Archive for Adam Serwer

MotherJones: Meet Larry Smith, Texas’ Wannabe Anti-Shariah Sheriff

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by loonwatch

Meet Larry Smith, Texas’ Wannabe Anti-Shariah Sheriff

By Adam Serwer (MotherJones)

Muslim religious law isn’t coming to the Lone Star State. But one Republican is on the lookout anyway.

Larry Smith, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent running for sheriff in Smith County, Texas, has a unique plank in his platform: He has pledged to protect this deep-red border county from the creeping menace of Islamic religious law, or Shariah.

Outside of science fiction, this Texas county—which voted for John McCain at a 70 percent clip—doesn’t seem the most likely place for an Islamist takeover. After all, creeping Shariah is mostly a myth. The issue might come up in civil cases if both parties to a contract have accepted an agreement based on religious law, but the Constitution bars religious law from superseding civil law.

Despite his out-there Shariah stance, Smith has earned the endorsement of the county’s local paper. And local Democrats aren’t even fielding a candidate in the sheriff’s race. That means next Tuesday’s Republican primary—which includes four candidates for the county’s top law enforcement post—will likely decide whether Smith County’s next sheriff devotes time to worrying about a Shariah takeover.

Two of Smith’s rivals say Shariah shouldn’t be an issue in the race.

“We hear [about Shariah] on the national media, but here specifically in Smith County, Tyler, in the state of Texas, I’m not seeing that this is going to be a big problem,” says Chris Green, a former game warden running in the primary. “I don’t think it’s gonna occur, especially here; it may in some of the more liberal states.”

Another candidate, Bobby Gorman, Smith County’s chief sheriff’s deputy, suggested Smith was just trying to provoke a controversy over nothing. “Running for sheriff, you always want to get somebody’s attention,” Gorman says.

Anwar Khalifa, a local homebuilder, Muslim leader, and lifelong Republican who speaks with a slight drawl, says he was “shocked” when he heard about Smith’s campaign vow. Before that moment, Khalifa says, he was “actually supporting Larry.” An Egyptian immigrant who moved to Texas when he was eight, Khalifa says that Smith County is a welcoming and tolerant place, but the last few years there has been an influx of anti-Muslim speakers at local churches offering dark warnings about an Islamic takeover.

“They cloak it and say we’re only talking about radical Muslims, but they don’t differentiate,” Khalifa says. “This is anti-Islam.”

Smith’s anti-Shariah pledge seems to have helped him gain at least one endorsement, from a local tea party group called Grassroots America, We the People. The group sponsored an event at a local church hosting Brigitte Gabriel, the head of ACT! for America, an organization that sees itself as defending America from “radical Islam” and according to its website, has a chapter in Smith County. Gabriel has written that Islamic terrorists are “really just very devout followers of Muhammad.” According to Khalifa, Smith provided “security” for Gabriel’s event. (Smith did not respond to several requests for comment.)

“Anti-Muslim grassroots organizations are the vehicles by which these talking points enter the state and local dialogue. That’s why we’ve been seeing it sprout up so suddenly at the local level,” says Wajahat Ali, the lead author of Fear, Inc., a Center for American Progress report on anti-Muslim organizations. “The impetus behind it, though, is a movement that wants to exclude American Muslims from the same rights and freedoms that other Americans enjoy.”

Khalifa says that he recently spoke to Smith, who he says apologized for his anti-Shariah pledge. “[Smith] was very cordial and apologetic,” Khalifa says. But the candidate’s websitestill sports language promising Smith will use his own money to train officers so they understand “why Sharia and international law will never be acceptable substitutes” for the Constitution.

This wasn’t the first time Khalifa tried to convince a fellow Republican to soften his stance on the Shariah issue. State Rep. Leo Berman, a Republican who represents the area, introduced legislation in 2011 to ban the consideration of foreign law in Texas courts, explaining that he had heard Shariah law was being enforced in Dearborn, Michigan. (It isn’t.) When Berman was preparing his legislation, Khalifa helped convince Berman to focus on “international law” rather than only Shariah.

Berman’s legislation didn’t survive the 2012 session of the Texas Legislature, but he says he’ll introduce it again next year if reelected. Asked how he felt about Berman’s legislation, Khalifa said he was happy Shariah wasn’t being identified by name.

“It’s better than singling out my group of folks,” Khalifa says. “If people really want to hate, they’re going to hate, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. You just set an example.”

Adam Serwer: Muslim Group Leader to NYPD: Thanks For Spying On Us

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2012 by loonwatch

Excellent piece by Adam Serwer exposing Zuhdi Jasser.

Also see our articles: Asra Nomani, Tarek Fatah and Zuhdi Jasser: ‘Please! Pretty Please Spy on Me!’

and: Zuhdi Jasser’s Astroturf Muslim Groups Behind Rally to Support NYPD Spying

Muslim Group Leader to NYPD: Thanks For Spying On Us

by Adam Serwer (MotherJones)

In early March, members of a Muslim group gathered for a press conference at Manhattan’s One Police Plaza to send a clear message to the New York City Police Department about its controversial surveillance program targeting Muslim Americans.

That message was: Thanks for spying on us.

“We are not here to criticize the NYPD,” declared Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), who was joined by House Homeland Security chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), “but rather to thank them for doing the work that we as Muslims should be doing, which is monitoring extremism, following extremism, and helping counter the ideologies that create radicalization in our communities.”

Jasser later said in an interview that he wanted to provide an alternative voice to the criticism of the NYPD coming from Muslim and civil liberties groups. “We just wanted the media reports to finally show balance, that there’s diversity, that some Muslims don’t have a problem with this.” Several news reports described attendance at the event as light.

An Arizona physician and Navy veteran, Jasser has lately become the right’s go-to guy when it comes to providing cover for policies or positions that many Muslim Americans contend are discriminatory. When controversy over the so-called Ground Zero mosque erupted, Jasser, a frequent guest on Fox News, accused the builders of trying to “diminish what happened” on September 11, 2001. He has supported statewide bans on Shariah law in American courts and has helped bolster conservative warnings that American Muslims seek to replace the Constitution with a harsh interpretation of Islamic law. “America is at war with theocratic Muslim despots who seek the imposition of Shariah and don’t believe in the equality of all before the law, blind to faith,” Jasser testified during hearings held by King’s committee last year on homegrown terrorism. There he also supported conservative allegations that many American Muslim organizations—and particularly the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)—are Islamists seeking to “advance political Islam in the West.” Jasser sometimes refers to other Muslim organizations as “Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups.”

Yes, anti-Muslim bias is real

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by loonwatch

Yes, anti-Muslim bias is real

By Adam Serwer
Conservative writer Jonathan Tobin argues that the small number of Muslim hate crimes indicates that those wringing their hands about American Islamophobia are making a big deal out of nothing:

Even more to the point, the number of anti-Jewish hate crimes dwarfed again the number of anti-Islamic attacks, as they have every year since such statistics were first kept: 931 anti-Semitic incidents, compared with 107 anti-Islamic incidents, a ratio of better than 8 to 1. The same was true in 2008, when the figures were 1,013 anti-Jewish incidents to 105 anti-Muslim incidents. Indeed, even in 2001, the worst year for anti-Muslim hate crimes, there were still more than twice as many anti-Jewish incidents as those with anti-Islamic motivations. Throughout this period, the vast majority of hate crimes motivated by religion have been directed against Jews, not Muslims.

As I’ve written before, hate crimes are an imperfect metric for measuring anti-Muslim bias. Hate crimes statistics tell us that anti-Muslim bias crimes are thankfully rare and that anti-Semites are more likely to commit bias crimes. But that doesn’t mean anti-Muslim bias isn’t widely shared. Americans are pretty open about their negative feelings about Muslims — almost half the country admits to some level of anti-Muslim prejudice.

This sentiment hasn’t manifested as hate crimes, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t manifested. A Tennessee judge recently had to greenlight the construction of a mosque after weeks of hearings that focused on whether or not Islam is actually a religion, a seemingly absurd question that gets plenty of debate among conservatives. The Tennessee incident isn’t exactly unique. There has been a recent rise in the number of incidents involving people using local zoning laws to prevent mosques from being built, which is illegal under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. There have been eight RLUIPA cases involving Muslims filed in the past six months, almost half as many as in the nearly 10 years prior, with a sharp uptick following the controversy over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. These aren’t hate crimes, but they’re disconcerting evidence of anti-Muslim bias.

I’d submit that if liberal magazines and politicians openly questioned whether Judaism was a religion, and that if liberal activists were targeting the seats of Jewish lawmakers based on their being Jewish, Tobin would see that as serious evidence of anti-Semitism. I’d also submit that if there were public protests at synagogues and JCCs all over the country held by people warning of a nationwide conspiracy to subvert the U.S. government, and that if members of Congress were being presented with shoddy national security analysis to that effect, both Tobin and I would be very, very worried about where the country was heading. It’s true that Islamic extremist terrorism is a real threat, if not an existential one. The number of actual terrorists is very small, and these responses only make sense if you want to hold Muslims collectively responsible for terrorism rather than the terrorists themselves.

Tobin writes that “the hallmark of American discourse since 9/11 has been a conscious effort to disassociate Islam from the war being waged against the West by Islamist terrorists.” Rhetorically, that’s more or less true about this administration and the last. But as far as many conservatives today are concerned, that’s old and busted. “Clash of Civilizations” is the new hotness.

Adam Serwer is a staff writer at The American Prospect, where he writes his own blog.