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Radical Islamism and Jihad (09 May 2020 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Flexible Salafis: The Growing Political Power of ‘Woke,’ Modernist Islamism

By Sam Westrop for New Age Islam


09 May 2020


Imam Omar Suleiman rarely talks about da’wah – the Islamic duty of proselytization. He never talks about Islamist designs for an Islamic state. Instead, America’s leading Islamic cleric speaks about broad political change, employing the language and ideas of progressivism. In fact, Suleiman, president of the Yaqeen Institute, is not just a preacher; he is an activist, found often in front of TV cameras, speaking before Congress, or being arrested on Capitol Hill at protests against the Trump administration’s policies.


His success is surprising. Suleiman is one of a number of popular clerics who emerged from a network centered around the AlMaghrib Institute, a Salafi-founded organization dedicated to a hardline strain of Islam. Its own extremism is incontrovertible. Founder Muhammad Alshareef once wrote a paper titled "Why the Jews Were Cursed," in which he claims Jews control the media and murder prophets. Other leading AlMaghrib clerics include Abdullah Hakim Quick, who calls for the killing of homosexuals and urges God to “purify” Al-Aqsa from the “filth of the Yahud [Jews],” and “clean Afghanistan and Iraq” from the “filth of the Kafiroun [unbelievers].”


Suleiman’s rhetoric has at times been just as extreme. Around 2014, he was busy beseeching the ummah to rise up and act against the forces that threatened Islam. He praised a newer generation of “awakened” Muslim youth, and lauded the piety and commitment of the people of Gaza. And he criticized those who were “too lazy” to boycott the “Zionist regime,” claiming such activism by a committed few had already cost the Israelis over 8 billion dollars.


But as his fame grew, his tactics changed. Whereas once Suleiman excused the killing of adulterers and denounced homosexuality as a “repugnant shameless sin,” today he is an ardent advocate for political alliances with the progressive Left, including “LGBT” movements. In lectures and quasi-academic essays, Suleiman and Yaqeen now promote Islam as a force for “social justice.”


Instead of talking just about refugees from Gaza or Syria, Suleiman is today also found at the border with Mexico – equipped with journalists and their cameras – to embrace non-Muslim emigrants and loudly protest the Trump administration’s policies.


And rather than remain just a regular fixture on the Islamist conference circuit, Suleiman today finds himself introduced to Congress by Nancy Pelosi, and given a platform at Bernie Sanders’ campaign rallies, to talk about the “promise of America … an America that resists the forces of bigotry … the forces of greed … that distract us from corrupt billionaires.”


Omar Suleiman is both the Left’s talking-point and its talking-head. He is no longer issuing parochial calls for an awakened Muslim youth, but he has become part of a broader hard Left movement that claims to be building a utopia for all.


And yet this same Omar Suleiman continues to serve as the star of Islamist circles. He remains a key figure at the AlMaghrib Institute, where his colleagues continue to express bigoted, radical Islamist ideas.


Contrast Suleiman with another popular AlMaghrib preacher, Abu EesaNiamatullah – one of the leading Islamic clerics in the United Kingdom, and a current featured speaker at AlMaghrib events. Niamatullah also has a history of extremist statements. He once said of Jews, “Look at them today, look at the way they massacre. They blow up babies like as if it’s a computer game. They have no humanity, no morality, no ethics.” He has warned Muslims of the “inherent weakness of democracy,” adding that the people could be trusted to choose because they are “animals,” far removed from the “noble” theocracy of the Sharia.


But Niamatullah has not embraced the political Left. In fact, the British Left - even under the radical, Islamist-friendly influence of people such as Jeremy Corbyn – has no Omar Suleiman; it has no Linda Sarsour or Ilhan Omar. The British Left enjoys significant grassroots Muslim support, but it lacks Islamist-leaning stars in its ranks. Why?


In Europe, the clerics and activists from Salafi and other Islamist movements face a rather different set of circumstances. Islamism is more deeply-rooted among European Muslims, the fastest growing demographic in Europe - constituting 6% of England’s population today, over 6% in Germany and 9% in France.


The European Left may want Muslim support; but many European Muslims - whether Islamist or not - do not necessarily need the Left.


Prominent clerics from Salafi and other Islamist circles know this all too well. Consequently, in contrast with their colleagues in the U.S, the overt radicalism of Salafi rhetoric in Europe has persisted, with little pressure for it to be toned down or intertwined with the language of the Left.


At one recent talk by Niamatullah, on the “Rise & Fall of the West,” he explains that Islam has always been at war with the ‘West,’ which, he claimed, is doomed to fall, just like other empires before it.


The West will collapse, Niamatullah argues, because Western countries have embraced ideas that contradict Islamic values – including rampant “consumerism”, the perversion of the “natural state between a man and woman” and the rejection of the “institution of marriage.”

All this liberalism and corruption, Niamatullah claims, have decimated Western birth rates. Because of this, he argues, Muslims will eventually be embraced by Europe, because Europe will come to regard Muslim commitment to Islamic values as their only chance for redemption. Muslims, Niamatullah argues, “work hard, have family structure … Massive shoutout to the Muslim immigrants coming here and … breeding like rabbits. … We are saving the West.” For Europe to save itself fully, he concludes, its peoples must “taste the consequences of their criminality,” so that they may then “turn back” to Islam and its laws.


While Almaghrib’s clerics in Europe talk openly of an Islamic-led future; its clerics in the U.S. – claiming to represent a (relatively) much smaller Muslim population - speak more diffidently, and with  progressive motifs, about the need to “diversify the face of [our] institutions,” and impart the Islamic “vision” to “the next generation [of Muslims].” Clerics such as Suleiman do not speak grandiosely of America as a future Islamic state. Instead, they focus more practically on securing future Islamic influence.


Salafism is typically known for its absolute dogma. Any changes in behavior or religious belief have, in the past, been quickly denounced by Salafi clerics as dangerous innovations – to the extent that many Salafi groups spend more time aiming their vitriol at other Muslims regarded as deviant, instead of at non-Muslims. In fact, Niamatullah himself has been the subject of such attacks himself from traditionalist Salafis in the U.K.


But these modernist Salafis - arguably now the leading Islamist force in the U.S. - have deviated far further from the Islamist orthodoxy than most could have ever expected.  It is one thing to offer differing expectations for the advancement of Islamic influence, adapted to the circumstances of each country; it is a bold change indeed for Islamist clerics to call for partnerships with ‘LGBT’ groups and other progressive movements – against which these very same extremists have spent decades inciting hatred and violence.


So significant is this ideological shift, that some American Islamists are now publicly warning Muslims against working with Suleiman, Yaqeen and other modernists. Many argue that these clerics and movements are in fact no longer Salafi. Indeed, some of the modernists have publicly shunned the term. One prominent colleague of Omar Suleiman, Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, claims to have left the Salafi movement but not its theology. As for Suleiman, while once he appeared to belong to the Hanbali school of thought (from which Salafism derives), he now rejects all Islamic ideological labels; instead encouraging Muslims to “sleep peacefully while others waste their days and nights trying to ‘figure you out.’”


What does all this mean for everyone else - for the politicians, journalists, moderate Muslims and the American public? American Islamism is changing fast. Flexible, modernist Salafism is one prominent, confusing example of a rising Islamist force, but there are others. Islamism is, as Suleiman promised, ‘diversifying’ in ways that few previously thought it could.


But as the rhetoric of Abu Eesa shows, it is vital that we are not persuaded to regard these changes in tone as evidence of moderation. If these modernists are not challenged, Suleiman and other besuited radicals will continue to convince politicians and the media that they are the reasonable, progressive face of a new American Islam. The hope that moderate or reformist Islam finally gains back some control over America’s Muslim communities will diminish further, and the extremism and radicalization that has plagued America’s Muslim communities for decades will continue, albeit confusingly shrouded under the cheerful colors of a Women’s March banner or an ‘LGBT’ flag.

Sam Westrop is director of
Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.


URL: https://newageislam.com/radical-islamism-and-jihad/sam-westrop-for-new-age-islam/flexible-salafis--the-growing-political-power-of-‘woke,’-modernist-islamism/d/121807


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  • Western leaders are deceiving their own people with fake left and right arguments.  They are not even putting up a token resistance before Islamic invasion.
    By SatishB - 5/15/2020 7:34:03 AM

  • I have consistently and repeatedly criticized religions for hate, intolerance, violence, obscurantism and supremacism. I do it with an eye to freeing religions of these evils. You do it for damning religions.
    You should be ashamed of yourself for suggesting that Muslim migrants to the West are jihadi murderers. All I see here are doctors, researchers, professors, administrators, journalists and community leaders. Every immigrant community here has some bad apples but the bad apples do not define communities

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/12/2020 11:35:18 AM

  • your absolute, unthinking and nearly automatic denial of the evil in religion and making a false equivalence between religious killings and killings driven by the lust for power, money and women are clearly indications of extremism.
    if you ask your co-religionists they will tell you that your two fond theories of over inclusion in the Quran and questioning the need for five prayers a day make you an extremist.
    and your defense of undiscriminating migrations of jihadi murderers, former isis recruits, their attempt to subvert the constitutions of their host countries not only make you an extremist but an insidious snake-in-the-grass saboteur.
    even worse than extremists.
    go ahead and ask your co-religionists. or ask the other "moderate" commentators on this forum.
    just do it.

    By hats off! - 5/11/2020 7:31:04 PM

  • Hats Off,
    You lie again! Show one example of my expressing extremist leanings. If you can't, admit that you are a liar.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/11/2020 1:35:59 PM

  • Aayina,
    You showed utmost ignorance as well as stupidity when you gave a totally false and malicious reading  of my comment and now you are questioning my comprehension? Don't you have any shame?

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/11/2020 1:29:27 PM

  • you have exposed your extremist leanings many times before and that is not surprising at all.
    that is typically very islamic. deny, deny and deny. when that does not deter - call out islamophobia.

    By hats off! - 5/11/2020 2:34:36 AM

  • If you cannot comprehend, take afternoon nap.
    By Aayina - 5/11/2020 12:43:55 AM

  • Hats Off has fallen to new depths in his attempts to slur me. He does it whenever he loses an argument.
    The father of Muslim Brotherhood may be a very powerful figure in your delusional dystopia but Europeans have their inherent strengths and nobody, except the rabid Islamophobes, is getting hysterical.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/10/2020 11:52:15 PM

  • Aayina unfortunately will not see his blunder even after I pointed it out to him. And he has so much difficulty expressing himself that it is difficult to compose a reply. I had mentioned the Protocols of Zion as an example of malicious falsity. That has nothing to do with the fact that the writer of this article is employed by a Zionist organization. Is that clear? Do you ever apologize for  your boo-boos?
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/10/2020 11:31:52 PM

  • you probably do not have the stomach for violence, so you will be glad to hold the victim down. while your brethren do their thing.
    By hats off! - 5/10/2020 7:05:35 PM

  • There was some degree of blame to Jews, by mentioning the book you already blame the Author by calling him Zionist club, so there was nothing wrong in for me to write about your weaked interest "Prtoclos of learned man of Zion" is linked with fake Zionisitm, the Zionisim is of past thing like you blame us why to discuss of past, but when you bring the past is all write, you were asking where You lie, this is the current example of yours use of the  18th century book as an example, a fake 21st century's deceptionist master blames other of the dragging the past, yes past is the key if events are going to repeat.

    I know you were trying to mean something else, but your series of comment and use of book as example does not mean that in broder sense, you should have use Muslim history of example, your example was two barrel gun, on one side hit the Jews and otherside to be looked as  moderate Muslim give some blame to Muslims too.

    By Aayina - 5/10/2020 1:23:46 PM

  • Hats Off's dystopia has reached delusional proportions. He wants to transmit his hang-up to others. Unfortunately (or fortunately) no one is listening.
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/10/2020 12:20:44 PM

  • Look atAayina's comment! He does not seem to understand anything at all. He takes the exact opposite meaning of what was intended. If he thinks I was blaming the Jews,  he should be made to go to back of the class, put on the dunce hat and stand facing the wall
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/10/2020 12:07:48 PM

  • the father of muslim brotherhood has very clearly, very chillingly laid down the roadmap for islam in the west.
    the deliberate denialism practiced by the moderate muslims as a ploy to divert attention from the ixtremists is even more dangerous than the explicit and brutal honesty of the extremists.
    the aims of the muslim brotherhood are very clear, except unless of course you are a part of that deceit or your intellectual capacity is so low as to be unable to perceive this.
    their aim (including that of CAIR) is to wreck the civilization of the west from within, by making use of their own traditions of democracy and equality.
    these will be used by the emigre islamist (under the garb of refugees) to slowly gain access to the law making bodies and once significant numbers are in place slowly and irrevocably convert it to another islamic hell hole like sudan or pakistan or any of the 101 islamic dystopias.

    By hats off! - 5/10/2020 8:05:33 AM

  • Protocls of learned man of Zion was designed by some curroupt like you to kill Jew. It was never establish who wrote them.
    Very shame on you, use the book to blame Jews.

    By Aayina - 5/10/2020 12:04:14 AM

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