Muslims Against Islamists: Interview with Pakistani Activist Anila Ali
Anila Ali was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and studied in London, where she became a volunteer in the All Pakistan Women’s Association. In 1996, she came to California. She is an active member of the Council of Pakistan-American Affairs (COPAA) and a contributor to the largest Pakistani paper in the U.S., The Pakistan Link.
Anila currently serves the city of Irvine as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Irvine Public School Foundation, a non-profit entity, as well as on the board of Irvine’s Children, Youth and Families Commission. She is the founder of the Irvine Pakistani Parents Association (IPPA), a non-profit organization that promotes community involvement and leadership and raises money for the public schools in the city as well as promotes South Asian peace through the arts.
Anila also serves on the board of the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), a non-profit that promotes understanding and dialogue. She is the founder and board member of the American Muslim Women’s Empowerment Council. She is the recent recipient of President Obama’s Volunteer Service Award 2011. She also serves as chairwomen of the International leadership Foundation (ILF), a non-profit promoting civic awareness in the Asian American ANd Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community.
She has written a children’s book on tolerance, Mommy am I a…? and is working on her second book, Three Steps Behind, which addresses the oppression of Muslim women.
The following is RadicalIslam.org’s National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro’s interview with Anila Ali:
Ryan Mauro: Anila, can you tell us a little bit about how you’ve struggled against the Islamists? How have Muslims and Muslim groups here in the U.S. responded to you?
Anila Ali: As a patriotic American and a faithful Muslim, it is my duty to condemn all forms of violent extremism. Extremists have hijacked Islam and in some ways, caused irreparable damage. So much so that misconceptions about Islam and Islamic practices are widespread, and it’s hard to dispel them.
Islam is a peaceful religion, which has been misrepresented completely. Islam and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad clearly illustrate the importance of staying on a moderate path and being tolerant. I’ve been taught that the Quran confirms the truths in the Bible and Torah, and that Muslims must believe in Jesus and Moses in order to be true to their faiths.
That means respect for all faiths and understanding of all peoples. My own struggle has been just that. I’ve seen the extremists hijack the religion and turn public opinions against it. Moreover, they have used isolated and out of context verses in the Quran to argue their case. The Quran is a book that teaches us how to live a better life and also recounts historic battles that early Muslims fought and those verses have been misused by these fringe elements to incite hatred.
Women have many more rights in Islam than you may think.The Prophet Muhammad’s wife was his boss and a most able woman. Having suffered from severe discrimination, my own struggle has been primarily to create awareness about the women’s rights abuses and to create awareness about human rights abuses.
In that struggle, I’ve gotten many threats by "Taliban Boys” and some other groups outside the U.S. My website has been hacked with hate messages several times because of my condemnation of the Taliban. As for Muslim Americans, especially women, well, they have responded really well to my message.
They have come out in droves to engage in civic life and give back to their country. You know that American Muslim Women’s Empowerment Conference has grown since last year -- we had 500+ Muslims in attendance who stood side by side with their local and federal government agencies, they learnt about civil rights from the FBI and at the same time, learned about their Islamic rights. They all believe and follow the constitution of the United States.
Some Muslim groups may think that my message is too pro-Western. It needs to be; the West is my home. But what we all must do is to stop giving voice to extremists, so that their voices can be completely muffled. The fact is that by giving them a forum, we enable them to proliferate their cause, which is hate for others. The key for any successful anti-extremism policy should be to give voice and power to the moderates. That’s what we have not done much yet. (...)