From Paris and Brussels to Orlando and San Bernardino, increasingly deadly terrorist acts have forced authorities to address the problem of widespread extremism within Western Muslim communities. In the United States, government, media, and counter-terrorism commentators increasingly regard domestic Muslim groups, and even "non-violent extremists," as a bulwark against this "violent extremism."
The journalist Ruth Graham writes that "experts" believe the "answer to homegrown radicalism is homegrown institutions." She interviews Abdul Nasir Jangda, an Islamic cleric and the founder of the Qalam Institute, a seminary and training organization.
In 2014, a report sponsored by the Houston and Harris County Sheriff's Department featured interviews with a prominent mosque leader who, to combat "radicalization," was sending "khateebs [the person who delivers the Friday sermon] to the Qalam Institute in Dallas for training."
Are homegrown imams really the solution to homegrown extremism? The Qalam Institute is not the moderate, assimilated, pro-American religious training organization that the media and government presume. Qalam's officials advocate the use of female sex slaves, the killing of adulterers and incite hatred against Jews and other non-Muslims.
Founded in 2009 to introduce Muslim youth in Dallas to local imams, the Qalam Institute expanded and established a full-time seminary in 2013. Over the past few years - from Massachusetts to California - a sizable number of mosques, student groups and Muslim conferences have organized events with its "instructors", who promise "organized and consistent Islamic learning" for Muslim youth. Qalam's officials are extremely popular among Muslim youth groups and command enormous social media presences.
A look at the views of Qalam's two main officials, Hussain Kamani and Abdul Nasir Jangda, gives us and our moderate Muslim allies great cause for concern.
Although born in Kentucky, Hussain Kamani acquired his religious training in the United Kingdom. He studied at Darul Uloom Bury, one of the most prominent seminaries within the Deobandi movement – a hardline South Asian Sunni sect that gave birth to the Taliban.
In 2016, The Times reported that this U.K. seminary "preaches contempt for non-Muslims and warns of the 'repulsive qualities' of Christian and Jewish women." The British journalist Andrew Norfolk further explains: "Integration with British society is denounced. To befriend a non-Muslim risks pollution by the corrupting ways of the kuffar [non-Muslim]. Any man who considers marrying a Christian or Jewish woman is warned of the danger that 'their repulsive qualities will filter into Muslim homes'. A woman's place is in the home. Ideally, that is where she 'should remain'."
It appears the ideas taught at the Deobandi seminary agreed with Kamani.
Similar rhetoric can be found in his sermons today. One of the Qalam Institute's most popular courses – titled "The Prophetic Code" and taught by Kamani – warns Muslims to seek "cleanliness" and "purity", so "do not resemble the Jews." Kamani also cites Quranic commentary to advise parents: "Order your children to pray at the age of seven. And beat them (lightly) if they do not do so by the age of ten."
In a talk titled "Sex, Masturbation and Islam," Kamani explains that Muslim men may fulfil any sexual desires "with a female slave that belongs to him." Those who commit adultery or have sex outside of marriage, Kamani explains, must be "stoned to death." And when Muslim husbands are learning to "train their wives," beating them, Kamani concedes, should only be a "last measure."
Western society, Kamani declares, is "filth. ... We are surrounded by filth ... our environment is full of this filth, everywhere we turn."
Kamani's chief colleague at Qalam are no better. Abdur Nasir Jangda also studied at a Deobandi madrassah – Jamia Binoria in Karachi, Pakistan. In 2009, the BBC journalist John Humphreys reported that Jamia Binoria was "brainwashing" children into supporting terrorism. In 2015, Pakistani law enforcement raided the seminary after including it on a list of madrassahs linked to terrorist organizations.
According to detailed notes published by one of his students, Jangda has defended the use of female sex slaves within Islam. He reportedly advocated the killing of apostates and adulterers, and dismisses the concept of marital rape: "The thing to understand is that the husband has his set of divinely given rights one of which is the right to have his physical desires satisfied."
Those who do not accept Islam, Jangda warns in a sermon titled "A Tour of Paradise and Hellfire," will be "chained up with so many chains they will be walking around the fire pits of hell dragging these chains. And then they will be put inside the fire and burned to a crisp."
Jangda and Kamani are among the most popular preachers within the American Muslim community today – both are regular speakers at American Islam's largest annual conference.
The Qalam Institute, along with other Salafist and Islamist training organizations, is expanding fast. Its preachers will be imparting their hardline ideals to thousands of Muslim youth across the United States.
The belief that Western-trained imams temper the threat of extremism has led policy makers not to discourage the establishment of Western Islamic seminaries and training organizations. In Europe, Salafist groups such as the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) were accepted as representative forms of Western Islam – even running an event with Anne Frank Trust, despite its officials' long history of unabashed anti-Semitism. The British government now knows differently. The British charity regulator recently censured the organization for not discouraging "terrorism and/or extremist views."
Here in the U.S., over the past few years, as the demand for foreign imams has fallen, the number of religious education groups training leaders within the American Muslim community has skyrocketed. Salafist organizations such as the Al Maghrib Institute and the British-based iERA are working to increase rapidly the number of seminars, courses and retreats offered to young American Muslims. Prominent Muslim Brotherhood mosques such as the Islamic Society of Boston are even establishing their own seminaries.
The U.S. government, media and America's moderate Muslims risk making the same mistake as their European counterparts. The solution to extremism and radicalization does not lie with its instigators. Islamist seminaries are promoting a strain of Islam that incites hated against non-Muslims, women, Jews and Western society. If America is to avoid the widespread radicalization of its historically moderate Muslim populations, as seen in Europe, then groups such as the Qalam Institute must be staunchly opposed and widely condemned.