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We need a “Zero Tolerance” Policy on Honor Violence

Abid Hussain is a 56 year old cleric who runs a mosque in Manchester, UK. When his sixteen-year old daughter, Rabiyah, refused to marry the boy he chose for her- a cousin living in Pakistan – he beat and attempted to strangle her in the family home just above the mosque. Hussain made it clear that should Rabiyah refuse the marriage, he would kill her. Rabiyah’s brothers, Nawab and Bahaud, assisted their father in brutalizing Rabiyah.

There is no question that Abid Hussain committed unthinkable brutality against his daughter, and there is no doubt that his actions were criminal. What we also know, however, is that what happened to Rabiyah is a clear case of honor-based violence. Honor-based violence punishes a member of the family, usually a female, for actions perceived to bring “shame” or “dishonor” to the family. These “offenses” can include wearing short sleeves,  talking to a member of the opposite sex, refusing an arranged marriage, becoming pregnant outside of marriage, or even being raped. While honor-based violence is not condoned by Islam, it is unfortunately prevalent in many Muslim communities.

Over 5,000 girls and women lose their lives in honor killings every year. Honor killings are the final step in a pattern of abuse that begins with threats and often beatings like the one Rabiyah experienced.

Despite the clear danger Rabiyah Hussain’s father still poses to her safety, Judge Michael Leeming spared him an immediate and serious jail sentence. In a ruling that troubles us deeply, Judge Leeming postponed sentences for Rabiyah’s father and two brothers, referring to her father as a man of “obvious standing,” (as a cleric in the local community), and referring to the brutalization of Rabiyah as an attempt to “coerce” her in to the father’s beliefs.

In taking such a lighthanded approach, Judge Leeming effectively let an attempted murderer, Abid Hussain, and his two accomplices (Rabiyah’s brothers Nawab and Bahaud) off with a warning, on what seem like cultural grounds. What will happen to Rabiyah in the coming days, weeks, and months? Would the judge have treated a case involving non-Muslims differently – and, if so, do the lives of Muslim women and girls matter less in the eyes of this British judge?

Honor-based violence is a problem we in the United States still have yet to address effectively. Earlier this year, the honor beating and near murder of Aiya Al-Tamimi did receive modest media coverage. However, Aiya’s mother, who tied Aiya down, beat her and cut her throat – was also spared a jail sentence. We wrote about Aiya’s case here, and the threat moral relativism poses to the lives of Muslim girls and women. (See television commentary by Dr. Jasser on Aiya’s case here, here, here and here.)

 

Noor Al-Maleki, murdered by her father in 2009 (Arizona, USA)

Noor Al-Maleki was murdered by her father in Phoenix, Arizona in 2009. Noor’s father, Faleh Al-Maleki, subjected his daughter to long-term torment, ultimately running her over with his Jeep Cherokee for her “western” behavior. Noor had lived in fear of her father for years, even running away from home. Her father, however, was charged with second degree murder rather than first degree (premeditated) murder. At the sentencing, judge Roland Steinle took the opportunity to claim, at great length, that Noor was not murdered for honor – despite Faleh Al-Maleki’s repeated admission that “honor” was absolutely his motivation. (See Dr. Jasser’s comments on this case here.)

The murder of Muslim girls and women is no more understandable or acceptable because of any tribal code of “honor.” Warnings, pleas to assimilate, and passive hope that at some point, Muslim girls and women will be freed from the misogyny of “honor” are not enough. We must work to effectively identify signs of honor-based violence and prevent their brutal and horrifying outcomes.

Resources:

International Honour Based Violence Resource Centre & Honour-Based Violence Awareness Network 

MEMINI: a memorial site to remember the victims of honor-based violence.

The International Campaign Against Honor Killings

Misguided “Million Muslim March” Won’t be just be Sparse – it’s also a Disgrace

A “Million American March Against Fear” sounds like a benign, if not positive, way to commemorate the upcoming anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Imagine: Americans of all backgrounds and faiths joining in one voice, telling the terrorists that no, they have not won; that despite the evil our country has endured at their hands – we still stand against fear. Because they have not made us afraid, we have won.

Unfortunately, the “Million American March Against Fear” is no such event. Its title is a mere reworking of what its organizers previously called the “Million Muslim March.” Organized by the previously unknown American Muslim Political Action Committee (AMPAC), it will feature speakers from a multitude of Islamist groups (including CAIR-Los Angeles and the Muslim American Society), and is heavily supported by  9/11 “truther” groups. The group’s leader, MD Rabbi Alam, has long been known as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist, and his colleagues are no better. AMPAC’s national communications director, Dr. Kevin Barrett, was identified by the Anti-Defamation League as a vicious anti-Semitic proponent of 9/11 conspiracy theories. He also boasts of publications in Iranian and Russian media on his bizzare website, “Truth Jihad.”

Last night, Dr. Jasser debated Christopher Phillips, who has previously been quite active with Occupy Wall Street and its affiliates. Last evening, he was representing AMPAC. In a stunning display, Mr. Phillips was unable to unequivocally deny the problematic nature of the group organizing the demonstration on September 11.  When asked about AMPAC’s troublesome history as advocates of 9/11 “truther” theories and proponents of anti-Semitic rhetoric, Phillips dodged questions, shouted illogical responses, and seemed shocked and offended to be asked about his own group and its leadership. Most revealing of all, when asked if groups like Hamas and Hezbollah were welcome at his event, Phillips replied: “everyone is invited.” His only condition was that the event itself not be violent. It seems that AMPAC chose Mr. Phillips to represent them on national television to communicate that theirs is no longer an explicitly “Muslim march.” What was communicated, however, is that their event is just as offensive  as we first believed. (See Dr. Jasser commenting further on the event here.)

If AMPAC sought to demonstrate against fear, it would organize a demonstration against those who intend to strike terror into the hearts of innocent people by protesting the ideology of Nidal Hasan, whose trial is currently underway in Texas; or join those of us who address, honestly and openly, the cause of radicalization that lead to the terrorist attacks in Boston in April of this year. They would demonstrate in solidarity with Christians in Egypt who have seen their places of worship and their businesses destroyed by vigilantes who plunder and burn while screaming the name of our God. We have repeatedly seen Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups refuse to address these issues (and demonize us for doing so). Now we see some of their leadership trickling to attend AMPAC’s circus on the Hill.

To the American Muslim Political Action Committee, we say: America already stands against fear. We do this by protecting the American values of liberty and freedom, of truth and resilience in the face of terror. We do this by fighting the very ideology which attacked us on September 11, 2001 and again on April 15, 2013 – and which has sought to attack us countless times in between and after. We stand against terror, against anti-Semitism, and against the toxic ideology you have claimed will bring a “million Muslims” to the capital of this great nation. We take heart, knowing this will not happen – and we remain steadfast in our condemnation of your event, your ideology, and your goals.

To watch the video of Dr. Jasser debating Chris Phillips of the American Muslim Political Action Committee:

The trouble with “Jumah at the DNC”

It is troubling that the Democratic National Convention has decided to promote and lend its name and national political platform to the organizers of the “Jummah at the DNC”. The leaders of this event – Jibril Hough and Imam Siraj Wahhaj as advertised are no moderates. They are radicals. These individuals embrace Islamist supremacy and have demonstrated support for radical ideologies.

A quick Google search by the DNC would have shown them that Hough and Wahhaj are leaders in the separatist American Islamist movement. While they may be able to get a few thousand Muslims to attend the event, they are NOT going to be mainstream Muslims.  Most will likely come from Hough and Wahhaj’s radical networks that have long been entrenched in the Charlotte area. Make no mistake they are part of the Islamist movement.

This is not about their right of assembly; this group under a different name pulled the same stunt at the US capitol in 2009 claiming 20k and getting 2-3k. THIS IS ABOUT the DNC calling this an “official function” listing these radicals as typical of the DNC community and more importantly about this organization speaking out AS representing supposedly typical American Muslims (or “Mainstream”).

If that is who the DNC is consorting with then all Americans, Democrats should be concerned. There are many patriotic Muslims who are part of both parties, and when radical ideologues like this do a demonstration of “solidarity” in the name of our faith and choose an imam like Siraj Wahhaj who I saw with my own eyes in 1995 seditiously say it his duty and our duty as Muslims to replace the US Constitution with the Quran- then we need to speak up!

Their jummah (group) prayer is supposedly against the Patriot Act, the NYPD, and Islamophobia and is actually NOT about our democracy but about empowering their Islamist and MB sympathetic groups into the very fabric of the political system so that Americans become anesthetized. We need American Muslims to speak up and marginalize these radicals. The DNC needs to understand and reject them because of their radical history and ideas.

They use our American Muslim identity to speak as “one community” as a political unit or as a “bloc vote” – a political Islamist party when in fact most us Muslims don’t want that political unity and seek reform against their ideology that seeks to hijack our community. They do not represent us.

For more on Jibril Hough please review AIFD’s piece “Connecting the Dots of Islamism-Jibril Hough, the Islamic Political Party of America (IPPA), and the Jamaat al-Muslimeen (JAM)” or listen to Dr. Zuhdi Jasser’s March 8, 2010 interview on the Keith Larson show on WBT Charlotte.  Jibril Hough phones in half way through.

 

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.

236 years later and the United States is still best laboratory for the potential of liberty

American Muslim organization celebrates 4th of July with focus on Muslim Liberty Project

PHOENIX (July 4, 2012) – M. Zuhdi Jasser president and founder of The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) and author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight for His Faith released the following statement to commemorate the Fourth of July:

“As we come together to celebrate the Fourth of July this week, it is only appropriate to take a moment to reflect on the importance of this day. When those 55 men signed their name on the Declaration of Independence they not only declared their independence from the British crown, but demonstrated for all humanity that our Creator intended us to be free. In so doing they reclaimed faith from the crown and vested it in the hands of the people.

These brave actions culminated in the grand experiment that is America. While there are certainly conflicts that divide us, there is no place where I as an American Muslim can live, practice my faith and pursue happiness that is as free and as just as the United States.

As we celebrate our Independence, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy takes as a solemn duty our call to demonstrate to the youth and in particular the Muslim youth of America the importance of maintaining vigilance over the rights that are ordained from our creator, but guaranteed by our Constitution.  Our Muslim Liberty Project aims to teach our children that government based in reason that embraces the right of every individual to accept or reject faith as they see fit is not in conflict with their Islamic faith and in reality provides the safest environment for Muslims to exist.

With the changes in the Middle East and the rise of Islamists to power in the region that duty becomes even more important. The threat posed by the radicalization of our youth in American Muslim communities is as palpable today as it has ever been.  As we have seen in Norway in just the past week, Al Qaeda in Yemen is not sitting idly by waiting to find ways to attack us.  They are engaged and working every day to get beyond our defenses.

If we inoculate our American Muslim youth against the ideology of Islamism and its inherent pathway towards radicalization, we keep the wolves at bay and leave room for these youth to embrace the values of Americanism that were put into action with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Take time on this holiday to thank the founding fathers for their courage and their conviction. May God Bless the United States of America and may God keep and protect those in the U.S. military that fight to maintain that freedom for us.”

About the American Islamic Foundation for Democracy

The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  AIFD’s mission advocates for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state.  For more information on AIFD, please visit our website at http://www.aifdemocracy.org/.

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Gregg Edgar

Gordon C. James Public Relations

gedgar@gcjpr.com

602-690-7977

Muslim Brotherhood victory in Egypt a clarion call against passivity in the Middle East

Statement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Muslim Brotherhood victory in Egypt a clarion call against passivity in the Middle East

U.S. needs a Liberty Doctrine to guide the awakening in the region

PHOENIX (June 25, 2012) – M. Zuhdi Jasser president and founder of The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) and author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight for His Faith released the following statement regarding the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in the Egyptian presidential race:

 

“The victory of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s presidential race validates the fears that many had of the revolutions that swept through the Middle East over the past 16 months.  Though the Egyptian Military is proclaiming control of much of the power structure in the country, the reality is that the freedom that the people of Egypt had gone to the streets to attain will once again be kept from their grasp. And the security that the West desperately needs from the region will remain elusive and unattainable.

 

This outcome while predictable did not have to be a foregone conclusion.  The people of Egypt are hungry for freedom. With the right guidance and efforts to develop the country’s political infrastructure the people could have shown that they no longer need to be shackled to the binary choice of either the Secular Fascism of Mubarak’s political apparatus or the theocratic rule offered by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.  There is a third option that is based in liberty and universal freedom.

 

The Brotherhood’s victory needs to serve as a clarion call for the United States and the West that the passive laissez faire approach to diplomacy in the region will result in countries with governments that are diametrically opposed to western freedom.

 

This chaos is in many ways a direct result of the unwillingness of the Obama Administration to engage in a proactive manner. As the U.S. heads into the heart of the presidential political season, an Obama Doctrine is nowhere to be found. So the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennahda in Tunisia and the Islamists in Libya are able to commandeer a new Middle-East with no ideological battle against the freedom that the people really want.

 

We need to help advocate for a third pathway of liberty, freedom, and free markets in emerging democracies. Islamists need to be challenged, engaged, and defeated in the marketplace of ideas. We need to advocate a new Liberty Doctrine in the region with assets on the ground that can build political infrastructure by developing secular, liberty minded leaders that do exist in Muslim nations but are lost in the chaos and control of old powers.

 

The awakening of January 2011 was a sign of a new thirst for freedom from the Egyptian masses. Though they came from a free ballot box, the final candidates in the end were a sign of the old autocrats, the old apparatus and not of the new. There was simply not enough time for anything tangible, new, and truly free to take hold. The U.S. is now rightly seen by many as contributing if anything through silence and negligence if not through outright facilitation to the ascent of the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

The ballot box is only the first step in a long journey towards universal freedom and liberal democracy. They will not arrive at that destination without the old autocrats in the region being actively defeated. Only the U.S. and the free world can give liberals in the region a remote chance at winning.”

 

About the American Islamic Foundation for Democracy

The American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  AIFD’s mission advocates for the preservation of the founding principles of the United States Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state.  For more information on AIFD, please visit our website at http://www.aifdemocracy.org/.

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.

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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.

 

List of “Most Influential Muslims” Illustrates the Problem – and Presents Opportunities

The 2012 edition of the “500 Most Influential Muslims,” as determined by Jordan’s “Royal  Islamic Strategic Studies Centre” is especially interesting this year: it is dominated by Americans.

Instinctively, one might think that Muslims promoting the ideals of individual liberty, freedom of conscience, and universal human rights might therefore dominate the list. Indeed, having such a significant amount of our own citizens on such a list would be a tremendous opportunity to showcase how the United States allows Muslims to lead in every arena, while embracing a pluralistic interpretation of our faith.

Sadly, it seems that this opportunity has been missed. The United States is represented instead by individuals like Nihad Awad of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR);  Imam Siraj Wahhaj (vice-president of the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA], former national board member of CAIR, defender of The “Blind Sheikh”, etc); Imam Mohamed Magid (current president of ISNA);  Sheikh Hamza Yusuf (founder of Zaytuna College), etc. These are, to say the least, not the best representatives of Islam in America.

On a broader scale, the picture of those considered the “most influential” Muslims is even more grim. Holding the top spot of most influential Muslim in the world is King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who, while certainly not admired by the majority of Muslims we know, absolutely heads the global Islamist enterprise with his kingdom’s petro dollars. Others in leading positions on the list include Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of increasingly Islamist Turkey; Dr. Mohammed Badie, the “supreme guide” of the Muslim Brotherhood; Ayatollah Khameini, Yusuf Qaradawi, and Muhammad Morsi (the new president of Egypt).

The creators of the list disclose at the start that these are not necessarily individuals they endorse – but that they are individuals they’ve determined to hold the greatest influence worldwide. While we wonder about the likelihood of some people having influence over those not on the list (for example, another American – Sheila Musaji  – makes the cut, but not Fatima Mernissi, legendary and widely loved Moroccan feminist? Further, we know from the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center’s polling that American Muslims simply don’t feel represented by groups like CAIR and ISNA);  we know that regrettably, those Muslims who have the most political and financial influence worldwide are Islamists.  We also must note that the list itself was the brainchild of Prince Gazi bin Muhammad of Jordan; it is produced by a Jordanian think-tank bearing the name “Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre”; and Harvard’s John Esposito has served as a chief editor of the publication in the past – and so while its creators claim to be presenting only the objectively influential voices from within the Muslim community, such a claim is dubious at best. In fact, we find it both puzzling and troubling that Omar Sacirbey, whose write-up on the publication appeared in the Washington Post, called this a “respected think-tank.”

Even if the list itself were listing individuals based on reasonable and objective measures of influence, the devil is, as they say, in the details. The only individual listed as influential in Syrian politics is Bashar al-Assad, the mass murderer responsible for the slaughter of roughly 40,000 Syrians, and the torture, mutilation, rape of countless others. The paragraph about Assad is eerily neutral:

“Al-Assad is an Alawite Shi’a and president of the Syrian Arab Republic. Because of its strategic position in the Middle East, Syria is regarded as a major player in any peace agreement in the Middle East. The violent crackdowns on protests in 2011 have lead to what is now a civil war. Claims of atrocities and misinformation abound on both sides.”

Describing “claims of atrocities” in a way that suggests that there is any comparison in scale or scope of violence between the murderous and bloodthirsty regime of “Bashar the Butcher” and the many Syrians who seek to oust him is despicable – and reflects the overall quality and tenor of this report on “Muslim influence.”

We do recognize that the list isn’t entirely problematic. Listed also are individuals like Waris Dirie, a Somali model, author, actress, filmmaker and courageous fighter against female genital mutilation. A survivor of both FGM and forced marriage, Ms Dirie went on to found the Desert Flower Foundation, which works to end FGM with no exceptions for culture or religion. Naser Khader, former member of the Danish parliament, critic of Islamism and defender of free speech also made the list. So did Dr. Hawa Abdi, Somalia’s first female gynecologist and founder of the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation, whose work means over 90,000 Somali refugees have a place to live. Her foundation also works on education, agriculture and healthcare issues.

Whether the list is biased toward Islamists or not, it reveals what we at AIFD already know: liberty-minded Muslims have a long road ahead of us if we wish to overtake Islamists when it comes to having more influence than they do in the public sphere. While many of us are well respected in our personal and professional circles, and often have many Muslim friends and colleagues who think the way we do and support us in our work, the fact is that most majority-Muslim organizations (and countries!) are run by theocrats who see pluralism, liberty, and freedom of conscience as threats to be defeated rather than as the life forces of any healthy society.

Again, America’s Values Betrayed in Mideast Policy

Banner in Cairo, Egypt June 2013

“Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change…

In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia.  In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy.  The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can – and will – insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people.”

–          President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, February 12, 2013

President Obama’s many statements about the need to protect and preserve freedom, universal human rights, and individual liberty would be welcome expressions of American values – if they bore any weight.

This month, the Obama administration continued its legacy of bolstering those diametrically opposed to individual liberty and human rights by inviting Saudi Arabia’s Abdallah bin Bayyah to the White House.

To those unaware of his insidious views, Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah may appear “moderate.” He has signed onto the famed Amman Message, which claims to promote a moderate interpretation of Islam, focused on the promotion of interfaith dialogue and human rights. He is a mentor to several high-profile figures, including Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, who is known internationally as a soft-spoken, “modern” guide for young Muslims. (Hamza Yusuf calls Abdallah bin Bayyah his “teacher in Saudi Arabia.”) One can also find him heavily quoted and cited at the website of Imam Suhaib Webb of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, which has also published this essay by Abdallah bin Bayyah in praise of Yusuf Qaradawi, as well as this essay in defense of Qaradawi, bin Bayyah’s close associate.

A hallmark of modern Islamism is the employment of doublespeak – the Amman Message, for example – speaks highly of interfaith efforts and global harmony – but several of its signatories, including bin Bayyah himself, call for criminalization of statements considered offensive to Islam and Muslims:

We ask everyone to ponder the ramifications of provoking the feelings of over one billion people by a small party of people who desires not to seek peace nor fraternity between members of humanity.  This poses a threat to world peace with no tangible benefit realized.  Is it not necessary in today’s world for the United Nations to issue a resolution criminalizing the impingement of religious symbols?  We request all religious and political authorities, as well as people of reason to join us in putting a stop to this futility that benefits no one….

To the world’s Muslims: Expressing outrage in the face of the maligning of God or the Prophet Muhammad is a moral right, as faith cannot be devoid of feelings and immunity from provocation…”

(Abdallah bin Bayyah, “Declaration Regarding the Offensive Video to Muslims”)

Bin Bayyah’s cohorts are similarly well-versed in doublespeak. Hamza Yusuf’s message, for example, may initially sound moderate – he advises men to have mercy on women, to defend and protect them – but one must listen more closely. In his lectures, he says that Muslims are in a state of ma’siyah, or “disobedience of Allah” (sin). He describes the following as signs that Muslims are in a state of sin: they have “left jihad,” and Muslim women “dishonor themselves” by taking off the hijab. He also says that non-Muslim society is a “sick” “society of wolves” and that Muslim women “have a lot more innocence than their [non-Muslim] women,”  even if they do not wear the hijab. So, while he may rightfully object to men’s fixation on women’s dress, he does so whilst inciting disrespect of women considered to be outside of Islam.

Abdallah bin Bayyah’s resume contains many troubling highlights. A native of Mauritania, bin Bayyah served as the head of Sharia Affairs as well as Judge at the High Court of the Islamic republic, which has yet to fully abolish slavery. The Mauritanian government, of which bin Bayyah was a part, continues to deny the existence of slavery in the country. While Muslim anti-slavery activists like Nasser Weddady have sought asylum in the United States only to be maligned by the Islamist establishment in the United States, Abdallah bin Bayyah has been championed by groups like the Islamic Society of North America, who sent its president, Mohamed Magid, to meet with bin Bayyah in Mauritina under the guise of promoting minority rights in the Muslim world.

In further unsettling news, a 2004 fatwa (religious edict) released by the International Union for Muslim Scholars (where bin Bayyah serves as vice president of the board), called on all “able-bodied Muslims” to fight U.S. and allied forces in Iraq; stating that to “aid the occupier is impermissible.” This fatwa encouraged Muslims both in and outside of Iraq to fight U.S. efforts to combat insurgents in the region.

As Muslim-majority societies begin to rise against political Islam (as can be seen in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and most recently in Egypt, which experienced the largest protests in world history as its population surged against the Muslim Brotherhood on June 30), President Obama’s inability – or is it disinterest? – in standing with “citizens who demand their universal rights” – becomes all the more apparent.

Abdallah bin Bayyah was purportedly invited to the White House “to discuss poverty, global health efforts and Bin Bayyah’s own efforts to speak out against Al Qaeda.” Surely there are individuals concerned with poverty, global health and counter-extremism efforts the Obama administration could consult with who aren’t rabid Islamists? As Dr. Jasser explained on Fox and Friends this Sunday, June 30, Abdallah bin Bayyah may publicly speak against Al-Qaeda, but he is not against the promotion of the Islamic state, of blasphemy laws, gender apartheid, or even Hamas.

If the Obama administration were truly interested in advancing what President Obama refers to as the universal values of freedom, self-determination and individual opportunity, he and his administration would eagerly seek out voices of reform and modernity within the Muslim community, not the voices of those who are actively promoting the global Islamist agenda. We call on President Obama to recognize that his administration’s credibility isn’t the only thing on the line – indeed, should our government continue in its failure to stand with anti-Islamist Muslims and our allies, the horrors of Boston and Benghazi are but a mere preview of what the Islamists have in store for all of us who refuse to bend to their will.