On Thursday, a hearing by the House Committee on Homeland Security will investigate “the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community and that community’s response”. On Monday, Tell Me More host Michel Martin spoke with one Muslim Congressman who voiced reservations about the scope and tone of the hearings. On Tuesday, Martin speaks with the founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser whose testimony will be a centerpiece of the probe.
In recent days, Rep. Peter King has been accused of starting a “witch hunt” by holding hearings, starting this Thursday, called “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response.” As an American Muslim woman who has lived in this country for 42 years, I firmly believe the hearings on Muslim radicalization are not a witch hunt and King is no Joe McCarthy, the senator who led hearings on communism in America. Our worst enemies in America, I would argue, are Muslim interest groups and leaders, who do more to deny the problem than defeat it, thus furthering frustrations with the Muslim community. We need to acknowledge that there is a problem.
We have seen the encroachment of extremist interpretations of Islam into our American Muslim community, and as a community we have largely sat on the fence about these very serious issues. I know because, for most of my life, I sat on the fence, calculating, like many in our community, that it was just easier to look the other way than confront difficult truths. Starting in the 1970s, I saw puritanical, intolerant ideologies creep into my community. I also watched as many moderate Muslims simply cowered or walked away, intimidated into thinking they were less pious or faithful-or concluding it wasn’t worth the bother. I was among them. Social ostracism was one weapon in silencing dissent. Sept. 11, 2001, was my wakeup call.
In the years since, our community has launched obtuse PR campaigns that don’t address issues of radicalism head-on. We live in a culture of denial. Muslim communities, like so many, are largely shame-based societies, and they don’t take easily to admitting their problems. From my vantage point, we have to shake off the fear of shame and own the problems inside our community. In a sense, we need to be shameless. We have to realize that neither our community nor Islam has to be defined by criminals such as Maj. Nidal Hassan and Faisal Shahzad, but they will be if we don’t disavow these men and their ideologies. Muslim communities may have legitimate grievances about U.S. foreign policy, but those grievances, too often, become excuses for avoiding the ugly truths about radicalization in our communities.
We live in a culture of denial. Muslim communities, like so many, are largely shame-based societies, and they don’t take easily to admitting their problems.
Our community heroes should be folks such as Zuhdi Jasser, a former lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy who battles ideologues at mosques in Phoenix and nationwide, and Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali-American who has challenged extremism in the Minneapolis community that has led to so many Somali-American youths going to their native country to fight for the Muslim extremist group al-Shabaab. Both have challenged extremism in their communities, but they have done so at great personal cost. They realize, I believe, that we have a greater imperative to right wrongs than be silenced by fear of shame. Both are slated to testify Thursday.
There is a Quranic verse that reminds us of our divine imperative to testify to the truths of problems inside our community:
Oh ye who believe! Stand out firmly For justice, as witnesses To God, even if it may be against Yourselves, or your parents Or your kin-“Al-Nisa” (The Women), Quran, 4: 135
It’s never easy to speak honestly about the “dirty laundry” in any community. In 2003, when I wrote about sexism and intolerance at my local mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia, a moderate young Egyptian-American attorney met me at the local Panera Bread. He told me that he supported me but he said, “Stop writing.” His rationalization: “You are shaming the community,” he said.
Two of my personal heroes won’t testify at the hearings, but they could, because they chose truth-telling over worries about shame. They are my father, Zafar Nomani, 75, and my mother, Sajida Nomani, who is sixty-something. My father was one of the founders of our local mosque and lost his position on the board when he stood with me for women’s rights and tolerance. He also lost his friends. My mother prayed with me in the men’s section of the mosque, and she stopped getting invitations to potluck dinners. What they remind me always is that, beyond board positions, potluck dinners, and fear of shame, it is our duty, as Muslims, to testify to the truth even if it is against our “kin.”
Asra Q. Nomani is the author of Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam. She is co-director of the Pearl Project, an investigation into the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Her activism for women’s rights at her mosque in West Virginia is the subject of a PBS documentary, The Mosque in Morgantown. She recently published a monograph, Milestones for a Spiritual Jihad: Toward an Islam of Grace. firstname.lastname@example.org
Ali Velshi of CNN’s News Room had Dr. Zuhdi Jasser on to discuss issues of Muslim radicalization and the House Homeland Security Committee hearings scheduled for March 10.
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser spoke with T.J. Holmes from CNN American Morning about the House Homeland Security Committee’s meeting on Muslim Radicalization.
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser appeared on America’s Newsroom with Martha MacCallum to discuss the upcoming hearing on Muslim radicalization
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AIFD stands against any movement that would subjugate Americans under Shariah law
PHOENIX (March 1, 2011) – Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim and the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) issued the following statement regarding the March 3, 2011 rally – Shariah for America: A call for revolution.
“Shariah for America’s march on Washington is an affront to very idea of America and in no way represents the core of American Muslims. American Muslims need to denounce this rally and to unequivocally state that Sharia for America’s movement to bring shariah into government is unconstitutional and unconscionable for liberty loving Muslims in America.
Shariah for America’s belief in governmental shariah is not a mandate from God, but is instead an instrument of man that uses the myth of Islamic supremacy to strip away individual liberty and freedom.
Not all Muslims are Islamists and the problems with Islamism are not only related to violence, but related to the entire ideology of seeking the supremacy of the Islamic state over the United States and Western society, which is exactly what Shariah for America is trying to do.
The organizers of Shariah for America believe that freedom of speech is a one way street and ultimately that their rally for shariah will not be countered by Muslims or Americans. AIFD stands in support of groups like Move America Forward and the Liberty Alliance who will rally on March 3 against shariah and the Islamic State. Events like this demonstrate that American Muslims need to be open about the need to separate mosque and state and to defeat the insidious supremacist ideology of shariah in government and Islamism in general.
Shariah for America is not the first group calling for the Islamist ideologies to defeat American values. These ideologies were also recently seen in July 2009 at the Hizb ut-tahrir recruiting conference outside Chicago.
Many American Islamist organizations see these demonstrations and meetings as being on the fringe, but at the end of the day very few American Muslim organizations have directly taken on the ideology of the caliphate, Islamism, political Islam and the Islamic state. They instead want us to believe that classically Islamist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and all of its offshoots and front groups are not a threat to the United States, when in fact rallies like this demonstrate the depths of exactly what the threat is and how at their core all Islamists desire to remove our Constitutional republic and put in its place an Islamic state based in Islamic law and the interpretations of clerics and theocrats.
AIFD calls upon all people of conscience to counter these ideas and demonstrate the fact that these are the very ideas that radicalize Muslims. There is a continuum of radicalization which is not only violence but accentuated by ideologies like this group’s that are not being countered by Muslims. In fact their silence against these ideologies caters to a mindset which is obstructionist and less than cooperative in preventing jihadism and the continual recruitment of Muslims into radicalization. Until the majority of American Muslims can begin to have frank discussion about these ideologies and how various levels of these ideologies feed into extremism and radicalization we will not as a nation be able to counter the ideology of political Islam and it’s inherent radicalization..
Shariah for America has called for a day of Anger against America. American Muslims need to have a day of anger against Shariah for America and their ideas and demonstrate that they are truly marginal. The silence of American Muslims against the Islamic state and political Islam allows radical groups like this to speak for all Muslims. It is our hope that there will be a reform for the separation of mosque and state and to make it unequivocal that these ideas of shariah and Islamic supremacy are not welcome in our Muslim communities.
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/.
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