In recent years I have been a faithful participant in two major events of the North American Muslim calendar. As a regular attendee at these annual gatherings, I wish to express my warmest thanks to the institutions, and to the women and men who made them the success they undoubtedly were.
This year, however, I have decided not to attend or participate in the conferences organized by ISNA from August 29 to September 1 in Detroit, and by RIS, from December 26-28 2014, in Toronto. The reasons are different, but point to similar causes.
The leaders of ISNA can boast a proud record of service to American Muslims, for which they must be thanked and congratulated. The annual ISNA convention is an important gathering, featuring a multiplicity of participants and a broad cross-section of activities. In recent years, however, the political positions taken by the organization’s leadership have not always been clear-cut. Though it is essential, I believe, to remain open to dialogue with the authorities, it is likewise essential that positions of principle must be maintained, re-affirmed and defended. Not simply for the good of the Muslims, but in the name of the contribution of American Muslims to their society. Criticism of the domestic policy of the current administration, like those that preceded it, is a moral obligation. Summary arrests, arbitrary prison terms, inhuman psychological torture and solitary confinement, the shadowy role of informers and the deeply troubling and unacceptable methods used by the FBI, which has provoked young people to engage in extremist actions, must be unconditionally condemned. Not in the name of Islam, but in the name of the values proclaimed by the United States. However, the ISNA leadership is too often silent, as if paralyzed by fear. It fares no better with respect to American foreign policy. Its silence over American support for the outlaw and inhuman policies of Israel cannot be justified, even less so after attending an iftar organized by the White House during which President Obama defended Israel while the Israeli ambassador tweeted his delight! We cannot be forever silent: what kind of active and responsible citizenship does the ISNA leadership offer young American Muslims? What kind of example? That of silent, fearful sycophants–or of free, public-spirited citizens who, while defending the values of human dignity and justice, serve their country in the most sincere and critical way? That of the unconditional loyalty of the timorous, or the critical loyalty of free individuals? To attend the ISNA convention would be to endorse their silence.
Nor will I be attending RIS this year. The reasons are different, the causes similar...
Spare me please any talk of my family background: I have sufficiently criticized the Islamist movements all of them, without exception and their choices that my approach cannot be reduced to anything resembling even implicit support. My position is that all dictators must be confronted, all injustices must be fought; we cannot be silent, or feign silence while supporting the worst regimes.My list of "the worst regimes" would include Hamas. For obvious (and family) reasons, though, Tariq's does not.