I don’t often call out Muslim organizations by name, but there is one organization that is so pernicious, so toxic, so dishonest that it merits being exposed for all to see it for what it is. In recent months and weeks there has been an obvious uptick in this org’s activities and attempted reach, and there is a clear effort, already started, for this one group to spawn into and partner with many other clones, i.e., groups, and projects with no significant roots or respect in our community. I’m talking about “HEART Women and Girls.”
Now I hesitate to give this org any attention because, being the opportunistic fundraisers they are, they will try to leverage me calling them out for donations, which is ironic given how well funded they already are (more on that below).
But unfortunately I see HEART aggressively trying to infiltrate mainstream Muslim institutions, including masjids, MSAs, seminaries, even Islamic schools. Meanwhile, most well-meaning imams, chaplains, community leaders, parents, and Muslim students have little or no idea who these people are. In fact, that is how HEART likes it. They want the community to be in the dark about their true colors because they know that if Muslims knew about the things they are advocating, they would want nothing to do with them.
So they capitalize on the community’s ignorance of what they are really about and what they actually stand for, not to mention their funding sources and political and ideological associations. Yet, thankfully, they cannot advance their agendas and please their backers and mentors while hiding completely. Their little-read articles and social media posts, as well as their sparsely attended events give them away. Let’s give some of their public words and actions a wider readership and let the community judge for itself.
So this post is a public service announcement. The hope is that any serious Muslim who sees what this org is about, what they promote, who they are affiliated with, where they get their funding, and how they conduct their operation will recognize their toxicity and resolve to boycott them, distance himself from them, and/or cut any existing relations with them. Some might claim that HEART does do positive work, like oppose Islamophobia. Yes, it’s true that opposing Islamophobia is beneficial but that benefit cannot be overshadowed by a tidal wave of poison. And that is exactly what HEART is about: Attempting to inject poison into the community. Furthermore, we should judge the value of any Muslim org according to what Islam defines as beneficial, not what secular, progressive, reformist ideologies define as such. Please keep that in mind when reading the below.
I never ask my readers to share, like, or comment on my posts, but in this case, please do. And please share this information as far and as wide as possible. If more convenient, feel free to share any part of this without attribution to me. What’s important is that the community at large, especially in the US, UK, and Canada, gets this info. HEART’s problems shouldn’t spread in our community, and other newfangled web-based activist groups like them need to take notice, lest they start spreading the same diseases plaguing HEART. For years, HEART has been pushing their anti-Islamic agendas under the cover of making space for difficult conversations and tolerating and respecting different points of view. Now that we are collecting and presenting some of their public actions and associations in a post, will they welcome this conversation, or try to derail and stifle it?
Without further ado, let’s look at the details, organized into the following sections:
1. What Does HEART Promote?
2. Who Is HEART Affiliated With?
3. Who Funds HEART?
4. How Does HEART Shake Down MSAs?
5. What Is HEART’s Overall Strategy?
6. What Can You Do?
What Does HEART Promote?
HEART claims to be a “culturally sensitive” “faith based” group of “professionals” raising awareness of sexual health and sexual violence in the Muslim community. Sounds benign enough. But in reality, HEART is deeply committed to spreading reformist, progressive values that are antithetical to Islam.
There is a great deal of evidence of this, first and foremost, HEART’s own “educational” material. Despite repeatedly claiming that they are “aligned with the Islamic tradition,” there is absolutely zero Islamic content to be found in their instruction or their approach. In reality, they offer a cheap hodgepodge of copy-pasted sex ed material from extreme secular progressive orgs like Planned Parenthood.
Two glaring examples to highlight here. First, as a policy, HEART does not advocate abstaining from sex before marriage, which of course means, they essentially promote zina. They emphasize in their materials that children under the age of 12 should be taught that sex is an act of great pleasure and they have to decide with their partners if they want to have sex. Again, this is their guidance for children under 12.
The above Guide can be found here [PDF].
For children 12 or older, HEART’s guidance is to make sure they are “prepared for sex” in order to get ready for the “heat of the moment” with one’s “partner” because ultimately, one has to do “what is right for one’s body” and parents should “respect their children’s choices, whatever they may be.” This, of course, is straight from the most extreme, anti-religious sex education ideology found in the West, which believes that refraining from sex is “unhealthy” and “unsafe.” According to this ideology, as promoted by HEART, the most important thing that matters is to make sure that our children are informed enough to be engaged in “safe” sex, i.e., “consensual” fornication using birth control. Where exactly is the Islamic content? How does any of this “align with the Islamic tradition”?
Beyond their shameless promotion of zina, HEART is a tireless advocate for the LGBT agenda. This fact is reflected in several ways. Firstly, LGBT-promoting organizations themselves contribute funding directly and openly to HEART [see below]. Furthermore, their sex education material conveys LGBT talking points about the “biases” that Muslims have on LGBT and how the Muslim community needs to work diligently to accommodate “diverse sexualities.” Thirdly, they have openly LGBT-identifying individuals on their board of directors, including a “transgender” “woman” [see below].
Most interestingly of all, HEART sees its supposed work against sexual violence as a way to gradually infiltrate and promote the LGBT agenda within Muslim spaces that otherwise are not open to that given Islamic principles.
HEART knows that they must gain social and political capital within the Muslim community if they are going to successfully inject their “progressive” LGBT mandate into the Muslim mainstream. They attempt to accomplish this with a strategic bait and switch: First, they attempt to gain legitimacy by seeking out and working on high profile allegations of sexual misconduct in the community, oftentimes using media connections to broadcast their involvement in those cases. Then, once they gain the trust of those communities, they push LGBT and reformist causes and initiatives.
Two examples of “the bait”:
Then the switch: Promoting and normalizing LGBT and other un-Islamic agendas. One of the more prominent examples is how, a year later, in Ramadan, the former chairman of CIOGC (Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago), Kaiseruddin, pictured above, along with the HEART team partnered with a lesbian group to facilitate what they called a “groundbreaking” “LGBT iftar” in Chicago. (Coincidentally, perhaps, CIOGC’s involvement in CVE has been documented.) Two snippets from the news coverage of the iftar:
“But Kaiseruddin also expressed amazement at the composition of the room. He said while he expected that the group would discuss LGBTQ issues, he never expected that LGBTQ Muslims — and so many of them — would be in attendance. Later in the evening, he said he felt he had to review Quranic scriptures regarding the faith’s posture toward gays and lesbians.”
“This is an attempt to simply start the conversation,” said Omer Mozaffar, the Muslim Chaplain at Loyola University, who facilitated the evening’s discussion. “What does it mean to be Muslim and LGBT?”
Beyond the “LGBT iftar,” HEART directors have demanded the Muslim community stop stigmatizing gay and lesbian sex and to accept queer lifestyles through numerous articles and social media posts published over the years. As recently as two weeks ago, HEART co-founder, Nadiah Mohajir, proudly displayed her participation in a “gay pride” parade. The extent of HEART’s LGBT normalization project is evident from the fact that a self-described “bisexual transgender Shi’a Muslim woman” is a current board member, Mahdia Lynn, who “transitioned” from being a man to a “woman.”
HEART’s Director of Sexual Education, Sameera Qureshi, has even gone on record saying that the ignorant Muslim community and their young children need to be “strategically educated” about tolerance for homosexual acts and gender fluidity because it’s a “really valuable” part of our society. [Listen to this eye-opening interview starting at the 3 minute mark.]
INTERVIEWER: I hear your calls and many others do for acceptance and a broader understanding of all diverse points of view. But I want to be really direct with you. Some people say, some of the people at least who object to parts of sex ed curriculum, they don’t accept tolerance for gay people and the idea of gender fluidity. What would you say to those critics?
QURESHI: Well a lot of it is that our own Muslim communities don’t understand the topic themselves, I think they themselves don’t understand what homosexuality is…
INTERVIEWER: Shouldn’t we be teaching our kids about that?
QURESHI: Absolutely, I absolutely agree that that needs to be done, I believe though that it be done in a very strategic and sensitive way, and so that really requires people who understand Islamic tradition, who understand where some of that hesitation and discomfort may be coming from and being like I agree that you may be uncomfortable but this is something that’s really valuable and it’s part of our society here in Canada and the UK. [emphasis added]
I also want to emphasize that HEART’s sex ed material and programming is already offered by literally dozens of other progressive sex advocacy organizations with exactly the same content verbatim, except HEART’s stuff has the word “Muslim” slapped on every few sentences to give the impression that they truly represent the Muslim community’s interests. Utilizing this facade of Muslim-ness, they want to portray themselves as “faith based” and “culturally sensitive” while forcing themselves on the unsuspecting Muslim community.
Who Is HEART Affiliated With?
A month ago, when ISNA disinvited Wajahat Ali from their convention for his despicable stance on Palestine and his involvement with the Zionism-promoting “Muslim Leadership Initiative” (MLI), I noted that Ali is only the most visible in a small network of reformist individuals who are actively trying to embed themselves into the mainstream American community and influence it for their ideological, political, and financial ends. To uncover this network, simply look at who promotes whom.
As you might have guessed, Ali has on past occasions endorsed HEART and its board members, even as recently as two weeks ago. Furthermore, like Ali, multiple key HEART board members have proudly and unabashedly participated in the much maligned MLI, e.g., Samar Kaukab, who served on HEART’s board for 4 years and has eagerly called for the Muslim community to be willing to violate BDS and “engage with,” i.e., be co-opted by, Zionist groups like the Shalom Hartman Institute. Kaukab’s passion for Zionist normalization is so strong that she even publicly debated the merits of MLI at ISNA’s 2015 annual convention. Besides Kaukab, several other HEART members and advisers were part of different MLI cohorts. This is not something they like to advertise nowadays, but it’s something that anyone who cares about the plight of our Palestinian brothers and sisters needs to be aware of.
The bottom line is: How can anyone who recognizes the harm that MLI does to our Palestinian brothers and sisters associate or defend a group that was founded by MLI members, is directed and advised by MLI members?
Besides MLI stooges and die-hard LGBT activists, HEART also promotes outright reformists calling for the dissolution of Islamic law and tradition, most notably Shehnaz Haqqani. Just last weekend, HEART teamed up with a group that aptly calls itself FITNA (Feminist Islamic Troublemakers of North America) to co-sponsor a speaking engagement at USC where Haqqani was slated to discuss her extreme views on gender in Islam.
To understand how extreme Haqqani is, one only needs to read her writing. Most notable, perhaps, are her gushing endorsements of Amina Wadud as her role model and her defense of Wadud’s insulting of Prophet Ibrahim (alayhis salam) as a “deadbeat.” Haqqani also penned a glowing endorsement of the recent feminist who wrote a disgusting diatribe against the Prophet ﷺ, claiming that Muslim women have the “absolute right not to feel” love for him. Haqqani praised this filth, telling her readers to “prepare for the sheer beauty, brilliance, and frankness” of the attack on the Prophet ﷺ.
In sum, Haqqani is the exact kind of person that HEART shamelessly promotes and puts on a pedestal for the community to emulate. This is the same HEART that is aggressively trying to push itself onto mosques, Islamic centers, Islamic schools, seminaries, etc. Do they think the community is blind or stupid? Do they imagine that America’s well-meaning Muslim leaders and their communities won’t catch wind of the kind of people they associate with, the kind of people they are themselves, whether they be Zionism-promoting MLI advocates, LGBT propagandists, or anbiya-insulting reformist hacks? HEART offers the whole cavalcade of deplorables.
Who Funds HEART?
HEART is, unfortunately, not short of funds. In recent years, most of their funding has come from Donald Trump’s Department of Justice, which granted HEART $325,000 in 2017. Whenever federal agencies as large as the DOJ grant hundreds of thousands of dollars to a small Muslim org like HEART, the Muslim community ought to ask some serious questions. Government money does not come for free, especially not in the Trump era. What did HEART do to secure such a major grant? What are they going to report back to the Department of Justice? How will the information they collect from the mosques, MSAs, and seminaries they work with be used? What mandates has the DOJ given HEART vis-a-vis the Muslim community they are supposed to “serve” with that funding? Do their mandates from the DOJ have anything to do with the fact that the Trump Administration has explicitly said that it seeks to push its influence in Muslim communities by promoting “Muslim women’s empowerment”?
Even if certain people are not shocked and disgusted by everything else mentioned about HEART, they would do well to at least avoid getting themselves mixed up with a group that relies on Trump’s Department of Justice for most of its funding.
Besides this gigantic, almost comical red flag, HEART also gets grant money from organizations like the Third Wave Fund, which is, among other things, dedicated to promoting queer and trans causes. Are we seeing a pattern here?
Despite the largesse HEART receives from government agencies to peddle their third-rate anti-Islamic sex ed schlock, HEART also belligerently seeks funding from Muslim Student Associations in order to sponsor their seminars and even fund fellowships. A recent episode at a major American university illustrates their sleazy tactics.
How Does HEART Shake Down MSAs?
Note: I am going to leave out mention of this MSA in order to protect them from any negative scrutiny. But the information below is from reliable sources within the MSA that describe their direct experience and involvement with HEART in great detail.
One concerned member of the MSA had the following to say about HEART approaching them for co-sponsorship:
“So, on my end, HEART absolutely began contacting us without us knowing what they stood for. I took members word for it in that they could be very beneficial for the Muslims on campus. I legitimately believed (based on what was described to me) that the event would be “Here’s what Islam says. Premarital relations are haraam. In the case that something goes wrong in the case of no premarital relations, here’s what you do.” Instead we got a talk on how to have sex outside of marriage and the only mentions of Islam was to say that Muslims have sex too and not to judge anyone’s sexual behavior. That’s when the MSA members realized the gravity of our mistake in offering to advertise for them.” [emphasis mine]
Long story short, HEART approached the MSA at this university to provide basic training and workshops. Not knowing better, this MSA agreed and secured venue, advertising, and even a sizable honorarium to have one of HEART’s “professionals” talk to the Muslim students in multiple sessions about what every teenager going through the American school system learns in high school or even college orientation. Needless to say, the Muslim students were underwhelmed by the workshop. Not getting the hint, HEART highly recommended a fellowship program for the MSA, where certain “open-minded” Muslim students would be selected as HEART ambassadors and spread HEART’s “culturally sensitive” filth throughout campus. The only catch: The fellowship would cost the MSA thousands of dollars. Unsurprisingly, the MSA politely but firmly declined. Why would a cash-strapped MSA agree to pay HEART thousands of dollars in order to do HEART’s dirty work?
But this polite refusal was met with resistance by HEART, who insisted that the MSA desperately needed this kind of program. Doesn’t the MSA care about sexual assault? Again, the MSA declined, but apparently HEART is unfamiliar with the concept of “No means no.”
This is where it gets really ugly. The student ambassadors who had been working with the HEART rep accused the MSA board of not caring about sexual assault! They publicly accused the board of actually causing sexual violence on campus because they wouldn’t cough up the money for HEART’s fellowship program! These poor MSA students, confronted with such serious allegations, relented to the bullying, at least partially. They promised that they would fully support HEART by advertising all future workshops and securing venues on campus. But they simply could not afford the cost of the fellowship program HEART was pushing.
Was this enough to appease the bullies? Not at all. The bullies started a petition demanding that the MSA fund the program if they care about sexual violence! Once again, this bewildered the MSA board which had already done so much to accommodate this unhinged off-campus organization. Ultimately, the MSA was able to escape the relentless pressure and shaming inflicted upon it, but not without a prolonged controversy threatening the stability of the group and its ability to function.
The concerned MSA member reflected on HEART’s behavior thus:
“To say we were emotionally manipulated is an understatement. Not only were we all told that we were the reason for sexual assault in the Muslim community, we were also called incredibly ignorant (“we know you don’t want to admit that sexual assault happens in Muslims spaces, but it really does”), and were placed in Group chats or threads that were made saying “Anyone who is my friend will support this petition.” It was all incredibly petty.”
This is just one example of how HEART operates, essentially shaking down the Muslim community for more and more money and access in the name of Islam as if they feel entitled to a platform wherever they please.
What Is HEART’s Overall Strategy?
As the example with the MSA shows, HEART’s primary strategy is to shame the Muslim community. This is the pinnacle of irony, of course, given how opposed to “victim shaming” they claim to be. What HEART wants to do is position itself as the licensing authority for sexual violence in the American Muslim community. What I mean by this is that those imams, chaplains, and students who go through their programming become “certified” on understanding sexual violence and ethics. Those who do not go through said programming are not certified, the implication being: they are ignorant of sexual violence and ethics and/or they simply do not care about it.
HEART recognizes that in the #metoo hysteria, now is their opportunity to heavily push this narrative of painting traditional imams, chaplains, and scholars as ignorant and in need of HEART’s “valuable guidance.” If these leaders decline working with HEART, the narrative shifts and the imams and community leaders become predators and enablers who would only refuse the services HEART offers because they don’t care about sexual assault, are covering it up, or may well be rapists themselves behind closed doors. As far as HEART is concerned, this is their chance to get their foot in the door of as many Muslim institutions as possible and threaten to shame anyone who opposes them into silence.
You might think that I am exaggerating, but I have first hand experience with this tactic. When I first criticized HEART about two years ago for their anti-Islam sex ed material for children, their board members (as well as their LGBT activist friends and allies) quickly accused me of directly contributing to sexual violence and enabling rape! Anyone who dares criticize HEART or even thinks about merely declining their reformist, progressive agenda is immediately branded as ignoring “the professionals” and “the research” and as being sympathetic to sexual assault, child molestation, etc. This is a pattern of behavior that the Muslim community should not tolerate, not from HEART nor from any other activist group.
Let me state that sexual ethics are extremely important and Islam provides clear and direct guidance on sexual ethics and behavior. I truly believe in the importance of sexual ethics and the need to denounce sexual misconduct, which includes rape, child molestation, as well as zina and same sex behavior. Progressives and reformists like HEART do not have a monopoly on caring about and actively addressing sexual ethics in our community, despite how they portray themselves.
What Can You Do?
First, please share this information. Second, if your MSA, masjid, Islamic school, institution, madrasa, or seminary is planning an event with HEART or thinking about working with HEART, make your voice heard and firmly oppose it. Point out everything that HEART stands for, their affiliations, their funding, their tactics. How could any self-respecting Muslim group associate with such an organization? And ask questions. Who is pushing for involvement with HEART? Who is promoting them as leaders? Who is giving them legitimacy? Who is promoting them and why? Who are HEART’s trusted advisers and mentors?
Ultimately, do the people promoting and associating with HEART know about their sordid background and activities? We need to demand transparency.
At the end of the day, we need to be protective of the Muslim mainstream in America. We cannot allow fringe groups like HEART to wedge themselves into the fold in their attempts to gain legitimacy (and $$$) from unsuspecting community members. May Allah protect us and our children from the purveyors of misguidance.