"Muslims here in America would never do such a thing…"

Islamic activists trying to have it both ways

Posted by Paul Mulshine

You might be following the story of Rifqa Bary, the 17-year-old Ohio girl who claims that her father wants to have her killed for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Various Muslim activists – and their liberal supporters – are trying to make the same tired argument here that they make whenever such issues come up.

What they argue is “that Muslims here in America would never do such a thing.”  Sounds good. But just try and get them to denounce Muslims in other countries who do so.

But they do: Remember Amina and Sarah?


Read all about it, here…

I tried. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks I went and interviewed a local Muslim leader in New Jersey. I spent more than an hour trying to pin him down on the thorny question of whether it is or isn’t okay for Muslims to use physical force against apostates, Christians who proselytize, and so on.

The column ran on Dec. 12, 2001. It was headlined

Tolerating the intolerant”

I went into my interview with one of the leading spokesmen for New Jersey’s Muslim community with a preconceived notion: I believe that writers should be able to write what they want without threat of physical violence.

I realize this belief is self-serving. I am, after all, a writer. I don’t want to be killed. Nonetheless, I believe virtually all of my fellow writers here in the United States also hold this belief. It may even extend to editors, though I confess I have seen evidence to the contrary.

So I was curious to see whether Yasir El-Menshawy shared this belief. Menshawy is the president of the New Jersey Council of Mosques and Islamic Organizations. There are two branches of Islam in the United States, one that is purely religious and another that maintains that religion and politics are inseparable. Menshawy comes from that second wing, by far the larger of the two, he says.

For this reason I wanted to discuss with him a particularly thorny question of religion and politics: the death sentence issued against Salman Rushdie.

The author of “The Satanic Verses” is not one of my favorites but I will, as the saying goes, defend to the death his right to be longwinded and pretentious.

I was curious whether Menshawy approved of the fatwa against Rushdie. I’m still curious, though we batted the question around for a good 10 minutes.

Menshawy, who was born in Egypt and grew up in Red Bank, has an impressive talent for dodging questions. He guided our discussion of the Rushdie affair through the teachings of the Koran, the theories of John Stuart Mill, the law of libel and slander and several other intriguing areas.

At one point, I asked how many Muslims in America agreed with the fatwa .

“I don’t think we took a poll,” Menshawy said. “I think you’d find a lot of people who would agree and probably a bunch that would disagree.”

As for Menshawy himself, after 20 minutes or so he still hadn’t said. Here is how the discussion of that topic ended:

Me: “But, seriously, you didn’t get to the question. Was it wrong for them to condemn Salman Rushdie to death for a book he wrote?”

El-Menshawy: “I’m not going to answer that question.”

So much for freedom of speech.

I also pressed Menshawy on the question of freedom of religion. I noted that some Muslim countries, most notably Saudi Arabia, outlaw proselytization by Christians. Again, Menshawy steered the conversation down various cul-de-sacs for a good 10 minutes until we eventually reached the following conclusion:

Me: “You’re dodging the question. Can you conceive of circumstances where a government may lock up a person for advocating a religion, yes or no?”

Menshawy: “I’m not going to answer that question.”

Here’s another classic in the genre:

Me: “Do you think there are circumstances under which someone can be locked up legitimately for exercising free speech?”

Menshawy: “I don’t know that there are. But I don’t know that there aren’t.”

You may sense a pattern here. In fact, if you’ve been watching television-news shows in recent months you may have noticed that some other Islamic spokesmen are equally adept at evading questions. For good reason. There is an essential conflict here that they would rather not address. They are using the language of multiculturalism and tolerance to advocate a worldview based on the opposite.

Menshawy, for example, importuned me throughout the interview to try to understand the world through the eyes of those in the Mideast. But he also told me he sees no problem with the imposition of Islamic law in countries with majority Islamic populations, even if the minority objects.

I’m no multiculturalist, but what could be less in keeping with the tenets of that worldview than the imposition of one religion upon all the inhabitants of a nation? More to the point, multiculturalism is supposed to be built on tolerance. But what could be less tolerant than ordering a man killed for his writings, as in the Rushdie case?

This is the problem with tolerance. It’s a wonderful concept, but if you follow it to its logical conclusion, you end up tolerating some things that can’t be tolerated. It was only when I looked back on my notes that I realized that I had been sitting around in New Jersey in the 21st century discussing seriously with a grown man the finer points of whether a person can be sentenced to death for blasphemy.

And that I was also listening to a man using shopping-mall cliches to describe practices straight out of the Middle Ages.

“I’ll have to get back to you on the stoning to death for adultery,” Menshawy said at one point in our discussion of Islamic law. He didn’t get back to me, so I don’t know if he’s for or against that particular practice.

COMMENTS: I realize this is a controversial issue. I’d like those who comment to stick to the narrow issue of whether it is acceptable for Muslims in America to either argue for or stay silent on issues of intolerance among Muslims in other countries. In many such countries, for example, the law bans proseyltization by Christians. Many Muslims support that practice but openly proselytize here in America.

Is that sort of behavior acceptable? That’s what is at issue here.

4 thoughts on “"Muslims here in America would never do such a thing…"”

  1. Theres a simple solution for this.

    Declare Ms Rifaq as a Major, Someone that is capable of doing what she wants. The Ohio state has the power to do this.

    Upon her declaration, She could be found guilty of delinquent runaway, but she does not need to go back to her parents.

    One must be smarter than this to beat the so called radicals. Mr Barry has already dissolved his company (magically without any assets) and the rest are back in their native land. What do you think he going to do next? Bring her back & finish her off.

    Common Rifqa, Be a Major (I cant remember the special term for that) & declare your oath to the American flag & be an America. No one will touch you.

    I believe in Ohio, only the Parents or the state could determine the child’s status as a Major, providing the child proves that she is capable of or her parents and guardians are far from her.

  2. You will find the term your looking for is “adult”.

    What I am starting to think is that this is media/agenda based hype from day one. The story is about cultural clashes, a 17yr old girl is unhappy with the conservatism of her parents, is trying to break free (like in so many families in so many cultures and religions) and got probably caught up because of her vulnerability with a evangelical group and they decided to play the religous card. That is all and at first she wanted to go ahead because it helped her ‘escape’, now she is afraid to ‘break free’ of her equally conservative captors or has been brainwashed but more than likely wishes that the whole thing will go away.

  3. [You will find the term your looking for is “adult”]. – haha, good one!

    No, unfortunately, Im looking for a more intelligent and latin term, but ‘Adult’ would do just fine in your frame of mind.

    Its a legal status of a child below the major age that is allowed to sign a legal document, rent cars etc.

    When I was studying, there some kids that were staying in Apartments alone, bought decent cars with loans etc, but all by themselves, no parents involved. I found out later that His dad was abroad and gave his son the right as a Major, and since there was no legal guardian around, the court granted it.

    You have a point Solkhar, but I find it rather interesting to see how this develops. I saw 2 simple crimes and a larger crime waiting to unravel.

    The question is that Should we deal with the 2 simple crime or prevent the larger crime.

    Dont blame the evangelicals mate, It was the fear of apostasy among muslims that brought this up in the first place. We dont find the same thing happening to a christian girl that embraces Islam dont we?

    Why double standards then?

    I agree that this was hyped in a wrong way, but nevertheless its an awakening. Only time will tell if this poor child would be killed by her parents, the media, a radical of by herself. I sincerely do hope none of this & we can all grow up and leave religion as a personal thing.

  4. She is not brainwashed or under the control of some group. She fled her family because her father threatened to kill her. All very plausible considering that her father and mother are fundamentalist Muslims.

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