Archive for Double Standards

Gun Parts, Ammo Found Hidden Inside Stuffed Animals at Rhode Island Airport, Suspects are Free to Go

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2012 by loonwatch

TSA via AP

This photo provided by the Transportation Security Administration shows pistol parts hidden in a stuffed animal found at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I.

Can you imagine if a Muslim or “Muslim looking” person had stuffed animals with gun parts and ammo? You can bet he would be on a one way ticket to Guantanomo! (via. What If They Were Muslim?)

Gun parts, ammo found hidden inside stuffed animals at Rhode Island airport

By NBC News, msnbc.com staff and news services
(msnbc.com)

WARWICK, R.I. — Gun components and ammunition were found hidden inside three stuffed animals carried by a passenger at Rhode Island’s T.F. Green Airport on Tuesday, federal transportation officials said.

Authorities later allowed the 4-year-old boy and his father to continue their travel to Detroit after concluding the man didn’t pose a risk, authorities said. He told police that he didn’t know the parts were inside the stuffed toys — which included a Mickey Mouse and a teddy bear.

“It appears to be the result of a domestic dispute,” Rhode Island Airport Police Chief Leo Messier said. “It was jointly investigated by the RI Airport Police, FBI and the RI State Police and it was determined that there was no threat at any time to air safety.”

NBC News station WHDH reported that a magazine loaded with two .40-caliber rounds was discovered inside a bunny and a firing pin was inside Mickey Mouse.

‘Artfully concealed’
Officials with airport police and the Transportation Security Administration declined to comment further, saying the incident remained under investigation.

A TSA officer noticed the disassembled gun components “artfully concealed” inside three stuffed animals. The stuffed animals were inside the child’s carry-on bag, which had been put through an X-ray machine as part of normal security screening.

The parts could have been assembled to make a full firearm, authorities said.

The items were confiscated. Police have not released the man’s name.

Passengers at T.F. Green told WHDH they were thankful the system worked.

“I know a lot of people don’t like the screening procedure, but I’m thankful that they really screen people and we feel much safer because of it,” one woman told the station.

NBC News station WHDH and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Guenter Grass Being Labeled an Anti-Semite for Critical Poem of Israel

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2012 by loonwatch

The New York Times like many newspapers will not print Guenter Grass’ anti-War poem, I wonder if the hatemongers are going to compare this to the Danish cartoons that were supposedly “silenced” in attacks on “free speech” as they claimed at the time?

Quite a few commenters are calling Grass an “anti-Semite” and making hay out of his being drafted into the Waffen-SS in the final two months of World War II which dented his moral authority in Germany. Grass, for his part claims to have never fired a single bullet.

An opinion article in Haaretz has termed the poem “pathetic” but exonerates Grass from being an “anti-Semite,” which if anyone has read his works knows he is not.

Perhaps Guenter Grass is not the most astute individual when it comes to commenting on the geo-political intrigues playing out with regards to the war rhetoric between Israel and Iran, but it is a mistake to censor his work, not to take his points about double standards and hypocrisy seriously and to label him an anti-Semite.

Laureate accuses Israel of plotting to ‘wipe out’ Iran Israel to build 1,121 settler homes – Hebron squatters evicted

BERLIN: German Nobel literature laureate Gunter Grass touched off a firestorm of protest yesterday with a poem accusing Israel of plotting Iran’s annihilation and threatening world peace. The 84-year-old longtime leftist activist wrote in “What must be said” that he worried Israel “could wipe out the Iranian people” with a “first strike” due to the threat it sees in Tehran’s disputed nuclear program. “Why do I only say now, aged and with my last ink: the atomic power Israel is endangering the already fragile world peace?” reads the poem, which appeared in the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung yesterday.

Grass answers that Nazi Germany’s “incomparable” crimes against Jews and his own fear of accusations of anti-Semitism kept him from openly criticising Israel. But now, “tomorrow could already be too late” and Germany could become a “supplier to a crime”, Grass wrote, referring to a deal sealed last month for Berlin to sell Israel a sixth nuclear-capable Dolphin-class submarine. “I admit: I will be silent no longer, because I am sick of the hypocrisy of the West”.

Israel slammed the poem, which also sparked a fevered debate on German-language news and culture websites. “What must be said is that it belongs to European tradition to accuse the Jews of ritual murder before the Passover celebration,” said Emmanuel Nahshon, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli embassy in Berlin, in a statement. “It used to be Christian children whose blood the Jews used to make matza (unleavened bread), today it is the Iranian people that the Jewish state purportedly wants to wipe out.” Nahshon said Israel was “the only state in the world whose right to exist is publicly doubted”. “We want to live in peace with our neighbours in the region. And we are not prepared to assume the role that Gunter Grass assigns us in the German people’s process of coming to terms with its history.”

The Israel director of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Efraim Zuroff, accused Grass of making himself the spokesman “for anti-Semitic Germans sick of the Holocaust and seeking to rid themselves of any responsibility for its aftermath”. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle released a statement without mentioning Grass by name in which he warned against “making light of the dangers of the Iranian nuclear program”. “Iran obtaining nuclear weapons is not only a threat to Israel and the entire region but also a danger for the world’s security architecture,” he said, underlining Germany’s efforts to prevent Iran from having nuclear arms.

Grass, author of the renowned anti-war novel “The Tin Drum”, shocked his admirers in 2006 when he admitted, six decades after World War II, that he had been a member of the notorious Waffen SS – a revelation that severely undermined his until then substantial moral authority in Germany. Grass said he long kept silent on Israel’s own nuclear program because his country committed “crimes that are without comparison”, but he has come to see that silence as a “burdensome lie and a coercion” whose disregard carries a punishment – “the verdict ‘anti-Semitism’ is commonly used”.

Henryk M Broder, a prominent German Jewish columnist, accused Grass in light of his poem of having become “the prototype of the educated anti-Semite”. “Grass has always had a problem with Jews but he has never articulated it as clearly as with this ‘poem’,” Broder wrote in the daily Die Welt. The country’s most influential media commentators were unanimous in their criticism, saying Grass had offered up a one-sided portrayal of Israel as the aggressor and Iran as a victim of a mortal threat. “Never before in the history of the republic has a prominent intellectual waged a battle against Israel in such a cliched way,” wrote the website of news weekly Der Spiegel. Only Wolfgang Gehrcke of the far-left Die Linke party defended Grass in public, saying he had the “courage” to express “what is widely kept silent”.

Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East, has said it is keeping all options open for responding to Iran’s program which it says is aimed at securing atomic weapons, posing an existential threat to the Jewish state. Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad frequently questions Israel’s right to exist, has consistently denied that its sensitive nuclear work is aimed at making weapons.

Separately, Israel’s government yesterday published tenders for 1,121 new settler homes as it faced settler anger over its decision to evict Israeli families from a disputed home in the Palestinian city of Hebron. Documents published on the Israeli housing ministry website showed the government had issued tenders for 872 new homes in Har Homa, a contentious settlement neighbourhood in the southern part of Arab east Jerusalem. Another 180 are to be built in Givat Zeev, just to the north of Jerusalem in the West Bank, while the remaining 69 are to be built in Katzrin in the occupied Golan Heights, the documents showed. Read rest here

The full text of the poem:

Why I am silent, silent for too much time,
how much is clear and we made it
in war games, where, as survivors,
we are just the footnotes

That is the claimed right to the formal preventive aggression
which could erase the Iranian people
dominated by a bouncer and moved to an organized jubilation,
because in the area of his competence there is
the construction of the atomic bomb

And then why do I avoid myself
to call the other country with its name,
where since years – even if secretly covered –
there is an increasing nuclear power,
without control, because unreachable
by every inspection?

I feel the everybody silence on this state of affairs,
which my silence is slave to,
as an oppressive lie and an inhibition that presents punishment
we don’t pay attention to;
the verdict “anti-Semitism” is common

Now, since my country,
from time to time touched by unique and exclusive crimes,
obliged to justify itself,
again for pure business aims – even if
with fast tongue we call it “reparation” –
should deliver another submarine to Israel,
with the specialty of addressing
annihilating warheads where the
existence of one atomic bomb is not proved
but it wants evidence as a scarecrow,
I say what must be said

Why did I stay silent until now?
Because the thought about my origin,
burdened by an unclearing stain,
had avoiding to wait this fact
like a truth declared by the State of Israel
that I want to be connected to

Why did I say it only now,
old and with the last ink:
the nuclear power of Israel
threat the world peace?
Because it must be said
what tomorrow will be too late;
Because – as Germans and with
enough faults on the back –
we might also become deliverers of a predictable
crime, and no excuse would erase our complicity

And I admit: I won’t be silent
because I had enough of the Western hypocrisy;
Because I wish that many will want
to get rid of the silence,
exhorting the cause of a recognizable
risk to the abdication, asking that a free and permanent control
of the Israel atomic power
and the Iran nuclear bases
will be made by both the governments
with an international supervision

Only in this way, Israelis, Palestinians, and everybody,
all people living hostile face to face in that
country occupied by the craziness,
will have a way out,
so us too

(The original German):

Warum schweige ich, verschweige zu lange,
was offensichtlich ist und in Planspielen
geübt wurde, an deren Ende als Überlebende
wir allenfalls Fußnoten sind.

Es ist das behauptete Recht auf den Erstschlag,
der das von einem Maulhelden unterjochte
und zum organisierten Jubel gelenkte
iranische Volk auslöschen könnte,
weil in dessen Machtbereich der Bau
einer Atombombe vermutet wird.

Doch warum untersage ich mir,
jenes andere Land beim Namen zu nennen,
in dem seit Jahren – wenn auch geheimgehalten –
ein wachsend nukleares Potential verfügbar
aber außer Kontrolle, weil keiner Prüfung
zugänglich ist?

Das allgemeine Verschweigen dieses Tatbestandes,
dem sich mein Schweigen untergeordnet hat,
empfinde ich als belastende Lüge
und Zwang, der Strafe in Aussicht stellt,
sobald er mißachtet wird;
das Verdikt ‘Antisemitismus’ ist geläufig.

Jetzt aber, weil aus meinem Land,
das von ureigenen Verbrechen,
die ohne Vergleich sind,
Mal um Mal eingeholt und zur Rede gestellt wird,
wiederum und rein geschäftsmäßig, wenn auch
mit flinker Lippe als Wiedergutmachung deklariert,
ein weiteres U-Boot nach Israel
geliefert werden soll, dessen Spezialität
darin besteht, allesvernichtende Sprengköpfe
dorthin lenken zu können, wo die Existenz
einer einzigen Atombombe unbewiesen ist,
doch als Befürchtung von Beweiskraft sein will,
sage ich, was gesagt werden muß.

Warum aber schwieg ich bislang?
Weil ich meinte, meine Herkunft,
die von nie zu tilgendem Makel behaftet ist,
verbiete, diese Tatsache als ausgesprochene Wahrheit
dem Land Israel, dem ich verbunden bin
und bleiben will, zuzumuten.

Warum sage ich jetzt erst,
gealtert und mit letzter Tinte:
Die Atommacht Israel gefährdet
den ohnehin brüchigen Weltfrieden?

Weil gesagt werden muß,
was schon morgen zu spät sein könnte;
auch weil wir – als Deutsche belastet genug –
Zulieferer eines Verbrechens werden könnten,
das voraussehbar ist, weshalb unsere Mitschuld
durch keine der üblichen Ausreden
zu tilgen wäre.

Und zugegeben: ich schweige nicht mehr,
weil ich der Heuchelei des Westens
überdrüssig bin; zudem ist zu hoffen,
es mögen sich viele vom Schweigen befreien,
den Verursacher der erkennbaren Gefahr
zum Verzicht auf Gewalt auffordern und
gleichfalls darauf bestehen,
daß eine unbehinderte und permanente Kontrolle
des israelischen atomaren Potentials
und der iranischen Atomanlagen
durch eine internationale Instanz
von den Regierungen beider Länder zugelassen wird.

Nur so ist allen, den Israelis und Palästinensern,
mehr noch, allen Menschen, die in dieser
vom Wahn okkupierten Region
dicht bei dicht verfeindet leben
und letztlich auch uns zu helfen.

Sheila Musaji: The MEK and Terrorism Double Standards

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on March 14, 2012 by loonwatch

We have been covering the issue of high-powered support for the MEK terrorist organization for quite some time now, see: Anti-Muslims and Politicians Find Common Cause with Iranian Terrorist Organization.

The MEK and terrorism double standards

by Sheila Musaji (The American Muslim)

The Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, known as the M.E.K has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Dept. for 15 years.

The M.E.K. are terrorists.  They were driven out of Iran and given a home at a place called Camp Ashraf in Iraq by Saddam Hussein, who they supported.  Saddam Hussein used the M.E.K. to carry out terrorist acts in Iran.  Now that Hussein is gone, the Iraqi’s want the M.E.K. out of Iraq as they also see it as a dangerous group.  They are not former terrorists, but current terrorists.

Richard Engel & Robert Windrem of NBC News reported just this month that

Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran’s leaders.

The group, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, has long been designated as a terrorist group by the United States, accused of killing American servicemen and contractors in the 1970s and supporting the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran before breaking with the Iranian mullahs in 1980.

The attacks, which have killed five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007 and may have destroyed a missile research and development site, have been carried out in dramatic fashion, with motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims’ cars.

… Two senior U.S. officials confirmed for NBC News the MEK’s role in the assassinations, with one senior official saying, “All your inclinations are correct.” A third official would not confirm or deny the relationship, saying only, “It hasn’t been clearly confirmed yet.”  All the officials denied any U.S. involvement in the assassinations.

NIAC reports that

A 2004 FBI report on the Mujahaddin-e-Khalq (MEK) was revealed in June 2011 which states that the MEK “is actively involved in planning and executing acts of terrorism,” despite the organization’s alleged renunciation of terror in 2001.

…  Some of the highlights (all direct quotes):
•“Los Angeles investigation has determined that the MEK is currently actively involved in planning and executing acts of terrorism.” [pg 4]
•“This organization routinely lobbies unwitting members of Congress under the pretext of human rights issues in Iran.“ [pg 5]
•“NLA fighters are separated from their children who are sent to Europe and brought up by the MEK’s Support Network.  Investigation has learned that these children are then further indoctrinated in to the organization and are often used for various social benefit fraud such as was revealed during joint FBI/Cologne Police Department investigation in Germany.  In one case one of the children was chained to a bed and only after her escape and report to local police was the fraud scheme discovered.  Interviews of some of these MEK children found children fully indoctrinated into a “cult-like” organization with no regard to the welfare of the child.  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.  Open source reporting from defecting MEK members has revealed that MEK fighters are often told the same story about their children should they take issue with MEK leadership and desire to leave the organization.” [pgs 26-27]
•“The MEK, in addition to being a foreign terrorist organization, is a “cult”…MEK members and supporters often indicate that Rajavi makes his decision based on input from God.” [pg 26]
•“MEK members/supporters/fighters have been through years of ideological training and for lack of better word ‘brain washing’.” [pg 31]
•“This (Foreign Terrorist Organization) designation was made due to the MEK’s long and violent history of past terrorist activity directed against U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Iran during the 1970s, the assassinations of multiple Americans, the MEK’s ongoing acts of terrorism in Iran, and the MEK’s past terrorist activities in Western Countries to include hostage taking and attacks on Iranian diplomatic establishments and officials.  This designation was also made to send the message that the U.S. had taken the high road on terrorism and would designate any foreign group engaged in terrorist activity abroad to include not only groups that target U.S. interests, but terrorists groups that target any sovereign nation.” [pg 24]
•“Additionally, the MEK continues to practice misinformation operations in the U.S. and Europe.  MEK lobbyist routinely hold press conferences and pass information regarding the current Iranian government that is inaccurate and is designed to influence Western Media and governments.” [pg 18]
•“Interviewers should keep in mind that membership in the MEK is a significant step in the MEK hierarchy or leadership cadre.  It is safe to say that only the high echelon leadership will most admit to being MEK members.” [pg 29]
•“ Another tactic that the MEK has been employing is disinformation regarding former MEK members and witnesses who have come forward to testify and speak against the MEK. The MEK will brand these former members and witnesses as Iranian government agents. This information is often picked up by Western Intelligence agencies as factual information and is disseminated as intelligence. This further frustrates criminal investigators as they attempt to interview these former MEK members and potentially use them for testimony.” Pg 18-9

That being the case, it is difficult to understand why it is that elected representatives, and government officials of the U.S. government could support and/or work with, and accept money from this organization freely and openly.  It is difficult to understand in the case of support for the M.E.K. as it is difficult to understand in the case of Rep. Peter King’s open support and fundraising for the IRA.  The only justification for such an indefensible position must be that these folks believe that the enemy of my enemy can’t be a terrorist.

Glenn Greenwald has written a very detailed article on the hypocrisy of this support for a terrorist organization.  Here are a few key points from his article:

In June, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 6-3 ruling in the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law. In that case, the Court upheld the Obama DOJ’s very broad interpretation of the statute that criminalizes the providing of “material support” to groups formally designated by the State Department as Terrorist organizations. The five-judge conservative bloc (along with Justice Stevens) held that pure political speech could be permissibly criminalized as “material support for Terrorism” consistent with the First Amendment if the “advocacy [is] performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization” (emphasis added). In other words, pure political advocacy in support of a designated Terrorist group could be prosecuted as a felony — punishable with 15 years in prison — if the advocacy is coordinated with that group.

… One can reasonably debate whether MEK actually belongs on the list of Terrorist organizations (the same is true for several other groups on that list). But as a criminal matter, that debate is irrelevant. The law criminalizes the providing of material support to any group on that list, and it is not a defense to argue after one gets caught that the group should be removed.

…  What is particularly repellent about all of this is not the supreme hypocrisy and self-interested provincialism of Fran Townsend. That’s all just par for the course. What’s infuriating is that there are large numbers of people — almost always Muslims — who have been prosecuted and are now in prison for providing “material support” to Terrorist groups for doing far less than Fran Townsend and her fellow cast of bipartisan ex-officials have done with and on behalf of MEK. In fact, the U.S. Government has been (under the administration in which Townsend worked) and still is (under the administration Rendell supports) continuously prosecuting Muslims for providing “material support” for Terrorist groups based on their pure speech, all while Fran Townsend, Ed Rendell and company have said nothing or, worse, supported the legal interpretations that justified these prosecutions.

The last time I wrote about these individuals’ material support for MEK, I highlighted just a few of those cases:

•A Staten Island satellite TV salesman in 2009 was sentenced to five years in federal prison merely for including a Hezbollah TV channel as part of the satellite package he sold to customers;
•a Massachusetts resident, Tarek Mehanna, is being prosecuted now ”for posting pro-jihadist material on the internet”;
•a 24-year-old Pakistani legal resident living in Virginia, Jubair Ahmad, was indicted last September for uploading a 5-minute video to YouTube that was highly critical of U.S. actions in the Muslim world, an allegedly criminal act simply because prosecutors claim he discussed the video in advance with the son of a leader of a designated Terrorist organization (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba);
•a Saudi Arabian graduate student, Sami Omar al-Hussayen, was prosecuted simply for maintaining a website with links “to groups that praised suicide bombings in Chechnya and in Israel” and “jihadist” sites that solicited donations for extremist groups (he was ultimately acquitted); and,
• last July, a 22-year-old former Penn State student and son of an instructor at the school, Emerson Winfield Begolly, was indicted for — in the FBI’s words — “repeatedly using the Internet to promote violent jihad against Americans” by posting comments on a “jihadist” Internet forum including “a comment online that praised the shootings” at a Marine Corps base, action which former Obama lawyer Marty Lederman said ”does not at first glance appear to be different from the sort of advocacy of unlawful conduct that is entitled to substantial First Amendment protection.”

Yet we have the most well-connected national security and military officials in Washington doing far more than all of that right out in the open — they’re receiving large payments from a Terrorist group, meeting with its leaders, attending their meetings, and then advocating for them in very public forums; Howard Dean, after getting paid by the group, actually called for MEK’s leader to be recognized as the legitimate President of Iran – and so far none have been prosecuted or even indicted

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has previously expressed concern about this support for a terrorist organization. They noted in July of 2011 that

Congressional supporters of the drive to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the U.S. terrorism list defended the organization’s use of violence while dismissing Iran’s nonviolent Green Movement at a hearing on Capitol Hill last week. The hearing was also remarkable in that senior leaders of the designated foreign terrorist organization were caught counseling some of the witnesses before the hearing. It is illegal to coordinate with a foreign terrorist organization to advocate on behalf of the terrorist group.

… Despite the terrorist listing, Ali Safavi, a senior member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, was at the hearing, where he openly counseled witnesses before and during their testimony. The NCRI is the MEK’s political wing and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
The hearing’s witnesses included three former U.S. officials who have actively participated in pro-MEK conferences, including former Bush Administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

All three witnesses who previously appeared at MEK conferences unanimously called for the MEK to be removed from the terror list, though none were asked to disclose whether they had received money to support the organization, as have other officials who have advocated for delisting the group.

The NY Times reports today that this state of affairs may be changing and that such individuals may now face scrutiny.  According to the article’s author Scott Shane Edward G. Rendell, the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania and an outspoken supporter of the M.E.K., said on Monday that William Morris Endeavor, which handles his speaking engagements, received a subpoena last week seeking information on fees he had received for M.E.K.-related speeches.

Shane had reported back in November of 2011 on a long list of officials.  At that time, he wrote

The extraordinary lobbying effort to reverse the terrorist designation of the group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, or People’s Mujahedeen, has won the support of two former C.I.A. directors, R. James Woolsey and Porter J. Goss; a former F.B.I. director, Louis J. Freeh; a former attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey; President George W. Bush’s first homeland security chief, Tom Ridge; President Obama’s first national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones; big-name Republicans like the former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Democrats like the former Vermont governor Howard Dean; and even the former top counterterrorism official of the State Department, Dell L. Dailey, who argued unsuccessfully for ending the terrorist label while in office.
The American advocates have been well paid, hired through their speaking agencies and collecting fees of $10,000 to $50,000 for speeches on behalf of the Iranian group. Some have been flown to Paris, Berlin and Brussels for appearances.

… The M.E.K. advocacy campaign has included full-page newspaper advertisements identifying the group as “Iran’s Main Opposition” — an absurd distortion in the view of most Iran specialists; leaders of Iran’s broad opposition, known as the Green Movement, have denounced the group. The M.E.K. has hired high-priced lobbyists like the Washington firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Its lawyers in Europe won a long fight to persuade the European Union to drop its own listing of the M.E.K. as a terrorist group in 2009.

The group’s spending, certainly in the millions of dollars, has inevitably raised questions about funding sources.

Ali Safavi, who runs a pro-M.E.K. group in Washington called Near East Policy Research, says the money comes from wealthy Iranian expatriates in the United States and Europe. Because “material support” to a designated terrorist group is a crime, advocates insist that the money goes only to sympathizers and not to the M.E.K. itself.

Congress has taken note of the campaign. A House resolution for dropping the terrorist listing has 97 co-sponsors, including the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan. At a hearing this month, senators pressed the defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta, about the threat to Camp Ashraf

Last month, Congressman Dana Robrahacher spoke in favor of removing the terrorist designation from the M.E.K.

Rep. Ted Poe (R – TX) has praised the M.E.K. as the ticket to regime change in Iran.

John Bolton spoke at an event in honor of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK)

Two years ago, Rachel Slajda reported that Rudy Giuliani, Tom Bolton, and Tom Ridge had gone to Paris and spoke at an event in support of the M.E.K.

Jason Ditz has reported that The MeK’s history of terrorist attacks includes repeated attacks on US businessmen and military personnel in pre-revolution Iran, and the group was one of the founding members of the “Foreign Terrorist Organization” list when it was created by the US State Department in 1997. The group is typified by its harsh reaction to any criticism, and was reported by Human Rights Watch to have run a private system of detention centers inside Iraq to detain (and in many cases torture) dissident members.

In addition to all of this open support for a terrorist group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) ran this ad on American television calling for its removal from the State Department’s list of terrorist organization. Former Gov. Ed Rendell, Tom Ridge, and former Mayor Rudy Guiliani are mong the people appearing in the ad.  Can anyone imagine any other designated terrorist organization being allowed to purchase television advertising?

During the uproar over the Park51/Cordoba House community center last year, Rep. Peter King called for a “full investigation” of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf because Rauf refused to publicly call Hamas a “terrorist organization.”  Imam Rauf hadn’t expressed suport for a terrorist organization, he hadn’t lobbied to get it removed from a terrorist list, he hadn’t accepted money from them, or attended or spoken at their events – but simply because he hadn’t publicly called them a “terrorist organization”, Rep. King thinks he deserves a “full investigation”.

I think it is time to demand the same standards of our elected officials and representatives.

Washington’s High-Powered Terrorist Supporters

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by loonwatch

Glenn Greenwald, the first nomination for induction in the Anti-Loon Hall of Fame

Greenwald is like the canary in the coal mine, warning about the grave threat to our civil liberties and the abuse of the rule of law at the hand of the political elite:

Washington’s high-powered terrorist supporters

by Glenn Greenwald (Salon.com)

We now have an extraordinary situation that reveals the impunity with which political elites commit the most egregious crimes, as well as the special privileges to which they explicitly believe they — and they alone — are entitled. That a large bipartisan cast of Washington officials got caught being paid substantial sums of money by an Iranian dissident group that is legally designated by the U.S. Government as a Terrorist organization, and then meeting with and advocating on behalf of that Terrorist group, is very significant for several reasons. New developments over the last week make it all the more telling. Just behold the truly amazing set of facts that have arisen:

In June, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 6-3 ruling in the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law. In that case, the Court upheld the Obama DOJ’s very broad interpretation of the statute that criminalizes the providing of “material support” to groups formally designated by the State Department as Terrorist organizations. The five-judge conservative bloc (along with Justice Stevens) held that pure political speech could be permissibly criminalized as “material support for Terrorism” consistent with the First Amendment if the “advocacy [is] performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization” (emphasis added). In other words, pure political advocacy in support of a designated Terrorist group could be prosecuted as a felony — punishable with 15 years in prison — if the advocacy is coordinated with that group.

This ruling was one of the most severe erosions of free speech rights in decades because, as Justice Breyer (joined by Ginsberg and Sotomayor) pointed out in dissent, “all the activities” at issue, which the DOJ’s interpretation would criminalize, “involve the communication and advocacy of political ideas and lawful means of achieving political ends.” The dissent added that the DOJ’s broad interpretation of the statute “gravely and without adequate justification injure[s] interests of the kind the First Amendment protects.” As Georgetown Law Professor David Cole, who represented the plaintiffs, explained, this was literally “the first time ever” that “the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment permits the criminalization of pure speech advocating lawful, nonviolent activity.” Thus, “the court rule[d] that speech advocating only lawful, nonviolent activity can be made a crime, and that any coordination with a blacklisted group can land a citizen in prison for 15 years.” Then-Solicitor-General Elena Kagan argued the winning Obama DOJ position before the Court.

Whatever one’s views are on this ruling, it is now binding law. To advocate on behalf of a designated Terrorist group constitutes the felony of “providing material support” if that advocacy is coordinated with the group.

Like most assaults on the Constitution in the name of Terrorism during the Obama presidency, criticism of that Court decision was rare in establishment circles (that’s because Republicans consistently support such assaults while Democrats are reluctant to criticize them under Obama). On the day the Humanitarian Law decision was released, CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer interviewed Fran Townsend, George Bush’s Homeland Security Advisor and now-CNN analyst, and Townsend hailed the decision as “a tremendous win for not only the United States but for the current administration.” Here’s how that discussion went:

BLITZER: There is a related case involved that the Supreme Court came out with today and I want to talk to you about this. The Supreme Court ruling today in the fight against terrorism . . . .The 6-3 decision by the Supreme Court, the justices rejecting the arguments that the law threatens the constitutional right of free speech. You read the decision, 6-3, only three of the Democratic appointed justices decided they didn’t like this. They were the minority. But the majority was pretty firm in saying that if you go ahead and express what is called material support for a known terrorist group, you could go to jail for that.

TOWNSEND: This is a tremendous win for not only the United States but for the current administration. It’s interesting, Wolf, Elena Kagan the current Supreme Court nominee argued in favor of upholding this law. This is an important tool the government uses to convict those, to charge and convict, potentially convict those who provide money, recruits, propaganda, to terrorist organizations, but are not what we call people who actually blow things up or pull the trigger.

BLITZER: So it’s a major decision, a 6-3 decision by the Supreme Court. If you’re thinking about even voicing support for a terrorist group, don’t do it because the government can come down hard on you and the Supreme Court said the government has every right to do so.

TOWNSEND: It is more than just voicing support, Wolf. It is actually the notion of providing material support, significant material support.

BLITZER: But they’re saying that if material support, they’re defining as expressing support or giving advice or whatever to that organization.

TOWNSEND: That’s right. But it could be technical advice, bomb-building advice, fundraising.

So Fran Townsend lavishly praised this decision — one that, as Blitzer put it, means that “If you’re thinking about even voicing support for a terrorist group, don’t do it because the government can come down hard on you.”  And while Townsend was right that the decision requires “more than just voicing support” for the Terrorist group, the Court was crystal clear that such voicing of support, standing alone, can be prosecuted if it is done in coordination with the group (“the term ’service’ [] cover[s] advocacy performed in coordination with, or at the direction of, a foreign terrorist organization“).

But look at what is happening now to Fran Townsend and many of her fellow political elites. In August of last year, The Christian Science Monitor‘s Scott Peterson published a detailed exposé about “a high-powered array of former top American officials” who have received “tens of thousands of dollars” from a designated Terrorist organization – the Iranian dissident group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) — and then met with its leaders, attended its meetings, and/or publicly advocated on its behalf. That group includes Rudy Giuliani, Howard Dean, Michael Mukasey, Ed Rendell, Andy Card, Lee Hamilton, Tom Ridge, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark, Michael Hayden, John Bolton, Louis Freeh — and Fran Townsend. This is how it works:

Former US officials taking part in MEK-linked events told the Monitor or confirmed publicly that they received substantial fees, paid by local Iranian-American groups to speaker bureaus that handle their public appearances.

The State Dept. official, who is familiar with the speech contracts, explains the mechanism: “Your speech agent calls, and says you get $20,000 to speak for 20 minutes. They will send a private jet, you get $25,000 more when you are done, and they will send a team to brief you on what to say.”

As but one example, Rendell, the former Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania and current MSNBC contributor, was paid $20,000 for a 10- minute speech before a MEK gathering, and has been a stalwart advocate of the group ever since.

Even for official Washington, where elite crimes are tolerated as a matter of course, this level of what appears to be overt criminality — taking large amounts of money from a designated Terrorist group, appearing before its meetings, meeting with its leaders, then advocating on its behalf — is too much to completely overlook. The Washington Times reported on Friday that the Treasury Department’s counter-Terrorism division is investigating speaking fees paid to former Gov. Rendell, who, the article notes, has “become among [MEK’s] most vocal advocates.” According to Rendell, “investigators have subpoenaed records related to payments he has accepted for public speaking engagements” for MEK. As the article put it, ”some observers have raised questions about the legality of accepting payment in exchange for providing assistance or services to a listed terrorist group.” Beyond the “material support” crime, engaging in such transactions with designated Terrorist groups is independently prohibited by federal law:

David Cole, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, noted that “any group that’s on the list is also, by definition, on the Treasury Department’s list for specially designated global terrorists.”

Anyone in the United States is prohibited from engaging in any transaction with such an entity,” he said.

While Mr. Cole stressed his personal belief that individuals have a “First Amendment right to speak out freely” for an organization like the MEK, he said that “it is a crime to engage in any transaction, which would certainly include getting paid to do public relations for them.

Rendell has a lot of company in the commission of what very well may be these serious crimes — including the very same Fran Townsend who cheered the Humanitarian Law decision that could be her undoing. After someone on Twitter wrote to her this weekend to say that she should be prosecuted (and “put in GITMO indefinitely”) for her “material support”of MEK, this is how — with the waving American flag as her chosen background — she defended herself in reply:

How reprehensible is the conduct of Fran Townsend here? Just two years ago, she went on CNN to celebrate a Supreme Court decision that rejected First Amendment claims of free speech and free association in order to rule that anyone — most often Muslims — can be prosecuted under the “material support” statute simply for advocacy for a Terrorist group that is coordinated with the group. And yet, the minute Fran Townsend gets caught doing exactly that — not just out of conviction but also because she’s being paid by that Terrorist group — she suddenly invokes the very same Constitutional rights whose erosions she cheered when it came to the prosecution of others. Now that her own liberty is at stake by virtue of getting caught being on the dole from a Terrorist group, she suddenly insists that the First Amendment allows her to engage in this behavior: exactly the argument that Humanitarian Law rejected, with her gushing approval on CNN (“a tremendous win for not only the United States but for the current administration“; This is an important tool the government uses to convict those . . . who provide []  propaganda, to terrorist organizations”).”

What is particularly repellent about all of this is not the supreme hypocrisy and self-interested provincialism of Fran Townsend. That’s all just par for the course. What’s infuriating is that there are large numbers of people — almost always Muslims — who have been prosecuted and are now in prison for providing “material support” to Terrorist groups for doing far less than Fran Townsend and her fellow cast of bipartisan ex-officials have done with and on behalf of MEK. In fact, the U.S. Government has been (under the administration in which Townsend worked) and still is (under the administration Rendell supports) continuously prosecuting Muslims for providing “material support” for Terrorist groups based on their pure speech, all while Fran Townsend, Ed Rendell and company have said nothing or, worse, supported the legal interpretations that justified these prosecutions.

The last time I wrote about these individuals’ material support for MEK, I highlighted just a few of those cases:

  • A Staten Island satellite TV salesman in 2009 was sentenced to five years in federal prison merely for including a Hezbollah TV channel as part of the satellite package he sold to customers;
  • a Massachusetts resident, Tarek Mehanna, is being prosecuted now ”for posting pro-jihadist material on the internet”;
  • a 24-year-old Pakistani legal resident living in Virginia, Jubair Ahmad, was indicted last September for uploading a 5-minute video to YouTube that was highly critical of U.S. actions in the Muslim world, an allegedly criminal act simply because prosecutors claim he discussed the video in advance with the son of a leader of a designated Terrorist organization (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba);
  • a Saudi Arabian graduate student, Sami Omar al-Hussayen, was prosecuted simply for maintaining a website with links “to groups that praised suicide bombings in Chechnya and in Israel” and “jihadist” sites that solicited donations for extremist groups (he was ultimately acquitted); and,
  •  last July, a 22-year-old former Penn State student and son of an instructor at the school, Emerson Winfield Begolly, was indicted for — in the FBI’s words — “repeatedly using the Internet to promote violent jihad against Americans” by posting comments on a “jihadist” Internet forum including “a comment online that praised the shootings” at a Marine Corps base, action which former Obama lawyer Marty Lederman said ”does not at first glance appear to be different from the sort of advocacy of unlawful conduct that is entitled to substantial First Amendment protection.”

Yet we have the most well-connected national security and military officials in Washington doing far more than all of that right out in the open — they’re receiving large payments from a Terrorist group, meeting with its leaders, attending their meetings, and then advocating for them in very public forums; Howard Dean, after getting paid by the group, actually called for MEK’s leader to be recognized as the legitimate President of Iran  – and so far none have been prosecuted or even indicted. The Treasury Department investigation must at least scare them. Thus, like most authoritarians, Fran Townsend suddenly discovers the importance of the very political liberties she’s helped assault now that those Constitutional protections are necessary to protect herself from prosecution. It reminds me quite a bit of how former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman — one of the most reliable advocates for Bush’s illegal spying program — suddenly started sounding like a life-long, outraged ACLU member as soon as it was revealed that her own private communications were legally surveilled by the U.S. Government.

One can reasonably debate whether MEK actually belongs on the list of Terrorist organizations (the same is true for several other groups on that list). But as a criminal matter, that debate is irrelevant. The law criminalizes the providing of material support to any group on that list, and it is not a defense to argue after one gets caught that the group should be removed.

Moreover, the argument that MEK does not belong on the Terrorist list — always a dubious claim —  has suffered a serious blow in the last couple of months. An NBC News report from Richard Engel and Robert Windrem in February claimed that it was MEK which perpetrated the string of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, and that the Terrorist group “is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service” (MEK denied the report). If true, it means that MEK continues to perpetrate definitive acts of Terrorism: using bombs and guns to kill civilian scientists and severely injure their wives. Yet Townsend, Rendell, Dean, Giuliani and other well-paid friends continue to be outspoken advocates of the group. Even the dissenters in Humanitarian Law argued that the First Amendment would allow “material support” prosecution “when the defendant knows or intends that those activities will assist the organization’s unlawful terrorist actions.” A reasonable argument could certainly be advanced that, in light of these recent reports about MEK’s Terrorism, one who takes money from the group and then advocates for its removal from the Terrorist list “knows or intends that those activities will assist the organization’s unlawful terrorist actions”: a prosecutable offense even under the dissent’s far more limited view of the statute.

But whatever else is true, the activities of Townsend, Rendell, Dean, Giuliani and the rest of MEK’s paid shills are providing more than enough “material support” to be prosecuted under the Humanitarian Law decision and other statutes. They’re providing more substantial “material support” to this Terrorist group than many people — usually vulnerable, powerless Muslims — who are currently imprisoned for that crime.  It’s nice that Fran Townsend suddenly discovered the virtues of free speech and free association guarantees, but under the laws she and so many others like her have helped implement and defend, there is a very strong case to make that her conduct and those of these other well-connected advocates for this Terrorist group is squarely within the realm of serious criminal behavior.

Glenn Greenwald
Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.More Glenn Greenwald

Robert Spencer: Muslim Appointees Deserve Special Loyalty Test (Video)

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by loonwatch

Faith in Public Life (FPL) just interviewed Jihad Watch Director Robert Spencer.  I’ve reproduced their excellent article below, which is where you can see the video yourself.  In it, Spencer endorses a special loyalty test for Muslims:

FPL: Do you think Muslim appointees to office deserve a special test or a special kind of investigation before they are appointed?

Spencer: Well, I think it’s entirely reasonable.

In light of the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is, in its own words, dedicated to eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house, then certainly any Muslim official that [sic] has ties to the Brotherhood organizations in the United States–of which there are very many–should be vetted very carefully.

FPL: So you think any Muslim that is appointed should be investigated for any of those ties before they are appointed?

Spencer: Yes, certainly.

FPL also points to Robert Spencer’s double standards and hypocrisy when it comes to Islam and his own religion, Christianity (specifically, Catholicism).  Those of you familiar with my writing know that whenever I point this out, Spencer starts crying “tu quoque, tu quoque fallacy!”  That’s because his own religion can’t withstand the same standard he applies to Islam.

FPL asked Spencer if he found it problematic when Muslims called themselves “Muslims first, Americans second.”  Spencer responded emphatically in the affirmative, saying: “It’s a big problem.”  Then, FPL asked Spencer if he himself was American first or a Christian first.  Spencer was caught off-guard and tried to evade answering the question.  When FPL pushed him further on the issue, he refused to answer the question, saying: “Neither one.” Then, he finally admitted that he in fact placed his faith first, even above American law.

Anybody see the glaring hypocrisy here?  It’s in fact the same double standard applied by pro-Israel Islamophobes who attack American Muslims for having “dual loyalty” to their ancestral homelands and “the Ummah”, when in fact they themselves have “dual loyalty” to America and Israel, often placing the latter’s interests above the former.

Spencer tries to justify his double standard by arguing that Christianity “isn’t incompatible with the constitutional freedoms” whereas Islam is “is manifestly incompatible” with them.  In other words, it simply hasn’t been an issue with his Christianity.

Yet, Spencer contradicts himself in the very next sentence:

FPL: So would you describe yourself as an American first and a Christian second, or Christian first and American second?

Spencer: Neither one.  I think it’s a distinction when it comes to Christianity that thus far, there has not been a problematic issue of allegiance. If it comes down to the new Obama directives with the Catholic Church, for example, forcing it to go back on its own policies and its own doctrine…then obviously those are unjust laws that ought not to be passed.

Spencer is here alluding to the issue of abortion.  It should be noted that “the Supreme Court ruled that women had a constitutional right to abortion”, yet Catholics like Robert Spencer want to deny this right to women.  Isn’t this exactly the sort of conflict that Spencer found to be “a big problem” when it comes to Muslims?  Isn’t this, using Spencer’s own standard, “a problematic issue of allegiance” between Catholic doctrine and the Constitution?

But remember: don’t dare apply the standard Spencer does to Islam to his own religion!  Only a leftist dhimmi would do that!

Here is the article:

Robert Spencer’s Double-Standard on Religious Freedom

Anti-Muslim activists often complain that Muslims living in this country don’t effectively assimilate into American culture, that they consider themselves Muslims first and Americans second. Despite the fact that polling has found that Muslim Americans are actually the most loyal religious group in the nation – 93 percent of Muslim Americans say they are loyal to America, and Muslims have the highest confidence in the integrity of the US election process – far-right pundits continue to further the myth that Muslims lack commitment to this country because their faith puts them in conflict with constitutional law.

In fact, the concept of prioritizing faith principles before the law is not unique to Muslims. Prominent Christian figures such as Pat Robertson have publicly remarked that they consider themselves Christians first and Americans second. Perhaps even more telling is the extent to which the current contraception mandate controversy is dominating the political conversation, with some Catholic leaders suggesting they would shut down their hospitals and schools or perform civil disobedience instead of complying with a law they believe conflicts with their faith.

At the recent CPAC conference here in Washington, Nick interviewed prominent anti-Islam activist Robert Spencer and found this exact double standard. Spencer criticizes Muslims for prioritizing Islam over US law, while going on to say he would put his Christian faith first in a situation where Christianity came into conflict with the law:

FPL: A lot of people point to polls that Muslims in various countries suggest that they’re Muslims first and then loyal to that country second – American second, or Spanish second. Do you think that’s a problem and are you worried about that?

Spencer: It’s a big problem, and it’s something that has to be taken into account…when it comes to Islamic law and the constitution, there are many, many ways in which Islamic law contradicts the constitutional freedoms. Then if somebody has a loyalty to Sharia, to Islam first, then that’s very problematic.

FPL: And would you describe yourself as American first, or as a person of faith first?

Spencer: I’m an American and a person of faith. And I believe that my faith, as a Christian, isn’t incompatible with the constitutional freedoms. But Islamic law is manifestly incompatible with constitutional freedoms.

FPL: So would you describe yourself as an American first and a Christian second, or Christian first and American second?

Spencer: Neither one. I think it’s a distinction when it comes to Christianity that thus far, there has not been a problematic issue of allegiance. If it comes down to the new Obama directives with the Catholic Church, for example, forcing it to go back on its own policies and its own doctrine…then obviously those are unjust laws that ought not to be passed.

FPL: So if there was a conflict between your faith and the law, you would choose your faith?

Spencer: Yeah.

The hypocrisy is apparent. If conservatives are concerned with religious liberty, then that liberty ought to be applied to faith traditions across the board, including Islam. At the same conference, conservative paragon Grover Norquist made this same point (around the 2:42 mark):

FPL: So do you think it harms the conservative argument for religious liberty…when [Republican candidates] have previously expressed some similar concerns to extending this [liberty] to Muslim Americans?

Norquist: You can’t be for religious liberty for some people and not others, or the whole thing falls apart. No one in court is going to rule that way. The court will either go with, yes you can ban synagogues, mosques, missionaries and Catholic hospitals– or you can’t do any of that…I’ve noticed that all faith traditions recognize that an attack on one is an attack on all.

As Norquist points out, Spencer’s duplicitous arguments about Islam fall flat. When it comes to religious freedom, the far right cannot have its cake and eat it too.

Kosher Meals Cost Taxpayers Over Half a Million Dollars: What if These Were Halal Meals?

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on February 1, 2012 by loonwatch

GOP presidential hopeful and rabid Islamophobe Newt Gingrich is slamming Mitt Romney for vetoing a 2003 bill that would allocate an additional $600,000 of taxpayer money to provide poor Jewish nursing home residents with Kosher meals.  Thundered Gingrich:

Romney as Governor eliminated kosher food for retired Jewish senior citizens…He has no understanding of the importance of religious liberty in this country.

I myself don’t have a problem with providing Kosher meals, and I would not have opposed the additional funding like Romney did.  But, this does beg the question: what if this had been about Halal meals instead?

Had that been the case, the situation would have been completely reversed.  In that scenario, had Mitt Romney supported a bill that allocated over half a million dollars of taxpayer money to Halal meals for poor Muslim nursing home residents, what do you think Newt Gingrich and the rest of the right-wing would be saying then?  They would be ruthlessly attacking him for this.

We’d also hear a lot about how Muslims in America and the West in general demand “special rules” and “special treatment”–how they have a “feeling of entitlement.”  We’d hear about how Muslims want “hand-outs” and “leech off” of the rest of us.  We’d hear all the typical racist and bigoted charges that are often levied against non-white minorities.

Whenever a minority asks for cultural or religious accommodation, especially Muslims, they are accused of such things.  What good, white, Judeo-Christian folk sometimes fail to realize is that the system is by default heavily bent in their favor, with “special accommodations” for them already built in.

This reminds me of a conversation I overheard between a Christian and Muslim colleague of mine.  The Christian employee was complaining about how “it was unfair” that the Muslim colleague got to come in late for work on his religious holiday (Eid) and leave a bit early on that same day; she said: “It’s not fair: you guys get our Christmas off but we don’t get your holiday off.”  I couldn’t believe my ears.  She gets a whole two weeks off to go visit her family in another state, whereas he gets half a day off so that he can take his wife and kids out to eat at the local kabob joint.  The Muslim employee wants “special treatment” (if you can call it that) because the system is already so slanted in favor of the dominant, majority group.

I’ve seen a similar occurrence with Friday prayers, with Muslim colleagues racing back and forth during lunch to make it in time.  Meanwhile, Jews get Saturday off and Christians get Sunday off–by default.  At my work, we often have to come in on Saturdays, but observant Jews can get it off by “special request.”  If Muslims made that sort of request, we wouldn’t hear the end of it.

This is a nation of immigrants, and as such, we must be ready to accommodate–within the bounds of reason–various races, religions, and customs.  The only alternative, I suppose, is to adopt the nativist view of right-wingers: “they” must accommodate to “us.”  This view, however, fails to realize that both groups need to bend a little to accommodate the other.

Speaking of Kosher and Halal, one recalls how the Queen of Islamophobia, Pamela Geller, who is herself Jewish, attacks Muslims for how cruel Halal slaughter is, even though it’s virtually the exact same process used by Jews for Kosher.  Had a candidate supported a bill to give half a million dollars to provide Halal food, Geller would be screeching about how this was providing state support for evil Muslim butchery and animal cruelty.  Common sense and rationality are lost with such absurdities.

On that note, I think it would behoove the reader to consider how dramatically different views are when we substitute “Jew” for “Muslim” or the other way around: for example, the standard “you can’t be racist against Muslims, because Muslim is not a race” doesn’t seem right when we say “you can’t be racist against Jews, because Jew is not a race.”  It’s a worthwhile exercise to do any time you read a story about Muslims: just do the substitution and ask yourself if it sounds right.  There’s a reason it doesn’t: all of these anti-Muslim smears were once used against Jews: it’s the same message, just used against a different minority group.

Islamophobes never want to play the substitution game, which is why they cry “tu quoque, tu quoque” whenever anyone uses it.  They must at all costs prevent it from being used because it lays bare their bigotry.

In this particular case, it’s supporting “religious freedom” to use taxpayer money to provide Kosher meals to Jewish residents.  But remember: it would be against freedom and free choice to use taxpayer money to provide Halal meals for Muslims.  When it’s about Kosher, then it’s forcing your religious beliefs onto Jews to not provide Kosher meals, thereby “forcing” them to eat non-Kosher meals; when it’s about Halal, then it’s Muslims forcing their beliefs onto us, by forcing us to provide them with special meals.

As George Orwell said: ”Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.”

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

The Greater Islamophobia: Bombing, Invading, and Occupying Muslim Lands (II)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2011 by loonwatch

This article is part II of The Greater Islamophobia: Bombing, Invading, and Occupying Muslim Lands (I).  

Read Part I first.

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg is a prominent establishment journalist who helped push the country to war against Iraq: he famously claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, was on the verge of going nuclear, and was linked to Al-Qaeda and 9/11.  These were all lies, nothing short of alarmist war-propaganda.

Jeffrey Goldberg is at it again, but this time against Iran and Pakistan.  This is part of his overall warmongering ideology, one that involves advocating what I call the Supreme Islamophobic Crime: bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands.  The justifications used to wage war against Muslims are steeped in hypocrisy and double standards, which are very prevalent in Goldberg’s articles.

In part I, I responded to Goldberg’s claims that Iran should be attacked because it is supposedly on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons.  I pointed out the hypocrisy of the U.S. and Israel in this regard, both of which also have nuclear weapons and are either in violation of the NPT (the U.S.) or refuse to sign it (Israel).  As George Orwell famously said in his critique of nationalism: “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.”

For the record, I am a strong believer in complete nuclear disarmament.  However, either all countries should get rid of nuclear weapons or all countries have the right to acquire them.  There cannot be a double-standard in this regard.  If the United States and Israel possess them, then Iran–which is under constant American and Israeli threat of not just conventional warfare but nuclear strike–not only has the right to obtain them, but–as Glenn Greenwald notes–“nothing is more rational than Iran’s wanting a nuclear weapon” (note: that is, if Iran secretly wanted to do so).

*  *  *  *  *

Here in part II, I will tackle the rest of Goldberg’s article, which is filled with typical Zionist, neoconservative, and warmongering rhetoric.  Each of his pro-war arguments can be equally applied to America and/or Israel, reinforcing Orwell’s statement.

First, Goldberg writes:

The leaders of Iran are eliminationist anti-Semites; men who, for reasons of theology, view the state of the Jews as a “cancer.” They have repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction… Iran’s leaders are men who deny the Holocaust while promising another.

Goldberg is repeating multiple falsehoods against Iran.  Here, he is referring to an infamous statement that was uttered by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which he supposedly said “Israel must be wiped off the map.”  In fact, this was a case of blatant mistranslation by the Western media: what he really said was:

The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.

Ahmadinejad was calling for regime change, not for Israel’s destruction or the annihilation of Jews.  Certainly, the two greatest proponents of regime change–the United States and Israel–should be the last to equate regime change with genocide.

In fact, the Iranian leadership, while reserving the right to defend itself if Iran is attacked, has never threatened to initiate an attack against Israel, let alone “repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction” as Jeffrey Goldberg imagines.  Once again, quite ironically, it is Israel that has repeatedly threatened to initiate an attack against Iran.  Remember: actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

Goldberg’s claim that the Iranian government has “promised another [Holocaust]” is absolutely bogus; therefore, his claim that “[t]he leaders of Iran are eliminationist anti-Semites” is also completely contrived.  They are anti-Semites, but they are not eliminationist anti-Semites.  Do we bomb people for being anti-Semites?  To put the shoe on the other foot, would any sane person call to bomb Israel for their leaders being anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and/or Islamophobic?  One cannot help but reiterating the Orwellian mantra: actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

Meanwhile, it is Israeli leaders who have not just endorsed but actively enacted a policy of “driving the Palestinians out of Palestine.”  The Israeli leadership has, for well over half a century, supported the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, euphemistically called “forced transfer.”  For example, the current prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, expressed support for ethnic cleansing by famously saying that Israel should “carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the territories.”  (In fact, a majority of Israelis support the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.)  Worse yet, Netanyahu has not just supported ethnic cleansing by mere words, but is right now engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

In a previous article, I pointed out how misleading it is to focus on Iranian rhetoric over Israeli action.  While the Western media obsesses over whether or not Hamas or Iran may have called to wipe Israel off the map (mere rhetoric), Israel has literally wiped Palestine off the map (actual action)–it has been and is currently in the process of wiping the land of pesky Palestinians as well.  This is the difference then between word and deed: if one looks at a map, Israel is on it and Palestine is not.  Who has wiped out whom?  That this obvious absurdity is not ever pointed out in the Western media speaks volumes.

Yes, the Iranian leadership has called “the Zionist regime” a “cancer.”  So, now we are invading countries for simple name-calling?  If the Venezuelan government calls the United States and everything it represents a “fulminating disease” or even a “pile of human feces,” are we justified in attacking it?  If that is the case, then would Iran be justified in attacking the United States and Israel for all the things it has been called?   We dubbed Iran to be part of the “Axis of Evil.”  That’s just as bad as being called a “cancer.”  Can Iran attack us on that basis?  Here exists another double standard: we freely label Iran with the label of “Axis of Evil” but if Iran did the same to us, that would be proof of their innate belligerence.  This is because actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

There is no doubt that denying or downplaying the Holocaust is morally repugnant, but how could such a person as Jeffrey Goldberg, who throughout his career has justified, downplayed, and denied the Palestinian suffering, be up in arms about Iranian leaders doing the same with the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust?  More importantly, would any sane person apply the logic to Israel, arguing that denial of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe)–the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948-1949–is reason to attack Israel?  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them. (Note: Denying either the Holocaust, the Catastrophe, or any other such crime against humanity should be considered completely unacceptable.)

*  *  *  *  *

Then, Jeffrey Goldberg uses every Zionist’s favorite go-to trump card: “Hamas and Hezbollah!”  He writes that Iran has been

providing material support and training to two organizations, Hamas and Hezbollah, that specialize in the slaughter of innocent Jews.

Prof. William Beeman of Brown University argues that the Iranian links to Hamas and Hezbollah are exaggerated.  Aside from this, however, there is a profound double standard at play here: Israel supports Mujahedin-e Khalq, a militant group inside Iran that even the U.S. State Department designates a “terrorist organization”:

It is widely known within intelligence circles that the Israelis use the MEK for varied acts of espionage and terror…

If it is justified to attack Iran on the grounds that Iran supports Hamas and Hezbollah which in turn commit acts of terrorism against Israel, then would our opponents argue that it is justified for Iran to attack Israel because Israel supports the MEK which engages in terrorism against Iran?  Such double standards are never pointed out in the U.S. media, but they certainly do not go unnoticed in the Muslim world and elsewhere.  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.  

If Iran is to be attacked for its “material support” of groups that commit acts of terrorism, then wouldn’t the Iranians be more justified in attacking Israel, which has committed not just “material support” but actual acts of terrorism within Iran?  Israel has been implicated in several terrorist acts within Iran, including “bombings” and “assassinations” of Iranian scientists.  Just a couple weeks ago, the Israeli intelligence agency orchestrated a terrorist bombing within Iran, “in which 17 people were killed” including a prominent Iranian scientist.

One can only imagine the reaction within pro-Israeli circles–and the absolute indignation of the American media–if “stealth jihadists” of Iranian descent bombed an MIT lab and killed a dozen and a half civilians along with a prominent research professor.  Do you think the mainstream media would be silent about this string of terrorist attacks if they were against American targets and perpetrated by Muslims?  Remember:  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.  (This media double standard explains why most Americans believe the lie that nearly all terrorist attacks are committed by Muslims.)

The Guardian reports:

Israel has been linked to several previous incidents in Iran similar to Saturday’s explosion, including an explosion at a Shahab facility in south-western Iran in 2010 and a bomb attack earlier that year in Tehran, in which Iranian physicist Masoud Ali Mohammadi was killed.

One need not look back to two weeks ago to prove Israeli terrorism in Iran: just a few days ago it was reported that an Iranian power plant was bombed in an Israeli terrorist attack JihadWatch’s Robert Spencer rejoiced, calling this terrorist attack “good news” and saying that “[t]his calls for some champagne.”  Similarly, Jeffrey Goldberg gleefully reported the news that Iran is under attack, showing once again how the Goldbergs and Gellers (in this case, Geller’s partner-in-crime) agree on advocating the Supreme Islamophobic Crime of bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim countries.

What do you think Spencer or Goldberg’s reaction would have been had it been a “stealth jihadist” who bombed an American power plant?  Recall the absolute rage of Islamophobes, neoconservatives, Goldbergs, and Gellers–as well as Americans in general–over the Fort Hood Shooting.  In that incident, Nidal Hasan killed U.S. soldiers on a military base as they were about to be deployed to go to war against Muslim countries.  At that time, it was wondered: how could Muslims be so bloodthirsty that they would do such a thing?  Yet, when Americans or Israelis kill Iranian scientists, then this is either brushed off as a necessary casualty in the War on Terror or even gleefully rejoiced over as yet another “success” in the War on Terror.

Of course, such double standards abound in our national discourse, without anyone pointing out the obvious.  This is because, repeat after me, actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

*  *  *  *  *

Goldberg then tries throwing the kitchen sink at Iran, arguing that we should attack Iran because it is lead by a “messianic, apocalyptic cult”:

[I]t isn’t too much to imagine that some of Iran’s more mystically minded leaders, mesmerized by visions of the apocalypse, would actually consider using a nuclear weapon on Israel — a country so small that a single detonation could cripple it permanently.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who once told me he believes that Iran is led by a “messianic, apocalyptic cult,” is correct to view Iran as a threat to his country’s existence.

Here, we see another example of Goldberg’s double standards.  While it is true that some Iranian leaders dabble in “messianic, apocalyptic” dribble, there is an equally pernicious ”messianic, apocalyptic” impulse among Israelis, which Jeffrey Goldberg himself acknowledges.  Should this be legitimate grounds for another country to attack Israel?  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

The only recognized sect of Judaism in Israel is Orthodox Judaism, the most prominent sect of which is Religious Zionism.  Rabbi Abraham Kook, considered the father of modern Religious Zionism, argued that “Zionists were agents in a heavenly plan to bring about the messianic era.”  According to this messianic group, the congregating of the Jews in Israel will bring about the end times, meaning the wheels are already in motion.

Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, doesn’t seem to have a problem with “messianic, apocalyptic” Religious Zionists; in fact, Netanyahu proclaimed:

The religious Zionist public is part of every major way of life in Israel and it is time it was part of the ruling party

Netanyahu not only reached out to put such messianic Jews in “the ruling party”  but also “affirm[ed] Christian Zionists”, a nutty “the End is Near” Christian group.  He has himself engaged in messianic babble, and the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an article entitled “Netanyahu’s messianism could launch attack on Iran“.

There is another underlying irony here.  As noted above, Israel supports Mujahedin-e Khalq, which is a “revolutionary cult.”  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

*  *  *  *  *

Jeffrey Goldberg gives four more reasons why President Obama should lob missiles at Iran.  The first:

First, Iran and the U.S. have been waging a three- decade war for domination of the Middle East. If Iran goes nuclear, it will have won this war. American power in the Middle East will have been eclipsed, and Obama will look toothless.

This is a complete non-sequitur.  How does Iran having nuclear weapons in the region equate to “domination of the Middle East”?  Israel would still have tens or hundreds of times as many nuclear weapons as Iran, and the United States would have Iran surrounded.  What it would do is even out the scales of power a bit, making Israel think twice before nuking any of its neighbors.  What Zionists like Goldberg do not want, and will seek to prevent at any cost, is Iran to balance out the scales of power.  Goldberg et al. want American and Israeli “domination of the Middle East.”

Goldberg’s statement is very telling, because he accidentally reveals what every Arab and Muslim in the region knows: “[T]he U.S. [has] been waging a three-decade war for domination of the Middle East.”  Hmm….I wonder why do Arabs and Muslims in the region hate us?  It’s such a big mystery to me.

How would Americans feel if some other country was “waging a three-decade war” to dominate them?  But, of course, such comparisons–putting the shoe on the other foot–must never be discussed in the national discourse–and anyone who does so should be ignored, marginalized, and vilified.

Then, Goldberg says:

Second, every U.S. ally in the Middle East — Israel, the Gulf countries and Turkey, especially — fears a nuclear Iran. The president would have their complete support.

Here, we have another glimpse into the imperialist mind.  The reality of Arab street is thus:

According to the Brookings Institution’s 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll, 77 percent regard Israel as the biggest threat, 80 percent regard the United States as the biggest threat, and only 10 percent regard Iran as the biggest threat. Fifty-seven percent think the region will be better off if Iran had nuclear weapons.

The same is the case in Turkey:

Turks see US as biggest external threat, poll results show

Some 43 percent of Turks perceive the United States as the country’s biggest threat, followed by Israel, according to a broad survey carried out in December…

The survey asked “From which country does the biggest threat come?” with 43 percent of Turks saying the U.S., followed by 24 percent who indicated Israel, 3 percent for Iran…

The percentage of Arabs, Muslims, and Turks who would support an American or Israeli attack on Iran would be, one can reasonably assume, even lower.

What Goldberg is saying then is that the American-supported stooge dictatorships–those same ones that the democratic Arab Spring has been shaking off–would support such a move against Iran.  To any good colonialist, what the people of a nation want does not matter: simply install a subservient client regime and through it thwart the will of the people.  I wonder why they hate us?  It is an absolute mystery to me.

Goldberg goes on:

Third, the president is ideologically committed to a world without nuclear weapons. If Iran gets the bomb, it will set off an arms race in the world’s most volatile region. At the very least, Saudi Arabia and Turkey will seek nuclear weapons. It would mark a bitter defeat for Obama to have inadvertently overseen the greatest expansion of the nuclear arms club in recent history.

The irony of the president of the United States–leader of a country that has the most nuclear weapons in the world, the only one to have ever used them (not once, but twice), one that is in violation of the NPT, one that still actively plans on how to use nuclear weapons in future wars, and one that comes to the swift defense of Israel when it opposes a nuclear free Middle East (see part I of my article)–claiming to be “ideologically committed to a world without nuclear weapons” should not be lost.

In fact, President Barack Obama–unlike Iran’s leaders who have steadfastly pledged never to use nuclear weapons against anyone–came up with a list of conditions under which the U.S. could use nuclear weapons (see this article by The New York Times).  Obama argued that any restrictions on nuclear weapons would simply not apply to “outliers like Iran and North Korea.”  He also reserved the right to use “nuclear retaliation against a biological attack” by any country (or even by a non-state actor, one assumes).  Obama refused to issue a “blanket statement that the country would never be the first to use nuclear weapons.”  Therefore, the United States effectively rejects a “no-first use” policy.

To be sure, the NYT article article mentions that Bush had an even more militant position; he “reserved the right to use nuclear weapons ‘to deter a wide range of threats,’ including banned chemical and biological weapons and large-scale conventional attacks.”  In other words, the Republican party is even more militant than Obama in this regard, giving an almost carte blanche to use nuclear weapons.

To sum it up: America reserves the right to use nuclear weapons, but is dedicated to restricting nuclear arms to, in Goldberg’s words, “the nuclear arms club”–with the U.S. being the leader of this exclusive club.  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

Goldberg’s obsession with Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons contrasts sharply with his indifference or acceptance of Israel’s known nuclear program.

Goldberg’s last reason to attack Iran uses typical Zionist exploitation of Jewish suffering coupled with alarmist fear-mongering to justify war:

Finally, the president has a deep understanding of Jewish history, and is repulsed by Iranian anti-Semitism. He doesn’t want to be remembered as the president who failed to guarantee Israel’s existence.

Does Israeli bigotry towards Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims give Iran the justification to attack Israel?  Or does this, like all of Goldberg’s other reasons, apply only one way?  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

Jeffrey Goldberg completes his pro-Israel propaganda by invoking the mandatory Hitler reference, arguing that a “nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people.”  As Greenwald noted:

No discussion of any of this is complete without noting that it was endlessly claimed that it was Saddam who was the New Hitler in order ratchet up fear levels and justify an attack that country, too. How many times can we be persuaded to attack the New Hitler?

*  *  *  *  *

Glenn Greenwald’s recent article, George Orwell on the Evil Iranian Menace, is an absolute must read.  The United States has been hard at word portraying the Iranians as “the Aggressor, the Modern Nazis, a True Menace” and itself (and Israel) as Iran’s “innocent peace-loving victims.”  This is of course placing reality on its head, which is completely obvious if one puts the shoe on the other foot.

Imagine, for instance, if Iran militarily occupied Canada and Mexico, if Cuba and other islands near the U.S. mainland were Iranian client regimes, if a massive Iranian naval fleet were stationed nearby on both East and West Coasts, if Iranian sky robots were flying over American soil targeting and killing U.S. citizens, if Iran committed acts of terrorism on U.S. soil such as blowing up power plants, if Iran assassinated American scientists, if Iran launched sophisticated cyber-attacks against the U.S., if Iran lobbied for crippling sanctions against America, and if Iranian leaders routinely called for war against America–what do you think the American reaction to all this would be?

After noting that the U.S. has done all this whereas “Iran has not invaded, occupied or air attacked anyone”, Greenwald writes:

Given the extensive violence and aggression the U.S. has perpetrated, and continues to perpetrate, on numerous countries in that region, one might think that not even our political culture could sustain the propagandistic myth that it is Iran that is the aggressor state and the U.S. that is its peace-loving victim. But, of course, one who thought that would be completely wrong. Not only is it a widespread belief, but it’s virtually mandated orthodoxy. But none of that should be at all surprising or confusing, given that 66 years ago, George Orwell — in his 1945 Notes on Nationalism— explained exactly the warped form of thinking that creates this mindset:

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

This is not to say that the Iranian regime is benevolent; there is no question that it is domestically oppressive.  Oppression of Bahais and other minorities is something that should not be downplayed.  (This is why I hope that, like other Arab dictatorships that have been toppled by the people themselves, the same happens in Iran.  This is also the reason I supported the Iranian Green Movement against the Iranian regime and ayatollah-ruled theocracy.)

But, as Greenwald pointed out:

Iran, to be sure, is domestically oppressive, but no more so — and in many cases less — than the multiple regimes funded, armed and otherwise propped up by the U.S. during this period.

I would also point out that this line of argumentation cannot reasonably be used by Goldberg and other Israeli apologists because Israel itself is domestically oppressive to its significant Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim population.  This, as we see, is another argument that seems to only work one way, because the moral of the story is that actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

*  *  *  *  *

In conclusion, every single one of Jeffrey Goldberg’s reasons to go to war against Iran are hypocritical.  He, like Islamophobes everywhere, uses profound double standards, applying one standard to Muslims (Iranians, in this case) and another for America and Israel.  This is the Greater Islamophobia, which revolves around the Supreme Islamophobic Myth: radical Islam is the greatest threat to world peace.  This is something that both Jeffrey Goldberg and Pamela Geller strongly agree with, and they advocate the Supreme Islamophobic Crime: bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands.

The disagreement between Jeffrey Goldberg and Pamela Geller just has to do with a difference of opinion with regard to P.R.: Goldberg believes that the Lesser Islamophobia gives the Greater Islamophobia “a bad name”, whereas Geller believes it helps create popular support for it.  In reality, both of them are correct:  Goldberg gives the Supreme Islamophobic Myth the Seriousness it needs in order to be taken Seriously by policy-makers and Serious People, whereas Geller helps create popular support for such warlike policies among the masses.  The Goldbergs and Gellers of the world work hand in glove.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Iran: Yet Another Case Study in Robert Spencer’s Hypocrisy and Double Standards

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2011 by loonwatch

 

JihadWatch’s Robert Spencer just posted an article with the following title:

How to Eliminate Israel from the Planet: Iran promotes genocidal book by Muslim seminarians, published by Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance

He’s taking exception to an anti-Israeli book supposedly written by some religious students in Iran, called “How to Eliminate Israel from the Planet.”  Spencer calls this a “genocidal book.”

This is why LoonWatch exists.  We’ve been documenting what loons like Robert Spencer say so that we can pull Jon Stewart moves like the one I am going to pull now…

The reader is referred to Robert Spencer’s post in March 2010 wherein he promoted a “genocidal video” calling for “wiping Pakistan off the map” and nuclear annihilation of Pakistan:

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer: Wipe Pakistan Off the Map

And my article on the topic back then:

Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller Promote Video by Militant and Genocidal Group

When Iranians/Muslims call to “wipe Israel off the map” or “eliminate Israel from the planet”, then it is a “genocidal book” and all freedom-loving people must be outraged by this.  When anti-Muslim extremists call for the same against Muslims, then that’s a “genocidal freedom-loving video” that all freedom-loving people must support.  As George Orwell put it: “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.”

(Image at the top of the page comes from an earlier article exposing Robert Spencer: LoonWatch Exclusive: Robert Spencer’s “f**kallah.com” & “f**kislam.com”)

The Greater Islamophobia: Bombing, Invading, and Occupying Muslim Lands (I)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2011 by loonwatch

Jeffrey Goldberg, an establishment journalist, has made a career out of shilling for Israel and war-cheerleading against various Muslim countries.  Goldberg’s polite, professional, and mainstream expression of Islamophobia is far more pernicious than the rude, amateurish, and fringe Islamophobia of Pamela Geller.

This Thanksgiving, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs crossed swords over Butterball’s halal turkeys; the animosity between the two has reached the point where Goldberg refers to Geller as his “arch-nemesis” and Geller calls Goldberg a “Jewicidal Jihadi” (whatever in the world that means).

But while Jeffrey Goldberg and Pamela Geller may disagree over such silly matters as “stealth halal” turkeys (which I call the “Lesser Islamophobia”), Goldberg and Geller are guilty of advocating the “Supreme Islamophobic Crime”: bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands.  With regard to this “Greater Islamophobia”, establishment journalists like Jeffrey Goldberg have a lot more influence than the Pamela Gellers of the world in promoting the war hysteria necessary to sustain the political and popular support for American wars against an increasingly long list of Muslim countries.

The Crusades that ravaged the Muslim world centuries ago were fueled by mindless hatred of the Other, a hatred without which it is unlikely that a whole civilization could have been successfully mobilized against another.  Similarly, the United States of America has taken up the sword against the Muslim world, something that simply would not be possible without large segments of the society accepting an anti-Muslim worldview as axiomatic.

Islamophobia is necessary to wage war against the Muslim world but it is also the inevitable result of such wars.  There is a need to spread the Supreme Islamophobic Myth that radical Islam is the greatest threat to world peace and must be fought.  This need exists (1) in order that nobody, especially the American population itself, realizes that the opposite is true (that it is the United States–not any Muslim country–that is committing the “supreme international crime” of waging aggressive wars in foreign lands), and (2) in order to justify endless war and military occupations.

It is important to understand that one reason Jeffrey Goldberg rejects the Lesser Islamophobia such as Pamela Geller’s silly “stealth halal” turkey nonsense is because, in his own words, “Pamela Geller…gives the fight against Islamist terrorism a bad name.”  In other words, the Lesser Islamophobia gives the Greater Islamophobia “a bad name” and might turn people away from bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands.

We saw a similar dynamic earlier this year when Harry Reid, Lindsey Graham, and others suggested that formal action be taken against the Quran-burning Florida preacher Terry Jones.  Jones was vilified as an Islamophobic bigot (and there is no doubt that he is one), whose (Lesser) Islamophobia was supposedly placing U.S. troops in Afghanistan at risk.  Yet, these same individuals are among the greatest defenders of the Greater Islamophobia, which is the real cause behind Muslim anger: the bombing, invading, and occupying of Muslim lands.  In fact, their opposition to Pastor Jones was that he was making it more difficult to sustain the military campaign against Muslims.  As Salon’s Glenn Greenwald wrote:

[T]here is an extreme irony in Harry Reid and Lindsey Graham, of all people, suddenly worrying about actions that trigger anger and violence in the Muslim world. These two Senators, after all, have supported virtually every one of America’s actions which have triggered vastly more anti-American anger, vengeance and violence in the Muslim world than anything Pastor Jones could dream of spawning — from the attack on Iraq to the decade-long occupation of Afghanistan to blind support for Israel to the ongoing camp at Guantanamo.

Similarly, war-cheerleading journalist Jeffrey Goldberg supports the Supreme Tenet of Islamophobia: seemingly endless war against the Muslim world.  Even before the blood of Afghan and Iraqi citizens dried from the American sword, U.S. war rhetoric against two other Muslim countries–Iran and Pakistan–has ratcheted up.  Just like in the lead up to the Iraq War, the Jeffrey Goldbergs of the mainstream media have been furiously at work making the case for war.

To understand the war-obsessed brain of Jeffrey Goldberg it would be worthwhile to look back to his 2008 article Re-Thinking Jeffery Goldberg.  In it, he reveals the interesting fact that not even Jeffrey Goldberg can keep track of how many Muslim countries Jeffrey Goldberg has called to attack.  He writes:

Last year…I called for the immediate invasion of Yemen (or possibly Oman)…

Was it Yemen or Oman?  Goldberg can’t remember–surely, we can’t expect him to remember such a long list of countries to invade.  The article reveals how flippantly Goldberg discusses such matters; it’s just table talk for him.  Bomb Yemen?  Oman?  Iraq?  Iran?  They all sound so similar!

It would also be worthwhile to take into account his ideological background:  Jeffrey Goldberg, like Pamela Geller, is a militant Zionist extremist.  He “moved to Israel while still a college student” where he served “as a military policeman in the Israeli army”, earned the rank of corporal in the Israel Defense Forces, and served as a prison guard in “the Ketziot military prison camp”, the conditions of which Defence for Children International called “truly appalling”; Human Rights Watch declared the Ketziot prison camp a “clear violation of the IV Geneva Convention.”

Glenn Greenwald wrote of Jeffrey Goldberg so:

[Jeffrey] Goldberg[‘s …]devotion to Israel is so extreme that he served in the IDF as a prison guard over Palestinians and was described last year as “Netanyahu’s faithful stenographer” by The New York Times’ Roger Cohen…

The link between Zionism and Islamophobia has been investigated before; the connection between Zionism and warmongering is even clearer.  So, it is no surprise that Jeffrey Goldberg is a war-cheerleader.  The Institute for Policy Studies calls him “a hawkish ‘pro-Israel’ commentator[]” whose “articles have often seemed to parallel efforts by hawks to push the United States into war.”

His most recent war-cheerleading articles have been against Iran and Pakistan, which is what I will focus on here.  Goldberg is not the only journalist beating the drums of war, but he is one highly prominent figure in the establishment media who serves as a quintessential example of the typical hypocrisy, profound double standards, and bloodthirsty warmongering that permeates the national discourse.

America’s Hypocrisy toward Iran

Jeffrey Goldberg urges President Barack Obama to launch “missile strikes” against Iran for its supposed nuclear weapons program:

The International Atomic Energy Agency is set to release a report today offering further proof that the Iranian regime is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

No intelligence is entirely dispositive, but the evidence on hand about Iran’s nuclear activities, even before the release of the latest report, is fairly persuasive, and the IAEA isn’t known to be a den of neoconservative war-plotting. It isn’t interested in giving Israel a pretext for a preemptive attack on Iran unless it has to.

The question now is what Israel — or the U.S. — will do about it.

The Israeli case for preemption is compelling, and has been for some time.

Notice that Goldberg doesn’t even care what the IAEA report would say: he wrote this article before the report was published.  Either way for him, the Iranian regime is producing nuclear weapons and should be attacked.

Goldberg fails to mention what The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh pointed out in an excellent article explaining why the IAEA’s change in leadership from the respectable Mohammed ElBaradei to Yukiya Amano gives reason to doubt its impartiality: according to leaked cables obtained by Wikileaks, the American permanent representative to the IAEA commented that “[Amano] was solidly in the U.S. court in every strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”  

Furthermore, despite all the war-cheerleading from America’s propaganda press, “there is nothing [in the report] that indicates that Iran is really building a bomb.”

In any case, Jeffrey Goldberg’s article on Iran in 2011 should evoke in the reader feelings of deja vu: in the run up to the Iraq War, Goldberg published a very similar article against Saddam’s Iraq.  Then, Goldberg had written:

“It is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years,” [a German official] said.

There is some debate among arms-control experts about exactly when Saddam will have nuclear capabilities. But there is no disagreement that Iraq, if unchecked, will have them soon, and a nuclear-armed Iraq would alter forever the balance of power in the Middle East. “The first thing that occurs to any military planner is force protection,” Charles Duelfer told me. “If your assessment of the threat is chemical or biological, you can get individual protective equipment and warning systems. If you think he’s going to use a nuclear weapon, where are you going to concentrate your forces?”

There is little doubt what Saddam might do with an atomic bomb or with his stocks of biological and chemical weapons.

Simply exchange “Iraq” for “Iran” and we now have Goldberg’s 2011 article.  Goldberg was one of the key journalists who played a part in pushing the case for war against Iraq, by spreading the lie that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (on the verge of becoming nuclear) and that he was somehow connected to Al-Qaeda and 9/11.  Goldberg even repeats the claim that “Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years”: he says bombing Iran will have a “reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years.”

Goldberg and his ilk had succeeded in misleading the American public with regard to Iraq, pushing the nation to war and leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. He served an important role in spreading the government’s propaganda in order to justify the “supreme international crime”: initiating a war of aggression.

And now Goldberg et al. are at it again, this time against Iran.  The image at the top of this article really speaks to the “now serving bombing customer #224″ mentality that permeates the American military juggernaut.

In addition to being a hyper-aggressive superpower that bombs countries left and right (which, for Iran, is literally the case: countries neighboring it on both sides have been bombed, invaded, and occupied by America), the U.S. obliviously engages in the most egregious of hypocrisies.  It simply does not enter into polite discussion in Western media–but it does in Iran, Pakistan, and the rest of the Muslim world–how hypocritical it is of the United States, the country with the most nuclear weapons in the world, to vilify a country for (allegedly) trying to build a single such bomb.  The forbidden question to ask is: what moral right does the United States, the greatest nuclear power in the world, have to stop other countries from pursuing the same course of action?

Other absurdities include the fact that Israel, America’s closest ally, also has a secret (not so secret) nuclear weapons program, possessing “over 400 nuclear and hydrogen weapons.” Why can Israel have so many nuclear weapons, yet Iran cannot have a single one?

Furthermore, in the words of FAIR, “[t]he U.S. is violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).”  As Jimmy Carter wrote:

While claiming to be protecting the world from proliferation threats in Iraq, Libya, Iran and North Korea, American leaders not only have abandoned existing treaty restraints but also have asserted plans to test and develop new weapons.

Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara issued an unusually honest assessment, saying:

I would characterize current U.S. nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary and dreadfully dangerous.

FAIR notes further:

The NPT’s preamble calls on nuclear weapons states “to facilitate the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles, and the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery.” Article VI of the NPT explicitly obliges signatories “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Thirty-seven years after agreeing to these conditions, the U.S.—the only nation to have ever used nuclear weapons against human beings—spends $40 billion a year to field, maintain and modernize nuclear forces, including an arsenal of 10,000 warheads, 2,000 of which are on hair-trigger alert.

Meanwhile, Israel refuses to even sign the NPT.  Why aren’t the war drums beating against Israel for its reticence in this regard?  In fact, “[n]early 200 nations, signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), backed plans” to hold a conference to achieve a nuclear-free Middle East.  The only country in the region refusing to hold such talks?  Israel.

I’m sure the United States of America condemned Israel for this, and threatened sanctions and war.  The President of the United States supported Israel in its decision and claimed that such a conference “singles out Israel.”  Well, yes, I guess one might think it “singles out Israel” since Israel is the only country in the region to have nuclear weapons, the irony of which should not be missed considering Israel pushed war on Iraq and is now doing the same with Iran for trying to produce nuclear weapons.

But such ironies do not get discussed in America, only in the rest of the world.  In the Muslim world, it is clearly understood that the United States and Israel are not against nuclear weaponry nor do they ever want a nuclear free Middle East–instead, they simply want to hold a nuclear monopoly.  We get nukes; you don’t; if you break this “fair” agreement, then we’ll bomb you, on the grounds that you have nukes–we might even nuke you for having nukes, because nukes are bad, except when we have and use them.  As George Orwell said: “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.”

Some Israeli apologists have argued that there is no equivalence between Iran and Israel since the former is a signatory of the NPT and the latter is not.  This is a purposefully deceitful argument: can anyone imagine the sort of pressure (sanctions, military force, war, and/or occupation) that would await Iran had it refused to sign the NPT or now withdrew from it?  (It is legal to withdraw from the treaty after giving three months notice.)  If Iran weren’t a signatory of the NPT, we all know that the entire premise of sanctions and military action would be: Iran must sign the NPT!  If Iran withdrew from the NPT, the entire premise would be: Iran withdrew from the NPT!  Furthermore, proponents of the “Iran signed the NPT, Israel didn’t” defense should be asked: What about the United States, which signed the NPT and is in violation of it?  Can Iran legally bomb the U.S. now?

Another counter-argument raised is the claim that the United States and Israel cannot possibly be equated with countries such as Iran.  The implication here is that Iran is just so absolutely warlike that it cannot be trusted with nuclear weaponry.  Meanwhile, the U.S. and Israel are peace-loving democracies and can be trusted never to use them.  Orwell’s quote–and Glenn Greenwald’s recent article on Orwell and Iran–come to mind.

There is the obvious absurdity that the United States is the only country to have used nuclear weapons against human beings (not once, but twice).  Not only this, but the U.S. has never apologized for doing so; quite the opposite: Americans have always claimed that incinerating two civilian cities saved millions of lives, a morally repugnant lie that lives on.  Only the most brainwashed mind could understand such depraved logic: bombing and killing thousands of people actually saves lives.  In the words of George Orwell: war is peace.

Imagine if Nazi Germany had produced the atomic bomb first–and had nuked Great Britain or the United States (not once, but twice).  The dastardly act would be remembered by the Western powers as the ultimate act of Nazi depravity; the atomic bomb would be viewed as the most Nazi-like of weapons, one that wantonly and indiscriminately incinerates civilian populations.  In such a scenario, Nazi propaganda that such an act was noble because it “saved millions of German lives” would be scoffed at and not taken seriously.  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

If Americans still engage in the morally atrocious act of justifying the mass murder of Japanese civilians from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (even though Japan had been ready to surrender long before it was nuked), one shouldn’t be surprised that the United States continues to ponder the use of nuclear weapons in the near future.  Leaked documents have shown that the U.S. government has

outlined a broad array of contingencies under which the U.S. might use nuclear weapons. Among these contingencies: using nuclear weapons against countries with no nuclear weapons capacity, such as Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Here, we see the profound hypocrisy of the U.S. government on full display: while using the threat of Iranian nuclear attack as a moral pretense to wage war against Iran, the United States itself has long been planning “a broad array of contingencies” under which Iran may be nuked.  Is this not a case of mind-boggling projection?

From this, it is clear that the U.S. government does not desire nuclear disarmament, but nuclear monopoly: this unequal balance of nuclear power leaves open the nuclear option against its non-nuclear enemies without fear of nuclear retaliation.

The same is the case with Israel, which has issued contradictory statements about the use of nuclear weapons.  Yes, Israel has said “it would not be the first country in the Middle East to formally introduce nuclear weapons into the region”, but what does this vague statement mean?  Do Israelis think Iran has now “introduced” nuclear weapons into the region?  In fact, Israel “reject[s] no first use because they believe that there may be circumstances in which they would initiate use of nuclear weapons.”

Indeed, Israel endorses the Samson Option, whereby Israel will respond with “massive retaliation” (including the use of nuclear weaponry) if it feels threatened.  What policy could be more maniacal than this?  Here, we have Israel endorsing a policy of nuclear Armageddon, yet on the other hand we are constantly told that Iran, unlike Israel, might use the bomb–a bomb it doesn’t even have.

Meanwhile, the truth is that the Supreme Leader of Iran has rejected the use of nuclear weaponry  because it is “forbidden in Islam”:

Nuclear weapons unholy, Iran says / Islam forbids use, clerics proclaim

In a surprising development, Iran’s hard-line clerical establishment, which had bitterly resisted American pressure to open the country’s nuclear facilities to inspection, is using its religious influence to rally support for an agreement with the West to foreswear the development of nuclear weapons.

Led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nation’s “supreme leader,” Iranian clerics have repeatedly declared that Islam forbids the development and use of all weapons of mass destruction.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, based on its fundamental religious and legal beliefs, would never resort to the use of weapons of mass destruction,” Khamenei said recently. “In contrast to the propaganda of our enemies, fundamentally we are against any production of weapons of mass destruction in any form.”

The ironies just keep adding up: the United States–a country that has used nuclear weapons in the past, possesses the most nuclear weapons in the world, and actively makes plans on how to use nuclear weapons against its enemies–is threatening to take action against Iran for its alleged nuclear weapons program–a country that has never used them, does not have them, and has sworn never to never use them (not even in self-defense or retaliation).  Only in the U.S. media could such absurdities go largely unchallenged.

If anyone tries to mention that the United States and Israel are far more warlike than Iran, he must be quickly shut up.  One recalls the debate Ahmed Rehab had with Bill O’Reilly; asked Rehab: “How many countries has Iran attacked in the past 50 years?”  The answer: zero.  Meanwhile, the United States and Israel have attacked dozens and dozens of countries (in a future article, I will compile the lengthy list of nations that have been attacked by the U.S. and Israel.)

O’Reilly couldn’t give a straight answer to the question (the answer is zero–Iran has never initiated a war against another country) so he brought up the Iran-Iraq War and the current Iraq War.  Yet, the Iran-Iraq War was not initiated by Iran–rather, Iraq attacked Iran.  There is no debate about this fact, so either (1) O’Reilly is ignorant of the facts he cites, or (2) he is using a misleading argument, which really speaks volumes about how few countries Iran has ever invaded (zero) that he was forced to make one up.  Worse yet, the example O’Reilly cited is an example of Iran being attacked by a country that received the military backing to do so by the United States.  In fact, “the CIA authorized, approved and assisted…in the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs and other munitions to Iraq” for use against Iran.

The second example O’Reilly cited was of the current Iraq War.  Once again, O’Reilly reverses reality: Iran did not invade Iraq.  He must have mistaken the United States for Iran.  Both examples O’Reilly used show America’s belligerency, not Iran’s.

The other examples O’Reilly gave, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, also show that he simply cannot answer the question in a straight manner.  The reason he can’t do so is because the answer is zero. Neither Hamas or Hezbollah is Iran.  At most one could argue that Hezbollah operates as a proxy for Iran.  In that case, we should compare the number of countries that the United States has not only attacked but how many the U.S. has done so by proxy.  That list would certainly dwarf Iran’s.

The double standard is well-understood by Iranians and Muslims living in other countries: nuclear weapons are OK for America and Israel, but off limits to countries like Iran.  Yet, it is exactly such countries that would most need nuclear weapons to act as deterrence against American and Israeli threats of military action, belligerence, and propensity toward aggression.

Part 2 of this article to be published within 24-48 hours.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Who Has the Right to Speak Out Against the Ban on Women Driving in Saudi Arabia?

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

In Saudi Arabia, women still do not have the right to drive.  Recently, a group of Saudi women have challenged this ban, running the risk of prosecution and punishment by their government.  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initially refrained from being too hard on the Saudis, arguing instead for “quiet diplomacy.”  It is now being reported that Clinton has abandoned this approach and has issued a public statement of support for Saudi Women for Driving.

However, the initial reluctance to issue a public statement and the mildness of the issued public statement make us wonder if the United States has tempered its criticism based on its (perceived) national interest and regional “needs.”  The Saudi government may well be the most ultra-conservative and fundamentalist regime since the Taliban’s Afghanistan, but the Saudi leadership is subservient to American power–and is therefore acceptable.

Simply put, the Saudis are our favorite type of tyrants–U.S. friendly tyrants–ones we can work with and do business with.  Of course, if they ever get out of line like our former-friend-turned-enemy Saddam Hussein did, then we can always invade and occupy them.  But for now, as long as they do our bidding, we could care less if they repress their people, whether it be women or Shi’ites.

From time to time, the U.S. will be forced to issue public statements against certain actions of Saudi Arabia, just as it sometimes does against Israel.  But these statements will not be too forceful, and certainly won’t be the “ratcheting up of rhetoric” of war and aggression that would take place had this been Iran that was involved.

I should clarify, however, that I don’t want the United States or Clinton to “ratchet up” the rhetoric of war and aggression against Saudi Arabia.  As a peacenik, I don’t support any of America’s wars, let alone want yet another Muslim country to be invaded.  I’m merely commenting on the double standard of American foreign policy, which is even more apparent in the way the U.S. talks about the “Arab Spring” democratic movement in Libya versus in Saudi Arabia and neighboring Bahrain.

*  *  *  *  *

Certain right-wing elements support the ratcheting up of the rhetoric of war and aggression against Saudi Arabia, with some even advocating the use of military force.  On the other hand, conservative Muslim Hebah Ahmed has argued on CNN that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t meddle in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia at all and that foreign intervention will be resented by the Saudi citizenry.

The first view, calling for an aggressive posture against Saudi Arabia, would of course be counter-productive.  The opposing view espoused by Hebah Ahmed–that only Saudis and Saudis alone have a right to speak out against the women driving ban–is also wrong.

First things first, it is worthwhile to point out a few errors in Hebah Ahmed’s analysis.  She opens up by saying “this is not a religious issue.”  She is correct in saying that there is nothing in Islam that prohibits women from driving.  Quite the opposite in fact.  The early Muslim women in the time of the Prophet Muhammad freely “drove around” on camels and horses.  Neither the Islamic prophet or his disciples forbade this.  There is absolutely no reason then, argue most Muslims, to prohibit women from driving.

However, Ahmed is incorrect in saying that the Saudi ban on women driving is not a religious issueat all. In fact, the Saudi clerics have forbidden women from driving based on religious grounds.  They have used a contested and open-ended concept of Islamic jurisprudence, sadd al-dhara’i (which means “blocking the means” to sin), to ban women from driving.  What this means is that it is licit to forbid something which in and of itself is not sinful because that something will likely lead to something else that is sinful.

The principle of “blocking the means” is a contentious one, and accounts for the differing Muslim views on various issues.  The principle has a very limited role and is used sparingly especially amongst the more liberal minded, whereas it is used expansively and widely by ultra-conservative Islamic clerics who ban everything from university education to women driving.

The late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, known as Ibn Baz, issued the following religious verdictforbidding women from driving:

People have spoken a great deal in the al-Jazeerah newspaper about the issue of women driving cars. It is well known that it leads to evil consequences which are well known to those who promote it, such as being alone with a non-mahram [stranger] woman, unveiling, reckless mixing with men, and committing haraam [forbidden] actions because of which these things were forbidden. Islam forbids the things that lead to haraam [forbidden] and regards them as being haraam [forbidden] too.

Not only was Grand Mufti Ibn Baz the highest religious authority in the country, but he is highly respected by the group and religious sect followed by Hebah Ahmed.  This is not to say that Hebah Ahmed necessarily agrees with every view espoused by Ibn Baz.  Yet, it is clearly incorrect to say that this is not a religious issue at all!

It is very much a religious issue: the debate is between a more tolerant Islamic interpretation on the one hand and ultra-conservative interpretation on the other hand.  In the specific case of women driving, the Saudis are alone in the Islamic world in forbidding it.  Clearly, we all should support the more tolerant view.

Hebah Ahmed also argues that this is a “cultural issue” and that Saudi women may have different views on it.  This is not merely a cultural issue: it is a basic issue of human, civil and women’s rights.  You are either on the side in support of an inherent right or you are defending a backward rule.  Whether or not some Saudi women may be on the latter side is irrelevant.  Ahmed argues that any movement must “come from within Saudi Arabia”, not forced onto it by the outside.  Yet, this is exactly the case here: it is Saudi women who are involved in the protest.

*  *  *  *  *

Yet, I share some of Hebah Ahmed’s discomfort with the idea of Hillary Clinton issuing a public statement on this issue.  This leads me to the question of: who has the right to speak out against the women driving ban in Saudi Arabia?

The United States has very little credibility in the Islamic and Arab world.  This is due to a policy of inconsistency, double standards, and hypocrisy in the region.  The U.S. has one standard for human and civil rights abuses in Iran and a completely different one for Israel.  One of the many pretexts for invading Iraq was that Saddam Hussein attacked, killed, and displaced Kurds in the late 1980′s.  When Israel attacks, kills, and displaces Palestinians, the U.S. not only doesn’t impose sanctions on Israel or attack it, but in fact continues to fund Israel and shield it from international criticism.

The examples of U.S. hypocrisy in the region are endless, and are well-known in the Islamic and Arab world.  Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy of all is that the United States posits itself as the defender of human rights in the world–often chastising other countries for their abuses in this regard–while at the same time the U.S. is involved in more wars of aggression and occupation than any other country in the world.

It is a fundamental human right to live, and the U.S. takes this right away from hundreds of thousands–if not millions–of people by dropping bombs on their heads.  In fact, the right to life is the most sacred and most important human right.  The United States lost its human rights credibility when it embarked on a path of Endless War–of military occupation and world domination.

Those involved in or those who defend the taking away of the most fundamental of human rights from thousands or millions of people have absolutely no right to speak about human rights in another country.  This applies to Hillary Clinton, and it also applies to the right-wing elements who support Endless War on the one hand and criticize other countries for their human and civil rights abuses on the other hand.

So, who then has the right to speak out against the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia and other such human and civil rights abuses in the world?  Surely, it is those few, lone voices who speak the truth no matter who it is for or against.  Throughout history and in every nation have there been such truth-seekers, those who refuse to become ideologues or propagandists.  These are people like Glenn Greenwald, who will hold his own government accountable for what it does wrong, even holding a Democratic president’s feet to the fire.  These are people who are not beholden to governmental power, or to national or religious affiliation or affinity.  They are beholden to nothing but the truth.

The holy book of the Muslims, the Quran, well describes the maxim followed by such people:

Stand up firmly for justice, as witnesses before God, even if it be against your own selves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor. (Quran, 4:135)

When American officials and pundits can only see what is wrong with others, especially their perceived enemies–while simultaneously ignoring the same in themselves and their allies–this is not standing up for justice.  Neither is it standing up for justice when certain conservative Muslims see everything wrong with the United States and Israel but ignore the wrongs committed by a regime that follows their particular interpretation of Islam.

Yet, neutral observers who consistently oppose injustice–those who “stand up firmly for justice…even if it be against [their] own selves…or [their] kin”–have every right to speak out against the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia.  Such truth-seekers and upholders of justice–whether they be inside of or outside of Saudi Arabia–should condemn the Saudi government (and the clerical establishment that provides religious justification) for forbidding women from such a basic human right.

*  *  *  *  *

Because Saudi Women for Driving itself requested Hillary Clinton to issue a public statement, it is of course reasonable that she did.  Yet, the hypocrisy of America criticizing others for human rights abuses while simultaneously being one of the worst offenders should not be lost.

It should also be noted that U.S. concerns over women’s rights in the Islamic world will quite naturally (and correctly) be seen as “colonial feminism.”  The U.S. does, after all, have a long history of using the excuse of human rights to justify its wars of aggression, occupation, and domination.  This is the white elephant in the room and no matter how unjust, discriminatory, and oppressive these Muslim regimes are, nothing will allow the United States to have a moral superiority over them until these wars of aggression–“the supreme international crime”–are brought to an end.

We should not let ourselves be cowered into defending injustice due to false claims of “patriotism” nor should Muslims do so based on a sense of religious “brotherhood.”  To the latter aspect, Muhammad–the Islamic prophet–specifically commanded Muslims to “help your brother [even if] he is an oppressor…by preventing him from oppressing others” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol.3, Book 43, #624).

We ought not be silent on U.S. crimes because we have been browbeaten with the need to be “patriotic,” nor should Muslims or people of any other religion have another separate standard for their own “Ummah.”  Justice has one standard which should be applied to all, irrespective of nationality or religion.

Being vocal when crimes are committed by one’s opponents while silent when the same is done by oneself or by one’s allies or ideological group is not justice; it is nothing but ideologue-driven political opportunism.

Lesley Hazelton: Soccer v. Headscarf: 0-1

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on June 14, 2011 by loonwatch

A great piece from the Accidental Theologist, Lesley Hazelton.

Soccer v. Headscarf: 0-1

by Lesley Hazelton

More absurdity this week:  FIFA, the international governing body of football, banned the Iranian women’s soccer team from an Olympic qualifying event because the players wear hijab — Islamic headscarves.  The official reason:  safety.  Wearing ahijab while playing “could cause choking injuries.”

Yeah, sure.  As one commenter noted, Google “hijab soccer choking deaths” and the search engine doesn’t exactly hum.

These aren’t just anyhijabs, mind you.  They have to be the coolest ones ever.  They’re like speed-skaters’ hoods, and the players look like white-clad ninjas.   I’ll bet they can move like ninjas too.   Clearly FIFA has no sense of style.

Correction:  FIFA has no sense, period.

The decision to ban the Iranian team was made by FIFA head Sepp Blatter, who’s apparently one of those Berlusconi-type men who’ll tell you how much he loves women, by which he means how much he loves looking at female flesh.  No, I’m not making assumptions.  The arrant hypocrisy of this banis clear when you consider the fact that Blatter proposed in 2004 that women players wear plunging neckines and hot pants on the pitch to boost soccer’s popularity.  Tighter shorts, he said, would create “a more female esthetic.”

I guess it was kind of amazing he didn’t propose wet tee-shirts.

And if you believe that Blatter is for a moment concerned about women being injured, his response to requests by human rights organizations to take a stand against the sex trafficking that accompanies the arrival of the World Cup was this:  ”Prostitution and trafficking of women does not fall within the sphere of responsibility of an international sports federation but in that of the authorities and the lawmakers of any given country.”

No, Blatter’s all about the sport.  He’s presumably salivating for more on-field celebrations like Brandi Chastain‘s famous shirtless moment when the U.S. won the 1999 Women’s World Cup.  And drooling over women’s sportswear catalogs instead of Victoria’s Secret ones.  In which case he’s pathetically misreading that Chastain photo.  This was the victory of hard work and muscle over frills and pretty posturing.  Serena Williams revolutionized women’s tennis in much the same way, making it a power game (in dress as well as style of play — the black catsuit she wore a couple of years back was dynamite).

What Blatter’s really doing is trying to piggyback on the burqa ban in France and theminaret ban in his native Switzerland.  But the good news is that it’s backfiring on him.  Badly.  Already the focus of multiple accusations of corruption in his 12-year tenure as FIFA president, he probably saw this as an easy way to try to redeem himself by jumping on the anti-Muslim bandwagon.  Instead, the storm of criticism might be an indication that Europeans are beginning to realize just how badly they’ve been manipulated by misogynistic xenophobes on such issues as burqa bans.

One further note on that shirtless photo:  Chastain herself was amazed when it ran worldwide .  “I wasn’t trying to make a statement;  I was just carried away, and doing what male players do in the same situation,” she told me when I met her not long after.  “I was really surprised there was so much fuss about it.  I mean, there’s a much better photo of the victory moment, but nobody ran that one.”  Here it is, on the right — the photo they didn’t run, baggy shirt, baggy pants, and all.  Which I guess just means the world is full of Blatters.

—————————

(Thank to Sarah Hashim for alerting me to this story.  I know I was born in England, but soccer’s not my thing.  Tennis, though…)

Katya Koren: Ukrainian Beauty Queen Killed by Disturbed Classmate not Sharia’ Law

Posted in Feature, Loon Violence, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2011 by loonwatch

Muslim beauty queen Katya Koren was brutally murdered by a classmate who was obsessed with her, according to police in the Ukraine. Not only was the classmate, Bihal Gaziev, a mentally unstable individual, according to reports he had also developed a deeply “unhealthy” and “unrequited obsession” with Koren.

According to some reports after being arrested, Bihal said he had no regrets because he had fulfilled “Sharia’” –obviously a cynical ploy to deflect from his atrocious and sick actions. Is it Sharia’ to rape, beat with a rock, kill and then dump the body as was done in this case? The answer of course is an unequivocal “no.”

This has not stopped some in the media as well as the Islamophobesphere from going buck-wild and attempting to link this murder with Islam. It is similar in some ways to the allegations of the“Mass Gaza pedophilia wedding,” which turned out to be false.

A closer analogy may be the case of a Christian, named John Thomas, who stoned a gay man,Murray Seidman, to death in Philadelphia and claimed to have done it in the name of the Holy Bible. It was reported at the time that Thomas had personal interests and perhaps even a homosexual relationship with Seidman, these points were made quite clear in the mainstream media, with the APeven going as far as to cite Biblical scholars defending the Bible.

At the time we asked the simple question, “What would happen if John Thomas were Muslim?” and tried to excuse his actions by saying he did it in the name of “Islam” or “Sharia?”

The question is rhetorical, and the tragic death of Koren at the hands of the crazy Bihal further highlights how right we were in asking the question. The double standard is evident.

Robert Spencer wasted no time in blaming Islam writing,

The fact that this was an extrajudicial killing doesn’t let Sharia off the hook.

While wacky Pamela Geller wrote,

And when they come for the feminists, their daughters and their sisters — we will respond in kind. Their silence on the oppression, brutality and subjugation of women  in Islam makes them as guilty as the murderers. Their silence is their sanction.

These quotes are just an example of two of the most prolific Islamophobes, one only has to google search to see the plethora of hate sites and even mainstream media that are taking the line that Islam is or may be to blame.

From the Telegraph, a right-wing UK newspaper:

Muslim teenage beauty queen ‘stoned to death’

by Andrew Osborn

There were conflicting reports of how and why she was murdered. Some local newspapers claimed she had been stoned to death by hardline Muslims upset by her participation in the beauty contest and that police had three suspects in their sights.

But the police said her killing had nothing to do with sectarian violence and that the girl had been killed by a psychologically troubled classmate who had given her a lift on his moped and then robbed and possibly raped her before battering her to death with a rock.

“A student did it, killing his classmate. There is no other underlying reason, neither religious nor linked with inter-ethnic conflicts,” said Sergei Reznikov, a senior policeman involved in the case.

The area is home to more than 250,000 Muslim Crimean Tatars, and although there has been mob violence in the past sparked by perceived historical injustices, cases of Sharia punishment being meted out by stoning are unheard of.

Police said the main suspect, 16-year-old Bihal Gaziev, had a long history of mental health problems and was already in custody. He is understood to have confessed amid reports from his village suggesting he had developed an unhealthy and unrequited obsession with Miss Koren.

Some local media quoted him saying that he killed her to enforce Sharia law and had no regrets, while others said he had confessed to the killing but had been unable to explain his motives. He is now undergoing a series of tests to see whether he is of sound mind or not.

Update (hat tip:BBoyBlue). May be more to the story than we knew:

Surprisingly balanced (by their standards) reporting from the right wing Daily Mail. The comments however are as hateful and ignorant as usual.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1392454/Muslim-girl-Katya-Koren-19-stoned-death-beauty-contest-Ukraine.html

This comment is interesting though.

THE KEY FACTS: 1. Katya is an Orthodox Christian. 2. Bilyal is formally Muslim, just adopted by Muslim man 3. Bilyal is not religious, like his father, even didn’t go to mosque. 4. Murder is not done by stoning. 5. Internal Affairs Dep. announced that murder has no religious roots. 6. Such a news first appeared in pro-Russian media.
– Asan, Crimea, 31/5/2011 16:11

The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2011 by loonwatch

Having been a very strong advocate of religious tolerance and pluralism, it is with great reservation in my heart that I publish the Understanding Jihad Series, which compares violence and war in the Judeo-Christian tradition to the jihad of Islam.  Certainly, the intention is not to target one particular faith or religious group.  Quite the contrary, the goal is to prevent religious majoritarianism, whereby the dominant religious and cultural group is able to target weaker, poorly represented minority populations.  These articles are meant to prevent a certain level of religious smugness that has become quite prevalent today.  In the words of Prof. Philip Jenkins, “Jews and Christians…so ignore their own scriptures that they become self-righteous” towards Muslims and Islam.

The aggressive way that anti-Muslim propagandists have pushed the Islamophobic idea–that Muhammad/Islam/Quran/Sharia/Allah are so uniquely violent and warlike–has made it almost impossible for me not to write such articles.  The data makes my case overwhelming: a recent Pew Research poll found that almost half of U.S. adults think that the Islamic religion is more likely to encourage violence than other religions, a figure that has almost doubled since 2002.  A clear majority of conservative Republicans (66%), white Evangelicals (60%), and Tea Baggers (67%) believe Islam is more violent than other religions, with a plurality of whites (44%) and older folks (42-46%) also thinking this.  (Of note is that blacks, Hispanics, and liberal Democrats are significantly less bigoted towards Islam.)  The idea that Islam is more violent than other religions–held most strongly by old white conservatives–is a key pillar to the edifice of Islamophobia.  The need for the Understanding Jihad Series seems self-evident.

Any time Islam is mentioned on the internet, pseudo-experts ferociously start copying and pasting a litany of Islamic texts to whack Muslims over the head with.   This anti-Muslim sentiment, fueled by profound ignorance (of both their own scriptures and Islamic), is no longer limited to fringe elements and has found its way into the mainstream.  Pro-Israeli hawks, in particular, have tried to transform this bigotry of Islam from a merely theological tussle into state policy.  It is hoped that pointing to Judeo-Christian scriptural sources that are far more violent than what is quoted from Islamic sources will instill in the extremist Zionists and Messianic Christians a level of religious humility.

My fear in so doing, of course, is of offending well-meaning Jews and Christians.  Indeed, while it is true that there is a definite link between Zionism and Islamophobia, it is also true that some of the most effective defenders of Muslims are in fact Jews.  These include such notable personalities as Glenn Greenwald, Richard Silverstein, Jon Stewart, Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Max Blumenthal, and–without naming names–even some writers of LoonWatch (gasp!).  To be absolutely clear, I do not think that Judaism and Christianity are violent religions.  What I am simply trying to prove is that just because certain Quranic verses seem violent, one cannot make sweeping statements of the religion based on this…no more so than showing certain violent Biblical verses would prove the inherent nature of Judaism or Christianity.  When people from the majority group realize that their own religious tradition also has “problematic” texts, they are usually more hesitant to rush to judgment about other faiths.

Although in the past I have compared Islam to Christianity–such as when I compared the traditional Islamic concept of “dhimmi” to the traditional Christian concept of “perpetual serf”–in the Understanding Jihad Series the comparison will more often be made with Judaism.  The reason for this is that it is much easier to compare Islam to Judaism because both are very similar in basic structure.  The Jewish Halacha is equivalent to the Islamic Sharia and the rabbinical tradition is analogous to the Islamic jurisprudential tradition.  The similarities between the two religions are actually quite uncanny. Therefore, it makes sense to invoke this comparison.

The reader should not think that I believe that a certain religion or another is violent.  Rather, there exist peaceful and violent interpretations of religion.  I reject the view held by religious orthodoxy that the human mind is simply an empty receptacle that unthinkingly “obeys” the divine plan.  Hundreds of years after their prophets have died, believers (of all faiths) are forced (by virtue of not having a divine interlocutor) to exert their own minds and ethics to give life to texts, to render 3D realities from 2D texts.  Such an elastic idea–that a religion is whatever its believers make it into–is certainly anathema to orthodox adherents who simply desire a step-by-step instruction manual to produce human automatons.  But the truth is that even these orthodox adherents necessarily inject into the religious texts their own backgrounds, beliefs, and biases.

One can see why I do not think that simply showing a Biblical verse here or there would prove that Judaism or Christianity are violent faiths. There is a long journey from what is on the page to what is understood and put into practice.  And once this reality is comprehended, it is hoped that Jews and Christians will gain a larger perspective when they approach Muslims and their religion.

It should be noted of course that not all Islamophobes are Jewish or Christian.  Many are ex-Muslims who feel that their former religious affiliation gives them a free pass to be bigoted.  This is hardly surprising, given that historically the worst oppressors of the Jewish minority in the Western world were actually ex-Jews converted to Christianity.  Though they think of themselves as truly special, there is nothing unique about apostates from a religion; they have existed throughout history, and it was not uncommon for their zeal for their new religion to convert into wholesale bigotry for what they left behind.

When I argued that Moses was more violent than Muhammad, one critic pointed out that atheists would condemn both.  Yet, one only needs to glance at anti-Muslim websites to see that these atheistic Islamophobes try to (and need to) prove that Muhammad/Islam/Quran/Sharia/Allah areuniquely violent.  Short of proving this uniqueness, their agenda fails.  Thus, it hardly matters to the effectiveness of my article whether or not one believes in Jewish or Christian prophets.  If we use the exact same standards applied to Islam to all religions and find them to be as violent or more violent than Islam, then what exactly is their point?  This question is what my articles force onto them, to which the “I am not a believer” excuse hardly suffices.

There will definitely be those militant atheists who genuinely can’t tolerate any religious faith.  These are the equal opportunity haters.  But because they do not single out Islam, I am less bothered by them.  Although many of their rantings are childish, they are not as destructive because they do not specifically target vulnerable minority populations.

Having thus expressed my general discomfort in writing these articles, I hope my readers can take into account context and intent.  If, for example, a white supremacist site compiled a list of all criminals that are black, this would be a clear case of bigotry.  An effective and appropriate way to counter this list would be to produce an even longer list of white criminals.  Even though the action is the same (producing lists of criminals of a particular race), it is the context and intent that are all important.  It is in a similar fashion that I am producing a “counter-list” of Biblical verses to counter the popular list of Quranic quotes that Islamophobes like to share.  LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series will categorically answer the question that an alarmingly high number of Americans answered incorrectly: is Islam more likely than other religions to encourage violence?

I would nonetheless strongly caution overzealous Muslim readers from using these articles to stir hatred against Jews and Christians, noting that Islam has no shortage of “problematic” texts.

$5 million lawsuit targets Jimmy Carter for ‘attacking Israel’

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2011 by loonwatch

Is this Freedom of Speech? What if Muslims were suing for “misleading” statements about Islam, you can be sure that the Islamophobes would be in a tail-spin.

$5 million lawsuit targets Jimmy Carter for ‘attacking Israel’

WASHINGTON – Former President Jimmy Carter has become the target of a class action lawsuit over ostensibly mean things he said about Israel in his best-selling 2006 book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

The lawsuit, filed in New York by an Israeli firm, alleges that the book “contained numerous false and knowingly misleading statements intended to promote the author’s agenda of anti-Israel propaganda and to deceive the reading public instead of presenting accurate information as advertised.”

The five American plaintiffs, two of whom are dual citizens of the US and Israel, seek $5 million in damages over the book (which is being sold for less than $10 on Amazon) on the basis that its criticisms of Israel violated consumer protection safeguards.

The plaintiffs alleged in a press release that the 39th US president and Nobel Peace Prize winner “violated the law and, thus, harmed those who purchased the book” by unfairly “attacking Israel.”

Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said her clients’ lawsuit “will expose all the falsehoods and misrepresentations in Carter’s book and prove that his hatred of Israel has led him to commit this fraud on the public.”

Publishing company Simon & Schuster, which is also targeted in the lawsuit, dismissed it as a frivolous act and a “chilling attack on free speech that we intend to defend vigorously.”

“This lawsuit is frivolous, without merit, and is a transparent attempt by the plaintiffs, despite their contentions, to punish the author, a Nobel Peace prize winner and world-renowned statesmen, and his publisher, for writing and publishing a book with which the plaintiffs simply disagree,” Simon & Schuster spokesman Adam Rothberg told the Washington Post.

A copy of the complaint can be viewed here.

[h/t Matt Yglesias]

 

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!”

 

2010: The Year of Islamophobia

Posted in Feature, Loonwatch Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2010 by loonwatch

2010 has been an unbelievable year! Can we say that we are happy that it is finally over? Only if that means that the wacky anti-Muslim Islamophobia that reached unprecedented and at times demented levels will recede. However, it doesn’t appear as though that will be happening any time soon.

Looking at the year in review we see that right-leaning and populist anti-Muslim/xenophobic organizations and party’s increased their power/influence across Europe while also initiating and passing discriminatory legislation in their countries.

  1. Rise of Geert Wilders and the Freedom Party
  2. EDL (English Defense League)
  3. Sweden Democrats
  4. Switzerland’s banning of Minarets
  5. BZO Austria
  6. Pia Kjaersgaard (DF)
  7. France and the face veil controversy
  8. Belgium’s banning of the face veil
  9. Catalonia face veil proposal

In the United States we saw the convergence and solidifying of a network of Islamophobes across the nation who joined arms with their brethren across the Atlantic ocean. We were also treated to the Republican party’s instrumentalization and usage of Islam for purposes of fear-mongering during the the run-up to the 2010 elections; add to this mosque controversies, hate crimes, anti-Muslim rallies and your run of the mill nuke Mecca suggestion and you had 2010.

The beginning of the year saw a slew of hate crimes, it also saw our piece, “All Terrorists are Muslim…Except the 94% that Aren’t,” go viral and become one of our most popular pieces ever, getting picked up by various mainstream media outlets.

Joseph Stack’s attack

Events picked up shortly after that with Joseph Stack flying his plane into a IRS office kamikaze style and the failure of many, especially on the right to equate the act to terrorism.

Such double standards were consistently exposed by us throughout the year, particularly in our “What if they were Muslim?” segment. We documented the colossal double standards that exist both in media and popular perception when it comes to judging crimes committed by Muslims against those committed by individuals of other faiths. Invariably, when a Muslim commits a crime it is blamed or linked to Islam, whereas if someone else does it his or her faith is not mentioned — even if it was the motivation.

Of course we would be remiss if we did not mention the biggest story of the year; the Cordoba House, i.e. Park51 or as it has come to be known by many, “the Ground Zero Mosque controversy.” This was a story that raged for months and was “whipped up into a frenzy by a pair of bigoted anti-Muslim bloggers, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, two individuals who should be summarily dismissed as loons that have zero influence in the mainstream media or amongst any of our politicians.”

The Republicans latched onto this story and attempted to make it the wedge issue that they could use to ride to victory during the elections. A dozen or more candidates incorporated this issue into their platform with some making it their sole selling point, (un)surpirsingly a handful actually came out victorious, most prominently the looniest of them all, Allen West.

This was also the issue that catapulted Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer into their 5 minutes of fame. We had been reporting on these two, their financiers, networks and supporters ever since we started Loonwatch, our pieces on both of these goons especially “Pamela Geller: The Looniest Blogger Ever” was picked up by mainstream media outlets including the New York Times, Salon.com, Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post.

Both Geller and Spencer were irked to no end by this and though they attempted to play the silent game were forced at some point to respond to Loonwatch, but they did so only with ad hominemattack and zero interaction with the substance of our articles. Geller resorted to calling us a “Goebbels-style hate site” while Spencer wished to inflict “100-101 lashes” on Danios who he labeled a “slick liar” while continuing to run-away and evade Loonwatch’s open challenge to a radio debate.

Today the controversy over Park51 is still simmering though the rhetoric and verbiage on it has cooled down quite a bit to the chagrin of Spencer and Geller. The spill over from Park51 left a terrible residue and sparked controversies around the nation.

It seemed that the issue with mosques (i.e. Muslims) was not simply about proximity to “hallowed ground,” but the right to build and freely worship was being challenged all over the country.

  1. Murfreesboro, TN.
  2. Temecula, CA.
  3. Sheepshead Bay
  4. Sheboygan County, Wi
  5. Florence, KY
  6. Selden, LI
  7. Ohio
Ahmed H. Sharif

There are about six more places from our count where mosque controversies were raging, but the above sampling gives you an idea. The worst spillover of the mosque controversy undoubtedly manifested itself with the near fatal stabbing of New York City cab driver Ahmed H. Sharif. Passenger Michael Enright entered his cab, asked him “Are you a Muslim?” and when the cabdriver replied, “Yes,” slashed his throat.

There were other notable Islamophobiapalooza moments during the year as well. For instance Rima Fakih, the first Muslim Miss America drew the ire of right-wingers and Islamophobes who didn’t like seeing a brown lady with the crown, let alone a Mooslim. There was also the South Park/Revolution Muslim controversy and the resultant Everybody Draw Mohammed Day on Facebook which descended into an orgy of bigotry and hatred. Later this would reveal the epic double standards and failure of the moribund perception-makers in the media when contrasted with the way it dealt with the story of Pastor Terry Jones and his wacky Dove Outreach Church’s “International Burn the Koran Day on 9/11″ (Read: Islam and the Media in the Age of Islamophobiapalooza).

The final focal point with which Islamophobes and their cynical cohorts in the Republican party attempted to garner populist support through anti-Muslim fear-mongering was surrounding the buzz word: Sharia’. Sharia’ is the boogey monster that Muslims, 1% of the population of America is going to impose. Forget the fact that most of those advocating this conspiracy theory are themselveswoefully ignorant of the Constitution, a document that they subvert with every statement and move they make. It got so bad that Oklahoma overwhelmingly passed a measure banning Sharia’ which has (thankfully) been overturned for being unconstitutional, it should also have been overturned for being unbelievably stupid.

This leads us to consider the biggest Islamophobic conspiracies of the year, which could be a feature piece on its own:

  1. Sharia take over of the United States
  2. Park51 being a “victory mosque” for “Islamic supremacism”
  3. Barack “Hussein” Obama being a secret “Mooslim”
  4. Muslim Congressional Spy Interns
  5. Rep. Keith Ellison working for Hamas
  6. Google’s “e” as an Islamic crescent

At the end of the day, all hope was not lost. There were many whose eyes were opened and Loonwatch helped by being picked by prominent and diverse bloggers as well as media venues as varying as AlJazeera, NPR, Christian Science Monitor, The Independent, AlArabiya etc. Many concerned citizens spoke out eloquently to reject and counter Islamophobia, our segment “Anti-Loons” vividly  showcased the best of those who opposed bigotry and were sincerely and effectively working to counter hate and ignorance on all levels, especially against Islam and Muslims. Lesley Hazelton’s profound lecture describing her experience with the Quran left us with hope, that those who make an effort may come to see beyond the stereotypes, the ignorance that shackles us and fosters animosity between humanity.

“Part of the problem I think is we imagine that the Quran can be read as we usually read a book. As though we can curl up with it on a rainy day with a bowl of popcorn in reach, as though God, and the Quran is entirely in the voice of God speaking to Muhammad, were just another author on the best-sellers list. Yet it is precisely because so few people read the Quran that it is so easy to quote, that is to misquote, phrases and snippets taken out of context, in what I call the highlighter version, which is the one favored by Muslim fundamentalists and anti-Muslim Islamophobes.” –Lesley Hazelton

 

Wikileaks: India Systematically Torturing Kashmiris

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2010 by loonwatch

WikiLeaks has further exposed what was quite obvious but which many people were silent about: the systematic torture by the Indian Army of Kashmiri civilians.

Mike, a Loonwatch reader asked, “what if this had been Pakistan?” Well Mike, no doubt you would have been hearing cries from the Mooslim haters as well as reverb about how Islam is to blame.

Another interesting tid-bit in the article was the suggestion that the US use Bollywood stars to pacify Afghanistan. I guess Shahrukh Khan holds the key to ending the occupation?

(hat tip: Mike)

WikiLeaks: India ‘systematically torturing civilians in Kashmir’

(Telegraph)

By Nick Allen, Los Angeles 12:17AM GMT 17 Dec 2010

The US officials in Delhi were privately briefed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2005 that Indian security forces were using methods including electrocution, physical beatings and sexual interference against hundreds of detainees.

In a detailed report back to Washington they recorded the view of the ICRC that India “condones torture” and that the detainees were not Islamist insurgents or Pakistani-backed militants, who were “routinely killed.” Instead, they were civilians “connected to or believed to have information about the insurgency.”

According to the cables, which will prove a major embarrassment for the Indian government, the ICRC interviewed 1,296 detainees of whom 681 said they had been tortured.
Of those, 498 claimed to have been electrocuted, 381 said they were suspended from the ceiling, and 304 cases were described as “sexual.”

A total of 294 described a procedure in which guards crushed their legs by putting a bar across their thighs and sitting on it, while 181 said their legs had been pulled apart into the splits.

In one cable US officials reported that “terrorism investigations and court cases tend to rely upon confessions, many of which are obtained under duress if not beatings, threats, or in some cases torture.”

Other leaked cables from US officials in India revealed that the Dalai Lama believed environmental problems on the Tibetan plateau should take precedence over a political solution there for the next five to 10 years.

The exiled Buddhist spiritual leader told US diplomats that issues such as polluted water from mining, deforestation and melting glaciers “cannot wait.”

US officials also suggested to Washington that India be encouraged to send Bollywood stars to Afghanistan to help pacify the country.

A cable, obtained by the WikiLeaks website, said “We understand Bollywood movies are wildly popular in Afghanistan” but the plan never materialised.”

 

Salon.com: Glaring Double Standard in Tolerance for anti-Muslim Bigotry

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , on October 18, 2010 by loonwatch

An excellent post from Glen Greenwald that was too good to not be featured.

Glaring double standard in tolerance for anti-Muslim bigotry

In theory, it could be a fun game to try to detect the double standard in this pattern of facts, except that it’s so obvious and glaring that no effort is required to see it:

The Washington Post, July 8, 2010:

Octavia Nasr has been fired. CNN fired the editor responsible for Middle Eastern coverage after she posted a note on Twitter expressing admiration for a late Lebanese cleric considered an inspiration for the Hezbollah militant movement. Octavia Nasr later apologized for her tweet, but CNN’s senior vice president for international newsgathering, Parisa Khosravi, said Wednesday that Nasr’s credibility had been compromised.

Politico, June 7, 2010:

In the world of political journalism, it’s the end of an era: Helen Thomas has retired just months shy of her 90th birthday … [Thomas] stepped down from her latest role — a columnist for Hearst Newspapers — in the wake of controversial remarks made in late May about the need for Jews to “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to Poland and Germany. “Helen Thomas announced Monday that she is retiring, effective immediately,” read a statement from Hearst Newspapers on Monday. “Her decision came after her controversial comments about Israel and the Palestinians were captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet.”

USA Today, Oct. 1, 2010:

CNN has fired Rick Sanchez following his controversial comments on the radio show “Stand Up With Pete Dominick” … On Thursday, Sanchez called Jon Stewart a “bigot,” arguing that “The Daily Show” host is against “everybody else who’s not like him.” He also suggested that CNN is run by Jewish people. Stewart is also Jewish.”

Nafees A. Syed, CNN, Sept. 23, 2010:

At a time when our nation’s top university is more diverse than ever before, Harvard’s recent decision to honor its former professor Marty Peretz on Friday for setting up an undergraduate research fund in his name comes as a big, disappointing surprise … Here is the latest blog-post calumny: “Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims” and “I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse” … Despite the voices raised against it, the university just reaffirmed its decision to recognize him …

Think Progress, today (with video):

Last week, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said on ABC’s “The View” that “Muslims killed us on 9/11,” prompting “The View” co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar to walk off the set in disgust. “Fox and Friends” host Brian Kilmeade defended O’Reilly the next day, making an equally idiotic and “obviously false” statement that “not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” Kilmeade even defended that statement a few hours later on his radio show, saying it’s a fact “you can’t avoid.” But today, after having the weekend to think it over, the “Fox and Friends” host offered a half-hearted apology:

KILMEADE: “On the show on Friday, I was talking about Bill O’Reilly appearance on ‘The View’ and I said this: ‘Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims.’ Well, I misspoke. I don’t believe all terrorists are Muslims. I’m sorry about that if I offended or hurt anybody’s feelings. But that’s it.”

In contrast to the loud backlash of anger from journalists over the remarks of Thomas and Sanchez, few have condemned the remarks from Peretz or Kilmeade (for instance, when asked about Peretz, the Washington Post’s media critic Howard Kurtz — who devoted substantial attention to the remarks of Thomas and Sanchez — was steadfastly silent, telling the Guardian: “I’m afraid I just haven’t focused on the subject.” And Kilmeade, of course, will suffer no repercussions (or even widespread criticisms) either for his initial bigoted and patently false statement, nor for his proudly begrudging non-apology, with more emphasis on defiance than regret (“I’m sorry about that if I offended or hurt anybody’s feelings. But that’s it”). Could the double standards in our discourse be any more glaring?

 

What if they Were Muslim?: Creeping Halacha in Orange County?

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2010 by loonwatch

Imagine if Muslims had put up a similar sign, or if Muslim women were scowling at visitors who dressed in daisy dukes and halter tops. Islamophobes like Bikini Vlogger Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer would be howling to the moon about how Muslims are trying to take over America andimpose Islam on the masses. (hat tip: ELi)

 

 

Welcome to Kiryas Joel: Please Dress Accordingly

KIRYAS JOEL, N.Y. (CBS 2) – You may never see a more unusual “Welcome” sign in Orange County.

A sign in Kiryas Joel, the Hasidic Jewish enclave, is evoking mixed reaction.

Monroe resident Jessica Pantalemon stopped to cash a check in Kiryas Joel wearing a bright pink tank top and white shorts. She said she noticed scowling faces.

“Just from the women, mostly,” she said. “The guys let me walk by, the women stop and stare, start whispering to each other…I just ignore them.”

The tradition in the village of Satmar Hasidic Jews is modesty. Even on the hottest of days, most residents cover up from head to toe. But visitors don’t necessarily follow that tradition, and now the main synagogue is asking them to comply.

Congregation Yetev Lev posted signs at the village’s entrance – in both English and Spanish – asking outsiders to cover their legs and arms, use appropriate language and maintain gender separation in public.

“It’s a way of respect,” said one resident.

In fact, most residents say it’s simply a polite reminder to respect the local culture, and many visitors take the signs in that spirit.

“It’s nice to request that people behave in a way respect to their beliefs,” said Barry Kaufmann of Wantagh.

But the sign struck a sour note with some.

“They’re telling us that we can’t come into their community unless we dress a certain way,” said Adia Parker, an Orange County resident.

“I feel like my constitutional rights are being violated,” said Tyrone Wheeler, a day laborer in the village seeking work.

A village trustee pointed out the signs said nothing about consequences for violating these guidelines – because there are no consequences.

“We’re not threatening anyone,” said Rabbi Jacob Freund. “Everybody is free to come in and be the same, like all other places in the United States.”

So dressing like Jessica Pantalemon may elicit a scowl, but it won’t earn you a summons.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said because the signs were paid for privately and are not on public land and they pass constitutional muster.