Maajid Nawaz, Ex-Muslims and the “Minority within a Minority”

douglasmurrayMaajidnawazOne of the most evident and prominent issues of self-proclaimed “reformist” deformists often guided by the malicious neoconservative discourse on Islam is that just a like a deformity, the arguments promulgated are often malformed, incongruent and inconsistent. With materialism and unfettered desires replacing a heart nurtured by spirituality, the claims of such individuals are as erratic as their egos.   Be it “feminists” like Sara Khan using women as “weapons” in the fight against extremism, or “reforming liberal Muslims” who use post-modernist malarkey to give justification to their lifestyles devoid of Islam, oxymoron and desperation does not begin to describe these efforts to deconstruct Islam and the Muslim identity rooted in within the Islamic paradigm.

Maajid Nawaz is no different in avoiding these contradictions.  Whether it is bemoandefing “hatchet-jobs” against him while feverishly tweeting blatant propaganda from the Daily Mail, happily receiving funding from “extremists” to counter-extremism, or attacking journalists and academics who have criticised him for their “privileged elite” backgrounds whilst simultaneously acting as a significant conduit in delivering a neoconservative, colonialist campaign of “reforming” Islam  to the glee of hate preachers like Douglas Murray and Sam Harris, (and blatantly ignoring his own Western liberal privilege when lecturing Muslims about the need to reform Islam to conform to ethereal liberal ideals), there is a clear display of the hallmarks of one riddled with internal conflicts devoid of a stable moral-compass.  Indeed, this moral compass, in his own words do not require “Hadith to set… morality”, the second foremost scriptural set of texts which form the basis of Islam.

Recently, the liberal Nawaz happened to quote-Tweet the bigoted “illiberal”, Muslim-discriminating communist Maryam Namazie’s Tweet stating, “Ex-Muslims, minorities within a minority are one of the most bullied & abandoned groups among us…”

Ignoring the claim of being the “most bullied and abandoned” (UK women in Hijab and Niqab are attacked increasingly for their appearance), I was frankly astounded at Nawaz’s proposition.  By what rational argument can one who leaves a minority tied by belief (i.e. Muslim minority) be part of a “minority” (former Muslims) within a minority (Muslims)? Of course, Nawaz’s pernicious statements about Islam are well-documented; whenever the need to undermine Islam is required, negative or subversive association with Islam is forced and goal posts are shifted constantly. Thus for Nawaz, Ramadan was the “month of blood” when the perpetrators of the attacks in June were Muslim, but not when Zionists were massacring Palestinians in “self-defence” last year around the same time.  Similarly in a previous post, I outlined how, when Islam (or “Islamism”) needs to be attacked through the discourse of “extremism”, then Nawaz racialises the discourse and argues it should be treated like racism, however, when Islam is to be bashed by haters of Islam and Muslims, then the religion becomes merely an “idea” and all ideas should be freely insulted and mocked, unless of course those ideas happen to be democracy, human rights or rule of law, opposition to which makes one an “extremist”.

Ex-Muslims Ethnically/Culturally Muslims?

Nawaz on the topic of ex-Muslims similarly exhibited shifting goal posts, taking it to a whole new level of balderdash.  When challenged by another Twitter user, that quite obviously, ex-Muslims are “not IN the minority”, Nawaz authoritatively informed him they were confusingly an “ethnic minority” and “culturally Muslim”. The Twitter user employed common sense and informed him that an ethnic minority cannot be equated to religion and that the fact they belong to an ethnic minority was incidental to the main claim being made.  In other words, a straw man had been constructed (see full conversation here). It again exemplifies how the argument is constantly moulded to suit the aim.  Once again “Muslims” who are previously attacked on the basis of being a religious minority and not a racial one, are suddenly moulded into an “ethnic minority” with Muslim culture being indicative of a new minority which subsumes “ex-Muslims”. Ironically, even the established minority rights norms (see for instance Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) treat ethnic and religious minorities in a mutually exclusive fashion.

His identification of ex-Muslims as “cultural Muslims” is dubiously obfuscating.  Culture is a broad term which is constituted of various aspects, such as language, religion, food, social habits etc., however “Muslim culture”, grounded in Shari’ah (being the Qur’an and Sunnah), would ipso facto include the manners and mores of derived from the faith of Islam. In terms of social habits, Muslims are guided by the words and actions of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as understood and related to by his Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, and the best of generations which followed after them.  In the words of the Prophet (peace be upon him),

“None of you believe until his desire follows that which I have brought.”[1]

Thus the “Muslim culture” here would be Islamic cognitive constructs and actions, distinct from other cultural aspects which are embedded in the customs of the land.  The former are epistemologically Islamic, the latter are necessarily not.  If a person has so much disdain for a religion that he or she creates an organisation of hate to attack it at any given opportunity why on earth would he or she want to identify through the label of “Muslim” at all? Yet here we find Nawaz desperately straining ex-Muslims into the Muslim minority through “culture”. He seems to be treating ex-Muslims like a group of confused schizophrenics with severe attachment issues. Even if it is argued that they “culturally” engage in Islamic acts, from an Islamic point of view the prerequisite of an act is faith. The teacher of the famous scholar Imam al-Ghazali (d.504AH), the towering theologian of Islam Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni (d.479AH) states in his seminal work on the particulars of faith (al-I’tiqad),

“The unanimous agreement of the scholars confirms what we have mentioned about prayer and other acts of worship needing to be preceded by faith”[2]

The tenuous pushing of the boundaries of what constitutes a Muslim to now include ex-Muslims is patently absurd.  Atheist, Christian or pagan, perhaps, but Muslim most definitely not. It feels silly stating the obvious, but an elucidation of the sensitivity of belief and disbelief from the Islamic perspective seems to be lost on Nawaz. Then again, Nawaz has expressed that “medievalists”, by which he means mainstream, orthodox Muslims, are a “serious problem”.

Neocon Agendas

Regardless of the pathetic, wishy-washy enunciations, such statements fit the neoconservative agenda to deconstruct Islam, most recently articulated by David Cameron.  Previous neoconservative strategies have focussed on promoting “modernists” who happen to believe that the Qur’an is no longer relevant and doubt the authenticity of parts of the Qur’an.  The logical next step is to co-opt “ex-Muslims” into the strategy to continually push the understanding of mainstream Islam further towards the Islam-reforming agenda, which bludgeons the faith into a de-politicised, de-spiritualised, “cultural” liberal worldview.  It is, what I refer to as, the conveyor-belt to disbelief. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a self-proclaimed ex-Muslim and “scholar” at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, recently joined the “reform” bandwagon with the blessings of Nawaz. Articulating the neocon desire to destroy Islam, her “reform” goes beyond the encouragement of interpretational gymnastics to fit the secular liberal construct. Muslims must stop believing in the Prophet, peace be upon him, as infallible, and reject the divinity of the Qur’an by accepting that the Qur’an was “shaped by human hands”. In other words, don’t believe in Islam and treat it like a fad, picked up and shunned with the tides of time and dictates of desire.

Concluding Remarks

The demarcations between disbelief and belief have been established and elaborated upon by men and women of impeccable scholastic learning throughout Islamic history in the most meticulous fashion. The neocon calls for “reform” and the blurring of established boundaries of belief/disbelief are nothing new – coffers needed to be filled before and they need to be filled today. Moreover, the erosion of belief and the Islamic identity was attempted in the Inquisitions of Muslim Spain and the colonialism of the Europeans.  They failed.  Such desperate deformist obfuscations by confused individuals ventriloquized by neocons have also failed in the past and will continue to fail. I suspect the rate of entropy of these efforts will be accentuated when those advancing the cause decide to join hands with militant neocon atheists who advocate torture and profiling on the basis of belief and encourage leaving Islam.

For the Muslim, the concern around beliefs and actions transcends the material and ephemeral and as such our beliefs have been treated with greater care than a brain surgeon carrying out a craniotomy. The intricate nature of the preservation of Islam has ensured its fidelity to the faith as it ought to be understood. The system of isnaad certification and the concept of ittiba (following) are the methods by which the people have remained true to Islam. And indeed in remaining true to Islam with unflinching belief, reforming our hearts and spirituality instead of Islam itself, do our hearts find solace in these turbulent times.

“O you who believe! Believe in Allah and His Messenger, and the scripture which He has sent to His Messenger and the scripture He sent to those before. And whoever disbelieves in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray.” (Qur’an 4:136)

Surely those who said, ‘Our Sustainer is Allah’, and then they remained steadfast, then there will be no fear concerning them nor will they grieve.” (Qur’an 46:13)

Sufyan ibn Abdillah said, “O Messenger of Allah, relate to me something that I could hold on firmly to.” The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “say ‘I believe in Allah’, then remain steadfast”. (Muslim)

Imam Abdullah Ibn al-Mubarak: “The Isnaad is part of this religion and had it not been for Isnaad, then anyone would be able to say whatever they wanted.” (Tirmidhi)

Abdullah Ibn Abbas: The blessings [of Allah] are with your elders. (al-Bayhaqi)

Imam al-Awza’i: You must practice the saying of the previous scholars, even if people leave you, and you must avoid the opinions of people, even if they decorate them with phrases and present them to you.” (Ibn al-Qudama, Hikayaat al-Munaadhra fi al-Quran ma’a ba’di Ahl al-Bid’ah)

May the mercy of Allah be upon all the righteous scholars.


[1] Al-Baghawi

[2] Kitab al-Irshad ila qawati’ al-adilla fi usul al-I’tiqad p.218

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