World Hijab Day was February 1, and Princeton Professor Robert P. George marked the occasion by publishing a piece in the Catholic journal First Things entitled “Muslims, Our Natural Allies.” He included in his article a video in which a World Hijab Day organizer stoutly defended her right to cover her hair; George proclaimed: “I stand with the young woman in the above video in defense of modesty, chastity, and piety.” Michael Potemra at National Review led the cheering: “Let’s take a moment to praise the intellectual fearlessness of NR’s friend Robby George.”
George acknowledges that “in certain cultures, including some Muslim cultures, the covering of women is taken to an extreme and reflects a very real subjugation, just as in sectors of western culture, the objectification of women (including the sexualization of children at younger and younger ages) by cultural pressures to pornify reflects a very real (though less direct and obvious) subjugation.” Yet are these really our only choices? Women who choose modesty, chastity and piety, and women who “pornify” themselves?
Will Robert George and Michael Potemra pause to say a few words in memory of Aqsa, Amina, and the forty Iraqi women? Will they honor the memory of Amira, an Egyptian girl who committed suicide after being brutalized for her family for refusing to wear the hijab? Will they defend the freedom of Alya Al-Safar, whose Muslim cousin threatened to kill her and harm her family because she stopped wearing the hijab in Britain; and of Amira Osman Hamid, who faces whipping in Sudan for refusing to wear the hijab; and of the Muslim and non-Muslim teachers at the Islamic College of South Australia who were told that they had to wear the hijab or be fired; and of the women in Chechnya whom police shot with paintballs because they weren’t wearing hijab; and of the women also in Chechnya who were threatened by men with automatic rifles for not wearing hijab; and of the elementary school teachers in Tunisia who were threatened with death for not wearing hijab; and of the Syrian schoolgirls who were forbidden to go to school unless they wore hijab; and of the women in Gaza whom Hamas has forced to wear hijab; and of the women in Iran who protested against the regime by daring to take off their legally-required hijab; and of the women in London whom Muslim thugs threatened to murder if they didn’t wear hijab; and of the anonymous young Muslim woman who doffed her hijab outside her home and started living a double life in fear of her parents, and all the other women and girls who have been killed or threatened, or who live in fear for daring not to wear the hijab?
“I am a Catholic,” George proclaims, and adds: “My Church teaches me to esteem our Muslim friends and to work with them in the cause of promoting justice and moral values. I am happy to stand with them in defense of what is right and good.” He lauds several Muslim leaders for standing against abortion and pornography, and in defense of religious liberty.
It is good that a Muslim, Asma Uddin, is standing for religious liberty, but she is doing so in defiance of her own religious tradition. Muhammad himself commanded: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Bukhari 9.84.57). This is still the position of all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, both Sunni and Shi’ite. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most renowned and prominent Muslim cleric in the world, has stated: “The Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-`ashriyyah, Al-Ja`fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed.” There is only disagreement over whether the law applies only to men, or to women also – some authorities hold that apostate women should not be killed, but only imprisoned in their houses until death.
Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the most prestigious and inﬂuential institution in the Sunni world, certifies as a reliable guide to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni Muslim community a manual of Islamic law that states: “When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed” (Reliance of the Traveller o8.1). Although the right to kill an apostate is reserved in Islamic law to the leader of the community and other Muslims can theoretically be punished for taking this duty upon themselves, in practice a Muslim who kills an apostate needs to pay no indemnity and perform no expiatory acts (as he must in other kinds of murder cases under classic Islamic law). This accommodation is made because killing an apostate “is killing someone who deserves to die” (Reliance of the Traveller o8.4).
Qaradawi even said last year: “If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment, Islam wouldn’t exist today.” The persecutions of apostates from Islam (including, but by no means limited to, Mohammed Hegazy in Egypt, Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran, and Said Musa and Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan) demonstrates that for all too many Muslim authorities, there is no religious liberty in Islam. In working for religious liberty, Asma Uddin would be putting her life in jeopardy in many Muslim countries.
It is taken for granted these days even among many conservatives (including, apparently, those at First Things and National Review) that to point out such unpleasant facts reflects more poorly on the one pointing out the atrocities than on those committing them, and is a manifestation of “hatred,” “bigotry,” “intolerance” and “Islamophobia.” George goes even farther, grounding his naïve and uncritical stance in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council about how Muslims “worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to men,” and who “highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, almsgiving, and fasting.”
That’s fine, but did the fathers of the Second Vatican Council really mean by these words to exempt Islam and Muslims from justifiable criticism for human rights abuses sanctioned by Islamic law, to say nothing of the increasing violent persecution of Christians in Egypt, Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere? So many Catholics like George invoke Vatican II to say of Muslims, “We both worship the same God,” as if that forecloses all discussion of jihad terror and Muslim persecution. Yet it could also be said of child-molesting Roman Catholic priests and the members of the Westboro Baptist Church – don’t both groups worship God who is one and esteem an upright life, or at least pay lip service to uprightness?
“Over the centuries,” says George, “many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.” The key word in that sentence is “mutual.” In January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the bombing of the Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt by Islamic jihadists — whereupon al-Azhar broke off its dialogue with the Vatican and said it would not be restored until the Pope affirmed that Islam was a religion of peace for which he had respect. Pope Benedict did not do this. Pope Francis has. In September 2013, he wrote to Ahmed Al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, affirming his respect for Islam; the Grand Imam replied that “casting Islam in a negative light is ‘a red line’ that must not be crossed.” That clearly indicated that the dialogue, once resumed, will not be allowed to discuss the Muslim persecution of Christians, especially since an incidence of that persecution led to the suspension of dialogue in the first place.
But if the dialogue cannot address that persecution, what good could it possibly do? If Christians cannot discuss Muslim persecution of their coreligionists with Muslims of good will, then one certain outcome of the dialogue will be that nothing will be done to stop the Muslim persecution of Christians. George writes: “Let those of us who are Christians reject the untrue and unjust identification of all Muslims with those evildoers who commit acts of terror and murder in the name of Islam” – yet when al-Azhar raged against Pope Benedict for condemning the jihad bombing of the Coptic cathedral, it was not Christians who were identifying these respected clerics with the evildoers. The venerable clerics were doing it themselves.
Even if they hadn’t, it is false that to discuss how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism is somehow identifying all Muslims with those who commit acts of jihad terror. Muslims of good will should welcome such discussions, participate in them, and work to formulate comprehensive and convincing refutations of the jihadists’ exegesis of the Qur’an and Hadith. Instead, even many self-styled “moderate” Muslim organizations such as the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have spread the false claim that George implies here, that calling attention to Islamic justifications for jihad violence is an exercise in “bigotry.” They should be seeing it as an invitation to reform. That they do not is telling.
George points out that his Muslim friends “do not want their children to be suicide bombers” and “do not want to impose Islam on those who do not freely embrace it.” He says that “it is unjust to stir up fear that they seek to take away our rights or to make them afraid that we seek to take away theirs.” No one – contrary to smears that once again emanate from groups like CAIR – actually wants to take away their rights. And I am sure that George’s friends have no interest in imposing Islam on non-Muslim Americans. But is George unaware of or indifferent to the Muslims who have stated a desire to bring the U.S. under the rule of Islamic law?
A captured internal Muslim Brotherhood document, “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Brotherhood in North America,” explains that the Brotherhood’s agenda in the U.S. is subversive: the Muslim Brothers “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
Perhaps Robert George doesn’t know that this document exists, or doesn’t think it important, despite the fact that virtually all of the major Muslim organizations in the U.S. have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. And several Muslim leaders and spokesmen have affirmed the same aspiration. The imam Siraj Wahhaj, a sought-after speaker in mosques and Islamic centers nationwide, advocated for a caliphate in a 1992 speech to a U.S. Muslim audience. Daniel Pipes recounted, “if only Muslims were more clever politically, he told his New Jersey listeners, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate.” Said Wahhaj: “If we were united and strong, we’d elect our own emir [leader] and give allegiance to him….[T]ake my word, if 6-8 million Muslims unite in America, the country will come to us.”
Muhammad Faheed, a speaker at a Muslim Students Association meeting at Queensborough Community College in New York in 2003, declared that Muslims “must not recognize any government authority, or any authority at all besides Allah.” Working himself into a frenzy, he shouted, “We are not Americans. We are Muslims. [The U.S.] is going to deport and attack us! It is us vs. them! Truth against falsehood! The colonizers and masters against the oppressed, and we will burn down the master’s house! We reject the U.N., reject America, reject all law and order. Don’t lobby Congress or protest because we don’t recognize Congress. The only relationship you should have with America is to topple it. . . . Eventually there will be a Muslim in the White House dictating the laws of Shariah.”
Then there’s Omar Ahmad, CAIR’s co-founder and longtime Board Chairman, who told a Muslim crowd in California in 1998 that “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran…should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.”
In 2007, as-Sabiqun, a Muslim group based in Washington, D.C., announced on its website its intention to establish an Islamic state in America by mid-century: “As-Sabiqun is an Islamic movement that believes in the Islamic State of North America no later than 2050. Those who engage in this great effort require a high level of commitment and determination. We are sending out a call to the believers: Join with us in this great struggle to change the world!”
Is it wrong to take notice of such statements? George and Potemra apparently think so; Potemra says that George is “correct to say that Islam, in its openness to God and to transcendent values, is an ally of all of us who think that the materialistic reduction of sexuality is a wrong path for humanity to take.” Potemra once asserted: “The Koran is one of the loveliest books ever written, a distillation of monotheism that is full of spiritual wisdom, and I never fail to profit from my reading of it” – an odd thing to say without any qualification about a book that three times exhorts believers to slay unbelievers wherever they are found (2:191, 4:89, 9:5); says that Allah transformed disobedient Jews into apes and pigs (2:63-65, 5:59-60, 7:166); labels Jews and Christians who do not accept Muhammad and Islam as the most vile of created beings (98:6); recommends the beating of disobedient women (4:34); and tells believers to be merciful to one another but harsh to unbelievers (48:29). Likewise now, it is odd that he and George are recommending as allies against “the materialistic reduction of sexuality” the adherents of a religious tradition that sanctions polygamy, divorce at a word from the husband to the abandoned wife, sex slavery (the Qur’an gives Muslim men permission to have four wives plus the “captives their right hands own” (4:3)), and child marriage (in imitation of Muhammad’s consummation of his marriage to Aisha when he was 54 and she was 9; the Qur’an stipulates that divorce laws apply also to wives who have “not yet menstruated” (65:4)).
“I applaud Professor George,” says Potemra, “for appealing to the better angels of our nature.” It is certainly true that all human beings deserve respect, and equal protection before the law. No Muslims should be victimized, brutalized, vilified, blamed for acts with which they had nothing to do, or discriminated against. This equable and charitable treatment is not in the least reduced or impinged upon by counter-terror efforts or honest discussion of how Islamic jihadists use core teachings of Islam to justify their actions and make recruits among peaceful Muslims. It is not “appealing to the better angels of our nature” to turn a blind eye to the now-rampant Muslim persecution of Christians or to the human rights abuses that Islamic law enables and justifies.
Resistance to jihad terror and Islamic supremacism is now almost universally reviled as “hate,” with the George/Potemra approach considered to be the broad-minded, open-hearted alternative. But it is not “hate” to stand for justice even when the perpetrators of injustice are Muslims acting in the name of Islam. It is not “bigotry” to notice that Islamic jihadists are in virtually every case devoted adherents of Islam and indefatigable Qur’an-quoters, and to call upon peaceful Muslims to work against their influence within Muslim communities. It is not “racism” to stand against an ideology and societal model against which millions of Egyptians demonstrated last summer, not wanting to live under a system that institutionalizes oppression of women and non-Muslims and destroys the freedom of speech any more than non-Muslims do.
In fact, those who are truly heeding the “better angels of our nature” are standing up fearlessly against Sharia injustice and violence incited by the Qur’an, even despite the pressure from Robert George and Michael Potemra to join the herd of those who wink at these injustices in the interests of a spurious and ultimately self-defeating “natural alliance.”