A Tireless Muslim Advocate for Islamic Reform

M. Zuhdi Jasser

It’s a shame that conservative arsonist Andrew Breitbart has torched his own credibility so thoroughly at the time one of his websites was preparing to publish an important message from my favorite Muslim-American patriot.

As a public service to anyone who doesn’t want to give Breitbart’s site any traffic, I’m posting an extensive excerpt here from M. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim and former officer in the United States Navy.  Jasser says of failed Time Square bomber Faisal Shahzad (emphasis added):

The Shahzads of the world do not go to sleep one night a normal citizen in corporate America working for the Affinion Group and wake up the next morning a traitorous jihadist adhering to a radical ideology. There is a process of indoctrination and the pathway is political Islam. …

The core of our American citizenship pledge and my officer’s pledge I took when I was in the U.S. Navy is to defend the U.S. against enemies foreign and domestic. Muslim leadership need to reform the ideas which feed into the development of traitors like Hasan and Shahzad and others who slide down the slippery slope of political Islam to become agents of the “Islamic state” over their allegiance to the U.S., the nation that gave them freedom. Simply placing road blocks along that slope as many who prefer political correctness over debate would do is not enough. The whole slope of political Islam needs to be ideologically defeated in real debate within the House of Islam.

The obligations of jihad in the 7th century Arabian Peninsula under the Prophet Muhammad’s leadership are gone for all Muslims I know. We now only have a national obligation of citizenship to our nation – the United States– and there is and can be no other competing obligations. Muslim teachers need to make that repeatedly clear, with no qualifications about Muslims being in a majority or minority, or future Shahzads of the world will keep returning.

If Muslims apply the true meaning of jihad today that I know and learned from my family, they would start a ‘jihad against jihad’ and work to end the concept with regards to armed conflict, nation states, and the ummah. The real jihad in 2010 is within the House of Islam against the Islamists and those advocates of political Islam and its radical manifestations that have hijacked the spiritual path of Islam.

I was not aware of Jasser and his organization, the American-Islamic Forum for Democracy, in late 2008 when I posted the following words:

There are some reprehensible passages in the Bible, but over the centuries most Christians have come to reject them. Christians stopped sanctioning the killing of non-believers because Christianity as a culture came to know that it was wrong, despite whatever Biblical support might be found. Christians in America cited Biblical support for slavery, and other Christians led the way in renouncing it, first through the abolition movement and later through the civil rights movement.

In the same way, Muslims bear the primary responsibility (not “blame”) for purging Islam of the evil done in its name. Perhaps Islam has been hijacked, as President Bush would have it. But if there is any broad-based, organized effort by moderate Muslims to overpower the “hijackers,” it has escaped my notice.

Shame on me — AIFD has been fighting the good fight since 2003, as I would have known if I had looked a little harder.  In my defense I’ll cite the unfortunate fact that Jasser and AIFD are not nearly as well known as they deserve to be — Wikipedia has a self-described “stub” of an entry for AIFD, and no entry for Jasser himself.

But Jasser is a Muslim Hero, and I’ll continue to look for opportunities to highlight his views.

The Odd Disinterest in a Real-Life Spy Thriller

The U.S. is attempting to deport Mosab Hassan Yousef based on his autobiography, Son of Hamas, and I don’t understand why it hasn’t gotten more attention.

Yousef’s father was a co-founder of Hamas, the terrorist organization that masquerades as the government of the Gaza Strip.  I just finished reading the younger Yousef’s book, published earlier this year, which describes how he spent a decade spying on Hamas on behalf of the Israeli government.  In the process he converted to Christianity, which all by itself is reason enough for the “Religion of Peace” to mark him for death.

Yousef initially started following in his father’s footsteps, but quickly soured on the violence, and began tipping off Israel’s Shin Bet security service about planned terror attacks, or when he learned of the location of wanted terrorists.  Eventually he tired of the tension and the danger, and sought asylum in the United States.

Now Homeland Security is using the book to try to deport Yousef for providing “material support” for terrorists — despite the fact that he was saving Israeli lives from those very terrorists.

Why isn’t this bigger news?

I get only 33 hits when I Google for “Mosab”, and a handful of those aren’t even about the same Mosab.  (Googling for “Yousef” unleashes a 3 million-hit deluge, mostly about other Yousefs.) The Wall Street Journal editorial page did its part, weighing in earlier this month:

The problem seems to be that, under a provision of U.S. immigration law, anyone who is shown to have provided “material support” for terrorist organizations is automatically denied asylum. In the relentless way that bureaucracy works, this is being interpreted as leaving little discretion for deserving exceptions like the case of Mr. Yousef.

Mr. Yousef is a native of the West Bank, which is where he would presumably return if he is deported and where Hamas would immediately seek to kill him. … It would dishonor the U.S. to deport a convert in the war on terror because our immigration bureaucracy is too obtuse to make even life and death distinctions.

But aside from the Journal, most of the scant interest in Yousef has come from Jewish and Christian media outlets.  Here’s a well-done report from the Christian Broadcasting Network:

Yousef’s deportation hearing in San Diego is next Wednesday — presumably we’ll all be reading more about him then.  In the meantime you can buy Yousef’s book from my Amazon widget at right.

Islam May Not Be the Enemy, But the Enemy Is Islamic

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has earned the right to be critical of Islam.

She was raised as a devout Muslim in Somalia and Kenya.  At the age of five, her genitals were cut in a barbaric Somali ritual at the insistence of her Islamic grandmother.  In her twenties, her Islamic father gave her in marriage to a distant cousin she barely knew.  After she fled to Holland and built a life for herself as a politician and filmmaker, a Muslim killed her filmmaking partner, Theo Van Gogh, and left a note stabbed into his chest indicating she would be next.  All this and more is recounted in her 2007 memoir, Infidel.

This remarkable woman, who now self-identifies as an atheist, has published a second memoir, Nomad: From Islam to America, which I’ve just finished reading.  She’s well aware that Islamic scripture prescribes death for apostasy, and she is accompanied by armed guards wherever she goes.  But the constant threat has not blunted her views or the clarity with which she declares them.  She’s not a fan of multiculturalism:

Here is something I have learned the hard way, but which a lot of well-meaning people in the West have a hard time accepting:  All human beings are equal, but all cultures and religions are not.  A culture that celebrates femininity and considers women to be the masters of their own lives is better than a culture that mutilates girls’ genitals and confines them behind walls and veils or flogs or stones them for falling in love.  A culture that protects women’s rights by law is better than a culture in which a man can lawfully have four wives at once and women are denied alimony and half their inheritance.  A culture that appoints women to its supreme court is better than a culture that declares that the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man.  It is part of Muslim culture to oppress women and part of all tribal cultures to institutionalized patronage,  nepotism and corruption.  The culture of the Western Enlightenment is better.

She calls for an Islamic Enlightenment:

The Muslim mind needs to be opened.  Above all, the uncritical Muslim attitude toward the Quran urgently needs to change, for it is a direct threat to world peace… The Muslim mind today seems to be in the grip of jihad.  A nebula of movements with al Qaeda-like approaches to Islamic precepts has enmeshed itself in small and large ways into many parts of Muslim community life, including in the West.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a brave voice in a fight for the soul of Islam.  Another such voice is M. Zuhdi Jasser,  head of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.  Unlike Ali, Jasser continues to be a devout Muslim — but like her, he understands the threat posed by some of his co-religionists.

As devout Muslims who are anti-Islamist we feel that Muslims have to lead the war of ideas against political Islam (Islamism) from within devotional Islam. Islamists have a well-established transnational global network of entities hatched from Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots. Whether we care to admit it or not, Islamists are at war intellectually and kinetically with western liberal democracies.

Today comes the news that: “Two New Jersey men arrested at a New York airport planned to travel to Somalia to ‘wage violent jihad,’ and also had expressed a willingness to commit violent acts in the United States.”  The two had been under surveillance for more than three years.

The scary reality is that our enemy lives among us. Thank God for Muslims (and ex-Muslims) like Jasser and Ali who are brave enough to help us understand what we face.

My Hero, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, on Islamic Death Threats

One of the best things you could do in the next seven minutes would be to watch John Stossel’s interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali (whose latest book Nomad is available through my Amazon widget in the right column).  Here’s a sample of what she tells Stossel:

“If you are a Muslim and you leave Islam, it’s the obligation of every Muslim to come after you and kill you. Fortunately for me, and for other apostates of Islam, not every Muslim wants to kill us.  But it is in scripture, and it’s very important that we discuss that….

“There are people, again, who feel like they are following in the example of the prophet Mohammed if they kill people like me.”  [Because of the need for armed bodyguards around the clock] “my freedom is constrained, but still, I am alive, and I feel that I am free, and I feel that I can take part in this debate without having to fear for my life.”

In the midst of the controversy over “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” it’s important to keep in mind the nature of the man being mocked.  The Prophet spread his message at the point of the sword, and apostasy was only one of many transgressions for which the penalty was death.  From the hadith Sahih Bukhari, Book 52:

No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’ …  A group of eight men from the tribe of ‘Ukil … killed the shepherd and drove away the camels, and they became unbelievers after they were Muslims. When the Prophet was informed by a shouter for help, he sent some men in their pursuit, and before the sun rose high, they were brought, and he had their hands and feet cut off. Then he ordered for nails which were heated and passed over their eyes, and whey were left in the Harra (i.e. rocky land in Medina). They asked for water, and nobody provided them with water till they died.

Thousands of Deadly Islamic Terror Attacks Since 9/11

A good guided tour of the scriptural basis for Islamic fascism is available at TheReligionOfPeace.com, which keeps a helpful daily tally of terrorist attacks committed in the name of the Prophet.

“Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” May Be Better as a Concept than as Something Actually to Do

I loved the concept of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day: stick a thumb in the eye of the cowardly suits at Comedy Central, Yale University Press and elsewhere who backed down in the face of thuggish threats and betrayed the cause of free expression through self-censorship.  Do it in a way that thoroughly dilutes the target pool, creating more Mohammed-depicters than there are jihadis.  Fight back against jihadism (the term I think I may start using in place of “Islamic fascism“) in a truly non-violent way.

But I have to say I’m appalled by the vulgarity and obscenity of many of the images I’ve run across today. Predictable, I suppose, but I failed to predict it.  No, I’m not going to link to them, you can find your own if you want.  I’m talking about the hundreds of graphic depictions of bestiality, pedophilia and rape.  (Yes, I know that Mohammed allegedly consummated his “marriage” to Aisha when she was nine or 10 years old, and I agree that it’s quite reasonable to label that “pedophilia.”  But I still don’t want to look at a picture of it.)

But I do like Reason‘s selection of winners for its “EDMD” contest, precisely because they avoid such crudity.  Their grand prize winner is above; clicking it will take you to their writeup, where they note:

The single most important element – and the thing that ties these selections together [the winning image above and two runners-up] – is that each image forces the viewer to do two things.

First, they consciously call into question the nature of representation, no small matter in fights over whether it is allowed under Islamic law to depict Mohammed (for the historical record, there is no question that the idea that is always wrong is only of recent vintage; there is a long history of sacred and superficial images of the Prophet)….

Second, each of the images forces the viewer to actively participate not simply in the creation of meaning but of actually constructing the image itself. This is clearest in our grand prize winner … which pushes iman and infidel alike to do the work that would condemn them to death under the most extreme reading of injunctions against representing Mohammed.

There is a deeper lesson here: Connect the dots and discover that we all must be Spartacus on Everybody Draw Mohammad Day. And that in a free society, every day is Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.

Not Mohammed

I have one quibble with the contest at Reason — they seem to have cropped out a couple of essential dots.  If you enlarge the image, print it out and connect the dots, as I have done in the second image (yes, maybe I need a hobby), you’ll find that dots No. 31 and 32 are missing.  Since they’re at the bottom of the image, they presumably would establish Mohammed’s beard — without which he looks more like Sonic the Hedgehog.


Surprise! “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” Draws Threats

A "peaceful" protest in Lahore, Pakistan

I haven’t paid much attention to “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” since I first wrote about it, but a lot of other people have.  The May 20th observation has its own (very lengthy) Wikipedia page, multiple Facebook pages, including one with more than 63,000 fans, an EDMD blog, and a contest by Reason magazine.

No casualties as of yet in the inevitable backlash, although there’s a tepid implicit death threat in the sign carried by Pakistani students, above.   The main anti-EDMD Facebook page has more than 37,000 fans, and to their credit, the organizers are stressing non-violence.

Reason editor Nick Gillespie explains why the magazine is championing EDMD:

… at the heart of the liberal project is ultimately a recognition that individuals, for no other reason than that they exist, have rights to continue to exist. Embedded in all that is the right to expression. No one has a right to an audience or even to a sympathetic hearing, much less an engaged audience. But no one should be beaten or killed or imprisoned simply for speaking their mind or praying to one god as opposed to the other or none at all or getting on with the small business of living their life in peaceful fashion. If we cannot or will not defend that principle with a full throat, then we deserve to choke on whatever jihadists of all stripes can force down our throats.

The theory behind “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” is that the jihadis can’t kill all of us.  Let’s hope there are no casualties at all.

Meanwhile, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book has downloaded to my Kindle, and I’m going to settle in to read about a woman who truly has stared death in the face in the cause of free expression.

Faisal Shahzad: The Terrorist Next Door

For whatever reason, I’ve resisted learning much about the Times Square bombmaker’s personal life.  I’ve been more interested in other aspects of the attempted attack, such as how his U.S. citizenship distinguishes him from the Christmas panty-bomber, or whether exceptions to the Miranda rule should be broadened.  (I vote yes.)

But today I stumbled across an in-depth profile of Faisal Shahzad in the New York Times, and I read it with a sense of queasy fascination.   Out of several candidates, I’ve settled on this as the passage that disturbed me the most:

That June [2006], he took a new job as an analyst at the Affinion Group, a financial marketing firm in Norwalk, telling a friend that his annual income had jumped to $70,000. Two months later, he finished his master’s degree in business. On weekends, Mr. Shahzad hosted barbecues, mowed his lawn and played badminton in the yard. His wife was pregnant.

Shahzad, pictured above with his wife and one of their two children, was living the American Dream.  Early press reports speculated that financial difficulties might have played a role in his radicalization, but the Times account makes clear that his home was foreclosed only because he abandoned it and stopped paying the mortgage.

Somehow this well-educated, solidly middle-class family man was so affected by a poisonous ideology that he drove a car bomb to Times Square and tried to kill random people — who might well have included attractive young families like his own.  Catastrophe was averted only because of his utter incompetence as a bombmaker.

We can’t rely on  incompetence — the Christmas panty-bomber also failed, but jihadi-Major Nadal Hasan took far too many casualties. We can’t arrest every middle-class family man who expresses outrage about the Iraq war.  What can we do?

Ajami Offers Wisdom on Islam and the Middle East

My old professor Fouad Ajami, who flourished at Johns Hopkins after starting his academic career at Princeton, discusses Islam and the Middle East on Peter Robinson’s well-crafted Uncommon Knowledge video series.  There is no transcript, but I’ve painstakingly transcribed a few passages, and in some cases I’ve added links to my own posts along similar lines.  (I didn’t take notes this well in the good professor’s course, but I might have if his lectures had a pause button.)

We can be proud of what we have done in Iraq.  America has midwifed a binational state — that means Arab and Kurd — and we have midwifed a democratic entity in the heart of the Middle East…. I think history will be immensely kind to what he [President Bush] did in Iraq. [Hear, hear.]

I don’t think President Obama should make Afghanistan the so-called “central front” in the war on terror.  Because in the bazaar, that just increases the price of the Afghan real estate. It gives the Afghans the sense they can blackmail us — that we’re so dependent on their largesse, so dependent on their hospitality.  We must tell the Afghans unequivocably that we have other concerns in this war on terror.

Iran is hell-bent on acquiring nuclear [weapons]… There are two men in the world, and only two men in the world, who can prevent this.  One of them is President Obama, and the other one is Prime Minister Netanyahu.  So either President Obama, or Prime Minister Netanyahu, puts a halt to this Iranian drive, or the Iranians will have what they want.  [There may be two men who could, but only one who likely will.]

People who say that there is no moderate Islam trouble me, because I know that the battle for Islam is not yet lost… We believe it’s an open battle. We know that the radical Islamists are trying to hijack the faith and “weaponize” Islam so to speak… but I can’t go that far and say there is no moderate Islam. I know for example there are many jurists in the Islamic world who are keen to get Islam back from the radicals. [From his lips to Allah’s ears.]

He [Obama] doesn’t understand this Arabic expression… “My brother and I against my cousin.  My cousin and I aganist a stranger.” There’s one thing Arabs and Muslims don’t like, which is someone who comes into their midst and trashes his own.  President Obama walked in to Cairo and spoke poorly of the Iraq war, and apologized for America.  It was a terrible mistake. And even the people at the receiving end, they may enjoy his taunts of President Bush and his attacks on the Iraq war — but you are never respected.  If you break with your own, you break with your own.

We need less of the global apology tour and more of the ringing assertion of America’s role in the world that Obama delivered so effectively in his Nobel Prize speech.

Devout Muslim Says Shahzad Should Be Tried for Treason

One of my all-time favorite Muslims, Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, pulls no punches in condemning his co-religionist:

“The actions of Faisal Shahzad a naturalized US citizen on May 1, 2010 were a calculated and deliberate act of treason. Shahzad’s cowardly attempt to kill innocent Americans in Times Square clearly demonstrates his loyalty lies with the Islamist radicals and not his chosen countrymen in the United States. His actions were a result of his faith in the supremacy of an Islamic State over the United States. His citizenship oath was given falsely in 2009 and was in the direct service of powers at war with the United States. His prosecution should encompass the gravity of those actions. No different from Hassan Abujihad convicted in 2008, Nidal Hasan and other Islamist traitors Shahzad if guilty is an enemy of the state and should be immediately legally treated as one.”

You should really read the whole thing, but I know you won’t, so here’s my favorite line from the rest of Jasser’s statement: ” America in fact provides the best atmosphere for Muslims to practice our faith and it is time for us to empower honest reformist Muslims to declare the ‘Islamic state’ dead.”

Fun fact: “Treason” is the only crime defined in the United States Constitution, and it’s defined so narrowly that there have been fewer than three dozen prosecutions in the history of the Republic. It’s a shame — I’m fond of calling things by their name, but the deck is rigged on this.

More from Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Mohammed’s Image

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Ayaan Hirsi Ali calls for a campaign of solidarity with the makers of South Park, who were the targets of veiled death threats after daring to invoke the name of Mohammed on their cartoon show.

The entertainment business, especially Hollywood, is one of the wealthiest and most powerful industries in the world. Following the example of Jon Stewart, who used the first segment of his April 22 show to defend “South Park,” producers, actors, writers, musicians and other entertainers could lead such an effort. Another idea is to do stories of Muhammad where his image is shown as much as possible. These stories do not have to be negative or insulting, they just need to spread the risk. The aim is to confront hypersensitive Muslims with more targets than they can possibly contend with.

Another important advantage of such a campaign is to accustom Muslims to the kind of treatment that the followers of other religions have long been used to. After the “South Park” episode in question there was no threatening response from Buddhists, Christians and Jews—to say nothing of Tom Cruise and Barbra Streisand fans—all of whom had far more reason to be offended than Muslims.

It will be interesting to see if any groundswell arises in support of the “May 20 Is Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” movement.  I still haven’t seen any explanation as to why May 20 was chosen — I’m a little disappointed that Ali didn’t use her WSJ megaphone to support that effort.

But I was delighted to see in the tagline to the WSJ article that Ali has a new book coming out in May: Nomad: From Islam to America—A Personal Journey through the Clash of Civilizations. I’ve added it to the recommended books in my Amazon widget at right, and I’m looking forward to reading it. (Hmm… I wonder if I get a cut if I buy a book from my own widget?)