Archive for AlJazeera

More ‘Anti-Islam’ Courses at US Military, AlJazeera Reveals

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2012 by loonwatch

AlJazeera uncovered another “anti-Islam” class in the US military. The class seems to have been lifted directly from the talking points of extremists such as Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer:

US Military Under Fire for ‘Anti-Islam Class’

(AlJazeera)

The United States military has called for a review of all its training classes after receiving criticism for a course taught to senior officers that allegedly encouraged war against Islam.

The controversial class presented slides that accused dozens of Islamic groups, many widely recognised as mainstream advocacy groups, of infiltrating the US media, education system, government and military.

One slide titled “The Muslim Brotherhood and Violence” showed a photo of an al-Qaeda beheading, erroneously conflating the two groups.

Through the slides and other presentations, the course created a picture of a US government co-opted by subversive Muslim elements.

Al Jazeera’s Josh Rushing reports from Washington.

Karim Miské: Muslims of France

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , on December 26, 2011 by loonwatch

Muslims_France

A phenomenal three part film series on the history of Muslims in France over the past 100 years by filmmaker Karim Miské:

Part 1: Colonials
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1
Part 2: Immigrants
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1
Part 3: Citizens
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Aljazeera: Fault Lines-Politics, Religion and the Tea Party

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2011 by loonwatch

A must see documentary on AlJazeera English, dealing with the contemporary influence of Far Right Christianity on American politics. It gets really interesting from the 18:00 mark.

Fault Lines-Politics, Religion and the Tea Party

Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S.

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on January 31, 2011 by loonwatch

Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S.

WASHINGTON – Canadian television viewers looking for the most thorough and in-depth coverage of the uprising in Egypt have the option of tuning into Al Jazeera English, whose on-the-ground coverage of the turmoil is unmatched by any other outlet. American viewers, meanwhile, have little choice but to wait until one of the U.S. cable-company-approved networks broadcasts footage from AJE, which the company makes publicly available. What they can’t do is watch the network directly.

Other than in a handful of pockets across the U.S. – including Ohio, Vermont and Washington, D.C. – cable carriers do not give viewers the choice of watching Al Jazeera. That corporate censorship comes as American diplomats harshly criticize the Egyptian government for blocking Internet communication inside the country and as Egypt attempts to block Al Jazeera from broadcasting.

The result of the Al Jazeera English blackout in the United States has been a surge in traffic to the media outlet’s website, where footage can be seen streaming live. The last 24 hours have seen a two-and-a-half thousand percent increase in web traffic, Tony Burman, head of North American strategies for Al Jazeera English, told HuffPost. Sixty percent of that traffic, he said, has come from the United States.

Al Jazeera English launched in the fall of 2006, opening a large bureau on K Street in downtown Washington, but has made little progress in persuading cable companies to offer the channel to its customers.

The objections from the cable companies have come for both political and commercial reasons, said Burman, the former editor-in-chief of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “In 2006, pre-Obama, the experience was a challenging one. Essentially this was a period when a lot of negative stereotypes were associated with Al Jazeera. The effort was a difficult one,” he said, citing the Bush administration’s public hostility to the network.

“There was reluctance from these companies to embark in a direction that would perhaps be opposed by the Bush administration. I think that’s changed. I think if anything the Obama administration has indicated to Al Jazeera that it sees us as part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Burman said.

Cable companies are also worried, said Burman, that they will lose more subscribers than they will gain by granting access to Al Jazeera. The Canadian experience, he said, should put those fears to rest. In Canada, national regulators can require cable companies to provide certain channels and Al Jazeera ran a successful campaign to encourage Canadians to push the government to intervene. There has been extremely little negative reaction over the past year as Canadians have been able to view the channel and decide for themselves. “We had a completely different process and result here in Canada — a grassroots campaign that was overwhelmingly successful,” said Avi Lewis, the former host of Al Jazeera’s Frontline USA. (He now freelances for Al Jazeera while working on a documentary project with his wife, Naomi Klein.)

Media critics have begun to push for Al Jazeera’s inclusion. “It is downright un-American to still refuse to carry it,” wrote Jeff Jarvis on Sunday. “Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one-not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media-can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting Al Jazeera English can.”

Al Jazeera follows a public broadcasting model similar to the BBC, CBC and NPR and is largely funded by the government of Qatar, which Burman said takes a completely hands-off approach to content. Al Jazeera is the scourge of authoritarian governments around the Middle East, which attempt to block it. The network, however, covers much more than the Middle East, and now has more bureaus in Latin America than CNN and the BBC, said Burman. “As proud as we are of our Middle Eastern coverage, we are in other places in the world that are never, never seen on television in American homes,” he said.

Burman said that he will use the experience with the Tunisia and Egyptian uprisings in upcoming meetings with cable providers as the network continues its push. Comcast did not respond to requests for comment.

“Why in the most vibrant democracy in the world, where engagement and knowledge of the world is probably the most important, why it’s not available is one of these things that would take a PhD scholar to understand,” Burman said.

UPDATE I: A reader emails to say that Al Jazeera programming is also being carried by the satellite channel LinkTV, which can be found on channel 9410 on Dish Network and 375 on DirecTV.

UPDATE II: Another reader emails to say that Al Jazeera broadcasts over some of the Pacifica stations, including WBAI (New York, 5-6 AM, 99.5 FM), KPFA (Berkeley, 6-7 AM, 94.1 FM) and KPFT (Houston, 5-6 AM, 90.1 FM).

 

Imran Garda: Never-ending Cartoon Chaos

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2011 by loonwatch

A thought provoking piece about the cartoon debacle by AlJazeera’s Imran Garda.

Never-ending cartoon chaos

by Imran Garda (AlJazeera)

At a meal of halal pasta at a Johannesburg restaurant in 2004 , I found myself defending my one-time work colleague, Graeme Joffe, at a table of young Muslim men, after a joke he had made on a local radio station.

“Even if he thinks he’s funny, this was insulting to us, and the brothers are right to launch a complaint,” said one.

“They should fire him. Do you even know what he said? ‘What do you call a Bangladeshi cricketer with a bacon sandwich on his head? Ham’head. And if he has two bacon sandwiches? Mo’Ham’head!’ Disgusting!”

I tried to interject diplomatically, “I know Graeme, he’s one of the most polite, least offending, self-deprecating people you can meet. It’s a light-hearted radio show, come on. I worked with him at Supersport; if anything they should fire him because the joke was so bad!”

“Garda, you don’t understand”, insisted the most annoyed. “No matter how harmless the intention” and, with the surest of conviction, he continued: “When it comes to the prophet, there are no jokes.”

Joffe and the radio station were censured after South Africa’s Broadcasting Complaints Commission saw his joke as “hate speech” that violated the constitution. And yes, it has been no joke since late 2005, when 12 cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten seemed to ignite frenetic flames of fury that just wouldn’t die down.

The very depiction of Prophet Muhammad was an affront to Muslims, who do not depict him for fear of idolatry, among numerous other theological reasons. He has been depicted before, to the annoyance of many Muslims, but not much more. What seemed to tip the saga into the epicly dangerous territory that it has occupied since is that a substantial number of the images of him had sometimes tacit, sometimes overt references to Muhammad and misogyny, Muhammad and violence, Muhammad and terrorism.

Manufacturing anger?

But was that it? Was there merely an impulsive, collective rising up, a synergy of the insulted? Had the outcry been devoid of any larger outside forces prodding, pricking, planning – manufacturing anger?

The recent WikiLeaks revelations suggest otherwise. They show that the US charge d’affaires in Damascus, Stephen Seche, believed that Syria actively encouraged violent protests in which the Danish and Norwegian embassies were attacked. The leak reminded me of another meal in another African country, Egypt, in 2008.

“Mashallah, you’re from South Africa? I do a lot of work there; we are training 600 da’ees (Muslim missionaries) to approach fans during the World Cup in 2010.”

Imam Fadel Soliman paused for another spoonful of molokhiyya, an Egyptian soup dish. He was hungry – he had been fasting all day. We shared our Ramadhan iftaar before recording an Inside Story programme later that night, where he appeared as one of our guests.

A big, friendly man, who seemed permanently out of breath, with an engaging presence, Imam Fadel was bursting with a faith he was keen to share; he later dished out DVDs on Islamic guidance to our film crew and producers, in multiple languages to boot. He was like an ambassador for Islam, but it was what he told me about another ambassador which was of infinite interest to me:

“Do you know our Egyptian ambassador to South Africa, Mona Attiah?” he asked as he wolfed down some more Iftaar.

“I can’t say I do.”

“Mashallah, she’s a good sister, has done a lot for Muslims. She doesn’t wear hijab, but she’s a good woman.”

He continued.

“Are you sure you don’t know her?”

“I’m sorry”, I said. I wasn’t sure whether it was my South African or Islamic credentials which were beginning to wane in his eyes.

“She was in Denmark before South Africa. She was the ONE ambassador who really stood up to the Danish government, and insisted on a meeting with them over those cartoons about our prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam (peace be upon him). And when they said they didn’t want to meet and can’t stop ‘freedom of expression’, she stood firm! She was the one who got the other ambassadors on board to go the Arab League in Cairo together to show our united condemnation, that the cartoons were unacceptable! Mashallah.”

It was what he said next that I’ll never forget:

“If it wasn’t for her, we may never even have heard of those cartoons.”

Two Danish imams carried the cartoon “dossier” throughout the Middle East with some extra cartoons thrown into the mix – images that were never published in Jyllands-Posten. One wasn’t even a cartoon, but a photocopied photograph of a picture lifted off the internet of a man wearing a pig-snout.

Ever since the outbreak of the crisis, it has been noted that many usually undemocratic governments, often brutal in their suppression of mass protests which call for political reform, or rally against the price of bread – suddenly wholeheartedly embraced (and maybe even sponsored) the protest fever.

CCTV footage from the building that housed the Danish embassy in Beirut shown in Karsten Kjaer’s film Bloody Cartoons even suggests that the Lebanese army allowed protesters to converge on the building, Molotov cocktails in hand.

Does it come then as any surprise that years later, with over a hundred dead since the first spasm of violence, three men have recently been charged with plotting to mow down the staff of Jyllands-Posten with machine guns?

In early 2006 even mainstream scholars, like Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, hated by many hardliners for his liberal and forward-thinking opinions on issues of Islamic jurisprudence, called for a “day of anger” around the Muslim world in response to the cartoons. He said Muslims are not “donkeys to be ridden on” but “lions that roar”.

In context, seen along with his and other scholars’ calls for an economic boycott of Denmark and strong political lobbying against the country and the newspapers that published the cartoons, many would interpret his call to “roar” metaphorically. As a call for a stern but peaceful response against a provocation from Jyllands-Posten that smacks of goading, demeaning and ostracising Muslims.

But (and it’s a big but) an obvious, glaring problem is with the rise of the far-right in Europe, where issues of Muslims veils and minarets, anti-immigration and integration dominate the discourse: will every offended Muslim interpret the call that way? Much of the post-cartoon rhetoric left ample room for subjective interpretation. Are we not seeing the fallout continuing to unfold before our eyes?

Freedom of Expression

“Freedom of Expression” – it has a post-modern, sacrosanct, warm-fuzziness about it. But are those who claim it entirely consistent?

The editor responsible for the cartoons, Flemming Rose, pledged to Christiane Amanpour in an interview that Jyllands-Postenwas attempting to make contact with the Iranian newspaper that ran cartoons about the Holocaust, and hoped to publish them too. He reneged on his promise, and was put on a short “leave of absence” by the paper.

At the time, cat-eyed Anders Fogh Rasmussen was the Danish prime minister. His devotion to “Freedom of Expression” and “Freedom of the Press” in his country was indisputable and was tested from multiple corners, diplomatic and otherwise.

He cannot have been too impressed when he went from being the head of a friendly, isolated Scandinavian country to seeing effigies of himself burnt on the streets of Pakistan.

But now, as the secretary-general of NATO, the most powerful fighting force history has ever known, RSF (Reporters Without Borders) claims his NATO forces in Afghanistan have treated “journalists working in difficult provinces … like dangerous criminals”.

Afghan journalists, like Al Jazeera cameraman Mohammed Nader, have found themselves arrested and later released without charge, on suspicion of having links with the “enemy” because of alleged links to the Taliban and their spokespersons.

This dovetails with an Afghan government order in March 2010 banning all coverage of “insurgent attacks” in the country with the threat of prosecution of any journalist who does – an ominous message to journalists there.

Is the dedication of men like Flemming Rose and Anders Fogh Rasmussen to “Freedom of Expression” relative to an ideological worldview? Are they dedicated to a complete freedom of expression only of the “good guys” – but heaven forbid you let the “bad guys” express themselves.

As Noam Chomsky put it – “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”

Blame

Who’s to blame? Jyllands-Posten? The Danish government? Global Islamophobia and its racist defenders or global Islamism and its idealogues? Or the governments who may have actively encouraged their citizens to get angry?

In the five-year long cartoon crisis, anger ebbs and flows, condemnation bursts and retreats and worldviews collide. Art meets politics, satire meets the sacred, and provocation cries crocodile tears when it meets a response it claims it never expected.

Maybe, just maybe, the seemingly never-ending cartoon chaos was epitomised by the guy who held up the banner at the cartoon protest rally in London, saying “Freedom of Expression Go To Hell!”

 

Soumaya Ghannoushi: Islamophobia Acting Like Free Speech

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2010 by loonwatch

An interesting piece from Soumaya Ghannoushi published at AlJazeera English.

Islamophobia acting like free speech

by Soumaya Ghannoushi

The caricatures of Prophet Muhammad first published in the Danish Jyllands-Posten then reprinted in a string of European newspapers have exposed the gulf separating the West from the Muslim world.

The cartoons and the reactions they have sparked across the Muslim hemisphere, many have conjectured, symbolise the confrontation between two irreconcilable value systems, one based on the Enlightenment tradition, the other clinging to religious dogma.

These simplistic explanations would have stood a better chance of being accepted if the majority of those offering them had been more vocal in denouncing the continuous assault on free speech in Western societies in the name of the war on terrorism. The reality is that the controversy over freedom of expression and its limits is a symptom of an infinitely deeper crisis affecting the relation of the West, European and Atlantic, to the vast Muslim world from Tangier to Jakarta.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. Since we are historical beings, we cannot be detached from our hermeneutical tradition and historical condition.

Only by reference to these contexts are our actions understandable. Any explanation of the cartoons crisis that does not take into account the explosive climates of the post-September 11th world and the rise of the right wing in Europe and the United States is bound to remain superficial.

Islam, which had lain forgotten during the cold war and the obsession with the communist threat, has now come to the fore, penetrating into the heart of the public domain.

It is no coincidence that the cartoons were published in Denmark in a right-wing paper under a right-wing government then reprinted in countries notorious for their hostility to their Muslim minorities and opposition to the cultural and racial diversity of today’s European societies.

That reactions to the cartoons have been so passionate should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following developments in the Muslim world closely. To Muslims, the caricatures vividly brought back the scenes of Israeli bulldozers demolishing Palestinian homes in Jenin, the invasion of Afghanistan, the fall of Baghdad, terrors of Abu Ghraib and humiliations of Guantanamo Bay.

Cultural arrogance was added to political aggressiveness. Muslims have grown used to the torrent of terrifying images that associate them and their faith with the most horrifying of practices, from violence and cruelty to fanaticism and oppression. When it comes to Islam, all boundaries and limits could be dispensed with. The unacceptable becomes perfectly acceptable, proper and respectable.

The truth is that today racism, intolerance, xenophobia, and hatred of the other hide behind the sublime façade of free speech, the defence of “our” values and protection of “our” society from “foreign” aggression.

Let us not be deceived about this rhetoric of liberalism and free speech. The Danish cartoons have nothing to do with freedom of expression and everything to do with hatred of the other in a Europe grappling with its growing Muslim minorities, still unable to accept them.

Muhammad, who had been depicted in medieval legends as a bloodthirsty warrior with a sword in one hand and a Quran in another, is now made to brandish bombs and guns. Little seems to have changed about Western consciousness of Islam.

The collective medieval Christian memory has been recycled, purged of eschatology and incorporated into a modern secularised rhetoric that goes unquestioned today.

The medieval world abounded with hostile stories, folktales, poems and sermons of Muhammad where the imagination was given free reign.

About Muhammad, or “Mathomus” all could be said since, as the 11th-century chronicler Guilbert of Nogent had put it: “One may safely say ill of a man whose malignity transcends and surpasses whatever evil can be said about him” (Dei Gesta per Francos, 1011).

Guilbert’s Muhammad, like that of most medieval authors, bears little resemblance to the historical Muhammad, or his journey.

Just as in the Danish caricatures, he appears as a scoundrel who used licentiousness and the promise of paradise with its many beautiful virgins to lure men into following him. His career was devoid of virtue. His vast empire was built on slaughter and bloodshed.

In the popular Chansons de Geste, written from the 11th to the 14th century at the height of crusading fervour, reflecting sentiments and beliefs that were widely accepted, Muhammad and his followers, the “Saracens” are described in the most grotesque of terms.

Creatures of Satan, they are painted with huge noses and ears, blacker than ink with only their teeth showing white, eyes like burning coals, teeth that can bite like a serpent, some with horns like the antlers of stags.

Humans inherit their prejudices as they do their language. Europe has inherited an enormous body of stereotypes of the Muslim elaborated in the course of many centuries of confrontation with Muslim civilisation.

Islam could not be regarded with the same detached curiosity as the far away cultures or beliefs of China or India. Islam was always a major factor of European history.

As the historian Richard Southern put it, Islam was Latin Christendom’s greatest problem, a mighty military and cultural challenge, dazzling in its power, wealth, learning and civilisation.

In the heart of Europe, its poor northerly neighbour, it generated an array of emotions that ranged from fascination to fear and resentment.

When in the 11th century European writers began to form a notion of what it meant to be European, they found themselves faced with a powerful Islam, which they were neither able nor willing to understand.

Islam was integral to the European notion of the self. The encounter with the Muslim other was fundamental to the formulation of the Western world view, particularly in the centuries that began in the Crusades and culminated in the dismemberment of the Ottoman empire.

By forcing the continent to find ways of concerted action, Islam encouraged Europe towards a stronger sense of “self” and a stronger sense of the “other”. In more ways than one, Islam was Europe’s midwife.

In the tense post September 11th climate, with its pre-emptive strikes, growing military interventions and increasingly powerful right-wing parties, the medieval arsenal of fantasies and stereotypes of Islam and Muslims has been brought back to life. Gone are the devils and Antichrists of medieval legends and polemics.

But their bleak outlook on Islam and the Muslim lingers on unchanged. It survives in an essentialist self-enclosed discourse centred on a mythical pure self permanently pitted against an imaginary dehumanised, demonised Muslim other.

In the past as in the present, religion, culture and the politics of fear are placed at the service of the great games of dominance and mastery.

Make no mistake about it: This is a political conflict that speaks in the language of culture and religion. The conflict is not between “we” and “they”, not between cultures and civilisations, but within the same cultural and political front.

The battle must be fought, a battle against intolerance, hatred, myth of cultural superiority and will to hegemony over the other.

Soumaya Ghannoushi is a researcher in the history of ideas at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London.

The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of Aljazeera.

Ghannoushi is currently writing a book on Western Representations of Islam Past and Present.

 

AlJazeera’s Hour Long Newscast on KPFT Receives Threats

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2010 by loonwatch

AlJazeera News has begun to air for one hour on KPFT, a prominent Texas Radio Station. It has received threats and hate mail since.

 

Marwan Bishara: Israeli Religious Forces on the March

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2010 by loonwatch

isgetty3565

Marwan Bishara is an interesting political analyst and host on AlJazeera. His program, Empire is a very insightful view into the modern political landscape and how the power brokers in that landscape are shaping the world. He has penned a penetrating piece on AlJazeera’s website about the rise in the IDF of Jewish religious-nationalists. A fact that will make the Israel-Palestine issue even harder to resolve, while also raising the spectre of an inevitable religious war. This piece was written at a favorable time considering our last piece on the ignorance of Bill Maher.

Israeli Religious Forces on the March by Marwan Bishara

As the Israeli Palestinian ‘peace process’ marches in place, religious-Zionism is marching into the leadership of the Israeli army, rendering an improbable peace mission impossible.

If as expected their number continues to increase at the same rate, no future Israeli leader will be able to evacuate Jewish settlements in the context of a peace agreement.

The radicalisation of Israeli society and polity is evident not only in the most right wing government in the country’s history, but also in the make up of its professional military.

Recent revelations in the Israeli media show how the Israeli military, which was once a bastion of ‘secular Zionism’, is slowly but surely falling under the influence of extreme religious Zionism with a wider role for radical rabbinical chiefs.

The disproportionately high numbers of religious-nationalists in elite units and the combat officer corps is transforming the Israeli military and its relationship to the occupation and illegal settlements.

Dramatic increase

In 1990, the year before the peace process started between Israel and its neighbours, two per cent of the cadets enrolled in the officers’ course for the infantry corps were religious; by 2007, that figure had shot up to 30 per cent.

Moreover, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz:

“This is how the intermediate generation of combat officers looks today: six out of seven lieutenant colonels in the Golani Brigade are religious and, beginning in the summer, the brigade commander will be as well. In the Kfir Brigade, three out of seven lieutenant colonels wear skullcaps, and in the Givati Brigade and the paratroopers, two out of six. In some of the infantry brigades, the number of religious company commanders has passed the 50 per cent mark – more than three times the percentage of the national religious community in the overall population.”

Worse still, according to the Israeli Peace Now organisation, the number of religious nationalists continues to grow at a worrying rate.

Its sources estimate that “more than 50 per cent of the elite combat units now are drawn from the religious nationalist sector of Israeli society”.

Professor Stuart Cohen of Bar Ilan University estimates that during the second intifada (2000-2002) the overall number of religious Zionist soldiers – as defined by those who wear knitted caps, or kippah seruga – in the infantry units may be roughly twice their proportion of the Jewish male population as a whole.

Many of these soldiers live in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Some live in so-called ‘illegal outposts’, which the International Quartet (the US, UN, EU and Russia) insists on dismantling and which Israel considers ‘unlawful’ according to its own narrow standards.

And increasing numbers live in the so-called “illegal outposts”, or those new Jewish settlements considered illegal by the International Quartet (the US, UN, EU and Russia) and according to Israel’s own narrow standards.

Despite Israel’s commitment under the 2003 ‘roadmap for peace’ to evacuate tens of these outposts, they remain standing and are even expanding.

A ‘higher authority’

Clearly, many of those who live in the settlements cannot be expected to help evacuate their own homes if such a time comes. And they are making it known.

Recently, soldiers in the infantry brigade waved placards with the slogan “we did not enlist in order to evacuate Jews” as they paraded in Jerusalem to mark the end of their training.

A number of rabbis have issued religious edicts against such evacuations.

Most of these religious Zionist settlers see settlement in the occupied West Bank (using their biblical names Judea and Samaria) or the overall “land of Israel”, which includes the territories occupied in 1967, as a religious duty.

Although Ariel Sharon, a former Israeli prime minister, succeeded in evacuating the marginal Gaza settlements in 2005, it is doubtful that any such evacuation from the tens of small scattered settlements in the West Bank is possible.

The nationalist religious camp is making it clear that the ‘word of God’ as they see it, takes precedence over the secular leadership.

Reportedly, the top military brass is quite fearful of such a scenario.

Soldiers and settlers

Lately, there have been reports about tensions between the Israeli military and some of the most violent settlers as the military tries to reign in some of their more extreme provocations.

In general, however, the military has been the settlers’ best friend and defender in the occupied territories.

And despite increased settler violence and vandalism against adjacent Palestinian towns and villages, the occupation army has been no less than complicit in the daily harassment of Palestinian residents and farmers.

Many settler-soldiers seem to deploy around their settlements, allowing them to man check points and harass and humiliate Palestinians at road blocks, turning the country’s military into their own private militias.

In the process, Palestinians find themselves held hostage by an Israeli government that has neither the will, nor increasingly the capacity, to deal with the settlement issue – the engine of violence and the terminator of the two state solution.

Eventually, they will march straight into a destructive religious war that is far harder to contain in or outside the ‘Holy Land’.

 

Wafa Sultan: A Poseur Playing off of Ignorance to Further Hate

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2009 by loonwatch

Wafa Sultan: A Poseur Playing off of Ignorance to Further Hate

"Atheist Muslim reformer" Wafa Sultan with anti-Muslim loon Pamela Geller
“Atheist Muslim reformer” Wafa Sultan with anti-Muslim loon Pamela Geller

We must begin this profile with a question: Is there a more contemptible poseur than Wafa Sultan who calls herself an atheist but in the same breath also claims to be a Muslim reformer, which would kind of be like Christopher Hitchens calling himself a Christian reformer? It is difficult to answer that question with certainty considering the wide pool of bigots who combine charlatanism with raving and incorrigible insanity. But for sure one thing is certain, she is completely undeserving of the 15 minutes of fame she has succeeded in procuring.

In this sense, Wafa Sultan falls into the same category as Walid Shoebat, Brigitte Gabriel, Nonie Darwish, Kamal Saleem, Zachariah Anani and other self-proclaimed turn coats from their Arab and Muslim identities. As we mentioned before this group attempts to parlay their “otherness,” and so-called “insider knowledge of the Muslim world,” (the “I’ve been there, I know” line) into a cash cow. Meanwhile, we are supposed to be duped into freaking out and running back to them for more “expert” advice brought to us from our loyal friend who ventures into the other side on our behalf.

Sultan is no different, her tale of flight into Islamophobic stardom is a curious and thoroughly modern one. In the beginning of this tale Sultan was invited onto a show hosted by the well known anchorman of AlJazeera’s Opposing Viewpoints (Ittijaah al-Mu’aakas), Faisal Al-Qasim for the purpose of a debate with professor Ibrahim al-Khouly from Al-Azhar on the topic of the Clash of Civilizations and the Clash of Religions. Al-Qasim, brought her onto the show originally after noticing some of her articles on the Arabic website called AnNaqed (The Critic). The New York Times reported that the website was an Islamic reform site, but in actuality it turns out that it is a Christian website,

[T]he web site called Annaqed (www.annaqed.com) she supposedly wrote for before being noticed by Al-Jazeera Television is not an “Islamic reform Web Site” as was reported in the New York Times article, but rather an Arab nationalist blog run by a Syrian Christian who defines it as being “in line with Christian morality and principles.” The site is also replete with anti-Muslim writings.

On the show she supported the thesis of a clash and stated that the conflict between the West and Islam is,

a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another that belongs to the 21st century… a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality.

MEMRI, (Middle East Media Research Institute) which peddles in biased, selective, de-contextualized, error-filled, and misleading translations of news, shows and opinion from Middle East television took the 45 minute show and per its modus operandi chopped up and edited the show into a 5 minute sound bite of Wafa Sultan’s attack on Muslims and Islam. In the process, and without any respect for translational integrity they also attempted to deceptively frame Professor Khouly as proclaiming Sultan a “heretic,” when, as this fully translated transcript shows he did no such thing. Instead Khouly responded to Sultan’s jibes with questions that though we might not agree to the way he frames them are far from irrational or undebatable,

…here we must ask a question, who facilitated the conflict and indeed initiated it; is it the Muslims? Muslims now are in a defensive position fighting off an aggressor… who said Muslims were backward? They may be backward in terms of technological advances, but who said that such are the criteria for humanity?

That is just the beginning of the story, the MEMRI produced video was downloaded to YouTube where it went viral receiving over a million hits and like wild fire the anti-Muslim blogosphere picked it up. Instantly, over night, Sultan was a star. In this consumer age, MEMRI’s rendition of the show gave the public what it wanted to see: a spectacle. It fit in well with the narrative of an oppressed Mooslim woman “finally” standing up for her rights and taking on the world of Islam.

Sultan capitalized on the spotlight she had and with all the ingenuity and creativeness of a con-artist spun a tale which essentially boils down to her “dark days growing up in the barbaric ‘Islamic nation’ of Syria.” A good example of her deception can be gleaned from a recent article she wrote for the neo-conservative website Hudson New York,

As an Arab woman who suffered for three decades living under Islamic Sharia, it is clear to me that Islam’s political ideology and Sharia must be fought relentlessly by Western civilization to prevent its application in a free society. (emphasis added)

This encapsulates the opportunism that motivates Sultan and it also reveals the contempt with which she holds her readers whose intelligence she seeks to insult with such a blatant lie. She attempts to paint her three decades in Syria as a nightmare in which she suffered the brutal force of a Taliban-esque regime that implemented Islamic law on her constantly. The absurdity is only matched by the bravado of her claim, as anyone who cared to check (Wikipidea for instance) could tell you that the regime that ruled Syria had nothing to do with Islam.

The regime in Syria, during much of the time period that Sultan talks about was ruled by the secular, anti-Shariah Ba’athist dictator Hafiz al-Assad who happens to come from the same privileged sect that Sultan was born into: the Alawies. Her allegation is even more obscene considering the fact that Hafiz al-Assad massacred 20,000 villagers in Hama, Syria who were members of the Muslim Brotherhood. One has to ask Sultan, if you were made to suffer for thirty years under Islamic Sharia’, how could you, a woman, have finished your medicine degree at the University of Aleppo? On top of that, would an Islamic Sharia state as horrid as you describe have funded your education for free?

Another good example of her tale of woe is the profile carried by self-described “bad girl of Islam” Asra Nomani in TIME magazine. Asra Nomani, who can’t pen anything without including herself writes,

I connected with her (Sultan’s) anger and pain. She questioned Islam in 1979, when, she says, she witnessed the murder of a professor by men with alleged ties to the ultraconservative Muslim Brotherhood political group.

As to the claim that her professor (thought to be Yusef Al-Yusef) was gunned down before her eyes in a faculty classroom at the University of Aleppo, Halabi said the incident never took place. “There was a professor who was killed around 1979, that is true, but it was off-campus and Sultan was not even around when it happened,” he added.

InFocus contacted the University of Aleppo and spoke to Dr. Riyad Asfari, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, who confirmed Halabi’s account. “Yes, the assassination took place off-campus,” he said. Dr. Asfari was keen to add that no one had ever been killed in a classroom anytime or anywhere at the university.

Syrian expatriate Ghada Moezzin, who attended the University of Aleppo in 1979 as a sophomore, told InFocus that she never heard of the assassination. “We would’ve known about the killing if it had happened,” she said. “It would have been big news on campus and I do not recall ever hearing about it.” Moezzin, who lives in Glendora, Calif., added that government security was always present around the university given the political climate in Syria at the time.

Half-truths and lies corroborate and reveal the true motive behind Sultan’s hate and invective against Islam: money. The article reveals more,

Adnan Halabi*, a Syrian expatriate who met and got to know the Sultans when they first came to the United States, spoke at length about the Wafa Sultan that very few people know.

According to Halabi, Dr. Wafa Ahmad (her maiden name) arrived in California with her husband Moufid (now changed to David) in the late 80s on a tourist visa. Contrary to what she told the New York Times, they came as a couple, leaving their two children back in Syria.

Another source named Nabil Mustafa, also Syrian, told InFocus that he was introduced to Moufid Sultan through a personal friend who knew the family well, and both ended up having tea at the Sultans’ one-bedroom apartment one evening in 1989. It was then that Moufid told Mustafa the story of how he was reunited with his two children. According to Mustafa, Moufid Sultan told him that a short time after they arrived in the country, his wife, Dr. Wafa Sultan, mailed her passport back to her sister Ilham Ahmad in Syria (while the passport still carried a valid U.S. tourist visa). With Ilham bearing a resemblance to her sister Wafa, the plan was to go to the Mexican Embassy in Damascus and obtain a visa to Mexico, making sure that the airline carrier they would book a flight on would have a layover somewhere in the Continental United States.

With an existing U.S. visa on Wafa Sultan’s passport, Ilham Ahmad had no trouble obtaining an entry permit to Mexico. Shortly after, Ilham and Wafa’s two children landed in Houston, Texas. She and the children then allegedly made their way through customs and were picked up by Moufid and brought to California.

Taking advantage of an amnesty law for farmers, the Sultans applied for permanent residency through a Mexican lady who worked as a farm hand. She helped Moufid with the paperwork by claiming he had worked as a farmer for four years. The application went through and the Sultans obtained their green cards.

As incredible as the story sounds, Mustafa told InFocus that to the best of his recollection, this was the exact account he heard from Moufid Sultan. Halabi, who is not acquainted with Mustafa, corroborated the story, which he heard from Dr. Wafa Sultan herself but with fewer details. Dr. Wafa Sultan declined InFocus’ repeated requests to be interviewed or comment on the allegations. InFocus contacted the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to check on the veracity of the story but an official said that they would look into the allegations, which could take months to investigate.

Halabi alleges that Ilham Ahmad lived as illegal resident with her sister Wafa for years until she met an Arab Christian named Khalid Musa Shihadeh whom she ended up marrying (they were married in Nevada on 12/8/1991 and filed for divorce in 2002). It was during that time that Halabi got to know the Sultans well.

Halabi alleges that the Sultans lived in dire poverty. “Their rent was over $1,000 per month and Moufid was only making $800,” he said. Dr. Wafa Sultan was forced to rent out a room in her apartment and work at a pizza parlor in Norwalk, Calif. where a personal friend used to pick her up and drop her off daily. This same friend used to help the Sultans out with groceries and occasionally loaned them money just so they could make it through the month. “It was a serious struggle,” Halabi recalled. “The Sultans lived hand to mouth for years on end.” Further, Halabi said that at no point during the period he knew the family did Sultan ever discuss religion, politics or any topic relevant to her current activities. “She is a smart woman, articulate and forceful, but she never meddled in religion or politics to the extent she is doing now,” Halabi said.

Sultan is not condemned only by Muslims, non-Muslims have come out and strongly condemned her as well.

Sultan’s detractors include not only Muslims but members of the Jewish community as well. In an op-ed piece published in the Los Angeles Times (June 25, 2006) and titled “Islam’s Ann Coulter,” Rabbi Stephen Julius Stein at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, who attended a fundraiser for a local Jewish organization where Sultan was a speaker, wrote, “The more Sultan talked, the more evident it became that progress in the Muslim world was not her interest…. She never alluded to any healthy, peaceful Islamic alternative.”

The rabbi mentioned that Judea Pearl, father of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl, “was one of the few voices of restraint and nuance heard that afternoon. In response to Sultan’s assertion that the Koran contains only verses of evil and domination, Pearl said he understood the book also included ‘verses of peace’ that proponents of Islam uphold as the religion’s true intent. The Koran’s verses on war and brutality, Pearl contended, were ‘cultural baggage,’ as are similar verses in the Torah.”

He added, “Sultan’s over-the-top, indefensible remarks at the fundraiser, along with her failure to mention the important, continuing efforts of the Islamic Center (of Southern California), insulted all Muslims and Jews in L.A. and throughout the nation who are trying to bridge the cultural gap between the two groups. And that’s one reason why I eventually walked out of the event.”

The hope is that more and more people like Rabbi Stephen Stein will see Wafa Sultan for who she is: a hateful, opportunistic poseur. The atheist who calls Islam and Muslims “backward and primitive,” “incapable of reform,” the Qur’an as only filled with “evil,” yet can’t see the self-contradiction in her befuddling statements that growing up in secular Syria she “suffered from Islamic Shariah” and “I even don’t believe in Islam, but I am a Muslim.” Go figure.

UPDATE: In retrospect, our piece on Wafa Sultan seems not to have been harsh enough on her hate. In light of recent comments she has made while on her book tour at synagogues and churches, the poseur can properly be renamed, Wafa Stalin Sultan because the atheism that she believes in is propelled by the same genocidal and insane impulses that led another loon, Joseph Stalin.

Atlas Shrugs (read: Pamela Geller on Drugs) made our jobs easy by posting a video clip of Wafa Stalin Sultan going off the deep end. In the video, Sultan is addressing a group at a synagogue in NYC and says,

“I believe King Abdullah can change Islam overnight, but you need to put pressure on him to do it, and the same kind of pressure you put on Japan, you might need it” at that moment someone from the audience interjects and asks, “atom bombs?” Wafa Sultan replies, “Yes. At some point the West will need to do it.” At the end of her speech, she utters something quite strange for an atheist, “God bless you and God bless America.” More charlatanism?

During the question and answer session she divides moderate Muslims into three categories: 1.) a majority, 80% who are unaware of the real teachings of Islam, 2.) huge chunks of them are practicing Taqiyyah, 3.) a very small progressive group who have no effect. All talking points from the far right-wing wing.

The rest of the question and answer session is interesting as well, and pocked full of more and more lies from Wafa Stalin Sultan. Check it out for yourselves.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDeqlwhE2xc 300 250]

This disgusting little woman continues with her fascist fearmongering, she says, “Islam is infiltrating and you are doing nothing about it.” Someone from the audience then asks Sultan, “How would we stop it from infiltrating?” Sultan replies, “Get involved in politics, you have to know the kind of leaders you are choosing.” The man then says, “If we got involved in politics, what would our platform be, what would we say?” Sultan replies quoting Geert Wilders, “Islam is not religion!” The man interrupts and asks, “what would our platform be, what would A, B and C be?” Sultan replies, “the same you dealt with Nazism. The same way, the same exact way. The same way!” To this she receives a big applause from the all too captive audience…”you reversed the Japanese culture, the same, you might need to do it, you might need to do a heavy pressure, I cannot predict the kind of pressure, you understand it, I don’t have to say it.” Quite chilling the way she nonchalantly advocates nuking Muslims.

Sultan also says, “You know Geert Wilders has said if he becomes Prime Minister of Holland he will ban the Quran, I admire him for that.” The audiences glibly agrees with her with mutterings of “yes.” If you want to see how fascism takes hold then watch the video. My only question is how much are these synagogues and churches paying her for her speaking appearances?

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQaix-jM82M 300 250]