Loyalty is part of Islam

A small minaret next to a square white building with tall, narrow windows and arch-shaped decorations in between.
Dar al-Hijrah, Falls Church, Virginia

Last year, it was discovered that two men had been spying on major Islamic organisations in the USA and taking money from a hate group run by someone known since the 90s for spreading hostile misinformation and stereotypes about Muslims. One of the men was Romin Iqbal, a long-time leader of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) in Ohio, but the other was Tariq Nelson, someone I was familiar with back in the blogging days who deleted his blog some years ago and disappeared, but was active in the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, and it was this organisation he passed information about to the hate group. This came to light after a whistleblower, who had joined the so-called Investigative Project on Terrorism after 9/11 but come to believe that its founder, Steven Emerson, was disrespectful of Islam and that the organisation was a pro-Israel lobbying organisation rather than against terrorism, contacted CAIR and provided them with transcripts and recordings implicating the two men. According to the Washington Post, Nelson accepted $3,000 a month from the IPT between mid-2008 and late 2011.

I remember Tariq Nelson’s blog well; it was one of the more moderate and sensible blogs back in the day, until it simply disappeared without explanation. A lot of blogs disappeared at the end of the 2000s and some of the authors are no longer Muslim. Others had kept blogs more for social networking and transferred onto Facebook and in some cases Twitter. Umar Lee had also been a prominent figure on the blog scene and it is he who has stepped up to defend Nelson, with a very long essay on Medium. He made this claim on Twitter ([1], [2]), for example:

In response to Brother Tariq I’ve found that two groups of people are most unforgiving:

Group A- view Islam primarily as a political identity

Group B- view Islam as a gang affiliation

Group A strip away all theology and treat it as a political mafia and Group B has come up with their own fiqh- murder and robbery is halal, but pants below your ankles a major sin.

According to the WP report, Nelson “said he rationalized his work for IPT by saying he was trying to convince groups hostile to Islam that his Muslim community was upstanding — while also pocketing the fee for providing what he saw as harmless information”. But it was still inside information that the Muslims who had trusted him had not given permission to be passed on. Given who was running the IPT, it should have been obvious that this was not really about preventing terrorism but about stigmatising and censoring Muslim opinions and fomenting suspicion and stereotypical views of Muslims, its founder notorious for pontificating at length on TV about “Middle Eastern traits” in a terrorist attack which turned out to have been the work of White supremacists, not Muslims at all (the Oklahoma City federal building bombing).

The Muslims may not be a gang, but we are a community of believers with shared faith and values. There are numerous hadith about the virtues of trustworthiness, the sinfulness of spying and backbiting, the necessity of loyalty to the Muslims. Faith and loyalty are two sides of the same coin; the word ‘faithful’ means dependable as well as believing in. There’s no excuse for any Muslim to be volunteering information about Muslims to open enemies of Islam on the quiet. We might tell the police, if we were aware of actual criminality (including terrorism), though we don’t lead the people involved on, but that is a different thing from selling information, even if you see it as harmless at the time. The excuses Umar Lee offers at length about Tariq Nelson’s background and about ‘microaggressions’ from Arab and Pakistani Muslims do not cut ice either; you can’t do the dirty on the Muslims just because they are not always kind to you. Consider how the Salaf remained loyal to the Muslim state even when the leaders were tyrants — they witnessed considerably worse injustice than anything you might encounter at the local mosque.

Umar Lee in my experience has a soft spot for Jews and a blind spot for the hatred many of them hold towards Muslims, Arabs in particular. When there were blogs devoted to spreading hatred for Muslims in the Bush years, it was obvious that many of the names of the commenters were Jewish or suggested an affinity for Israel or a familiarity with Israeli slang, but he insisted that it was all coming from White supremacists who were also anti-Black and antisemitic. This is in line with a lot of the mainstream political Left whose view of racial politics is stuck in the mid-20th century and have not grasped that hatred for Islam and Muslims unites a lot of people who were previously opposed. I am not defending people who just hate Jews because of their race or religion, but Muslims should know their enemies and pro-Israel securocrats, who talk about ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’ but mean Muslims having opinions, are among the foremost of them. No Muslim should be dealing with them on any level, debating them, treating them like honest brokers or taking money from them, and anyone who does is a fool and anyone who does so on the quiet betrays everyone.

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