The first question any American Jew may contemplate asking me, an American Muslim activist is, how does this guy have the chutzpah to tell our diverse Jewish communities what we should or should not do vis-à-vis American Muslim communities, Islamism, and especially anti-Semitism? Anyone who has followed all of our public work in this area of expertise knows that we at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and the Muslim Reform Movement are certainly not delusional and are fully aware and engaged with the hard work necessary to begin change toward long overdue reforms within the Muslim consciousness. We know that this road is arduous and may take a generation. But we also would have never guessed that some of our most significant obstacles to fighting against Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood would come from within the Jewish community.
We know that most, if not all of this work, can only be done by Muslims needing essentially nothing short of revolution after revolution against the Islamist establishments, theocrats, patriarchs, autocrats, and kleptocrats across the planet. However, no one should for a second believe that we can right this ship alone. Our non-Muslim and especially our Jewish community partners play an invaluable role in our success and failures obviously especially when it comes down to countering anti-Semitism. We understand that this condition of endemic bigotry against the Jewish community emanates from centuries old Islamist interpretations of Islam as well as pan-Arab racial supremacism to name a few root-cause afflictions of the majorities of almost a quarter of the world’s population who happen to Muslim.
The reality, however, is that if the Jewish community’s greatest allies within Muslim and Arab populations are in fact the “modern,” “liberal” reformers who stand up within our own faith and ethnic communities against the anti-Semitic, Islamist, and Arabist demagogues—then they must be supported and augmented, not marginalized. If any of us reformers are going to ever make any headway at all, then the leadership of leading Jewish political and religious organizations must make strategic alliances with—eyes wide open, please. The importance of those alliances cannot be overstated as it provides important legitimacy to American Muslim groups domestically and abroad and also contrarily what can be a very dangerous sense of complacency when it comes to Islamist dissimulation and their facades of reform. I am here to tell you that all too often leading Jewish organizations grossly underestimate the profound impact they have in marginalizing their real allies by lifting up the lowest hanging fruit of our faith community’s current Islamist leadership across mosques and activist Islamist organizations in America. The reason the Muslim Brotherhood and Deobandi legacy groups like the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Muslim American Society (MAS), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) to name a few have such a greater audience and bandwidth is because they have had a two-plus generation head start in the West organizing and also being funded by the worst government actors and terror-sympathizers in the Middle East, bolstered essentially across the greater “neo-caliphate” of today with the 56 nations of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
My goal here is simple. It is to shed the antiseptic of sunlight upon the relationships that many Jewish organizations make with American Islamists. It is one thing to proclaim that anti-Semitism is pervasive and Jewish leadership must make allies wherever they can. It is, however, quite another thing to fall for the dissimulation of Islamists and refuse to acknowledge their core ideologies as they tell groups like the ADL and AJC what they want to hear. It is not even a zero sum game. In fact, the elevation of Islamists by any leading non-Muslims in the West is just another nail in the coffin of reformers. Don’t be deceived.
It is important to truly understand the deep layers upon which the horrifically pervasive anti-Semitism of Muslim and Arab majority populations is based. As wise sages have said, the only way to prevent history from repeating itself is to truly understand it and learn from it. As a faithful Muslim, it is my obligation to be transparent about our own history and make sure that Muslims and non-Muslims alike learn from it and prevent the theocratic and ethnic supremacists from staying in power and ever gaining it again.
First, it is key to understand the history and ideology of Islamism or political Islam. The link between Islamism (also known as Islamist supremacism), and anti-Semitism is fairly simple. It is self-evident that supremacists from within a particular faith community will create and exploit hatred toward another faith community in order to collectively rally their own followers against a common enemy. Much as Jew hatred was a fundamental part of Christianity before the Protestant Revolution and the Enlightenment separated church and state, predominant interpretations of Islam, a much newer religion, promoted anti-Semitic imagery, profiling, and demonization of Jews as a tool for its devoted members’ own ascension into power among Muslim-majority communities and nations, or in Arabic, the Umma. My entire work and our mission at AIFD is founded upon the precept that the primary cancer from which all hate within the Muslim community emanates is the idea of the “Islamic State.” From that theocratic shariah “state” comes obligations to “jihad,” anti-blasphemy laws, and the current oppressive sharia legal system that puts Muslims above all others.
Understanding this inextricable connection between the demonization of Jews and the advancement of Islamist movements whether violent or not, lawful or not, (distinctions without a difference) is essential in order to break the link and finally give reformers the space to even begin the hard work of reforming various Muslim interpretations of the faith of Islam, as we have seen happen within Christianity. And yet, it breaks my heart to see so many in the Jewish community itself actively hampering and preventing such a positive change from occurring. We can all do better than this.
If the public goal is to simply fill dining halls with thousands of Muslim supporters and do “photo ops” with what appears to be large Muslim populations, then go ahead, the Islamist dissimulators of moderation are the only way to go and the only Muslim “partners” that can give you that today. They have summarily dismissed anti-Islamist dissenters from the ranks of the Muslim communities they control. But Muslims who may simply, for example, recognize the horrific realities of the Holocaust and condemn Holocaust denial while certainly exemplify a very good step forward, are far from reformational. That was the apparent low bar required by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) with their Islamist partners at ISNA. Sadly, many Islamists cannot even do that, but when they do, all they are doing is dismissing a radical conspiracy theory. It does nothing to treat the primary cancer of political Islam, the religious legitimacy of the Islamic state, and its theological underpinnings across all schools of current day Islamic jurisprudence in both the Sunni and Shia traditions. I would submit that such a low bar is insulting to those of us with the honesty to address the more deep-seeded fundamentals of Islamism and its anti-Semitic jihad.
Unlike the other Abrahamic religions, Judaism has always had a strong liberal streak running through it, encouraging questions and varied interpretations. The Talmud makes this fact crystal clear. And this liberalism has carried through into politics, with the majority of Westernized Jews voting Democrat. That liberal history influenced by query, reform, and the politics of immigration has had an impact on the partisanship of various Jewish organizations in America. As such, the tendency toward “politically correct” approaches with sensitive issues of race and identity even when Muslim leadership conflate Islamist ideologies with race and identity in such contrived notions like “Islamophobia” is mind-numbing. The avoidance by leftist Jewish communities of the pervasiveness of such deep-seated ideological threats like Muslim anti-Semitism has been at their own peril.
Instead of tackling the phenomena head on, acknowledging how widespread it is and how increasingly problematic it has become given the recent influx of millions of Arab and Muslim refugees into Western Europe, many leaders in the Jewish community, in line with the media, academia, and the majority of Western governments, have preferred the nebulous and generic concept of “violent extremism” in developing targeted solutions against this domestic and global threat. But programs that only counter violence address the means of those who threaten the Jewish community while wholly ignoring the ideology or the ends that their movements seek. The common ideological thread running through the security threat that comes from Islamist extremism is the inherent supremacism of Islamism or political Islam. As I’ve testified to Congress many times, our programs should be entitled “Countering Islamism.” Full stop. Legitimate partners of Jewish communities should be anti-Islamist at best and non-Islamist at worst.
Anti-Semitism should not be viewed as just another “radical” symptom that arises from the supremacist mentality of Islamism. It is far more than that. It is its foundation. Translations and interpretations of our Holy Qur’an and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Mohammed) distributed by virtually all Islamist governments are rife with anti-Semitic narratives, including translations and interpretations of some of the most commonly recited verses. Educational materials teach blatant Jew hatred, with children throughout the Muslim world raised to believe that Jews are the enemies of the believers and the descendants of apes and pigs. For example, the most repeated verse in the Qur’an among faithful Muslims in their daily prayers is the short opening “Sura al-Fatiha.” It states, “Guide us in the straight path. The path of those upon whom you have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked your anger or of those who have gone astray.” The only Saudi version approved by its Wahhabist regime footnotes the phrase in that Sura, “or of those who have gone astray” with *not like the Jews and Christians. Modern reformist Muslims interpret those in the “straight path” in an egalitarian way among all believers in God of all faiths. However, Wahhabists, Islamists, and other Muslim supremacists read this as exclusive to Muslims. This small example, repeated many times a day, is but one of thousands of examples of explanatory interpretations that radicalize Muslims away from more moderate interpretations and toward the supremacist Islamist ones. Genuine Muslim-Jewish discourse should demand transparency over apologetics about the grim realities of these interpretations and so many more.
The importance of the underlying role of anti-Semitism and its rot in our communities here cannot be overstated. A Pew poll confirmed that “Anti-Jewish sentiment” is endemic in the Muslim world. If Islamists are a plurality, upwards of 30 to 40 percent of the population as was proven in the Arab-Awakening, pan-Arabist supremacists are another 30 to 40 percent giving many of these nations astronomical rates of anti-Semitism—up to 80 to 90 percent plus when their theological and racial hatred is combined. “In Lebanon, for example, virtually all Muslims and the majority of Arabs say they have a very unfavorable view of Jews. Similarly, 99 percent of Jordanians have a very unfavorable view of Jews. Large majorities of Moroccans, Indonesians, Pakistanis, and six-in-ten Turks also view Jews unfavorably.” As many of these nations slide back and forth from one fascism to the other, from secular fascism to Islamist fascism or theo-political fascism, one has to plainly see how the anti-Semitism long fueled for generations by Arab dictators like Hosni Mubarak, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad, Muammar Qaddafi, or King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz was a harbinger of the type of violent and hate-filled societies they were sowing. These predominantly secular fascists and kleptocratic monarchs effectively used national media to propagate anti-Semitism in an “us versus them” mentality. They also effectively demonized Zionism in order to lift up pan-Arabism as a Machiavellian tool to keep the masses from questioning their authority. Their media propaganda machines made this happen.
For example, and there are thousands, under Egyptian President Mubarak, Egypt annually aired the virulently anti-Semitic and czarist Russian forgery, Protocols of the Elder of Zion. State media regularly denied the Holocaust while at the same time irrationally labeling Zionism as a new Nazism. Conversely, in April 2001, the government-sponsored newspaper Al-Akhbar published a paragraph extolling praise on Hitler for the Holocaust and complaining that it did not go far enough stating: “Thanks to Hitler, of blessed memory, who on behalf of the Palestinians, revenged in advance, against the most vile criminals on the face of the earth. Although we do have a complaint against him for his revenge on them was not enough.”
That propaganda and threat continues today in state-run media throughout the Middle East including the Al Jazeera media group. During the Obama administration, Qatar state media purchased potential access to more than 40 million American homes through its acquisition of Al Gore’s Current TV for $500 million. Only a few years later that venture, Al Jazeera America, failed miserably and is now defunct unable to get high-level journalists or viewer traction. However, their goal of influencing the American government, media, and academia continues unabated. Their strident Islamist correspondents like Mehdi Hasan are now anchoring leftist news media like MSNBC. When one of the Al Jazeera Arabic journalists posted a horrifically anti-Semitic “news report” in April 2019, rather than deal with the root cause, Al Jazeera Arabic unleashed its lawyers across the planet to threaten anyone who hosted the video, claiming they “fixed the problem by suspending the rogue journalists.” Our American Islamic Forum for Democracy was one of the sources that broke the story and still has its translation online.
The hate created by the Arab secular fascists also tellingly fueled a mass exodus of the Jewish people that began in 1948 at Israel’s founding when there were over 800,000 Jews living in Arab lands. Today, it is believed that there are less than 20,000 remaining. That exodus has carried over to the Christian community where it is believed over two million Christians have fled the Middle Eastern Arab community in the last 20 years. This vacuum of religious diversity only feeds the Islamist supremacist mentality.
The exploitation of Israel among Islamists is also virtually a litmus test for anti-Semitism. Apparent is the use of conspiracy theories by Islamist demagogues to portray a false narrative and fiction against Israel and thus by association all Jews. These conspiracy theories then spread like wildfire and are exploited by fellow global Islamist movements of all stripes in order to broaden the conspiracy against all Muslims and provide more excuses for the failures of Muslim-majority nations. When the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the neo-caliphate umbrella group of 56 Muslim majority nations, met in Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahatir told the crowd, “The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.” Reports were that the crowd responded with a “resounding ovation.” This is consistent with the Pew opinion polls in nations like Malaysia. Nothing short of revolutions will change this entrenched bigotry. Muslims who are anti-caliphism, anti-Islamist, and anti-jihadi should be the only partners that rise to an acceptable level of reform, modernity and respect for their Jewish brothers and sisters to embrace.
Yet, sadly, apart from the Israeli government, virtually nothing is said to Muslim audiences by the Jewish diaspora about the central need to combat the institutional ideas of anti-Semitism. In fact, far-left progressive Jewish groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, and Bend the Arc, have expressed sympathy and made common cause with anti-Semitic Muslim groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) or murderously hateful regimes such as Iran. These groups go so far as to partner with and regularly feature anti-Semitic speakers at their webinars, conferences, or national conventions. Except for notable exceptions due to how rarely they happen, larger groups like the ADL have sat on the sidelines as American Islamist groups born out of the Muslim Brotherhood have radicalized American Muslims and poisoned the discourse against reformist groups like the Muslim Reform Movement. Choosing party over substance when it comes to combating Islamist anti-Semitism, the likes of Keith Ellison (D-MN), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) receive little to no critique while instead their bandwidth is filled with other priorities like attacking the American right.
Nothing epitomizes the damaging nature of their silence more than the response of Democratic Party leadership to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s (D-Il) deceptive “Combating International Islamophobia Act,” which just a few months ago was a patently obvious Islamist influence operation to put into place a legislative proposal that sought to establish in the Department of State the “Office to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia.” A more appropriate name for this proposed legislation would have been “The American Caliph Act.” They simply wanted to empower a government official with the ability to label criticism of Islam hate speech—basically an anti-blasphemy czar in our own government. The endorsement of this legislation by groups like the ADL and silence from established groups like the AJC says everything one needs to know about how far off the mark so many American Jewish organizations are from identifying what is the best interests of America, modern American Muslims, and dare I say, their own Jewish communities.
And it was not just about this one act. Since day one, the Biden administration began peppering its rolls with Islamists and their sympathizers in all its corners with Palestinian Islamist sympathizer Reema Dodin at the White House to CAIR fundraiser Khizr Khan at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and now even an attempt to place the long controversial Rashad Hussain as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the State Department. All of these appointments are flagrantly pro-Islamist and thus by definition facilitating anti-Semitism.
What these groups dominated by universalist and collectivist Jews fail to understand is that to patronize Muslim societies and communities with a different set of human standards than those embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a moral relativism that insults every Muslim and citizen inclined otherwise in those nations. It also expects less of Muslims living in the West who remain silent against the obvious intimations of anti-Semitism that beset so much of the Arabic and Muslim-dominated media.
Tough love is the highest form of respect. Demanding a minimum standard of nonviolence is by no means enough.
Moral relativism is exactly what the theocrats of the Muslim Brotherhood want in order to widen rather than close the divide between the ideas of liberty and Islamism.
That the Jewish community does not confront the scourge of Muslim anti-Semitism also makes it more challenging for those few Muslim imams, scholars, or activists with the courage to publicly take on the anti-Semitism of Islamist leaders. When these brave reformers arise, instead of being embraced by their Jewish brothers and sisters, they are either silenced, or not given sufficient attention or support. The examples of Islamist-inspired anti-Semitism leading to terror against Jews are sadly too numerous to list.
Common among Islamist thought of all stripes is the utilization of hatred of Jews to marginalize their antagonists from within and thus avoid substantive debate about their own theological authenticity within Islam. Islamism depends upon conspiracy in order to explain the weakness of the Muslim condition and the need for Muslim collectivism and Islamic statehood and, ultimately, neo-caliphism.
Anti-Semitism has long been a tool utilized by Islamists in order to invoke common sympathy from secular nationalists, who also fostered a hatred for Jews, in order to avoid national introspection. In fact, anti-Semitism is the one ideological litmus test shared by both secular autocrats and Islamists across Muslim-majority nations. At the UN, the radical far Left and the Islamists work hand in hand to turn the world community of nations against Israel and all Western values. When Venezuela, China, and Russia work together with Iran, Syria, and Qatar, this is the global version of the Red-Green Axis.
And at home, the Red-Green Axis is epitomized by the likes of radical progressive Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) working together with radical Islamist Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). They normalize anti-Semitism and its anti-Zionism. Through 2020 and 2021 too many American Jewish organizations stayed silent as the Black Lives Matter movement used the politics of identity and race in order to stifle free speech and destroy the foundations of America, essentially lifting a page right out of Islamist movements across the Arab world. Rewriting history is their goal. Whether it is the Taliban destroying statues of Buddha in Afghanistan or BLM rioters destroying statues of our founding fathers in the U.S., the goals are similar. The affiliation of BLM leaders with deeply anti-Semitic movements like the Nation of Islam and the Blank Panthers is hardly a coincidence. How can we Muslims, ready to combat them within our communities, do so when they are blindly tolerated or even endorsed by essentially everyone on the American Left, including leading Jewish organizations?
And despite all of this, too many American Jews have failed to develop the understanding and conviction to directly confront the anti-Semitism of global Islamist movements and unravel the very fabric and platform through which Islamist leaders spread their ideas. Because where anti-Semitism thrives, so too does the eventual threat against other faith minorities and the very foundations of democracy. Only with bold new partnerships that lift up honest allies and confront the dissimulators will our chances of victory against Islamists be realized.
Here are a few obvious things that Jewish leaders who care about the threats to their community (and to America) from Islamist anti-Semitism should do:
- Stop participating in the cover-up of instances of Islamist anti-Semitic activity.
- Educate the Jewish community about the history, nature, and extent of Islamist Jew-hatred and the specific threats posed by Islamists who seek to radicalize America’s Muslim community. Don’t fall for the absurdity that it is somehow anti-Muslim bigotry (so-called “Islamophobia”) to expose the anti-Semitism and separatism of Islamist leaders. In fact, accepting Islamists as de facto leaders of what are far more ideologically diverse communities is far more anti-Muslim.
- Monitor and expose anti-Semitic speeches and sermons of radical Imams across the country, much of which is already available online at Memri.org.
- Ask your local Muslim dialogue partners about what they teach their communities and congregations about who the Jews are. Ask them to show you the materials they use to educate their youth about America, democracy, women, gays, Jews, and Christians.
- Ask your local Muslim dialogue partners what they feel about the Declaration of the Muslim Reform Movement and if they would sign on to it. If not, their explanation should be very revealing. Therein are core principles regarding a rejection of the Islamist shariah state and the foundations of the modernity of the West. Do they reject the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights and support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
- Ask if they would allow Jews to address their communities about Jews, Judaism, and Israel.