Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Could I protect my father from the Armed Islamic Group with a paring knife? That was the question I faced one Tuesday morning in June of 1993, when I was a law student. I woke up early that morning in Dad's apartment on the outskirts of Algiers, Algeria, to an unrelenting pounding on the front door. It was a season as described by a local paper when every Tuesday a scholar fell to the bullets of fundamentalist assassins. My father's university teaching of Darwin had already provoked a classroom visit from the head of the so-called Islamic Salvation Front, who denounced Dad as an advocate of biologism before Dad had ejected the man, and now whoever was outside would neither identify himself nor go away. So my father tried to get the police on the phone, but perhaps terrified by the rising tide of armed extremism that had already claimed the lives of so many Algerian officers, they didn't even answer. And that was when I went to the kitchen, got out a paring knife, and took up a position inside the entryway. It was a ridiculous thing to do, really, but I couldn't think of anything else, and so there I stood. When I look back now, I think that that was the moment that set me on the path was to writing a book called "Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism." The title comes from a Pakistani play. I think it was actually that moment that sent me on the journey to interview 300 people of Muslim heritage from nearly 30 countries, from Afghanistan to Mali, to find out how they fought fundamentalism peacefully like my father did, and how they coped with the attendant risks. Luckily, back in June of 1993, our unidentified visitor went away, but other families were so much less lucky, and that was the thought that motivated my research. In any case, someone would return a few months later and leave a note on Dad's kitchen table, which simply said, "Consider yourself dead." Subsequently, Algeria's fundamentalist armed groups would murder as many as 200,000 civilians in what came to be known as the dark decade of the 1990s, including every single one of the women that you see here. In its harsh counterterrorist response, the state resorted to torture and to forced disappearances, and as terrible as all of these events became, the international community largely ignored them. Finally, my father, an Algerian peasant's son turned professor, was forced to stop teaching at the university and to flee his apartment, but what I will never forget about Mahfoud Bennoune, my dad, was that like so many other Algerian intellectuals, he refused to leave the country and he continued to publish pointed criticisms, both of the fundamentalists and sometimes of the government they battled. For example, in a November 1994 series in the newspaper El Watan entitled "How Fundamentalism Produced a Terrorism without Precedent," he denounced what he called the terrorists' radical break with the true Islam as it was lived by our ancestors. These were words that could get you killed. My father's country taught me in that dark decade of the 1990s that the popular struggle against Muslim fundamentalism is one of the most important and overlooked human rights struggles in the world. This remains true today, nearly 20 years later. You see, in every country where you hear about armed jihadis targeting civilians, there are also unarmed people defying those militants that you don't hear about, and those people need our support to succeed. In the West, it's often assumed that Muslims generally condone terrorism. Some on the right think this because they view Muslim culture as inherently violent, and some on the left imagine this because they view Muslim violence, fundamentalist violence, solely as a product of legitimate grievances. But both views are dead wrong. In fact, many people of Muslim heritage around the world are staunch opponents both of fundamentalism and of terrorism, and often for very good reason. You see, they're much more likely to be victims of this violence than its perpetrators. Let me just give you one example. According to a 2009 survey of Arabic language media resources, between 2004 and 2008, no more than 15 percent of al Qaeda's victims were Westerners. That's a terrible toll, but the vast majority were people of Muslim heritage, killed by Muslim fundamentalists. Now I've been talking for the last five minutes about fundamentalism, and you have a right to know exactly what I mean. I cite the definition given by the Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas, and she says that fundamentalisms, note the "s," so within all of the world's great religious traditions, "fundamentalisms are political movements of the extreme right which in a context of globalization manipulate religion in order to achieve their political aims." Sadia Abbas has called this the radical politicization of theology. Now I want to avoid projecting the notion that there's sort of a monolith out there called Muslim fundamentalism that is the same everywhere, because these movements also have their diversities. Some use and advocate violence. Some do not, though they're often interrelated. They take different forms. Some may be non-governmental organizations, even here in Britain like Cageprisoners. Some may become political parties, like the Muslim Brotherhood, and some may be openly armed groups like the Taliban. But in any case, these are all radical projects. They're not conservative or traditional approaches. They're most often about changing people's relationship with Islam rather than preserving it. What I am talking about is the Muslim extreme right, and the fact that its adherents are or purport to be Muslim makes them no less offensive than the extreme right anywhere else. So in my view, if we consider ourselves liberal or left-wing, human rights-loving or feminist, we must oppose these movements and support their grassroots opponents. Now let me be clear that I support an effective struggle against fundamentalism, but also a struggle that must itself respect international law, so nothing I am saying should be taken as a justification for refusals to democratize, and here I send out a shout-out of support to the pro-democracy movement in Algeria today, Barakat. Nor should anything I say be taken as a justification of violations of human rights, like the mass death sentences handed out in Egypt earlier this week. But what I am saying is that we must challenge these Muslim fundamentalist movements because they threaten human rights across Muslim-majority contexts, and they do this in a range of ways, most obviously with the direct attacks on civilians by the armed groups that carry those out. But that violence is just the tip of the iceberg. These movements as a whole purvey discrimination against religious minorities and sexual minorities. They seek to curtail the freedom of religion of everyone who either practices in a different way or chooses not to practice. And most definingly, they lead an all-out war on the rights of women. Now, faced with these movements in recent years, Western discourse has most often offered two flawed responses. The first that one sometimes finds on the right suggests that most Muslims are fundamentalist or something about Islam is inherently fundamentalist, and this is just offensive and wrong, but unfortunately on the left one sometimes encounters a discourse that is too politically correct to acknowledge the problem of Muslim fundamentalism at all or, even worse, apologizes for it, and this is unacceptable as well. So what I'm seeking is a new way of talking about this all together, which is grounded in the lived experiences and the hope of the people on the front lines. I'm painfully aware that there has been an increase in discrimination against Muslims in recent years in countries like the U.K. and the U.S., and that too is a matter of grave concern, but I firmly believe that telling these counter-stereotypical stories of people of Muslim heritage who have confronted the fundamentalists and been their primary victims is also a great way of countering that discrimination. So now let me introduce you to four people whose stories I had the great honor of telling. Faizan Peerzada and the Rafi Peer Theatre workshop named for his father have for years promoted the performing arts in Pakistan. With the rise of jihadist violence, they began to receive threats to call off their events, which they refused to heed. And so a bomber struck their 2008 eighth world performing arts festival in Lahore, producing rain of glass that fell into the venue injuring nine people, and later that same night, the Peerzadas made a very difficult decision: they announced that their festival would continue as planned the next day. As Faizan said at the time, if we bow down to the Islamists, we'll just be sitting in a dark corner. But they didn't know what would happen. Would anyone come? In fact, thousands of people came out the next day to support the performing arts in Lahore, and this simultaneously thrilled and terrified Faizan, and he ran up to a woman who had come in with her two small children, and he said, "You do know there was a bomb here yesterday, and you do know there's a threat here today." And she said, "I know that, but I came to your festival with my mother when I was their age, and I still have those images in my mind. We have to be here." With stalwart audiences like this, the Peerzadas were able to conclude their festival on schedule. And then the next year, they lost all of their sponsors due to the security risk. So when I met them in 2010, they were in the middle of the first subsequent event that they were able to have in the same venue, and this was the ninth youth performing arts festival held in Lahore in a year when that city had already experienced 44 terror attacks.