Zuhdi Jasser at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference
|Born||November 17, 1967 (age 47)
|Other names||M. Zuhdi Jasser,
Mohamed Zuhdi Jasser
|Education||Bachelor of Science (1988); Medical Doctor (1992)|
|Alma mater||University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, B.Sc. (1988)
Medical College of Wisconsin, M.D. (1992)
|Occupation||Medical Doctor – Internist and Nuclear Cardiologist|
|Known for||Self-Appointed "American Muslim activist for separation of mosque and state" and against the ideology of "political Islam"|
|Home town||Neenah, Wisconsin---|
Board member of
President and Founder, American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD);
|Awards||Center for Security Policy,
Defender of the Home Front;
FBI Phoenix, Director’s
Community Leadership Award; Meritorious Service Medal for professional achievement as Staff Internist to the Office of the Attending Physician, US Capitol, U.S. Congress, Washington D.C., March 1999
|American Islamic Forum for Democracy|
Zuhdi Jasser, also known as M. Zuhdi Jasser, and Mohamed Zuhdi Jasser, is a medical doctor specializing internal medicine and nuclear cardiology in Phoenix, Arizona. Jasser is a former Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy where he served as staff internist in the Office of the Attending Physician of the United States Congress. In 2003, with a group of American Muslims Jasser founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) based in Phoenix, Arizona, and in 2004 he was one of the founders of the Center for Islamic Pluralism.
He is also a contributor to national and international media, where he has advocated separation of mosque and state and spoken against the ideology of "political Islam" or Islamism. He has been a frequent guest on Fox News Channel, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, and TheBlaze. He has also contributed articles to nationally read newspapers like the Arizona Republic, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Post, The Wall St. Journal and The Washington Times.
He testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security hearings on The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and the Community's Response” on March 10, 2011. and before the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution on June 24, 2011 on HR 963 the "See Something, Say Something Act". On June 20, 2012 Jasser appeared again before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security to discuss the Muslim Community's response to the committee's hearings on radicalization in the American Muslim community. On February 27, 2013, Jasser testified on the issue of “Anti-Semitism: A Growing Threat to All Faiths” before the U.S. House of Representatives,Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.
In March 2012, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Appointed Jasser to serve a 2-year term on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. On June 25, 2013, in his role of USCIRF Commissioner, Jasser appeared before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Joint Subcommittee Hearing on "Religious Minorities in Syria: Caught in the Middle". On July 23, 2013 Jasser was elected Vice Chair of USCIRF.
Born on November 17, 1967 , Jasser is the son of Syrians who immigrated to the United States in the 1960s, due to repression in their homeland. He was raised Appleton, Wisconsin until the age of six. The family then moved to Neenah, Wisconsin, where he was raised in the Sunni sect of Islam. His father was a cardiologist, and his mother is a pharmacist.
He attended the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, earning his B.Sc. in 1988; then attended the Medical College of Wisconsin on a U.S. Navy scholarship, receiving his M.D. in 1992. He served in the Navy for 11 years, receiving the Meritorious Service Medal and attaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander by the time of his honorable discharge in 1999. His tours of duty included staff internist for the U.S. Congress, medical department head aboard the USS El Paso, and chief resident at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He moved to Arizona after his discharge from the Navy, taking over part of his father's medical practice.
In the wake of the attacks of 9/11, Jasser and a group of American Muslims formed the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) as "an organization that systematically looked at and engaged political Islam in all of its manifestations as the problem in order to reform our faith and stop terrorism, which was only a symptom." Jasser frequently writes and talks about the issue of political Islam. James Woolsey former head of the CIA and Seth Liebsohn, author and radio show host describe him as "the kind of man our government should listen to." Jasser utilizes his commentating, speaking engagements and media appearances "to press Muslim leaders to aggressively oppose a 'culture of separatism.'"
On March 10, 2011, Jasser appeared as a witness at the first in a series of hearings conducted by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security on "The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and the Community’s Response." Jasser's testimony focused on how the polarization of American views of the Muslim community are an obstacle to reform within the faith stating:
I sit before you a proud, devout, American Muslim whose country is polarized on its perceptions of Muslims and the radicalization that occurs within our communities. One camp refuses to believe any Muslim could be radicalized living in blind multiculturalism, apologetics, and denial, and the other camp believes all devout Muslims and the faith of Islam are radicalized. Between these two polarities is a reasoned, pragmatic approach focused on solutions that recognizes the beauty of one of the world's great religions, while also acknowledging the existence within of a dangerous internal theo-political domestic and global ideology that must be confronted – Islamism. I hope that these hearings are the beginning of a rational national conversation about those solutions.
During his testimony, he said that American Muslim organizations had been "circling the wagons" and have too frequently cautioned Muslims against speaking to law enforcement without a lawyer present. He also said that political Islam was based on the idea that the government should be run under Islamic law, which he said violated the American concept of separation of church and state.
On June 24, 2011, Jasser appeared before the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution to testify in favor of H.R. 963 The "See Something, Say Something" Act.
Views on Islam
Jasser describes himself as a devout Muslim who believes that "America in fact provides the best atmosphere for Muslims to practice our faith." He does not claim to be a formal expert in Koranic Arabic, or in sharia (Islamic jurisprudence), but he "see[s] Islam (consistent with "Ijtihad," the tradition of critical interpretation of Islamic scripture) as applicable in the modern world and subject to logic and reason." After attending Phoenix-area mosques for several years, he became disappointed that politics was being discussed from the mosque pulpits and was especially concerned about sermons that criticized U.S. government policies and portrayed Muslims as victims. Jasser began criticizing American Muslim organizations including: the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America, the North American Imams Federation, the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, Muslim Students' Association, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Muslim American Society, the Islamic Circle of North America, and the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, because he sees them as Islamist, meaning they support a mixing of Islam and politics. He has been especially critical of CAIR, a Muslim-American civil rights group, which according to Jasser, is focused on "victimology" and does not adequately condemn the goals of the terrorist groups. A CAIR official has responded, "with these people, nothing we would do would satisfy them" and going so far as to claim that Zuhdi is "a mere sock puppet for Islam haters."
Jasser has also engaged in interfaith activities, serving on the Board of the Arizona Interfaith Movement; helping to found an Arizona based organization called The Children of Abraham, a Jewish-Muslim dialogue group in 2000, and a chapter of Seeds of Peace in 2003.
Jasser has said that he and his family have helped build a number of small mosques in different cities using locally-raised funds, and at times encountering, but always overcoming local opposition. In 2010, Jasser strongly opposed the building of the Park51 project, a 13-story Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site, which is also known as Ground Zero. He said he was concerned that the funding of the $100 million project might be coming from foreign, Islamist sources, and also said: "Ground Zero is purely about being American. It can never be about being Muslim." After President Obama defended the constitutional right of Muslims in America to build a mosque and community center on private property, but not the wisdom of its location, Jasser criticized Obama for "engaging in passive aggressive meddling" and for telling "the more than 70 percent of Americans who oppose the mosque that they were either wrong or confused."
Jasser believes acts of Islamic terrorism are rooted in the ideology of political Islam or Islamism. He has said that Islamists believe that the "Islamic state and its shar’iah law is superior to our Constitutional republic." He believes the U.S. needs a "coordinated existential strategy" to combat the ideology, and that this has been dangerously lacking, with the result that the number of home-grown terrorists is increasing. He has expressed the opinion that the 2009 Christmas Day attempted airplane bombing, the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, and the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt have not prodded the United States into the appropriate action, but rather, have resulted in politically correct denial by U.S. government authorities, and inaction by most American Muslims. He believes that even the Bush administration took inadequate measures against Islamism in America. He says the U.S. needs to provide alternatives for Muslim youth and promote reformist groups. In his television appearances, Jasser has claimed that three to five percent of U.S. Muslims are militant and 30 to 40 percent do not believe in separation of mosque and state.
Views on Israel
Jasser is an outspoken supporter of Israel, and believes that Muslim organizations and leaders need to be held to a litmus test to see whether they recognize Israel as a state. He specifically condemn groups such as Hamas and Al Qaeda, and governments such as the Saudi and Syrian dictatorships. "If they don't ... then you have to wonder where their allegiances are," said Jasser.
American Islamic Forum for Democracy
Jasser and a group of American Muslims founded the non-profit American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) in 2003 with the goal of demonstrating the compatibility of Islam with democracy and American values. Jasser is the group's president and chief spokesperson. The AIFD supports separation of religion and state, religious pluralism, equality of the sexes, the unconditional recognition of Israel and the creation of an independent Palestine, "on the current 'occupied territories'." The organization rejects terrorism and any justification for it.
Jasser is a contributor in four documentaries. Jasser was featured in the PBS film Islam v Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center which PBS banned from the air after pressure from Muslim organizations.
He was the main narrator in the Clarion Fund film, The Third Jihad, which opens with Jasser stating "This is not a film about Islam. It is about the threat of radical Islam. Only a small percentage of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims are radical. This film is about them." Third Jihad's promotional materials state "that radical Islamists driven by a religiously motivated rejection of western values cultures and religion are engaging in a multifaceted strategy to overcome the western world." The film has stirred controversy with the New Republic stating the producer of the film has ties to the Israeli settlement movement. Although Jasser has said he does not agree with everything in the film, he supports the overall message.
Jasser also appeared in the 2010 Newt Gingrich film, America At Risk: The War With No Name, a production of Citizens United. The film's promotional materials state "[w]e are long overdue for a serious global strategy in fighting terrorism and the ideology behind it. We must have the courage to tell the truth and to act on that truth." It has been described as "anti-Obama" by the Nation.
Jasser is also featured in the Fox News Channel documentary Fox Reporting: A Question of Honor, which examined the killing of Noor Al-Maleki in Peoria, Arizona by her father Falah Al-Maleki and his subsequent trial.
In 2007, according to the Washington Post, Mr. Jasser received a $100,000 donation from Christian conservative financier Foster Friess, who has bankrolled the super-PAC supporting Rick Santorum's presidential bid. Mr. Jasser has confirmed that his organization has received funding from groups often considered to have an anti-Muslim bent.
Mr. Jasser has accepted $5,000 from the Center for Security Policy, which is headed by Frank Gaffney, a Reagan-era Pentagon official, who has warned that American Muslims are seeking to replace the Constitution with a strict interpretation of Islamic law. According to a 2011 report by the Center for American Progress, Jasser's group also received funding from the William Rosenwald Family Fund, which has given millions to organizations CAP describes as Islamophobic.
Mr. Jasser said his group has also 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."
Jasser's support for the NYPD's now-defunct counter-terror spying program , statewide bans on the legal application of Sharia in American courts, and support for Israel have made him a highly unpopular figure in the American Muslim community. According to the investigative magazine Mother Jones, "Jasser has lately become the right's go-to guy when it comes to providing cover for policies or positions that many Muslim Americans contend are discriminatory. When controversy over the so-called Ground Zero mosque erupted, Jasser, a frequent guest on Fox News, accused the builders of trying to "diminish what happened" on September 11, 2001. He has supported statewide bans on Shariah law in American courts and has helped bolster conservative warnings that American Muslims seek to replace the Constitution with a harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Many American Muslim groups, meanwhile, view Jasser as a reliable apologist for Republicans and anti-Muslim figures—one with little grassroots support in the American Muslim community. "
Jasser has frequently been in conflict with a number of Muslim advocacy organizations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Society of North America, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Islamic Circle of North America, claiming that they are Islamist, are focused on "victimology" and do not adequately condemn the goals of terrorist groups. These organizations in turn protested his March 2012 appointment to the "U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom". The editorial board of the "The Arizona Republic" responded to these protests by describing them as "ad hominem attacks that are made up out of whole cloth, falsely accusing him and Muslim members of his American Islamic Forum for Democracy of being non-practicing Muslims, at best, and Islam-haters at worst."  The Republic Editorial Board further stated that "[Jasser's] presence there affirms exactly what his strident opponents fear most – that there indeed is a diversity of voices, of points of view, among Muslims."
Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to be elected to the US Congress, has been highly critical of Jasser. In a debate, Ellison told Jasser, "I think you give people license for bigotry. I think people who want to engage in nothing less than Muslim-hating really love you a lot because you give them freedom to do that. You say, 'yeah, go get after them'."
According to the Washington Post, "In some ways, Zuhdi Jasser doesn't match the profile of the typical Muslim American. He's an active Republican who has supported the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is an advocate for Israel and says his faith harbors "an insidious supremacism."
An article in the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America criticized Jasser's alleged lack of credentials and his "right-wing rhetoric." Further, self-described conservative Richard Silverstein criticized Jasser's role in the movie The Third Jihad and described him as a Muslim neoconservative. On the other hand, Daniel Pipes praised Jasser as truly moderate and as someone whose activities demonstrate the falsehood of "phony moderates."
Jasser has also been a target of criticism from several well-known right-wing critics of Islam, such as blogger Pamela Geller, who asserted that Jasser's reform-minded approach to Islam is not true Islam itself, and that Jasser himself does not have any real following among American Muslims . Jasser referred to Geller's allegations as "absolutely false", and responded to Geller's claims in an article which he wrote for American Thinker.
Professional activities, honors and awards
Jasser practices internal medicine and nuclear cardiology in Phoenix. He served as the President of the Arizona Medical Association and has been on the Maricopa County Board of Health since 2005. He is a member of the Clarion Fund's advisory board, a New York-based non-profit organization that produces and distributes documentaries on the threats of Radical Islam. In 2011, the group released the film Iranium that explores the Iranian nuclear program as it pertains to threats against the West, and Islamic fundamentalism in Iran.
He was honored in October 2007 by Center for Security Policy as a "Defender of the Home Front" for his anti-Islamist activism. In January 2008 he was presented with the 2007 Director’s Community Leadership Award by the Phoenix office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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- Caroline May (September 8, 2010). "8 questions with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy". The Daily Caller. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
- M. Z. Jasser (Winter 2008). "Exposing the 'Flying Imams'". Middle East Quarterly. pp. 3–11. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
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- M. Zuhdi Jasser (August 18, 2011). "The Islamist Threat Inside Our Military". Wall St. Journal. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
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Groundbreaking for Scottsdale's first mosque will take place next month, culminating a nearly five-year effort by the northeast Valley's Muslim community to build a cultural center [....] Between 200 and 250 guests are expected for the 11 am ceremony, said Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Valley physician and chairman of the Community Outreach
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