Zuhdi Jasser and AIFD - Identified by Rep. King as the Ideal American Muslim Leadership

14 March 2011

By Sheila Musaji

During the first of Peter King's planned hearings "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response", Zuhdi Jasser was the star witness. Why was he put in this position as the face of American Muslims? He is not a scholar of Islam. He is not part of the leadership of any national Muslim organization.

TAM has had a number of articles over the years about a neo-con strategy called Religion Building and on the devious process of labeling and identifying "moderate" Muslims. (type religion building or moderate Muslims in the TAM search for many of these articles) It seems as if this religion building strategy has entered a new phase - actively attempting to set up an individual and/or organization as the authorized spokesman for the American Muslim community. Enter Zuhdi Jasser and AIFD.

Zuhdi Jasser's biography from his AIFD (American Islamic Forum for Democracy) site ** doesn't cite any real qualifications for his "expertise" on the American Muslim Community nationally.

If you review Jasser's credits, he largely inhabits the right-wing media universe: he's appeared on Fox News and Glenn Beck, and in the pages of the Washington Times and National Review. He is a member of Podhoretz-Dechter creation, the pro-Israel and neocon Committee on the Present Danger. He has spoken before the Hudson Institute. He writes for Family Security Matters, a far-right website. Richard Silverstein

Jasser was opposed to the Park51/Cordoba House project ** (see video of Jasser & Reza Aslan on Cordoba House here. More on Cordoba House here) and is vehemently opposed to CAIR ** and MPAC and ISNA and CSID ** and every Muslim organization except his own, and calls them "Islamist". Actually, I have never heard him say anything positive about any existing American Muslim organization or any individual member of their leadership. All of his public statements absolutely ignore any positive contributions of the American Muslim community, and certainly ignore all of the statements against extremism and terrorism. You can find these here

He has been featured in a series of anti-Muslim films The Third Jihad and Islam v Islamists and Newt Gingrich's 2010 documentary, America At Risk: The War With No Name. You can see Jasser in the Third Jihad movie trailer here. You can see the America at Risk trailer here. Jasser not only appeared in these "epics", he is on the board of the Clarion Group ** whose Clarion Fund was behind the films The Third Jihad and Obsession. More on Obsession here

In the new film (The Third Jihad), the "good" Muslim is played to the hilt by its "star," one M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. He is a "devout practicing Muslim" (and he won't let you forget that to distinguish himself from Christian-Arab Muslim haters, Shoebat and Darwish), former Navy Lieutenant Colonel, physician, and wannabe political thinker. He seems to have no special qualifications for taking on the role of analyst of political Islam, but assume it he does and with a vengeance. Richard Silverstein

In an interview, Jasser defended his appearance in The Third Jihad saying "I think if [viewers] hadn't seen that there's a Muslim that's part of the solution, it would have been worse." **

This seems a subtle way of saying that you would be hard pressed to find other Muslims who are "part of the solution".

Jasser is also a member of the Middle East Forum created and ran by neo-con Daniel Pipes as well as "the pro-Israel and neocon Committee on the Present Danger. He has spoken before the Hudson Institute. He writes for Family Security Matters, Middle East Quarterly, and other far-right websites." If this doesn't give you a hint about the agenda that drives Jasser and the purpose of this film nothing will. Loonwatch

New Gingrich said about Jasser Radical Islamists are people who want to impose Sharia (or Islamic law) on the entire world. In America at Risk, expert after expert describes the Radical Islamists' determination to impose an extraordinarily different system on us. These Radical Islamists are profoundly different from moderate Muslims who want to live under the rule of Constitutional Law and have the same freedoms the rest of us cherish. In America at Risk, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a courageous moderate Muslim, draws a sharp distinction between Muslims who want to live in America as a free country, and Radical Islamists who seek to destroy America. Radical Islamists view their struggle as a religiously inspired and approved jihad. Radical Islamists practice jihad in two forms—violent jihad and stealth jihad. They both have the same goal, which is to replace American freedom with Sharia. **

With no relevant credentials to speak of, Jasser's authority in conservative circles as an "expert on radical Islam" seems to be derived from his willingness to frequently attack the Obama administration (whose terrorism advisor Jasser says "deserves honorary membership in the Muslim Brotherhood") and Muslim-American civil rights groups ("front organizations" for the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Jasser).

Jasser is also conspicuous in his willingness to appear on Fox News to mitigate the effects of their pundits' anti-Islamic rhetoric. After Fox host Bill O'Reilly went on The View and declared that "Muslims killed us on 9-11," triggering a walk-off of the show's hosts, he turned to Jasser, who declared that he was "absolutely not" offended by O'Reilly's comments and actually thanked the Fox host for making them. Likewise, after NPR fired Juan Williams for his own controversial comments about Muslims, Fox hosted Jasser, who was again "absolutely not" offended.

Given these facts, it should be no surprise that Fox News' Glenn Beck has dubbed him the "one Muslim that we were all searching for after 9-11" and said he is "a voice that I trust." Jasser has appeared on Beck's show to provide "expert" validation of Beck's zany apocalyptic conspiracies in the wake of recent unrest in the Middle East. Brian Powell More here

Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy named Zuhdi Jasser as a "Defender of the Home Front". More on Gaffney here.

David Horowitz identified Jasser as one of the few Muslims stepping forward All Muslims are not terrorists but there are also not enough Muslims coming forward to separate themselves and Islam from the radical jihad, or to condemn organizations like Hamas. Here I mentioned a Muslim, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, who had testified that day and who said, "This is our problem, and it is our responsibility to solve it." **

He attended an ACT for America event in Florida, and you can see a video interview with him **. Brigitte Gabriel was thrilled that Jasser supported King's hearings **. More on Gabriel and ACT for America here
Jasser is undoubtedly part of a strategy to deflect widespread criticism that King's hearings are an attempt smear all Muslims with a broad brush. That's an accusation that Jasser and others in the anti-Muslim agitprop stable are accustomed to averting. And they do so with a sleight of hand: that it's not individual American Muslims who are radical, it's their leaders—Muslim charities and civil rights groups, imams and a religious leadership that is dominated by radicals, who in turn dupe the gullible masses. Sarah Posner

Prior to the start of King's hearings, Jasser said that Rep. King has shown "excellent courage" and that King is not "targeting Muslims or the faith of Islam." Jasser later stated that most American Muslim organizations are "soaking up the attention with civil rights issues, victimology, and they're not fixing the problem" of extremism. Media Matters

What Jasser may discover over time is that these Islamophobes are using him, and no amount of pandering will ever make him truly "moderate" unless he actually leaves Islam. Already, Jasser isn't "moderate" enough for Andrew Bostom ** or Pamela Geller ** or Debbie Schlussel **

During the first hearing, Media Matters notes that "Jasser's testimony was peppered with calls for the government to provide more "resources" to creating an "infrastructure" to reform Islam to make it more "liberty-minded." Coincidentally, that's the very cause that his organization, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, seeks to undertake." And, they ask the question: So was Jasser using his testimony to shill for federal funds for his organization? Here's the "money" quote:

JASSER: We should be filling the Internet with new ideas, that we're not doing. And our homeland security is at risk because those things cause a continuum of radicalization. And we need platforms to begin to do that at universities, at think tanks, at all the institutions that this government helps change the agenda of society. I hope this is a pivot point in changing the agenda so that you can help me create — and us — and other organizations — there are a lot of other organizations like mine doing this reform work and not allow just the revivalists to get the microphone but the reformists, to say that we want to modernize. ...

This whole enlightenment process needs institutions that you can help us build, help us provide the infrastructure to do that, but yet allow Muslims to do it. And I think it doesn't cross the First Amendment because your role is to advance liberty, to advance freedom, advance and help ideas of equality, of human rights, universal human rights concepts, and then you make sure that we live to those and our Islamic institutions endorse those. And then we start engaging in al-Jazeera, in media, in Muslim media, these ideas ...

So we need your support to do that, and we can do it with the right resources, by countering that ideology. ... We can present — our strategy so far has been ‘try to break down that propaganda.' That's wrong. We need to have a forward strategy of liberty-minded, freedom-minded ideas into the Islamic consciousness. We can do that as Muslims, but we need your help to do that through creating websites, a social network — I mean, look what happened in Egypt and Tunisia ...

So we need to start creating platforms like this for America to see that we're a diverse population, that we're not all represented by the victim-mongering groups and other groups; that many of us take our responsibility as Americans seriously. So we need to create a "kitchen cabinet," if you will, of strategy ... **

Jasser has been positioning himself as THE moderate Muslim for many years, and his testimony was almost an appeal to consider AIFD as the new organizational face of American Muslims and to help them financially (that sounds like using our tax dollars) - which Jasser thinks wouldn't be in conflict with the first amendment. The champion of freedom wants to tear down the wall of separation between church and state and have the government support and encourage particular Muslim voices. This is both surprising and not surprising from Jasser. It is surprising that someone who has been such an outspoken critic of the dangers of Sharia to want to tear down this wall of separation. (More on the anti-Sharia craze here) This is not surprising since Jasser's understanding of the Constitution and the rights it gives to American citizens seems limited. During the hearing, Jasser made a remarkable statement that encouraging Muslims to have an attorney present when they speak to law enforcement is enabling "political Islam". This showed the level of his expertise. Fortunately Rep. Sanchez corrected him about this important right of all citizens.

Daniel Pipes in a 2004 article "Identifying Moderate Muslims" said of Jasser and AIFD Organizations are coming into existence. The American Islamic Forum for Democracy, headed by Zuhdi Jasser, is active in Phoenix, Arizona. ** More on Pipes **

And, here is where it gets really scary. Michelle Boorstein reports

Standing before a throng of cameras after his high-profile hearing on Muslim radicalization, Rep. Peter T, King (R-N.Y.) once again attacked major Muslim American organizations and their leaders, whom King described as soft on extremism.

Asked to identify better leaders, the Long Island Republican pointed to the wavy-haired man beside him, Arizona physician Zuhdi Jasser. Jasser, the head of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, had just been his star witness atThursday's hearing.

"To me, a group like Dr. Jasser's would be ideal," King said, calling the forum "the most compatible" with American values". [url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/11/AR2011031106522.html}**[/url]

Boorstein also notes

... an organization that until a few years ago had an annual budget of less than $20,000 and a few volunteers. ... In 2007, a major GOP donor,Foster Friess, gave it $100,000, which Jasser developed by last year into a $400,000 operation with four staff members.

And, Alex Kane in an article "U.S. funded Israeli-linked security company pushes anti-Muslim ideology" discusses a very worrisome report that sheds light on the network of private security firms tapping into public funds that push an anti-Muslim agenda to law enforcement agencies. An organization called Security Solutions International (SSI) is one focus of the Political Research Associates' report (pdf) , titled "Manufacturing the Muslim Menace: Private Firms, Public Servants, & the Threat to Rights and Security." ** You can read this report **

This PRA report includes this paragraph The Counter Terrorist's coverage [an SSI publication,] includes infrastructure protection, school shooting threat assessments, intelligence gathering and what SSI calls "the Radical Islamic Threat." Articles like "U.S. Prison Recruitment for Jihad"—a piece by M. Zuhdi Jasser and Raphael Shore, founder of the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit organization "that aims to alert Americans about the real threat of Radical Islam"—reinforce an image of Muslims as menacing militant fundamentalists. The magazine's regular inclusion of such articles allows the publication to function as a credentialed law enforcement outlet for authors who exaggerate and distort terrorist threats.

Since, Rep. King has already stated that his next hearing will be about Islam in Prisons, we can be assured that Jasser will be there.

Summing up:

A GOP backer has pumped a great deal of money into Jasser's organization. Jasser has a seal of approval from Glenn Beck, Frank Gaffney, David Horowitz, Brigitte Gabriel, Daniel Pipes and lots of other Islamophobes. Newt Gingrich (who may run for President of the U.S.) included Jasser in his anti-Muslim film and identified Jasser as a "courageous, moderate Muslim". Rep. Peter King thinks that AIFD (Jasser's organization) would be an ideal organization to "better" represent the American Muslim Community.

Rep. King has said that there will be a series of these hearings for up to one and a half years. That will certainly be plenty of time to complete the job of marginalizing the American Muslim community, demonizing 100% of the existing leadership, finding more funding, and replacing that existing leadership with Zuhdi Jasser, and whoever he deems "moderate" and appropriate spokespeople.


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