This is the first installment of a two-part essay. Part two will appear on National Review Online tomorrow.
Journalist and author Fareed Zakaria has made some grave accusations against those who oppose the building of the Islamic center near Ground Zero, and has predicated his own approval of the project on the moderateness of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Zakaria wrote that Abdul Rauf “has said one or two things about American foreign policy that strike me as overly critical — but it’s stuff you could read on The Huffington Post any day.”
Yes, indeed — you are likely to read similar “stuff” on the Huffington Post, since Rauf has written there. But how can that possibly constitute a convincing defense of Rauf? Many Huffington Post writers are anti-American, and believe that the U.S. had 9/11 “coming to it.” They still have not learned that 9/11 had nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy.
Rauf evidently has not learned that lesson either. On Sept. 30, 2001, 60 Minutes host Ed Bradley asked him if he thought the U.S. deserved the 9/11 attacks. Rauf replied, “I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened. . . . We have been an accessory to a lot of — of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, it — in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the U.S.A.”
It is worth noting Rauf’s words carefully. The atrocity is characterized in the passive: “a crime that happened.” This allows Rauf to avoid stating that it was Islamists who committed it. In his book What’s Right with Islam, Rauf even objects to the term “Islamism” — one that was actually concocted to avoid indicting Islam directly — since, he argues, it falsely implies that Islam is the source of the militancy.
The United States is accused of being an “accessory,” of somehow having “created” Osama bin Laden. According to Rauf on page one of What’s Right with Islam, because many Muslims around the world support Osama bin Laden, the United States is doing something wrong.
And incidentally, what Rauf wrote in the Huffington Post, soon after the rigged Iranian elections of June 12, 2009, is evidence that he is an admirer of the tyrannical theocracy in that country. After endorsing the “official results,” Rauf praised the 1979 revolution: “The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was in part to depose the shah, who had come to power in 1953 after a CIA-sponsored coup overthrew democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossaddeq. And in part it was an opportunity to craft an Islamic state with a legitimate ruler according to Shia political theory. . . . After the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took the Shiite concept of the Rightly Guided Imam and created the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, which means the rule of the jurisprudent. This institutionalizes the Islamic rule of law. The Council of Guardians serves to ensure these principles.”
Then Rauf claims that the elections in Iran were a slow-but-sure step towards democracy: “[Obama’s] administration understands that what is going on now in Iran is an attempt by the Iranian people to live up to their own ideals. Just as American democracy developed over many years, the United States recognizes that this election is part of the process of an evolving democracy in Iran.” I wonder what Iranians in exile, or those risking their lives to protest that hideous regime, think about Rauf’s complacency about what is happening in Iran.
Here is Rauf’s advice to the president: “He should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution — to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, that establishes the rule of law.”
Rauf praises the tyrants in Iran and is apparently ready to accept their money for the Islamic center at Ground Zero, but he fails to explain the term vilayet-i-faqih to American audiences. The term, literally “the guardianship of the jurist,” was developed by Ayatollah Khomeini in a series of lectures in 1969, and became the guiding principle of the government of Iran after he came to power in 1979. The concept is but an extension and slight modification of the Shia idea of walī, in which Ali and the imams succeeding him were considered guardians of the community, acting on behalf of God himself. Under this concept, the people of Iran are the wards of the ayatollahs, and the people of Iran owe the guardians absolute obedience in accordance with Sura IV verse 59 (“O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among you . . .”). Secondly, the exclusive right of interpretation of Islamic law belongs to religious scholars. Thus there is nothing democratic about it — its totalitarian character should be evident. Rauf’s endorsement of this principle makes him the unequivocal defender of totalitarian Khomeinism.
CONTRADICTIONS AND PREVARICATIONS
Rauf says one thing to Western audiences and another to Muslim audiences. He is quite capable of writing reassuring things, as in the New York Daily News earlier this year: “My colleagues and I are the anti-terrorists. We are the people who want to embolden the vast majority of Muslims who hate terrorism to stand up to the radical rhetoric. Our purpose is to interweave America’s Muslim population into the mainstream society.”
But when presented with actual opportunities to “interweave America’s Muslim population into the mainstream society,” Rauf and most of his fellow Muslims decline. Nearly ten years ago, I was the guest of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI) of Rome. PISAI is dedicated to interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims. But as the director at the time said to me, “There is no real dialogue, since Muslims never reciprocate the goodwill gestures made by the Christians. The result is we sit down together, and the Christians say what a wonderful religion Islam is, and the Muslims say what a wonderful religion Islam is.” Rauf was invited to give a sermon in a church and did so, but he never reciprocated by inviting a Christian to give a sermon in a mosque. This, for Rauf and his ilk, would be unthinkable.
Like Tariq Ramadan, also touted by the unvigilant and ill-informed as a great moderate Muslim, Rauf is a master of double talk and prevarication. When asked if he considered Hamas a terrorist organization, as it is labeled by the State Department, Rauf ducked, weaved, and sidestepped: “Look, I’m not a politician. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question. There was an attempt in the ’90s to have the U.N. define what terrorism is and say who was a terrorist. There was no ability to get agreement on that.” The interviewer persisted. Rauf, clearly flustered, replied, “I am a peace builder. I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary or as an enemy.”
This unwillingness to criticize Hamas is hardly surprising, given his views on Israel. In a letter published on Nov. 27, 1977, in the New York Times, he wrote, “In a true peace it is impossible that a purely Jewish state of Palestine can endure. . . . In a true peace, Israel will, in our lifetimes, become one more Arab country, with a Jewish minority.”
While he indulges in ecumenical blather in front of Western audiences, Rauf reveals his true intentions and philosophy in Muslim newspapers, magazines, and websites. He spells out in unequivocal terms his desire to establish sharia in the West, to reestablish the Islamic caliphate, and to do away with the separation of religion and state.
For instance, in an article for the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad entitled “Sharing the Essence of Our Beliefs,” Rauf wrote, “People asked me right after the 9/11 attacks as to why do movements with political agendas carry [Islamic] religious names? Why call it ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ or ‘Hezbollah (Party of Allah)’ or ‘Hamas’ or ‘Islamic Resistance Movement’? I answer them this — that the trend towards Islamic law and justice begins in religious movements, because secularism has failed to deliver what the Muslim wants, which is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. . . . The only law that the Muslim needs exists already in the Koran and the Hadith.” A state based on the Koran and Hadith could only be called a theocracy.
In an interview he gave in 2007 to the website HadieIslam, Rauf said, “So the question in our era throughout my discussions with contemporary Muslim theologians is [whether] an Islamic state can be established in more than just in a single form or mold, [whether] it can be established through a kingdom or a democracy. The important issue is to establish the general fundamentals of sharia that are required to govern. It is known that there are sets of standards that are accepted by [Muslim] scholars to organize the relationships between government and the governed. . . . And we also suggest to the governors and political institutions to consult [Muslim] religious institutions and [Muslim] personalities in the field as to assure their decision making to reflect the spirit of sharia.”
In the Washington Post, Rauf commented on a 2008 lecture by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, about sharia and British law. The archbishop hinted that the application of sharia in certain circumstances seemed unavoidable if we want to achieve cohesion and take seriously people’s religions. Rauf writes, “The addition of Sharia law to ‘the law of the land’, in this case British law, complements, rather than undermines, existing legal frameworks. The Archbishop was right. It is time for Britain to integrate aspects of Islamic Law.” Rauf immediately follows this suggestion with a reassuring proviso: “Sharia law is unequivocally clear that Muslims who live as minorities in non-Muslim majority communities are required to abide by the law of the land. That doesn’t prevent British Muslims from practicing aspects of Sharia that don’t conflict with British law . . .”
However, there is a coda to that sentence: “. . . or from seeking changes in British law.” Here we have the real intentions of Rauf: abide by Western laws for now but seek to change them until they reflect sharia. Neither the Archibishop of Canterbury nor Rauf ever spell out how all this was going to work in practice: Are they asking for parallel courts? How exactly would sharia “complement” British law? Would sharia courts be voluntary? Would Muslim apostates be executed? Adulterers stoned to death? Would non-Muslims be judged by Islamic laws?
The 64 sharia courts that already operate in Britain severely undermine the rights of women, as has been thoroughly documented in an important study by the group One Law For All.
– Ibn Warraq is an independent scholar and the author of five books on Islam and Koranic criticism: Why I Am Not a Muslim, 1995; The Origins of the Koran, 1998; What the Koran Really Says, 2002; Virgins? What Virgins? And Other Essays, 2010; and the forthcoming Which Koran? This is part one of a two-part series.