Clarion Project tries to show that Islamic reform is possible, instead only shows how easy it is to be fooled


The Clarion Project has always dissembled about the ideological roots of the phenomena it covers. Its “Honor Diaries” video falsely claimed that honor killing was un-Islamic. Its “Third Jihad” video went out its way to assure us that the vast majority of Muslims not only didn’t participate in jihad activity, but rejected and abhorred it (while numerous international surveys show otherwise). The Grand Mufti of the Stealth Jihad, Zuhdi Jasser, is on its advisory board, so it’s no surprise that Clarion would rush to his aid in our recent controversy. (See my response to Jasser’s libels here.) But Robert Spencer thoroughly eviscerates their claims and shows them to be the ignorant, easily-led naifs they are.

“Clarion Project tries to show that Islamic reform is possible, instead only shows how easy it is to be fooled,” by Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, March 15, 2017:

The Clarion Project, of which moderate Muslim Zuhdi Jasser is an advisory board member, has rushed to his aid in our recent controversy, claiming to demonstrate in this piece that reform of Islam is not only possible, but happening now in all sorts of ways I am not acknowledging. Now, I have never said Islamic reform is not possible, but this Clarion article unfortunately only confirms several points I have made many times before: that much of what is touted as reform of Islam is really nothing of the kind, as the central doctrines of Islam are left untouched; and also that much of what is touted as reform of Islam is actually cynical deception designed to keep Infidels complacent. Both are on abundant display in this Clarion piece. More below.

“Is Muslim Reform Even Possible?,” by Elliot Friedland, Clarion Project, March 15, 2017:

Clarion advisory board member Dr. Zudhi Jasser has hit out of critics who claim that Muslim reform movements are bound to fail because they are not accepted within the Muslim community….

Spencer later adds, “I’d love to see Islamic reform succeed. I’m just not willing to kid myself or others about its prospects, or pretend that it has a greater standing in Islamic doctrine or tradition than it does.”These are important questions that must be addressed honestly.

But Spencer misses the point in three key ways:

Firstly, Spencer’s arguments belie the fact that Islam has already changed many times throughout the centuries. It has seen intellectual flourishing, such as in the Abbasid House of Wisdom, and iconoclastic destruction, such as that meted out against Hindu India by the Ghaznavid Empire, or, of course, the contemporary Islamic State (who cited the exploits of Mahmud of Ghazni in the latest issue of their propaganda magazine Rumiyah). Just like Christianity has gone from the charity of St Francis of Assisi to the torture chambers of the Inquisition to fighting for both the abolition of and the maintenance of slavery in the 19th century.

This bespeaks a confusion about what reform of Islam actually is, or would be. Of course Islam, like all other religions and belief systems, has been expressed in different ways by its various adherents. But that is not the same thing as it undergoing an actual change of doctrine, such as, say, a rejection of the violent jihad imperative or the necessity to subjugate the “People of the Book” (i.e., Jews, Christians, and a few other groups) under the hegemony of Islamic law as dhimmis. There has never been such a rejection. The Abbasid House of Wisdom, for example, was flourishing amidst Islamic oppression that will sound familiar to people who have been reading about the atrocities of the Islamic State. Raymond Ibrahim reports this about the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid: “In the West [he] is depicted as a colorful and fun-loving prankster in the Arabian Nights. Though renowned for his secular pursuits — including riotous living, strong drink and harems of concubines, to the point that a modern day female Kuwaiti activist referred to him as a model to justify the institution of sex-slavery — Harun al-Rashid was still pious enough ‘to force Christians to distinguish themselves by dress, to expel them from their positions, and to destroy their churches through the use of fatwas by the imams.’”

To take but two recent examples: In 2016, the Marrakesh Declaration saw more than 250 scholars from around the Muslim world convene at the request of the King of Morocco (a direct descendant of Muhammed himself and hardly a marginal figure) to “AFFIRM that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.”

The Marrakesh Declaration does indeed say that. This does not, however, constitute any reform of Islam in the slightest degree. A hadith has Muhammad saying, “He who hurts a dhimmi hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys Allah” (At-Tabarani). Muhammad didn’t by saying this cancel the Qur’anic imperative to make sure that the dhimmis “pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (9:29). He didn’t want the dhimmis hurt because their jizya tax money was an important source of revenue for the Muslim community: the caliph Umar is quoted in a hadith saying that the jizya is the “source of the livelihood of your dependents” (Bukhari 4.53.388). One shouldn’t harm the goose that is laying the golden eggs. But this doesn’t mean that the dhimmis were any less subjugated. When the Marrakesh Declaration says that “it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries,” it is not reforming or rejecting the Qur’anic imperative to subjugate those minorities as dhimmis. In Islamic law, the dhimmis have rights; they just don’t have all the rights that Muslims have.

Closer to America, since 2013 the Muslim Leadership Initiative has seen Muslim leaders from America come to Israel to learn about Jews and Zionism, abandoning the decades long opposition to any interaction at all with the Jewish state within the establishment leadership in the Muslim community. Although this provoked a massive backlash, the fact that it happened at all is monumental in showing that it is possible to have a dialogue and move towards solutions to some of the seemingly intractable inter-communal problems that we face.

This one is really embarrassing for Clarion. Listed as an “MLI Facilitator” is none other than Haroon Moghul, a name that will be familiar to longtime Jihad Watch readers. Moghul is one of the most ridiculous exponents of the “Islamophobia” victimhood propaganda industry, and he has shown himself to be many times. Obsessed with furthering claims of Muslim victimhood, Moghul traffics in malicious defamation (likening Pamela Geller and me to jihad mass murder mastermind Anwar al-Awlaki) and dishonesty (discounting the reality of jihad terror while magnifying the fiction of “Islamophobia”) and taking advantage of his audience’s ignorance about Islam to invert reality, portraying Muslims as victims of a cruel “Islamophobic” machine, instead of non-Muslims threatened by the global jihad. He is the very model of a cynical pseudo-moderate taking advantage of the ignorance of his non-Muslim interlocutors in order to lull them into complacency regarding the jihad threat.

Secondly, Spencer does not acknowledge the damage done by rejecting Muslims like Jasser. When Muslims like Jasser are not seen as authentic by non-Muslims, it makes it that much harder for him to pitch to Muslims that his path will lead to acceptance. Fear is an incredibly powerful factor in politics. If Muslim communities fear they will be excluded no matter what, that non-Muslims have no interest in protecting them or their rights and are only interested in them as opponents of jihad, they have little incentive to speak out.

As I explained yesterday, Muslims actually don’t care what non-Muslims think about Islam, any more than Christians care about whether the Ayatollah Khamenei or caliph al-Baghdadi think they’re Christian or not. As influential as it is, this argument doesn’t get any less absurd by constant repetition. Until some Muslim appears who can honestly say, “I was going to join ISIS until I heard Pope Francis say that the Qur’an rejects violence,” I will continue to think it absurd.

Thirdly, Spencer does not recognize that these things take a long time. Even within living memory, the West has seen monumental cultural shifts, on women’s rights, on gay rights, on race relations. These changes have pushed the contemporary West further in the direction of upholding human freedoms than any other civilization in the history of the world….

Muslim Reform is happening. Just slower and more quietly than Robert Spencer would like.

Great. How slow is too slow? Is there a timetable? How long do we have to wait? How many people have to get killed by jihadists before we realize that waiting for this reform to happen is pointless?

The Clarion Project tried in this article to show that Islamic reform is possible and happening now. Instead, it only showed the perils of ignorance and how easy it is to be fooled by cynical sharpies such as Haroon Moghul.

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