Sherman Jackson, also known as Abdal Hakim Jackson, is a professor of Arabic and Islamic studies in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan.
Jackson specializes in Islamic law and has written and spoken extensively on the subject. Soon after the September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorist attacks, Jackson took the line popular among apologists, stating at a September 2001 University of Michigan Teach-in titled, "Terrorism: A Perversion of Islam," that "the killing of innocent peoples is forbidden by the law of Islam and it has been from the beginning of Islam."
But it turns out that not only is Jackson an apologist, he an outspoken proponent of the Islamist subversion of Western civilization.
Jackson made this abundantly clear at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit – 8th Convention in Toronto, Canada in December 2009, as a participant in the panel, "The New We: Muslims in Future of Western Society." Jonathan Usher, who attended and wrote about the conference for Campus Watch, described Jackson's speech as nothing less than "a call to battle." As he put it, "It had little to do with peaceful co-existence with the West, but was an exhortation for Islam to dominate the West." According to Usher, Jackson
…believes that the Muslim and Western worlds are in conflict and competition, and that only one can end up dominant. Put simply, he wants to replace Western culture with Muslim culture.
…Jackson expressed a desire to be included in American society—but not if any sort of cultural sacrifice were required. He said that adapting to Western culture would lead to being a Muslim in name only and advocated defining America by Muslim standards and imposing cultural and intellectual supremacy. He urged Muslims not to follow Western cultural authority, but rather to achieve their own cultural authority from the inside, as part of the system.
…Lastly, to cheers, he said that his primary commitment was to Allah, not to America.
Moreover, Jackson has a history of making such radical statements.
He co-authored a 2000 online book titled, American Public Policy and American-Muslim Politics and published by the Chicago-based International Strategy and Policy Institute, whose mission is to "promote the correct understanding of Islam and Muslims in the United States." Jackson's coauthors were DePaul University Director of Islamic World Studies Aminah Beverly McCloud and State University of New York at Binghamton professor and director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies Ali Mazrui. McCloud is a former board member of the Chicago branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and a follower of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, while Mazrui's bio notes that he is "one of the first to try and link the treatment of Palestinians with South Africa's apartheid" and has also "argued that sharia law is not incompatible with democracy and supported its introduction in some parts of northern Nigeria."
In the chapter, "Muslims, Islamic Law and Public Policy in the United States," Jackson cites the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci's influential theories about altering societies not through politics, but through cultural and educational institutions. Jackson proposes that American Muslims approach the "difficult task of penetrating, appropriating and redirecting American culture" in order to "influence the legal order in America." As he puts it:
…it should be understood that once this is done, there are no Constitutional impediments to having these laws applied in the public domain. Muslims must be vocal and confident in articulating the public utility underlying the rules on things like riba [usury], adultery, theft, drinking, contracts, pre-marital sex, child-custody and even polygyny. This should all be done, however, in the context of an open acceptance of American custom (urf) as a legally valid source in areas where the shari'ah admits the reliance upon custom.
As for the gradual acceptance of the more horrifying aspects of Sharia law, Jackson notes that "it would be foolish to deny that the prospects for American acceptance of such institutions as stoning, or flogging or amputation are virtually nil, at least for the foreseeable future." But he concludes on a note only an Islamist could find comforting:
…notions of what is cruel and unusual, of what is barbaric, of what is draconian (which is the real basis upon which America rejects these punishments) are a function of culture, not law. It is only through changes in American culture that American attitudes towards such things are likely to change. Thus, in the end, as in the beginning, we are brought face to face with the inextricable connection between American culture and Muslim self-determination. May God grant us the courage and the vision to rise to the task before us.
This call to gradually replace the liberties enshrined in the U.S. Constitution with seventh century notions of justice is both frightening and morally repugnant.
Despite a record of expressing such extreme views, Jackson has made a name for himself as a moderate and a reformer. His success in this charade stems in part from his willingness to break from his peers and publicly discuss Islamic terrorism, its theological underpinnings, and the need for related reform. An article in the Wesleyan Argus quoted a November 2007 Jackson speech on "Jihad, Terrorism, and Modern Violence" at Wesleyan University:
'Muslims in the West must be active and vocal in their condemnation of current violations of hirabah,' he insisted, referring to the Sharia law that outlaws any act of publicly directed violence that spreads fear and helplessness. According to Jackson, hirabah more than covers today's conception of terrorism. He discussed the moderate Muslim unwillingness to publicly decry acts of terrorism and attributed it to the desire to not be seen as 'Uncle Toms.'
But Patrick Poole, writing for the American Thinker in September 2007, calls Jackson's reasoning and motives into question. He describes Jackson as one of the earliest proponents of the "Islamic lexicon" and, in particular, an advocate for replacing the term jihad with hirabah in discussing Islamic terrorism. Poole and other skeptics allege that, in practice, this is nothing more than a semantic sleight of hand that serves to obscure the legitimization of terrorism within Islam and to further the Muslim Brotherhood's civilization-jihadist process.
Poole notes that Jim Guirard of the Truespeak Institute is the "foremost advocate for this approach," and that Sherman Jackson is among the scholars he relies upon for his findings. Poole points to an unclassified memo from Pentagon Joint Staff analyst Stephen Coughlin in which Jackson is cited as one of Guirard's contributors, along with fellow Middle East studies professors John Esposito of Georgetown University and Muqtedar Khan of the University of Delaware. Summarizing Coughlin's findings, Poole concludes that,
…as Walid Phares and Stephen Coughlin have already revealed, many of the Western Muslim advocates of this new approach are directly tied to known Muslim Brotherhood front groups operating in the US. As Coughlin itemizes, Sherman Jackson is a "trustee" to the North American Islamic Trust, and affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Student Association, the first two of which were named as unindicted co-conspirators in the current Holy Land Foundation terror financing federal trial underway in Dallas, and the last was the original organizational wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. The hiraba-jihad terminology has also been endorsed by the Wahhabist Council for Islamic Education and the extremist mouthpiece Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial. That is telling in and of itself.
Jackson is also considered an expert on the intersection of Islam and African-Americans (he is himself an African-American convert to Islam). His 2005 book on the subject, Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Towards the Third Resurrection, was reviewed favorably by radical Islam apologist John Esposito, James H. Cone (the originator of black liberation theology and stated inspiration for controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright, President Obama's former "spiritual mentor" in Chicago), and DePaul professor Aminah Beverly McCloud. Beyond McCloud's aforementioned affiliation with CAIR and the Nation of Islam, she played a pivotal role in influencing Washington, D.C. PBS station WETA's decision to cancel its airing of the laudable documentary on moderate Muslims, Islam vs. Islamists, in early 2007.
Jackson's career may be peppered with associations and endorsements from some of the worst apologists and radicals from the field of Middle East studies—and his involvement in the obfuscating "truespeak" movement points to even more troublesome ties with Muslim Brotherhood front groups—but, ultimately, it is his own words that prove the most damning. His stated agenda clearly has nothing to do with moderation or reform; it is quite simply that of an Islamist.
Cinnamon Stillwell is the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.