News & Politics

Zuhdi Jasser: 'I Want My President to Tell Me What We're For'

Facebook Live screenshot from PJ Media.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a former U.S. Navy medic and former member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said he was disappointed by President Donald Trump’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

“I want my president to tell me not only what we’re against but what we’re for,” Jasser, himself a member of the board of the organization behind CPAC, the American Conservative Union (ACU), told PJ Media. “I was a little disappointed in his speech. I didn’t hear much about affirming … what we’re for. Do we believe in liberty, freedom? What is America’s role in the world?”

Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) and author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith, argued that if Trump is going to truly fight Islamism, he will need to inspire patriotic Muslims to embrace the separation of Mosque and state. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” the AIFD president noted. “If you’re going to help reformist Muslims, you have to have a culture” to inspire them.

Jasser endorsed the president’s immigration order, commonly denounced as a “Muslim ban,” which would temporarily halt refugees from seven countries of terror concern. “Yes, do a pause on immigration, stop letting Jihadists and Islamists into this country, I agree with that 100 percent,” the AIFD president said. “But also say what we’re for, we are that city on a hill that promotes immigration, that promotes a place where Muslims in America and across the world can look to support their aspirations.”

Jasser said his dream is an “America that welcomes Muslim reformers and liberty-thinking Muslims.” Doing so would help create the culture of freedom Jasser identified as “the most potent weapon we have” against Islamism.

As for reaching out with that message, the AIFD president shot down arguments that attacking Islamism would somehow embolden the Islamic State (ISIS). “I completely reject anyone who says that we should change our messaging because it will radicalize Muslims and make ISIS use that message,” he declared. “That’s nonsense, they’ll find anything to use — everyday they’re putting out conspiracy theories of all we do.”

Jasser dismissed liberals who insist that attacking Islamism or radical Islamic terror is Islamophobic, arguing that these activists are willing dupes. “I think the Left is completely blind — they don’t care what this minority group believes,” he said.

The AIFD president explained the Left’s alliance with Islamism as a matter of uniting against the Right and embracing identity politics. “They see the Islamists as that check box of a minority identity politic,” Jasser explained. The Left is “not an ideological movement based on an idea — it might be for socialist ideas against free markets — but they’re collectivists, so they collectivize people. To them, the Islamists are a collective movement they can use.”

To illustrate this point, the AIFD president pointed to an embarrassing moment at the end of January, where House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi whispered into the ear of Indiana Representative Andre Carson, “Tell them you’re Muslim, tell them you’re Muslim.”

“How demeaning!” Jasser exclaimed. “Imagine if she had said to a Jew, ‘Tell them you’re Jewish, tell them you’re Jewish,’ as if people didn’t realize that the guy was Jewish. It’s insulting.”

To illustrate the ultimate incompatibility between the Left and Islamism, the AIFD president noted that the French Marxist Yves Coleman put out a manifesto against Swiss Muslim Tariq Ramadan. In Jasser’s words, Coleman noted that Islamists like Ramadan “never talk about sexual identity rights, they never talk about equality of men and women.” Indeed, of Coleman’s 40 points against Ramadan, 20 have to deal with his attitude toward women, sexuality, and the hijab.

Perhaps the worst part of the Left’s alliance with Islamism is the support Western liberals give to tyrants in the Middle East. Jasser explained the mentality of rulers in Saudi Arabia’s royal family and other ruling powers: “They believe that God reached out and gave their families the ownership of property in those states, the ownership of the people in those societies, the ownership of the oil and everything else — and the mosque of Mecca.”

“They think they have a right to institute a version of Islam,” and that leads them to “empower the judges to enact blasphemy laws, apostasy laws, equate criticism of the government with criticism of Islam,” the AIFD president said.

When it comes to radical Islamist terror and the Islamist ideology fueling it, many in the West think of ISIS, Al Qaeda, or the Muslim Brotherhood. Jasser explained that these are “viral grassroots Islamism,” political parties which can be violent or non-violent. But there is another kind of Islamism — the “corporate sort of top-down Islamism of these governments. They claim to be secular, but they always put in certain elements of Islamist sharia. They’re sharia states of some kind or other — quasi theocracies, real theocracies.”

These so-called secular dictatorships stifle free thinking, the AIFD president argued. Even when Western universities establish campuses in places like Qatar and Dubai, they do not study the kind of transformational ideas that would free minds.

“What are they studying there? It’s all about Islamophobia, and it’s all either engineering, medical sciences, sort of the black and white” disciplines, Jasser said. “There’s nothing about philosophy, the humanities, journalism. Critical thinking institutions are not being built there.”

As a result, these societies are not producing genuinely new free-market innovations, he argued. While Middle Eastern countries may be releasing new albums of local styles of music, they are not developing new technologies. Instead, “they’re using Western technology because they have no free markets in their societies.”

Jasser described the intellectual culture of the Middle East as “completely fossilized” because the people lack “the free market of ideas that you need to do the work we’re doing” in the United States.

It is exactly this kind of free inquiry which fosters reform that Jasser wants President Trump to champion across the globe. America should defend itself, protect its borders, and keep out the kind of Muslims who wish to institute sharia (Islamic law) over America’s secular society. At the same time, the country should be a “shining city on a hill” proclaiming freedom, innovation, and reform to the world, and especially to the Muslim world.

Jasser, whose parents fled Syria to come to the United States, also suggested that Trump’s administration welcome refugees from that country, once the president establishes his stringent vetting process. Interestingly, he argued that while the U.S. should knock out ISIS, American troops should only occupy northern Iraq, and not Syria itself. In that country, the dictator Bashar Al-Assad is also an Islamist, so ISIS is not the only problem.

While Jasser is a devout Muslim, he is also a patriot, and does not consider Trump or his presidency to be inherently anti-Muslim. Nevertheless, this ACU board member and former Navy medic desperately wants to see Trump take on real leadership, declaring that America should stand for freedom of thought and reform across the world, and especially in the Middle East.

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Posted by PJ Media on Saturday, February 25, 2017