New Yorkers Against Religion-Based Bigotry will need to tread a very delicate balance as far as Islam is concerned.
On the one hand, the Muslim world seems to be dominated, to a large and very scary degree, by extremely intolerant Islamist factions. We need to take a stand against Islamist persecution of “apostates,” persecution of gays, etc. (Among other things, this means we should expose the history of U.S. government support for Islamist militants – continuing even after 9/11/2001!)
On the other hand, Muslims in general, including the more moderate and reformist Muslims, have themselves been the target of a lot of bigotry here in the U.S.A. We need to oppose that, too. We also need to oppose the egregious human rights violations, e.g. torture, that have been justified in the name of opposing Islamist terrorism.
Bigotry against Muslims in general is often justified on the alleged grounds that moderate and reformist Muslims don’t really exist, that all Muslims are really terrorism-supporting, apostate-killing extremists, some of whom just don’t admit it.
In fact, Muslim reformers do exist. And, in my opinion, it is in the best interests of everyone else to support the efforts of Muslim reformers by giving them more publicity. That, to me, would seem to be the best way to counteract the influence of the Islamists. I don’t see what any of us gain by denying the existence of Muslim reformers.
Here are some examples of what seem to me to be undeniably sincere Muslim reformers:
- Asra Q. Nomani
- Irshad Manji
- Italian Muslim Assembly
- Jihad for Love
- Liberal Islam Network
- Muslims Agains Sharia: Islamic Reform Movement
- Muslims for Progressive Values
- Queer Muslim Revolution
And here are some examples of what seem to me to be sincere Muslim moderates:
- American Islamic Congress
- American Islamic Forum for Democracy
- Center for Islamic Pluralism
- Quilliam Foundation (but see also this response by Ziauddin Sardar, to which see this reply by Maajid Nawaz)
Furthermore, it should be acknowledged that even Islamists don’t necessarily approve of terrorism, even though all too many do. Below is a collection of fatwas by scholars of many different branches of Islam:
Of course, in addition to supporting Muslim reformers, we should also support ex-Muslims, who, according to the most retrograde forms of Islam, are to be killed for leaving Islam.
Alas, so far I’ve found only a few websites which concern themselves with the plight of Muslim “apostates” but which also acknowledge the existence of Muslim reformers, and which attempt to form a secularist alliance between ex-Muslims and Muslim reformers:
- Organized Ex-Muslims Use the Web in their ‘Quiet Revolution’
- Supporting Islam’s apostates by Ali Eteraz
- Apostasy and Islam
Another site which tries to build a secularist alliance between ex-Muslims and Muslim reformers is Secular Islam.
On the other hand, I’ve run into quite a few ex-Muslim sites that either ignore or deny the existence of Muslim reformers, or that regard Muslim reformers with contempt. These sites typically claim or imply that Islam in general is always, everywhere, and inherently intolerant and violently so, and cannot be reformed. Some examples:
- The Fate of Infidels and Apostates under Islam
- Apostates of Islam
- Faith Freedom International (to which here is a Muslim response)
- Not Muslim Anymore
- The Apostate (here on WordPress.com)
- Basharee Murtadd (here on WordPress.com)
Their attitude is certainly understandable. Here in the United States, even ex-Christians from fundementalist backgrounds are often very bitter against Christianity as a whole, rather than seeing liberal Christians as a useful ally against the religious right wing.
However, liberal Christians are an essential part of the secularist alliance here in the U.S.A. All the more so would Muslim reformers be an essential part of any secularist alliance in Muslim-dominated countries.
So, it is in the best interests of all of us to reject blanket bigotry against all adherents of any given religion.
Anyhow, some good news on the rights of apostates: Egypt’s Grand Mufti comes out against the killing of apostates by Omar Sinan, Associated Press, as copied on a blog on July 26, 2007. On the other hand, here on WordPress.com, I’ve run into a fundy Shi’ite blog defending the killing of apostates: Apostasy and Blasphemy in Islam << Shia The Right Path.
The website of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, a moderate group already mentioned above, includes links to articles by Stephen Schwartz on Kosovo, Macedonia, and Tibet (another copy here) and The Myth of Muslim Silence; The Persistence of MSM Silence. CIP comes across as basically conservative, denouncing Wahhabism (Saudi Salafism) in the name of older Muslim traditions. However, the CIP’s ability to appeal to Muslims is likely to be limited by its ties to Daniel Pipes, a staunchly pro-Israel Jew who aggressively promotes the “shunning” of lots and lots of people and groups in the Muslim community whom he disapproves of for various reasons. (CIP’s ties to Daniel Pipes are mentioned numerous places on Daniel Pipes’s own website, and in the news story ‘Anti-Islamist’ Crusader Plants New Seeds by Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, February 25, 2005, as reprinted on antiwar.com.)
Another interesting group is Al-Baqee, a coalition of American Muslims opposed to Saudi Arabian sponsorship of Wahabi extremism in Iraq and elsewhere, discussed in Saying ‘No’ to the Saudis by Stephen Schwartz, New York Post, October 18, 2007