September 2, 2020: WIN Exclusive: ‘I’m afraid of Islamism,’ says American-Muslim activist Zuhdi Jasser

Zuhdi Jasser says he represents the silent majority of American Muslims and is hopeful for the future of America, despite the success of extremist elements. 

By Atara Beck, World Israel News

 

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), described on its website as a think tank dedicated to protecting American national security against the global threat of Islamism. He is also co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement

Jasser, a physician based in Arizona, is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander with 11 years of service, including a tour as the Staff Internist to the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.

In an interview with World Israel News, Jasser discussed the state of Political Islam in the United States and his motivation for becoming an activist. Following are excerpts.

Q: You are a proud Muslim and an American patriot. Are there many like you? Do you feel you are representing the silent majority of Muslim Americans?

“I do, and I think ultimately the reason I know that is if you look at most statistics and most behaviors of the organized Islamic groups, at the most they have a plurality of movements and not a majority. So even in countries where Muslims are a majority, the Islamists have only one election – whether it’s Egypt, where the Muslim brotherhood won initially, or Tunisia, where [Islamist political party] Ennahda won initially but then lost – Islamists usually have been able to get, at the most, only 30-40 percent of the votes.

“And I do think that it’s very apropos to your question, because I think that, very much tied to loyalty and patriotism to secular countries, is the concept that we no longer, as Muslims, believe in an Islamic military. We no longer believe in an Islamic state. As long as a Muslim believes that a political party should have an Islamic flag or that the state should have an Islamic identity with an Islamic legal system, then it becomes impossible for them to also argue that when they’re a minority, they’re loyal to the state they live in.

“You can’t be both. You can’t say, ‘I believe in one set of principles because I’m not an anarchist, and I believe that if I’m a Muslim in Israel I’m going to follow the laws of the land but where I’m a majority, in Egypt or elsewhere, I would make it an Islamic state, then I would change it to Sharia.’ That’s either dishonesty or, at worst, you could label it as fifth column…

“I think the bottom line is: Many Muslims realize that there’s a set of laws that are still part of normative Islam that are those Sharia laws that run Pakistan, those blasphemy laws, Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi extreme laws that are misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and other laws – and yet, when they come and live in a Western free society, they realize that if they’re going to go through a divorce, they won’t go through the imam. They go through the civil system here because not only do they prefer Western law, they believe that their interpretation of Islam should be more in line with a Western system rather than with an Islamic Sharia system that is still in the 13th and 14th centuries.

“That’s their behavior. But the reality is our Muslim community is anaesthetized, they’re asleep at the wheel, and they shouldn’t be given a pass. On the one hand, they’re enjoying the freedoms of Western democracy; on the other hand, they’re doing virtually nothing to correct the pathologies that have led to the radicalization and theocracy that is the cornerstone of the Islamist movement…

“The anti-Islamists, the Muslims who believe in Western freedom and secular liberal democracy, are the majority of the Muslim population among the approximately 4 million Muslims in America. Then there are the Muslims who are active in mosques, active in Islamic organizations, the Muslims that are somehow bonded to the Islamic establishment…

“I do think that if you look at the American population and you go to mosques, for example, Muslims that go to mosques  more than once a month, those folks are going to be 80%-90% Islamists.”

Q: From what I understand, the mosques themselves are radicalizing people.

“I am always careful when using that term ‘radicalization,’ but you’re exactly right. The sermons, the imams, the dogma that is taught with the textbooks that are on the shelves there are full of punishments for blasphemy, the condoning of the severing of hands from those who steal, the condoning of women getting a quarter of the inheritance – all these things are various interpretations of Sharia law and are endemic in the mosques.

“And the narratives that come from the pulpit are conspiratorial, us versus them, the collectivist mindset that America is against us, the conspiracy theories that denigrate Israel, that denigrate Jews and other minorities that live among us, and the community.

“Despite all of my confrontation with mosque leaders and exposing the hypocrisy and trying to debate imams across the country, I’ve never been kicked out of a mosque. My family has been targeted as far as social ostracization and defamation and vitriol in the local community, but I’ve never been kicked out. And I tell you that because Muslims don’t have an excuse for handing over the reins of our Islamic institutions to the most separatist, conspiratorial, often uneducated individuals in our community.

“Many of the Muslim leadership are part of the Islamic Society of North America, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and I put them all in a group that we call the Muslim Brotherhood legacy group in America.

“Originally, up until two years ago, they were also funded heavily by the Saudis. Now that has gone to the wayside because Saudi Arabia has recalibrated itself against the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a good thing.

“But the bottom line is the American Muslim community, other than our Muslim Reform movement, which has about 15 leaders, will come up  to us behind the scenes and say, ‘Thank you for what you’re doing, but I stopped going to mosque other than our two main holidays because I just couldn’t take the sermons.’

“I tell them, ‘You should go there, they’re not going to kick you out, you should have a voice on the board, tape the sermons, expose what’s being taught, because it’s our community and by not doing so, it appears that we condone their radicalism. By not having a voice, you’re allowing the worst of our community to speak on behalf of our community.’”

Q: I’ve heard you speak about the need to reform the Muslim religion by reinterpreting sentences in the Koran in order to adjust to modern society. Is this approach similar to Judaism’s – not Reform Judaism, but traditional Judaism over thousands of years – with its mitigating interpretations of severe Torah commands, according to the Oral Law, such as “an eye for an eye”? Have you made any headway?

“That’s a very important question, because if you google textbooks on Islamic reform, some of the most sold ones are by radical imams. Wahhabism itself in Saudi Arabia was a reformist movement. And Imam Qaradawi, the spiritual guide for the Muslim Brotherhood based out of Qatar, has written two books in the last 15 years on Islamic reform…

“Reform Judaism has a very specific meaning, which is not what we’re trying to do, which is a more traditional method of looking at not the English translation, but the Arabic word itself that we believe to be the word of God.  Look, for example, at the passage that says to cut the hands of those who steal – that’s the English translation. The Arabic word is actually ‘sever,’ it could mean sever them from society, not necessarily sever the hand from the body…

“If there are multiple interpretations, as there is for pretty much everything in the Koran, then there should be freedom of religion to interpret as you wish, and that’s why the government should have nothing to do with the establishment of religion in society. And that’s why I feel that the American form of government is the one that we’re trying to apply religious reform in our own tradition.”

Q: At the recent Democratic National Convention, the Biden campaign at first rejected Linda Sarsour and then almost immediately turned around and apologized to the Muslim community for doing so. What are we to make of that?

“I was offended that there was even a perception that her constituency somehow represents American Muslims. It represents a segment of American Muslims, but is [Presidential candidate Joe] Biden trying to say that the BDS movement, which is what Sarsour is all about – the BDS movement that basically calls for the economic annihilation of Israel – represents American Muslims?

“And I have to tell you, I believe what’s happening, the identity politics in America, is that they’re approaching the American Muslim community with a bigotry of low expectations.”

Q: Across the board?

“I’m talking about the Left in this instance. We have been critical of the Right in some areas, but right now, as far as Biden’s campaign responds to Sarsour – I think that… if a non-Muslim had said the same things that Louis Farrakhan or Ilhan Omar say about Israel, or about the Jewish community, they would be ostracized from the Democratic party. But there’s this bigotry of low expectations.”

Q: Are they afraid of being labeled Islamophobic?

“That’s a good question. Why has that cultural approach evolved? It’s the post-9/11 phenomenon in which the Islamists have instilled the fear of God into anyone who dares question the Islamist ideological movement.

“The bigger question is not just about the 4 million Muslims in America. Where does the term Islamophobia come from? The Organization of Islamic Cooperation back in the early ’90s came up with this term, which they used internally for a long time in their countries where they arrest people for any speech against their government. They say they won’t arrest them for criticizing the president, they’ll arrest them for criticizing Islam because the president is a representative of Islam… that’s why they flipped it upside down at the West and they said that when you criticize Muslims, you’re criticizing Islam.

“They’ve made it into a form of blasphemy law in the West… That’s one of the things, if you look at our website for the Muslim Reform movement, at the top it says, ‘Ideas don’t have rights. Human beings do.’”

“Again, we believe there is bigotry against Muslims that needs to be countered, just like there’s anti-Semitism that needs to be countered, but the Jewish community rarely talks about Judeophobia…

“I’m afraid of Islamism. The Islamists don’t even want you to use the term Islamism in the West. They claim it causes more discrimination when in fact they themselves, in Arabic, all over Al Jazeera and elsewhere, they talk about Islamism all the time; that’s the term they use to describe themselves. But on the other hand, they expect the ignorant folks in the West to be afraid of being called an Islamophobe – that fear, intentionally imposed in the West, in order to prevent criticism of theocratic ideas that are entrenched in Political Islam…

“I think it’s important that if you look at the Left and Sarsour, it should insult most Americans that a leader of the BDS movement that has hyper-politicized her own activism for Palestinians and apologized for terrorists and supported Hamas and other radical organizations now has become the standard bearer for American Muslims. The same with Ilhan Omar.”

Q: When Biden’s campaign did disavow Sarsour’s views, she said, “That means they condemn the views of 99.9 percent of the communities that I come from, who hold the exact views that I have.”

“OK, that’s probably true in her communities. But her communities are not mine. She doesn’t speak for all Muslims…

“When Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were trying to come to Israel, all of a sudden her [Tlaib’s] grandmother, her family, became so important. That’s her community. These are folks that have a certain ideology, a certain perspective… This is the hypocrisy of the Left,  they’re all about diversity, but to them, diversity is an identity checkbox on either a racial or a religious identity form. That’s it. It doesn’t have anything to do with ideas.

“And if she really believed in ideological diversity, then there’s no way she would speak about 99.9 percent. That is a figment of her imagination that even 50% of American Muslims support the BDS movement.”

Q: How do you understand Muslim Americans like Linda Sarsour? She must realize that she enjoys much greater freedoms, especially as a woman, in the U.S. than she would in a Muslim-dominated country. What motivates her to defend Sharia Law?

“I think you are not understanding where the Ilan Omars and Rashida Tlaibs of the world are coming from. They are from the farm team, to use the sports analogy, of the Islamists. If you talk to the Somali community in Minnesota, many of them are livid that they have a woman now representing their community through her headscarf and her cultural reminders every day that she’s a Somali immigrant, that she takes on the president and other things in her vitriol on Twitter and elsewhere.

“And yet her own Somali community will say, ‘What have you done to change policies that are creating the oppression from the government in Somalia that exists to destroy the country that we came from? What about the imposition of Sharia in our community in Minneapolis, where you have some of the highest rates of jihadization in the country from mosques in the area?’

“She continues to act in the ideas that were the roof from where she came, which are Islamist, which are an anti-American, anti-Israel, an anti-Western perspective that sees that all the problems in the world as the West’s fault.

“I’m a former naval officer, and I have to tell you that one of the most offended I ever was by Ilhan Omar was in 2017– she was running for election, and Sen. Franken at the time from Minnesota tweeted out a memory, on the anniversary of the last significant major terrorist attack, in 1992, about all the people that lost their lives innocently in Somalia. I was there, I was on the Navy ship in Somalia… and she then makes a statement that, that act of terrorism was small compared to the terrorism committed by American troops against Somali citizens…

“Not only is this fabricated, but it also shows the scorn that she has for our country, for its soldiers.

“I see the American military as similar to the IDF, one of the most moral fighting forces in the world, and yet she sees it as terrorists. When she talks about al-Qaeda, she does it laughing, she’ll give a giggle as if it’s some conspiracy theory. So this is the narrative she comes from and you’re trying to apply rational approaches to somebody who should be so thankful to a society that gave her freedom to escape… but this is somebody whose worldview is about Political Islam, about the defeat of secular democracy. Her worldview is about the ascension of the socialists of Venezuela in the red-green axis with Iran, with the socialists and Islamists rising up against the West… She sees us as evil, not good.”

Q: And she got voted in again.

“Yes. I wrote a book on the battle for the soul of Islam [A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith] published in 2012, and I think what we’re seeing right now in America [is that] each party has to go through a battle for its soul. The amount of anti-Semitism that is being fomented in the Democratic party – they had two imams at their Democratic convention that were quite radical, and nobody seems to care.”

Q: How would you characterize the beliefs of Muslim Americans toward Israel and Jews?

“I truly believe that if you do polls, over 90% of Americans – not Muslims, but the whole population – support the State of Israel as being one of the closest allies of America on the planet…  That might have gone down in the past few years, but I know last time I looked at it, five or 10 years ago, it was 85%-90%… In the Muslim-Arabic community, those numbers might be less significant, not up to the 80s but maybe over 50%. I think they just need education.

“There’s a significant problem in that a lot of immigrant families end up watching Arabic media, etc. If you look at the State Department’s report on anti-Semitism, the rate of anti-Semitism, even in Lebanon, which is right next door to Israel, is upwards of 85%-90%, and that’s not just Muslims, it includes Christians and others. It has to do with media…. That’s why the UN spends half of its time on Israel when in fact there are so many more significant human rights abuses on the planet. So, when you look at the percentages, people should not be surprised that a significant number of Arab Americans are watching foreign Arab TV. That shapes a lot of the misperception [of Jews]…

“But I still think there is a silent majority that supports the State of Israel, that is against the BDS movement for sure. Most Muslims I talk to say BDS is absurd. They ask, what about the cancer cures we use, the vaccines, the generic medications.”

Q: If a new edition of your book came out now, is there anything you would update?

“Yes, a lot. I think in some ways I overestimated the responsiveness of the Muslim population and their willingness to speak out against the Islamists, against the Erdogans, against the Irans of the world and the Muslim Brotherhood leaders here in America. I thought they would see this American struggle as theirs also, but they basically left it for others and had not woken up to it.”

Q: Black Lives Matter is leading the current anti-racism movement, but it seems to be racist itself against Jews. Why did BLM include anti-Israel ideas in its original platform?

“Because, I think, many of the agitators that provided the propaganda driving this far-left movement were very much historically wedded to the Nation of Islam, the Louis Farrakhan movement, the Black Panthers, and the historical militant arm of the civil rights movement… it was obviously important to educate the rest of America about the civil rights movement, like Martin Luther King, but yet there was an element about it that people don’t talk about, that synergy that existed between groups like the Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, and Louis Farrakhan.

“The founder of the Women’s March ended up having to step away because the leaders of the African-American community would not criticize Louis Farrakhan, would not step away from the Nation of Islam… The same thing happened with the Million Man March in the 1990s, when they wouldn’t separate themselves from that [movement], and it really hurt their mission.”

Q: Are you optimistic, hopeful that America will survive as America?

“I am. I’m a primary care physician by profession, that’s how I spend most of my day, and I’m always hopeful. Whether I’m treating patients with cancer or whatever, they will often get a lot sicker before they get better.

“I think that at the end of the day, most Americans are good people who not only love their country, but love each other and love humanity, and we’re going to probably get sicker before we realize that we’ve been allowing the most extreme anti-American elements of their movement [for equality] to drive their positions because they have a moniker Black Lives Matter, which on the surface appears to be a genuine movement but internally has been hijacked by the most radical elements of society.

“I think eventually the patient will come out healthier once we get beyond the therapeutic process, and that often feels like chemotherapy.”

 

February 4, 2020: United Islamists of America

February 4, 2020

United Islamists of America
by: David Swindle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 30, 2019: Cultural Conversations – Summing Up: The Message, The Meetings & The Media

Cultural Conversations – Summing Up: The Message, The Meetings & The Media

Vickie Janson
March 2019

It seems appropriate to sum up our incredible 10 days with Muslim Reformist Dr Zuhdi Jasser and his wife Gada. As tour organisers and fellow road crew, Hilary and I recognise that none of the opportunities presented to us would have been possible without the sacrificial support of individual donors and of course Michael making sure we physically got from A-B in a very busy schedule. Thank you so much. And thanks to Zuhdi and Gada for making that big leap Downunder and becoming our real (rather than virtual) friends in freedom.

This update offers a snapshot of The Message, The Meetings and The Media and my latest blog Straddling the Right-Left Divide provides some personal reflections drawn from Zuhdi’s message on rekindling a passion for liberty and nation state as a remedy to that widening divide.

THE MESSAGE

The Islam + Islamism Tour was advertised as Dr Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim Reformer, engaging with Australians in those ‘hard to have conversations.’ The message he brought to Australia was always going to be somewhat counter-culture and the timing of his visit, coinciding with the horror of the mosque attacks in New Zealand, would seem to make that conversation all the more ‘hard to have.’ Yet despite this, these important public conversations were had. In his own words:

“The best way to erode bigotry against Muslims is for our own communities to openly lead the defence of our respective homelands against Islamist ideological and security threats. Not only will Australia and our nations benefit and repair in the process, but Muslims who create reformist platforms could help push almost a quarter of the world’s population towards liberty…there is little difference between white supremacists fearful of ‘foreign invaders’ and militant Islamists who want to create a global caliphate and consider non-Muslim lands the ‘Land of War’ to be conquered.”

Jasser spoke of ‘tough love’ to address this and said Australia should not engage in the bigotry of low expectations toward its Muslim citizens. His was a message of liberty, love for your nation, and legacy. Clearly this was not just a message for Muslim communities. When it comes to terrorism, Jasser maintains Western nations are only on the defensive. They don’t have an offensive. It was evident he was much more passionate than the average Australian about offensively promoting liberty and the fruits of it; secular liberal democracy and universal human rights as part of a national identity future generations can be part of.

The Muslim Reform Movement unapologetically seek to foster a culture of liberty within the Islamic consciousness; an offensive against Islamist ideology (political Islam) and by extension, the terror it may produce. This requires dismantling the ideology of a supremacist Islamic state with its sharia laws which view blasphemy and apostasy as seditious and treasonous, and thereby punishable by ‘the state.’ Supremacism, whether it’s Islamist or white supremacism, is anti-liberty. This is why Reformists can call for a ‘jihad against jihad’ relegating the state concept to history and promoting a shared ‘Australianism’ or ‘Americanism:’ the rationale being if there’s no Islamic state theology there’s no theology of a military jihad.

THE MEETINGS

After appearing on The Bolt Report 11 March 2019 highlighting Reformists ‘jihad against jihad’ Jasser faced somewhat of his own at the first public event in Melbourne the following evening. What was intended to be a civil public conversation between Jasser and Dr Yassir Morsi, La Trobe University about the ‘Merits of the Muslim Reform Movement deteriorated rapidly. Clearly unimpressed by the notion of a Muslim Reformation, Morsi said the conversation about separation of mosque and state as a remedy to radicalization was ‘reductionist and binary.’

Morsi appeared to argue that the roots of radicalisation were not embedded within an Islamist theocratic framework but stemmed from a multitude of external influencing factors, including external political and socio-economic factors. Jasser acknowledged the role of some external factors as ‘accelerants’ to radicalisation but identified the root cause as a separatist Islamist ideology resident within the House of Islam. Within or without – that was the question. Morsi tabled white privilege, racism,

Islamophobia and many other factors as cultural reasons some Muslims had adopted separatist responses toward living in the West. The conversation itself demonstrated the internal struggle within Islam Jasser was flagging. I certainly didn’t feel any white privilege when Morsi rejected the opportunity to even shake my hand on arrival. I discovered later this was not due to any religious reasons but because, as he wrote, I was ‘a bigot.’

The conversation about the merits of the Muslim Reform Movement continued the next evening with Dr Bernie Power joining Jasser to address all those very curly questions which often go unanswered. Power is well versed in the Muslim faith tradition, history and the Arabic language and knew just where to go. With all his passion and geopolitical bandwidth, it was the sheer honesty of Jasser in addressing the issues tabled that impacted attendees and offered some hope for the Muslim Reformation he was promoting.

Private meetings in Melbourne included a meeting with Labor’s Frank McGuire MP, the Member for Broadmeadows, his electorate identifying as 30% Muslim.

He also addressed private community group meetings and a luncheon with Liberal Friends of Israel before heading to Sydney. He was well received by all.

The Christchurch mosque attacks impacted the Sydney public event and some who were booked to come cancelled, while others never heard about the meeting due to media interviews being pulled out of a genuine sensitivity to the atrocity. However, Prof Mehmet Ozalp, who was also willing to engage with Jasser publicly, was very welcoming and hospitable and organised a shared meal in a delightful local restaurant before the evening commenced. It was a small and participatory audience and while there may have been a divergence in opinion on ways to address Islamism from these two men, they shared the use of the same term, Islamism, and concern about addressing it.

There were more well attended private meetings hosted by community groups in Sydney and a productive meeting with Sen Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

THE MEDIA

Media appearances included interviews on The Bolt Report, 2 GB Radio with Alan Jones and Sky News Outsiders programme. Feature articles by Dr. Jasser also appeared in the Daily Telegraph 21 March and in the current edition of The Spectator Australia Magazine 23 March 2019 (republished on my website for easy access).

A radio interview with James Carleton on ABC ‘God Forbid’ was postponed due to sensitivity toward the NZ mosque attacks, as was an interview with Miranda Devine, and an interview with Richard Shumack, The Centre for Public Christianity Life and Faith podcast is still yet to air. An article was also published in the Australian Jewish News.

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August 2017: Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world

Pew Research Center

AUGUST 9, 2017
Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world
BY MICHAEL LIPKA

Muslims are the fastest-growing religious group in the world. The growth and regional migration of Muslims, combined with the ongoing impact of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) and other extremist groups that commit acts of violence in the name of Islam, have brought Muslims and the Islamic faith to the forefront of the political debate in many countries. Yet many facts about Muslims are not well known in some of these places, and most Americans – who live in a country with a relatively small Muslim population – have said they know little or nothing about Islam.

Read full article here.

October 30, 2017: Oral Testimony for Hearing before the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

“Unintended Consequences: M103 Harms all Canadians, especially Muslims”

By Dr. M. ZUHDI JASSER
PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ISLAMIC FORUM FOR DEMOCRACY
October 30, 2017

Introduction

Thank you Chairperson Fry and members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for holding this very important hearing on studying whether and how to fulfill the recommendations of M-103. I am Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, President and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) based in Phoenix, Arizona. I am here today not only at the request of your staff, but I am taking the time to be with you because I could not feel more strongly that our current national, and moreover, joint Western direction in addressing the complexities of Muslim related issues from combating Islamist inspired terrorism to domestic tranquility is deeply flawed and profoundly dangerous. For Canadians, many of the questions with which you are wrestling, we as your American neighbors and allies to the south are also wrestling with as we all have since 9-11 and now especially since the rampant increase of Islamist inspired acts of terror against our homelands with the advent of ISIS and continued growth of global jihadism.

As a devout American Muslim who loves my faith, and loves my nation, I must tell you that any emphasis on “Islamophobia” is profoundly flawed and will continue our nations down the slippery slope of actually catering to Islamist separatism. I am here to tell you that by simply even using that term and referring to it as “Islamophobia” and getting the government into the business of monitoring any form of speech will end up paradoxically heightening societal divisions. We must not coddle Muslim communities which will only further separate Muslims out. Trying to suppress what can be painful speech about Islam at society’s fringes will actually paradoxically feed an unintended consequence of fomenting non-Muslim fears of Islam. Citizens who cannot have their real fears heard and their speech exercised will be stifled from the public sector and push underground resentment that will only foment.

Yes, all racism should be addressed by our free societies and prevented in all its forms, but it actually hurts Muslims for a government based in universal rights of all to pay special attention to protecting “Islam” from harsh critique versus protecting all human beings of faith or no faith from actual bigotry. The “special” treatment of Muslims will actually backfire and cause our communities to be culturally derided, hated, and feared more because our faith is not held to the same free-for-all as any other faith.

Brief Background on American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) and The Muslim Reform Movement (MRM)

Our American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) was founded in 2003 in the wake of the horrific attacks of September 11. For us, it is a very personal mission to leave our American Muslim children a legacy that their faith is based in the unalienable right to liberty and to teach them that the principles that founded America do not contradict their faith but strengthen it. AIFD’s founding principle is that we as Muslims are able to best practice our faith in a society like the United States that guarantees the rights of every individual under God but blind to any one faith with no governmental intermediary stepping between the individual and the creator to interpret the will of God. Because of this, our mission is explicitly to advocate for the principles of the Constitution of the United States of America, liberty and freedom through the separation of mosque and state. We believe that this mission from within the “House of Islam” is the only way to inoculate Muslim youth and young adults against radicalization. The “Liberty narrative” is the only effective counter to the “Islamist narrative.”

AIFD is the most prominent American Muslim organization directly confronting and attempting to reform against the ideas of political Islam. We believe Muslims can openly counter the common belief that the Muslim faith is inextricably rooted to the concept of the Islamic state (Islamism). AIFD’s mission is derived from a love for America and a love of our faith of Islam. The theocratic “Islamic” regimes of the Middle East and many Muslim majority nations use their interpretations of Islam and ‘shar’ia’ (Islamic jurisprudence) as a way to control Muslim populations. We believe, as did America’s founding fathers, that the purest practice of faith is one in which the faithful have complete freedom to accept or reject any of the tenants or laws of the faith no different than we enjoy as Americans in this Constitutional republic. We constantly ask that Americans not just observe what is happening inside the House of Islam but that they take the sides of the reformers, dissidents, and secularists against the theocratic Islamists.

AIFD was founded on the premise that the root cause of Islamist terrorism is the ideology of political Islam and a belief in the preference for and supremacy of an Islamic state. Terrorism is but a means to that end. Most Islamist terror is driven by the desire of Islamists to drive the influence of the west (the ideas of liberty) out of the Muslim consciousness and Muslim majority societies. With almost a quarter of the world’s population Muslim, American or Canadian security will never come without an understanding and winning out of the ideas of liberty by Muslims and an understanding of the harm of political Islam by non-Muslims. This will not happen if tough public discussion on Islam is muted by fears of “offending Muslim, read Islamist, sensibilities”.

We work to engage Muslim youth and empower them with the independence to question the ideas of imams, clerics, and so many “tribal” leaders of Muslim communities unwilling to work toward reform and modernity. We empower Muslim youth to have the confidence to take personal intellectual ownership of their own interpretation of Islam, the Qur’an, Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad), and shariah (Islamic jurisprudence) and separate mosque and state. We work to advocate for the ideas of gender equality, genuine religious pluralism, and an unwavering preference of the secular state and a secular law over the Islamic state among other central ideas in modernity.

Our mission is on the front lines of what is probably the most essential and yet contentious debate of the 21st century. So it should be easy to understand why many Muslims may agree with our mission to separate mosque and state and marginalize political Islam, yet want to remain private and out of the public eye as supporters.

AIFD most recently convened and helped launch the Muslim Reform Movement (MRM) in December 2015 in Washington D.C. The Muslim Reform Movement is a coalition of over 15 Western Muslim Leaders (from the U.S., Canada, and Europe) whose goal is to actively fight radical Islam from inside by confronting the idea of Islamism at its roots. The MRM has written a Declaration for Muslim Reform, a living document which was presented to all Islamic organizations, leaders and mosques across the U.S. in 2016 (Appendix 1), with hopes of using its principles as a firewall to clearly separate radical Islamists from Muslims who believe in universal human rights.

Not one iota of this work is possible in an environment where government agencies and the western public writ large are unwilling to understand and engage Muslim groups domestically and abroad on their diverse interpretations of core terms, ideas, and movements. The attempts and policies of the Obama and Trudeau administrations and their advisors to obstruct the use of terms which are central to the precursor characteristics of radicalized Muslims is willfully blind, negligent, and leaves us bare against the threat of radical Islamism. It renders our greatest allies within the Muslim community- genuine reformers-entirely impotent and marginalized.

I hope and pray that my testimony today will open your eyes to how central the engagement of honest terminology is in demarcating who are our genuine allies from those who are or are working with our enemies abroad and the insurgents within.

Overview of M103 mandates
M103 asks your government, now via your committee, to assess the following:

1- “Address and quell the increasing climate of hate and fear”: I believe it’ll actually make it worse preventing the tough conversations we need to have publicly and instead allowing them to boil underneath the surface.
2- Specifically condemns “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons e-petition e-411 and the issues raised” which are all related to Islam, Muslims, and so-called Islamophobia: I believe that this inordinate focus on Islam and even Muslims will actually backfire and not have the effect upon your citizenry and culture that the author of M103 feels it will. It will only empower the tribal leaders, the Islamists in our midst. Racism and discrimination in all its forms should be fought and focusing on one community under the name of their faith (Islamophobia) rather than about the bigotry against those individuals (Muslims) will actually exacerbate the situation.

3- Asks your committee to “undertake a study on how the government could (i) develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada, while ensuring a community-centered focus with a holistic response through evidence-based policy-making”: While the government should certainly be in the business of protecting individual citizens from acts of violence and protecting their rights of free speech and religious freedom, they should not be in the business of studying negative or positive sentiments about a particular faith.

4- Asks you to “collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities”: Again, this seems harmless enough. But the the focus should not simply and solely be on Muslims when in fact preventing racism and discrimination should be something that addresses all vulnerable minorities or groups. In Europe, areas for example seeing spikes in bigotry against Muslims are also seeing spikes in anti-Semitism and other forms of xenophobia.

Let me elaborate on these positions in the following areas to which I would like to call your attention.

‘Muslim’ issues should not be partisan wedge issues

First, I must emphasize, that having difficulties, as I and so many Canadian Muslims do with any of the above mandates imposed upon your committee by M103 does not in any way mean that individuals like myself, especially as a Muslim, would ever turn a blind eye towards hate crimes or discrimination against Muslims or any vulnerable minority for that matter. But we, Muslims, should not want special treatment beyond that afforded any other faith community. You should address anti-Semitism, and any form of xenophobia with the same vigor with no special treatment for Canadian Muslims.

Moreover, the best mechanism for your government to address any bigotry, that may exist against Muslims, is certainly not through the language and mandate of this proposal originated from MP Iqra Khalid. This resolution and the commentary on the original e-petition (E-411) actually smack of the language seen in Islamic Republics and their sharia-based (Islamist jurisprudence) restrictions on free speech rather than what we should expect from the freest nations on the planet which protect the rights of every individual equally with no protections of any religions or their ideas- only protections for individual citizens.

There is nothing partisan that should either support or deny the premise of M103. For both liberals and conservatives, the protection of women’s rights, minority rights, and the rights of non-Muslims to criticize Islam in the struggle for modernity should bring you to reject the term ‘Islamophobia’ and any protections against it. There is absolutely no partisan or one-sided basis for rejecting jihad, Islamism, Salafism, and any other idea from within the Islamist mindset. M103 protects all these ideas from critique and dissection under the rubric of Islamophobia. If you are going to study anything, it may be wise for you to study why otherwise liberal anti-Islamist Muslims (more natural ideological allies of Liberals) are finding more support among Conservatives for our reformist ideas while fundamentalist theocratic Muslims are finding home among Liberals? Tahir Gora recently looked at this question for Clarion Project. The answer may lie in the exploitation of Muslim rights at the altar of group identity politics.

Increase in hate crimes?
According to one study the number of hate crimes versus Muslim Canadians doubled over a three-year period from 45 in 2012 to 99 in 2014. This was reported in 2016. I will not support nor deny here the reproducibility and validity of this data. But even if we accept these large shifts in relatively small numbers, this ignores so many variables. This is still in a setting where Jewish Canadians are still the most likely to be attacked of any vulnerable minority faith group. The total number of hate crimes in Canada went from 1414 in ’12 to 1295 in ’14. Thus, if you look at the totality and the proportion of numbers of 99 reports against Muslims versus 1300 hate crimes in total, it seems disproportional and biased to simply address bigotry towards Muslims. And this is not to mention that if and when you do address bigotry towards Muslims, please just address that-bigotry towards Muslims– and not a contrived Islamist concept of “Islamophobia”.

Muslims should be treated equally like any other group and not be coddled or protected more than any other group at the first sign of any concerns with a different threshold for study than any other minority faith group or vulnerable community. Doing so will in fact backfire and cause an increase in hostility and forces of separatism.

Do not use the term Islamophobia
You should understand that the term ‘Islamophobia’ was created by Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) nations in the 90’s in order to stifle criticism of Islam by Western nations and free market open media. It is a deceptive concept Islamist regimes employed for centuries as there are countless number of Muslims and non-Muslims (millions) in jails across Muslim majority nations for the crimes of blasphemy and apostasy linked to “criticism of Islam”. Any criticism of their government and legal systems are labeled Islamophobia in order mask systemic domestic repression under the guise of protecting ‘sacred Islam’. Muslim reformers like myself are attacked and derided even in our own mosques and Islamic institutions here in the West under the rubric of protection of the community from “Islamophobia” since they equate criticism of theocratic Islamism and Islamist groups with “Islamophobia”.

This is an inevitable result when a government gives ideas (like Islam) rights. The identification of bigotry under the label of a ‘phobia’ against a faith rather than bigotry against a particular group of people is Orwellian and in the end will harm Muslims and our rights. Ideas do not have rights. Islam is an idea. It does not have rights. Muslims are human beings that have rights and should be protected like any other free Canadian citizen.

Thus, your use of the term ‘Islamophobia’ and study thereof will actually have the effect of stifling your greatest most liberal allies within the Muslim community including the leaders of our Muslim Reform Movement. The ideas of our Muslim Reform Movement declaration have been derided as Islamophobic by many of the Islamist allies of the authors of M103. It is unfathomable to me that in the freest nations on the planet including Canada and the United States and Europe that we are being marginalized by our own communities through the platforms gained by resolutions like M103 which stifle our critique of Islamism under the rubric of ‘Islamophobia’.

You were asked to study systemic racism and religious discrimination. Islam is not a race. Just like you should address anti-Semitism but not Judeo-phobia our nations should address bigotry and hate against Muslims but not Islamophobia. You are also stifling the maturation of Muslims in dealing with the most difficult issues in our faith. “Tough love” for Canadian Muslims requires that you provide and protect the public space for the discussion of any ideas related to faith no matter how unpalatable while protecting individual rights, but it is not your role to protect ideas like Islam.

For example, the recent rejection in Quebec of the so-called freedom to where a face veil ‘niqab’ was described as Islamophobia, when in fact the reality is that there is nothing more pro-Muslim than protecting the individual rights of women to be identified and autonomous, and not be facelessly oppressed. The central aspect of the protection of individual rights is the ability to identify people by face. The oppression of women should not be dismissed under the guise of religious freedom. The claim that there is a slippery slope for government to prohibit niqab (face covering) and then go on to other religious clothing is absurd. There is no slippery slope from the niqab or face-veil to then having the government get involved in any other clothing such as the hijab or the burqa. No. The government should not be involved in personal dress; however even our Supreme Court in the U.S. has deemed it illegal for demonstrations to occur with facemasks.

M103 opens the door to connecting any and all issues even remotely involving Muslims to the so-called Islamophobia. This should be stopped from the get-go.

Harm of M103
There are many harms and unintended consequences that would naturally follow as a result of implementing M103.

1- The enabling and enshrinement of the term Islamophobia with the empowerment of all the Islamists domestically and abroad including their regimes who use that term to shut down dissent.

2- The empowerment of Islamists over Muslim reformers who are silenced by being called ‘Islamophobes’.

3- The infantilization of Muslims by disproportionally protecting them more than any other vulnerable community in Canada. This is especially true since “Islamophobia” includes the perception that Muslims are particularly sensitive about critique of our faith, Islam.

4- It will backfire and end up separating Muslims out more and feeding to both extremes in today’s Canadian society. Thus it will actually not only fail but make things worse than what it was intended to do at its stated inception.

5- It will feed into a false and deceptive partisan narrative on Muslim citizenship instead of both sides of the aisle agreeing to lift up common values shared by all Canadian heritage which are rejected by Islamists.

6- M103 treats Muslims as a monolith and in fact we are an ideologically diverse community for which many reject the platforms created by the Islamist establishment on our behalf. If many or most Muslims believe there is no need for this, you will cause more harm. No one appointed MP Khalid or any Islamist agitators our spokespersons.

7- The security apparatus will be harmed after being hamstrung even further in addressing the root cause of violent Islamism-non-violent Islamism. Petitions like e-411 which apparently led to M103 claim that radicals are an “infinitesimally small number” and “these violent individuals do not reflect in any way the values of the teachings of the religion of Islam. In fact they misrepresent the religion.” While most Muslims reject the violence, many remain in deep denial that the non-violent supremacist Islamist precursors lead directly to terrorism and need reform. You cannot divorce the connection between the cultural ostracization of Muslim reformers against Islamism and the blindness created by bromides and anesthetics like M103. Your security apparatus’ approach to violent extremism (CVE) and not (CVI-Countering Violent Islamism) comes from a fear of naming Islamism due to this major obstacle of the contrived “Islamophobia”.

8- Instead of entrenching further the obstacles to study Islamism, you should contrarily actually free up the public discourse on Islam and stop infantilizing Muslims. You should allow us the freedom to have major public debates about how non-violent Islamism is the precursor to violent Islamism. The conditions called for in M-103 are a major obstacle to that entire process.

9- Governments should never be in the business of protecting the image of a faith. This is what the Saudis try to always do regarding their radical version of Islam which is the root cancer -Wahhabism–, and it thus should not be the role of the Canadian government to protect the image of Islam. That is a slippery slope which will cause many of the problems noted above.

10- In fact, the avoidance of a discourse on Islam does not leave the government neutral. It effectively hands the argument to the predominant current power structure of the domestic and global Muslim faith community-the suffocating influence of ‘petro-Islam’, the Wahhabi version of Islam in Saudi Arabia and the Islamist movement of the Muslim Brotherhood based out of Egypt and Qatar or the Deobandis of Pakistan. Make no mistake this whole debate of this hearing is not only about the plight of Canadian Muslims, but it is also about appeasement of a host of foreign Islamist regimes (Islamic republics) who our government is afraid to critically engage on their supremacist shar’ia states and even protects from debates and critique in our own homelands.

11- Denial of the role of various forms of Islamic theology in radicalizing Muslims and creating the domestic and global threat of Islamism, will only fuel bigotry in our cultures rather than quell it.

12- Pew polling demonstrates that American feelings about Muslims, for example, are “cooler” than any other faith group scoring a 40 out of 100. In fact, I would ask you to see that there is actually nothing that would do more to melt away that anti-Muslim bigotry to the extent that it exists than for Americans to see Muslims step away from denial and actually engaging and confronting the Jihad with their own jihad for liberty and against theocracy. We should be calling for a jihad against jihad rather than shielding Muslims and Americans from the tough love that they need.

13- Please make sure that you understand that the advice you receive from ideological Islamists is compromised by their fealty to clerics, and the tribal construct of Islamic states for Muslim majority nations.

14- In the United States, and in the West, Muslim reformers are constantly confronted with advocates like MP Iqra Khalid who provide an apologetic for Islamists and their ideology of Islamism promoting similar restrictions on freedom of speech seen in many Islamic Republics from Pakistan to Iran and Saudi Arabia to name a few. We must understand that for what it is.

15- M103 empowers the OIC lobby. The OIC is the proverbial elephant in the room. The constant refrain from the Obama and Trudeau administrations is that the West should not “declare war against 1.6 billion Muslims and their governments” is related to global intimidation by the OIC sadly while ignoring the plight of Muslim and non-Muslim dissidents in their nations who lead the fight against Islamist movements.

Conclusion:
I recommend the following in lieu of M103. We must treat our Muslim communities with a tough love and give the following recommendations:

1. Address any bigotry and racism equally across faith and racial communities without a disproportionate focus on Muslims.

2. Do not use the term Islamophobia.

3. The best way to melt away any bigotry that exists against Muslims is for Muslims to abandon the denial, victimization and grievance narratives and instead lead an ideological revolution against Islamism. When our anti-jihad work is seen to predominate our bandwidth, then bigotry will whither on the vine. See our Muslim Reform Movement. (Appendix A).

4. ‘Whole of government’ should immediately move from a center of gravity on “Countering Violent Islamism” (CVE) to one centered on “Countering Violent Islamism” (CVI).

5. The Canadian government and public discourse (academia, NGO’s, and media) must include a broad spectrum of ideologically diverse voices in the Muslim community. Just as you have done in the testimony to this committee. It is time to end the un-democratic ban on any theological terms and with that also end the marginalization of reform minded Muslims most notably the bipartisan group of Muslim leaders of the Muslim Reform Movement. This will melt away bigotry far more quickly than making people fear any discussion about Islam, Islamism, and Muslims.

6. It is time to stop engaging Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups in government and media and recognize their misogynist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and anti-American ideological underpinnings. We must recognize that they are not the only voice for Western Muslims. We must make women’s issue and freedom of conscience a litmus test. These groups, when pressed, will fail.

7. It is time to stop giving credence to the concerns of OIC dictatorships about our word choices and counter-radicalization strategies. Our real allies abroad are the free thinkers in their prisons not in their palaces.

8. In fact, Canadian Muslims, like all in the West, have a moral obligation to utilize the freedoms we have here to counter all the ideas which are the precursor ideas to militant Islamism through public reform that create these massive Islamist political movements.

Respectfully submitted,

M. Zuhdi Jasser,
President, American Islamic Forum for Democracy
October 30, 2017

10/30/2017: Video of my virtual testimony to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage regarding M103

Lifezette: Islam Inspires Terror, Not Climate Change or Poverty

Study: Islam, Not Climate Change or Poverty, Inspires Terror

Analysis reveals jihadis of varying backgrounds rooted in religious ideology, not factors floated by liberals

by Edmund Kozak | Updated 07 Aug 2017 at 3:41 PM

Liberal and globalist influencers in the West have attempted to attribute the spread of violent, radical Islam to everything from poverty to global warming, but a new study by an Islamic expert from the University of Vienna belies these persistent claims that Islamic terrorism is spurred primarily by factors outside the religion.

The 310-page study of nearly 30 violent Islamists by Islamic theologian Ednan Aslan and financed by the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggests that many radical Islamists have extensive knowledge of Islam and are motivated by their violent interpretation of their religion to a much greater extent than any of the plethora of reasons provided by Western liberals.

Aslan told the German newspaper Die Tagespost that he found debate and interaction “with content, norms and values ​​of the Islamic doctrine” plays a critical role in individuals’ radicalization.

“This intensive examination of theological issues is a turning point in many of the respondents in their lives,” he said. Moreover, “persons with a higher theological knowledge function as authorities and play a central role in the spread of ideology.”

The results of the study have clearly come as a shock to Western liberals conditioned by years of multicultural propaganda. The German newspaper Die Welt reported the study under the headline, “Islam plays a greater role in radicalization than assumed.” It would be far more accurate, however, to say that “Islam plays a greater role in radicalization than admitted,” experts say.

“The only thing that surprises me about all this is that we needed a university study to prove it,” said Raheem Kassam, editor-in-chief of Breitbart London and author of the soon to be published book, “No Go Zones: How Sharia Law Is Coming to a Neighborhood Near You” (August 14, Regnery).

Indeed, the only reason that some were surprised by the study’s results at all was “because we have now had decades of indoctrination in this regard,” he told LifeZette. “We are continually force-fed false narratives that are built to advance multiculturalist agendas and fetishization, usually in the name of cheap, migrant labour.”

When asked about the numerous excuses liberal and Islamist apologists have provided for the root cause of Islamic terror, Kassam said, “I’ve heard them all, but the climate change theory is particularly galling.”

“The Left is tying itself in knots trying to excuse radical Islam while advancing its Marxist agendas elsewhere,” he told LifeZette. “They haven’t yet realized they sound more like The Onion than reputable sources of news and analysis.”

“It is fairly evident from the Quranic verses often cited by Islamist leaders, as well as lectures freely available online, that there isn’t so much a ‘perversion’ of Islam going on, as establishment leaders so often suggest, but rather, a literalist interpretation of what that book and the Hadiths openly state,” Kassam said.

While “one study scarcely ever proves anything,” he said, “in my estimation this comes closer to the truth than the public pronouncements of Barack Obama and Theresa May ever have.”

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a practicing Muslim and president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, agrees. “This study proves what any honest Muslim already knows or [has] been in major denial about,” he said.

“While our ‘Islam’ as we practice it here in the West is for reform-minded Muslims compatible with Western values, the reality is the ‘Islam’ practiced by large swaths of Muslims in Muslim-majority nations run by Sharia law is supremacist and theocratic in mindset,” Jasser continued.

“Our organization [AIFD] and other leaders in our Muslim Reform Movement have been screaming from the rooftops for over a decade that there is a direct connection between non-violent Islamism (the supremacism of Islamic states based in Sharia law) and the violent Islamism of militant jihadists,” he said. “One naturally leads to the other, and this study is simply proving what has been painfully obvious to any honest Muslims.”

“There have been many especially on the Left that refuse to admit the obvious ideological precursors of Islamism (Sharia state identity movements) and instead have blamed issues that are patently unrelated as precursors of militant Islamism such as our ‘western foreign policy’ — which is repackaged by Islamists as ‘imperialism’ or ‘colonialism’ or ‘Zionism’ (pick your conspiracy theory of the day),” Jasser said.

He continued: “Islamists will blame the ‘anti-Muslim bigotry’ or aka ‘Islamophobia’ of the ‘Right’ when in fact it is Islamist groups in the West (Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups) that exaggerate the extent of anti-Muslim bigotry, trying to impose anti-blasphemy behaviors by calling it ‘Islamophobia.'”

“The Islamist groups like CAIR, MPAC, MAS, ICNA, ISNA and others will do anything possible to blame everyone on the planet who is non-Muslim except their own ideologies and in essence the ideology spread across the planet by OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] regimes of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan, to name a few,” Jasser said.

“This study proves the obvious,” he said, “that the Islam of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran … example our so-called allies or at least common enemies in the war against ISIS are actually the founding fathers of ISIS (for KSA) and Hezballah (For Iran).”

“The denial of this direct connection for so long has not only been due to American Muslim groups wanting to avoid any responsibility of confronting the root-cause ideologies of “salafi-jihadism” (political Islam/Islamism) — all synonyms; but it has also and most poignantly taken the Islamic regimes off the hook as being the primary sources of Sharia state supremacism that indoctrinates the future militant jihadists that attack the West and secular societies,” Jasser said.

“Perhaps finally, this study and so many others will begin to peel away the veneer of benevolence from the cancer which is the modern day ‘Islamic Sharia Republics’ of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — today’s equivalent of the Cold War’s ‘Evil Empire.”

Muslims must stand together against the scourge of radical Islamism.

Asia Times

http://www.atimes.com/muslims-must-declare-blasphemy-invented-crime/

JUNE 22, 2017 2:24 AM (UTC+8)

Author: M. Zuhdi Jasser

In the past few years and especially the past few months, radical Islamism has been accelerating its influence among Indonesians. In May a bomb exploded in Jakarta, killing three and wounding 10. This incident, which occurred one day after the horrific attack at a concert in Manchester, England, was not the first time the world’s most populous Muslim country has experienced terror.

Indonesia has long had a reputation for being a model of Muslim moderation and pluralism, yet its problem with radical Islamism is real. From soaring rates of female genital mutilation to violent protests against authors and artists who offend religious hardliners, the country is undergoing an ugly and dangerous radicalization that will traumatize its citizens and leak across its borders, threatening global security.

Ahok abandoned by moderate Islamic scholars

Ahok was accused because of his analysis of a Qur’anic verse which offered a more modern and tolerant apologetic. He claimed that a more modern interpretation of the Qur’an did not prevent Muslims from being led or governed by Jews or Christians. He was not protected and defended by moderate Indonesian Islamic scholars (ulema).

Indonesia, which supposedly is based on a constitution that separates mosque and state, finds itself slipping slowly into the quagmire of theocracy like a frog slowly boiling to death in a kettle of water as the temperature increases daily.

Ahok lost his bid for re-election in April and despite claims by many that his blasphemy case would disappear after he lost the election, he now sits in a Jakarta jail as a troubling example to any who would consider using free speech to counter Islamists.

Islamists are winning on many fronts. Aware that pursuing his own freedom could mean an even more severe sentence, Ahok has withdrawn his appeal of the blasphemy sentence. It is important to note that Ahok was an elected politician and was rich with the social and material capital many Indonesians simply don’t have. Yet he was targeted, has not been able to successfully defend himself, and has not received sufficient public support. If this is the fate of an elected official, what does it mean for everyday people who don’t have his resources?

Popular student killed for his beliefs

Pakistani Mashal Khan was just such a person: a student, a budding poet, a sensitive soul beloved by friends and popular on social media networks. Yet, for online postings some deemed “disrespectful to Islam,” about 20 university students in April stripped him naked in public, beat him, taunted him and tortured him until finally, one shot him dead.

While Mashal was not nearly as well known as Ahok, stories like his are terrifyingly common. Many people in Muslim-majority societies around the world believe, either privately or openly, in punishing those they believe to have insulted Islam.

In the United States, Islamists may not physically lynch “blasphemers,” but they harass, stalk, threaten and bully those they believe have gone beyond the bounds of their interpretation of Islam. This more insidious tactic — of scaring truly moderate Muslims into silence — means that clueless Westerners allow Islamists access to the halls of power, and grant them social legitimacy.

The core of this threat is Islamism — a theopolitical ideology, distinct from the personal faith of Islam, that seeks to establish Islamic states and a caliphate. It’s a system that cannot exist without the censure of dissident voices and the subjugation of anyone — Muslim or non-Muslim — who opposes it. Those who jailed Ahok and those who murdered Mashal Khan are simply taking Islamism to its natural conclusion, and doing the dirty work of non-violent Islamists.

Blasphemy laws violate the very spirit of Islam

We Muslims have nothing to lose by opposing blasphemy laws and the culture that fosters them. After all, we are among its targets, and the failure to address these issues head-on also cultivates mistrust between ourselves and our non-Muslim neighbors. It is my view, as a devout Muslim, that blasphemy laws violate the very spirit of Islam: if faith is professed under duress, but not held by choice it cannot be sincere.

We at the Muslim Reform Movement do not believe that any ideas or religions, no matter how sacred we may perceive them, have any rights whatsoever, but that individuals — those of faith and those who choose to profess no faith — have rights that must be protected at all costs.

We stand in solidarity with Ahok, and with the Mashal Khans everywhere. We call attention to the intellectual, social, cultural, and legal battles being waged for free speech across the planet from Indonesia to the United States. It’s time for all free-thinking peoples to confront the scourge against free speech and individual rights which Islamism poses. To read our declaration and join us, click here.

May 10, 2017: Is Tawhidi the Imam Australia’s been waiting for?

Asia Times

MAY 10, 2017 8:57 PM (UTC+8)

Is Mohammad Tawhidi the Imam we’ve been waiting for?

Author: M. Zuhdi Jasser

Shaikh Mohammad Tawhidi hits all the right notes as the ideal Australian Muslim media darling: a website full of condemnations of ISIS; a friendly visage at rallies, vigils and in the media; and a smattering of criticism from militant Sunnis. He has expressed opposition to unregulated madrassahs (Islamic schools), and says he “doesn’t want burqas running around.” He also insists that Muslims in the West should assimilate, saying that had his father known “so many extreme Muslims” would one day be in Australia, he would never have moved there. He says all of these things while wearing a robe and beard, providing a veneer of legitimacy so appealing to Westerners eager to hear these words in a suitably “Islamic” package.

So, is Tawhidi the imam we have been waiting for? The one who sincerely seeks to advocate for critical thinking within the “house of Islam,” who will work to abolish sectarianism, promote gender equality, combat anti-Semitism, and bring about the reformation many have discussed – but so few have meaningfully supported?

In a word, no. In a few more words: not even close.

Let me be clear: I wish he were. I would welcome such an imam, and offer him my full support. I would use every platform at my disposal to promote his views, and pass the mic to him and his colleagues whenever and wherever possible. I wish I were readying myself to do just that, rather than coming to the unfortunate conclusion that I must instead ask that he be denied this empowerment.

The unfortunate reality of this instantly famous imam seems to be something more than simple opportunism. Rather, things seem much more sinister: Tawhidi may not be the reformist imam of our dreams – but rather simply a radical of a different flavor. Rather than espousing the radical ideology of ISIS, which draws from an extremist interpretation of Sunni Islam, Tawhidi subscribes to its reflection – a nefarious interpretation of Shia Islam. And because the West is so hungry for figures such as the one he appears to be, they are none the wiser.

Archived tweets made by Tawhidi reveal extreme views held by a minority of Shias with regard to the Prophet Muhammad’s family: in them, he calls Aisha (Muhammad’s wife) a “b*tch,” talks about her “experience with semen,” and other vulgarities. He has not only called for a “review” of Islam – but specifically the banning of most Sunni teachings. His is not a reformist project: it is a sectarian project. He is troublingly quick to jump on far-right bandwagons – not because he agrees with their concerns about Islam as a whole – but because aiding them would rush the end of Sunni Islam. His religious and educational programming originates in Bashar al-Assad’s Syria and radical Shia strains in Iraq and Iran. It should cause significant pause that his criticisms extend only to Sunni Islamists – never the Islamists within his own community – and never the regimes of Iran and Syria, the heart of radical Shi’ism.

If Tawhidi wishes to prove his reformist bona fides, we urge him to indicate his clear support for the Muslim Reform Movement declaration, retract his hateful comments that stoke sectarianism, and issue swift, thorough and regular condemnations of Shia radicals and their movements by name as well. He must disclose and sever any ties with the Iranian and Syrian regimes or their supporters in Iraq, commit to the active opposition of sectarianism, and embrace the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

There’s a distinct reason that our work at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is directed at the need for reforms against all forms of Islamism – “political Islam” and all its attendant permutations of an Islamic state mentality. At AIFD, our work is blind to Sunni or Shia with a clear universal mission statement to defend liberty through the separation of mosque and state. Whether Sunni or Shia, all forms of the Islamic sharia state and its admixture of Islamic law and state are doomed theocracies and plagues upon humanity. It makes no difference whether Islamist theocracy has a Sunni or Shia flavor, it is a theocracy and thus supremacist. Tawhidi’s positions, while appealing to many in the West as an apparently bold and courageous “Muslim cleric” against Sunni Islamism, is grotesquely and conveniently unilaterally anti-Sunni Islamist.

Understanding this whole dynamic is, if anything, a distinct teaching moment.

The defeat of Islamism and its movements will never happen if one side of the Sunni-Shia sectarian battle of the Islamists is favored over the other — with the ends justifying the means. The only path towards modernity and defeat of all radical Islamism in Muslim communities is the advancement of liberal ideas against both cancers of Sunni and Shia Islamism. Anything short of that is an exercise in deceptive sectarianism, which will actually only continue the cycle of global Islamism. As the old adage goes, Australia’s Sheikh Tawhidi proves once again that if something is too good to be true, it often is.

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