[S]ince its inception, the commission’s been beset by controversy. People who watch the commission closely say it was created to satisfy special interests, which has led to bias in the commission’s work. Past commissioners and staff have reported that the commission is “rife, behind-the-scenes, with ideology and tribalism.” They’ve said that commissioners focus “on pet projects that are often based on their own religious background.” In particular, past commissioners and staff reported ”an anti-Muslim bias runs through the Commission’s work.”
In this context it is not surprising that a Zuhdi Jasser should be appointed. However, the biased nature of the USCIRF does not take away from the very troubling aspects of Jasser’s appointment, no US governmental organization should be used and abused in this manner.
What is interesting this time around is that all pretense to objectivity has fallen and the ‘work’ of the USCIRF will forever be tainted.
A petition calling on the Senators to rescind Jasser’s appointment has received nearly 3000 signatures, (I urge everyone to sign it and pass it along. We need to be more active than the hate-mongers!)
In response to the large push back against the biased nature of the USCIRF and Jasser’s appointment, Jasser is trying to hit back, smearing everyone who sheds light on his alliance with hate-mongers and anti-Freedom positions as evil, fifth-column “Islamists.”
Classic case of projecting while deflecting
On the only medium that will let Jasser spew his fact-less innuendo unopposed, i.e Right-Wing media such as “The Daily Caller,” Jasser says,
“You could actually use the list of people protesting us, it’s a pretty good list of some of the leaders of the Islamist movement in America.”
No surprise here, what else do you expect from the main protagonist of what has been lampooned as a bigoted, fear-mongering anti-Muslim film: The Third Jihad.
The article, written by one Caroline May goes on to claim that,
Last week 64 Muslim organizations — including Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) — expressed “deep concern” with Jasser’s appointment in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye and Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.
The only problem for May and Jasser is that it wasn’t only Muslim organizations (or ‘Islamists’ as they would have it) but also non-Muslim organizations calling on the Senators to rescind Jasser’s appointment. It was a veritable coalition of Muslim and non-Muslim civic and religious organizations:
More than 50 Muslim and non-Muslim civic and religious groups asked leading senators on Thursday (April 12) to rescind the appointment of an outspoken Muslim activist, Zuhdi Jasser, to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
But facts, those pesky things, why let them get in the way right? So, Jasser goes on to say,
Jasser contends, however, that the real enemy of religious freedom is the coalition of groups opposing him.
Classic projection and deflection. Instead of answering the very real concerns leveled against him, Jasser clams up, hoping the “Islamist” label will stick on his opponents and that the attention will subside.
To this day Jasser has not answered the following very specific concerns expressed by those dismayed that he would even been considered for the USCIRF:
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.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
Jasser deflects from the above points and questions about his sordid relationship with those who undermine religious freedom here in the US because his real purpose is to be a shill for the Right-Wing propaganda machine.
Articles like the one in the Daily Caller are not meant to inform or provide analysis, but are geared specifically to justifying Right-Wing and Conservative causes. The Conservative audience is expected to swallow them whole and regurgitate it to the rest of the sheep, preserving and securing the echo chamber.