Will Despots use the RIS Convention to promote anti-Muslim agenda?
In May 2010, the Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) held its first annual American convention in Long Beach, Ca. The organizers discontinued its U.S. edition to begin a series of global conferences in Toronto, Canada, during the winter holidays. The forum is one of North America's largest Islamic gatherings alongside ISNA and ICNA conventions.
This year, the convention occurs on December 26 and 27 amid controversies, even though the most famous and recognized Muslim scholars and leaders are on the speakers' panel. They include Maulana Tariq Jameel, Habib Umar bin Hafiz, Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah, Sh. Hamza Yusuf, Dr. Mustafa Ceric, Imam Zaid Shakir, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Habib Kadhim al Saqqaf, Sh. Abdal Hakim Murad, Dr. Recep Senturk, Sh. Muhammad Ninowy, Ustadha Ieasha Prime, Sh. Abdul Nasir Jangda, Sister Salma Yaqoub, Mufti Hussain Kamani, Sh. Yahya Rhodus, Sister Yasmin Mogahed, Ustadh Ubaydullah Evans, Imam Ahmad Maeno and
Shaykha Muslema Purmul.
The controversy is about its major influencers, such as Abdullah bin Bayyah and Hamza Yusuf. Both are also members of the UAE-funded Fatwa Council that recently declared the Ikhwanul Muslimeen ( the Muslim Brotherhood) as a terrorist organization. Bayyah is not a speaker this year, but Hamza Yusuf is. Muslim circles in North America fear that the forum this year would become a mouthpiece of Gulf dictators, as many of the speakers point out and have been the recipients of the Gulf despots' funding.
Even if the apprehensions are not correct, Muslim scholars' financial and political relationships with despots and the violators of Islamic values are of concern to many Muslims who have attended the RIS conferences in the past.
Muslims in North America view the Gulf dictators as usurpers of people's rights and scholars in cahoots as collaborators giving rulers religious ammunition to perpetuate their injustices. They do not trust such scholars.
Against the spirit of the divine guidance, many scholars, including those attending the RIS conventions, have tried to promote a view of Islam that justifies despotic rulers and human rights violations. They have criticized Muslims who question the legitimacy of dictators and the political authority. For instance, some of them support the Syrian regime and declare the resistance in Syria unIslamic. Others describe Palestinians rabble-rousers. Some view African Americans as violators of Islamic values for their opposition to the U.S. Administration.
No all speakers attending the convention hold these views. But their participation in the RIS convention embolden dictators and their collaborators to promote an agenda that violates Islam's fundamental principle of justice.
Anyone attending such conferences must try first to find out the funding sources of such events. The RIS has not disclosed its funds and funding sources. It is not transparent in reporting the amount of money it has received from the Gulf dictators and its collaborators. It has not disclosed the amount of money it pays to its speakers.
In the absence of transparency, its conventions would remain suspicious.
Islam is not at the mercy of dictators and despots for its revival. Islam exists and would continue to exist without these conferences. Millions follow it without them. In general, scholars have tried to convince the Muslim masses to live in political subjugation by using the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet. They tell them that Muslims should not support democracy because it is kufr and should not question their political leaders regardless of their legitimacy.
Muslim organizations holding conventions and conferences must have transparency in their functioning and funding. Muslim masses love Islam and want to identify with it. The leaders often mislead and exploit them for purposes the people do not know.
Islam's future will is not dependent on despots and dictators. Its continuous growth is due to its straightforward and strong message that many scholars, including those who will participate in this year's RIS forum, have often relayed their audience.