By Alec Rooney
Christian Action Network
It takes some serious courage to do what Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of Arizona has been doing. The founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) has become a prominent media figure, speaking against groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America. His complaint is that these groups try to portray U.S. Muslims as victims, mix Islamism with politics and try to downplay the obvious connections between Islam and terrorism.
In a June 16 speech in Birmingham, Ala., Jasser talked about the June 12 shootings in Orlando, Fla. — only days earlier — referring to the “problem in the house of Islam” and talking about the radicalization of shooter Omar Mateen, saying that “the virus that hijacked his personality was radical Islamism and theocratic Islam.”
“Until we deal with the core issues we will continue to have these radicals get through as they have in Orlando, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, and Fort Hood,” Jasser told the Birmingham crowd.
A moderate Muslim who refers to the radical end of his own religion as a “virus” is showing some serious guts. Radical Islam hates nothing more than fellow Muslims who aren’t down with the struggle — who don’t at least tacitly support its mission of Satanic hatred, terror and murder.
There are those who will no doubt say that as long as Jasser remains a practicing Muslim his sincerity about countering extremism will be suspect, seeing it perhaps as a form of taqiyah, the feigned denial of faith (commonly known as lying) that Islam allows believers to engage in when they’re under pressure.
But for many reasons, Jasser deserves the benefit of the doubt.
One way to judge a man is by his enemies — or at least those who find fault with him — and the reaction Jasser got to his Birmingham speech from Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, is revealing.
In a press release that called Omar Mateen a steroid-crazed “unstable and bipolar … mass murderer ” (true enough), Taufique attempted to portray the Orlando killer as someone unfamiliar with the “basics” and “tenets” of Islam, which somehow made him “the kind of person who would fall prey to online radicalization by terrorists.”
This doesn’t make sense. Wouldn’t a psychotic malcontent who was familiar with basic Islam be far more likely to be radicalized online? What else would be driving him to radical Islamist websites, videos and Twitter accounts? And could it be that people with Mateen’s level of anger and hate are drawn naturally toward radical Islam, which provides such a proud, noble context for their evil urges?
Taufique then switched tactics, maybe hoping to cloud the issue with murky language. People who blame radical extremism on Islam are, he stated, “conveniently ignoring the massive ongoing efforts of American and International Islamic scholarship leading the charge against intellectually deconstructing the extremist ideologies being propagated in the guise of Islam.”
Anyone who can translate that sentence into understandable English is welcome to send it along. It’s very tempting to dismiss it with a single concise English word: obfuscation.
Taufique gets a little clearer when he asserts that “Muslim scholars worldwide” have established “that terrorism and extremism have no basis in Islam.” Only somehow the findings of these scholars are not filtering into the preachings of radical Islamic clerics on the Internet or anywhere else. Nor do the scores of Islamic terrorists who have been bombing, knifing, shooting and burning for the last several decades seem to put much stock in them either. Because what the scholars are saying conflicts with daily reality. Something drives murderous people to murder under the flag of Islam.
The last paragraph of Taufique’s response to Jasser contains the most interesting tidbits, as he first dresses Islamism in the cloak of American sports heroism, with a tinge of racial victimization mixed in: “[A] majority of the mosques in the United States follow the Islam of late boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who was a clear example of what American Islam looks like.”
All well and good, and the celebrity-death angle is a nice touch. Except that there is a level of word-parsing going on here that is almost Clintonian: A majority of mosques in the United States. Not all mosques everywhere, mind you. In fact, not even close. Kind of like how Muslims are overwhelmingly peaceful, but a specific minority will pull an Orlando, a Chattanooga, a Boston, a San Bernardino, or a Paris, or a 9/11 on you.
Finally, note his specificity that this is “what American Islam looks like.” This careful distinction is repeated in the last sentence of the statement: “To see how American Muslims practice their faith, a suggestion would be to please visit your local mosque and meet.”
Mosques in the United States. American Islam. American Muslims.
As far as all the other Muslims on Earth go, all bets are off. And Ashfaq Taufique seems to know it.
Why, in a world connected in milliseconds by the Internet and in a few hours by an international jet flight, where governments are increasingly opening their borders and throwing wide their gates to hordes of migrants from the Middle East, are we supposed to be placated that American Muslims – or at least most of them – share our values and will behave themselves?
After all, they are but a small sliver of the world’s 1.6 billion followers of Mohammed.
Jasser is a brave man doing courageous work, and the truth is on his side. Ashfaq Taufique’s rebuttal to him comes off as lame, evasive and equivocal. In fact it might be nearly funny, except for the evils it tries to mask.
Alec Rooney serves as communications director for the Christian Action Network. He is a longtime journalist, with experience as a writer and editor at five daily newspapers over 25 years. An award-winning print copy editor and copy desk chief, he also works as a freelance academic book editor. He is a 1986 graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and holds an M.A. in English from the University of Kentucky.