Many thanks to Anestos Canelides for the following interview with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
The American Islamic Forum for Democracy — Friends of America and Freedom
by Anestos Canelides
Looking at current events and terrorism throughout the world, it’s easy to believe that all Muslims are a danger to our freedoms, and categorize them as evildoers who threaten us with carnage. This belief is erroneous; the fact is that many Muslims in the United States do not agree with the radical Islamist agenda.
I spent time in Turkey, and was very impressed by how well-treated I was by the largely Muslim population. As their religion grows in the USA, we will see more cultural conflicts between them and the jihadist imams. Realize this — there are many Muslims in America who are very patriotic. They not only support pluralism but oppose Islamic supremacy. Not only is it important to acknowledge the truly moderate Muslims, but we should see them an important asset in the fight against an oppressive religious ideology.
One such group found on the Internet, via Jihad Watch, is the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) or www.aifdemocracy.org
In an email interview I asked Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, the chairman of their Board of Directors, some key questions about their organization and his answers speak volumes. In this war of ideology we must not only acknowledge who the enemy is, but also who our allies are. I consider AIFD an important asset in our struggle to protect the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights from those who would replace it with Sharia law. It is my desire that more Americans become aware of great organizations like the AIFD, and help them to obtain their goal, which is to stop the jihadis by educating both Muslims and non-Muslims about the real threat.
Who is AIFD?
|A:||The American Islamic Forum for Democracy is a non-profit think tank and activist organization I founded along with other Muslims in the Phoenix area in March 2003.
|Q:||What is your purpose?
|A:||We had long been aware that radical Islam and its militant manifestations in Al Qaeda, HAMAS, Hezbullah the Taliban, and other terrorist organizations was not simply related to ‘terror’ — a tactic — but rather more deeply related to the ends all these organizations sought- some form of the Islamic state based in their versions of shariah law (Islamic jurisprudence). Ultimately, we formed AIFD to counter the supremacist theo-political ideologies that fuel radical Islam. We believe that the threat of radical Islam will not dissipate until the “Muslim” consciousness goes through an ‘Enlightenment’ process that separates mosque and state.
Ultimately, while Al Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups have used attacks against American and Western interests to collectivize Muslims and drive away Western influence upon Muslims through attempting to stimulate an American isolationism, the primary targets of terror groups have always been moderate Muslims who do not toe their theocratic Islamist line. Victory against radical Islam is contingent upon how the civil war of ideas within the “House of Islam” plays out in this next generation.
Much like the classical liberalism of the Western nation state evolved out of the European Enlightenment that marginalized the role of the Church in government, so too can classical liberalism drive the marginalization of Islamists from governments where Muslims are a majority. Our purpose is the advocacy of these ideas of liberty and freedom against political Islam, but from within the devotional Muslim consciousness.
|Q:||What are your goals in educating Americans about both radical Islam and tolerant Muslims such as yourself?|
|A:||Our goal is to awaken America to the need to develop a forward strategy against the ideas of political Islam by enabling the advocates of liberty from within Muslim communities domestically and abroad, while marginalizing the advocates of political Islam.
If the faith of Islam inherently taught terrorism and militancy, I think the world would have perished long ago since it is a faith practiced by a quarter of the world’s population. I personally have never met a Muslim that believes in terrorism or that the “ends justifies the means”. However, the tactic of terror is employed by Islamists or those who advocate political Islam and its prescription for society and government.
It is that prescription that America has yet to engage critically. In fact many in our government and media feel that as long as Islamists advocate non-violent means for the advancement of their causes then they are not a threat. We hope to continue to educate Americans at every opportunity that even lawful non-violent Islamism which may not advocate terror is also a threat to our way of life in the West and in the United States.
Islamists even argue that they follow the laws of the lands in which they live. But that implies that if Muslims are a majority, they would advocate for a system different from this one and that is certainly the case for Islamists that believe in the Islamic state over our constitutional republic. So far most studies show that Islamists are a plurality but not a majority of Muslims; however, while the rest are non-Islamists or anti-Islamists the ideas of freedom and liberty have yet to take hold, since the experience of most Muslims has been colored by secular despots and oppressive tribal monarchs who have not given their populations opportunities to discover the ideas of liberty.
We hope to educate Americans that the mission to bring Muslim ideas into modernity is not only a Muslim problem. Ultimately Muslim advocates for liberty will need the help of like-minded Americans of all faiths who realize that this battle of ideas within the “House of Islam” has yet to be waged fairly and the result will impact greatly our national security at home and abroad. It is time for Americans to understand that taking sides in this war of ideas is long overdue, and that our absence at best and facilitation at worst of Islamists over the past century has given the transnational movement of political Islam a great head start that has put Muslim freedom advocates at a great disadvantage.
|Q:||Do you believe in pluralism in America, and how are you fighting the Islamic supremacists?
|A:||Absolutely, that is one of the primary reasons I founded AIFD. American pluralism is a reality because of the ideas of our founding fathers that came to fruition in our constitutional republic based in the principles of liberty and equality for all. While I am a devout conservative Muslim, I am, however, strongly against the so-called “Islamic state” based in “shariah” law. I believe our American form of government and legal system based in reason and with our Establishment Clause is the best way to guarantee the human rights of all citizens “under God”. I believe that my faith practice is no longer a choice and thus no longer a faith if the clerics, imams, or mullahs enact their own interpretation of Islamic laws on behalf of God.
America was formed on the idea that the separation of Church and state was necessary for devout Christians to have the freedom to practice their own interpretations of their own faith and keep the Church out of government and Canon law out of the governmental legal systems. Similarly, even if Muslims are able to modernize shariah law and make it compatible with principles of human rights honored in the West, I still would want it kept out of government, since by definition pluralistic systems need to have equal access by all citizens blind to faith. I have never had a conflict in the practice of my own interpretation of Islam and the principles of pluralism in America, and it is that ideology that I seek to promote in our reform efforts at AIFD within the Muslim consciousness.
We are fighting Islamic supremacism by being in the frontlines in the war of ideas inside the “House of Islam” wherever possible at the many intersections of the ideological conflict between the ideas of political Islam and the ideas of liberty (Western secular liberal democracy). I feel that what has been missing in the war of ideas has been any offense. The U.S. has been playing defense against the spread of political Islam, as witnessed in the continued spread of hundreds of offshoots of groups that came out of the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood globally. While a plurality, their Islamist ideas are not found in a majority of Muslims, and yet the non-Islamist Muslims have yet to mount a palpable ideological counter-offensive against them in mosques, universities, government, NGO’s, and media.
AIFD’s mission is twofold. One is to educate non-Muslims to the importance of supporting liberty-minded Muslims as a solution to this conflict. The other is the engagement of Muslims in this open discussion about political Islam and its slippery slope toward radicalization and militant Islamism. I have engaged leading imams and mosques in Florida, Ohio, and Massachusetts in public debates and discussion available online about these very ideas. I have taken these ideas to Muslim and non-Muslim students at a number of universities around the country and continue to seek more opportunities to do that in order to plant the seeds of change in their minds about the true nature of this conflict. I do believe that when given a fair opportunity the ideas of liberty will always win over the ideas of political Islam without anyone able to say that liberty-minded Muslims are anti-Islam or “Islamophobic’- a preposterous concept to be levied against a devout practicing Muslim.
Interestingly, after a briefing I did to members of congress on October 1, 2009, about the threat of political Islam, a fellow Muslim, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) had the audacity to do exactly that in rebuttal to my comments. Without refuting any of my ideas, he levied ad hominem attacks and called me a hatemonger and said I would be to blame for hate crimes against Muslims. He all but called me “an Uncle Tom.” The Islamic Society of North America then had the temerity to publish a review of the debate on Capitol Hill with a headline in the Islamic Horizons magazine, “Ellison chides hatemonger”. When a Muslim wrote in and questioned their integrity of writing such libelous claims about our work they printed a retraction apparently crafted by lawyers but, typical for Islamists, did not run my Muslim colleague’s letter.
|Q:||How are you involved with both the Muslim and non-Muslim community in making us aware?
|A:||To add to what I discussed above, I am taking our ideas of change and our platform based on our mission to separate mosque and state to all of the venues that create a culture of change within the Muslim consciousness. That includes Muslim and non-Muslim venues. If I limited it to Muslim venues, my life has proven over and over again that the stimulus for reform is not great enough to effect real change within the Muslim communities.
But as the greater American community becomes aware of the need for Muslim reforms toward modernity, the stimulus for real change and modernization of theology against political Islam will grow exponentially. Without pressure from the non-Muslim community in America and globally, I don’t see the necessary critique and reform of political Islam and its legal instrument of shariah ever happening. So that is why we take our ideas and respond to the issues of the day through the lens of a mission to separate mosque and state from within the House of Islam. I take these ideas to media, government, academia, NGOs, faith-based communities, civic organizations, and think tanks. All are integral in ultimately helping create an offensive movement for change against political Islam.
We are developing a Muslim Liberty Project that we will hopefully roll out in 2011. It will use booklets that discuss the ideas of liberty in a way that presents an alternative for Muslim youth, and allows them to identify with American society and our government and become inoculated against being attracted to the political ‘ummah’ (Muslim community) while maintaining their Islamic faith and personal relationship with God.
|Q:||How do you work with other faiths to promote real tolerance vs. the liberal lie about tolerance?
|A:||The reason we take our mission to Muslims and non-Muslims is that the entire foundations of American pluralism and “real tolerance” are threatened by the growing morphing platform of political Islam. In fact, I frequently discuss the fact that American pluralism is a far more egalitarian principle than the one promoted by so many Islamists of “tolerance.” In fact many so-called Muslim reformers are more accurately pushing forth a concept of “Political Islam 4.0” rather than any of the needed reforms against the entire foundations of political Islam vis-à-vis the separation of mosque and state.
For the Islamist, tolerance is about “giving non-Muslims the right to practice their faith and laws but doing so separately not as one equal community with equal access to government, the legal system, and an equally valid path to God. They tolerate other faiths but still feel that they need da’wa (or Muslim evangelism) in order to live more righteously. I find those ideas repulsive and hypocritical, especially for those of us living and benefiting in a society that gave us equal rights and access to all levels of government and society. There is a condescending notion within the concept of “tolerance” that they tolerate non-Muslims or even non-Islamist Muslims rather than believe that they are equal and have equally valid interpretations of God’s message and society.
These are the ideas I promote and find every opportunity possible to engage those who disagree in our quest at AIFD to open and broaden the public understanding and discourse on theo-political Islam and its reach.
Previous posts by Anestos Canelides:
|2010||May||29||The Last Empire|
|Jun||18||The Muslim Devastation of India|
|Aug||20||Are They Lying to Us?|
|Sep||28||Devshirme: A Muslim Scourge on Christians|