When a Boston activist took issue with political and religious leaders embracing what he finds to be a radical Islamist group, community and religious leaders fired back. Charles Jacobs was advised in a letter signed by dozens of rabbis "to discontinue his destructive campaign against Boston's Muslim community, which is based on innuendo, half-truths and unproven conspiracy theories."
In a column, Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the anti-Islamist American Islamic Forum for Democracy, advises Jacobs' critics and political leaders to stop treating the American Muslim community as a monolith. It's a mistake to interpret all mosque leadership as representative of their broader communities, Jasser writes:
"From the inside, many if not most of our mosques in American Islam are suffering deeply from the unopposed hegemony of Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood and toxic foreign petrodollar interests. For exposing this 'tough love,' reformists often pay a heavy price. This is not 'fear-mongering.' It is reality."
Jasser recounts a recent debate he had with Muslim American Society of Boston (MAS) Executive Director Bilal Kareem (see it here). When he raised concern about some toxic elements of Islamism – the merging of mosque and state – Kareem dismissed it as fantasy.
It's not easy for an individual to take on a machine in any circumstance. You can't fight city hall, after all. So when there's a reflexive defense of Islamists by outsiders, the fight facing reformists like Jasser grows more difficult. It's a fight in which the outsiders really should support:
"Only Muslims can bring Islam into modernity. Only Muslims can reform the ideas that led the Imam Anwar Al-Awlakis, Nidal Hasans, and Faisal Shahzads of the world down the slippery slope of anti-Americanism and violent jihad. Only Muslims can counter the sway of toxic transnational ideologies."
Too often, mosque leadership isn't interested in that fight, or may even be part of the problem. Jasser points to one example in which an imam defended two people implicated in terrorist plots. Credit Jasser for wanting to give voice to the majority of Muslim Americans who reject such attitudes:
"We need to do the hard work of finding and promoting Muslim alternatives. Some of us Muslims pray for a day when Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, their progeny, and affiliates are intellectually defeated. That can only happen when the partisan bickering in the U.S. stops and our nation finally takes sides in the global contest between Islamists and liberty-minded Muslims."
Jasser's critics try to minimize his message, but he's far from alone in believing reform-minded Muslims often are being drowned out amid the din created by establishment groups. Read his full column here.