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Why Can’t the MSM Investigate Rauf’s Shariah Index Project?

There is plenty of available, verifiable information that belongs in the GZM debate.

by
Carel Brendel

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August 25, 2010 - 12:01 am
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The Shariah Index Project seeks to address the religion-politics relationship question that has racked the Muslim World since the death of the Prophet Muhammad. …

After two years of work, the Shariah Index Project’s Sunni and Shi’a working team of legal scholars from Morocco to Indonesia achieved consensus on a final structure on philosophy, methodology, and approach to providing the general public, opinion leaders, and state officials in both the Muslim and Western World with an Islamic legal benchmark for measuring “Islamicity” of a state.

On their website you can only find pieces of information about the Shariah Index Project, one of the main activities of the Cordoba Initiative, the organization of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. But thanks to Christine Brim, chief operating officer at the Center for Security Policy, we know now a lot more about it.

Brim published a very informative background article, exposing the Shariah benchmark project run by the “close-to-Ground-Zero” imam.

Otherwise, the debate about the Ground Zero mosque is raging on American websites, yet the number of outlets covering the issue is inversely proportional to the number of facts. Articles often contain literally the exact same information, which can be traced back to a few sources that may not be correct.

To give one example: an article appeared here on PJ Media by anti-jihad activist and writer Madeline Brooks. She claimed that in 2007 Imam Rauf attended a conference of the terror group Hizb-ut Tahrir, but further examination revealed that Brooks was victim of an erroneous translation of the linked text from Indonesian to English. Brooks did the right thing by admitting her error and making a correction, but her mistake stays alive on other websites. Reason enough to handle everything about the GZM with caution, and to look critically at the sources.

But Brim’s article — despite some speculation about the supposed layout of Park51 — stands out because it is based on information (once) provided by Rauf and the Cordoba Initiative themselves. Brim used open, verifiable sources for her uncovering of the Shariah Index Project.

She started with the scant information now provided by the Cordoba Initiative. (An earlier screenshot shows that a picture featuring the Iranian politician Mohammad-Javad Larijani has recently been removed from this webpage. Anne Bayefsky made this discovery for PJ Media.) Brim found two hidden web pages on the site of the Cordoba Initiative that disappeared very quickly after her publication. The first was an older and more elaborate article about the Shariah Index Project. The second was about “recent accomplishments of the Cordoba Initiative leadership team” — an overview of their activities between 2003 and 2006. It contained information about the initial meeting in Kuala Lumpur of the Shariah Index Project, with the names of “five distinguished scholars of Islamic holy law” attending.

You can never exclude that those screenshots are a clever fabrication, but it is clear that Christine Brim would have been instantly nailed by Imam Rauf and his associates if they were a forgery. So we can be pretty sure that the information from those hidden pages is reliable.

Brim used other sources mentioning the Shariah Index Project:

– A Who We Are page stating that Courtney Erwin, chief of staff and director of programs at the Cordoba Initiative, assists Chairman Imam Rauf “in the day to day operations and strategic management of the Cordoba Initiative and its programs, specifically its Shariah Index Project and political work in Washington, D.C.”

– The website of Jasser Auda. Among “current affiliations” in his CV is his membership in the “Good Islamic Governance Index Project Committee,” Prime Minister of Malaysia’s Office, in cooperation with Cordoba Initiative and Gallup Foundation, USA.

– A report on the website of the International Institute of Islamic Thought about a briefing by Imam Rauf on the Shariah Index Project. It says the project is directed out of Kuala Lumpur, and also that Gallup USA is involved: “Accompanying Rauf were Dr. Jasser Auda, member of the Advisory Council of Scholars for the Project, Courtney Erving (sic), the Executive Director, and her assistant Irfana Hashimi.”

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