Aaron Elias, at PJM, has done an article on Muslim reformer Zhudi Jasser in light of the Ground Zero Mosque issue. But the article delves far beyond that into the much larger issue of the war of ideas for the future of Islam, the existential stakes of that war, and how we should, as a nation, be engaging in it. As Jasser notes, we are losing it at the moment.
Jasser's first point is that Islam is not a monolithic entity. Understanding that is the first step America need's to take in order to be able to distinguish its friends in the Muslim community from those who wish, whether by peaceful or violent means, to destroy Western civilization. This is equally as critical for America as it is for Muslims and the future of Islam:
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), is one of these devout yet patriotic Muslims. A former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander with 11 years of service as a medical officer under his belt, . . .
Jasser founded AIFD in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in order to provide a Muslim American voice that would genuinely advocate and defend the founding principles of the U.S. Constitution. He has taken the fight against radical Islam to heart and sees it as a responsibility of all "true" Muslims. Where many U.S.-based Islamic organizations, such as CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America, claim to support the U.S. Constitution but provide dodgy answers and shoddy excuses for terrorism when the rubber meets the road, Dr. Jasser's AIFD is based on the founding principles of the United States. Where CAIR's rhetoric tends to create a tension between Americans and its Muslim members, the rhetoric of Jasser and AIFD refers to Americans as an "us" and not a "them."
"I have always looked upon myself, long before 9-11, as a Jeffersonian Muslim, if you will," Dr. Jasser answers when asked about his identification as a Muslim. "Along with the ideas of liberty as embodied in the works of our founding fathers, naturally emanating from that is a deep antipathy for Islamism (political Islam), salafism, jihadism, governmental sharia, and the global collectivist movement of the Muslim Brotherhood."
Terms such as "moderate," "secular," and "radical" are innately controversial as any group is able to contort them to mean what they want. For example, Jasser posits, the term "moderate" has become synonymous with being non-violent or anti-terrorism. But this is an oversimplification that blinds Americans to the very political ideologies - which he identifies as "Islamism" - that are the cogs and gears of terrorism.
"I know everyone is looking for an easy label to know the 'good Muslim' from the 'bad Muslim,'" Jasser continues, "but … I believe that the 'anti-Islamist' or at least 'non-Islamist' Muslims are on our side and the pro-Islamist Muslims, those who believe in the Islamic state and governmental sharia, are not on our side but on the side of political Islam."
The issue is far more complex than that as far as Muslims are concerned, as you get into issues of itjihad and Koranic interpretation, etc., but from a non-Muslim perspective, understanding the above concepts would go a long way towards putting America on the proper footing, both to defend itself against the Islamists who threaten the Western world from within and without and to support those Muslims who wish to, in the words of Zhudi Jasser, modernize their faith. Unfortunately, it is in this regards that Bush did a very poor job and Obama is doing an existentially horrendous job.
As I have pointed out many times on this blog, Obama has set America on a full scale retreat from the war of ideas. Obama, treating Islam as a monolithic entity while pretending that the Salafi-Wahhabi ideology practiced by militant jihadists and Muslim Brotherhood alike is not "true" Islam is the most dangeorus and harmful of fantasies. It will create an indiscriminate backlash against Muslims in America and only plays into the narrative of the Islamists who wish to destroy Western civilization. Further, it squanders what is now a true opportunity to influence the outcome of the war of ideas.
And indeed, Mr. Jasser goes on to make the same points in his interview:
Islamists naturally target America because its innate principles allow them to fabricate an external enemy to unify all Muslims, Dr. Jasser goes on. At the Oslo Freedom Forum, Jasser laid out why Americanism and the ideas of liberty are the only weapons against political Islam. He discussed how the Muslim world has become trapped in a war of ideas between secular nationalist fascism (i.e., Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, and Qaddafi) and militant Islamism (Iran, the Taliban, and the Muslim Brotherhood and its army of offshoots).
"America is really the only laboratory in the world that gives us the freedom to create a third alternative," Dr. Jasser states with certainty. "That is, an Islam based in modernity that separates mosque and state and celebrates universal religious freedom and liberty."
In that vein, Jasser puts forward the explanation that Americans' perceptions of Muslims will never change until they feel Muslim Americans are spending our own resources on issues more pressing than gargantuan and ostentatious religious structures that overshadow the ruins of a still-raw wound for Americans. Focusing on counterterrorism and reform centers built with the goal of countering the hostile ideologies of political Islam within the United States are two paths Jasser offers that will improve Islam's PR with America. Most importantly of all, Muslim Americans should show America that many of them have a completely different idea of what it means to give back to the country that has given them so many freedoms, and take a personal responsibility in combating the ideas of radical Islam and its root causes.
For now, the possibility of the Ground Zero mosque coalescing from idea into structure presents not only the insult to the millions of Americans who experienced true horror on September 11, 2001, nor the threat of a new mammoth gateway for radical Islamic ideas to slip into the U.S., but the threat of sending a message of weakness to Islamists the world over.
"It will be used by Islamist leadership around the world to say, 'despite the violence that al-Qaeda perpetrated on the American population, political Islam will always be victorious and from its ashes has risen the largest religious Muslim structure in the United States,'" Jasser warns. "As the administration continues to move backwards, [outlawing] the use of any specific religious Islamic terms like jihad, Islamsim, and salafism, the Islamists continue to make unopposed headway in the contest of ideas. We are losing the war of ideas."
Recent polls have revealed that an increasing number of Americans are developing negative views of Islam. Immediately after 9/11, the numbers sat at 39 percent negative. A 2006 study provided by Dr. Jasser discovered the numbers had risen to 46 percent negative, nearly half the country's population. The same study also found out that the number of Americans who associate Islam with acts of violence had nearly tripled from 13 percent to 33 percent in the same five years. Dr. Jasser blames these numbers in great part on the majority of Muslim organizations in D.C. who are "victim-mongering front groups for the Muslim Brotherhood."
"Until we treat the affliction of Islamism and separate mosque and state and begin a palpable movement against political Islam, those opinion polls will only worsen," Jasser points out. "If the organizers [of the Ground Zero mosque] were truly moderate, they would not be building mammoth structures like this but rather investing in spreading the ideas of liberty into the Muslim community against the ideas of political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood. They would be teaching American Muslim youth to reach out by joining our military and homeland security efforts en masse rather than allowing Islamist organizations in D.C. like CAIR to brainwash young Muslims that our military and FBI are anti-Muslim and the U.S. is anti-Islam."
Jasser iterates that he believes the most effective method possible for Muslims to reach out to Americans would be to organize a movement to hold the 57 Organization of the Islamic Conference nations accountable for all their violations of human rights as well as demand they shift from Islamism and state sponsored sharia towards more liberty-minded governments that allow more freedoms to their citizens.
"Don't let the Islamists set the agenda," Dr. Jasser says. "Yes, we will not let up against their agenda. But that's defense. We need to generate an offense to preempt the Islamists within Muslim communities domestically and abroad.
"At AIFD our offense in countering the Muslim Brotherhood Project is our Muslim Liberty Project," Jasser goes on. "We will be rolling that out over the next year and it is patterned after Jeffersonian principles of universal religious freedom and principles of liberty targeted to devout Muslims. We target Muslim youth and young adults in giving them an alternative framework for government and society that is based on our U.S. constitutional principles and the Establishment Clause. … [Our goal is to] inoculate them against the potent ideas of political Islam."
Do read the entire article, as there is much more on the Ground Zero mosque. But the mosque is only a microcosm in the much bigger picture. And with a tide of political Islam rolling over Europe uncontested at the moment, this is an issue that we deal with now, or our grandchildren's grandchildren deal with at much greater cost in blood and gold in the future.