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|AMP Comment – March 28, 2012
Another attempt to undermine mainstream American Muslim advocacy groups
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
In the post-9/11 America, there have been persistent efforts to undermine well established and vocal American Muslim civil advocacy organizations while promoting fringe compliant Muslim groups.
The latest effort comes in the shape of the appointment of Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder president of one-man organization, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) as a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom which advises the president, Congress and State Department on religious rights abuses internationally.
[While writing this article I checked AIFD website that doesn’t have names of any board members while Jasser is described as chairman of the board of directors. This gives credence to the assumption that the AIFD is a one-man organization.]
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser has amassed a reputation as a prominent Islamophobia-enabler and ally of anti-Muslim organizations and individuals, well known for their attempts to diminish civil and religious liberties of American Muslims or make the practice of Islam a punishable offense.
Mother Jones recently quoted Jasser as saying that his group has received a one-time, unsolicited donation of $10,000 from the Clarion Fund, which is associated with Aish HaTorah, a right-wing Israeli group described by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic as “just about the most fundamentalist movement in Judaism today.”
In 2008 Jasser narrated an anti-Islam and anti-Muslims film bankrolled by the Clarion Fund called The Third Jihad, that was shown to thousands of NYPD officers as part of their counterterrorism training, which the police department later apologized for.
Not surprisingly, Zuhdi Jasser lauded New York City police surveillance program that targeted Muslims and helped lead the opposition to construction of the Park51 Islamic and cultural center in Manhattan, known as the Ground Zero mosque. He also supports the profiling of Muslims based solely on their religion, and calls for increasing the illegal surveillance of Muslims in their places of worship, businesses and universities.
Like anti-Islam and anti-Muslim Islamophobic groups, Jasser is critical of major prominent American Muslim organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society (MAS), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). He is also critical of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), a non-profit 501-(C)3 organization that holds the deed to over 300 properties for mosques and Islamic schools.
It will not be too much to say that the appointment of Jasser contradicts the purported goals of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to review “the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.” It also gives a message to the seven-million strong American Muslim community that its established civil advocacy organizations are being marginalized and disenfranchised.
It may be recalled that the 2004 indictment of the Holy Land Foundation charity officials also listed about 300 individuals and groups as unindicted co-conspirators — among them long-established organizations engaged in traditional lobbying efforts such as CAIR and ISNA. Apparently, the prosecution was using McCarthyite tactics by implicating mainstream Muslim groups to silence genuine Muslim voices while providing ammunition to the anti-Muslim organizations.