CAIR vs. Human Rights
por Robert Spencer, 18 de julio de 2007
(Published in FrontPageMagazine, March 12, 2007)
The St. Petersburg Declaration, issued at the Secular Islam Summit in St. Petersburg, Florida, last week, is the most comprehensive and forthright statement of Islamic reform anyone has yet managed to come up with. Instead of denying the existence of the elements of Islam that are being used around the world today to incite violence and justify oppression Â- as do all too many putative Islamic reformers and moderates Â- the St. Petersburg Declaration is firmly rooted in reality, and evinces no interest in fashionable evasions or political correctness.
Confronting directly the elements of Islamic Sharia law that are at variance with otherwise generally accepted principles of human rights, it affirms Âthe inviolable freedom of the individual conscience,Â in contrast to the Muslim prophet MuhammadÂs dictum, ÂIf somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill himÂ (Bukhari 4.52.260), and calls upon governments to Âoppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy.Â It declares, ÂWe believe in the equality of all human persons,Â cutting against the QurÂanic observation that non-Muslims are the Âthe worst of created beingsÂ (98:6) and that ÂMuhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselvesÂ (48:29).
Challenging the jihadist aspirations to establish a unified Islamic state under the rule of Sharia, the Declaration states: ÂWe insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rightsÂ . We call on the governments of the world to reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their formsÂ Â
Anticipating criticism, the Declaration adds: ÂWe see no colonialism, racism, or so-called ÂIslamaphobiaÂ in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.Â
But some do Â- notably the Council on American Islamic Relations. CAIRÂs Ahmed Bedier huffed, ÂIn order to have legitimate reform, you need to have the right messengers.Â In an editorial, InvestorÂs Business Daily gave the perfect response to this: ÂAnd who might that be? The four CAIR executives who have been successfully prosecuted on terrorism-related charges? The CAIR co-founder who said the Quran should replace the U.S. Constitution as Âthe highest authority in AmericaÂ?Â
Bedier complained that the Summit was funded by Âneoconservatives,Â and objected to the Secular Islam Summit because it featured many ex-Muslims, including Ibn Warraq, Wafa Sultan, and Nonie Darwish. But CAIRÂs opposition to the Summit may offer one hint as to why they felt they had to leave the fold. As Tawfik Hamid, author of The Roots of Jihad, told Bedier on the Glenn Beck show, ÂThe truth should be independent of whoever says it.Â
That simple fact seems to have eluded CAIR, as it eludes so many these days. Its denunciations of the Secular Islam Summit have focused on speakers there, not on the message. And unfortunately, no journalist has had the presence of mind or the courage to ask any CAIR official point-blank what he or she actually thinks of the content of the St. Petersburg Declaration.
The Council on American Islamic Relations bills itself as ÂAmericaÂs largest Islamic civil liberties groupÂ and claims that Âits mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.Â The mainstream media and even many government and law enforcement officials accept it as a moderate group. CAIR officials have worked with the FBI and other organizations at the highest levels.
Yet suspicions persist about the group, due not only to the terror convictions of several of its former officials and the questionable statements of some of its spokesmen, but because it always seems to be on the opposing side of anti-terror efforts, as well as of any honest attempt to examine and reform the elements of Islam that jihadists are using to justify violence today.
In light of all that, the St. Petersburg Declaration offers CAIR a golden opportunity to demonstrate the genuineness of its claim to moderation. Since HamidÂs dictum that the truth is independent of the identity of the speaker is manifestly true, CAIR should declare its support for the St. Petersburg Declaration. ShouldnÂt a dedicated and sincere group of Islamic moderates jump at the chance to go on record opposing Âall penalties for blasphemy and apostasy,Â as well as opposing Âfemale circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriageÂ?
ShouldnÂt CAIR gladly and without hesitation endorse a statement calling for protection of Âsexual and gender minorities from persecution and violenceÂ and the elimination of Âsectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-MuslimsÂ? IsnÂt CAIR dedicated to protecting Âcivil libertiesÂ? And as for the developing of Âan open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed without coercion or intimidation,Â wouldnÂt such a public atmosphere help CAIR Âencourage dialogueÂ and Âbuild coalitionsÂ?
WhatÂs not to like? CAIR need not worry that endorsing the St. Petersburg Declaration will lead anyone to think they are associated with the ÂneoconservativesÂ behind the Summit. But such an endorsement would go a long way toward reassuring people that CAIR is indeed what it presents itself to be, and not a group whose goals are, in fact, quite different from those of the St. Petersburg Declaration.
Reporters should be asking Nihad Awad and Ibrahim Hooper this week: do you endorse the St. Petersburg Declaration? And if not, why not? DonÂt tell us, gentlemen, what you think of the people involved. Tell us what you think of the principles expressed and statements made. We are listening. Let the dialogue begin.
Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of five books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the WorldÂs Fastest Growing Faith and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is also an Adjunct Fellow with the Free Congress Foundation.