Family Security Matters OpEd: The Center for American Progress Fear, Inc. Report: A Roadblock to American Progress

The Center for American Progress (CAP) recently issued a 132 page report entitled “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” (pdf). The report’s supposed objective is to “expose-and marginalize-the influence of the individuals and groups” that CAP claims are a part of an “Islamophobia network in America.” The report was immediately seized upon by many Muslim organizations and enablers on the political left as well as the Iranian government’s Press TV as proof positive of the victimhood of American Muslims.

This report portends to be an in-depth investigative analysis that connects the dots of a supposedly sinister anti-jihadist movement. But a glossy cover around 132 pages of politicalblog material does not make a report either journalistically or academically sound. From my perspective, CAP lost all journalistic and academic credibility when it failed to contact me to corroborate, refute or even respond to any of the accusations the report levels against me and our organization- the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. This would not be considered acceptable for a college term paper, let alone a report that is being billed as useful in-depth analysis.
CAP indicts me as a “validator” of this invented conspiratorial ‘Islamophobia’ network. They make libelous allegations that I am a misinformation expert and simply attack me for being critical of President Obama and Congressman Keith Ellison, and somehow because I do not blindly pledge allegiance to the left’s favorite Muslim activist groups. Most bizarrely CAP tries to paint me as an Islamophobe hell bent on defaming Muslims and Islam in America in an effort to spread fear and make money.
I address the specific fallacies of all of CAP’s allegations in-depth at our website, but the intellectual gymnastics that CAP had to go through to make this last allegation is worthy of Olympic recognition. Not once do they actually address the central premise of our ideas against Islamism presented in volumes of public material available in print, on the web, and in television media. The great irony is that my mission at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy is driven by a deep desire to raise my children as orthodox Muslims who embrace the unparalleled freedom that is guaranteed for them in the United States Constitution. At the core of our mission is the understanding that the greatest threat to both American security and the harmony of the Muslim consciousness is the spread of political Islam- the global movement to create Islamic states ruled by shariah law. We believe that the only way to defeat Islamism is by Muslims advocating for the reforms necessary to separate mosque and state.
While this effort is often criticized as Islamophobic and I am routinely labeled an Uncle Tom or traitor to Muslims by those who adhere to the ideology of political Islam, I have taken the Islamic tradition of ijtihad (modern, critical interpretation of scripture and tradition) to heart as a personal responsibility as an American Muslim as it should be for every Muslim. That responsibility comes from a fear of what the human manifestation of my faith of Islam could represent for my children and what many in our current faith leadership have allowed to become the predominant message of the public face of Islam. I believe we American Muslims have a major crisis in leadership with most organizations in the United States coming out of the Muslim Brotherhood legacy tree and ideology. Should another devastating attack occur and Muslims are not seen as leading the fight against Islamism- the cancer within their faith, I fear for the climate towards Muslims in the U.S. Crying wolf now about “Islamophobia” or anti-Muslim hate is certainly wrong-headed.
CAP’s accusations against me in Fear Inc. were done in a vacuum with no intellectual analysis of my extensive writings, interviews or testimony. Even the quotations they used we prove to be half-truths and deceptively attributed. How they can come to a conclusion that a devout Muslim who prays five times a day and basically performs most of the rights and practices of Islam, and who believes that the problems of radicalization can only be solved by Muslims could “have an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims” defies logic.
“Fear, Inc.” is clearly the latest volley in the ping pong games between virulently partisan organizations on the left and the right that exploit American Muslims as the ball. CAP and Think Progress’ entire mission is to be a player in that partisan game, but AIFD, if the authors cared to look, is an Islamic organization that works within the Muslim consciousness for reform against Islamist organizations for national security. That discussion requires me to advocate for a “muscular liberalism,” as Prime Minister Cameron of Great Britain refers to it, that advocates for Muslim and non-Muslim audiences to wake up to the need to take sides within the Muslim community against the Islamist agenda in favor of the liberal secular democratic agenda. CAP’s attack failed to address any of the specific ideological issues that I and AIFD confront and lacks any religious background to confront the issues of faith that need reform.
Islamophobia is a term that AIFD rarely uses because it is a mechanism that has been employed by a number of organizations, such as CAP, to shut down conversation, free speech, and introspection and to reinforce a concept of victimization of Muslims. I cannot speak for any others who were smeared with this term in “Fear, Inc.” but as a devout Muslim I am deeply offended that CAP would presume to instruct me on my allegiance to my faith.
Apparently, the CAP’s position is that any Muslim who dares to question or oppose the destructive, separatist, offensive acts that some Muslims perpetrate – which they claim is justified by Islam – should be publicly smeared as someone who creates hatred of Islam itself. Would the CAP also allege that Catholics who are opposed to the cover-ups concerning child abuse are guilty of “Catholicphobia”? Or allege that Jews who are opposed to strict orthodox interpretations of the Torah are guilty of “Judeophobia”?
The CAP apparently has singled out Islam as the one religion whose (supposed) leaders must not be questioned – least of all by a devout Muslim such as myself, because to do so means to open oneself up to being publicly smeared and lied about, as in “Fear, Inc.”
The Washington political circles in which CAP swims, have a habit of turning to the alphabet soup of Muslim lobbying organizations based in Washington (most of whom tow the Islamist line) to be their token outreach to the Muslim community. CAIR, ISNA, MPAC and MSA have all done a good job of positioning themselves to the political elite as being the representatives for American Muslims. The problem is that this rather small circle of American Muslims does not represent the Muslim community as was clearly demonstrated in a recent poll by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center where at best 12 percent of American Muslims identified with them. Continued outreach to these groups that support the Islamist ideology is akin to reaching out to the Black Panther Party and saying that you had reached out to the “African American Commun
ty”. While the Black Panther Party certainly represents a segment of the African American Community, it does not by any means represent the broad African American Community. Neither political party would accept an assertion that they did. And while Islamists like to look upon Muslims as a political party, in the American context where mosque and state are separate, the reality is media and government should be looking for Muslims who do not attempt to hijack our community for a political or partisan agenda. OurAmerican Islamic Leadership Coalition has over 15 organizations represented which provide diverse alternatives to these monolithic Islamist groups. But the CAP cared little to get the opinion of any in our coalition. Why? Because we do not fit the Islamist narrative about who is and who is not a respected Muslim leader.
The Center for American Progress created this report with a set of biases and conclusions that were predetermined. Their accusation that a devout American Muslim devoted to raising his children as proud Muslims can be Islamophobic is arrogant and laughable. To pretend that “Fear, Inc.” is factual research is a fallacy and in many ways harmful to the communities it pretends to serve.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor M. Zuhdi Jasser, MD, is the founder and Chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix Arizona. He is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, a physician in private practice, and a community activist. He can be reached atZuhdi@aifdemocracy.org.
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