PART 3: The Nouman Ali Khan (NAK) saga: Countering the disinformation, misinformation, disingenuity and lies

With a vicious cycle of propaganda being purveyed in the NAK saga, the need to respond is compelling. Even if it seems repetitive, the facts must be stated, and restated if necessary. Either because people just don’t get it and wonder what the hullabaloo is all about. Or simply because there is a lack of integrity by some in our community in dealing with a clear-cut matter of sexual abuse – which is not taken seriously enough. Gatesville Mosque have engaged in all kinds of lies and obfuscation to bamboozle those who are unfamiliar with the details of this matter. (see previous posts). I wonder if they would treat racism or other forms of abuse in a similar fashion. Or even those engaged in fraudulent behavior in their business dealings.

But first let me get some acknowledgements out of the way.

The first is that Gatesville Mosque has stopped deleting my posts from their Facebook page. Credit to them, though they have not re-instated the previously deleted ones.

The second is that “Yahya Murad’, who wrote in defence of Gatesville Mosque’s decision to invite NAK, and whose missive was widely distributed by the Imam of the Mosque and its committee members, has been outed as a fraud. This after years of his fitnah (mischief) on various sites. When outed his first action was to block those who exposed him; then he scrubbed his profile of false, incriminating information;  and then finally deleted both his accounts from Facebook. This is not the end of the matter though. But its an indication of the way that Gatesville Mosque verifies its information.

On the other hand, and sadly so, Gatesville Mosque continues their disinformation campaign. Shaykh Alexander, Imam of the Mosque delivered a lecture on Friday (26 April) justifying the mosque’s actions (I couldn’t upload that part of the lecture). Now Alexander is perhaps a competent imam, but he doesn’t even illuminate the fairly dim galaxy of those who inhabit our mimbars, let alone star among them. But to his credit he is a paid conduit to relay a particular message and does so with gusto, fervor, religious symbolism, false analogies and an appeal to the Muslim inner predilection to forgiveness. The tribal chiefs who control his mosque wouldn’t have it any other way as he bends over backwards to please them, or forwards in obsequious prostration.

Perhaps I should start at the end of Alexander’s lecture where he invokes the case where there were false accusations levelled against the Prophet’s beloved wife A’isha, which pained God’s messenger enormously. Of course, the innuendo was that the accusations against NAK are similarly false. Now this type of disingenuity can only come from true ignorance or groveling obeisance. Firstly, the accusations against NAK are not false, as he has acknowledged them. So, the fundamental assumptions of the comparison fail a simple test of logic. But when blinded by attempting to please your paymasters you fail to learn the other lessons of this story: when there was doubt the Prophet (s) stayed away from A’isha, who returned to her father Abu Bakr’s care, until the verses exonerating A’isha were revealed. Now I can state with a fair degree of certainty that Alexander didn’t receive any revelation, but the temporal facts against NAK hold true. Even if Alexander chooses not to believe the facts (however difficult that may be), he cannot ignore them. At a minimum there is sufficient doubt to employ the precautionary principle and desist from platforming him. Most egregious however is Alexander’s insinuation that NAK’s women accusers are making false allegations. Unfortunately, this is a sad tale of our history – not only the misogyny, but where clergy provide religious cover for their paymasters or those in power. Ironically Alexander’s talk was titled “The sad state of our ummah”.

Alexander outdoes even himself by beginning with a red-herring. He invokes a history of objections to particular speakers platformed in the Mosque on ‘theological’ grounds, including Sheikhs Ninowy and Menk. He further stated that they did not give in then, will not give in now, or ever. Besides the arrogance inherent in that statement, most of us who signed the original statement are pluralists; we are not into parochial theological disputes and factions. Our basis of judgement is the Maqasid of the Shariah and its ethical and moral foundations. Our objection against NAK is not based on theological or partisan grounds but on ethical and moral norms.

Alexander then reverts to the previously used bizarre defence, namely that NAK has not been found guilty in a court of law. This is common cause, so requires no comment, except to repeat that this is not our arbiter. Furthermore, if he cared to understand gender-based-violence (GBV) or sexual harassment he would know that vast majority of cases, for various reasons, are never reported let alone taken to court. There is an omerta of silence to protect the community. This also ensures that all the necessary information does not filter out for public consumption. Therefore, our task is to JOIN THE DOTS and work on probability. In NAKs case it is beyond probability. The history of the Catholic Church in covering up sexual abuse is a salutary lesson for all communities.

Alexander then wants to deny and discount the due process established by a group of respected scholars from the US who investigated and pronounced on NAKs misdemeanors. NAK participated in this process, as did the affected women. The charges are in the public domain and listed in my first post, as is the statement of the scholars who were part of the investigation. I will repeat one part of the outcome of this due process (my highlights):

“We have therefore come together out of profound concern for the well-being of the women with whom Br. Nouman Ali Khan has engaged in conduct unbecoming of any believer, much less someone who teaches about the Holy Qur’an. We have refrained from making any public statement until now because we refused to act on the basis of ambiguous accusations and second-hand information. As a group we have taken our time to speak, all together or in smaller designated groups, with Brother Nouman, with a number of the women involved, and with numerous respected scholars and imams who have at various times tried to counsel Br. Nouman. It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that Br. Nouman has committed significant violations of trust, spiritual abuse and unethical behavior. We advise our brother to ask forgiveness from those he has hurt, to face the consequences of his actions, and to take a break from public life in order to get counselling and engage in acts of expiation. We advise members of the community to refrain from speculating about and attacking those in the process of seeking justice.”

(https://muslimmatters.org/…/a-statement-regarding-br…/)

This statement, which is as clear and unambiguous as one would expect,  also debunks Alexander’s statement that there was no Shar’i violation.

Finally and in desperation Alexander then invokes the notion of forgiveness, claims NAK has sought forgiveness, and asks who are we not to forgive. This is another false claim. Where exactly did NAK ask for forgiveness? Did he ask for forgiveness from his victims? Importantly, what specifically is he asking forgiveness for? In doing this Alexander unwittingly debunks his own narrative which is that NAK wasn’t involved in any misdemeanors involving spritual and/or sexual abuse. What then would he be asking forgiveness for? Any notion of forgiveness is based on recognition, acknowledgement, redress, and a commitment to desist from similar actions in future. All he has acknowledged are his faults – in a general, nebulous, non-committal, get-out-of-jail act – that does not address his victims or his violation of their rights.

Now let me clearly and openly state that I have nothing personal against NAK. On the contrary I have learnt enormously from his lectures. And I am really sad that his actions, and those of Tariq Ramadan, have robbed our community of credible leaders and teachers we so sorely lack. But there is always scope for redemption, which is virtually an article of our faith. All that is expected of NAK is to submit himself to the recommendations of the scholars, who pronounced after due process and weighing all the evidence. After his rehabilitation he would be free to engage in his public activities. That is not much of an ask – but arrogance and financial interests probably trump the need for deep and serious introspection.

I have no doubt that Gatesville Mosque did seek counsel from senior scholars in extending this invitation to NAK or after the invitation was extended. One of these I am told is Mufti Menk. I am not sure what his exact advice was. Perhaps the Gatesville Mosque committee can take its congregants and the broader community into confidence and name these scholars and share their advice or written opinions. This would edify the community and allow us to interrogate their legal, moral and ethical reasoning. It would then serve as a learning for the community. It will also allow us to determine how many women scholars were consulted, what the credibility of these scholars is, what evidence they relied on, whether they knew the details of the case, and what these scholars’ knowledge of GBV encompassed. One wonders whether Gatesville Mosque engaged any of the scholars involved in the investigation itself or experts in GBV.

Without this, all the Gatesville Mosque committee is doing is providing a sop and attempting to justify a decision made without due consideration, or self-serving in their quest for hosting ‘international celebrities’. And their unfortunate, guileless imam acts as a conduit to sell this to the publics. We as a community should demand more respect and greater accountability.

 

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