Testimony of Dr. M. Zudhi Jasser before the House Committee on Homeland Security on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response”
Testimony of Dr. M. Zudhi Jasser
President, American Islamic Forum for Democracy
“The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response”
Committee on Homeland Security US House of Representatives
Washington DC March 10, 2011
Thank you, Chairman King, Ranking Member Thompson, distinguished members of the committee for seeking my testimony on what I feel is the most important threat to American security in the 21st century.
As Chairman King said I come to you as a devout Muslim and somebody that is very concerned about our country and not only its polarization but its paralysis in dealing with this problem. We formed organization to address this, but yet we’ve not been able to move even one step forward significantly because of that paralysis. One camp on that polarization refuses to believe that any Muslim could be radicalized, and yet, we see – as we’ve discussed here – until now a significant increase in the number – an exponential increase in the number of radicalized Muslims that may not be within our communities that we know but are Muslims nonetheless. On the other side of the polarity is those that feel that Islam is the problem. They want to label Muslims as one all collective and really are seeking no solutions. I think the majority in the middle is moderate America that is looking for a solution, and I think these hearings are an opportunity for Muslims to address that solution.
Let me be clear and state upfront that unequivocally for the record that the US has a significant problem with Muslim radicalization. You know, listen I’m Muslim, and I realize it’s my problem and I need to fix it and that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s unfortunate that you have some of the best work on radicalization is being done by non-Muslims like the NYPD report on radicalization. Most Muslim groups condemned that report when in fact we, Muslims, should have been doing that report.
Let me also state clearly that it is a problem that we can only solve. Christians, Jews, non-Muslims cannot solve Muslim radicalization. So yes, there may be other types of violent extremism but that cannot be solved by non-Muslims. So we can close our eyes and pretend this doesn’t exist; we can call everyone a bigot or an Islamophobe if they even talk about it. But you’re not going to solve the problem and the problem is increasing exponentially.
What I hope that we can discuss is get beyond this blind concept of “violent extremism.” It is a final step, but radicalization is a continuum. Cooperation is a continuum. I’ve personally never known a Muslim that wouldn’t report somebody about to blow something up or commit an act of violence, but that’s a final step on a continuum of radicalization. I believe there are small elements – but significant elements – of ideology within our community that is radicalizing based on the identification, the lack of identification, and the separatism, and the disenfranchisement of certain Muslims from this society that makes them not bond, makes them not trust the government, makes them distrust the FBI and creates a culture of lack of cooperation. That’s what we need your help in solving.
America’s current paradigm is failing. And you know, I’m a physician, and I was trained as a physician to – patients come in and they’ve got three or four symptoms typically they have one diagnosis. They don’t come in with three symptoms and three diagnoses. So when we look at the problem with radicalization, we have to realize that the panoply of excuses given – our foreign policy, our domestic policy, all this kind of stuff – those will never run out. At the end of the day, it’s a moral corruption within a certain segment that is using our religion – hijacking it for a theo-political movement that is not only domestic but it is global. And the reason I’m here today and taking the time away from my family and my work to that to be here with you is because we’re failing. We are not addressing this. We’re so much soaking up the bandwidth of the discussion in the country on this with victimization that we’re not addressing the core problem and the root cause. And yet these halls, this government was based on discussing religious diversity. Our founding fathers, our establishment cause, was based on being able to have discussion that were functional on religion. But once a movement a threat hijacks a religion, we seem to become completely dysfunctional and we get histrionics and we can’t even talk about it. And I hope we can move beyond that.
I fear for the legacy that my children will have, because I want them to have the gift just like I got from my parents that felt American the first minute they stepped off the plane when they came from the oppression of Syria and they understood that they could practice their faith – their beautiful faith of Islam – more freely here than they could anywhere else in the world. Why? Because this government is not under one faith. It’s under God, and it’s based on liberty. These are the principles – just as Prime Minister [David] Cameron said “We can’t continue to play defense. We need a muscular liberalism.” And so far our tax money, our resources has been squandered. We’ve continued to play defense. And until we have an ideological offense into the Muslim communities domestically and globally – to teach liberty, to teach the separation of mosque and state – you are not going to solve this problem; we are not going to solve it.
I’m not saying that you can solve theology – you shouldn’t be solving theology, that’s my problem. But we need to build public-private partnerships to build platforms where you can advocate for the laws of the Constitution that are universal human rights, that are based in the equality of men and women, the equality of all faiths before law. These are principles that certain pockets of Islamic law, Islamic legalisms within systems in this country and outside are advocating that are in contradiction with our government, our society and end up radicalizing on a continuum, end up creating a culture of lack of cooperation. And until you treat that diagnosis – what I call “Political Islam” – spiritual Islam will continue to suffer, our faith community will suffer, and this country’s security will continue to suffer.
The current groups that have been speaking on our behalf I think have been failing. They may be well-intended about civil rights, but they’re apologetics, their dismissals have been completely failing. I think if you look at Nidal Hassan – he didn’t become radical overnight. And if you look at his resume, it’s frighteningly similar to mine. But yet something happened in him over years – over years – and you can’t just blame [Anwar al] Awlaki. Awlaki himself before he became a radicalizer was being radicalized somewhere, and he was giving sermons in mosques in Denver, in San Diego, in Northern Virginia. And when you talk to certain leaders in the Muslim community, they say, “Oh well, all of a sudden we don’t know what happened. He became violent.” That’s not the way it works. Pathology creeps up over time, and there is – just as we’ve seen in alcoholism – there is enablers. And the enabling that’s been happening in some of our – not all and not even a majority – has been I think significantly causing a progression of this problem and that’s why we’re not treating it and getting better.
So ultimately, we need solutions. Our organization has created a Muslim liberty project that looks at inoculating Muslims with the ideas of liberty, giving them the empowerment to counter imams, to feel that they can represent their own faith. We have a retreat coming in the next month to bring Muslims in from all over the country to begin that retreat process. This is our homeland, and we want to set this society to begin – if you will – a counter-jihad. An offense to counter the ideas I think is the best way to use our resources as a nation. And remember that the freedoms that we have don’t come with a cheap price and we need to give back. And that the solution ultimately – to fear of Muslims – if it exists is for Americans to see Muslims leading the charge against radical Islam. Thank you.