Monday, July 29, 2013

Muslims in the Tea Party

Pat Dollard

Excerpted from IllumeTea Party circles in East Tennessee might seem an unlikely environment for launching a Muslim organization. Will Coley, a 31-year-old Tennessee native, Muslim convert and Tea Party activist did just that.
His one person outreach project to Tea Party conservatives and libertarians grew into the first national organization countering Islamophobia on the Right.
Their message: Islam is compatible with an anti-big government or libertarian philosophy. They do not denounce sharia, but defend it within a libertarian framework.
willcoley“Our approach is different,” says Coley. “We use principles within sharia like maqasid (primary goals) to show their connection with John Locke’s principles of life, liberty and property.”
Coley claims this strategy makes an impact.
“I have noticed everywhere we go it is about the same,” says Coley. “We talk to 50 people. The five to six that pointed the group in an anti-Islam direction still hate us, but the rest start thinking, researching.”
Most notably, in 2011 Coley persuaded the majority of Tea Party organizations in East Tennessee to take a stand against Islamophobia.
After speaking with fourteen Tea Party chapters about Muslim beliefs on liberty and sharia (Islamic religious law code), twelve of them agreed to reject anti-Muslim appeals. They even publically supported a petition opposing a proposed “sharia ban” in Tennessee.
coley-liberty-awardColey’s efforts drew the attention of members of the small but growing community of Muslim libertarians, especially after an initial article on the anti-Islamophobia website
Davi Barker, 31, a California journalist, national columnist at and blogger forSilver Circle Underground and Daily Anarchist, first contacted Coley to do a story on him. The two quickly began working closely together. Coley did the public presentations, and Barker writing on their philosophy of Islamic libertarianism. They were soon joined by Hesham El-Meligy, 41, from New England and Ramy Osman, 35, from Virginia.
The last two had started a website called, while Coley and Barker had independently started a Facebook group called Muslims For Liberty. They decided to combine forces.
“[W]e started collaboration with them and we became a family immediately,” says El-Meligy.
By 2012, Muslims4Liberty/Muslims For Liberty (M4L) has gained hundreds of followers, establishing chapters in Tennessee, California, Ohio, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., as well as in Australia, Malaysia and Pakistan.
El-Meligy, drawing on his connections and experience in the Northeast US, led M4L’s work with other groups in opposing New York Police Department surveillance of American Muslims. Osman organized M4L’s participation in the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms’ (NCPCF) “Ramadan Gifts for Prisoners” charity drive. M4L also co-sponsored the only two national debates featuring third party presidential candidates during the 2012 election, hosted by Larry King and broadcast by C-Span and Al Jazeera.
The rapid growth and rise of M4L developed as an entirely grass-roots effort, without the support of more established Muslim or civil rights organizations.
“It started out as just me, basically,” says Coley. “[G]oing to events, going to protests, educating people about Islam.”
Coley began doing Tea Party outreach in Florida in 2009. He started as an ordinary Tea Party activist, concerned about economics and allegedly growing government power.
But his concern at what he saw as the emergence of Islamophobia in the Tea Party movement spurred him to act.
“I was watching the neocon takeover happen,” says Coley. “Literally overnight I saw groups devoted to economics and constitutional limits turn into something else. Suddenly there were invites to see anti-Islam speakers. This crazy anti-Islam message was taking over.”
Coley responded by going to events, giving speeches and presentations, and challenging alleged anti-Muslim speakers.
The libertarian talk show host Phil Russo invited him onto his show as a guest. When Russo’s co-host quit in protest, he invited Coley to become his new co-host. Keep reading
Excerpted from Illume: For the first time, an American Muslim has won a national award for work promoting the compatibility of Islam and classical liberalism or “limited government.” Liberty Candidates, a nationwide grass roots organization that supports political candidates with views similar to those of 2008 and 2012 presidential candidate Ron Paul, awarded Will Coley one of its 2012 Liberty Inspiration awards. Will Coley, one of the founders and current head of Muslims4Liberty, has made news for his work in countering Islamophobia in Tea Party and other right-of-center circles.
175 people were nominated for the award, with 540 votes cast in the form of statements. Other award winners included philosopher Stefan Molyneux, Ron Paul, historian Tom Woods, police accountability activist Antonio Buehler, Liberty Candidates founder Gigi Bowman, and radio broadcaster John Bush.

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