Are college campuses creating a culture of validation? Is there a practical approach of making immigration more merit-based than familial based? How can America keep its doors open to those legitimately escaping persecution and oppression while filtering through their ideology? Are certain immigration reforms proposed by Republicans playing into the big government scheme by setting arbitrary numbers of immigrants? Founder of American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser joins Dan and Amy to discuss.
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Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy. Pleased to be joined again by our friend, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, and former U.S. Navy lieutenant, lieutenant commander. His book, "A Battle for the Soul of Islam". Dr. Jasser, thanks for joining us again, appreciate it. Jasser: Great to be with you again, thanks for having me! Proft: Before we get to the attempted terrorist attack in New York earlier this week, I just want to get your take on something. We were talking about it the other day, and it's about kind of holiday celebrations, and particularly as it pertains to college campuses, where you have some of the dumbest people walking upright in charge. Jacobson: They're "works in progress", Dan. Proft: And there, there was...here in Chicago at Loyola University there was a Muslim student group that essentially was complaining about Ramadan not being as celebrated and woven into the day-to-day experience at Loyola University, a Jesuit Catholic University, as say, Christmas. I mean, they didn't accuse anything...anybody of being disrespectful, or prohibiting or otherwise creating hurdles for the expression of the faith of Islamic students, or Jewish students or anybody else. But they wanted to be equal in terms of elevation, you're talking about a Catholic university. How do you react to that position that the Muslim students were taking? Jasser: Well you know, it saddens me that the community thinks that those are our priorities. I went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and you know, was there for three years and then medical school at NCW in Milwaukee, and you know I always remembered that my parents taught me that if I lived in a country where the majority felt they could practice their faith and wanted to practice their faith publicly and openly, that they then didn't want to protect the minority rights to do so, because otherwise you end up having this hyper-secularization like you see in Europe, and that's what so beautiful about America is that the First Amendment, the first freedom that we have is religious freedom, and the majority celebrated, they protected it for the minority. Now, Muslim Liberty Project talks about the fact that we are Americans that happen to be Muslim, not Muslims that demand to be American. Respect comes with time, comes with an understanding of what Ramadan is, and they're putting the cart before the horse, I think. In a country right now where they see Muslim militants, separatist ideas that are radicalized, and I think it's a bit much to say "Well, why don't you also celebrate our holidays then, huh?" You know, I never felt I couldn't celebrate my fasting and holidays in America. Was it equal to the majority faith? Nah...I don't think that's the number one concern we have right now. I certainly was never limited in that practice, though. Proft: Yeah, I mean, I think that...I think that's right. It's...it seems to me the difference between America and these Islamic Republics, for example, or other totalitarian states, and the core of a free society...peaceful pluralism, and free and fair elections. And it's...peaceful pluralism of course includes religious tolerance, but it's this, this...culture now, of validation, and of course it's in its worst example in college campuses. "But everything I am and believe needs to be validated by everything else." I mean, I don't need anybody to validate that I'm a Catholic, I'm just...that's my faith, so on and so forth. But that the validation element of it, that's certainly not limited to Muslim students or the Muslim community, that's part of a rather unfortunate degradation of culture in America, I think. Jasser: Yeah, absolutely. There was a case in Chicago of a teacher who demanded that she be able to go her Haij, which is a mandatory thing for a Muslim, but certainly not a mandatory thing when you're 25, 26. And the Chicago School Unions said "Well she can't take three weeks off in December to do that." And in my book I talk about the fact that there's moderate demand of faith practice and sometimes there's extreme ones. And sometimes if you push the envelope too much...the Obama Administration ruled in her favor, you know, mandated that the Chicago School System have understanding, diversity teachings, etc. I think in the end that made more of a separation from Muslim students and teachers and did not really serve the end of helping us assimilate and become respected and understood. And these things often when you push the envelope end up causing more problems than good. Jacobson: So that teacher was able to go on the three-week mission? Jasser: Yes. The school ended up having to apologize, and unfortunately...you know, you can do that ANY time in your life. And to demand that you got three weeks off more than anyone else, my question is a slippery slope one. Anyone could say, on a basis of faith, they need six weeks off, eight weeks off, during Finals, etc. It wasn't about religion, it was a union saying "You can't take three weeks off during Finals in December", and yet the Obama administration ruled in favor of protecting that religious practice, which I really think it had nothing to do about religion. Proft: Now getting to this failed terrorist attack in New York City, this man from Bangladesh, in the country illegally, beneficiary-obtained immigration, and this has raised the issue again of chain migration, and making immigration more merit-based than familial-based, outside the nuclear family, and...and I wonder, what you think about chain migration and about what's been discussed by...even by, frankly, some Democrats, but certainly by Republicans across the spectrum, it was a central issue that was raised by Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush in the presidential campaign in addition to Trump. Jasser: Well I think any rational human being...and I think I earned a bit of an ability to have an opinion about this since I've been trying to get family out of Syria not only since the Revolution in '11 but even before...it makes sense for NUCLEAR families to stay together, you don't want to separate parents from kids, or a nuclear family, husband...spouses from each other. But at the end of the day, EXTENDED family don't filter for...you know, America's an idea. If you're coming here, I hope you're seeking freedom from persecution, from torture, you want to embrace the social contract of America, you understand what a secular society is, you want to escape theocracy. But if you're a Communist, if you're a Fascist, or if you're an Islamist or a Jihadist, you know, genetics does not filter for such a thing! Extended family by marriage does not filter for ideology! So, as you all know, many in our families have folks that are uncles and cousins that have diametrically opposed ideas or worldviews than we do. So that cannot be the way a country filters on who it brings in, and who's safe and who's not safe, simply because "my cousin is in Philadelphia", does not mean that if I live in Syria that I have a right to come to the United States when my cousin could be a Democrat and I may be an Islamic Jihadist. I still think they need to be filtered! Jacobson: Well, what's your ideal immigration plan, then? Jasser: The immigration plan should be based on, number one, that we NOT shut the doors. I think America changes who it is if we don't welcome people escaping oppression and want to be free so the number one thing is that they are LEGITIMATELY escaping persecution. And number two, they bring something to the table, it's merit-based. Economically, intellectually, they bring resources in, they're not going to become, as we see in Britain and Europe and elsewhere where Islamists come in and...on Welfare! That doesn't necessarily help the society you bring to it. So be merit-based, and be ideological, that they embrace who we are...and that really isn't as difficult to discern as you think it is. In a half an hour, 45 minute interview, you can tell if someone understands what the American worldview is. Proft: Yeah, I mean I think that's right. You always want America to be a safe haven for those seeking asylum. And so...you know, and there's disagreement on exactly what that looks like in terms of rethinking our immigration policy, even among conservatives. I'm a Conservative and I don't agree with Tom Cotton's RAISE Act, which would cut legal immigration to the United States by 50% over the next decade. I wonder what your take on this is. Part of this to me seems like...we get into the big government game when we say "reduce it by 50%, reduce it by X%, increase it by X%, only so many H1B Visas." Well how do these guys have the secret knowledge to know what the number should be against what the secret number should be in any other walk of life with 330 million people? So it seems to me it should be more kind of principles focused and case specific rather than setting these arbitrary targets. Jasser: Yeah, I couldn't agree with you more. I mean, every time one of these individuals we find tried to commit an act, and we learn about the program they came in on, we go "Oh, that's the problem," and this Whack-A-Mole continues. It's more of a whole-of-government approach to ideological vetting, and I agree with you. Some of the most leading Americans that have changed who we are...are immigrants, that brought with them a desire to be free. I served on the USS El Paso with a Head of Cryptography on my ship that was a Vietnamese immigrant, his family had escaped the oppression there. There are so many stories of immigrants that we can't just change who we are as Americans based on numbers and quotas and we can't get whiplash going from one administration that was...really, just trying to open the floodgates almost in an Angela Merkel kind of a way, to one that just wants to shut it down based on numbers. We need to remember who we are, America is an immigrant nation. This guy, by the way, everyone we're finding is actually radicalized HERE. So yes, visa program reform might have prevented the original problem, him, from coming in 2011, but actually he was radicalized the last three or four years while he was here. So that should remind Americans...the biggest problem with national security is actually them being radicalized here by Islamic groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations that, by the way, hours after the attempted bombing, is lecturing Americans on behalf of the Ullah family about our justice system, etc. Proft: Yeah! Jasser: Which shows that the radicalization is happening HERE, not over there! Proft: No question about it. He is Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, great American, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement, former US Navy Lieutenant Commander and the book that he wrote, "A Battle for the Soul of Islam". Dr. Jasser, thanks as always for joining us, appreciate it. Jasser: Any time, thanks for having me. Jacobson: And he joined us on our Turnkey Dot Pro Answer Line.