Time to take sides

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As a dedicated American Muslim activist, I have devoted my life to advocating for reforms against political Islam – the root cause of Islamist terrorism. To that end, I debated Bilal Kaleem, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Boston (MAS) at an April Ford Hall Forum in Boston. I focused on the threat of Islamism (political Islam and shar’iah) to the west, human rights, and freedom. When confronted, Mr. Kaleem feigned ignorance and dismissed the realities of political Islam staying lockstep with his employers. And why wouldn’t he when a coalition of local faith and political leaders continue to blindly give him and his Islamist associates an ideological pass?

Charles Jacobs of Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) recently criticized many state political and faith leaders for their blind embrace of Islamists at the MAS and the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC). Rabbi Eric Gurvis of Newton, along with 70 other rabbis, dismissed the criticism as ‘destructive’. This narrative is all too familiar. Any pointed critique of staunch Islamists is inappropriately labeled ‘anti-Muslim’ or ‘fear-mongering.’ Muslim victimhood is a political tool for partisan faith leaders and politicians. Never mind the fact that many devout Muslims raise the same critique against Islamist.

From the inside, many if not most of our mosques in American Islam are suffering deeply from the unopposed hegemony of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood and toxic foreign petrodollar interests. For exposing this ‘tough love,’ reformists often pay a heavy price. This is not “fear-mongering.” It is reality.

Governor Deval Patrick, Rabbi Gurvis, and other leaders should not elevate Islamists like Imam Abdullah Faaruuq and his team. By doing so, they make reformists irrelevant and kill any hope for a battle of ideas.

Make no mistake. I encourage Boston leaders to engage Muslim communities. But, engagement should be critical of any Islamist origins and goals.  If the Governor and a coalition of rabbis do not have the courage to take on the ideas and foreign entanglements of Islamists, who will? If they cannot recognize that American Muslims are far more diverse than the MAS and ISBCC care to portray, who will?

The majority of American Muslims reject Islamist groups. Most American Muslims, like my family, came to the U.S. to leave the suffocating influence of Islamist political parties and their toxic surrogates. But their influencers have followed us here.

And we wonder why the reformist Muslim voices appear so silent? Political correctness has made many blind. Muslims are not monolithic. The strong ‘horse’ of wealthy political Islam actually represents a minority of Muslims. Many American Muslims prefer more humble domestically funded American mosques and Muslim institutions based in the spiritual rather than a political transnational movement.

I ask Rabbi Gurvis to wake up to the threat. I love my faith and yearn for a day that my children can realize an Islam that separates mosque and state and puts the “Islamic state” in the dustbin of history.

Our founding fathers were never afraid to publicly address areas where faith, law, and government intersected. Our revolutionary Establishment Clause came out of that courageous environment. We cannot allow political correctness to trump American security and Islamic reform.

This is not about the religious freedom of Muslims to practice their faith but about needed reform. Only Muslims can bring Islam into modernity. Only Muslims can reform the ideas that led the Imam Anwar Al-Awlakis, Nidal Hasans, and Faisal Shahzads of the world down the slippery slope of anti-Americanism and violent jihad. Only Muslims can counter the sway of toxic transnational ideologies.

Imam Faaruuq is neither leading nor acknowledging that fight. For example, Aafia Siddiqui a former Bostonian turned Al Qaeda operative, was convicted in federal court in February of attempting to murder FBI agents in Afghanistan. Tarek Mehanna of Sudbury was also indicted in October 2009 on terror charges. Imam Faaruuq did not forcefully call for their punishment to the full extent of the law. Instead, he had the temerity to tell WBZ television, “I don’t think they did anything to harm America.” Yet, some remain perplexed as to why many more Muslims are being radicalized?

This is not a war against a generic “violent extremism.” The Islamist problem continues to get exponentially worse because communities like Boston are not addressing the root causes. When a Governor, some rabbis, and other leaders play the religion card while ignoring the entrenched Islamist problem, they put our security in peril. Attorney General Martha Coakley wrongly accepted a $50,000 grant for “sensitivity training” from the ISBCC giving them free reign to anesthetize all of her personnel about the real threat.

The American Muslim predicament is not about violence. It is about the goal of the Islamic state and shar’iah law (Islamism) a goal shared by non-violent Islamists. Islamist organizations are never going to turn around and secularize against their own core mission. We need to do the hard work of finding and promoting Muslim alternatives. Some of us Muslims pray for a day when Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, their progeny, and affiliates are intellectually defeated. That can only happen when the partisan bickering in the U.S. stops and our nation finally takes sides in the global contest between Islamists and liberty-minded Muslims.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is the President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (www.aifdemocracy.org) based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander and a physician in private practice.