Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar’s “Combating International Islamophobia Act,” a first of its kind, recently passed the House of Representatives (219-212) in a strict party-line vote.
Established as a hysterical response to Republican Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert’s no doubt rude and ill-advised “Jihad squad” remark, the bill dangerously calls for the establishment of, wait for it, an “Office to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia” in the Department of State. Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has now introduced the companion bill in the Senate.
While some critics believe this legislation is pure theatrics and won’t even be brought up for a vote, others surmise that senators will make changes before sending it back to the House, making it very possible that anti-blasphemy will now be codified into American law. This is not hyperbole.
The freest nation on earth is now unbelievably on the verge of creating a position in our State Department charged not with protecting inalienable human rights, but with protecting a faith ideology. This will be celebrated by our theocratic Islamist enemies across the world. The U.S. government will have a sanctioned “American Grand Mufti” who will determine what is, and what is not, Islam. Every American Muslim, especially anti-Islamist (anti-theocratic) Muslims, will be marginalized by the new US government arbiter on Islam.
To grasp how dangerous this bill is, it’s important to understand the origins and history of the term “Islamophobia.” It was operationalized by Islamist movements in the West, like the Muslim Brotherhood, in the late 20th century in order to silence western debate where Muslims are a minority, and prevent ideological diversity within emerging institutions of Islam. It was popularized by the ruthless theocrat Ayatollah Khomeini and his movement in 1989, when he issued a fatwa that imposed the death penalty on British author Salman Rushdie for his famous dissident novel “The Satanic Verses.” The term was then also repurposed internally within most Muslim majority countries under the “neo-caliphate” umbrella of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) where autocratic regimes would extinguish domestic dissent through torture, imprisonment, or death, under the guise of protecting God and His faith of Islam. In other words, it is a term that is used to jail critics of shariah tyranny and call them blasphemers.
Back here in the west, the charge of “Islamophobia” is wielded against anyone who criticizes the religion or its Islamists and Jihadists counterparts. As a result, the crimes of Islamist terrorists and their sponsors are whitewashed and obfuscated around the world in favor of political correctness. Pause. Reflect on what such an outpost in our Department of State will be serving?
Do not forget that the radicalized American Left is now pushing this theocratization of American Muslim identity. The Democratic Party just spent the last few years ripping America apart via the racialization of our nation and the foundations of our American principles. With this new Act, they are taking the weaponization of the label of “bigot” globally and handing it to Islamists to use with the full blessing of the American imprimatur. This is exactly what the global Red-green (Progressivist-Islamist) Axis does and has been doing at the United Nations for 80 years.
Never mind that Muslims like myself, who stand up against Islamist religious extremism, and who criticize imposition of shariah law and the abysmal treatment of women, gays and minorities in Islamist countries, are consistently and bizarrely also branded “Islamophobes” for doing so. On the contrary, we are the greatest defenders of genuine Muslim and non-Muslim rights. We at the pro-liberty, anti-Islamist Muslim Reform Movement are doing the actual work fighting anti-Muslim bigotry. This Orwellian office at the StateDepartment would only empower a look at the world through the binary Islamist lens of “Muslim and non-Muslim.”
We reformers constantly speak out against the atrocities committed throughout the world by Muslims against Muslims. So what will Congress do now, having passed this bill, when it confronts the uncomfortable fact that the vast majority of global attacks on Muslims are clearly committed by other Muslims?
The space that Omar’s bill creates for the suppression of countervailing ideas of liberalism is striking upon reading it. Its language reads like an OIC state manual, and even the statistics that are used to cite anti-Muslim bigotry in the bill’s press release are highly misleading, including referencing websites that have been thoroughly debunked as containing fraudulent data.
Not only did those who wrote it fail to consult with the State Department, but they do not even define what would apparently constitute “Islamophobia,” leaving open the possibility of reproval for anyone who says something negatively associated with Islam. Of even more concern is the repeated dangerous references to “incitement” language, which is code for an Orwellian control of free speech and protection of any “ideas” within “Islam” no matter how theocratic or repulsive they may be. Americans have already seen how this weapon is deployed by the “Establishment” against conservative thought. Now it is being weaponized globally on behalf of the “Islamist Establishment.”
This “anti-Islamophobia” position in the State Department will become a massive liability for our foreign policy. It will fulfill no other purpose than attacking western democratic nations (and of course Israel), while leaving millions of Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others to continue suffering at the hands of their tyrannical regimes. In other words, the supreme danger of this legislation is that it will give Islamists and Jihadists a free pass to commit genocide and ethnic cleansing against their fellow Muslims because it doesn’t fall under the purview of the Office of the American “Grand Mufti” of Islamophobia.
And given the foreign policy views of those who support this legislation, it will surely put the U.S. government in a position to withdraw protections granted by the First Amendment, as it will be increasingly difficult to draw attention to real human rights abuses by jihadists or Islamists without fear.
It is unthinkable that congress has come to this. Real anti-Muslim bigotry exists. But “Islamophobia” is a manufactured virtue signal that allows one to appear on the right side of social justice. This new and un-American position at State is named and founded on the racialization of an ideology, a faith — Islam. A party, the Democratic Party, that has repeatedly exaggerated the label of “bigotry” in order to suppress critical thinking now has the temerity to create a perch within our foreign policy apparatus that will weaponize the same Orwellian racialization of the faith of Islam that Islamist tyrannies do across the planet.
History will show that the Democratic Party of the 21st century has become the platform of Islamists, for Islamists.
Zuhdi Jasser is the founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, based in Phoenix, Arizona, and the co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement. He is also a senior fellow for the Center for Security Policy and a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander. He is a former Vice-Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and author of the book, A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith. He is also a physician in private practice. Find him on Twitter: @DrZuhdiJasser.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Muslim Reform Movement
480 225 7473
December 1, 2021
Muslim Reform Movement Opposes the Biden Administration’s Appointment of Rashad Hussain to Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom
PHOENIX, Ariz. – The Muslim Reform Movement, representing a global network of Muslims from the United States to Afghanistan, opposes the Biden administration’s appointment of Rashad Hussain to the position of U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, arguing that Mr. Hussain’s years of support for Islamist theocracies and autocracies rooted in Islamism, or political Islam, sends a dangerous message to Muslims around the world who oppose the hateful, divisive and bigoted ideology of Islamist governments and organizations.
The Muslim Reform Movement has long valued the importance of the U.S. State Department’s focus on international religious freedom across its diplomatic portfolios. As a diverse international coalition of Muslim reformers dedicated to defeating political Islam, many of us have long and very productive relationships with members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
The position of Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom is especially important since the person sets the agenda for religious freedom advocacy globally for the U.S. Secretary of State and the U.S. State Department.
The Muslim Reform Movement is concerned about President Biden’s appointment of Rashad Hussain to the post of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. While we certainly, as a Muslim coalition, welcome the appointment of a Muslim to the position, such an appointment, especially if a Muslim, should be filled by an individual with established credibility in fighting vigorously for the freedom of each and every individual persecuted for their faith beliefs by regimes across the planet. While Mr. Hussain may have given lip service, in his previous positions as “Special Envoy” from the U.S. to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, in supposedly trying to protect the rights of non-Muslim minorities in the Muslim majority autocracies and theocracies that are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, his painful silence about the dangers embodied in Islamist movements, Islamist governance and their theocratic instruments of shariah, or Islamic law, underscores why he is not a sensible choice for this position.
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and a cofounder ot the Muslim Reform Movement, said, “I served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom USCIRF for four years from 2012 to 2016, and American Muslim organizations that serve as legacy groups for the Muslim Brotherhood are celebrating. They vociferously protested my appointment and now strongly support Rashad Hussain’s appointment as Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom, just as they cheered his work as ‘Special Envoy’ to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. He paved the way for the inroad of Islamist groups, governments, and radicals to the United States, in his position as Organization of Islamic Cooperation Envoy and Observer for the United States under the Obama administration. There, he failed to be a voice for Muslims fighting the Islamist establishment, its ideology, and its crimes against Muslim dissidents across the world.”
As Muslims, we are dedicated to countering the idea of political Islam and its theocratic instruments that permeate the Islamist establishment globally. Mr. Hussain has been revealingly silent about the persecution of Muslim dissidents, including feminists, writers, poets, and artists, in Muslim majority nations where they face persecution, harassment, imprisonment, and even death. Mr. Hussain would have had to express the dangers of an Islamic theocracy and its shariah state, and to date he has failed to do so, instead pandering to those nations as “Special Envoy” from the U.S. to the OIC.
Asra Nomani, a cofounder of the Muslim Reform Movement, said, “With the rise of Rashad Hussain within his administration, President Biden is sending a dangerous and troubling message to the brave Muslim men and women around the world who are defenders of human rights for the LGBTQ+ community, women, artists, dissidents and others. Mr. Hussain has protected and advanced the illiberal values of Islamic theocracies that perpetuate a disturbing and hateful ideology of Muslim supremacy, male supremacy, privilege, racism and misogyny, denying most of the citizens of its societies fundamental human rights, equality, and dignity.”
The Muslim Reform Movement is concerned that a Muslim placed in this post as an Islamist apologist for theocracies will send a troubling message to Islamist states, governments, and movements across the world, from Pakistan to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, and Turkey, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami, to name just a few threats to America’s values of secularism and human and women’s rights.
The U.S. will send a message to Muslims around the world that the United States supports global Islamist movements, not the individual human rights of Muslims in Muslim-majority countries.
Raheel Raza, a cofounder of the Muslim Reform Movement, said, “Certainly, if President Biden is seeking to appoint a Muslim to this position, he can find a Muslim who has established a coherent track record against the ideologies of Muslim supremacy, ‘Islamic Republics’ and their state-sponsored terrorism against even Muslims who dare to challenge their tyranny. Mr. Hussain had many opportunities during his previous positions to reveal his positions against the global threat of Islamism and not only did he not do so, but he in fact also often gave lip service to Islamist groups and ideologies that our Muslim Reform Movement knows are the root cause of Muslim radicalization against Western secular liberalism.”
This appointment will undermine the United States’ national security and further the agenda of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, its radicalization of Muslims and its support for Islamist anti-West establishments.
As Muslims who love our faith and our country, we at the Muslim Reform Movement would like to call attention to the fact, particularly, as Muslims are appointed to positions often because of their faith and beliefs, it is incumbent upon them to be leading the advocacy of freedom and liberty for all, not just Islamists.
Also, as leaders, they must have demonstrated a track record against the theocratic ideology of Islamism as they work to advance the ideas of secular liberal democracy from which our U.S. constitutional system is derived. To put in place an Islamist sympathizer and apologist, like Rashad Hussain, who simply checks the box of Muslim diversity for the Biden administration is frankly offensive to Muslim dissidents and non-Muslims across the world, and it compromises our security.
We must appoint to U.S. leadership Muslims who affirm the values of secular governance and human rights for all members of a society, regardless of gender, sexuality or other identity markers.
Zuhdi Jasser – President & Founder, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Phoenix, Arizona
Asra Nomani – Journalist & Communications Consultant, Washington, DC
Raheel Raza – President, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Toronto, Canada
ABOUT THE MUSLIM REFORM MOVEMENT
In December 2015, a number of reform-minded American Muslim organizations convened and launched the Muslim Reform Movement, a diverse coalition of over 15 Muslim organizations and leaders dedicated to reform for values of peace, human rights and secular governance. While each has their own Muslim organizations, work, and advocacy, together they form a diverse coalition defined by the values enshrined in their founding “Declaration of the Muslim Reform Movement” (See full document here). The founders are listed here.
Find the coalition on social media at:
Facebook: Muslim Reform Movement
Dear supporters and friends,
Recently, Dr. Jasser spoke with Tina Ramirez, Hardwired Global’s Founder and President, to discuss how he has promoted universal human rights in his community – including gender equality, freedom of conscience, religion, speech and expression – and stood against the politicization of his faith. He has faced many challenges but has stood firm against any attacks on these freedoms and his ability to defend them.
Eid Mubarak! – AIFD wishes all of our friends a Blessed Holiday of the Feast ( Eid Mubarak) on Eid Al-Fitr, May 12, 2021As the month of fasting, reflection and atonement of Ramadan ends tonight at sundown, we at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy would like to wish Muslims around the world “Eid Mubarak”(a blessed holiday) as tonight and tomorrow, we celebrate Eid al-Fitr, (the holiday of the feast) the celebration marking the close of Ramadan.
We hope and pray that this month has allowed each of us to discover a renewed sense of spiritual solace. With global and domestic strife sadly aplenty, this past year since last Ramadan has been especially trying in often isolation and pressures on all fronts. We hope that you all join us in rededicating ourselves to our families, our purpose, our humanity, our faith in our country, our duty to protect our nation, and our duty to protect our world from the radical savagery of militant Islamism. May our prayers for all those who suffer in conflict and in need in our nation and abroad also be heard.
AIFD has had many opportunities to share our mission during this time of sacrifice, reflection and spiritual growth, and we thank those of you have offered your blessings and wishes for continued success and to those who continue to support our efforts through donations, with whom without, we could not exist.
Yours forever in liberty,
All of us at the,American Islamic Forum for Democracy
March 16, 2021
by: M. Zuhdi Jasser, President & Founder, AIFD
Is anyone paying attention to what’s happening in Europe? If you care about freedom in the West, take a look now. Fault lines between Islamists and the secular West, etched over generations and deepened and fortified by failed post-9/11 policies, have tectonically shifted. Nearly written off by some, European nations are suddenly taking serious and significant action to push back in earnest against encroaching Islamist separatism and radicalization. And the United States, as an observer, stands to learn a lot.
In 2020, as the world remained deeply embroiled in the pandemic, France, Austria, and much of the rest of the European Union (EU) began to confront the Islamist ideological monster within their borders. Led by French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, European leaders seem to have woken up from their slumber and realized it wasn’t just the militant Islamist acts of terrorism that they needed to defeat—rather, it was the ideas that incubated them, political Islam or Islamism.
The importance of this moment in history and the accuracy of Macron’s diagnoses of Islamism within his country’s borders is highlighted by the fact that some of the world’s leading Islamist demagogues, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called for the boycott of French products in late October. Macron swiftly and defiantly responded, “We will not give in, ever.”
France’s 2020 front in the cultural war against Islamism was sparked by the October 16 beheading of Samuel Paty, a middle school teacher who had the courage to simply discuss what happened in the massacre of the Charlie Hebdo staff in 2015, when the magazine staffers showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
After Paty’s murder, Macron responded swiftly by defending free speech and defending France’s character and values. He sped up his plans for a coordinated, all-of-government approach against “Islamist separatism.” Macron has thus begun to lead his country in a long-overdue conversation that targets the root cause of the Islamist threat to France—”Islamist separatism.” Many of us dedicated to Muslim reform against Islamism have been actually calling for such an open conversation for a long time.
In a series of speeches since Paty’s murder, Macron has laid bare why Islamism is inherently separatist and “rejects freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and the right to blaspheme.” He correctly laid the diagnosis and blame at the feet of leaders across the globe who are in “crisis” and fomenting “jihad.” He has called for the de-“ghettoization” of Muslim communities. Macron introduced legislation reawakening France’s “republican principles” and directly confronting Islamism’s incompatibilities. He lifted up “laicite”—France’s dominant constitutional principle and consciousness of secularism—as the nation’s “cement.” Macron essentially declared war on foreign influence in Muslim institutions, blocking funding while surveilling mosques and imams as well as other professions.
To be clear, Islamism is the religio-political-cultural belief system that the state should have an Islamic identity and be guided only by shariah law (Islamic jurisprudence). Islamists are part of a global political movement that ultimately seeks power and international hegemony. Like all totalitarian systems, Islamism is not compatible with Western secular democratic ideals. Not all Muslims are Islamists, but all Islamists are Muslims. And while Muslim migrants in Europe are not a monolithic bloc, among them are innumerable Islamists and Islamist-sympathizers.
Macron rightly stated that the “republican reawakening” could help nourish a form of Islam compatible with Enlightenment values. It is this kind of tough love that is essential to embracing Muslim immigrants with dignity, as adults—rather than with a bigotry of low expectations that leaves them vulnerable to radicalization.
In parallel, Austria’s 2020 front in its cultural war against Islamists was sparked by a terror attack conducted by an Austrian ISIS supporter in Vienna on November 2, 2020, which left four dead and 23 injured. The attack spurred Austria into action, as Chancellor Kurz almost immediately announced a new policy:
“In the fight against political Islam, we will create a criminal offense called ‘political Islam’ in order to be able to take action against those who are not terrorists themselves, but who create the breeding ground for such. There will be further possibilities for the closure of places of worship, the introduction of an imams register…and measures will be taken to drain financial flows for terrorist financing.”
This is a culmination of programs that began when Kurz took office. Austria had already implemented a hijab ban in primary schools, as well as a face veil ban. Austrian law enforcement raided the offices of 60 Hamas- and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations last November, following the Vienna attack, and shut down some mosques connected to the terrorist ideology. On December 9, President Macron and Chancellor Kurz met with fellow EU leader German Chancellor Angela Merkel in order to develop a pan-European strategy of decreasing the infiltration of radical Islamist ideology into their nations.
Hany Ghoraba wrote for IPT News that these leaders looked to apply “swift removal of terrorist content online and establish one common instrument for all member states to this effect. …This would give the European Parliament authority in EU member states to order service providers to remove terrorist content or disable access to it.”
But Europe—and Austria, in particular—should take note here. “Bad ideas”—like political Islam—will only be defeated by “better ideas.” The U.S. legal system has long upheld a very narrow definition of incitement of violence (Brandenburg v. Ohio), lest the government head down the slippery slope of censorship that violates our unalienable right to freedom of expression
The outlawing of “hate speech” historically never works well. Time and again, the suppression of Islamist movements has only empowered them as they flourished underground and were shielded from the antiseptic effect of public exposure and competition from more appealing movements.
Will this cultural war declared by Macron and Kurz work? In the end, there is no other option. The sooner they confront political Islam, the better. Continuing the prior policy of appeasement will only invite continued attacks on our secular and liberal way of life.
Europe is a cautionary tale for the United States. We must not continue the course that France and Austria are now only attempting to alter at great cost. We must also recognize that Americanism is uniquely situated to be the West’s “last best hope” against Islamism.
We must stand together against foreign ideas that are incompatible with our social and constitutional compact. Mobilize our greatest weapons against separatism and theocracy—Americanism on every plane and every front we can. Lead with an offense of reform-minded Muslims who would die for our secular republics and reject the supremacist appeal of the jihad. The sooner we stand up for our shared American values, the better off we will all be.
- The Obama Administration handed hundreds of billions of dollars to the theocrats as well as an insurance of security, as well as a future with a nuclear bomb. These, along with thousands of troops and the empowerment of the terror group Hizballah, gave Iran’s leaders a green light to spread terror into Syria.
- Some may appropriately say that no real democracies evolved quickly [in the “Arab Spring”] after centuries of tyranny. In fact, there may be a need for multiple revolutions before democracy can take hold. Perhaps, though, there can be a more methodical transition towards modernity with steady benchmarks of reform and liberalization, as we have seen done so successfully with the 2020 Middle East agreements.
- The challenge, as always, will be in keeping it from being too slow to the point of fiction—which has been “Plan A” for the tyrants across the Middle East since World War II. They lie to the West about reforms in order to placate each new administration with a five- or ten-year plan while transitions in power in the West along with our short-term, societal “attention deficit disorder” give them a pass.
- Regardless of whether a state’s approach is top-down or bottom-up, if its raison d’être is based in Islam and the primacy of Islamic law rather than on individual rights and the protection of minorities, as in secular liberal democracies, it will always be anti-freedom and illiberal.
- We will have to watch very closely if there will be new interpretations from the pulpits of the grand mosque in Mecca, or mosques in Medina and across the country. The fact that we heard this coming from the pulpits in the Emirates and Bahrain is what made the Abraham Accords a reality to believe rather than doubt.
- As for Biden’s foreign policy, he is already signaling that the Pentagon will focus on diplomacy first and the military second. So, the Pentagon is a branch of the State Department? If that is not “leading from behind 3.0”, I don’t know what is. Sources say he wants to “de-emphasize the military” and lift up diplomacy. If that vision is by openly weakening our defense programming, that will signal a green light actually to usher in more war, not less. Peace through weakness doesn’t work against thugs like Khamenei and Assad across the planet. We are thus likely to see a re-emergence of Islamist belligerence and a testing of the waters as they try to make gains against Biden’s apparent appeasement strategy.
- It is my hope and prayer that our work will contribute not to what the Islamists want—a revivalism of the old—but rather a genuine reform towards a Western model of Islam based in infinite diversity of thought and protection of individual inquiry and their universal human rights, rather than the oppressive collective and the proverbial Islamic state.
Canlorbe: Dear Dr. Jasser, thank you for joining me. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are the first two Muslim women to serve in American Congress. Do you think they representative of the mentality of the majority of Muslims in America?
Jasser: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) are simply byproducts of the Islamist teams that recruited them and trained them in the art of ideology and dissimulation. Those teams include the alphabet soup of Islamist organizations—”Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups”—that exist in the United States. These include, for instance, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Future politicians, media pundits, or the many demagogic imams, they all rise up from within the Islamist populist movement in the West by telling insular Islamist communities what they want to hear while claiming to speak for all Muslims.
Omar and Tlaib rose up in Democratic politics because they represent decades of cooperation between the Islamist movements here in the West, and the far left’s progressivism. Since 2011, other Muslim reform leaders and I were asked by Congress to testify many times on the Hill on the compromising influence of Islamist organizations and ideologies, both global and domestic, to our national security.
The American Islamist groups worked in a coordinated fashion to attack me, the organization I represent, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) and the other Muslims in our Muslim Reform Movement. Each time we testified to Congress, their attempts at takfirism (declaring us not to be “real” Muslims) were often less than subtle and typically defamatory. They repeatedly attempted to smear us on social media and never addressed the issues or ideas that we represented in our testimony. It is always revealing how fearful Islamists are of actually addressing the connection between their non-violent ‘political Islam’ (Islamism) and violent political Islam.
This is the classic method of many Islamists: they tag onto “identity movements” and transform the belief in the ideology of a faith, Islam, into an identity racial group—which it is not. This distortion stifles any real diversity of ideas and promotes a culture where the community is perceived to be a racial monolith. Thus, anyone who speaks out becomes an “Uncle Tom” and supposedly against the whole tribe.
In 2020, we saw Islamist identity politics fit right into the Black Lives Matter Movement and its racialization of every issue. It is quite a cooperation to behold, even though ultimately the Islamists actually agree with very little of the ideas of the far left—for example when it comes to implementing extremist Muslims’ draconian interpretations of ‘shariah law,’ such as child marriage, slavery, unequal legal rights for men and women, death for homosexuals, female genital mutilation, or beating women, to name a few.
The bottom line is that there is one alliance, progressive, that exists between AOC and her progressive extremists, and another different, alliance, Islamic fundamentalist, that exists between, say, AOC and her following and the Islamist members of Congress and their following.
Those two members of Congress represent the current leading edge, in identity politics, of political Islam in the West and its emphasis on group rights rather than individual rights. Both women, however, represent the trend to stifle dissent and dissidents. They also both represent the effort to empower domestic and global Islamist supremacists and their Islamic nation-state ideologies over the exceptionalism of secular liberal American democracy. They would most likely deny this, and certainly there are some clear differences between Omar and Tlaib. For example, Omar’s foreign policy has clearly proven that she formulates her positions by looking first for the interests of the global political Islamist populist movement, and then all else follows. She spins it to her benefit in a deceptively American context, yet you can see—in her unwavering support of Turkey’s Erdogan, Qatar, various permutations of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and even Iran—that her affinity for Islamists is paramount. As a naval officer, there is nothing I found more offensive than her fabricated statements, right before she was elected, that somehow Americans killed thousands in Somalia, more than the terrorists we were fighting, and implying that those of us who served in “Operation Restore Hope” were terrorists.
Canlorbe: You make no mystery of your Syrian origins. How do you assess Bashar al-Assad’s policy? Do you believe that former President Donald J. Trump had the right attitude towards Bashar when, in April 2017, he decided on a missile strike in response to the use of chemical attack?
Jasser: Bashar Assad’s policies are in line with the Syrian Ba’ath party fascism of more than 50 years. The Syrian revolution, which began in 2011, needs to be understood in the context of the methods with which the ruling party wields its power. The Syrian Ba’ath Party is an Arab nationalist socialist party (akin to an Arab Nazism), which seized power by military coup in 1963. The Alawite—a Shi’ite offshoot—faction of Ba’ath Party loyalists then took power in another bloody coup in February 1966. After that Alawite coup, the fascist Ba’ath transformed its predominantly supremacist political platform to incorporate a preference for the Alawite Shi’ite sect. Members of Sunni Muslim leadership were purged from the military. The entire leadership became comprised of Alawite Ba’athist faithful. The influence of Sunnis, Christians, Druze and Ismailis was all but eliminated. Non-Alawite officers who were ousted reported that in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Syria was on the verge of a civil war among all their sects. This condition was often difficult to ascertain for blind analysts since, like many Arab tyrants, Hafez Assad ruled in a predominantly secular fashion rather than theocratic. Now this began to shift as his son, Bashar, moved Syria into the orbit of Iran and essentially became a client-state of Iran as well as Russia.
In 1970, however, Hafez al-Assad took the reins from his fellow Alawites in still another coup. In line with the totalitarian doctrine of the Ba’athist Party, Assad, ruled Syria with an iron fist for 30 years. He ended the Ba’ath-Alawite in-fighting and his regime cleansed any non-Alawites in its midst, and obliterated any Sunni protestations. To quell the religious unrest of other sects, Assad placed a few party loyalists who were Sunni, Christian, and Druze in mid-level, and a few higher levels, of political leadership—but not military. Most people knew they were window dressing and sympathizers. The Syria of Hafez Assad was much like the Iraq of Ba’athist Saddam Hussein, described by one expatriate, who used a pseudonym, as “A Republic of Fear“: “a regime of totalitarian rule, institutionalized violence, universal fear, and unchecked personal dictatorship.” Many of our Syrian families, after suffering for years in and out of prison, and muzzled in every form of expression, left for American freedom after realizing that a revolution to topple one of the world’s most ruthless military tyrannies would likely never materialize in their lifetimes.
The Assad regime, using incalculably cruel methods, paralyzed the humanity of 22 million Syrians for two generations. Brothers, sisters, families reported on one another to Syrian intelligence (Mukhabarat). Many vanished, never to be seen again, and anyone who dared to dissent from the ruling party was systematically tortured and made an example of by frequent collective punishment. By the twenty-first century, there were more Syrians living outside Syria than inside, and some analyses claim that one in nine expatriates living abroad provided steady information to the Assad regime on expatriate Syrian activities in order to spare the family. The Syrian Human Rights Committee has chronicled many of the atrocities committed in the past 45 years by the Assad regime: the Hama massacres of 1963, 1982, and again in 2011, Tadmur, and the countless prisoners of conscience were systematically snuffed out by the regime.
It is upon this background that the Syrian revolution commenced in March 2011 as part of the greater regional Arab awakening. The Assad regime calculated that it would be able to slow-walk a genocidal cleansing operation against the Syrian people who were part of the revolution. While the first year of the revolution showed significant diversity—with Sunnis, Alawites, Druze, Christians and others marching in the streets—Assad did as his party always did. He drove internal divisions among the sects to rip his country apart, while leaving his regime alone. He was sustained with heavy foreign help, from Russia and Iran, in military, financial, and human assets. The Sunni population was eventually radicalized, with ISIS arising in 2013 in Syria and Iraq. It was due to a perfect storm of Assad’s radicalizing Sunnis—combined with their ideological influence from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey—at the same time as Iraq’s descent into anarchy. The growth of ISIS provided the Assad regime a convenient cover for continued military genocidal operations and the use of chemical weapons against the majority of the population who were unarmed and who had naively thought that if the world saw it on YouTube, the public would put enough pressure on Assad to bring it to an end. Sadly, Russia and Iran were likely the primary reason Assad survived and the civil war did not evolve organically. Russia and Iran consolidated Assad’s grip on Syria’s humanity and systematically exterminated more than 600,000 people and displaced 10,000,000 people out of Syria’s 22,000,000. The UN remained feckless.
This is not to say that the West or anyone should have intervened in any way close to what happened in Iraq. What use is the UN, however, if ruthless tyrants can use chemical weapons and eradicate swaths of their own population with no repercussions? A Bosnian type of response, akin to President William Jefferson Clinton’s and the UN’s response to Serbia’s crimes in 1995 might have helped. President Barack Obama, however, did not just avoid military intervention; his administration actively supported the Assad regime at the altar of their “nuclear deal” with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the empowerment of The Iranian Republican Guard Corps and its Masters in Tehran. The Obama Administration handed hundreds of billions of dollars to the theocrats as well as an insurance of security, as well as a future with a nuclear bomb. These, along with thousands of troops and the empowerment of the terror group Hizballah, gave Iran’s leaders a green light to spread terror into Syria.
President Donald Trump’s Administration’s response to the Assad’s repeated use of chemical weapons in April 2018, while minimal in the scheme of what had happened in Syria to that point, did send a message that reverberated within the Assad regime, not to mention Russia and Iran, that red lines do mean something for that administration. It did have some deterrent effect, as limited as it was.
Canlorbe: At Trump’s request, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Sudan and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords, promising to make peace with Israel. They also promised to stop financing and hosting terrorist organizations. Do you believe those regimes can be trusted? How will they behave under a Biden presidency?
Jasser: In President Ronald Reagan’s words, “trust but verify”. But first, it is important to reflect on the failed “Arab Awakening”. While it was not a Spring—except for Tunisia where a culture of democracy and some liberalism is actually beginning to take hold—a complete reset in the Arab world against tyranny was certainly very appealing to those of us from families that have been fighting against these dictators, autocratic monarchs, and otherwise Islamist theocrats for more than two generations. After a decade of failed revolutions—between the 20th century’s tyrannies and the chaos after 2011—was there a better path forward?
Some may appropriately say that no real democracies evolved quickly in the “Arab Awakening,” after centuries of tyranny. In fact, there may be a need for multiple revolutions before democracy can take hold. Perhaps, though, there can be a more methodical transition towards modernity with steady benchmarks of reform and liberalization, as we have seen done so successfully with the 2020 Middle East agreements?
The challenge, as always, will be in keeping it from being too slow to the point of fiction—which has been “Plan A” for the tyrants across the Middle East since World War II. They lie to the West about reforms in order to placate each new administration with a five- or ten-year plan while transitions in power in the West along with our short-term, societal “attention deficit disorder” give them a pass. Remember, the changes in 2011 created vacuums facilitating the re-emergence of tyranny and radical Islamists, but sometimes, like treating cancer, the patient has first to get more ill before returning to health.
Essentially, a model of reform that I see possible—perhaps remotely, but possible—for liberalism and freedom, may be an evolution towards constitutional monarchies (much as I disagree with “genetic supremacism”). Some of them have been building civil society institutions that begin to modernize Islamic thought, end the concept of an Islamic state and its jihad, and instead are looking at their state and citizens through the prism of universal human rights. What we have been seeing in the UAE gives hope, as do Bahrain, Sudan, with, one hopes, more to come. So far, I have less optimism for Saudi Arabia relinquishing the dominance of the ideas of salafi-jihadism and its draconian interpretation of Islam even as the Saudis openly condemn and declare war on ‘political Islam’. Their track record is just so abysmal. But as we see them outlaw child marriage and make other changes, the principle of “trust but verify” may be appropriate to push them forward?
This is likely confusing to many non-Muslims, if we try to say, that the Saudis are now anti-Islamist despite decades of supporting Muslim Brotherhood groups across the planet? Please understand, though, that the concept of an Islamic Republic, with an Islamic flag and an Islamic jurisprudence (sharia) in which the Qur’an is the source, not just a source of law, is in fact certainly still a form of political Islam, just more of a top-down, corporate, theocracy no matter which way you cut it. However, even the Islamist populist movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, are not much better. They are simply bottom-up, grass roots theocracies founded in sharia ideologies. Regardless of whether a state’s approach is top-down or bottom-up one, if its raison d’être is based in Islam and the primacy of Islamic law rather than on individual rights and the protection of minorities, as in secular liberal democracies, it will always be anti-freedom and illiberal.
We will have to watch very closely if there will be new interpretations from the pulpits of the grand mosque in Mecca, or mosques in Medina and across the country. The fact that we heard this coming from the pulpits in the Emirates and Bahrain is what made the Abraham Accords a reality to believe rather than doubt.
For the first time I do also see peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia as not only a short-term possibility but even a long-term one. The combination of the populist Islamist movement threat to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its radical offshoots of ISIS and al Qaeda combined with the threat of Shia Islamism of Khomeinism has shaken the foundations of the Saudi state establishment and forced them to reckon with monsters they helped create—such as the Muslim Brotherhood and their mosques—while also pushing them to forge more meaningful acknowledgement of the state of Israel and the West. Let us not also underestimate the role of the Trump administration and the Pompeo State Department in making this happen. This early reform however will only be real when it is met with a genuine reinterpretation of the antisemitic translations and interpretations of the Qur’an and Hadith (the Prophet’s deeds and sayings) that the government of Saudi Arabia pushes. Not until their imams begin to marginalize the anti-Semitic bigotry of so many of those interpretations and begin to present new interpretations will that change be in fact durable.
As for Qatar, we should begin closing our base there and finding other options for our regional security. Their state propaganda arm of Al Jazeera—in addition to their relationship with Iran, Turkey and global Islamist movements of the Muslim Brotherhood—has rendered them no longer an ally, let alone even a “frenemy”. This should not surprise anyone. The Al-Thani family went all in the Muslim Brotherhood since 1961 when they gave safe haven to the spiritual guide of the Ikhwani movement—Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi. He has since been a close partner of the royal family aligned ideologically and strategically with a global reach of at least tens of millions of Islamists. We have long followed and dissected Qaradawi’s English and Arabic work and there is little doubt that he and his followers are the central cancer of the Sunni Islamist global movement against the west and our way of life. The Qatari government’s fealty for Islamists has brought them economically and ideologically closer to Iran’s Khomeinists in addition to the Taliban. My position has always been that Qatar sees itself as the global center for Islamists, meaning “The Caliphate”. Their extreme wealth makes for a toxic global brew for most of our Islamist enemies.
I see no inkling of reform or change on the programming of Al Jazeera or any of their imams or clerics. In fact, only months ago we saw systematic Holocaust denial on the programming of Al Jazeera as they attempted quickly to erase history of that. They are too deeply embedded at heart and economically with Iran, Turkey and other Islamist supremacists across the planet to have any hope at reform unless their regime falls. We can only pray.
There is little doubt that the Biden administration will simply be Obama 3.0. It may even be worse than the Obama administration because it is going to trip over itself in such an exaggerated fashion trying to undo the progress against the Islamists—domestically and abroad—that we have made since 2016, that the pendulum will swing back further than even the Obama administration in defense of Islamists.
We are already seeing this in the Islamist that was selected to be a senior White House staffer for legislative affairs—Reema Dodin. She is notably not only historically an operative with Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups such as CAIR in DC but she also stated as a student at UC-Berkley, “Palestinian suicide bombings are the last resort of a desperate people”. With her likes running interference with the Hill for the White House, we may see an even more radicalized policy in favor of not only Iranian appeasement but overt support of Islamist interests domestically and abroad. What is certain—based on how Dodin while at Senator Durbin’s office with her allies at Muslim Advocates beat the drum of Muslim American victimization against our testimony on the Hill—it will only get worse.
As for Biden’s foreign policy, he is already signaling that the Pentagon will focus on diplomacy first and the military second. So, the Pentagon is a branch of the State Department? If that is not “leading from behind 3.0”, I don’t know what is. Sources say he wants to “de-emphasize the military” and lift up diplomacy. If that vision is by openly weakening our defense programming, that will signal a green light actually to usher in more war, not less. Peace through weakness doesn’t work against thugs like Khamenei and Assad across the planet. We are thus likely to see a re-emergence of Islamist belligerence and a testing of the waters as they try to make gains against Biden’s apparent appeasement strategy. Now more than ever, our private work needs to push for anti-Islamist reformers against the likely ascendant Islamist threats.
Canlorbe: Putin is an ally of the mullahs and sits at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In Russia, Muslims represent 10% of the total population, and Islam is the second most widely professed religion. Is the Russian regime a trustworthy ally in promoting enlightened Islam and fighting against terrorist, political Islam?
Jasser: Domestically, as Michael Weiss pointed out in 2017, the Russians have long played a double game with radical Islamist terror, in fact helping fuel ISIS with recruits from Chechnya to give Assad cover and allow Russia to ship out the jihadists it creates. Regionally, Putin’s regime has empowered our greatest enemies—Iran’s terror regime from its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) to Hizballah, and Assad. Its state propaganda—RT is finally listed under FARA and is an unwavering part of the Assad/Khameinist media arm state-sponsored media. They have worked with our nominal ally, Turkey (selling them missiles) and giving them the green light against our Kurdish allies in Syria. Part of their longtime interest in Syria is their only Mediterranean port and base at Tartus. Chechnya’s tyrant, Ramzan Kadyrov, portrays himself as a devout Muslim but he is a two-bit radical tyrant and Putin tool who has systematically radicalized his population while violating the human rights of every minority group from the gay community to dissidents.
In my book, A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Patriots’ fight to Save his Faith, I recount how my father told me that our family’s deep seeded anti-communism and anti-Islamism is what drove them to become enamored of West and learn about the exceptionalism of secular democracy and especially about Americanism. Russia’s Putin and its kleptocrats would never promote an enlightened anything, let alone defeat a theocracy. They still have a state-sponsored church; the other faiths, whether within Christianity or outside, have lesser to no rights. There is a reason their entire economy is oil, and produce no products of any kind competing in the free markets. The Putin regime is against individual creativity and battles of ideology. In order for reformists to emerge, we need a public platform of critical thinking and modern civil institutions that protect universal human rights.
Canlorbe: Both Maimonides and Averroes endeavored to conciliate religion and philosophy. How do you assess the legacy of Averroes in Islam and that of Maimonides in Judaism?
Jasser: As a physician dedicated to treating the ill, your question resonates with me more than you would ever know. My chosen profession is as a doctor and it was the inspiration of clear broad-minded thinkers and doctors like Maimonides and Averroes who influenced so much of my idealism about medicine and medical ethics. Their confidence in weighing in on philosophy, theology, legalisms, and politics are an example of what I have always aspired to be and do in my own life even if their ideas are from almost 1000 years ago. It was not necessarily the specifics of their ideas, but the courage of their inquiry. Scholars have often pointed out the strong resemblance between Maimonides’ “understanding of God’s manifestness in the order of nature” and Averroes’ “conception of God and providence which focuses heavily on God’s essential preservation of all species, and his role as the cause of being and unity in all hylomorphic substances.” Averroes, for example, saw God in every element of nature’s diversity.
Averroes’s gift or legacy to Islamic thought was much like that of Maimonides; he took human feelings and sensations, like ‘heat’, ‘intellect’, ‘mind’, ‘wisdom’, and ‘creativity’ and used them to broaden our human understanding of God. To most Salafists, even the suggestion of imparting human-like attributes to God is blasphemy whether or not it is intended just to understand and relate better to our understanding of God. Giving philosophical descriptions of God using human metaphors and nature provided Averroes, like Maimonides, a flexibility of thought about God which in the right era of boundless human creativity and inquiry can become the foundation of real enlightenment and liberalism.
Similar to Maimonides, Averroes sought to bring to Islamic thought a “blending of God as pure unity and God as intellect” a very Hellenic thought process seen throughout Arabic discourse, as seen in, for example, the Theology of Aristotle.
Contrary to essentially every extremist or literalist movement in Islam today, Averroes’ legacy was about taking God’s unity (tawhid) and giving Muslims a way of looking at that unity, consistency, and omnipresence in a way that does not conflict and actually explains the infinite diversity of the human condition, our nature, and our laws. This is actually also the essence of our Muslim Reform Movement—an attempt to bring back such a deep understanding of diversity of thought and interpretations of Islamic law (shariah) in a way that allows us to live in harmony with modernity and secular liberal democracy through a separation of “history and religion”—or more allegory and less literalism. Averroes may not have explicitly gone so far as real liberalism. But then again there were no liberal democracies upon which to reflect for these thinkers at the time. But the foundations of his thought, similar to what Maimonides was to Judaism, gave metaphysical nuggets of what God is and what God is not, along with the infinite possibilities for human nature brought about by God. Averroes, like Maimonides, looked at scripture, the Qur’an for Averroes, as allegory. This courage to go beyond literalism is part of his legacy and similarities to Maimonides.
Sadly, while both Maimonides and Averroes did their amazingly open-minded and deep work during the 12th century, both in Muslim majority nation states, Averroes’ legacy has so far been very difficult to find in the “Islamic world” if not lost to hundreds and hundreds of years of intellectual and philosophical stagnation and reactionary movements that ultimately dominated and decimated most free Islamic academic and civil institutions since his life.
It is my hope and prayer that our work will contribute not to what the Islamists want—a revivalism of the old—but rather a genuine reform towards a Western model of Islam based in infinite diversity of thought and protection of individual inquiry and their universal human rights, rather than the oppressive collective and the proverbial Islamic state.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AIFD Calls on People of Conscience to take action to stop the crimes of the Iranian Islamist regime perpetrated against the Bahai minority community.
- Specifically, AIFD condemns a recent ruling by an Iranian court to endorse the confiscation of all property belong to Bahais in the Mazandaran Province’s Village of Ivel, as well as a decision by an Iranian Court of Appeals that ruled in favor of 11 perpetrators who destroyed and seized the property of roughly 50 Bahai homes in Ivel.
- On August 1, 2020, Tehran’s Special Court for Article 49 of the Constitution, which gives authority to the government to confiscate private property, issued a “final and binding” order, concluding that it was illegal for Bahais to own property in the Village of Ivel. This ruling confirmed the decision of the lower court, which wrote, on November 4, 2019, that “there is no legitimacy in their ownership. […] The perverse sect of Baha’ism is confirmed as heretical and nejasat [ritually unclean].”
- On October 13, 2020, in a separate but related lawsuit, the Court of Appeals of Mazandaran Province ruled on a years-delayed appeal brought by 27 injured Bahais against 11 individuals involved in the June 2010 demolition of some 50 Bahas homes and seizure of their property in Ivel. The Court ruled in favor of the perpetrators, finding that their actions violated no laws, and cited the August 1, 2020 decision of Branch 54, which claimed that ownership of the property by the 27 plaintiffs lacked legal validity due to their membership in the Bahai Faith.
- These unjust rulings constitute brazen discrimination based on the religious beliefs of Bahai families, many of whom have owned these properties for decades, as far back as the mid-1800s. These specific injustices against the Bahai minority only highlight the multi-generational nature of the supremacist Islamist terror regime of the Khomeinists in power since 1979 which has systematically oppressed and wiped out dissenting, minority views within Islam or outside Islam via their ruling Islamic Supreme Council of clerics (their mullocracy).
- Past confiscations of Bahai property in Iran have occurred largely due to alleged technical violations of zoning rules or construction permits. The courts were usually careful to conceal, at least in their written opinions, the discriminatory motives behind their decisions. However, these recent decisions targeted the Bahai religion, and thus are potentially precedent setting in that they could be used as criteria to dispossess, displace, and impoverish Bahais throughout the country.
- The AIFD calls on the American government and the greater international community to take action by increasing pressure and sanctions on Iran and by demanding the return of property to their rightful owners in the Bahai community.
- The open and ongoing persecution of Iran’s indigenous Bahais, a community that constitutes the nation’s largest religious minority, has yet to be adequately addressed by the international community. Under Iran’s theocratic regime, the Bahais are denied access to education, imprisoned for teaching the Bahai faith, and forbidden to work in any profession. Their holy places have been bulldozed throughout the country and, in some locations, replaced by mosques. Members of the Bahai faith are routinely subjected to violence, torture, discrimination and arbitrary arrest. Some 200 members have been hanged since the 1979, Islamic Revolution. Iran’s state-sponsored media regularly spreads anti-Bahai propaganda, including conspiracy theories accusing them of spying for Israel.
- With the additional report recently released by the United Nations, which exposes Iran’s shocking use of electric shock therapy, hormone injection, and strong psychoactive medications on LGBT children in order to “cure” their sexuality, AIFD urges international medical associations and conferences to forbid Iran’s participation in such forums. A government that publicly stones and hangs its citizens based on their sexuality, imposes the death penalty for those who engage in same-sex relations, has executed between 4,000-6,000 members of the LGBT community since the start of the revolution, and tortures its own children, should be grounds for its complete expulsion from international scientific and humanitarian affairs.
- These recent actions against the Bahais and LGBT community should remind American Muslims and all Americans that the Iranian regime is an ideologically corrupt entity that does not respect religious freedom or the fundamental rights of its citizens, whether women, regime critics, the LGBT community or ethnic and religious minorities. The Iranian government must be held accountable for its abounding human rights violations.
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