Encounter and Counter:
Coming Together to Challenge
the Islamist Narrative

Women’s Rights

Championing women’s rights is fundamental to the struggle against Islamist extremism,
which is why we are beginning our conference by addressing this vital issue.

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© Copyright 2016 Clarion Project 

This online conference gathers Muslim and non-Muslims from around the world to discuss solutions to the problem of Islamist extremism. We believe by forging a bond between these diverse thinkers and activists we can create a framework to bridge cross cultural divides and challenge Islamism.

The Role of non-Muslims in Challenging Islamism

Building a Counter-narrative

Baroness Caroline Cox
Founder and CEO of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust

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Learn more about why we are doing this conference:

Clarion Project in partnership with the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow
presents

Non-Muslims are profoundly impacted by Islamist extremism but must be careful not to worsen community relations.
We discuss the limits of their role.

It is not enough merely to oppose, to be successful we must establish an alternative.
Here we assess what that vision should look like.

Asra
Nomani

Journalist and Women’s Rights Activist

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Yasmin
Rahman
Board member of Centre for Secular Space, Freelance consultant

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Dr Nazand Begikhani
Writer, Poet, Academic Researcher

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Chair:
Raheel Raza
President, Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow

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Aki
Muthali
Writer and Activist

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Raza
Rumi
Pakistani Journalist

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Sohail
Ahmed
Former Islamist, now activist from UK

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Hussein
Solomon
Professor at the University of the Free State, South Africa

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Chair:
Dr. Zudhi Jasser
Founder and President, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy

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Chair:
Dr. Elham Manea
Political Science Professor, University of Zurich

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Sultan
Shahin
Editor, NewAgeIslam.com

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Shireen
Qudosi
Editor, The Qudosi Chronicles

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Nima
Rashedan
Journalist and Researcher

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Mohammed
Amin
Chair of Conservative Home, UK

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Paul Salahuddin
Armstrong
Co-Director, Association of British Muslims

View Bio

Women’s Rights

Championing women’s rights is fundamental to the struggle against Islamist extremism,
which is why we are beginning our conference by addressing this vital issue.

Asra
Nomani
Journalist and Women’s Rights Activist

View Bio

Dr Nazand Begikhani
Writer, poet, academic researcher

View Bio

Yasmin
Rahman
Board member of Centre for Secular Space, Freelance consultant

View Bio

Baroness Caroline Cox
Founder and CEO of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust

View Bio

Chair:
Raheel Raza
President, Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow

View Bio

The Role of non-Muslims in Challenging Islamism

Non-Muslims are profoundly impacted by Islamist extremism but must be careful not to worsen community relations.
We discuss the limits of their role.

Raza
Rumi
Pakistani Journalist

View Bio

Sohail
Ahmed
Former Islamist, now activist from UK

View Bio

Hussein
Solomon
Professor at the University of the Free State, South Africa

View Bio

Nima
Rashedan
Journalist and Researcher

Chair:
Dr. Zudhi Jasser
Founder and President, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy

View Bio

Building a
Counter-narrative

It is not enough merely to oppose, to be successful we must establish an alternative.
Here we assess what that vision should look like.

Chair:
Dr. Elham Manea
Political Science Professor, University of Zurich

Sultan
Shahin
Editor, NewAgeIslam.com

Paul Salahuddin
Armstrong
Co-Director, Association of British Muslims

Mohammed
Amin
Chair of Conservative Home, UK

Shireen
Qudosi
Editor, The Qudosi Chronicles

Aki
Muthali
Writer and Activist

View Bio

Chair: Dr. Elham Manea
Political Science Professor, University of Zurich

Dr. Elham Manea is an associate professor specialized on the Middle East, a writer, and a human rights activist. She is a Fulbright scholar who holds a PhD degree in political science from the University of Zurich, a Masters degree in comparative politics from the American University in Washington D.C, and a Bachelor degree in political science from Kuwait University. She has published academic and non-fiction books in English, German, and Arabic in addition to two novels in Arabic. Her latest publication was a book entitled The Arab State and Women’s Rights: The Trap of Authoritarian Governance.

What makes you happy?
Nothing so far.

What makes you sad?
Two issues:

  • The lack of clear vision in Western political circles on how to define and fight Islamism. This ranges from a) lack of recognition of the role played by non-violent Islamism in paving the ground for violent Islamism to b) calling violent Islamists fighting Al Assad regimes ‘moderate’ fighters, despite the fact that they share the same ideology (Reminds me of the moderate Mujahedeen in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet troops_ Usama bin Laden was one of them).
  • The rise of Daesch and the infatuation of segments of youth in European and North American countries with its ideology

What makes you angry?
In my forthcoming book I identified a paradigm of thinking in politics and academic circles and called it the ‘Essentialist Paradigm’. What makes me angry is the dominance of this paradigm in western political and academic circles in how they deal with Islamism. This paradigm has four specific ideological features. The first is a combination of multiculturalism and legal pluralism in a social context. The second is group rights, the third is cultural relativism, and the fourth is the white man’s burden. The prism of the essentialist paradigm underestimates the totalitarian nature of Islamism and sometimes discards it all together and considers Islamists true and authentic representative of Muslim aspirations.

What gives you hope?
Two developments:

  • A nascent global movement working together to challenge Islamism and its discourse;
  • Youth movements in different Arab and Islamic countries, featured by their rejection of reactionary classical interpretation of Islam and authoritarian style of governance.

Sultan Shahin
Editor, NewAgeIslam.com

Sultan Shahin is the founder and editor of New Age Islam.com, a multilingual website which aims at “mapping a new agenda for the 21st century” (for Muslims). He is also journalist with over 40 years of experience who has been published widely in Indian and international media outlets.

What makes you happy?
Nothing could possibly make me happy about Islamist extremism, but it’s possible that the current widespread debate may make us Muslims more aware of the inherent extremism in our thinking. Most Muslims harbour and even express supremacist, xenophobic thoughts without understanding their implications. This may change under present scrutiny.

What makes you sad?
What makes me sad is the response of my community. There is hardly any introspection. In fact self-styled Muslim leaders and religious scholars are using the growing fear of Islam as an opportunity for intensifying denial and victimhood. Conspiracy theories are invented every day to blame others and avoid looking within.

What makes you angry?
It makes me angry that despite all the Islamist violence surrounding us, our community continues to teach our children the same theology of violence and intolerance that scholars have evolved in centuries to expand the Islamic dominion. Indeed its influence has grown phenomenally in the last four decades.

What gives you hope?
One, Muslims are condemning ISIS brutality more honestly than before, though they still reveal denial and victimhood by calling it a Zionist-American implant. Two, some progressive Muslims are engaged in evolving an alternative theology of peace and pluralism, though their effort lacks coordination and grassroots support.

Mohammed Amin
Chair of Conservative Home, UK

Mohammed Amin is the Chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum, an organization affiliated with the UK's Conservative Party. He was formerly a leader within the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an organization with links to the Muslim Brotherhood, and is one of the founders of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester. Outside of interfaith he worked in finance as a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers. His website can be found here. He was previously interviewed by Clarion Project here.

What makes you happy?
The governments of all countries have consistently made it clear that violent Islamist extremism is an aberrant and distorted interpretation of Islam, and that these terrorists do not speak for Islam and do not represent ordinary Muslims. I am not aware of any government enacting anti-Muslim legislation.

What makes you sad?
Organizations speaking on behalf of Muslims in Britain and America which regularly deny that these terrorists are anything to do with Islam and often deny that they are Muslims. While well-meaning, it makes them look foolish or even duplicitous, and damages other people’s perceptions of Islam and Muslims.

What makes you angry?
I am completely outraged by the terrorists themselves. They have twisted my religion into a death cult, murdered large numbers of innocent people both Muslim and non-Muslim, and have led millions of non-Muslims around the world to believe that Islam is a hateful, backward religion that encourages killing non-Muslims.

What gives you hope?
The crimes of Islamic state are so awful that they will teach mainstream Muslims that religion has no part to play in government and that any attempt to legislate to impose your religious beliefs on other people, whether of the same or of other religions, inevitably leads to tyranny.

Nima Rashedan
Journalist and Researcher

Nima Rashedan was one of the first 'cyber-dissidents' in Iran. He began writing and wordking as a student activist in 1996 and in 1998 he was arrested. In 1999 he was placed in solitary confinement in Iran's notorious Evin prison. After his release he moved to Switzerland and since then has travelled and worked as a pro-democracy activist.
He has previously been interviewed by Clarion Project here.

Shireen Qudosi
Editor, The Qudosi Chronicles

Shireen Qudosi is an author and the founder of Qudosi Chronicles, a blog about Islam in the 21st century which supports Muslim Reformers. For over ten years she has been an active advocate of progressive Islam, both educating non-Muslims about Islam and encouraging Muslims to engage in dialogue.
She has previously been interviewed by Clarion Project here.

What makes you happy?
This is such a simple question but so immensely difficult to answer, because engaging in dialogue against Islamic extremism isn’t something you do because it makes you happy. In fact there, there’s very little happiness in it and most of that happiness is a distant promise.
This is a dialogue you engage in not because it makes you happy, but because it can bring future happiness to a world of people.
Until then, the small moments of happiness are found when battles are won – whether it’s a battle that brings together the right people or knocks down another wall. That’s where you find a reprieve and a moment where you can sigh relief. For now, that has to count as happiness.

What makes you sad?
Seeing how Islamic extremism has destroyed the lives of mothers and children – that’s beyond devastating and it’s unbearable to see as a mother and as a person who is deeply passionate about the inherent dignity of children.
Seeing a child in beyond deplorable conditions, seeing them stripped of their dignity as people with the right to their own reality, seeing mothers struggling to give their children the most basic protection – that is unbearable beyond measure.

What makes you angry?
I feel a surge of riotous anger whenever I see people in cages of the mind – whether they’re entering them, luring in others, or polishing the bars of a pristine ‘safe space’ that is nothing more than the highest abomination against a God of all things.
To see people, especially educated and well-intentioned people, sacrifice free will, imagination and curiosity at the altar of dogma and compulsive obedience, is infuriating. But ultimately, it is love – and not anger- that’s a driving force in the work I do and dialogues I engage in. It is the love for the future world of people, and for the spirit of possibility, which is a driving force behind anything I write.

What gives you hope?
It’s difficult to challenge Islamic extremism on hope alone. Hope is a fleeting wish. Faith and conviction is what gives me the momentum to keep moving forward. I don’t know what tomorrow brings for me personally, but I do know that I will succeed here. There is no other way. There’s a quote by Arundathi Roy, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
I can hear her breathing – and that breath grows deeper as this world grows more chaotic.

Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
Co-Director, Association of British Muslims

Paul Salahuddin Armstrong is an Islamic scholar and activist and the co-director of the Association of British Muslims, the UK's oldest Islamic organization. Since he converted to Islam in 2000, he has been involved in interfaith and outreach work as well as promoting what he terms classical Islam as opposed to Islamism. He is the founder of Khilafah Online, an organization trying to reclaim the concept of Khilafah from Islamists and the WulfrunaSufi Association, which promotes a mystical interpretation of Islam.
He has previously been interviewed by Clarion Project here.

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