Who is Zuhdi Jasser?
Zuhdi Jasser is a public commentator who has promoted his identities as a medical professional and a Muslim to advance anti-Muslim sentiment and policies, including increased surveillance of American Muslims.
Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative maintains that Jasser “leveraged his insider identity as a Muslim to advocate increased monitoring of Muslim communities,” while the Center for American Progress calls Jasser “the leading Muslim validator for the Islamophobia network.” The Center states the Jasser “lacks any policy or academic expertise in Islam” – yet he has sought to illustrate himself as a purported “Muslim reformer.”
Jasser founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and co-founded the Muslim Reform Movement. Jasser previously served as a Commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
A 2022 CAIR report detailing nearly $106 million of philanthropic funding donated to anti-Muslim groups shows that philanthropic organizations gifted AIFD $250,300 in grants between 2017 and 2019.
Jasser and the American Islamic Forum for Democracy are proponents of aggressive targeting of the Muslim community.
Jasser publicly defended the New York Police Department’s Muslim surveillance program. Jasser said, “The more we overblow the monitoring of Muslim communities, the more that will serve to radicalize Muslims.”
Jasser’s statement dismissed the genuine fears of the American Muslim community following decades of surveillance and misconduct, all while undermining the growing threat of white supremacist and militia groups in the U.S.
Jasser has advanced anti-Muslim opinions and conspiracy theories though his public commentary, often by invoking an ‘Islamist’ conspiracy to undermine America.
In 2008, Jasser narrated the Clarion Project’s film The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision For America. The film propagates the conspiracy of “a ‘cultural Jihad’ aimed at infiltrating and undermining American society.” A New York Times article notes the film portrays “many mainstream American Muslim leaders as closet radical Islamists, and states that their ‘primary tactic’ is deception.”
In 2010, Jasser wrote a New York Post op-ed in which he expressed vehement opposition to Park51, a proposed Islamic cultural center in New York, contending that “the center is trying to change the narrative of 9/11—to diminish what happened at Ground Zero. That can only weaken us against the very real threat of Islamist radicalization.” He has also claimed that most mosques in the United States are “led by imams who are Islamists — who believe that in Muslim-majority countries the state should be identified as an Islamic state.”
During the waves of protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Jasser likened the Black Lives Matter movement to ‘American Islamists’ and alleged: “Both BLM and modern Islamism are cut from the same cloth; they are victim-obsessed, ethnocentric struggles that frame every difference of outcome in terms of identity, whether race or religion.”
In 2015, Jasser co-founded the Muslim Reform Movement alongside others. While the organization purports to be a theological reformation movement, the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University reports that, “the coalition and its members leverage ‘insider’ Muslim identities to advocate surveillance against Muslims, to support anti-Muslim laws and policies, and to validate the claims of organizations and individuals that espouse anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.”
Jasser on record:
- Regarding the Pentagon’s broadening of religious rights for minority faiths, Jasser supported the initiative for Sikhs and Jews, and decried the expanded rights as they applied to American Muslims. He said the Obama administration is “bending over backwards for political correctness,” which will lead to what he called “litigation jihad.” [In an interview on Fox News, 2014.]
- “Now there is a term I refuse to use, which is Islamophobia, which is a term that the Islamists concocted to prevent criticism of Islam.” [Candace Owen’s show featured on right-wing PragerU, 2020]
- Jasser thanked the NYPD for spying on Muslims , saying “thank [you] for doing the work that we as Muslims should be doing, which is monitoring extremism, following extremism, and helping counter the ideologies that create radicalization in our communities.” [During a press conference in New York, 2012.]
- “The reality is that operationally, Islam is not peaceful.” [In an interview with Jewish News Service, 2011.]
- Jasser criticized Muslim organizations for informing communities of their 6th Amendment right to “not to speak to the FBI or law enforcement unless they are accompanied by an attorney,” while appearing as a key witness supporting Rep. Peter King’s (R-N.Y.) anti-Muslim hearing. [“The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and the Community’s Response” 2011.]
- “Armed services should declare a moratorium on all Muslim requests for conscientious objector status claimed on the basis of their Islamic faith.” [In an article in the Wall Street Journal, 2011.]
- “America is at war with theocratic Muslim despots who seek the imposition of Shariah and don’t believe in the equality of all before the law, blind to faith.” [An article on the New York Post in 2010.]
Jasser testified multiple times on behalf of the AIFD before Congress.
In one hearing in 2016, Jasser testified to Congress that: “A national security policy of refusing to say that ‘Islam currently has a problem’ is dangerous.”
In 2011, Jasser spoke as a key witness during Congressmen Peter King’s hearings “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and the Community’s Response.” In his testimony, Jasser asserted that the U.S faces a problem of “Muslim radicalization” and singled out American Muslims for not cooperating with law enforcement. In his testimony, Jasser cited works published by Steven Emerson’s anti-Muslim Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Rabbi Jack Moline from the Interfaith “Shoulder to Shoulder” coalition rebuked the Congressional hearings, affirming in a press conference: “We call on the United States Congress, elected officials at every level of government and all American citizens, not to perpetuate damaging, false witnesses with our [Muslim] neighbors.”
In 2011, The Third Jihad, a film Jasser narrated, drew significant public focus as revelations surfaced about its utilization as a training video for new recruits at the New York Police Department. The New York Times reported that documents obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request revealed 1,498 NYPD officers viewed the film. One NYPD officer stationed at Coney Island called the film “so ridiculously one-sided. It just made Muslims look like the enemy. It was straight propaganda.”
Reacting to these disclosures, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (who participated in an interview for the film) categorized the film as “unconventional” and “problematic,” later regretting his involvement in the film.
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser shares a close association with Dr. Ahmed Mansour of the anti-Muslim American for Peace and Tolerance (APT), both serving as founders of the Center for Islamic Pluralism.