Take Action: Protest Zuhdi Jasser’s Farcical Appointment to the USCIRF

Guest Editorial by J. Hausner (Islamophobia Today)

Please take the few minutes required to sign this petition!

Sen. Mitch McConnell‘s choice of Zuhdi Jasser for appointment to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) can only be described as a farce. Dr. Zuhdi Jasser has amassed a reputation as a prominent Islamophobia-enabler and ally of anti-Muslim organizations (well known for their attempts to diminish American Muslims’ civil and religious liberties).

The appointment of Jasser undermines the USCIRF’s purported goals of reviewing, “the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.” The appointment of Jasser is a “contradiction in terms” because Jasser has been a useful ally to some of the most virulent forces working against religious and civil liberties in the USA.

There are several key reasons why this is so:

1.) Most problematically, Jasser allies himself with and receives funding from anti-Muslim organizations and personalities who work tirelessly to curb the religious and civil liberties of Muslims in the USA.

Jasser’s organization has received funding, to the tune of $100,000 from a major backer of Rick Santorum, Foster Friess. Friess was featured as one of the major backers of Islamophobic organizations in the Center for American Progress’s groundbreaking report,Fear, Inc.: On the Roots of the Islamophobia Network:

According to the Washington Post, Jasser received a $100,000 donation from Christian conservative financier Foster Friess, who is now bankrolling the super-PAC supporting Rick Santorum’s presidential bid. Jasser declined to elaborate on exactly how much Friess had given AIFD, though he said the financier contributed $70,000 to his organization in 2010 for a Muslim youth retreat hosted by the group. (Friess told MSNBC that he was backing Santorum because he is “incredibly versed in one of the number one issues of our time—and that is violent Islamic extremism.”)

Jasser told Mother Jones that the AIFD had accepted $5,000 from the Center for Security Policy:

The center published a report in 2010 warning that American Muslims are seeking to replace the Constitution with a strict interpretation of Islamic law. The “expert” in Islamic religious law cited in the report, an attorney named David Yerushalmi, is responsible for authoring draft anti-Shariah legislation that has served as a blueprint for anti-Shariah laws across the US. Yerushalmi has suggested that “acting in furtherance of Islam” should be a felony.

Mother Jones also reports that,

Jasser said his group has also received a one-time, unsolicited donation of $10,000 from the Clarion Fund, which is associated with Aish HaTorah, a right-wing Israeli group described by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic as “just about the most fundamentalist movement in Judaism today.”

The Clarion Fund has released several films that warn of Muslim conspiracies to reestablish a global caliphate. Jasser is a Clarion board member and in 2008 narrated a documentary bankrolled by the group called The Third Jihad, which darkly warns that Muslim extremists are attempting to “infiltrate and dominate America,” a conspiracy implicating most prominent American Muslim organizations. The New York Times reported that the film was shown to thousands of NYPD officers as part of their counterterrorism training, which the police department later apologized for.

How can an individual who supports the curbing of Muslim civil and religious liberties at home be trusted as a ”commissioner” to review and analyze violations of religious freedoms abroad?

2.) In another blow to the religious liberties and freedoms of American Muslims, Jasser’s organization the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) supports state wide legislative bans on Muslim personal religious practice relating to: marriage, prayer, wills, etc. Jasser’s organization has published press releases “applauding” such legislation, which many, including US Courts have considered unconstitutional infringements on the religious liberties of Muslims.

How can an individual who supports the curbing of Muslim civil and religious liberties at home be trusted as a ”commissioner” to review and analyze violations of religious freedoms abroad?

3.) Jasser was outspoken in his opposition to an interfaith and Islamic Center in Manhattan, supporting efforts to block it from being built, remarking that, “This center is trying to change the narrative of 9/11 — to diminish what happened at Ground Zero.”

How can an individual who supports the curbing of Muslim civil and religious liberties at home be trusted as a ”commissioner” to review and analyze violations of religious freedoms abroad?

4.) Jasser’s advocacy and support for the NYPD’s illegal profiling and secret surveillance program targeting Muslims for monitoring at their houses of worship, businesses and universities is not only unconscionable but contradicts the USCIRF’s purported goals of reviewing “the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.” 

Once again, how can an individual who supports the curbing of Muslim civil and religious liberties at home be trusted as a ”commissioner” to review and analyze violations of religious freedoms abroad?

The above points are only a snippet of why the choice of Zuhdi Jasser as a US Commissioner on  International Religious Freedom makes a mockery of the legitimacy of the USCIRF.

The US cannot legitimately or conscientiously criticize other nations when one of its own commissioner’s is a flagrant violator of religious liberty at home.

Please take the few minutes required to sign this petition calling on Sen. Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner and the US Congress to repeal Zuhdi Jasser’s appointment to the USCIRF as flagrant oversight that presents a moral contradiction and a likely source of  international embarrassment to the US.

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