Freedom House Propaganda
How would the Christian or Jewish communities feel if a research group of some repute visits a dozen of the churches or synagogues, finds a few books out of several thousands that includes questionable statements about people of other faiths, and then produces a report entitled "Hate Ideology Fills American Churches and Synagogues?" I am sure Christians and Jews would be outraged by such a sloppy and irresponsible conclusion.
This is exactly what the Freedom House has done in a recent publication entitled "Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Fill American Mosques." The Freedom House Report confuses two separate questions: (1) are there Muslims who espouse bigoted views? And (2) are these views widespread or are they confined to a minority within the Muslim community? In failing to make this distinction, the Freedom House unfairly smears all mosques and all mosque goers in the United States.
American Muslims are aware of the shallow understanding of Islam that characterizes some of the writings that comes out from Saudi writers. These writings speak more to the peculiar socio-cultural experience, and the lack of meaningful exposure to the rich experience of diverse societies by some Saudi writers, than to Islamic teachings. One of the most known and respected Muslim scholars of the 20th century, the late Muhammad Al-Ghazali, labeled such writings on Islamic law as the "Bedouin jurisprudence," a decade prior to the critical review wahabism received in recent days. Most American Muslims abhor and reject the bigoted and mean-spirited statements cited in the Report.
I personally experienced such bigotry in Mid 1980s when a group of wahabi-leaning students vigorously protested the inclusion of a Shi'a religious scholar on a panel addressing a large Muslim gathering, and tried to oust me from my position as the president of the Muslim Students Association in Detroit. There design was ultimately defeated by the Association's general body that rejected such bigoted views.
But to say that Muslims, like any other religious community, have their own bigots is a far cry from claiming that hate literature fill all mosques in America, and implying that mosque goers tolerate hate and bigotry. The Freedom House Report fails in making this important distinction.
I was puzzled, as I was going through the report's findings, as to how can any one who took an introductory course in research methods, let alone professional researchers hired by an organization that sets criteria for deciding who is free and who is not throughout the world. I kept asking myself how could anyone conclude that "Saudi publications on hate ideology fill American mosques" after discovering few copies of Saudi publications in 15 Mosques throughout the nation. There are more than 2000 mosques in the United States. 15 out of 2000 mosques constitute less than 1% of all mosques in the country. How could such an insignificant number allow anyone to claim that Saudi hate publications are "spread from coast to coast and now fill the libraries and study halls of some of America's main mosques."
Many of the sloppy statements and erroneous conclusions are the result of failing to consult with mainstream Muslim organizations, and neglecting to understand the dynamics within the American Muslim community. The authors of the Report have made unsubstantiated allegations on a handful of mosques and have generalized their assumptions to all mosques across USA.
The Report's main conclusions are at odd with some of its findings. The Report rightly points out that most American Muslims are "upstanding, law-abiding citizens and neighbors," and that they "decry the Wahhabi interpretation as being foreign to the toleration expressed in Islam and its injunction against coercion in religion." The authors do not, however, bother to explain the discrepancy between the reality of the American Muslim community and claims against American mosques. They never discuss the extent to which what they have picked from the shelves reflects the attitudes and values of Mosque goers.
Evidently, the authors of the Freedom House Report never stopped for a second to ask: How has the presence of the Saudi literature impacted the attitudes of the mosque goers? Nor have they considered asking the leaders of the Islamic centers about their views and activities, or how the Saudi material was used. One would think that this is the most reasonable and sensible thing to do in a study that aims at ascertaining the truth and enhancing understanding.
The discrepancy between the Report's claims and the reality it purports to describe is evident, for example, in the case of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), the Report frequently refers to as the Herndon Mosque. ADAMS is one of the most vibrant mosques, with an active interfaith program, and an exemplary program for developing civic awareness and public service. It has organized, in 2004 alone, more than 20 interfaith meetings, bringing Muslims into friendship and dialogue with people of other faiths, including the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, St. Thomas a Becket Catholic Church, United Christian Parish in Reston, St Annes Church, and Sikh Community, to name just a few. ADAMS regularly invites political candidates running for state and federal office to discuss with the congregation their political agendas, and does that on a non-partisan basis. And ADAMS is a forward looking Islamic center where women play an active role in running the mosque and serve on the Executive Board and the Board of Trustees. 5 of the 13 Board of Trustees members are women, and ADAMS vice president is a women.
Do ADAMS's profile, programs, and activities fit into the alarmist picture painted by the Freedom House Report? Is it fair to confuse mainstream and extreme voices when dealing with American Muslims? Is it acceptable to generalize from the particular? The authors of the Freedom House Report are, sadly, oblivious to these important questions.
Dr. Louay M. Safi is Executive Director of ISNA Leadership Development Center (ILDC), Plainfield, Indiana. He also serves on the board of several leading Muslim organizations, including the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), the Islamic Horizons, and the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS). You can visit his web site at http://lsinsight.org/
Qadi Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim Ibn Jama'ah ash-Shafi'I
Qadi Muhammad Ibn al-Hariri al-`Ansari al-Hanafi
Qadi Muhammad Ibn Abi Bakr al-Maliki
Qadi Ahmad Ibn `Umar al-Maqdisi al-Hanbali.
Some other orthodox Sunni scholars who refuted Ibn Taymiyya for his deviances and opposition to the positions of orthodox Sunni Islam include:
Taj ud-Din as-Subki
Faqih Muhammad Ibn `Umar Ibn Makki
Hafiz Salah-ud-Din al-`Ala'i
Qadi and Mufassir Badr-ud-Din Ibn Jama'ah
Shaykh Ahmad Ibn Yahya al-Kilabi al-Halabi
Hafiz Ibn Daqiq al-`Id
Qadi Kamal-ud-Din az-Zamalkani
Qadi Safi-ud-Din al-Hindi
Ibn Hajar al-Haytami
Faqih and Muhaddith `Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Baji ash-Shafi'I
Historian al-Fakhr Ibn al-Mu`allim al-Qurashi
Mufassir Abu Hayyan al-`Andalusi
Hafiz `Alaa al-Din al-Bukhari
Najm al-Din Sulayman Ibn `Abd al-Qawi al-Tufi
Abd al-Ghani an-Nubulusi
Faqih and voyager Ibn Batutah
Shaykh Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari
Shaykh Abu Hamid Ibn Marzooq
Shaykh Tahir Muhammad Sulaiman al-Maliki
Shaykh Sa'id Ramadan al-Buti
The Wahhabis are especially notorious for reviving the ways of the Khawarij (or Kharijites). They originated in the time of the caliphates of Uthman and Ali (A.S), among the closest companions to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&F). They were the earliest group of fanatics who separated themselves from the Muslim community. They arose in opposition to Ali - Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law - because of his willingness to arbitrate with Mu'awiyah, governor of Damascus at that time, over the issue of the caliphate. The Khawarij, meaning "those who exited," slung accusations of blasphemy against Ali and Mu'awiyah - and those who followed them - saying that the Qur'an, and not them, had the ultimate authority in the matter. Ibn al-Jawzi, an orthodox Sunni scholar, in his book Talbis Iblis (The Devil's Deception) under the chapter heading "A Mention of the Devil's Delusion upon the Kharijites," says that Dhu'l-Khuwaysira al-Tamimi was the first Kharijite in Islam and that "[h]is fault was to be satisfied with his own view; had he paused he would have realized that there is no view superior to that of Allah's Messenger..." Furthermore, the orthodox Sunni scholar Imam Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi discusses the Kharijite rebellions and their bloody massacres of tens of thousands of Muslims in one of his books. He explicitly mentions the Azariqa, one of the most atrocious Kharijite movements led by Nafi' ibn al-Azraq from the tribe of Banu Hanifa - the same tribe where the heretic Musaylima the Prevaricator (or Liar) who claimed prophethood alongside Prophet Muhammad came from. Just as the Khawarij threw accusations of blasphemy on Ali and Mu'awiya, Wahhabis throw accusations of blasphemy against Sunnis and Shi'ites.
Wahhabi-salafis come in various strains, some being more lethal than others. The variety in strains is due to differences in approach of bringing the Muslims back to a state of strengthened belief based on the example of the pious ancestors. It must be emphasized that although all Wahhabis are called Salafis, all Salafis are not purely Wahhabi. Non-Wahhabi Salafi Muslims include those like Syed Qutb who wished to eradicate the supposed current state of ignorance (jahiliyya) to bring Muslims back to a state of purity - purity reminiscent of the purity of Muslims who lived in the time period of the Salaf. However, all Salafi Muslims, whether they are Wahhabi or Qutbi, admire the role models Muhammad ibn Abdl-Wahhab, and especially Ahmad Ibn Taymiyah, whose hard-line interpretations have inspired revolutionaries today. Therefore, although all Salafis are not Wahhabis, they admire many of the same role models - role models who have been rejected and condemned by masses of orthodox Sunni scholars for their unauthentic representations of pristine Islam. All Wahhabis consider themselves to be Salafis and prefer to be called by this name (instead of Wahhabi), even though differences exist between Salafi groups.
Although there are differences in approach among Salafis, they have nonetheless allied themselves from time to time in an attempt to make the salafi vision a reality by both non-violent and violent means. An example of this is the Salafi-oriented Deobandi Taliban and their alliance with the Wahhabis. The Wahhabi Saudi government was only one of three countries that officially recognized the Taliban government of "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
Wahhabis as Salafis: deceptive semantics
Wahhabis differentiate themselves from orthodox Sunnis by labeling themselves Salafis, which refers to the word Salaf - the time period in which the early Muslims lived in the first 300 years after the Hijra, or emigration, of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&F) from Mecca to Medina in 622. The Companions (Sahaba), those who followed the Companions (Tabi'een), and those who followed those who followed the Companions (Taba al-Tabi'een) who lived in the time period of the Salaf are exemplars par excellence of what Muslims should be, as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had praised these Muslims as being the best of Muslims. Therefore, it has been the aim of every Muslim since the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to adhere to and to follow the footsteps of the adherents of the Salaf. This means that when a Wahhabi calls himself a Salafi, he claims to be a genuine follower of pristine Islam. This, however, is far from the truth.
Orthodox Sunni Muslims believe that they are the true bearers of pristine Islam since the time period of the Salaf. Because there were time gaps between the noble period of the Salaf and centuries that followed, the authentic positions of the early Muslims were passed by scholars in those times and afterwards to later generations via meticulous, systematic, and methodological means of preservation. The knowledge was passed from qualified scholars to other qualified scholars through the centuries, who passed it to the masses. This uninterrupted chain of knowledge from the time of the Salaf until now has been authentically preserved by the orthodox Sunnis. Orthodox Sunnis, therefore, have roots in the Salaf, and are represented today by the four surviving authentic schools of Islamic jurisprudence: Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools (madhahib).
Purifying your religion is necessary for everyone of us! But the place I agree with some people on is the method of introducing these concepts employed by the Salafis. They often times do so with a crass, arrogant manner, which is itself contradictory to the Islamic adab. With all that being said, the Prophet (saws) said the Muslim who mixes with the people and is patient with their harm is better than the one who doesn't. Don't become bigoted against the basis of the movement because of the actions of some it its adherents! That is akin to these kuffar who lump all Muslims into the same boat of terrorism!
PS Akbar Khan - The fatawa about the earth and removing facial hair (depending on the circumstances)have been rescinded.
I'm sure you'll agree that there is a difference between what a religion preaches and what its followers practice, that there are realms of the ideal and the real; very few there are who can meet in both realms (we may, I think, call these few the Prophets of God). I'm sure that if you tried hard enough, you could find facts to substantiate any sort of break with any ideology on the part of its believers, no matter what the ideology is. There are Christian hypocrites too, wouldn't you agree?
But to make blanket and judgemental statements that the actions of the few somehow indicate the values of the many is unfair and inaccurate. Islam is a wonderful, erudite religion that God has revealed to us through the Recitation of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). At the very core of its teaching is the way to peace through submission to the will of God, our Lord, our Creator.
When Muslims greet one another, they wish each other Salaam, Peace. What is violent about that? Indeed, to submit to the will of Allah, of God, is, I think, the most sure gurantor of peace and the way from human frailties and failings like violence, anger, wrath what have you.
Study the religion, Missus, you might be surprised at what you find. I wish you peace.
I think that you need to understand that Islam most certainly does not sanction violence against other religions. This is a misconception that many Westerners have about the religion. Contents of the holy book, the Quran, are lifted out of context to support this misunderstanding (that Islam is violent) There is no compulsion in Islam; what is more, Islam has a far better track record of tolerance for other faiths than Christianity.
I understand that you may repsond that this isn't the case today; but I'm afraid that it is. In my experience Muslims have been far more tolerant and understanding about the other Abrahamic traditions (Christianity and Judaism) than the evangelical Christians ever were or will be.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)was the very model of restraint; when in conflict with others he could have asked the angel Jibril to strike them down. He did not.
I don't want to change anyone's religion, I respect all faiths and the contributions that all religions have made to the world. There is much to admire in Islam. But the intolerance that Islam frequently shows to other faiths is not one of its strong points.
Why shouldn't there be churches in Indonesia? Why shouldn't there be churches, mosques, and temples in all countries?
Killing van Gogh? Dutch killed blacks and Muslims in Africa by the ten of thousands. As against van Gogh, the Dutch have the super kill. First the Dutch killed and harrassed Muslims, then Muslims killed van Gogh. Was it right? No! Killing is wrong. Muslims didn't start it. There are sensitive to taboo notions in Islam, do not go there. If you made whore houses of sodomy out of churches and synagogues that doesn't give you the right to extent that filth and decadency over the sectors of the population that do not share into your deplorable value system. School children in Beslam? Why? Always ask yourself that question and start from there that all humans are equal and nobody is stupider than you are. FYI, the Russians bombed schools killing Chechen children, they indiscriminately arrest and make disappear the young of Chechnia. You dig?
Maybe what's going on around the world by the "tiny minority of extremists" in the umma is what's fueling phobia towards islam. Given what's going on, maybe it's not a phobia at all. The list grows daily: killing van Gogh, school children in Beslan, bombing subways in Spain, planning to bomb a nuclear power plant in Holland, murdering teachers and monks in southern Thailand, destroying thousands of churches in Indonesia, killing a Coptic Christian family in New Jersey, affirming a death sentence against Salman Rushdi, genocide in Darfur, car bombs against Shia in Iraq, death sentences against Nigerian woman for alleged adultery, etc., etc. What happened to the beauty and glory of Islam? It seemingly only destroys things these days.
While we are on the subject, if Muslims of the "Wahabi persuasion" had not striven to put copies of the Qur'an on foreign bookshelves, seemingly I would not be calling myself a Muslim. Perhaps we might wish to consider keeping our differences in the proper perspective insha'Allah. Jazak Allahu khair.
This is a phenomenon called "projection."
I do wonder about the authors of the report, and their research methodology--if they visit university libraries and find works by Bakunin, will they accuse those libraries of supporting anarchism? For that matter my own bookshelves contain several books by authors who express bigoted views against Muslims and people of Middle Eastern heritage--but that certainly doesn't mean I agree with those views. Part of being an informed person involves familiarity with a variety of viewpoints; the American courts have recognized this and upheld access to information as a crucial part of freedom of speech. We should never bow to demands for censorship of our religious materials; instead, we should trust that intelligent and informed Muslims can distinguish right from wrong.
Also, Abu, I think the Sufis do a rather good job of practicing the real Islam, since you mention it....
By overstating and repeating such labels over and over - we may be falling into their trap, if not inspired by their propaganda and double-talk.
And as the previous writer said: "This report is a test for other things to come" under the cover of Patriot Act.
But we Muslims should not fall for this nuisance. And we should not add to the polemics and propaganda by using hyperboles such as "Wahabi Fundamentalists" and "Iranian-Shiite Fundamentalists", as used by the likes of Bernard Lewis - the Zionist-Orientalist.
I do not think that Mr. Safi should be one to talk. ISNA has totally messed with the Muslim community in North America. It is because of your very organization sir, that people have been told different information and conflicting stories about how and when Eid Prayers should be held. It is your organization that has blindly followed any fatwa (religious ruling) coming out of Saudi Arabia.
What would haev been nice to see, would be for Mr. Louay Safi to have written this article, clearly stating that there is indeed dangerous hate material being shoved into our libraries in the Masjids. Such a rich and powerful organization such as yours, instead of crying and complaining the way you are, you could have come out as a beacon of hope for the Muslim community, to declare that if any such material is indeed found within the Masjids in the United States of America, then ISNA will do everything it can possible in order to eliminate such offensive material. But instead, your approach of, wahhh wahhh wahhh wahhh waaaaaaaaahhh is pathetic and I am sick and tired of hearing it from the likes of ISNA, CAIR, ICNA, and MSA's.
Why don't you provide a link to the freedom house article you are discussing so that everyone can read about the controversial Fatwa that "Shaykh" bin Baaz, the most respected scholar of Saudi Arabia to this day whose fatwa's are still being believed and held firm, stated in 1966 that "the world is flat," and another fatwa in which he stated that is is completely impermissible for women to remove any unwanted facial hair, even if it may be displeasing to them??? Or why don't we go into bin Baaz's fatwa of outlawing women frmo driving?
Besides all those things, those are just examples showcasing the mental cases who "LEAD" the way in Saudia.
You need to cool down Mr. Safi, because you have totally taken the wrong approach.
You should act like a beacon of light and a lifeline for Muslims and Islam, instead of whinning and crying unfair play, it's a dirty game, DEAL WITH IT! This is my advice to you, and I am sure you will continue to dish out such nonsense as long as your term of Executive Director remains, make sure you leave a good legacy of yourself behind before you become one of the legends of ISNA...yuck
Don't even start to use IMAM GHAZZALI's (RA) name...it makes me sick that you would use his writings in order to twist his writings to suit your opinions. That is NOT FAIR PLAY. If someone wants to read on Imam Ghazzali (ra) and what he wrote and taught, then you need to start with Ihya Uloom Ad-Deen (The Revival of the Religious Sciences).
By the way, just because Freedom House released such a report, understood they do not have knowledge or did not do a thoroughal enough study into the Masajid in the USA, I think it is a bit silly and self-righteous of you to sit there and openly declare that only 15 Masajid in the USA ahve such material. You do not nkow that for sure, neither do I! The only person or people who know, have visited more than 50 percent of the Masajid in the USA, and have read all the books in more than 50 perecnt of the Masajid.
MAINSTREAM MUSLIM ORGANIZATIONS???? Who made ISNA the mainstream Muslim organization??? You guys made yourselves the mainstream Muslim organization or what????
You should have come to the Reviving Islamic Spirit in Toronto a few months ago...these guys who are the organizers of this event are so humble, that they don't sit there and declare themselves as the mainstream Muslim organization like you do.
Work to assure Freedom House that it isn't the case, stop complaining!