This past Good Friday, the Islamic Society of Wichita, Kan., invited a self-declared Hamas supporter, Sheikh Monzer Taleb, as a special guest for its fundraising event. Sheikh Taleb is a notorious figure in the Muslim community, bringing controversy — and hate — wherever he goes. That is, until Representative Mike Pompeo caught wind of the plans and took a stand, calling on the Islamic Society to cancel the event, to the ire of the group and some in the community.
Sheikh Taleb has proudly sung as part of a pro-Hamas group that calls for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people, even declaring on video: "I am from Hamas." His other extremist ties are also significant and damning: In the 2008 terrorism-financing case against the Holy Land Foundation, Taleb was named an "unindicted co-conspirator" for his deep association with Hamas. The case resulted in guilty verdicts on all 108 counts against leaders of the Foundation.
All Americans have a duty to speak out, like Pompeo did, for if we stay silent, we give Islamists a pass to suffocate critical thinking inside Muslim communities. There is nothing more American, more pro-Islam, and more pro-Muslim than taking a stand against the extremist and anti-Semitic hate spewed by Islamist individuals like Sheikh Taleb. In fact, this tough love is what every Muslim community needs to pursue on its own, long before their elected representative have to intervene.
Marginalizing and exposing the ideas of Sheikh Taleb and others like him is crucial if we are to effectively counter Islamist ideology and radicalization. This is the sort of reform work the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) encourages. Before Islamic terrorists become hell-bent on using violence, extremist Islamist ideologues radicalize them. Islamist movements such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood reject the liberal secular democratic order and seek an Islamic state with sharia law, filled with ugly anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.
This debate is not about silencing speech, but rather about exposing and defeating extremist Islamist ideas. From San Bernardino to Brussels, radical Islamism will never be defeated unless Muslims and non-Muslims alike expose it, confront it, and marginalize it, much as Mike Pompeo did in Wichita last month.
It seems obvious that Sheikh Taleb's Hamas sympathies and connections would make any American Muslim organization hesitant to have anything to do with him, much less invite him as a special guest to an event. Particularly in today's climate, one would think that the Islamic Society of Wichita would want to stay as far away as possible from Taleb. Better yet, one would hope they would protest his appearances at mosques around the country in order to truly convey their dedication to reforming the hateful ideas that radicalize Muslims in our communities.
Instead, the Islamic Society of Wichita was stubborn in its invitation, cancelling the event only when Pompeo expressed serious concern and community pressure mounted. Now, rather than admitting its mistake, the Islamic Society of Wichita has the temerity to play the victim, blaming Kansans for their "Islamophobia." The Islamic Society is attempting to dodge responsibility and avoid the repercussions of its terrible and even dangerous decision. But the facts remain the same: The Islamic Society invited and was planning to fête a man who has supported Hamas not only in word but also in deed, by raising funds for the terrorist group. In this case, the Islamic Society of Wichita can blame only itself for increased tensions in the community.
The event featuring Sheikh Taleb was canceled, yet it is critical for Kansans and all Americans, both Muslims and non-Muslims, to take a long, hard look at some of the key instigators and ideologies of extremist sentiment: the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the other Hamas-sympathizing, Muslim Brotherhood–tied individuals and groups passing themselves off as mainstream.
M. Zuhdi Jasser is the president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and the co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement. He is a former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander and the author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam.