Salam Al-Marayati is the executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Here he laments “our collective failure as humanity to respond appropriately to extremism.” How are we supposed to “respond appropriately to extremism”? We have to “stop giving ISIS so much attention” so that it will be “shunned into irrelevancy.”
How likely is it that the Islamic State will become “irrelevant,” or disappear, if we ignore it? What would really happen if we took Salam Al-Marayati’s advice? There would be no further discussion of whether the Islamic State’s practices were Islamic or not; it would simply be taken for granted that they weren’t, even while the Islamic State continued to make recruits among peaceful Muslims by pointing to the Qur’an and Sunnah to justify their actions. In other words, non-Muslims would be ignorant and complacent while the jihadis continued to advance. That’s the objective of Salam Al-Marayati.
More below the photo of Al-Marayati and friend.
“No, ISIS doesn’t represent Islam,” by Salam Al-Marayati, CNN, September 2, 2015 (thanks to David):
…The list of horrors is a long one. Sadly, it also exposes our collective failure as humanity to respond appropriately to extremism. ISIS is setting the agenda — and highlighting our ineptness in the process.
Take, for example, how ISIS has been forcing ethnic Yazidi women into sexual slavery, a practice it says is rooted in historic precedence. Such a claim is absurd and false; yet the revelation has spurred a debate on sex slavery in Islam, as if the practice deserves any consideration at all, and as if ISIS deserves the kind of religious legitimacy conferred upon it by discussion of its proclamations.
Note how disingenuous Al-Marayati’s presentation is. He claims that the Islamic State says that sex slavery is “rooted in historic precedence,” which he says is “absurd and false.” In reality, the Islamic State says that sex slavery is rooted in the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example — a much stronger claim for Muslims than Al-Marayati represents it to be. Al-Marayati doesn’t confront or refute any of the Islamic State’s Islamic justifications for sex slavery; he just pretends they don’t exist, relying on the ignorance of his CNN readers.
The truth is that from a doctrinal, Islamic perspective, slavery is as an affront to the natural state of the freedom in which God created human beings that is tied to the first pillar of Islam (declaration of faith). All humans are equal before God and are distinguished only by their own good actions.
“All humans are equal before God,” says Salam Al-Marayati. Has he converted to Christianity? The Qur’an says Muslims are the “best of people” (3:110), while unbelievers are “the most vile of created beings” (98:6) and “the worst of living creatures” (8:55).
Indeed, the Quran advocated for a departure from this age-old practice of human bondage, calling for the just and humane treatment of slaves as human beings and not property. It also encouraged the act of freeing slaves as an act of worship; slavery is outlawed throughout the world and should never be reconsidered if we accept liberation as the most important value Islam [sic].
More dishonesty. The Qur’an contains no advocacy for abolition of slavery. It does call for the freeing of a slave as an act of charity (90:13), but never for the ending of slavery as such. And as for sex slavery, it says that Muslim men can take “captives of the right hand” (Qur’an 4:3, 4:24, 33:50). The Qur’an says: “O Prophet! We have made lawful to you your wives to whom you have paid their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses of those whom Allah has given you as spoils of war” (33:50). Qur’an 4:3 and 4:24 extend this privilege to Muslim men in general. The Qur’an says that a man may have sex with his wives and with these slave girls: “The believers must win through, those who humble themselves in their prayers; who avoid vain talk; who are active in deeds of charity; who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or those whom their right hands possess, for they are free from blame.” (Qur’an 23:1-6).
These are the passages on which the Islamic State bases its practices. For Al-Marayati to ignore them, not even bothering to offer an alternative interpretation of them, exposes him as a deceiver, rather than a reformer.
So why is it that groups such as ISIS can use outdated dogma to rationalize murder and rape and create a facade of religious legitimacy?
The trouble comes from the fact that organizations such as ISIS and Boko Haram cherry pick tribal customs and then apply an Islamic veneer to rationalize them. And it is this deliberate muddying of reality that lies at the heart of the struggle of ideas within the Muslim world today.
If this were true, it shouldn’t be so hard for Muslim opponents of the Islamic State and Boko Haram to show how these groups are misusing their “Islamic veneer.” But Al-Marayati, as we have seen, doesn’t even address it.
Groups like ISIS try to exploit misunderstandings of doctrine to further their own agendas. Yet while some Muslim scholars have spoken out against ISIS’s false claims, others are either silent on the issue of abolishing such outrageous practices, or worse, they suggest that Muslims are committing a sin by demanding we abandon practices that should be consigned to history. Modern forms of slavery, such as concubinage and human trafficking, is an abomination.
Why are some Muslim scholars “silent on the issue of abolishing such outrageous practices, or worse, they suggest that Muslims are committing a sin by demanding we abandon practices that should be consigned to history”? The obvious answer is that they agree that the Islamic State has an Islamic case for its practices — the very point that Salam Al-Marayati is working so hard to make sure you don’t think.
…For a start, American Muslims must consistently do more to define Islam to the broader public, rather than simply responding to each outrage by an extremist group. ISIS should be treated with no more credibility than any other group of fanatics.
In other words, he wants to see more deceptive articles like this one, explaining to non-Muslims that what they see with their own eyes is not really what they’re seeing at all — as if there weren’t an avalanche of such pieces in the mainstream media already.
Second, Muslim scholars (including, I hope, more women scholars) need to connect with communities in order to produce scholarship that reflects the realities of today, separating tribal customs of the past that Islam phased out, such as slavery, from the real essence of Islam, which is based on the principles of justice, liberation and compassion.
Islam never phased out slavery. It was abolished in Muslim countries under Western pressure. There was never a Muslim Wilberforce, a Muslim Garrison, a Muslim abolitionist movement fighting slavery on Islamic grounds. In fact, slavery is still widely practiced in North Africa, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, despite official bans, precisely because it is sanctioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Contrary to what many believe, Islamic jurisprudence is not a rigid and immutable law based on unchanging rules written centuries ago. Instead, it is a flexible, dynamic jurisprudence that is fully compatible with the modern human rights framework.
In reality, Muslims claim that Islamic law is the law of Allah, immutable because perfect and eternal. This is why we don’t see it being “flexible” or “dynamic” anywhere in the world, except in deceptive CNN articles written by sly Islamic supremacists. (And CNN, along with other mainstream media outlets, keeps running such pieces incessantly. When, on the other hand, have you ever seen anything from CNN or anywhere else in the mainstream media explaining how jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism, and calling for genuine reform?)
Indeed, Islam as a religion developed as a religion for reforming society and to elevate its norms and cultural practices closer to the Quranic ideals of freedom and equality. So to go back to the original essence of Islam is to bring dignity to humanity, to bring mercy to the world, and to establish justice in the lands within which we reside. Anything violating those tenets should be met with stiff opposition by Muslims.
This is Clintonesque: it all depends on what your definitions of dignity, mercy and justice are. In Sharia, they mean the subjugation of women and the oppression of non-Muslims.
With that in mind, Muslims must do everything they can to break away from misogynist, maniacal and maddening practices that are dressed up as Islamic by pointing to a tribal custom of the past. This is something we should be explicit about: anyone who tries to justify and rationalize slavery and/or sexual abuse does not belong to us and we do not belong with him.
The Islamic State is not “pointing to a tribal custom of the past.” It points to the Qur’an and Sunnah. Unless and until people like Al-Marayati confront that, it will continue.
We don’t need fatwas to understand that rape and murder and corruption and tyranny are wrong — Islam is about free thinking, and anything that runs counter to such freedom of thought runs counter to the will of God. As the Quran states, “God commands justice and goodness and generosity, and he forbids all that is shameful and what runs counter to reason.”
Islam should be seen as a breath of fresh air, a refuge from war and persecution, whether at the hands of religious or secular rulers.
Islam will be seen as a “breath of fresh air, a refuge from war and persecution” as soon as it acts that way anywhere in the world. We have never seen this, do not see it now, and almost certainly will not see it.
Unless pundits and politicians stop giving ISIS so much attention, then efforts to share this message will be undermined.
Ignore the Islamic State, and it will go away? Sorry. Won’t happen. The only result that could come from ignoring the Islamic State would be that the Islamic State would continue to advance without any opposition at all. Is that what Salam Al-Marayati wants? A case can certainly be made for it.
Mainstream understandings of Islam must be seen as the standard-bearer of the faith, and on the side of anyone who is oppressed and suffering. Extremists, along with their distorted view of the faith, should be shunned into irrelevancy.
Shunning them is not refuting them. Only refuting them and opposing them will really make them irrelevant. I expect that Salam Al-Marayati is well aware of that.