'The Battle Within'

When President Barack Obama made his first presidential visit to the Middle East earlier this month, he was criticized by some groups for being too accommodating — in part because of his push for peace in the war-torn region and a twostate solution between Israel and Palestine. An American Muslim physician who will speak in Columbus on Thursday is concerned that Obama wants to set back relations with the Middle East by 20 or 30 years.

In his trip to Turkey, Obama’s first as president to a Muslim country, he followed the policy of his predecessors by picking a conciliatory strategy toward Turkey rather than one involving ethical complexities, according to Zuhdi Jasser of Arizona.

Jasser, M.D., is making his second annual visit to Columbus. He said the complexities of the various Muslim countries must be acknowledged and dealt with individually.

“I don’t know if you can make a soundbyte (to describe the Middle East). “Each country has its own set of problems,” Jasser said in a recent interview with the Ledger-Enquirer.

Jasser’s topic Thursday is “The Battle Within the House of Islam: Our National Security Depends on the Outcome.”

Jasser, a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, is president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) based in Phoenix. Also in Phoenix, Jasser specializes in internal medicine and nuclear cardiology.

The AIFD seeks to address the central ideological conflict in the war on terror. Jasser, who identifies himself as a moderate Muslim, works on the “synergy of Americanism and our Constitutional democracy with a Pluralistic Islam,” according to his biographical material.

Jasser will make his presentation at Columbus State University. He first spoke here last spring for the same lecture event. Audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions following.

A recipient of the military’s Meritorious Service Medal, Jasser is past president of the Arizona Medical Association (ArMA), until June 2007. He has been active in a number of interfaith efforts in Arizona including the founding of a Jewish-Muslim dialogue group in 2000 called the Children of Abraham.

In many of his speeches and interviews, Jasser makes a distinction between Islam and Islamists.

“Islamicism is an individual’s belief that government should be run by theocrats or ideologues,” he said. Jasser, who prefers democratic governments of the West that accommodate all faiths, is featured in the controversial PBS film, “Islam v Islamists.” This film was banned from distribution on PBS stations as originally intended but was then aired in a limited distribution to some affiliates. It was released on the Fox News Channel about 18 months ago. PBS eventually decided that the film didn’t meet its standards, according to media reports.

The term “Islamism” is in itself controversial. Islamists believe their politics reflect Islam, and the idea that Islam is, or can be, apolitical is an error. Jasser and his allies use “Islamism” in the perjorative, yet he makes a further distinction between Islamism and terrorism.

“Islamist doesn’t always mean terrorist. There are some studies showing that five to 10 percent of Muslims actually condone terrorism, but political Islam is an ideology that may include 50 to 60 percent of Muslims globally,” he told in an interview in March 2008. Jasser is also critical of certain Mulsim lobbyist groups in Washington, notably the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). That particular group, in his words, doesn’t outright condemn “the idea of an Islamic state.”

Jasser is a regular columnist and contributing editor for and a frequent columnist on Islamic affairs for the Arizona Republic. He appears frequently on the Fox News Channel as a guest on the Glenn Beck show and has been a regular guest on CNN Headline News. His blog address is