On the other hand, a colleague with me at the event pointed out that some Muslims glanced at the extremist literature and immediately dropped it or put it back down with an irritated look on their faces. The ideological struggle within the Muslim-American community was on display, though its quiet nature made it only visible to the most interested observers.
The video captured by The United West also demonstrates the dynamics between the largely Islamist leadership of the Muslim-American community, even though the community itself is largely non-Islamist.
At the parade, the Islamists had a position of prominence. They were the ones with the prestige to speak to the audience. These two speakers were leaders. The majority of the parade attendees may not share their extreme views, but there was no audible backlash. No one stood to challenge them.
This happens on a broader level across the country. Groups that originated in the Muslim Brotherhood, like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, the North American Islamic Trust, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, lead the community even if the majority would never support the Muslim Brotherhood or its Palestinian branch, Hamas.
Only 24% of Muslim-American men and 19% of Muslim-American women feel represented by these groups. Almost half of Muslim-American adults oppose mosques getting involved in political matters at all. Yet it’s hard to see any internal challenge to the Brotherhood-linked groups, though that’s changing slowly due to the admirable work of people like Jasser.
Having speakers such as those in The United West’s video spreads Islamist themes and reinforces prejudices that non-Islamist Muslims then have to overcome. It makes the work of anti-Islamist Muslims much harder because it keeps them unseen, tucked away in a corner, looking around for a microphone to use to voice their protests. The Obama administration, government officials, and even some churches are all complicit in embracing the Brotherhood groups as their outreach partners, while groups like the American Islamic Leadership Coalition are left out in the cold.
The episode at this year’s Muslim Day Parade in New York is a reminder of the prominent place Islamists hold in our country.
This article was sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.