Ms. Raheel Raza, President, Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada
The session was part of the ICT's 16th World Summit on Counter-Terrorism: "Unpuzzling Terrorism". Ms. Raza discussed the possibility of a Muslim reform- a change in the way Muslims understand and implement Islam in their lives. She noted three principles which make up the core of the reform: peace, human rights and a secular government. She argued that by naming and shaming radical jihadists, we will be able to provide an alternative narrative and hope for the younger generation.
Ms. Raza presented a Muslim reform ‘Muslims Facing Tomorrow’. She stated the goals of the reform, the objectives it promotes, and what it strongly opposes. She noted the importance of reforming the way of thinking towards Islam. She said that the Muslim Brotherhood and Wahhabism also aimed to bring about reforms in the past, but they failed to implement them in a peaceful manner. The Muslim Brotherhood now calls themselves a ‘martyred’ group.
Ms. Raza stressed that she talks only on the behalf of liberal, progressive, and reform-minded Muslims. According to Ms. Raza, a reform represents the only antidote for terrorism. In Ms. Raza’s words, “we are not trying to reform the scripts, we are trying reform the way Muslims understand and implement Islam in their lives.” The reform aims to challenge violent aspects of Islamic teaching which have to be understood in a different light. Ms. Raza stressed that the violent narrative has to be changed. She also stated that the secondary texts need to be questioned openly and Islam needs to be seen through the lens of human rights. Sharia law, which endorses the killing of non-Muslims and Jews, needs to be rejected. She stated that Islam and Muslims need to be brought into the 21st century. Moreover, she strongly emphasized the need to support the Declaration of Human Rights regardless of religious belief. The reform is also against the politicization of Islam and supports the creation of secular governments.
Three principles are in core of the reform – peace, human rights and secular government. Ms. Raza argued that “if we want peace we need to reject the notion of armed jihad.” Armed jihad, she said, needs to be left in the 7th century when the writings were current and we need to face the situation of today and tomorrow and not look back to the history. Furthermore, we need to target the ideology of violent Islamic extremists.
Ms. Raza stressed that one of the key principles is secular government, and that Muslims can only experience their religion freely when they live under a secular government. According to Ms. Raza, a secular government means that a particular dogma is not forced on them. She also emphasized that there is no need for an Islamic caliphate because Muslims shall be loyal to their countries of origin. Sharia law should be rejected as an institutionalized way of governance, but is acceptable on a personal level.
Ms. Raza’s initiative is embedded in equal rights for women in terms of inheritance, employment, education, mobility, and personal law. Towards the end of her speech, Ms. Raza encouraged everyone to think critically and be open of the criticisms towards Islam. In her words “it is important to name and shame the radical jihadists and acknowledge what they have done to the Islam faith.” She concluded by saying that it is possible to provide an alternative narrative and hope for the younger generation.