MESA – “We all know about terrorism. This is the war you don’t know about,” Dr. Zuhdi Jasser intones from the movie screen over images of radical followers of Islam burning the American flag after Sept. 11.
Jasser, who lives in Scottsdale and practices medicine in Phoenix, is the narrator of the documentary “The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America,” which opened in selected cities across the country Thursday. The film contends that there is more to jihad than acts of violence.
There’s also “cultural jihad,” in which radical groups use laws and rights given to them by free societies in a duplicitous way to try to overthrow those societies, Jasser said. The vehicles for cultural jihad in the U.S. include Saudi government funding of Middle Eastern studies departments at universities, radical teachings in mosques and prisons, and hate-filled textbooks in Islamic schools, he said.
This is the “third jihad,” according to the film. The first was when Muslim armies spread from Arabia throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Spain. The second jihad happened later, when Islamic armies toppled Constantinople and spread into Europe, India, and further into Africa.
Jasser, a regular worshipper at the Islamic Center of the Northeast Valley in Scottsdale, an ex-lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy and former physician to the U.S. Congress, urged viewers not to confuse the religion of Islam with political Islamism – a movement that he said seeks to establish governments ruled by Islamic law called Shariah. Countries that enforce Shariah are “human rights disasters,” he said.
The silent majority of Muslims are not radical and love the U.S., Jasser said.
“I’m also a Muslim and I’ve dedicated my life to fighting the threat of radical Islam,” he said.
Jasser and six other Scottsdale Muslims formed the nonprofit American Islamic Forum for Democracy in 2003 to foster an alternative school of thought to Islamism.
Jasser is not without his detractors. In 2005, the Arizona Muslim Voice newspaper published an editorial cartoon depicting Jasser as a dog dismembering and devouring another Muslim. His views have been criticized by members of his own mosque.
The Scottsdale film premiere at a Harkins theater attracted about 300 people, including Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., who serves on the nation’s Armed Forces and Judiciary committees. Franks said he believes Jasser is dedicated to the cause of human freedom and peace.
“I have just the highest affection for (Jasser),” he said. “If there were just a few more of him, we’d have a chance of defeating this sooner.”
The film opens with scenes from the 2004 massacre of schoolchildren in Beslan, Russia, by Chechen terrorists. Franks said he visited Beslan soon after the massacre.
“This film was,in my judgment, very accurate,” he said. “Terrorism and the murder of innocents does not serve anyone on Earth and it does not serve any God that is real.”
Brent Lowder, a partner in Frontline Strategies LLC, represented the nonprofit Clarion Fund, which produced the film. He said the turnout for the free Scottsdale screening was heavy.
“We had to move to a larger theater,” Lowder said.
The Clarion Fund describes itself as a nonpartisan organization aimed at educating Americans about national security issues, particularly about the threat of radical Islam.
Lowder said the U.S. should start translating the books that established the foundation for American democracy by thinkers like Thomas Jefferson into Middle Eastern languages and putting them into the region, just as the Saudi government attempts to influence thought in the U.S.