What appears on the surface to be an innocent distribution of Qur'ans is far from it; the devil is always in the details. The facts surrounding this case should be alarming, and certainly would be alarming to Americans if the Chicago Tribune had not been derelict to its duty to inform its readers. To ignore the facts, without one iota of analysis, is to leave our nation exposed to a grave threat without a challenge.
A non-profit organization based out of Chicago, the Al-Furqaan Foundation, received national attention a few weeks ago after the Chicago Tribune profiled their "noble" endeavors in a May 15, 2008 report, "Qurans given out for Free". The Arabic Qur'an certainly plays a central role in my life as a Muslim in its capacity as what Muslims believe to be the revealed words of God to Muslims in Arabic. However, the English translations are not believed to be Qur'an (the recitation in Arabic) but rather more appropriately referred to as "interpretations or explanations" of Quran. In fact our daily prayers which include memorized Qur'anic recitations cannot be done but in the original Arabic of the Qur'an in order to preserve clarity.
Whose translation are they distributing?
The Al-Furqaan Foundation and its subsidiaries, are distributing an "English Translation of the Meaning of the Qur'an" by a Professor (Dr.) Syed Vickar Ahamed. The Tribune report recklessly compares their effort to other faiths that similarly distribute their scripture in attempts at spreading the Word stating, "many Christian groups pass out Bibles; Gideons International distributed almost 450,000 in September in a weeklong New York Bible Blitz."
But since the Quran for Muslims is authentic only in Arabic, and Al-Furqaan is distributing one of many "translations" or "meanings", it is imperative to understand the ideological orientation from which the Al-Furqaan Foundation is positioning its distribution of Qur'ans. Clearly, this ideological orientation is a direct reflection of the motives of Al-Furqaan, and thus is either benign, or a clear and present danger to America.
The Qu'ran is a complex text which is not organized by chronology but rather is a collection of what Muslims believe to be Ayat (verses from God) ordered in length simply from longest to shortest. So the comprehension for Muslims of the text is dependent upon the contextual narrative of the spiritual and legal messages from God. Such understanding is very difficult for practicing Muslims, let alone for those non-Muslims who venture into the interpretations of Dr. Syed Ahamed's and his associate, Dr. Zakir Naik, who renders the forward.
The distributed Qur'an supposedly garners its legitimacy from a reported endorsement from Al-Azhar University in Egypt. Al-Azhar itself is an institution of questionable moral clarity and multiple examples of corruption putting out a number of "opinions" or fatwas endorsing terror, misogyny, and other ideas in direct conflict with the UN Declaration on Human Rights and modernity. Also, Al-Azhar is not an independent institution of Islamic scholarship. Its leadership receives its marching orders and direction from Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, through his appointment of a minister of Azharite affairs, and control of the entire institution.
Al-Furqaan Foundation's Ideology
The puff-piece from the Chicago Tribune quotes Wajahat Sayeed, founder and director of Book of Signs (the Al-Furqaan subsidiary) as saying, "We're just trying to be honest brokers of information, you make your own judgment." This column provides just that: information, lots of it which the Chicago Tribune apparently did not seek, for a more honest brokerage.
Sayeed is also the director of the MLFA (Muslim Legal Fund of America). This fund is a coalition of Islamists including CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations), named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial; the MAS (Muslim American Society); and the American Muslim Task Force associated with the far left, such as the ANSWER Coalition. The organization clearly is a mouthpiece for the Holy Land Foundation victimology propaganda and believes among other absurd apologetics that Sami al-Arian is "wrongly accused" - note - nothing about Muslim responsibility in Islamist-inspired terror. The goal of Al-Furqaan as stated on their website is to put a Qur'an in "every household, hotel room, hospital, college dorm, and retirement home in America". The translation is endorsed by the toxic Zakir Naik, and his entire Wahhabi-Deobandi proselytizing mission for Islamism (i.e., political Islam).
A little research also on the Al-Furqaan site itself demonstrates some concerning ideologies. For example, on the Book of Signs website (a subsidiary of Al-Furqaan), al-Furqaan posts an interview with radical convert Yvonne Ridley in their "Myths and Realities" section, directing viewers to a 57 minute absurd and nauseating apologetic for the Taliban and against the U.K and the U.S. She is a known defender of one of the primary enemies of the United States, Mullah Omar of the Taliban. She is a British citizen who preaches to Muslims that she hopes God forgives any who join the UK police force, telling Muslims that the UK police gun down Muslims.
She told the Independent's Julia Stuart that the Islamist extremist, Abu Hamza, the head of the radical Al-Muhajiroon who has defended the 9-11 hijackers as martyrs, called to congratulate her on her conversion. She refused to denounce the cleric telling the Independent "As a Muslim I don't think it's constructive to criticize other Muslims". About Abu Hamza she states, "I don't have a problem with him. I think the media has created this monster and the Muslim community go along with it. In fact, I've criticized various Muslim leaders for criticizing him. I've said just ignore him, he's hardly representative of British Muslims."
The Book of Signs Website also uses Khalid Yasin to discuss the "Oneness of God" on a video posted on their site. A brief review of Yasin's ideology demonstrates an unstable radical who believes that the U.S. government was behind 9-11, homosexuals should be killed, and the terror bombings in Bali were justified because of "western oppression". He also cites equal rights for women as a "delusion and foolishness", that Islamic law - shar'ia - should govern all nations, that Muslims cannot have non-Muslim friends, and rejects any separation between Islam and the state to name a few of his dangerous ideologies which are threat to American security.
Looking at the Islamism beneath Al-Furqaan's surface: the radicalism of Zakir Naik and company
The ideological dissection of the Syed Vickar Ahamed interpretation distributed by Book of Signs is for another time and place. A lengthy preface by Dr. Zakir Naik of Mumbai, India, precedes the translation. In fact, Al-Furqaan brags that Naik provides scholarly support and endorses their translation. Naik is a physician-come-Wahhabi-Deobandi televangelist preacher and the President of the Islamic Research Foundation which owns and operates PeaceTV. He is quickly gaining notoriety among Islamists and Wahhabi-Salafi ideologues and collaborators.
Anyone listening to him quickly realizes that he needs the close attention and scrutiny of American anti-Islamist counterterrorism experts and DHS. He reports that his PeaceTV broadcast reaches over 50 million viewers per day on the internet and on a number of free satellite transponders across the world. Here are some examples of the Wahhabi radicalism preached by Naik on his paradoxically named- PeaceTV:
He recommends the death penalty for apostates.
"If a Muslim becomes a non-Muslim and if he propagates his/her new religion then, it is as good as treason. There is a "Death Penalty" in Islam for such a person. Punishment is death. In many countries the punishment for Treason is also Death. If an army general discloses his army's secrets to another country then there is a "Death Penalty" or life imprisonment. Similarly if a Muslim becomes non-Muslim and propagates his/her new religion then there is a "Death Penalty" for such a person in Islam... in the same manner if other countries have this law then in Islam"
This idea is a convenient fact for Dr. Naik and the Illinois-based Al-Furqaan Foundation to omit from their "Dawah" forward section, placed in the beginning of the translation they are distributing to non-Muslims in the U.S.
Shouldn't the recipients of the Qur'ans be made aware of the fact that the primary preacher associated with the foundation distributing the Qur'ans believes that their entry into the Islamic faith is one-way and if they leave the faith and live under his Islamist rule they will be executed for treason? The video linked above produced by a Hindu group asked the very apt question at the end whether such a barbaric principle should be applied to the Muslim minority in India. [AIFD also provides a response to this twisted ideology.]
Regarding Islam, terrorism, and the U.S.
Zakir Naik is also on the record stating (see full video link):
"The media projects Muslims as terrorists because they are afraid of Islam spreading - no dancing, no pornography, no prostitution, no rape. Previously America was after communism. Communism failed. Now they are after Islam. War on terrorism. What terrorism? Killing innocent people, thousands of people. They are dying against the least equipped. And saying war on terrorism. What terrorism? They are afraid. That if it spreads. That even after that. Even after all this. Even after the 11th of September. Do you know that even after the 11th of September in the span of 9 months according to CNN 34,000 Americans accepted Islam." (Applause).
Naik also states the following speaking for his Islamic Research Foundation (see full video link):
"So why are the Muslims saying Osama Bin Laden is right or wrong. I reject them. Bombing in Nigeria. Osama Bin Laden. Headlines. We don't know. They don't know. And if you ask my view. If you know the truth. If he's fighting the enemies of islam, I am for him. I am not in touch with him. I don't know him personally. I read the newspapers. If he is terrorizing the terrorists. If he is terrorizing America the Terrorist the biggest terrorist. I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he is terrorizing a terrorist, he is following Islam. Whether he is or not, I don't know. But you as a Muslim without checking up laying allegation is also wrong. I am with those people who are hearing the Qur'an even if the full world is against them.
Now if that's not hair-raising logic, I don't know what is. The fact that a New Jersey author (Ahamed) and a Chicago non-profit which distributes translations of the Qur'an are affiliated with Naik's foundation should indeed be alarming, and certainly would be to average Americans if the Chicago Tribune had done its job properly and not been derelict to its duty to educate and inform.
Naik also (see full video link) during an apologetic lecture series entitled, "Is Terrorism a Muslim Monopoly", flippantly declares - using the quotations of others - that George Bush and Tony Blair are the "biggest number one terrorists." He mockingly comments about "killing the President." He compares radical Muslim terrorists to our forefathers in the American Revolution which he idiotically thought was in 1875, saying Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were terrorists and that it is a just label for "freedom fighters". Naik was unable to muster a single condemnation of violence for the attack of innocents or noncombatants in hours and hours of his dangerous diatribe. He admits not being able to condemn Bin Laden as a terrorist, but he was able to condemn the bombings of Afghanistan and the Taliban by the U.S.
Regarding equal human rights and freedom for non-Muslims in an Islamic state Dr. Naik states in Urdu: (see full video link):
"In some Islamic countries for example Saudi Arabia etc the propagation of other religions is prohibited even the construction of any other place of worship is also prohibited. So many non-Muslims ask when we allow Muslims to preach and build their mosques in our countries then why are we not allowed to do so in these Muslim countries? In my reply I ask the non-Muslims that suppose you are a principal of a school and you intend to select a math teacher. Three candidates come, and you ask them what will be the total of 2+2. The first replies that 2+2 is 3, and the second one answers that 2+2 is 4, and the third one answers that 2+2 is 6. Now I ask these non-Muslims if they will allow the candidates to teach in their school who says 2+2 is 3 or 2+2 is 6? They say no. I ask why? They say because he does not have correct knowledge of mathematics. Similarly as far as matters of religions are concerned, we (Muslims) know for sure that only Islam is a true religion in the eyes of God. In 3:85, it is mentioned that God will never accept any religion other than Islam therefore knowing that Islam is the only true religion we do not allow the propagation of any other religion. As far as the second question regarding the building of temples and churches is concerned, how can we allow this when we know that their religion is wrong and their worshipping is also wrong thus we do not allow such wrong things in our country. Similarly in religious matters only we know for sure that we are right - they are not sure. Non-Muslims are no doubt experts in science and technology and we invite them from Europe and USA to teach us science and technology. But in matters of religion we are expert, they (non-Muslims) are not sure about religious truths thus we are trying to get them to the right path of Islam. Therefore we propagate our religion to the non-Muslims."
There should be no doubt left in the minds of readers about what lies behind Al-Furqaan with their so-called "scholars" inability to respect simple human rights and universal principles of religious freedom.
Naik's Network and Accomplices
On the homepage of Al-Furqaan under the heading "scholarly support" for the Syed Ahamed translation they are distributing, they identify Dr. Naik's credentials as being a student of Ahmed Deedat, a well known salafi fundamentalist. Prior to his death in 2005, Deedat had a significant global following.
The NY Times notes the following on Deedat who has hundreds of videos on the internet preaching against Christianity and Judaism. "In Durban, the Islamic Propagation Center International has long been financed by the bin Laden family in Saudi Arabia, and its founder, Ahmed Deedat, who is now dead, was a vocal anti-Semite and ardent backer of Osama bin Laden." IPCI is a toxic anti-western Wahhabi-Deobandi Islamist website chock full of Islamist politics and terrorism apologetics.
Reporters, investigators, and other inquiring minds would do well to look at Naik's PeaceTV and the speakers listed as their brain trust along the left panel. Another individual associated with Naik is Dr. Israr Ahmed founder of Tanzeem-e-Islami an offshoot of Jamaat-e-Islami, a radical terrorist Islamist group in Pakistan. Israr Ahmed believes in a forward jihad and in the establishment of the Islamic state and bringing back the Caliphate. Ahmed has absurdly asked whether Israel was behind the 9-11 attacks. The radicalism of Tanzeem is described in detail by this report.
Coming to a mosque and town near you
The above ideologies are not loose associations but an analysis of a real and growing network. This network started in India and is spreading to the United States. I was easily able to lay out the radical Islamist orientation of Zakir Naik, his Islamic Research Foundation, and its media arm - PeaceTV. They have disseminated their Wahhabi-Deobandi ideology into the United States under the auspices of organizations like the Al-Furqaan Foundation and this less than innocent distribution of Qur'ans in the United States. It is a liability in the global war against militant Islamists that our media, such as the Chicago Tribune, report positively on organizations like the Al-Furqaan Foundation without one iota of analysis into the ideology which accompanies the Qur'an they produced, or their other work.
Al-Furqaan has been bringing their masquerade into mosques, asking for funding for their proselytizing foundation. They actually came to the mosque which I attend in Scottsdale, Arizona, twice in the past year, most recently on June 6, 2008, again able to complete some fundraising. In their fundraising they repeatedly cite their mantra of "putting a Quran in every hotel, hospital, dorm room, and nursing home." Almost like "motherhood and Apple Pie" for Muslims. Hard to disagree with that on the surface; that is, for anyone who doesn't look beyond the cover of the translations they are distributing.
And our local Islamic Center of the Northeast Valley, interestingly, also happens to have put a prominent link on its homepage to Naik's PeaceTV only months after Al-Furqaan's last visit here during Ramadan. In fact, an email blast from the mosque board directed members to go to the PeaceTV, asking members to "Check out the link to PeaceTV on our website." They described PeaceTV as, "a 24 hour Islamic spiritual educational international satellite TV channel. You can watch Islamic speakers around the world." Since last Friday's visit, they are boldly asking their site's visitors also to "generously contribute to the Al-Furqaan Foundation and help deliver the message of the Quran to everyone in America."
All of this is right next to the ever-present link to PeaceTV. It certainly appears that this American mosque is moving ideologically in line with Dr. Zakir Naik and his toxic associates on PeaceTV and his Islamic Research Foundation. That's what's on their home page.
To separate Al-Furqaan from Dr. Naik and the global Islamist-Wahhabi industry he is building and metastasizing all over the world is to do so at the detriment of American security. It is time for reporters and investigators to go back to Al-Furqaan and ask them about the theocratic, corrupt, and dangerous ideologies of their scholars and the vast majority of scholars with whom they are associated. To ignore these ideologies is to leave our nation exposed to this threat without a challenge. The radicalization process which leads to a homegrown terrorist threat is a slow transition process which is well described in the NYPD report and in a recent report from the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security.
To wait for the obvious last step, where militants and their cells coalesce, and ignore the signs of Islamism and Wahhabi ideology is to ignore what is a clear and present danger to our country.
With the ever-increasing threat of militant Islamist terror, it remains to be seen when the activist Muslim community will finally wake up and direct their valuable resources toward fighting the ideology of terrorism which arises from political Islam. This would have orders of magnitude and much greater impact in preserving the image of Islam and Muslims than empty proselytizing. Rather than spread the works of Islamist and Wahhabist ideologues, if these Muslims in organizations like Al-Furqaan and their supporting mosques really cared about representing Islam in a moderate, positive light in the West, they would focus their limited resources on counterterrorism ideologies rather than on these apologetics and empty efforts at proselytizing.