Archive for Justin Elliott

Zaid Jilani, a Victim of False Anti-Semitism Charges

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on January 22, 2012 by loonwatch
Zaid Jilani

(cross-posted from The American Muslim)

by Sheila Musaji

In August, the Center for American Progress, CAP released a significant report “Fear Inc., the Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America”

Within days of the release of this report, Ed Lasky at the American Thinker wrote an article The Soros-supported Center for American Progress blames rich Jews for stoking Islamophobia which seems to be the first to have made the false claim (lie) that the CAP report was anti-Semitic, or that individuals at CAP are anti-Semitic.

Lasky said that since many of the funders or anti-Muslim activists named happen to be Jewish:

By “outing” the people involved, the report puts endangers them.  Furthermore, this “report” relies on the conspiracy and age-old anti-Semitic trope that Jews fan prejudice towards others and promotes divisions for their own nefarious purposes (to support Israel in this case). This mindset is straight out of Mein Kampf.  The report also stokes the view that rich Jews operate behind the scenes and use their wealth to control the media and government policy (politicians are also mentioned as being ensnared in this web).  …  Clearly, this is a well-funded effort to chill legitimate criticism of Islamic extremism in America. There are also political motivations behind this report since it also tries to refute allegations of ties between Muslims and Barack Obama.  But what is most shameful about this “report” is that it employs classic anti-Semitic tropes,  blaming conspiratorial Jews for stoking fear and hatred of Muslims. 

This will work its magic in the Muslim world, a substantial fraction of which believes that “defaming” Islam is legitimately punishable by death at the hands of any righteous Muslim.  By thoughtfully providing a hit list, the CAP does its part to spread fear and—yes—terror among the opponents of radical Islam.

Actually, Lasky is the one who “outs” or mentions the religion of those named in the report, the report itself does not identify these folks by their religion.  I was surprised that Lasky said that Steven Emerson is Jewish, as I had never heard that before.

This attempt to cast the authors of this report as anti-Semitic and as blaming Jews for Islamophobia is reprehensible, and already being repeated on the anti-Muslim blogsphere.  Pamela Geller called the report “Goebbels attacking the Jew”.  A Pipeline News article calls the report shades of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. and a functioning part of a greater – subversive – Islamist narrative.  Daniel Greenfield aka Sultan Knish, in an article on David Horowitz’s FrontPageMag wrote “Any report on Islamophobia that scapegoats Jews is not a report on bigotry, it is an act of bigotry.” 

Eric Boling on Fox News reinforced this false anti-Semitic meme by outright lying on air in a segment devoted to attacking the CAP report.

Bolling invited a three-member panel to comment, who all agreed that there isn’t an Islamophobia network in America. Bolling set up the discussion by making this outlandishly false statement:

I need to point this out – I’m reading directly from this report: “The Obama-allied Center for American Progress has released a report that blames Islamophobia in America on a small group of Jews and Israel supporters in America, whose views are being backed by millions of dollars.”

Boling has now issued a clarification, but not really an apology.  Boling’s clarification said

I want to correct something from a segment we did the other night on Follow the Money regarding Islam in America. The topic was a report from the Center for American Progress. At one point, I read a brief passage which said the group blamed Islamophobia on “a small group of Jews and Israel supporters in America”.    You need to know that I was reading aloud from an American Thinker magazine article critical of the group’s report and not from the report itself. Sorry for the confusion.

The American Thinker article he was referring to was the one by Ed Lasky.  As Faiz Shakir (one of the CAP reports authors) noted about this whole incident If there is one key takeaway from this incident, it’s that observers have witnessed how the Islamophobia network generally operates: 1) Produce a blog post with false anti-Muslim information, 2) promote that blog post through Fox News, 3) have so-called “experts” tout the information as if it’s credible, and then 4) stand by your mischaracterizations even when they are shown to be lies. In this case, we successfully fought back against this misinformation network. That’s what it’s going to take to end Islamophobia.

An editorial in the Jewish Forward also notes that a number of those named in the report happen to be Jewish, although to their credit, they discuss this in an entirely different context, one of disappointment:

There is, unfortunately, one disturbing way that a small number of Jews are contributing to the unfair characterizations and discrimination of Muslims. A new study by the Center for American Progress reveals that seven foundations have spent more than $40 million in the last ten years to spread misinformation about Muslim Americans. And who leads those efforts? Far too many Jews, including blogger Pamela Geller, co-director of the group Stop Islamization of America; David Yerushalmi, whose attempts to promote anti-Sharia laws were detailed recently in the Forward; Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum, which gave a platform for Yerushalmi’s dangerous ideas; Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, who has even criticized President George W. Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for being soft on Muslims.

Philip Weiss notes that Lasky did not mention the fact that George Soros whose think tank he claims is fostering anti-semitism, is himself Jewish.

In December, Ben Smith at Politico published an article which included the following paragraph regarding an article by Eric Alterman at CAP

“There’s two explanations here – either the inmates are running the asylum or the Center for American Progress has made a decision to be anti-Israel,” said Josh Block, a former spokesman for AIPAC who is now a fellow at the center-left Progressive Policy Institute. “Either they can allow people to say borderline anti-Semitic stuff” – a reference to what he described as conspiracy theorizing in the Alterman column – “and to say things that are antithetical to the fundamental values of the Democratic party, or they can fire them and stop it.” (Alterman called the charge “ludicrous” and “character assassination,” noted that he is a columnist for Jewish publications, and described himself as a “proud, pro-Zionist Jew.”)

Justin Elliott published an article documenting that Josh Block had sent out an email to a private listserv called the Freedom Community, in which he throws around accusations of anti-Semitism against liberal bloggers and calls on other list members to “echo” and “amplify” his assault and “use the below [research] to attack the bad guys.”

Elliot also notes in this article that Block was quoted in Ben Smith’s Polito article of accusing CAP columnist Eric Alterman of writing “borderline anti-Semitic stuff,” a charge Alterman (who is himself Jewish) dismissed as “ludicrous.”

In a follow-up article, Elliot notes that two think tanks that Block is associated with, the Progressive Policy Institute and the Truman National Security Project — were apparently rattled by the incident:

PPI head Will Marshall privately told Block that the think tank would sever ties with Block if he didn’t retract the charges detailed in Salon, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Block subsequently offered Politico a statement on the charges, claiming he had never accused people at CAP in particular of anti-Semitism, but not walking back or apologizing for the gist of what was reported in the Salon piece. It’s still unclear how PPI — which declined to comment — will proceed at this point.

Meanwhile, at Truman, top officials privately debated via email whether to cut ties with Block after the Salon story broke, a source says. They had already been unhappy with Block’s attacks on critics of Israel, and the Salon piece exacerbated tensions, I’m told.

Eric Alterman noted that after these events:

The decision in late December by Rachel Kleinfeld, founder of the Truman National Security Project, a defense-oriented Democratic think tank, to sever publicly all ties with former fellow and ex-AIPAC spokesman, Josh Block, brought to an end what was an ugly episode in Washington’s Israel-focused policy community. Block had orchestrated a sloppy smear campaign against a group of progressive writers and bloggers with the aim of painting their dovish views on Israel as beyond the pale of acceptable discourse. His specific target was two left-leaning think tanks, Media Matters and the Center for American Progress, where I have been a senior fellow since 2003.

…  In Kleinfeld’s email cutting off ties with Block, she wrote, “This has nothing to do with your policy views, and is a decision solely made on the basis of the need for this community to privilege the ability to debate difficult topics freely, without fear of mischaracterization or character attacks.”

What were the comments that were found in emails or tweets from individuals at CAP that were worthy of the charge of anti-Semitism?  The two terms that are considered beyond the pale of civilized conversation are “Israel-firsters” (or dual loyalty) and “Israeli apartheid”.  (See Philip Weiss commentary on Jews using this term here)

Jason Isaacson, the AJC’s director of government and international affairs, told the Jerusalem Post by e-mail that “think tanks are entitled to their political viewpoints – but they’re not free to slander with impunity. References to Israeli ‘apartheid’ or ‘Israel-firsters’ are so false and hateful they reveal an ugly bias no serious policy center can countenance.”

The ADL, told the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal it considered two specific comments from CAP bloggers to be anti-Semitic, including the “Israel Firster” remarks and claims the Israel lobby had pushed the U.S. into the Iraq war.

Ali Gharib issued a clarification and apology for his Kirk comment on Twitter:  One my tweets several months ago, a crude characterization of a senator is being seized upon by critics branding me as an anti-Semite. While the accusations are completely false and contemptible, I do apologize for the crudeness of the flippant tweet in question.

Alana Goodman reported that she had “asked the Truman Project today whether it believed the ADL and AJC were also wrong for calling the comments from CAP bloggers anti-Semitic. The center’s spokesperson, Dave Solimini, declined to answer the question directly:

I think our position has been very clear on this. Josh was removed from our community because he was unable to differentiate between an honest debate and damaging personal attacks. There is real anti-Semitism in the world and we cannot debase the term by using it for everyone who disagrees with us on Israel policy. We are a community of trust, and his actions have caused too many to fear discussion within our community.

Okay – so in other words, the Truman Project doesn’t believe that the comments from CAP bloggers about dual-loyalty and “Israel-Firsters” rise to the level of “real” anti-Semitism?

Philip Weiss notes that Even Saturday Night Live is talking about Israel firsters.

It is now January of 2012, and this continuing saga continues to get more and more convoluted.

Eric Alterman’s article on the supposed end of this controversy included this statement But just as McCarthy’s tactics wore themselves out over time, so, too, does Jewish McCarthyism appear, by virtue of this incident, to be on its last legs. Everyone so accused by Block still has a job and the confidence of his or her respective employer. Block, on the other hand, has seen one think tank gig end and seen himself denounced by his own business partner. A third employer, the Progressive Policy Institute, has distanced itself from his comments but has not so far seen fit to let him go. Score one, therefore, if not for the “pro-Israel” side, then at least for the right to keep arguing about what it really means.

If only that were true. Glenn Greenwald reports that the “anti-Semitism” smear campaign against CAP and Media Matters rolls on.  In this detailed and lengthy article, Greenwald gives a lot of background and provides many links documenting the history of these false anti-Semitism charges.  Greenwald also notes

Is this not the most blatant evidence yet that these organizations and their adherents are manipulating and exploiting charges of anti-Semitism in order to stifle and punish perfectly legitimate political and policy debates about Israel? They are effectively admitting that “anti-Semitism” does not mean irrational hatred or animosity toward Jews — its actual definition — but rather now means: challenging or even questioning the policy assumptions and preferences of certain Jewish groups and the Israeli government. They are literally decreeing that you are barred from challenging the dubious premises of those who crave war with Iran, are further barred from questioning their fear-mongering about the Iranian nuclear program, are also barred from assigning blame to the settlement-expanding Israelis for the lack of a peace agreement, and are even barred from condemning the increasingly unsustainable and anti-democratic treatment of the Palestinians — all upon pain of being formally condemned as anti-Semitic.

…  What’s really going on here is as obvious as it is odious. The primary factor in AIPAC’s astonishing success has been ensuring that its mandated policies are fully bipartisan, that there are zero differences on Israel between the two parties, so that election outcomes change nothing. They are most petrified that some actual dissent may seep into the mainstream of the two parties; that’s why Bill Kristol has demanded that Ron Paul be expelled from the GOP, and it’s why these CAP and MM writers are being attacked so savagely. Especially with a possible war with Iran on the horizon, the last thing they want — especially in the mainstream of either party — is a permissive environment where one can freely debate the accuracy of their fear-mongering premises about Iran and challenge the wisdom of that aggression.

They are particularly panicked by their eroding power to monopolize the discourse. When Time Magazine’s Joe Klein is warning of “Israel-Firsters” and pointing out the role they played in bringing about the Iraq War and now trying to repeat that feat with Iran, and when The New York Times‘ Tom Friedman is warning that U.S. policy is “held hostage” by the Israel Lobby and the U.S. Congress is “bought and paid for by the Israel Lobby,” it’s clear that things have changed. Being able to display a new scalp on their wall will enable them to exhibit that they can still dictate debate limits and punish heretics. The problem, though, is that Joe Klein and Tom Friedman are too protected (to say nothing of being too Jewish and too devoted to Israel) to bring down with anti-Semitism smears (though they certainly have tried).

So what they do instead is target young, relatively obscure writers — especially ones with names like “Zaid Jilani” and “Ali Gahrib” — in order to make an example of them. This is a truly disgusting spectacle: these commentators — all of whom are writing well within the range of mainstream opinion on Israel — are being publicly smeared early in their careers as anti-Semites as part of a coordinated, ongoing campaign planned by Josh Block and carried out by numerous journalists with large media platforms, and aided and abetted by Jewish groups trading on their credibility to suppress debate.

These accusers know that their institutional employer (CAP) — dependent both upon White House access and funding by Jewish donors — can ill-afford to be smeared as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic regardless of whether those allegations are valid or not. And that’s exactly why they’re doing it: because they sense that these young CAP writers in particular (who, revealingly, have not been heard from in their own defense since the accusations against them were first voiced) are vulnerable to character assassination and career destruction. Unsurprisingly, CAP has alternated between distancing itself from and even repudiating their writings to desperately assuring everyone that they are fully on board with standard “pro-Israel” orthodoxies.

So this smear campaign not only threatens to suppress legitimate debate about crucial policy matters in the U.S., but it also is aimed at the reputations and careers of numerous young liberal writers who have done absolutely nothing wrong. As Wildman put it about those who “debase the term by using it as a rhetorical conceit against those with whom we disagree on policy matters”: “When anti-Semitism is falsely applied, we must also stand up and decry it as defamation, as character assault, as unjust. . . .There comes a time when we must insist on common sense. We must reject the absurd. There comes a time when we must say, ‘Enough’.” We are way past that point now: both with the general smearing of Israel critics as anti-Semites and the specific, baseless attacks on these writers.

Early in January, the Jerusalem Post published an article E-mail reveals anti-Semitism at US think tank.  Here is their “proof” of the charge made in the title In the e-mail that the Post obtained exclusively from the CAP account of Faiz Shakir, who serves as editor-in-chief of the ThinkProgress.org website and is a vice president at CAP, he wrote, “Yes, I agree ‘Israel Firster’ is terrible, anti-Semitic language. And that’s why that language no longer exists on Zaid’s personal twitter feed, because he also knows and understands the implications.”    Zaid Jilani wrote on his Twitter account, where he identifies himself as a “Reporter-Blogger for ThinkProgress,” that “…Obama is still beloved by Israel-firsters and getting lots of their $$.” 

Obviously, the Jerusalem Post is thrilled that the anti-Semitism charges seem to be accepted even by those targeted.  Also, obviously, all of the propaganda is having an effect on CAP.

This week, the Jerusalem Post reported that

According to a Washington Post online article on Thursday, Jarrod Bernstein, the new White House liaison with the Jewish community, told Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, that what was unfolding at CAP was “troubling,” and, “that [the attitude toward Israel at the think tank] is not this administration.

…  Zaid Jilani had blogged for the Center for American Progress’s ThinkProgress website; he used Twitter to call US supporters of the Jewish state “Israel Firsters” and compared Israel to the former apartheid regime in South Africa.  A CAP employee who said her name was Amanda told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that Jilani was no longer employed by ThinkProgress.  Jilani’s biography and photo no longer appear on the ThinkProgress website “About” section. His Twitter feed no longer identifies him as a reporter for ThinkProgress. His last CAP blog posting was on January 12.

It is very difficult watching all of this unfold not to lose hope that free speech still exists.  It seems that simply charging an individual with anti-Semitism, whether or not there is any truth to that charge, particularly if that individual is a Muslim is enough to destroy their career.

At the beginning of this article I quoted Faiz Shakir’s statement If there is one key takeaway from this incident, it’s that observers have witnessed how the Islamophobia network generally operates: 1) Produce a blog post with false anti-Muslim information, 2) promote that blog post through Fox News, 3) have so-called “experts” tout the information as if it’s credible, and then 4) stand by your mischaracterizations even when they are shown to be lies. In this case, we successfully fought back against this misinformation network. That’s what it’s going to take to end Islamophobia.

Faiz Shakir’s most recent statement seems to contradict those noble principles, and CAP’s throwing of Zaid Jilani to the wolves doesn’t speak well for their courage or integrity.  It is possible that there is some other explanation for Zaid Jilani’s departure from CAP, but it doesn’t look good.

It’s a shame that CAP didn’t have the courage of their convictions to fight back against the misinformation network.  As, in the end, they will have been seen to have been on the right side of history to begin with.  Americans for Peace Now who identifies themselves as “a Jewish, Zionist organization that is dedicated to achieving peace and security for Israel” said in a statement

We are deeply concerned about the ongoing attacks against staff of the Center for America Progress (CAP). We believe that these attacks do not reflect genuine concerns about anti-Semitism, or even the use of language that some people may find offensive. Rather, they appear to be part of an effort to stifle discussion on America’s Middle East policy, while using Israel as a partisan wedge issue, both inside the Democratic Party and between Democrats and Republicans.

As a non-partisan organization, we have no interest in CAP’s political identity or its relationship to the Obama Administration. However, as a Jewish, Zionist organization that is dedicated to achieving peace and security for Israel, we believe that a vibrant public debate over issues related to peace and security for Israel and the Middle East – the kind of debate that takes place every day in the Israeli press – is vital for both Israel and the United States. We believe that the current charges of anti-Semitism are intended, cynically, to have a “chilling effect” on such debate. Such attacks cannot be allowed to succeed.

We recognize that the tone adopted by many commentators – on both sides of these very contentions issues – has grown uglier in recent years. This is especially true in blog posts and tweets. All of us operating in this sensitive policy sphere would do well to de-escalate the tone. Intemperate rhetoric only distracts from the important policy issues that, for the sake of both Israel and the U.S., deserve serious debate. Name-calling has no place in policy discussions and, as has been seen in the current context, can pave the way for both unintended offense and for manufactured controversy.

CAP and its staff have a long record of pro-Israel, pro-peace work. This includes hosting numerous Israeli security and policy experts, in addition to providing timely, thoughtful analysis and commentary on the issues. It includes a long record of support for peace, Israeli security, and the two-state solution. Such positions are consistent with the policies of successive U.S. presidents from both parties and with the aspirations of most Israelis and their leaders.

This sounds remarkably similar to Zaik Shakir’s original statement, and it is just a shame that it seems that in Shakir’s case, it may have been only talk.  It will be interesting to follow further developments and statements.

What is most ironic about all of this is that just yesterday, I wrote an article about Andrew Adler, owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times who had published an article calling on the Israeli Mossad to assassinate President Obama.

I thought about the term “Israel-firster” when I was writing that article, as it seemed to me that he is a perfect example of the fact that there really are individuals for whom this is a factual statement of their ideology.  Interestingly, I am not the only one who had that thought.  Chemi shalev wrote onHaaretz:

It is ironic that Adler’s despicable diatribe comes against the backdrop of a fierce blogosphere debate that flared up yesterday about the term “Israel-firsters” and whether it is a legitimate critique or an anti-Semitic slur. Adler, for his part, has provided an example of a sub-specie of “Israel-firsters” that have not only lost track of where their loyalties lie, they have gone off the tracks altogether. He has pleased anti-Zionists and delighted anti-Semites by giving them the kind of “proof” they relish for accusing American supporters of Israel not of “double loyalty” but of one-sided treachery, plain and simple.

… There is something eerily familiar in all this, of course, for anyone who was present 16 years ago at Tel Aviv’s Kikar Malchei Yisrael, as it was then known, on the night that Yitzhak Rabin was murdered. One can already envisage how Adler will be disowned, described as a “wild weed,” depicted as a lone wolf who does not represent anyone in his or in anyone else’s community and used as a springboard for a righteously indignant, preemptive counteroffensive that will show how his solitary case is being exploited to score points against anyone who legitimately criticizes Obama.

Salon’s Justin Elliott Rattles the Cage, Poking the Anti-Muslim Beast Inside the Republican Circus Tent

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2011 by loonwatch

GOP presidential hopefuls have been falling all over themselves to please anti-Muslim elements within the party, each trying to outdo the other in this regard.  From Herman Cain of “Muslims must take a special loyalty oath” fame to Michele Bachmann who signed an “anti-Sharia pledge,” it’s a close call who’s truly in the lead.

To gain his street cred on Anti-Muslim Street, Texas Governor Rick Perry started “palling around” with anti-Muslim influentials.  All was going as planned, until Salon’s Justin Elliott entered the scene.  For those of you who haven’t been following Elliott’s excellent work, he’s become a very quiet yet forceful and consistent voice against anti-Muslim hatred.

Elliott decided to throw a wrench into the Perry presidential machine after he dug up an interesting tidbit about the governor: Perry has had very cordial relations with the Aga Khan, an influential Muslim spiritual leader.  Don’t worry, you wouldn’t be blamed for not knowing who the Aga Khan is.   To make a long story short, the Aga Khan refers to Karim al-Husseini, who is the 49th Imam (leader) of the Shia Ismaili sect of Islam.

Lest you begin to imagine a bearded mullah or angry ayatollah, be advised: the Aga Khan would fit in more with Donald Trump than Ayatollah Khomeini.  I’ve reproduced his picture above: notice the expensive suit and tie; the guy is as GQ Muslim as you can get.  The Aga Khan is a billionaire, lives in Europe, and jet-sets around the world.  He married a British fashion model, and in spite of the Islamic prohibition on gambling, owns some of the finest thoroughbred race horses in the world.

If you’ve been disabused of the notion that the Aga Khan is some Islamic fundamentalist, be rest assured too that he’s quite a pacifist as well.  The Evangelical Academy of Tutzing in Germany awarded him the Tolerance Prize, just one of the many awards he’s been given.  The Aga Khan heads notable humanitarian efforts throughout the world.

From a theological perspective, you should know that the Shia Ismailis (the sect to which the Aga Khan belongs to) are considered by many elements within the Islamic orthodoxy to be heterodox (even “heretical” by some).  They are to Islam what Mormons are to Christianity.  They don’t pray five times a day, they don’t fast during Ramadan, etc.  Far from calling to jihad and the imposition of “dhimmitude,” the Shia Ismailis are usually on the receiving end of religious discrimination and sometimes even persecution.  So if there were Muslims who “counter-jihadists” could tolerate these would be it!

But Justin Elliott predicted that the Islamophobes wouldn’t care: any Muslim is unacceptable.  You know how there was a saying that the only good Indian is a dead Indian (or, alternatively, the only good nigger is a dead nigger)?  Well, Islamophobes adhere to the following axiom: the only moderate”Muslim” is an ex-Muslim. So to them, the Aga Khan is not acceptable: the Aga Khan hasn’t publicly repudiated and renounced Islam.  He certainly hasn’t written a book about what’s wrong with Islam, so he must be a stealth-jihadist!

Less than a week ago, Elliott posted an article entitled “Rick Perry: the pro-Sharia Candidate.” It was certainly tongue-in-cheek, almost spoofing right-wing nut jobs.  Bellowed Elliott:

Rick Perry has made a name for himself in the last few weeks by palling around with some radical evangelical Christian figures who are openly hostile to Islam, and have even, in one notable case, called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. Perry also raised eyebrows in his decidedly unecumenical exhortation for all Americans to pray to Jesus Christ.

But it turns out that the Texas governor has had surprisingly warm, constructive relations with at least one group of Muslims over the years.

Perry is a friend of the Aga Khan, the religious leader of the Ismailis, a sect of Shia Islam…

Elliott also dug up the fact that Perry cooperated with the Aga Khan in a couple educational projects.  In high school world history, for example, students learn about various world cultures, including Islamic civilizations.  Perry and the Aga Khan worked together improving the standard of teaching in this regard, and Perry himself said: “I have supported this program from the very beginning, because we must bridge the gap of understanding between East and West if we ever hope to experience a future of peace and prosperity.”

Here’s where Justin Elliott decided to rattle the cage (to make a political point but also for sh**s and giggles) and poke the anti-Muslim beast in the Republican circus tent.  Elliott quipped:

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that right-wing bomb-throwers will use this as a line of attack against Perry.

Elliott predicted that his article would create a political maelstrom for Perry.  And he was right. As if on cue, the mindless drones and brainless sharia-zapping zombies of the Islamophobic cyber-world marched in lockstep, honing their taqiyya-radars on Rick Perry and setting their jihad-phazers to kill mode.

Just a few short days after his piece, Elliott published a follow-up article, documenting the hyper-exaggerated response from the anti-Muslim right-wing.  Humorously, one prominent “anti-Sharia” figure quoted in Elliott’s article defiantly said (emphasis added):

This story tells us more about Salon, Politico and other left-of-center media outlets than about Perry. Rather than engage on the substantive issues as regards to Islamism and the extent of the threat of groups with political motivations and histories of terrorist links, Elliott and Smith refuse to take their opponents seriously, thinking they’re ‘poking the cage’ of a Republican base too unsophisticated to know the difference between the Ismaili sect and, say, the Muslim Brotherhood.

What’s humorous is that in fact Elliott’s “poking the cage” worked “like clockwork.”  Elliott effectively became a puppet-master, adequately demonstrating to us how easy it is to stir up a fake anti-Muslim controversy.  Just yell any variation of Muslim, Sharia, and stealth jihad loud enough, link them to your opponent, and voila!, the anti-Muslim cyber-world will inject into the issue a life of its own, amplifying it a hundred-fold.

Justin Elliott has successfully made fools out of the right-wing anti-Muslim nutters, who took the bait.  I want to laugh, but perhaps I’m too scared to.  This is a well-oiled machine, an echo chamber of anti-Muslim madness, a Frankenstein that even the creators cannot contain.

Here is Elliott’s article:

Shariah foes seize on Perry’s ties to Muslims

By: Justin Elliott

It looks like my story last week about Rick Perry’s cordial relations with a group of Muslims has, as expected, generated alarm within the anti-Shariah wing of the Republican Party.

My piece explored Perry’s long-standing friendship with the Aga Khan, the wealthy, globe-trotting leader of the Ismaili Muslim sect, which has a small but significant population in Texas. Perry and the Aga Khan have launched two joint projects, including a program to educate Texas schoolchildren about Islamic culture and history. I noted that this relationship set Perry apart from those members of the GOP field who consistently demonize Islam, and that some anti-Shariah/anti-Muslim activists might be skeptical of his ties to the Aga Khan.

Like clockwork, two anti-Shariah figures have now penned columns attacking Perry on exactly these grounds. But one anti-Shariah group, Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, has dissented and says it has no problem with Perry’s relationship with the Ismailis. The group’s spokesman, Dave Reaboi, emailed Commentary’s Alana Goodman:

Politico’s Ben Smith amplified a Salon report about Perry’s relationship with Aga Khan of the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam. As Salon’s in-house apologist for Islamism and crusader against conservatives, Justin Elliott clearly believed such a story, breathlessly told, would cause a great deal of friction between the Texas governor and the GOP base—who are rightfully concerned about the anti-Constitutional aspects of Shariah law in our own country, and are watching as Shariah is the rallying-cry of jihadists around the globe. That said, Perry’s relationship to Khan and the Ismaili’s, I predict, will not cause much of a stir. The Islamailis are a persecuted Shia minority in Saudia Arabia; indeed, Perry’s meeting with Khan could not have won him many friends there. Rather than reaching out– as both presidents Bush and Obama mistakenly did—to problematic organizations associated with the Muslim Brotherhood’s expressly political agenda, Perry’s choice to engage with a more ‘progressive’ group is a good sign.

And:

This story tells us more about Salon, Politico and other left-of-center media outlets than about Perry. Rather than engage on the substantive issues as regards to Islamism and the extent of the threat of groups with political motivations and histories of terrorist links, Elliott and Smith refuse to take their opponents seriously, thinking they’re ‘poking the cage’ of a Republican base too unsophisticated to know the difference between the Ismaili sect and, say, the Muslim Brotherhood.

As it turns out, Reaboi’s predictions — that Perry’s associations “will not cause much of a stir” and that anti-Shariah activists are too sophisticated to demonize the Ismailis — have already been proven wrong.

The blogger and activist Pamela Geller wrote a column for the American Thinker today declaring that “Rick Perry must not be President. Have we not had enough of this systemic sedition?”

But Perry has been sucked into the propaganda vortex, and is now wielding his enormous power to influence changes in the schoolrooms and in the curricula to reflect a sharia compliant version of Islam.  He is a friend of the Aga Khan, the multimillionaire head of the Ismailis, a Shi’ite sect of Islam that today proclaims its nonviolence but in ages past was the sect that gave rise to the Assassins.

Commentary’s Goodman suggests that, compared to Gaffney’s think tank, Geller is a fringe figure in the anti-Shariah movement. In fact, Geller is one of the primary ideological and organizational leaders of the movement: she devotes numerous posts to the issue on her influential blog; she regularly gives speeches on Shariah and discusses it on TV; and she founded a group, Stop Islamization of America, that names stopping Shariah as one of its primary goals.

And it gets better: Both Geller and Gaffney are apparently on the eight-member steering committee of a coalition called the “Sharia Awareness Action Network.”

Another sponsor of that coalition is WorldNetDaily, which yesterday published an attack on Perry by Joel Richardson, author of “The Islamic Antichrist: The Shocking Truth About the Real Nature of the Beast” (WND Books). He argues that Perry has been fooled by the Aga Khan, who is part of the relentless Islamic quest to conquer “the West”:

It should also be mentioned that one of the doctrines espoused by Ismaili Muslims is the doctrine of Taqiyya. In simple terms, the doctrine of Taqiyya allows Muslims to purposefully hide or lie about their true religious beliefs to “unbelievers” or even Muslims of different sects. Of course, it is doubtful that the children of Texas will learn anything of Taqiyya in their Perry-sponsored education concerning Islam.

Of course, while lying in the name of religion may seem like a foreign concept to most, it is the principle of “the ends justify the means” that underscores many aspects of the Islamic approach to win the West.

One can only hope that such is not the principle driving Gov. Perry’s campaign for the presidency.

None of this is particularly surprising. As I noted in my original piece, the Muslim education program previously generated a bit of controversy in a state board of education campaign in Texas. (“I think Islamic curriculum is about the furthest thing that we need to be introducing into Texas classrooms,” said the Republican candidate in that race.)

To be clear, I have absolutely no problem with the Aga Khan-Perry partnership, and the effort to educate Texas schoolchildren about Muslim culture and history is to all appearances a positive and constructive thing. I think Perry’s relationship with the Ismailis in Texas makes for an interesting and relevant contrast to the Santorums and Cains of the GOP field.

But here’s the bottom line: My prediction that anti-Shariah activists would be troubled by Perry’s associations was borne out in the space of just a few days.

Robert Spencer: Anthony Weiner is Most Likely a Secret Muslim

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2011 by loonwatch

JihadWatch‘s Robert Spencer, who has absolutely no academic qualifications that would make him so, has always tried to posit himself as a serious expert on Islam.  As time went by, Spencer’s hatred for Islam bubbled to the surface and he could no longer help himself from partaking in kooky conspiratorial talk.

Spencer sees a “secret Muslim” behind every corner.  We have him on record saying that he thinks President Obama may in fact be a secret Muslim.  Now, he’s saying that Anthony Weiner, a Jewish congressman who recently admitted to ethically suspect behavior, may in fact be a secret Muslim too.  (This, despite Anthony Weiner’s well-known pro-Israel, pro-Zionist, and anti-Palestinian views.)  Spencer tried, with little success, to walk back his statement.

So, President Obama is a secret Muslim, Anthony Weiner is a secret Muslim, and oh yeah, don’t forget that Spencer has linked Adolf Hitler and Nazism to Islam too!  Spencer, is the boogieman also Muslim?

After this, should anybody take Robert Spencer seriously?

Here’s Justin Elliott’s piece on Salon:

Anthony Weiner-converted-to-Islam meme spreads

A prominent right-wing Islam expert believes the Jewish congressman “most likely” converted in secret

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT

This interview with Robert Spencer, the go-to Islam expert for the right wing, offers a taste of the worldview of the Shariah fear-mongering set:

Frontpage: I would like to talk to you today about Anthony Weiner’s marriage to his Muslim Brotherhood wife, Huma Abedin.

How is it exactly that a Muslim woman connected to the Muslim Brotherhood is married to a Jewish man? Something is not fitting here, right?

Spencer: Jamie, Islamic law prohibits a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim man. A Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman, but not the other way around. This is yet another manifestation of Islamic supremacism: the idea is that a wife will become a member of her husband’s household, and the children will follow the religion of the father. Thus, Muslim men marrying non-Muslim women ultimately enriches the Islamic community, while the non-Muslim community must forever be made to diminish.

Consequently, when a non-Muslim man begins a relationship with an observant Muslim woman, he is usually pressured to convert to Islam, and such conversion is made a condition of the marriage. Of course, laws are often honored in the breach, and this is not always true. So while we know that Huma Abedin’s parents were devout and observant Muslims — indeed, her father was an imam — we don’t know what exactly is going on with her marriage to Anthony Weiner.

Certainly the most likely scenario is that Weiner did convert to Islam, as Abedin’s mother, a professor in Saudi Arabia, would almost certainly have insisted that he do so. Weiner has made no public statement of this conversion, but since it would almost certainly have cost him politically if he had announced it, this silence is not any indication that he didn’t actually convert.

However, it is also possible, given the recent scandal involving Weiner’s apparently frequent and sexually charged contact with other women, that the rumors that the Abedin/Weiner union is a political marriage of convenience are true. After all, in 2008, Hillary Clinton was running for president. There were widespread insinuations that she was involved in a romantic and/or sexual relationship with Abedin, her ever-present personal assistant. Those whisperings persisted into Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. Abedin’s 2010 marriage to Weiner, at which Bill Clinton presided, put those rumors to rest.

In Islamic law, a Muslim must officiate a marriage ceremony; hence if Bill Clinton was the only one officiating, the marriage was not valid according to Islamic law. Huma Abedin would undoubtedly have known that. Thus, if no Muslim was officiating along with Clinton, Weiner would not have had to convert to Islam, as the whole thing was a charade from the outset, apparently entered into with the full awareness of all parties concerned.

Emphasis added.

This is the second time we’ve heard the baseless claim that the very Jewish Weiner might have converted to Islam when he married Huma Abedin.

The important point here is that Spencer is no fringe figure; he’s at the very center of the anti-Muslim movement in the United States. His bio describes the impressive access he has to both mainstream and right-leaning media sources:

His articles on Islam and other topics have appeared in the New York Post, the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News, the UK’s Guardian, Canada’s National Post, Middle East Quarterly, WorldNet Daily, First Things, Insight in the News, National Review Online, and many other journals.

Spencer has discussed jihad, Islam, and terrorism at a workshop sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the German Foreign Ministry. He has also appeared on the BBC, ABC News, CNN, FoxNews’s O’Reilly Factor, the Sean Hannity Show, the Glenn Beck Show, Fox and Friends, and many other Fox programs, PBS, MSNBC, CNBC, C-Span, France24 and Croatia National Televison (HTV), as well as on numerous radio programs including Bill O’Reilly’s Radio Factor, The Laura Ingraham Show, Bill Bennett’s Morning in America, Michael Savage’s Savage Nation, The Sean Hannity Show, The Alan Colmes Show, The G. Gordon Liddy Show, The Neal Boortz Show, The Michael Medved Show, The Michael Reagan Show, The Rusty Humphries Show, The Larry Elder Show, The Barbara Simpson Show, Vatican Radio, and many others. He has been a featured speaker at Dartmouth College, Stanford University, New York University, Brown University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, Washington University of St. Louis, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and many other colleges and universities.

I asked Spencer about his claim, and he emailed: “If [Weiner] converted, it was almost certainly for convenience, not out of conviction.” Spencer also amended his statement that Weiner “most likely” converted to “most immediately obvious”:

“‘Most likely’ is a bit overstated. That is the most immediately obvious scenario, given Abedin’s background and self-identification as a Muslim. It is, as is obvious from the rest of what I said, not the only possible scenario,” he wrote.

Justin Elliott is a Salon reporter. Reach him by email at jelliott@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin More:Justin Elliott

Salon.com: Arabic for right-wingers

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2011 by loonwatch

Salon.com: Arabic for right-wingers

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT

In ominous tones, Islamophobes toss around terms like “taqiyya” and “Shariah.” Do they even know what they mean?

In a now infamous column, the writer Eliana Benador argued this week that Anthony Weiner (who is a Jew) may have converted to Islam but was hiding it from the world in accordance with the practice of “taqiyya.”

“It is also important, when looking at this situation, to remember that observant Muslims practice taqiyya, an element of sharia that states there is a legal right and duty to distort the truth to promote the cause of Islam,” Benador wrote.

In invoking the Arabic term “taqiyya,” Benador exemplified a practice we’ve noticed in the past few years. It’s become common for right-wing writers and even politicians to matter-of-factly toss around Arabic terminology when warning of the Muslim threat to America. These references, often made in ominous tones, are almost always without context.

So we thought it would be useful to hear explanations of terms like “taqiyya” from an expert. John Esposito, university professor at Georgetown and author of “What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam,” was kind enough to explain six of the more common Islamic terms we’ve been hearing. Esposito wrote the “What it actually means” items below, following my introductions.

– – – – – – – – – –

The term: dhimmi

How it’s used: As a pejorative for non-Muslims who fail to understand — and unwittingly aid, or even appease — the Islamic menace

Example: “These dhimmi effetes at the Times think their toe licking will save them. They will be the first ones with their heads on the chopping block.” — the blogger Pamela Geller

What it actually means: “Protected people.” The dhimmi were non-Muslims living under Muslim rule who paid a special tax and in return were permitted to practice their own religion, be led by their religious leaders and be guided by their own religious laws and customs. This treatment was very advanced at the time. No such tolerance existed in Christendom where Jews, Muslims and Christians who did not accept the authority of the pope were persecuted, forced to convert or expelled.

However progressive this policy may have been in the past, it would amount to second-class citizenship for non-Muslims today. Therefore, some insist that non-Muslims must be given full citizenship rights because of the Quran’s emphasis on the equality of all humanity. This need for reinterpretation can be seen in the increased incidents of discrimination and violence against non-Muslims in countries like Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia.

– – – – – – – – – –

The term: jihad

How it’s used: As casual shorthand for Muslims’ war against the West

Example: “Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence. But in fact they’re both engaged in jihad and they’re both seeking to impose the same end state which is to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Sharia.” — Newt Gingrich

What it actually means: Literally, “struggle” or “exertion” in the path of God, following God’s Will. It is a concept with multiple meanings, used and abused throughout Islamic history. The importance of jihad is rooted in the Quran’s command to struggle in the path of God and in the example of the Prophet Muhammad and his early Companions. The two broad meanings of jihad, nonviolent and violent, are contrasted in a well-known Prophetic tradition. “Greater” jihad is the struggle within oneself to live a righteous life and submit oneself to God’s will. “Lesser” jihad is the defense of Islam and the Muslim community.

Jihad as struggle pertains to the difficulty and complexity of living a good life: struggling against the evil in oneself — to be virtuous and moral, making a serious effort to do good works and help to reform society. Depending on the circumstances in which one lives, it also can mean fighting injustice and oppression, spreading and defending Islam, and creating a just society through preaching, teaching and, if necessary, armed struggle or holy war. A radicalized violent minority combines militancy with messianic visions to inspire and mobilize an army of God whose jihad they believe will liberate Muslims at home and abroad.

– – – – – – – – – –

The term: taqiyya

How it’s used: As an explanation for why Muslims cannot be trusted — because their religion allows them to ethically practice deception

Example: “Thus it is reasonable to conclude that Keith Ellison’s deceitful pronouncements at Thursday’s Homeland Security Hearings, this past Thursday, and one day later on ‘Real Time With Bill Maher,’ are consistent with the Koranic doctrine of taqiyya, Islamic religious dissimulation.” — writer on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace site

What it actually means: Precautionary dissimulation of religious belief and practice in the face of persecution. Muslims recognize the personal duty of affirming right and forbidding wrong, but when confronted by an overwhelming injustice that threatens the well-being of an individual, this obligation can be fulfilled secretly in the heart rather than overtly. Among Shia Muslims, who from the death of the Prophet onward considered themselves subject to persistent religious persecution by the Sunni majority and the holders of political power, taqiyya permits not only passive or silent resistance, but also an active dissimulation of true beliefs when required to protect life, property and religion itself.

– – – – – – – – – –

The term: Shariah

How it’s used: To refer to a rigid set of Muslim laws that prescribe stoning for adulterous women, execution for homosexuals, etc.

Example: “We all know what shariah law does to women — women must wear burqas, women are subject to humiliation and into controlled marriages under Sharia law. We want to prevent it from ever happening in Texas.” — Texas state Rep. Leo Berman

What it actually means: Historically, many Muslims and non-Muslims have come to confuse and use the terms “Shariah” and “Islamic law” interchangeably. Because the Quran is not a law book, early jurists used revelation as well as reason to create a body of laws to govern their societies. But, over time, these man-made laws came to be viewed as sacred and unchangeable. Muslims who want to see Shariah as a source of law in constitutions therefore have very different visions of how that would manifest. Though the definition of Shariah refers to the principles in the Quran and prophetic tradition, some expect full implementation of classical or medieval Islamic law; others want a more restricted approach, like prohibiting alcohol, requiring the head of state to be a Muslim, or creating Shariah courts to hear cases involving Muslim family law (marriage, divorce and inheritance). Still others simply want to ensure that no constitutional law violates the principles and values of Islam, as found in the Quran.

– – – – – – – – – –

The term: madrassa

How it’s used: To refer to a place where Muslim youth are indoctrinated into radicalism and, often, terror

Example: “I am very concerned that the school will be a madrassa, funded by taxpayer dollars. We will in effect be supporting the training of future terrorist cells.” — Opponent of a proposed Arabic-themed New York school

What it actually means: A place where teaching, studying and learning take place. In early centuries, “madrassa” came to refer to a school of higher studies (college or university) where Islamic sciences were taught. Today, the term is also often used more broadly. Like the term “school” in American English, it can refer, for example, to a university, seminary, college as well as primary or secondary school. In recent years, the term has taken on a negative connotation, and for some simplistically equated with militant madrassas or schools in Pakistan and elsewhere. While they certainly exist and are dangerous training grounds, they represent a relatively small number of the institutions/schools that are referred to as madrassas.

– – – – – – – – – –

The term: Allah

How it’s used: As a negatively charged byword for a special Islamic deity

Example: “The animals of Allah for whom any day is a great day for a massacre are drooling over the positive response that they are getting from New York City officials over a proposal to build a 13 story monument to the 9/11 Muslims who hijacked those 4 airliners.” –Tea Party activist Mark Williams

What it actually means: Arabic for “God” (the term is used by Muslims and Arab Christians for God but is also used in Arabic-influenced languages and thus by Turkish and Malaysian Christians and others). Muslims believe Allah is the same deity worshiped by Jews and Christians. The first verses of the Quran present the basic Muslim view of God: “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Sovereign of the Day of Judgment. Truly, it is You we worship and You whose aid we seek.” He is creator, sustainer, judge and ruler of the universe; all-powerful and all-merciful. Allah is described as the Merciful and Compassionate; every verse of the Quran begins with “In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate.” Believed to have revealed himself to a long line of prophets (including the biblical prophets), to Moses, Jews (Torah) and Jesus (Gospels). As in Judaism and Christianity, God is also seen as the Just Judge who is to be obeyed and feared as well as loved.

Salon: Jews and Muslims united for sharia?

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on May 7, 2011 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon.com)

Jewish groups mobilize against anti-sharia bills that would also bar arbitration under Jewish religious law

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT

We’re a bit late to this one, but Ron Kampeas of JTA has a fascinating recent piece on fears that anti-sharia initiatives brewing around the country could also threaten observance of traditional Jewish law, or halachah.

You don’t hear much about halachah, or rabbinical courts known as beit din, even though both have been a feature of observant American Jewish communities for years.

But some Jewish groups are now lobbying against anti-sharia bills that have been drafted — possibly as a way to preempt constitutional challenges — to bar any and all foreign or religious law in U.S. courts, not just sharia:

“The laws are not identical, but as a general rule they could be interpreted broadly to prevent two Jewish litigants from going to a beit din,” a Jewish religious court, said Abba Cohen, the Washington director of Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox umbrella group. “That would be a terrible infringement on our religious freedom.”

A number of recent beit  din arbitrations that were taken by litigants to civil courts — on whether a batch of etrogim met kosher standards; on whether a teacher at a yeshiva was rightfully dismissed; and on the ownership of Torah scrolls — would have no standing under the proposed laws.

A spokesman for the Orthodox Union explained that a prohibition on religious law would be a problem in situations when Jewish law comes up in civil courts:

Such laws “are problematic particularly from the perspective of the Orthodox community — we have a beit din system, Jews have disputes resolved according to halachah,” Diament said. “We don’t have our own police force, and the mechanism for having those decisions enforced if they need to be enforced is the way any private arbitration is enforced” — through contract law in the secular court system.

Some prominent Jewish groups seem to be putting some real lobbying muscle into this issue in state legislatures, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

Sharia, by the way, did not come up in last night’s GOP presidential debate.