It takes courage to stand up publicly to radical Islam, even if you’re Muslim. Maybe especially if you’re Muslim.
Ask Asra Nomani. On Friday she and a dozen of her fellow Muslims went to the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., and posted a declaration on the door denouncing violent jihad, rejecting Islamic statism and opposing the “ideology of violent Islamic extremism.”
The declaration announced the formation of the Muslim Reform Movement, an international organization aimed at countering the beliefs of Middle East terrorist groups like Islamic State in what the document describes as a “battle for the soul of Islam.”
Was Ms. Nomani nervous? No doubt. But the recent bloodshed in Paris and San Bernardino, California, spurred by radical Islam has convinced her the Muslim community needs to confront frankly the connection between terrorism and religion, not deny that it exists.
“Ultimately, the reason why we, as Muslims, stood on Friday and went to the mosque and took the risks on our own lives, is because we’ve had enough,” Ms. Nomani said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think the world has had enough.”
Her message comes with others scrambling to place the post-San Bernardino focus on anything but radical Islam. The Council on American-Islamic Relations held a press conference Friday to denounce “rising Islamophobia in America” and called for a hate crimes investigation into a threat against a Virginia mosque.
The press conference also took a shot at Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson, accusing them of fueling an “unprecedented spike in anti-Muslim incidents nationwide” through their “inaccurate and inflammatory statements.”
Hussam Ayloush, Los Angeles chapter executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, condemned the San Bernardino attack — carried out by a Muslim couple — but also said Americans themselves share some of the blame for terrorist violence.
“[W]e complain and say, ‘What are the Muslim people doing to root out terrorism and extremism?’ Let’s not forget that some of our own foreign policy, as Americans, as the West, has fueled that extremism,” Mr. Ayloush said in an interview Friday with CNN.
The FBI is investigating the massacre, which left 14 dead and 21 injured, as an act of terrorism. The Islamic State has taken responsibility for the attack, but Mr. Ayloush refused to blame Islamic extremism, saying that, “Terrorism is a global problem, not a Muslim problem.”
Gun laws vs. terror
Meanwhile, Democrats have focused their post-attack response not on radical Islamic terrorism but on pushing for gun control, while Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch vowed Thursday to prosecute anti-Muslim speech that “edges toward violence.”
“The fear that you have just mentioned is in fact my greatest fear as a prosecutor, as someone who is sworn to the protection of all of the American people: which is that the rhetoric will be accompanied by acts of violence,” Ms. Lynch told the group Muslim Advocates in video posted on the Daily Wire.
Attorneys for the family of gunman Syed Rizwan Farook, who was killed with his wife and co-assailant Tashfeen Malik, said at a Friday press conference in Los Angeles that he was mocked at work for his beard.
“What the media should also be cautious about is, just because he had a religion, that he was Muslim, it had nothing to do with these acts. Islam does not agree, does not support any types of action that occur like this,” said attorney Mohammad Abuershaid.
Ms. Nomani said that approach — denouncing the violence but refusing to acknowledge any link to radical Islam — is part of the problem. She cited the “3-D strategy” — “denial, deflection and a demonization of those of us who want to speak honestly about these issues of extremism.”
“We don’t want to bury our heads in the sand about serious issues,” said Ms. Nomani, author of “Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam.”
Dalia Mogahed, research director at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, said it would be inaccurate to describe the Islamic State as an Islamic group, calling it a “criminal organization” and pointing out that most of its victims are Muslim.
“I think that we have to be careful not to give into the apocalyptic narrative of ISIS that wants to start a war between Muslims and everybody else,” she said on “Meet the Press,” using an acronym for the terror group.
The Muslim Reform Movement’s declaration calls for equal rights for women, an end to institutionalized Shariah law, a separation between “mosque and state” and an end to bigotry based on a list of traits, including “sexual orientation and gender expression.”
“We stand for a respectful, merciful and inclusive interpretation of Islam,” the declaration says. “We are in a battle for the soul of Islam, and an Islamic renewal must defeat the ideology of Islamism, or politicized Islam, which seeks to create Islamic states, as well as an Islamic caliphate.”
Whether the Muslim Reform Movement can build support is another question. Groups of U.S. Muslims have periodically held anti-terrorism rallies and marches after high-profile attacks, but the events tend to draw crowds of a few dozen, according to Jihad Watch.
“Given a chance to show how Muslims overwhelmingly reject ‘extremism,’ only a handful show up, and add in whining about ‘Islamophobia’ to their protest against the Islamic State,” said the Nov. 29 article in Jihad Watch.
With fears of more Islamic terrorism in Europe and the United States, however, Ms. Nomani says the time has come to stop the “toxic poison that is crossing all these borders.”
“I mean, how much blood has to be spilled until we recognize inside of a Muslim community that we do have an ideological problem?” she asked. “And that we do have support?”