Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism

by Karima Bennoune

It's not often a book's title says the opposite of what is revealed in the text itself but that it is the case here. In fact, the book demonstrates just how many Muslim reformers are being threatened and murdered.

the result of two years of traveling and reporting, is meant as a wake-up call to her comrades on the left. Ms. Bennoune profiles dozens of poets, journalists, artists and average Muslims who resist Islamism, often at great personal cost and with scant support from Western liberals. From the American Midwest to Kabul, from Mali to Fiji, Muslims - Shia and Sunni, devout and irreligious alike - are being squeezed by theocrats and extremists. - Sohrab Ahmari, Wall Street Journal

Ms Bennoune travelled in Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Egypt, Somalia, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, or talked with refugees from those countries who are now living in exile. She interviewed nearly 300 anti-fundamentalist "people of Muslim heritage" from 26 countries who are activists for women's rights, journalists, artists, politicians, museum employees who are struggling for open, secular societies and the story they tell is of the hidden war in Islam, a war they are losing. The people she admires fight for women's equality, a free press, art, freedom of conscience, separation of church and state, humour, music and freedom but they are not representative of the majority in their countries nor are they numerically significant nor are they winning that war. Many of them live in exile in the West and they speak of their many dead friends and the terror they face for daring to try to live freely. The book while hardly cogent, well-written or well organised shows that the "fundamentalist" fatwas she deplores do apply throughout the Muslim world and that they are being enforced by terror and murder.

She identifies with Muslim culture, though she is an agnostic. She condemns Al Qaeda unequivocally: "I hate Al Qaeda" (p267). She condemns Muslims for "whitewashing" their message by saying one thing in English and another in Arabic (p17). She despises "left-wingers who have been drinking a certain kind of multicultural Kool-Aid" who "tell us how great … Sharia really is or can be if you just reinterpret it a little" (pp19-20). She critiques CAIR (p221). She sneers at Pakistani conspiracy theories that attribute Taliban atrocities to Americans, Hindus, and Jews (p243). She insists that US drone attacks do not justify Taliban killings (p247). She sniffs at invocations of Edward Said's concept of "orientalism" to muffle criticism of terrorism (p249). She rejects the idea that Islamic supremacists should be invited to participate in national life on the basis of tolerance and diversity, since they reject tolerance and diversity, and their inclusion would result in "One man, one vote, one time" (pp294-5). "'Compromise with Political Islam is Impossible,'" she quotes, approvingly (p341).

Ms Bennoune grew up in Algeria and left there when the country became gripped with violence against people like herself, her parents and her interviewees. What makes the book even more depressing is the author's risible ideas about the causes of this ongoing terrorism - it's all the fault of the U.S.A. There is no mention of the Quran's calls to violence and terror, no mention of the Islamic historic precedents for violence and terror and she puts Muslim terrorism in the same category as Christian fundamentalism and anti-Arab racism. Ignorant cultural relativism gone mad.

"Islamism is an international far-right movement that has murdered innumerable Charlie Hebdos over several decades across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, including many Muslims who have dared to … live twenty-first century lives (that are) prohibited by the Islamists. Being a woman, a freethinker, being gay, being unveiled, improperly veiled, an atheist, going to school, driving a car, having sex, falling in love, laughing out loud, dancing. … 'offends' them. Calling for civility, censorship, silence or 'respect' for the 'offended' is merely heeding the Islamist demand for submission (to clerical authority) at the expense of dissenters - whether (they) be Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia or Roya Nobakht in Iran." - Maryam Namazie

However, there is one place though where Muslims, coiffed, pierced and tattooed males or females, gay or straight, bohemian artists and hipsters can congregate in bars, speakeasies, discos and clubs, run gay film festivals and do it safely and openly. That is the Hadar neighbourhood of Haifa in Israel.

Hadar district of Haifa

NY Times, 4th January 2016