Sunday, March 13, 2011

Daisy Khan Speaks Out Against Islamic Extremism

Daisy Khan heads the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), and is the wife of Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the Park51 New York City project. She spoke last Thursday at a conference called, "Women, Islam and Peacebuilding" held at Arizona State University. I don't agree with everything she said, but I have to give her credit for being a high profile Muslim who is speaking out against violent extremism.

Khan spoke about the need for more female Muslim peace leaders, about denouncing violence against Muslim women and about the voice of a few extremists who have "hijacked" her religion.
Unfortunately although it's a minority, it's far more than just a "few extremists." But the condemnation is still welcome. She also addressed the issue of so-called honor killings including a specific case in the U.S.
Khan said the Muslim community has a responsibility to denounce these types of crimes. ... the death of a young woman and the destruction of a family should be seen as a moment for Valley Muslim community leaders to say, "This must never get repeated again. This must never be done in the name of our religion."
Khan also made another interesting point.
"Muslims . . . imams and the community . . . are extremely important to rooting out extremist ideologues because they know their community, they know how to counter this ideology,"
This is true, but the oppposite can also be the case. Imams can also be instilling a victim mentality, promoting Islamism, or in the worst case radicalizing young Muslims who then turn to the violent extremism Khan is denouncing.

There are plenty of imams throughout the world who uphold and promote doctrines subjugating women, hostile attitudes toward non-Muslims, death for apostates and blasphemers, and other odious elements of the practice of Islam as it exists in various places. Fortunately this appears to be rare in the U.S. But, here's what Khan says about the King hearings which she opposes.

he is stereotyping and isolating a community as well as opposing the work of countless peaceful Muslims. ... The hearings risk portraying all Muslims as the enemy, when the common enemy of peaceful people is extremists
Unfortunately like many Muslims Khan has it exactly backward. What risks portraying Muslims as the enemy are the actions of Muslims throughout the world. Hardly a day goes by without some atrocity committed in the name of Islam.
"I am an American," she said. "Why should an entire community have to suffer for the evil committed by a few?"
Life isn't fair. If you are part of a minority religion that happens to be noteworthory for inspiring acts of terrorism, and highly visible for other barbaric practices regularly committed in its name, you are going to be colored with the taint of how that religion as a whole is perceived.

I believe that Daisy Khan is correct in that the mainstream American Muslim community itself can be our best line of defense against acts of Islamic terror. But that requires cooperation with police and surveillance measures, and active steps to identify and isolate extremists, not excuse-making and pretending that American Muslims are somehow being persecuted -- which is what we see all too often. Stop seeing suspicion of Muslims as based solely on prejudice and bigotry, and start recognizing that the acts of your fellow adherents of Islam are primarily to blame.

One final point... Regardless of my disagreements with Daisy Khan, it is worth noting that she is a prominent Muslim who is speaking out publicly against extremism. There are some on the right who won't credit that, and will claim she's being disengenous, engaging in "taqiyya," or whatever. I'm not one of them.

1 comment:

  1. I hope this becomes a trend. The more Muslims willing to say that liberal values of a civil society are worth defending, the happier I'll be. Thanks for pointing out this story.

    (Though yes, it would be nice if Khan were more willing to accept non-Muslim criticism of Islam. At least she's taking the time to criticize extremism herself instead of letting it off the hook entirely like some people do.)