A public debate between two devotional Muslims occurred on April 5, 2008 at Edison College in Naples, Florida. We shared deeply conflicting ideas on Islam, political Islam, terrorism, and morality. Arguments so far seemingly relegated to "Muslim vs. non-Muslims" debates due to the Muslim activist predominance of the Islamist mindset were finally debated from a position deep within a Muslim consciousness.
Already a tired phrase, call it what you will, "the battle," "the war," "the contest" of ideas between the West (secular democracies) and the Muslim world (Islamist theocracies) remains an elusive target for many of us in the thick of the fight. As an American, the concept of debate and intellectual argumentation runs to the core of who I am. So many other anti-Islamist Muslims and I can imagine no other method of getting our ideas across to the "other" side whether discussing the political, religious, legal, social, or spiritual realm. But when it comes to our current target – the threat of political Islam within the devotional Muslim consciousness – leading Islamist figures in the U.S. have remained slippery targets, unwilling to engage anti-Islamists openly in the public square.
These elusive Islamists include a host of "political imams" (imams who use their pulpit to preach an Islamist domestic and foreign policy agenda) who are apparently a majority of imams in mosques around the U.S. Not only are political imams in the majority of mosques but the salafist orientation seems to predominate mosques also. This is augmented in the public place with their supporting and collaborating Islamist organizations which include ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), MAS (Muslim American Society), ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America), MSA (Muslim Students Association), the North American Imams Federation, The Assembly of American Muslim Jurists, and the MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Council) to name a few. That, in and of itself, is telling. However, the obvious nature of their avoidance behavior in engaging anti-Islamists is not enough or even a start in the effort to win the "hearts and minds" of Muslims.
The entirety of mosques and Islamist and anti-Islamist Muslim organizations do not represent all American Muslims. Most American Muslims are actually unaffiliated with any element of the organized Muslim community. Some, if not most, are unaffiliated simply because they separate religion and politics. In fact, statistics would show that only a small minority of American Muslims maintain membership in any "Muslim" organizations.