On Sunday, June 24, 2018, Muslims Facing Tomorrow hosted a book launch of books in Toronto, Canada by two of our board members, Dr. Salim Mansur and Hasan Mahmud. Both books deal with current dilemmas facing Muslims in the 21st Century and are part of the Islamic reform we are involved in.
Dr. Salim Mansur’s book is titled The Qur’an Problem and Islamism: Reflections of a Dissident Muslim. The book is about religion and politics, Muslims and Islam, and the internal debate within the world of Islam regarding Islamic reform and what it entails.
Hasan Mahmud’s book, How Sharia-ism Hijacked Islam: The Problem, Prognosis, and Prescription, is a life-changing book for Muslims everywhere. It details the greatest threat most of us (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) face today: radicalization and extremism based on flawed principles and dangerous theologies. This book identifies the theo-mechanism of radical Islam and offers a counter mechanism from the same scriptures to defeat radical Islamism.
The event was held at a community library, and there was a great turnout of diverse people on that beautiful day. There were Muslims, Christians, Jews and atheists in the room.
However, there was one gentleman, who I will call Mr. Nut Job, who came to the event early. He carried with him pieces of paper with Quranic verses written on them and said that he was thinking of converting to Islam. He also said is had many questions.
We were happy to welcome him. However once the event started, he began to show his true colors. It was obvious that he was never thinking of converting to Islam – he actually hated Islam and Muslims. Mr. Nut Job started loudly and aggressively throwing verses at the speakers and demanding answers (even though none would ever convince him).
We quickly caught on that he was there to create trouble, but in the interest of freedom of speech, we let him rant and rave. As per our mandate, we always encourage healthy and respectful debate and discussion. But Mr. Nut Job was not looking for answers – he was there to challenge us. Eventually he said, “I don’t want to see any Muslims in the Western world.”
Mr. Nut Job and those like him are the flip side of Islamist extremists. Like the Taliban, Boko Haram and ISIS, they use selective lines from the Quran with no context. Like the extremists, Mr. Nut Job was not willing to hear a reasonable explanation of why we call ourselves “Muslims Facing Tomorrow” – namely to leave behind some of the text in the 7th century parking lot and promote the more compassionate and tolerant verses of the Quran (which are in the majority).
Mr. Nut Job incessantly yelled and screamed at our speakers. At one point, an audience member asked him: “Do you have a plan? Do you have a militia to do your dirty work or a lobby to influence the Canadian parliament about your plan?” He was stumped. The guest reminded him that eliminating a community has been tried before, and it’s not the solution.
Rather, the solution is exactly what we are doing, which is to reform the way in which Muslims interpret and implement the Quran in their lives. We reminded him that while Muslims believe the Quran is the word of God, it has a human interpretation that is open to various ways of understanding it. The two books that we were launching at the event dealt exactly with this issue. If he would take the time to read them, he might have found some answers to his questions.
However Mr. Nut Job and those like him are not interested in solutions. He harassed most of the audience and especially the younger people, inviting someone to punch him so he could say, “Muslims are violent.”
This episode was a wake-up call for many of us. We could have shouted “Islamophobia,” but that is not a solution either.
One thing it showed us is that reformist Muslims like ourselves are facing challenges on many fronts:
First, we are battling two kinds of extremists: On the one hand, the mullahs and jihadists from whom we want to take back the faith; and on the other hand, the Islam-hating, Muslim-bashing white supremacists. Neither of these groups are willing to adhere to reason and logic.
To top it off, we are dealing with organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which, without any proof, lambasts moderate Muslims as extremists. The SPLC just lost a law suit to one such Muslim and his organization — Maajid Nawaz and the Quilliam Foundation.
Groups like the SPLC create confusion for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Mr. Nut Job also showed us that stifling healthy discussion and debate has created a vacuum in which people like him can easily fill with the seeds of hate.
As we were leaving the event, Mr. Nut Job stood outside and shouted at us, “You are all a bunch of f——g terrorists!” A good day to you, too.