I am one of those who believe that a genuine and professional reformist movement within Islam is long overdue. With great happiness, I came to hear about the new ‘Muslim Reform Movement’ (MRM) in May of 2017, when its key founder Mohammad Zuhdi Jasser wrote an article for Asia Times, saying: “If Imam Tawhidi wishes to prove his reformist bona fides, we urge him to indicate his clear support for the Muslim Reform Movement declaration”. This was the first time I had heard of Zuhdi Jasser and his fledgling reform movement that was established in December of 2015.
Therefore, I welcomed this invitation. In February of 2018, I flew from Australia to the United States and Canada, to meet with six key founders of ‘The Muslim Reform Movement’. They are six people whom I am glad to have met throughout my journey. They showed me great hospitality and respect, and I am looking forward to working with them as individuals in the future.
While they are pure hearted and sincere reformists, there is an elephant in the room, and it’s a big one. With all the funding being poured into the MRM, they are yet to present any real results. Since 2015, there has been no printed review of the Quran, and nor have they been successful in de-radicalizing a single extremist Muslim. With all of the intellectual abilities, opportunities and public relations of this movement, it has failed to influence Mosques and local Islamic centres. Not to mention the inability to reform a single Jihadi Fatwa or even successfully counter it.
Until today, the entire Muslim Reform Movement, as an organisation, remains with less than 20 people, attracting only a handful of elderly non-Muslims to their best events; with barely any involvement with the actual Muslim Community. If we want to be realistic, the founders of the MRM are not getting any younger either, their ages are almost or have past 50 years. This isn’t a matter of age, but it definitely prompts a legitimate question: Will we see a global reformation of Islam in the next 20 years? The most likely answer is: Highly unlikely.
In an interview with The Federalist, Zuhdi Jasser said, “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.”
So, are all of the 3,000 Mosques and 500 public Muslims who ignored Jasser fundamentalist extremists? Perhaps the problem is with Jasser himself.
A Foundation Problem
As a reformist Muslim Imam, it is my expert opinion that the reason behind the MRM’s failings is not the exceptional efforts of its founders, but rather Mohammad Zuhdi Jasser who stands at the forefront of the Muslim Reform Movement. Putting aside the fact that many of his own team consider him to be a territorial and egotistic person, in order for a Muslim Reform movement to succeed, its key figure needs to be an expert on Islam – which currently is not the case. Even if we did have an expert, Islam can never ever be reformed. Never. Only Muslim individuals can be reformed, which is what I focus on far away in Australia.
In a Fox News interview, Zuhdi Jasser presents himself as an expert in Arabic, saying “Arabic is my mother tongue” as he begins to educate Americans on the Arabic being taught within American Schools. He then tries to say, “One Nation Under Islam” by saying “أمة واحدة تحت الإسلام” which means “One Nation (literally) Under Islam”, while literally using the word ‘under’, as though he is saying: “The cat is ‘under’ the bus”. This sounds very foolish in Arabic, because anyone with basic Arabic skills will know that the word تحت (Under) is used primarily for physical things or objects, not religions or beliefs. So where did Zuhdi learn his Arabic from? Well, that’s not hard to discover, he got it from Google Translate:
The correct Arabic statement would have been:
“امة اسلامية واحدة” or “امة واحدة في ظل الاسلام”
It is not my duty to point out the faults of an Arab for struggling with Arabic. But it is Zuhdi Jasser who presents himself as an expert in Arabic, yet struggles to put together a three-word sentence in formal and standard Arabic, let alone fluently recite the Quran. Zuhdi might be fluent in his own Syrian dialect, but all experienced people in this field know that formal Arabic, especially that of the Quran, is not just any Arabic. On the other hand, the Fox News presenter interviewing Zuhdi is absolutely clueless.
The Islamist Reformist
Despite serving in the U.S Navy, Jasser has very troubling facts surrounding his character, the following are three of many:
1- The Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) was listed as a terrorist organisation by the UAE due to its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, yet the Militant Islam Monitor has uncovered that “Zuhdi Jasser’s Islamic Center of the Northeast Valley (ICNEV) has a documented history of radical associations besides CAIR (a Saudi funded front group for Hamas) yet Jasser remained a congregant there for over a decade and headed their Dawah (proselytization) efforts in 2003 at least until 2011.”
2- Zuhdi Jasser’s employee and Community Outreach Coordinator, Courtney Lonergan, was a member of the Islamic Community Center of Pheonix, the very Mosque attended by Jihadists Ibrahim (Elton) Simpson and Nadir Soofi who were killed in 2015 by Private Security Officers after plotting to carry out a terrorist attack using automatic rifles at the American Freedom Defense Initiative Conference in Garland, Texas. Lonergan came to know Simpson at the same Extremist Mosque 10 years before he tried to carry out the terrorist attack. She told the media that “Simpson would never waver from the teachings he picked up in the mosque” and that “Ibrahim would die for an ideology and to protect a faith,”. Throughout those ten years, the FBI had paid Dabla Deng $132,000 to spy on Simpson by pretending to be his friend, and had obtained a recording of Simpson talking about travelling to the Middle East to engage in Jihad. Old and public activities on social media link Simpson to Islamic terrorists halfway around the world. Until today, Lonergan is still Zuhdi Jasser’s assistant. A more detailed examination can be found here.
3- In his book, A Battle for the Soul of Islam, Zuhdi Jasser speaks about his influencers. He says, “My own Islamic ideas were influenced by a host of others in my life,” moving on to say “I was able to find who nurtured my faith. In my own readings, I was influenced by such leading reform-minded Islamic thinkers,” then listing Alija Izetbegović as his influencer.
If you haven’t heard of Izetbegovic, he was the President of the Presidency of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and also the author of The Islamic Declaration (1970). A work of absolute Islamic Supremacy that drips blood and promotes militant Islamism. The public immediately accused him of wanting to turn Bosnia into an Islamic State, simply because he referred to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as a “Model country”.
Also in The Declaration, Zuhdi Jasser’s influencer says, “There can be neither peace nor coexistence between the Islamic religion and non-Islamic social and political institutions” and that “the Islamic movement should and can start to take over power as soon as it is morally and numerically strong enough to be able to overturn not only the existing non-Islamic government, but also to build up a new Islamic one.”
These quotes fall in line with the very mission of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and if this ideology isn’t the very core of militant Islamism, then what is?
Infiltration and the Calculated Plan
So you might wonder, how on earth does Zuhdi find himself sitting next to U.S Politicians and testifying to Congress against Islamists? The answer is very simple, he is a self-confessed Islamist using U.S laws to fight another Islamist group. It’s basic competition. CAIR considers itself the main protector of Islamic organisations in the U.S, yet constantly clashes with other Islamic organisations over matters concerning money and power. As for the infiltration part, it’s not the first time it has happened.
A leaked video from 1989 shows American Muslim activist, Sharifa Alkhateeb, stating that “In the long range process of making America Muslim, All of America Muslims, then we have to have some actual short range goals. We have to have some way of dealing with them, and know how we are going to deal with them, and in which ways, and be very calculated about it, or else we will not accomplish our goals”.
Years after Sharifa Alkhateeb delivered this speech, she was elected to participate in the Fourth World Conference on Women convened by the United Nations in Beijing, China. In conjuction with the Department of Justice, she established the Peaceful Families Project and became the Muslim Team Leader for the Cummunity Resilience Project, funded by Federal Emergency management Agency. (Read my full article on Undercover Radicals here.)
This isn’t the first time an Islamist has infiltrated U.S Government Departments, nor will it be the last. As you are reading this piece, there are U.S politicians on CAIR’s payroll. I can speak with authority on this matter, as I used to be an Islamist delegate forming government relations on behalf of the Iranian Regime.
Hypocrites like Zuhdi Jasser will warn you about Islamists, but will work in their interests behind your back. By his own words, Jasser has proven that his isn’t a reformist project, it is in fact an Islamist project. In a few words: He is a radical of a different flavour.
This could very well be the reason as to why President Donald Trump has ignored the Muslim Reform Movement’s request to meet with him, and did not invite them to the Ramadhan White House Dinner, despite a State Department memo advising Trump to push for an “Islamic Reformation,”.
Funding of the Muslim Reform Movement
Among all Muslims, one of the most damaging factors is to be funded by Right-Wing or Zionist donors. It just doesn’t work. You can’t possibly bring about reform within a Muslim community when they know that you are funded by Zionists and Right-Wingers. This is the exact dilemma of the founder of the Muslim Reform Movement.
I believe that a movement to reform Islam should be totally independent – or funded by moderate Muslims themselves, and not to be funded by political donors or promoted by Fox News, CNN and other agenda-based organisations. Simply because it jeopardises the entire cause, and deters Muslims who could be de-radicalised from the entire movement.
Political donors enjoy throwing money around to add to their list of contributions, and they really cannot be blamed. Mr. Jasser has managed to somehow convince a few donors that he is the awaited saviour of the U.S Constitution from the evil Islamists, when they are none the wiser.
Despite confessing in his book that he has been influenced by Islamist ideologies, basic research shows hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands of dollars being pumped into Jasser’s organisation. A Washington Post report revealed that a major GOP donor, Foster Friess, gave Jasser $100,000, making him a total sell-out in the eyes of most Muslims – the very people he hopes to reform. These realities are exactly what prevents the MRM from achieving actual results amongst Muslims, and in many cases, could isolate them from other reformist scholars who uphold basic principles and wouldn’t support such money-hungry agendas.
Distraction or Delusion?
I would be honoured in supporting an actual reformist movement that had clear goals and strategies to achieve them. Telling the world that “We will reform Islam” does absolutely nothing. For Islam to coexist with the rest of humanity, we need to make sure that we drive out the extremists and Islamists from our communities, and to not promote their barbaric and intolerant ideology as is the case with Zuhdi Jasser, the founder of the U.S Muslim Reform Movement.
This is only a distraction from dealing and eliminating the core problem. Al-Qaeda and ISIS consider themselves reformists who are fighting for the soul of Islam, and so is Zuhdi Jasser, as he titled his book “A Battle for the Soul of Islam” – in his case however, it is a delusion that suggests that the early stages of Islam were peaceful.
This only strengthens my argument that Islam as a religion will never ever be reformed. The Muslim Reform Movement in the U.S has reached an unprecedented low, with no actual headquarters or a ‘Reformists Mosque’ or congregation, and exists only on paper. Furthermore, its founder provides the West with empty hope, and with no relevant credibility nor training, Zuhdi is selling to his donors a form of Islam which does not even exist.