Should U.S. government bodies confer credibility upon militant Islamic figures, particularly when the country is under assault from militant Islamic groups? Simply to pose the question is to answer it. It is the very last thing that these bodies should be doing.
Yet that is precisely what the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) did on March 19, 2004, when it co-hosted a workshop with the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) on the subject of ijtihad in Islam..
One main goal of this workshop was to discuss the role that American Muslim leaders and organizations can play in promoting a more tolerant and moderate interpretation of Islam. That's an excellent goal – but then what were Muzammil Siddiqi and al-Sayyid al-Qazwini doing there?
On the face of it, both men boast excellent credentials. Siddiqi has a Harvard Ph.D, and Qazwini graduated from one of Shiite Islam's most famous seminaries in Qom, Iran. The trouble is that both scholars are extremists who promote hatred. Here are some specifics.
Siddiqi delivered a Friday Sermon on December 20, 2002, in which he stated that "Muslims believe that Jesus shall come back to earth before the end of time and shall restore peace and order, struggle against the Anti-Christ or demonic forces and bring victory for truth and righteousness. The true followers of Jesus will prevail over those who deny him." On August 9, 2003, IslamOnLine.net quoted a fatwa from him in which he reiterated this view of the return of Jesus.
This outlook has two main implications. The Anti-Christ is a medieval Christian concept that at the end of time Jesus will fight against a Jewish Anti-Christ, wreaking terrible havoc on this false messiah and his army of Jews. Islam imported the concept; and yet, Mahmud Shaltut, the grand sheikh of Al-Azhar in 1942 issued a fatwa in Al-Manar journal, clearly stating that the concept of a returning Jesus is not mentioned in the Qur'an, and that proper Islamic creed cannot be built on this idea.
In the "authentic" Muslim Hadith, the Anti-Christ is deemed to be Jewish. Jesus comes back to defeat him near Lod, in modern day Israel, and march on in triumph to Jerusalem, with an army of Muslims. In the final battle between Jews and Muslims, a terrible slaughter will be wreaked upon the Jews, who are so accursed that even the stones will be yelling out to the Muslims, "O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him."
How can someone who advocates this retrogressive and sanguinary concept of the end of days, repudiated decades ago, be a genuine champion of modern day tolerance? This sounds like a Hitler-like Final Solution.
This sort of behavior is not an isolated event. For example, the Islamic Center of Orange County, where Siddiqi is director, held a program on March 29, 2004, in conjunction with Elderhostel at which Hussam Ayloush, director of the Los Angeles branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, harangued knowledge-seeking senior citizens about the United States being a lackey of Israel. Away from high-profile Washington venues, this is the true Siddiqi.
Qazwini is a follower of Shirazi Shiism whose "infallible" ayatollah, Al Sayyid Muhammad al Hussayni Al Shirazi, repeatedly relies on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to accuse the Jews of controlling the United Nations, spreading aids, corrupting trade, and marketing drugs and pornography to innocent Arab youth. He is also a prominent board member of the American Muslim Council (AMC), a radical Islamic group with strong ties to charities funding Al-Qaeda.
Qazwini's mosque, the Islamic Center of America, has enthusiastically hosted Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, where Qazwini was seen to cheer when Farrakhan denounced Jews as "forces of evil." Delivering a lecture in at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Qazwini was reported by the Boston Globe to have "expressed envy…and hostility towards Jews." In a profile in Rolling Stone, he complained of Jewish influence in the media and of seeing too "many pictures of Israelis mourning their dead."
Siddiqi and Qazwini were not the only evidence of a serious error of judgment on the part of the USIP in organizing this conference. Daniel Pipes, a USIP board member, has also criticized the joint project of the CSID and USIP, focusing on the activities of Kamran Bokhari. Bokhari was formerly a spokesman for Al-Muhajiroun, perhaps the most extreme of Islamist organizations operating in the Western hemisphere. He remains even now a fellow in good standing at the CSID.
Something is wrong somewhere. When our nation is being fed a line of "tolerance" by an association that has as its speakers those who, within their mosque walls, lionize acts of mass-murder and demonize the Jews and Israel, somebody is not doing his homework.
Government bodies must take responsibility in this most important domain, fully screening prospective invitees to conferences, instead of slavishly making the same mistakes other parts of government have done in the past, then claiming that pattern of error as a defense against corrective action.
"Abd al Haqq" is the pseudonym of a professor of Islamic studies at a leading U.S. university