Is a movement to reform Islam from within already here -- and some of us do not even know it?
On October 27, 2009, the well-known Muslim peace activist from Bangladesh, Shoaib Choudhury, arrived in New York City to give talks on the problem of jihad at several prestigious institutions in the area. Shoaib, as he likes to be called, has gained the respect of much of the world, for his heroic efforts to stop the Muslim persecution of Jews and other religious minorities in Muslim countries. For this, his life has been threatened several times after he was accused of sedition, imprisoned and tortured. He still is at risk of being hanged by the state for his supposed crimes.
Relaxing after a long flight from his native Bangladesh, he met with several counter-jihad activists in midtown Manhattan. The plan was to see how mutual support and alliances could be developed.
However, that plan was aborted by the attitude of some of the activists. They tore into Mr. Choudhury as a supporter of Islamic intolerance regarding other religions, as a wife abuser who forces his spouse to veil herself, and even as a liar. None of this had any relationship to reality, but Shoaib was deemed untrustworthy by them because he would not join the "activists" in publicly bashing Mohammed and the text of the Qu'ran.
He has chosen not to do that. Instead, he spends his time and uses his journalistic skills to dig out buried information about al Qaeda's infiltration of the government and schools of his country, and to publish his findings on his online journal and in his publishing house. One new piece of information, for example, is that there is wide-spread sexual abuse of children in the madrassas, resulting in an epidemic of venereal diseases among these unfortunate children.
Shoaib's goal is to expose evil to the light of day so that public outcries can bring about needed reforms. He attacks the broad central branches of self-serving and sadistic Islamic practices rather than taking an axe to what the American counter-jihadists consider to be the main problem: the trunk of the tree - that is, Islam itself.
Shoaib reasons that if he were to criticize Islam per se, he would lose all credibility in the Muslim world. He would be seen as an outsider, an apostate, somebody to be automatically despised - and his voice would be lost. As he is a native of Bangladesh and has taken life threatening risks in it, why should he change his strategy to reflect the approach of his armchair counter-jihadist critics?
Shoaib is not the only one disdained in this way. There are other Muslim reformers working more or less under cover to bring Islam out of its convulsive cruelty and into a calmer, more peace loving practice. In addition, there are some Muslim sects, like Sufis, Dervishes and the Ahmadiyya movement that make a point of turning their backs on all violence.
The handful of critics noted here are part of a larger problem. Many American counter-jihadists become rigid, even fundamentalist, in their thinking. They demand a kind of theological purity from those they are willing to describe as "not enemies." In a way, this is understandable: fellow Americans not in the counter-jihad movement have proven so uninformed about the core issues of jihad that frustration is bound to grow. Further, having the deceptive phrase, "Islam is a religion of peace" blindfolded over the national consciousness by presidents adds rage to the frustration.
Giving in to that rage and frustration, however, will not help to defeat jihad. Instead, it would probably be more productive to be flexible and committed to finding effective ways to drive back both overt terrorism and stealth infiltration. If this means emphasizing the concrete practices of infiltration rather than the abstract ideology of Islam, we may be better understood by our countrymen who have so far stayed somnolent.
Fighting jihad has two fronts: one is within the vast part of the American community that ignores and denies the stated intention of Islam to dominate the world, whether by violence or stealth jihad, as with CAIR. It is important that the media, the public and especially our elected officials be informed about the dangers of radical Islam rather than, by denying what is in the radical agenda, enabling the jihadists to gain a deeper foothold..
The other front is within the Muslim world. There actually are people as aware of the threats to our individual freedoms that Islam would impose as we are. At great risk to their personal safety, and often their lives, they denounce the hatred for non-Muslims written in the Qu’ran, the very idea of the duty to advance jihad and forced conversions, the oppression of women, and more.
Think about it: If you happened to be born a Muslim, would you accept it or would you seek ways to make it more humane? There are reformers within the Muslim world. If they chose to work within it, and to continue to call themselves Muslim to have wider credibility among their own people or any other reason, this should be taken into account.
After the choir has been preached to, the job now is to spread this information to the uninformed, the naÃ¯ve, and to support the efforts of genuine freedom fighters within the Muslim world. Of course, determining who is a genuine freedom fighter deserves careful and skeptical thinking, as well as due diligence.
But to dismiss the idea that there can be freedom fighters within the Muslim world is not only untrue, it is a dead end.
Madeline Brooks is the head of a counter-jihad group in New York City. She writes about jihad at www.actnycoalition.org and she writes about domestic politics under the pen name of Brenda West at http://thesilentmajority.wordpress.com.