NOTE: Speaking at Politicon in late July at a townhall that was solely devoted to questions and answers, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro had a moment in which a young legal Muslim immigrant from Pakistan, Waqas Khan, asked him a question. Khan became a Republican and voted for Donald Trump, and wants to reform Islam to turn it away from violence; Shapiro offered Khan an opportunity to make his voice heard on the Daily Wire website. Khan and his wife are both doctors.
The exchange began when Khan introduced himself: “My name is Waqas Khan, and I’m a legal immigrant to the country, from Pakistan.”
Shapiro replied, “Well, thank you for coming, here (at Politicon) and to the country.”
Khan: "Thank you for having me, but now I only identify myself as American."
Shapiro: "Thank you for that too."
Khan pointed out that in 2012, people like him who renounced violent interpretations of Islam were distrusted by the political Right and met with an atmosphere of denial and delusion on the Left, which led to the Left bullying them. He asked how reformist Muslims like him who wanted to be loyal to the U.S. Constitution could find room to speak out.
Shapiro replied, “We on the Right have an active obligation to provide a loudspeaker for people like you, because the only way that change is going really to take place in the Muslim world is for people like you to be heard.” He added, “We on the Right have to make an active attempt to push people like you into positions where you can speak clearly.” Shapiro then offered his email address to Khan, adding, “And please, email me; I’m happy to print any op-ed by you; I want everybody who is pushing this agenda to have a louder voice; I want everybody who is pushing this agenda to be given a voice.”
Promise kept; below is the op-ed by Khan:
I’m a legal immigrant from Pakistan, second largest Muslim country in the world, where blasphemy law is the law of the land. Any comment or statement, on or off the record that implies insult to Islam or is perceived as offensive toward general public’s religious sentiments can be subjected to death penalty. Yes, not subjected to fine or eviction from the country, but execution by the state. Surprisingly, so far, not a single blasphemer has been formally executed by the state. Not because that the state mercifully exonerates every blasphemer, but because of the fact that in many cases either the blasphemer is lynched by a violent self-righteous mob or is murdered in the prison cell by a vigilante. I call them the blasphemy police.
The blasphemy law has always been justified with religious relevance by top Islamic scholars of the country with millions of followers; even to question the authenticity of the law is perceived as blasphemy itself. This has usually nothing to do with socioeconomic status or literacy level. This is a mindset that is prevalent and rampant in the society at all levels.
The radicals or religious zealots honestly express that they want status quo and any proposal to amend or reform the law will be countered by violence as it is justified to safeguard the integrity of the religion by all means. It is the apologists who are the real problem. They have the most dishonest and disingenuous approach. They come in between the reformists and radicals, deflecting the discussion while shielding and protecting the former. This pushes the entire conundrum into a vicious death spiral where any hope to reform the law and ultimately the religion becomes impossible.
I emigrated to U.S. in 2006 to practice medicine, and became a U.S. citizen in 2017. One of the core values I learned in America is that in order for a free society to exist, freedom of speech is the key. To me, it is the only foundation on which this great country stands. Any idea good or bad can be challenged. If it is worthy enough, it will prevail in the free market of ideas.
The basic difference between the Muslim world and western civilization is that the platform to challenge different ideas has been systematically taken away by blasphemy laws. I’ve been a vocal critic of Radical Islam and strongly believe that Islam needs reformation just like what Judaism and Christianity have already undergone in the past. I identify myself as a Reformed Muslim, who does not believe in any violent interpretation of the scripture. I do not have any religious or scholarly qualifications. But I’m a doctor and most importantly a human being. In order to save someone’s life you don't have to be a doctor. Similarly, to challenge ideas which are utter violations of basic human rights, one does not have to be a religious scholar.
The radical ideology within Islam can be summarized in the following 7 points:
1. Death penalty for apostates (Muslims converting to other faiths or atheism).
2. Death penalty for homosexuals.
3. Death penalty for blasphemers (anyone who insults or criticizes Islam or Prophet Mohammed).
4. Favoring corporal punishments for theft and adultery, like cutting hands and stoning respectively.
5. Believing that women deserve different sets of rights than men. (That’s a whole subject of its own but I will keep it simple for now). Examples include a woman’s testimony being worth half of a man and that women are entitled to receive only half of an inheritance.
The aforementioned five points are the personal beliefs of a Radical Muslim. The following two 2 points are the political wing of Radical Islam and can also be defined as Islamism.
6. Believing that all the Muslims in the world, (1.5 billion by a rough estimate), must be ruled under one Caliphate implementing laws encapsulating the aforementioned five points.
7. All the non-Muslim countries in the world and their constitutions are illegitimate. They must be subjugated and brought down under the version of Radical Islam by theological or armed struggle.
All the mainstream radical terrorist organizations like Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabab and ISIS use the same above-mentioned supremacist narrative to push their agenda. These organizations do not emerge out of nowhere but are actually the product of the mindset that reflects the harshest versions of the laws which are already existing and are being implemented in several Muslim countries across the world with support of millions. It's not a fringe minority that adheres to this ideology but a significant proportion at the very least that has influenced the laws along with the perception of Islam and the Muslim community.
Just to use an example, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan, the most influential countries in the Muslim world with almost 30, 90 and 200 million people, respectively, have immense support for blasphemy, apostasy, and homosexuality laws based on polls and also as reflected by their implementation. These laws do not exist in the U.S., Israel, India or Western foreign policies but are inherent in the mindset of these societies. It is a taboo to discuss them and it can be fatal to challenge them.
I’m a firm believer that reformation of Islam is only possible by Muslims and has to come from within the Muslim community. I’m very optimistic about it, as I see several Muslim reformists eventually coming out of their closets and confronting radicals and apologists simultaneously. Islamic reformation can only compete in America and then trickle down to the rest of the world because we enjoy freedom of speech here. But there are several hurdles that are in the way of Muslim reformists. While I see constant distrust but hunger to have an honest discussion about Islam on the Right, I see a consistent state of denial, delusion and to some extent complicity on the Left.
One of the biggest challenges is the recent unholy alliance between the regressive Left and Islamist organizations like CAIR and ISNA. This alliance is perpetuating the delay in reformation by shutting down any rational conversation about the current state of Muslim world as Islamophobic, bigoted, racist and xenophobic using the same tactics as used by the self-righteous blasphemy police.
This leaves Muslim reformists and ultimately Muslims with only one choice. They must challenge their Imams, religious scholars and mainstream organizations like CAIR and ISNA, which thrive on victimhood and apologetics, to denounce these radical ideologies and organizations like Muslim Brotherhood in the clearest language possible. Until then any hope for the future of a genuine and sincere Islamic reformation is tenuous.
Video of Politicon exchange below, starting at 40:24: