GOP’s Favorite Muslim Activist Under Fire From Muslim Groups

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser testifies at one of Rep. Peter King's hearings on Muslim radicalization. Pete Marovich/ZUMA Press

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Sixty-four American Muslim groups have signed a letter criticizing the appointment of American Islamic Forum for Democracy founder Dr. Zuhdi Jasser—whose conservative leanings have made him a favorite of Republican Congressmen, conservative philanthropists and National Review columnists—to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The letter reads:

The USCIRF promotes the freedom of religion and belief, and it seeks to combat religious extremism, intolerance, and repression throughout the world. In contrast with these laudable goals, Dr. Jasser believes, ‘. . .operationally, Islam is not peaceful.’ His consistent support for measures that threaten and diminish religious freedoms within the United States demonstrates his deplorable lack of understanding of and commitment to religious freedom and undermines the USCIRF’s express purpose.

Jasser himself identifies as a devout Muslim who is leading a necessary internal reformation of Islam. His Muslim critics see his behavior—opposing the Islamic community center near Ground Zero, testifying in support of Rep. Peter King’s domestic radicalization hearings focused on Muslims, supporting the NYPD’s surveillance of local Muslim communities, associating with anti-Muslim figures like Frank Gaffney and, as Mother Jones recently reported, taking money from right-wing sources—as legitimizing anti-Muslim narratives. Furthermore, much of Jasser’s politics—he refers to the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria,” much as the way a right-wing Israel hawk would—are substantially to the right of the average American Muslim. That, after all, is why Republicans like him. 

The Commission is tasked with studying religious freedom in foreign countries and offering “policy recommendations” to Congress and the president. Nevertheless, the commission itself has something of a controversial history. The Washington Post reported last year that the commission has “long been accused of focusing too much on the persecution of Christians and not enough on smaller religious groups,” and two years ago was sued for discrimination by one of its Muslim policy analysts. Still, the appointment elevates Jasser to an official position with the US government, and perhaps Republicans are grooming him for even bigger things.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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