Friday, March 31, 2006

Why are some Florida "Jewish" Groups sponsoring anti-Muslim hate speech events? Speaker at Tampa event says "Islam Not a Religion"

***Note: I know better than to stereotype against an entire community. The reason I question the judgment of some "Jewish" groups in the below post is because both groups openly claim they're advocating on behalf of the Jewish community***

It is with great displeasure that I write this post. However, unless we openly discuss this type of hatred that exists within our community, then we will not progress.

Last night (March 30, 2006) the University of South Florida chapter of Hillel hosted a hate filled seminar during their 'Israel Week' featuring Walid Shoebat, a self-described "Former PLO Terrorist." Shoebat's fantasy story about being a former terrorists has never been independently confirmed, yet he tours the country and the world speaking to or hosted/sponsored by so called "Jewish" organizations and/or right wing groups, raking in thousands of dollars in speaker fees. Here is one of the hate messages Shoebat had for the crowd at USF (audio clip link available below):

"I began to understand that Islam as a religion is NOT a religion. Islam is a
system of government. Can anybody deny that? Islam is a legislation, civil code,
government, then a religion. That's what Islam is. So now you want to
fight Islamic fundamentalism and it's a problem because you're really talking
about a religion. And you're going to offend people... We must have Islamic
democracy. I said, excuse me, Islam is not a religion. It's like saying
capitalistic communism, is there such an oxymoron?" -Walid Shoebat at

So Mr. Shoebat (not his real name by the way, he has consistently refused to provide his real name and/or age, place of birth or any other identifying information) wants to believe that Islam is not a religion, erasing the faith of over 1.2 billion Muslims around the world and the billions who lived before. Shoebat who has no formal education in theology, history or any other ligit study.

According to Hilled USF's website, the Hillel Shoebat hatefest event was unfortunately sponsored by Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

Which brings me to the question of the day for me, WHY ARE JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS SPONSORING ANTI-MUSLIM HATE SPEECH EVENTS? A question I think both groups and others that continue to host Walid Shoebat and other hate mongers like him, must answer.

Hillel's promotion for the Tampa event promised it would be

"Interactive dialogue" and "is going to be unbelievable."

They were partially accurate, the only description for the event is "unbelievable." However it was neither "interactive" nor a "dialogue."

Troubled by last night's event and the question on my mind. I visited the websites of Hillel and Greater Miami Jewish Federation to learn more about their mission and identity, to find out if anti-Muslim hate speech is part of their goals or agenda.

Hillel describes itself as:

The largest Jewish campus organization in the world,
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life provides opportunities for
Jewish students at more than 500 colleges and universities to explore and
celebrate their Jewish identity through its global network of regional
centers, campus Foundations and Hillel student organizations. Hillel is
working to provoke a renaissance of Jewish life.......

Hillel's mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish undergraduate and graduate students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.

Nothing about Islam or hate speech there, if you continue reading Hillel has some positive goals like:

-creating a plenvironmentnviornment; pursue tzedek (social justice); tikkun olam (repairing the world)

So that troubles me even more, where does the seminar of a hate monger and fraud like Walid Shoebat fit in all of this?

To have "unbelievable" and "interactive" dialogue, Hillel and Jewish Federations around the country need to pick-up the phone and dial-up a local American-Muslim organization, mosque or school. Coordinate a real forum with a real agenda that can produce results. Hate speech and rhetoric will only serve to divide our communities.

As conscience consience, Jews, Muslims, Christians and others must condemn hate speech directed at any group. And if not condemn, the least we can do is not actively promote bigots and hate mongers. We have to be consistent and not have a double standard, just as my Jewish friends want me to distance myself from anti-Jewish hate speech by Muslim radicals, I expect the same from them, to distance themselves from anti-Muslim bashers.

The irony is, Shoebat's website provides that "love" is the solution, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King (on the frontpage of this website)

"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy
into friend."

Perhaps Shoebat and his sponsoring organization can start practicing what they preach.


Related link(s):

Shoebat telling his fake story on O'Reilly Factor:

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Afghan Court Drops Case Against Christian Convert

The Associated Press just reported that the case against an Afghan Man who left Islam for Christianity 16 years ago has been dropped, because of 'lack of evidence' and his 'mental status.'

A couple of days ago I (Ahmed Bedier) joined CAIR and others calling for his release.

Alhamdulillah (All praise is due to God) the Afghan authorities did the right thing by dropping this case, that should never have been one in the first place.

For over a week now news outlets reported that Abdul Rahman is facing the death penalty under Islamic Law for leaving Islam, however they failed to point out that this is not a unanimous opinion among all Muslim scholars. Also that there is not a single verse in the Quran that commands the killing of an apostate (a person leaving his faith). The New York Times did a better job in an article published yesterday (3/25/06) "In Kabul, a Test for Shariah."

The NY Times article provides more context and background on the apostasy in Islam and actually interviews Muslim scholars, where others like the AP simply repeated that Islamic Law mandates the killing of apostates. In the NY Times article John Esposito and others weighed in:

  • Progressive Muslim scholars argue that the meaning of those laws has been lost over time: When the laws were created, they say, apostasy was seen as the equivalent of treason. "To be a Muslim was to live in an Islamic state or empire, so the presumption was you were not only becoming the enemy of God but the enemy of the empire," said John L. Esposito, a professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown University.
    Muslim jurists who support the execution of apostates often point to a hadith — a tradition attributed to the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century — in which he is recorded as saying that a person who changes religions should be killed.
    But while the Koran mentions ridda, it never calls for the execution of apostates. There is no record of the prophet killing an apostate himself. And executions of apostates have been rare in Islamic history.
    "The common argument is that it clearly contradicts the Koran, which says there should not be compulsion in religion," said Khaled Abou El Fadl, an Islamic law expert and professor at the
    University of California, Los Angeles.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

RADIO: Ahmed Bedier talks to the Schnitt Show about religious freedom in Islam and the Afghan apostasy case of Abdul Rahman

Ahmed Bedier appeared today as a guest on the Schnitt Show, a Clearchannel syndicated radio show, to discuss the Afghanistan apostasy case of Abdul Rahman. Bedier called for the release of Abdul Rahman and said that Islam encourages religous freedom.

To listen to the segment, CLICK HERE

Why is an Afghani Man on Trial for leaving Islam?

** Muslim view and opinion on Afghan who converted from Islam to Christianity **

America's leading Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who I (Ahmed Bedier) represent in Florida, did the right thing by calling for the release of an Afghan man who claims to have left Islam for Christianity. A few Muslims might be scratching their head and asking "wait a minute why are Muslims supporting a man's right to leave their religion." The answer is clear in the Quran, the ultimate source of Islamic Law or Shariah. Now before I get a ton of email asking for my clerical credentials, I confess that I am not a scholar by any means nor do I have the authority to give any sort of fatwa.

But read for yourself:

  • 'Let there be no compulsion in religion.' (Quran 2:256)

Islam came to liberate mankind from oppressive nations/tribes who forced religion on the people. Since Islam came and wherever it spread people enjoyed freedom of religion. European Christians, who were forced to practice what the Church forced upon them, envied those living in the Muslim World who were free to practice their faith as they wanted to.

  • 'If it had been the will of your Lord that all the people of the world should be believers, all the people of the earth would have believed! Would you then compel mankind against their will to believe?' (Quran 10:99)
  • '(O Prophet) proclaim: 'This is the Truth from your Lord. Now let him who will, believe in it, and him who will, deny it.'' (Quran 18:29)3)

Both verses are divine testaments in the Quran on the concept of free will. Even God the Almighty has given mankind free will to choose their faith, will mankind restrict that free will on their subjects?? It doesn't make sense.

  • 'If they turn away from thee (O Muhammad) they should know that We have not sent you to be their keeper. Your only duty is to convey My message.' (Quran 42:48)4)

When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) passed away, Muslims inherited the message from the messenger (pbuh). Muhammad (pbuh), the beloved example, was not sent to force religion on people or be their keeper. His duty, which Muslims inherited, is to only convey the message. Let God be the judge.

Some folks reading this will say 'that's cool and all, but how is it that Afghanistan is justifying the prosecution (and possible death penalty) of a man who changed his religion? My only guess is, since I have not found any official position yet, is that they're interpreting Islamic Law based on ancient conditions, where Islamic scholars use to equate apostasy (leaving the religion) to treason. Back then Islamic scholars used to define earth/world in geo-political terms of 'Dar al-Islam' the abode of Islam and 'Dar al-Harb' the abode of war. Which meant that if a person was not among the Muslims or from the Muslims he/she joined the other abode and committed an act of treason against the Islamic state. However in many parts of the Muslim world this was considered a narrow interpretation. Since in places like Spain and India where Muslims ruled for centuries they rarely ever persecuted non-Muslims.

The bottom line is Islam is not hurting for numbers, it continues to be one of the fastest growing religions (if not the fastest) and is the 2nd largest religious community in the world. Numbers are not important, as my father always told me "Ahmed, it's not the quanity that we need, it's the Quality!" He couldn't be more right.

Islamic scholars in Afghanistan need to rethink their position on the issue of apostasy, and interpert the Quran and Islamic law in the context and reality of today. There is NOT as single verse in the Quran that commands death for those that leave the faith.

While some might rightly argue that it is premature to release any statements on the individual case of Abdul Rahman, since we don't have the facts of his case, we can still take a position on the issue of apostasy. In the coming days and weeks we learn more and more about Abdul Rahman and why he was arrested in the first place.

To Read what other scholars have said about the topic, check out the following links:

Afghan Tried for Christianity

Fatwa: Dr. Jamal Badawi and Sheikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah on 'Freedom of Belief in Islam

note: Ahmed Bedier is not responsible for the content found on the above links and/or any other website.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Hosting Afghanistan National Army Delegation

Ahmed Bedier speaking to General Muhammad Amin Nasib of the Afghan National Army. Bedier hosted a delegation of 8 (including two women) of the new Afghan National Army at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area. Bedier shared with General Nasib and the delegation the diversity and freedoms American-Muslims enjoy in the United States. General Nasib who is on multi-week tour in America informed Bedier about progress made in Afghanistan. The tour and the visit was arranged by U.S. Military Central Command.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

VIDEO: Ahmed Bedier View on Danish Cartoons and Free Speech

** American Muslim view on Danish Cartoons and Free Speech **

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) representative Ahmed Bedier offers a video commentary on Tampa's Baynews9 on the Danish Cartoon controversy and freedom of speech