Saturday, December 6, 2014

Should American Muslims Condemn ISIS?

Anaheim mosque debates the question

On December 5, the Islamic Center of Anaheim hosted a debate on the question of whether American Muslims should condemn ISIS. The event was moderated by Imam Mustafa Omar, and the participants of the debate were Hussam Ayloush, CEO of Southern California CAIR, who argued yes, and Sana Saeed, a journalist, who argued no. The below tape is almost two hours long and is taken from the Live Stream recorded by the mosque. The debate consisted of opening remarks by Ayloush and Saeed, in which the other was given a few minutes to "cross-examine" the other and finally by q and a, first asked by Omar and then from the audience members.

To summarize, Ayloush took the position that American Muslims do have the obligation to speak out against ISIS even though no Muslim is responsible for or guilty of its atrocities. At about the 11:20 mark he mentioned that someone had just come to his office concerned about someone he knew that was sympathetic to ISIS. He also mentioned that 60% of Americans have a negative image of Islam, which he blamed partially on Fox News (He mentioned Fox repeatedly) and the "Islamophobia industry". Ayloush's theme was that ISIS was not Islam.

During the "cross" by Saeed, Ayloush was asked if it wasn't disingenuous to say that ISIS had nothing to do with Islam when ISIS itself believed it was following the dictates of the religion. She said that if Muslims continuously said ISIS had nothing to do with Islam they opened themselves to critical questions (I am paraphrasing, but she emphasized the word nothing.) She also said that when Muslims condemn, they are falling in line with US foreign policy and the interests of the government. In this line, she mentioned that she was Canadian.

In her own presentation, Saeed stressed that she was not arguing against the actual worth of condemning (ISIS) rather the obligation to condemn placing emphasis on the word, obligation. She asked who had put that obligation on Muslims. She contrasted the obligation of Muslims who were not benefiting from what ISIS does with other groups like white people in the US South during the 1950s where discrimination existed against blacks and to white cops referring to the Michael Brown case and others-who benefited from a system that enslaved the colored. She asked how (Muslims) were benefiting from ISIS. She also referred to the US manipulating  the persecution of Yazidis (in Iraq) in order to conduct  air strikes and to protect the CIA station in Irbil (Kurdish region of Iraq). This was at about the 32 minute mark. Saeed also mentioned that even if you condemned, it would never be enough. It wouldn't be strong enough or cover enough groups. She also criticized MPAC's Safe Spaces program with DHS saying it made everybody in the mosques semi-informants. (35 minute mark.)

Again, I am paraphrasing what was said. At this point, I will let the reader watch the tape. It is long, but well worth it.

Final comment: If I didn't know more about Ayloush and had he left out his gratuitous attacks against Fox News, I would say he acquitted himself well. I will let this post stand as it is and address those issues in a subsequent post.

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