Jay Severin is Anwar Al-Awlaki

I just finished reading a Huffington Post essay by Kamran Pasha. Pasha is a friend of a Muslim soldier who knew and prayed with Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood murderer. The soldier, called “Richard” by the essayist, describes Hasan’s relationship with Anwar Al-Awlaki:

As Richard got to know Hasan better over the next several months, he found the major to be a pious man who was at the mosque daily. But Richard also began to garner a sense of Hasan’s political views that troubled him. A black-and-white outlook on Islam and life that had no room for nuance or debate. Hasan had apparently attended a mosque led by an imam named Anwar Al-Awlaki, a Yemeni scholar whose political views Richard disagrees with.

Awlaki is a controversial figure among Muslims, and has been accused by the Congressional Joint Inquiry on 9/11 of serving as a “spiritual advisor” to two of the September 11 hijackers. While Richard is careful to say that he respects much of Awlaki’s historical scholarship, he rejects his political ideology, which posits a black-and-white, us versus them, view of America’s relationship with the Islamic world.

Richard’s own study of Islam has revealed that such a harsh dualistic approach to religion is very much against the history of Islamic thought and practice. Indeed, debate is central to the Islamic tradition, and mainstream Muslims have always understood that true faith requires openness to nuance and subtlety. In my novel, Mother of the Believers, which tells the story of Islam from the perspective of Aisha, Prophet Muhammad’s wife, I discuss how the early Muslim community engaged in profound debate and discourse in the search for truth. An embrace of subtlety and intellectual sophistication is inherent to the Islamic tradition.

But this kind of subtlety is anathema to fundamentalists of any religion or ideology, who are incapable of seeing other points of view. And the backlash against my book by Muslim fundamentalists reveals the deep-seated fear that such people have of mainstream Muslims’ efforts to take back the discourse from those who cannot accept shades of grey in life and faith.

I could not read that description of the imam without thinking of Jay Severin. Obviously Severin and Awlaki have different world views, but the lenses with which they see the world have similar filters. A black-and-white, us versus them outlook combined with a lack of subtlety and intellectual sophistication describes Jay Severin perfectly. And that is why Severin’s rhetoric is so dangerous. I don’t believe Jay Severin himself would resort to violence as a means of furthering his political causes, but I will not be terribly surprised if and when one of his listeners does.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>