By Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser
In recent years and even weeks, the lessons of September 11, 2001 have been lost to constant distraction, the most recent being Mayor Bloomberg’s unfathomable decision to forbid people of faith a role at the tenth anniversary commemoration.
Faith was the impetus for the attack, faith was the instrument for healing, and faith is the only hope we have to defeat the ideology that attacked us ten years ago.
Bloomberg’s stance encapsulates our greatest liabilities as a nation ten years after 9/11. We, now, more than ever, lack the political will, the national skill sets, and the prominent American Muslim leadership willing to identify, engage, and defeat Islamism.
While many Muslims take the bait of victimology preached by supposed Muslim civil rights groups in America, as American Muslims the rest of us cannot continue to deny the connection no matter how unfair between certain interpretations of our faith and Al Qaeda’s brutal attack.
Usama bin Laden did not just represent a handful of militant extremists. He was a standard bearer for an end stage of a global ideology – political Islam (Islamism) – that has buried its roots deep within interpretations of our faith. Islamism is a theo-political construct that believes in the supremacy of the Islamic state and that is the antithesis of what makes America unique and exceptional. It can only be defeated by Muslims who step beyond the distractions and denials and champion an ideological path that binds our identity and faith to liberty and individual freedom.
If American Muslim leaders want to do anything to combat fear of Islamism and any unfair association of all Muslims that may exist, the most effective move would be to form an offensive strategy against Islamists and their ideas from within.
My family came to the U.S. in the 1960’s escaping Syria’s Baathist oppression in order to be free, more free than they ever dreamed of being in Muslim majority nations.
Yet, it is unconscionable that 10 years after 9/11, the United States is still dithering over the root cause of Islamist terror.
Islamists detest the very fabric of American society. September 11 was not the first attack and it was not the last. If we do not engage in a full throated ideological fight we will continue to witness an ever increasing threat to our homeland.
Sadly, the America I know that I chose to serve as a naval officer has spent an uncharacteristically sheepish decade asleep against the greatest existential threat to our survival. We must now develop and implement a coherent tactical plan to defeat the ideological root of militant Islamism- political Islam and the dreams for some Muslims of the Islamic state.
The threat to the United States has grown exponentially in ten years. A report from the Department of Justice in March of 2010 showed that of 228 terror-related arrests 186 of them were Muslim. That is over 80 percent from a Muslim community that represents less than 2 percent of the U.S. population.
What this report does not tell us is that of the 186 Muslim arrests almost certainly all of them were Muslims that believed in and adhered to an Islamist ideology. Since this report we have seen upwards of another 28 terror-related arrests of Muslims including the likes of Faisal Shahzad -- the Times Square bomber -- and Pvt. Naser Abdo who was preparing a second attack on Fort Hood who both claimed to be “Muslim soldiers” fighting for the ummah (Muslim nation).
The threat is increasing because the ideological message has largely gone unchecked. To change that we need to empower reform-minded liberal Muslim leaders. We need the political will from the Administration and Congress to identify political Islam as the problem and devout reformist Muslims and enlightened Islam as the solution. We need our government, media, and academe to have the skill set to not cower when terms like “Islamophobia” are leveled against those who are smart enough and brave enough to call out political Islam as the problem and we need for Muslims to separate religion and state to defeat Islamism. Unless we do that, our “whack-a-mole” approach to security will eventually miss one.
Western pluralistic societies that embrace individual liberty are not in conflict with the faith of Islam as practiced by most Muslims. This is not a war against a religion. We cannot allow our ideological enemy to use faith to tie our hands in this fight. Hear that Mayor Bloomberg? Mr. President? PC police? We must break the shackles of political correctness and step beyond the fear that paralyzes us against matters that happen to touch on faith.
The founding fathers never intended for faith to be sacrosanct and beyond public discourse. Perhaps the greatest outcome of the American experiment is that the U.S. Constitution reclaimed faith from the hands of the monarch and the clergy and vested it in the hands of the people as it was always intended. Now faced with an existential theo-political threat, we are failing that vision and need to rededicate ourselves to our founding principles.
The only way to win is to stop playing defense and create an offensive strategy which empowers liberty-minded Muslims whose identity is tied to Americanism and our Establishment Clause, rather than Islamism, shar’iah, and victimhood. We must tackle the fallacy of the Islamic state and demonstrate to Muslims the religious strength that comes from individual liberty.
We have yet to operationalize these lessons of 9/11. We will not win this struggle and therefore never have true national security without confronting the hard issues of Islamist ideology. Our enemy does not suffer the same malady and in fact utilizes ideology as their primary weapon in this battle.
We must do the same. Our dedication to the concepts of liberty and unyielding belief in the inalienable rights of man as endowed by our creator are the key to our victory.
Dr. Jasser is president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a former U.S. Navy Lt. Commander and a physician in private practice based in Phoenix, Ariz. He can be reached at email@example.com