It takes courage to take a stand against radical Islam, even for those who are Muslim; especially for those who are Muslim. One such person happens to be Asra Nomani, who along with fellow Muslims, marched up to the Islamic Center in Washington DC on December 4 to post a declaration on the building’s door; rejecting Islamic statism, denouncing violent jihad and opposing the idea of religious extremism. The declaration announced the constitution of Muslim Reform Movement, an international organization that aims to counter the beliefs of terror groups in the Middle East –including Islamic State– in a ‘battle for the soul of Islam’.
While Nomani and her associates may have been very nervous, the recent bloodshed in Paris and San Bernardino (incited by radical Islam) have convinced the community to confront the link between their religion and terrorism, and not deny that such a link does in fact exist.
“Ultimately, the reason why we, as Muslims, stood… and went to the mosque and took the risks on our own lives, is because we’ve had enough,” said Nomani at a press meet. “I think the world has had enough.”
Nomani’s message emerged as others scrambled to shift the post-San Bernardino focus on anything but radical Islam.
The same day, the Council on American-Islamic Relations held a press meeting to denounce growing Islamophobia in America, while calling for a hate crimes investigation into the threat against a mosque in Virginia. That press meet also took a shot at Republican presidential candidates Ben Carson and Donald Trump, accusing them of driving an unprecedented spike of anti-Muslim incidents across the nation through their inflammatory and inaccurate statements.
Hussam Ayloush of the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the attack in San Bernardino, but he also said that Americans themselves should take some responsibility for such violence.
“We complain and say, ‘What are the Muslim people doing to root out terrorism and extremism?’ Let’s not forget that some of our own foreign policy, as Americans –as the West– has fueled that extremism,” Ayloush said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been looking into the massacre that killed at least 14 people and wounded 21 others. Even though Islamic State claimed responsibility for the terror attack, Ayloush refused to blame Islamic extremism, while stressing that terrorism happens to be a global problem, not a Muslim one.
Meanwhile, Democrats focused their post-attack response, not only on radical Islam, but also laws related to gun control; with Attorney General Loretta Lynch vowing to prosecute anti-Muslim speech that borders the lines of violence.
“The fear that you have just mentioned is in fact my greatest fear as a prosecutor, as someone who is sworn to the protection of all of the American people: which is that the rhetoric will be accompanied by acts of violence,” Lynch told the group Muslim Advocates.
Attorneys for the family of gunman Syed Rizwan Farook, who was killed along with his wife and co-gunman Tashfeen Malik, said that the assailants were continually mocked at work for their beards.
“What the media should also be cautious about is, just because he had a religion, that he was Muslim, it had nothing to do with these acts. Islam does not agree, does not support any types of action that occur like this,” said attorney Mohammad Abuershaid.
Nomani said that that approach condemning the violence, but denying any link to radical Islam, is part of the problem. She spoke of a three dimensional strategy: denial, deflection and demonization of those Muslims who want to speak candidly about issues such as religious extremism.
“We don’t want to bury our heads in the sand about serious issues,” said Nomani, author of ‘Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam.’
Dalia Mogahed, research director of Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, said it would not be accurate to describe the Islamic State as a Muslim group; she referred to it as a criminal organization that has allowed most of its victims to be Muslim.
“I think that we have to be careful not to give in to the apocalyptic narrative of ISIS that wants to start a war between Muslims and everybody else,” she said, using an acronym for the terror group.
The Muslim Reform Movement’s declaration demands equal rights for women, separation between mosque and state, an end to institutionalized Shariah law as well as bigotry; based on a list of characteristic traits including gender expression and sexual orientation.
“We stand for a respectful, merciful and inclusive interpretation of Islam,” the declaration says. “We are in a battle for the soul of Islam, and an Islamic renewal must defeat the ideology of Islamism –or politicized Islam– which seeks to create Islamic states, as well as an Islamic caliphate.”
Whether the Muslim Reform Movement will be a success is another question, especially since a number of American Muslim groups have already held anti-terrorism rallies and marches, but the organization’s declaration event seemed to draw a large crowd of people.
With fears of increased Islamic terrorism in both the United States and Europe, Nomani said the time has come to bring an end to the toxic poison that has been intersecting all these borders.
“I mean, how much blood has to be spilled until we recognize inside of a Muslim community that we do have an ideological problem?” she asked. “And that we do have support?”
Photo Credits: Gatestone Institute