Zuhdi Jasser: An interview with a moderate Muslim leader

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Erick Stakelbeck's latest report on Hot Air is an interview with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Jasser, a cardiologist living in the Phoenix area, was born in Wisconsin and served 11 years as a Navy medical officer. He believes faithful Muslims are freer to practice their faith in America than in any other country on earth and that Islam is not incompatible with American notions of liberty.

In his interview with Stakelbeck, Jasser discusses the "flying imams" and their lawsuit against the "John Does" -- the passengers who alerted the crew to the strange behavior of the Muslim clerics. Jasser's organization is helping to fund the defense of the "John Does" in a lawsuit brought by the imams. One of the imams leads the largest and oldest mosque in Phoenix, and Jasser used to attend Friday prayers there, but was offended by the imam's use of the pulpit to preach his political opinions. Jasser believes the imams' lawsuit against those who blew the whistle on them is an attempt to stop our "front line of defense in the war on terror." "We need to find a way to immunize our citizens to reporting things because we need their eyes and ears."

Jasser also addresses the compatibility between Islam and a free and open society and discusses the film "Islam vs. Islamism."

It's encouraging to know that there are voices like Jasser's out there opposing the use of Islam to achieve political ends. It's in the country's best interests to give attention to organizations like AIFD and to people like Jasser and Tulsa's Jamal Miftah as a rallying point for American Muslims who object to the politicization of their faith.

And before you argue that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim or that moderate Muslims aren't true to their faith, please read this article by Jasser, in which he argues that anti-Islamist Muslims are key to winning the War on Terror:

Whether many pious Muslims acknowledge it or not, non-Muslims who believe that ‘the religion of Islam is the problem’ are growing in numbers. I can either dismiss their arguments as “Islamophobic” as so many do, including the Islamists, or I can begin to address some of the central issues raised positively in the spirit of understanding, logic, and most importantly in the spirit of American security....

Most should understand that strategically, identifying ‘Islam as the problem,’ immediately alienates upwards of one quarter of the world’s population and dismisses our most powerful weapon against the militant Islamists -- the mantle of religion and the pulpit of moderate Muslims who can retake our faith from the Islamists. The majority voices in the middle, the non-Islamist and anti-Islamist Muslims who understand the problem, have to be on the frontlines. They cannot be on the frontlines in an ideological battle being waged, which demonizes the morality of the faith of Islam and its founder, the Prophet Mohammed. We cannot win this war only on the battlefield. Political Islam has a viral recurrence in the form of an infection which needs a Muslim counter-jihad in order to purge it. Thus, we cannot win this ideological war without the leadership of Muslim anti-Islamists....

It is important to be academic about this assessment and not assume that what appears to be the silence of the majority of Muslims equates to agreement with the Islamist leadership who exerts a stranglehold over the community. We are doing our national counterterrorism efforts and Muslims a disservice if we assume that the ‘lowest hanging fruit,’ which comprise all currently Islamist organizations (CAIR, MPAC, or ISNA - to name a few) and their proportionally limited membership speak for all American Muslims. Their silence on the need for reformation and the need for Muslims to lead an anti-Islamist effort from within our faith community represents their own Islamist agenda of the members and donors but does not represent the general Muslim population.

MORE: From the perspective of Britain, Christopher Hitchens explains the problem with governments recognizing and validating radical Islamic leaders while ignoring moderates like Jasser.

It means that they find, to their annoyance, that the most extreme elements in their community are being recognized as interlocutors instead of themselves. I've heard a lot of secular Pakistanis complain that the cops, when they think we better go talk to the community, walk straight past them and head for the imam at the mosque, assuming that he's the one they want to talk to. Which means, of course, pretty soon these are the people who'll be handing out the welfare payments. They'll become the go-to people. Because they'll have a grant from the taxpayers, and they'll be the administrators of it. They will become the reps. It's a big, big mistake. We're going to regret it hugely.

That quote is from an interview given in conjunction with Hitchens's article "Londonistan" in Vanity Fair, about the growth of Islamic radicalism in the British capital.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 27, 2007 7:55 PM.

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