Yesterday’s tragic bombings and murders in the Sinai demand that we more closely reflect upon the warped motivations of our enemies especially as we enter our elections. An Egyptian hotel is an unfortunately obvious target. Many analysts have cited the primary short-term goal of al-Qaida being the removal of the American and western presence from Iraq. Many correctly note that the removal of Saddam and the installation of democracy in Iraq and possibly in the greater Middle East brings with it an antidote to the influence of organizations like al-Qaida. The first step to understanding their motivations is understanding that they are incubated from the belly of theocracies and dictatorships. Charles Krauthammer points out that in Spain and near the Australian embassy in Indonesia the goal was influencing their elections so that the challenger can win and withdraw troops from Iraq. He then points out that the motivation with the recent escalation of guerilla terrorism on soft targets throughout Iraq is to increase the price of the war and break the American resolve and support of President Bush, much like the Tet offensive in Vietnam prior to the 1968 elections in America. The bombings in Egypt yesterday appear to be along the same lines of derangement. Al-Qaida appears to be banking on the premise that an increase in global terrorism against American interests, allies, and tourists will break the will of the U.S. in fighting this war against militant Islamo-fascists. The militant Islamists are doing everything possible to remove American presence in the Middle East which threatens their existence and their dreams of theocratic government. The hotels and tourism of Egypt are not only traveled by westerners, but its crippling sends a message to Arab and Muslim nations that depend upon America’s economic resources. Threatening American security, increasing global terrorism and stifling American-Muslim interaction are all goals of al-Qaida, which despises secular freedom and capitalism. In WWII, FDR returned to office with commanding mandates when he stood for liberty, identified our enemies, and pledged American leadership in a resolve to defeat the enemies of freedom. To interpret Iraq and the recent rise in global terrorism in any other way is to ignore the obvious. While the cockroaches of terrorism are being exterminated, their activity will unfortunately increase. To walk away from their infestation in Iraq and beyond is to yield to them the world which led to 9/11 and to yield American security to only a prayer that another attack on our soil or our citizens will not happen “as long as we leave the terrorists alone.” Their ideology of hate will not conform to this and appeasement will only allow their growth and rebuilding. This column appeared in the Arizona Republic PluggedIn weblog at this link
Since World War II, nearly every Middle Eastern nation has been under the smothering vise of ruthless tyrants, autocrats and monarchs. Only since 9/11 has American foreign policy begun to show it understands there is a definite connection between Middle Eastern despotism and Islamo-fascist terrorism. Yet, the ones most familiar with these systemic human rights abuses in the Middle East have been silent for years. Those Americans who escaped Middle Eastern tyranny during the last 40 years have until now been incomprehensibly silent. Sept. 11, 2001 woke up America to the dangers of theocracy and despotism in the Middle East. It has also awakened the slumbering community of Middle Eastern immigrants. The reasons for our past silence are manifold. Some Middle Eastern Americans have feared retribution to family in their ancestral lands. Some fear for their own safety. But many have simply not seen any viable alternative to the secular dictatorships, because the Islamo-fascists are waiting in the wings. On the first day of this month in Washington, D.C., the first Middle Eastern American Convention for Freedom and Democracy took place. It was sponsored by the newly formed Center for Freedom in the Middle East, and included a consortium of more than 20 liberty-minded organizations of Middle Eastern Americans. This meeting was nothing less than historic. It brought together first-, second- and third-generation immigrants who share a common ancestral heritage and whose lands remain governed by these malignant despots. We shared a common love for the freedom and liberty we have experienced in America and yearned to bring these ideals back to our brethren in Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Iraq, to name a few. We also clearly identified organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida as terrorist organizations that must be combated. We agreed that it is the duty of we who have enjoyed freedoms here to help our brethren break free of the murderous ideologies that have suffocated them for so long. The truth also is that the tribal culture of the Middle East has hijacked the religion of Islam. We see this most clearly in the case of Wahhabism and Salafism, which has been at the center of this war on terrorism. It is finally clear, at least to those of us in attendance, that the liberation of the Middle Eastern peoples will also be the liberation of Islam from the terrorist ideologies that have proven so helpful in propping up these despotic autocrats and monarchs. The conveners all agreed that our American founding principles are universal. They are not limited to any particular culture, faith or place. It became unanimously clear to all that any Middle Eastern state that wants its people to flourish must have separation of religion and state, protection of minority rights and a fundamentally tolerant and spiritual environment for its citizens. Such a gathering of Middle Eastern Americans had never happened. It sent a new collective message that the future belongs to the secular democrats in the Middle East and not the authoritarian theocrats. Our American soldiers and the coalition of the willing of more than 30 nations have been fighting for freedom in Iraq. Thousands have given their lives to free the Iraqi people. To that the conveners expressed their everlasting debt and acknowledged their responsibility to lead this effort in winning this war of ideas in the Middle East. At the center of this global confict is not “terror,” which is only a tactic, but rather a competition between theocracy and secular democracy. To those of us who know the freedom of religion in America, there is no system of government that comes close to empowering the faithful as here. No meeting of this sort could have happened anywhere else but in America. M. Zuhdi Jasser is a Phoenix physician and chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (www.aifdemocracy.org). AIFD is a member organization of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East (www.middleeastfreedom.org), which sponsored the Oct. 1 Middle East American Convention for Freedom and Democracy. This column orignally appeared in the Arizona Republic on October 10, 2004
In the year 2000, American Muslim organizations set out for the first time to empower a “Muslim voting bloc.” They formed the American Muslim Political Coordination Committee-PAC that included major national Islamic organizations. On the heels of their endorsement of then-Gov. George W. Bush, they along with many other American voting blocs, went on to claim credit for President Bush’s victory. Now, in a whole new world after 9/11, many of these same American Muslim organizations, along with some new ones, have formed the American Muslim Task Force-PAC. This coalition of 10 major American Islamic organizations endorsed Sen. John Kerry on Oct. 21 via their PAC. They cite a Georgetown/Zogby poll claiming that 81 percent of American Muslims will support the Muslim PAC endorsement and 76 percent happen to also support Sen. Kerry. The question in all of this is – is it healthy for a secular democracy to have religious voting blocs? It is certainly natural for a minority community to unite, circle the wagons, and affect democracy – many certainly do. But, faith-based voting blocs blur the line between religion and state far too much. How can a secular democracy remain secular if voters divide into blocs based upon faith? Doesn’t this fly in the face of our nation’s principles that led to the tax exemption status for religious organizations? If co-religionists can unify their cause behind a candidate, does he become beholden to that faith’s leadership? What if a majority faith in the United States votes en mass? Is this not one step closer to the theocracies that we in the Middle Eastern community have left behind? The Moral Majority died a slow death in the 1980s after it became clear that it was harming more than helping the cause for which it stood. In addition this development also led to internal corruption which fractured several large evangelical organizations. The development of faith voting blocs can create a quasi-multiparty system. In the Israeli democracy due to the number of parties and the need for a coalition to govern, often small blocs can wield significant influence. This certainly explains the impact that the minority Jewish orthodoxy has had upon instituting orthodox religious elements into Israeli law. While I applaud the engagement of my co-religionists in the American political system, I cannot understand the focus on faith from within the political arena. American Muslims are in no way monolithic. Yet a voting bloc reinforces the stereotype that we are tribal. When we vote for President, we assess issues both domestic and foreign. From economics and immigration to security and the general role of government, the religious doctrine cannot fit into a single point of view. In majority Islamic nations, religious political parties are often the norm. These religious parties have long sought to institute various forms of Islamic theocracy under the pretense of democracy. This is not the reported motive of AMT. But it is certainly a step in the wrong direction for Muslim reform and for the health of our American democracy. Only Muslims can articulate a response that resonates to the fanatical global philosophy of theocracy that threatens our American security. American Muslims who feel the time is now to only circle their wagons need ask themselves just one question-how relevant would their voting bloc be if American Christians voted en bloc in the 2004 elections? M. Zuhdi Jasser is a Phoenix physician and chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (www.aifdemocracy.org). He can be reached at Zuhdi@aifdemocracy.org This column originally appeared online at the Arizona Republic and can be found at this link at the Arizona Republic
The newest Bin Laden video tape, aired so willingly by the Islamist Jihad Network, Al Jazeera, timed as an “October surprise” only days before our election carries many lessons for America. Osama Bin Laden in his latest diatribe not once mentions Iraq. While his first lieutenant Zarqawi took the al-Qaida war to Iraq, OBL is now beginning to focus upon Israel and HAMAS. Witness the probable al-Qaida bombings in the Egyptian Hilton Hotel of Taba which viciously murdered 28 and injured over 100, mostly Israelis, a few weeks ago. Soon after, this latest tape surfaces. A whole new pattern is emerging. Following the pattern of every other Middle Eastern tyrant, he is diverting attention away from the battles he is losing in the hearts and minds of Muslims (i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan, where elections are soon to be held) toward the one he can demagogue as a rallying cry – the Israeli Palestinian crisis. This is a desperate sign that he is losing grip on his original goals as stated in his declaration of war in 1998 against America. As the HAMAS leadership has disappeared, OBL is now trying to fill the power vacuum with Machiavellian motive. Philosophically, HAMAS and al-Qaida share similar methods, similar fascism, and share dreams of theocracy. Bin-Laden is also aware that Americans, different from the Spanish will most likely respond with a hawkish anti-terror vote for President Bush if OBL leads another attack prior to the election. So he now presents a case for Sen. Kerry. His effaced video to the world carries a sublime air of victory over the Bush administration in plain defiance by only demonstrating that he is still alive against the war machinery of the U.S. It harkens back to the same narcissitically defiant pan-Arabism and fascism of Gemal Abdel Nasser, the tyrant of Egypt in the 1960s who after having his entire military handed to him in the Yom Kippur war of ’67 gave a speech to his brainwashed populace that “we have actually not lost the war since you still have me as your leader.” Bin-Laden’s resurfacing seems to imply the same thing. Additionally, Al-Qaida’s recruits are becoming much harder to find as freedom begins to ring in the Middle East. It should be clear to all that OBL is now begrudgingly stepping up the ideological battle, he long tried to deceptively dismiss. The longer he could hide the clash of ideologies, the longer he had to break the will of the American populace. For Americans will not walk away from a fight against an ideology that threatens freedom. Bin-Laden this week decided to come out of hiding, blow his cover and throw some last salvos. He has now gone beyond the simple America hating vitriol to a more detailed indictment of our form of government, making inferences to an “American monarchy”, attacking the Patriot Act, attacking President Bush’s response at the moments of 9/11, and comparing the Bush administration to repressive Arab regimes. In point of fact, now those in America who have ignored this fight, are going to have a much harder time doing so. OBL may be trying to frustrate the world with what he is trying to portray as the Bush administration’s apparent lack of success in eradicating Al-Qaida. He has, however, in the process now exposed his real motives. Most telling was his statement, “We fought you because we are free and because we want freedom for our nation. When you squander our security we squander your’s.” Bin-Laden could not help himself. In desperation and frustration, he has admitted to 9/11 and once and for all silenced all of the conspiracy theorists with pathological denial. He also just handed the world the answer to “Why do they hate us?” The question most bandied since 9/11. This war is not about terror. It is about freedom and liberty. It’s about Al-Qaida wanting us to leave Middle Eastern dictatorships and monarchies alone for them to continue their oppression over the Muslim people. To destroy Bin Laden and his networks, the Middle East, which created him, must be freed. As he whimpers in desperation he is quickly moving from his original anti-American war cry toward feebly trying to convince his warriors that their ticket to freedom is theocracy and not secular democracy. As he dishonestly uses the language of freedom, he actually reveals his real cause – disdain for freedom and democracy and desire for Islamist theocracy. In that battle we cannot waiver. We must answer with resolve in this war that the greatest antidote to his Islamist plague is the inoculating spread of secular freedom and liberty. A freedom that cherishes free expression of religion and human rights for all. This October surprise may backfire on bin-Laden. Now most voters will go to the polls asking themselves before they punch their chad, “which candidate better understands the enemy, the ideology we are fighting, and what exactly is at stake in this war?” “Who will have the resolve to see this war on militant Islamism to its end? Bin Laden attacked us and declared war on us long before President Bush’s policies had any impact. President Bush finally has Al Qaeda in desperation. Does anyone know what exactly a Kerry administration would do in this war? Can we afford to take that chance? This column can also be found at this link at the Arizona Republic
Yesterday’s headlines rang with the not-so-profound revelation that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had now declared his allegiance to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. The world heard about al-Zarqawi’s call for “unity against the enemies of Islam”. He reported communicating with bin Laden and joining the strategy of al-Qaida with that of his own fascist “Tawhid and Jihad.” The real question is who actually believes this to be a new revelation? This coverage yesterday appears to lend credence to the fact that much of the media establishment remained under gross denial of the obvious link between the Iraq war, al-Qaida, and Islamo-fascist terror. The denial cannot last much longer. It is only a matter of time. The terrorists will remain bent on explicitly proving their associations no matter how slow the world coverage is on the uptake. It is going to become increasingly difficult for contrarians to the Iraq war to revel in the denial of linkage as al-Zarqawi and his fellow thugs make their associations clear and their obsession with Operation Iraqi Freedom clear for all to note. The Islamo-fascists came to us on 9/11 on the heels of Clinton’s foreign policy. We have now taken the fight to them in Iraq and Iraq seems to be infested with them. As Dennis Prager noted last week, “what would Zarqawi be doing today if he weren’t in Iraq today?” He is the head of a snake that has long been waiting to poison America. Taking the war to him and al-Qaida to liberate Islam from the true enemies of Islam and freedom will prove in the future to be a prescient foreign policy approach. Similarly, today will most likely yield little verbal responses from international Muslim leaders about al-Zarqawi himself being the greatest enemy of Islam. Perhaps someday soon, whether by ‘fatwa’ or a more modern pronouncement of a call to action of the moderate faithful, Muslims worldwide will declare their own clear disgust and intentions to lead the war against al-Qaida, al-Zarqawi, and their ilk – the real enemies of Islam. For until they do, the nauseating religious pronouncements of crazed zealots like al-Zarqawi will continue to be tacitly accepted by the world media on face value without criticism. Without massive worldwide immediate Muslim response and calls of action to defeat al-Zarqawi, he and al-Qaida will continue in their hijacking of the faith. A few countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are beginning to “get it.” In the setting of autocratic regimes in the absence of reform their motives will remain questionable, but time will reveal what role moderate Muslims will take in stepping up to the plate to defeat their own greatest enemy, the real enemies of Islam – Islamofascists. This column can also be found at this link at the Arizona Republic.
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