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Standing for Religious Liberty - No Matter What: Our bus ad campaign draws fire from Muslims (and the uninformed) :: Hudson New York

Standing for Religious Liberty - No Matter What: Our bus ad campaign draws fire from Muslims (and the uninformed) :: Hudson New York
Standing for Religious Liberty - No Matter What
Our bus ad campaign draws fire from Muslims (and the uninformed)
by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer
June 23, 2010 at 4:30 am


Editor's Note: Although many at Hudson-New York agree with much of what Spencer and Geller write in their response to Shireen Qudosi's article of June 21, we nevertheless thought it important to set forth a discussion about what, going forward, might be the possibilities for interpreting Islam from inside the Muslim world…. Are the choices for Muslims solely 100% In or 100% Out -- or something other, which many Muslims might be trying to carve out?

Of course the answer is for Muslims to decide; we are just trying to provide the space for those Muslims who seem to be grappling with their choices inside their religion to step forward with their feelings -- apprehensions, misgivings, discoveries -- and maybe even solutions, whether inconclusive or not.

We also thought it important to be able to hear the thinking of a Muslim who feels as loyal to her heritage, as many other people do to theirs, and who may have perceived a well-intentioned ad on a bus to leave Islam as a hostile threat.

It occurred to us that there might possibly be a great many Muslims who also regarded the ad the same way. It therefore seemed appropriate, in the interests of free speech, to shine a light on the thinking of one Muslim, in the hope of inspiring more questions, answers, and critical thinking -- either from them to us, or from them to each other.

On the subject of the future of Islam, the Hudson Institute-New York is honored to be included in the thoughtful discussion of this often life-threatening issue, even if not necessarily able to provide the definitive answer to it. We welcome responses, and continue to regard open, thoughtful discussion as only a step forward.

As we run ads on buses around the country offering help to Muslims threatened by other Muslims for leaving Islam, the reaction from Muslim spokesmen has been telling. While most Americans would assume that Muslims in America support religious liberty and thus would have no problem with our efforts, even ostensibly moderate Muslim individuals and groups have reacted with fury.

Muhammed Malik, director of the South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), charged of our religious liberty bus ad campaign that "freedom and liberty are buzzwords they use as a smoke screen for their hatred." Daisy Khan, wife of the imam of the supposedly moderate mega-mosque slated to be built at Ground Zero, claimed counterfactually that it was "ridiculous" to think that any Muslim who wanted to leave Islam was under threat in the U.S. Khan would apparently prefer that you didn't know about the many threats the now-famous apostate teenager Rifqa Bary has received on Facebook and elsewhere.

And now, writing in Hudson NY, Sufi Muslim Shireen Qudosi calls our religious liberty bus ad campaign "inadvisable" – but seems confused as to exactly why.

Qudosi, of course, is not in the same class as CAIR, an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas jihad terror funding case that has seen several of its officials convicted of various terror-related offenses. Nor is she comparable to Khan, whose "moderate" credentials have become increasingly tarnished by a steady stream of revelations demonstrating the dishonesty of her husband, Ground Zero mega-mosque organizer Feisal Abdul Rauf. (In the latest blow to his "moderate" street cred, Rauf refused to condemn Hamas as a terrorist group on a New York radio program.) However, Qudosi identifies herself as "a consultant on Muslim American Relations," which raises the same red flags as does the name "Council on American-Islamic Relations" – as if both Qudosi and CAIR assume that "Muslim" and "American" are two separate entities that cannot mix.

Qudosi clearly dislikes the religious liberty bus ad campaign, characterizing it as a manifestation of "America's brilliance" – not in its concern for Muslims under the threat of death for leaving Islam, but because "one of the liberating facets of American society includes a cultivated freedom of speech: no matter how frustrating or infuriating to anyone."

Why does Qudosi find the bus ad campaign "frustrating or infuriating"? Not because she denies that Islam mandates death for apostates. Unlike Daisy Khan, she admits that Islamic law mandates death for apostates: "external doubt of your faith can lead to a very miserable existence; and in more extreme families, it can lead to death." So why does she object to an initiative to protect such people? Because, she says, she doesn't think we "have thought of the long-term consequences of such an ad campaign." She quotes a passage from our website, RefugeFromIslam.com, that lists three email addresses, including our own, and concludes: "For serious apostates of Islam, or for those questioning their faith, a dialogue with two non-Muslims who ultimately do not understand the cultural position of this marginal Muslim community, does nothing to offer them a serious answer or recourse."

How Shireen Qudosi, whom neither of us have met, knows that we "do not understand the cultural position" of apostates from Islam is unclear. Frankly, having studied the subject matter for years, we are confident that ex-Muslims we regularly consult, including Nonie Darwish, Ibn Warraq, Wafa Sultan, Ali Sina, Amil Imani and others understand that "cultural position" well enough. Who better has charted that terrain?

But ultimately Qudosi doesn't think we're offering apostates enough help:

Where is the infrastructure to help navigate apostates? Where will these ex-Muslims go? Who will house them? Where's the financial backing? What of the psychological damage they suffer? And if there are no counselors, are there at least secular Muslims or other apostates that can help them transition to what is ultimately an entirely new world?

What is odd about all these questions is that she never asked them of us before writing her piece. She ignores the third email address listed in the section she quotes, but it goes to an organization that offers safe haven to Muslim apostates. We have at least ten safe houses in place now, and more are in preparation. Can and should more be done? Certainly. We are starting at the beginning of an effort no one has ever undertaken before.

Did Qudosi expect us to reveal the location of our safe houses and the gateway programs on our press releases? The safety of those living in the abject fear is our priority, not revealing the apparatus we have in place to Qudosi's satisfaction. Even she should know better. Sillier still is her recommendation that groups be included that are in, of all places, the United Kingdom. Ours is a U.S. campaign; our resources are American and Canadian.

Most ironic is that Qudosi criticizes us for offering essentially the same thing that she recommends as a far better solution. The passage Qudosi quotes from our website and then criticizes for not being adequate ends with this: "If you need immediate protection from a threat, call the police immediately." Later on in her article, Qudosi says: "For Muslims who are finding their faith intolerable, my advice is to first evaluate your situation. If there is any abuse or danger, contact the authorities immediately - but do so discreetly."

Maybe if we had told apostates to be discreet, Qudosi would have been satisfied. But in any case, after finding our efforts dangerously insufficient, her conclusion is inevitable:

The ad countering ICNA's Islamism campaign might be well-intended but it is misdirected. There is no serious framework to help guide Muslims, to connect them with informed Muslims who can answer their questions, or guide them if they still choose to leave Islam.

Let us make this perfectly clear to Shireen Qudosi: we are helping to build that infrastructure now. We are working on constructing an underground Muslim railroad to help these abused human beings escape a life of pain, torture and abuse.

Qudosi continues:

Muslims do face a great number of obstacles even contemplating the faith, let alone leaving it -- but it is also not as simple a matter as putting up ads on buses. The counter-ICNA ad for apostates is a gravely miscalculated effort that cannot be taken seriously or promoted in any manner other than as a strategy to combat ICNA's campaign.

After this criticism on solely practical grounds, however, Qudosi veers oddly into objections to the campaign itself. First, she recommends that it would be "better yet" to "have this type of network run by Muslims who believe in pluralism and tolerance, who live secular lifestyles, and who can understand the perplexities that potential apostates face."

The number of such Muslims is, of course, minuscule, and the number of such Muslims who would be willing to devote their efforts to aiding apostates smaller still, but there is no need to start a job search, for Qudosi ultimately talks herself out of any support for the campaign at all. She claims that "because of the negative associations placed upon Geller and her associates, Muslims will be less inclined to reach out to individuals whom they are taught to mistrust" – although she doesn't explain why Muslim apostates who have been taught to trust Islam could overcome that teaching but could not overcome being taught to mistrust "Geller and her associates."

What's more, the only "negative connotations" placed upon "Geller and her associates" are those spread by Islamic supremacists and hate sponsors who advocate, directly or indirectly, for Islam's death penalty for apostasy. These Muslim Brotherhood proxies are seeking to destroy our reputations and the good name of others who are working for this cause, so as to destroy this nascent movement before it grows too large. There is no greater crime in Islam than apostasy, and Brotherhood groups in the U.S. will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who attempts to aid those ex-Muslims who are in desperate trouble.

Nonetheless, Qudosi insists that "Muslims will be more likely to reach out to other Muslims who have traveled their path and can directly relate to what they are going through. Such a group is rare to find, but needed if we are to be serious about such an effort. Anything short of that is reckless." And so Qudosi is saying that there should be no religious liberty bus ad campaign at all, because it is "reckless" unless it is run by a Muslim who has not left Islam but understands and sympathizes with those who have and the dangers they're under – in other words, unless it is run by a person the likes of whom will never be found.

Qudosi then offers a number of resources for British Muslim women – resources which are completely irrelevant to the plight of apostates in America – and then launches into an advertisement for Sufi Islam, saying: "I highly advise Muslims questioning Islam to consider Sufism before becoming apostates." She tells Muslims considering leaving Islam to "read the Quran in context," and above all to "look into Sufism thoroughly first before leaving Islam. In this way should they still decide to leave, they can still honestly say they are Muslim."

They can decide to leave Islam and still honestly say they are Muslim? This is patently dishonest.

After that foray into incoherence, Qudosi makes herself clear. She doesn't want Muslims to leave Islam: "I believe that Islam has to be, and can only be, changed from within. Leaving Islam does nothing to change it; but changing the direction of Muslims offers a strong hope that Islam itself can change through its followers."

That is her prerogative, of course, but it casts her criticism of our religious liberty bus campaign in an entirely different light from the pragmatic criticisms she offered above. She not only thinks the project poorly constructed; she opposes it in principle.

We expect this propaganda from the likes of the New York Times, CNN, and the rest of the mainstream media's Leftist shills for Islam. But the Hudson Institute has always been on the forefront of efforts to expose the deception and the lies of Islamic supremacism. Needless to say, this article was a giant leap backwards for the publication. If the editorial board of the Hudson Institute were to see the emails we are receiving from ex-Muslims across the world, they would be or should be even more embarrassed by this article.

The road to hell is paved with the good intentions, but this is someone else's hell: when it comes to apostasy from Islam, the hell will be suffered by the apostates, not by those who disparage efforts to help them – so detractors should think twice before condemning those efforts.

We acknowledge that we have few resources at this point, and need help of all kinds from all free people in order to sustain and build this initiative. But we are going to press on, because we believe in the free conscience and religious liberty. And no amount of quibbling from those who don't see the need to protect those principles is going to stop us.

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are the directors of the Freedom Defense Initiative (FDI), which sponsors the religious liberty bus ad campaign, and the authors of The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War On America (coming July 27 from Simon and Schuster)

Related Topics: Robert Spencer

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