Muslim Reform Movement leader: 'It is not bigotry to discuss radicalization'

Last week the Federalist published an interview with Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, the founder of the Muslim Reform Movement (MRM). I missed it at the time but what Jasser had to say about his group and it’s ability to rally support from mosques around the U.S. is interesting and worth a look. MRM was formed a little more than a year ago with the goal of presenting a view of Islam that is against political Islam and which is unequivocal about its support for human rights. The group published a 2-page declaration last year which reads in part:

We are in a battle for the soul of Islam, and an Islamic renewal must defeat the ideology of Islamism, or politicized Islam, which seeks to create Islamic states, as well as an Islamic caliphate…

We reject interpretations of Islam that call for any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam. Facing the threat of terrorism, intolerance, and social injustice in the name of Islam, we have reflected on how we can transform our communities based on three principles: peace, human rights and secular governance. We are announcing today the formation of an international initiative: the Muslim Reform Movement.

The declaration goes on to specify its support for human rights, including women’s rights, “to inheritance, witness, work, mobility, personal law, education, and employment.” The declaration is also in favor of secular governance and specifically mentions the right to criticize Islam as an element of free speech: “Every individual has the right to publicly express criticism of Islam. Ideas do not have rights. Human beings have rights. We reject blasphemy laws. They are a cover for the restriction of freedom of speech and religion.”

Given how mainstream these ideas are in America, one would expect most U.S. mosques would be eager to agree or in some way signal their approval of this effort. Not so according to Dr. Jasser:

We spent significant resources on this outreach over a period of ten months. We reached out through snail mail, e-mail, and telephone to over 3,000 mosques and over 500 known public American Muslims. We received only 40-plus rather dismissive responses from our outreach, and sadly less than ten of them were positive. In fact, one mosque in South Carolina left us a vicious voice mail threatening our staff if we contacted them again.

So just over 10% of Islamic organizations contacted to express support for secular government and human rights responded, and nearly all of those response were negative. Again, these are mosques in the United States where one would think such views would automatically be accepted. Dr. Jasser says groups like CAIR have made “Islamaphobia” the issue to prevent people talking openly about Islamic radicalism:

While some anti-Muslim bigotry is real, “Islamophobia” is a word often thrown around by Islamists to silence any critical discussion of Islam, Muslims, and—most significantly—the common pathways of radicalization from Islamism.

The obsession some have with “Islamophobia” means that these conversations are censored if not entirely shut down, and reformers like me are maligned, harassed, and threatened not just from within our community, but from those outside of it as well.

Non-Muslims in particular need to learn that it is not bigotry to discuss radicalization. It is bigotry to hate people based on their religion, appearance, gender, sexual orientation, or race. It is not bigotry to want to combat a force—Islamism—that in fact promotes bigotry and violence against all marginalized peoples.

The entire interview with Dr. Jasser is worth reading. It’s a shame that his organization seems to be having trouble finding support for something as basic as human rights and non-Islamic government.