Muslim Arizona Univ. Instructor Compares U.S. Military to ISIS

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University of Arizona Instructor Musa Al-Gharbi is under fire after a Muslim activist brought attention to his anti-American propaganda that includes favorably comparing the Islamic State terrorist group to the U.S. military.

Musa Al-Gharbi’s bio identifies him as an academic affiliate of the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts, based at the University of Arizona. He is currently an instructor in the school’s Department of Government and Public Service and was an outreach scholar for the University’s Center for Mideast Studies in 2012-2013.

The controversial article opposing U.S. military action against the Islamic State terrorist group (more commonly known by the acronyms of ISIS or ISIL) reads:

“It would not be a stretch to say that the United States is actually a greater threat to peace and stability in the region than ISIS…But perhaps more disturbingly, many of the same behaviors condemned by the Obama administration and used to justify its most recent campaign into Iraq and Syria are commonly perpetrated by U.S. troops and are ubiquitous in the broader American society.”

The article also claims that the U.S. military is “indoctrinated with anti-Muslim propaganda,” teaches that civilians don’t need to be protected and “have been heavily-infiltrated by white-supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups.”

In a Facebook post discussing the uproar, Al-Gharbi wrote, “I do not think, and would never come close to arguing, that the U.S. army is evil.”

This is plainly at odds with his description of the military as worse than ISIS. Al-Gharbi made a conscience decision to demonize the U.S. military and none of his articles rebut propaganda against U.S. troops. Instead, he frames our soldiers as tools of a malicious U.S. government who are inclined towards violence and abuse.

Al-Gharbi was confronted on Twitter by Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, President of the American-Islamic Forum for Democracy and author of A Battle for the Soul of Islam, who served in the U.S. Navy.

“As a former U.S. Naval officer, I was disgusted by his revolting comparison of the barbaric and inhuman sexual violence perpetrated by ISIS to the behaviors he deceptively insinuates are committed by our sons and daughters in uniform,” Jasser told the Clarion Project.

“ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, or Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei themselves could not have written a more propagandistic anti-American diatribe against our troops than that written by Dr. Al-Gharbi,” he said.

In typical Islamist fashion, Al-Gharbi responded by essentially calling Jasser a traitor to Muslims by being involved with “Islamophobic” groups. This is part of his general hostility to anti-Islamist Muslims.

In his controversial article, Al-Gharbi blasts what he calls “house-Muslims”  who condemn terrorism “while uncritically calling for (liberal) reform and revolution in Muslim lands…”

The term “house-Muslims” links to a book that challenges Muslim liberalism and proponents of an Islamic Reformation. It explicitly challenges “liberal Islam” and the premise that “Islam is not at odds with progressive Western secular modernity.”

The University of Arizona has issued a statement saying the article has “offended and distressed many in the University of Arizona community and beyond.”

The University emphasizes that his articles were not part of his job duties at the school. It describes Al-Gharbi as an adjunct instructor who is only teaching one class this semester.

The University says that the think-tank he works with at the school, named the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts, is all-volunteer and gets no financing from the school or taxpayers.

The think-tank said, “We stand behind all work published on the SISMEC website, to include the research of al-Gharbi. However, these works published externally represent the views of the author and do not represent the intiative.”

The overall theme of Al-Gharbi’s commentaries is pro-Islamism; urging Muslims and the U.S. government to accept the ideology. He staunchly opposes any democracy-promotion efforts in the Muslim world by the West.

“The international community must allow for the emergence of illiberal democracies, or even a popular rejection of democracy altogether,” he opines.

He is so pro-Islamist that he even blames Sharia Law’s brutal governance on Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt instead of Islamism. The article title states “Islamism may be the solution” and that Egypt can lead the region in the right direction because it is the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al-Gharbi’s articles have a pattern of consistent indictment of the U.S. and consistent exoneration of its enemies, reflexively downplaying their crimes and dismissing their ideological motives. Virtually all of the deplorable acts committed by our enemies are depicted as a reaction to far-greater atrocities committed by the West.

Islamist terrorist groups are consistently described by Al-Gharbi as “resistance” groups, as if they are essentially freedom fighters who are forced to take extreme measures because of the West’s oppression.

Observe his word usage in a September 2014 article where he says Al-Qaeda has a “reputation as non-corrupt, often in stark contrast to other resistance organizations” (author’s emphasis). He falsely claims, “Al-Qaeda doesn’t hate freedom or democracy—they see themselves as the champions of these ideals.”

Even ISIS is described as a “resistance organization” in an article he wrote for Al-Jazeera, a pro-Islamist media outlet backed by the Qatari government who sponsors Islamist terrorism and extremism. Al-Jazeera even has a weekly show hosted by the Hamas-linked spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al-Gharbi is critical of the notion that ISIS is not Islamic, yet still manages to deny its Islamist basis. He writes that ISIS members are not motivated by theology. He states that they are essentially Sunnis upset at being mistreated. There is no hill too steep for Al-Gharbi to climb in blaming the U.S. and exonerating Islamism.

Even here, Al-Gharbi manages to turn ISIS into an indictment of the U.S. and a defense of Islamism, Iran and Syria. He says the proper U.S. response would be to end aid to Syrian rebels fighting Assad and cutting support for Israel, Egypt, Yemen, secular Libyan forces and Sunni Arab monarchies.

Al-Gharbi denied that he is part of a lobby for the Iranian and Syrian regimes and said he has not received any funding from those terrorism-sponsoring governments.

It is known that an Iranian regime front named the Alavi Foundation found it fitting to donate to the University of Arizona. American officials said the Foundation “promotes Tehran’s view on world affairs.”

An Iranian opposition website found numerous contributions from 2000 to 2008. The Foundation’s tax filings showed amounts of $581,800 in 2000; $35,000 in 2001; $15,000 in 2002 and $22,000 in 2003. His bio shows he was not hired by the University of Arizona until 2011. 

However, Al-Gharbi is listed as a contributor for Iranian Press TV, a Tehran-based media outlet owned by the regime that regularly spews often ridiculous anti-American propaganda. Its parent organization was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2013.

His articles there closely follow the regime’s talking points. For example, his articles for the Iranian state media lobby for keeping Assad in power, that there is "no doubt" that Iran’s nuclear program is not for weapons, claiming Assad was framed for chemical weapons usage, painting the West as inhumane and imperialistic and criticizing the “incoherence of Western values.”

The Iranian regime’s response to the strong evidence that it is seeking nuclear weapons capabilities is to point to an alleged anti-nuke fatwa from Supreme Leader Khamenei. There are valid reasons to doubt the description of this fatwa and even its existence.

Nonetheless, Al-Gharbi cites the curiously unpublished fatwa as an “antidote to Western plots.” The concerns of the U.S., he asserts, are based in “the persistent paranoia among Western policymakers…and their distrust of Muslims.” He even goes so far as to state that the best way to stop a nuclear-armed Iran is to preserve the regime. He writes:

“[T]he chances of Iran developing a nuclear weapon will be virtually non-existent as long as the Islamic jurisprudence, also known as Velayete Faqih, remains in place. In fact, as long as Iran’s citizens continue to defer to the religious leadership of Ayatollah Khamenei, they will continue to reject the production, stockpiling, or use of nuclear weapons indefinitely.”

Al-Gharbi’s writings consistently mirror the language of the Iranian and Syrian regimes. He forcefully argues that the Assad regime is popular, stable, a suitable peace partner and, astonishingly, not a sponsor of terrorism.

The only way Al-Gharbi could believe that is if he does not consider Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and various Iraqi groups as terrorist organizations. This essay of his indicates this may be the case because it says a valid form of jihad is to “resist Zionism,” or the belief that Israel has a right to exist.

Al-Gharbi defends his opposition to U.S. airstrikes against the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons by saying he was framed by Al-Qaeda-allied rebels and only 300 people died. Even here manages to blame the U.S. by saying the immense bloodshed in Syria is “a result of the U.S. and Persian Gulf sponsored insurgency.”

Al-Gharbi is a case study of a larger Islamist problem in academia.

The International Institute of Islamic Thought, a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity that came under a terrorism-financing investigation after 9/11, has succeeded in partnering with American universities. As mentioned, the Iranian regime front named the Alavi Foundation donated to 30 universities in the U.S. and Canada.

Several Muslim-American professors endorsed a letter in September that rebuts ISIS but endorses Sharia governance, specifically its brutal hudud punishments, as well as the reconstruction of a caliphate.

Signatories include Yasir Qadhi, Professor of Islamic Studies at Rhodes College; Ihsan Bagby, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky and Professor Joseph E.B. Lumbard, Professor of Classical Islam at Brandeis University.

Two of the signatories are Hamza Yusuf and Hatem Bazian, respectively the President and Academic Affairs Chairman of Zaytuna College, an Islamic school in California.

Musa Al-Gharbi is right about one thing: There is a struggle between liberal Muslims and Islamist Muslims. And he’s on the wrong side of that struggle.



Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. 


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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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