Editor’s Note: Three American scholars, two Christians and one Muslim, spoke to WND about the threat of political Islam. They say there will be further trouble unless Americans understand the threat and learn how to resist it. This interview with Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, is the third part of the series of a three-part series. In part one, Robert R. Reilly of the American Foreign Policy Council said America is hurting itself by working with U.S.-hating Muslims. In part two, Catholic psychologist William Kilpatrick warned Islam calls for the subjugation of Christians.
“Freedom-loving Muslims must help America and the free world fight against Islamists and jihadists.”
That comes from a Muslim, Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and author of the book “A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith.”
It’s his appeal to Muslim Americans and all Americans to fight political Islam.
“The only way for Islamists to abort their dream of a theocracy under their version of Islam is for them to be overwhelmed with a better vision – a better interpretation – of an Islam and our Quran based in liberty: an Islam that articulates and defends pluralism, tolerance, free speech, free markets and all the other fruits of a free society where all citizens are equally protected ‘under God,’ not ‘under Islam’ – an Islam that rests at home with the freedoms that Americans claim as their birthright and will defend at all costs,” he told WND.
Jasser’s mission is in striking contrast to that of groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which has established aggressive operations in the United States to infiltrate government and school systems. Jasser’s work isn’t kindly regarded by terrorists: In January 2012, al-Qaida threatened him on one of its websites.
In addition to meetings with religious leaders and government officials both here and abroad, Jasser testifies before Congress. Last June, he spoke to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security at a hearing on “The American Muslim Response to Hearings on Radicalization within Their Community” and praised lawmakers for the public discussion.
“My last testimony to Congress lays out what I feel are the problems and what America’s course should be,” he told WND.
Essentially, he warned against the Islamization of America and cautioned: “One of the most profound results we have seen from this national discussion is the important recognition that American Muslims are not a monolithic community that shares one set of values and one single voice. American Muslims are very diverse in our ideological structure and many, if not most, of us do not support the victimization and denial mantra that has been defining our communities for decades.”
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However, Jasser believes Muslim citizens and immigrants are highly susceptible to Islamist propaganda. He’s deeply concerned at Al Gore’s sale of his Current TV network to “anti-American” Al Jazeera, which broadcasts to its Arabic-speaking audiences the “Shariah and Life” show hosted by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Sunni Muslim cleric who calls for the crucifixion of those who leave Islam.
To Congress, Jasser explained: “If you witness the public response of Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups in the United States to these hearings you will see the lengths they go to in vilifying anyone who dares address the threat at its source – Islamism. An observant Muslim becomes labeled by the Muslim Public Affairs Council and Council on American-Islamic Relations as ‘astro-turf’ or ‘Uncle Tom.’ The term ‘Islamophobia’ is used incomprehensibly against devout Muslims as a battering ram to shun us within our own local faith communities for having the audacity to say that we have a problem and they are contributing to it. These groups wrap themselves in the blanket of my faith and imagined civil rights abuses in an attempt to deny Muslims like me a voice in this argument.”
Jasser, medical doctor and former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, takes his oath to uphold the Constitution and defend America seriously. Therefore, he urged Congress and the Obama administration to stop the “political correctness” and set up an effective counter-terrorism strategy. He cited the failures in dealing with terrorist Maj. Nidal Hasan and Army Pvt. Naser Abdo, who attempted to imitate Hasan’s Fort Hood massacre.
“The crucial and difficult question a Muslim soldier needs to be asked is this: ‘Do you have any sense of loyalty to the ummah and its Islamic state?’ Those who answer in the affirmative pose a problem,” Jasser told Congress. “The Army’s approval of [Abdo’s] status as a conscientious objector deeply damaged the perception of Muslims in the military because it implicitly validated Islamism as a protected belief system synonymous with being Muslim.”
Jasser’s faith and reason
Like many Christians and Jews, Jasser accepted the religion of his ancestors. He believes Muhammad is the true and last prophet, yet his understanding of human rights seems to mirror Christian doctrine. In keeping with his ancestors’ method of study, a classically Western method, Jasser believes in natural law and personal responsibility.
Jasser’s family tradition of faith and reason puts him in the minority of Muslims, if Ash’arite Kalam is the school of theology embraced by 85 percent of the world’s Sunni Muslim population, as Islam scholar Robert Reilly states. This school denies God has the power of reason and also denies the human powers of reason and free will.
When asked for his positions on offensive Quran verses about Jews, other non-Muslims and the premise that everyone must convert to Islam, Jasser replied in extensive detail.
He noted that he has addressed these questions at length in his book, “A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith.”
Jasser said that while “scholarship and reason are a central and very important component to an analysis of normative Islam and its theology, most Muslims that I have known throughout my life do not believe in a ‘central authority’ that defines what is and what is not Islam.”
“While the president of Turkey and other Islamist demagogues may say that ‘there is no moderate Islam, there is only one Islam,’ the reality on the ground is that most Muslims that I know, as I was raised, believe that our relationship with God and our scripture is very personal, and ultimately our manifestation of free will is being judged by God individually for that interpretation with no one else being responsible for our interpretation, including our parents.”
He pointed to quotations cited frequently since 9/11 to argue that the Quran is anti-Jewish.
He said the website prophetofdoom.net translates Quran 2:64 as: “But you [Jews] went back on your word and were lost losers. So become apes, despised and hated. We made an example out of you.”
“This is the entirety of what is quoted. My father spent over 10 years translating the Quran, and based on his translation and explanations on his knowledge of the classical Arabic … he felt that it stated: ‘Even after all that, you still abandoned your obligations and if it were not for God’s favor to you and mercy upon you, you would have been lost.’ Quite a difference from ‘lost losers’!” said Jasser.
“After that, he follows with ‘You know those among you who violated the Sabbath, and We made them disgraced apes,’ and then follows with ‘We made their ending an example for those who lived with them and those who lived later and an appropriate reminder for those who are pious.’
“The point here is not whether my father or my grandfathers, each of whom was a scholar in his own right, had the street cred to offer Islamic exegesis,” said Jasser. “I believe they did, but history will judge how what they taught me fits into Islamic modernization. The point is that my father’s lifetime of rational work and daily conversations with me about our scripture, my grandfather Zuhdi Jasser’s Islamic defense and advocacy of secular Western principles for democracy in Syria, and my other grandfather Subhi Sabbagh’s modern leadership and interpretations of Islam from the bench of the supreme court in Syria, empowered me to use my own free will and cognitive skills to complete my faith narrative and interpretations.”
Jasser said that as a Muslim and also as a Navy veteran, he reads such passages in their historical context.
“That Muhammad, just like any military commander, had to spur on his troops when they were at war does not mean that I am obligated to go and slay the ‘unbeliever’ wherever I may find him,” he explained. “If wholesale war was formally declared on all Muslims everywhere, I would certainly have an obligation to defend myself and my family, but that is not the case in Phoenix where I live or in the United States or in the world at large, despite what the Islamists and the jihadists may claim.
“Nowhere in the Quran does God tell Muslims how to establish and run their governments,” Jasser said. “Nowhere in the Quran does God tell Muslims that they must repeat and thus emulate the Prophet Muhammad’s role and actions as a military or governmental leader. Nowhere in the Quran does God tell Muslims that they must impose their beliefs, practices and rituals upon others. And most certainly, nowhere in the Quran does God tell myopic automatons to instigate murderous, terrorist actions against civilians and other noncombatants who, by definition, are incapable of causing them harm.”
Jasser said his interpretation of the Quran “has always included the overriding idea that the Prophet Muhammad’s example, spiritually and morally, is for all times – but that his political and military actions were an example that cannot be taken out of the context of the times in which he lived and its specific conflicts.”
He and other Muslims say the Arabic language is very complex and translation is key. Unlike Wahhabi and Salafist translators, Jasser finds a “merciful” Allah in the Quran.
“Choosing the wrong [meaning] can completely change the context of what is said,” Jasser explained. “Add to this the far more complex issue of explanation and interpretation (tafsir) based upon the history and context of the passage’s timing and revelation and one can see how easy it can be for an oppressive global network of well-funded petrodollar tribal theocrats to manipulate and push forward a dominant literalist (Wahhabi or Salafist) version.”
For Muslims, he said, “the authenticity of the Arabic script of the Quran revealed to the Prophet Muhammad has the same sort of divine status as the Prophet Jesus has for Christians.”
“My understanding is that in our belief, this was the language chosen by God in which to reveal the Quran because this language was the one perfectly suited for it, a language of a pagan community that had not yet been exposed to God’s revelation,” he said.
“So, essentially this is more evidence that Islam was not revealed to convert Jews or Christians to Islam, but rather to pagans as an updated version of the message from the God of Abraham,” said Jasser. “It was not only one of the most complex and rich languages in the world, but was a language through which God’s message had not yet been revealed.”
Jasser said it’s also important to know that for Muslims there is a significant theological difference between the Hadith – the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad – and the Quran, especially with regard to authenticity.
“So many of the passages portrayed as ‘authentic’ hadith are actually rather ‘weak,’ and, many Muslims believe, were never the actual words of the Prophet Muhammad but rather were fabricated by theo-political power interests to advance a supremacist agenda of some kind,” he said. “It saddens me to see so much in the public space about Islamic scriptural guidance that is driven by certain hadith that most Muslims intellectually dismiss in our daily lives as being false.”
Jasser’s organization calls for a “separation of mosque and state,” but he clarified this when questioned by WND.
“I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that America is not a secular nation and the Founders did not call for a total separation of church or mosque and state, but did explicitly call for the prevention of the establishment of one religion through government and its law,” said Jasser. “That is the premise of my book, that in fact European-style – anti-religious – secularism will not defeat Islamism. It actually makes it thrive. I essentially believe that only an American-like understanding of religious liberty will defeat political Islam.
“My biggest concern for the United States is that we continue down this blind path of neglect toward Islamism. The Islamists are ascending globally while our nation is either asleep or actually helping the Islamists and their enablers ascend.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the USCCB, has been holding dialogues and conferences with Muslim organizations and leaders since 1996. In 2012, they collaborated with the Islamic Society of North America.
Since the presidency of George W. Bush, Jasser has warned that the federal government is collaborating with the wrong Muslim groups – groups such as ISNA who are hostile to America and hostile to individual liberty. Jasser believes Christian leaders such as the USCCB and evangelical megachurch pastor Rick Warren are misled and misleading their flocks. Considering that Christians are the majority of American voters and many voted to re-elect Obama despite his Islamist agenda, apparently Islamist propaganda has consequences.
Jasser said: “Most interesting is this position of the Catholic Church [USCCB] in the U.S. because of how out of step it seems with Pope Benedict’s understanding of the challenges Muslims have in confronting societies based in reason as articulated, for example, in his Regensburg speech.
“While as a devout Muslim I may not agree with all of Pope Benedict’s points in that lecture, the essence of the conflict between Islamism and reason is very important and one entirely ignored by this unfortunate relationship between Catholic leadership and ISNA,” he said.
“They are simply reaching for the lowest hanging fruit to represent Muslims,” warned Jasser. “They are ignoring their ideologies and trusting their superficial condemnations of terrorism and the ideologies that feed it.
“I dissect ISNA in my book and my own experiences with their conventions and leaders, like when I saw Imam Siraj Wahhaj call for the replacement of the U.S. Constitution with the Quran in his keynote address to their annual convention of 1995,” explained Jasser.
He said Islamists, for example, are silent on the plight of Christians in Muslim-ruled nations like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt.
“What they say in a free nation like the U.S. about interfaith beliefs does not matter. What matters is what they believe the law should be in nations where they would be a majority.
“ISNA, MPAC, CAIR and other so-called leading Muslim groups are silent on the crimes against humanity committed by Islamists in so many Muslim majority nations,” said Jasser. “Try to find a statement by ISNA condemning the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their desire to eradicate churches. They refuse to call Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood or Jamaat Islamiya terrorist or radical groups and are entirely silent on political Islam.”