A Moslem Reformer

Friday, September 10, 2010

Via HBL, I have learned of an American Moslem activist who, through his American Islamic Forum for Democracy, champions "separation of mosque and state," calls for "reform" of his religion, and hopes to lead a worldwide pro-"individual rights" intellectual movement among the "silent majority of Moslems." (The preceding terms in quotes are all his.) Many Moslems, according to this activist, have already, "through their practice, ... reformed their faith."

Dr. Zudhi Jasser, the son of Syrian immigrants, has seen that, "the struggles faced by my family ... have followed us to the United States." He has decided to take a stand, and he can be heard below outlining his ideas and plans in a speech to the Oslo Freedom Forum 2010.

In a time when it can often seem like every Moslem is an enemy of freedom, it is encouraging to see someone like this. Based on my own somewhat limited personal experience, I think there is a decent number of Moslems in America who would be receptive to Jasser's message. (For example, not long ago, I heard a Moslem acquaintance say offhand, in the normal flow of conversation, that there was no place for limits to freedom of speech, and that any such limit threatened all speech.) Fascinatingly, Jasser notes that many Moslems are presented with a false dichotomy between "secular fascism" and theocracy regarding the relationship between their religion and the state. (Certainly, until I learned of his organization, I had never encountered a Moslem group whose stated positions sounded so pro-freedom.) If Jasser is right, then perhaps his efforts to promote freedom (which he sometimes calls "the third alternative") can gain ground quickly. In any event, it always does one good to see someone who understands freedom this well fighting for it.

The video is about twenty minutes long, but it is definitely worth watching.

-- CAV


Vigilis said...

Gus, Dr. Jasser recognizes a formidable obstacle to progress toward his proposed reforms.

To doom Jasser's ideas C.A.I.R.'s tactic has been simply to ignore Jasser, his reforms and, more importantly, his pithy questions. What could be easier?

Just as C.A.I.R. has survived legal assaults by our own government, it needs only to outlive Dr. Jasser.

To spread your usual Friday cheer, show us any well-heeled and publicized Muslim organization with perpetual legal existence (like CAIR's) that stands behind Dr. Jasser's reforms, and will not only take comfort, we can be supportive, as well.

Sadly, 9 years after 9-11, no counter organization has yet emerged on even quasi-equal footing with CAIR.

Katrina said...

I recently discovered this man too; glad you're giving him some free press. It's very exciting to see someone like him out there doing the work he's doing.

Gus Van Horn said...


(1) Why do you think that recognition by CAIR, of all organizations, is necessary for Jasser's group to succeed?

(2) The kind of counter organization of which you speak has to start somewhere.




Realist Theorist said...

From little snippets of history, and from some personal "anecdotal evidence" I think Islam was starting to change in the colonies of the British Empire. The British brought exposure to modern intellectual thought which had increasingly pushed religion to a secondary position, and championed cause and effect and natural explanations.

This modernization of the local muslim population can be seen in pre-Independent India, Egypt and Iran. I assume one would see the same in pre-Independent Iraq and Beirut. Just years before Khomeini, Iranian upper-class and upper middle-class women were fashionable by western standards, and a fair number considered themselves emancipated, with their drinking and smoking.

Muslim scholars began to revisit their scripture and reinterpret it to be more palatable. Check out this 1885 text that argues that Jihad is not about war, etc.

Many post independent nations kept this modernism in their early days, but all too many slid increasingly toward religion. What we have seen in the last few decades is a reversal of a good trend toward modernizing Islam.

Vigilis said...

Gus, good questions:

"(1) Why do you think that recognition by CAIR, of all organizations, is necessary for Jasser's group to succeed?"

Two reasons:

a) Because Dr. Jasser considered CAIR's response to his questions necessary, and

b) Because CAIR's Beltway connections have even been strong enough for it to have survived ties to aiding and abetting terrorism.

"(2) The kind of counter organization of which you speak has to start somewhere."

You know it, and so do most your of your readers like me, but Jasser may simply have too little time or inclination to head such a counter organization. While the good doctor may certainly be a breath of fresh air, no individual Muslim can be the answer, and the list of eligible Muslims to lead such an organization has been anything but encouraging, in my opinion.

Gus Van Horn said...


Fascinating text, and a good indication that the predominant trend in Islam has been in the wrong direction for quite a long time.


Yes, politically, CAIR has the upper hand, but intellectual movements must precede political movements. On the one hand, this is cause for concern, as in Islam, the intellectual momentum overall is largely in the wrong direction, and even if it weren't, sufficient numbers of people have to change their minds about things before it amounts to political change. On the other hand, except in a dictatorship, the political power of a CAIR is irrelevant, as the change that has to occur happens in individual minds.


madmax said...

RT's comment and my own reading seem to suggest that Islamic Jihad waxes and wanes with time. It seems that Islam is like a virus that attacks weak cells and backs off from strong ones. Being that we have seen an Islamic revivalism post WWII, this leads me to believe that what is in large part driving this is the rise of the New Left.

It seems that post-Kantian, post modern philosophy has chipped away at the culture for close to two centuries. It has done its damage in increments. With the rise of the New Left, the best elements of Western culture were all but destroyed. All left that isn't Leftist is largely religion and altruism. The rationality, strength, moral certainty and pride of the West is gone. The Islamic world sees this and they know we are weak. Thus they are getting more aggressive as with the GZM and the threatened attacks because of Pastor Jones.

I wouldn't be surprised if it were the case that the majority of the problems we have with Islam and Muslims would largely disappear if the West would regain its strength. But, of course, there is only one philosopher that can reinvigorate the West and its an open question if she will have enough time.

Gus Van Horn said...


I think you're right, and I think it hits on part of why I find Jasser's work encouraging. Until the West regains the courage of its convictions, people like him will have to step up to explain that "modernity" is beneficial: It's unfortunately not as obvious as it ought to be that remaining in the Dark Ages has bad consequences.


Damien said...


The fake civil right organization, "C.A.I.R" can not fool people for ever. They do not control the media, or the internet. We should instead be glad that not all Muslims are hate mongering fundamentalists. Even if there are things in the Koran that tell Muslims to hate, and force their religion down others throats, this should give us some hope. Be glad that some Muslims ignore that. C.A.I.R is not fooling everyone.

Gus Van Horn said...


I'd frame that in a more positive note.

I'm glad to see that there is someone actively promoting reason and individual rights among non-fundamentalist Moslems, and using such good arguments.


Damien said...


Well, yes that's another way of putting it.