And he's a blossoming writer, working on a book called The Atheist Muslim. In a column posted Monday by the Huffington Post, Rizvi blasted Islamists for a series of campaigns aimed at silencing critics of Islam. Their reflexive cry of "Islamophobia" is "the ultimate, lazy substitute for a non-existent counter-argument," he wrote.
He singled out the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for special ridicule.
Pointing to CAIR's role in pressuring Brandeis University to cancel plans to bestow an honorary degree on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women's rights advocate who focuses on the treatment of women in Muslim societies, Rizvi emphasized the irony in CAIR's invoking "Islamophobia" to criticize Hirsi Ali.
Last month, a white American man successfully convinced the Massachusetts liberal arts school Brandeis University that he was being victimized and oppressed by a black African woman from Somalia -- a woman who underwent genital mutilation at age five and travels with armed security at risk of being assassinated.
That is the power of this term.
That white American is CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, a convert to Islam.
Last week, CAIR joined others in lobbying the National September 11 Memorial Museum to purge references to jihad and "Islamist" from a brief film about al-Qaida that will be on display.
"They don't want the public to think that Islamism or jihad had anything to do with Al Qaeda or the 9/11 attacks, because that could foster 'Islamophobia,'" Rizvi wrote. "We've so been down this road before."
CAIR often responds aggressively to such attitudes, especially when it comes from someone who, as Rizvi notes, "a brown-skinned person with a Muslim name." CAIR officials have a never-ending campaign to discredit Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim fights Islamism – the blending of mosque and state – disparaging him as an "Uncle Tom" for the sin of disagreeing with them.
If CAIR wants to smear Rizvi as an Islamophobe, he's already issued a rebuttal. The word "seeks to shield Islam itself (an ideology) from criticism," he wrote. "It's as if every time you said smoking was a filthy habit, you were perceived to be calling all smokers filthy people. Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. But when did we start extending those rights to ideas, books, and beliefs? You'd think the difference would be clear, but it isn't. The ploy has worked over and over again, and now everyone seems petrified of being tagged with this label."
Liberals especially. Rizvi borrows the phrase "Greenwald Syndrome" from a friend who, like Rizvi, is Pakistani expatriate who embraced secularism. It is "the phenomenon of Western liberals, in a supposed show of tolerance, embracing an apologist stance in favor of the intolerant."
He cites plenty of other examples, saying that shaming critics into silence by calling them "Islamophobes" has "fast become something of an epidemic."
Rizvi is a provocative voice with a growing profile. CAIR must be stewing. Read his full column here.