The American Islamic Leadership Coalition (AILC) and the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) recently held a joint rally to express support for the NYPD and the tactics it uses (including racial profiling and spying on American Muslims). Media reports used the following sorts of headlines:
Muslim group rallies to support NYPD spying
Islamic leaders support NYPD
Islamic Leaders Plan Pro-NYPD Rally in Support of NYPD
Muslims Rally In Support Of NYPD Mosque Surveillance Program
The issue is now being portrayed as: Some American Muslims oppose the NYPD’s tactics but others approve of them. Now that there is an equivalency, whose to say which side is right? In spite of the embarrassingly low turnout for the pro-NYPD rally, some elements are even insinuating that this misguided handful of individuals somehow represents the “silent majority” of the American Muslim community.
In reality, American Muslims as a whole oppose the NYPD’s tactics of racial profiling and spying. Finding a few token Muslims on the other side of the divide doesn’t change that.
In fact, these are astroturf Muslim groups, with absolutely no grassroots support in the American Muslim community itself, which explains why they had such a paltry showing at the rally. The American Islamic Leadership Coalition (AILC) seems to consist of only twelve members; of these, most are inactive–they contribute nothing to the AILC and their only purpose seems to be to create some semblance of a “group.” Three of the individuals in the list of twelve aren’t even American Muslims.
In reality, the AILC is really just one man, who is the group’s founder: Zuhdi Jasser, every right-winger’s favorite Muslim and the narrator of the anti-Muslim film, The Third Jihad. The contribution from many of the other members in the group seems minimal to non-existent. One of the exceptions might be Tarek Fatah, who is not even an American Muslim to begin with.
What of the second group, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD)? If you click on their “leadership” tab, only one man’s name comes up: you guessed it, it’s Zuhdi Jasser, who “is the Founder and President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD).” Who else is a part of this astoturf group is a mystery.
The AILC site claims that it is “representative of the overwhelming ‘silent majority’ of Muslims in America.” Yet, the group itself revolves primarily around one individual with no grassroots support, evidenced by the lack of turnout to their scheduled rally: only about twenty-something people showed up for it. Is that what they mean by the “silent majority” of Muslims in America? How is it that Zuhdi Jasser, Tarek Fatah (who is not even an American Muslim), and a small group of nobodies decide to call themselves the “leadership” of the “silent majority” of American Muslims? They in fact lead nothing but astroturf groups with no real membership or support in the community they claim to represent.
Zuhdi Jasser and his astroturf groups are fake in another way too: they claim to be “liberal and progressive Muslims”, and yet they “pal around” with far right-wing elements. Just a few days ago, for instance, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy–which is, of course, little more than Zuhdi Jasser–issued their/his undying love for and praise of the far-right wing extremist Andrew Breitbart.
I have nothing against dissenting voices in any faith community critically challenging tradition, especially if this is done to further liberalism, tolerance, and peace. But, don’t be fooled by the AILC, AIFD, and whatever other acronym/astroturf group they create next. Their central figure is a man who doesn’t have a liberal or progressive bone in his body. He’s as right-wing as they come. And he certainly doesn’t speak for American Muslims.
Zuhdi Jasser is just a token Muslim figure who the far right-wing anti-Muslim bigots can prance around to say all the things they believe with the only difference being that he proudly carries around his official “Muslim card”; this “I’m a Muslim” routine gives these loony, bigoted, and simplistic ideas a modicum of credibility. The operative logic is: if a Muslim himsef says it, it must be true!