Squabbling and mistrust among those who share values and who recognized the depth of the radical Islamist threat to Western values is counterproductive. One of my tasks as San Diego Chapter leader for Act! For America is to build a coalition of like-minded Americans to protect our precious way of life from the imposition of Sharia and Islamist terrorist attacks. However, I am too often frustrated by unnecessary disagreements among those who should be working in common cause.
The most recent example of this kind of useless conflict has arisen over the issue of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) ads promoting Islam and the counter ads produced by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Shireen Qudosi wrote an article critical of the counter ads. I will not rehash the details of this dispute.
The differences over outreach to “apostates” are of little significance when juxtaposed against the Islamists campaign. Geller, Spencer and Qudosi share a heartfelt concern for the threat posed by radical Islam. They further share a complete commitment to American Constitutional values. They recognize that we are at war and the global nature of this enemy. They have a common understanding that this war has both violent and stealth characteristics. The three activists harbor serious misgivings with the way the current administration is conducting this war. As such they should join hands while building a vast American coalition prepared to defeat the enemy and embrace all allies.
The dust up over the ads only benefits the enemy. In this same vain, I am troubled by a trend I regularly encounter among too many in our movement. Far too many on our side discourage and push away moderate Muslims because of issues of trust. There are those among us who will not trust anyone who identifies themselves as a Muslim. Because of the nature of those parts of the Koran that permit and encourage deception and other very troubling passages, genuine reformers like Shireen are the object of grave mistrust. This despite the fact that Shireen and others like her put themselves at considerable risk by openly criticizing Islam.
For whatever reason, some raised as Muslims prefer to find a path in Islam, rather than convert or abandon the faith they were born into, even as they recognize the deep problematic nature of the faith. They fully reject all those elements that I need not expound upon, that make radical Islam such a real and present threat to our way of life. Whether one feels that it is impossible or inconsistent to claim to be a moderate Muslims should be irrelevant. The only criteria we need to be concerned with are the values both spiritual and political of those on our side. Based on this standard, Shireen is a champion for American values and warrior against radical Islam.
If we are to win this war, we dare not marginalize allies. Shireen is indeed an ally. I urge Pamela and Robert to reach out to Shireen. She is very young, committed and courageous.
I urge the three parties to embrace one another’s sincerity and find ways to work together. We have enough enemies without creating divisions in our ranks.
A Message from Shireen Qudosi:
I’d like to thank Mike for taking the time to share his thoughts. The issues faced here seem to be a trending perception of anyone who calls themselves a Muslim. Spencer/Geller’s quick reaction to label me as some sort of covert Islamist with some hidden ‘agenda’ isn’t just laughable, but it also doesn’t speak well for future efforts in combating genuine Islamist activity if those who claim to leaders in this area can’t distinguish a secular Muslim from an Islamist.
To clarify, an Islamist isn’t someone who is Muslim, or even a terrorist. Rather, an Islamist is that well-spoken, well-dressed Muslim moderate in appearance but who uses ‘the system’ to push an Islamic agenda. For example, those groups or individual who claim victimization and demand special privileges, who use our system of laws to push sharia law, who demand one set of special codes for Muslims despite the fact that we all live in a common land – those people are Islamist and those people are arguably more dangerous to our liberties than outright jihadis.
But to come back to the point at hand, it’s crucial that extreme right wingers fringing on clearly Islamophobic agendas begin recognizing that 1) just because we’re Muslims doesn’t mean we’re nut jobs out to blow up America, and 2) you soap box preachers peddling ‘news’ mixed with half truths and exaggerations, you NEED moderate Muslims to help fight radical Islam. Marginalizing those VERY few of us who’d otherwise agree with you on the threat of radical Islam, doesn’t do your agenda any good. We’re ultimately on the same side. It’s time you recognized it.
And if you’re going to be ‘experts’ in this field claiming to know of the very real threat of radical Islam, it’d serve you well to familiarize yourself with all facets of Muslims. This weekend I finally met someone face to face who not long ago told me to go ‘crawl back in a cave in Afghanistan’, clearly assuming I was another extremist, not surprisingly too considering he hadn’t taken the time to research my work or position. The individual was astonished to find a Muslim who looked just like any other American. I shook his hand, and asked him to notice that I wasn’t shrouded in black like some sort of missile cover, nor was I strapping a belt of bombs.
My advice is this – if you want to fight radical Islam, it’s time you started recognizing you’re not the only players in the game. Continued racism isn’t going to push those of us in the faith out to the sidelines. And if you want to win this game, you need to start being able to see the difference between your opponent and your team mate.
Photo Credit: Illume & Ridwan Adhami. “November 2008 Magazine Cover – ILLUME. Photographer: Ridwan Adhami”
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