The West desperately needs a broad-based anti-Islamist strategy to combat the global reach of this deadly ideology that threatens freedom and liberty everywhere. Dr. Jasser says that, “American Muslims, living in this unparalleled laboratory of freedom, have a unique moral obligation to lead the way. For too long we have allowed the grievance narratives of Islamist groups to dominate, deflect responsibility, and radicalize. As American Muslims, we need to own the problem and address the root causes of Islamist radicalization.”
About the speaker
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is the president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), an American think tank built on the premise of advocating for the principles of the U.S. Constitution, liberty and freedom through the separation of mosque and state. He is an ardent activist for universal human rights and against the global movement of political Islam (Islamism) that holds Muslims around the world under the thumb of theocratic regimes.
He routinely briefs members of Congress on the threat to the United States and has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security; the Constitution Sub-Committee of the House Judiciary Committee; and the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. He is regularly on national and international media as an expert on Islamist extremism.
Dr. Jasser is a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy who served 11 years as a medical officer including a tour as the Staff Internist to the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. Currently, Jasser is a well-respected internist and nuclear cardiologist in Phoenix, Arizona.
He is the author of the acclaimed book, A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith. In the book, Jasser offers a way for Muslims to dismantle the ideology of Islamism and reclaim their faith. It is a must read for the millions of people who want to understand how Muslims can defeat radical Islam and create Middle Eastern governments devoted to the principles of liberty and human rights.
Robert R. Reilly:
Our guest tonight as you know is Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, who’s the President and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), an American think tank built on the premise of advocating for the principles of the U.S Constitution, liberty, and freedom through the separation of mosque and state. Remember that famous letter from Jefferson? The separation – oh, that was church and state, okay, so Zuhdi is promoting the separation of mosque and state, which is very Jeffersonian.
He is a devout Muslim. He served recently as a commissioner on the congressionally appointed U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He is an ardent activist for universal human rights and against the global movement of political Islam or Islamism. He has appeared many times to testify before various committees in Congress and he’s spoken very forcefully and very courageously and for so doing he has also taken the heat from some Islamist organizations who don’t understand the distinctions that he espouses.
Dr. Jasser is a former Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy who served eleven years as a U.S. medical officer, including a tour as staff internist to the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. Sometimes I wish he had done his job less well than he did. Currently, he is serving as a well respected internist and nuclear cardiologist in Phoenix, Arizona.
Dr. Jasser is author of The Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith. We have copies of the book for sale out there. We have replaced the microscopic yellow post it note that said $20 so now it can be seen in a larger envelope and Dr. Jasser will be available to sign these books after his lecture which is on the subject of, Fighting for Victory Against Islamism: A Muslim Blueprint for the West. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Jasser.
Thank you, Bob. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here at the Westminster Institute and you know I have to open by saying many years ago I read the Closing of the Muslim Mind and I recommend it to a lot of the Muslims in our liberty project and I’m here to tell you that hopefully my mind is open and not closed and that’s really what the challenge is is I do believe Bob was right that the Muslim mind has closed for the most part at least folks running our faith and running our communities and the challenge is really to open those minds.
You know we always struggle with where we are and how to contextualize the subject matter if you will and it almost seems like everyone of my talks opens with an apology for the recent attack that happened be it Orlando all the way back to Ft. Hood and now fifteen years ago, 9/11. And the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 is only a few days away and I’m sure every one of you can remember where you were as those four planes attacked the United States and one was not too far from here at the Pentagon.
At that time, and that is where my book opens with, it opens with me talking about how angry I was and how I almost wanted to reenlist and get those bastards. And now you look where we are today. You realize that Al Qaeda was an extremely small problem compared to the problem that we have and for those of us who formed the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), nobody understood why our mission statement was to preserve the U.S. Constitution and freedom and liberty through the separation of mosque and state.
They are like wait a minute, the problem is terrorism. That doesn’t make sense. Come along twelve years later, ISIS starts forming in Syria and all of a sudden this terror group called the Islamic State forms and people start to understand, oh, there is an Islamic State terror group. And I’m still, fifteen years later, trying to explain to people that ISIS is even but a small symptom of a bigger, global cancer that a quarter of the world’s population has within it.
So when we look at this problem fifteen years after 9/11 and hundreds of thousands of troops that have deployed into the Middle East since then – and we can talk about for good or whether we made things better. I think we did. I think Iraq would be Syria today had we not happened to have gone in there and gotten rid of Saddam.
As a Syrian I can tell you that the Ba’ath regime of Iraq was not much different. It was just a different mafia family, running a much larger country, and I think if you think the Syrian civil war is bad, Iraq would have been much worse. As chaotic as it looks today, the Arab Spring did not go through Iraq because the dictatorship had been removed by our sons and daughters from the United States.
What I want to do today – and I know next week you may hear a little bit about diagnosis. I read books like Bob’s and I say wow, there is a lot of scholarship in these books. And you know there is a lot to be said about the deep academia and intellectual rigor of true, deep reform intellectually in Islam that needs to happen as schools of thought and Sharia and other things. But I have to tell you, that is going to take generations, but what can happen in this generation is the defeat militarily but also mostly intellectually of political Islamist movements.
And if you think the Cold War was a major threat, that pales in comparison to the constituency. I mean for all of the threat that the Cold War was, the communists only had a small percent of the Russian population, and ultimately that imploded from within without us ever directly going to war with the Soviets.
Islamism, which is the problem, which is political Islam, but as much as Islamism is probably the best word to define it, what I define as the real problem is Islamo-nationalism, which is the marriage of Islamic identity with national identity because right now what ISIS is finally starting to educate America about is the reason ISIS is spreading a lot faster than Al Qaeda.
Remember Al Qaeda’s mission for all of the world, as much as bin Laden was a caliphist if you will, who believed in a caliphate, for all the world their mission was really just to get the United States out of the Middle East. That was sort of their mission. They did not really have this mission of establishing Islamic states even though they believed in that and they believed in a caliphate.
Really it was more of an anti-Saudi regime, anti-Western (that is why they committed acts like the USS Cole Bombing), and then Al Qaeda was to get us and our relationship out so that the royal family in Saudi Arabia could be displaced by an Islamist radical group like Al Qaeda.
But then came the Arab Awakening. For the most part the Arab Awakening was I believe more of an economic revolution for free markets, for more autonomy and liberation because as many of us who are secularists know and believe – and I say secularists with caution and tell you that I am a devout Muslim, I believe in my faith, but I believe government should be secular and based in reason, not based on theocracy, but the secularists inherently are disorganized.
So take UNRUFA, a government from the Middle East, take away a dictatorship and the secularists divided as you all saw in the Arab Awakening be it in Egypt, Tunisia or elsewhere into hundreds of different parties and groups, so the Islamists inherently are united and usually just divided into two groups, the Salafi fundamentalists and then the Islamists, the more core political Islamists. Really the only difference between the Salafists of the more right-wing if you will or the fundamentalists – they all believe in the Islamo-nationalist state concept.
The best definition I heard was from a Brotherhood member. When I was on the Commission on Religious Freedom, we went to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and a number of countries. When we were in Egypt somebody defined it to me the best. They said the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist parties, used religion to get political control. The Salafis used politics to get religious control. But at the end of the day, they are doing the same thing, which is they are drinking from the same trough of Islamo-nationalism. They want the state to have an Islamic identity.
So over the next thirty-five minutes what I want to do with you is give you three things that I would like you to leave here with as we look at solutions. Fifteen years after 9/11 and we are still not even into the diagnosis stage of America understanding where we are, so imagine the Cold War after World War II. Fifteen years later we were into the Kennedy administration and we were beginning to understand what the Cold War was.
Now, we have a much bigger threat with fifty-six countries that belong to this cartel of Islamist theocracies. Some are obviously not technical theocracies, but for the most part they all use [Islamic law], they are all Sharia states, and fifteen years later we still cannot say radical Islam. And the reason the terminology is important is not because it is a talking point, but because you cannot treat a disease that you cannot define.
Now, certainly, if you overshoot and say all of Islam, then you are alienating a quarter of the world’s population, but if you do not recognize the Islamic community, the Islamic faith has an inherent theocratic cancer within it, then you are going to completely miss the problem and end up with this whack-a-mole problem where right now domestically our whack-a-mole problem is we go from one incident to the next where our largest homeland security agency is sort of like this minority report program where they are trying to figure out where the next act of violence is going to happen like that old movie. And that is impossible because some of these guys, other than posting a few things on the internet, usually will not have any records until they finally decide they want to [attack]. They think they are going to go to heaven and do their jihad, and do their act of violence.
But that is it. It is a whack-a-mole program from the individual. Then globally we have the movement whack-a-mole where we say Al Qaeda is the problem, and then we have a mission accomplished sign and we go up and we say that Al Qaeda is done and in 2007, 2008 President Bush was basically right, Al Qaeda had pretty much been decimated. But we had not had a solution, we did not figure out what we were going to do once we got in there and we decimated the radical, militant entity that had used Islamism to come into power violently because the underbelly of that is huge political movements that, as we have seen in the Arab Awakening, can get thirty, forty percent of the vote.