Intermountain Jewish News

Apr 29th

Pro-Israel Muslims seek peaceful alternative to radical Islam

E-mail Print PDF

Zuhdi JasserJEWS around the world were inspired last month when Arab-Israeli teenager Mohammad Zoabi cloaked himself in an Israeli flag and spoke into a bedroom video camera, “I am an Israeli and will remain an Israeli. Israel will remain a Jewish and a democratic country.”

What few realized is that within days after the video went viral, Israeli police arrested three men in his own family for plotting to cause him harm in retaliation for the piece. His cousin, Arab Knesset member Hanin Zoabi, called her young cousin “a sleazy, mixed-up kid who has identity issues.”

Still, more voices like the young Zoabi’s have emerged in the month since the kidnapping of three Israeli teens and the weeks since the launch of Operation Protective Edge. Young Bissan Salman, an Israeli Arab from Ramla, blogged on July 23 that she refuses to choose between her Arab and Israeli friends.

“My tears choose the side of peace,” she wrote. “We are tired to hear about more killings. We are tired to run every time we hear the sirens. . . . Don’t judge, pray. Pray for this to be over.”

But as the operation wages on and the rockets continue to plummet on Israel, these young voices are lost. But there is another voice, a growing one, that is bubbling above the surface.

That voice has little to do with Israel and everything to do with fighting Hamas. It is the voice of Arabs  —  Muslims, really — calling on their peers to fight the inexorable advance of political Islamism over Islam.

Dr. Qanta Ahmed, author of Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom, said that while the media focuses on the war in Israel, similar wars are being waged across the world.

Islamism, she said, is the driving force between Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and Iraqi government forces, between the Pakistani Taliban and the Pakistani Army, between the Afghan Taliban and would be Afghan democratic leaders, between Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists and the Nigerian government, and between Jama’at Al-Nursa rebels and the Syrian regime.

“Muslim militaries are not held to global condemnation in the way the Israel Defense Forces must face — despite their targeted attacks, pre-strike warning and efforts to contain civilian deaths,” said Ahmed.

DR. Zuhdi Jasser — founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), which works to provide a platform for Muslim Americans who advocate for liberty, freedom, and the separation of mosque and state — expressed similar sentiments.

AIFD has brought together  dozens of US Islamic groups to form the American Islamic Leadership Coalition. To be a member, agencies have to sign on to a list of 17 principles. The last of the principles is recognition of Israel.

“I don’t believe Israel is a religious issue for Muslims,” Jasser said.

“Hamas and other radical Islamic groups have propagandized the issues for decades and the latest conflict demonstrates that. It is constant warmongering.

“Hamas creates, starts these wars, commits acts of terror, and then uses the war as a platform to say all its grievances are Israel’s fault.”

Jasser said that while he hopes Israel deals a heavy blow to Hamas, he does not believe the war will have any long-term impact because the war is not about Israel, but rather “about Hamas and their corrupt ideology.”

“You can compare it to drug addiction, which leads to violence,” he said. “Well, if you say the problem is the violence and you stop the violence, it won’t work. It is the drug addiction that leads to the violence. We believe the gateway drug here is political Islam.”

Jasser’s group tries to stay quiet on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because he does not want to feed the international belief system that if that crisis were solved, it would be the solution to global terrorism.

“As a Syrian, I can tell you, nothing is further from the truth. [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad displaced and killed hundreds of thousands of people and Israel had nothing to do with it,” he said.

Tawfik Hamid is a former member of the Jamal Islamiyah terrorist organization. Thirty years ago, he broke from its grip to move to the US and begin a fight against radical Islam.

Recently, he founded the International Center for Countering Radicalism ( He believes radicalism needs to be fought on multiple fronts.

First, he said, more accessible modern and peaceful interpretations of the Koran are needed. Next, accurate information is required; hate, said Hamid, is often based on misinformation taught Islamic schools and mosques.

Hamid said, the world should use behavior modification techniques, like having “more negative reinforcements to stop them from doing terror acts.”

Terrorist organizations deprive their followers of anything beautiful, such as color, art, music, fashion, etc. Over time, Hamid explained, the followers become unable to appreciate beauty, and this makes them more receptive to “extremely ugly things.”

“It is like if someone destroys the receptors on their tongue, they cannot distinguish between good and bad tasting things,” said Hamid. “This is what happens. We need to reintroduce the beauty.”

Ahmed, Hamid and Jasser say they are frustrated by the international media, which offers sensational sound bites and ignores the full picture.

“Many people look at what is happening in Gaza as if Israel is the aggressor. But when you think deeply, Egypt offered a cease-fire and Israel immediately accepted it. It was supposed to start on July 5 at 9 a.m.

Hamas refused the cease-fire. The full responsibility for any killings after July 5 lies with Hamas,” Hamid said.

“He added that Hamas accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing of Muslims, and the US of being anti-Islam. But he said what is not reported is the number of mosques that exist in both Israel and America.

“If they were anti-Islam, why would they allow these mosques and Islamic schools to be built? Compare the numbers to the synagogues and churches in the Muslim world — there, these places are being destroyed,” said Hamid, who noted that anti-Semitism in the Arab world has been on the rise over the past decade.

A recent Pew Research Center study of Muslim world’s perceptions of Hamas found that support for the terrorist organization in general was on the decline. But Jasser said the study should be taken with a grain of salt.

“This is no silver lining unless we find an alternative to Hamas — not just we Muslims, but the West. President Obama has been missing in action, and if a vacuum is created it will be filled with Arabism or Islamism,” said Jasser.

“Arabs that think like I do, they are very few,” Hamid said. “That does not mean these views could not one day dominate, but they need to be empowered.”

Hamid’s webpage has two million “likes.” He surmises that 10 years ago, that number would have been only 200.

“If we can support this momentum, it can change,” he said.

For now, though, Operation Protective Edge continues and in the end Israelis and Palestinians, are both likely to lose, said Ahmed.

“Israel is fighting an impossible battle — on one front with nihilist political Islamists who willingly lead their populations to slaughter in the interest of religionized war for fictionalized spiritual gain rather than a true political solution,” she said. “And on another front, waging other battles with an international media reflecting an increasingly biased public opinion.”

Ahmed added, “The sooner media commentary can be broadened to explain political Islamism, diplomatic and political powers globally can begin to plan the true long-term freedom of the Palestinians . . . a lasting liberation from the stranglehold of Hamaspolitical Islamism.”

Maayan Jaffe is a freelance writer at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and on Twitter, @MaayanJaffe.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 31 July 2014 14:52 )  

IJN e-Edition

This is only a taste! Get full access to the IJN via our e-Edition, only $14.04 for IJN Print subscribers.

E-Edition subscribers get access to a complete digital replica of the IJN, which includes all special sections.

Get the IJN's free newsletter!

Cast Your Vote

Do you eat kitniyot on Passover?

Shabbat Times

JTA News

Rock legend Phil Lesh gathers musician friends for a Grateful Dead Passover

Andrew Silow-Carroll SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (JTA) – “Why can’t we eat veggie burritos tonight? Will I be miracled? Will they play ‘The Wheel?’ Will Phil sing?” These four additional questions were asked at a Passo... [Link]

Hundreds attend 1st Jewish film festival in Casablanca

Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA) — Nearly 500 people attended the first Jewish film festival of Casablanca, which was organized in the Moroccan city by a Sephardic Jewish woman from Atlanta. The three-day event, which end... [Link]

Can you help a kibbutznik find his American relatives?

mbrodsky SEEKING KIN The “Seeking Kin” column aims to help reunite long-lost relatives and friends. (JTA) – “If only” – it’s the most common regret expressed by “Seeking Kin” interviewees, an... [Link]

Amid complicity debate, Polish clergy to attend 70th anniversary of post-Holocaust pogrom

Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA) — Polish clergy and researchers will hold a seminar in Kielce about a historically significant pogrom in which locals killed Holocaust survivors in that city 70 years ago. Occurring amid... [Link]

Netanyahu calls for ‘direct, bilateral negotiations’ with Palestinians

Marcy Oster JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is ready to start “direct, bilateral negotiations” with the Palestinians. The invitation, which Netanyahu has repeated... [Link]

Palestinians riot as Jewish worshippers visit Joseph’s Tomb

Marcy Oster JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinians in Nablus attacked Israeli soldiers escorting a convoy of Jewish worshippers who entered the West Bank city to visit Joseph’s Tomb. The 26 busloads of worshi... [Link]

Sides swap character attacks in trial over Bay Area’s Koret Foundation

Andrew Silow-Carroll SAN FRANCISCO (J., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California via JTA) — A civil trial focused on control of the $500 million Koret Foundation is pitting its founder’s widow, Susan Koret, a... [Link]

As Jews flee Belgium, a seder marks a family exodus

Cnaan Liphshiz BRUSSELS (JTA) — I was feeling nervous about coming to Brussels for seder with my family. Making the 130-mile trip there from my home in Amsterdam meant taking my 5-month-old son on a train that... [Link]

Intermountain Jewish News • 1177 Grant Street • Denver, CO 80203 • 303 861 2234 • FAX 303 832 6942 • •