The attacks over the July 4 holiday weekend in Bangladesh, Medina, and Baghdad left Islamist leaders in America divided over the proper response.
On July 4, the Los Angeles Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR,) Hussam Ayloush wrote on his Facebook page that ISIS was the biggest enemy of Muslims. He then named who he believed actually pulled the strings: "regional and international intelligence agencies who use ISIS (like they used Al-Qaeda, Taliban, or the Mujahideen) to advance their policies and agendas in the world."
In contrast, CAIR-Michigan Executive Director Dawud Walid disputed this conspiracism in his own longer, more scholarly Facebook post that cited intra-Muslim battles from 1300 years ago:
With all of these extremist killings going on from al-Madinah, Baghdad to Bangladesh, I've heard a number of Muslims say, "These can't be Muslims." ...
As there are definitely political forces outside of Muslims that helped cultivate this toxic environment, America's illegal invasion of Iraq and dumping arms into the region being one, misguided Muslims terrorizing other Muslims is not unprecedented...
Daesh is a mixture of these two, the politics of violent subjugation and extreme religious ideology.
It makes sense that Walid would be among those to acknowledge the divisions within Islam. He's one of CAIR's few African-American leaders and also interacts with Michigan's large Shi'ite community. Walid has written about the persistent problems of anti-black racism among Arabs, and how the problem predates colonialism. He's further noted the hypocrisy of some Sunni Muslims claiming the Shi'ite victims of ISIS as Muslims in public, while in private viewing them as heretics.
But don't expect to see much more independent thought at the local level. On July 5, CAIR's national office put out a press release making clear where it stood – on Ayloush's side. CAIR co-founder and executive director Nihad Awad wrote: "We no longer need to make the argument that ISIS is acting outside the bounds of Islam. They have clearly demonstrated that fact by their actions."
Ayloush and Awad do not acknowledge the diversity within Islam. To do that would sabotage their efforts to build a unified Muslim political power bloc that speaks with one Islamist voice and sees all of its problems as originating with nefarious outside forces.
How interesting, though, that CAIR's own local leaders are making "Islamophobic" statements.
Image illustration via Wikimedia Commons/ Jim McDougall from Glasgow, Scotland