A liberty-minded American Muslim focused on the reform of his religion delivered a speech to students at Duke University on Monday, but that event almost didn’t take place due to a “temper tantrum” by members of the school’s Muslim Student Association who decried the planned speech as harmful and Islamophobic.
That person was Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a U.S. Navy veteran, medical doctor, author and founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. He had been invited to speak on the “ills of Islam” in a discussion that initially was titled “The American Muslim Identity: Patriot or Insurgent,” but that was later shortened to “The American Muslim Identity,” according to The College Fix.
The shortened speech title came about due to staunch opposition to Jasser’s appearance by the MSA, who threatened protests and claimed that Jasser’s words would “harm us” and “makes students on this campus unsafe.” Their opposition also caused some sponsors of the event to drop out or downplay their involvement because of potential risks.
The threats of protest and other potential risks also caused the Duke police to strongly recommend to the Duke College Republicans that they relocate the event due to safety concerns.
The Duke MSA posted an open letter to its Facebook page on March 29 that read in part: “We are outraged, disappointed, but unsurprised by” the invitation extended by several groups to Jasser, who “treats all Muslims as potential would-be terrorists when he supports discriminatory surveillance against American Muslim communities by the American government.”
The letter noted that Jasser supported President Donald Trump’s travel ban and asserted Jasser “has a history” of attacking fellow Muslims who disagree with him. “Not only are his claims morally disgusting, but his policy positions have been proven harmful over and over again,” it stated. “While Zuhdi Jasser may claim to speak for us, his words only harm us. He does NOT speak for us.”
The group further took issue with the “false dichotomy” presented by Jasser in regard to “patriot/citizen” versus “insurgent/terrorist,” decrying it as “racist” and “Islamophobic” and even claiming such rhetoric “reproduces structural violence against Muslim communities.”
The MSA letter also chastised the school’s political science department for allowing the event to take place and announced a counter-event to take place at the same time, a “Teach-In Against Islamophobia and Racism in order to un-learn these harmful ideas which are unfortunately widespread across the political spectrum and frequently taught in classrooms.”
Jasser responded with an open letter of his own, which stated in part: “The mere title of my talk, the mere suggestion of a talk on Islamism juxtaposing the idea of a ‘salafi-jihadi insurgency’ with American patriotism triggered the Duke Muslim Students Association.”
He noted that pretty much everything he ever does cause MSAs around the country to become “triggered” and lamented the students’ lack of critical thinking, ad hominem attacks and utter failure to address any of the specific issues he has raised in prior speeches or his books.
Jasser also chastised the group for its “bullying behavior” that caused the Alexander Hamilton Society to withdraw its sponsorship of the event.
In the end, the event went off without a hitch or major disruption, according to Duke’s campus media outlet The Chronicle, which noted that everything went smoothly perhaps because of the five security guards who were present at the event.
Jasser stated in his speech, “Ideas don’t have rights, human beings do. They call it Islamophobia because they don’t want you to criticize Islam.”
He spoke of the lengthy history of the Islamic faith and the rise of political Islam — nations governed theologically by Islamic or Sharia law — and how that mix of politics and theology had helped create Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism, which he believes is the root of “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Jasser also spoke of his Muslim Reform Movement, which seeks to establish a “separation of mosque and state,” and spoke of the “ills of Islam” from his viewpoint as a doctor, saying, “I don’t treat coughs and pains, I treat disease,” with the disease being theocracy, which leads to terrorism.
He further encouraged more Muslims around the globe to embrace liberty and a secular government, and urged the U.S. to lead a Cold War-like offensive spreading the ideals of freedom instead of continuing the current policies of “whack-a-mole” wherever terrorists pop up.
The doctor also criticized American Imams and mosques — as well as the MSA — for promoting Islamism and radicalizing Muslims, and suggested that anti-Muslim bigotry would end if non-Muslims witnessed Muslims making reform efforts on their own.
Jasser closed by stating that Muslims need not cease their Islamic faith, but must make a choice between the paths of freedom of Americanism and the dangers of Islamism. Our readers know which path we would prefer Muslims pick.
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