Perhaps the most intriguing speaker at the DurbanWatch conference was Zuhdi Jasser, the president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. People wonder why more Muslims don’t speak out against the Islamists, but Jasser does just that — and did so at the conference as well. In fact, he sounded a lot like John Bolton in his desire to export democracy to the Arab Spring countries, as well as his derision of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other corruptocrats in the region. I asked Jasser to discuss his call to Muslim nations to “separate mosque and state,” and how the US can avoid both isolation and discrediting organic democratization in the region:
Jasser insists that the US cannot sit on the sidelines while the region convulses, as the people of the region needs to have the Western, Reformation model demonstrated and promoted. As I tweeted during his speech, Jasser sometimes sounds a bit neocon-like (his speech included this quote: “I’m offended that Durban III is taking place near Ground Zero”), but Jasser says the US has to learn to use a more subtle touch than we have shown so far. But we also have to know that we won’t solve this problem overnight — it might take two generations to rid the region of the effects of the decades of “nuclear political winter” these people have suffered under the dictatorships. We have to engage the Islamists just as we engaged the communists, and perhaps focus on the generation to come.