By Majid Rafizadeh
September 16, 2018
When I received a letter from a Shiite
religious preacher from the United Kingdom, it did not surprise me. I receive
many similar letters from extremist Muslims all over the world, as well as
Western liberals, socialists, and others. Each time, opening these letters, I
prepare for criticism of my careful scrutiny of my religion. As expected, the
letter began with a familiar suggestion: "Stop criticizing your own
The letter went on to support this
instruction with promises of the media and Western progressives favouring me
and becoming far more supportive of me, if I were to align my views with their
preferred talking points:
"If you stop criticizing Islam, the
West will certainly be more welcoming of you, and you will receive more offers
and opportunities to further your career."
What is it that I say that rankles the left
so much? I refuse to be apologetic for radical Islam in the West. I refuse to
gloss over the darkest consequences to which rampant extremism has led. I do
not waffle beneath the idea of multiculturalism or tolerance; some things are
not meant to be tolerated. The message of the apologists is clear: Get in line.
Send out the same messages that others are: about all aspects of Islam being a
loving and benevolent religion. Focus on this and sweep the crimes against
humanity under the carpet.
I truly wish I could.
Clearly, it is not hard to see why so many
of my colleagues have succumbed to this pressure. My path would indeed have
been much easier if I had picked up the politicized view and marched forward
with the others who have chosen expediency over truth. But I found it
impossible to fit in and merge with the mainstream Islamic apologists in the
West. The memories of what I have seen, and the atrocities that I know are
still being committed, haunt me, and drive me to speak for the voiceless. My
purpose has never been to make the West like me or to receive personal benefits
from sharing my experiences. My purpose has always been only to stop the
torment that my people have endured at the hands of merciless tyrannical
Islamist regimes and groups.
I was born and raised in majority-Muslim
societies, in the two dominant sects of Islam, Sunni and Shiism, in both the
Arab and Persian worlds. The experiences that my family and the people around
us went through shaped me in a way that it is inconceivable not to realize how
dangerous Sharia and Islamist rule can be. As a result, my mission has been to
address these underlying problems, explained in my books, in the hope that it
might help to usher some reforms from within the religion. Muslims such as
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser and Salim Mansur,
to name just a few, have also been advocating reinterpretation.
What the Islamic apologists have to
understand is that I, and others like me, are not going to strike a Faustian
bargain in order to benefit and fit in with the mainstream. There are some
values, such as raising awareness and helping subjugated women who are often
effectively enslaved and tortured in many ways under Islamist rule, that are
far more important than solely serving one's personal interests.
Another purpose behind these messages is to
analyze the words "the West". It seems when people such as the
Islamic preacher say that the West will like you and you will benefit more if
you do not criticize Islamism, the "West" does not represent all
Westerners, but seems mostly to refer to institutions and figures of the
political far left. These extremist Muslims may also be referring to organizations
or social media outlets that do not report facts but ideology. They appear to
address matters as they wish they would be, rather than by looking at evidence.
Unfortunately, many of these universities, institutions and outlets happen to
be the giant and the dominant ones in the West.
When I first came to the U.S. to teach on a
Fulbright scholarship during the Obama administration, it was intriguing to see
how many institutions and figures did not like to hear or report any criticism
of Islam. This flight seemed to represent a total double standard. While these
Westerners appeared totally fine with strongly criticizing religions such as
Christianity and Judaism, they did not treat Islam the same. It was a shock to
discover, quite quickly, that it was acceptable for them to criticize their own
religions, but not all right for me to criticize mine. It was not possible to
make sense of it.
In Iran and Syria, where I grew up, one can
get arrested, jailed, tortured and even executed for saying anything that may
not be positive about the dominant religion of the land, Islam. On the surface,
for those who wanted to reform Islam, the only place to do so appeared to be
the West. After all, so many political leaders consistently boast about the
value of freedom of speech and freedom of press. Where else could a reform of a
highly restricted religion occur?
If something like this were attempted in a
country where Sharia law is enforced, one would face severe consequences for
even attempting to criticize the religion. We all assumed that here in the
West, it would be safe to question and criticize anything. Instead, so many
institutions utilize a far more subtle method of silencing criticism. Some of
these methods include labelling anyone who says anything remotely negative about
Islam -- even those who offer constructive criticism and the opportunity for
reform -- as promoting "Islamophobia."
Please just accept a simple message: If you
think criticizing Christianity and Judaism is constructive, and a way to
modernize and create reform, then please apply the same rule to Islam.
The more you conceal or disregard
constructive criticism of Islam, the harder you are making it for reforms to
occur and the easier you are making it for Muslim radicals to prevail. There
are currently, around the world, atrocities being committed every moment of
every day in the name of Islam; your goal should not be to be politically
correct or fiercely protect this religion, but to heal its wounded and offer
support to those that want to eliminate the abuses. Glossing over the often
unspeakable acts to which Sharia can lead will only empower those individuals
who have malevolent intentions, while subjugating the most vulnerable to their
If, as you claim, your core values are
upholding freedom of speech, freedom of press and open discussions about
Christianity and Judaism, these values should apply to Islam as well. Support
the voices of those who have experienced Sharia law first-hand, and call for
The reason I criticize the radical elements
of my religion is not because I have hatred in my heart, but because I desire
to protect those who have been abused and abandoned by their leaders. With open
eyes, I am not willing to hide from the truth, no matter how great the benefit
Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated scholar and serves on the advisory
board of Harvard International Review, an official publication of Harvard
For those who have experienced Islam only in America, here is a short list of the evils of Islam here:
Divisive insistence on Islamic prerogatives – religion-identifying
clothing and grooming, halal food, refusal to follow sanitation procedures,
separation of sexes, polygamy, child marriage, FGM, death for apostasy, etc.
Refusal to combat Islamic terrorism - e.g., CAIR’s “Slam the door on the FBI”
Racist anti-Semitism, including BDS and support for
HAMAS terrorism against Israel
Massive illegal immigration – hijrah – exploiting and abusing normal acceptance of deserving
Legal Jihad to stifle freedom of speech and impose
Islamic prerogatives rather than foster assimilation
Embracing Sharia Law which discriminates against
non-Muslims, women, and Western concepts of justice.
Insistence that non-Muslims adapt to Islam rather than
Muslims adapting to the laws and moral values of their new host country