Stu Bykofsky: American Muslims ‘uniquely qualified’ to sell moderation

link to story at Philadelphia Daily News

Stu Bykofsky, Daily News Columnist
Philadelphia Daily News

October 15, 2012

AMERICAN MUSLIM Zuhdi Jasser is a jihadist.

A veteran of 11 years in the Navy and a medical doctor, Jasser is on a jihad for democracy, the American-style democracy he has enjoyed since birth as the son of parents who fled Syria.

I believe immigrants – especially those coming to freedom from dark lands of terror and oppression – appreciate America more than most native-born Americans who don’t know how good they got it. Jasser was born here, and his parents taught him to honor both his faith, Islam, and America, with its faith in freedom and democracy.

The Muslims who have trouble with the West are those who do not believe in separation “between mosque and state,” Jasser says. Intheir Islam, state and mosque are intertwined, but that is not the way of America or the West.

Jasser argues the West is not effectively defending its values, and recently told a luncheon meeting with members of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum that “political Islam” is the biggest threat to world peace. The antidote is “moderate Islam,” a product that American Muslims are “uniquely qualified” to sell.

Jasser is president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which he founded with eight other Muslim-Americans in 2003, in response both to 9/11 and to what they felt was inadequate denunciation of the attack on America by U.S. Muslims.

Since its founding, five of the original members have left AIFD, the result of “tribal pressure,” Jasser tells me in a later private sit-down. He is not usually confronted openly by Muslims – with one big exception – but is pressured “behind the scenes” to “stop airing dirty laundry.”

The exception is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which Jasser says sows “victimization” among Muslims and is slow to condemn terror.

The compliment is returned by CAIR communications director Ibrahim Hooper. He says both accusations are “complete fiction” and Jasser is a “sock puppet for Islam haters and Muslim bashers.”

To counter the charge of being slow to condemn terror, Hooper says CAIR, a civil-rights organization, put up a reward for the capture of an arsonist who set a Toledo mosque ablaze. (A suspect has been arrested.)

Tellingly, Hooper’s response focused on terror committed against Muslims, omitting terror committed by Muslims, which is far more common worldwide.

Jasser is as politically conservative as he is religiously liberal, even though he says he is devout and prays five times a day.

Perhaps his most incendiary luncheon statement was that of 3 million American Muslims, 5 to 7 percent are potentially dangerous. Supporting his opinion, he points to a 2011 Pew Research poll stating 8 percent of U.S. Muslims think suicide bombing and other violence against civilians is often or sometimes justified.

Condemnation of his extremist co-religionists is no different than Christians blasting the hate-spewing Westboro Baptist Church, but they are not called anti-Christian, while he is painted as an Islamophobe.

I don’t believe he is an Islamophobe. His American Islamic Forum for Democracy is engaged in the right kind of jihad. He deserves the support of anyone worried about what kind of American Muslims emerge to lead that community.

Their jihad is our jihad.