There has for many years been a difference of opinion among those who are aware of the reality of the jihad threat. There are those who believe it very important, indeed, crucial to the success of our efforts to resist the global jihad and Sharia supremacism, to include reformist Muslims in them, and to support their efforts in any way we can. Some even enthusiastically play along with the Left’s identity politics, and highlight reformist Muslims as the hallmark of their work’s legitimacy. Last summer I was at a meeting of several organizations discussing collaborative efforts when one man looked around the table and said: “All of us here are middle-aged white guys. We’re going to need to get a Muslim to be the spokesman for this initiative.” I was stunned: isn’t the truth true even when a middle-aged white man says it? Are we now voluntarily assuming the role of dhimmis whose word is worthless unless a Muslim validates it?
That’s the thinking of one camp. The other camp notes that Muslim reformers have had little to no influence on the Islamic community in the U.S. or around the world since 9/11, and isn’t likely to do so, given the nature of Islamic doctrine and jurisprudence, and so we cannot rely on them and don’t need them to validate our work. After all, the armies that repelled the jihadis of the past at Tours and Vienna and elsewhere didn’t think of themselves as less legitimate unless they had a Muslim regiment.
But in the years since 9/11, that perspective has been steadily edged out of the public discourse. The public discussion on the jihad threat has been essentially dominated on the one hand by those who insist that Islam is a religion of peace and jihad terror is caused by poverty and solved by foreign aid and “outreach,” and on the other hand by those who recognize that there is a problem within Islam but maintain that moderate Islam and moderate Muslims are the solution, and should be the focus of our counter-terror efforts. The former point of view is, of course, that of George W. Bush and much of the Republican establishment, as well as the Democrats. The latter point of view is that of the rest of the Republican establishment — many Fox hosts, CPAC, etc.
Still, there have always been a few of us who have never jumped onto the “moderate Islam is the solution” bandwagon. We have recognized, often with regret, that Muslim reformists have had scant success. I myself have always invited Muslims who sincerely reject jihad and Sharia supremacism to join with me, but I’ve never gone out of my way to court Muslim reformers or considered my work illegitimate if it didn’t have their imprimatur. And so we come to Zuhdi Jasser, whom I debated a few years ago about the prospects for Islamic reform; you can see the debate here. Recently I ran a piece here at Jihad Watch by Stephen M. Kirby, noting the failure of Jasser’s overtures to mosques in the U.S. Although he acknowledges the truth of its main point, this article has enraged Jasser, and so he has taken to his show at The Blaze to record an hour-long rant entitled “Alt-Jihadists: Useful Idiots of the Global Islamist Establishment.”
“Rant” is an overused word these days; any statement that someone doesn’t like is a “rant.” But Jasser’s show really is one. It has to be heard to be believed. He can scarcely contain his hot rage as he rambles, with a tendency to repetitiveness that rivals that of the Qur’an itself, through this hour-long broadside against the people on his enemies list. Now mind you, he is doing this on his Blaze radio show; none of his detractors, as far as I know, have a radio show on The Blaze. He is regularly on Fox News and other media outlets, is inundated with speaking invitations, and is the darling of the conservative establishment. His detractors appear only sporadically on Fox or elsewhere, and when we’re invited to speak somewhere there are usually protests and attempts, sometimes successful, to get cowardly authorities to cancel our appearances. Jasser is a man who is regularly fawned over by those who love what he represents for them: a Muslim who is indeed a loyal, patriotic, anti-Sharia American. His detractors are routinely mocked, defamed, and vilified in the establishment media, and seldom defended in the conservative media. In other words, “Alt-Jihadists: Useful Idiots of the Global Islamist Establishment” is the lashing-out of a privileged man, determined to destroy those who have dared to challenge him.
Jasser’s Blaze show, by the way, is called “Reform This!” Isn’t that an extremely odd title? Isn’t the expression “____ This” a declaration of contempt for whatever is being referred to? As in, if someone says “You should brush your teeth” and you say “Brush this,” aren’t you being contemptuous of the request? And with the gesture that usually goes along with this, obscene as well? Why would Jasser choose such a title for his show?
Anyway, Jasser announces that he is “going to coin a new term…And I’m going to call it alt-jihadism.” The “alt-jihad is exploiting the idea of jihad in order to become powerful and in order to marginalize any solutions within the house of Islam.” Indeed, “there are no greater jihadists than the alt-jihadists when it comes to living in the land of freedom. Because they seem to be wanting to kill us and knock us off at the knees.” Who are these horrible alt-jihadists? Jasser names Stephen Kirby, John Guandolo, Diana West, Clare Lopez, Andrew Bostom, Pamela Geller and me. We are, he says, “channeling Wahhabis, by channeling the Muslim Brotherhood supremacists, by channeling the Khomeinists and saying this is what they would say, they basically dance on our graves.” The graves, that is, of Muslim reformers.
How are we doing this? By noting that they have had little success, and that their view of Islam is outside the Islamic tradition and mainstream understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah. But Jasser is somewhat confused: he acknowledges that to say that “Dr. Jasser’s interpretation would be apostasy in Saudi Arabia…would be fact.” He also admits that his view “would be apostasy in Iran” and that “the Brotherhood would marginalize.” But he is angry that Kirby has the “temerity” as a “non-Muslim” to say that Jasser’s interpretation of various Qur’anic passages is incorrect. He adds later that there are “scholars that have written about interpretations of Islam that can be modernised, that can be held compatible with Western thought. Do they have influence in al-Azhar or Saudi universities? No. But far be it for the Shura Council of Geller, West, Kirby, Spencer, Bostom and others to tell us Muslims how to read the Koranic Arabic or interpret it.” This reflects the Islamic supremacist view that only Muslims can truly understand the Qur’an and Islam. It also raises the question of where the Saudis and Iranians and Muslim Brotherhood would get the idea that Jasser was an apostate and a heretic, if not from the Qur’an and Sunnah. But for Jasser, to point this out is to claim that there is only “one form of Islam, which is jihadist Islam,” and to deny the Islam of reformers such as “King Abdullah, General Sisi and others.” (Jasser doesn’t mention the fact that Sisi’s call for reform in Islam has not come to anything whatsoever in the years since he issued it.) It is, he says,
the dream of the king of Saudi Arabia, it’s the dream of the Khomeinists to have these kinds of allies like Spencer and Guandolo working with them. What better shariah activists do you want than the blabberings of Diana West, who says that this is Islam, it’s the only Islam? Than the writings of the Shia jihadists and the Sunni jihadists who might as well be writing under the pen name of John Guandolo. That says that Islam is only one Islam and it is a shariah supremacist Islam. He might as well be ready to be chopping the heads off of Muslim reformers in Saudi Arabia. That’s what they say before they put them in the chop shop. To cut their hands because they say there is one Islam and it’s in the Koran, it says cut your hands. Now I can give you many reformers who have been dissidents and put in jail who have believed otherwise. Are they not Muslims? The Shura Council passed the fatwas, it seems, and they’re coming – they’re coming hand over fist in the past few weeks from these so-called Islamic scholars who want to tell you there’s only one Islam. We’re ready to have that debate. Yes, we are dissidents. Yes, we are a minority. But to say that we don’t even have room to have an opinion or that we are – that they should be dancing on our grave is not only un-American, it actually is endorsing blasphemy laws. It is saying that our speech is useless because it is deceptive or taqiyya. It is jihadist and there are no greater jihadists than the alt-jihadists when it comes to living in the land of freedom. Because they seem to be wanting to kill us and knock us off at the knees. Despite the progress that we make.
This echoes the Obama nonsense about how we can’t call the Islamic jihad Islamic jihad, because doing so will validate and empower the jihadists — as if the jihadists were just waiting for non-Muslim authorities to say what Islam is and isn’t. In reality, the king of Saudi Arabia and the Khomeinists in Iran couldn’t care less what non-Muslim analysts such as John Guandolo and me say. They aren’t looking to us for validation. But Jasser says that because we note that the Islam of Saudi Arabia and Iran and other Sharia states has a firm basis in the Qur’an and Sunnah and Islamic jurisprudence, “the alt-jihad wants to basically articulate and do the work of the Wahhabis. They become proxies for jihadists. That’s why they’re the alt-jihad.” Jasser claims that we “parrot the ideas of Saudi Arabia and Salafi jihadism, militant Islam as the only Islam, as the Islam and reformers as heretics and commit takfir against us and tell us that we are not Muslims, no different than the judges of Iran and Saudi Arabia and ISIS tell us that we’re not Muslims. It’s the same.” We are, you see, “useful idiots for the global Islamic movements. For the shariah states of the world.” Hence we are jihadists ourselves, “alt-jihadists.” And “when the alt-jihadists claim that the mafia of Islam, the kings and dictators of the fifty-six Muslim countries are the only Islam, they are the useful idiots of the Islamic mafia.” Every last ruler of 56 Muslim countries has Islam wrong? Jasser doesn’t explain how this odd situation came about.
His labeling us “jihadists” for this is as incoherent as it is grotesque. On the one hand, Jasser admits that Muslim reformers are “dissidents” and a “minority,” and that he would be seen as an apostate in Saudi Arabia and Iran, but then he likens us to jihadists for pointing out the same thing. The difference between him and those whom he smears as “alt-jihadists” is apparently, in his view, that we see him as non-Muslim and say that there is no chance for Islamic reform. As far as I am concerned, that is a false charge (and none of the other people on his enemies list think these things either, as far as I know). I’d love to see Islamic reform succeed. I’m just not willing to kid myself or others about its prospects, or pretend that it has a greater standing in Islamic doctrine or tradition than it does. But for this, as far as Jasser is concerned, I am now as much of a jihadist as the caliph al-Baghdadi. The idea that because someone recognizes the ideological roots of a movement, he must support that movement, is of course absurd. Did Churchill support Nazism because he recognized that Nazi German society was a valid expression of Nazi beliefs as Hitler had articulated them? Was he a “useful idiot” for Hitler? The claim that we are any kind of “jihadists,” whatever the “alt” prefix is supposed to mean, should be the end of anyone taking Zuhdi Jasser seriously as a coherent thinker. But it won’t, for two reasons: our views, as correct as they are, are unpalatable to those in power on all points of the political spectrum, and Jasser is still that most coveted of commodities, a “moderate Muslim.”
Jasser includes a practical argument: “So how is that I’m the lying jihadist [who ever said that?], but when the yin to the yang of jihad, which says, yes, the jihad is the only Islam, calls them out with no solution other than eternal war against twenty-five percent of the world’s population or a plan to convert them?” (Yes, his show is just as incoherent as that.) This is a common argument: we have to support the Muslim reformers because there is no other solution: we can’t have eternal war and the vast majority of Muslims aren’t going to convert to Christianity, so it’s the only alternative. The problem with this is that supporting Muslim reformers lines the pockets of Muslim reformers, but it really doesn’t do anything to stop the jihad. In reality, we need a comprehensive response to the global jihad that includes standing for our own principles as a nation: if we really had offered the people of Iraq and Afghanistan the freedom of speech, equality of rights for women, equality of rights of all before the law, etc., many Muslims would have come to our side. Instead, we offered them Sharia. There are many viable strategies, most completely untested, for resisting the global jihad, but in the fifteen years since 9/11 it has become clear that supporting Muslim reformers is nice identity politics and makes some people feel as if they’ve headed off charges of “racism” and “Islamophobia” from the Left, but where are the Muslims who are saying, “I supported the jihad and was about to join ISIS until I heard Dr. Jasser”? There are no such people. Jasser mentions Raheel Raza; she spoke after me at an event in Toronto last year, and said that she read the Qur’an every morning and denounced terrorism. That’s very nice, but all it did was confuse the audience about the ways in which Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and make recruits among peaceful Muslims. Is Raheel Raza going to jihadis and explaining to them how they’re misreading the Qur’an? Somehow I doubt it. This is “reform” we have to support or else be likened to jihad mass murderers? Include me out.
Jasser recommends the writings of some Muslim reformers: Muhammad Sa’id al-‘Ashmawy, Fatema Mernissi, Izetbegovic is the author of The Islamic Declaration, which he wrote in 1970. In it, Izetbegovic says: “Muslim nations will never accept anything that is explicitly against Islam…He who rises against Islam will reap nothing but hate & resistance…” And: “The first & foremost of such conclusions is surely the one on the incompatibility of Islam & non-Islamic systems. There can be no peace or co-existence between the ‘Islamic faith’ & non-Islamic societies & political institutions…” And: “The Islamic movement should & must start taking over the power as soon as it is morally & numerically strong enough to not only overthrow the existing non-Islamic, but also to build up a new Islamic authority…” Izetbegovic declared that “means of mass influence — the press, radio, television and film — should be in the hands of people whose Islamic, moral, and intellectual authority is indisputable.” He called for the banning of “casinos, night clubs, dance halls and all other forms of entertainment incompatible with the moral tenets of Islam.”
That’s Islamic reform, as far as Jasser is concerned? Of course, he will say he endorses Izetbegovic’s other writings and not this one, but Izetbegovic himself never repudiated The Islamic Declaration. In 1996, the New York Times quoted a “senior Western diplomat” saying: “If you read President Izetbegovic’s writings, as I have, there is no doubt that he is an Islamic fundamentalist. He is a very nice fundamentalist, but he is still a fundamentalist. This has not changed. His goal is to establish a Muslim state in Bosnia, and the Serbs and the Croats understand this better than the rest of us.”
If that’s the best “reformer” that Zuhdi Jasser can come up with, how can we not be skeptical? It’s no wonder that Zuhdi Jasser, with his Blaze program, and his CPAC speech, and his Fox appearances, and the uncritical adulation of so very many non-Muslims on the Right, is feeling insecure and threatened: his position is incoherent, and somewhere in his heart of hearts, even he knows it. And so not content with all the fame and fawning and financial advantages, he lashes out against the few remaining people who dare to challenge him on the facts, desperate to destroy us. He is in this doomed to fail as spectacularly as he has in trying to reform Islam, because there is just one weapon we have that he does not: the truth.