It seems strange that a newspaper as well-respected as the New York Times would publish an article, "In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims," by Michael Powell that calls a documentary, The Third Jihad, Islamophobic without discussing its contents -- preferring instead to paint NYC law enforcement as Islamophobes for simply watching the film, and its producers as pro-Israeli bigots.
"The Third Jihad," narrated by an American-Muslim physician, Zuhdi Jasser, who practices in Arizona. From the documentary, it seems that Dr, Jasser simply wants American-Muslims to know the difference between a moderate Muslim – an individual who sees his or her faith as a personal matter -- from an individual who practices political Islam, or "Islamism." Proponents of Islamism desire to "Islamicize" social, legal and political institutions with their interpretations of Islamic doctrine through non-violent legal means – political parties, indoctrination of future generations through the educational system, and governmental institutions.
The Islamists' agenda is as socially coercive, though not as extreme, as say the Taliban. As a result, their actions are likely to mimic the Islamist AKP party now in power in Turkey, whose leaders have detained countless journalists in the past year for speaking against the government. On a smaller scale, Islamist activity might resemble other religious groups which have been heavily criticized in the media such as the Haredi in Israel for their harassment of women, or evangelical Christians in the US for their political position on abortion thereby inciting the killing of abortion doctors in the US. Why Powell's double-standard?
Western society, after centuries of religious-based wars, deliberately removed the hand of any one religion from Western nations. Individuals respect those of other faiths, and allow the practice of them as a personal matter, so long as no one is physically harmed. "To each his own," however, only works when all of the individuals in a society respect this principal equally -- and reciprocate in kind.
As Islam has also been given this deference in the West, it is ironic that the success of Islamists there has been advanced by convincing many Westerners that there can be no separation between the personal and the political in Islam. As a result, one cannot question their activities unless one is ready to be called a bigot, racist or "Islamophobe."
Unfortunately, the frequent and unquestioned use of the word Islamophobia in the media reveals the sway Islamists already hold over the mainstream media. It is a newly created word, based on the successful "marketing" of the word "homophobia," and often used to neutralize in advance a possible push-back, so that when people start asking questions about Islam's plans, they have already been silenced before a conversation was even allowed to start. To Islamists, Muslims who wish to practice their faith privately are not "real Muslims," and anyone who questions the political or social agenda of Islamists are considered "racists" or "Islamophobes" for refusing to accept the public relations machine that the Islamists have set in motion.
The narrator of "The Third Jihad," Dr. Jasser, concedes in his rebuttal to the New York Times article, that while the number of Islamists may not be meaningful in the US at the moment, or even in one hundred years, but adds that this does not matter. Islamists' international ties and access to foreign funding give them an advantage with which the typical first generation American-Muslim immigrant community of modest means cannot compete. As a result, the influence of Islamists in the US is in no way proportional to their numbers.
As a Syrian-American, Dr. Jasser, as with other Americans from the Middle East and South Asia, knows that anxiety about the spread of Islamism is not far-fetched. It has prevented the implementation of individual human rights standards and the growth of civil societies such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, and now threatens the successors to the Arab Spring.
Pro-democracy NGO workers in Cairo now have to be sheltered by the US embassy there. Hosni Mubarak may be gone, but, as in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917, a country that has only known top-down dictatorship is liable to fall into a new era of it rather than into a bottom-up citizen-based democracy. While it is possible that the current Egyptian military dictatorship can work out a deal with the Islamist politicians, the attacks on secular Egyptians and Christian Copts serve as a reminder that the military will not function as any kind of democracy.
Secular Egyptians are right to worry. Islamists just won over 75% of the vote; they range from Salafis (an ultra-conservative sect of Islam exported by Saudi Arabia, where women are not even allowed to drive), to members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). And while the current US administration may be hopeful that the MB will now suddenly become "moderate," its members more likely feel more emboldened and validated than ever; and its motto remains "Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Qur'an is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope."
To the frustration of human rights activists, minorities and all Egyptians who protested for a more democratic future after Mubarak, it is clear that the Egyptian government will not have any separation of powers or of church and state, equal justice, or financial transparency as it might have had under a secular, democratic government.
Further, anti-democratic reforms will be easy to implement as the Egyptian Constitution already provides a "Sharia clause" in Article 2: "The principles of Islamic law are the chief source of legislation…"
It is these ideological sympathizers of the MB who lobby and attempt to influence American-Muslims in the US with whom the documentary takes issue.
The Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an allegedly Islamist organization with ties to foreign Islamist groups, such as Hamas. and with apparent ties to the New York Times, make the article against The Third Jihad predictable and the integrity of the New York Time once again questionable. The article fails to analyze any content in the documentary itself, and spends the bulk of its space making personal insinuations about the documentary's producer and their presumably nefarious ties to Israel. instead of discussing the issues. There was not a word about Islam; only politics -- or Islamism. The article's real conclusion is that if you are anti-Muslim you must be pro-Israeli.
Which actually proves the good doctor's point.
Supna Zaidi, Esq., a Pakistani-American, is a Senior Fellow at the Stonegate Institute and Director at the Center for Citizenship, Law and Policy at The Lawfare Project in New York City.