Flying on the ground

In her Star Tribune column today Katherine Kersten profiles Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Jasser is not a fan of the flying imams or of their lawsuit against US Airways and the John Doe defendants, for whom he has vowed to raise a defense fund, if necessary. Perhaps most of interest are these nuggets regarding Dr. Jasser’s personal knowledge of the imams:

At home in the Phoenix area, the imams often mix prayer with politics, according to Jasser. He cites the Tempe Islamic Community Center, where Ahmed Shqeirat, one of the detained men, is imam, and where Jasser often used to attend prayers. Shortly after the Iraq war began, Jasser says, Shqeirat displayed during Friday services an inflammatory picture of an American soldier making sport of an Iraqi child. When Jassser objected, saying that he had come for spiritual nourishment, not politics, Shqeirat accused him of being “secular” and causing division, he says.
In response, Shqueirat says that he displayed the picture only to demonstrate that American soldiers need more multicultural education. Jasser’s views on separation of religion and state are extreme, Shqueirat adds.
Jasser also cites the imams’ refusal to participate in a rally called “Standing with Muslims against Terrorism,” which he organized in Phoenix in April 2004. The Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix endorsed the rally, and praised Jasser as “one of the most vigorous and articulate spokesmen in America denouncing indiscriminate violence in the name of Islam.”
But Jasser says the imams backed out after they learned that the rally would focus only on Islam’s prohibitions against the targeting of innocents, and not on potential justifications for terrorism such as American foreign policy and Israel.
Shqeirat responds that they did not attend because Jasser insisted on approving their speeches and signs in advance. Jasser, he says, is seeking attention because he aspires to political office (a claim Jasser denies), and is not authorized to speak for any Muslim community.

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