There’s no winning a battle against Islamist-inspired terrorism when one of your closest strategic allies is part of the problem, a Muslim-American activist told Newsmax TV
The intolerant strain of religious thought behind last week’s attacks in Paris extends to the highest ruling and clerical councils of Saudi Arabia, M. Zuhdi Jasser, an Arizona physician, Ohio native of Syrian descent, and advocate for democracy and pluralism in the Muslim world, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner.
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And the United States is ignoring the connection for geopolitical reasons and, on the advice of Saudi advisers, shutting out Muslim reformers who are trying to change the culture, he said.
"How do they expect us to have a seat at the table, as reformists who love our faith, if we are marginalized by the Islamists that are advising the president?" said Jasser, founder and president of the American Forum for Islamic Democracy, and author of "A Battle For the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith."
Jasser arguably has more space at the table than most self-described Muslim reformists. He is a vice chair of the government-accredited United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
(USCIRF), which publishes an annual report charting religious freedom and oppression worldwide.
But he doesn’t feel he can compete with the influence wielded by America’s Arab trading partners, oil suppliers and military allies – who are, at the same time, engaged in what Jasser called "a $90 billion project to destroy the free thought of Islam."
He said that Saudi Arabia, principally, is underwriting the teaching and spread through schools of a strident Islam, called Wahabbism, that has influenced Sunni Muslim movements, including some – such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – the Saudis now denounce as too radical and violent.
These are the same Saudis, said Jasser, who had blogger Raif Badawi publicly whipped
to within an inch of his life last week for his writings.
"He was called an apostate, called a blasphemer, and [was] whipped in the public square in front of a mosque by the Saudi government, and he may die from the whippings," said Jasser. " So that's no different than the radicals in Paris."
U.S. officials who "don't have the courage or the spine to confront regimes like the Saudis or the Iranians in their interpretation of Islam" are leaving people like Badawi to fend for themselves, while allowing their governments to spread "ideology that is anti-American" and "viciously anti-Semitic and anti-Israel," said Jasser.
He said that the United States has essentially abandoned any push for institutions on the ground in the Middle East that would promote Western-style critical thought and secular civil society.
"Right now we're completely out of the game," said Jasser.
"Those vacuums are being filled by the Al-Jazeeras, the Russias, the Chinese, the Iranians," all of whom, he said "are putting in propaganda to promote Islamism and the ‘Islamic state’ concept, rather than liberty, because we in the West are completely out of the mix of ideas that are beginning to transform our societies."
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