An Exchange with Tarek Fatah


After watching a post by Tarek Fatah on Facebook in which he posted an audio tape about Imam Faisal al-Rauf followed by his unhappy comments, I felt compelled to respond to Tarek.

Tarek first wrote on FB:

Was stunned after listening to this 1996 off the record remarks by the Ground-Zero mosque imam. He admits his desire for an Islamic state and how he wishes to manipulate US Foreign Policy. Listen and ask yourself: Are these the words of a sufi cleric? Why would a “cultural centre” have a “Foreign Policy” section with “Strategy Action Plays”. He says, “I am the Head Coach while the president of the US and the ‘president’ of England are players” he wants to use for “strategic plays.

GroundZero Mosque Imam’s agenda caught off the record in 1996 radio interview


I wrote to Tarek complaining about his post after I listened to the entire recording and found nothing sinister:

Dear Tarek,

Thanks for inviting me to your networked blogs on FB and I trust you will reciprocate.

I listened to the entire recording that you posted on your blog and I was surprised to note how you market and spin Rauf’s comments on the Islamic State as demonic. Just because someone does not subscribe to your cast of Islamic theology does not reduce them to the enemy?

To which Tarek very respectfully addressed me, but disagreed in his reply, which is fair:

Salaam Prof. Moosa,

Anyone who takes inspiration from Iran and Saudi Arabia and endorses Hamas, is my enemy. Had it not been for the law, my throat would have been slit a long time ago. For Faisal Rauf to hide being the camouflage of ‘sufi Islam’ and then plan a “foreign affairs” strategy in the Islamic centre, just demonstrates the conniving and deceitful nature of the Islamist agenda that has been so detrimental to the Muslim community in the USA. If these mullas wish to effect change in foreign policy, they should jump into public affairs and politics the way Ekbal Ahmed and Edward Said on one side and Zuhdi Jasser and Stephen Schwartz on the other have doen. One can disagree with their perspectives, but they didn’t hide behind the shield of Islam to conduct their advocacy. Better still they should be active in the Dems of the GOP, not straddle both and milk the State dept, no matter who is in power. For a decade we have been fighting the introduction of sharia in the public law and domain while he has been championing the Sharia Index with the help of big capital.

We have been accused of being neocons and zionists to brown sahibs for standing up to the Iranian and Saudi influence on the Muslim community. For that many liberal and secular Muslims have been demonized, yet it seems such an attack on us is acceptable. We will hit back at those whose primary allegiance is to those who would kill us without blinking an eye. A dozen Muslims die every day at the hands of those who wish to impose sharia law and the doctrine of Jihad. I suggest those dead deserve more sympathy than the slumlord millionaires hiding behind sufi Islam to push their “foreign affairs” strategy from inside the USA.

I am sorry prof, but I have lost too many friends at the hands of these Ikhwanites; Muslims whose only crime was that they stood up against the fascism of the Jamaat and Ikhwan. We will not let them terrorize us into silence in Canada or the USA.

Best wishes,


Ebrahim Moosa Tarek, you are preaching to the choir about the barbarity perpetrated by some in Muslim societies, acts that to the craven masquerade as religion. God protect you from harm. I narrowly avoided death following a bomb attack on my home by Muslim extremists, so I know that breed. That said, when you use too large a brush to paint you are unlikely to paint a decent picture. Think of this: six hours ago in response to your distorted index of Rauf’s audio clip on YouTube, someone suggested putting a bullet in Faisal Rauf’s brain.

Why can’t people have a decent debate about the Sharia Index and argue the merits of an issue, instead of dishing out inflammatory remarks at those with whom one disagrees? Your strategy and rhetoric, I have noticed for some time, reminds me of tunes from the Jamat Islami and Stalin’s playbook than from the pages of Rumi’s Masnavi.

In my Facebook posting I omitted to be courteous to Tarek and ended my message without the mandatory greeting.

Salam, Tarek, Peace!


From Tarek:

Perhaps you are right, but my experience is that almost every North American Muslim I run into believes the Jews carried out the 9/11 attack and that the Toronto-18 terrorists were framed.  Almost no one is willing to say the doctrine of armed jihad is defunct, if not inapplicable in the modern nation state. Not one of these leaders. How narrow a brush should I use?

If even Mahathir Mohammed says the Jews deserved the punishments of the past and if Daisy Khan says aspects of Sharia Law can be implemeneted in USA while her husband promotes the Sharia Index, then should my brush not sweep them as well?

Smooth speaking Western educated Muslims seem to be able to fool almost anyone on the liberal-left side of North American politics and academia, but I cannot be fooled by sweet talk. If tomorrow Faisal Rauf were to say separation of religion and state is a massive step forward in human civilization and that as an American he believes this should be embraced by Iran and Saudi Arabia, then I will be the first to admit I was wrong. If Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Hasrat Mohani can say this as scholars and hafiz ul Quran, why can’t the good imam utter those words?”


My reply:

Dearest Tarek,

salam: We must be moving in very different circles. Only a fool and a craven anti-Semite can believe Jews pulled off 9/11, but I do not deny there are such figures. But do you really think most of them reside in North America? Of course, the doctrine of armed jihad cannot be used to justify banditry/terrorism; and nation-states have standing armies to defend their vital interests and so the very category of layperson’s jihad is anachronistic.

I am sure that when you hear what Daisy Khan and Rauf says about Shari’a, you will not disagree with them, unless you think the very term is offensive, then its altogether a different ball game.

But it seems that you create pre-conditions for every conversation, dear Tarek. While I agree all the models of religion and state mixing have had atrocious outcomes, I cannot dictate that recipe to people. Today the Iranian people themselves are rejecting the mullahs. But why should Iran and Saudi Arabia be standard bearers of decency on this continent?

Faisal described Hamas as a terrorist organization on Larry King Live a few weeks ago. But are we now going to have a check list of doctrines by which you are going to categorize people, kosher vs non-kosher, sorry this idiom works better than halal vs haram one! I wonder if we are not confusing security clearance tests with a citizen’s right to participate in public discourse. I am afraid your public discourse test sounds is so narrow that I doubt Rousseau would qualify.

At the end of the day it is not about the thickness of the brush, it is what kind of portrait one wishes to paint.

Take care,


From Tarek

Tarek wrote:

I’ll reflect on your advice. You are one of the few Muslim academics who I respect. BTW, I have no problem with sharia guiding me as my moral compass. My issues with sharia is when it is used to enforce a fascist discipline on the human spirit and as a tool of political and social oppression.

From Ebrahim Moosa

Thanks for the conversation.



About ebrahimmoosa

Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA
This entry was posted in Islam in America. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to An Exchange with Tarek Fatah

  1. abu Nusaybah says:

    I reviewed Tarek Fatah’s book, Chasing a Mirage (2008), here. I think you’ll find it interesting.

    It is valuable for us to look at all sorts of opinions, and it is also vital to know when information if factual or falsehood.


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