Muslim writer: Meet the honor brigade, an organized campaign to silence debate on Islam

“You have shamed the community,” a fellow Muslim in Morgantown, W.Va., said to me as we sat in a Panera Bread in 2004. “Stop writing.”

Then 38, I had just written an essay for The Washington Post’s Outlook section arguing that women should be allowed to pray in the main halls of mosques, rather than in segregated spaces, as most mosques in America are arranged. An American Muslim born in India, I grew up in a tolerant but conservative family. In my hometown mosque, I had disobeyed the rules and prayed in the men’s area, about 20 feet behind the men gathered for Ramadan prayers.

Later, an all-male tribunal tried to ban me. An elder suggested having men surround me at the mosque so that I would be “scared off.” Now the man across the table was telling me to shut up.

“I won’t stop writing,” I said.

It was the first time a fellow Muslim had pressed me to refrain from criticizing the way our faith was practiced. But in the past decade, such attempts at censorship have become more common. This is largely because of the rising power and influence of the “ghairat brigade,” an honor corps that tries to silence debate on extremist ideology in order to protect the image of Islam. It meets even sound critiques with hideous, disproportionate responses.

The campaign began, at least in its modern form, 10 years ago in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, when the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — a mini-United Nations comprising the world’s 56 countries with large Muslim populations, plus the Palestinian Authority — tasked then-Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu with combating Islamophobia and projecting the “true values of Islam”…

Asra Q. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, is the author of “Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam.”

  • Norman_In_New_York

    By way of contrast, one of my business clients has spent time in Uzbekistan, and he tells me that the Stalinist dictator there bans all talk about religion, pro as well as con.

    • Frau Katze

      Yes, very repressive, but you can see a certain logic in it. Is this the fate of a Muslim country? They can either be repressive theocracies or repressive countries where Islam is kept on a very short leash. Needless to say, neither model fits Western democracy…will this “experiment” with mass Muslim immigration be the end of society as we have known it?

  • mobuyus

    The three stools.

  • David Murrell

    Frau, did you make a mistake, as to the picture posted for this article? Doesn’t the pic, of the three men, depict a Toronto Star editorial board meeting? Just asking.

    • Frau Katze

      It might well be! 😉

  • pdxnag

    Go apostate! Or embrace the violence that is the heart and soul of Islam, according to what orthodox Muslims consider to be their scholars.

    Or you can try to reply to all that is in the Reliance of the Traveler, if you try to be a “scholar,” and rewrite Islam to conform to what you believe. This would be a herculean task that most assuredly would be accompanied by renaming it something else and at best would be considered heretical and earn you death fatwa. Best of luck.

  • Exile1981

    author of “Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam.”

    Umm, I’m pretty sure it lost it back when Mo created it.

  • Yusuf_Al_Kafir

    Speaking of Muslim women and their Islamic identity, the Star recently ran an article about an upcoming and interesting documentary on CBC’s Documentary Channel called ‘Muneeza in the Middle’ about a Muslim woman searching for her Islamic identity.

    ‘Muneeza in the Middle explores Muslim woman’s search for identity’