Seeking More Muslim Heroes

Ahmed MerabetAhmed Merabet, 42, the final victim of the terrorist attack on a French magazine, was a  police officer and a Muslim. That last attribute led to #JeSuisAhmed going viral on Twitter, apparently sparked by this tweet:

It’s a powerful statement, but the reality is a little more complicated.  Merabet undoubtedly died unaware of the irony. It’s not clear from news accounts whether he came upon the scene by happenstance, or if he was responding to an initial police bulletin — but in either event he was not defending free speech or Charlie Hebdo. He was defending his city.

But that makes him no less of a hero, and no less of a beacon of hope in the face of yet another Islamist atrocity.  Unlike the thugs who killed him, Merabet had assimilated into French society, while retaining his Muslim identity. He’d been a cop for eight years, and had just qualified for promotion to detective. The picture by which he’s become known is a selfie, apparently taken in a bathroom, showing a man with kind eyes and a broad smile.

Islam needs more heroes, and they need to be celebrated when they emerge. An Islamic hero in this context is someone who pushes back against Islamic extremism, sometimes at great risk to his or her life.

I’ve written many times about M. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim and former U.S. Navy officer who heads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which is dedicated to making Islam co-exist with modern American culture.

Another hero is Ayaan Hirsi Ali — Muslim by birth, now atheist by choice (which itself is grounds for death under sharia, the barbaric legal and social code spawned in Seventh Century Arabia). Ali has been accompanied by armed guards ever since the murder of Theo Van Gogh, who was working with Ali on a film critical of Islam.  Despite the personal threat, Ali never hesitates to speak out against the jihadis, including those who perpetrated the Paris massacre.

Can a dictator who took power in a military coup be a Muslim hero?  Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is trying. Just days before the Paris shootings, Sisi declared that Islam needs “a religious revolution,” that Islam “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.” He’s been preaching along similar lines for more than a year.  Brave words for a man with a predecessor — Anwar Sadat — who was machine-gunned by Islamists for making peace with Israel.

Anybody care to nominate additional Muslim heroes?

Islam May Not Be the Enemy, But the Enemy Is Islamic

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has earned the right to be critical of Islam.

She was raised as a devout Muslim in Somalia and Kenya.  At the age of five, her genitals were cut in a barbaric Somali ritual at the insistence of her Islamic grandmother.  In her twenties, her Islamic father gave her in marriage to a distant cousin she barely knew.  After she fled to Holland and built a life for herself as a politician and filmmaker, a Muslim killed her filmmaking partner, Theo Van Gogh, and left a note stabbed into his chest indicating she would be next.  All this and more is recounted in her 2007 memoir, Infidel.

This remarkable woman, who now self-identifies as an atheist, has published a second memoir, Nomad: From Islam to America, which I’ve just finished reading.  She’s well aware that Islamic scripture prescribes death for apostasy, and she is accompanied by armed guards wherever she goes.  But the constant threat has not blunted her views or the clarity with which she declares them.  She’s not a fan of multiculturalism:

Here is something I have learned the hard way, but which a lot of well-meaning people in the West have a hard time accepting:  All human beings are equal, but all cultures and religions are not.  A culture that celebrates femininity and considers women to be the masters of their own lives is better than a culture that mutilates girls’ genitals and confines them behind walls and veils or flogs or stones them for falling in love.  A culture that protects women’s rights by law is better than a culture in which a man can lawfully have four wives at once and women are denied alimony and half their inheritance.  A culture that appoints women to its supreme court is better than a culture that declares that the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man.  It is part of Muslim culture to oppress women and part of all tribal cultures to institutionalized patronage,  nepotism and corruption.  The culture of the Western Enlightenment is better.

She calls for an Islamic Enlightenment:

The Muslim mind needs to be opened.  Above all, the uncritical Muslim attitude toward the Quran urgently needs to change, for it is a direct threat to world peace… The Muslim mind today seems to be in the grip of jihad.  A nebula of movements with al Qaeda-like approaches to Islamic precepts has enmeshed itself in small and large ways into many parts of Muslim community life, including in the West.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a brave voice in a fight for the soul of Islam.  Another such voice is M. Zuhdi Jasser,  head of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.  Unlike Ali, Jasser continues to be a devout Muslim — but like her, he understands the threat posed by some of his co-religionists.

As devout Muslims who are anti-Islamist we feel that Muslims have to lead the war of ideas against political Islam (Islamism) from within devotional Islam. Islamists have a well-established transnational global network of entities hatched from Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots. Whether we care to admit it or not, Islamists are at war intellectually and kinetically with western liberal democracies.

Today comes the news that: “Two New Jersey men arrested at a New York airport planned to travel to Somalia to ‘wage violent jihad,’ and also had expressed a willingness to commit violent acts in the United States.”  The two had been under surveillance for more than three years.

The scary reality is that our enemy lives among us. Thank God for Muslims (and ex-Muslims) like Jasser and Ali who are brave enough to help us understand what we face.

My Hero, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, on Islamic Death Threats

One of the best things you could do in the next seven minutes would be to watch John Stossel’s interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali (whose latest book Nomad is available through my Amazon widget in the right column).  Here’s a sample of what she tells Stossel:

“If you are a Muslim and you leave Islam, it’s the obligation of every Muslim to come after you and kill you. Fortunately for me, and for other apostates of Islam, not every Muslim wants to kill us.  But it is in scripture, and it’s very important that we discuss that….

“There are people, again, who feel like they are following in the example of the prophet Mohammed if they kill people like me.”  [Because of the need for armed bodyguards around the clock] “my freedom is constrained, but still, I am alive, and I feel that I am free, and I feel that I can take part in this debate without having to fear for my life.”

In the midst of the controversy over “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” it’s important to keep in mind the nature of the man being mocked.  The Prophet spread his message at the point of the sword, and apostasy was only one of many transgressions for which the penalty was death.  From the hadith Sahih Bukhari, Book 52:

No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’ …  A group of eight men from the tribe of ‘Ukil … killed the shepherd and drove away the camels, and they became unbelievers after they were Muslims. When the Prophet was informed by a shouter for help, he sent some men in their pursuit, and before the sun rose high, they were brought, and he had their hands and feet cut off. Then he ordered for nails which were heated and passed over their eyes, and whey were left in the Harra (i.e. rocky land in Medina). They asked for water, and nobody provided them with water till they died.

Thousands of Deadly Islamic Terror Attacks Since 9/11

A good guided tour of the scriptural basis for Islamic fascism is available at, which keeps a helpful daily tally of terrorist attacks committed in the name of the Prophet.

Surprise! “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” Draws Threats

A "peaceful" protest in Lahore, Pakistan

I haven’t paid much attention to “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” since I first wrote about it, but a lot of other people have.  The May 20th observation has its own (very lengthy) Wikipedia page, multiple Facebook pages, including one with more than 63,000 fans, an EDMD blog, and a contest by Reason magazine.

No casualties as of yet in the inevitable backlash, although there’s a tepid implicit death threat in the sign carried by Pakistani students, above.   The main anti-EDMD Facebook page has more than 37,000 fans, and to their credit, the organizers are stressing non-violence.

Reason editor Nick Gillespie explains why the magazine is championing EDMD:

… at the heart of the liberal project is ultimately a recognition that individuals, for no other reason than that they exist, have rights to continue to exist. Embedded in all that is the right to expression. No one has a right to an audience or even to a sympathetic hearing, much less an engaged audience. But no one should be beaten or killed or imprisoned simply for speaking their mind or praying to one god as opposed to the other or none at all or getting on with the small business of living their life in peaceful fashion. If we cannot or will not defend that principle with a full throat, then we deserve to choke on whatever jihadists of all stripes can force down our throats.

The theory behind “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” is that the jihadis can’t kill all of us.  Let’s hope there are no casualties at all.

Meanwhile, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book has downloaded to my Kindle, and I’m going to settle in to read about a woman who truly has stared death in the face in the cause of free expression.

More from Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Mohammed’s Image

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Ayaan Hirsi Ali calls for a campaign of solidarity with the makers of South Park, who were the targets of veiled death threats after daring to invoke the name of Mohammed on their cartoon show.

The entertainment business, especially Hollywood, is one of the wealthiest and most powerful industries in the world. Following the example of Jon Stewart, who used the first segment of his April 22 show to defend “South Park,” producers, actors, writers, musicians and other entertainers could lead such an effort. Another idea is to do stories of Muhammad where his image is shown as much as possible. These stories do not have to be negative or insulting, they just need to spread the risk. The aim is to confront hypersensitive Muslims with more targets than they can possibly contend with.

Another important advantage of such a campaign is to accustom Muslims to the kind of treatment that the followers of other religions have long been used to. After the “South Park” episode in question there was no threatening response from Buddhists, Christians and Jews—to say nothing of Tom Cruise and Barbra Streisand fans—all of whom had far more reason to be offended than Muslims.

It will be interesting to see if any groundswell arises in support of the “May 20 Is Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” movement.  I still haven’t seen any explanation as to why May 20 was chosen — I’m a little disappointed that Ali didn’t use her WSJ megaphone to support that effort.

But I was delighted to see in the tagline to the WSJ article that Ali has a new book coming out in May: Nomad: From Islam to America—A Personal Journey through the Clash of Civilizations. I’ve added it to the recommended books in my Amazon widget at right, and I’m looking forward to reading it. (Hmm… I wonder if I get a cut if I buy a book from my own widget?)

May 20 is “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”

The suits at Comedy Central have aided and abetted terrorism by censoring an episode of South Park to remove all references to Mohammed. They followed in the courageous footsteps of the Yale University Press, which, before publishing a book about the Danish cartoon controversy last year, deleted the actual cartoons from the manuscript.

South Park is just a cartoon show, right?  What’s the big deal?  My hero, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, appeared on CNN to explain why it’s a big deal. An excerpt:

“The South Park episode wasn’t just funny… it also addressed an essential piece in the times that we are living.  There is one group of people, one religion that is claiming to be above criticism. … This is an assault on freedom of expression. And we have to defend it tooth and nail.”

She’s walked the walk, having lived under threat of death since she and Theo Van Gogh made the movie Submission, which got Van Gogh killed in 2004.  Now, in an effort to “water down the pool of targets,” blogger Dan Savage has published a declaration of May 20 as “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”  (Hat tip:, via Mark Steyn.)

My drawing skills are nonexistent, but I figure the least I can do is republish the Mohammed turban-bomb drawing, above — the most iconic of the cartoons that touched off riots that killed more than 100 people in 2005.

I’m sensitive to the argument that nobody’s religion should be mocked.  But radical Muslims have made Islam a target by substituting violence for evangelism.  Ridicule is a non-violent way of fighting back.

Let’s let Ayaan have the last word:

“If the entertainment business were to take this on and just show how ridiculous this is, there’ll be too many people to threaten, and then I won’t need protection, and the gentlemen who made South Park also will not need protection.”

Eloquent Economic Commentary from Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, my hero, sings the praises of open markets in a tightly edited, 6-minute video on the Templeton Foundation site, part of a series of discussions about “big questions” such as “Does the free market corrode moral character?

English is at least her fourth language — she was born in Saudi Arabia, came of age in Kenya, won election to Parliament in Holland, then fled to the United States in the face of Islamic death threats — and yet the 39-year-old Ali provides one of the most powerful descriptions of the virtues of capitalism that I’ve heard anywhere. A remarkable person.

Revisiting “What’s the Matter With Islam?”

Commenter McDaddyo caught me in a bit of bloggish sloppiness in my recent post titled “What’s the Matter With Islam?” In that post I quoted Phyllis Chesler:

Have the Princes of Saudi Arabia, the mullahs of Iran, the imams of Cairo, Baghdad, and London, the various Palestinian factions condemned the carnage? Did I miss it?

I missed it too.

Turns out I missed it because I didn’t look for it — I accepted without challenge a widespread meme. As McDaddyo noted in the comments:

You openly confess that you are not aware of Muslims condemning the violence by radicals. Yet such condemnations are easily found in three minutes via Google.

Oops. Multiple examples available. There’s even a useful compendium of Muslim condemnations of terrorism since the 9/11 attacks, although it’s not up to date. So I’ll eat some humble pie and apologize to the brave Muslims who have spoken out against terrorism.

I have to say, however, that I stand behind the rest of the post. In particular:

I want to make very clear what I am not saying here. I am not saying Muslims are inherently evil. I am not saying there are no good Muslims, or that Islam has nothing positive to offer humanity. I most certainly am not condoning random violence or discrimination against Muslims. Every individual Muslim on the planet is a child of God and a sinner, traits they share with me. I am eager to treat them as brothers and sisters if they will do the same.

What I am saying, and the reason I express these sentiments with some passion, is that it is dangerous to ignore the elephant in the room. We must stop hiding behind euphemisms like the “war on terror.” “Terror” is not the enemy, any more than V-1 bombs were the enemy in World War II. Terror is a weapon, and it’s being wielded against America and against civilization by theocrats and fascists who fly the flag of Islam.

Islam may not be the enemy, but the enemy is Islamic. It is not atheists or Buddhists or Quakers or Catholics or fundamentalist Christians who have committed virtually every major act of terrorism (except Oklahoma City) in the past three decades. From an earlier post:

Militant Islamists declared war on America in November 1979 by taking hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. This was followed by 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut; the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie in 1988; the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993; the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996; the simultaneous 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania; and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000; along with smaller atrocities too numerous to list.

And all of that is before 9/11. Since then there have been major attacks by Islamic terrorists in London, Madrid, Bali, Mumbai, the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as smaller attacks throughout the world.

You can find an extensive yet incomplete list of such attacks at I hesitated before linking to them, because they employ a gleefully mocking tone that I find distasteful. But they perform essential work by compiling and listing attacks large and small by Islamic terrorists — at this writing, more than 12,000 such attacks since 9/11. They are careful to distinguish between Islam and individual Muslims: “Don’t judge the Muslims that you know by Islam and don’t judge Islam by the Muslims that you know. ” But they make it clear, starting with the name of their site, that they consider Islam itself to be the root of the problem, and they document the dozens of verses of the Qur’an that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers.

I’ll close this by quoting a heroic Muslim, the author of Infidel, one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Ayaan Hirsi Ali escaped from a traditional Muslim childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Kenya to become a member of the Dutch Parliament. Her searing indictments of Islam and Islamic culture led to the 2004 murder of her filmmaker colleague Theo van Gogh, and she lives under armed guard.

She declares (p. 282) that Islam needs to undergo an Enlightenment similar to the process that purged Christian culture in Europe of the worst of its dogmatic excesses. Although she now rejects the faith of her childhood, she saves her harshest criticism for the culture into which it was born (p. 347-348, emphasis added):

I first encountered the full strength of Islam as a young child in Saudi Arabia… Saudi Arabia is the source of Islam and its quintessence. It is the place where the Muslim religion is practiced in its purest form, and it is the origin of much of the fundamentalist vision that has, in my lifetime, spread far beyond its borders. In Saudi Arabia, every breath, every step we took, was infused with concepts of purity or sinning, and with fear. Wishful thinking about the peaceful tolerance of Islam cannot interpret away this reality: hands are still cut off, women still stoned and enslaved, just as the Prophet Muhammad decided centuries ago.

The kind of thinking I saw in Saudi Arabia, and among the Muslim Brotherhood in Kenya and Somalia, is incompatible with human rights and liberal values. It preserves a feudal mind-set based on tribal concepts of honor and shame. It rests on self-deception, hypocrisy, and double standards. It relies on the technological advances of the West while pretending to ignore their origin in Western thinking. This mind-set makes the transition to modernity very painful for all who practice Islam.

It is always difficult to make the transition to a modern world. … Having made that journey, I know that one of those worlds is simply better than the other. Not because of its flashy gadgets, but fundamentally, because of its values. The message of this book, if it must have a message, is that we in the West would be wrong to prolong the pain of that transition unnecessarily, by elevating cultures full of bigotry and hatred toward women to the stature of respectable alternative ways of life.

America and the West face an implacable global enemy — an enemy motivated by a perverse ideology that inspires them to commit evil in the name of Allah and Muhammad. Any individual Muslim who observes Islam in a peaceful manner is entitled to respect. But we disregard the driving force behind the enemy at our peril.

To McDaddyo and others, if you feel I still overstate my case, I welcome your feedback in the comments.