Reactionary disguised as progressive

The things you happen on when stumbling around Twitter. I found an article by someone named Wardah Khalid, which says some strikingly unpleasant things about reformist Muslims and ex-Muslims.

The title, which may not have been her choice, is a bad start:

The Ayaan Hirsi Ali problem: why do anti-Islam Muslims keep getting promoted as “experts”?

That’s a stupid question. You can be opposed to X and be an expert in it. That’s not even unusual. Why shouldn’t people who are critical of Islam get promoted as experts?

And since she raised the question I tried to find out why she gets promoted as an expert, and I couldn’t find much reason. I think it’s probably because she’s a pro-Islam Muslim and that kind of thing is popular, just as reformist Muslims and ex-Muslims are (in different circles).

She starts with an Air Force white paper that she doesn’t like.

The writer is Tawfik Hamid a self-proclaimed “Islamic thinker and reformer, and one time Islamic extremist from Egypt.” He is currently a fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and is the author of a number of books on radical Islam.

And? Is that an illegitimate thing to be? She would reply yes, it is.

But it’s not just this one report or this one author. Hamid is part of a long line of “pseudo-experts” on Islam, and he represents a much larger problem in which fringe Muslim Americans pushing an anti-Islam agenda are promoted as legitimate experts, thus mainstreaming ideas that are both offensive and incorrect.

What is “fringe”? Who defines “agenda”? Who says what is “legitimate”? And as for “offensive” – it’s well known by now that not everything someone calls offensive is necessarily bad or harmful or even illegitimate. Islam is an ideology, one with enormous power over a great many people’s minds, so it has to be open to criticism. Wardah Khalid doesn’t get to make it off limits.

These pseudo-experts typically argue some version of the idea that Islam is inherently violent and oppressive and needs to be reformed or defeated altogether. Their views are treated as legitimate by virtue of their religion; they are Muslim or formerly Muslim themselves, so they must know. This doesn’t just lead groups like the Air Force Research Laboratory to portray junk analysis as correct; it also promotes fringe ideologues as legitimate representatives of Islam and of Muslim Americans, when they are anything but.

But the whole idea of “legitimate representatives of Islam and of Muslim Americans” is an absurdity. Who could possibly represent all Muslim Americans? Obviously critics of an institution or ideology don’t “represent” all fans or adherents, but so what? That’s not what critics do.

It’s a bullying idea she’s working with, this idea that “fringe” means bad and wrong and not legitimate.

Most famous is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch-American author and former Muslim who argues for a complete reformation of Islam, calling it “the new fascism” and “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.” She demanded a Western-led war on the religion and was cited as a source of inspiration in the 1,500-page manifesto of Anders Breivik, the right-wing shooter who killed 77 people and injured 319 in Norway. Hirsi Ali later sympathized with Breivik’s argument that he “had no other choice but to use violence.”

Ah well now we know not to believe a word she says, because that last claim is a much-circulated lie. Hirsi Ali did not sympathize with Breivik’s argument, and that’s a dirty way to fight.

A fellow laureate of the Lantos Prize is Irshad Manji, who argues that the entire religion of Islam requires reform.

Again – and? Why shouldn’t she argue that?

Zuhdi Jasser, the founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, was relatively unknown to the Muslim American community until he testified at Rep. Peter King’s extremely controversial homegrown Islamic terrorism hearings in 2011, where he stated that Muslims are “long overdue for an ideological counter-jihad.” He claimed that Muslim American leaders, including imams, are contributing to radicalization by not actively campaigning against political Islam or for the separation of mosque and state.

And? Is that just obviously false?

Asra Nomani, the co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement, has called for government intervention in mosques for alleged “gender apartheid” and has denounced the hijab in mainstream media by calling it a “misinterpretation of Quranic verses,” putting her at odds with major Muslim schools of thought, which she rejects. She testified at the fifth King hearing in 2012 on the alleged Muslim denial and deflection of extremism, which she states is directly tied to Islam. Despite her fringe beliefs, she regularly receives mainstream media attention as a purported representative of the Muslim voice.

No she doesn’t. On the contrary, she’s seen as a liberal, reformist voice, which is not representative – and how tragic is that?

All of these so-called Muslim “reformers” are not accepted by most of the Muslim American community, yet media and government present them as authentic and authoritative Muslim voices. So why, with so many other credible, authentic, respected Muslim Americans they could choose to speak on Islam and extremism, do the government and media continue to rely on this small handful of anti-Muslim zealots?

See what she did there? She called them anti-Muslim, when she hasn’t established that. Being critical of Islam is not being anti-Muslim.

The reality is, Wardah Khalid is a religious reactionary, using the vocabulary of liberalism to try to discredit reformers. Someone talking to her on Twitter used the hideous phrase “comprador intellectuals” – which is reminiscent of Murtaza Hussain calling Maajid Nawaz a porch monkey.

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