Islamic or Islamist: Does the Difference Matter?

by ASHRAF RAMELAH April 6, 2012

Standing up to the Islamist point of view, which receives much of its funding from foreign entities who cry victim in America, the American Islamic Leadership Coalition (AILC) showed up at 1 Police Plaza in NYC one morning recently to support the NYPD in an act of solidarity with American law enforcement. Encouraging them on were several high profile names that are well respected voices in the battle against terrorism along with many non-Muslim freedom-fighters.  

The newly formed AILC is opposed to the theocratic Islamists who bow only to Allah's will and instead represents moderate Muslim religious believers who separate mosque from state, advocate human rights, give thanks for a free democracy and support the U.S. Constitution. The organization is comprised of reputable, moderate, even-handed spokespersons, scholars, and leaders from across North America and led by the well-known Muslim moderate, Dr. Zhudi Jasser, often seen on Fox News. In the words of an AILC spokesperson, they wish "to bring forth a profoundly spiritual, practical and beneficial manifestation of Islamic life and teachings."

The culture of freedom and comfort of American society renders it possible to conceive and build a movement of such scope - the transformation of a 1400 year old religion deeply entrenched in societies all over the world. Muslims who adhere to Islamic ideology, totalitarian and political in nature, as opposed to Muslims who believe in Islamic ideology in its spiritual aspect only represent a significant ideological rift, and significantly, the latter contradicts the scholars of the orthodox community. The totality of the AILC endeavor constitutes a battle on a grand scale within the house of Islam, and this is the difficult path ahead for the coalition.

In a private interview (stated in a March 7th update article in PJ Media entitled, The Anti-Islamist Voice by Dr. Phyllis Chesler), Manda Zand-Ervin, an Iranian women's rights activist and founding member of AILC, is quoted as saying, "No person or organization can ever claim representation of American Muslims," yet the AILC claims just that in giving voice to this "silent majority," and we hope their calculation is correct. The intent is noble and not to be discouraged, however daunting the task.

For Americans who believe all Muslims are citizens trying to live a decent life and assimilate like any other minority, the AILC, a faith-based organization, is welcomed as normal and long overdue in condemning terrorists. For those who are already embittered by past silences and see Muslims in general as a threat to the freedom of our nation, the words of the AILC are heard with skepticism, as another attempt to whitewash America - we've heard "religion of peace" before. Some will miss the uniqueness of AILC's ambitious goal, and some will care enough to query what seems to be an inconsistency in an Islamic group with Islam in their name, raising the banner of Islam while considering itself to be anti-Islamist. This distinction will only become clear when the distinction is no more and the AILC position becomes the sole defining and prevailing notion of Islam around the world. But would that be Islam anymore?

From the outside, Islamic groups (Islamic and Islamist) carry the same message - peace-loving, charitable, freedom-loving and democratic - and many non-Muslims predisposed to this message accept it as the wholesale truth. The fact we must face is that Islamists have been exploiting freedom and human rights rhetoric for a very long time and will use the English language convincingly in lockstep with the anti-Islamists, even though their goals and ideas diverge. Islamists also have the momentum. They have been in the race a lot longer and have the infrastructure - as in the GOP primary contest, the guy you voted for is vying against the other one who has been running for a long time, has all the money, and is winning in large part because of it.  

Finally, for students of Arabic, Islam and the Koran, the goal of the AILC gives rise to concerns over theological issues out of sync with their valiant attempt to define a non-political Islam. How will it successfully lead on this important effort if unable to eradicate sacred verses or expunge fear-provoking doctrine Muslims believe are sealed in heaven? Will it simply promote misreading? In her article of February 29 in entitled, Islam and the NYP: Why we should cheer cops' work, Dr. Qanta Ahmed, author of In the Land of Invisible Women, uses a Koran verse to justify Muslim support of the NYPD and authority in general within a Western host country.

She cites verse 59 from sura 4 (An-nisa) which states, "O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority from among you." Unfortunately, the verse contradicts what Dr. Ahmed intends to prove because this verse precludes infidel authority. The final four words, "authority from among you," means authorities among "ye who believe" in Allah and obey Allah and obey His Messenger, and thus signifies Muslims obeying authority held by Muslims only, ideally the Caliphate, although not explicitly stated. Herein portrays the difficult challenge facing the AILC.

Moreover, how will the Koran verses instructing the use of deception in sura 16:106, sura 2:225, sura 3:54, and sura 8:30 be discounted, and on the issue of the universally accepted concept of abrogation in sura 2:106 which addresses one Koran verse superseding another according to chronology where violent verses negate and take the place of peaceful verses, how will this be handled?

The journey of the AILC is a necessarily a long one, entailing re-education of an entire population of Muslims with a new interpretation of Islam to perhaps justify what's already deep within the hearts of many now living free in America. Based upon the AILC mission statement, its mandate must be to cut away the Koran verses pointing without mercy toward infidels and Muslim apostates, the political doctrine which experts say make up as much as eighty percent of the Koran, and begin to re-program an entire faith. The job of de-politicizing Islam, dealing with vast pages of Islam's history, dogma, and religious edicts (fatwas), awaits them.  

We applaud the AILC for denouncing CAIR and ISNA as the voice of Muslims in politics, education, and national security and for offering its service to our government in their place. We thank them for speaking tough to the MSA (Muslim Student Association) and Muslim Brotherhood and are grateful for their defense of equality before the law, an American principle, and stating opposition to a caliphate. We can only hope the AILC is punching above its weight with a game plan to cope with the range and power of its heavyweight opponents - their fellow believers. Contributing Editor Ashraf Ramelah is founder and president of Voice of the Copts, a human rights organization drawing attention to the suffering of Coptic Christians in Egypt and educating as to the chilling effect of Sharia (Islamic law).   


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