When the Libertarian movement consists of people with the likes of Fox News pundits, it can be difficult to see where Muslims can fit into the mix. “You kind of have two movements right now, you have the mainstream movement which really isn’t even libertarian anymore because they advocate for state violence and initiation of force, taxes and funding Israel and these people are on TV and Fox news just pushes them and then you have the much larger grassroots movement of Libertarians.” explains Will Coley, the director of Muslims 4 Liberty; an organization that he says is central to the Liberty Movement and to Islam in America in general. “The tea party likes to claim that they are that movement; but really the tea party is a bunch of republicans who felt like the republican party wasn’t republican enough… The grassroots movement has their own TV shows, their own radio stations that are simulcast all over the country. Small, reputable media outlets like Libertarian Review, Liberty.me, Angel Clark Show and No Army Can Stop an Idea; these people are very hardcore about fact-checking and making sure that the information that they put out there is real and not bogus nonsense. Plus, they are trying to hold mainstream media to a higher standard.” The humbling moment where ABC had to apologize for misrepresenting Gaza as Israel last month? That was the grassroots Liberty movement at work.
So how do Muslims and Islam fit into the mix? Will says “Central to Libertarianism is the concept of natural rights; central to Islam is that same concept. In the maqasid al-shariah, laws must protect one of these things in order to be valid: life, religion, intellect, family and property. Three of those 5 are the basis of Libertarian understanding of natural rights: life, religious liberty and property. So, the central points of our legal system are the same points of their ideology. To add to that, in the normative maxims of Islamic jurisprudence you have the presumption of innocence (the concept of habeas corpus) you have the idea that culture dictates intention, which is exactly what the Libertarians believe: that your intention is dictated by your own cultural understanding. So as long as you don’t try to force that religious or cultural understanding on others then whatever you want to do is okay in society.” Therefore, this depiction of the Libertarian ideology seems to reflect the Qur’anic injunction against coercion
If that is the case, then what is the Liberty movement position toward Muslims? Will Coley describes it as “The concept of non-aggression; the Libertarian ideology is that aggression is not legitimate unless it is in defense of a true action. They want the state to leave the Muslim community alone; they want Muslims to be able to build Mosques without having to ask permission from the city, they want us to be able to marry as many of whomever we choose to. They want us to be able to worship in whatever way we choose; they want us to arbitrate contracts amongst ourselves by any means that we choose.”
How did the Liberty movement gain this unique understanding of the Muslim ideology? In 2010 Liberty events around the country hosted speakers with a very clear anti-Muslim agenda. Yet in 2014, Liberty events welcome Muslims with open arms. How did this happen? Muslims 4 Liberty director Will Coley states it plainly, “In three years, with less than $3000; Muslims 4 Liberty has completely pushed the anti-Muslim voice out of the national liberty event circuit. 3 years ago you could go to Liberty events and find anti-Muslim speakers all over the country. Now if you want to see Pam Gellar, Robert Spencer, Bridgett Gabriel or Bill Warner then you have to watch Fox News or go to some tiny event somewhere. You will never again see them at national Liberty events as long as Muslims 4 Liberty is out here doing what we do. We have replaced them at every major event. In 2014, every major national event has had at least one major Muslim speaker.”
Davi Barker, an openly Muslim writer, has become a central figure in the liberty movement at the national level. His book Voluntary Islam has become a staple piece of literature for activists within the Liberty movement and they use it to break newcomers to the movement of any Anti-Muslim prejudices. In fact, people have referred to Davi as the “Unofficial King of Porcfest.”
What is Porcfest? Porcfest (named for the porcupine mascot of the Liberty movement) is perhaps the largest national event of the year for the Liberty movement. This year it fell right at the beginning of Ramadan and that triggered a major push to get Muslims 4 Liberty there to share the holiest month of the Islamic calendar with the presumed political allies of Muslims found within the Libertarian sphere. Will Coley and Davi Barker asked for donations for several months and gathered the $1400 needed to get to Porcfest. When they arrived, they were not only given space to set up a temporary mosque within the tent village but they were scheduled for four speaking spots, one of which was on the main stage. [For a summary of the speech given on the main stage visit www.muslims4liberty.org and read the article entitled Islam and Liberty] While giving the speech, Will was treated with respect from the crowd to such a degree that when a single voice of anti-Muslim ideas heckled him, the rest of the crowd shouted him down and silenced the voice of hate.
Will Coley describes the scene “Non-Muslims wouldn’t bring beer into our vending area because they knew we were Muslim and they knew that the presence of alcohol might be offensive. There were no signs or rules or demands, it was pure respect that was given because they have become convinced about our sincerity. We gave dawah by just being Muslim and praying together, feeding people at Ramadan, being kind, entertaining questions and never criticizing people. We’ve become centralized to the movement and a big event in the Liberty movement isn’t a big event unless Muslims 4 Liberty is there.” During the first two nights of Ramadan, Muslims 4 Liberty provided over 500 meals to share the experience of iftar with the entire community.
As a result of the positive presence of merely 15 Muslims at this event; Michael Shanklin, an attendee from Raleigh, NC reports “While at Porcfest, I had the pleasure of meeting Will Coley & Farah Adams, two devout Muslims who also support individual freedom and voluntarism. They were not only generous with their delicious food, but their hospitality carries with it a genuine sense of concern for its patrons. Many people in society still hold reservations about other individuals who practice the faith of Islam. Well, individuals such as Will and Farah completely blow these misconceptions out of the water.” Michal concludes saying, “Individuals from the faith of Islam supporting the message of peaceful interactions at Porcfest will advance a world of freedom where all individuals are free to practice their religious beliefs, including Islam, in peace and harmony. Will and Farah, as well as all the individuals at Muslims 4 Liberty, are that breath of fresh air.”
But Will says that the work is far from done in the Liberty Movement, “Everything sort of stalled out in 1776 and our job in this generation is to get it moving again because as it became stalled out and forgotten about by most of society, things started going downhill more and more and society slowly became more oppressive. Our generation has to take the gift and kick start things again so that we can get things moving in a way that will shake off this oppression and move in a way that will get us up the incline again.”
What can Muslims do to aid the Liberty Movement? Will Coley declares that many Muslims are being counterproductive by focusing on the wrong candidates, “Raising money (for instance) for [Democrat] Senator Dave Nelson in Florida as a Muslim and a Palestinian who claims to stand up for Palestine as a Business owner; to invite this man to your home and raise funds for him is counterproductive. This man is listed as one of the top Zionist supporters in the country and Palestinian Muslims are raising money for him while there are Libertarian candidates in the state of Florida who are openly condemning anti-shariah bills by spending more than 20 minutes of airtime and they are being ignored by the Muslim community. These are people who are natural allies of ours because they are anti-war with the idea that if someone doesn’t hit you that you don’t have the right to hit them. They want to end the drone campaigns, end public surveillance and get the FBI out of your Masjid.”
In post-9/11 America, political allies that are steady and constant can be hard to find. It is good to know that there is a surge of pro-Muslim support within the fastest-growing political movement in the country. For that, we have to thank Muslims 4 Liberty and their method of dawah by example to show, rather than tell, that Muslims are progressive people seeking peace and harmony with our communities.
According to Muslims 4 Liberty, anyone curious about the link between the philosophy of the Liberty Movement and Islam should read Shihab Al-Deen Qarafi, a 12th Century Maliki Jurist and Muqhtar Madawi’s discussions about rahma in the sunnah and shariah. More articles can be found via the Minaret of Freedom and, of course, Muslims 4 Liberty’s own website.
There will be a mini-documentary on the takeover of Porcfest by Muslims 4 Liberty and Carolina Muslims will make this available on our website.
Anyone interested in funding Muslims 4 Liberty can find their link on GoFundMe or donate via Bitcoin.
Muslims 4 Liberty’s Website: http://www.muslims4liberty.org/