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Separation of mosque and state

BY JOE SCHUELLER | OCTOBER 10, 2011 7:20 AM

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M. Zuhdi Jasser is not a household name when it comes to foreign and religious affairs, but it ought to be.

The Navy veteran and medical doctor with a practice in Arizona took part in the University of Iowa's Lecture Committee series on Oct. 2 and tackled one of the hotly contested topics in international issues: separation of mosque and state.

Jasser founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy in 2003 after the events of 9/11 in order to establish a Muslim-American voice favoring the ideals and principles of the U.S.

Constitution, freedom, and liberty. He feels that political Islam has perverted the peaceful nature of the Islamic religion. He wants Muslims to be able to practice Islam in an environment that protects their rights or for them to have the ability reject it at their discretion.

Achieving these results is as difficult as it sounds.

Among the forces in the Muslim community, American politics, governments, and radical Islamic groups, Jasser says, "we have become anesthetized about the discussion of religion." Beyond the scope of Islam, the mere mention of religion when it comes to political matters attracts inflammatory opinions about the separation of religion and the state.

In fact, those words aren't mentioned in the Constitution but are usually the layman's interpretation of the First Amendment. Religions of many types played an influential role in the founding of America and her guarantees of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, including Islam.

"Islam?" you might be asking. "Were there Muslims in America at that time?"

There were some, but only a few were prominent in our founding. One of them was Ayyub Ibn Sulaiman, who was a citizen of Maryland who helped George Sale with the first English translation of the Koran.

Interestingly enough, the first printed copy wound up into the hands of Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson requested a copy of the Koran in the early 1800s because he needed it for intelligence research for America's first war following the foundation of the new federal government. The Barbary pirates along the coast of Africa were radical Wahhabi Muslims who held no allegiance to any nation, and they were ransacking merchant ships. The first Marine Corps fought these precursors to our modern-day Al Qaeda and won.

With this in mind, it should be known that the principles of religion and liberty go hand in hand, although the state should not dictate what the accepted religion should be.

Jasser made it clear in his lecture that "radical Islam is a byproduct of brutal dictatorships" such as that of Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These nations are among the many in the Middle East that combine Islam and the mosque with the state, resulting in an oppressive society dominated by sharia, fundamentalism, and terrorism. "Sharia is a man-made concept," and it is the center of repression of freedom and women in the Islamic world "as delegated by history."

Jasser uses this to explain the radicalization of Muslims by the various terrorist cells in the Middle East and how America's efforts through military force are only exacerbating the problem. Our "Whack-A-Mole program" of killing Islamist terrorists and dictators fuels Muslim clerics' radicalization of individuals against the philosophy of American liberty. America's only response is to then kill or capture those people when they become a significant threat.

It's a vicious cycle that won't end unless we change our tactics.

We must focus on de-radicalization in the earliest stages by promoting the ideals of Americanism, self-identity with God, and individualism in the Middle East without involving our military.

"We don't need an umma anymore," he said. "The Islamic state should have died with the Prophet, and it didn't."


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