February 18, 2020: The Iranian protests and American Islamism: A Muslim reformer weighs in

Dear AIFD Supporters,

Below is another great interview by Steve Postal with AIFD president & founder, M. Zuhdi Jasser.

The Christian Post
By: Steve Postal
Date: February 18, 2020

The Iranian protests and American Islamism: A Muslim reformer weighs in

I interviewed Dr. M Zuhdi Jasser in January 2017, July 2017, September 2018, and May 2019 on a range of topics including Islamism and what he believes is its antidote, the Muslim Reform Movement. This is a follow-up interview.

Jasser is president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement (MRM), and author of “A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith.” He is a practicing Muslim.

He is also an active physician and former U.S. Navy officer whose parents fled Syria in the 1960s, and host of the Blaze Radio Podcast “Reform This!” and founder of TakeBackIslam.com. Jasser and I discussed the developments in Iran and Iranian links to American Islamism.

Postal: Was the US right to assassinate General Qasem Soleimani?

Jasser: This was not an assassination, but a targeted killing of the leader of the world’s most dangerous terror network. The killing of Soleimani was at least as justified as the targeted killings of terrorists Osama Bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki. Soleimani had been responsible for over 600 dead American soldiers, and countless other attacks on U.S. citizens. Soleimani’s terrorism was more significant than others, as he was able to freely use Iran’s treasury, intelligence, and the military network of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah.

Soleimani’s IRGC had been officially designated a Foreign Terror Organization (FTO) in 2019 by the U.S. government. With that designation, the United States did not need an authorization of Congress to kill him. The IRGC is a major instigator of the ongoing massacres in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. It aided Bashar Assad in killing over 600,000 Syrians and displacing over 10 million Syrians. Killing Soleimani deters Iran from projecting its power and terrorism abroad.

Postal: Recent reports show thousands of protesters in Tehran calling on Ayatollah Khamenei to resign. Former Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi stated that the world is now seeing “the beginning of the end” of the Islamist regime in Iran. But he called the regime a “sinking Titanic” back in 2009. Why should the U.S. view the current protests in Iran as anything more than the failed protests in the late 1990s and 2009 in Iran?

Jasser: The recent protests are very different than anything before. First, as the post 2011 revolutions in the Middle East have shown, regimes ultimately cannot contain social media and its viral movements once they get to a critical mass. The Iranian regime is very scared of these trends, and in fear has shut down the internet for an extended period of time. Most importantly, this revolution is far more than simply against the government in Tehran. It has encompassed many major cities, including the academic centers of Islamist theocratic control like Qom. The demonstrators have protested increased fuel prices, Iran’s funding of genocide in Syria and Yemen, theocracy, and oppression. The protesters have also supported economic, justice, and feminist reforms.

Postal: News reports highlight instances of civil disobedience in Iran, with people openly protesting the regime, student protests, women refusing to wear headscarves, a taekwondo champion defecting in protest, and people refusing to walk on American and Israeli flags. How should the U.S. interpret and respond to these developments?

Jasser: The sheer diversity of the various groups rising up in civil disobedience against the regime is breathtaking. Frequent and open public displays of affection for America and Israel reveal deep and broad-based dissatisfaction with the theocrats. For a long time, the silent majority of Iranians have ignored and dismissed the demonization of America and Israel pushed upon them by state media and their rent-a-mobs. Now, the protesters are telling their oppressors that they love and emulate the West. When you have women in burqas on state media telling their people “if you do not enjoy the rule of Islam in society then you should collect your belongings and leave,” there is no better sign that the regime is on headed towards collapse. It could take months or years, but collapse is the trajectory. And global isolation and sanctions augment the will of the people.

Postal: Several members of Congress have called on the Trump Administration to investigate the National American Iranian Council (NAIC) for potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Among other things, the complaint condemns “NAIC’s relationship with the Iranian regime and its role amplifying regime propaganda.” Additionally, M. Hanif Jazayeri, news editor at Free Iran, alleges that a legislative assistant to Barbara Lee is NAIC’s “mole” in Congress, and that Ilhan Omar’s senior legislative assistant, one of Rashida Tlaibs staffers, and a member of the Democratic National Committee have NAIC connections. What are your thoughts on these developments? What is the connection between the Iranian regime and the Islamist movement in the U.S.?

Jasser: I have said for a long time that Islamist organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) frequently take the side of foreign Islamist regimes over our own government. Now with Iran in the spotlight, folks are finally paying closer attention to NAIC. NAIC’s protégés, like CAIR’s protégés, graduate into pro-Islamist information operatives for congressional offices. As PJ Media reported, yes, NAIC protégés now include Mahya Sorour in Omar’s office and Samira Damavandi in Lee’s office.

NAIC’s talking points frequently mirror the position of the Iranian mullocracy, be it their positions on the nuclear deal to the recent protests. NAIC has fought consistently against sanctions on the regime, and has never confronted the anti-American, anti-Semitic ideology of the Khomeinists. NAIC’s positions have always been on the wrong side of history, morality and humanity. In fact, when NAIC tried to intimidate its Iranian-American critics through lawfare in 2008, the court ultimately dismissed the case in 2012 and repudiated the tactics of NAIC and its President, Trita Parsi. Parsi has now re-located to the Quincy Institute, whose staff has been accused with multiple instances of anti-Semitism.

I can tell you as a Syrian-American, Syrian-Americans for decades have seen a similar network of Syrian government sympathizers shape pro-Assad positions through its foreign agents, useful idiots, and propagandists inside the United States. Prior to the Syrian revolution, it was conventional wisdom among Syrian-American expatriates that somewhere around one in ten Syrians in America provided information to the Syrian government on the activities of Syrian-American families. After the revolution began in 2011, some of that network became stronger and more entrenched. However, most of the network has since fallen apart and the United States was able to convict Mohamad Soueid of Leesburg, Virginia and others. Similar networks existed during Saddam’s Iraq, and a similar network exists for the current Iranian regime.

It is long overdue for us to investigate the tentacles of foreign Islamist regimes and movements in our government. The Islamist influence from many regimes of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation dwarfs any domestic intelligence threat we experienced during the Cold War.

Postal: Recent reports discuss that Iran has sleeper cells of terrorists in the United States as well as Central and South America. How should the U.S. respond to this reality? Should the U.S. fear reprisal attacks on its soil?

Jasser: The threat from Hezbollah has always been significant in the U.S. The only thing that has prevented Hezbollah attacks similar to what Sunni jihadists have done in 9-11, Fort Hood and San Bernardino has been the presence of sanctions against their benefactor, Iran. We should continue these sanctions, and continue to apply the rule of law against those that seek to harm us.

We won a major victory recently when the United States convicted Ali Khourani for 40 years for being “recruited, trained and deployed by Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization to plan and execute acts of terrorism around New York City.” An operative for Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad, he was nabbed “[a]fter spending years conducting surveillance on the City’s critical infrastructure, federal buildings, international airports, and even daycare centers.” Politico also reported on Hezbollah’s major cocaine funneling operation in the U.S. that also included Central and South America, Africa and Europe. Their impressive investigation revealed how the Obama administration ditched over a decade of heroic agency work dubbed Project Cassandra exposing Hezbollah’s cocaine operation in the United States – as collateral damage of the nuclear deal. These Hezbollah drug runners are likely just the tip of the iceberg of Hezbollah operations in this hemisphere. The director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Nicholas Rasmussen, believes that “Hezbollah is determined to give itself a potential homeland option as a critical component of its terrorism playbook.”

Postal: The Muslim Reform Movement (MRM), which you co-founded, just celebrated its fourth anniversary last December. Do you see any possibility of the MRM arising in Iran?

Jasser: Our dream is for the MRM to gain traction in countries where people truly understand the threat of Islamist theocracy. One such country is Iran. There are currently thousands of courageous dissident leaders in Iran promoting many ideas central to the MRM. Their messages on social media sound like ours, and vice versa. But other Muslims in Iran that would be sympathetic to the MRM are trying to stay alive because their leaders are torturing, murdering, or disappearing those that openly express those ideals. As Iranian journalist and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad said, “we are not fighting for a piece of cloth, we are fighting for our lives.” She also asserts that the legacy media is lying to Americans about the revolution now in Iran. “Don’t fall for Iranian regime propaganda,” she exclaimed on Fox News and in the Washington Post. I don’t understand how our “liberal” media, presumably champions of feminism, gay rights and free speech, marginalize the activists who share those values and the values of our MRM here in the U.S.

Postal: In our first interview, we discussed how Saudi Arabia In the last 30 years has spent more than an estimated $100 billion to fund the spread of Wahhabism worldwide (in contrast to the $7 billion the USSR spent spreading communism from 1921 through 1991). Does Iran have similar global ambitions for its own Islamism? What, if anything, should the U.S. do to counter this?

Jasser: There can be little doubt as to what the regime’s goals are. Through their words, ideologies, crimes against humanity, and their domestic, regional and global spread of terror, Iran’s regime is in no way content with only domestic oppression. They see themselves ushering in the 12th Imam and with him the End of Times. Their government, military, and economic is geared towards proselytizing an anti-freedom and anti-American mission. While Shia and Sunni Islamists may differ on many things, their raison d’etre is the same: establishing Islamic states across the world that would unite into a Caliphate to which the whole world will submit.

The only thing preventing Iran from building a similar global network as Saudi Arabia has been the vast resources the West has expended on effective sanctions and unraveling Iran’s global networks of terror, ideology, and drugs. In contrast, the Obama Administration’s nuclear deal, removal of sanctions and economic normalization for Boeing and others only served to enable the global spread of Iran’s Islamism and war machine. You can see Iran’s hateful propaganda they are spreading globally on PressTV or Hezbollah’s AlManar TV. To counter this, we need continue “maximum pressure” against Iran’s regime and also proactively engage in an information war against the theocrats and their Islamism. We need to support reform-minded Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, and Lebanese.

Your reference back to Saudi Arabia is timely. As Iran’s clerics try to prevent a growing revolution, Saudi Arabia recently announced that they would stop funding mosques beyond its borders. This is surrender, coming from the Wahhabis who believe in a mandate of global da’wa (proselytization) and offense. But perhaps even more importantly, this surrender presents an opening for ideological antagonists: Muslims who oppose the idea of any Islamic sharia state and promote liberty and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Perhaps changes like this will give the West momentum to support allies of liberty – Muslims who support freedom and the defeat of the theocrats – like our Muslim Reform Movement and its Declaration.

 

Steve Postal has been previously published in The Federalist, American Thinker, The Washington Post, The Times of Israel, and The Christian Post.

February 4, 2020: United Islamists of America

February 4, 2020

United Islamists of America
by: David Swindle

One of most prominent Muslims in America today is the cleric Omar Suleiman, founder and leader of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. This Salafi theologian and improbable progressive activist is one of many radical preachers who have exploited the rise of identity politics in America to move beyond their roles as minor religious voices and to appoint themselves instead as a representative voices of all Muslims. Suleiman’s incongruous ability to combine his hardline theology with progressive activism has gotten him far. In 2019, he was given the opportunity to deliver the invocation for the opening of Congress, invited by Nancy Pelosi in spite of his well-documented extremist positions.

But Suleiman’s odd brand of “theo-progressivism” can only get him so far. Now, he is (successfully) seeking the support of other clerics and community leaders from rival Islamic sects. This new-found unity among Islamic communities stands in stark contrast to the internal politics of Islam and Islamism in the past, in which religious disagreements have long divided potential partners.

Clerics of two theocratic movements in particular – Arabia’s Salafis and South Asia’s Deobandis – have spent over a century denouncing each other’s theologies, only pausing, occasionally, for tactical alliances. Over the past few years, however, ecumenical attitudes have begun to change among Western Islamist clerics. As an increasing number of modernist preachers from both movements have stepped forward to establish new forward-facing organizations, cautious longer-term partnerships between the clerical components of the two movements have begun to emerge – providing us with a glimpse of American Islamism in the years to come.

This new-found inclusiveness was recently evident in September 2019, when a Deobandi Islamist seminary, the Institute of Knowledge (IOK) hosted its “Ilmspiration” Conference in Anaheim, California. The purpose of the day-long event was to bring together 14 Islamist scholars and imams from the IOK and two other like-minded, leading institutions: the Qalam Institute, a wildly popular Deobandi religious training organization led by Abdul Nasir Jangda; and the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, a project of Omar Suleiman.

What makes these schools and their leaders so dangerous? Whether Deobandi or Salafi, both movements are adherents to the broader political idea of Islamism, which seeks to impose an Islamic state run under Islamic law. These clerics provide much of the arguments, propaganda, and most importantly, the theology, to persuade Muslims into believing in the supremacy of a medieval religious legal system. This ideology sows the seeds of terrorism both at home and abroad.

In their methods, the new social media-savvy generation of Deobandi and Salafi clerics in the West are very different from the insular, ascetic preachers of the previous generation, but not in their core beliefs. Qalam’s Deobandi leader Abdul Nasir Jangda, who commands a social media following of hundreds of thousands, defends female sex slavery and advocates the death penalty for apostasy. Meanwhile, Yaqeen’s Suleiman, a media darling for his involvement in progressives’ protests against Trump administration policies, warns young women they may be killed by a “jealous dad” if they commit adultery.

So what influence will these organizations exert on American Islam over the next few years? And how will these once hostile sects work together?

In a packed, segregated ballroom, filled with hijab-clad women on the left, men on the right, and families in the middle, the founders of IOK, Qalam, and Yaqeen described their institutions’ goals and methods.

Suleiman went first introducing Yaqeen as a voice of “authentic” American Islam and claiming that his organization’s goal is “to be a think tank with a megaphone.” This “megaphone,” Suleiman explained, was working to change Google search results using search engine optimization (SEO) tricks to direct readers to Yaqeen’s research, videos, and info-graphics. On such search inquiries as “Islam and Apostasy,” “Was Islam spread by the sword?” and “honor killings in Islam,” Suleiman bragged that Yaqeen is now the top result after Wikipedia. He also noted Yaqeen’s ability to influence mainstream media, from the Dallas Morning News to CNN.

In other words, Yaqeen is not just about influencing the public’s perception of Islam; but is also an attempt to impose Yaqeen’s very particular strain of Islam on both the American public and American Muslims.

In fact, Suleiman promised “that all of the organizations in the Muslim community” can use his material for free – from children in weekend schools and teens in private Islamic schools, to adults watching on YouTube and entire congregations making use of his “masjid [mosque] resource kits so the whole masjid can be empowered.” Yaqeen is working to ensure the next generation of American Muslims adheres to a united Islamist creed, “We’re also piloting Islamic school curriculum at 20 different schools right now and it’s going to be free, inshallah, for all Islamic schools to use, Sunday schools or otherwise.”

Jangda went next, explaining that Qalam’s goal is to educate the Muslim ummah. “Every single person should have access to the education and the understanding of Islam,” he said before laying out the broad range of training courses Qalam offered including a seminary for full-time students, “intensives” that last a few weeks, online classes for part-time students, and, for those on-the-go, podcasts – to which 8 million have already listened.

In a pledge familiar to a Salafi audience, the Deobandi cleric spoke of teaching the form of Islam first heard by audiences of Islam’s early leaders, and expressed his hope that Qalam’s “authentic” Islam will consequently be passed on “from generation to generation.”

None addressed the rather important fact that Suleiman’s “authentic” Islam differs on questions of jurisprudence to Jangda’s “authentic” Islam. More important for both, it appeared, is the concept of a united Muslim ummah [global community] – a vital condition of Islamism. In fact, one of the few precursors to the new-found Salafi-Deobandi partnerships in the U.S. can be found in Haitham Al-Haddad, a British cleric who – despite the theological disparities – claims to representant both Salafi and Deobandi ideologies, for the sake of a “united ummah.”

Nomaan Baig, the IOK’s founder and director, went next, thanking his “brothers” Jangda and Suleiman and praising their institutions. Current IOK programs include a K-10 school, pilgrimage services, a Saturday school and after-school programs, and a successful series of podcasts. Echoing the others’ belief in the supremacy of the ummah, he declared that his own efforts at the IOK are “only doable and possible because of our collaboration.” In other words: only by putting theological differences aside can Islamism succeed.

And so with this understanding of the three groups’ differing areas of emphasis and target audiences, the utility of their collaboration becomes clear. As a united Islamist front, the three organizations create a chain of custody: Yaqeen creates the materials for schools and mosques; the IOK then teaches this material at schools and graduate programs, while Qalam works with young adults and future clerics.

The collaboration and its future prospects went so well that near the end of the day, Baig said: “So imam Omar suggested, and Shayk Abdul Nasir and I conferred that inshallah, we’re going to try and make this an annual thing here in Southern California.” Baig described the groups’ strategy as “‘complementation.’ We complement one another… because our propagation is that knowledge.”

Such ‘complementation’ would have been extremely unusual just a few decades ago. Deobandis and Salafis follow different madhahib [schools of jurisprudence]. The founding Deobandi seminary in India urges its students to read books of “deviant” Salafis in order to refute them. In the United States, websites sympathetic to Deobandis are devoted to challenging and denouncing the Al Maghrib Institute, a Salafi religious training organization with which Suleiman has long been involved. Salafi clerics and preachers, meanwhile, denounce Deobandis as “deviants.” Suleiman’s own teacher, the Salafi cleric Salah As-Sawy, criticizes Sufism (in which the Deobandi school is technically rooted), while Salafi activists have established dozens of social media pages and websites to “speak against this SUFI demonic cult who misguide innocent muslimeen.”

It is also important to note that these Deobandi institutions are relatively new – Qalam and the IOK did not exist some years ago, because Deobandi institutions were almost only found in American mosques and madaris [traditional seminaries]. Qalam and IOK are the result of a wave of new modernist Deobandis, likely taking their cue from the modernist Salafis who have rejected the political and theological isolation of the past, instead embracing social media, pan-Islamist activism and even some social justice rhetoric. Omar Suleiman (with his 318,000 Twitter followers) is perhaps the most notable example.

Suleiman does not just ignore the theological divisions of the past; he deliberately obscures his own affiliations, once writing, “Don’t let people box you into a group because they’re too narrow minded to think outside of their own cultish mind barriers.”

“When you talk to [sic] much about politics and social justice, you’ll be deemed ‘Ikhwani.’ [Muslim Brotherhood] When you stress the importance of the Sunnah too much and show aversion to innovation, you’ll be deemed ‘Salafi’ or ‘Wahhabi.’ And when you speak too much about spirituality and how the Ummah is in need of the hearts being rectified as much as it’s [sic] outwardly affairs, you’re a ‘Sufi.’”

Suleiman encourages this new generation of Muslims to “[S]leep peacefully while others waste their days and nights trying to ‘figure you out.’” At the IOK conference, what was once merely talk of a united ummah is no longer speculation, but a working model. Islamic division is being forgotten for the sake of Islamist unity.

And the impact of this alliance? As the last session of the conference began after the three leaders introduced their organizations, the moderator noted: “Inshallah, before we begin I just wanted to make one quick announcement, alhamdullilah, our registration numbers indicate one thing here today: that there are more students here than adults.”

David M. Swindle is a fellow for Islamist Watch and the Southern California associate of the Counter-Islamist Grid. He also works as the Director of Research for The Israel Group. Follow him on Twitter @DaveSwindle

January 3, 2020: AIFD applauds the U.S. operation to terminate General Qasim Soleimani

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 3, 2020

Media Contact:
Mischel Yosick
American Islamic Forum for Democracy
480 225 7473
mischel@zliberty.com

January 3, 2020: AIFD applauds the U.S. operation to terminate General Qasim Soleimani

“The death of Qasim Soleimani and possibly also his lead militia generals is a victory for freedom and the future of the people of Iraq, Iran and Syria”.

M. Zuhdi Jasser, President, AIFD

Phoenix, AZ: Today M. Zuhdi Jasser and the American Islamic Forum for Democracy hailed the death of Qasim Soleimani, and possibly also his lead militia generals, as a victory for freedom. Especially for the people of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and for all people of conscience on the planet who have sought safety from his reign of terror over the last many decades. The Trump administration should be lauded for its clarity and courage to respond to the belligerence of the radical Islamists of Iran who have sought to not only oppress the people of Iran but destroy the democracy of Iraq and continue Assad’s genocide in Syria.

Today, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, AIFD President, stated,

“Even more so than AlBaghdadi of ISIS, Soleimani represented a state sponsored, heavily funded and protected network of terror in the region led by his Qods forces and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from Iran to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and beyond, with a treasury from Iran that dwarfed the threat of ISIS or even Osama bin Laden.

Make no mistake about it. Even beyond the threat to our soldiers, General Soleimani and his henchmen have been the death knell for nascent democracies in Iraq, Syria, Iran, and across the Middle East. With the endless blood on his hands he crushed the hopes of freedom for the Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Lebanese people. His broader impact against all Muslims and non-Muslims in the region who wanted to be free cannot be overstated. His persona as a threat to those who pushed back against Iran’s theocrats should never be underestimated. It is a profound blessing that he is gone.

AIFD supported the designation of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) in 2019 by the Trump administration.

Dr. Jasser further added,

“All the partisan hackery today about an Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF) is nonsense and puts Americans at risk. No AUMF was necessary for Osama bin Laden, Awlaki, or AlBaghdadi. Our commander-in-chief must protect our homeland from heads of designated terror organizations. Today thanks to the strength of our operations against General Soleimani and his generals, America and the world is safer and Iran will think twice before exploiting the previous administration’s blind eye to their terror”.

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