Seth Leibsohn: I want to get to . . . the appropriateness . . . of [Pam Geller's "Draw Mohammed" contest] on Sunday even before the shooting began. . . .
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser: Well, I do think, the analogy I like to use is a drunk who's walking through the streets and has anger and violent tendencies. Then someone decides to go up and poke him in the eye and . . . where is the problem? The problem is in the drunk. Why is he drinking, why does he have a substance problem and why is he violent. And that's what I'm dedicated to. Now, was it smart to poke him in the eye? I guess yes. He's running fifty-six countries and a quarter of the world's population, and he's distributing in an organized fashion that toxin that I call political Islam through a draconian form of Shariah [law] that needs reform, I think it's relevant . . .
Russ Douthat said it the best, in the NYT of all places, in January when he wrote a piece on the "blasphemy we need." He wrote that, if a large enough group . . . is willing to kill you for saying something, then it is something that certainly needs to be said. . . .
The greatest blasphemy in Islam is denying God, and these people aren't killing atheist conventions. . . . If you go to the Supreme Court in [Washington, D.C.], there are busts of people who have contributed to Western law. There is a bust in the Supreme Court . . . of Mohammed - at our Supreme Court. No one is having a big deal out of that. So the issue is Islamo-nationalism. The criticism of the Prophet Mohammed through a caricature is like burning the Islamist flag, and that's why they get all enraged. It's nothing about major theological offense. Yes, we can't have images of the prophet because of fear of deification of Mohammed, but it's all about theo-politics and not about, necessarily, theology. . . .
Seth Leibsohn radio interview of Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, 5 May 2015.
. . . Salafism robs young Muslims of their soul, it turns Western communities against them, and it can end in civil war as Muslims attempt to implement shari'a in their host countries. A peaceful interpretation of Islam is possible, but the Salafi establishment is currently blocking moderate theological reform. The civilized world ought to recognize the immense danger that Salafi Islam poses; it must become informed, courageous and united if it is to protect both a generation of young Muslims and the rest of humanity from the disastrous consequences of this militant ideology.
Pam Geller's 'Draw Mohammed' contest does not raise a legitimate issue of freedom of speech. No one can contest that, under the First Amendment, she has a right to hold such a contest. That is a no brainer. The argument that has been raised by some on the left is that Geller's speech is likely to cause violence by those who are perpetually outraged. Anyone who knows the Supreme Court's First Amendment jurisprudence knows that such is not a legitimate ground to stop Ms. Geller's speech. What is really going on here is that our neo-Stalinist left would like to shut down any speech that they don't agree with or that in any way criticizes one of their victim's groups. Give them the finger and move on; their arguments are not worthy of anything more than ridicule.
Update: Megyn Kelly, Alan Dershowitz and others agree with my assessment of Constitutional law on this issue:
Everyone seems to be missing the far more important issue - that what is going on here is a "war of ideas" in Islam and our government has ceded that war to the enemy. Pam Geller's contest demonstrated it. Dr. Jasser explains what is actually happening -- that the Salafists' who demonstrate murderous outrage over the Draw Mohammed contest have no moral standing and their outrage is not theological in its nature, it is political. It is the murderous outrage that comes from Salafist Muslims bent on stopping any criticism of their toxic, triumphalist, and politicized interpretation of Islam and bent on preventing any reform, even as they spill blood by the tons around the world in an effort to impose a caliphate. Countering that requires engaging in the war of ideas.
There is little doubt that Obama has - and continues to - completely mishandle of our engagement in the Middle East. But even more harmful has been his utter retreat from any engagement in the war of ideas, to the point, one, of refusing to call Islamic terrorism by its name, and two, by excusing Islamic terrorism on the grounds of moral equivalence with the Crusades of near a millennium ago.
As I wrote in 2009 and as still very much applicable today:
The physical war on terror is necessary to stop the [threat] of immediate [attacks to our nation]. But it is in the war of ideas that the true battle lies, for if we do not stop the radicalization of Muslims, then the war on terror will never end. Ultimately, as Tom Friedman recently opined, this is a battle that must be fought within the four corners of Islam itself. But that said, we have an existential motivation to insure that the "good side" wins. This is made all the more critical because the good side, if you will, is not winning. The ideology at the heart of [ISIS,] al Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups is very much still on the advance.
The threshold issue in the war of ideas is to identify who, as a group, constitutes “radicalized Muslims.” Islam, like Christianity, is subdivided into numerous different sects, many of which, such as Sufi for example, are peaceful and counsel coexistence. Individually, there are hundreds of millions of Muslims in the world, most of whom would make good citizens, good friends, good neighbors and good family members in the West. Only a portion of them become “radicalized” whether as members of al Qaeda, [ISIS,] or some of the other radical Islamic groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, and Jamat-I-Islami to name but a few. Those who belong to these groups do in fact share a common thread – virtually all are adherents to the Salafi/Wahhabi school of Islam or a school, such as Deobandi, that has been heavily influenced in all relevant respects by Salafism.
There was a time when Salafism was confined to the back waters of Arabia. That changed when the tribe of Saud, in partnership with the tribe of Waahab, conquered Arabia in the 1930's. Within decades, the Sauds became incredibly wealthy on oil. Now, they spend billions annually exporting Salafi clerics, schools and textbooks to the four corners of the world. Consequently, Salafism is becoming the dominant form of Islam and is effecting every major school of Islam. As I wrote in a prior post:
According to official Saudi information, Saudi funds have been used to build and maintain over 1,500 mosques, 202 colleges, 210 Islamic Centers wholly or partly financed by Saudi Arabia, and almost 2,000 schools for educating Muslim children in non-Islamic countries in Europe, North and South America, Australia and Asia. The North American Islamic Trust - a Wahhabi Salafi organization, owns between 50% and 80% of all mosques in North America. And Salafists are, in many cases, taking over existing Mosques throughout the world. Some very informative expamples include Belgium, Somalia, and Indonesia. And indeed, the Saudi Salafi Islam now exerts significant influence on our educational system, all the way from grade school to university. . . .
The West's premier orientalist, Professor Bernard Lewis - the man who coined the term "clash of civilizations" half a century ago and who predicted the rise of Islamic terrorism years prior to 9-11 - writes in his book "The Crisis of Islam" that the ideology of [Saudi Arabia's] Wahhabi / Salafi Islam is many times worse than that of the“KKK” in terms of bigotry and violence (p. 129). . . . The NYPD, in a 2007 report, “Radicalization In The West” documented Salafism as the common thread and motivating force behind terrorist attacks in the West. Zhudi Jasser, a Muslim reformist, writes on the dangers of Salafism and the efforts to engage it in the war of ideas here. The Center For Islamic Pluralism, a "a think tank that challenges the dominance of American Muslim life by militant Islamist groups," maintains a section on their website called "Wahhabi Watch." Perhaps the most cogent description of Salfism goes back a century, to the observations of Winston Churchill:
A large number of Bin Saud's followers belong to the Wahabi sect, a form of Mohammedanism which bears, roughly speaking, the same relationship to orthodox Islam as the most militant form of Calvinism would have borne to Rome in the fiercest times of [Europe's] religious wars.
The Wahhabis profess a life of exceeding austerity, and what they practice themselves they rigorously enforce on others. They hold it as an article of duty, as well as of faith, to kill all who do not share their opinions and to make slaves of their wives and children. Women have been put to death in Wahhabi villages for simply appearing in the streets.
It is a penal offence to wear a silk garment. Men have been killed for smoking a cigarette and, as for the crime of alcohol, the most energetic supporter of the temperance cause in this country falls far behind them. Austere, intolerant, well-armed, and blood-thirsty, in their own regions the Wahhabis are a distinct factor which must be taken into account, and they have been, and still are, very dangerous to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Salafism has remained virtually unchanged since Churchill's observations. It was only a few years ago that the Saudi courts, applying Salafi Sharia law, ordered the victim of a brutal gang rape to suffer 200 lashes and six months in jail for being outside of her home without the escort of a male family member. To this day, hunting witches and breaking spells are the top duties of the Salafi religious police and, when witches are "caught," they are ritually slaughtered. In the Salafi culture of Saudi Arabia, it has been less than 20 years since the kingdom's senior cleric, the Grand Mufti issued a fatwah declaring "the earth is flat. Whoever claims it is round is an atheist deserving of punishment." And then there is the well known Salafi edict that anyone who converts from Islam is to be slaughtered.
As I pointed out in a post here, Islam, unlike Christianity, is a religion that has never gone through a Rennisance, a Reformation or a Period of Enlightenment. And while the mechanism - itjihad - exists that could lead to such an event, the reality is that Salafists are fighting any change to their interpretations of the Koran and Sunnah with every tool at their disposal, up to and including "slaughtering the takfirs." Moreover, they are using the UN to push for blasphemy laws that would shut down all criticism of Salafism in the Western world.
The vitriol, bigotry, and triumphalism of Salafism are taught to students in schools and madrassas across the world – including in American Islamic schools and Salafi prison ministries. Salafi Islam teaches that its adherents can freely murder non-Muslims or enslave them and rape them. Moreover, Salafists hold that challenging their existing Salafi Koranic interpretations are "redda (apostasy) punishable by death . . ." And indeed, for specific references to these doctrines being taught in a Saudi school in Virginia, read the USCIFR report here.
Salafism is the religion of [ISIS], the religion of [al Qaeda], the religion of all the 9-11 hijackers. That said, nothing that I write here is to suggest that all or a majority of Salafists should be stigmatized as radical. But the simple reality we ignore at our peril is that it is from the wellspring of Salafism that virtually all the radicalism of the Muslim world arises.
In the war of ideas, one of the most important steps that Obama could take would be to publicly shine a light on Salafism, both as the feeder for radical Islam and for the barbarity of some of its dogma. That would go very far to starting the type of discussion that could actually bring some semblance of evolution and peaceful change to Salafism. Ignoring Salafism - which, according to ex-CIA agent Bob Baer we have done ever since the 1970's when the Saudi's first began to buy influence in the American body politic - allows it to metastasize in the dark. And it is metastasizing at rapid speed today on the back of Saudi petrodollars. That is a recipe for disaster.
No one should be asking, as a result of Pam Geller's "Draw Mohammed" contest, whether anyone has a First Amendment right to criticize, in any way, shape or form, Saudi Arabia's Salafi Islam. They should be asking why our President is not engaging Islamists in the war of ideas and why he is ceding that ground to the Salafists. It is a mistake that our children and their progeny will be paying dearly for in the decades to come.
Update: Pat Condell discusses a related Mo-toon incident in the UK. It is an exceptional rant.