By Guest Writer and Ikhras friend Tammy Obeidallah*
Arsalan Iftikhar, international human rights lawyer, former National Legal Director of CAIR and now author of a book entitled Islamic Pacifism, is yet another stooge making money off “humanizing” Muslims. It seems to be his sincere hope to convince colonial powers that Muslims really are peace-loving and don’t deserve to be obliterated. According to him, the “extremists” engaged in “terrorism” belong to a small minority who have “hijacked” Islam.
In an interview promoting his book, Iftikhar stated:
“The Arab Spring movements around North Africa and the Middle East are proving that only nonviolent democratic mobilization can help to overthrow dictators and autocrats who could never be overthrown otherwise using violent means. Ten years ago, if you had told any Middle East expert that both Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi would both fall from power within the same calendar year, we probably would have laughed in your face.”
So Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi were both removed from power through “nonviolent democratic mobilization.” Well, the Libyan rebels with automatic weapons may have been democratically mobilized, but they were certainly not “nonviolent.” Nor was the ensuing NATO massacre on Libyan civilians. In Egypt over 800 people were killed by the security forces and some were forced to take up arms against local police stations in Port Said and other areas. Maybe the lack of thought preceding this statement should be let slide; however this glaring inaccuracy is a mere harbinger of the even more inane declarations appearing on Iftikhar’s website.
Iftikhar shamelessly throws Hamas in the same category with Ann Coulter and Dick Cheney, calling them “sinister warmongering dinosaurs.” Yet when self-righteously recounting his participation in an interfaith commemoration of the September 11 attacks,touts the involvement of Washington Hebrew Congregation, the largest synagogue in Washington, D.C. Ironically, one of the most influential groups within Washington Hebrew Congregation is the Israeli Engagement Committee, whose purpose is to promote the idea that “the security, vitality and improvement of the State of Israel and Jewish communities worldwide are essential to us as Jews and as Americans.” Furthermore, two members of Washington Hebrew Congregation, as part of the Israeli Engagement Committee, hosted a February 2011 presentation by the American Technion Society entitled “The CEOs and Inventers of Tomorrow.”
The presentation included updates as to the group’s activities in assisting Israeli and US defense systems. One of the presenters served in the Israeli Air Force while another served in the IDF as part of an elite naval commando force. And D.C.-area Muslims allowed the adhan to sound from Washington Hebrew Congregation on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. While outwardly, the organization seemed to be made up of progressive Jews advocating tolerance vis-à-vis the treatment of Muslims in America, it adheres to a Zionist agenda common among Orthodox Jewish groups—with the exception of the Neturei Karta—as well as Evangelical Christians.
Evidently Arsalan Iftikhar and his ilk believe only in Islamic pacifism; otherwise it’s perfectly ok to hang out with the purveyors of destruction and oppression, provided it’s under the guise of an innocuous interfaith event. The justification for any act of resistance, armed or peaceful, should not be based on the faith of the person but rather on the moral right to defend oneself. In Palestine it is the Palestinians who are under occupation; whether that resistance is carried out by the Islamic Right, Christians or the Secular Left is irrelevant.
The Israeli occupation of Palestine, so integral to the mission of Washington Hebrew Congregation, created the necessity for Hamas and other resistance organizations. Dick Cheney, largely responsible for unleashing genocide on the Iraqi people, committed mass murder for profit. If Arsalan Iftikhar is too obtuse to understand the difference, just keep in mind this elitist, self-absorbed vacuum is focused more on flaunting his gadgets than on ground-level realities, as evidenced in this statement:
“So alas, with my trusty black ThinkPad, white iPod earbuds and red Swinglinestapler, this evolved millennial version of Islamic Pacifism is officially introduced to our global community today.”
Pompously proclaiming himself a Muslim Gandhi with the audacity to invoke Malcolm X, Iftikhar thinks he speaks for a billion Muslims worldwide. As if Mr. iPod can relate to people who risk their lives by crawling through tunnels just to smuggle in enough food to feed their families. Or to those stripped of everything and tortured indefinitely without trials in places such as Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Air Force Base and Abu Ghraib.
If you can’t speak out for victims of occupation, torture and genocide, at least don’t demonize those who choose to resist. If you want to spend time with people who desire more effective and efficient means with which to oppress them, at least don’t brag about it. Just ikhras.
* Ikhras friend and guest contributor Tammy Obeidallah was born and raised in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio. She graduated from Eastern New Mexico University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She has traveled to 45 countries including Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Pakistan and lived for over a year in Amman, Jordan.