Scholars’ Open Letter Adds to Chorus of Muslim Leaders Condemning ISIS than 120 Muslim leaders and scholars have co-signed an open letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, arguing the Islamic State caliphate’s establishment and practices are not legitimate in Islam. The letter includes a technical point-by-point criticism of ISIS’ actions and ideology based on the Quran and classical religious texts. From Religion News Service:

Even translated into English, the letter will still sound alien to most Americans, said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, who released it in Washington with 10 other American Muslim religious and civil rights leaders.

“The letter is written in Arabic. It is using heavy classical religious texts and classical religious scholars that ISIS has used to mobilize young people to join its forces,” said Awad, using one of the acronyms for the group. “This letter is not meant for a liberal audience.”

The 18-page letter’s thorough catalogue of the transgressions of ISIS “relies completely upon the statements and actions of followers of the ‘Islamic State’ as they themselves have promulgated in social media—or upon Muslim eyewitness accounts—and not upon other media,” it says, a move meant to forestall criticism that ISIS has been misrepresented by Westerners. From the English translation of the letter:

The word ‘jihad’ is an Islamic term that cannot be applied to armed conflict against any other Muslim; this much is a firmly established principle…Moreover, there are two kinds of jihad in Islam: the greater jihad, which is the jihad (struggle) against one’s ego; and the lesser jihad, the jihad (struggle) against the enemy.  

In truth, it is clear that you and your fighters are fearless and are ready to sacrifice in your intent for jihad. No truthful person following events—friend or foe—can deny this. However, jihad without legitimate cause, legitimate goals, legitimate purpose, legitimate methodology and legitimate intention is not jihad at all, but rather, warmongering and criminality.


Here’s Why These Muslims Are Refusing To Criticize ISIS

Daily prayer to Richmond House Chamber given by Falls Church Imam Johari Abdul-MalikAmerican Muslim leaders gathered at Washington’s National Press Club late last month to release a scathing 17-page letter to the Islamic State that distanced mainstream Muslims from the militant group’s actions. But one prominent imam from Northern Virginia refused to give his endorsement.

“It sounded like they were apologizing for something they haven’t done, like they were running for cover,” Imam Johari Abdul-Malik said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

President Barack Obama has called on the world’s Muslims to “explicitly, forcefully and consistently reject” the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, while Secretary of State John Kerry recently said that Muslims need to “reclaim Islam.” In response, some of the largest Muslim organizations have issued sweeping condemnations of the militant group’s extremism. The letter unveiled at the National Press Club had the signatures of 126 prominent Islamic scholars, including the grand muftis of Egypt, Jerusalem, Bulgaria and Kosovo.

But not all Muslims have engaged in these condemnations. Many have written blog posts and created social media campaigns to criticize what they see as Muslim institutions’ knee-jerk instinct to decry faraway atrocities that are unconnected to their communities.

“Dr. King said we are all caught up in a network of mutuality — whatever affects one directly will indirectly affect the other,” Abdul-Malik said. “If I speak up against ISIS, it’s because I’m a human being, not because I’m a Muslim.”

Abdul-Malik has spoken frequently of the Islamic State in his Friday sermons at Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. His mosque is one of the largest Islamic prayer centers in the Washington, D.C. area, serving 3,000 worshippers each Friday.


Ben Affleck Slams Bill Maher’s Criticism of Islam, Calls It ‘Gross, Racist, Disgusting’

ben-affleck-third-from-right-and-host-bill-maher-second-from-right-in-a-debate-on-real-time-with-bill-maher-on-oct-3-2014Actor and director Ben Affleck slammed atheist HBO host Bill Maher’s continued criticism of Islam during an appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” calling his views on the religion “gross, racist, disgusting.”

The heated debate occurred during a panel on the show that touched on topics including Islamic extremism, and also featured atheist author Sam Harris; Michael Steele, the former chair of the Republican National Committee; and Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof.

“Freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion you want without fear of violence, freedom to leave a religion, equality for women, equality for minorities, including homosexuals, these are liberal principles that liberals applaud for, but then when you say in the Muslim world this is what’s lacking, then they get upset,” Maher pointed out.

Harris, who has been critical of attempts to distance terror group ISIS from the Islamic religion, added that “liberals have failed us.”

Affleck took offense at the notion of criticizing the entire religion based on the actions of ISIS and other terror groups.

“Because it’s gross, it’s racist, it’s disgusting,” Affleck said.

When Harris said that Islam is a “motherload of bad ideas,” Affleck said that that is “an ugly thing to say.”

“How about the more than a billion people, who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, pray five times a day, and don’t do any of the things that you’re saying all Muslims do,” Affleck continued.


Jewish Groups Back Muslim Woman’s Headscarf Appeal to Supreme Court

girls-in-hijabTwo Jewish groups joined a friend of the court brief on behalf of a Muslim woman whose right to wear a headscarf in a retail job is under consideration by the Supreme Court.

The court on Thursday agreed to hear the case, Politico reported.

The American Jewish Committee and the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism joined an amicus with Christian, Muslim and Sikh groups. The Anti-Defamation League and the Orthodox Union also are considering amicus briefs.

The federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission brought the suit against Abercrombie & Fitch on behalf of Samantha Elauf, who had been recommended for hiring at an outlet in Tulsa, Okla. The outlet subsequently reversed its recommendation.

A lower court, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, ruled against Elauf, saying that she needed to give “explicit notice of the conflicting religious practice and the need for an accommodation for it, in order to have an actionable claim for denial of such an accommodation.”

That decision described Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Look Policy,” which, the court said, the retailer considers “critical to the health and vitality of its ‘preppy’ and ‘casual’ brand.”


Saudi Arabia: 2 Million in Mecca for Start of Hajj

WireAP_6a4ce71408ae46559c87bea1e510ce1a_16x9_992Saudi Arabia sought to assure the public that the kingdom was safe and free of health scares as an estimated 2 million Muslims streamed into a sprawling tent city near Mecca on Thursday for the start of the annual Islamic hajj pilgrimage.

Earlier this year, Saudi authorities banned people from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — the countries hardest hit in the Ebola epidemic — from getting visas as a precaution against the virus. The decision has affected a total of 7,400 pilgrims from the three countries.

Ebola is believed to have sickened more than 7,100 people in West Africa and killed more than 3,300, according to the World Health Organization.

The hajj sees massive crowds every year from around the world gather around the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca as part of a five-day spiritual journey meant to cleanse the faithful of sin and bring them closer to God. All male pilgrims dress in simple, white robes as a sign of equality before God.

The kingdom has not discovered a single case of Ebola so far and is taking all measures to ensure the safety and health of the pilgrims, said Manal Mansour, the head of Saudi Health Ministry’s department for prevention of infectious diseases.

“The most important precaution that (the kingdom) has taken was to restrict visas from the affected areas,” she told The Associated Press.


The Muslim world, like the Christian world, is complex so let’s get some context

314829-studentsThe Prime Minister speaks of an “apocalyptic death cult”. He deploys Australian military forces into combat against Islamic fundamentalists. A debate washes around about banning the wearing of burqas in Parliament House. Which means now is a good time to remember that there is no pressing threat to Australian national security presented by Muslims.

By way of context, more than 14,000 people have been killed on Australia’s roads over the past decade. Thousands more have been seriously injured. The economic cost of road crashes is an estimated $27 billion a year, according to the Department of Infrastructure. Yet there is no national threat presented by motor vehicles, nor any national debate about these costs. Australia accepts the costs as the price of a modern society.

So when I see or hear the concept of Muslims being discussed, a cascade of personal experiences flickers instantly, overlaying the news stories I digest. I think of Jack, Fenny and Chas, young Indonesians who live in Sydney. The thoughtfulness they have shown me has been exceptional. All of them are Muslims. I’m hoping they will stay in Australia after they graduate. The country would be better off with them than without them.

I think of my car blowing a tyre on a desert highway in Dubai, and the furnace-like conditions when I opened the door, and the shimmering, unsettling heat of the landscape. As I was trying, and failing, to get the very tight bolts off the wheel, a passing driver pulled over and got the tyre off for me. It was hard work in oppressive conditions. He was a plumber from Pakistan. A Muslim. A stranger who stopped to help a stranger.