Holland Taylor, “We must recognize the diversity of Muslim populations in the U.S. and abroad, and carefully select our counter-radicalization partners on the basis of their principled rejection of Islamist ideology, rather than on the basis of tactical differences they may have with al-Qa’ida, when the ultimate objective they hope to achieve—the establishment of a theocratic state, and/or caliphate—is virtually identical.”

 

Read the complete AILC Communiqué in Response to the National Strategy for Counterterrorism.

 

Media Response to the AILC’s Communiqué

 

“The [AILC’s] response [to the Obama administration’s National Strategy on Counterterrorism] is worth reading in full. Two points are particularly noteworthy. First, it harshly criticizes the administration (a fault equally applicable to the Bush administration) for conducting ‘outreach’ to precisely the wrong groups. CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), for example, refuses to label Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups, and a number of its officials have been criminally indicted. Yet this group is given legitimacy and access to the administration.... And second, the administration has not taken seriously and adopted an effective strategy for combating efforts to radicalize American Muslims (no doubt because the very groups from which the administration seeks advice were among the most vocal critics of the House Homeland Security Committee’s hearings on this topic).”

~ The Washington Post, “Obama’s feeble counterterrorism efforts lambasted,”
by Jennifer Rubin

 

“When the Obama administration released its National Strategy for Counterterrorism (NSCT) last month, it acknowledged that there was an ideological component to terrorism, but it refused to define it. As the American Islamic Forum for Democracy’s head M. Zuhdi Jasser noted, ‘In order to actually counter this ideology, our government must take the additional step of identifying it for what it is: a militant form of political Islam, or Islamism. Although the NSCT uses the term ideology 20 times within a 17-page document, its failure to identify the exact nature of this ideology suggests a continued unwillingness to confront the root cause of terrorism.’ ”

~ Commentary magazine, “Islamism and the National Counterterrorism Strategy,”
by Michael Rubin

 

“The American Islamic Leadership Coalition is a gathering of more than 25 organizations and leaders (including C. Holland Taylor’s LibForAll) that is broadly representative of moderate Islam here in the United States. Now the outfit has just released its response to the Obama administration’s national strategy for counterterrorism (NSCT).”

~ The Weekly Standard, “The Real Threat Against America,”
by Lee Smith

 
 
 

Not long ago, Anders Behring Breivik, 32, a man manufactured by an agenda of hate and extremism, ended the lives of many innocent people in Norway, largely fueled by his hatred for people who support openness to Muslims. To me, as an 18-year-old American Muslim, Breivik’s deplorable act is connected to the legacy of hate and extremism left behind by Osama bin Laden. Breivik’s hatred of Muslims was a mirror of bin Laden’s hatred of the West.

 

This is the legacy that my generation inherits, and as we begin the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, I believe it’s incumbent upon all of us to meditate upon how we can shake off this history to mold a new future. Muslims need to take back their faith from the hands of extremists. Those who aren’t Muslim need to stop thinking bin Laden represented all the people of my faith....

 

My sister, Safiyyah, and I produced a song, “Mr. al-Qaeda,” (listen to it here: http://soundcloud.com/soundcloudali786/mr-al-qaeda/s-PEmLs#play) to reflect the grievance of so many Muslims—a grievance caused by the September 11th terrorist attacks. But it’s a grievance not simply against the attacks, but for the way it represented their religion. The song embodies the story of a man whose son is stabbed for being a Muslim. To many in the public, Muslims were now seen as ignoble murderers, led by the lustful promise of virgins in afterlife as a [reward] of martyrdom.

 
Mr. al-Qaeda
by Samir A. Nomani
 

I was, I was, I was once a guy
Hanging from threads
Got up everyday
With the devil trying to make my bed.
Sang some surrahs [chapters of the Qur’an]
Clicked on Al-Jazeera
Two planes crashed
Up went the Terror Level
Son got stabbed
In a high school veranda
Thanks a whole lot
Mr. al-Qaeda.

[His spirit shattered and longing for his son, the father contemplates suicide....]

Got Nike’s on my feet
But I can’t out run the devil.
Can’t find God
So I reach out for the metal.
And right before I pull
The trigger
I see myself in the mirror
Feelin' like Prometheus
Eagle eating at my liver
Smashed the glass
Picked up the pieces
Of the broken mirror
Too bad I can’t pick
Up the pieces
Of my spirit’s ether.
What kind of heavenly justice
Warrants my woes?
I guess only God knows.

Chorus:
And there are times
When I don’t know what to do
So in that darkness I look to you
But it’s been so long
Since I’ve held your hand.
And if you’re missing me in heaven
I understand
Believe me
I understand.
That’s why I gotta
Be dead when this gun
Leaves my hand.

I ain’t got no religion
‘Cause it got hijacked
With radicalism
Every gain of happiness and content
I credited to my son.
Now thanks to bin Laden,
His life is done.
I never thanked God
And danced with Lucifer
And now I’m holding this Luger
‘Cause what little happiness I had
Is drowning in the sewer.

Chorus

Looks like the heavens hold your face
If only I could reach the stars
But I’m [a] man no more
And you’re gone, no more
If I could bring you back I would
But that would mean I’d have to reverse time
Have you fly out that wooden box
And I remember when we talked
About philosophy and religion
About metaphysics and contradictions
Someone check my chest
I think my heart’s missing
Someone check my house
My loved one’s missing.

Chorus
And there are times
When I don’t know what to do
So in that darkness I look to you...

 

Congratulations to Samir and Safiyyah Nomani for giving voice to the great, silent majority of American Muslims, who—as Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid wrote in his introduction to The Illusion of an Islamic State—long to “restore honor and respect to Islam, which the extremists have desecrated,” and to “restore the majesty of Islamic teachings as rahmatan lil-‘âlamîn—a blessing for all creation—[which] represents a vital key to building a peaceful world.”