Countering Islamophobia – Dr John Andrew Morrow speaks up
SHAFAQNA – (Delivered at the 12th Annual Muslim Congress in Dearborn, Michigan, on Saturday, August 6, 2016.
It is a blessing, a privilege, and an honor to speak at the 2016 Muslim Congress on a subject that impacts us all: Islamophobia, the dislike of Islam and Muslims; the prejudice against Islam and Muslims; and the fear and hatred against Islam and Muslims. I wish I could tell you that everyone loved us. Unfortunately, a hell of lot of people hate us.
Although we have hit rock bottom and our popularity rating is the pits, we should not despair. We should view this as an opportunity and challenge as well as a test and a trial. When you are down, the only way is up. We might be in the darkest part of the night; however, rest assured that the dawn will come and the sun will rise.
As followers of Ahl al-Bayt, ‘alayhim al-salām, I am sure you know what I mean, and who I mean, when I speak of the Sun behind the clouds. I speak of the Light of Islam, the Axis of the Universe, and the Imam of the Age. Ṣalawāt ‘alā Muḥammad wa āli Muḥammad
Rest assured that we are not alone. Allah is with us. Rasūl Allāh is with us. The A’immahare with us. And the Malā’ikah are with us. Consider these our Meccan days: a period of persecution and a period of sadness and tears. Do not despair. Do not lose faith. Almighty Allah has promised us victory in both this world and the hereafter. Verily, we will be triumphant.
During this age of intolerance and ignorance, in which Islam and Muslims are victimized and demonized in generalized fashion, we should not feel helpless and hopeless. There are many things that we can do, and that we must do, for our sake, the sake of Islam, the sake of Muslims, and the sake of humanity as a whole.
First and foremost, we must teach Muslims to truly represent Islam. One of the most effective ways of combating Islamophobia is to show non-Muslims that the things and they hate and fear about Islam and Muslims have nothing to do with Islam. As Imam ‘Ali, may peace be upon him, has said: “People are enemies of what they don’t know.”
If al-Qaedah, the Taliban, the recently rebranded al-Nusrah, Boko Haram, al-Shabab, and ISIS represent Islam, then people have every right to hate Islam. If the Salafi-Jihadis, the Wahhabis, the Khawarij, the Najdis, the Nawasib, and the Takfiris are Muslims, then people have every right to hate Muslims.
In reality, Islam and Muslims are the target of a massive campaign of negative marketing on a global scale. Efforts to distort Islam and to dehumanize Muslims date back to medieval times. These efforts intensified during colonial times.
However, nothing can be compared to the all-encompassing propaganda that has been polluting the planet for the past few decades. Billions upon billions of dollars have been spent to portray Muslims as terrorists and savages who threaten civilization as a whole.
While our resources are limited, we must fight ignorance with knowledge. We must fight misinformation with information. We must fight propaganda with facts. We must fight falsehood with truth. We must fight fake Islam with true Islam. How, then, should we proceed?
In order to combat Islamophobia, we must combat extremism and terrorism ideologically, informationally, and religiously.
On the ideological front, we have an immense challenge. There are approximately 100,000 Takfiri terrorists. 7% of self-professed Muslims support them. However, the number is significantly higher when we ask Muslims whether they share the same ideology.
The Takfiri ideology could never have spread without an immense and widespread ignorance of the depth and greatness of the Islamic social, intellectual, and spiritual tradition, an ignorance that is traceable back to the destruction of the traditional Muslim educational system under western colonialism.
Islam must get beyond the barren dialectic between the liberal modernizers who attempt to take various secular forms of social organization as models in order to “bring Islam into the 21st century” by a process of voluntary re-colonization through imitation of the west, and the blind and violent reactionaries who wish to return Islam to its so-called “original purity.”
The only alternative to this poisonous dichotomy is to re-discover the supremely just, intelligent and humane forms of social organization established by the Prophet Muhammad himself, peace and blessings be upon him and his household, in his Covenants, his Treaties, and in the Constitution of Medina.
Within these documents can be found the fertile seed of a “universal declaration of human rights” that owes nothing to the atheistic ideologies of the west, one capable of growing into a great tree providing shelter to the nations, a tree springing directly from the soil of Islam itself.
If, however, Islam fails to dedicate itself to recovering its greatness–not so much the greatness of its past but the greatness of its essence–then Daesh and its various litter-mates will occupy the burned-out heart of our religion, and Islam will be destroyed.
On the Information Front, every effort must be made to make the world’s population aware of the many actions presently undertaken by Muslims from both the governmental and the private sectors against ISIS and other Takfiris, while at the same time providing expanded opportunities for public participation in these actions. Unless the war of information is won, the war between true and false Islam for the hearts and minds of the Ummah, Islam will be destroyed.
As for the Religious Front, it cannot be limited to the ideological sphere. It should certainly include the establishment of ongoing diplomatic liaisons with the leaderships of the non-Muslim religions presently being persecuted by Daesh, for purposes of developing a common strategy to defeat them.
The central strategy and tactic on the Religious Front, however, must be to make ferventdu’as to Allah, to implore His guidance in the war against His enemies. It was not you who threw when you threw, but God threw. If we do not put Allah first, if we do not exalt His Will and His Agenda over whatever strategies and agendas we may decide upon in this gathering, then it will not matter if Islam is destroyed, because–in terms of this assembly at least–it will be dead already.
In our collective struggle against Islamopobia; in our fight against extremism and terrorism, please allow me to propose a few concrete steps that any ordinary Muslim take.
1) Spread Islam. Spread traditional, civilizational, Islam. Spread non-sectarian Islam. Spread an inclusive Islam; an Islam of diversity, tolerance, love, mercy and justice. Spread it by word and spread it by action. Put Islamic morals and ethics into practice.
2) Fight fake Islam with true Islam. Compare and contrast: present a verse from the Qur’an and then contrast it with the actions of extremists; present a hadith from the Prophet and then contrast it with the actions of extremists; thus delegitimizing the discourse of the extremists.
3) Disseminate the Constitution of Medina. Islamists claim that they wish to create an Islamic State; however, they ignore the fact that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his household, produced the first political constitution in the history of humanity, an inclusive and pluralistic Political Charter that granted equality to all citizens regardless of religion, race, or gender. From day one, the Ummah of Islam was composed of Muslims and non-Muslims. The Prophet, his Companions, and his Holy Household, all respected the People of the Book who were friends and allies of the Muslims. They were one Ummah united on universal and primordial principles.
4) Disseminate the covenants and treaties that the Prophet Muhammad concluded with Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian communities. These include the Treaty of Maqnah, the Treaty of Aylah, the Treaty of Najran, the Covenant with Monks from Mount Sinai, the Covenant with the Christians of Persia, the Covenant with the Assyrian Christians, the Covenant with the Armenian Christians, the Covenant with the Coptic Christians, and the Covenant with the Parsees…
5) Disseminate the covenants that the Caliphs and Sultans concluded with non-Muslim communities. These include the Covenant of Abu Bakr, the Covenant of ‘Umar, the Covenant of ‘Ali, the Covenant of Salah al-Din, and the Covenant of Sultan Mehmet.
6) Pressure leaders in the Muslim world to protect Christian minorities from persecution. Demand that Muslims minorities around the world receive the same protections.
7) Join or organize demonstrations calling for the protection of persecuted Muslims and Christians.
8) Join or organize demonstrations calling for the protection of sacred sites and places of worship as Christian, Sunni, Shi‘ite and Sufi spaces are the preferred targets of Takfiri terrorists.
9) Denounce any government, Muslim or non-Muslim, that supports, directly or indirectly, Takfiri terrorists who persecute Christians, Sunnis, Shi‘ites, and Sufis. They include the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Israel.
10) Oppose foreign interference in our Islamic affairs in the Western world. Denounce religious colonialism. Mosques and Muslim organizations in the West should be concerned about the interests of Western Muslims and should not serve the strategic plans of any so-called Muslim country.
11) When people slander Islam, the Qur’an and the Prophet, point them to The Covenants of the Prophet and let Muhammad ibn Abdullah, peace and blessings be upon him and his household, speak for himself.
12) Share the Covenants of the Prophet with the People of the Book in word and in action. Build bridges of understanding between all believers.
13) Volunteer your time and skills. We need translators. We need people with expertise in business, marketing, advertising, social media… Everyone has something to offer.
14) If you cannot donate your time, donate your money. Support the Covenants Initiative or other efforts. Give sadaqah. Give zakat. Give khums.
15) Familiarize Muslims, and non-Muslims, with all the initiatives against extremism and radicalization, efforts that are deliberately unreported or underreported for political purposes. They include:
1) ISNA’s Muslim Code of Honor. Signed in September, 2007, it denounces extremism and violence, calls for Islamic unity between all believers, and prohibits takfīr or excommunication.
2) A Common Word Between Us and You. This open letter, which was jointly composed by Muslim and Christian leaders, was released in October of 2007. It calls for peace between both major world religions and encourages them to work for common ground. A Common Word has been critical in fostering interfaith dialogue.
3) Shoulder to Shoulder. Since 2010, the Islamic Society of North America has joined with 27 national faith-based interfaith organizations to address anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.
4) The Fatwa against Terrorism and Suicide Bombing. It was issued by Dr. Muhammad Tahir al-Qadri in 2010. It states that “Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it.”
5) The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. This book, which was published in 2013, consists of a study of the treaties that the Messenger of Allah made with the People of the Book. It features long-forgotten documents, some of which were rediscovered in ancient monasteries and archives, and which were translated from Arabic into English.
The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad prove that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him and his household, was committed to creating an inclusive, pluralistic, community of believers. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, explicitly stated that Muslims are required to protect religious sites and institutions; not destroy them.
As the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him and his household, commands in his covenants: wa lā tughayyir usquf ‘an usqufiyyah, wa lā rāhib min rahbāniyyah, wa lā naṣrānī min naṣrāniyyah, wa lā rāhib min ṣawma‘atihi, wa lā sā’iḥ min siyāḥatihi, wa lā yuhdamu bayt min buyūti kanā’isahim wa baya‘ihim, wa la yadkhulu shay’in min manāzilihim fī shay’in min al-masājid wa lā manāzil al-mu’minīn al-muslimīn, fa man fa‘ala dhalika faqad nakatha ‘ahd Allāh wa khalafa Rasūl Allāh wa khā’in dhimmat Allāh.
It is not permitted to remove a bishop from his bishopric or a Christian from his Christianity, a monk from his monastic life or a pilgrim from his pilgrimage or a hermit monk from his tower. Nor is it permitted to destroy any part of their churches, to take parts of their buildings to construct mosques or the homes of Muslims. Whoever does such a thing will have violated the covenant of Allah, disobeyed the Messenger of Allah, and deviated from His Divine Alliance.
The covenants date from the second year of the establishment of the Muslim Community in Medina to the final years of his life, demonstrating that they represented permanent policy. The documents state that they are binding upon Muslims until the End of Times and some include a stern warning: Wa man ẓalama ba‘da dhalika dhimmiyyan wa naqaḍa al-‘ahd wa rafaḍuhu kuntu khaṣmahu yawm al-qiyyamah min jami‘ al-muslimīn kāfatan /Whoever is unjust after this towards a [Christian] subject [dhimmi], breaks the covenant and rejects it, I will be his enemy on the Day of Judgment among all the Muslims.
6) The Covenants Initiative. Inspired by The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, Charles Upton, known also as Sidi Akram, created the Covenants Initiative, an international movement committed to protecting persecuted Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
The Covenants Initiative, which calls upon Muslims to renew their oath to the Prophet Muhammad and abide by the treaties that he concluded with the People of the Book, has been signed by several hundred leading Sunni, Shii, and Sufi scholars, academics, and activists.
7) Bin Bayyah’s fatwa. In September of 2014, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, one of the most influential scholars in Sunni Islam, passed a lengthy fatwa condemning ISIS.
8) The letter to Baghdadi. The Letter to Baghdadi, released in September of 2014, is a meticulously detailed refutation of ISIS. It was signed by over one hundred of Islam’s leading scholars and personally directed to the leader of the pseudo-Islamic State.
9) The Amman Message. Issued in November 2014, and signed by 200 Islamic scholars from over 50 countries, this call for tolerance and unity in the Muslim world provides an inclusive definition of what it means to be Muslim and denounces the practice of takfir or excommunication.
10) The statement from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Released in 2014, it declares that the Islamic State has “nothing to do with Islam” and has committed crimes “that cannot be tolerated.”
11) The fatwa from al-Azhar. Issued in 2014, it states that ISIS is “a danger to Islam.”
12) The Statement from the Arab League. Released in 2014, it denounces the “crimes against humanity” carried out by ISIS.
13) The fatwa that was passed by Turkey’s top cleric, Mufti Mehmet Gormez. Issued in 2014, it states that ISIS is “hugely damaging” to Islam and Muslims.
14) The condemnations made against ISIS by CAIR. Since 2014, they have repeatedly condemned ISIS as “Un-Islamic and morally repugnant.”
15) The declaration made by the Muslim Council of Great Britain. Released in 2014, it affirms that “violence has no place in religion.”
16) The fatwa published by the Fiqh Council of the Islamic Society of North America. Issued in 2014, and signed by 126 leading Muslim scholars, it asserts that the actions of ISIS are in no way representative of what Islam actually teaches.
17) The Joint Sunni-Shiite Fatwa issued by 100 U.K. Imams. Released in 2014, it describes ISIS as an “illegitimate” and “vicious group.”
18) The statement issued by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Published in 2014, it condemns ISIS and calls upon Muslims to “stand against extremism.”
19) The campaign by the Nahdlatul-Ulama. The NU is the largest Islamic organization in the world, representing 50 million Indonesian Muslims. In 2014, it launched a global campaign against extremism and Wahhabism.
20) The statements of Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqubi. In an interview conducted in 2014, he asserted that “ISIS has no nationality. Its nationality is terror, savagery, and hatred.” Furthermore, he asserted that “Baghdadi is going to hell.”
In 2015, Shaykh al-Yaqubi published a lecture titled Refuting ISIS: A Rebuttal of its Religious and Ideological Foundations. In his booklet, he states that ISIS constitutes the most serious threat that Islam has ever faced. Consequently, he has provided a counter-narrative that elucidates the reality of Islam and its commitment to tolerance. In short, he demonstrates that the actions of ISIS are not representative of Islam.
21) The jihad that was declared by the Muslim Youth Group in the UK. In 2015, a group of young Muslims declared an ideological holy war against extremists and terrorists who hijack Islam, asserting, in no uncertain terms, that groups like ISIS have “no link with Islam or the Muslim community.”
22) The Historic Islamic Edict or Fatwa on Joining ISIS/ISIL that was passed by the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada in March of 2015. Signing by dozens of traditional Muslim scholars, it states, quite explicitly, that anyone who joins Daesh leaves the Ummah of Islam.
23) The condemnation against ISIS that I issued in November of 2015. The statement in question was disseminated to over one million Muslims and directly inspired numerous other edicts.