AIFD Summer Newsletter: a Dispatch from Voices for Reform

Posted on Sat 06/21/2014 by

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Dear Friends,

First, we want to let you know that we have been following the situation in Iraq very closely. Our written analysis will follow, but you may be interested in my recent media appearances on the topic, which are available on our YouTube channel. Click here for my recent appearance on Fox Business, discussing the troubling rise of ISIS.

We at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy are excited to share updates with you from the start of our tenth year engaging directly in the battle of ideas against Islamism.

As we reflected on the past ten years, with its many successes and challenges, we recognized that it is time to re-visit the values that drive our work. While we remain committed to our foundational values and core principles, we recognize the need to set forth a set of universal values to expand the reach of our work. The following guiding principles will be the focus of all of our public outreach and community engagement as we move forward:

1.  AIFD seeks to build a national consensus on political Islam. Our goal will be to “Unite the American Spirit” around the concepts upon which this nation was founded: individual liberty, freedom of conscience, and the promise that each individual has a chance at reaching his or her fullest potential. Political Islam, or Islamism, is the antithesis of American values. Recognizing this is not a partisan act, it is an American act. When all Americans – Muslim and non-Muslim – unite to recognize and combat the threat of political Islam, we are recognizing and respecting every individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

2.      AIFD will advance reform from within the house of Islam: For too long, Islamists have intimidated Muslims out of voicing the need for reform within our faith. By painting “reform” as anti-Islam and anti-Muslim, they have worked hard to guarantee that one interpretation of Islam – their interpretation – gets the most airtime. As Muslims who recognize the need for reform within our faith, we refuse to be bullied by Islamist interpretations of Islam. As liberty-minded Muslims, we embrace a pluralistic interpretation of Islam that works in synergy with, not in opposition to, universal human rights and individual freedom.

3.      AIFD is committed to ending gender-based violence. To Islamists, women are public enemy number one. While gender-based violence is a global problem, we Muslims must address issues far too common within our community: honor-based violence, domestic violence, forced and child marriage, marital rape, female genital mutilation and more. To Islamists, the responsibility of representing piety and respectability falls predominantly on women’s bodies, and controlling them is considered a divine mandate. At AIFD, we believe that women are entitled to bodily integrity, personal autonomy, and equality freedom from all forms of psychological, emotional, physical and sexual abuse and control. 

4.      Freedom of religion is the first right in the U.S. Constitution because without it no other right can stand.  AIFD stands firm in our commitment to advance that right and the right for all to have freedom of conscience, which must also include freedom of expression and the freedom to leave one religion for another or to choose not to embrace any faith at all. We reject the practice of “takfir,” or the declaration of a person as non-Muslim as practiced by Islamists. This practice has been used by Islamists both to chill speech about political Islam and to signal to vigilantes that those targeted are worthy of death. We accept as Muslim any person who identifies him or herself as Muslim, and believe the veracity of an individual’s faith is a matter between the individual and God.

5.   We seek to empower non-Muslim allies in working to eradicate radical Islam. We recognize that the threat of political Islam affects all of us – not just Muslims. All too often, non-Muslims are made to feel that they are not welcome to ask critical questions, express concerns, or speak frankly about these issues. We are committed to creating not just safe spaces for reform and liberty-minded Muslims, but also for non-Muslims interested our mission.  We also recognize that without non-Muslim allies, our movement cannot succeed. The support and input of our non-Muslim allies is essential to our success and to meaningful change.

6.      We will continue to identify, engage, support and empower other Muslims and Muslim organizations who share the above five goals.

Our team continues to be at the forefront of championing these principles and challenging those forces within our community who stand against them. A few highlights:

 We recently held our fourth annual retreat for liberty-minded Muslim youth. This retreat brought both youth and adult leaders together to strategize on how to strengthen our core community. To see pictures from our retreat, click here.

Dr. Jasser continues to be a leading voice on Islamic reform, national security, and the battle against political Islam (for footage and audio of interviews, please click here). He recently traveled to the UK, where he participated in the prestigious Oxford Union’s “Thursday Debate.” These formal debates have been taking place since 1823 and were founded on “an ideal of the freedom of speech.” Dr. Jasser was asked to debate whether or not the religion of Islam is compatible with gender equality. He argued that Islam as a personal faith can indeed be compatible with gender equality, if Muslim take the necessary steps to engage in reform and combat misogyny within our communities. His side won the debate by a landslide. Please see here for pictures of Dr. Jasser at the event, and stay tuned – we will send audio of the event if we are able to. (Videotaping was not permitted.) While in the UK, Dr. Jasser was also honored to speak at the Henry Jackson Society, where he gave a talk entitled “Whose Islam? Which Islam? Reformists vs. Revivalists, or why the West Must Take Sides within the House of Islam.”

Raquel Evita Saraswati appeared in the widely acclaimed documentary Honor Diaries, which features women’s rights advocates working to end gender-based violence in Muslim communities.The film has brought urgently needed attention to the issue of women’s rights in Muslim majority societies and communities. She also appeared on Fox News’ The Huckabee Show to discuss the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria by the Islamist group Boko Haram. To watch, click here. To follow Raquel on Twitter, click here.

AIFD Fellow Ahmed Vanya authored a ground breaking article on Traditional Islam and the Challenge of Modernity. The article looks at the compatibility of Islam with modernity. To learn more about Ahmed and our fellows program, click here.

Victory in the Battle for the Soul of Islamwill come when Muslims and Non-Muslims alike engage the fallacies of the Islamist ideology and embrace for all people the principles that define America – the sanctity of individual human rights and inalienable rights to liberty.

We would appreciate your engagement and support our shared mission to safeguard individual liberty and freedom. To follow us on Twitter, please click here; and to like us on Facebook, please click here. To make a tax-deductible contribution, please visit this link.

Yours in liberty,

 Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser