American Islamic Reformer: Crucial to Provide Third Path for Palestinians Faced With ‘Fascist’ Fatah and Hamas
“We have to tap into Muslims’ consciences and to tell them that they have an Islamic responsibility to protect the land that they live in, by countering the ideas that radicalize and hate the West. Among the Palestinians in Israel, It’s that much more important to empower reformists, because they have two extremes – Fatah and Hamas – each fascist in many ways, and there is no third pathway for rejecting both,” a prominent American Muslim said on Thursday.
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith, made these comments while addressing a gathering of the Gatestone Institute, a New York-based think tank specializing in strategy and defense issues.
To hit his point home, Jasser said, “Contrast the Palestinians with the Kurds,” he said. “Why have the Kurds not been radicalized? Because the Kurdish identity has provided a secular fuel for comfort, which has never given space to the Islamist identity. The Palestinian identity has been hijacked by the Islamist radicals, which is why Palestinians living in Israel I’ve spoken to say they much prefer to live in Israel than in Hamas-controlled Gaza and the areas of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority. And why is that? Because there has been no effective Muslim counter-information offensive in those areas to tell Palestinians: ‘It is your fault, not the Israelis’, that you are in your current situation.’”
In his talk — titled “Who Are the Real Blasphemers?” — Jasser said, “We have to find Muslims willing to fight to the death for ideas they don’t agree with,” referring to the famous quote by Voltaire’s biographer.
Jasser – a first-generation American whose parents fled the Baathist regime in Syria – has been working to “counter the narrative that theocrats have been dominating, and to acknowledge that Islam has a problem and that there is a problem within the house of Islam.”
A key element to this “problem,” according to Jasser – a frequent Fox News commentator, who is about to launch a podcast called “Reform This” on the Glenn Beck network — is the accusation of blasphemy against anyone who does not toe the line and ideology of radical imams. “But it is people who have rights, not ideas,” he said. “And sharia law is man-made, not a decree from God.”
Asked how his reform efforts in the United States, a democratic society with a legal system that safeguards free speech, can influence Muslims in the Middle East – in areas within and surrounding Israel — who are killed for holding “blasphemous” positions, Jasser acknowledged that it is an uphill battle.
“This is indeed a problem, because such people not only receive death threats, but actual attacks, and the police, because of impunity issues, don’t protect them.”
Jasser recounted participating in a panel with a Muslim professor at the University of Colorado who was tagged as a moderate: “He pounded his fist on the table and said, ‘I’m sick and tired of having to answer the question of whether terrorism is [inherent] in Islam! These are criminals; we have nothing to do with them.’ I responded, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself,’ I told him. ‘You’re living in the lap of freedom, and you think you have no responsibility to the legacy of your country here’ — because that threat is coming to America, just as it is surrounding Israel.”
As for the fear of death on the part of Palestinians and other Mideast Muslims who might otherwise be inclined to engage in such an offensive, Jasser concluded, “But they’re being killed anyway.”
Jasser, a specialist in internal medicine and nuclear cardiology from Phoenix, Arizona, is a former officer in the US Navy.