M. Zuhdi Jasser dreams of a Muslim Counterterrorism Unit, Jack Bauer-style.
In truth, his dreams are his work. Jasser, a former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander is president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix, Arizona. In an extensive interview with National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez, Jasser talks about his military service, the duties of Muslims in America, how to destroy Islamofacism, and more.
Today we run the last in a series from an interview with Dr. Jasser. Read part one here and two here.
Lopez: What’s the most important question you get when you speak on radical Islam?
Jasser: I would weigh the importance of all of the various questions I get with their centrality in promoting American security. That said, the most important question or concern I get from audiences to which I have the privilege to speak, is whether spiritual Islam and political Islam are in fact contrary to my beliefs — inseparable? And whether I am whitewashing a dangerous political ideology? An appropriate answer to this question would need volumes of discourse. Ultimately, I ask them not only to believe my voice and my ideas, which appear to be in the wilderness, but rather to begin the ground work of speaking to Muslims in the grass roots about their political and spiritual constructs. We need to multiply this debate exponentially within the Muslim community.
While certainly, much of Islamic academia and established jurisprudence is still frozen in the 14th century, the majority of Muslims, I believe, have modernized their faith by virtue of their daily practices living in America. They raise their children pluralistically, and engage American politics and business not through faith, but through civic responsibility to nation. Their faith inspires their morality but does not direct their political collectivism. You shouldn’t take my word for it, but simply engage American Muslims in every walk of life on this very issue of political Islam. The vast majority of Muslims shares the Judeo-Christian moral construct of life, and has never felt freer, or more at home, than they do in America- a nation based under God, but not under one faith’s jurisprudence. Thus, it is not the ideology of spiritual Islam which is the problem, but rather it is the only solution to displace political Islam from the consciousness of the Muslim mind. The only way to depoliticize the ummah (Muslim community or nation) is for spiritual Muslims to take back the mantle of faith.
For those who ask the fair question of whether I am but a voice in the wilderness, I ask them back to look at those lone voices in Western enlightenment who worked against terrible odds to defeat the political control of the Church of England in Europe. History has shown that theocrats will do anything to maintain control over society, and will work most strenuously to marginalize those who work to defeat them from within the faith. Anti-Islamists Muslims need to be taken at their word and kept to their word. This is why the debate is so important. Creating a public record and open debate about political Islam, and the ability or inability of Muslims to separate mosque and state, will serve as our best insurance policy against the ‘Islamicization’ of the west.
Strategically, I also will add that to identify Islam as the problem will also serve to ultimately alienate even the anti-Islamist Muslims, like myself, who are loyal to America first — over any identification with the Muslim community, but yet are personally and morally empowered by a deep personal connection with God and Islam. When it is all said and done, I do believe that my faith is personal and its laws and scripture should stay at home, but the power of my conviction and my personal reliance upon God comes from my own interpretation of Islam, a faith I believe came from God. To alienate all those who follow Islam is to alienate our most necessary allies in the defeat of political Islam and Islamist terror.
Lopez: Do you like what you’re hearing out of any of the presidential candidates? Jasser: (First a necessary caveat — the following is my personal opinion only and in no way that of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy).
Yes, I think most of the Republican presidential field is much more honest than the Democrats in articulating the real stakes in this war of ideas of the free world versus the Islamists. While most of the Republican candidates are in the right anti-Islamist arena, only a few have been able to articulate it clearly enough and with enough candor to get my attention. I am far from making up my mind on a candidate yet, but am encouraged by a lot of what I see from some of the candidates.
I am most heartened by what I am hearing from Rudy Guliani’s campaign, with Governor Mitt Romney very close behind in my mind. Mayor Guliani understands the toxicity of the Saudis and their Wahhabis. He backed that up with action, even before announcing his campaign, by sending back the $10 million gift to NYC from the Saudis after 9-11. He is not afraid to articulate the conflict in ideas between Western freedom and Islamist theocracy. His recent call for an expansion of NATO confirms this. He names our enemies by name, and is not afraid to stand for principle and substance in foreign policy over diplomatic platitudes (i.e. against the Saudis, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood), and other Islamists.
Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign has also demonstrated a willingness to mince no words when discussing the ideologies we are facing. He identifies jihadists as our enemies and uses his important position of national and global leadership to clearly frame the debate as one between the ideology of Islamism (Caliphism, jihadism, and theocracy) versus freedom.
On immigration policy, another issue vital to the protection of our homeland, Congressman Duncan Hunter lays out the issues most clearly avoiding sanctuary cities and standing by strict enforcement and a border fence so vital to those of us on border states.
John McCain’s articulation of the stakes in the Iraq war has always been very impressive, and I hope that other candidates can look to his clarity on the issue as an example of principle.
Lopez: Do you find Americans fully understand the jihad threat we face?
Jasser: This is a good follow-up to the last question since I believe that most candidates reflect the range of understanding found among most Americans. Some truly get it. And others are living in denial or oblivion. At the end of the day, I believe that once most Americans take the time to walk through an understanding of the threat we face, they will understand it. This is not a partisan issue. Whether left or right, both sides will agree on the incompatibility of Islamist theocratic ambitions with our American Constitutional republic. Both sides will agree on the evil inherent in the anti-freedom, misogynistic, jihadist, theocratic mentality of the militant Islamists.
With my work, I am trying to explain to media and government alike, that we could never afford to look at Islamist terror as simply a crime problem. If we do so our Homeland Security apparatus will be chasing its tail for the next century putting out terror cells. In order to take the Jihadist threat seriously Americans need to understand that this is not a conflict against a tactic but rather a common ideology which utilizes a radical interpretation of Islam and is a natural off-shoot from political Islam.
The recent NYPD report on “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat” walks its reader through the process of ideological conversion of a peaceful Muslim into a jihadist one. Only Muslims can defeat this transformation process. But certainly, a better informed American citizenry can hold Muslims and non-Muslims alike more accountable for their facilitation of the radicalization of Muslims. Once this process is understood the contribution to jihadism of political Islam and the dreams of the Islamic state will become clearer to every American and the ideological threat will be realized.