French imam Hassen Chalghoumi recently learned firsthand that Islamists despise non-Islamist Muslims as much as they do anyone else. Chalghoumi attracted their ire by coming out strongly in favor of a ban on face-covering veils, a prohibition that is moving closer to reality. Echoing President Nicolas Sarkozy, he described the niqab as a "prison for women, a tool of sexist domination and Islamist indoctrination" that "has no place in France." Moreover, he explained:
"Having French nationality means wanting to take part in society, at school, at work. But with a bit of cloth over their faces, what can these women share with us? If they want to wear the veil, they can go to a country where it's the tradition, like Saudi Arabia."
Islamist reaction to his comments was swift and fierce, with a gang of nearly a hundred men storming his Paris mosque during a meeting of an organization focused on interfaith relations:
"They started to cry 'Allah akbar' and 'God is great,'" recounted Chalghoumi. "Then they insulted me, my mosque, the Jewish community, and the [French] republic. They left after an hour and a half."
According to a member of the Conference of Imams, the mob condemned Chalghoumi as an apostate and threatened him with "liquidation, this imam of the Jews."
Chalghoumi is not the only moderate risking "liquidation." Abadirh Abdi Hussein, a Muslim rapper in Sweden, had his head slashed by attackers displeased with his outspoken opposition to al-Shabaab, which has been recruiting young men to join the jihad in Somalia. And, as IW noted in January, Majed Moughni received a death threat after organizing a demonstration by Detroit-area Muslims to denounce the attempted Christmas Day airplane bombing.
Undeterred by this atmosphere of intimidation, many other Muslims have gone on offense against radicalism in recent months. Among them:
- The Muslim Canadian Congress called on lawmakers to ban the niqab, declaring it a "political issue promoted by extremists" that "has absolutely no place in Canada."
- A plan, now canceled, by the radical group Islam4UK to march through an English town known for honoring fallen soldiers earned the very public wrath of numerous Muslims.
- The liberal Norwegian Muslim group LIM (which stands for "equality, integration, diversity" in that nation's language) challenged fellow Muslims to rally in defense of free speech after Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard's home was attacked.
- Minhaj-ul-Quran, a Sufi Muslim organization operating in the UK, issued a fatwa against suicide bombings, labeling them "totally un-Islamic" and "violations of human rights."
As the above examples suggest, at the core of the resurgent jihad is a conflict between an authoritarian interpretation of Islam and a more spiritual, secular interpretation. The fate of two worlds — the Western and the Islamic — will be shaped profoundly by the outcome.