For the crime of advocating moderation over extremism and American principles like the separation of mosque and state, M. Zuhdi Jasser has made a lot of enemies among radical Islamists.
But nothing this uniquely American Muslim has done to date has set the radicals’ hair on fire quite like his recent appointment to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, has denounced the Jasser appointment as “farcical” and is circulating petitions — including petitions at Jasser’s own Scottsdale mosque, by his own imam — to have his appointment rescinded.
CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper called him “a mere sock puppet for Islam-haters and an enabler of Islamophobia.”
The Muslim Peace Coalition declared Jasser’s appointment “a huge insult to American Muslims,” and the Muslim Public Affairs Council sent out “action alerts” frantically urging supporters to protest Jasser’s appointment.
Why the hysteria over the appointment of an Arizona medical doctor to an obscure religious-freedom oversight organization? In Jasser’s view, it is all about control of the filter through which Americans view Islam.
“They’ve had a monopoly on representing Muslims inside the Beltway,” he said of the groups attacking him, many of which, he points out, seek their funding from Saudi extremists.
“These people prefer to label us as heretics rather than deal with our ideas.”
And label him they do, circulating vile ad hominem attacks that are made up out of whole cloth, falsely accusing him and Muslim members of his American Islamic Forum for Democracy of being non-practicing Muslims, at best, and Islam-haters at worst.
They have had their successes in their remorseless effort to marginalize him. Shortly before confirmation of Jasser’s appointment to the State Department’s Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, the White House suddenly rescinded the appointment without an explanation.
Unfortunately for them, Jasser is just as remorseless in his mission to prove to fellow Americans that Islam and American principles and virtues are not incompatible.
Jasser is just as undaunted in a still more courageous mission: To confront the radicalization of Islam in this country and overseas — a radicalization that organizations such as CAIR contend does not exist — and identify it for what it is, a political hijacking of his faith.
Small wonder they fight so hard to keep his voice from being heard.
This time, they have failed. Nominated by Sen. Mitch McConnell, Jasser’s appointment is not subject to confirmation. He already has attended two panel meetings.
His presence there affirms exactly what his strident opponents fear most — that there indeed is a diversity of voices, of points of view, among Muslims.
They can’t control those voices. And they certainly can’t control Zuhdi Jasser.