Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Phoenix-based physician, formed the American Islamic Forum for Democracy in March 2003. The think tank, according to its Web site (www.aifdemocracy.org), “was formed as an unmistakable expression of American liberty and freedom in an attempt to take back the faith of Islam from the demagoguery of the Islamo-fascists.”
The following are excerpts of an interview with Dr. Jasser:
Question: Are Muslims hearing more about politics than religion at local mosques?
Answer: While some mosques do protect their mimbar [pulpit] from the toxicity of politics, most mosques in my experience allow their pulpits to be used as a platform for specific domestic and foreign policy agenda. From Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay to the Patriot Act to American imperialism to the so-called neo-con and Zionist conspiracy, the political imams have abrogated their spiritual leadership in exchange for the political aspirations within the Islamist community. Many mosques are no longer a place to leave the stresses of this world and get closer to God in humble community worship, but have become places for imams to give stump speeches decrying the U.S. government and claiming victimization.
Until spiritual, morally courageous and humble Islam can reclaim the mimbar, the Islamist and Wahhabi agenda will continue to dominate our mosque-going community. If in doubt, just check out the Web sites of many of the major American Muslim organizations. You will not find a spiritual focus, but rather a political one in the name of Muslims.
One of the most effective methods at establishing a counter-jihad would be for imams to spend their time focusing on the love of God and the love from God, rather than His wrath and their hate.
Q: Is there a political agenda to drive a wedge between the Muslim-American community and non-Muslim-American community?
A: The stated agenda of most of the current major Muslim organizations in America is to build bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims and yet their victim refrains, widely publicized lawsuits and use of the Muslim bandwidth for minority politics is actually doing the very opposite. Rather than protect the rights of Muslims humbly behind the scenes, they run to the media to try their cases before any evidence has been collected. One cannot help but wonder what their real agenda is. It must be the Islamism: the attempt to collectivize Muslims under the banner of faith and utilize the ummah for a political agenda and movement, political Islam.
In reality, it will be the rejection of Muslim collectivism, and the expression of our common interests politically as Americans and spiritually as Muslims, which will in the end unravel the appeal of Islamists.
Soon it will become obvious that most of the so-called “Muslim” organizations in America are actually religious Islamist political parties, which are hijacking the Muslim community for their own political agenda.
Eventually, I hope to see a consciousness from Muslim organizations that no one speaks for the Muslim community or the Islamic faith, and that we all unite with the rest of America under universal humanitarian principles. Each organization speaks only for its members, donors and ideas. At the end of the day, we are all Americans who happen to be Muslims, not Muslims who demand to be American.
Q: How can we defeat Islamist terrorists?
A: We will only be able to diminish their numbers when we defeat the very nature of political Islam from within as Muslims and change the false dreams of the Islamic state. While faith is a powerful motivator, ultimately Islamists will abort their dreams in exchange for the dreams of America’s forefathers when they realize that history has shown that theocracy is a failed system when it competes with liberal pluralistic democracies founded in religious freedom.
Q: What mistakes were made in establishing the new Iraqi government?
A: To this day, I remain in full support of the work of our sons and daughters in Iraq fighting to liberate the Iraqis from dictatorship and now from Islamist terror. To anyone aware of the history of the metastatic spread of radical Islamism around the globe, they are well aware of the central role of the parasitic relationship of Middle Eastern dictatorships and militant Islamist networks and their ideology. This is apparent in the relationship of the House of Saud with the radical Wahhabis, the relationship of [Egyptian] President [Hosni] Mubarak with the radicalism coming out of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, or the relationship of the Islamist radicals with the Syrian Alawite regime or when they ultimately get into power as we have seen in Iran and with Hamas.
Democratization and the establishment of liberty-minded institutions in the Middle East are central to defeating the ideology of terror.
We made two significant errors among others in the transition of Iraq from corrupt dictatorship toward liberal democracy. First, we have poorly articulated the generational time necessary to allow Iraqis to shed the years of corruption and oppression and realize their own potential. Second, right from the beginning we should not have sat mute as the central construct of Iraqi government became the Koran and the Islamists. The mantra of President Bush that “the liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity” was completely ignored when we did not contest the equality of rights of non-Muslims under a so-called “Islamic state” in Iraq. My parents and so many Muslims left the Middle East to escape the oppression of dictators, theocrats, imams and mullahs. For our soldiers to now facilitate the establishment of an Islamic state when it could have been a pluralistic democracy is a disappointment to me as a Muslim and as a believer in universal religious freedom and the separation of religion and politics. While the Iraqi Constitution needed ratification by the population, its intellectual foundations did not need a populist approach but rather one of ideological leadership for liberty and freedom.
Q: Are you concerned about your safety?
A: I cannot be. The belief that liberty is a gift from God and that the practice of my faith of Islam is more free in America than anywhere else in the world brings with it a responsibility to exercise my ideas and freedom of speech. At the end of the day, if fear translates into silence, I may as well return our family to the oppression of Syria, where my parents, to my fortune, left so that I may be raised more free as an American and be myself and fight this war of ideas. Their courage and that of so many individuals fighting for freedom in the Middle East and across the world cannot be dishonored by a silence out of fear for safety. At the end of the day, even Muslims who disagree vehemently with my ideas about Islamism know that I am a proud Muslim who loves my faith, honors the tradition of the prophet Muhammad, and who wants his children and family to grow up without a conflict between the concept of their spirituality, relationship with God, their faith community and their nation.