The Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity seeks to “build a cohesive, global movement of Muslim women that will reclaim women’s rights in Islam, enabling them to make dignified choices and fully participate in creating just and flourishing societies.” This initiative is consistent with Imam Rauf’s assertion that authentic Islam, contrary to popular opinion, is highly respectful of women’s rights and freedoms. In a 2009 piece he penned for the Huffington Post, Rauf stated:
“The Prophet Muhammad has been known as the first feminist. … Gender equality is an intrinsic part of Islamic belief. The Qur’an makes no difference in the religious obligations of men and women and set the stage for women’s rights. Many of the limits placed on women in Muslim societies are due to local custom more than to Islamic teaching.”
Rauf’s claim is entirely inconsistent with the subjugation of women that is deeply rooted in Quranic teachings and Islamic traditions. For further details on these teachings and traditions, click here.
The ASMA Media program seeks to “promote an accurate, contextual, and balanced portrayal of Islam and Muslims, providing responsive and reliable information to media outlets and the general public.” This initiative aims to whitewash the aggressive and bellicose teachings of Islam – portraying them as isolated excerpts that, when viewed in their proper context, are merely anomalies that are unrepresentative of Islam’s generally peaceful goals. In a June 2005 interview in which Rauf participated on The Jackie Mason Show, the host noted that the Qur’an “says you should behead the infidel, that people … from other religions should either be beheaded, they should be skinned, they should be killed, tortured, murdered.” “Why does the Qur’an say this?” Mason asked Rauf. “That’s what confuses everybody.” To this, Rauf replied:
“One of the difficulties in interpretation of text always, even in the Bible for that matter, is that there are certain verses which were revealed in certain contexts and certain times…. Many of these verses were revealed in certain contexts where the Prophet and his followers were not allowed to practice their religion. Like most prophets, like Jesus and Moses, who are highly regarded by Muslims, they were suppressed in those societies, not allowed to practice their faith. And permission was granted to the Muslims to fight those who fought them for that reason. However other verses in the Qur’an also are very clear on saying that the moment they stop fighting, [when] they sue for peace, then you should actually negotiate a peace treaty.”
In another 2005 interview, Rauf was asked: “Some Christians point to violent passages in the Qur’an. Other Christians point out there are similarly violent passages in the Bible. Do Muslims tend to downplay these Qur’an passages just as Christians do with the Bible? For example, at a Christian church service in America, you’re unlikely to hear a Bible passage where people are urged to kill each other even though such things are in the Bible. Is it the same with the Qur’an? Would such passages be read at mosques?: Rauf replied:
“They [these passages] are certainly not mentioned as the meat of the religion. Having said that, [some] groups feel that Islam is under attack. A few young males say, ‘the West is engaged in a crash of civilization, they [Westerners] want to destroy Islam, we have to protect it.’ So they [the young Muslim males] would draw from these controversial passages in the Qur’an.”
Rauf was speaking in a live interview with WND senior reporter Aaron Klein, who hosts a show on New York’s WABC Radio.
Klein asked Rauf on his show whether the imam agrees with the State Department’s designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization.
“I’m not a politician,” replied Rauf. “I try to avoid the issues. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question. … I’m a bridge builder. I define my work as a bridge builder. I do not want to be placed, nor do I accept to be placed in a position of being put in a position where I am the target of one side or another.”
Klein pointed out Hamas attacks have targeted civilians and asked Rauf again whether that qualifies to define Hamas as terrorists.
Rauf stated: “The targeting of civilians is wrong. It is a sin in our religion. Whoever does it, targeting civilians is wrong. I am a supporter of the state of Israel. … I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary.”
When Klein persisted in asking about Hamas, Rauf charged the radio host of “accus[ing] me of things. You are killing the messenger.”
“You are trying to bring down the person who is trying to build security between our country and our faith tradition,” said Rauf. “My urge to you. I have worked for the law-enforcement agencies.”
Klein interrupted, stating, “And yet you refuse to tell me Hamas is a terror organization.”
In 2004, Rauf published What’s Right with Islam. In this book, he voices a theme upon which he has touched many times in his career – the notion that the “American Constitution and system of governance uphold the core principles of Islamic law.” The “American political structure is shari’ah-complaint,” he maintains, noting that since Muslim jurists over the centuries have “defined five areas of life” to be protected by Islamic law — life, mind, religion, property, and family. In a 2005 interview, Rauf reiterated the notion that U.S. legal and political traditions are “shari’a compliant.” This “really means,” he said, that “there’s a religious commandment to build the right society, to have a sense of social justice and a social safety net, to have laws that take care of human beings, that aren’t prejudiced against people.”