Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a conservative author, activist and the president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), has a message for Muslim Americans: Step up to the plate and work diligently to combat Islamism and extremism. Jasser spoke with TheBlaze this week about his reaction to the Boston Marathon terror attack and his views on steps that should be taken within Islamic circles to prevent further extremism.
When asked how he believes Muslims should be reacting to the terror attacks, the faith leader noted that he has been disappointed by the response thus far. He claimed that many Islamic leaders have simply not done enough and that more is required of the community as a whole.
"Swift condemnations of the act of terrorism are just not enough. I don't believe that the American public is buying their mantra of denial and victimization," he told TheBlaze through e-mail. "They deny that the perpetrators were Muslim (basically committing 'takfir' as is typical for Islamists) -- all the while the list of hundreds of American Muslims either attempting to commit or having committed acts of terrorism continues to pile up."
M. Zuhdi Jasser, President and Founder, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, testifies during a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, on "the extent of the radicalization" of American Muslims, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 10, 2011 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Jasser took particular aim at those Muslim leaders who he believes "focus on their own victimization, patronizingly reminding the rest of America not to be 'racists' [or] 'bigots.'" The conservative Muslim leader said that it is time for faith leaders to confront the issues that so-often lead to radicalization.
Rather than avoiding the discussion and claiming victimization, Jasser believes that it's paramount for these leaders to figure out what's separating some Muslim youths from Americanism and leading them "toward supremacist Islamism" -- and he wants to address these phenomena.
"There is a deep soulful battle of identity raging within the Muslim consciousness domestically and abroad between Westernism and liberalism," he said. "In essence the Islamists confront every situation in a selfish 'we are the victims' mentality and the rest of us non-Islamist Muslims need to instead respond with a louder and more real leadership and say: 'We will not be victims.'"
Jasser also noted that those who embrace the Muslim faith should openly acknowledge that the radicalisation problem requires believers to tackle the issue from within -- and that Muslims who embrace reform are the most essential to preventing future attacks.
By all accounts, Jasser practices what he preaches. Through AIFD, he seeks to educate Muslims and non-Muslims, alike, in an effort to prevent extremism.
Zuhdi Jasser speaks during a news conference in front of police headquarters in New York, Monday, March 5, 2012. (Photo Credit: AP)
"We have been trying to engage as much of the American public as possible as the long overdue attention to the greatest threat to our security in the 21st century is beginning to be realized," he said. "The Islamist threat manifests as the early stages of radicalization domestically and it manifests as theocratic regimes (like the Iranian Khomeinists or Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood) abroad who will never be our allies and ultimately seek our destruction."
It is through engaging the public that he hopes Americans will see that AIFD can help keep the nation safe through vital and unique programs. One of Jasser's efforts, called the Muslim Liberty Project, works to engage young Muslims, ages 15 to 30, in an effort to help foster American identity -- a worldview that embraces the Constitution and "the separation of mosque and state." The goal? To prevent youths from falling into extremist traps.
Another program, the American Islamic Leadership Coalition, brings together diverse Muslim groups that are opposed to Islamism. Through public statements, position papers and press conferences, the goal here is to get the word out about combating extremist groups.
"We pray that the attention of the American public to the problem this time will not again be plagued by an ADD response which wanes shortly after the event and reverts back to an ineffective politically correct whack-a-mole program," Jasser told TheBlaze.
As for more wide-ranging solutions, the Islamic activist said that America needs to come to a national consensus -- one that examines terrorism as something rooted in a larger problem. Jasser believes that political Islam (also known as Islamism) can't be defeated by military might and that these structures must be combatted through engagement. The battle against these groups, though, must be waged by Muslims themselves, he argues.
"This needs to be engaged on many fronts with a public-private partnership where government, media, activist groups, and academe begin to push any and all pressure points which break down the power systems of Islamist groups and ideas while bolstering the infrastructure and ideas of non-Islamist and anti-Islamist groups here and abroad," he continued. "I have called for our government to develop to that end: a Liberty Doctrine as a guiding philosophy of our nation against the threat of Islamism."
Find out more about Jasser and AIFD here.