Professor Daniel Pipes in search of moderate Muslims.
When the American Islamic Forum for Democracy organized “A Rally against Terror” on April 25 in Phoenix, its head, an Arizona physician named Zuhdi Jasser, said his goal was to give Muslim moderates “an opportunity to speak out publicly.” And Jasser presented the rally as a robust response to the many criticisms that American Muslims had not produced a “groundswell of condemnation” against terrorism. In fact, he asserted,
“The killing of innocent people out of revenge, out of hate or out of retribution is against the absolute laws of Islam. Suicide is against the absolute laws of Islam. People can justify their actions all day long, but we as Muslims are here to say clearly their actions are against everything we believe.”
Jasser wrote an oped in the Arizona Republic where, as a Muslim, he took responsibility for the mistrust directed toward American Muslims, rather than merely blow this off as prejudice:
“It is impossible as an American not to feel the growing palpable distrust toward the Muslim community. With attacks targeting innocent civilians across the globe, it has sadly at this time gone far beyond the initial prideful question of “Why are Muslims being singled out?” It is time now only to rally and provide an unmistakable resounding reply. ”
With this in mind, he set out two goals for the rally:
We want to reassure the American public that the great majority of Muslims condemn the targeting of innocents by virtue of the tenets of our faith. We also want to give hope and inspiration to faithful Muslims all over the country that this type of rally is possible.
Jasser found support for his efforts as close as the Arizona Republic, which correctly judged this event to be “the nation’s first Muslim rally against terrorism,” and as far away as the country’s capital, where a Washington Times editorial ended with, “We salute Dr. Jasser, American patriot.”
The Muslim community of Phoenix is estimated at 50,000 persons; Jasser worked strenuously to reach out to the Valley Council of Imams, Valley mosques and major Valley Islamic organizations; and the Arizona Republic, the leading newspaper of Phoenix, gave the rally its full-fledged support. A head of steam behind him, Jasser optimistically predicted that 500 to 1,000 people would attend the event.
But then the event was held (an audio of the 50-minute long event can be heard online) and reality set in. Estimates vary. The Arizona Republic counted 250 in attendance, the police 400. The number of Muslims, I heard, was between 30 and 100 persons. Most participants were not Muslim but (the Arizona Republic recounts) “people like Michael Fischer, 18, of Glendale, who wanted to denounce the stereotyping of Muslims; and Grace Clark of Apache Junction, who wanted to promote peace.” One correspondent of mine judged the event “a total disaster.”