On December 23, hundreds will gather at a convention center in Toronto to hear from two dozen “distinguished scholars & presenters” from the Muslim world, as part of the 2022 Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference.
In contrast to the ideological divisions hampering Western Islamist activists this past year, this clerical gathering appears to have avoided the same fate. The Toronto conference contains an impressive array of radicals from a variety of different, competing strains of Sunni Islam and Sunni Islamism.
Two-thirds of the twenty-four listed speakers have a history of promoting extremism. The speakers include:
Tariq Jamil is a leader of Tablighi Jamaat, a South Asian Deobandi missionary organization that Western security services have tied to dozens of terror plots. According to Pakistani media, Jamil has “refused to issue fatwas condemning suicide bombing because according to their viewpoint that would have discouraged the brutal campaigns of their fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Palestine.”
Zaid Shakir is an American Muslim scholar and co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California.
In a 2001 article titled “Muslim involvement in the American political process,” Shakir wrote that Muslims should reject “the legal and political system of America,” which is “sinful and constitutes open rebellion against Allah.”
He argues that “Islam presents an absolutist political agenda, or one which doesn’t lend itself to compromise,” and that because Islamist involvement in politics has largely failed, Muslims should not discount violence, citing examples such as the Taliban’s “armed struggle” in Afghanistan.
Shakir further warns against “seeking the help of” or “befriending” the “kuffar [unbelievers], Jews and Christians.”
Ultimately, Shakir has concluded that the goal of American Muslims should be “the establishment of Islam and shari’ah in America,” employing methods “ranging from non-cooperation tactics to guerrilla war can bring about favorable policies from a governmental system, or even lead to the eradication of that system.”
Elsewhere, Shakir has argued that “Zionists” and the FBI were responsible for the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and insisted that there were “glaring weaknesses and inconsistencies in the official narrative” of the 9/11 attacks.
Yasir Qadhi is one of the most prominent Islamic clerics in the U.S. In 2001, Qadhi told an audience of Muslims:
Hitler never intended to mass-destroy the Jews. There are a number of books out on this written by Christians, you should read them. The Hoax of the Holocaust, I advise you to read this book and write this down, the Hoax of the Holocaust, a very good book. All of this is false propaganda and I know it sounds so far-fetched, but read it. The evidences [sic] are very strong. And they’re talking about newspaper articles, clippings, everything and look up yourself what Hitler really wanted to do. We’re not defending Hitler, by the way, but the Jews, the way that they portray him, also is not correct.
In an undated audio recording, Qadhi advocates killing homosexuals:
…this is a part of our religion to stone the adulterer and to chop the head off of the sorcerer and so many other things, and to kill, by the way, the homosexual – this is also our religion. … This is all a part of our religion. This doesn’t mean we go and do this in America but I’m saying if we had an Islamic state we would do this.
Despite claims he has renounced the extremism and anti-Semitism of his youth, in October 2016, Qadhi defended the Taliban to a commenter on Qadhi’s Facebook page, writing: “The Taliban might have had strange beliefs and customs (from your perspective), but it was their country that was falsely invaded, and they did what every single nation would do. Fight back. Sadly, some American politicians have far more blood on their hands than the Taliban and Al Qaeda combined…”
Born Jeffrey Kearse in Brooklyn in 1950. Siraj Wahhaj became involved in the black separatist movement in the late 1960s and converted to Islam under the guidance of Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Louis Farrakhan in 1969. Upon receiving clerical training in Saudi Arabia, however, Wahhaj embraced a Salafi strain of Sunni Islam. He subsequently founded Al-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn in 1981.
In the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, U.S. attorney Mary Jo White named Wahhaj as a potential unindicted co-conspirator in the bombing plot. Wahhaj served as a character witness for Abdel Rahman at trial, extolling him as a “respected scholar.”
The prophet cursed, la’ana, cursed the feminine man and the masculine woman. Cursed. The feminine man and the masculine woman. … Brothers and sisters, I don’t believe any of you are homosexual. This is a disease of this society. … I want you to be able to defend against these homosexuals.
Omar Suleiman, perhaps America’s best known imam, has been condemned by moderate Muslim activists for describing homosexuality as a “disease” and a “repugnant shameless sin.” He refers to the Islamic death penalty for the “people that practiced sodomy.”
In a talk titled “Fighting Zina,” Suleiman claims that women who are too close with their brothers are likely to commit incest. Women, he declares, should never be alone with a man outside of her family. Further, he warns, without condemnation, that women who commit adultery risk being killed by a family member.
Suleiman also works as an “instructor” at the Al Maghrib Institute, a prominent Salafi institution. His colleagues include Abdullah Hakim Quick, who calls upon God to “clean and purify Al-Aqsa from the ﬁlth of the Yahood [Jews]”; and Abu Eesa Niamatullah, who says of Jews: “They find it so easy and natural to do what they do….Look at them today, look at the way they massacre. They blow up babies like as if it’s a computer game. They have no humanity, no morality, no ethics.”
Mokhtar Maghraoui is a “foundation scholar” of the Al-Madina Institute. In one speech, Maghraoui defends the stoning of adulterers and the killing of criminals, but suggests that an Islamic society should show mercy.
Ubaydullah Evans is scholar-in-residence at the American Learning Institute for Muslims. Evans has argued that “A lot of people malign the Taliban,” adding “they were trying to run a country like you run a madrassa” and merely lacked “worldly sophistication.”
Yahya Rhodus is founding director of Al Maqasid, a seminary based in Pennsylvania.
In 2004, he reportedly refused to denounce Osama bin Laden, claiming it was “a little bit offensive for us to talk bad about someone behind their back.” When asked if he condemned Al Qaeda, Rhodus said: “I don’t really know too much about them enough to say any, yes I’m for them or no I’m against them.”
However, since then, Rhodus has largely encouraged a relatively quietist form of Islam, encouraging scholars to be politically “neutral.”
And then Allah…said if a person wishes to fulfil his desires, his common desires, there are only two ways he can fulfill these desires where he will not be held responsible for it. … How? What are the two things? … The first thing is that he fulfills his desires with a spouse. The second thing is that he fulfills his desires with a female slave that belongs to him.
One of the Qalam Institute’s courses – titled “The Prophetic Code” and taught by Kamani – warns Muslims to seek “cleanliness” and “purity” so they “do not resemble the Jews.” Kamani also cites Quranic commentary to advise parents: “Order your children to pray at the age of seven. And beat them (lightly) if they do not do so by the age of ten.”
In a talk titled “Sex, Masturbation and Islam,” Kamani explains that Muslim men may fulfill any sexual desires “with a female slave that belongs to him.” Those who commit adultery or have sex outside of marriage, Kamani explains, must be “stoned to death.” And when Muslim husbands are learning to “train their wives,” beating them, Kamani concedes, should only be a “last measure.”
Western society, Kamani declares, is “filth. … We are surrounded by filth … our environment is full of this filth, everywhere we turn.”
Abdul Nasir Jangda
Abdur Nasir Jangda is a Texas-based cleric and founder of the Qalam Institute. Jangda studied at a Deobandi madrassah – Jamia Binoria in Karachi, Pakistan. In 2009, the BBC journalist John Humphreys reported that Jamia Binoria was “brainwashing” children into supporting terrorism. In 2015, Pakistani law enforcement raided the seminary after including it on a list of madrassahs linked to terrorist organizations.
According to detailed notes published by one of his students, Jangda has defended the use of female sex slaves within Islam. He reportedly advocated the killing of apostates and adulterers, and appears to sanction marital rape: “The thing to understand is that the husband has his set of divinely given rights one of which is the right to have his physical desires satisfied.”
Yasmin Mogahed is an instructor at the Al Maghrib Institute. She has stated that a homosexual who follows through with his desires is “not just like the cattle or just like the animal, he becomes lower than the animal.”
The late Al Maghrib founder Muhammad Alshareef warned that “Jews were cursed” and that Muslims must not “imitate them” or “take them as allies.”
Ieasha Prime is the executive director of Barakah, Inc. In 2018, Buzzfeed criticized Prime for downplaying the horrors of female genital mutilation, and offering apologia for a radical imam, Shaker El-Sayed, who had sought to justify FGM as an Islamic means to curb women’s “hypersexuality.”
Muhammad ibn Adam Al-Kawthari
A British Deobandi cleric, Al-Kawthari has written that a husband may hit his wife if she is “slanderous or violates Islamic rulings,” as long as it is a last resort and “a light blow that leaves no mark.” In addition, Al-Kawthari has declared that women should not travel more than 48 miles without their husband or a guardian, may not refuse husbands’ demands for sex, and should be stoned to death for adultery.
Kawthari’s other fatwas and lectures are similarly extreme. He advocates chopping off thieves’ hands, and warns Muslims against offering the Islamic greeting to Jews and Christians, citing religious texts that command: “Do not commence by greeting the Christians and Jews with Salam. If you meet one of them on a pathway, force them to walk on the side.”
Joram Van Klaveren
Joram Van Klaveren is a former far-right member of the Dutch parliament who converted to Islam. He has fully embraced Islamist causes, while also frequently promoting Russian propaganda about the elimination of U.S. “collaborators” and Ukrainian “Nazis.”
Sam Westrop is director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum