Archive for Charles Kurzman

Peter King Defends NYPD Monitoring, Plans More Hearings on Islam

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by loonwatch

This should come to no surprise that Peter King will defend the NYPD monitoring. He must be really proud.

Peter King Defends NYPD Monitoring, Plans More Hearings on Islam

by George Zornick

Appearing on WCBS in New York this morning, Representative Peter King offered a strong defense of NYPD’s spying on mosques and Muslim businesses and student groups in several states. Criticism of the recently revealed program has intensified in recent days, but King said he was proud of the police department.

“[Police Commissioner] Ray Kelly and the NYPD should get a medal for what they are doing,” he said. “This is good police work. If you are going after radical Muslims you don’t go to Ben’s Kosher Deli.”

This is perhaps not surprising coming from the man who held highly controversial Capitol Hill hearings into Muslim Americans last year, which many people saw as essentially profiling by public relations; his colleague, Representative Keith Ellison invoked the specter of Joe McCarthy in criticizing King’s efforts and said they served to “vilify” Muslims.

But, alas, King announced last week that he would hold more hearings into domestic radicalization among Muslim Americans in the coming year. “The series of radicalization hearings I convened last March has been very productive,” King said in a statement. “I will definitely continue the hearings in 2012.”

This is a good time to flag a recent study by Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina and member of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. His comprehensive examination of crime statistics found that terrorism-related incidents by Muslim Americans has declined markedly, and that Muslim-Americans represent “a minuscule threat to public safety.” He wrote:

The limited scale of Muslim-American terrorism in 2011 runs counter to the fears that many Americans shared in the days and months after 9/11, that domestic Muslim American terrorism would escalate. The spike in terrorism cases in 2009 renewed these concerns, as have repeated warnings from U.S. government officials about a possible surge in homegrown Islamic terrorism. The predicted surge has not materialized.

Repeated alerts by government officials maybe issued as a precaution, even when the underlying threat is uncertain. Officials may be concerned about how they would look if an attack did take place and subsequent investigations showed that officials had failed to warn the public. But a byproduct of these alerts is a sense of heightened tension that is out of proportion to the actual number of terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11.

If King calls Kurzman to testify at his hearings I’ll eat my hat, but it’s possible Democrats on the committee could arrange for his appearance. He would provide a substantive counterweight to King’s typically anecdote-driven hysteria. Last week the FBI foiled a plot in which a Moroccan man wanted to bomb the US Capitol—you can bet King will give that episode a prominent role at his hearings.

Prof. Risa A. Brooks’s Study Reveals the Obvious: “Muslim Homegrown Terrorism Not a Serious Threat”

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2011 by loonwatch
Prof. Risa A. BrooksProf. Risa A. Brooks

Terrorism is a threat to the safety and security of any and every country. And naturally, if the terrorist threat arises from within a country’s own people, it is even more concerning. Combating this threat must be a top priority for law enforcement. But, what is extremely important is that law enforcement have its eyes wide open as to the reality and all sources of such a threat.

In recent times, there has been an abundant focus on the threat of Muslim homegrown terrorism. Judging by the recent plots that have been in the news – underwear bomber, Times Square bomber, Ft. Hood – this would seem to be prudent. The question remains, however, do the facts support such a contention, namely, that Muslim homegrown terror is a serious threat to the safety and security of the United States.

Not exactly.

This is according to a study by Marquette University Assistant Professor Risa A. Brooks: “Muslim ‘Homegrown’ Terrorism in the United States: How Serious Is The Threat?” After analyzing the data, Professor Brooks concludes:

My conclusion should be generally reassuring to Americans: Muslim homegrown terrorism does not at present appear to constitute a serious threat to their welfare. Nor is there a significant analytical or evidentiary basis for anticipating that it will become one in the near future. It does not appear that Muslim Americans are increasingly motivated or capable of engaging in terrorist attacks against their fellow citizens and residents.

There is not enough space to go over the entire study here, but I will highlight some salient points:

Studies of Muslim communities provide little evidence of changes or trends that suggest they are becoming any less resilient against the threat of militancy in their midst.

For example, one major effort funded by the Department of Justice, in which researchers resided for periods of two to three months in four midsized Muslim American communities, found that several features of these communities rendered them intrinsically resistant to militancy, including, in particular, the strength of their communal organizations and social networks. In addition, there were efforts expressly geared toward preventing and exposing any signs of militancy, including both outreach programs and a variety of internal monitoring, or self-policing, practices.

Despite the concerns expressed by many analysts and public officials, the evidence does not support the conclusion that Americans face a growing threat of deadly attacks plotted by Muslims in the United States.

Seen in light of the threats posed by other segments of the population, the one posed by Muslim Americans appears neither especially novel, nor severe.

And the Professor puts the Muslim threat in persepctive:

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, there were nearly sixty rightwing terrorist plots largely of this nature from 1995 to 2005.

Another study found that from September 2001 through September 2010, there were eighty domestic plots involving primarily right-wing terrorists (source: Beutel, “Data on Post-9/11 Terrorism in the United States.” See also Strom et al., “Building on Clues,” p. 7.)

The article concludes by saying:

This article demonstrates that the threat posed by Muslim homegrown terrorism is not particularly serious, and it does not appear to be growing, especially in its most lethal incarnation—deadly attacks within the United States. Indeed, many analysts and public officials risk overstating the threat posed by Muslim American terrorism. Mischaracterizing that threat, in turn, is potentially costly and counterproductive for the security of the United States and the welfare of its citizens, for several reasons.

First, misjudging the homegrown threat could lead the country to overinvest or poorly spend on counterterrorism initiatives…Second, overstating or poorly characterizing the challenges posed by Muslim American terrorism risks undermining societal resilience in the face of terrorism…Finally, mischaracterizing and inflating the Muslim homegrown American threat could prove self-defeating to the country’s efforts to defend against it. Especially worrisome is the potential that, in an atmosphere in which the threat of homegrown terrorism appears serious and worsening, law enforcement will employ counterproductive methods that threaten the trust between its officials and Muslim communities—trust that underpins the demonstrated capacity and willingness of American Muslim communities to self-police and root out militants in their midst.

What the professor is saying is this: always focusing on the “Muslim terrorist monster,” which – as the evidence shows – is not as serious a threat as is being stated, actually does a disservice to the security of our country. This is a point that Loonwatch and a plethora of others have been making for quite some time now. Starting with our piece, “All Terrorists are Muslims except…” up until our present discussion of Charles Kurzman’s work, as well as frequent updates on the blown-out-of-all-proportion “Muslim terror” threat, we have highlighted the farcical nature of the national narrative regarding Muslims and terror.

The fact remains that as long as the “terror expert” and “Islamophobia” industries are intertwined and profiting off of the new fear, we will continue to see resources spent in that direction. We may see hundreds of books, reports, studies (such as the one by Prof. Risa A. Brooks), exposes, detailed research, and surveys empirically squashing the “anti-terror” propaganda machine, but until Americans get hip to the fact that they are being taken for a ride, the con-artists will continue to reap the benefits.

However, with that said, work by Charles Kurzman, Spencer Ackerman, Risa Brooks and others are important contributions to the new, yet increasing literature shedding light on the moribund nature of the exaggerated threats of “Islamic extremism” and “homegrown terrorism.”

President Obama: Judge, Jury and Executioner for Anwar al-Awlaki

Posted in Feature, Loon People, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2011 by loonwatch

The title may offend some, but here at Loonwatch we do not believe in any sacred cows. By now we have all heard reports about the killing of accused terrorist and mastermind behind the “underwear bomber” and “Fort Hood shootings,” US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. The fact that he was on a “hit list” that included other US citizens was reported back in January:

It was first reported in January of last year that the Obama administration had compiled a hit list of American citizens whom the President had ordered assassinated without any due process, and one of those Americans was Anwar al-Awlaki.

After several unsuccessful attempts by the US government Anwar al-Awlaki is finally dead. The indefatigable Glenn Greenwald spells out the tendentious nature of the hunt for Awlaki and all the resultant shadiness:

No effort was made to indict him for any crimes (despite a report last October that the Obama administration was “considering” indicting him).  Despite substantial doubt among Yemen experts about whether he even has any operational role in Al Qaeda, no evidence (as opposed to unverified government accusations) was presented of his guilt.  When Awlaki’s father sought a court order barring Obama from killing his son, the DOJ argued, among other things, that such decisions were “state secrets” and thus beyond the scrutiny of the courts.  He was simply ordered killed by the President: his judge, jury and executioner.  When Awlaki’s inclusion on President Obama’s hit list was confirmed, The New York Times noted that “it is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing.”

Awlaki once was a marginal figure, on the run in the mountains of Yemen, his operational role in AlQaeda was nill, now he has been transformed into a martyr with a little help from our brutal friend, the President of Yemen:

After several unsuccessful efforts to assassinate its own citizen, the U.S. succeeded today (and it was the U.S.).  It almost certainly was able to find and kill Awlaki with the help of its long-time close friend President Saleh, who took a little time off from murdering his own citizens to help the U.S. murder its.  The U.S. thus transformed someone who was, at best, a marginal figure into a martyr, and again showed its true face to the world.  The government and media search for The Next bin Laden has undoubtedly already commenced.

The implications for our civil liberties and checks and balances on the power of the Executive are clear:

What’s most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What’s most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government’s new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government.  Many will celebrate the strong, decisive, Tough President’s ability to eradicate the life of Anwar al-Awlaki — including many who just so righteously condemned those Republican audience members as so terribly barbaric and crass for cheering Governor Perry’s execution of scores of serial murderers and rapists — criminals who were at least given a trial and appeals and the other trappings of due process before being killed.

From an authoritarian perspective, that’s the genius of America’s political culture.  It not only finds way to obliterate the most basic individual liberties designed to safeguard citizens from consummate abuses of power (such as extinguishing the lives of citizens without due process).  It actually gets its citizens to stand up and clap and even celebrate the destruction of those safeguards.

Greenwald’s evaluation is dark because of the uncomfortable truth he relates: we are cheering the destruction of the very liberties that safeguard us from the abuses of power.

This is all being done under the guise of defending our “freedom” and “security.” In reality, as terror expert Professor Charles Kurzman points out, very few Muslims were interested in Awlaki’s message:

Given that Awlaki’s messages is sitting on the internet, easily accessible to millions of English speaking Muslims, it’s very interesting how few have taken him up on his demand that Muslims join the revolutionary movement.

It is time that US citizens stand up for their rights and say we will not allow the government to take the life of our citizens without due process. We are not going to buy the line that our civil liberties and freedoms must be bargained in the interest of “security,” especially from a threat that is overblown in the first place.

Islamic Terrorism Threat May Be Overblown, Expert Says

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2011 by loonwatch

By Yonat Shimron
c. 2011 Religion News Service

(RNS) After a car bomb detonated on Wall Street one minute past the noon lunch hour killing 38 people, federal investigators came up with a possible link to an overseas group.

Islamic terrorists?

Al Qaeda?

No, Italian anarchists.

The year was 1920, and in those days anarchists were the equivalent of today’s terrorists, waging acts of mass destruction against Western capitalism.

Charles Kurzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, thinks the wave of 20th century anarchist violence bears a resemblance to the Islamic terrorism of the 21st century in one sense: Neither resulted in a spiraling escalation of violence.

“In many ways,” said Kurzman, “Islamic terrorism is simply the latest form of transnational revolutionary violence to grab global attention.”

While mindful of the pain and suffering terrorism has caused, Kurzman has written a book challenging the dominant narrative that worldwide terrorism is out of control.

Put another way: This too shall pass.

In “The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists,” Kurzman argues that Islamic terrorism has accounted for a miniscule number of murders compared with violent death tolls from other causes.The bad news, said Kurzman, is that Islamic terrorists really are out to kill Americans. The good news is there are very few of them. In fact, of the less than 40 killed at the hands of terrorists over the past decade, none were tied directly to al Qaeda. These include the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks, in which 10 people were killed in the Washington, D.C., area, and the 2009 Fort Hood shootings in which U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan killed 14 people.

In the United States, for example, fewer than 40 people died at the hands of terrorists in the 10 years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That compares with about 140,000 other murders during the same time.

That count does not include the many failed terrorist bombings united by a common theme: Incompetence. Had these plots, such as the bungled 2010 Times Square car bomb, succeeded, the death toll would have been much higher.

The truth is, said Kurzman, the more terrorists kill, the less popular they become. That does not mean the world is safe from terrorism, and Kurzman cautions America may well see another horrific terrorist attack.

It does mean the U.S. government should examine the evidence and ratchet down the discourse, he said. That goes for the Muslim radicalization hearings held by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., as well as presidential candidate Herman Cain’s statements that he would require Muslim government appointees to take a loyalty oath.

“The narrative right now is that Islamic terrorism is either no threat at all, or it’s a pandemic throughout the community,” said Alejandro Beutel, government and policy analyst for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “Charles Kurzman’s very scholarly approach to the issue is something we want to move toward. There is a threat out there, but it’s a tiny minority of individuals.”

What, then, of the supposed sympathy for terrorist acts among Pakistanis or Palestinians, among whom Osama bin Laden has been a popular figure?A sociologist of revolutions, who has spent a large part of his academic career studying the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Kurzman is now active with the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. The center is a think tank consisting of experts from Duke University and the University of North Carolina. He was the principal author of a recent study that showed the number of U.S.-instigated terrorist incidents dropped by more than half in 2010.

Borrowing a term from author Tom Wolfe, who coined the phrase “radical chic,” Kurzman calls it “radical sheik,” playing on the Arab word for leader. It’s an expression of resistance against Western imperialism, a kind of giving the finger to power and authority, not an actual vote of confidence for terrorism.

Several years ago, Kurzman started taking Arabic courses so he could better read al Qaeda propaganda and digital bulletin board discussions by young Muslims.

He knows his argument that there are few Muslim terrorists is counter-intuitive, even provocative, but the Harvard and Berkeley trained professor is convinced it’s a necessary corrective.

“It may be a hard sell to ask people to calm down,” said Kurzman. “It doesn’t make as compelling a read as scary stories and imminent threats of hidden dangers.”

But there’s one thing he hates to see even more: A backlash against Muslims on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.

“I’m not saying terrorism is insignificant, or that I have no feelings for people who have lost loved ones due to terrorism,” he said. “But I think we should also look at the days when nothing happens. This is a story about something that did not occur.”

James Kirchick: What About all the “Christianist” Support for Killing Civilians?

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

In an August 2nd piece in the New York Daily News, James Kirchick a contributing editor for The New Republic wrote that ‘Islamist terror dwarfs Breivik’s brand because almost nobody supports Christianist violence.’ He implies in the piece that there is more support amongst Muslims for the targeted killing of civilians than groups in the West.

Kirchick is not the first, and probably will not be the last to express such a sentiment. To buttress his point Kirchick cites the familiar Pew Poll research and celebrations on Palestinian streets after the 9/11 attacks as evidence that there is a large wellspring for terrorism, while claiming that, excepting some mad bloggers, Breivik was universally condemned in the West.

It goes without saying that Kirchick’s analysis is simplistic for more than one reason.  Firstly, Breivik’s terrorism did not emerge out of nowhere, there is an anti-Muslim movement from which his thoughts were gleaned. Secondly, there are many in the anti-Muslim movement who share Breivik’s ideas about the “Muslim threat.” Thirdly, while many in the anti-Muslim movement are not willing to kill to reach their ends they do share in a radical and anti-Democratic path to “solve” the “Muslim problem.” Fourth, there is a significant group of individuals who do support aggressive and violent action to “save the West from Muslims” (see: SIOA is a Hate Group).

Fifth, the Islamist terror threat is overblown, (see: “All Terrorists are…”). Sixth, Kirchick conflates anti-Americanism and opposition to American foreign policy with  those who express a willingness to join “Islamist terror.” Seventh, he is unaware or ignores the fact there is a disproportionately large amount of support and acceptance for the killing of civilians amongst non-Muslims in the West, but lets keep it brief.

Support for Breivik’s Brand of Terror vs. Islamist Terror vs. Professional State Terrorism

Breivik’s brand of terror may not elicit as much support as ‘Islamist terror,’ but that is not to say there isn’t a pool of acceptance for the murder of civilians in the West. In fact, what would Kirchick’s response be to the fact that many more non-Muslims condone and justify the murder of civilians than Muslims?

58% of Catholics and Protestants believe the targeted military killing of civilians is sometimes justified (would that be considered “Christianist” support?), while 52% of Jews and 64% of Mormons believe it is sometimes justified. That dwarfs Muslims, 21% of whom say it is sometimes justified, while 78% say it is never justified.

What would Kirchick make of the evidence that Americans and Israelis are more likely to justify the murder of civilians than Muslims in almost every country?

Mormon-Americans 64%
Christian-Americans 58%
Jewish-Americans 52%
Israeli Jews 52%
Palestinians* 51%
No religion/Atheists/Agnostics (U.S.A.) 43%
Nigerians* 43%
Lebanese* 38%
Spanish Muslims 31%
Muslim-Americans 21%
German Muslims 17%
French Muslims 16%
British Muslims 16%
Egyptians* 15%
Indonesians* 13%
Jordanians* 12%
Pakistanis* 5%
Turks* 4%

*refers to Muslims only

It would seem that Professional Terrorism of the statecraft kind dwarfs the meager in comparison threat of “Islamist terror.”

Perhaps Kirchick wrote this piece before the publication of the Gallup Poll survey and was therefore the victim of horrible timing?

Homework for James Kirchick

Kirchick would do well to read a new book from Charles Kurzman, “The Missing Martyrs.”

“The Missing Martyrs” is an accessible scholarly work that addresses the overlooked and often ignored question of: if as we are told, there is a lot of support for terrorism amongst Muslims, why out of 1.5 billion Muslims are there so few Muslim terrorists? Why does fear of the bogeyman of “terrorism” continue to haunt us when the threat from so-called “jihadists” is just not that great?

Aaron Ross in his book review for MotherJones writes,

As it turns out, there just aren’t that many Muslims determined to kill us. Backed by a veritable army of fact, figures, and anecdotes, Kurzman makes a compelling case. He calculates, for example, that global Islamist terrorists have succeeded in recruiting fewer than 1 in 15,000 Muslims over the past 25 years, and fewer than 1 in 100,000 since 2001. And according to a top counterterrorism official, Al Qaeda originally planned to hit a West Coast target, too, on 9/11 but lacked the manpower to do so.

While Arabs and Muslims continue to repudiate Al Qaeda and its allies by toppling dictators and pushing forward towards Democracy, it is high time that US journalists, analysts and think tanks stop beating the dead horse of “Islamist terror” and catch up to the changes shaking the world.

Terrorism is not confined to non-state actors alone, if this is accepted than the narrative of greater support for terrorism amongst Muslims must not only be revised but should properly be dumped in the garbage bin of history.

Book Review: “The Missing Martyrs” by Charles Kurzman

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2011 by loonwatch

Having completed the book I was about to sit down and do a review, however I stumbled upon this one from MotherJones which reflects to some degree my thoughts on the book:

Why Aren’t There More Muslim Terrorists?

by Aaron Ross (MotherJones)

Immediately after last month’s terror attacks in Norway, Islamic extremism shot to the top of almost every list of suspected culprits. Among the soothsayers of creeping Shariah, there was never any doubt who was responsible. Others’ more rational, if hasty, assessments of Norway’s threat matrix pointed to the same (wrong) conclusion. For all their differences, both lines of reasoning shared a common assumption: that the sheer volume of Muslim terrorists out there made their involvement likely. Or as Stephen Colbert skewered the media’s rush to judgment: “If you’re pulling a news report completely out of your ass, it is safer to go with Muslim. That’s not prejudice. That’s probability.”

Charles Kurzman begs to differ. In his new book, The Missing Martyrs, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill sociology professor rejects that Muslims are especially prone to violent extremism. “If there are more than a billion Muslims in the world, many of whom supposedly hate the West and desire martyrdom,” he asks, “why don’t we see terrorist attacks everywhere, every day?”

In theory, we should. After all, there’s any number of ways a terrorist committed to murdering civilians could attack (and our gun lobby certainly isn’t making weapons harder to get a hold of). But we don’t. No Islamist terrorist attack besides 9/11 has killed more than 400 people; only a dozen have killed more than 200.

As it turns out, there just aren’t that many Muslims determined to kill us. Backed by a veritable army of fact, figures, and anecdotes, Kurzman makes a compelling case. He calculates, for example, that global Islamist terrorists have succeeded in recruiting fewer than 1 in 15,000 Muslims over the past 25 years, and fewer than 1 in 100,000 since 2001. And according to a top counterterrorism official, Al Qaeda originally planned to hit a West Coast target, too, on 9/11 but lacked the manpower to do so.

Even so, it sure seems there are a lot of Muslims committed to the West’s destruction. What else to make of the celebrations in Middle Eastern streets after 9/11? Or Pew Research Center opinion polls of multiple predominantly Muslim nations showing significant support for suicide bombings? But Kurzman warns against conflating anti-Americanism with actual willingness to engage in terrorism. In reality, he says, the young man sporting the bin Laden T-shirt in Islamabad is probably more like the American teenager in Berkeley with the Che poster on his dorm room wall than a future Al Qaeda jihadist.

Yet even if only 1 in 100,000 Muslims is a terrorist, that still leaves something like 15,000 terrorists from a global population of around 1.5 billion Muslims. Surely that’s enough to inflict serious damage? It could be—and Kurzman concedes that Islamist terrorism should be taken seriously—but in practice, several factors conspire against Al Qaeda and its allies’ aspirations of regularly striking Western targets with spectacular attacks.

For one thing, Islamist terrorists are bitterly divided between globalist groups like Al Qaeda and localists like the Taliban and Hamas. The Taliban, for instance, opposed (and still opposes) Al Qaeda’s international ambitions, so much so, Kurzman claims, that its foreign minister sent an envoy to warn American and UN officials in the summer of 2001 about a possible, albeit unspecified, attack. Meanwhile, rifts within the Muslim world about issues like democracy, liberalism, and the role of women have crippled support for global jihadists. Insistent that all streams of Islamic thought conform to their rigid doctrines (and willing to murder fellow Muslims to make the point), Al Qaeda and its affiliates have alienated millions of potential supporters, rendering themselves far easier targets for unsympathetic Middle Eastern regimes to go after.

After pressing his case with almost prosecutorial precision for the first two-thirds of the book, Kurzman’s analysis veers off the rails as he detours into an alternately banal and pedantic discussion of everything from America’s need to balance liberty with security to the lexicological origins of sociology. In a case of epically bad timing, he devotes the better part of six pages to praising recently discredited philanthropist Greg Mortenson as “a role [model] for American foreign policy.” Kurzman is unfortunate more than anything else here, but after arguing that American foreign policy doesn’t really affect Muslims’ views of the US, his sudden fawning over Mortenson’s in-vogue “hearts and minds” counterterrrorism strategy is somewhat befuddling.

Still, Kurzman’s hard-headed empirical approach to an issue so often locked in emotion-fueled back and forth makes The Missing Martyrs (or at least most of it) a must-read. Early on, he states his aim: “to reduce the panic by examining evidence about Islamist terrorism—the actual scale of it and the reasons it is not more widespread.” It’s an important goal—perhaps more so now than at any point in recent memory—and Kurzman has made a valuable contribution.

Aaron Ross is an editorial intern at Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. Follow him on Twitter and email tips and insights to aross [at] motherjones [dot] com.

Anti-Muslims and Politicians Find Common Cause with Iranian Terrorist Organization

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics, Loon Sites with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2011 by loonwatch

The surreal world of anti-Muslim Islamophobia knows no bounds. Islamophobes and the political class that panders to them have been caught with their pants down–figuratively for once. Since 9/11, these traffickers in hate have profited from the development of an industry of “terror expert professionals,” consisting of so-called: “ex-terrorists,” “ex-Muslims,” “scholars,” “think tank gurus,” pontificating on the incompatibility of Islam and Democracy, the danger of a growing Muslim populace in the West, the need to be suspicious of Muslims, Muslims’ susceptibility to terrorism, etc.

This narrative belies reality, Muslims who commit terrorism are an extreme minority, in fact what is most glaring in the face of this propaganda is what Charles Kurzman terms, The Missing Martyrs (book review to come soon). For all the hackneyed anti-Muslim diatribe and hypotheses of an omnipresent and ever dangerous “Islamic terrorism,” what is remarkable is the absence of “would-be martyrs,” let alone a threat level that is blown out of all proportion. The Arab Spring has, more than anything else, dealt a stinging, if not lethal blow to the harbingers of doom.

What is most irksome is that the real radicals, the ones who draw us into endless war, increase hostilities amongst communities, and hob nob with anti-freedom organizations are the same individuals projecting their worldview onto Muslims.

Where else (with the exception of perhaps a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel) could we witness a House Homeland Security Sub-committee Hearing being chaired by a Congressman who once was the most outspoken advocate of a terrorist organization. Rep. Peter King’s involvement with the IRA while they were targeting and murdering civilians is well known, and the hypocrisy and double standard of him chairing hearings on “American Muslim radicalization” is painfully evident.

This however is not the only, or even the most glaring example we can turn to of Congressmen or former high ranking government officials supporting or advocating on behalf of a terrorist organization.

Congressmen (including Democrats) and former government officials have met with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization that was designated a terrorist group in 1997 when the list was first compiled, and is STILL ON THE LIST–for now.

MEK has a very aggressive and organized lobby effort in Washington D.C. According to one House staffer, the MEK is “the most mobilized grassroots advocacy effort in the country — AIPAC included.” Their mission is to be delisted as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), push the USA to foment war with Iran, i.e. “regime change,” and have themselves installed into power. Sound familiar?

They attempt to pass themselves off as the sole legitimate opposition to the Iranian regime, going so far as to claim that they are the Green Movement or the government in exile. Now there is a quiet push to have them delisted from the FTO list:

Members of Congress led by Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) have introduced a resolutioncalling on the Secretary of State and the President to throw the support of the United States behind an exiled Iranian terrorist group seeking to overthrow the Iranian regime and install themselves in power. Calling the exiled organization “Iran’s main opposition,” Filner is urging the State Department to end the blacklisting of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) — a group listed by the State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The resolution currently has 83 cosponsors and is gaining significant ground.

Such a move would have disastrous repercussions for the USA, and would inevitably lead to blowback considering what the MEK is about:

[F]or the record, here are the facts about the MEK (you can find this and more at www.mekterror.com):

  • The State Department reports the MEK is a terrorist group that has murdered innocent Americans and maintains “the will and capacity” to commit terrorist attacks within the U.S. and beyond. [1]
  • The MEK claims to have renounced terrorism in 2001, but a 2004 FBI report states “the MEK is currently actively involved in planning and executing acts of terrorism.” [2]
  • RAND and Human Rights Watch have reported that the MEK is a cult that abuses its own members. [3] [4]
  • MEK has no popular support in Iran and has been denounced by the Green Movement, Iran’s peaceful democratic opposition movement.[5]

Iran’s Opposition Green Movement Rejects the MEK

  • The leaders of the Green Movement, Iran’s true popular opposition movement, have denounced the MEK and warned that the Iranian government seeks to discredit Iran’s opposition by associating it with the MEK:
  • “The Iranian Government is trying to connect those who truly love their country (the Greens) with the MEK to revive this hypocritical dead organization.” – Mehdi Karroubi, Green Movement leader. [6]
  • “The MEK can’t be part of the Green Movement. This bankrupt political group is now making some laughable claims, but the Green Movement and the MEK have a wall between them and all of us, including myself, Mr. Mousavi, Mr. Khatami, and Mr. Karroubi.” – Zahra Rahnavard, Women’s rights activist and wife of Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi[7]

Iraqi National Congress Redux?

  • The MEK claims it is “the main opposition in Iran,” yet similar to Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress that helped bring the United States into war with Iraq, the MEK is an exiled organization that has no popular support within Iran[8]
  • RAND reports that the MEK are “skilled manipulators of public opinion.” The MEK has a global support network with active lobbying and propaganda efforts in major Western capitals. [9]
  • Members of Congress have been deceived and misinformed into supporting this terrorist  organization:
  • In 2002, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen led efforts for the U.S. to support the group, prompting then-Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House International Affairs Committee, Henry Hyde and Tom Lantos, to send a Dear Colleague warning against supporting the MEK.  They cautioned that many Members had been “embarrassed when confronted with accurate information about the MEK.” [10]
  • In the current Congress, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) have each introduced resolutions calling for MEK to be removed from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

A Capacity and Will to Commit Terrorist Acts in the U.S. & Beyond

  • The Bush administration determined in 2007 that “MEK leadership and members across the world maintain the capacity and will to commit terrorist acts in Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, and beyond.” [11]
  • The Canadian and Australian governments have also designated the MEK as a terrorist organization. The Canadian government just reaffirmed its designation in December.[12] [13]
  • An EU court removed the MEK from its list of terrorist organizations, but only due to procedural reasons.  According to a spokesperson for the Council of the European Union, the EU court “did not enter into the question of defining or not the PMOI [MEK] as a terrorist organization.” [14]

Saddam Hussein’s Terrorist Militia

  • The MEK received all of its military assistance and most of its financial support from Saddam Hussein, including funds illegally siphoned from the UN Oil-for-Food Program, until 2003. [15]
  • The MEK helped execute Saddam’s bloody crackdown on Iraqi Shia and Kurds. Maryam Rajavi, the MEK’s permanent leader, instructed her followers to “take the Kurds under your tanks.” [16]

A Cult That Abuses Its Own Members

  • Human Rights Watch reports that MEK commits extensive human rights abuses against its own members at Camp Ashraf, including “torture that in two cases led to death.”[17]
  • RAND report commissioned by DOD found that the MEK is a cult that utilizes practices such as mandatory divorce, celibacy, authoritarian control, forced labor, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, confiscation of assets, emotional isolation, and the imprisonment of dissident members. [18]
  • RAND concluded that up to 70% of the MEK members at their Camp Ashraf headquarters were likely recruited through deception and are kept there against their will. [19]
  • The FBI reports that the MEK’s “NLA [National Liberation Army] fighters are separated from their children who are sent to Europe and brought up by the MEK’s Support Network. […] These children are then returned to the NLA to be used as fighters upon coming of age.  Interviews also revealed that some of these children were told that their parents would be harmed if the children did not cooperate with the MEK. ”[20]

A History of Anti-Americanism

  • One of the founding ideologies of the MEK is anti-Americanism—the MEK is responsible for murdering American businessmen, military personnel, and even a senior American diplomat[21]
  • The MEK strongly supported the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, vigorously opposed their eventual release, and chastised the government for not executing the hostages[22]

The MEK was Not “Added” to the FTO List as a Goodwill Gesture to Iran

Delisting MEK: Disastrous Repercussions

The MEK is opposed by the Iranian people due to its history of terrorist attacks against civilians in Iran and its close alliance with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.

  1. The greatest beneficiaries of delisting MEK would be Ahmadinejad and Iranian hardliners who seek to link the U.S. and the Green Movement to MEK.
  2. U.S. support for MEK would be used as a propaganda tool by hardliners to delegitimize and destroy Iran’s true democracy movement.
  3. American credibility among the Iranian people would be ruined if the U.S. supported this group.

This should all gives us pause. Do the elected and former government officials who support delisting the MEK know the troubling anti-American, terrorist history of the MEK? If they do, then how in good conscious can they actively push to delist them?

The scenario that keeps coming to mind is cover for war or a possible Israeli attack against Iran. A possibility that seems ever more likely as MJ Rosenburg wrote recently:

A longtime CIA officer who spent 21 years in the Middle East is predicting that Israel will bomb Iran in the fall, dragging the United States into another major war and endangering US military and civilian personnel (and other interests) throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Earlier this week, Robert Baer appeared on the provocative KPFK Los Angeles show Background Briefing, hosted by Ian Masters. It was there that he predicted that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is likely to ignite a war with Iran in the very near future.

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Robert Spencer’s link to the MEK. Spencer frequently spews insults at Reza Aslan for being a board member of the NIAC. In his “expert” opinion true Iranian Freedom organizations oppose the NIAC, and view them as tools of the Mullahs.

A contemptuous claim if it wasn’t so laughable, considering that the NIAC has frequently spoken out against the Iranian regime and has thrown its weight completely behind the Green Movement.

Spencer comes to this conclusion based on the opinion of his friends in a group called the PDMI or Pro-Democracy Movement of Iran. No one really knows how many people are in the PDMI, all they have is a blogspot website which Spencer links. The website is quite strange, it has an image of former Iranian dictator Reza Shah, and also articles supporting the MEK. Is it another MEK front group? One recent article from July 15 is titled “Iran, Mujahedin-e Khalq, and the US State Department,” by Hamid Yazdanpanah, who writes:

[W]hat has consistently been a go-to practice in appeasing Tehran? The harassment and terrorist listing of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK)…the terrorist designation of the MEK arose purely out of appeasement of the Iranian regime…The terrorist designation of the MEK has not only failed to appease the Iranian regime, it has resulted in severe harm and restriction for an organization devoted to the liberation of the Iranian people. The State Department has a moral and legal obligation to undo this grave error and delist the MEK.

It looks as if on top of all the conspiracies, hatred, and anti-Freedom ideas that Spencer pushes he is also linked to the terrorist MEK. Human Events, another website Spencer writes for contains articles supporting the MEK, such as this one by James Zumwalt. Can we now begin every piece on Spencer with, “The MEK linked Robert Spencer…”?

Sadly, this chimera world in which the Islamophobes and their allies turn everything upside down or sweep it under the rug hoping no one will find the truth is real. We are confronted with an organized mechanism of propaganda seeking to profit from endless war, occupation, hatred, hypocrisy and double standards. We are in an age in which the Supreme Court has upheld a “criminal prohibition on advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization,” and yet our Congressmen, and their lobbyist friends can get away with doing exactly that when it suits their purposes!

*Update: There are more Islamophobes involved in the cynical nexus of bringing legitimacy to the MEK. One such longtime advocate has been neo-Conservative Daniel Pipes, who rather seems like a mild Islamophobe these days. For his support of the MEK see, Daniel Pipes: My Writings on the Mujahedeen-e Khalq. (hat tip: NassirH)