Raheel Raza, president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow and a member of the Clarion Project’s advisory board, joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Monday’s Breitbart News Daily to discuss the challenges of standing up to radical Islamists as a true Muslim moderate.
Raza said Marlow was “absolutely right about the fact that there aren’t enough of us.”
“That is one of our challenges in my organization and other people like myself: reformist Muslims, progressive Muslims who are trying to fight this battle for the soul of Islam, so to speak, from within,” she said. “Muslims, I believe, have always needed to be the first voice, the front-line warriors, because when others speak out, they get slapped with labels of Islamophobia, racism, and bigotry.”
“We’ve come a long way since we started this work,” Raza was happy to report. “I’ve been involved personally for over two decades now, and that is when I wrote my book after 9/11 called Their Jihad NOT My Jihad. Now, I work with other like-minded people at the Clarion Project, which is a think tank. Their tagline saying, ‘Challenging Extremism, Promoting Dialog and Human Rights,’ is extremely important because what is happening more and more is that you see the two extremes, but we don’t see enough of the balanced dialog that says, ‘Yes, we are Muslims. We know that there is a virus within this extremist jihadist ideology, and we have to find a way to deal with it.’ As you may know, it’s not an easy task.”
Raza said it was “the legacy of the last eight years of the Obama administration” that it was impossible to discuss the problem of radical Islam without enduring accusations of bigotry.
“Free speech, free expression, any kind of critique has been totally muzzled. So we are dealing with the residue of that, and you’re absolutely right: political correctness does not allow people to critique or even offer any thoughts about Islam or Muslims, and that was the purpose of putting forward this idea of Islamophobia,” she told Marlow.
“They very well succeeded in muzzling any kind of debate or discussion,” she said. “So then, it falls more and more upon Muslims like ourselves, who will be called reformist Muslims, who need to speak out because when we see a problem, when we see evil in our midst, we have to address it. We have to expose it. And our mandate is expose the problem, educate the masses, and then eliminate the threat.”
“But in the last eight years of the Obama administration, he could not even articulate the term ‘radical jihadist ideology,’ leave alone do anything about it. So we are hopeful that now with President Trump at the helm, we will be able to address this issue head-on and make some progress,” she said.
Raza called it “extremely significant” that President Trump is willing to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” unlike his predecessor.
“If you ask a doctor and he says that there is a virus, you have to identify the virus before you can find a cure for it,” she pointed out. “That he has used the term ‘radical Islamist ideology’ is extremely important because at the same time he has also said that he will work with allies, including those in the Muslim world, to eliminate this vile enemy. So he understands the difference between Islam as a spiritual state, which is what I follow and my group follows, and Islam as a political ideology, which is what the jihadists are trying to promote and force upon all of us. So it’s very significant that after eight years of total silence on the issue, we now have a leader of the United States who is actually talking about the problem, and also talking about finding solutions.”
Marlow asked Raza if she thought her movement was growing stronger.
“Well, there definitely are more of us than there were five or ten years ago,” she replied. “Five or ten years ago, the word ‘reformist’ was a four-letter bad word. Nobody would say that. We are now spread across North America and Europe. There are not as many as we would like, obviously. As I have said, the majority is still silent. But you know, every movement, every change, every reform starts with a few people sowing the seeds of change.”
“We have a declaration of our reform, a vision, and a mission,” she declared. “We are working diligently 24 hours a day to spread our message. Our Facebook page has thousands of followers, both Muslim and non-Muslim. I think this is the voice that the world has been waiting for because whenever there was some sort of a terrorist attack, people would say, ‘Where are the moderate Muslims?’ Well, here we are, and we want our voices to be heard.”
“We also want to work together with everyone else because, as I have said time and again, when a terrorist bomb goes off in America, it’s not a Muslim problem. It’s an American problem, and it needs to be dealt with from that perspective, not to be ghettoized only for one community. We have to work together to fight this radical jihadist global ideology. It’s a huge job. We can’t do it on our own. We’re not policymakers. We are not security services. We are just grassroots Muslims concerned about the future of our children in this country,” said Raza.
Marlow asked if it was the media climate or fear of retaliation that kept more Muslims from joining Raza’s cause.
“It’s a combination of many reasons,” she explained. “Definitely, part of it is fear because all the work that we do comes with its own sets of threats and fatwas and hate mail, and not everyone is open to accepting that. There are others who just want to live their lives, nine to five. They want to work, they want to get on with their lives, they don’t want to involve themselves in something that is murky, and this issue definitely is murky.”
“The large group also is influenced by the Islamist organizations like CAIR,” she noted. “The money that is coming in from Saudi Arabia and others, on the backs of billions of petrodollars, is influencing people’s minds to say, ‘Don’t speak out. This is not something that is happening within your community. You are the victim.’ This is now a huge movement to say that no matter what happens, ordinary Muslims, American Muslims, are the victims.”
Raza feared this victim mindset leads to complacency among Muslims.
“What we want to do is try and work with the silent majority before they are influenced by the other side,” she said. “What are we up against? We are up against, as I said, billions of petrodollars. We are up against huge manpower Islamist organizations who have been given credibility in the last eight years by the previous administration. They are flexing their muscles. They are confident. They declare their intentions about how evil the West is and that they’re at war with the West, without thinking twice. But here we are, and everybody else has to hold their tongue and be politically correct. It’s a very difficult situation.”
Marlow asked what Raza expects to see in President Trump’s revised executive order on immigration, noting that the media branded the first version a “Muslim ban.”
“From what I have read and I understand, it’s not going to be very different,” she replied. “I think they’re going to tighten the legal loopholes. For me, it was never a ‘Muslim ban.’ It was not about religion. It’s about region. And, of course, the anti-Trump movement is so well-funded and orchestrated, everything is taken out of context. I am waiting to see how this pans out today. I believe it’s coming out.”
“We know that Iraq is not going to be on the list anymore, but the other countries that have been noted are. Most of them are failed states. It is okay and practical to have a temporary moratorium on countries that could be a threat to the safety and security of the United States of America. So we will wait and see how this new order pans out,” she said.
Raza worried that many Muslims bought the “media spin” about Trump issuing a “Muslim ban.”
“It’s not just the media spin. It’s also the spin of the Islamist organizations that are at work around the clock in the United States and Canada, who convinced Muslims that this is against them, and that it is a Muslim ban,” she said.
“It’s nothing to do with religion,” she contended. “When people ask me how I as a Muslim support Trump, I say this is political. Why do you thrust religion down my throat? It has nothing to do with religion. Let’s talk about it as a political issue, as the fact that he is the democratically elected president of our country. He has the right to put in policies that are for the long-term safety and security of this country. And that’s, to me, the bottom line.”
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