July 2011: A Communique in Response to the National Strategy for Counterterrorism

American Islamic Leadership Coalition

As American Muslim leaders, we come together to defend the US Constitution, uphold religious pluralism, protect American security and cherish genuine diversity in the practice of our faith of Islam.

July 2011:  A Communique in Response to the National Strategy for Counterterrorism

Background:

The American Islamic Leadership Coalition (AILC) is a group of more than 25 organizations and leaders that are representative of the overwhelming “silent majority” of Muslims in America, who, like our brethren of other faiths, span a wide gamut of religious beliefs and adhere to diverse social and cultural practices. AILC was established in September of 2010 in Washington, D.C. Our mission is: “to defend the U.S. Constitution, uphold religious pluralism, protect American security and cherish genuine diversity in the practice of our faith.”

We acknowledge that Muslim radicalization is a ‘Muslim problem that requires a Muslim-led solution.’ The general failure of Muslims to confront radicalization head on has contributed to a rising tide of fear of Muslims in the West, which jeopardizes the prospects of a peaceful and harmonious future for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Unlike most Muslim grievance groups, which deny and evade their American and Islamic responsibilities to lead counter-radicalization and reform efforts, AILC believes that it is our duty as Muslims, and Americans, to assist our government, our fellow citizens and our co-religionists in taking the difficult steps necessary to halt Muslim radicalization. For in the final analysis, only Muslims can counter and discredit the virulent theo-political ideologies that feed radicalization.

In the words of Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid (1940 – 2009), Indonesia’s first democratically-elected president and long-time head of the world’s largest Muslim organization, the Nahdlatul Ulama: we seek to “restore honor and respect to Islam, which the extremists have desecrated… People who are convinced that they know more than anyone else about Islam, and yet are full of hatred towards any of God’s creatures who do not travel the same path as they; and those who claim to be in possession of the absolute truth, and for that reason entitled to act as God’s vice-regents (caliphs) on earth and to dictate how everyone else must live—clearly, their words and behavior will not lead us into the presence of God. Their dream of an Islamic state is merely an illusion, for the true Islamic state is not to be found in the structure of any government, but rather, in hearts which are open to God and all His creatures.”[1]

Introduction:

Our national counterterrorism strategy has, to date, consisted of little more than a “whack-a-mole” program, which has yet to prescribe any comprehensive treatment directed at the root cause of Islamist terrorism, the theocratic, statist ideology of political Islam. For this reason, ten years after 9-11, the threat of homegrown Islamist terror has never been greater. Rather than continue to bury our collective heads in the sand, we must courageously recognize, acknowledge and act upon the fact that the vast majority of contemporary terrorism is fueled by Islamist ideology. Militancy and violence are natural outgrowths of “Islamism”—a hate-filled, supremacist and all-encompassing ideology of political Islam that mixes religion and state, and seeks to impose its “distorted interpretation of Islam” on others, through a theocratic government based on medieval concepts of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) also known as shari‘a.

On June 28, 2011, the White House published its “National Strategy for Counterterrorism” (“NSCT”).  AILC’s leadership team has reviewed and jointly drafted this communiqué in response to the NSCT, in order to provide policy makers, public intellectuals, the media and the general public with concrete insights from American Muslim leaders, who regard it as our human and religious duty to speak out against terrorism, and more importantly, against the ideology that underlies and animates it.

AILC members have joined together to help wage, and win, the ideological struggle (jihad) against Islamism from within the House of Islam. As Muslims who categorically reject the notion that there is any conflict between our faith and loyalty to our nation and its constitution, we feel a profound sense of responsibility to respond to the NSCT; to commend its merits; identify areas that cause us concern; and respectfully recommend that the U.S. government adopt certain approaches that we believe will facilitate the successful implementation of the NSCT, and help achieve its national and international peace and security objectives.

We commend the NSCT for:

  • Correctly identifying ideology (specifically, “a distorted interpretation of Islam”) as a key enabling factor of al-Qa’ida-style terrorism (page 3). From a counter-radicalization perspective, we believe this is the single most important concept in the document. If wisely and courageously pursued to its logical conclusion, this insight could indeed lead to “a future in which al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents are defeated—and their ideology ultimately meets the same fate as its founder and leader” (page 2).
  • Advocating the dissemination of a positive view of the U.S. and our values: The NSCT states that “Contrasting a positive U.S. agenda that supports the rights of free speech, assembly, and democracy with the death and destruction offered by our terrorist adversaries helps undermine and undercut their appeal, isolating them from the very population they rely on for support” (page 5). This contrast is essential to winning the struggle with violent extremists, and the AILC is prepared to help articulate and advance these contrasting visions of society to Muslims in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Taking the military fight to the enemy. The AILC applauds NSCT confirmation that it is and shall remain U.S. strategy to maintain a robust military counter-terrorism protocol in those regions of the world in which Islamist militants, both Salafists and Khomeinists, plan and execute terrorist campaigns against citizens of the U.S. and our allies.
  • Working with local Muslim communities: Reporting on the NSCT, the Wall Street Journal noted“Mr. Brennan said that this summer the administration would present a more detailed plan to work with local Muslim and Arab communities to counter violent extremism in the U.S.” If this “follow-on plan” avoids empowering groups that share al-Qa’ida’s Islamist ideology, and instead engages with genuinely pluralistic, tolerant and solutions-oriented Muslim groups and leaders, this could represent a significant step in helping to root out and prevent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

We are concerned that the NSCT:

  • Appears to reflect a largely pro forma, rather than substantive, approach to countering extremist ideology and the radicalization of Muslims in the U.S. and abroad. This reticence constitutes a potentially fatal weakness within the NSCT, and appears to perpetuate the misguided policy—pursued by both Republican and Democrat administrations—of refusing to address the ideology of religious hatred, supremacy and violence that underlies and animates Islamist terrorism. This refusal allows and encourages both Muslim and non-Muslim extremists to conflate Islam with al-Qa’ida’s ideology, without having to confront or intellectually respond to substantive challenge. This accelerates a crisis of misunderstanding and mutual recrimination that fosters the spread of anti-Western attitudes and conspiracy theories among Muslims, while fueling a growing fear of Muslims in the West.
  • Does not define individual rights, or articulate a systematic strategy to promote them: The NSCT laudably states that the U.S. will work with allies “to provide mutual security and protection to citizens of all nations while also upholding individual rights”(pg. 15). Yet with the exception of free speech and assembly (mentioned above), the NSCT provides no working definition or moral defense of individual rights, whether based on universal principles or, more importantly, those of Islam itself. We believe it is self-defeating to extol the principles of individual liberty in a vacuum, as it were, without addressing the countervailing Islamist ideology that fuels our enemies, who seek to wrap themselves and their totalitarian agenda in the mantle of Islamic legitimacy. The American experiment has proven that the best legal foundation for a free society that protects all citizens from government—including the most religiously orthodox—is one based upon the principle that every individual possesses certain unalienable rights endowed by the Creator, which may not be abridged by government. This legal foundation embodied in the American Establishment Clause,[2] which is consistent with chapter 2, verse 256 of the Qur’an (“There is no compulsion in religion”), constitutes the Achilles heel of the theocratic, statist ideology promoted by Islamists, including al-Qa’ida. A genuine effort to uphold individual rights must address the enormous chasm between the UN Declaration of Human Rights signed by free nations, and the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights endorsed by most Muslim-majority states. We must unapologetically articulate and defend individual rights in the broadest scope, in America and beyond. The AILC is uniquely positioned to help the Administration do so within a Muslim narrative and context.
  • Fails to define al-Qa’ida’s ideology, and its relationship to Islamist ideology and movements in general. Recognizing the vital role that ideology plays in al-Qa’ida propaganda, recruitment and terrorism, the NSCT employs the term “ideology” no less than 20 times within a 17-page document. To cite a prime example: “Countering this ideology… is an essential element of our strategy” (page 3). Yet nowhere does the NSCT actually define al-Qa’ida’s ideology; explain its historical antecedents; discuss how, why, where and among whom it tends to metastasize; or clarify the precise nature of its relationship to Islamic theology in general, of which it is merely said to be “a distorted interpretation.” Correctly understanding and identifying this ideology, in all its facets, is vital to defeating al-Qa’ida and its affiliates, which rely upon this ideology to radicalize and generate new recruits, both in the U.S. and abroad. We understand our government’s trepidation and reluctance to address specifics, when it comes to a theo-political ideology that is progressively embedding itself in one of the world’s great religions. But, make no mistake, there can be no successful counter-terrorism strategy that fails to identify and address Islamist ideology. Freedom-loving members of the AILC stand ready to assist public policy makers in this difficult and delicate process.
  • Provides no criteria for determining with which Muslim groups the Administration will conduct its outreach programs. Our nation’s long-term security depends, to a significant extent, upon American Muslims countering Islamism and its violent offshoots. Yet the report fails to mention the fact that Muslim communities are highly diverse, rather than monolithic. In seeking to discredit al-Qa’ida’s ideology, it is counterproductive to engage and empower groups that share an ostensibly (or tactically) “non-violent” form of that same ideology, as partners in what should be a systematic, long-term effort to undermine and discredit their highly politicized and distorted understanding of Islam. Unfortunately, well-financed Muslim Brotherhood, Wahhabi and Jamaat-e-Islami legacy groups—inspired by an Islamist ideology that substantially parallels that of al-Qa’ida itself—have been organizing in North America for nearly fifty years. Their members have, in many cases, acquired significant influence in American society under the guise of promoting a “moderation” that exists in word only, while actually seeking to intimidate, marginalize and otherwise silence those who hold a truly pluralistic, tolerant and spiritual understanding of Islam. The AILC was founded, in large part, to dispel this illusion, and to help unite the vast, silent majority of Muslims in the U.S. and Canada, to reclaim our religion from those who merely claim to speak in our name.
  • Fails to articulate a strategy to counter Islamist ideology in general, or “cyberjihad” in particular. Nearly every terrorist plot and act on U.S. soil in the past few years was perpetrated by American Muslims who were indoctrinated here, on our own soil. The Internet is one of the primary vehicles for the transmission of ideas that threaten our security, and should be a primary vehicle through which we respond to the propagation of extremist ideology. In 2008, many of us in the American Islamic Leadership Coalition commended the US Senate Homeland Security Committee on its comprehensive report on Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat. It is disconcerting that three years later, the White House’s newest NSCT appears to ignore most of those findings and recommendations.
  • Focuses narrowly upon al-Qa’ida as the enemy. While there is no disputing the fact that al-Qa’ida is and has been responsible for many terrorist attacks conducted against Americans and our allies, we must remember that this terrorist organization is loosely networked—like other Islamist terror organizations—and merely one of hundreds of militant Islamist groups, all of which emerge from their ideological progenitors, including Wahhabism, the Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat-e-Islami, Khomeinist Shi’ism and other extremist movements that seek to instrumentalize the religion of Islam in order to seize and maintain power. To address only al-Qa’ida—while ignoring the larger phenomenon of Islamist extremism in general, in both its Sunni and Shi’a variants—demonstrates a tunnel vision that will continue to prevent the development and implementation of a truly effective counterterrorism strategy, while simultaneously blinding U.S. policy makers to the potential rise of entire regimes characterized by an intense antipathy to the United States, its interests and its values, and those of humanity at large.

AILC Recommendations:

  • The U.S. government should clearly and publicly define the ideology of al-Qa’ida that we seek to “defeat” (page 2), and realistically acknowledge its intimate links with Islamist ideology and political movements in general. Ignorance and/or lack of honesty in this arena is no virtue. This necessarily entails discussing, and addressing, the manner in which theocratic regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia export their Khomeinist and Wahhabi/Salafi ideologies worldwide, thereby fueling the spread of Islamist terrorism, and strengthening other Islamist groups such as the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood’s globalda‘wa (proselytism) movement;
  • The U.S. government should distinguish between the religion of Islam and Islamist ideology (“a distorted interpretation of Islam”), whose adherents seek to conflate their own political agenda with the religion of Islam itself.  Reverence and respect for the religion of Islam does not and should not entail submission to the dictates of an ambitious minority of Muslims who seek to instrumentalize religion for the acquisition of worldly power;
  • The U.S. government should acknowledge the diversity of American Muslims, and recognize that genuinely pluralistic, tolerant and spiritual Muslim leaders possess the theological legitimacy, authority and credibility required to counter Islamist ideology and movements from within Islam, and should be encouraged and supported in their efforts to do so;
  • The U.S. government should engage non-Islamist Muslim groups to help develop and implement effective counter-radicalization programs, which affirm the principles of liberty and individual rights, within an Islamic narrative;
  • This engagement should facilitate the production of compelling content (“narratives”) and their distribution, through proactive use of the internet, which is one of al-Qa’ida’s primary means of ideological indoctrination and recruitment;
  • The U.S. government should support the development of robust, on-the-ground efforts to expose the brutal reality of Islamist oppression, violence and terror, and broadcast the message of Love, Mercy and Compassion—which fosters respect for human dignity and individual rights—to Muslims throughout the world, couched within the narratives of Islam, and the specific cultural and historical framework of the various linguistic regions to which these messages are disseminated.

Conclusion:

The latest National Strategy for Counterterrorism should be commended for acknowledging that ideology (“a distorted understanding of Islam”) is a critical factor enabling al-Qa’ida-style terrorism. For if we truly hope to defeat al-Qa’ida and its affiliates, we must recognize that the struggle against terrorism is first and foremost ideological, rather than “kinetic,” as Ayman al-Zawahiri himself has repeatedly stated (e.g., “The majority of this war takes place in the information terrain”). We must also recognize the diversity of Muslim populations in the U.S. and abroad, and carefully select our counterterrorism partners on the basis of their principled rejection of al-Qa’ida (i.e., Islamist) ideology, rather than on the basis of tactical differences they may have with al-Qa’ida, when the ultimate objective they hope to achieve (the establishment of a theocratic state, and/or caliphate) is virtually identical. And we must develop a comprehensive, proactive strategy of our own, which demonstrates to Muslims around the world that their faith is more secure in an environment that promotes and protects the freedom of each individual.

The American Islamic Leadership Coalition was formed in order to provide a platform and an alternative voice for Muslims in North America. We offer the above thoughts to our government, and our fellow citizens, in the hope of fostering a more serious and mature national conversation about Islam, in order to resolve our current “institutional paralysis” in the face of extremism; defend our nation; and help “to restore the majesty of Islamic teachings as rahmatan lil ‘alamin—a blessing for all creation—which represents a vital key to building a peaceful world” (Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, writing in The Illusion of an Islamic State).

AILC Coalition Signatories:

Golam Akhter, Bangladesh-USA Human Rights Coalition Inc., Washington, DC

Bahman Batmanghelidj, Founding Member, Alliance for Democracy in Iran, Virginia, USA

Khurshed Chowdhury, Ph.D., Maryland, USA

Manda Zand Ervin, President, Alliance of Iranian Women, Maryland, USA

Tarek Fatah, Founder, Muslim Canadian Congress, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Farid Ghadry, President, Reform Party of Syria, Washington, DC

Jamal Hasan, Council for Democracy and Tolerance, Baltimore, MD

Farzana Hassan, Ed.D., Past President, Muslim Canadian Congress, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  1. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., President, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Phoenix, AZ

Hasan Mahmud, Member, Advisory Board, World Muslim Congress, Dallas, TX

Kamal Nawash, President, Free Muslims Coalition, Washington, DC

  1. Holland Taylor, Chairman & CEO, LibForAll Foundation, Winston-Salem, NC

Jalal Zuberi, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA

[1]Wahid, Abdurrahman, ed. (2011).  The Illusion of an Islamic State: How an Alliance of Moderates Launched a Successful Jihad Against Radicalization and Terrorism in the World’s Largest Muslim-Majority Country (translated from Ilusi Negara Islam: Expansi Gerakan Islam Transnasional di Indonesia)p. 35. Jakarta: Wahid Institute, Maarif Institute and LibForAll Foundation Press.

[2]“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” “The Constitution of the United States,” Amendment I.

 

The Letter to De Blasio

In November of 2017, Tawhidi found himself once again in the limelight when he released a letter he allegedly sent Mayor de Blasio in February of 2016 warning of extremist threats in New York City.  On October 31, 2017, eight people were killed when a terrorist, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, mowed down innocent pedestrians on the streets of New York.  On November 2, 2017, Daily Mail published an article where Tawhidi stated “I truly believe we could have prevented the terror attack in New York if the mayor gave me just ten minutes of his time.”  Tawhidi was referring to letters he allegedly sent Mayor de Blasio in February of 2016 warning de Blasio of extremist threats and radicalization that was occurring in New York.  He attempted to embarrass the New York City mayor, who we certainly are not fans of for multiple reasons, whose press secretary, Eric Phillips, stated via Twitter that their office had never received the letter.  With some obvious discrepancies found within the letter, and given Tawhidi’s less than flawless record where honesty and consistency are concerned, we decided to take a deeper look to see if we could determine who was being honest.

It becomes increasingly obvious that the entire episode was concocted by Imam Tawhidi to get media attention, as evident by the following details.

It was immediately evident that the letterhead Tawhidi alleges to have sent the letter on does not match the letterhead Tawhidi was using before, during, and after February 9, 2016.  What’s even stranger is that the letterhead Tawhidi alleges to have sent the letter on did not emerge until 2017 when Tawhidi changed his domain from Tawhidi.com to ImamTawhidi.com,  rebranded his website, and eventually changed the name of his organization from “the Islamic Association of South Australia” to “the Imam Tawhidi Foundation.”  A Facebook post made in July of 2016 shows the logos Tawhidi was using at the time, and the logo found on the alleged letter is not one of them.

Another anomaly found in the letter is in the postal code of Tawhidi’s office location found in the lower left corner of the letter.  While Tawhidi typically abstained from including details of his address on letters he sent around that time, the February 9 letter to de Blasio indicates Tawhidi is located in Adelaide, SA, 5000.  According to the Australian Business Registry, Tawhidi’s organization was not located in 5000 until August of 2017, roughly around the same time Tawhidi rebranded his organization and adopted his current letterhead.

While analyzing Tawhidi’s letterhead may seem like splitting hairs, there is also an issue with the content of Tawhidi’s alleged February 2016 letter to de Blasio.  In his letter, Tawhidi writes “I have spent the past two weeks in New York, both meeting and working with Muslims in the community and its leaders.”  Tawhidi’s social network posts suggest this claim is not accurate.  Tawhidi was in Indonesia establishing a Shirazi hawza through 2015, before returning to Australia to establish another Shirazi hawza in Adelaide.  Tawhidi was meeting with community leaders, but not in New York, rather in Australia, where they discussed the teachings of Sayid Sadiq Shirazi that were being implemented in the Adelaide Islamic seminaries, according to a press release issued by the office of Sayid Sadiq Shirazi.  Tawhidi made several Facebook posts of himself in Indonesia, one of himself teaching lessons at the newly established hawza on January 5, 2016.  Tawhidi is also pictured in Australia on February 4th and 8th, 2016, then again at the Zainibiyah Hawza of Australia’s opening ceremony on February 13, 2016.

Perhaps the most absurd part about the alleged letter is the fact that Tawhidi is requesting a meeting, yet failed to provide any contact information for himself, as pointed out by de Blasio’s press secretary, who indicated de Blasio’s office never received a letter from Tawhidi.  The only information the letter contained was an inaccurate postal code and an email address that we cannot find a record of Tawhidi using prior to 2017.

de Blasio’s press secretary indicates their office never received the letter

Tawhidi released a second letter to de Blasio that he represented as a “follow up” to the first letter he allegedly sent, however, this “follow up” makes zero references to the first letter he was following up on.  Contrarily, the content of the “follow up” is introductory.  Tawhidi indicates he would like to set up a meeting, but not to discuss radicalization occurring in New York mosques, rather Tawhidi wishes to discuss his own business agenda.   His name is inconsistent, his position is inconsistent, and the company he’s claiming to represent is inconsistent between the two letters.  To refer to the second letter as a “follow up” is an insult to anyone who is literate.  While looking at Tawhidi’s different signature blocks, note that in the first letter, Tawhidi referred to himself as the director of an organization that, as of February 9, 2016, had not yet been established.

Tawhidi’s name on the 2016 letter compared to the name on the “follow up” letter

In the future, we hope that Tawhidi will send critical letters containing potentially life-saving information via a channel where he can confirm receipt of the message.  More importantly, we would encourage Tawhidi to engage the appropriate parties, such as the FBI, rather than sending an uncertified letter to a town politician halfway around the globe.  In the unlikely instance that Tawhidi actually sent the letter as he claims, issuing an attention-seeking, post-mortem “I told you so” is grossly negligent, inappropriate, and disrespectful to the victims and their families.

 

08/08/2018: “REFORM IN A POLITICALLY CORRECT WORLD: THE INTERNAL STRUGGLE FOR THE SOUL OF ISLAM”

Dear Supporters, you are invited to hear AIFD President & Founder, M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D. and other highly qualified reformers discuss:

“REFORM IN A POLITICALLY CORRECT WORLD:
THE INTERNAL STRUGGLE FOR THE
SOUL OF ISLAM”

1:00-5:30pm (MT)
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Aspen Jewish Community Center
435 West Main Street, Aspen, CO 81611

Reservations are necessary to attend
RSVP: jccaspen.com | info@jccaspen.com | 970-544-3770
If you’re unable to attend you can watch the live event here.

Panelists Include:

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser
President and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement (MRM) and a former Vice-Chair of U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) appointed by the U.S. Senate. Author of “A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s fight to Save his Faith”

Dr. Elham Manea
A political scientist specialized on the Arab Middle East, a writer, and a human rights activist, she is well known for her writings on a Humanistic Islam; fight against extremism and Islamism, and defence of universal human rights. Author of “Women and Shari’a Law; The Impact of Legal Pluralism in the UK

Professor Salim Mansur
ProfessorDepartment of Political Science, the University of Western Ontario, London; and author of The Qur’an Problem and Islamism and Delectable Lie: a liberal repudiation of multiculturalism. Mansur is a survivor and witness of Muslim-on-Muslim violence and ethnic cleansing in the 1971 war and genocide in Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan.

Dr. Tawfik Hamid
Islamic thinker, reformer, and one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt who was a member of the radical Islamist organization Jamaa Islameia with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri who later became the second in command of Al-Qaeda. Dr. Hamid started fighting Radical Islam 35 years ago. Author of “Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works; Why It Should Terrify Us; How to Defeat It”, he has authored a modern commentary on the Quran which has more than 2 million followers.

Raheel Raza (Moderator)
President of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, founding member of The Muslim Reform Movement, Director of Forum for Learning, award winning journalist, public speaker, advocate for human rights, gender equality and dignity in diversity. Author of
“Their Jihad, Not My Jihad”

This will be the first time such luminaries will appear together under one roof. These are highly qualified reformers who are all practicing Muslims. It is an event you won’t want to miss.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND
MEDIA INQUIRIES PLEASE CONTACT:
Dr. Alan Altman (970-456-3063)
doca55@aol.com

Raheel Raza (416-505-6052)
raheel@raheelraza.com

A MEETING OF MODERN MUSLIM MINDS – FIVE REFORMIST MUSLIMS AT ONE EVENT

“REFORM IN A POLITICALLY CORRECT WORLD:
THE INTERNAL STRUGGLE FOR THE SOUL OF ISLAM”

1:00-5:30pm MT on Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Aspen Jewish Community Center
435 West Main Street, Aspen, CO 81611

Reservations are necessary to attend
RSVP:  info@jccaspen.com – 970-544-3770

If you’re unable to attend, watch the live event here!

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser: President and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement (MRM) and a former Vice-Chair of U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) appointed by the U.S. Senate. Author of “A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s fight to Save his Faith”

Dr. Elham Manea: A political scientist specialized on the Arab Middle East, a writer, and a human rights activist, she is well known for her writings on a Humanistic Islam; fight against extremism and Islamism, and defence of universal human rights. Author of “Women and Shari’a Law; The Impact of Legal Pluralism in the UK

Professor Salim Mansur: ProfessorDepartment of Political Science, the University of Western Ontario, London; and author of The Qur’an Problem and Islamism and Delectable Lie: a liberal repudiation of multiculturalism. Mansur is a survivor and witness of Muslim-on-Muslim violence and ethnic cleansing in the 1971 war and genocide in Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan.

Dr. Tawfik Hamid: Islamic thinker, reformer, and one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt who was a member of the radical Islamist organization Jamaa Islameia with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri who later became the second in command of Al-Qaeda. Dr. Hamid started fighting Radical Islam 35 years ago. Author of “Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works; Why It Should Terrify Us; How to Defeat It”, he has authored a modern commentary on the Quran which has more than 2 million followers.

Raheel Raza: Moderator:
President of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, founding member of The Muslim Reform Movement, Director of Forum for Learning, award winning journalist, public speaker, advocate for human rights, gender equality and dignity in diversity. Author of “Their Jihad, Not My Jihad”

This will be the first time such luminaries will appear together under one roof. These are highly qualified reformers who are all practicing Muslims. It is an event you won’t want to miss.+

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND MEDIA INQUIRIES PLEASE CONTACT:

Dr. Alan Altman (970-456-3063)
doca55@aol.com

Raheel Raza (416-505-6052)
raheel@raheelraza.com


About AIFD
The American Islamic Forum for Democracy is a non-profit organization based in Phoenix, Ariz. dedicated to providing an American Muslim voice advocating genuine Muslim reform against Islamism and the ideologies which fuel global Muslim radicalization. AIFD’s mission is to advocate for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state. In December 2015, AIFD convened and helped launch the Muslim Reform Movement, a coalition of over 12 Muslim organizations and leaders dedicated to reform for values of peace, human rights and secular governance.

About M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D.
Dr. Jasser is the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a think tank dedicated to protecting American national security against the global threat of Islamism. AIFD promotes reform-minded Muslim voices for liberty and is shaking the hold which Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood have upon Muslim leadership. Dr. Jasser is the author of “A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith”. He is also founder of Take Back Islam and a co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement.

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2018 AIFD Accomplishments

AIFD continues to bring awareness and education to the public through writings, media interviews, and participation in public forums. Our goal is to bring the war of ideas against Islamism into the public eye, exposing Islamism’s true nature, and taking on Islamists and their non-Muslim allies on the public stage.

 2018

  • Daily national media engagement: we have made over 182 media appearances, reaching an audience size of 48M+, offering over 121 million media impressions. Regularly, national media reaches out to us for opinions during segments, news stories, and coverage of issues related to national security, terrorism, Muslim communities, immigration and foreign policy, to name a few. Our website aifdemocracy.org and our YouTube page “aifdtv” along with our social media footprints at FaceBook, Twitter and emails to our supporters, broadcasts these segments regularly.
  • We were proud to launch The Reform Report this year which has begun as a video series that takes short clips on topics of the day that are related to our issues of reform against Islamism and moves them on social media.
  • Our nationally distributed podcast, Reform This! (on Soundcloud, iTunes and distributed by Blaze Radio) hosted over 100 weekly episodes since its introduction and has continued its exponential growth of following and cross-platform engagement.
  • Al Hurra Television of the Middle Eastern Broadcast Corporation (an Arabic language American television network in the Middle East) has regularly used AIFD as a resource for American Muslim representation on air on a nearly weekly basis with over 50 appearances in 2017 and 2018. This year, they have decided to feature AIFD’s work in a documentary on leading Muslim reformers to air later in 2018. Veteran producer, Ali Mahdi, is the lead correspondent and has recently spent significant time in Phoenix on and off camera with the entire board of directors of AIFD early this year. We will be broadening our relationship and engagement with their producers and network as this is part of the US government ideological strategy which is directly in line with our work. [January 2017-2018]
  • CPAC 2018: Zuhdi Jasser was part of a distinguished group of panelists that among 4 members included Ambassador John Bolton now National Security Advisor for President Trump, discussing “What is the Biggest Threat to the U.S.?” This opportunity among many others at CPAC has placed AIFD in even closer contact with the administration. [February 2018]
  • Oklahoma City Town Hall “Lunch with the Speaker” attended by over 1,000 local Oklahoma City citizens in the interfaith community. Previous speakers for 2018 included Ambassador Bolton and Colonel Allen West. [March 2018]
  • “Stewart Security Summit” Jasser was invited to speak at this annual event attended by over 500 thought leaders in Salt Lake City, Utah, by Congressman Chris Stewart (R-UT) to discuss “Defining America’s Role in the World.” [March 2018]
  • Duke University: AIFD was invited by leading student organizations to speak on “The American Muslim Identity: Patriot or Insurgent”. The event generated a considerable amount of controversy from Islamist groups on campus and yielded breakthroughs with student media on free speech and the engagement of Muslim students and professors on American Muslim issues. [April 2018]
  • University of Notre Dame: Hosted by the Notre Dame College Republicans, Young Americans for Freedom and other campus groups, Jasser spoke to a large student group on the topic of “Taking on the Islamist Establishment”. [April 2018]
  • Jasser was invited to participate in a dynamic conversation on “The Silence on Female Genital Mutilation” with Alan Dershowitz and moderated by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, hosted by The Gatestone Institute. At this event Dr. Jasser publicly debated and challenged Alan Dershowitzs recently expressed position on permitting a compromise ‘nicking’ circumcision procedure for Muslim girls. [May 2018]
  • Testifying before The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on National Security, Dr Jasser spoke on the need to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization. [July 2018]
  • Muslim Reformers Conference in Aspen, CO discussing “The Reform Movement, why and how is it working out?” [August 2018]
  • Hosted by the Middle East Forum, AIFD joined a group of distinguished peers to attend the “Counter Islamism Summit” in Washington DC [September 2018]
  • NYC, AIFD hosted its first “Annual Review of the State of the Islamist Threat with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser”. [October 2018]
  • Upcoming: AIFD will visit Australia for a one-week tour to engage reformers and build a network of support. Currently scheduled is a debate at La Trobe University and discussion National Centre of Excellence in Islamic Studies. [2019]

Local (Arizona)

  • Board member: notMykid. This organization has a broad-based mission to educate youth and families on the life-changing issues surrounding substance abuse, bullying, unhealthy relationships, eating disorders, depression/self-injury, and internet safety. There are several areas of overlap with AIFD’s work with vulnerable youth and families in our Muslim Liberty Project. [Ongoing]
  • Guest speaker/presenter at many local civil service, religious, and political community organizations including: Kiwanis Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Republican and Democratic precincts, and places of worship. [throughout 2018]
  • Arizona Chamber of Commerce: AIFD is now a partner with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce working together to build bridges and cooperative programs with the local and regional business community [January 2018]
  • Interfaith event: AIFD was invited to discuss “Muslim Reform Movement” with MAKOR Synagogue.  [January 2018]
  • Arizona Talks discussing “God & Politics: Faith and Its Role in Political Thought” [January 2018]
    Celebration of the American Muslims” bringing groups of Muslims of all ages together to identify our common thread and celebrate our journey together [September 2018]

 

 

AIFD wishes Muslims around the world “Ramadan Kareem” as it commences on May 16, 2018

On Wednesday, May 16, 2018, Muslims around the world will begin their fasting and commemoration of their holy month of Ramadan.

The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) wishes our fellow Muslims around the world a blessed and fulfilling Ramadan and that you find abundant spiritual fulfillment this holy month.

The observation of Ramadan is meant to encourage thankfulness, awareness of our blessings, and to foster compassion. It is also a time of charity, spiritual contemplation, and fellowship.

AIFD holds in our thoughts and prayers all of those who are hungry not out of religious observance, but because they do not have enough to eat; those who are marginalized and forgotten; those whose health (physical or mental) prohibits them from fasting; those who do not have family with which to break their fasts and celebrate the blessings of Ramadan; those who are serving our country domestically and abroad; those who are struggling with their faith; and all those whose lives have been touched by horrific violence.

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Muslim lunar calendar and is a month observed through daily fasting from food and water ,from sunrise to sunset, so that Muslims can commemorate when God revealed the holy Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad. Throughput this month, similar to other faith traditions, fasting, recitation of scripture, family and community gatherings are meant to seek atonement for sins and a renewal of one’s humility before God.

May our Ramadan increase our faith, our mindfulness, and our sense of community.

Violent Jihad: A False Doctrine

Arif Humayun
Senior Fellow with the American Islamic Forum for Democracy
Co-founder, Muslim Reform Movement
A founder of the Circle of Peace
Vancouver, WA, 09 January 2018

Why understanding Jihad is important

There is little doubt that the predominant understanding of the concept of jihad by the dominant Islamic establishment globally is rather monolithic and militant. Modern reformers, contrary to revivalists, see this dominant concept of militant jihad as a distortion and deviation from a more personal definition that needs to predominate in modern times and with reform. The Islamists – the proponents for the creation of Islamic State –see jihad as an obligation to wage war against whom they consider non-believers.  Consequently, any military activity of a state identified as Islamic becomes jihad.  And militant organizations where state bound or stateless terror groups view jihad as a fundamental principle of their radical ideology to quell any opposition through violence.  Therefore, within the rubric of modern reforms, the use of Jihad as a tool and inspiration of war must be forcefully rejected.

Not only has this view been reinforced by the terrorist’ rhetoric, the continued silence of Muslims to forcefully and unequivocally denounce this distorted interpretation has also contributed to this prevalent view.  While reform-minded Muslims, who separate mosque and state, speak up against any justification for violence under the guise of jihad, radicals continue to exploit this concept as a tool to kill people, destroy property, and to threaten those who condemn their exploitation of religious doctrines for political purposes.  Muslim silence in condemning all violence, and qualifying certain terrorist acts as jihad, has unfortunately empowered the radicals to rationalize their criminal acts as Islamic doctrines.

Many non-Muslims tend to view Islam as a violent and barbaric faith, in large measure because of the global embrace by radicals of the dominant concept of jihad as a ‘holy war’.  Jihad, like sharia, blasphemy and apostasy, is considered a vital pillar of theocracy by radical Islamists for achieving their goal of establishing an “Islamic State” and their incumbent global caliphate.  Muslims need to have a personal ‘jihad’ against ‘the radicals’ violent jihad’.  A proper end to this concept of an “Islamic” state in exchange for a state ‘under God’ (rather than under Islam) will not only clear this unfortunate misunderstanding and defeat the terrorists’ objective, it will also show jihad as a tool for personal reformation to defeat ego and arrogance and Islamist collectivism; it will transform our personal and intellectual development from instinctive to moral and eventually to spiritual.

Jihad as we see it

For modernists, the literal meaning of jihad is to struggle – this comprehensive concept involves physical, moral spiritual and intellectual struggle to reform ourselves and the society by becoming better human being.  This is not an apologetic.  It’s a reality.  For example, Jihad is used as a first name.  Surely, the origin of this name given to newborn boys is not an intent to name children ‘holy war’ but rather ‘struggle to get close to God’.  The object of such struggle is to elevate the human behavior and mutual dealings with our surroundings from the basic instinctive state to the intermediate moral state and ultimately to the spiritual state.  In the instinctive state, human behavior must be based on absolute justice; the behavior with absolute justice is the differentiating line between human beings and animals.  The moral state requires benevolent behavior and the spiritual state requires overwhelmingly benevolent behavior with the people and the environment around us.  This original intent of the word was practiced by Prophet Mohammad during his life.

What then should modern reformists do with the radicals’ concept of jihad?  It is obviously part of Islamic history that included the waging of wars.  It is long overdue for Muslims to lift up leaders who recognize now that perhaps historically at the time of the Prophet Muhammad the only aspect of jihad that allowed battle was when the practice of faith, even privately, was prohibited by force.  And it was not just about Muslims practicing Islam but the practice of all faiths—about religious freedom. Reasonable people may disagree about this narrative of Islamic history at the time of the Prophet Muhammad in this regard, but if a narrative on jihad predominates that is personal and about religious freedom, is that not what is most important?  Some interpretations of Islamic sira (narratives) are that jihad can be a defensive battle for seeking the right to practice all faiths – not only Islam – was allowed and is explained by the Qur’an as:

Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged — and God indeed has power to help them — Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ — And if God did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of God is oft commemorated. And God will surely help one who helps Him. God is indeed Powerful, Mighty (Qur’an 22:40-41).

Given today’s predominance and preference for the secular nation state as well as the global condemnation of religious persecution and the ability of United Nations type organizations to stop persecution and help victim relocate to safer places, the need for defensive war has been precluded and archaic.

The core of Islamic faith is the Five Pillars and the Six Articles of Faith.  Jihad is neither one of the five pillars of Islam nor is it an article of faith.  Jihad is no more than a comprehensive training tool for self-reformation.

History

Although violence and political wars under the guise of Jihad has been used in Islamic history, this concept did not gain widespread traction in the Muslim world; it became widely accepted with the defeat and dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and the termination of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924.  The current militant, violent interpretation of jihad can be traced directly to Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-91) the founder of Wahhabi ideology.  Later, Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) founder, reinforced the doctrine of violent jihad in Egypt in 1928 to recreate and rebirth the “Islamic State”, claiming the Ottoman Empire to be a mythical state and blaming the West for it destruction.

Another MB ideologue Syed Qutb (1906-66) in Egypt and Jamaat-i-Islami’s (JI) founder Maududi (1903–1979) in India simultaneously propagated and further radicalized these deviant ideas.   Initially, these groups deceptively called for moral and social reforms in their societies but on failing to stem the tide of change, disguised violence under jihad to achieve their real theocratic goals.  This was all compounded by regional deteriorations.  For example, on one front, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan provided a strong impetus, funding arming and training these radicals to become jihadis.  Thus, justifying violence under the name of jihad has become the models for new activists and terrorist organizations across the Muslim world in the 20th and now the 21st centuries.  Al-Qaida, Taliban, and several militant Islamist groups with similar objectives have adopted the MB and JI interpretation.

In the West

Several MB members relocated to the west to escape persecution by secular military dictators in Egypt. These dictators were ‘corporate jihadists’ who enforced a militantly nationalist approach to jihadism and the Islamic state but still utilized similar underpinnings of a sharia state nonetheless.  They just rejected the viral components of grass roots populist Islamism and jihadism.  They were soon followed by JI cadres from Pakistan.  They established themselves as quasi-reform-minded Muslims but retained their violent methodology for the establishment of the Islamic State.  They took part in social services and propagated their doctrine of Jihad as a core teaching of Islam.  The violent demonstrations and terrorist attacks in Europe and the USA after 9/11 by ‘home grown terrorists’ are perpetuated by those who have been influenced by their propaganda.  Many of these groups receive overseas funding in many forms (e.g., mosques, literature, scholarships, preachers, etc.) and from Muslim advocacy groups in the US and Europe which are backed by Middle Eastern Islamist organizations, governments, and establishment figures.  The OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) is basically the neo-caliphate of today in which all of those governments (56 Muslim majority nations) believing in some form of the Islamic, sharia, and jihadi state.

The solution

Muslims themselves must first recognize that the concept of Jihad must reject the MB and JI Islamist type interpretation because it misrepresents the more peaceful teachings of the Prophet Muhammed and reinforces the linkage of Islam with militancy and with war.  The end of violent jihad will need the end of the Islamist division of the world into the ‘Land of Islam’ and the ‘Land of War’.  This will only end with the termination of all ideologies supporting Islamic states.  This self-defeating interpretation forwarded by MB and JI type organizations and adopted by terrorist groups around the world, have caused grave damage to Muslims’ economic and political interest.  Both Muslims and non-Muslims must begin to realize that it is a myth that violent jihad represents the essence of Islam.  Such a narrative only benefits Islamists and jihadists and stifles real modernization and reform.  Muslims must work on several levels in many lands to accomplish it.  Economic reforms toward free markets are needed to generate ingenuity and creativity along with better jobs for stifled generations who with no economic creativity have little to no religious creativity.  Political reform is needed to encourage peaceful participation in the political process.  Mosque after mosque must refrain from promoting grievances from the past and look to the future by preaching the true and peaceful mission of Islam and stay out of state politics and legalisms.

An unqualified rejection of jihad as a tool of war and violence will be one important step towards defeating the radical extremist ideology of the Islamic State and the end of any and all Islamic states.

Arif Humayun is a senior fellow with the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. He leads a multinational business, is an avid writer and an international traveler. He specializes in comparative religion and the advocacy of human rights. He has long been dedicated to understanding the causes of Muslim radicalization. Arif lives in the Pacific Northwest and can be reached at ArifHumayun6@gmail.com

Giving Tuesday and a look at what your donations have supported

On this Giving Tuesday, the team from AIFD wanted to share a few milestones from 2017 that, without your support, would not have been possible.

AIFD does the work on the front lines no one else is doing and we can’t continue to lead without you.

Throughout 2017, AIFD and President & Founder, M. Zuhdi Jasser M.D., have taken part in a variety of interesting opportunities and discussions including:

* In January Zuhdi debated the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Salam al-Maryati in Orange County, CA, on the topic “Is the Muslim Reform Movement Necessary?”.

* In March, AIFD sent open letters to leadership of the Detroit community regarding the doctors who performed Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on young girls and setting the tone for a national conversation during the first federal case against FGM criminals in the United States.

* AIFD participated in CPAC 2017 where Zuhdi discussed the state of the Middle East and ISIS.

* Muslim Reform Movement (MRM) leaders and founders visited Toronto, Canada in March for an engaging workshop.

* AIFD hosted Muslim leaders from India, by recommendation of the State Department, discussing “Encouraging Moderate Voices: Countering Violent Extremism Online” in Phoenix, AZ during August.

* In September, Zuhdi traveled to Philadelphia for a NATO Parliamentary Assembly meeting to be part of a day-long discussion on issues relevant to the Middle East and the Islamic presence in Europe.

* Also in September, Zuhdi joined ACU leadership for their inaugural Israeli Mission to develop a plan to defend the right of Israel to be a free and sovereign nation.

* In November, Zuhdi presented testimony to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on “Unintended Consequences: M103 Harms all Canadians, especially Muslims”.

* An invitation to the November 2017 Web Summit took Zuhdi to Lisbon where he was a part of a dynamic panel discussion on “Choosing the enemy: Media Narratives Around Terrorism”.

* In Phoenix, AZ, AIFD’s Community Engagement Director, Courtney Lonergan, facilitated an InterFaith event hosting over 400 people that was sponsored in part by AIFD. The MRM Declaration was on hand to help inform those wanting to learn more about this group

* Courtney also held a town-hall while in the San Francisco in late November discussing MRM, the declaration and how others can get involved.

* Also in November, the J. Reuben Clark Law Society in Phoenix and Salt Lake City hosted Religious Freedom Symposiums with Zuhdi as a key note speaker and panel member.

* In December AIFD will be represented in London by invite from the Henry Jackson Society to discuss “A Wake-Up Call: Creating Transatlantic network to Battle Radical Islam”.

* Throughout the year, Zuhdi was the key note speaker for a variety of groups including the Jewish Federation of Collier County, Florida, and for the Citizens for National Security, Boca Raton, Florida as well as for several prominent groups in Arizona.

* AIFD presented Radical Islam for Law Enforcement (RILE) to members of the Arizona Department of Public Safety to help them provide law enforcement with tools to help them better understand the Muslim communities that they serve.

* With over 500 media appearances, AIFD was very much on the front lines of the battle to counter Violent Islamism.

* AIFD continues to strengthen our presence on social media. The Reform This! weekly podcast by Zuhdi (also available on iTunes here) has seen substantial growth over the past year and Twitter and FaceBook continue to be a good avenue for conversation and an exchange of ideas. The AIFDTV YouTube channel has a complete library of all of the media appearances, panel discussions and more that AIFD has been a part of.

For 2018 and beyond our lead policy initiative is to change the center of axis in the US counter-terrorism and foreign policy strategy from CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) to CVI (Countering Violent Islamism) and to remove Radical Islam from the conversation as Islam is not the issue – it is those who choose to take their interpretation of Islam and turn it into a tool for war.

Again, without your support and generosity, AIFD would not be able to continue on our mission. It is with sincere gratitude that we thank each and every one of you and hope to continue to count on your trust and support in this mighty endeavor.