Two Iranian women spoke after me and challenged him on the fact that Muslims are more persecuted by Muslims than in the West. They gave their example and asked him why he doesn’t clearly condemn atrocities against Muslim women.
FP: And what did he say to them?
Raza: He said that this was not the forum for everything that has to be said and that they should visit his website where he has written about these issues.
FP: What do you think Tariq Ramadan’s agenda is? What exactly is he up to in your mind?
Raza: Tariq Ramadan is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and the blue-eyed boy of the Islamists, grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood and brother of Hanni Ramadan who advocates stoning for adultery.
Prof. Ramadan is slick and well spoken but his basic message is not against Sharia or stoning – all wrapped up in a mantle of religiosity. I caught him out when he spoke about the “victimization of Muslims in the West” which has become the battle cry of all Islamists. This is why the Qur’an-burning incident will remain alive in their minds for the next four generations – it plays into their idea that all Muslims are suffering from Islamophobia (and I don’t support this concept).
FP: What is your own native land that you refer to? Tell us a bit about where you are from and your journey.
Raza: I was born and raised in Pakistan – not the Pakistan you see today but a different Pakistan. I went to convent school which was choice education and also studied in co-ed schools. My classmates were Christian, Hindu, Zoroastrian and pluralism was rampant because religion was a personal choice. I guess I was born an activist and my father, an army dentist, supported me in activism. Pakistan was a beautiful country to grow up in. We learnt more about the West than they knew about us. Our academic courses and education was based on the British system and we lived a free, happy, life with an interest in music, science, intellectual debate and reading was the norm. Islam was our faith of choice because it allowed us to lead a moral and ethical life but it was not in-your-face.
In the 1970’s, Zia-ul-Haq took power in Pakistan and imposed religiosity down our throats. He laid the foundation for a Taliban-type regime, banning alcohol, forcing head covering in public and suffocated debate and discussion. Supported by Saudi petro-dollars, this ideology spread quickly. My husband and I decided this was not for us so we left. To my shock and dismay, the Saudi based, petro dollar Islam that was being imposed upon Islamic countries, followed us to North America. This led to 9/11 which saddened me but did not shock me as the writing was on the wall. My Jihad (struggle) became a battle to reclaim the spiritual Islam I grew up with which expected and allowed us to co-exist with others in harmony.
FP: What are your future plans? What are your hopes and fears?
Raza: I don’t fear people or opinions. People are free to like or dislike Islam and Muslims, but it should be an informed decision. Unfortunately, Islam portrayed on media or the Islam being practiced by radicals, is not the spiritual message of Islam. My hope is to be able to let North Americans see that a majority of Muslims are balanced and moderate, peace loving people. However, they are the silent majority and I hope they will see the light and wake up soon enough, so that the damage that is being caused to our faith can be healed.
You see, when the hijackers flew planes into the twin towers, they also hijacked my faith. Today, there are two parallel streams of Islam – political, radical and violent Islamists supported by billions by the Salafis and Wahhabis to brand their own ideology. And the spiritual, soft, beautiful message of a faith that is practiced by the Sufis who are not political activists. This message is the same as those that came before it – in fact true Islam resonates with Christianity and Judaism and can’t be separated from the two senior traditions as it has taken a lot of guidance from those teachings as mentioned in the Qur’an.
I am fortunate to live in a country, Canada, where I have a voice and I spend more time in Churches than most Christians do, because I have a message that we have more in common that differences. I believe that the initial solution to radical Islam has to come from within the Muslim communities. But we also need support from the mainstream where they need to engage with like-minded moderate Muslims to find solutions to the problem.
I’m concerned about those who hate Islam with a passion and are not willing to open their minds and hearts – for them I have no words. However, I am an eternal optimist and I know that most people are hungry to learn more so my work is reach out – not necessarily wait for results.
Ignorance about the spiritual message of Islam both by Muslims and non-Muslims has harmed us greatly and I know the only solution is to constantly build bridges, do damage control, and have interfaith dialogue — which is why I thank you for allowing my voice to be heard on your pages.
FP: And we thank you here at Frontpage, Raheel Raza, for coming to let your voice be heard. You are always welcome to join us and we wish you all the strength and fortitude you need to fight your battle for freedom — and against radical Islam.
Take care for now.
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