Archive for Islam

Geert Wilders’ War Against Islam

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2012 by loonwatch

Geert Wilders book in review (via. Islamophobia-Watch.com):

Wilders’ war against Islam

By the end of Marked for Death, we see what Wilders is leading up to – a horrifying vision of a fortress Europe, defending “freedom” through the deployment of totalitarian state powers to expunge Islam from the continent. His recommendations are reminiscent of the discriminatory social control measures taken against Jews and other minorities under Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

Wilders, of course, is careful to disavow violence and reiterate he hates Islam, not Muslims. But it is difficult to deny the implicitly violent subtext of his sweeping proposals, including a halt to all Muslim immigration, payments to settled immigrants to leave, cessation of building of mosques, and taxation of Muslim religious practices such as the headscarf. Most disturbing is his endorsement of Israeli-style “administrative detention” (indefinite internment without trial on security grounds) in Europe as part of criminal operations in Muslim communities; not to mention the forcible deportation of tens of millions of Muslims from Europe for “thinking” about “crime” or “Shari’ah”.

Yasmin Qureshi and Nafeez Ahmed examine the political programme presented in Geert Wilders’ Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me.

Independent, 4 June 2012

Church shows support for Murfreesboro Islamic Center

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2012 by loonwatch

Those who seek peace, harmony and co-existence will overcome the voices of hate and bigotry, especially when members of different faiths and perspectives gather together and lend each other a hand.

(via. IslamophobiaToday.com)

Church shows support for Murfreesboro Islamic Center

Christian and Muslim leaders came together to support the Murfreesboro Islamic community and imam Ossama Bahloul Sunday afternoon at The Village Church in East Nashville. “We just really wanted to reach out to him and to let him know that we cared about his community and him and that we would be praying with them,” said Dr. Andrew Anyabwile, Village Church pastor.

On Tuesday, a Rutherford County judge nullified the permit to build a multimillion dollar Islamic center in Murfreesboro after ruling that not enough public notice was given before a planning commission meeting where the construction was approved.

“It seems like the Muslim community being singled out in this because we did follow the exact process of everyone else,” said Ossama Bahloul, the Murfreesboro Islamic center imam. “If we respect our constitution, then we’ll have no choice but to support each other because the freedom of religion is the core of our constitution.”

While the congregation at the Village Church had a very vocal support for the imam’s words, the Murfreesboro Islamic center still has plenty of opponents. “If they’re this peaceful, loving religion, that they claim they are, they need to abide by the laws that all of us have to,” said attorney Joe Brandon, who has been representing clients that oppose the construction of the Islamic center.

Brandon has voiced several controversial claims like the stance that Islam was not an actual religion, and the group is out to spread Sharia law. “Sharia law provides that their law dominates the law of Tennessee, the laws of all 50 states, the law of the U.S. constitution,” Brandon said.

“It seems like this is a small group with a very vocal voice against the freedom of religion in Murfreesboro,” Bahloul said. “But I am really optimistic because I know that what’s right will prevail by the end.” Bahloul said he hopes the Islamic center will open in July to celebrate the month of Ramadan.

WZTV, 4 June 2012

See also “Murfreesboro mosque ruling stirs confusion”, The Tennessean, 3 June 2012

Germany: How Far-Right Islamophobes Hijacked Political Debate

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2012 by loonwatch

(Via Islamophobia-Watch.com)

Germany: how far-right Islamophobes hijacked political debate

Germany’s Salafist Muslims are back in the spotlight. Since early May, hardly a week has gone by without another regional or national politician in the country proposing new ways to counter the group’s extremist version of Islam or a major German newspaper publishing yet another exposé on the group’s insular isolation from the mainstream. Just on Friday, interior ministers from Germany’s 16 states, at a regularly scheduled conference with federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, resolved to be increasingly firm in their dealings with the Salafists.

Such hand-wringing in Germany about its Muslim population, extremist or otherwise, is not uncommon. This one, however, is different. Far from being an accidental upheaval of angst resulting from the publication of a book by the likes of the anti-immigration treatise by Germany’s provocateur-in-chief Thilo Sarrazin or comments from the country’s top politicians, its timing and nature was determined far from the country’s conventional opinion makers. It is a particularly unique case of the tail wagging the dog – and in this case, the tail is the tiny, Islamophobic political party Pro-NRW.

Spiegel Online, 1 June 2012

Germany: How Far-Right Islamophobes Hijacked Political Debate

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2012 by loonwatch

(Via Islamophobia-Watch.com)

Germany: how far-right Islamophobes hijacked political debate

Germany’s Salafist Muslims are back in the spotlight. Since early May, hardly a week has gone by without another regional or national politician in the country proposing new ways to counter the group’s extremist version of Islam or a major German newspaper publishing yet another exposé on the group’s insular isolation from the mainstream. Just on Friday, interior ministers from Germany’s 16 states, at a regularly scheduled conference with federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, resolved to be increasingly firm in their dealings with the Salafists.

Such hand-wringing in Germany about its Muslim population, extremist or otherwise, is not uncommon. This one, however, is different. Far from being an accidental upheaval of angst resulting from the publication of a book by the likes of the anti-immigration treatise by Germany’s provocateur-in-chief Thilo Sarrazin or comments from the country’s top politicians, its timing and nature was determined far from the country’s conventional opinion makers. It is a particularly unique case of the tail wagging the dog – and in this case, the tail is the tiny, Islamophobic political party Pro-NRW.

Spiegel Online, 1 June 2012

Burmese Buddhists Attack Muslim Pilgrims, Killing 9

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2012 by loonwatch

The attack on Muslims traveling to a mosque must be viewed in a much larger perspective, the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (i.e Burma).

Authorities are saying that “anti-Muslim sentiment” played a roll in at least one of the attacks:

Muslims killed in attack in Burma’s Rakhine province

(BBC)

Buddhist residents in western Burma have killed at least nine Muslims as sectarian tension worsens in the region, police say.

Reports say a crowd attacked a bus in Rakhine province after blaming some of the passengers for the gang rape and murder of a Buddhist woman.

In another incident, at least 10 people were injured in the state capital Sittwe when police broke up a protest.

It is the worst violence to hit the province in recent months.

Sectarian and ethnic tension persists in the country despite a new, supposedly tolerant climate introduced by the civilian-led government which came into power 15 months ago.

Mob attack

The bus attack took place near the town of Taungup in Rakhine province, which borders Bangladesh, on Sunday evening, police and residents said.

It was thought to be carried out by mostly Buddhist ethnic Rakhine people.

“More than 100 people beat and killed those people,” a resident told AFP news agency. “The residents even torched the bus.”

The reason for the attack is unclear, but some residents say it was a revenge attack following the rape and murder of a Buddhist girl in another part of the province last month.

Map

But the Burmese Muslim Association said most of those killed were Muslims visiting a mosque from central Burma.

That account was corroborated by unnamed residents quoted by Reuters news agency, who said those killed were not from the area.

No arrests have been made. A police investigation is under way.

In another, apparently unrelated incident at least 10 people were injured after police fired rubber bullets at a mob who attacked their police station in Sittwe, reports said.

A 13-year-old protester was among those injured, witnesses said.

There were contradictory reports about what triggered the protest, but some accounts suggested anti-Muslim sentiment could have played a part.

Rakhine is home to Burma’s largest concentration of Muslims, including much-persecuted Rohingya Muslims, and their presence is often deeply resented by the majority Buddhist population.

In a joint statement quoted by Reuters, eight Rohingya rights groups based outside Burma condemned the attack on the Muslims on the bus, whom they termed “Muslim pilgrims”.

Although it appears those on the bus were not Rohingyas, the groups said the attack followed months of anti-Rohingya propaganda stirred up by “extremists and xenophobes”.

Even OBL Admitted that Homegrown Terrorism is Un-Islamic? What the Bin Laden Letters Reveal

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on June 4, 2012 by loonwatch

The United States government recently released a select few letters from a trove of Al-Qaeda documents recovered from Osama Bin Laden’s final hideaway in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  Leaving aside the obvious fact that the release of 17 documents out of thousands is nothing short of war propaganda–and ignoring the absolute vacuous nature of the political punditry that passes as “terrorism expertise” in this country–there was one gem buried in the Bin Laden letters that has gone unnoticed thus far.

In a 2010 letter from Bin Laden to “Shaykh Mahmud” (SOCOM-2012-0000015), Al-Qaeda’s leader mentions the case of Faisal Shahzad, an American Muslim of Pakistani origin who unsuccessfully attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square.  It is Bin Laden’s views towards Shahzad’s actions that reveal something quite noteworthy.

After the failed Times Square bombing, the cottage industry of Very Serious Terrorism Experts began warning the American people of the looming threat of “homegrown terrorism.”  A CNN article entitled Analysis: The spread of U.S. homegrown terrorism declared:

Nearly a decade ago, a group of Saudis and other men from the Middle East came to the United States to carry out the worst terrorist attack on the U.S.

Not a single one had American citizenship.

Almost nine years after the September 11 attacks, the threat of another major terror strike is still a concern, but where the threat is coming from has changed.

A growing number of American citizens and longtime residents of the United States are becoming radicalized enough by al Qaeda’s extremist ideology to kill their fellow Americans, counterterrorism officials say.

It is difficult to call this “analysis” as the title implies.  Rather, this is another case of the media operating as the government’s stenographer.  The CNN article itself quotes the Homeland Security Secretary:

“In the 9/11 world and in the immediate aftermath, the theory was and the reality was that a terrorist attack, if it were to occur again on U.S. soil, would be someone coming from abroad and coming in to the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said. “That paradigm has changed, and there are now individuals in the United States, some who have grown up here and are American citizens. … They haven’t done anything to violate the law, but yet they have become radicalized to the point of violent extremism and to the point of … considering coming back to the homeland and conducting an attack of some sort.”

As Stephen Colbert put it in his 2006 speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (via Glenn Greenwald):

But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works. The President makes decisions. He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ‘em through a spell check and go home.

In this case, the government wanted to spread the idea that homegrown Islamic terrorism is the new threat, and that Al-Qaeda was now actively recruiting American citizens.  In fact, this claim was nothing new.  As early as 2007, President Barack Obama had ominously warned of Al-Qaeda recruiting in U.S. jails:

I will address the problem in our prisons, where the most disaffected and disconnected Americans are being explicitly targeted for conversion by al Qaeda and its ideological allies

Following the failed Times Square bombing in 2010, by 2011 this issue had become such a grave issue that the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security held Congressional hearings “on radicalization in the U.S. Muslim community” to assess the threat of homegrown terrorism.

The idea, that Americans need to fear their fellow Muslim compatriots, is very troubling from a sociological point of view.  Throughout American history, various minorities–such as Jews, Catholics, and Japanese–have been portrayed in the fifth column role.  Indeed, Islamophobes of the worst order have made a living selling books warning of the “stealth jihad” being waged by American Muslims right here in the United States.

We are told by these anti-Muslim conspiracy nuts that Islam itself permits “holy lying” (a dubious translation of the word taqiyya).  To bolster this claim, they reproduce an isolated text from a corpus attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, in which he says “war is deceit.”

I have addressed this issue numerous times in the past.  For example, when Major Nidal Hasan used his military clearance to kill U.S. soldiers, I wrote an article explaining why this was in fact strictly forbidden (haram) from an Islamic law point of view.  American Muslims must obey U.S. laws, and certainly are not permitted to harm the state or its people.

This is because the Quran–and Islam in general–affirms the importance of “covenants”, i.e. peace treaties, Visa and citizenship agreements, etc.  The Quran declares emphatically:

And fulfill every covenant.  Verily, you will be held accountable with regard to the covenants. (Quran, 17:34)

As I noted in my earlier article, “[t]he Quran does say that if the believers are being oppressed in some land, then the Muslims should come to their assistance.  But it forbids fighting against those with whom a covenant exists.”

In the case of American Muslims, they cannot aid their fellow Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere–at least not militarily or in any way that would constitute treason against the United States.  Of this, the Quran states:

If [your coreligionists] ask for your aid in religion, then you must help them, except against people with whom you have covenants with. (Quran, 8:72)

Nonetheless, right-wingers have worked Americans into a frenzy by fear-mongering about how American Muslims supposedly want to overthrow the democratic government of the United States and replace it with a “Sharia state.”  This, however, would constitute an act of treachery and treason, which is clearly proscribed in Islam.

American Muslims must constantly remind their fellow citizens of this fact, routinely reaffirming their loyalty to the country.  But, Islamophobes insist that this is just a watered down or sugar coated version of Islam, which American Muslims just try selling to Western audiences while behind the scenes they plot the downfall of the government.  To them, the Times Square would-be bomber wasn’t hijacking (or rather, carjacking) Islam, but rather, he was faithfully carrying out the commandments of Allah.

However, what the Bin Laden papers reveal is that even Osama Bin Laden–the nefarious leader of the world’s most feared Islamic extremist group–admitted that such homegrown terrorism is not proper, at least from a theological point of view.  In the 2010 letter I referenced above, Bin Laden writes to ”Shaykh Mahmud” (emphasis is mine):

Perhaps you monitored the trial of brother Faysal Shahzad. In it he was asked about the oath that he took when he got American citizenship. And he responded by saying that he lied. You should know that it is not permissible in Islam to betray trust and break a covenant. Perhaps the brother was not aware of this. Please ask the brothers in Taliban Pakistan to explain this point to their members. In one of the pictures, brother Faysal Shahzad was with commander Mahsud; please find out if Mahsud knows that getting the American citizenship requires talking an oath to not harm America. This is a very important matter because we do not want al-Mujahidin to be accused of breaking a covenant.

So, here we have even the poster boy of Islamic terrorism saying that Faisal Shahzad violated Islamic law by taking American citizenship and then harming America.  Islamophobes would be quick to dismiss these words by OBL as taqiyya (“holy lying”), but remember: these were words contained not in a public Al-Qaeda statement but in a private letter between Bin Laden and his associate.  This letter was not intended for an outside audience, and was only released by the United States government.

How then could it be a case of taqiyya?  Unless Osama Bin Laden wrote the letter in 2010 knowing that two years later the United States would raid his compound in Pakistan and then release his letter.  Those wily Islamic terrorists!

Of course, Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda are anything but consistent.  Despite Bin Laden disavowing Faisal Shahzad’s actions–and recognizing the Islamic principle that prohibits such “homegrown terrorism”–Al-Qaeda’s spokesman Adam Gadahn approved of Major Nidal Hasan’s actions and called on American Muslims to to attack the United States.  One could probably find similar inconsistencies in Bin Laden’s own words.  (In fact, most of Al-Qaeda’s bread-and-butter acts of terrorism are forbidden in Islam just based on the issue of covenants and the prohibition of being treacherous–even leaving aside the more important issue of non-combatant immunity.)

It’s also true that this doesn’t mean that homegrown terrorism isn’t a major problem. (Other articles of mine point out that homegrown terrorism is highly exaggerated.)  But, the point is that even Al-Qaeda’s head honcho, Osama Bin Laden himself, admitted that Islam prohibits homegrown terrorism, even while his group encouraged it.  He conceded that Islamic law forbids breaking a covenant, treaty, or trust–that it proscribes treason and treachery. This reinforces what is well-known to real experts of Islam, which is that A-Qaeda and other Muslim terrorists aren’t following Islam at all, despite what the Islamophobes continue to claim.

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

Sheila Musaji: Geller & Spencer Attempt to Turn Congressional Race into a Religious War

Posted in Loon People, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2012 by loonwatch

More religion-baiting and Islamophobic anti-Muslim hate-mongering from the premiere religious bigots of the day, Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller.

Geller & Spencer attempt to turn Congressional race into a religious war

by Sheila Musaji (TAM)

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are outraged that a political campaign in New Jersey has included the issue of one candidates support for Israel.

Both Spencer and Geller refer their readers to an article in the Washington Free Beacon about the democratic primary race between Reps. Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell.

That one-sided article noted that “For the first time in recent American political history, we are witnessing a proxy battle between supporters and detractors of Israel, and it’s playing out in the Ninth District of New Jersey,” said one veteran campaign strategist who is knowledgeable about the district.  And, it noted an ad by an Arab group in the community supporting Pascrell that produced an ad urging the “Arab diaspora community” to “elect the friend of the Arabs” and billed the race as “the most important election in the history of the [Arab] community.”  It also refers to an article by Aref Assaf published in February titled Rothman is Israel’s man in District 9.  It also included this quote “I don’t read Arabic well, but I am pretty sure that the pro-Pascrell posters that have appeared across the district are not calling to elect the candidate who supports a strong relationship between America and the only democracy in the Middle East, one which is rooted in progressive Western values—women’s rights, gay rights, tolerance, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc.,” said Josh Block, a Democratic strategist and former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

It is impossible to believe that Mr. Block was unaware that it was a letter from a group of Rabbis that began this entire discussion.  It is also impossible to believe that the author of this article, Adam Kredo, was also unaware of the implications of that letter (since he mentions it later in his article).  Nevertheless, Kredo’s article was the basis for both Geller and Spencer’s posts.

Geller says

A New Jersey congressional race is becoming a referendum on a candidate’s Judaism. Muslims are going after a Jewish congressman. Islamic Jew-hatred rears its ugly [be]head for the first time in a congressional race. But believe you me, it won’t be the last time. Islamic Jew-Hatred—it’s in the quran.

It’s very ugly, and the enemedia, self-enforcing the sharia, is not covering it. And the local press is giving the Islamic supremacists all the column inches the haters demand. Aref Assaf, president of the New Jersey-based American Arab Forum, is a vile nazi who has been getting the lion’s share of press.

Assaf wrote in an oped in the New Jersey Star Ledger that the Jewish candidate under attack, Steve Rothman, “is using his support of Israel as the centerpiece of his campaign.” It is Assaf and his Jew-hating constiuency [sic] that are making it all about Rothman’s Judaism and Israel. The Muslim Jew-haters are making it the centerpiece of their campaign. Rothman “has consciously avoided adding fuel to the ethnic fire by focusing instead on his congressional record, note political observers in both New Jersey and Washington, D.C.”

Spencer titles his article “We want this Jew out of office”: Islamic antisemitism invades New Jersey Congressional primary race and calls this An ugly new development in American politics: Muslim voters lining up to defeat a Jewish candidate.

It would be worthwhile to read the actual article written by Assef that would provoke Geller to call him a “vile nazi” and “Muslim Jew-hater”.  Here is what Assef wrote

It may be Kosher but is it illegal? As the Record reported on February 17, 2012, several presidents of Orthodox synagogues are urging the Republican-registered members of their respective congregations to switch party affiliation in order to vote for Steve Rothman. Rep. Steve Rothman is battling fellow Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell for the newly redrawn Ninth Congressional District.

The primary elections are set for June 5 and because the district is heavily democratic, the winner will most likely carry the November elections too. The Record’s article is based on a letter first posted in the Passaic Clifton Jewish Community News. The Record calls into question the legality of such a letter signed by well-known religious leaders and debates the possible IRS code violations that such a position entails. Skirting the gray line of legality, these letters do carry the weight of the religious institutions the signers represent and when you consider the Orthodox community in Passaic is closely-knit, even when the names are not attached to their religious affiliations, they are still a known entity. While religious institutions may engage in local, state, and even federal elections, there are clear guidelines they must not cross to maintain their tax-exempt status under Section 501 of the IRS code, which governs non-profit and tax exempt entities. Such entities are clearly prohibited from endorsing political candidates and/or contributing to their campaign funds and must provide equal access to all competing candidates.

The question remains when such activities exceed the limit of the law and spill over being a mere informational letter. As quoted in the Record, one of the letter signers, Akiva Hirth, said, “It’s a free country,” adding that “religious leaders were merely communicating with their congregants, not forcing them to take any action.” Yet a closer read tells a different story; and I quote from the original letter: “Our community has the unique opportunity to significantly impact this race. The choice is clear – support the candidate who best understands our needs and interests. Congressman Steve Rothman is the obvious choice in this Primary election.” This is clearly a political endorsement. The IRS is called upon to investigate the legal ramifications of such a violation.

It may turn out to be a non-issue, but I am puzzled that so many Jewish Rabbis would and for mere temporary political expediency encourage their congregation to go against their faith and register Democratic. Like observant American Muslims who also favor the Republican Party, Orthodox Jews would choose the Republican platform for strictly religious reasons dealing with abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, and support for Israel. I would not want my Imam to urge me to change my party label so irreverently. It’s just plain dishonest.

But if it is Kosher for Orthodox rabbis to preach to their members on political candidates, then it must be Halal for Muslim Imams to do the same. We will soon find out if Muslim religious leaders will reach out to their respective congregations. Imams, like rabbis, wield disproportionate leverage in and uncontested access to their congregations.

American Muslims are said to be evenly split between those registered as Democrat and Republicans. If Republican Muslims in New Jersey emulate the Jewish voters, and assuming their numerical symmetry, they will at least cancel out the ‘converted’ Jewish votes. Real democratic voters will then decide the election outcome. I will be reporting back on developments.

Unquestionably, this primary election is pitting two otherwise harmoniously coexisting communities: the Muslim and Jewish communities. To what extent the Muslim community will be energized by these developments will have to be determined. As total and blind support for Israel becomes the only reason for choosing Rothman, voters who do not view the elections in this prism will need to take notice. Loyalty to a foreign flag is not loyalty to America’s.

The incident that Assef was responding to was reported on in an article titled Letter asks Orthodox Jews to switch parties and support Rothman.  Here is the text of that article:

PASSAIC — The leaders of Orthodox Jewish synagogues in the city are urging their congregants to switch parties from Republican to Democrat so they can vote for Rep. Steve Rothman in the June 5 primary against Rep. Bill Pascrell.

A letter endorsed by 15 presidents of Passaic shuls was mailed last week to the homes of Orthodox Jews in the city’s Passaic Park section who are registered Republicans. In the letter, the presidents urge them to register as Democrats by the April 11 deadline so they so they can support Rothman, who is considered more pro-Israel than Pascrell.

“Our community has the unique opportunity to significantly impact this race,” the letter reads. “The choice is clear — support the candidate who best understands our needs and interests. Congressman Steve Rothman is the obvious choice in this Primary election.”

The letter, which carries the heading “A Message from Passaic’s Shul Presidents,” was paid for by the Rothman campaign. It notes that the redrawn boundaries of the 9th congressional district heavily favors Democrats. Whoever wins the Democratic primary will likely capture the seat in November.

The letter, which has also been published in the Passaic Clifton Jewish Community News, is an outgrowth of the recent endorsement of Rothman by Gary Schaer, a prominent member of Passaic’s Orthodox Jewish community who is also City Council president and a state assemblyman.

Although political leaders are free to endorse anyone they want, the letter raises questions about whether religious leaders violated the IRS guidelines that restrict religious non-profits from endorsing political candidates.

Section 501 of the IRS code says religious non-profits are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” The code further prohibits “voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates…”

Marc Owens, a Washington, D.C tax lawyer who headed the IRS’ tax exemption unit from 1990 to 2000, said the issue is whether the synagogue leaders were acting as individuals or on behalf of their religious institutions when they wrote the letter.  “Is it the religious institution speaking or are they speaking as individuals?” Owens said.

Only one of the 15 synagogue presidents who signed the letter could be reached for comment on Friday. In a brief telephone interview, Akiva Hirth said he signed the letter because he was within his rights to do so.  “It’s a free country,” Hirth said, adding that religious leaders were merely communicating with their congregants, not forcing them to take any action.

The Jewish vote is considered crucial for both Rothman and Pascrell, who are locked in a tight battle in the Democratic primary. Spokesmen for both candidates played down the issue on Friday.

Paul Swibinski, a spokesman for Rothman, defended the letter as a legitimate voter registration tactic. “I don’t see anything improper here at all,” he said. “There are no names of synagogues or temples listed in the letter. It is clearly a personal endorsement from leaders of these synagogues. It is not an endorsement by the synagogues themselves.”

Pascrell wasn’t eager to make an issue of it, either. “If anyone is violating tax laws, then we clearly have a concern,” he said.

It would seem that simply following the timeline of events clarifies this whole incident.  A group of Jewish Rabbis raised the issue of a candidates support for Israel as a reason to vote for that candidate.  After they sent out a letter encouraging the Jewish community to support one candidate based on this issue, Aref Assaf wrote his article calling their actions into question on the basis of U.S. law.  He also expressed his sadness that such behavior in a local primary election “is pitting two otherwise harmoniously coexisting communities: the Muslim and Jewish communities” against each other.

It is sad to see this being made into a “religious issue” rather than a simple political issue.  Who is the best candidate to represent the citizens of the 9th district of New Jersey should be the issue.

Geller and Spencer are old hands at stirring the pot of religious bigotry in political campaigns.  This is simply the most recent example.

When Gary Boisclair ran a congressional campaign vs Keith Ellison that was based entirely on hatred of Muslims – Pamela Geller was upset at Youtube for pulling Boisclair’s anti-Muslim ad. Geller called it “enforcing Sharia” and she said More sharia (Islamic law): this is enforcement of blasphemy laws, do not insult Islam. How much more of our freedom are we going to allow them to seize?

When there was a furore over Keith Ellison’s use of the Qur’an in a photo opportunity after his swearing in as a Congressman – Robert Spencer wrote This is allegedly a political masterstroke by Ellison, but it really just begs the question. Thomas Jefferson, obviously, was not a Muslim. In his famous statement on religious freedom he wrote about whether one’s neighbor believed in one god or twelve “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” But what no one is willing to discuss here is whether the Qur’an and Islam really fit into that framework. When I have mentioned that it sanctions lying to unbelievers (3:28 and 16:106, in the mainstream understanding of those verses by Islamic theologians and schools of jurisprudence; cf. Ibn Kathir and many others), people have responded that the Bible is full of nasty stuff as well. But people aren’t swearing on the Bible because it is full of nasty stuff, or endorsing any of it that might actually be there. The idea of swearing on the Bible arises from Christian belief and is buttressed by Christian theology—Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant—that requires honesty and eschews all dishonesty as coming from the “Father of Lies.” The permissions to be dishonest in the Qur’an are not mitigated by Islamic belief, tradition, and theology, but are in fact reinforced—by Muhammad’s statements that “war is deceit” and that lying is permissible in wartime, and more.

In short, to swear on the Bible is to affirm, among other things, that one is part of a tradition, and to swear on the Qur’an does not amount to an affirmation of the same tradition, no matter how much Glenn Beck or Ed Koch or anyone wishes it does or assumes it does. Islamic teachers daily use the Qur’an to establish principles that differ radically from those of Judeo-Christian tradition. These questions need to be discussed in a forthright and honest manner by Ellison and by the mainstream media, instead of being swept under the rug or condemned as bigotry.”

The decent people of the 9th Congressional District of New Jersey don’t need such bigoted individuals involving themselves in this election and fueling the fires of mutual distrust and bigotry.