Why Muslims must look in the mirror
by M. Zuhdi Jasser
If 2010 was the year America finally woke up to political Islam's ne farious reach on US soil, with luck 2011 will be the year we launch an offensive against it. One way to begin that process is through hearings that Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the new chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, plans to hold on American Muslim radicalization.
Attention to this issue offers an opportunity for American Muslims to confront the radicalization problem and provide solutions -- as only they can.
My group, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, believes these hearings will shed light on the diversity of American Muslims, giving our community a chance to step from behind the veil of Muslim victimization and address head-on the need for long-overdue ideological reforms.
Alas, the announcement of the hearings has triggered heated denunciations by groups like ISNA, CAIR and MPAC, which try to deny and obfuscate the connection between "political Islam," or Islamism, and terror.
This year, the debate on the development of the Ground Zero mosque brought the discussion of political Islam to the front page of every newspaper. While raucous at times, it provided an opportunity for Muslims who don't toe the line of American Islamist organizations to present an alternative vision for American Muslims -- one based in American values and Muslim reform.
Unfortunately, political correctness still too often dominates incidents involving Islamists. This year, the Pentagon released a report on Maj. Nidal Hasan's Fort Hood attack, titled "Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood." The report was intended to convey to military commanders whatever lessons were learned from the incident, so as to prevent similar attacks in the future. Yet it never mentioned the word Islam or Muslim. Nowhere to be found was any dissection of Hasan's slide into militant Islamism or of his relationship with his homegrown jihadist mentor, Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki.
Meanwhile, President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg used the Ground Zero mosque controversy to tell the more than 70 percent of Americans who oppose the mosque that they were either wrong or confused. Discourse over recent arrests of jihadists in Portland and Baltimore focused on Islamist claims of FBI entrapment, rather than overdue introspection and calls for reform. Worries of Muslim victimization still rule the day.
Our national inability to discuss religious issues honestly is keeping American Muslims from having to accept the reforms needed to defeat political Islam and bring our faith into modernity. The victimization mantra feeds more Muslim isolation and radicalization.
A recent global study by the Pew Research Center showed that Muslims are aligning themselves more and more with Islamism. Of course, most major American Muslim groups, such ISNA, CAIR and MPAC, were built on some strand of that ideology. But knowing where most American Muslims fall in the spectrum of Islamism-vs.-liberalism, as King hopes to find out in his hearings, would be a key step toward counterradicalization.
The fact is, we can't go into 2011 without a discernable strategy on how to defeat Islamist radicalization. House hearings on Muslim radicalization would only be the first step toward finally crafting a US offensive against political Islam.
Again, only liberty-minded Muslims working from within Muslim communities can counter the narrative of Muslim victimization. But America needs to be unashamed of taking the side of those Muslims who advocate reform against political Islam.
In 2011, more Americans need to understand that jihadism is a natural by-product of a political Islam that is incompatible with Western secular democracies based in liberty. America is at war with theocratic Muslim despots who seek the imposition of sharia and don't believe in the equality of all before the law, blind to faith. They detest the association of religious freedom with liberty.
We need a coordinated national strategy of offense that gives Muslim youth an Islamic counternarrative, that defends liberty and that separates mosque and state.
The idea of the Islamic state must be left for history. It is time to help usher in a modern era for Islam and Muslims. Our national security depends on it.