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Press Release: Sentencing is a stark reminder of the global Islamist threat.

PRESS RELEASE
American Islamic Forum for Democracy

Contact: Mischel Yosick
480 225 7473 mischel@zliberty.com

May 10, 2017

Sentencing of Indonesian Christian Governor of Jakarta on blasphemy charge is a reminder of the rising global Islamist threat.

The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) condemned the sentencing of an Indonesian Christian politician, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, for “blasphemy.” The sentencing of Mr. Basuki, the Jakarta governor, also known as “Ahok” was heavier than what prosecutors asked for – rather than the two years probation they requested, he was sentenced to two years in prison.

M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., founder and president of AIFD, released the following statement:

“The fact that Mr. Basuki was even brought up on charges of ‘blasphemy’ – a truly invented ‘crime’ – is horrifying. The reality of his sentencing should alarm all people, not just Christians, and not just Indonesians.

Indonesia has long enjoyed the reputation of being a model of Muslim moderation and pluralism, yet its problem of Islamism is real: from soaring rates of female genital mutilation (FGM) to violent protests against authors and artists for ‘blasphemy,’ the country is undergoing an ugly and dangerous radicalization that will hurt, kill, and traumatize its citizens and leak across its borders, threatening global security. Mr. Basuki was a governor whose election had only improved Indonesia’s global reputation. His sentencing proves that those who are loyal to Islamist forces no longer care about upholding this image for Indonesia, instead they seek a more sinister role in the world.

Ahok’s case again proves that the nation is on the front lines of this global existential battle against Islamism.

We urge Indonesian citizens to challenge their religious establishments – particularly the Nahdlatul Ulama – to take swift and bold action to condemn and dis-empower those who support and promote punishments for blasphemy, and to demand that their government do the same. I visited Indonesia during my time on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, and know that this evil does not represent them. Their government must do better to protect and represent the will of its people.”

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M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D. is a guest on Arizona Originals with Jason Issak

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser – American Islamic Forum for Democracy and Physician

Today’s guest, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, has served as a US Navy physician, was hand selected to serve for two years as one of three attending physicians for the US Congress (including the US Supreme Court Justices), and has practiced medicine in Arizona.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

 

 

 

5/5/2017 : M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D. joins Fox Business’ Making Money discussing refugees and how the influx into the U.S. has decreased under President Trump and the importance of ideological vetting.

5/4/2017: M Zuhdi Jasser, M.D. joins i24 News’ discussing the recent meeting of President Trump and Mahmoud Abbas and the anti-Semitic programs on Palestinian TV and other outlets.

5/4/2017 – M. Zuhdi Jasser sounds off on the female genital mutilation case.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser on FBI Director James Comey addressing the arrest of two doctors accused of female genital mutilation

 

4/7/2017: AIFD President’s, M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D. Statement on US Airstrikes in Syria

Syrian-American Reformer Commends Syria Strikes, Urges Vigilance

The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) welcomes the news of targeted strikes in Syria, meant to send a message to Bashar al-Assad and his allies that the use of chemical weapons will not stand. Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, the son of Syrians who fled the regime of Bashar al-Assad’s father, today said:

“When news broke that the United States had begun a narrow campaign of targeted strikes against regime targets in Syria, I felt immediate gratitude – on behalf of my family members there, and for our country, which has watched in horror for six long years as the Assad regime has carried out mass torture and murder of its civilians. While I am hopeful that these strikes are indicative of a bolder, firm Syria strategy – I am under no illusion that they will end Assad’s murderous rule, or that any transition in Syria will happen swiftly or easily. In many ways, we who have loved ones in Syria, and we who care about the human condition – are taking what we can get here – with hope that there will be more, even bolder action in Syria. What this action by President Trump does indicate is that the needle of American policy in Syria is moving closer to being on the right side of history. To secure our place there, however, we must remain vigilant, remembering that a conflict with Assad is necessarily a conflict with Russia, with Iran, and with Hizbollah. These limited, targeted strikes should continue, focused on reducing Assad’s access to resources, especially weapons. Every reduction in his assets is a a reduction in his capacity to murder and maim civilians. By reducing a dictator’s capacity to kill, we have a chance of re-establishing America’s position in the world as a moral authority, and we can begin again to re-commit ourselves to the sacred commitment of ‘never again,’ something Barack Obama failed to do.”

AIFD and other Muslims Against Islamism in the New York Times: See the ad, Join the Movement

We at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy are always seeking new ways to expand our reach and impact. We were honored to be approached by the Gatestone Institute to place a full-page ad in the New York Times featuring text inspired by the writing of one of our fellows, Ahmed Vanya. Ahmed’s piece, “Beautifying Islam,” served as the basis for the ad.

The ad was finalized before the horrific attacks in Paris, but was published today, January 11, 2015. It is exactly the right moment for the ad’s renewed call to action. Please see the ad here, and read the full text below. Please also stay tuned to learn where we will take this movement from here, and for an opportunity to sign onto this document.

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What can Muslims do to reclaim their ‘Beautiful Religion’?

As people observe beheadings and savagery by ISIS, female genital mutilation and honor killings, the abduction of girls by Boko Haram, the execution of innocents in Iran, the slaughtering and enslaving of Christians in Egypt and Africa and Yazidis in Iraq, rampant anti-Semitism and other crimes against humanity committed by those who claim to represent Islam, many people are understandably asking:

  • What is the true nature of Islam?
  • Is it that although there are many peaceful Muslims, Islam itself is not peaceful?

If Islam is a religion that stands for justice and peaceful coexistence, then the quest for an Islamic state cannot be justified as sanctioned by a just and merciful Creator.

Neither jihadism nor Islamism permit the equality of all humans irrespective of their race or religion and should therefore be rejected. Our denial and our relative silence must stop!

It is the duty of us Muslims to actively and vigorously affirm and promote universal human rights, including gender equality and freedom of conscience.

As our Holy Qu’ran states (4:135):

“Believers! Conduct yourselves with justice, bearing true witness before God, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, or your kin.”

We must engage in and promote reforms where necessary, including an honest and critical reinterpretation of scripture and shariah law used by Islamists to justify violence and oppression.

We must also recognize and loudly proclaim that the quest for any and all “Islamic State(s)” has no place in modern times. Theocracy, particularly, Islamism, is a proven failure. The path to justice and reform is through liberty.

It is also our responsibility to reclaim the faith we love from these monsters, forcefully rejecting and combating all components of their ideology.

If we Muslims believe that “true” Islam, genuinely aligned with the will of the Creator, is fundamentally peaceful, comprehensively merciful and objectively just, then it is our duty to do what is necessary to live and promote an Islam that is based in liberty and worthy of being called a beautiful religion.

We must seek out necessary support from non-Muslim allies in order to be successful in our work.

We the undersigned are Muslims who embrace a pluralistic interpretation of Islam, rejecting all forms of oppression and abuses committed in the name of religion or culture and particularly Islamism.

We are joined by non-Muslim allies who sign here to affirm their commitment as Americans to support those Muslims and all people of conscience who courageously speak out against these abuses and who advance reforms within our community.

  • Sherkoh Abbas, Chair Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, Washington, D.C.
  • Tarek Fatah, Founder, Muslim Canadian Congress, Toronto, Canada
  • Farid Ghadry, Reform Party of Syria, Washington, D.C.
  • Iftikhar A. Hai, President, United Muslims of America, San Francisco, CA
  • Dr. Tawfik Hamid, International Center for Countering Radicalism, Oakton, CA
  • Husain Haqqani, Former Ambassador of Pakistan to U.S., Washington, D.C.
  • Jamal Hassan, Council for Democracy and Tolerance, Baltimore, MD
  • Sheikh (Dr.) Usama Hassan, Quilliam Foundation, London, UK
  • Farzana Hassan, Director, Muslim Canadian Congress, Toronto, Canada
  • Arif Humayun, President, Circle of Peace, Portland, OR
  • Farahnaz Ispahani, Director, Americans for Pakistan, Washington, D.C.
  • Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Phoenix, AZ
  • Naser Khader, Former Member of Danish Parliament, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Zainab Zain Khan, United Nations Association, Chicago, IL
  • Courtney Lonergan, Arizona Interfaith Movement, Phoenix, AZ
  • Hasan Mahmud, General Secretary, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Toronto, Canada
  • Salim Mansur, PhD., Professor, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada
  • Maajid Nawaz, Co-Founder and Chairman, Quilliam Foundation, London, UK
  • Raheel Raza, President, Council of Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Toronto, Canada
  • Munir Pervaiz, President, Muslim Canadian Congress, Mississauga, Canada
  • Oubai Shahbandar, Principle, Dragoman Partners, Washington, D.C.
  • Jalal Zuberi, MD, Associate Professor, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
  • Ahmad Vanya, Fellow, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, San Jose, CA

 

AIFD Summer Newsletter: a Dispatch from Voices for Reform | June 20,2014

Dear Friends,

First, we want to let you know that we have been following the situation in Iraq very closely. Our written analysis will follow, but you may be interested in my recent media appearances on the topic, which are available on our YouTube channel. Click here for my recent appearance on Fox Business, discussing the troubling rise of ISIS.

We at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy are excited to share updates with you from the start of our tenth year engaging directly in the battle of ideas against Islamism.

As we reflected on the past ten years, with its many successes and challenges, we recognized that it is time to re-visit the values that drive our work. While we remain committed to our foundational values and core principles, we recognize the need to set forth a set of universal values to expand the reach of our work. The following guiding principles will be the focus of all of our public outreach and community engagement as we move forward:

1. AIFD seeks to build a national consensus on political Islam. Our goal will be to “Unite the American Spirit” around the concepts upon which this nation was founded: individual liberty, freedom of conscience, and the promise that each individual has a chance at reaching his or her fullest potential. Political Islam, or Islamism, is the antithesis of American values. Recognizing this is not a partisan act, it is an American act. When all Americans – Muslim and non-Muslim – unite to recognize and combat the threat of political Islam, we are recognizing and respecting every individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

2. AIFD will advance reform from within the house of Islam. For too long, Islamists have intimidated Muslims out of voicing the need for reform within our faith. By painting “reform” as anti-Islam and anti-Muslim, they have worked hard to guarantee that one interpretation of Islam – their interpretation – gets the most airtime. As Muslims who recognize the need for reform within our faith, we refuse to be bullied by Islamist interpretations of Islam. As liberty-minded Muslims, we embrace a pluralistic interpretation of Islam that works in synergy with, not in opposition to, universal human rights and individual freedom.

 3. AIFD is committed to ending gender-based violence. To Islamists, women are public enemy number one. While gender-based violence is a global problem, we Muslims must address issues far too common within our community: honor-based violence, domestic violence, forced and child marriage, marital rape, female genital mutilation and more. To Islamists, the responsibility of representing piety and respectability falls predominantly on women’s bodies, and controlling them is considered a divine mandate. At AIFD, we believe that women are entitled to bodily integrity, personal autonomy, and freedom from all forms of psychological, emotional, physical and sexual abuse and control.

4.  Freedom of religion is the first right in the U.S. Constitution because without it no other right can stand.  AIFD stands firm in our commitment to advance that right and the right for all to have freedom of conscience, which must also include freedom of expression and the freedom to leave one religion for another or to choose not to embrace any faith at all. We reject the practice of “takfir,” or the declaration of a person as non-Muslim as practiced by Islamists. This practice has been used by Islamists both to chill speech about political Islam and to signal to vigilantes that those targeted are worthy of death. We accept as Muslim any person who identifies him or herself as Muslim, and believe the veracity of an individual’s faith is a matter between the individual and God. 

5.  We seek to empower non-Muslim allies in working to eradicate radical Islam. We recognize that the threat of political Islam affects all of us – not just Muslims. All too often, non-Muslims are made to feel that they are not welcome to ask critical questions, express concerns, or speak frankly about these issues. We are committed to creating not just safe spaces for liberty-minded Muslims, but also for non-Muslims interested our mission.  We also recognize that without non-Muslim allies, our movement cannot succeed. The support and input of our non-Muslim allies is essential to our success and to meaningful change.

6.  We will continue to identify, engage, support and empower other Muslims and Muslim organizations who share the above five goals.

Our team continues to be at the forefront of championing these principles and challenging those forces within our community who stand against them. A few highlights:

Some of the attendees at our 2014 retreat

We recently held our fourth annual retreat for liberty-minded Muslim youth. This retreat brought both youth and adult leaders together to strategize on how to strengthen our core community. To see pictures from our retreat, click here.

Dr. Jasser continues to be a leading voice on Islamic reform, national security, and the battle against political Islam (for footage and audio of interviews, please click here). He recently traveled to the UK, where he participated in the prestigious Oxford Union’s “Thursday Debate.” These formal debates have been taking place since 1823 and were founded on “an ideal of the freedom of speech.” Dr. Jasser was asked to debate whether or not the religion of Islam is compatible with gender equality. He argued that Islam as a personal faith can indeed be compatible with gender equality, if Muslim take the necessary steps to engage in reform and combat misogyny within our communities. His side won the debate by a landslide. Please see here for pictures of Dr. Jasser at the event, and stay tuned – we will send audio of the event if we are able to. (Videotaping was not permitted.) While in the UK, Dr. Jasser was also honored to speak at the Henry Jackson Society, where he gave a talk entitled “Whose Islam? Which Islam? Reformists vs. Revivalists, or why the West Must Take Sides within the House of Islam.”

Raquel Evita Saraswati appeared in the widely acclaimed documentary Honor Diaries, which features women’s rights advocates working to end gender-based violence in Muslim communities. The film has brought urgently needed attention to the issue of women’s rights in Muslim majority societies and communities. She also appeared on Fox News’  The Huckabee Show to discuss the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria by the Islamist group Boko Haram. To watch, click here. To follow Raquel on Twitter, click here.

AIFD Fellow Ahmed Vanya authored a ground breaking article on Traditional Islam and the Challenge of Modernity. The article looks at the compatibility of Islam with modernity. To learn more about Ahmed and our fellows program, click here.

Victory in the Battle for the Soul of Islam will come when Muslims and Non-Muslims alike engage the fallacies of the Islamist ideology and embrace for all people the principles that define America – the sanctity of individual human rights and inalienable rights to liberty.

We would appreciate your engagement and support our shared mission to safeguard individual liberty and freedom. To follow us on Twitter, please click here; and to like us on Facebook, please click here. To make a tax-deductible contribution, please visit this link.

 

Yours in liberty,

 

 

 

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser

CAIR Attacks AIFD through Russian Media

Earlier this year, Dr. Jasser was interviewed by Fox News regarding the Department of Justice’s decision to embrace greater flexibility for its religious members, specifically by permitting certain types of religious dress or appearance to be maintained while in uniform. To see that interview, click here.

Following that interview, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) began another shameful round of attacks against Dr. Jasser. To see those attacks and our full response, click here. 

Despite our many refutations of CAIR’s baseless attacks, they continued (and continue to) smear our work. We even invited CAIR to a public debate on “Islamophobia in America,” with a neutral moderator and venue. They declined our invitation. To see that exchange and our analysis, click here.

Most recently, Dr. Jasser was contacted by Voice of Russia, who had spoken with CAIR about the Department of Justice’s policies. Most revealing was CAIR’s choice to attack Dr. Jasser and AIFD through Russian media, even attempting to pose a question to Dr. Jasser through them.

To read what Voice of Russia published, please click here.

Since the final piece was understandably brief, we thought we would share Dr. Jasser’s interview in its entirety. Below, we have posted Voice of Russia’s questions to Dr. Jasser and the full responses he sent back.

 **

Voice of Russia]: Questions for: US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Vice Chair for the organization Dr. Zuhdi Jasser

Dr. Jasser: First note that ethically you do not define the capacity in which I act during a media interview. I do. During the Fox interview in question and during this interview I am speaking to you on my own behalf as well as President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. If you are interested in our work specifically during my past two years of service on USCIRF, you are welcome to contact USCIRF and avail yourself of the publicly available work there which I have participated in during my tenure thus far as a USCIRF commissioner since 2012.

[VOR]: The Council on American-Islamic Relations released a press release after Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser appeared on Fox News. The council was disgusted by the words that you (Dr. Jasser) said on national TV … as according to CAIR, the International Religious Freedom Vice Chair did not think it was a good idea to broaden the religious freedoms for Muslim military personnel— to what degree is it fair to allow any type of religious follow practice their faith in the US military?

The Council on American-Islamic Relations welcomes the new policy which has broadened the religious rights, Dr. Jasser, how come CAIR states that you are so much against this policy?

Dr. Jasser:  CAIR claims that I am against religious rights being granted for Muslims in the military because they have a very flexible relationship with the truth. My words stand on their own merit. Any honest human being that reviews my comments will know that not only am I not against this new policy, I actually welcomed it publicly – both in the Fox interview over which they attacked me, and in multiple publications and statements after the fact. Unfortunately, the only way CAIR knows how to advance their agenda is to maliciously misrepresent my position in order to defame me in the eyes of other Muslims. It is a desperate and obvious attempt to damage AIFD’s work as we gain more support in the Muslim community. Rather than confront the issue of Islamism and its threat to Islamic reform and true religious freedom, CAIR operates under the premise that any Muslims who call them out and disagree with their Islamist agenda must be “anti-Islam” or “Islamophobic” and thus not a “good Muslim” by their standards. Their behavior smacks of takfirism (the insinuation that other Muslims are not devout enough and thus anti-Islam).

VOR]: It has been noted that you are a devout Muslim which means you actively practice your religion.  To what degree would you be alright with Muslims in the military growing out their beards as a way of showing dedication to their faith?

Dr. Jasser: As was stated in our response to CAIR’s attacks which I hope you read, religious accommodations must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis with priority given to mission readiness and unit cohesion. As a veteran of the U.S. Navy and as a practicing Muslim, I found no conflict between practice of my personal faith (including fasting, praying, abstention from alcohol and dating) and my service in the military. Whether or not a beard is an absolute religious requirement is something we Muslims should be able to discuss reasonably.  The beard as described in the sunnah is not even worn by many in CAIR’s leadership, so it is curious that they are so adamant about it as a religious requirement. I will point out that in that interview I did not even explicitly say that men should be forbidden from having beards.  One thing many seem to be forgetting is that a career in the military is not one for those who want limitless personal expression through their appearance. I applaud the military for looking at these more inclusive policies, but also understand that the uniform is meant to create some amount of visual uniformity. I continue to ask that commanding officers be protected from organizations like CAIR who will insert themselves into command decisions to either allow or deny any special religious dress request.

VOR]: During an interview I had with Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesperson for CAIR, he has posed the question to you: How can you defend religious freedom in this organization while decrying religious freedoms for Muslims in the American military?

Dr. Jasser: It is truly stunning – and revealing – that a CAIR official asked me, another American, to defend my position on religious liberty by asking me a question through Russian state media- a foreign media arm of an autocratic state which by the way has great incentive in misrepresenting my positions due to the stance I have taken against the Assad regime and Russia’s support of their genocide from the beginning of their Revolution in 2011.  The simple answer is: Mr. Hooper, as any person with basic literacy and comprehension skills can easily verify, I have never “decried religious freedoms for Muslims in the American military.” This is a dishonest assertion, but as I have said before, CAIR’s inability to engage with integrity is not unexpected, and their desire to silence the urgently needed ideological battle within the Muslim community is legion. I not only stand behind my comments but my eleven years of service in the US Navy as a proud American Muslim.

VOR]: It has been over a month since CAIR has made its press release public, can you give a reason or reasons as to why you have not given any direct response to the organization?

Dr. Jasser: I wonder if Voice of Russia has verified this allegation, or if you have simply taken CAIR’s word for it? First, CAIR’s press release was just that – a press release, a public attack. They were not entitled to a personal response from me, but my organization did indeed publish a response within a few days. A link to that response is here, and is posted prominently on our website. CAIR officials have been made aware of our response. Various members of their staff have taken to social media to attack me, calling me an “Uncle Tom” and even a “monkey.” You can in fact follow my twitter timeline and see that engagement with their leadership. You could easily find my organization engaging CAIR officials on these very issues, and you could also easily find interviews in which I address these issues. Not a one has engaged me on substance – they have merely resorted to ad hominem attacks and untruths. Finally, I have challenged CAIR to a thoughtful public debate on multiple occasions and have received no response. Private conversations with leaders of an organization whose modus operands are through the dissemination of fabrications and deception are a waste of time and do nothing to hold them accountable and honest. We have always been willing to engage their leadership in public substantive conversations.

VOR]: Can there ever be a truce or common understanding between your involvement with religious freedom organizations and CAIR’s activities within the Islamic community?

Dr. Jasser: As long as CAIR continues to lie about my relationship to my faith and my community, and as long as they continue their malicious attacks against Muslims who seek to advance liberty and freedom,  no, there cannot be a “truce.” By the way, intra-faith “truces” within an American faith community over deep ideological disagreements are not best broached by the state media apparatus of a foreign autocracy like Russia. It would seem that CAIR feigns being focused on domestic civil rights of Muslims in the U.S. while spending most of its time engaging foreign media of autocratic states from Saudi Arabia to Iran and now Russia to perpetuate false information about other American Muslims.

VOR]: Islam is said to be a religion of peace, how can opposing organizations (in this instance the one you stand for and CAIR), promote peace and harmony for the same exact cause if there is so much conflict between the two groups?

Dr. Jasser: This is a peculiar question, as it seems to suggest that Muslims ourselves are a monolith. As I have explained repeatedly in my decades of work for religious freedom and peace, there is a conflict within the “House of Islam,” between those who truly support the separation of mosque and state both when we are minorities in a country and in countries where we are a majority — and those who would ultimately welcome an Islamic state or global caliphate. I delve into this in my 2012 book, A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save his Faith. I do not believe that CAIR stands for “the same exact cause” as I do. An organization like CAIR which sends letters to corrupt thuggish dictators like Muammar Qaddafi, fawning over him and what they called his exemplary Islamic behavior is hardly an organization with which I am going to find much common ground. As I said in my response to CAIR’s press release: if we want the military and the broader American community to truly embrace the contribution of American Muslims, we must reject the bullying tactics of organizations like CAIR, who claim to advocate for civil rights but really peddle a narrative of ceaseless victimhood while denigrating and libeling any Muslims who seek balance against the threat of Islamist ideologies.  Their approach belittles true transgressions against religious liberty and in fact ostracizes those Muslims who bravely serve our country. Millions of liberal Egyptian Muslims protested the Muslim Brotherhood leadership and their Islamist theocratic policies last year. Rational observers would not say that those liberal Muslims who rose against the Islamists last June were “anti-Muslim”. Those anti-Islamist Muslim voices deserve respect and honest debate whether in Egypt, the United States, or Russia.

 

Sochi’s Spotlight

The Olympic Games have never been just about the Games. The Olympic Games have also been a venue where political and ideological dramas take the stage. From Jesse Owens’s dismantling of Hitler’s Aryan supremacy in Berlin in 1936 to 1980’s Miracle On Ice at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY and President Carter’s boycott of the Moscow Olympics in protest of Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, current affairs have always been the invisible sixth ring of the Olympics. South Africa was even excluded from the Games for its apartheid policies.

 

As cameras are turned on Sochi, just outside the village lies a convergence of many issues driving domestic and international conflict.  In recent weeks much attention has been focused on the militant Islamist threat. While it may seem strange to mix sport with Islamist extremism, we must remember that it was the Summer Games in Munich in 1972 that woke many to the reality of terrorism.

 

Initial reports focused on the threat from the so called “Black Widows”- widows of militant Islamists who, radicalized themselves, pledge to wage suicide attacks. But the threat is far wider. While the media may see the “Black Widows” as fascinating TV, there has been far less attention paid to a man known as Russia’s very own Osama bin Laden, Doku Umarov.

 

Last year, Umarov released a video explicitly calling for jihadi attacks against the Olympic Games, calling them “satanic dances upon the bones of our ancestors”. Just last month, a separatist Islamist group executed suicide attacks on Volgograd’s transit system, killing 34 just 400 miles from the Olympic Village. These cases are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Russia’s Islamist problem. The Caucuses region and specifically Chechnya is teeming with radical Islamists, their numbers are growing exponentially thanks to gulf petrodollars and the fascist, repressive approach of Russia’s security forces, which have only served to alienate much of their Muslim populations.

 

As usual, little attention has been paid to root causes of these threats. This refusal to engage the root causes of terrorism is our greatest downfall.  It is high time we addressed the fact that our indifference combined with Russian tyranny and regional ambition has created a perfect storm for jihadist recruitment from the caucuses to Syria and Iran and the gulf. With America and Europe essentially withdrawn from any forward advocacy of liberty in any Muslim majority states and populations, this has created a vacuum.  For decades, we have relied on Arab dictators and Russian nationalists to crush militants, turning a blind eye to the undeniable fact that this actually helps to fuel Islamist ideology.

 

The Obama administration has sadly squandered opportunity after opportunity to advocate for genuine liberals in the wake of the Arab Awakening in the Middle East.  The millions in the Arab world who rose against their dictators have been left to fend for themselves while the free world takes a pass. Liberals seeking real reform are not blind to the fact that tyrants like Assad are still around because they are propped up by their fellow autocrats in Russia, Iran, or China. In response, our commander-in-chief has led the free world through repeated exercises in hand wringing that has left our best allies for dead.

 

In Cold War 2.0, we have seen the bizarre re-ascension of Russian influence in the region. A country beleaguered by its post-Soviet failings has capitalized on American passivity to resurrect its own regional aspirations economically and politically with complete disregard for human rights and liberty. Vladamir Putin has openly supported the genocidal Baathist Syrian regime of Bashar Assad maintaining their naval base in Tartus and continuing the almost two generation symbiotic friendship with Syria’s ruling fascist military party. Similarly Putin has also tightened economic and political ties in support of Iran’s regional ambitions and nuclear advancement.

 

Domestically, Russia has long been a leading violator of international standards of religious freedom repressing most faith traditions except the one denomination of Christianity which works closely with the Kremlin- the Russian Orthodox Church. In countering Islamist radicalism their repressive policies make no distinction between violent and non-violent ideologies. As a result separatist groups have flourished in the underground of Russia’s Muslim communities.

 

Syria is another example of how radical Islam’s greatest friend is sweeping repression. In the name of “counterterrorism”, Assad’s brutal policies, carpet bombing of opposition towns, and genocide campaign has only turned the Syria of today into the world’s largest breeding ground of Islamist jihadists. Assad and his father before him, both Alawite, considered to be a offshoot of Shia Islam, have brutally repressed opposition in the Sunni majority nation. This has turned what started off as a broad based Syrian Revolution against Ba’athism into now a deeply sectarian battle.

 

Many in the West have been content to just stay out of the fray in Syria and allow Shia extremists (specifically Hezbollah, backed by Iran) and Sunni extremists (Al Qaeda backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar) battle it out and destroy each other. This negligence is not a solution and in fact rather creates hardened, battle tested militant Islamists on both sides who have no love for either Russia or the West. Our absence of leadership with the grass roots freedom movements in Syria has allowed Assad to openly decimate the majority in Syria who asked for nothing more than freedom and now find themselves caught in the crossfire between radical jihadists and secular fascists. When Assad’s military is finally defeated, it may be impossible for America to regain any credibility as arbiters for liberty on the ground.

 

America holds the key to whether the Arab Awakening transforms into an Islamist winter or spring of liberty. It doesn’t have to cost one soldier’s life or anywhere near the billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan and Iraq. It requires that we first understand the sides at odds in the battle that is raging within the House of Islam.

 

Contrary to the media narrative and the conventional wisdom of the Beltway, there are more than two fronts. We must take the side of those that embrace the same ideological concepts that led to an American reformation – liberty, freedom and secular government.  The majority of Muslims and certainly the majority of Syrians do not embrace the dead end of an Islamic state. They have been saddled with the binary choice of either secular dictators who hold their populace under their boots or theocratic extremists who do the same only in the name of God and Islam.

 

The spotlight on the security situation in and around Sochi gives us an opportunity to examine the threat and explore the pathways forward that may stem the tide of growth of Islamist extremism and build real opportunities for freedom for the peoples of the Middle East.  Military options have been tried for over six decades and failed. We won’t win the greater battle for liberty until we engage on the ideological front and embrace the principles that we proclaim are meant for all humanity.