Obama’s Muslim Czar
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Dalia Mogahed is advisor on all matters Islamic whom Obama has appointed to the Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She describes her role in the Obama administration as a communicator to the president and other public officials of “what it is Muslims want.” In other words, she is Obama’s Muslim czar. As such, her particular brand of Islam warrants some scrutiny.
According to an article by Stephen Schwartz, a prominent American convert to Islam, in the Weekly Standard on October 20, 2009, it turns out that the Islam embraced by Mogahed is decidedly fundamentalist — a brand that endorses Shariah or Islamic law (which, of course, goes against American laws), approves of a restricted role for women (including the wearing of the Muslim headdress, hajib, in public), and calls for a global Islamic government.
Born in Egypt, Mogahed was brought to America as a child; earned a master’s in business; collaborated with tireless defender of radical Islam Georgetown professor John L. Esposito in producing a controversial study, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think; and became a senior analyst and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies.
Early in October, Mogahed gave a telephone interview to a British Muslim fundamentalist television network, IslamChannel. The program also interviewed Nazreen Nawaz, a female representative of the ultra-radical Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT), or the Islamic Liberation Party, as a live guest. HT calls for a global Islamic regime (the “caliphate”), under sharia law, and the destruction of the West. The show was posted on Sunday, October 4, to HT’s UK website here.
On that program with an Islamic extremist advocate, not only did Mogahed not make any effort to establish any distance between their views, she delivered a defense of sharia law, and, in particular, its application to women. She alleged that “the perception of sharia and portrayal of sharia has been oversimplified even among Muslims,” and called for sharia to be viewed “holistically” (whatever that means). According to her, “the majority of women around the world associate sharia with ‘gender justice’” — a dignity that fundamentalist Muslims maintain is absent in the West. Mogahed further declared that Muslim women support “universal values of justice and equality” but reject “Western values,” which she associated with sexual promiscuity and male disrespect of women.
The extremist Islamic HT spokeswoman Nawaz launched a wholesale attack on democracy and denunciation of “man-made law” as inferior to sharia. HT stands out for its anti-Jewish rhetoric, and is banned in some countries, such as Germany and Turkey, but operates legally in others, from the U.S. and Britain to Indonesia. HT has escaped wider suppression because it preaches, but does not practice, violence.
Mogahed described her role in the Obama administration as “to convey to the Advisory Council, to the president, and to other public officials what it is Muslims want.” Mogahed presented herself as “simply a researcher” capable of offering “accurately, and in a representative way, the actual views of Muslims.” But Mogahed also spoke benevolently of unidentified people, including non-Muslims, who favor “that the United States, and Britain, and other countries should be open to the concept of integrating sharia into law in Muslim-majority societies.” She stated that “of course, most Muslim-majority societies do have sharia as a part of their laws already.”
In reality, most Muslim-majority societies do not currently treat sharia as a part of public law, but as a separate corpus applicable only to exclusively religious matters. Sharia-dominated countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Sudan represent exceptions, not the rule. Muslim countries, including those ruled by sharia, have no shortage of victimized women and abusive men. In Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, crimes against women, including forced marriage, forced divorce, and female genital mutilation, are protected by sharia. This is something the whole world recognizes and many Muslims repudiate.
The reality is that sharia law is most often employed to oppress women, not to free them from the blandishments of the sinful West. The Mogahed approach discounts the widespread, moderate Muslim view that sharia, like other canons of religious law, should apply only to standards for diet, forms of prayer, and other strictly individual or personal options.
In a conference in Europe last year, Dalia Mogahed also erroneously compared and equated sharia to America’s Declaration of Independence. She said that shari’a represents to many Muslims a kind of declaration of independence, affirming that God wants to bring justice to all people and that God’s justice is higher than the distorted and haphazard tyranny of modern dictators. However repressive shari’a might appear to Westerners, it is actually a major step up for many Muslims who suffer under systems with corrupt dictators in the capital city and crooked police officers in the neighborhood.
To conclude, Obama’s Muslim czar’s views on Islam are the same as the outlook of Islamists in Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and other countries threatened by fundamentalist tyranny, in which religious governance is posed as the sole alternative to secular dictatorship. She and other fundamentalist Muslims regard democracy as Western in origin and thus not “universal.” Democracy is rejected as one of those corrupt Western practices along with free sex and male supremacy.
At a time when Muslims around the world are increasingly turning toward civil society, Dalia Mogahed offers the retrograde fantasy of sharia as liberating, even as comparable with the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Such an individual is inappropriate as an adviser to the president, and can do great harm by providing an American seal of approval to extreme sharia ideology.