Opinions | Peeling back Islamic message reveals disturbing picture

“Muhammad believed in peace, social justice, women’s rights” reads a billboard over Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue. These causes speak to the moral compass of the Bay Area, a region known for championing peace, justice and equal rights for all.

However, even a cursory look at Muslim societies throughout the world paints a very different picture. We see the Islamic world at war. These wars are not focusing on borders, resources or political ideology, but are primarily motivated by the Islamic faith. A majority of those killed are Muslims, but perhaps their faith follows a different religious sect than their killer’s.

We find people being murdered in the name of Islam for being different — whether Muslims accused of improper beliefs, the ancient Christian communities in Iraq and Lebanon, Jews in Israel or at a kosher supermarket in Paris, or U.S. servicemen in Fort Hood, Texas, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. We also find widespread human-rights violations against women and gays throughout the Muslim world.

Rather than supporting the causes of feminist empowerment and women’s rights we cherish as Americans, the reality is quite the opposite under Shariah (Islamic law). Female genital mutilation and honor killings stem from the brutal oppression of women in Islamic societies. It is still illegal for a woman to drive a car in Saudi Arabia. In many Islamic countries, homosexuality is outlawed. The Islamic Republic of Iran regularly hangs its gay citizens in public, including the recent execution by hanging of a 14-year-old boy at his summer camp.

Many Muslims do not ascribe to these hateful and, in many cases, barbaric practices. Despite this, the voices of moderate Muslims condemning these shameful acts are not loud or numerous enough amid the cacophony of the radicals. There is no organized reformist movement in Islam that condemns the principles of Islamic supremacy. The message on that billboard in Oakland would seem to be either a step in the right direction toward Muslim accountability, or a farce using the language of social justice to gain new adherents to a radical strand of Islam.

Unfortunately, further investigation of the sponsoring organization behind the billboard, the Islamic Circle of North America, indicates the latter.

Billboard on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland

The ICNA is an Islamic organization based in New York that has been investigated by the FBI for its ties to terrorist organizations. ICNA was named in the May 1991 Muslim Brotherhood document “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America” as one of the Brotherhood’s 29 like-minded “organizations of our friends” that shared the common goal of destroying America and turning it into a Muslim nation.

ICNA’s 2012 national conference featured at least a dozen Islamist speakers, including some who have supported Hamas and have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. In the fall of 2012, former ICNA president and secretary-general Ashrafuzzaman Khan was indicted for war crimes by Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal for his involvement in the torture and execution of 18 political opponents in 1971 during Bangladesh’s fight for independence from Pakistan. Khan’s crimes were gruesome, according to Sanaul Huq, inspector-general of Bangladesh’s national police force, who said: “They abducted an eye doctor, and then gouged his eyes out before killing him and dumping his body. They abducted a cardiologist and cut out his heart before killing him and dumping his body. They kidnapped a woman journalist, and cut her breasts off before killing her … These victims were chosen because they were leading figures in the independence movement.”

The ICNA is not a suitable role model for Muslim moderates, and its support for Shariah law, which tramples on the human rights of gays and women and incites Muslims to fight the “nonbelievers” (i.e., anyone with a difference of belief or faith) is not a welcome message in the Bay Area. ICNA must renounce its support for radical Islamic organizations and embrace the causes of peace, social justice and human rights for all people, regardless of their gender, religious or sexual identity.

An ICNA that condemns acts of violence in the name of Islam and stands for the good, liberal values of the Bay Area is a welcome and necessary step in the right direction. Until that day, billboards calling for peace and justice under their banner are nothing more than a farce.

David Kadosh is the Western region executive director for the Zionist Organization of America and is one of the organizers of the Stop Iran Now rally at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30 at San Francisco City Hall.