CAIR’s attack on Dr. Zuhdi Jasser resembles a desperate schoolyard bully
PHOENIX (January 30, 2014) – The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) released the following statement regarding recent attacks from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on AIFD president Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, author of “A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith”:
“In a stunning display of Islamist intimidation tactics, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released an unscrupulous attack on AIFD’s president, Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser following Dr. Jasser’s appearance on the January 24, 2014 episode of Fox News’s morning program, Fox and Friends. Dr. Jasser was invited to discuss the Department of Defense’s changes to their policies on religious dress for our military members.
During the interview, Dr. Jasser specifically discussed the value and importance of inclusion, and at no point suggested that Muslim servicemen and women be denied their religious rights, including the right to reasonable accommodations. However, among other fabrications in their release, CAIR falsely claimed that ‘Dr. Jasser decried the expanding rights as they applied to Muslims’.
As a former Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy, Dr. Jasser is familiar both with the culture of the military and its guidelines and the tenets of his faith. Dr. Jasser served proudly in the U.S. Navy as a Muslim who prays five times a day, abstains from alcohol and pork, fasts during the month of Ramadan, and more. In his 11 years of service, Dr. Jasser found no conflict to between his personal faith and his service in the military.
Contrary to CAIR’s assertions, Dr. Jasser actively worked to create inclusive spaces for Muslim soldiers at both the Bethesda Naval Hospital and in Norfolk. Dr. Jasser welcomes the fact that the DOD’s move toward further inclusion will likely attract many religious Americans to serve proudly as Dr. Jasser did. Some Muslim women who wear the hijab, for example, may now see the military as a viable option for serving their country. Welcoming inclusion does not mean that every practice an individual deems ‘religious’ should be granted, however, and that is exactly what the policy continues to state.
The concern that Dr. Jasser expressed on Fox and Friends was not one any rational mind would understand as ‘anti-Muslim.’ Dr. Jasser’s concern remains that these guideline changes may be seen as a green light by those who seek to undermine our national security through radicalism and yes, predatory litigation. While we embrace inclusion, we always do so with a vigilant approach to opposing those who seek to undermine our values. Thus, any changes to uniform guidelines must be made with attention to unit cohesion, mission readiness and solemn dedication to our country’s foundational principles.
Dr. Jasser highlighted how these types of accommodations may benefit groups like Sikhs, for whom a beard is central to their faith practice, Jews who wear a yarmulke, or Muslim women who wear the hijab, but can be exploited by individuals who may seek to exploit the availability of accommodations. It is certainly within reason for Muslims to debate whether the beard is a required practice for Muslims as it is for Sikhs. It is also reasonable to debate whether Islamists would exploit the Sikh accommodation for their own balkanization. CAIR does not care about rational debate and discussion. They care only about spreading disinformation and defaming their antagonists. There is no better proof of Dr. Jasser’s concerns than CAIR’s rabid attack on even a religious Muslim who raises a reasonable set of questions for discussion. As Dr. Jasser wrote in the Wall Street Journal August 18, 2011, “our armed forces are ground zero in the struggle between Americanism and Islamism.” CAIR’s deceptive and malicious release on January 24th is proof positive of this.
CAIR has blatantly lied about Dr. Jasser’s position and engaged in reckless misrepresentation of his comments before. This latest smear crosses multiple lines. It is not just dishonest but attempts to sabotage Dr. Jasser’s professional work in defense of religious freedom. CAIR’s inability to engage with integrity is not unexpected, and their desire to silence the urgently needed ideological battle within the Muslim community is legion.
CAIR’s strategy appears to have many malignant aims. Among these is the demonization of any Muslim who disagrees with them in order to alienate that individual from the broader Muslim community. Additionally, their bullying tactics ‘make an example’ of those who dissent with them, creating a chilling effect on the speech of American Muslims who seek to dissent with CAIR.
CAIR’s stated goal is to protect the civil liberties of Muslims and foster understanding between communities. These would be noble aims. Unfortunately, CAIR chooses to defame Dr. Jasser and others in the Muslim community while employing bullying tactics and rejecting ideological and fiscal transparency.
The DOD’s changes, while not significant, are welcomed – but there needs to be additional protections put in place for commanders who will be charged with the implementation of these guidelines. Mission, not political correctness, needs to drive the decision of the commander to grant religious exemptions. We have seen the impact of political correctness in the military. When Nidal Hasan referred to himself as a “Soldier of Allah” and murdered 13 of his fellow soldiers, he did so after concerns about his ongoing radicalization were dismissed. The fact that Hasan’s colleagues at Walter Reed Army Medical Center may have hesitated to fully address Hasan’s disturbing behavior out of fear of offending ‘religious’ sensibilities demonstrates that CAIR’s silencing of this discussion harms both American security and casts a shadow of suspicion on American Muslims in the military. Commanders cannot fear legal or other retribution if they determine that a religious accommodation or behavior compromises a unit’s mission, cohesion or safety.
If we really want the military and the broader American community to truly embrace the contribution of American Muslims, we must reject the bullying tactics of organizations like CAIR, who claim to advocate for civil rights but really peddle a narrative of ceaseless victimhood while denigrating any Muslims who seek balance against the threat of Islamist ideologies. Their approach belittles true transgressions against religious liberty and in fact ostracizes those Muslims who bravely serve of our country.”
About the American Islamic Forum for Democracy
The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. AIFD’s mission advocates for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state. For more information on AIFD, please visit our website at http://www.aifdemocracy.org/.