At one of the latest stops on his ongoing national speaking tour, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, most widely known for his work with the proposed “Ground Zero Mosque,” visited UNC Chapel Hill. Speaking at the biennial Weil Lecture on American Citizenship, held in Hill Hall on Wednesday night, March 16, 2011, Rauf addressed “Unfinished Dreams: America, Religion and Citizenship.”
The dreams of the Cordoba Initiative-founder will not be finished until he has promoted Shariah in every major university in the United States. On the 17th, Rauf spoke at Duke. In a few days time, he heads to Yale, where he will surely be embraced with open arms by the same intellectual elites who bared their naked dhimmi souls in a letter entitled naively, “Loving God and Neighbor Together.” This was a response to a letter issued by 138 Muslim scholars, including Imam Rauf, known as “A Common Word Between Us and You.”
Rauf received $20,000 plus expenses for speaking at Chapel Hill. Such honoraria should help make up for any penalties and lost revenue from the Union City tenements of which Rauf is a “slumlord,” in the words of the city’s mayor, Brian Stack. The Kuwait-born, thrice-wed Rauf is in great demand as the star of “moderate Islam.”
In his tailored suits and close-trimmed beard, Feisal Rauf poses quite an alternative to London rabble-rousing lawyer/jihadist, Anjem Choudary. To Americans, avid Shariah promoter Choudary, with traditional Islamic clothing and scruffy beard, is mostly a disturbing oddity. It is doubtful that an evening with Choudary would bring in the numbers of academics, Christian and Jewish leaders, and other devotees that have gathered reverently at the feet of the genteel Rauf.
Choudary’s demonstrations feature angry young British Muslims with signs that declare such sentiments as “British Soldiers Burn in Hell,” “Behead Those Who Insult Islam,” and the always popular “Jesus Will Destroy the Cross and Follow the Quran.” (When Islamists or their fellow travelers gush that “Jesus is even in the Quran!” they don’t tell you that he is there as a prophet of Islam, ready to do his part for the last and final jihad.)
At a 2008 meeting opposing the toughening of British anti-terrorism laws, Choudary raged, “As Muslims, we will not submit to any man-made law, any government, or any prime minister – Bush or Brown… We submit to Allah.” In the same speech he urged, “It is our religious obligation to prepare ourselves both physically and mentally and rise up against Muslim oppression and take what is rightfully ours… Jihad is a duty and a struggle and an obligation that lies upon the shoulders of us all. We will not rest until the flag of Allah and the flag of Islam is raised above 10 Downing Street.” When a burka-clad woman protested that Islam was about peace, Choudary responded that “Islam is not a religion of peace. It is a religion of submission. We need to submit to the will of Allah.” As many have said, at least he’s honest.
The radical Muslim leader, who receives government subsidies familiarly known as “the dole,” may have never had any intention of coming to Washington when he made the announcement that he would bring his campaign for Shariah to American shores. He may have just wanted to alert the faithful to a future goal and/or gin up more publicity for himself. Even a columnist in the leftist British newspaper The Guardian referred to Choudary as an “agent provocateur and master of the publicity stunt.” She added that the Department of Homeland Security “would have to be several sandwiches short of a picnic to let this guy in.”
But the same clueless Americans who may have breathed a sigh of relief that Choudary remained in the United Kingdom, smile dreamily while listening to Imam Rauf describe a Shariah that never was and never will be. This was the case on March 1, 2011 at a Georgetown University conference on the role of religion in politics. Rauf declared that the Quran “is explicit that there should be no coercion in religion” and that “a state ruled by Islam would have religious freedom for all.” He described Shariah as “legally-binding religious law,” nonchalantly comparing it to Jewish law. Even the disquieting concept of “apostasy” was waved away like a cheap card trick by Rauf. Apostasy “is not about belief, it is about treason, which in America is a capital offense,” he said smiling.” So, he declared, it is “an error” to say that apostasy is a capital crime in Islam. Treason is the capital crime he insisted.
Rauf’s fellow Muslim panelists at the conference disagreed. Ed Husain, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, countered, “apostasy as treason is the politicization of religion.” He gave the example that those who “apostasized” (left Islam) at Mecca, were, as a result, accused of treason.
But Rauf’s presentation was the same as that conveyed in his apologetic for Islam, What’s Right with Islam? He told the Georgetown audience that the concept of the Caliphate “comes from the concept of what in America we think of as ‘we the people.’” As he portrayed it, the Caliphate is a more perfect form of democracy.
Shariah, said Rauf, is “to further the interest of people.” All Islamic law “flows from the principles quoted by Jesus,” to love God and neighbor. Shariah is about “acts of worship” and “acts of creation” which respond to those principles, he said. But to the principles espoused by Jesus, the Shariah adds “acts of dignity.”
Ironically, during the keynote, Archbishop Charles Chaput, a former commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said “Christians living under Shariah uniformly experience it as offensive, discriminatory and a grave violation of their human dignity.” Chaput continued, “we need to insist that religious freedom – a person‘s right to freely worship, preach, teach and practice what he or she believes, including the right to freely change or end one‘s religious beliefs under the protection of the law – is a foundation stone of human dignity” and that “no one, whether acting in the name of God or in the name of some political agenda or ideology, has the authority to interfere with that basic human right.”
Sadly, many Americans, some of them at the Georgetown conference, want so much for Rauf’s benign depiction of Shariah to be true that they live in a state of denial that there is no difference in content between the Shariah of Imam Choudary and Imam Rauf. There is only difference in the method of implementation. While Choudary blusters and threatens, Rauf has a smooth, well-received delivery. But although his words hover in the air as benevolently as might the top story of the Ground Zero Mosque, Feisal Rauf’s Shariah is no less a threat to American freedom than that of the brash and brutally frank Anjem Choudary and his jihadist friends.
Faith J. H. McDonnell directs The Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan, and is the author of Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children (Chosen Books, 2007).