Karen Armstrong and the Islamists

What do the Dalai Lama, a former nun, and a group accused of supporting terrorism have in common? All of them are connected to a multinational initiative to “help people adjust creatively to our globally interdependent world,” known as the Charter of Compassion.

The former nun is prominent author and academic Karen Armstrong.  In 2009, after receiving the prestigious $100,000 TED Prize, she, along with other members of the founding council, drafted the Charter for Compassion, advocating that those of all religions bind together to create a “global community.” The list of signatories of the charter reads like a “Who’s Who” of global superstars, including New Age guru Deepak Chopra, South African Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu, filmmaker David Lynch, actress Goldie Hawn, Oxford scholar Tariq Ramadan, the Dalai Lama, and singer Peter Gabriel, to name a few.  

Even though the Charter for Compassion bills itself as a document to bind all of the religions of the world together around the concept of compassion, the charter seems far more interested in Islamic jurisprudence than true ecumenicalism.

For example, a section of the official website deals exclusively with Islamophobia and links to resources by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

CAIR has long been accused of promoting an Islamist ideology, and even U.S. Federal prosecutors have shown the group’s close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. CAIR itself has been designated as a terror group by the United Arab Emirates.

In its “Islamophobia Guidebook” section, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid advises Charter supporters, in an article entitled “Fourteen Ways You Can Fight Islamophobia”, to “Remember the Prophet” who “remained steadfast, patient and tolerant in the face of Islamophobia.”

He then compares those who practice Islamophobia to “the Quraysh,” the pagan tribe of Mecca which warred with the early Muslims, according to Islamic tradition.

Finally, he instructs activists to

“Start using the word Islamophobia to describe any kind of hate crime or speech against Islam and Muslims.”

Mujahid is the president of an organization called Sound Vision, which describes as its goal “to develop inter-faith peace and understanding.” In 2015, Sound Vision was a major sponsor of the “Stand with the Prophet in Honor and Respect” event held in Dallas-Fort Worth. The event drew coverage for its inclusion of notorious cleric Siraj Wahhaj, who has a history of violent rhetoric. In 1995, Mujahid himself was quoted as calling for fellow Muslims to fight jihad in Bosnia. He later claimed to have been taken out context. Mujahid previously served as the president of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a group linked to Pakistan-based Jamaat-e-Islami, and with extensive ties to known terror-funding organizations. In 2010, ICNA published a handbook which openly advocated as its goal the establishment of Shariah law and Islamic rule through a worldwide caliphate.

Neither is Abdul Malik Mujahid the only Islamist tapped by the Charter of Compassion to represent Islam. It’s also worth looking at its founding council members. and partners -- among them, Tariq Ramadan, one of the so-called Council of Conscience, and also the disgraced Oxford scholar embroiled in several court cases in France alleging rape and sexual assault.

The son of Muslim Brotherhood leader Said Ramadan and the grandson of the founder of the Brotherhood Hassan Al-Banna, Ramadan in the past has also been perceived as a progressive Muslim who advocates a more open and free “Euro Islam.” But he was also previously banned from entering the United States under the Bush administration, due to allegations of having funded charities affiliated with Hamas. (The ban was reversed under the Obama administration.)

A book published by French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot suggests that Ramadan is not the independent and progressive European scholar that his signature on the Charter of Compassion suggests. According to Chesnot and Malbrunot, Ramadan was paid 35,000 Euro ($40,000 dollars) a month as a consultant to the Qatar Foundation.

The payments were among hundreds of millions of dollars Qatari officials have directed toward projects in Western Europe connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. Just before his arrest early last year, while Ramadan was under criminal investigation in France, bank documents show that he withdrew 590,000 Euro ($663,000) from Qatari bank accounts. The book also claims that Ramadan’s professorship at Oxford was also paid for by the government of Qatar.

Another founding partner is the Cordoba Initiative, which bills itself “a multi-national, multi-faith organization dedicated to improving Muslim-West relations.” On its face it would appear to be the kind of organization which would be a perfect fit with the Charter. But the Cordoba Initiative’s Faisal Abdul Rauf, promoter of the controversial “Ground Zero Mosque” project, has his own checkered history. Criticisms of Rauf include his refusal to condemn Islamic terrorist organizations like Hamas.

With its ten-year anniversary on the horizon, Charter for Compassion International needs to review its founding principles. If Charter for Compassion is truly focused on uniting around the notion of compassion, one wonders why they insist on including Islamists like CAIR, Abdul Malik Mujahid, Tariq Ramadan, and the Cordoba Initiative to represent the world’s Muslims. Allowing their Charter to provide cover for Islamist grievance-mongering about “Islamophobia” is dangerous, especially when couched under the innocuous guise of compassion.

Anne-Christine Hoff is the Dallas associate of the Counter Islamist Grid. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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