Archive for Middle East

American Muslims Working to Protect Equal Rights of Minorities in Middle East

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on June 1, 2012 by loonwatch

Working for equal rights across the globe for minorities is a priority for many American Muslims who have themselves learned from their own “minority experience.” American Muslims were recently in Doha developing ways of ensuring the “protection of equal rights of minorities in the Middle East” (h/t: MF):

American Muslims Working to Protect Equal Rights of Minorities in Middle East

(StraightRecord.org)

Muslim American’s continue with their persistent and consistent efforts at highlighting the critical importance of promoting and protecting “equal rights” for minorities in the Middle East.

Central to the struggles and reforms emerging across the Middle East from the Arab Spring are questions of how to ensure the protection of freedom, tolerance, and economic sustainability for all people, particularly minority groups.

In an effort to develop an international strategy for social stability and economic development in the Middle East, the State of Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UCLA Center for Middle East Development gathered community leaders and activists from across the globe this week in Doha for a conference focusing on enriching the future of the Middle East.  The conference was held in conjunction with the 12th Annual Doha Forum.

ISNA Director of Community Outreach Mohamed Elsanousi participated in a workshop focusing on the “Future of Religious Minorities in the Region.” Elsanousi’s participation in the workshop was a part of ISNA’s ongoing work with Muslim leaders worldwide to promote Islamic standards and develop protocols that protect religious freedom, particularly for religious minorities, in Muslim-majority countries.

“In Islam, we are taught that all people are equal and should not be discriminated against in any way based on their religion,” stated Elsanousi.  “It is our responsibility as Muslims to promote programs and policies that protect freedom of religion for all people in the emerging democracies across the Arab Spring to ensure the repression of the old regimes is never allowed to take root again.”

The workshop highlighted examples from Islamic history, such as the covenant of Medina, which thrived under a system of law that guaranteed equal rights for all people in a Muslim majority community.

The workshop also echoed many of the strategies shared by ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid and other leaders during last week’s ISNA co-sponsored symposium on the Rights of Religious Minorities in Islam.

Read the rest…

Video: “What a Billion Muslims Really Think”

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , on April 25, 2012 by loonwatch

A few years ago Dalia Mogahed and John Esposito co-authored the book “What a Billion Muslims Really Think.” It relied on quite thorough polling and survey data and was received very well. It also happened to dispel a great many myths and distortions regarding the Muslim majority nations.(h/t: Benjamin Taghiov)

Fearmonger Does Little to Improve Conversation on Terrorism

Posted in Loon People, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2012 by loonwatch

Fearmonger does little to improve conversation on terrorism

by John L. Smith

For Steve Emerson, the danger is very clear and very present: A surprising number of American officials and institutions are in the tank to Islamic extremists and their handmaidens.

Emerson accuses the Obama administration of being infiltrated by radical followers of Islam inside our own country and throughout the world.

That’s right. Infiltrated.

Emerson, the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, spent an hour last week with the Review-Journal editorial board and was accompanied by Elliot Karp, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas. In the short time Emerson spent at the newspaper, he managed to indict a number of law enforcement institutions and officers as patsies for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic extremists in our midst.

For one, there’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Emerson said the FBI is so focused not offending Islamist and Arabic groups with allegiances to Hamas and Hezbollah that it’s getting in the way of anti-terrorism investigations.

“The agents on the ground understand exactly what’s going on,” Emerson says cryptically of the bureau’s political atmosphere. When asked to elaborate, he replies, “I have to protect my sources.”

Forgive me, but I thought the FBI was doing a pretty good job on the terrorism front. Turns out they’re falling down on the job.

It’s OK, though. Emerson has confidence in his own ability to spot the terrorists among us. He brags that his sources are “sometimes even better than the bureau.”

He adds that his field intelligence was superior to the FBI’s in part because “informants are more likely to work for us.”

That’s not all. He also has the sneaking suspicion that a talk he was scheduled to give to a group of CIA operatives was derailed by the Obama administration. Who knew President Barack Obama had enough hours in the day to dispatch CIA Director David Petraeus to teach Emerson a lesson?

Then there’s Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. In 2010, Baca was honored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has been linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. CAIR also actively challenges Muslim stereotypes and presents the Islamic side of issues.

“He believes CAIR is a wonderful organization,” Emerson says sarcastically. ” … I’m not calling him evil, or fundamentally stupid, but he is in bed with the bad guys.”

Obviously, Emerson isn’t shy about pointing fingers. Nor is he simply a sign-waving conspiracy theorist. His allies on the right consider him a Cassandra who warns us about the dangers of Islamic extremism at home and abroad, and especially as it affects Israel. He pens op-ed pieces in major newspapers, is often quoted on television and radio talk shows, is cheered on the speaking circuit, and has a loyal following on his website. He is a leading firebrand from the school of thought that goes something like, “Not all Muslims are plotting terrorist acts, just most of them.”

He claims he is the victim of “a fatwa by NPR” largely because National Public Radio officials don’t invite him on their programs these days. But you can still catch plenty of Emerson’s opinions in a variety of media and networks.

Lest you think he’s just a right-wing extremist out to frighten people, Emerson repeats often that his work is dangerous and he has received many threats. He says things like “I’ve got to look over my shoulder every day,” and “If I had a wife and kids, I couldn’t do this.”

Certainly not. He made it sound a little dangerous just sitting in the room with him.

That’s Emerson’s problem whether you believe he’s full of facts or fudge. His hyperbolic rhetoric plays well on the fundraising circuit, but it does nothing to forward the understanding of complex issues.

The Middle East is a political tinderbox. There’s heated talk of possible U.S. and Israeli military intervention in Iran to halt its development of nuclear technology.

At the risk of becoming part of a vast conspiracy to silence Steve Emerson, that complex conversation isn’t improved by his shouts of conspiracy at the highest levels of our government.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.

Anti-Muslim Rhetoric in the USA is Noticed in the Middle East

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by loonwatch

Hillary Clinton Muncif Marzouk Tunisia

The Right-Wing will add this to there lists of grievances and examples of “appeasement” to the Muslamic-overlord-beast-monster, when in reality it is a face saving statement by Clinton downplaying the very real and viral Islamophobia infecting the USA:

Clinton tells Muslims to disregard campaign talk

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton advised an audience in Tunisia on Saturday to “not pay attention” to the comments made by candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination, saying the often overheatedrhetoric of the campaign doesn’t reflect U.S. policy.

Speaking at a town-hall style event in Tunisia, the North African nation that sparked the “Arab Spring” revolts, Clinton said the partisan remarks made during campaign events “certainly don’t reflect the United States, don’t reflect our foreign policy, don’t reflect who we are as a people.”

Clinton’s remarks came in response to a question from a member of her audience who said he was troubled by some of the comments, which he considered anti-Muslim, made by candidates running for president.

“If you go to the United States, you see mosques everywhere, you see Muslim-Americans everywhere. That’s the fact. So I would not pay attention to the rhetoric,” she said.

Instead, she advised people to listen instead to President Barack Obama.

“I think that will be a very clear signal to the entire world as to what our values are,” Clinton said.

She added that she is sometimes surprised that people around the world pay more attention to what’s said in U.S. political campaigns than do most Americans.

“I think you have to shut out some of the rhetoric and just focus on what we’re doing and what we stand for and particularly what our president represents,” Clinton said.

Obama has come under fierce criticism from Republicans for apologizing for the burning of Qurans at a military base in Afghanistan.

GOP hopeful Newt Gingrich said while campaigning that the apology was “astonishing” and that Obama “has gone so far at appeasing radical Islamists that he is failing in his duty as commander in chief,”

American military officials say the burning of the Muslim holy books was a mistake, but it has sparked days of violent protests across Afghanistan.

FBI ‘Islam 101′ Guide Depicted Muslims as 7th-Century Simpletons

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2011 by loonwatch

FBI ‘Islam 101′ Guide Depicted Muslims as 7th-Century Simpletons

As recently as January 2009, the FBI thought its agents ought to know the following crucial information about Muslims:

  • They engage in a “circumcision ritual”
  • More than 9,000 of them are in the U.S. military
  • Their religion “transforms [a] country’s culture into 7th-century Arabian ways.”

And this was what the FBI considered “recommended reading” about Islam:

All this is revealed in a PowerPoint presentation by the FBI’s Law Enforcement Communications Unit(.pdf), which trains new Bureau recruits. Among the 62 slides in the presentation, designed to teach techniques for “successful interviews/interrogations with individuals from the M.E. [Middle East],” is an instruction that the “Arabic mind” is “swayed more by words than ideas and more by ideas than facts.”

The briefing presents much information that has nothing to do with crime and everything to do with constitutionally-protected religious practice and social behavior, such as estimating the number of mosques in America and listing the states with the largest Muslim populations.

Other slides paint Islam in a less malicious light, and one urges “respectful liaison” as a “proactive approach” to engaging Muslims. But even those exhibit what one American Muslim civil rights leader calls “the understanding of a third grader, and even then, a badly misinformed third grader.”

One slide asks, “Is Iran an Arab country?” (It’s not.) Another is just a picture of worry beads.

“Based on this presentation, it is easy to see why so many in law enforcement and the FBI view American Muslims with ignorance and suspicion,” says Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates, a legal aid group. “The presentation appears to treat all Muslims with one broad brush and makes no distinction between lawful religious practice and beliefs and unlawful activities.”

A grainy copy of the PowerPoint was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union’s Northern California chapter and the Asian Law Caucus, a San Francisco-based civil rights group, and provided to Danger Room. The two groups filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year inquiring about government surveillance of American Muslim communities.

“In order for FBI training to be effective it has to present useful, factual and unbiased information. This material fails on all three criteria,” said Mike German, a former FBI agent who now works for the ACLU. “Factually flawed and biased law enforcement training programs only expand the risk that innocent Muslim and Arab Americans will be unfairly targeted for investigation and prosecution, and stigmatized in their communities.” [Full disclosure: My fiancee works for the ACLU.]

In response to queries from Danger Room, the FBI issued the following statement about the PowerPoint: “The FBI new agent population at Quantico is exposed to a diverse curriculum in many specific areas, including Islam and Muslim culture. The presentation in question was a rudimentary version used for a limited time that has since been replaced. It was a small part of a larger segment of training that also included material produced by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point.”

It is unclear when the FBI stopped using the PowerPoint.

Among the most provocative aspects of the presentation is its recommended reading list. One book offered is The Truth About Mohammed: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion, by Robert Spencer. Spencer is one of the ringleaders of the protest against the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” and the co-founder of Stop the Islamicization of America, which “promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda,” in the view of the Anti-Defamation League. A manifesto written by the Norwegian terror suspect Anders Behring Breivik cited Spencer 64 times.

Another book cited is The Arab Mind, by Raphael Patai. The volume was briefly infamous in 2004, after Seymour Hersh reported its influence among certain Iraq war hawks in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal. According to Hersh, the takeaway of Patai’s book is that “Arabs only understand force” and are susceptible to “shame and humiliation.”

“It’s like asking law enforcement to learn ‘the facts’ about the African American experience by reading a book by the grand wizard of the KKK,” says Khera. “It is deplorable and offensive that the nation’s top law enforcement agency would promote such hateful so-called ‘experts’ on Islam.”

An FBI spokesman said Spencer’s book is no longer on the reading list but was not sure about the others. “We encourage our agents to seek out a variety of viewpoints. That does not mean we endorse or adopt the view of any particular author,” the bureau’s statement continues. “Broad knowledge is essential for us to better understand and respond to the threats we face. Knowledge also helps us defeat ignorance and strengthen relationships with the diverse communities that we serve.”

When dealing with Muslims and counterterrorism, the FBI’s record is mixed. It’s sent informants into mosques and used operatives to coax suspected extremists into active terror plots, arresting them before anyone was hurt. But its agents also stood up against torture at Guantanamo Bay and in the CIA’s undisclosed prisons. FBI Director Robert Mueller testified in 2008 that many of its terrorism cases “are a result of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States.”

In recent years, law enforcement agencies around the country have proven receptive to anti-Muslim crusaders. The Washington Monthly recently reported on the “growing profession” of terrorism consultants who get paid to make “sweeping generalizations about Muslims” to rapt audiences of cops. Adam Serwer at the American Prospect reports that another Breivik favorite, Walid Shoebat, also gets government cash to tell police things like “Islam is the devil.”

At a Capitol Hill event on Monday, a Florida-based researcher named Peter Leitner claimed that up to 6,000 Muslims in America are a “fifth column.” According to Leitner’s official biography, he founded a group called the Higgins Counterterrorism Research Center; Higgins claims to have provided counterterrorism instruction to “FBI Counterterrorism Special Agents,” various police departments countrywide and even Blackwater.

“These characterizations of Islam and of Arab and Muslim people are not just disheartening — they are frightening,” says Veena Dubal, an attorney with the Asian Law Caucus. “Degrading and inaccurate characterizations of Islam and of the ‘Arab mind’ don’t help individual agents fight terrorism. Rather, they imbue law enforcement with an extremely biased view of a diverse community.”

Photo: newmanchu/Flickr

Bryan Fischer: No longer alone in Bigotry

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

GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain has revealed himself to be, for various reasons, the biggest bigot and buffoon in the race. He kicked up a firestorm with his recent comments on Fox News Sunday in support of the “right” to ban American mosques. Apparently, Cain thinks that freedom of religion means freedom to ban religions:

CAIN: They could say that. Chris, lets go back to the fundamental issue that the people are basically saying they’re objecting to. They’re objecting to the fact Islam is both a religion and a set of laws, Sharia law. That’s the difference between any one of our other traditional religions where it’s just about religious purposes. The people in the community know best, and I happen to side with the people in Murfreesboro.

WALLACE: You’re saying any community, if they want to ban a mosque?

CAIN: Yes. They have a right to do that. That’s not discriminating based upon religion.

Discriminating against Muslims is not discrimination because they’re Muslims! Kind of like the argument we hear from racists that discrimination against black people is not discrimination because black people are more likely to be criminals.

Many religious leaders took Cain to task for his comments, but not everyone. In fact, more than enough far right wingers are gleefully embracing his call to deny American Muslims their fundamental American rights.

Bryan Fischer is a Christian fundamentalist who is one of the loudest voices of intolerance on the right wing. For example, he has argued that Muslims should not serve in the military, law-abiding Muslim immigrants should be “sent back home,” and all American mosques should be banned:

Permits, in my judgment, should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America. This is for one simple reason: each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.

Did you get that? Each Islamic mosque is “dedicated” not to the pillars of Islam (faith, prayer, charity, and fasting) but to the “overthrow of the American government.” As if all the Muslims of every denomination (Sunni, Shi’ite, Sufi, liberal, conservative, etc.) are acting with one will, one goal, like the Borg (resistance is futile, you will be assimilated). He must have read that somewhere in the Protocols of the Elders of Mecca.

Anyway, it is this last point that has Bryan Fischer super excited: he is no longer alone in his Bigotry now that a big shot GOP candidate has legitimated his effort to ban all mosques. On what grounds can they so brazenly defy the First Amendment? The bogus talking point about Islam being a political ideology, not a religion:

In point of fact, in Islam the church IS the state. And since Islam allows no room for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience and equal rights for women, it’s view of culture is so bizarrely un-American as to be dangerous and destructive to civilized society in all its forms.

This is quite ironic coming from a man whose goal in life is to impose his backward religious opinions on an unwilling society. Don’t mind our homegrown Christian fundamentalists who reject separation of church and state. They don’t count.

In reality, the Gallup polls of the Muslim world reveal the exact opposite of Fischer and Cain’s claims:

•Large majorities cite the equal importance of democracy and Islam to the quality of life and progress of the Muslim world. They see no contradiction between democratic values and religious principles.

•Political freedoms are among the things they admire most about the West.

•Substantial majorities in nearly all nations say that if drafting a new constitution, they would guarantee freedom of speech.

•Most want neither theocracy nor secular democracy but a third model in which religious principles and democratic values coexist. They want their own democratic model that draws on Islamic law as a source.

•Significant majorities say religious leaders should play no direct role in drafting a constitution, writing legislation, determining foreign policy, or deciding how women dress in public.

Another poll reports that less than 1% of Egyptians want the radical fusion of religion and state like Iran:

Egyptians… express little interest in recreating their country in the image of Iran, as has been the fear among some Western commentators. Less than 1% say the Islamic Republic should be Egypt’s political model, and most Egyptians think religious leaders should provide advice to government authorities, as opposed to having full authority for determining the nation’s laws. The majority of residents in the Arab world’s most populous nation desire a democracy informed by religious values, not a theocracy.

The numbers concerning Muslim attitudes toward women are equally destructive to Fischer’s arguments:

•Majorities in most countries believe that women should have the same legal rights as men: They should have the right to vote, to hold any job outside the home that they qualify for, and to hold leadership positions at the cabinet and national council levels

•Majorities of men in virtually every country (including 62 percent in Saudi Arabia, 73 percent in Iran, and 81 percent in Indonesia) agree that women should be able to work at any job they qualify for.

•In Saudi Arabia, where women cannot vote, 58 percent of men say women should be able to vote.

•While Muslim women favor gender parity, they do not endorse wholesale adoption of Western values.

So, while scientific polling of the Muslim world (not to mention American Muslims) reveals broad support for democratic principles, a rejection of theocracy, and support for women’s rights, that won’t stop the far right from parroting the thoroughly debunked but politically potent talking point that Islam is somehow uniquely anti-democratic, oppressive to women, and dangerous.

Bryan Fischer is the face of the grassroots prejudice to which Herman Cain is appealing and which will not likely be criticized by the rest of the GOP candidates. American right-wing politics has sunk to a new low. No longer is shredding the First Amendment considered fringe, crazy talk.

Fischer is not a lone anti-freedom bigot anymore. The GOP is right there with him.

Negative image of Arabs tied to rising Islamophobia in the West

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , on May 22, 2011 by loonwatch

Negative image of Arabs tied to rising Islamophobia in the West

(Today’s Zaman)

The lingering perception problem with regard to Arabs in the Western media is very much connected to rising Islamophobia in Europe and in the US, experts at the 10th Arab Media Forum held in Dubai last week said. “Islam has become the new perceived enemy of the West after the fall of the Soviet Union,” said Philip Seib, professor of journalism and public diplomacy at the University of Southern California, during a panel discussion at the forum, which attracted over 2,400 media professionals from 40 countries.

Seib stressed that more continual and balanced news coverage from the region was needed to overcome challenges of stereotyping of Arab citizens. “People want to know about the region, which was reflected when Al Jazeera’s English news website registered a phenomenal increase in the number of hits after Egypt’s revolution,” he added.

Abdullah Bozkurt, Today’s Zaman Ankara bureau chief, also shared Seib’s concerns in his speech and said the anti-Muslim platform in Europe has developed itself from being the agenda of fringe, far-right parties into a mainstream political debate.

“With the minaret ban in Switzerland and the Burqa ban in France, the anti-Muslim rhetoric became part of the law of the land. Islamophobia even became institutionalized with the gains of far-right parties in some European countries, and they are now set to become part of the coalitional governments. This is an alarming development,” he explained.

During the 10th Arab Media Forum there were also discussions on whether or not the recent protest movements that swept the countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa have changed the image of Arabs. It explored whether there were signs of change from references in the Western media of Arabs being “violent, betraying, backward-thinking and women’s rights-snubbing” to that of people who have the same aspirations and expectations as everybody else.