The mosque that the Cordoba Initiative is planning to build near Ground Zero has generated a substantial amount of attention across the country. Exemplifying the ire of many Americans, a recent poll showed that 53% of New Yorkers were opposed to the mosque. And while that majority may not include as many Muslims as we’d like, more and more are speaking up in opposition to the mosque. These Muslims offer many Americans a vital interpretation of the Islamic religion as a whole and show that Islam is not in fact a monolithic faith.
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, Dr. Jasser has made it clear that “until anti-Islamist Muslims wage the intellectual battle against Islamism within the Muslim consciousness, we will make no headway against ‘the narrative.’”
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.”
AIFD’s slogan is that its members are “Americans who happen to be Muslim, and not Muslims who demand to be American.” As a devout Muslim, Dr. Jasser has voiced strong opposition to the mosque now called “Park 51” that threatens to encroach on Ground Zero. When he first heard of the plans, he says, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Post detailing why he as a Muslim felt a mosque in such a location would only offer more misguidance for the U.S. Muslim community.
“The reality is that many of us have never said their rights should be infringed in any way but rather that we pray that a light will finally go on in their heads which tells them that ‘this ostentatious $100 million Islamic center should be built elsewhere and not in a place that casts a shadow upon the graves of thousands of Americans’ — still an open raw wound for most Americans,” Dr. Jasser explains.
Jasser also expresses deep concern that the organization funding the mosque, led by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, has refused to exclude foreign funding from filling its coffers. Such financial transactions immediately offer the opportunity for foreign Islamists and their sympathizers to preach their version of political Islam and sharia, he warns, and present a very significant threat to national security.
“I cannot see genuine Muslim reform happening on the dime of foreign Islamist interests,” Jasser says. “Make no mistake, this Islamic center is not a spiritual statement but a global political one in the name of Islam. … Every group I have been directly involved with in building mosques and Islamic projects in the U.S. have rejected foreign funds entirely because of the ideological hypocrisies and Islamism that comes with them.”
Dr. Jasser’s only contact with Imam Rauf has been indirectly. Rauf penned a Huffington Post article admonishing anyone who thought sharia was incompatible with the Declaration of Independence, and Jasser responded with a commentary at HuffPo telling him that Muslims need to be “getting real with Shar’iah.” Rauf’s opinion that America must embrace sharia rather than fear it belies the true reality of sharia as implemented by Muslim majorities, Jasser explains, and demonstrates an intense denial or deception on his part of the innumerable female, non-Muslim, “liberty-minded Muslim,” and minority victims of sharia law.
Dr. Jasser has also taken serious issue with the background story that the mosque’s developers have chosen to promote.