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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

Bio

August 25, 2010 - 12:01 am

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.”

I put together a follow-up for my Dutch website about the Shariah Index Project, using more open sources:

– The Islamic Banking Bulletin (March, 2008, Safar 1429) of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), with an introduction of SBP Shariah Board Member Dr. Mahmood Ahmed Ghazi, who attended the initial meeting of Rauf’s project.

– A recent roster of the Federal Shariat Court, the highest Shariah court in Pakistan, proving the membership of Ghazi.

– The faculty bios of Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, mentioning Ghazi and Jasser Auda.

– A Wikipedia article about Iranian Larijani, top adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Also Wikipedia information about the Islamic scholars, Mohammad Hashim Kamali and Tahir Mahmood, who attended the initial meeting in Kuala Lumpur. I could find nothing about the Malaysian Chief Justice Dato’ Abdul Hamid Mohamad, so I placed a link to a lecture he gave in 2008 at Harvard Law School about “harmonization of common law and Shariah in Malaysia.”

– An interview in The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi. It was one of the very few occasions where Imam Rauf elaborated on the Shariah Index Project, shortly after a conference in Kuala Lumpur of Daisy Khan’s Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE). Rauf told reporter Rasha Elass that the Cordoba Initiative “is funded by the Malaysian government and other sources in both western and Muslim countries.”

– A link to the Hudson Institute report on the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States. Here is a lot of information about the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), where Rauf presented his Shariah project and where Jasser Auda is a member of the Academic Board.

Any reader or journalist can read and verify the sources in Brim’s article and those in my follow-up.

The Dutch media wrote a lot about the “loony opinions” of Pamela Geller, but so far haven’t said anything about the Shariah Index Project. One of my readers dismissed Christine Brim and her Center for Security Policy as conservative, even extreme right. But suppose a progressive reporter from the Huffington Post took the time to find the exact same sources and wrote an article questioning the intentions, connections, and financing of the Shariah Index Project?

Would people still consider those open sources as irrelevant?

Alas, the MSM is not interested in Imam Rauf’s Shariah Index Project. As long as they fail to do their research work, we must rely on the work of the conservative media, as the left has abandoned investigative journalism.

In the Netherlands, we are familiar with this. Left-wing media and parties did not address important subjects like immigration and Islam, thus leaving the door wide open for Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV). Now Wilders has 24 of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament, and will cooperate with a right-wing minority government in the make, a coalition of Christian democrats (CDA) and conservative liberals (VVD).

Will the same thing happen in the U.S. if the MSM continues to fail?

Carel Brendel is a journalist in the Netherlands. He is the author of Het verraad van links (The Betrayal by the Left), about the failure of the political left to confront political Islam. Visit www.hetverraadvanlinks.nl.
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