I recently emceed an event in New York City featuring Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), and Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The event was organized under the aegis of the pro-Israel advocacy and educational organization StandWithUs. Full disclosure: I am the Northeast Regional co-chair of StandWithUs in the United States.
Jasser and AIFD are trying to lead the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood and its network of American Islamist organizations and mosques, which seek to control organized Islam in America. Jasser, a devout Muslim- American, asks how can America fight against radical political Islam if the United States refuses to acknowledge Islamism as a threat. He says we are treating the symptoms of Islamism, but political correctness prevents us from diagnosing Islamism as the disease, i.e., an aversion to associating terrorism with anything Islamic.
Why are we afraid to associate terrorism with radical Islam? Dorothy Rabinowitz, opining in The Wall Street Journal, is incensed by the army’s description of the 2009 terrorist attack in Fort Hood, Texas, by Major Nidal Malik Hasan as an incident of “workplace violence,” avoiding the more accurate description of Islamist terrorist attack. This despite Major Hasan’s association with terrorist groups and his screaming “Allahu Akbar” during his murderous rampage.
When President Barack Obama assumed office in 2009 and decided to reset relations with the Muslim world, he also decided to end America’s “War on Terror” and to avoid relating terrorism to Islam. President George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” was understood as a euphemism for the war against radical political Islam. In 2012 a senior State Department official announced, “The war on terror is over... Now that we have killed most of al-Qaida... people who once might have gone into al-Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.”
But is there a moderate Islamism? The administration believed that fair elections that empowered Islamists would reconcile Islam with democracy.
They misunderstood that the true elements of democracy, such as rule of law, tolerance and freedom of the press, were never present or respected by any of the elected Islamists. They couldn’t wrap their head around the idea that Islamists can win fair and free elections, but democracy could be farther away than ever. It was hard for them to understand that a fair election in a closed culture, where incitement and illiberalism had been instilled for generations, could produce only Islamists, not democrats.
Our State Department failed to recognize that there is no “legitimate Islamism.” In our Orwellian, politically correct world, condemning Islamism is construed as being anti-Islamic.
In truth, fighting Islamism is the most pro-Muslim action an individual, leader or nation can take to promote freedom for Muslims in the Middle East, who live in the most illiberal, intolerant and authoritarian nations in the world.
The absurdity of this political correctness reached its nadir recently when the president said Islamic State’s cold-blooded beheadings of “infidels” had nothing to do with Islam! How can America fight a war against radical Islam if it fails to acknowledge the enemy? Is political correctness so powerful that it blinds even a president to the danger it poses? Whether America realizes it or not, the primary enemy of the United States in the early 21st century and for the foreseeable future is radical Islamism, not Islam. It up to brave Muslims like Dr. Jasser to take back their religion from the significant minority of Muslims who have sullied the reputation of their faith.
You should not be derided as an Islamophobe just because you want to fight a radical religious movement that wants to destroy your way of life. As Jasser points out, the translation of the name of the radical group Boko Haram means “Western education is a sin.”
Could the Muslim world, if freed from the threat of radical Islam, partner with the West and embrace some Western ideals of democracy? Unfortunately, our influence in the Muslim and Arab world is small, and our goals must be realistic. Therefore, our focus should be on America and its growing American Muslim population.
• We cannot continue to ignore the radicalization of our universities’ Middle East Studies departments, funded by the most illiberal Gulf States, poisoning the minds of our students, who are the future leaders of our country.
• We have ignored for over a quarter of a century the radicalization of prison imams who are trained in the most extreme Wahhabi Islamism. It is no wonder that prisoners who convert to Islam in the American prison system become radicalized, and possibly lie in wait as future terrorist cells.
• In the name of toleration, American politicians of both major parties have embraced groups with associations to the Muslim Brotherhood, like CAIR and the Muslim American Society.
Is it too late to change course? Why can’t we both embrace Muslim Americans who want to live the American dream, while still fighting radical political Islam? We can only do this if we follow Dr. Jasser’s prescription: diagnose the problem as radical Islamism and avoid political correctness. As Dorothy Rabinowitz once wrote, we must end being “terrorized by fear of offending Muslim sensitivities.”
As the miracle of Hanukka is upon us we should be inspired by the words of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “Throughout history, people have hated in the name of the God of love, practiced cruelty in the name of the God of compassion, killed in the name of the God of life, and waged war in the name of the God of peace. None of the world’s great religions has been exempt from this at one point or another. The time has come to say – enough.”
The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network), a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders.