June 9, 2006

Responding to Mohamed

I (and others here) have been getting e-mails this week from Mohamed Elibiary, the Dallas Muslim who heads the Freedom and Justice Foundation based here. He is doubleplus displeased with my comments earlier this week about the accused Islamic truckbombers in Canada, whom police allege wanted to chop off the head of the prime minister and blow a bunch of stuff up for the greater glory of Allah.

I'll respond to Mohamed's e-mail below, for those who are interested. I should say at the outset that I take criticism of this sort -- how to put this? -- in a certain light when it comes from a man who saw fit to speak at a local "Tribute to the Great Islamic Visionary," the Ayatollah Khomeini. I could be wrong, but I am hard-pressed to credit the moral sensitivities of an activist who has no particular objection to being a featured speaker at a celebration of a theocratic barbarian who was one of the great totalitarian butchers of the 20th century, and whose faithful successors are to this day in Iran seeking to acquire a nuclear bomb, and openly boast of wanting to instigate an atomic Holocaust against the Jews of Israel. I don't have the foggiest idea to what extent Mr. Elibiary shares Khomeini's monstrous views, but the fact that he agreed to associate himself publicly and prominently with a group that hails as a "visionary" undermines his credibility in my eyes.

(To be fair, after the DMN editorial page denounced the event and warned those who participated that this kind of thing did nothing to win public confidence in the concept of Islam as a religion of piece,, Mr. Elibiary wrote a piece for Viewpoints in which he distanced himself somewhat from the radicalism of Khomeini, claiming that he didn't know in advance that the event was to be a tribute to Khomeini. Yet he wrote that he wasn't sure if he would walked out had he known before he spoke that the event was a pro-Khomeini rally, because he believes it necessary to give an anti-radical counterpoint in the face of radicalism. That's his story, anyway. Draw your own conclusions.)

Anyway, my attempt to respond to Mr. Elibiary's main criticisms of my blog comments on the Toronto accused Islamic terror cell earlier this week are below, for the three people reading this blog who care. You might find the veiled, or not so veiled, threat that my car might be tampered with if I keep this up worth considering:

Elibiary: You have enough command of the English language to understand that not all nouns mean the same thing. Islam is not a synonym for Muslim, and you know that so why do you continue calling the "terror cell" --- "Islamic".

Because these alleged terrorists are all fervent followers of Islam, and appear on all available evidence to have been motivated by their Islamic religious beliefs. You are drawing a distinction without a meaningful difference.

Elibiary: What do you actually know of the "extremist preacher" and his "radicalism tolerated by the mosque's board"? Back when I was in Junior High we were taught to check both sides of a story and research our sources' background before running to pile on. Guess that ethic is a bit lacking now a days. It's so comfortable being lazy and just repeating what someone else says no matter their benefit to say it, but just stating it with a more emphatic tone with stronger adjectives that lace our piece.

Read the papers, Mohamed. Qayyum Abdul Jamal was a radical firebrand who served on the mosque's board, and who preached in the mosque. Even other Muslims warned the board about that guy, but nobody did anything to stop him. According to this newspaper account, a board member says that some parents at the mosque started to keep their kids away because they feard Jamal's growing influence. This board member admits that the board didn't do anything to stop him, and that they should have.

Elibiary: If you'd like to know why Imam Kavachi and others won't talk to you, it's because of your attitude. Let me break it down to you like this. You have the reputation of being a Klansman without a hood in the Dallas Muslim community. Just about everyone believes you hate "Islam" and will do whatever it takes to malign it and it's followers as a means to hurry up and define it before it can define itself. Many of your friends are known to the Dallas Muslim community as some of the most reactionary and intolerant folks our city has. And finally this perception of your dogmatic hatred toward Islam makes people figure that you're not really interested in helping the American Religious Pluralism Spectrum expand to accommodate a new Evangelical faith's presence, your message to Dallas Muslims is quite clear to accept 2nd class status on the social pecking order or to pack up and leave because they're not welcome here.

What absurd cant. If I hadn't tried to contact Imam Kavakci by e-mail and by phone to get his side of the story, you would have been yelling that I wasn't even trying to be fair. Why didn't Imam Kavakci agree to talk to my former colleague Victoria Loe Hicks, who tried several times to reach him before we published our editorial about his (and your) participation in the Khomeinifest? From where I sit, it looks to me like your side never wants to be questioned, and never wants to have to answer honest questions about itself. You will only be satisfied if a uniformly positive portrait of Islam appears in the media. I believe no religious group -- neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Hindu, Muslim, nobody -- has the right to expect no critical commentary or coverage. All have the right to expect fair and balanced coverage, but just because people outside your community have legitimate concerns about what goes on inside it does not make us bigoted or biased. I would consider it a dereliction of this newspaper's duty if we reported only negative material about local Muslims. I would also consider it a dereliction of this newspaper's duty if we only reported positive material, or shied away from writing legitimate reportage and commentary because we were afraid of having Muslim community leaders yell at us.

I do not hate Islam. I count Muslims among my friends. I have no objection to an Islamic presence in Dallas or in America. What I strongly object to is this idea that Islam and Muslims should somehow be exempt from the same standards to which we hold all religious groups in America. I have written at least as much, if not more, criticism of the behavior of my own co-religionists, Roman Catholics, as I have about Muslims. What I absolutely refuse to do is to refrain from talking about what I see with my own eyes, and what my concerns are. If I am wrong, I welcome correction. But to avoid asking these questions, and making these comments, especially at a time when this nation is in a war with Islamic extremists who want to murder people like me (and people like you, if you get in their way) in the name of their religion -- well, that would be appeasement. That would be the ecumenism of fools. That would put me in the same boat as the idiots on the board of that Toronto mosque who saw what was happening right under their nose with this Jamal character, and who tolerated it.

You appear to claim for Islam in America, or in Dallas, the right to define itself. Sorry, you don't have that right, any more than Catholics or Jews have the exclusive right to define themselves. You consider it an affront that I would ask Muslims to account for the fact that there was a pro-Khomeini conference held at a mosque in Irving, and that Muslim leaders like you and Imam Kavakci spoke at it. Why do you think you should be immune from accountability for something as shocking as this? Why do you seem to think that asking the imam of the mosque to account for the fact that he has praised some of the world's leading Islamic extremist theoreticians as good models for the kind of leaders American Muslims need is somehow beyond the pale? Why do you seem to think that continuing to ask -- two years after the fact! -- what the Dallas Central Mosque hoped to accomplish by holding a quiz competition that required teenage participants to know the work of Sayyid Qutb, a forthright Islamist totalitarian who openly preached violent world revolution until the whole world is subdued by Islam?

Maybe there's an innocent explanation for this. But your community does owe your neighbors an explanation. Because it seems to me not at all far-fetched to wonder, given the sketchy information we already have about a certain insensitivity, shall we say, among the Islamic leadership here to radicalism in its midst, if impressionable Muslim youth in Dallas are subjected to the same kind of radical preaching as the kids in that mosque in Toronto -- and we know how that turned out. Can't you recognize why that sort of thing would occur to non-Muslims who have no particular beef with Islam, but who read the newspapers and wonder?

Elibiary: You trashed the Islamic Circle of North America and the Muslim American Society as "extremist-connected". Do you not have any journalistic responsibility to provide evidence and not through highly charged adjectives irresponsibly. Tell me what your problem is with the American Muslim Conservative/Evangelical equivalent. Is it because they don't agree with your world view? Is it because they won't just become Liberals and leave your Christian faith with the only Conservative alternative? Whatever it is, it can't be because they're intolerant or spread hatred of others. Because if that was the case you'd be talking about the First Baptist Church of Dallas and it's Seminary's history or how can we forget Cathie Adams, Pres. of the Texas Eagle Forum, who walks into coalition meetings (ex. Anti-Gambling) and introduces herself as "I'm Cathie Adams from the TX Eagle Forum and when we're not supporting Traditional Values Issues we're fighting the Islamic takeover of America."

Oh, this is all too easy. I'm so glad you asked. For starters, try this long Chicago Tribune story on the roots of MAS in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. As for ICNA's connection to the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan, you might start here, though it wouldn't take much time with Google to suss that out. In any case, MAS and ICNA were sponsoring the contest featuring the work of the hardcore radical Qutb. Wonder why?

Elibiary: I'm looking at a copy of "Milestones", "In the Shade of the Quran" and "Islam and Universal Peace" (all written by Syed Qutb) in the Library at our office as I'm writing you this. Now I'm not an extremist preacher nor a radicalism tolerating board member, but what I am is an American who knows our laws very well and first amongst these is freedom of speech. Now after overlooking your laced language once more harking back to a more convenient time period for your political views ("bloodcurdling manifesto"), I'd like to ask you to explain how Milestones calls for the "violent imposition of Islamic totalitarianism worldwide" because I must of missed something there? Like I've stated to you on multiple occasions and shared with your colleagues, you don't understand the subject matter you speak on with such authority and it would benefit you to act as a student before grabbing the teacher's ruler.

I strongly encourage readers to follow this link and read "Milestones" for yourself, and then ask if you feel better knowing that this kind of thing is the subject of a youth quiz in a local mosque.

Where does "Milestones" advance the idea of violent worldwide Islamic revolution? Well, for starters, try this passage from Chapter 4, on Jihad, in which Qutb criticizes other Muslims:

When [Muslim] writers with defeatist and apologetic mentalities write about "Jihaad in Islam," trying to remove this 'blot' from Islam, then they are mixing up two things: first, that this f religion forbids the imposition of its belief by force, as is clear from the verse, "There is no compulsion in religion"(2:256), while on the other hand it tries to annihilate all those political and material powers which stand between people and Islam, which force one people to bow before another people and prevent them from accepting the sovereignty of God. These two principles have no relation to one another nor is there room to mix them. In spite of this, these defeatist-type people try to mix the two aspects and want to confine Jihaad to what today is called 'defensive war'. The Islamic Jihaad has no relationship to modern warfare, either in its causes or in the way in which it is conducted. The causes of Islamic Jihaad should be sought in the very nature of Islam and its role in the world, in its high principles, which have been given to it by God and for the implementation of which God appointed the Prophet-peace be on him-as His Messenger and declared him to be the last of all prophets and messengers.

What Qutb is saying here is that Islam is jihad, fundamentally. He goes on to say that it's true that nobody can be forced to accept Islam, but that Muslims have the duty to destroy everything that is "jahili" -- that is, non-Muslim -- so that it will be easier for non-Muslims to accept Islam. He goes on (emphases below are mine):

The way to establish God's rule on earth is not that some consecrated people - the priests - be given the authority to rule, as was the case with the rule of the Church, nor that some spokesmen of God become rulers, as is the case in a 'theocracy'. To establish God's rule means that His laws be enforced and that the final decision in all affairs be according to these laws.

The establishing of the dominion of God on earth, the abolishing of the dominion of man, the taking away of sovereignty from the usurper to revert it to God, and the bringing about of the enforcement of the Divine Law (Shari'ah) and the abolition of man-made laws cannot be achieved only through preaching. Those who have usurped the authority of God and are oppressing God's creatures are not going to give up their power merely through preaching...

This universal declaration of the freedom of man on the earth from every authority except that of God, and the declaration that sovereignty is God's alone and that He is the Lord of the universe, is not merely a theoretical, philosophical and passive proclamation. It is a positive, practical and dynamic message with a view to bringing about the implementation of the Shari'ah of God and actually freeing people from their servitude to other men to bring them into the service of God, the One without associates. This cannot be attained unless both 'preaching' and 'the movement' are used. This is so because appropriate means are needed to meet any and every practical situation.

...This religion is not merely a declaration of the freedom of the Arabs, nor is its message confined to the Arabs. It addresses itself to the whole of mankind, and its sphere of work is the whole earth. God is the Sustainer not merely of the Arabs, nor is His providence limited to those who believe in the faith of Islam. God is the Sustainer of the whole world. This religion wants to bring back the whole world to its Sustainer and free it from servitude to anyone other than God.

...If the actual life of human beings is found to be different from this declaration of freedom, then it becomes incumbent upon Islam to enter the field with preaching as well as the movement, and to strike hard at all those political powers which force people to bow before them and which rule over them, unmindful of the commandments of God, and which prevent people from listening to the preaching and accepting the belief if they wish to do so. After annihilating the tyrannical force, whether it be in a political or a racial form, or in the form of class distinctions within the same race, Islam establishes a new social, economic and political system, in which the concept of the freedom of man is applied in practice.

It is not the intention of Islam to force its beliefs on people, but Islam is not merely 'belief'. As we have pointed out, Islam is a declaration of the freedom of man from servitude to other men. Thus it strives from the beginning to abolish all those systems and governments which are based on the rule of man over men and the servitude of one human being to another. When Islam releases people from this political pressure and presents to them its spiritual message, appealing to their reason, it gives them complete freedom to accept or not to accept its beliefs. However, this freedom does not mean that they can make their desires their gods, or that they can choose to remain in the servitude of other human beings, making some men lords over others. Whatever system is to be established in the world ought to be on the authority of God, deriving its laws from Him alone. Then every individual is free, under the protection of this universal system, to adopt any belief he wishes to adopt. This is the only way in which 'the religion' can be purified for God alone. The word 'religion' includes more than belief; 'religion' actually means a way of life, and in Islam this is based on belief. But in an Islamic system there is room for all kinds of people to follow their own beliefs, while obeying the laws of the country which are themselves based on the Divine authority.

Anyone who understands this particular character of this religion will also understand the place of Jihaad bis saif (striving through fighting), which is to clear the way for striving through preaching in the application of the Islamic movement.

If we insist on calling Islamic Jihaad a defensive movement, then we must change the meaning of the word 'defense' and mean by it 'the defense of man' against all those elements which limit his freedom. These elements take the form of beliefs and concepts, as well as of political systems, based on economic, racial or class distinctions. When Islam first came into existence, the world was full of such systems, and the present-day Jahiliyyah also has various kinds of such systems.

When we take this broad meaning of the word 'defense', we understand the true character of Islam, and that it is a universal proclamation of the freedom of man from servitude to other men, the establishment of the sovereignty of God and His Lordship throughout the world, the end of man's arrogance and selfishness, and the implementation of the rule of the Divine Shari'ah in human affairs.

...It would be naive to assume that a call is raised to free the whole of humankind throughout the earth, and it is confined to preaching and exposition. Indeed, it strives through preaching and exposition when there is freedom of communication and when people are free from all these influences, as "There is no compulsion in religion; but when the above- mentioned obstacles and practical difficulties are put in its way, it has no recourse but to remove them by force so that when it is addressed to peoples' hearts and minds they are free to accept or reject it with an open mind.

I think these passages speak for themselves. Mohamed, do you agree with this stuff? Do you believe that it is your religious duty to work toward shariah in America, and throughout the world? Do you believe, with Qutb, that anything that is not Islamic should be destroyed to the rule of God via the shariah should be established?

You need to explain to me why it is of no great matter that familiarity with this man's violent, seditious and totalitarian philosophy was expected of local teenagers at a mosque is of no great concern, because I'm just not seeing it. You claim that you are not a "radicalism tolerating" person, but then go on to profess to seeing no radicalism in "Milestones." That tells me a lot more about you than it does about "Milestones."

Elibiary: My organization has reviewed hundreds of think tank reports on this terrorism subject matter, and the one you linked was one of the lowest quality scholarship I have ever seen. I had offered you a long time ago a get together to answer and address your serious concerns. To this day you haven't taken me or anyone else up on that offer, further providing evidence to your "Islamophobia". At one time in our nation's history, the NY Times was a very Anti-Semitic paper but with time that changed so we hope that the day will come where the DMN will start acting like a more responsible citizen of the community and drop it's Islamophobia. My wish Rod is that you evolve and not just leave Dallas to spread these misinformed views elsewhere.

I had offered you a trade a little over 1-1/2 years ago to answer your biased questions about speaking at the Irving Shia Mosque if you'd answer mine. I answered all your questions and you independently corroborated my answers, but you sir didn't show the same degree of honesty to answer mine. I, my wife and now my kids are examples of those home grown Muslims you're so fearful of turning violent on you, and my message to you is just treat people fairly and we as a country will make it fine though these rough waters. Treat people as inferiors and you can expect someone to put a banana in your exhaust pipe or something.

Are you threatening me? I take this as a threat, and I have passed it on to certain people.

Anyway, the reason I will not agree to "debate" you is because I've been on the receiving end of "debate" from members of your community, and it all goes one way: yelling and bullying and blustering from your side, and groundless accusations of "racism" and "Islamophobia," and what rot. And now I suppose I have to worry that someone from your community would see me drive up, identify my car, and alter it to cause me harm. Great work, Mohamed.

Elibiary: Your irresponsible accusation linking Toronto to local Islamic Schools and Mosques almost doesn't deserve a reply. Let me put it to you this way. The US Constitution covers Muslims TOO! Learn to live with it. We'll have a Muslim gang in Dallas before a homegrown terrorist wanting to blow up his hometown, just like in England. Just like the Asian community-based youth gangs rioted in England before they tried to blow up the trolley, we'll follow the same track. Those community-based youth gangs don't develop unless their community is being treated with racism, so if you learn to treat everyone equally then we'll all be fine.

I see. If violent young Muslim gangs develop, it is the fault of people who want to know precisely what kind of things are being taught in local mosques and Islamic institutions. The British brought the subway bombing on themselves, right? The Canadians forced those alleged terrorists to become (allegedly) violent radicals, right? Blame the victim, or potential victim. That's a real winning strategy, Mohamed. And it tells me why we need to have more scrutiny in public, not less.

Elibiary: Now my question to you is???

"Where do you expect your Islamophobic strategy is going to end up, because co-existence under the law doesn't seem a legitimate compromise position you'd accept?"

I reject your definition of my "strategy" as Islamophobic. Insofar as I have a "strategy," I would call it responsible journalism. I welcome co-existence -- why shouldn't I? -- but not at the cost of a see-no-evil mentality that refuses to ask questions that make some Muslims uncomfortable -- and to expect answers, not a shabby p.r. strategy that depends on mau-mau'ing critics into guilty silence. As former FBI counterterrorism chief Buck Revell put it, "If we continue to be deaf, dumb and blind to what's plainly in front of us, we have no one to blame but ourselves."

Posted 9:16 AM | Rod Dreher (More) | Respond | E-mail this entry | Permalink

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