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.
By any measure, the first few days of President Biden’s administration are sending signals to domestic and foreign Islamists movements and their leaders that this White House will be their friend. Candidate, Joe Biden’s so-called moderation is quickly turning out to be a veneer, a Trojan Horse, that concealed the extent to which the Red-Green Alliance of the far left progressives and Islamists are being given the reins.
The signs of then candidate Biden’s complicity with Islamist ideologues were obvious throughout his campaign. Sadly, few paid attention. President Biden was simply parroting the talking points of leading Islamist lobbying groups in America. This penetration by Islamist groups was exemplified by the July 2020 kerfuffle inside the Voice of America Urdu news service over the posting of a blatantly political video from Emgage USA -a 501c4 organization- featuring then candidate Biden. In the video, Biden proudly proclaims among other Islamist mantras that, “I’ll be a president that seeks out and incorporates and listens to the ideas and concerns of Muslim Americans on everyday issues that matter the most to our communities. That will include having Muslim American voices as part of my administration.” While he may have said “Muslim Americans”, he clearly meant “Islamists”. For the rest of us more ideologically diverse members of Muslim American communities, the Islamists behind Emgage and their lobby speak only for the vocal theocratic minority (plurality) of the Muslim population while claiming to speak for all of us. This Islamist lobby group is a confluence of graduates from a wide swathe of American Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups.
The Biden campaign presented itself as a supposedly “unifying platform,” promising to lead from the center and take a moderate position within the Democratic Party. Yet, many of us knew their obsequiousness with Islamists indicated that nothing moderate was forthcoming. Sure enough, in less than 30 days since his inauguration, recent appointments -and slew of executive orders ripped from the pages of American Islamist wishlists- has empowered the Islamist’s frontline soldiers like never before. The artificially “moderate” veneer of Sen. Biden’s own campaign was clearly a Trojan horse that now amidst the political climate of 2021 has empowered and brought to the fore the most radical of the American “Red-Green alliance.” The Left’s radical progressives and their Islamist allies are now putting their domestic and foreign policy positions into the hands of Pres. Biden, who is signing off on them without question.
Many of the previous successes of the Trump administration and Secretary of State Pompeo against the threats Islamists posed, after being unchecked by the Obama years, are already in jeopardy.
Emgage USA and its fellow Islamist assets across the country are already doing a victory lap within but days after Pres. Biden’s first day in office as he signed an executive order ending the falsely named “Muslim ban”. Their fundraising indicates this is but the first step in their coming deep operation. They are calling now for a “no ban” act in Congress among an extensive Islamist platform of fabricated victimization and false allegations of a discriminatory policy waged against Muslims in the United States.
Any rational review of the six countries listed in the previous ban, now lifted by Pres. Biden, makes clear that countries like Iran, Syria, and Somalia are led by oppressive anti-American regimes that cannot be trusted to supply accurate vetting information on any citizens that may travel to the United States. Another EO quickly restored American taxpayer funding of UNRWA -appropriately ceased by the Trump administration because it was giving large sums of money to many radical Islamists including droves of HAMAS supporters in the Palestinian areas. Muslim Brotherhood media arms like Al Jazeera reported the coming reversal with glee.
Reema Dodin, a byproduct of what I call “the American Islamist farm team” was one of President Biden’s first appointees as a senior White House staffer for legislative affairs and liaison with the Hill. She passionately joined Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups, CAIR and the Muslim Student Association as a college student at UC-Berkeley— a mothership for American Islamist training. She infamously stated, while at Berkeley that Palestinian suicide bombers are, “the last resort of a desperate people.” She was a long-time staffer come deputy chief of staff for Sen. Dick Durbin, known for his affinity for Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups like CAIR, an organization with deep roots in Hamas and its supporters. Just a few weeks ago, Sen. Durbin helped fundraise for CAIR in Chicago.
Susan Rice will lead the White House’s domestic policy shop, bringing with her a mostly foreign policy resume rife with Islamist support— from her defense of the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Morsi in 2013 to the appeasement of the Khomeinists of Tehran -and let us not to forget Benghazi. The reportedly appointment of Matt Duss similarly bodes very well for Islamists. Duss’ sympathies for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and longtime denials about the inherent threat of Islamists make him a darling of American Islamist ideologues.
The most flagrant appointment in support of Islamist influence is Hady Amr. Amr was appointed deputy assistant secretary for Israeli-Palestinian affairs in the Bureau of Near Eastern affairs within the State Department. With the penetration and power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Qatar across their nation, there is little doubt that the founding director of the Brookings Doha Center would be sympathetic if not a staunch member and supporter of the global Islamist movement. Qatar has proven repeatedly to be a propaganda arm -if not the proverbial mothership- for the Muslim Brotherhood and its global movement of jihadi groups. Brookings Institute’s Doha offices and founder are sure to toe the line of its primary benefactor. Amr opposed Pres. Trump’s Middle East peace initiative of the Abraham Accords and has parroted most Brotherhood positions.
These are but a few examples of Islamists and their sympathizers in just the first days that are on the front lines of engagement domestically and globally for the Biden administration. Clearly all signs point to the empowerment of the most extreme elements of the Red-Green alliance on the far left or radical progressives allying with radical Islamists. This is also quickly sending a signal (as seen with Rep. Omar’s recent incredulous promotion) to the rest of the establishment that Islamists will be rewarded, no holds bar.
This new climate where Congressional leadership proudly flaunts the ascension of an avowed Islamist to the House Foreign Affairs Vice-Chair is a climate where extremists lead, not just join. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was recently elevated by Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) to the position of vice-chair on the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee. This heralds a new era of extremism where a member of Congress who chooses to defend Iran’s Khomeinist regime, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Erdogan’s Islamist AKP to name a few global Islamists, ahead of American interests and our allies in the Middle East will now be in a position of leadership in the Democratic Party on the Hill. This is only to be bolstered with echoes from her colleagues, Rice and Dodin, liaisoning for the White House.
It shouldn’t take long to disabuse anyone from harboring the delusion that now Pres. Biden or then candidate Biden was going to govern as a moderate from the center. There should remain little doubt that he is clearly handing over the reins of American policy domestically and abroad to the most radical of the Red-Green alliance and those who tow the line of the Islamist way of thought. Make no mistake about it. Pres. Biden is a Trojan horse of a moderate empowering the anti-American Islamist movements. It is sure to be beyond challenging for any anti-Islamist Muslims to get any acknowledgement of our voice among the diversity of American Muslim thought and activism.
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.
Those of us at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy wish you a most Blessed Eid al-Adha (Holiday of the Sacrifice) on this 10th day of
Zul-Hijjah, Friday, July 31, 2020.
May this holiday inspire each of us to increase our awareness of and gratitude for the many blessings we have been given as well as the enormous responsibility we have to serve and aid others. We are so proud of our many accomplishments and programs that our community at AIFD and the Muslim Reform Movement continue to do every day.
We will continue to keep you up to date on our latest as it happens here! We are so blessed to have all of your support and community.
As our nation and the world continues to grapple this year with the pandemic, we pray for the safety, security and health of all, and know that our nation will unite after this stronger than ever and in gratitude for the freedom and liberty God has bestowed upon us. The virus knows no faith, no nation, no peoples. It tests our unity and our resolve in maintaining normalcy in the face of the unknown. On this day of sacrifice we especially thank all those in humanity who have given so much on every front-line to keep us healthy and safe. Blessings to all of you and your families!
May we, as brothers and sisters in humanity, use this Eid al-Adha to grow closer to each other and to our Creator, and seize this opportunity to recommit ourselves to the universal values of human rights, individual liberty, and love for all mankind.
At the core of being American is religious liberty to celebrate our most spiritually fulfilling of days. And we hope to continue to live up to our responsibilities to keep our nation free and open to unrestricted worship.
Enjoy your families, communities, and nation on this day and may all of your prayers and supplications be accepted. May the Hajj (pilgrimage) of all those who performed it this year also be accepted.
Yours forever in liberty,
by John Rossomando
June 16, 2020
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wants to censor discussion of links between Islamic doctrine and terrorism at Arizona’s Scottsdale Community College (SCC).
A lawsuit filed June 2 in Arizona federal court seeks an injunction against the Maricopa Community College District, which SCC is part of, and Professor Nicholas Damask to block use of course materials deemed to “have the primary effect of disapproving of Islam.”
MCC and Damask, the lawsuit claims, violated student Mohamed Sabra’s civil rights when Damask – chairman of the school’s political science department – linked Islamic doctrine and terrorism. The class was about world politics, and included a section on Islamic terrorism.
Three questions on a quiz in Damask’s online class drew Sabra’s ire:
· Q. Who do terrorists strive to emulate? A. Mohammed
· Q. Where is terrorism encouraged in Islamic doctrine and law? A. The Medina verses [i.e., the portion of the Qur’an traditionally understood as having been revealed later in Muhammad’s prophetic career]
· Q. Terrorism is _______ in Islam. A. justified within the context of jihad.
“The only objectively reasonable construction of Damask’s actions is that his primary message is the disapproval of Islam,” the lawsuit reads. “Damask’s module quiz forced Sabra to agree to his radical interpretation of Islam. When Sabra did not, he was penalized by getting the questions wrong and impacted his grade.”
Sabra told Damask the quiz offended him and his religion. Damask responded in two emails, saying the quiz questions came from the course reading materials. Sabra then posted a screenshot of the quiz to social media, which resulted in death threats against Damask and the school.
To add insult to injury, school officials asked him to apologize, but the MCC district that oversees Scottsdale Community College – where Damask works, as well as nine other community colleges near Phoenix – defended his academic freedom and they backed down.
“This is America, not Pakistan,” Damask said. “There is academic freedom here.”
Kathleen Winn, a defender on the MCC board, argued that the suit is an assault on his academic freedom.
“The College has protocols if a student has a complaint,” said District Governing Board member Kathleen Winn, speaking for herself, told the Arizona Independent News Network. “This student didn’t file a formal complaint. Professor Damask’s academic freedom is protected. I hope CAIR is not using this student to forward their agenda without regard for the student’s interests, freedom of speech, and academic freedom.”
CAIR is intent on dictating the content of his course and keeping the good, the bad and the ugly about Islam from being discussed in class, Damask said.
CAIR’s Arizona chapter sent out a fundraising solicitation off the lawsuit last Friday. It claims that Damask’s class threatens Muslim lives.
The solicitation also links to a form letter to the MCC district for supporters to sign. “We cannot sit by and allow the forces of hate to permeate our education system,” it says. “As we highlighted earlier: Islamophobia kills. Anti-Semitism kills. Anti-Blackness kills. All forms of bigotry result in violence against marginalized communities.”
Ironically, CAIR invokes “academic freedom” when it suits its purposes, such as defending academics who participate in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS seeks to delegitimize Israel with a regime of boycotts, financial divestments and sanctions.
“They want to make it absolutely impossible for the West to connect forms of Islam to our strategy [against terrorism],” said Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD). “First of all, it’s a bit rich for the Islamists to endorse and push the establishment of their religion when they’re a majority, [and here they] are wrapping themselves in the very thing that’s the treatment against political Islam, which is our Establishment Clause.
“It’s absurd to say that these questions apply to all Muslims.”
CAIR has long fought to sanitize educational texts of considers derogatory against Islam. It entered into a formal partnership in 2010 with the 57-nation global Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) to “redress the image of Islam and Muslims in textbooks.” Like CAIR, the OIC condemns connecting Islamic doctrine and terrorism in the minds of Westerners as “unfair,” saying it has “created an unfair misinterpretation of the Islamic message in the Western and Non Muslim worlds.”
“Education and engagement are key to challenging the growing phenomenon of Islamophobia,” CAIR co-founder and Executive Director Nihad Awad said at the 2010 OIC conference.
CAIR took issue with Damask’s use of Walid Phares’ book, Future Jihad, calling Phares an “Islamophobe” who supports anti-Islam ideologies, an accusation that Phares rejects.
“Within this mandatory reading assignment,” the lawsuit says, “Phares explains that jihad is not a ‘spiritual phenomenon that would be and was abused by extremist ideologies,’ but rather a call for physical action. Damask failed to articulate that other more acceptable, and in fact ‘mainstream’ views of jihad have nothing to do with violence, but instead he improperly urged students to accept his personal opinions.”
CAIR’s assault is hypocritical, Phares told the Investigative Project on Terrorism, considering that several groups and individuals that it endorses promote the very ideas that it’s seeking to censor at the community college.
“The Brotherhood scholars read terrorism differently than the U.S.,” Phares said. “Always limit the reading of Islam to the Brotherhood reading because there are multiple readings of Islam.
“The Brotherhood and CAIR [are] trying to impose a vision of their own on all Muslims in America.”
CAIR was created out of a Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Hamas-support network in the United States, internal documents seized by the FBI show. Awad was a part of that network, known as the Palestine Committee.
The OIC, meanwhile, has justified Palestinian suicide attacks and other forms of terrorism saying they are acts of resistance. OIC representatives decided in 2002 that Hamas and similar groups weren’t terrorists.
Qaradawi, one of the most popular Islamist preachers in the world, rejects defining jihad as purely spiritual.
“As for the first unacceptable meaning, it is to diminish Jihad in the Way of Allah, and play down its status and virtues in Islam, and its necessity in defending the being of the Ummah (Muslim nation) and its holy sites, if attacked by aggressors and affected by arrogant tyrants,” Qaradawi wrote in 2016.
The lawsuit alleges that Damask “intentionally distort[ed]” the Quran and Hadiths (stories about Muhammad’s sayings and actions) to “support his gross misinterpretations of ‘the alleged theological mandate for jihad.'”
This alleged distortion includes Damask teaching that the Quran advocates the “establishment of Islam through violent struggle against non-Muslims.”
Damask points to Surah 4:95 as a justification for terror, the lawsuit says. Classical Quranic commentaries note that this verse implies that “the person who fails to fight can only be a hypocrite, and God holds out no good promise for such a person unless there is good reason, for example, genuine disability.”
“I’m informing my students that Islamic terrorist groups cite these and other similar Medina verses that permit or advocate violence to justify their actions and motivate others to join them,” Damask said.
“There’s a literal mountain of Islamic terror literature, manuscripts, newspaper articles, videos, social media postings, etc. that make these sorts of references,” he continued. “CAIR is insisting that I hide from my students these references to Islamic law and doctrine made by the terror groups.”
Scottsdale Community College Teaches the World how Cowardice in the Face of Islamist Mobs Actually Radicalizes Muslims
By AIFD Research Staff
Posted May 11, 2020 (this will be updated regularly as the story evolves with additions and dates at the end of the piece)
The American Islamic Forum for Democracy is based in Phoenix, AZ. Our founder and president, M Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., lives in Scottsdale and has been a frequent speaker at the Scottsdale Community College (SCC) campus for a number of classes and events. For example, only a few months ago, he spoke there for Turning Point USA on the topic “Taking on the Islamist Establishment” and in addition back in 2010 he had a pivotal debate with the lead imam in Arizona from the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, Ahmed Shqeirat, on “Does Islam Need Reform? And if so, how?”.
With that background, a number of friends of our forum contacted us last weekend, May 2, 2020, in order to let us know about recent developments at SCC. They, including supporters as well as other faculty at SCC, were all very concerned about the following:
- The unprofessional and incompetent conduct of the school’s top administration in its handling of a very simple student informal, but rather public, complaint about three questions on a quiz.
- The safety of a professor who, within 48 hours of information regarding one of his quiz’s being made public, was receiving death threats from across the planet, while the school’s administration responses only added fuel to the fire.
- The overall impact this rapidly evolving case would have on academic freedom across the campus and even wider.
- Should the Muslim community be treated like adults or infantilized and coddled after every one of their tantrums? What’s the impact of that bigotry of low expectations upon general radicalization?
Dr. Jasser spoke to the professor last week and broke the story on his May 4, 2020 Episode 68 of his podcast, “Reform This!”. This investigative report in the following will remain a collection of the actual facts in this case apparently lost or of no concern to most Islamist keyboard activists, the school’s administration, and traditional media.
Who is Professor Nicholas Damask, Ph.D.?
Dr. Damask as been a professor at Scottsdale Community College for over 24 years. He hails from Dayton, Ohio, and received a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati in political science and an M.A. in international relations from American University. His dissertation was on terrorism and its funding in the mid-90’s. He has been teaching this ever since and is a leading expert in this field in Arizona. A quick review of his public teaching scores from his students reveals impressive ratings. While AIFD had not had direct contact with Dr. Damask previously, he had come to a number of our presentations and events at SCC and is very supportive of our counter-terrorism and counter-islamism work.
In Dr. Jasser’s conversations this week with Dr. Damask, it is imminently clear that he is not someone who approaches Islam with prejudgment, bias or any hate whatsoever. His course is on political science and its history in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Only 15 percent of the curricula of the course in question, POS102, is related to terrorism and a part of that to Islamist terrorism. This is someone simply trying to teach his students what the root causes and underpinnings are for the Islamic militants. That is it. His is not a course in theology at all, but simply political movements.
Apparently all it takes for an anonymous student to take-down a professor and have his administration repudiate him reflexively while also diminishing the reputation of the entire College is a few publicly released snapshots of quiz questions with no other inquiries?
It is breathtakingly malicious and incompetent to conclude that he is a bigot based upon three questions out of context in a quiz. Let’s look at how this kerfuffle evolved?
Timeline of social media instigated cultural terrorism
- January 2020: Course opens and students can at their own pace work through the course curricula including lectures and study guides and then complete the quiz at each section. They have until May 1 to complete the entire course. The quiz questions can be reviewed later and the correct answers are provided for each section for the student to review. In this case the student finished the quiz for the section on Islamic terrorism on April 29th, 2020. This section was approximately 15% of the total curricula and the quiz in question was 25 questions total. Dr. Damask tells us that while he has a number of questions that he rotates through the course over the past many years these questions are not new. Dr. Damask also confirms that there is a honor code involved where other students taking the course online are assumed not to share snapshots and answers of the quizzes provided by those who finished them earlier.
- Wednesday, April 30th, 2020: the anonymous student took his quiz on Tuesday, April 29, 2020 then emailed the professor the next day (April 30) with a generic email saying that “you have insulted my religion” and “I am sick to my stomach”.
a. With no initial specifics, Dr. Damask responded kindly, saying, it certainly was not his intent, and he appreciated the students feelings and wanted the student to know that he was only trying to teach about international politics and in no way meant to insult him or his faith. Damask then later that day received a second email in which the student provided the screenshots of the three quiz questions that offended him out of the 25 total questions. He added that they “were distasteful to Islam.”
b. Damask then responded again that his course is not a commentary on religion and only about the ideas of the Islamic terrorists. He did note that the timeline of the emails makes it obvious that the student had obviously already sent the questions to the entire planet by sharing them on social media prior to his emails.
c. The student shared them apparently with an online comedian, prankster and general social media bully @g_dulla_mulla. He posted the following (post 1), apparently now a deleted post: “One of my followers sent me this. Look what schools are teaching now. SMH (shake my head) absolutely disgusting!!”. He has 239k followers. His YouTube channel is full of childish, if not thuggish pranks, some where he proudly accosts customers at Walmart and brags about getting kicked out of four Walmart’s So this is what appears to be the primary source (patient zero) of the viral spread of the three quiz questions.
He then posts another question (post 2) from the quiz, stating, “Wow, SMH! This class needs to be shutdown! Please don’t forget to report this disgusting school. I can’t believe what they are teaching those students”
His final post (post 3) was “This is the school. Please let’s all report this nasty ass school to the chancellor for racism! Let’s put them on blast.” Put them on blast is a rough translation for an Arabic colloquialism regarding loud, continuous protest and focus. Needless to say the comments under it were a clinic in Islamist radicalization, bullying and misinformation regarding the school, the professor, his course and the quiz. He identified the school to his followers and directed them to SCC.
3. May 1, 2020: If that wasn’t enough, the school likely began receiving a flurry of social media mentions and contacts through various channels. So what could be better than giving this Islamist mob a place to post their radicalism on the school’s Facebook and Instagram page under a groveling letter from the school’s head? Then, in barely 12-24 hours from the first viral posting, the school’s PR team led by Eric Sells had their Interim President, Chris Hines, post the following on both Facebook and Instagram. Thousands of comments later, the professor would be forced into hiding.
And then thousands of comments followed. Here are a few poignant examples the school has left up for over a week. The tenor of these comments speak to the incompetence of the school in giving platform to social media bullies and a student who bypassed professional avenues of complaint through his department and school.
There are thousands of comments like this now on the SCC social media.
The “comedian” @G_dulla_mulla that lit the fuse to this mess has since deleted his initial post but the next surrogate is also a comedian, Abdullah Jasim. He posts it with a video that essentially includes the next stage of radicalization—as is typical for Islamist agitprop—he invokes American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as morally equivalent “terrorism” to Al Qaeda, ISIS, HAMAS and other radical Islamist movements. He does this with a backdrop of SCC’s Instagram page and sarcastic, caustic commentary on the three quiz questions to another 125k followers who then proceed to make this “story”—a fuse lit from three quiz questions—go viral.
The facts about Dr. Damask’s course on “Political Science POS102” and the quiz
A section (about 15 percent) of Dr. Damask’s course is on terrorism. He shared a slide deck of his curricula with us and it is well referenced and rather balanced. He teaches about other examples of faith-based radicals from Jewish zealots to the Hindu thuggies. He also discusses what he describes as left and right wing terrorism and goes on to talk about how the constructs of faith can be used by militants in the abstract to drive terrorism.
He has taught this course for 24 years and has intermittently changed the questions and used similar ones, never having a complaint about his perspective regarding Muslims and terrorism. A couple quiz questions are not a barometer for evaluating anything let alone a conviction on bigotry.
Let’s look at the quiz questions:
And then the questions broadcast by the student?
Had the professor known his questions were going to be broadcast across the planet, to folks who hadn’t taken his course nor seen the other questions, Dr. Damask may have added more clarifying lines prior to the questions. Perhaps a phrase like, “For the terrorists…” or “the interpretation of Islam by the terrorists is…”. But that does not then mean that the questions were poorly worded or bigoted let alone the professor or the school being bigoted.
Clearly the context of the questions is related to the thought process of Islamist militants. As I’ve written about extensively in my book, “A Battle for the Soul of Islam”, and as we discuss almost daily at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, the great debate that needs to happen within the House of Islam is, “which Islam, whose Islam?” Dr. Damask’s course is not a theological discourse but rather this section of his course was about the root causes of terrorism and the underlying mindset of major global movements like Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, Nasrallah’s Hezbollah or Al-Baghdadi’s ISIS, or Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas. To release the above questions to the world as a measure of every Muslim’s Islam requires a breathtaking amount of dishonesty, deception and misinformation. This all sadly mattered little to any of the commenters who were too busy enacting a form of asymmetric cultural warfare – basically the same immoral construct as terrorism where the ends justifies the means. Like a bully, intimidation is not about the facts of a case but striking fear into the hearts of any and all that may question the Islam of theocrats like the massive global Islamist movements.
An appropriate question has to be, did the student even read the rest of the curriculum from the course? Did he even review the PowerPoint? See (link) The hundreds of thousands or more that were offended by the questions certainly did not. Dr. Damask talks about the radical’s own theo-political justification for terrorism?
This course is not about all Islam or all Muslims. Part of it was about terrorism and terrorists. It is not about the mosque down the street or the Muslims in his class or that we may know. In fact the penchant of grievance based Islamist organizations like the Council on American Islamic Relations to use manufactured incidents like this to condition (radicalize) Muslims that schools, professors, and Americans are anti-Muslim bigots.
Islamists laugh at how easy a mark SCC was
Nothing rewards a mob of Islamist bullies for their libel of a teacher, his school and Americans, more than an immediate response from the university president with a public apology. The Islamists from across the world were like sharks who saw meat in the water. The posts on the school’s Facebook page demonstrated how unleashed they all felt after the school’s top leadership posted a groveling apology with no due process. The power clearly lied with the Islamist grievance machine. Here are a few poignant examples:
Students should always be empowered to question teachers and schools. However that conversation does not begin with radical Islamists across the planet virally exploiting a couple of quiz questions. A social media mob and intimidation is not about academic freedom and it is far from supportive of freedom of speech.
Students should protest. Question. Raise their hands. But not start with a global mob of intimidation and their CAIR radicalizers. Sure enough. In this case, 10 days after it began, CAIR waltzes in to “take the student’s case”. Apparently their standards of operation have no problems with the fruit of this poisoned tree that went viral after a few comedians and pranksters took on the case first? The ambulance chasers of anti-Muslim bigotry will take any case that feeds their victimization narrative.
These legal “experts” at CAIR, like the top-level SCC administration, seemed to care little to nothing about due process or any facts in the case. They only cared about exacting punishment and retribution against anyone who ventures into teaching or discussing the connection between Islamism and Islamist terrorism.
Why shouldn’t the Islamists from CAIR or any group look at SCC and laugh at how easy a mark they were? Facts don’t matter. By the way, question #1 is there an honor code where you do things on line but you’re not supposed to distribute proprietary info?
Here’s the response again from the SCC President Chris Hines as crafted with Eric Sells, SCC’s PR lead. We remind you it was posted within 24 hours of the student’s very public mockery of the school and within 48 hours after he took the actual quiz:
Earlier this week, a student at Scottsdale Community College took a quiz as part of the class coursework. The student expressed concern over the wording of three questions related to Islam on the quiz. SCC senior leadership has reviewed the quiz questions and agrees with the student that the content was inaccurate, inappropriate, and not reflective of the inclusive nature of our college. SCC deeply apologizes to the student and to anyone in the broader community who was offended by the material. SCC Administration has addressed with the instructor the offensive nature of the quiz questions and their contradiction to the college’s values. The instructor will be apologizing to the student shortly, and the student will receive credit for the three questions. The questions will be permanently removed from any future tests. We applaud the student for bringing this to our attention – and encourage any student or employee to speak out. SCC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age in our programs or activities. We value inclusiveness because we all benefit by embracing a diversity of voices, viewpoints, and experiences. SCC cultivates success when individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds are respected and empowered to contribute. — Chris Haines, Interim President. Scottsdale Community College.
This letter, its verbiage, its hurried dismissal of any due process, its weakness, appeasement and general tenor should offend any sensible American. This letter seems to address a heinous hate crime that never happened but President Hines wanted to believe the global Islamist bullies that it did.
President Haines promises an apology which Dr. Damask never agreed to. All he knew was that he was forwarded a letter of grotesque apologetics to fill in a couple blanks and sign his name. Here it is:
Nothing from the president on the student’s violation of process for complaints.
Nothing from the president on the student’s violation of honor codes by snap-shotting quiz questions for mass distribution.
Nothing from the president on the need to adjudicate this and have a hearing to hear both sides of the story.
She concluded the questions were “offensive”
She concluded the professor needed to apologize and more and in fact the student was lionized rather than taught.
Still as of May 10, 2020, there has been no formal complaint filed by the student. Nothing has been filed with the department chair.
On top of this disgusting letter from leadership, tossing their 24 year professor to the global Islamist wolves, Eric Sells, their public relations head asked the professor to fill out this apology letter above. In that letter, Dr. Damask is being coerced into signing a letter admitting that he wrote questions with “offensive material” and that he learned a new lesson in diversity and how to view his material. Never mind it is the leadership who let one monolithic movement of Islamist bullies speak for Muslims and threw away ideological diversity among Muslims with their obsequious apologetics.
This type of university action only radicalizes Muslims more
For the school to parrot the complaints of the student with no due process gives the Islamists the entire narrative. They have shaped what will be understood as the “facts in the case” others be damned.
Such a biased, one-sided approach to complaints about their faith representation from a Muslim (usually Islamists) implies that all Muslims should be coddled and given deference for any complaint with no need for due process or balance. In this month of Ramadan, the Islam we teach here at AIFD is not one of punishment and fear for those who may conflate militant Islam with our Islam, but rather one of humility, compassion and fairness.
This ‘bigotry of low expectations’ as an approach to any Muslim complaint actually radicalizes Muslims. It rewards their mob-like intimidation. Is that not what terrorism’s asynchronous warfare is all about? The cause of the university’s pathological response may be their cowardice, their inordinate fear of that Islamist mob. So in fact are they not then negotiating with cultural terrorists, bullies or a mob? So let’s review. A student gives three simple questions to a half-wit across the world to post and to unleash the global twitter mob. Now this professor is getting threats from around the world especially under the school’s cowardly post of an apology letter. In what planet does any of this make sense for an institution of any semblance of academic rigor, freedom and free speech?
The professor wasn’t even wrong. The questions’ intent is what matters. If you believe those questions are bigotry then you don’t understand anything of why there are 100’s of millions of followers of Islamist political groups all over the world. They are emulating their version of the Prophet Mohammed. They believe that their Islam is the only Islam. Their numbers are not insignificant and they dominate major theocratic regimes from the Islamic Republic of Iran, Islamist institutions in Egypt, Wahhabi ideology out of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and millions upon millions more.
Our work at AIFD is about reform against political Islam as a root cause of radicalism and its terrorism. The Unites States was formed on the defeat of theocracy. And in today’s America teachers that have the courage to teach that Islamic theocracies are currently normative Islam which many Muslims who are honest would tell you just like Christian theocracy was normative Christianity before the 17th and 18th Jeffersonian religious liberty and freedom were ideas that took centuries in the make and the same thing now with Islamic law. It has to go through the same reformation but simple questions about terrorism and responses like this are not offensive and anyone who thinks they are is either ignorant, in denial or flat out deceptive.
Legacy media pile on along with the global Islamist mob and cowardice of SCC Leadership
With little surprise, the local legacy media covered the kerfuffle and basically regurgitated the Islamist talking points and propaganda from CAIR. Here’s the breathtakingly one-sided headline: “Scottsdale Community College Apologizes after ‘inappropriate’ questions on Islam Surface on Quiz”. They included no other voices from academia or the Muslim community. Dr. Jasser addressed the Arizona Republic reporter here via twitter and the Gannett ‘diversity’ reporter, Lorraine Longhi, did reach out to him and did apologize for excluding our voice. A follow up report is promised after she interviewed him on May 10, 2020. She will hopefully also interview the professor. We will keep you abreast of further developments in this clinic on academic freedom, free speech, religious liberty, ideological diversity, Muslim reform, and the cowardice of the West in the face of global Islamist bullies—“cultural terrorists”.
May 12, 2020 UPDATE:
May 12, 2020 update, the College Fix reported on the impact of a legal warning from FIRE and the interim chancellor of SCC provides an impressively humble apology and defense of Dr. Damask. See their full report here titled: Public college backs off threat to censor professor’s course on Islamist violence after legal warning | The College Fix
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
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