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Rifqa Bary, Islam, Muslims, Shar'iah, and Apostasy (Part Two of Two)
by M. Zuhdi Jasser
On July 26, 2008, our American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) was kindly invited to the Noor Islamic Cultural Center (NICC) in Hilliard by their director, Hany Saqr, to give a talk on any subject we wished. I asked to speak to them about "Upholding our Islamic Responsibility: Countering the Ideologies that Fuel Terrorism." Take a look at short video excerpts (Part I, Part II) of my talk to the Noor mosque, selected with some relevance to the subject of reform and apostasy. While our hosts were very cordial, polite, and gracious, we first found it very interesting that there was virtually no publicity about our visit – which was in stark contrast from previous speakers. They also completely avoided any media acknowledgement of our visit and message. AIFD worked to generate our own publicity of the event with an extensive pre-interview with the Columbus Dispatch. But interestingly, despite the reporter's keen interest, the Dispatch never attended the talk or published any parts of the interview only posting an announcement of our visit. One cannot help but be suspicious of what influenced their absence particularly for a newspaper which has in the Bary case given more than adequate inches to the Noor Center's and CAIR-Ohio's side of the story. Interestingly, the Dispatch itself has had epiphanies about CAIR as Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) recently pointed out on the floor of the House:
CAIR has waged a campaign to intimidate and silence anyone who raises alarms about the dangers of Islamic extremism. CAIR's rationale is that discussions of Islamic extremism lead to animosity not just toward those who twist Islam into a justification for terrorism but toward all who practice Islam. CAIR's concern is understandable, but its response is unreasonable. The group acts properly when it hammers home the point that only a small number of Muslims support religiously motivated violence and that targeting law-abiding Muslims is wrong. Where CAIR errs is in labeling anyone who discusses Islamic terrorism a bigot and hatemonger, an Islamophobe, to use CAIR's favorite slur.
Also note that even in Mr. Saqr's introduction of me there was no real endorsement of our ideas but rather, a statement about the value of debate. In fact, opening a debate on reform with Muslim communities is our intention but before, during, and after our visit, there was absolutely no acknowledgement on their website or in their mosque literature about our visit. It was almost as if they checked the box of inviting an anti-Islamist and could go back to the comfort of their foundational Islamism and promotion of the likes of Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi.
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