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In bemoaning the discomfort among Americans with the building of mosques such as Park51 (the ground zero mosque), Abou El Fadl failed to mention that non-Muslim houses of worship are forbidden and bibles routinely destroyed in Saudi Arabia, Buddhist shrines were blown up by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Israelis, or travelers with an Israeli customs official stamp on their passports, are barred from entering countries such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, Libya, Syria, or, in the case of Iran, from flying to Israel.
Later, Abou El Fadl—without naming names as is his usual practice—made the following accusation:
Those who spread the idea that Muslims want to dominate the West and America are lunatics. . . . In America, the Muslim population is about six million, which is close to two percent. It is as if this two percent of Muslims can actually take over America. I mean, you have to be seriously paranoid to think this.
But the facts belie his accusations of paranoia: members of that small percentage of the American population killed approximately 2,992 people on September 11, 2001; bombed the World Trade Center in 1993; opened fire at Fort Hood, killing 13 and wounding 29 on November 5, 2005; shot two soldiers outside a military recruiting center on June 1, 2009; left a car bomb in Times Square, in New York City, on May 1, 2010; and the list goes on.
In addition, the Muslim population in the U.S. is under two million, not the inflated figure of six million—which conveniently matches that of Holocaust victims and outnumbers American Jews—cited by Abou El Fadl, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and others with an interest in manipulating public opinion.
In reality, this tiny sliver of the population poses a very real threat to the security and safety of American citizens. Nonetheless, Abou El Fadl chose to shift the focus and insist that it is Muslims who have something to fear.
During the final 20 minutes of his lecture, Abou El Fadl at last addressed Sharia, discussing the wealth of literature that, as he put it, “like rabbinic literature on the Torah,” exists in the Islamic tradition. After explaining the various definitions of Sharia, he concluded that, “the challenge for the modern Muslim is how he or she relates to his religious obligations (taklifs).” He then added:
The challenge for every Muslim thinker must be how they can enter the modern world and contribute something to this modern world from their rich religious tradition. That is the real challenge.
Ironically, Abou El Fadl ended up calling for the same thing as members of what he dubbed the “lunatic right”: the need for reform in the Islamic world. Based on Abou El Fadl’s Islamist proclivities, however, his version of reform is unlikely to be as far reaching as that emanating from the West or from true moderate Muslims.
Moreover, by focusing our attention on “Islamophobia,” the Abou El Fadls of the academic world have successfully hijacked the narrative and made it that much more difficult to achieve reform. Such efforts to redirect, redefine, and rewrite today’s debate over the challenges the West has had to confront post 9/11 have become part of the problem, not the solution.
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