A recent conference in Saudi Arabia served to underscore the misguided stance of many officials in the United States who deny the connection between Islam and violence, particularly when it comes to terrorist acts committed on American soil.
The conference, "Ideological Trends between Freedom of Expression and the Rulings of the Sharia," was held in Mecca, March 19-21; organized by the Islamic Fiqh Council (an affiliate of the Muslim World League), and sponsored by Saudi King Salman ibn Abdul Aziz. The event illustrated the impossibility expecting Islamic governments to protect genuine human rights.
One of its participants, Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, Secretary General of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that the gathering served as an important contribution to his group's efforts "to promote the true image and lofty teachings of Islam, which call for affection, beneficence, tolerance, coexistence and harmony." Both the content of the conference and the background of its initiators, however, indicate the opposite.
"Humans are free to have their blood, money and honor preserved and remain free except from worshipping God Almighty" said Prince Khalid Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Mecca Region Governor and adviser to Saudi Arabia's King Salman, referring to the Quran at the opening ceremony. The operative word is "except." What that means is that all people must submit to the will of Allah and that Islam is the only true religion.
This assertion is mild in comparison to the workings of the Islamic Fiqh Council itself, however. It has not only been characterized since its inception by hatred, intolerance and extremism, but is behind the 1990 assassination of an imam in Tucson, Arizona, which Mideast expert Daniel Pipes called "One of the first killings on U.S. soil connected to the Islamic religion..."
Founded in 1978 and made up of a select group of Muslim jurists and scholars, the IFC aims, in part, to:
"Prov[e] the supremacy of Islamic Fiqh over man-made laws," and "tak[e] measures to counter suspicions raised against Islam, as well as problems and observations designed to either spread skepticism about the rulings of Islamic Shari[a] or degrade their importance."
In its 11th session (in Mecca on 19-26 February, 1989) -- famous for issuing a scathing legal decree against author Salman Rushdie for allegedly insulting Islam in his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses -- the IFC set the stage for the murder of Rashad Khalifa, an Egyptian-born American computer scientist and imam in Arizona, by declaring him a "criminal" for denying some of the verses of the Quran, thereby "undermin[ing] the religion of Islam from within."
In the Islamic Fiqh Council's 11th session, in 1989 -- famous for issuing a scathing legal decree against author Salman Rushdie (pictured above) for allegedly insulting Islam in his novel, The Satanic Verses -- the IFC set the stage for the murder of Rashad Khalifa, an Egyptian-born American computer scientist and imam in Arizona. (Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)
Khalifa gained international attention when he released a computer analysis of the Quran and claimed that two of its verses were written by Satan, not God.
"Khalifa's pretensions mean that he is no longer a Believer and has committed apostasy," the IFC wrote in a resolution. "Hence, Muslims must be alert and cautious of his false views, and they must not cooperate with him. A prayer behind such a person is unlawful."
Less than a year later, on January 31, 1990 -- after receiving numerous threats on his life, Dr. Khalifa was found dead at the mosque where he worked, the Masjid of Tucson, "stabbed 29 times, beaten and doused with a flammable solvent."
It would take nearly two decades for Khalifa's killer to be apprehended. On 28 January 2013, Glen Francis was convicted in Arizona of first-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison by Pima County Superior Court Judge Christopher Browning.
In his ruling, Judge Browning said he found it ironic that Francis apparently killed Khalifa in the name of Islam -- a religion that "values peace and wholeness and denounces aggression" -- and told the defendant that in the United States, everyone's constitutional right to believe or not to believe is celebrated along with the right to speak and teach "in peace."
Clearly, Judge Browning had not been paying attention to the Muslim plot uncovered in Colorado to kill Khalifa over his controversial interpretation of Islamic scripture. Nor did the judge seem to be aware of the fatwa on Khalifa that had been issued by the Islamic Fiqh Council, an organization that has an active branch in North America. The judge also seems not to be familiar with the Quran or Islamic history, such as its conquest of Persia, Turkey (the Christian Byzantine Empire), all of North Africa and the Middle East, Greece, Eastern Europe and southern Spain.
Judge Browning is not alone in his lack of familiarity with the background of Islam and this stunning "disconnect" in the West. It is high time for Americans to cease ignoring the words and deeds of Islamists -- whether in the U.S., Canada, South America, Australia, North Africa or Europe.
A.Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.