While the West is preoccupied with fighting "hate speech", "Islamophobia" and white supremacist groups, it appears more than willing to ignore the cultivation of Muslim hate speech and supremacist attitudes towards non-Muslims.
It is a cultivation that occurs especially in the process of dawa, the Muslim practice of Islamic outreach or proselytizing, the results of which seem to have been on show this week in a downtown New York terror attack. The terrorist, Sayfullo Saipov, originally from Uzbekistan, was apparently only radicalized after he moved to the United States. The mosque he attended in New Jersey had been under surveillance by the NYPD since 2005. A 2016 U.S.-commissioned report said Uzbek nationals were "most likely to radicalize while working as migrants abroad," according to the U.S. State Department.
On the surface, dawa, or outreach -- in person or online -- appears to be a benign missionary activity, about converting non-Muslims. Legal in Western societies, it is allowed to proceed undisturbed by the media or government. Dawa generally attracts little attention, except when members of an outreach organization suddenly turn up in the headlines as full-fledged jihadists.
Politicians and the media in the West seem to prefer viewing Islam solely as a religion and not as a political system that, according to critics, seeks to impose its own laws and regulations, sharia, on the world.
According to the Somali-born Muslim dissident and author, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, however, in her recent book, The Challenge of Dawa: Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Counter It:
"The term 'dawa' refers to activities carried out by Islamists to win adherents and enlist them in a campaign to impose sharia law on all societies. Dawa is not the Islamic equivalent of religious proselytizing, although it is often disguised as such... [It] includes proselytization, but extends beyond that. In Western countries, dawa aims both to convert non-Muslims to political Islam and to bring about more extreme views among existing Muslims. The ultimate goal of dawa is to destroy the political institutions of a free society and replace them with strict sharia."
Somali-born Muslim dissident and author, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, wrote in her recent book that in the West, the ultimate goal of dawa (the Muslim practice of Islamic outreach or proselytizing) "is to destroy the political institutions of a free society and replace them with strict sharia." (Photo by Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images)
Presumably, the last thing a society would want are groups that cloak political activity in religious practices, protected under the precepts of freedom of religion.
In the Philippines, recently, members of the dawa organization known as Tablighi Jamaat ("Group that Propagates the Faith") entered the country under the guise of missionary activity -- that they were going to participate in the Tablighi Jamaat's annual gathering there. It turned out, however, that they had come to wage jihad together with Isnilon Hapilon, the late "emir" of Islamic State in Southeast Asia.
The Tablighi Jamaat has been described by the expert on Islam and journalist, Innes Bowen, in her 2014 book, Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Trent, as "a Deobandi missionary movement and one of the largest Islamic groups in the UK... it has quietly grown into one of Britain's most successful Islamic movements. Vast numbers of British Muslims have spent time in its ranks". However, the Tablighi Jamaat was largely unknown in the UK, until it emerged that several British Muslims charged with terror offences had all spent time in the organization. Among these terrorists were Richard Reid, the "shoe-bomber," and three of the four perpetrators of the London 7/7 terrorist attacks. The American enemy combatant, John Walker Lindh, who aided the Taliban, was associated with the Tablighi Jamaat; and the San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook prayed in San Bernardino at the Dar al Uloom al Islamiyyah mosque, described as a "haven for Tablighi Jamaat activists."
The movement, according another expert on Islam, Yoginder Sikand, in his 1998 study of the Tablighi Jamaat , sought "to promote a sense of paranoia and even disgust of non-Muslim society". He quoted a prominent British promoter of the Tablighi Jamaat as saying:
"a major aim of tabligh is to rescue the ummah [Muslim community] from the culture and civilization of the Jews, Christians and (other) enemies of Islam to create such hatred for their ways as human beings have for urine... and excreta...".
The Tablighi Jamaat has been described in the Middle East Quarterly, in an article called "Tablighi Jamaat: Jihad's Stealthy Legions", as a wolf in sheep's clothing:
"Tablighi Jamaat is not a monolith: one subsection believes they should pursue jihad through conscience...while a more radical wing advocates jihad through the sword ... in practice, all Tablighis preach a creed that is hardly distinguishable from the radical Wahhabi-Salafi jihadist ideology that so many terrorists share".
Nevertheless, Tablighi Jamaat remains a legal, active organization, which yields a considerable influence over Muslims in Europe, especially the UK and the United States. Already in 2003, the deputy chief of the FBI's international terrorism section, Michael J. Heimbach, said, "We have a significant presence of Tablighi Jamaat in the United States and we have found that Al-Qaeda used them for recruiting now and in the past." One 2011 undercover video segment from the Darul Ulum Islamic High School in Birmingham, England, associated with the Tablighi Jamaat, showed that Muslim children were taught Muslim supremacy. Eleven year olds were taught that Hindus "have no intellect" and "drink cow piss". The teacher also said, "You are not like the non-Muslims out there... All that evil that you see in the streets... people not wearing Hijab properly, people smoking... you should hate it..." The children were also told:
"You need to free yourself from the influence of the Shaitan [Satan] and of society... The Kuffar [derogatory term for non-Muslims] have brought so many new things out there...They are controlling your minds... Are you part of those who prefer their way of life: The way of the Kuffar over the way of the Prophet?"
Both US and Dutch intelligence once seemed aware of the imminent danger of dawa organizations. In 2004, a Dutch government report identified threats to Dutch society from the practice of dawa and concluded that an "interaction or even interwovenness of Dawa and Jihad demonstrate the relationship between the various forms of radical Islam and the phenomenon of radical-Islamic terrorism."
The study also distinguished various kinds of dawa, both overt and covert, and the threats emanating from it:
"Dawa may be aimed at trying to convince Muslim communities that non-Muslim communities are hostile towards Islam and wish to oppress or even destroy it. Dawa may also serve to convince Muslim communities that the values and standards of non-Muslims are incompatible with those of Islam and should therefore be considered as depraved. In such a form of Dawa, Muslim communities are often encouraged to emphasise (in a provocative way) the differences with other groups and sometimes also to express their contempt and hatred towards standards and values and the culture of non-Muslims".
It would appear that Western governments have largely unlearned -- at least officially -- these insights into dawa as a tool for fostering feelings of Muslim supremacy and hatred of non-Muslims. Instead, they engage in endless, misguided obsessions over "Islamophobia." Their unlearning should be a cause for concern.
Other dawa organizations also operate in the West. One is the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), led by two converts, Abdur Raheem Green and Hamza Andreas Tzortis, that works globally to spread Islam. Unlike the Tablighi Jamaat, it focuses its missionary efforts on non-Muslims. Its leaders have made racist, supremacist and anti-democratic statements such as, again, calling non-Muslims, "kuffars." Green has said that, "The purpose of the jizya [protection money, or "tax", paid by non-Muslims to Muslims] is to make the Jew and the Christian know that they are inferior and subjugated to Islam," and "If a Jew or Christian is found walking down the street, a Muslim should push them to the side". He has also said that the "immediate problem" for Muslims in Britain is being surrounded by "kuffar" and that one of the only justifications for Muslims to remain in the UK is to "call the kuffar to Islam."
Tzortis has said that apostates who "fight against the community[...] should be killed" and that, "we as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom." He has also spoken in favor of child marriage. He admits that he used to be a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamic organization, but that he left the organization for "scholastic and philosophical reasons." In a statement on the iERA website, Tzortis and Green try to distance themselves from some (unspecified) past statements by writing, "some of the anachronous statements attributed to iERA personnel have been either clarified or publicly retracted, and were never made at university campuses."
The iERA evidently enjoys a large platform on UK campuses. According to a report on extremist events on UK campuses in the academic year 2016/17, iERA was behind 34 out of the total 112 events that took place that year. Unlike the far-right fringe groups recently banned by British Home Secretary Amber Rudd -- the mere support of such groups is punishable by up to 10 years in prison -- the iERA is free to carry on its dawa activity undisturbed and does so at an incredible pace. According to the organization's Facebook page, in October 2017 alone iERA or its representatives were active doing dawa in Canada, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and in the United States. The iERA also trained 15 dawa leaders from all over the world -- from Iceland and Poland to Honduras and Finland -- in a recent online dawa training program.
In the United States, the iERA works with the Muslim American Society (MAS) and Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), according to the iERA website. ICNA, a leading Muslim organization in the US, is actively involved in dawa, and in 2015 ran "Global Dawa day," which referred to Tzortis's training course.
According to ICNA's 2013 Members Handbook (for its female members), the organization considers itself an Islamic movement which is an
"organized and collective effort waged to establish Al-Islam in its complete form in all aspects of life. Its ultimate objective is to achieve the pleasure of our Creator Allah and success in the hereafter through struggle for Iqamat-ad-Deen [the establishment of Islam in its totality]. Islamic movements are active in various parts of the world to achieve the same objectives".
The ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic state in the United States could hardly be much clearer. The pretense of caring for "diversity" and "inclusion" that ICNA displays on its public website cannot be characterized as anything other than an attempt at dissimulation, as is the stated goal of "establishing a place for Islam in America." ICNA already has a place for Islam in America -- it presumably wants to expand that place until nothing else is left.
The 2013 Members Handbook describes that ICNA's work proceeds in "stages." One of the stages is dawa, or "effective outreach."
"Those who accept the truth of Islam are provided with appropriate Islamic literature and given the opportunity to become a Muslim. They are made part of the Islamic Ummah as brothers and sisters."
The Members Handbook goes on to describe how already in the 1970s:
"ICNA established its own forums for dawah work at the local, regional, and national level. It established vital institutions at the national level for support of its dawah activities... Recognizing other movement oriented groups in this land, ICNA continues to coordinate and combine its efforts with them".
In fact, ICNA has a separate project called the "WhyIslam Dawah Project," which
"aims to organize the dawah work in North America in a professional and effective manner. Highlights of the project are Toll-Free number for non-Muslims; Distribution of Islamic literature... Dawah through Media; Dawah in Prisons; Campus Dawah Support; Dawah Flyers Online; Dawah through Email".
ICNA is considered by experts such as Steven Emerson, Founder and Executive Director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, to be linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Its spiritual leader, Yusuf al Qaradawi, has preached that the West will be conquered by Islam -- not through the sword, but through dawa.
If Western leaders are unable to fathom the danger posed by organizations such as Tablighi Jamaat, iERA and ICNA, and, according to critics, others such as CAIR and ISNA -- let alone do something about it, instead of endlessly obsessing over "Islamophobia" -- Qaradawi could be proven right.
 Innes Bowen, Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Trent (Hurst 2014), p 35.
 Innes Bowen, Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Trent, p 41.
 Quoted in Innes Bowen, Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Trent, p 47.
 The only hurdle for iERA, so far, appears to have been that the Charity Commission opened an inquiry into iERA for possible funding of jihadists in Syria. Several jihadists who travelled from the UK to Syria were apparently linked to iERA, doing dawa work for them. Green has spoken favorably of dying for the cause of jihad.
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.