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National Post article on "Chasing a Mirage": A Voice of Moderation

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  • Tarek Fatah
    May 5, 2008 A voice of moderation Islam s message of peace overshadowed by politics, author Tarek Fatah says Charles Lewis National Post
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2008
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      May 5, 2008
       
      A voice of moderation
       
      Islam's message of peace overshadowed by politics, author Tarek Fatah says
       
      Charles Lewis
      National Post 
       
      A few years back, Tarek Fatah wrote a letter to The New York Times, saying what the Muslim world needed was a Martin Luther, some visionary like the old German monk to stand up against corruption and trigger a profound return to the real essence of faith.
       
      Sitting with him in a Toronto diner one morning last week, on the publication of his first book, Chasing the Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of An Islamic State, Mr. Fatah said he no longer thinks a single person is required to lead the way as Luther did. Instead, all Muslims need to cut through all that has ruined Islam and look to Muhammad alone to win their religion back from corrupters of the faith.
       
      "More than needing a Martin Luther, we need to be reading what Islamic history tells us without filtering it through what the politicians, the imams and clerics of today say," he said. "Of course, we need people to challenge that, and in some ways we all have to be like Martin Luther but the role model is Muhammad himself."
       
      Mr. Fatah, 58, is a rare breed: he is not a professor of Islamic studies nor a member of a think-tank. Nor, like popular author Irshad Manji, has he become a media darling. Instead, he has a day job as a medical writer to put food on the table. Yet, he is often cited as a well-known voice of moderate Islam, someone who regularly condemns in columns, interviews and letters to newspaper op-ed pages extremism and those who push Islamic supremacy.
       
      What he writes and says about Islam is obviously appealing to non-Muslims. His rejection of violence and intolerance is a reminder that not every Muslim should be tarred with the same brush.
       
      But when he goes on to say that Islam is "riddled with termites" or "if we don't cleanse ourselves with truth, the stench of our lies will drive us mad," and even that he is sickened because Western Islamic leaders do not speak out against Islamic terror, he is angering millions of believers who do not see the world the way he does.
       
      For such outspoken beliefs, he has been shoved, screamed at, had his car windows smashed and his life threatened. Just last week, a self-styled defender of the faith told the National Post that people like Mr. Fatah are "apostates," and therefore deserve a violent death.
       
      He also knows that other Muslims believe what he says is true but they do not like that he is saying it to outsiders. "I shouldn't say it to someone like you."
       
      Chasing the Mirage argues that the push to build an Islamic state has nothing to do with the Koran, but has always been and always will be a failure. The distinction, he writes, has to be made that the Prophet never intended for the building of an Islamic state but rather a spiritual state of Islam. The former is using Islam as a "tool through which you do politics" -- something he said must be rejected -- and the latter is the religion.
       
      As a believer, Mr. Fatah said all that is needed is in the Koran; the last verse of the holy book, he maintains, is the key: "This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion."
       
      But from the day the Prophet died in the 7th century until now, said Mr. Fatah, factions have been battling each other and those battles resound loudly today as Shia and Sunni believe the other hijacked the faith from the rightful heir.
       
      "The moment the Prophet died there was what I called, 'the night of long knives,' " Mr. Fatah said.
      "The [intra-Muslim] fighting we see today emanates from that moment. The way power was transferred the legitimacy sort by his successor was based on the doctrine of racial superiority of one group over the other.
       
      "If all our theology is structured around the Sunni notion that one tribe and one race is superior to everyone else, and the Shia notion is that the family of the descendants of the prophet have a divine right to be at the top, then our entire history is seen through this prism. And by choosing sides, they're buying into the mythologies."
       
      Mr. Fatah said what Islam is left with from both sides is the idea that to be Arabic is to be superior and that is borne out by the simple fact that non-Arab Muslims take Arabic names and adopt Arabic dress. And even Muslims in Pakistan, where he was born, try to trace their origins to Arabic roots --even if none really exist.
       
      He said Arab domination has overshadowed the message of peace and brought a strain of fanaticism that will be the ruin of everyone. And because so much Saudi money is used to finance Islamic organizations, including mosques, in the West, the situation is dire, he argues.
      "The sermons in those [financed] mosques are politicized and have only one agenda: that Western society is a satanic pagan society and it is the obligation of every young Muslim to fight the pagan in jihad," Mr. Fatah said.
       
      "As for Muslims," he said, "we are being used as frontline troops by those who seek medievalism and are upset by any semblance of joy and modernity. We have to take sides. In the end, Muslims will be the losers if they don't wake up."
       
      But from the day the Prophet died in the 7th century until now, said Mr. Fatah, factions have been battling each other and those battles resound loudly today as Shia and Sunni believe the other hijacked the faith from the rightful heir.
       
      "The moment the Prophet died there was what I called, 'the night of long knives,' " Mr. Fatah said.
      "The [intra-Muslim] fighting we see today emanates from that moment. The way power was transferred the legitimacy sort by his successor was based on the doctrine of racial superiority of one group over the other.
       
      "If all our theology is structured around the Sunni notion that one tribe and one race is superior to everyone else, and the Shia notion is that the family of the descendants of the prophet have a divine right to be at the top, then our entire history is seen through this prism. And by choosing sides, they're buying into the mythologies."
       
      Mr. Fatah said what Islam is left with from both sides is the idea that to be Arabic is to be superior and that is borne out by the simple fact that non-Arab Muslims take Arabic names and adopt Arabic dress. And even Muslims in Pakistan, where he was born, try to trace their origins to Arabic roots --even if none really exist.
       
      He said Arab domination has overshadowed the message of peace and brought a strain of fanaticism that will be the ruin of everyone. And because so much Saudi money is used to finance Islamic organizations, including mosques, in the West, the situation is dire, he argues.
       
      "The sermons in those [financed] mosques are politicized and have only one agenda: that Western society is a satanic pagan society and it is the obligation of every young Muslim to fight the pagan in jihad," Mr. Fatah said.
       
      "As for Muslims," he said, "we are being used as frontline troops by those who seek medievalism and are upset by any semblance of joy and modernity. We have to take sides. In the end, Muslims will be the losers if they don't wake up."
       
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