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.
December 7, 2020
The American Spectator
by: Steve Postal
Muslim Reformer Discusses Middle East Peace, Islamist Terror in Europe
I interviewed Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser in January 2017, July 2017, September 2018, May 2019, and February 2020 on a range of topics including Islamism and what he believes is its antidote, the Muslim Reform Movement. This is a follow-up interview, in which Jasser and I discuss Middle East peace and Islamist terrorism in Europe, among other things.
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.
Postal: Georgetown’s Bridge Initiative, the Center for American Progress’ Fear, Inc., and the Council on American-Islamic Relations associate with you with “Islamophobia.” How do you respond to such accusations?
Jasser: We at the AIFD and the MRM have been dedicated to long-overdue reforms against Islamism (political Islam) and its propagandists. I have spoken at length about the differences between Muslim reformers and Muslim Islamists in our first interview. I reject the term “Islamophobia.” It is a mechanism used by Islamist movements and regimes to prevent criticism of Islamism. Islam has yet to go through an enlightenment and reform against theocracy and for individual liberty and universal human rights. The dominant “establishment” of the Muslim community in the West and abroad supports Islamism and its believers, the Islamists. The Muslim reformers, on the other hand, believe that freedom and universal human rights should ultimately prevail.
Those at the Bridge Initiative, “Fear, Inc.,” and Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups like Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim Students Association (MSA), and Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) do not accept that devout Muslims exist who reject their ideas. Instead, such groups attack us as anti-Islam and blasphemers. Like theocrats, Islamists and their sympathizers see faith as monolithic and do not tolerate diversity of interpretation.
Postal: According to NPR, 35 percent of Muslims voted for President Trump in November. And according to NBC shortly before the election, 78 percent of eligible Muslim voters were registered to vote, up from 60 percent in 2016. To what do you attribute these statistics?
Jasser: The NPR statistic is very revealing on a number of levels. I covered this in depth in my weekly podcast of “Reform This!” that week. Essentially, American Muslims reject the Obama–Biden policies that fueled Iran’s proxy wars across the Middle East and deepened sectarian conflicts between Sunni and Shia radicals. Many American Muslims see that Islamism has destroyed the Middle East and were tired of the Obama–Biden administration’s appeasement of Islamists.
Postal: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) just reintroduced a bill that would recognize the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. Saudi Arabia recently reaffirmed its designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, joining Muslim-majority nations like the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan and the Libyan House of Representatives in declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization or otherwise banning it. Should the U.S. follow in their footsteps?
Jasser: There is little doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood global organization has given birth to Sunni Islamism and groups like al Qaeda and ISIS. As I stated in my testimony, “The Muslim Brotherhood’s Global Threat,” to then-Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) in July 2018, designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terror organization should be taken on a country-by-country basis, with branches in Libya, Syria, Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen being the most obvious candidates.
However, the Muslim Brotherhood in the West is more of an amorphous, underground idea with front groups and ideologically sympathetic travelers. Shutting down legacy Brotherhood groups in the West is a slippery slope that harms free speech. Instead, we need to defeat the Brotherhood’s bad ideas with better ideas. Closing Brotherhood affiliates by force will only empower Islamists.
Islamism in Europe
Postal: In 2020 alone, there were at least five Islamist terrorist attacks in Europe: three in France (stabbing in Paris, leaving two wounded; teacher beheading in a suburb of Paris; and stabbing in Nice, killing three), one in Germany (stabbing in Dresden, killing one and wounding another), and one in Austria (four dead, 22 injured in Vienna shooting). Why is Europe in the situation it is now?
Jasser: Europe has always had bad Muslim immigration policy, and this worsened after the mass immigration from Syria since 2011. The cultural, social, political, and religious shock to Europe is massive. Even if we conservatively estimate that 10 to 20 percent of these immigrants sympathize with ISIS while 30 to 40 percent are sympathetic to nonviolent Islamism and reject the social contract of Western secular liberal democracies, this combined population of militant and non-militant Islamists are insurgents. Security agencies have claimed that there are too many flagged individuals to follow. It is hard for me to understand why this hasn’t led to European countries reevaluating their immigration policies to better screen for Islamists.
But the best weapon against Islamists is non-Islamist Muslims. European governments must create partnerships with Muslim communities to marginalize Islamists. The European governments must work with non-Islamist Muslims to equip them with four things: patriotism to the nation state, a liberal education, critical thinking against tribalism, and faith and morality not in conflict with the above. The goal is to create Muslims that would want to serve and die for their nations, not jihad. If young French, German, Swedish, or Austrian Muslims are not positively engaged, the Islamists will fill that void.
Postal: French President Emmanuel Macron has waged war on “Islamist separatism” while supporting citizens’ right to draw cartoons of Mohammed under freedom of speech. What are your thoughts on Macron’s approach?
Macron has been great at diagnosing but horrible at treating the disease of Islamism. Macron must enfranchise reform-minded Muslims and resist implementing illiberal draconian measures. The nations of Europe must protect themselves from Islamist insurgents and their violence, but not at the expense of Europe’s core values and social contracts.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Austria also diagnosed the problem correctly as “political Islam,” but seeks to criminalize thought by criminalizing Islamism itself. This approach is not only illiberal and counterproductive but demonstrates to Islamists that the West is authoritarian.
The best way to counter nonviolent Islamism is with good ideas. Pushing Islamism underground empowers its supporters, as Egypt, Iran, Russia, and Syria have learned. The American approach, which allows hate speech as long as it does not promote imminent acts of violence (as per Brandenburg v. Ohio) is the most rational and effective approach. But those who advocate for terrorist acts should be arrested.
Middle East Peace
Postal: Your organization, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, released a statement praising the Israel–UAE peace deal. What are your thoughts on the Abraham Accords?
Jasser: The Abraham Accords are the first genuine reforms within the Muslim world against Islamist anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, with the UAE and Bahrain paving the way. Across the UAE and Bahrain, imams acknowledged the need to recognize the state of Israel and reject anti-Zionism, and respect Jews and Judaism. We saw Arab leaders and journalists go from being blind supporters of the Palestinian cause to criticizing the Palestinian leadership for its failures and radicalization of its people.
Postal: Rumors abound that Saudi Arabia and even Qatar could be next in making peace with Israel. Is durable peace possible between Israel and Saudi Arabia and Qatar, or are there irreconcilable differences?
Jasser: I see durable peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia possible. The Islamist threats to Saudi Arabia including populist Sunni Islamism, ISIS, al Qaeda, and Shia Islamism have shaken the foundations of the Saudi state and forced it to reckon with the Islamist monster that it created. This pivot has also pushed the Saudi state closer to Israel. While the Trump administration was critical to this, true, durable peace will occur only when the Saudi establishment genuinely reinterprets the anti-Semitic interpretations of the Qur’an and Hadith that it has propagated for years.
As for Qatar, we should close our base there and find other options for our regional security. Its ownership of Al Jazeera, which has peddled Holocaust denial, and its relationships with Iran and Turkey render it incapable of being an ally of the United States. The Al-Thani royal family also supports the Muslim Brotherhood and its spiritual guide, Yusuf Qaradawi. In a sermon on Qatar TV back in 2013, on the topic of interfaith debate, Qaradawi said, “If you invite the Jews, I will not participate. I will participate in a Muslim–Christian meeting, but with the Jews there should be no debate.” I see no prospect of reform from Al Jazeera or Qatar’s leaders and imams.
Postal: How do you think a Biden–Harris administration would impact prospects for Middle East peace, and Muslim reform both at home and abroad?
Jasser: The Biden–Harris administration will reverse the progress the Trump administration made against Islamists domestically and abroad. I believe that Reema Dodin, selected to be a senior White House staffer for legislative affairs in a new Biden–Harris administration, is sympathetic to an Islamist worldview. She joined Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups CAIR and the Muslim Student Association as a college student at UC-Berkeley. She also stated, while at Berkeley, that Palestinian suicide bombers are “the last resort of a desperate people.” Given the above, at the White House, Dodin will likely contribute to policy in favor of appeasing Iran and other Islamist interests domestically and abroad.
Indications that the Biden–Harris administration will “de-emphasize” the Pentagon and the military at the expense of greater diplomacy is troubling. Weakening our military would invite more, not less, war in the Middle East.
Postal: How can the Muslim Reform Movement gain traction in the Middle East?
Jasser: A possible path for Muslim Reform in the Middle East is for countries in the Middle East to evolve from absolute to constitutional leadership that allows for civil society institutions to modernize Islamic thought, defeat Islamism, and promote universal human rights. The UAE and Bahrain provide hope for this model. I am less optimistic about Saudi Arabia relinquishing its interpretation of Islam even as the Saudis openly condemn and declare war on “political Islam.”
Postal: Recently, there were two terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia: a stabbing outside of the French consulate and an Islamic State attack directed at French nationals wounding three in an Armistice Day ceremony at a cemetery. The Islamic State had previously threatened Saudi Arabia following its tacit support for the UAE and Bahrain normalization deals with Israel. What are your thoughts on these developments?
Jasser: Acts of terror and threats against Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain are the beginnings of a much longer war. Normalization between Israel and some Arab states has weakened the Islamist platform considerably. For too long, governments of Muslim-majority countries have been radicalizing Muslims towards Islamism and its anti-Semitism. For example, Islamist and anti-Semitic Qatar and Turkey supports Islamist and anti-Semitic Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Many of the Gulf states are pulling away from the Palestinian national movement, and with it distancing themselves from the Islamism and anti-Semitism of both Hamas and Fatah/the Palestinian Authority. We hope that the UAE and Bahrain will serve as the catalyst for other Muslims who love their faith to ultimately defeat the ideology of Islamism.
The author would like to thank Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser for participating in this interview.
From all of us at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy,
L’Shana Tova to all of our Jewish friends and supporters – Happy New Year and a blessed Yom Kippur! We wish you “Good Yontif”.
We know that in this time of reflection and atonement for the Jewish community tomorrow we are all thankful for the strength of faith which unites us in our diversity and also for this great nation which provides us religious liberty.
May your New Year and Yom Kippur be fulfilling, and may it bring in joy and hope.
Yours forever in liberty,
Dear supporters and friends,
You are invited to a live, virtual Q&A session after the viewing of the film “The Syrian Patient” hosted here in the Valley by the East Valley Jewish Community Center and featuring M. Zuhdi Jasser.
To view the film and sign up for the Q&A, please click here.
The Syrian Patient
Sunday, September 6th
Film available from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Live, virtual Q&A session with M. Zuhdi Jasser starts at 3 p.m.
Reality surpasses the imagination in this documentary that allows a look at the Syrian wounded and the Israeli doctors at a hospital in Israel, where enemies become connected.
There is no charge to view the film but those who make a donation of $10 or more to the EVJCC are invited to attend a Q&A at 3 p.m. with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser.
Zuhdi Jasser says he represents the silent majority of American Muslims and is hopeful for the future of America, despite the success of extremist elements.
By Atara Beck, World Israel News
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), described on its website as a think tank dedicated to protecting American national security against the global threat of Islamism. He is also co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement
Jasser, a physician based in Arizona, is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander with 11 years of service, including a tour as the Staff Internist to the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.
In an interview with World Israel News, Jasser discussed the state of Political Islam in the United States and his motivation for becoming an activist. Following are excerpts.
Q: You are a proud Muslim and an American patriot. Are there many like you? Do you feel you are representing the silent majority of Muslim Americans?
“I do, and I think ultimately the reason I know that is if you look at most statistics and most behaviors of the organized Islamic groups, at the most they have a plurality of movements and not a majority. So even in countries where Muslims are a majority, the Islamists have only one election – whether it’s Egypt, where the Muslim brotherhood won initially, or Tunisia, where [Islamist political party] Ennahda won initially but then lost – Islamists usually have been able to get, at the most, only 30-40 percent of the votes.
“And I do think that it’s very apropos to your question, because I think that, very much tied to loyalty and patriotism to secular countries, is the concept that we no longer, as Muslims, believe in an Islamic military. We no longer believe in an Islamic state. As long as a Muslim believes that a political party should have an Islamic flag or that the state should have an Islamic identity with an Islamic legal system, then it becomes impossible for them to also argue that when they’re a minority, they’re loyal to the state they live in.
“You can’t be both. You can’t say, ‘I believe in one set of principles because I’m not an anarchist, and I believe that if I’m a Muslim in Israel I’m going to follow the laws of the land but where I’m a majority, in Egypt or elsewhere, I would make it an Islamic state, then I would change it to Sharia.’ That’s either dishonesty or, at worst, you could label it as fifth column…
“I think the bottom line is: Many Muslims realize that there’s a set of laws that are still part of normative Islam that are those Sharia laws that run Pakistan, those blasphemy laws, Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi extreme laws that are misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and other laws – and yet, when they come and live in a Western free society, they realize that if they’re going to go through a divorce, they won’t go through the imam. They go through the civil system here because not only do they prefer Western law, they believe that their interpretation of Islam should be more in line with a Western system rather than with an Islamic Sharia system that is still in the 13th and 14th centuries.
“That’s their behavior. But the reality is our Muslim community is anaesthetized, they’re asleep at the wheel, and they shouldn’t be given a pass. On the one hand, they’re enjoying the freedoms of Western democracy; on the other hand, they’re doing virtually nothing to correct the pathologies that have led to the radicalization and theocracy that is the cornerstone of the Islamist movement…
“The anti-Islamists, the Muslims who believe in Western freedom and secular liberal democracy, are the majority of the Muslim population among the approximately 4 million Muslims in America. Then there are the Muslims who are active in mosques, active in Islamic organizations, the Muslims that are somehow bonded to the Islamic establishment…
“I do think that if you look at the American population and you go to mosques, for example, Muslims that go to mosques more than once a month, those folks are going to be 80%-90% Islamists.”
Q: From what I understand, the mosques themselves are radicalizing people.
“I am always careful when using that term ‘radicalization,’ but you’re exactly right. The sermons, the imams, the dogma that is taught with the textbooks that are on the shelves there are full of punishments for blasphemy, the condoning of the severing of hands from those who steal, the condoning of women getting a quarter of the inheritance – all these things are various interpretations of Sharia law and are endemic in the mosques.
“And the narratives that come from the pulpit are conspiratorial, us versus them, the collectivist mindset that America is against us, the conspiracy theories that denigrate Israel, that denigrate Jews and other minorities that live among us, and the community.
“Despite all of my confrontation with mosque leaders and exposing the hypocrisy and trying to debate imams across the country, I’ve never been kicked out of a mosque. My family has been targeted as far as social ostracization and defamation and vitriol in the local community, but I’ve never been kicked out. And I tell you that because Muslims don’t have an excuse for handing over the reins of our Islamic institutions to the most separatist, conspiratorial, often uneducated individuals in our community.
“Many of the Muslim leadership are part of the Islamic Society of North America, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and I put them all in a group that we call the Muslim Brotherhood legacy group in America.
“Originally, up until two years ago, they were also funded heavily by the Saudis. Now that has gone to the wayside because Saudi Arabia has recalibrated itself against the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a good thing.
“But the bottom line is the American Muslim community, other than our Muslim Reform movement, which has about 15 leaders, will come up to us behind the scenes and say, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing, but I stopped going to mosque other than our two main holidays because I just couldn’t take the sermons.’
“I tell them, ‘You should go there, they’re not going to kick you out, you should have a voice on the board, tape the sermons, expose what’s being taught, because it’s our community and by not doing so, it appears that we condone their radicalism. By not having a voice, you’re allowing the worst of our community to speak on behalf of our community.’”
Q: I’ve heard you speak about the need to reform the Muslim religion by reinterpreting sentences in the Koran in order to adjust to modern society. Is this approach similar to Judaism’s – not Reform Judaism, but traditional Judaism over thousands of years – with its mitigating interpretations of severe Torah commands, according to the Oral Law, such as “an eye for an eye”? Have you made any headway?
“That’s a very important question, because if you google textbooks on Islamic reform, some of the most sold ones are by radical imams. Wahhabism itself in Saudi Arabia was a reformist movement. And Imam Qaradawi, the spiritual guide for the Muslim Brotherhood based out of Qatar, has written two books in the last 15 years on Islamic reform…
“Reform Judaism has a very specific meaning, which is not what we’re trying to do, which is a more traditional method of looking at not the English translation, but the Arabic word itself that we believe to be the word of God. Look, for example, at the passage that says to cut the hands of those who steal – that’s the English translation. The Arabic word is actually ‘sever,’ it could mean sever them from society, not necessarily sever the hand from the body…
“If there are multiple interpretations, as there is for pretty much everything in the Koran, then there should be freedom of religion to interpret as you wish, and that’s why the government should have nothing to do with the establishment of religion in society. And that’s why I feel that the American form of government is the one that we’re trying to apply religious reform in our own tradition.”
Q: At the recent Democratic National Convention, the Biden campaign at first rejected Linda Sarsour and then almost immediately turned around and apologized to the Muslim community for doing so. What are we to make of that?
“I was offended that there was even a perception that her constituency somehow represents American Muslims. It represents a segment of American Muslims, but is [Presidential candidate Joe] Biden trying to say that the BDS movement, which is what Sarsour is all about – the BDS movement that basically calls for the economic annihilation of Israel – represents American Muslims?
“And I have to tell you, I believe what’s happening, the identity politics in America, is that they’re approaching the American Muslim community with a bigotry of low expectations.”
Q: Across the board?
“I’m talking about the Left in this instance. We have been critical of the Right in some areas, but right now, as far as Biden’s campaign responds to Sarsour – I think that… if a non-Muslim had said the same things that Louis Farrakhan or Ilhan Omar say about Israel, or about the Jewish community, they would be ostracized from the Democratic party. But there’s this bigotry of low expectations.”
Q: Are they afraid of being labeled Islamophobic?
“That’s a good question. Why has that cultural approach evolved? It’s the post-9/11 phenomenon in which the Islamists have instilled the fear of God into anyone who dares question the Islamist ideological movement.
“The bigger question is not just about the 4 million Muslims in America. Where does the term Islamophobia come from? The Organization of Islamic Cooperation back in the early ’90s came up with this term, which they used internally for a long time in their countries where they arrest people for any speech against their government. They say they won’t arrest them for criticizing the president, they’ll arrest them for criticizing Islam because the president is a representative of Islam… that’s why they flipped it upside down at the West and they said that when you criticize Muslims, you’re criticizing Islam.
“They’ve made it into a form of blasphemy law in the West… That’s one of the things, if you look at our website for the Muslim Reform movement, at the top it says, ‘Ideas don’t have rights. Human beings do.’”
“Again, we believe there is bigotry against Muslims that needs to be countered, just like there’s anti-Semitism that needs to be countered, but the Jewish community rarely talks about Judeophobia…
“I’m afraid of Islamism. The Islamists don’t even want you to use the term Islamism in the West. They claim it causes more discrimination when in fact they themselves, in Arabic, all over Al Jazeera and elsewhere, they talk about Islamism all the time; that’s the term they use to describe themselves. But on the other hand, they expect the ignorant folks in the West to be afraid of being called an Islamophobe – that fear, intentionally imposed in the West, in order to prevent criticism of theocratic ideas that are entrenched in Political Islam…
“I think it’s important that if you look at the Left and Sarsour, it should insult most Americans that a leader of the BDS movement that has hyper-politicized her own activism for Palestinians and apologized for terrorists and supported Hamas and other radical organizations now has become the standard bearer for American Muslims. The same with Ilhan Omar.”
Q: When Biden’s campaign did disavow Sarsour’s views, she said, “That means they condemn the views of 99.9 percent of the communities that I come from, who hold the exact views that I have.”
“OK, that’s probably true in her communities. But her communities are not mine. She doesn’t speak for all Muslims…
“When Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were trying to come to Israel, all of a sudden her [Tlaib’s] grandmother, her family, became so important. That’s her community. These are folks that have a certain ideology, a certain perspective… This is the hypocrisy of the Left, they’re all about diversity, but to them, diversity is an identity checkbox on either a racial or a religious identity form. That’s it. It doesn’t have anything to do with ideas.
“And if she really believed in ideological diversity, then there’s no way she would speak about 99.9 percent. That is a figment of her imagination that even 50% of American Muslims support the BDS movement.”
Q: How do you understand Muslim Americans like Linda Sarsour? She must realize that she enjoys much greater freedoms, especially as a woman, in the U.S. than she would in a Muslim-dominated country. What motivates her to defend Sharia Law?
“I think you are not understanding where the Ilan Omars and Rashida Tlaibs of the world are coming from. They are from the farm team, to use the sports analogy, of the Islamists. If you talk to the Somali community in Minnesota, many of them are livid that they have a woman now representing their community through her headscarf and her cultural reminders every day that she’s a Somali immigrant, that she takes on the president and other things in her vitriol on Twitter and elsewhere.
“And yet her own Somali community will say, ‘What have you done to change policies that are creating the oppression from the government in Somalia that exists to destroy the country that we came from? What about the imposition of Sharia in our community in Minneapolis, where you have some of the highest rates of jihadization in the country from mosques in the area?’
“She continues to act in the ideas that were the roof from where she came, which are Islamist, which are an anti-American, anti-Israel, an anti-Western perspective that sees that all the problems in the world as the West’s fault.
“I’m a former naval officer, and I have to tell you that one of the most offended I ever was by Ilhan Omar was in 2017– she was running for election, and Sen. Franken at the time from Minnesota tweeted out a memory, on the anniversary of the last significant major terrorist attack, in 1992, about all the people that lost their lives innocently in Somalia. I was there, I was on the Navy ship in Somalia… and she then makes a statement that, that act of terrorism was small compared to the terrorism committed by American troops against Somali citizens…
“Not only is this fabricated, but it also shows the scorn that she has for our country, for its soldiers.
“I see the American military as similar to the IDF, one of the most moral fighting forces in the world, and yet she sees it as terrorists. When she talks about al-Qaeda, she does it laughing, she’ll give a giggle as if it’s some conspiracy theory. So this is the narrative she comes from and you’re trying to apply rational approaches to somebody who should be so thankful to a society that gave her freedom to escape… but this is somebody whose worldview is about Political Islam, about the defeat of secular democracy. Her worldview is about the ascension of the socialists of Venezuela in the red-green axis with Iran, with the socialists and Islamists rising up against the West… She sees us as evil, not good.”
Q: And she got voted in again.
“Yes. I wrote a book on the battle for the soul of Islam [A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith] published in 2012, and I think what we’re seeing right now in America [is that] each party has to go through a battle for its soul. The amount of anti-Semitism that is being fomented in the Democratic party – they had two imams at their Democratic convention that were quite radical, and nobody seems to care.”
Q: How would you characterize the beliefs of Muslim Americans toward Israel and Jews?
“I truly believe that if you do polls, over 90% of Americans – not Muslims, but the whole population – support the State of Israel as being one of the closest allies of America on the planet… That might have gone down in the past few years, but I know last time I looked at it, five or 10 years ago, it was 85%-90%… In the Muslim-Arabic community, those numbers might be less significant, not up to the 80s but maybe over 50%. I think they just need education.
“There’s a significant problem in that a lot of immigrant families end up watching Arabic media, etc. If you look at the State Department’s report on anti-Semitism, the rate of anti-Semitism, even in Lebanon, which is right next door to Israel, is upwards of 85%-90%, and that’s not just Muslims, it includes Christians and others. It has to do with media…. That’s why the UN spends half of its time on Israel when in fact there are so many more significant human rights abuses on the planet. So, when you look at the percentages, people should not be surprised that a significant number of Arab Americans are watching foreign Arab TV. That shapes a lot of the misperception [of Jews]…
“But I still think there is a silent majority that supports the State of Israel, that is against the BDS movement for sure. Most Muslims I talk to say BDS is absurd. They ask, what about the cancer cures we use, the vaccines, the generic medications.”
Q: If a new edition of your book came out now, is there anything you would update?
“Yes, a lot. I think in some ways I overestimated the responsiveness of the Muslim population and their willingness to speak out against the Islamists, against the Erdogans, against the Irans of the world and the Muslim Brotherhood leaders here in America. I thought they would see this American struggle as theirs also, but they basically left it for others and had not woken up to it.”
Q: Black Lives Matter is leading the current anti-racism movement, but it seems to be racist itself against Jews. Why did BLM include anti-Israel ideas in its original platform?
“Because, I think, many of the agitators that provided the propaganda driving this far-left movement were very much historically wedded to the Nation of Islam, the Louis Farrakhan movement, the Black Panthers, and the historical militant arm of the civil rights movement… it was obviously important to educate the rest of America about the civil rights movement, like Martin Luther King, but yet there was an element about it that people don’t talk about, that synergy that existed between groups like the Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, and Louis Farrakhan.
“The founder of the Women’s March ended up having to step away because the leaders of the African-American community would not criticize Louis Farrakhan, would not step away from the Nation of Islam… The same thing happened with the Million Man March in the 1990s, when they wouldn’t separate themselves from that [movement], and it really hurt their mission.”
Q: Are you optimistic, hopeful that America will survive as America?
“I am. I’m a primary care physician by profession, that’s how I spend most of my day, and I’m always hopeful. Whether I’m treating patients with cancer or whatever, they will often get a lot sicker before they get better.
“I think that at the end of the day, most Americans are good people who not only love their country, but love each other and love humanity, and we’re going to probably get sicker before we realize that we’ve been allowing the most extreme anti-American elements of their movement [for equality] to drive their positions because they have a moniker Black Lives Matter, which on the surface appears to be a genuine movement but internally has been hijacked by the most radical elements of society.
“I think eventually the patient will come out healthier once we get beyond the therapeutic process, and that often feels like chemotherapy.”
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