A Moderate Voice of Muslim Pluralism with a Washington Address
by M. Zuhdi Jasser
It has taken four years for our public articulation of the "war on terror" to finally begin to identify the enemy with its real name. We are no longer dancing around a concept of terror which is a tactic but rather bringing into the crosshairs an ideology which engenders terrorism against America and its allies.
Without a doubt, our greatest assets in this war are Muslims dedicated to rooting out the ideology which engenders terror, hate, and intolerance. There are certainly a number of individuals within the Muslim ummah who have been working to expose Islamism and create an alternative ideology. But there have been only a few rare institutions being created to establish a body of thought which counters Islamism and presents a central nature of Islam which is equal to other faiths and pluralistic in every respect.
The Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) based in Washington, D.C. is one of those organizations for which we have all been waiting. Even more potent than individual Muslims who take stands against political Islam are organizations and think tanks which begin to develop a body of thought which will live on for generations to represent moderate Muslim thought. Through the leadership of Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, CIP is positioning itself as a conservative moderate Muslim American voice.
CIP's mission, now nearing completion of its first year of operation is a breath of fresh air and clarity from a truly moderate Muslim organization. It states the following as its formative principles:
- Foster, develop, defend, protect, and further mobilize moderate American Muslims in their progress toward integration as an equal and respected religious community in the American interfaith environment
Executive Director Schwartz just returned from Slovenia and Croatia where he participated in university and think-tank conferences on European Islam and the "Balkan Muslim model." A landmark European Declaration of Muslims was presented in Slovenia by Mustafa Ceric, the chief Muslim scholar of Bosnia-Herzegovina, representing a major step forward in the establishment of a moderate pluralistic Muslim model. To quote Schwartz in his review of his trip on behalf of the U.S. State Department and CIP:
"In Zagreb, Ceric criticized those who speak of "Christian Europe" firstly for ignoring the continent's Jewish history. His text never refers to jihad, unbelievers, or war between the worlds of Islam and the West. Nor does it cite controversial hadith or oral sayings of Muhammad. Rather, Ceric quotes from the philosopher John Rawls, basing his conception of Islam's future on "the principles that free and rational persons concerned to further their own interests would accept in an initial position of equality as defining the fundamental terms of their association."
Back in the United States, CIP is a refreshing alternative from the so-called 'established' Muslim leadership in America. There are a number of organizations which present themselves as representatives of American Muslims but have never established any credibility in the non-Muslim American community.
They have also conveniently and completely avoided any internal Muslim issues such as anti-terrorism, human rights, women's rights, pluralism, anti-Semitism, and democratic reforms. They ignore reformist Muslims and leave them to be attacked by the extremists basically tacitly endorsing the extremists.
CIP has demonstrated that credibility which so few have. As executive director, Schwartz has come to the defense of a number of outspoken fellow reformists who have been intimidated by the Wahhabi lobby. Last year, he came to the defense of a Muslim, Fatima Agha, at Rutgers University in New Jersey who tried to protest against the oppressive tactics of the Wahhabi power mongers at the Islamic Society of Rutgers University (ISRU). He brought national attention and the light of day to the intolerant extremist tactics of the leadership of ISRU.
Schwartz has established credentials as an outspoken critic of Wahhabism and is one of America's foremost experts in the area. He is the author of The Two Faces of Islam and a regular contributor to the Weekly Standard and TechCentral Station.
Having the privilege of being one of the founding members of CIP, its mission has obviously always been very near to my heart as I have been working locally in Arizona on many similar missions since 2000. The group of founders includes, Kemal Silay (President of CIP), Imam Subhy Mansour (religious consultant), Jalal Zuberi (Southeast U.S. region), Imam Khaleel Mohammed (Pacific Coast region), and Salim Mansur (Canadian region).
In fact on March 24, 2006, CIP again demonstrated its refreshing clarity in its response to the report of the Afghanistan Apostasy Trial.
Nearing the completion of its first year, CIP is set to be one of America's leading conservative Muslim organizations based upon a moderate ideology of pluralism and unencumbered by apologetics and victimization. With its focus on stamping out Wahhabism and fundamentalism within the Muslim community, the entry of CIP into the American Muslim mosaic is long overdue.