The "alt-right" and the "alt-left" are recent terms to describe extreme sides of the political spectrum. While the members of the "alt-" movements may feel comfortable trying to attach themselves to other travelers on the right and left, most members of the traditional conservative and liberal spectrum reject the extreme un-American nature of the alt-movements.
The insidious, myopic, and extreme nature of one movement in particular has inspired me to coin a new term: the "alt-Jihad."
Everyone knows the "jihad" of violent and Islamist supremacism. Jihadists are those who advocate the establishment of a caliphate, or any so-called "Islamic state," via violent or nonviolent (but no less supremacist) means.
The Muslim community worldwide is comprised of 1.6 billion individuals, each with their own relationship to the faith. There are those Muslims who subscribe to the forms of global jihadism of the 56 Islamic states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Most people understand that while they may be a plurality of Muslims, they are a minority. The rest of us – the vast majority – reject it.
The ideological divisions are far more complicated and to that end, I was recently interviewed in the Federalist: "A Muslim Reformer Speaks about his Battle Against Islamism and PC." Steve Postal interviewed me to commemorate the one year anniversary of the founding of the Muslim Reform Movement. Our declaration is a must read for Americans who seek to find ways to ideologically discern which Muslims share our American values and are working with us versus those who are Islamists.
Most Americans have long known the American 'petro-Islamic' establishment who have long been the "useful idiots for Islamism" who "willfully blind" themselves to the evils of Islamism in the name of progressive politics. Sen. Ted Cruz had hearings on this "willful blindness" last year.
A deceptively similar yet polar opposite (alt-side) is the willful blindness of the 'alt-jihadists.' Alt-jihadists support, empower, flaunt, and legitimize Islamist radicals and their leaders by branding all Muslims and all Islam as one and the same, and deeming us all to be enemies of freedom.
Alt-jihadists are non-Muslim thought leaders who are defined by two characteristics. Regardless of their intentions, first, they view Islam as a terminal monolith, a supremacist political ideology leaving no room for a distinction between the faith of Islam and Islamism. Second, they universally dismiss and vilify anti-Islamist reformers not as Uncle Toms but essentially similarly calling them "liars" and "illegitimate." Alt-jihadists take it upon themselves to excommunicate anti-Islamists reformers from their monolithic version of Islam.
These two characteristics, like the apologists, only end up serving entrenching the global jihad and its Islamist monopoly from which the alt-jihadists claim to want to save the world.
The alt-jihad consists of non-Muslims who refuse to leave room for even the remote possibility of branding Islam and any faithful Muslims into modernity. The alt-jihad is simple, simplistic, self-serving and dangerous. It attempts to deny Muslim dissidents any space, hope, or support whatsoever we so urgently need to make headway. Their parroting of Islamist tyrannical rhetoric and their slash-and-burn approach only strengthens the hold Islamist extremists have on Muslim communities.
The alt-jihad does not sincerely seek for Muslims to find solutions to the problems plaguing our communities, but rather seeks the containment, if not the elimination, of Islam as a faith. Some even seem to advocate that this happen "by any means necessary." For the alt-jihad, there is no hope for modernization of Islam – there are terrorist Muslims, and terrorist Muslims-in-waiting.
In the past few weeks the alt-jihad criticism of our work has spiked. Is something afoot? Stephen Kirby penned this for Robert Spencer's JihadWatch.org: "Muslim Reform Group reached out to 3,000 US Mosques, got only 40 responses." Kirby is the head of the Act for America Des Moines Chapter, and like Carl Goldberg here in Arizona, has long trolled our work, blindly striking us at the knees whenever possible.
Among many deceptive missives he wrote this patronizing fatwa (legal ruling) from his own quasi "sharia court:"
But I would like to save the Muslim Reform Movement (MRM) time and non-Muslims money. Instead of a new study on why the MRM has virtually no Muslim support, I will provide the answer: in terms of Islamic doctrine, the MRM declaration is blasphemous, and the MRM should not be surprised that over 99% of the larger Muslim community does not want to join in with that blasphemy.
It is only attention from the non-Muslim world that will enable the Muslim Reform Movement to remain on life-support, visible but irrelevant.
There you have it. With the strike of a few keystrokes from a comfortable bunker in that Iowa haven of anti-Muslim engagement, Kirby rendered his fatwa. His like-minded echo chamber across the blogosphere has since reposted these words of mass destruction and dancing gleefully on our grave.
That was not from the propaganda arm of the Islamic Republic of Iran's PressTV, or Qatar's and the Muslim Brotherhood's AlJazeera, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan's state TV, nor the propaganda of American Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups - it was from the alt-jihad.
Kirby was only to be then echoed by the fatwas of Diana West at the Daily Caller (Islam Catastrophe Continues), John Guandolo at UTT (Unfit for Duty), and Militant Islam Monitor to name but a few in the metaphorical Alt-Jihadi Shura council. Their primary target was hit pieces on Sebastian Gorka, but why pass an opportunity to collaterally eulogize Muslim reformists? Therein alt-Jihadists declared the Muslim Reform Movement "an abject failure", "utter nonsense" and "a personal fantasy Islam."
The alt-jihadists malignantly took one fact about the poor response we received from American mosques and willfully disregarded the rest of the interview and the body of our 13 years of work at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) and the new Muslim Reform Movement. Instead of honestly dissecting strategic position papers like this one: Fighting for Victory against Islamism: A Blueprint for how the West can Counter Islamist Tyranny, the alt-jihadists trip over themselves to dance on the graves of Muslim dissidents.
Beyond being destructive, the entire premise of the alt-jihad is absurd: we put out our challenge to the self-appointed leaders of the community to prove that it's true that the vast majority of the Islamic establishment would not sign our declaration. We've been saying essentially that since our founding. Our effort was another public demonstration of that fact, with a new way to demonstrate it to the broader Muslim community, who are now able to see which principles their self-appointed leaders refuse to sign on to.
We admit the majority have been asleep. The alt-jihad claims in an un-American blindness to the anti-theocrats that we have no oxygen to breathe in the House of Islam.
This didn't start this month. Alt-jihadists declared our reform movement dead on arrival at our outset in December 2015, much as they did over ten years ago with AIFD when we launched. Kirby had issued his fatwa declaring our "still-birth" days after our first press conference in December 2015: The Muslim Reform Movement plays Fantasy Islam. His Wahhabi sharia court "welcomed his readers to a personal version of Islam that had nothing to do with Islam".
Classic alt-jihadism. The alt-jihadists have for years invoked takfirism (excommunication) against our work. But who needs an Iranian or Saudi Islamist Supreme Council of Inquisition when we have Stephen Kirby (July 2015, Dec 2015), Diana West (2012), Robert Spencer, and others to dismiss reformist dissenters inside the House of Islam as illegitimate Muslims?
But really. What brilliance and foresight does it take to defeat a nascent dissident reform movement by declaring it DOA? The alt-jihadi cabal's arguments are not bolstered by their own strongly held Islamic interpretations, exegesis, and beliefs but rather by simply conveniently parroting the tyrannical dogma of their favorite Islamist theocrats. After I initially debated Stephen Kirby in Omaha, he went on to write the "the Lure of Fantasy Islam." The archetypal alt-jihadist, he dismisses my own knowledge of Arabic, Qur'an, and Hadith, and instead with no rationale just regurgitates irrelevant fatwas of salafi-jihadis.
We offer theological deconstructions of Salafi-jihadi arguments and the alt-jihad's only response is to channel the scoffing of the Islamist establishment.
There is far more than one interpretation of Islam. Our belief is that the future of freedom depends upon the victory of the Muslim Reform Movement over Islamists. And as I stated in the Federalist, Muslim interpretations of Islam cannot ever be reformed under the boots of tyrannical regimes across the 56 OIC Muslim majority nations who torture and assassinate dissidents.
But the alt-jihad does not care about solutions, especially those advocating American ideas against theocracy within the House of Islam. The alt-jihad does not care about advocating American ideas for the freedom and liberation of secular movements across the planet (the only real allies of the US) that separate mosque and state. No. It's only about convincing the rest of America and the West that the entire religion of Islam is the monolithic problem and there is no viable path within towards modernity.
In fact, if the OIC had sought to create both, Orwellian foils and promoters of their own global supremacist form of the Islam of their sharia states, the alt-jihadists would be it. My attempts to graciously address the "concerns" of the alt-jihad are not new. I've engaged Robert Spencer in a debate on his conclusions regarding the Prophet Muhammad and Islam in 2010. Pamela Geller also ruled in her fatwa that I practice my own "Private Islam." As I said in my response to similar dismissals from Pamela Geller's in 2011, one of her numerous lies exposed was that I was "kicked out of my mosque." Then she doubled down and I was somehow "kicked out of his mosque twice."m I was never kicked out and never said I was. The fact they intentionally ignore is how I actually publicly took on the leadership of our mosque here: "I was bullied for criticizing Hamas."
Alt-jihadists live in a world where truth and intellectual credibility are optional. They have one purpose: to obstruct any hope or path towards a solution within the House of Islam.
Despite the now over 14 Muslim leaders in the US, Canada, and Europe that launched our diverse Muslim Reform Movement and their diverse followings, the alt-jihad waits to impugn motives, declare us liars, or declare themselves more informed about Islam - much like the playbook of every OIC tyrant and government paid Islamist cleric across the planet would also do. But they are the traditional global jihad.
The wind beneath the sails of the traditional global jihad is the alt-jihad.
Lastly, make no mistake. The opinions of alt-jihadists are free speech. But their disagreements with us reformers are neither professional, respectful, nor hopeful of our space within the faith. They are only dismissive. Defeatist. Islamist. Exactly how the Saudi government, Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, or Khomeinists scoff at Muslim thinkers and reformers as "un-Islamic," the alt-jihad does the same. Their work never sees the hope of our reforms for the possible synergy of secularism with our interpretations of Islam. Instead, they empower the Islamist establishment.
It is actually rather bizarre that their like-minded ideological bedfellows in takfir (the declaration of another Muslim as not being 'Muslim' or 'Muslim enough' in their behavior or ideas) are the Islamist supremacists. They seem to have all the conclusions and answers about who is and who is not a legitimate Muslim thinker.
Alt-jihadism at its core is takfirism by any other name.
No different from the useful idiocy of Islamist apologists who choose willful blindness, the alt-jihad are useful idiots for Islamist jihadists who also view Islam as one interpretation and true Muslims as only sharia supremacists. The alt-jihad is another willfully blind dead-end.