America’s true allies in the war against global jihad are not going to come in the form of Middle Eastern, Islamist dictators, but in those who want to fundamentally reform Islam, according to one expert and Muslim reformer.
“The dictators and the monarchs of the Middle East are not our allies, because they actually have contained sharia states. They believe in the concept of an Islamic state,” said Dr. Zhudi Jasser — a Navy veteran, physician, and president of the American Islamic Forum for Islam and Democracy — at a national security panel at the Family Research Council’s 2016 Values Voter Summit this Saturday.
Jasser, himself a practicing Muslim, explained that while some of these regimes may provide strategic, short-term alliances in the fight against radical jihadist terror, they actually act as “firefighters and arsonists at the same time.”
“Who funded ISIS? The Saudis and the Qataris and Erdogan and the Turks and other Sunni Islamists,” he stated. “They push ideas which basically radicalize their populations. So when they feed the pit bull and it comes back and bites them on the you-know-what, they say ‘oh, now we’re with you against this war.’ And yet 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi.”
Rather than only relying on the shifting, conditional assistance of regimes who merely kick the jihadist can down the road, Jasser asserts that the best way to counter the threat of radical Islamist terror is to focus more on the “Islamist” part.
“The entire homeland security apparatus is focused on a tactic — countering violent extremism. That needs to change,” he says. “Terrorism is merely ‘a tactic.’”
“And even if you defeat it, it’s a Whac-A-Mole program. If you get rid of ISIS, the next group will come up … they’ll keep coming up because the front is an idea: the supremacism of a fascism that is based in theocracy.”
He also asserted that America’s true allies in fighting the global ideology that drives terror organizations are those who are trying to rid the “House of Islam” of these violent beliefs from within, like the Muslim Reform Movement, which he co-founded.
Jasser co-founded the Muslim Reform Movement last December, which calls for Muslims around the world to reject “interpretations of Islam that call for any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam.”
The movement’s 12 principles, which condemn all concepts of the caliphate, go far beyond condemning groups like ISIS and Al-qaeda. Instead, they seek to “preserve and protect the [United States] Constitution through the separation of mosque and state” and boldly assert that it is high time for Muslims to “put the concept of the Islamic state [as a whole] into the dustbin of history,” Jasser explained.
But while denouncing Islamist facism and terror is essential, it’s more important to articulate “what we are for,” said Jasser on Saturday: “At the end of the day, our allies are American patriots, French patriots, Belgian patriots, Canadian patriots, who believe in a social contract, who believe in liberty and freedom, who would never want to die for Islam or some faith or theocracy.”
This idea may seem far-fetched to those who have watched ISIS-inspired terror spread far outside the so-called caliphate’s effective borders and into Europe and the United States, but Jasser believes that there are already working case studies that offer insight into how this approach can work.
“I can be a devout Muslim and believe in my scripture and not want to live in an Islamic state, and Egypt demonstrated that,” he says. “One year of the Muslim Brotherhood running government there did more to destroy the ideas of the Islamist movement of the Brotherhood than did 60 years of dictatorship under [Gamal Abdel] Nasser, [Anwar] Sadat, or [Hosni] Mubarak.”
If America doesn’t change its approach to the jihadist threat, Dr. Jasser believes the consequences will be dire for the U.S. and the world as a whole — the Muslim portion of which currently stands at a critical turning point in its own history.
During the panel, renowned counterterrorism expert and defense professor Dr. Sebastian Gorka concurred with Jasser that the nation’s current national security apparatus surrounding the jihadist threat is insufficient to fight a war that is primarily ideological.
The Obama administration is currently driven by the idea that all terrorism is the result of poverty and a lack of education, says Gorka, “which any 10-year-old knows is completely bogus. Because if poverty and lack of education led to terrorism, then half of India would be terrorists. But they’re not.”
“The missing ingredient is, of course, ideology,” Dr. Gorka continued. “But we’re not allowed to talk about the ideology, because of course that is verboten. You cannot discuss it because it is religious.”
A large part of this problem is that a sizable chunk of America’s foreign policy elites, especially those who are currently in charge, are ill-equipped to combat a religious war because they themselves do not comprehend religion.
“If you don’t have faith, yourself, you will never understand our enemy; you will never understand the logic of a suicide bomber,” Gorka went on. “The trouble is that we have a political elite on the Left — and, unfortunately, sometimes on the Right — that does not take faith seriously. If they go to church or temple, it’s a cool networking thing with the coffee and doughnuts afterward.”
“You need leaders that understand faith and that understand that our enemy is religiously motivated,” Gorka concluded. “And right now we don’t have that in federal government.”
Nate Madden is a Staff Writer for Conservative Review, focusing on religious freedom, jihadism, and the judiciary. He previously served as the Director of Policy Relations for the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative. A Publius Fellow, John Jay Fellow, Citadel Parliamentary Fellow and National Journalism Center alumnus, Nate’s writing has previously appeared in several religious and news publications. Follow him @NateMadden_IV.