A MEETING OF MODERN MUSLIM MINDS

Sunday March 26 was a wet, dark and cold day in Toronto. But inside the boardroom of Hilton Garden Inn, there was warmth, light and critical thinking.
This is because Muslims and non-Muslims came together for a one day summit to speak about issues that face all of us.
The event was hosted by Muslims Facing Tomorrow and supported by The Canadian Coalition Against Terrorism. Organizations attending were: The American Islamic Forum on Democracy, Middle East Forum, Muslim Reform Movement, The Clarion Project and Forum for Learning. We were professionally and artistically facilitated by Courtney Lonergan.
We discussed strategies to strengthen ourselves in combatting Islamism as reform minded Muslims with all the challenges involved.
The event culminated with a dinner for supporters of our movement. There were heartfelt speeches by Dr. Daniel Pipes, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser , Asra Nomani and Professor Salim Mansur. Also attending were Professor Jordan Peterson and Ezra Levant.
The response was overwhelming. One attendee wrote “all my heroes in one place. The evening inspired me to reaffirm my commitment to participate in this work through my writings…” and “A wonderful dinner with wonderful people. Thank you Raheel Raza & MFT for all your dedication and passion in the fight against extremism.”
Stay tuned for more information and action as this movement grows.

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M-103 won’t build a more united Canada. It will turn Canadians against each other (National Post, Feb 22, 17)

On Dec. 5, 2016, Canadian MP Iqra Khalid proposed Motion 103 (a motion against Islamophobia) and began her statement in parliament by saying, “Mr. Speaker, I am a young, brown, Muslim, Canadian woman …”

I find it curious that she begins by identifying herself first as brown, then Muslim and lastly as a Canadian. To my understanding, a Canadian member of parliament should identify as Canadian first. Being Canadian means showing concern for everyone, not just a select group of people. Perhaps this may be the reason why Khalid has not studied what Islamophobia really means.

The term Islamophobia was created in the 1990s, when groups affiliated to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood decided to play victim for the purpose of beating down critics. It is also in sync with a constant push by the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) to turn any criticism of Islam or Muslims into blasphemy. Is this what we want in Canada? Blasphemy laws?

As a Canadian Muslim, I am very concerned about the direction we are headed in. My family and I came to Canada 29 years ago to embrace the values of a liberal democracy, of which freedom of speech is the most vital. M-103 will threaten free speech and goes directly against Canadian values. Canadians must speak out against this attack on their democratic values. But in many cases, people who are not prejudiced against any race or religion, but have concerns about this motion, are probably already feeling intimidated and may well choose to remain silent. This is the problem with motions like M-103. They cannot help but have a chilling effect on free speech and open debate. One need not be a cynic to suspect that’s actually the point, rather than a side effect.

Unfortunately, racism, bigotry and hate exists in all societies and has existed since time immemorial. This country is not immune. As caring Canadians, we must always speak out against these acts, and that does include anti-Muslim bigotry, and as seen recently in Quebec, even violent acts. This should rightly be opposed. But our commitment to fighting racism and violence must extend equally to all communities. After all, anti-Semitic acts are on the rise across the world and also in Canada.

It’s not laws, however, that will stop the rise of hate and bigotry. I believe that a motion like M-103 will only increase the frustration of ordinary Canadian who want (and have the right) to ask uncomfortable but necessary questions. Being concerned about creeping sharia is not phobic; questioning honour-based violence and FGM in Muslim-majority societies is not phobic. Furthermore, every citizen has the right to be concerned about the safety and security of their country. If they ask questions about radicalization leading to terrorism, that is not Islamophobic, but a reasonable response to the very real threat posed by Islamist terror groups to Canada and all other Western nations.

Sadly, the tragedy in Quebec is being used for political purposes to further the implementation of M-103. If there is to be any lesson learned from the murderous attack on innocent worshippers, it is that we need more intra-faith dialogue, discussion and debate. If M-103 is passed, it will silence constructive criticism and widen the gulf between Muslim and non-Muslim Canadians. It will hurt, not help, our efforts to build a more peaceful, tolerant and equal Canada. For these reasons, it is not phobic to oppose M-103. It is, in fact, the duty of every citizen of our democracy.

National Post

Raheel Raza is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow and author of Their Jihad — Not My Jihad.

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LEARN FROM YESTERDAY, LIVE FOR TODAY AND HOPE FOR TOMORROW – Albert Einstein

WRAP UP OF 2016 – AND WHAT A YEAR IT WAS!
2016 was the year for travel. I travelled to 36 events and conferences through the year. January started with a visit to Sweden where we screened Honor Diaries in the Swedish Parliament and paid tribute to the victims of honor killings. To say that I was frozen to the gills would be an understatement – shame on me as a Canadian but the cold was bone chilling. A learning lesson to wear more layers and never be arrogant as a Canuck that we can weather winter.
February was shock treatment as I found myself at a conference in San Antonio where the main agenda was to slam Islam and Muslims through the voices of ex-Muslims who were eager to comply. I consider this an exercise in patience and managed to keep my cool. It was harsher than the cold winds of Feb in Canada but a learning of higher tolerance.
In March I thawed by being on The Bill Maher show and getting dozens of emails as feedback. The cutest one was the son who shyly wrote and asked that his mother wants to know where I got my outfit! That made my day.
April was challenging again as I was invited on BBC Hardtalk. Now talk about being naive! I did not check previous Hardtalk episodes so I arrived with no idea of what the “hard” means. I sweated bricks but am told I stood my ground. It was a learning experience I will never forget.
In June I received an award from EMET at an amazing event. I learned that the work we do is not about numbers but about ideas. Its one heart at a time.
July and August were supposed to be quiet summer months but morphed into conferences and travel. In July I was speaker at an outdoor interfaith Skylight Festival in Paris, Ontario where I learned that music is one way to the heart and soul.
In August I found myself back in DC as a speaker for WAPPNA – Women Physicians of APPNA, an organization formed by women physician members of APPNA. This was the first time a group of Pakistanis had invited me and there were almost 1000 Pakistanis there. It was a great learning experience that to make a difference, we also have to work from within our own communities. (Not to mention the awesome shopping!)
September was unusually busy. First I travelled to Phoenix, Arizona to help train the Sheriffs Department on Honor Based Violence. Me and dozens of firefighters were a motley group. This was followed by being a keynote speaker at the ICCT conference in Herzliya, Israel after which I did a short stint in Jerusalem which is of course the spiritual kick.
Then I was privileged to travel with Daniel Pipes and a group of people on a fact-finding educational tour of Europe which included Paris, Berlin and Stockholm. And what a learning this was to see firsthand what challenges Europe faces.
In September hubby and I taught an 8-week course at Ryerson called “Islam and the 21st. Century”. We focused on the truth, good bad and ugly and the responses were challenging and educational.
October highlight was to host Maajid Nawaz at an MFT event and spend some quality time getting to learn what Quilliam does. In October I was invited to UK to speak with The British Parliament for them to learn about the sharia debate in Ontario. Some amazing legislation results are being considered.
November was busy as we were invited on a Rebel cruise hosted by Ezra Levant, where once again we spoke on panels and spent a lot of time bridging the gap with Canadians from New Finland to British Columbia. I learnt that Canada is the largest exporter of lentils and that we will never starve as long as we know how to cook them.
December took me to Berlin to attend CWFF2016 where I spoke after the screening of Pakistani film Dukhtar. We did our Christmas shopping at the market which became a target for terror a week after we were at the exact same spot.
I also took a fall in Berlin which I had no time to recover from because as soon as we got back to Toronto, my grandsons came to stay for one week while their parents moved homes. Had to re-learn making lunches, ironing uniforms and doing homework – all of which was so much fun that I am ready to do it again! I learned that no matter how busy we are, grand children are the therapy we need and the joy of our lives.
End of December found us back in UK at Limmud2016 which is ALL about learning and was a profound experience. We made three joint presentations, two individual and showed one film. I saw Hummus – the Movie and loved it.
On a personal note, 2016 was very fulfilling but also marred with many terror incidents globally.
I managed to attend the Sufi Dergah frequently and inspired by spirituality, I managed to complete my transscript for “How to be a Spiritual Activist” (should be out sometime this year). End of 2016 also brought us Trump and the hysteria surrounding the election. It was hard to hold a civil conversation.
Tomorrow? Who knows what tomorrow will bring so my hope for the future is that Western leaders recognize the concept of global jihad and are willing to deal with it without political correctness.

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SUPPORTING THE RIGHTS OF ALL WOMEN TO BE EQUAL AND FREE – A REPORT FROM A TRIP TO HOUSE OF LORDS, UK

“We cannot continue with the present situation in which so many women are suffering in ways that would make the heroines of the suffragette movement turn in their graves.”- Baroness Cox

Last week I was invited to The House of Lords in UK by Baroness Caroline Cox to speak about Honor Based Violence and Sharia Courts in UK.
Baroness Cox’s Private Member’s Bill has been reintroduced into the House of Lords. The Bill – called the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill – seeks to address two interrelated issues: the suffering of women oppressed by religiously-sanctioned gender discrimination in the UK today; and a rapidly developing alternative quasi-legal system which undermines the fundamental principle of ‘one law for all’.
In an effort to increase support of the Bill, a new website has been launched by the not-for-profit organization Equal and Free Ltd. (http://equalandfree.org)
The work Baroness Cox is doing comes at a critical time in UK history where almost 100 Sharia courts exist, sanctioned by the government. As stories of abuse and misuse are emerging, many women are concerned about the future. Baroness Cox herself is an untiring advocate for the cause of women but has run up against red tape and some resistance.
I was invited to speak about the Canadian experience in Ontario when the notion of implementing sharia courts was defeated, as well as honor based violence.
The first session was attended by interested and supportive members of Parliament including Fiona Bruce MP, Lord Green of Deddington, Lord West, Viscount Bridgeman.
Lord Dholakia, Lord Elton and Lord Tebbit.
After I presented the story of the Ontario sharia debate, there were many questions about what can be done in UK. The situation in UK is precarious because the Sharia Councils are deeply embedded in the communities.
How did this happen and what are the results?
In her book Women and Sharia Law, a brilliant expose of the problem, Professor Elham Manea explores this question by building on her knowledge of legal pluralism in Middle Eastern and Islamic countries and by first-hand analysis of the Islamic shari’a councils and Muslim arbitration tribunals in various British cities. Women and Shari’a Law traces how support for legal pluralism evolved in the context of widespread racism and anti-immigrant sentiments leading up to the Race Relations Act of 1968. Through its focus on gender equality and women’s experiences, the book argues that the desire to resolve conflict, accommodate Muslim minorities, and reform a Euro-American-centric legal system developed into ‘The Essentialist Paradigm’. This is a post-colonial and post-modern discourse that treats people as ‘homogenous groups’, essentialising their cultures and religions, but disregarding individual and authentic voices. By meeting with the leading sheikhs―including the only women on their panels―as well as interviewing experts on extremism, lawyers, politicians and activists in civil society and women’s rights groups, the author offers a critique of legal pluralism, connecting it with political Islam and detailing the lived experiences of women in Muslim communities.
Most of the MP’s have been sent a copy of Manea’s book but the question on everyone’s mind is how to deal with the current issue at hand.
We heard from victims who are suffering because they were forced into a religious marriage with little or no information that they needed to register a civil marriage. After an abusive marriage when they want a divorce, they are in limbo because there is no record of a civil marriage and the religious leader refuses to acknowledge the marriage ever took place because he would be admitting to an offence. There are thousands of Muslim women caught up in this net of deceit and pressure.
In one case of polygamy, when the victim went to social services, they were told “you are Muslim so you should accept this!” Law enforcement will not intervene in many cases of abuse because they have been told not to meddle with the community.
These women are pleading for help.
After another meeting with Peers later that week as well as an in-depth meeting with organizations supporting women’s rights including Muslim Women’s Advisory Council and One Law For All, they came up with some ideas.
• While the law needs to be tweaked to change/revoke the bill that allows for a parallel set of laws, some urgent actions need to be put into place.
• The religious leaders need to be held accountable for all marriages they perform
• Public Service Messages in different languages need to be announced letting women know they have options
• Law enforcement needs to be trained to do the job without being politically correct
• Most importantly the government needs to take note and make this a priority

GROOMING AND SEX CRIMES
A separate event I attended was a conference hosted by MARIAS – Mothers Against Radical Islam and Sharia. This is run by Toni Bugle who was raped when she was a young girl and now she dedicates her life to mentoring and helping those who are facing similar issues and to help them tell their stories.
At this conference I heard the depressing and compelling stories of two women of Pakistani heritage who were victims of the Sharia courts and one white girl who had been groomed, raped and trafficked. I could not sleep that night. The sad part of their testimony is that neither mainstream law enforcement nor their own people did anything to help.
The Pakistani girl told me that in small, tight and (still tribal) communities of Muslim migrants in UK, if a girl decides to show independence or modernity, she is shunned by the community and treated as a loose, fast woman who can be used and abused. This story was heard over and over so these girls are caught between their own communities and the mainstream who have no desire to intervene.
Two days later there was a report in The Times about a Pakistani gang guilty of sex crimes. It referred to The Jay Report published by Alexis Jay in 2014 which validates stories of the victims. http://www.rotherham.gov.uk/downloads/file/1407/independent_inquiry_cse_in_rotherham
There is a lot that needs to be done at many levels. But the mandate of Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow i.e. Expose, Educate and Eradicate was much appreciated by the attendees and at least the first part is being addressed. I am humbled and excited to be part of making the world a better place for women.

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IS THIS ABOUT THE REAL ISLAMIC HERITAGE OR A WHITE WASH?

October has been officially declared as Islamic Heritage Month in Ontario after a Private Member’s Bill was tabled but now has been unanimously passed by Legislature.
Ontario Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says Islamic Heritage Month is an opportunity to eliminate Islamo-phobia and for Canada to celebrate and learn about the history of Islamic culture.
So let’s talk about Islamic heritage because it’s an important step towards educating Muslims and non-Muslims.
I’m curious to know if the following important historical event from Islamic History is being discussed and taught during Islamic Heritage Month.
October 12 is the day of Ashura which is the tenth day of first month of the Islamic lunar calendar called Muharram. This day is a tragic reminder of how the grandson of our Prophet and his followers (including an infant) were brutally slaughtered by fellow-Muslims for power and control. The small band of 72 people in Karbala, Iraq including women and children were deprived of water and while thirsty in the desert were killed, beheaded with the heads raised on spears, one by one while the women watched.
The universal message of the tragedy of Karbala is to expose hypocrisy and to uphold truth and justice. It stands as an example of good over evil; of justice over injustice; of truth over falsehood and of bravery over cowardice.
It’s an important message that needs especially to be heard today as we are faced with violence and barbarity in the name of our faith. The reason for the rise of groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Taliban etc. is that we have sidelined one of the most important lessons in Islamic History for the sake of deflection, self loathing and political correctness.
Its time to lift the veil of hypocrisy, acknowledge our history and reflect where we went wrong.

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A TOUR OF EUROPE

(On September 25, I travelled with a group hosted by The Middle East Forum on a fact-finding mission to Europe. There were 33 attendees from Australia, UK, Canada and USA (academics, activists and ordinary citizens) and we spent two days each in Paris, Berlin and Stockholm. In each City we had a local guide, met government officials, organizations and civil society. The following report is not an opinion but based on facts. Names have not been used for reasons of security and privacy).

MIGRANTS:
The main conversation in Europe is about migrants (mostly Muslim) and this is the topic all political parties are focused upon. Europe is heavily weighed down with the refugee crisis, which is not helped by EU porous borders. The entire concept of The European Union is under discussion.
France: In Paris we travelled along Boulevard La Chappelle and saw migrants living under the bridges. A small percent of these are Syrian, rest are North African, mostly Sudanese. Our guide took us to St. Denis (the former religious shrine of the French Catholic kings and now a pre-dominantly Muslim area). It was like being in the Middle East with hardly a white person in sight. Behind one of the oldest Church’s in France, is the office of the Muslim Brotherhood running under the innocuous name of Association of Cultural Muslims. The fallacy that these areas are ‘ghetto’ was removed as we saw good housing, roads and infrastructure telling us that the problem is not socio-economic but essentially a clash of ideologies and culture. These areas are called “the lost territories of France” with high levels of crime and drugs where police are hesitant to intervene. This is known commonly as “93 area” and all major Muslim organizations in France have their headquarters in the 93 area including Muslim Brotherhood and Tabligh.
Later we heard a French intellectual and philosopher speak. He almost cried at what he felt was the loss of French culture by the growing majority of migrants from other cultures who will not integrate, assimilate or respect the host heritage. He fears a new French civilization taking root which does not include ethnic French communities.
Berlin: Germany is reeling after Merkel’s decision although many Germans feel that they should take in migrants. In Berlin we saw a huge difference between East and West. West Berlin shows much diversity but in East Berlin you don’t see signs of Islamic tradition. The conversation in Berlin is about the future of Europe against a backdrop of Islam and there are many studies being done on the issue, including anti Semitism. In the 1920’s Berlin was a major city for Jews but the numbers are now dwindling due to the pull to go to Israel as well as fear for the future.
We visited the oldest mosque in Berlin run by the Ahmadiyya community who work closely with all levels of government and community. Their sermons are in German, Arabic and English and there is a move in Germany to ensure all Mosques have their sermons in German and that Imams coming from other countries must speak German. A problem specific to Berlin is the animosity and tension between Turks and Arabs, the Turks considered to be a more moderate community. There is also a problem with ‘clans or tribes’ where a family of 100 will live as a tribe close together and gang up against law enforcement if they come to investigate a crime. This is how ‘partial no-go zones’ are created as law enforcement is hesitant to enter these areas. A Salafist mosque was closed down for inciting hatred and killing of Jews.
Stockholm:
Sweden was the biggest shock. Our very Swedish tour guide as soon as he entered the bus said very clearly that he’s not very Swedish, which he takes to be a compliment. This was the attitude of most of the Swedish people we met except the politicians who are working to bring about change. The Swedes generally say that they don’t have a culture and that they have too much of a good thing so they must share. And share they do.
Sweden has taken per capita the largest numbers of immigrants and the consequences are over $50 b in costs plus 55 no-go zones. According to one report, in 2015 Sweden took 162,887 asylum seekers mostly from the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region which included 35, 369 unaccompanied minors. Largest numbers were from Syria and Afghanistan. If a person arrives in Sweden and says he is from Syria, he gets immediate refugee status and benefits.
The government has not helped the situation by placing for example 500 migrants in a small town of 150 Swedes. This is happening across Sweden where heritage buildings, hotels and old people’s homes have been turned into migrant centers with no move to educate and inform the host community or the migrants.
The pushback has been intense. Police want to resign because they can’t deal with the situation as in Malmo where large groups of migrants reside and there are serious problems of sexual assault, heckling white people and attacking women.

DOUBT AND DENIAL:
France: There are roughly 1.4 m Muslims in France with about 25% identifying themselves as ‘French Muslims’. We met local Muslim leaders who had invited a Rabbi to join them. The overall conversation was that all is good with no mention of the fact that 40% of French Muslims support sharia law. They bemoaned the fact that media paints them in a negative light but when pressed about radicalization in the youth, they confessed there are huge problems both in society and especially in prisons. After they felt comfortable (although they seemed to be speaking from a set script) they opened up and said that Imams are being sent from Turkey, Morocco and Algeria, they don’t speak the language and are paid by their own governments. The Institutes that train Imams are funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar (thus the thrust of Wahhabi influences on the Muslim populous) and the Imams are highly political. One of the Muslim leaders put this into perspective by saying “their bodies are here but their heads are in North Africa”. He confessed that they don’t know the social codes of the country they live in. He also pointed out that religious observance was increasing among French Muslims because of outside influences.
The Rabbi did not address the issue of rise of anti Semitism in Europe where Jews are leaving in large numbers. When the Muslim group was asked about this they said that they differentiate between Jews and Israel, confessing that the largest Al-Quds rally takes place in their area where thousands join in. We also met with a local priest who did not address the problems head on. Instead he mentioned that most Muslim kids go to Catholic schools and that all is good.
In Sweden there was a conference at which the a major Socialist politician was heard saying “there is no domestic Swedish Culture”

POLITICIANS AND ORGANIZATIONS
France: Next year France heads into elections and the major election issues will be based on the question: what is the future of France? Will it have a multicultural identity or a unique French identity? Nicholas Sarkozy is making a comeback. Some of his measures are considered controversial e.g. pre-arrests which says that a family, friend of a terrorist should be put in to detention under the control of a judge.
There is an intellectual debate going on in France about Islam and Muslims. Olivier Roy says “It’s not Islam that’s being radicalized; its radicalization that’s being Islamized”. Other intellectuals and politicians warm of an impending civil war unless things change drastically.
The right and the left of the political spectrum are both using Islamism in Europe to further their political agendas. They are heard saying that they will restrict more migrants coming in, restrict welfare to the migrants, allow no more Mosques and Islamic schools and even ban halal meat.
So far the French have been resilient but if another terrorist attack happens, French society might lose its cohesion and implode. There are people waiting in the sidelines for this to happen and they will jump right in.
We had a meeting with the Ministry of Interior in which they shared with us their programs on de-radicalization and anti-terrorism. They have applied a new law against terrorism as well as created a hot line which has been very successful. Upon being questioned about the community’s response they said that they have had 5570 calls since this hot line was set up and some parents says they would rather their son be sent to jail than to go and fight with ISIS. This is based on the fact that hundreds of European Muslim and non-Muslim youth have left to join ISIS.
They also use help of a psychologist to counsel parents of wanna be radicals.
In terms of immigration, they have a new law that every immigrant has to sign a contract with the State that they have to attend Civilian Education Classes.
In Sweden political Islam came on the scene 30 years ago. We met with government officials, academics working on the issue of migrants and radicalization and an ex-Muslim Brotherhood operative. From their conversation we were told “Islamists work trans-nationally and Europe is their arena”.
According to their research and studies of the Muslim Brotherhood they find that MB have a project of “Islamization from Below” which is their reform for Muslims. This is what it looks like:
Focus on the Muslim Individual to a Muslim family to a Muslim government to a Muslim society and then a Muslim world.
Overall there is great uneasiness in Europe about Muslims and the French have listed them as:
ISSUES
• France has no Muslim past
• Efforts towards integration are failing
• Cultures are widely different and there is a clash
• In schools, parents impose their culture upon the majority
• Gender disparity e.g. women who won’t see male doctors
• Muslims don’t accept French history
• They are anti-semitic
• They have attacked women and butchers selling pork
• Messages from Mosques and Islamist Organization are based on hate
• Many want sharia law
SOLUTIONS:
• Reduce legal immigration and make greater efforts to stop illegal immigration
• Make it essential for migrants to learn the local language
• Refuse behaviours contrary to French values
• If an Imam says something contrary to these values, he should be deported and the mosque closed down
• Ask French Muslims to accept an ideology compatible with the 21st. Century
• Learn to be tolerant and live and let live without imposition
END NOTE:
(What I felt at the end of this trip is that there are major problems and everyone is complicit. Government, organizations, civil society, media and migrants. Unless there is a better understanding of the real problems and balanced measures taken to address them, Europe is like a powder keg ready to blow)

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BANGLADESH WAKES UP TO JIHADIST IDEOLOGY By Raheel Raza

In the wake of repeated terror attacks against bloggers and activists in Bangladesh, a fatwa by 1,01,524 Islamic scholars and clerics was issued this June. http://indianexpress.com/article/world/world-news/over-1-lakh-bangladesh-clerics-issue-fatwa-against-extremism-2861497
This comes at a time in the history of Bangladesh when there are discussions taking place about making it a secular country.
While there are many activists working within the country, they have great support from North American Bangladeshis. In fact they could not continue their work against extremism, if this support was not there.

However very few people are globally aware of the changes taking place in this country of more than 60 million people with about 90% being Muslim.

One individual who has been involved in his country’s changing face is Hasan Mahmud, who is Secretary General for The Council For Muslims Facing Tomorrow, based in Canada and member of the Advisory Board for The World Muslim Congress.
With support from Muslims Facing Tomorrow and minimal funding for a core team of 26 activists on the ground in Bangladesh, Mahmud has managed to make 25 villages free of radicalization and is working on 80 more. The thrust of this project is to provide villagers audio-visual material in their own language that debunks the myths of sharia and allows them to ask key questions of their Imams.

How did this come about?

Born in Bangladesh with a Masters in Biochemistry, Hasan Mahmud moved to Abu Dhabi in 1975 and worked as lab technologist chief technologist in a hospital. Hasan authored a book and docu-movies on Sharia law to create awareness in Muslim societies about the deadly impact of political interpretation of Islam. Mahmud says that as a human Rights activist he was never comfortable with Muslim women having fewer rights than Muslim men in many areas of life. He says he became aware of the problems with man-made Sharia while he was growing up in Bangladesh where Family Laws of Sharia are observed, and later during his 15 years stay in the Middle East.

While has was still in Bangladesh, he lived through the 1971 crisis, as East Pakistanis were an oppressed Muslim nation that started the war of independence against West Pakistan. West Pakistan, also a Muslim nation inflicted one of the most heinous genocides and mass rapes in the history of mankind. For Mahmud, it was shocking to observe that all the other Muslim countries supported West Pakistan, the oppressor, and not the oppressed. He says he clearly felt that either Islam was wrong or Muslims were. That was the beginning of his quest. Mahmud started searching for root causes of violence in Muslim societies. When he noticed that “not all Sharia-supporters are necessarily violent but all violent Muslims are Sharia supporters”, he realized there must be a connection between violence and Sharia law.

So Mahmud made it his quest to study Sharia Law for its strengths and weaknesses. After decades of in-depth research he found out that one of the major roots of violence in Muslim societies is political interpretation of Islam by Sharia law.

In 2000, Mahmud presented his findings at a conference in Amsterdam. His speech, full of Anti-radical Islamic references was highly praised. After the conference he realized that these references compiled from works of progressive Islamic scholars and the outcome of his extensive research which is crucial to defeat the radical ideology of Islam was not reaching the common Muslim. He says “while the work of these intellectuals and scholars are encapsulated in universities, books, TV shows, and conferences, the mass Muslim societies of the world are still captive to the messages of radical clergies from Islamic institutions. Majority of the Muslims have grievances against their own failed governments and the genocides committed by West on Muslims. These clergies take advantage of these grievances and offer Sharia Law as a divine alternate.”

Through the process of analyzing thousands of Sharia laws, he claims that it was clear to him that defeating radical Islam means overcoming the misrepresentations of Islam. He found it is possible to prove that many of those laws are in conflict with the Quran and Prophet and human and women’s rights. “Almost none of the Sharia believing Muslims read the Sharia laws itself. I was convinced at that point that once these common people are exposed to these conflicts, they will learn to oppose to it. I strongly felt that we must convey the scholarly work of Muslim intellectuals to the mass Muslim people. Back home where the vast majority of the population is not literate, reading books is not an option for them. The only way to reach them is through audio visual medium. So I decided to make movies with romantic genre that will catch their attention. The main objective of these movies was to show them the real laws with references. In my movies I quoted some Sharia laws and references to show how they violate Quran and Prophet.”

Mahmud wrote a book about his findings “What Sharia Says and What We Do” in his native language (Bangla). The book is translated in English with the name “How Sharia Hijacked Islam”.

But he also realized that villagers are not educated. So he started using the visual medium. A true fusion of feature film and religious documentary, Mahmud’s movies are perhaps one of such few initiatives in the world today. When these films were shown at the grassroots level, the response was overwhelming. In Bangladesh the “Radical Free Village” movement of Muslims Facing Tomorrow exceeded his expectation. He felt that this movement is creating enlightened societies and villages where the peaceful interpretation of Islam reigns over violence and misinterpretation. The presentation of references through story-telling was so powerful that by now many Imams and Alims of village mosques are in support of the project. In some of the docu-dramas (as Mahmud calls them) Mahmud has acted himself and made on a shoe-string budget, he uses ordinary Bangladeshis who can speak the language. Mahmud truly believe, if it works in Bangladesh, it will work everywhere in the globe.

In Mahmud’s movies lots of Sharia law are quoted so that common Muslims, while they enjoy the romantic story, get educated about how Sharia law violates Human and Women Rights, the Quran and Prophet. Some of the movies, subtitled in Arabic, Turkish and Malay, are shown in Islamic conferences in Mumbai in India, Dallas in US, Oxford University campus in UK and at the International film festival in California.

Mahmud speaks about his research and claims “The institution of Sharia is very vast, deep and complicated. There are more than 6000 laws in each of Hanafi and Shafi manual. One needs to connect the important laws to related Hadeeth (in many cases there are too many, often contradictory) and Quranic verses. Next is to consult the voluminous Tarikh Al Tabari or Asbab E Najul to get the context and the purpose of those verses. Then there are contradictory “explanations: of different scholars/imams etc. Therefore, it is indeed difficult for common people to engage in such research.”
Mahmud finds that Muslims are made to believe that Sharia law is Allah’s Law created from Quran, Prophet’s Sunnah (Hadeeth), ijma (consensus of scholars) and Qiyas (personal reasoning of scholars). “However”, he says “the reality is, there were about 11 sources from where Sharia comes. Quran has about a dozen laws and Hadeeth, another few dozens. But, each of Hanafi and Shafi manual has 6000+ laws. Obviously, these are man-made laws. Most Muslims are not aware of this fact.”

Mahmud believes that people in the West know Islam through the behavior of the Muslims and not from the Islamic scriptures. Muslim’s brutal behavior over the years in the name of Islam on women, non-believers and Muslims is the root of West’s fear and disgust about Islam. So the push against Sharia law in the West is natural and inevitable. Moreover, the concern is not only some Sharia laws but also the spirit of global domination by the institution of Sharia law. It is almost impossible to change that spirit. The West is yet to develop a process of combating the institution of the Sharia law. In other words, they only diagnose the problem but do not have the prescription. This is why MFT’s project of “Radical Free Village” is so important to reach the West and the world.

The world’s is occupied by ‘Hot’ violence in the name of Islam such as beheading, suicide bombing, burning, enslaving, mass-murder (ISIS killed 250 Christian women in a day for refusing to be sex-slaves) etc. But the ‘Cold’ violence of Sharia law also must be realized and resisted. In ‘Cold’ violence of Sharia law there is hardly any bloodshed but it silently victimizes millions, mainly Muslim women.

Mahmud concludes “Faith in some laws destroy more than wars do”. Manu’s law in India and past atrocities by Christian churches in Europe are far worse than Sharia law. But for Muslims it’s essential that they know what Sharia law is and what it can do when mis-used for nefarious purposes.

Links:

http://hasanmahmud.com/index.php

https://www.facebook.com/hasan.mahmud.161446?fref=ts

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