Our organization is calling on Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, to withdraw from a troubling fundraiser to benefit "Islamic Relief" scheduled for Toronto on May 20th.
Here's why: Muslims in North America are being forced to live under the thumb of extremists. Some of western Islam's most prominent clerics might publicly praise and practice interfaith dialogue, but we have seen how, behind closed doors, many of them promote hatred and incite violence. To the dismay of moderates, these extremists have gained control over much of the Muslim community, partly because they have been legitimized as representative voices by government, the media and prominent public figures who fail to note the Islamists' bigoted rhetoric once the microphones are switched off.
Trevor Noah is due to speak in Toronto alongside Nouman Ali Khan, a prominent American cleric with a history of involvement in Islamist causes. While Khan projects a moderate image, we have found evidence of him expressing repugnant views about homosexuals and abusing women.
And while the group that he and the Daily Show host are fundraising for, Islamic Relief, has been praised for its charitable work, it is also financially linked with a number of terrorist groups, and regularly gives platforms to preachers who incite hatred against women, Jews, homosexuals and Muslim minorities.
Nouman Ali Khan is no exception. Khan is a Texas-based Salafist imam, quoted as an authority on American Islam and in 2013 was named one of the world's 500 most-influential Muslims.
Khan runs Bayyinah, a religious education seminary based in Texas that trains imams. Khan's Facebook page, which broadcasts his work with Bayyinah, features a picture of him proudly meeting with Zakir Naik, an Indian televangelist and one of South Asia's leading Salafist preachers. Naik advocates killing apostates and homosexuals, and has claimed that "every Muslim should be a terrorist." In 2010, Naik was banned from entering Canada after Toronto's Muslims brought his extremism to the attention of the government.
With friends like Naik, then, what exactly is Nouman Ali Khan teaching the next generation of Muslim clerics?
We took a look at his sermons. Khan claims that prostitutes and pornographic actors are "filth" and that "you have to punish them ... They're not killed; they're whipped. And they're whipped a hundred times." He advises his listeners: "Don't become compassionate when you're punishing them" and that "mature believers should watch the punishment happening."
In addition, Khan declares that Muslim women who suffer domestic abuse are committing a "crime" if they challenge the religious text that allegedly permits such acts. In the same sermon, although he condemns violence against women, he then explains that a man has "licence" to hit his wife if she is unfaithful or not sufficiently devout.
Elsewhere, Khan laments that in the U.S., it's not okay for counsellors or therapists to tell gay people that "there may be something wrong with that." He also justifies sex slavery as a "practical reality," that "women slaves" and "concubines" have been placed "under the authority of the believers," and that such slavery isn't as worrisome as the problems that occur in the West's "hideous society," such as rape and teenage pregnancy.
Khan is just one of dozens of prominent North American clerics who express this sort of rhetoric. In July 2016, for example, Imam Omar Suleiman was filmed sitting next to George W. Bush and Barack Obama at an interfaith memorial for the victims of the July 2016 Dallas shootings.
Suleiman spoke of love and compassion at that memorial service, but that was a very different message than what he's delivered in sermons and social media postings, where he has defended sex slavery, warned that women who commit adultery risk being killed by a family member, and described homosexuality as a "disease" and a "repugnant shameless sin." Suleiman is a regular speaker at Islamic Relief events, including those organized by Islamic Relief Canada.
Islamic Relief UK is being probed by Britain's Charity Commission after The Times reported that the group had invited the preacher Yasir Qadhi on a fundraising tour of Britain. Qadhi has claimed that Shia Muslims are "liars" and "filth," advised Muslims to read a book titled The Hoax of the Holocaust and has told students: "This is a part of our religion to stone the adulterer ... and to kill, by the way, the homosexual — this is also our religion."
Trevor Noah undoubtedly had good intentions when he agreed to appear at Islamic Relief's Toronto event. The group claims that the event is about "pluralism," "hope," and "tolerance." But Nouman Ali Khan and Islamic Relief have shown they support intolerance.
When intolerant and extreme Muslims are given polite cover by non-Muslims, especially prominent ones like Noah, it only further silences the voices of moderate Muslims who oppose Islamism and its extremist ideas. That's because it legitimizes those who preach homophobia, misogyny, anti-Semitism and violence.
If Trevor Noah is truly committed to fighting intolerance, then rather than share a platform with a man who advocates hurting women, we call on him to support authentically moderate Muslim groups, such as Toronto's own Muslims Facing Tomorrow, America's Muslim Reform Movement, or Britain's Quilliam Foundation. The problem of radical Islam is not going anywhere, and it is only by working with genuinely moderate Muslims that we can find a solution.