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.

Kareem Salama: America’s Muslim Cowboy Ambassador

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , on April 12, 2011 by loonwatch

If you told someone that there was an American Muslim Cowboy Ambassador, they would laugh and not think for one second you were telling the truth, but there is, his name is Kareem Salama and he is being sponsored by the State Department for an “outreach” trip to the Middle East.

There are some points in the article below that may give us pause. Such as, why is America engaged in throwing so much money into the coffers of a PR campaign in the Muslim world to fix its image? Why doesn’t America extricate itself from the wars it is involved in, or review its policy of support for apartheid regimes and despots instead?

Salama says he doesn’t care too much about “politics” and attempts to avoid it, but is he undermining his cause, a noble one, to show that America is not a monolith by allowing himself to be bankrolled by the State Department?

Cynical Arabs and Muslims may view this as a mere PR stunt while bombs are being dropped on their heads despite the good intentions.

One cause of worry is encapsulated in this line,

Another $1.3 billion has been allocated to the Muslim World Outreach Program—this multi-year federal initiative, launched in 2003 by the National Security Council, aims to“transform Islam from within” by supporting secular, liberal Arab organizations as well as the work of secular, liberal Muslim scholars.

This rings like loud bells in the ears of Muslims and Arabs. Such a venture feeds into the narrative of extremists such as Anwar al-Awlaki who wish to say that America has an agenda when it comes to “Islam.” Instead of helping liberal or progressive Muslim and Arab thinkers and scholars it undermines and sabotages their work and smacks of the old imperial and colonial efforts.

To push the point further, this National Security Council effort should be reviewed in light of the recent “Arab Spring” and more attention should finally be paid to the clarion calls of Robert Pape, Scott Atran and others who tell us that our lowly image in the world is due to occupation, war and support for autocratic and corrupt regimes and movements that stifle freedom and progress.

America’s Muslim Cowboy Ambassador

How Oklahoma-born singer Kareem Salama became part of US diplomacy efforts in the Middle East.

— By Ashley Bates (Mother Jones)

When Andrew Mitchell, the cultural affairs officer at the US Embassy in Egypt, heard that a Muslim dude was making a go of it as a country star, he thought it was “the funniest thing I’d ever heard.”

So Mitchell began checking out Kareem Salama’s stuff—his two self-released albums, Generous Peace and This Life of Mine, and his 2007 hit song “Generous Peace,” whose video is as wholesome as an ABC After-School Special. “Gentlemen, I’m like incense; the more you burn me, the more I’m fragrant,” Salama sings, echoing the writings of the eight century Islamic scholar Muhammed Al-Shafi’ee.

“That is a concept,” Mitchell recalls thinking, “that if I could broadcast anything to this part of the world, that’s what I would say.”

Salama is an American, born of Egyptian parents—engineers both—who came to the US for college and ultimately settled down here. They raised Kareem and his three siblings in the rural town of Ponca City, Oklahoma. The town had no mosque, and only one other Muslim family lived there, but the children learned Islamic traditions at home. Salama, now 33, considers himself devout; he prays regularly, and doesn’t drink or date.

Culturally, though, he identifies as a rodeo-going, country music-loving southerner. “I grew up in a place where country music is kinda like crickets,” Salama explains in his heavy drawl. “You just hear it everywhere you go.”

The more Mitchell learned about Salama, the more excited he became about the stereotype-busting potential of his story. Egyptians (and Americans) tend to associate country music—and the American South—with conservatism. And they tend to associate conservatives with Islamophobia. Egyptians will say, “‘Oh, he’s a cowboy. He’s a conservative. He hates all Muslims,’” Mitchell says. “We can show them: Here’s an Oklahoma cowboy who not only doesn’t hate Muslims, he is a Muslim!”

In US diplomacy terms, Salama was a “total winner all around,” Mitchell says. So he pulled some strings. Last summer, Salama was invited to participate in a six-week, US government-sponsored tour of the Middle East. The program included both concerts and group discussions at schools and community centers. Salama jumped at the opportunity. “I like to focus on a message of reconciliation and bringing people together,” he says.

Everywhere he went—Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Morocco, Kuwait, and Syria—there were droves of people at his appearances, especially children. “A lot of times when we talked about things like respecting people who are different than you and being tolerant, it was clear that they had already discussed those things in school,” Salama recalls. (He included some tour footage in the video for his pop song, “Makes Me Crazy.”)

But Salama refused to engage Middle Easterners on controversial topics. If, for example, an audience member asked why the US government was sponsoring his tour while simultaneously providing billions of dollars in military aid to repressive Arab regimes, Salama dodged the question. “I’m not a politician and I don’t like to talk about politics,” he explains. “I told them that I don’t answer political questions. And the press corps was like: Why? And I said because, at the end of the day, I think it’s a waste of your time. Most of you have never voted in your lives or effected any change in the government whatsoever. And the intelligent person always focuses in their lives on the things that they can actually do something about.”

Sometimes, Salama would simply redirect the conversation. “There was a moment when we were in Jordan when a kid who was of Palestinian descent asked me something about America’s foreign policy. I looked at JJ [an American friend], and I put my hand on his shoulder, and I said, ‘Did JJ ever do anything to you?’ And his face completely changed. He softened in that moment and just goes, ‘No he hasn’t.’ And that was it.”

Salama’s songs can be spiritual, but they’re not overtly Islamic. Nor do his lyrics criticize American foreign policy. One song, “Baby I’m a Soldier,” tells the fictional story of two dying soldiers from opposing sides, emphasizing their common humanity—but it takes no jabs at US military actions.

In Bahrain, Salama performed at schools that primarily served the country’s more-affluent Sunni community. At the time, he was unaware of religious tensions in Bahrain, or that the Western-backed government, which has close ties with Saudi Arabia, systematically represses and discriminates against the country’s Shiite majority. “I’m pretty woefully ignorant of Bahrain in general,” Salama acknowledges.

But he did tell audiences in Bahrain and elsewhere about his idyllic childhood in Oklahoma. “I didn’t experience much” discrimination, he told me, adding that he even played the lead in his sixth-grade Christmas play. “There’s an old Arabic poem that says, ‘It’s sad to see a man who has 100 good days, and he always complains about the one bad day.’ Even if there was something bad that happened, I’ve had such a beautiful life and a beautiful experience growing up where I did.”

Salama is pretty patriotic. Even so, he sometimes encounters bigotry online. In 2007, after he appeared on Fox News to talk about racial profiling, some anonymous Fox commenters claimed he was a “terrorist hiding in the open,” and not a “real” American.

The 2010 tour was part of a larger “public diplomacy” program that costs US taxpayers more than $100 million each year in the Middle East alone, according to a State Department official. Every embassy in the world has a public diplomacy division that engages in various outreach activities, hoping to nurture person-to-person relationships between Americans and foreigners. That’s in addition to the Peace Corps, a federal program whose budget was $400 million last year. Another $1.3 billion has been allocated to the Muslim World Outreach Program—this multi-year federal initiative, launched in 2003 by the National Security Council, aims to“transform Islam from within” by supporting secular, liberal Arab organizations as well as the work of secular, liberal Muslim scholars.

Mitchell believes cultural-exchange programs help combat extremism, and implies that many Arab civilians are simply unaware that most Americans are decent human beings. He offers a hypothetical scenario where a kid meets Salama and is later approached by a jihadist who insists that America is “the Great Satan.” That kid, Mitchell says, “is going to say, ‘Wait a minute. I met an American. And he was a Muslim. And he was nice. They are not all the Great Satan.’”

In March, inspired by the revolutions sweeping the Middle East, Salama released a new song and video called “Be Free Now.” But out of respect for pro-democracy activists, he’s postponed the release of his latest album, City of Lights, until May 24. The new album is a mix of country-western and catchy pop tunes. “I guess it’s just a gut feeling,” he says of the postponement. Releasing it now “might appear like, ‘He’s over there in America busy with his music and stuff, and we are going through this much more important thing.’”

Here’s the “Generous Peace” video, which tackles bias against Muslims and advocates turning the other cheek…

It’s Official: Bill Maher is a Racist

Posted in Feature, Loon Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2011 by loonwatch

How long will Bill Maher get a pass on his racism and anti-Muslim Islamophobia? Is it acceptable because the targets are Arabs and Muslims and because Maher is a comedian from whom outrageous things are expected?

On his last show Bill Maher went on a speel undermining the Democratic character of Revolutions sweeping across the Arab world. Amongst his ludicrous statements he claimed “women can’t vote in 19 of 22 Arab countries,” that “women who have dated an Arab man, the results aren’t good,” that “Arab men have a sense of “entitlement,” etc. He also went onto forward the argument that “we are better than them,” justifying it by implying he is not a “cultural relativist.”

No, Bill might not be a “cultural relativist” but he sure sounds like a “cultural supremacist.” His factual accuracy about the Islamic and Arab world is akin to Robert Spencer’s. It is patently false that “19 of 22″ Arab states don’t allow for women to vote, a brief trip to Wikipidea would have disabused him of that false fact:

Women were granted the right to vote on a universal and equal basis in Lebanon in 1952[46]Syria (to vote) in 1949 [47] (Restrictions or conditions lifted) in 1953 [48]Egypt in 1956[49]Tunisia in 1959 [50]Mauritania in 1961[51]Algeria in 1962 [52]Morocco in 1963 [53]Libya [54] and Sudan in 1964 [55],Yemen (Partly)in 1967 [47] (full right) in 1970 [56]Bahrain in 1973 [57]Jordan in 1974 [58]Iraq (Full right) 1980 [57] Oman (Partly) in 1994 and (Fully granted) 2003 [59], and Kuwait in 2005 [57].

The reality, (what is lost on Maher) is that even though nearly all Arab states allow for voting for men and women, their votes didn’t matter in the autocratic kleptocracies that littered the Middle East, and this is what Arabs — men and women — have been fighting against these past few months. It seems Maher just can’t handle all the myths he’s been pushing being shattered.

Bill Maher goes onto talk about how Arab men are bad spouses and boyfriends, to buttress his points he brings up “anecdotal” evidence and his opinion that Arabs have a “sense of entitlement.” How does Bill know? Has he dated Arab men? This is one of those things that is so ridiculous and patently unsubstantiated that it is beyond being laughable, you almost cringe with embarrassment for how stupid it makes Maher look.

Maher also seemed to use “Arab” and “Muslim” interchangeably, perhaps not knowing that a significant number of Arabs are not Muslims. While there are certainly problems in the Middle East and the Muslim world regarding the treatment of women, Maher judges Arabs and Muslims by their lowest common denominator. Ignoring countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan and others that have progressive legislation regarding women and which have had women presidents, prime ministers, parliamentarians, business leaders, sports icons, journalists, etc.

At the end of the day Maher needs to have someone on his show who can push back against the myths that he indulges in and propagates. Someone of the caliber of As’ad Abu Khalil or Juan Cole might be a good start.

You can watch the segment at Mediaite:

Bill Maher Slams Muslim Men’s Treatment Of Women, Gets Heckled By Audience Member

(Mediaite)

Maher was having it out with Smiley over relative treatment of women in Muslim countries and American society – Smiley didn’t argue that Muslim countries often exhibit poor attitudes toward women, but argued treatment of women in America has a long way to go, too. Maher called it a “false equivalency,” and it went on from there. Maher read off a list of the ways women are oppressed in Arab countries – in 19 of 22, they can’t vote; in Saudi Arabia they aren’t allowed to drive; etc.

Then, he got into slightly weirder territory. He asserted that “civilization begins with civilizing the men,” and then, after saying, “I know this is anecdotal” (not an auspicious way to start when you’re trying to make a convincing argument), unleashed this line:

“Talk to women who’ve ever dated an Arab man. The results are not good.”

Maher added they have a “sense of entitlement,” indeed quite the anecdotal piece of “evidence,” and one to which guest Michelle Caruso-Cabrera shot back, “Every man I’ve ever dated has a sense of entitlement.” And Maher kept on having none of Smiley’s argument that Americans shouldn’t act superior about treatment of women and rejected the notion he was “demonizing” anyone by saying Americans’ treatment of women is better:

“They’re worse. What’s wrong with just saying that?”

And it continued on like that until a guy in the crowd started yelling about Hellfire missiles…and yelling, and yelling. He rattled off so much so quickly (though most of it was tough to hear) that Maher guessed it was a prepared speech…a guess buoyed by the fact that the rant, as Maher also pointed out, indeed didn’t have a whole lot to do with what the panel was talking about. Video of the segment below – the interruption begins at the 5:32 mark.

 

“Blame the Muslims”: Violence Against Women in Egypt

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2011 by loonwatch

The struggle to see through the obfuscation, racism and Islamophobia.

“Blame the Muslims”: Violence Against Women in Egypt

by Rachel Newcomb

(Huffington Post)

As soon as CBS announced yesterday that correspondent Lara Logan had been sexually assaultedwhile covering the Egyptian protests, the media sprang alive in search of a scapegoat. Two disturbing lines of commentary have emerged: one that cites irrelevant details about Logan’s beauty or her past sexual history, the other blaming Muslims or Egyptian culture for the assault. In theWashington Post, Alexandra Petri noted that this happened to a “known, blonde white woman.” And on her blog, Debbie Schlussel wrote that “she should have known what Islam is all about.” “This never happened to her or any other mainstream media reporter when Mubarak was allowed to treat his country of savages in the only way they can be controlled,” opined Schlussel.

But we would be wrong to assume that in controlling Egyptians, Mubarak somehow also kept women safe. In fact, state-sanctioned violence against women was widespread and well documented. For years Egypt has been cited by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for using rape, torture, and sexual assault to threaten and intimidate female activists who criticized the regime. These tactics were also used against female family members of dissidents. There is also considerable evidence that members of Mubarak’s security forces ordered the assault of female protesters during the recent demonstrations.

In times of conflict, the perpetrators of sexual violence cross religious and ethnic lines. An estimated 20-50,000 Muslim women were raped during the conflict in Bosnia in the 1990s. Closer to home, yesterday a class action lawsuit was announced by 17 American servicewomen who reported being raped by fellow members of the military. And in searching for spurious links between “American culture” and violence against women, we do not have to look toward military settings or exotic, war-torn locales. Take the most recent Super Bowl. Allegations of rape have hovered over both teams, while news agencies reported a disturbing increase in the sex trafficking of girls and women around the time of the Super Bowl. But we would chafe at allowing outsiders to generalize that all Americans exhibit violent tendencies toward women.

To be sure, sexual harassment is endemic in Egypt. And for the most part, we are fortunate to be able to walk down the street in the United States without the verbal and physical harassment that Egyptian women face on a daily basis. A 2005 Egypt Demographic and Health survey revealed that one third of Egyptian women are victims of domestic violence. Yet a 2010 study by the Population Reference bureau alsopoints out that poor women are twice as likely in Egypt to be victimized. Similar studies in U.S. society have shown correlations between poverty and violence against women. And across all social classes, the statistics are grim. A U.S. Justice Department studyshowed that 1 in 6 of all American women will be raped during their lifetimes. 50% of all murders of women in the U.S. are committed by a romantic partner. Muslim countries hardly have the monopoly on violence against women.

To read this brutal attack as emblematic of Egyptian culture or Islam does a disservice to all those in Egyptian society who are working actively to end violence against women, women like physician Amal Abd El-Hadi, whose New Woman Foundation is dedicated to ending gender-based violence, and Dr. Aida Seif El Dawla, a psychiatrist who has created programs to rehabilitate victims of violence and torture. There is no excuse for what happened to Lara Logan, but explanations for violence should not be found in a religion, or in broad generalizations about Egyptian culture. Rather than blaming religion, we should work to end underdevelopment, poverty, and a lack of education, problems whose eradication is crucial to a prosperous and healthy society anywhere, whether in Egypt or here at home.

Rachel Newcomb is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rollins College and the author of Women ofFes: Ambiguities of Urban Life in Morocco.

 

Anthea Butler: Beck Fuels End-Times Hysteria Over Egypt

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2011 by loonwatch

Beck Fuels End-Times Hysteria Over Egypt

ANTHEA BUTLER

(Religion Dispatches)

While much of the world looks at the Egypt uprising as a spectacular story of human courage and hope for freedom and democracy in the face of oppression, in the world of Biblical prophecy there is only one lens: a sign of the end, a prophetic sign fulfilled, or the beginnings of the tribulation. Sites like Now the End BeginsProphecy Today, and Calvary Prophecy Report are just a few of the blogs and websites referring to the events in Egypt as a sign of the end or — more ominously — the beginning of a new war.

Conspiracy monger Glenn Beck has of course jumped with both feet into the fray, repeatedly referring in the last week to one of his favorite obscure books, “The Coming Insurrection.” Beck, without having to say anything religious, recites every end-time theme; fire, riots, Islam, Israel, you name it. Beck’s latest assertion is that the Egyptian uprising will result in a Muslim Caliphate. Ridiculous, yes, but it is the dog whistle that calls together conspiracy theorists, rapture-watchers and end-times purveyors. His constant refrain that this is our “Archduke Ferdinand” moment no doubt will sear a vision of an impending World War III into the minds of his listeners, and his blackboard will continue to contribute to the growing right-wing conspiracy theories that President Obama is engineering this from the White House.

The upshot of all of this is that while the rest of us are raptly watching Al Jazeeera (because CNN, MSNBC, and Fox only care about American tourists leaving the country, and have nothing of substance to say) to witness the impending overthrow of an authoritarian leader, others are taking advantage of the situation to exploit religious beliefs about the end-times. I don’t have a problem with the regular rapture watchers speculating about various events, because that’s what they do (and hey, it can be fun to read at times) but Beck’s constant haranguing and conspiracy theories are much, much more dangerous than any small-time blog.

Beck may not be explicit about his religious take on the current events, but his “teaching theater” feeds into many end-times beliefs. Too bad there isn’t a million person march to Fox News headquarters to demand that Roger Ailes pull the plug on Beck. Hey, it’s a fantasy, but you never know.

 

Seattle: Hate Crime Charge Filed in Grocery Store Attack

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , on January 5, 2011 by loonwatch

Islamophobia? What Islamophobia?

Hate crime charge filed in Seattle grocery store attack

(SeattlePI)

King County prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against a Seattle man accused of accosting a supermarket clerk.

According to charging documents, Charles Anthel Webb, 42, told a clerk at a Central District Grocery Outlet store he would kill her if she didn’t leave the country.

The cashier, whose name is common to the Middle East and North Africa, was processing Webb’s purchases when he began berating her, a Seattle police detective told the court.

As the Dec. 26 altercation continued, Webb called her several derogatory names, then told her and a customer who’d attempted to intervene to go back to their “own” countries, the detective claimed.

Webb is then alleged to have told the cashier he would “get her” when her shift ended.

“I’m going to get you when you get off,” Webb allegedly said. “Go back to your own country.”

Webb was arrested nearby. According to court documents, he claimed to have been threatened with a box cutter at the store.

Charged with malicious harassment, Webb remains jailed.

 

Ahmed Rehab: A Silver Lining in Egypt’s Dark Cloud

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by loonwatch

An inspiring and heartening post by Ahmed Rehab on the bombing of the Coptic church. We were alerted to this late but this is certainly thus far one of the best posts on the subject. (hat tip: Ivan)

A Silver Lining to Egypt’s Dark Cloud

by Ahmed Rehab

The recent bombing outside a Coptic church in the Egyptian seaport of Alexandria that claimed 21 lives and 96 injuries sent shockwaves throughout Egypt and made headlines around the world.

Much of the global media has limited its interest in the story to the bombing itself and the subsequent angry street protests by Coptic youth; more savvy journalists included some discussion of government negligence and the context of sectarian strife that plagues Egypt today.

Still, an integral part of the story remains untold outside of Egypt: the strong response of everyday Egyptians – Muslims and Copts.

A popular storm of anger, defiance, and national unity is sweeping the country expressed by political leaders, members of the clergy, movie stars, students, and men and women on the street all reiterating one resounding theme: this is an attack against Egypt and all Egyptians.

While sectarian strife – even violence – is a serious problem in this mostly Muslim nation with a sizable Coptic population, Muslims and Copts generally live in peace side by side and have for many centuries.

Ali GomaaEgyptians of all stripes seem to concur that the Alexandria bombing – the most serious act of terrorism in a decade – is an attack on the Egyptian way of life with the intent to drive a wedge between faith communities and push the nation into turmoil.

“This is not just an attack on Copts, this is an attack on me and you and all Egyptians, on Egypt and its history and its symbols, by terrorists who know no God, no patriotism, and no humanity,” said Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the grand mufti of Egypt.

Khaled El Gendy“This cannot be classified as religious extremism, this can only be classified as religious apostasy,” said sheikh Khaled El Gendy a popular Muslim TV personality. “I do not offer my condolences to Christians, but to all Egyptians and to Egypt, All Copts are Egyptian and all Egyptians are Copts; their places of worship are national places of worship, a bomb that targets them bleeds us all.” A high ranking member of the Coptic clergy who sat beside him echoed his words.

“An act like this is wholly condemnable in Islam. Muslims are not only obligated not to harm Christians, but to protect and defend them and their places of worship,” said Imam Ahmed Al Tayeb the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Egypt’s seat of Orthodoxy.

Adel Imam“Let us hang black flags from our homes and black ribbons on our cars to mourn this cowardly attack against our brothers and sisters, let us send a symbolic message of defiance against those who are trying to divide us”, said a visibly enraged Adel Imam, Egypt’s most popular living actor, a Muslim, and a long time advocate for Coptic rights.

The message was not much different on Egypt’s most watched talk shows that were abuzz with Muslim and Coptic guests in the studios and on the streets, expressing their solidarity with each other and defiance against what they see as a common enemy trying to drive a wedge between Egyptians.

Muslim college students in Alexandria and Cairo have vowed to join Copts at their upcoming Christmas celebrations (January 7th for the Coptic Church). “We will be there with signs bearing the Crescent and the Cross, celebrating with them, standing with them, and falling with them if necessary,” said a young, veiled student leader surrounded by her colleagues.

As an Egyptian, I am as invigorated by the current mood in Egypt as I am distraught by the bombing. However, I pray that this welcome surge of unity and camaraderie is seized and eternalized. I hope that it becomes ingrained into our societal fabric and that it is leveraged to induce long needed reforms.

I agree that an attack such as this has the bearings of Al Qaeda and its imitation groups therefore taking us outside the realm of common sectarian strife and into one of national security; nonetheless, Egyptians should see the current atmosphere of empathy as an opportunity to address Coptic grievances and strive towards a more equal society.

We can no longer deny that since the rise of Muslim extremist ideology in the 1970′s, Egypt’s once exemplary Muslim-Coptic relations has deteriorated significantly.

My father tells me that growing up in the 50′s, he often did not know if one of his friends was a Muslim or Copt except by sheer coincidence, and then when he did it mattered little. This was not my experience growing up in Egypt where my religion teacher made sure to warn me against the “treachery” of my Coptic colleagues.

Naguib El RihanyIn the 40′s, no one seemed to care that Naguib El Rihany, Egypt’s then greatest comedian and a national treasure, was a Copt; he was simply Egyptian. Likewise, Copts did not bat an eyelid when Omar Sharif, a Christian, converted to Islam in the 50′s, at the height of his celebrity, a far cry from today’s intense reactions against conversions.

As far back as the 12th century, Egyptian Muslims and Copts fought side by side against the Crusaders, viewed then as a national security threat and not a religious war. Together, they stood tall against British colonialism – a lasting image of the period depicts Muslim sheikhs and Coptic priests marching together side by side and chanting “long live the crescent and the cross!”

One needs not look farther than the Alexandria Church itself to gain a glimpse of the sort of religious cohabitation that is uniquely Egyptian: the church is brightly lit up by flood lights perched up on a Mosque, only 30 feet across the street.

Egyptians are asking today privately and publicly, where has all this gone?

But we need to do more than ask and lament. We need to act.

The post-Alexandria solidarity between Muslims and Copts – the likes of which Egypt has not witnessed in decades – represents a silver lining in Egypt’s dark cloud of sectarian strife and mistrust.

We would be wrong not to acknowledge and applaud it, but equally wrong to settle for it; a silver lining never made for a brighter day.

We need to carry the momentum forward into the realm of real change:

When extremist religious discourse at Mosques (and in Coptic circles) is regularly and unequivocally condemned and countered with a proactive and effective discourse of respectful coexistence, it will be a brighter day.

When Egyptians no longer have to list their faith affiliation on their official government ID’s, it will be a brighter day.

When Copts no longer need a special government decree to build churches (or fix bathrooms in their churches), it will be a brighter day.

When I see talented young Coptic men playing on the Egyptian football national team at a rate proportional to the Coptic talent in my 6th grade class in Cairo, it will be a brighter day.

When the glass ceiling barring Copts from reaching the highest levels of government is shattered, it will be a brighter day.

When Egyptian law, prosecutors, officers, and judges treat Muslims and Copts as merely Egyptians – that is as equal citizens – with merit being the only qualifier, it will be a brighter day.

Given the candid conversations happening all over Egypt today, I believe that a brighter day is within reach. It is up to us “to change this tragedy into an opportunity,” to borrow the words of Sheikh Ali Gomaa.

Clearly, the immediate priority is security, but that must be followed – if not paralleled – with addressing Coptic civic grievances. For this to stand a realistic chance of success, the Coptic cause must become a national cause led and fought for by Muslims under a program of comprehensive civil rights reform.

Ahmed Rehab is a board member of the Egyptian American Society and a co-author and signatory of the Chicago Declaration, a practical document calling for equal treatment of Copts under the law, submitted to the Egyptian government in 2005.

 

AlJazeera’s Hour Long Newscast on KPFT Receives Threats

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2010 by loonwatch

AlJazeera News has begun to air for one hour on KPFT, a prominent Texas Radio Station. It has received threats and hate mail since.

 

PolitiFact: Most Muslim countries allow churches, synagogues

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on October 7, 2010 by loonwatch

PolitiFact: Most Muslim countries allow churches, synagogues

The statement

In most Muslim countries, “We can’t have a church. We’re not able to build synagogues. It’s forbidden.”

Franklin Graham, Sunday, on ABC’sThis Week

The ruling

On ABC’s This Week, host Christiane Amanpour held a town hall debate on whether Americans should fear Islam. Naturally, the so-called Ground Zero mosque came up. She asked the Rev. Franklin Graham about his comments after 9-11 that Islam is a “very evil and very wicked” religion, and that prompted this response:

“I understand what the Muslims want to do in America,” said Graham. The push for mosques is driven by a desire to “convert as many Americans as they can to Islam,” he said. “I just don’t have the freedom to do this in most Muslim countries. We can’t have a church. We’re not able to build synagogues. It’s forbidden.”

We spoke to experts on religion and government in Muslim countries. The consensus: There are churches and/or synagogues in almost every Muslim country.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic relations, said Graham was incorrect. “There are lots of Christian churches and synagogues in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Indonesia, Qatar, Kuwait. … If you go to any number of so-called Muslim countries you will see thriving Christian and Jewish populations.” One member of the Iranian Parliament is Jewish, Hooper noted. “The only one where you don’t see it, where you can’t have a Christian church or synagogue is Saudi Arabia,” Hooper said.

The cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia are the two holiest cities in Islam, said Akbar S. Ahmed, chair of Islamic Studies at American University. So no churches or synagogues are allowed there. He compared them to the Vatican.

Graham was speaking in the context of Muslims building mosques in order to convert people to Islam, and on that point, he is on firmer ground.

A 2007 Council on Foreign Relations “backgrounder” on religious conversion and sharia law said, “Conversion by Muslims to other faiths is forbidden under most interpretations of sharia and converts are considered apostates” sometimes regarded as treason and punishable by death. Experts told us there was an ongoing debate in Islam about this question.

In sum, we think Graham erred when he said that in most Muslim countries, “We can’t have a church. We’re not able to build synagogues. It’s forbidden.” That’s demonstrably false. The construction of churches is not forbidden in most Muslim countries, only Saudi Arabia. And so, on balance, we rate Graham’s comment False.

Edited for print. For more, go to PolitiFact.com.

 

Conservatives Furious Over NASA Muslim Outreach

Posted in Loon Media, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on July 7, 2010 by loonwatch

Anything with the word “Muslim” in it is bound to whip Conservo-freaks and their associative wingnuts into a frenzy.

This is exactly what happened when Charles Bolden, NASA administrator was visiting the Middle East and appeared on Al-Jazeera. (hat tip: Les)

Conservatives Furious Over NASA Muslim ‘Outreach’

by Max Fisher

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden recently traveled to the Middle East. That was his first mistake. His second was giving an interview to the Middle Eastern satellite news station Al Jazeera. But his third and fatal mistake came when he suggested that he traveled to the region in part to “reach out to the Muslim world.” Conservatives are apoplectic over this interview. The video, key quotes, and media reaction are all below.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e857ZcuIfnI&feature=player_embedded 350 300]

Bolden: I am here in the region – its sort of the first anniversary of President Barack Obama’s visit to Cairo – and his speech there when he gave what has now become known as Obama’s “Cairo Initiative” where he announced that he wanted this to become a new beginning of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. When I became the NASA Administrator – before I became the NASA Administrator – he charged me with three things: One was that he wanted me to re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, that he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with predominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.Question: Are you in some sort of diplomatic role … to win hearts and minds?

Bolden: No no, not at all. Its not a diplomatic anything. What it is – is that it is trying to expand our outreach so that we get more people who can contribute to the things that we do – the international Space Station is as great as it is because we have a conglomerate of about 15 plus nations who have contributed something to that partnership that has made it what it is today.

  • Islam and Science Don’t Mix The Washington Times argues that the U.S. has nothing to gain in scientific discourse with Muslim nations. “What’s unclear is what Mr. Bolden believes the United States has to gain by reaching out to a part of the world that has been technologically stagnant for centuries. The Muslim world has nothing to offer the United States as a space-faring nation. If anything, America should be discouraging Middle East space programs. … Islam’s meager contribution to human technological advancement is no accident.”
  • ‘Psychobabble’ and ‘Imperial Condescension’ The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer says on Fox News, “This is a new height in fatuousness. NASA was established to get America into space and to keep us there. This idea of to feel good about their past scientific achievements, it’s the worst combination of group therapy, psychobabble, imperial condescension, and adolescent diplomacy. If I didn’t know that Obama had told this, I’d demand the firing of Charles Bolden the way I would Michael Steele. This is absolutely unbelievable.”
  • Proves Muslims Should Love America More Fox News host Sean Hannity professed, “look, I have a hard time with the president’s, quote, ‘outreach’ to the Muslim community in this way. When he spoke to the Muslim world, he didn’t talk about America’s contributions to Kuwait. He didn’t talk about America’s contributions to Kosovo. He didn’t talk about America’s contributions to Indonesia or Iraq. Doesn’t — I don’t hear America being praised enough by the Muslim world. Does the Muslim world give America the credit it’s due?”
  • Bush’s NASA Head Condemns Fox News’ Judson Berger reports that Bush-era NASA Administrator Michael Griffin “described as ‘deeply flawed’ the idea that the space exploration agency’s priority should be outreach to Muslim countries. ‘NASA … represents the best of America. Its purpose is not to inspire Muslims or any other cultural entity.’”
  • ‘Ravages of Islamism’ Hostile to Science National Review’s Daniel Pipes writes, “Muslims at present do lag in the sciences and the way to fix this is not condescension from NASA but some deep Muslim introspection. Put differently, accomplished scientists of Muslim origin — including NASA’s Farouk El-Baz, who is of Egyptian origins — do exist. The problem lies in societies, and include everything from insufficient resources to poor education to the ravages of Islamism.”
  • Waste of Tax Dollars Reason’s Michael Moynihan writes, “Poor dears, feeling bad about their underappreciated contributions to science, math, and engineering. Seems to me an entirely reasonable way to fritter away tax dollars, on the mental health of Yemeni undergraduates.”
  • Explains Tolerance of Iran’s Nuclear Program Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey makes the connection, “Hey, maybe that’s why Obama hasn’t taken the Iranian effort to build a nuclear bomb all that seriously until now. He just wanted Iran to make the Muslim world feel good about their achievements in science!”

Jonah Goldberg, hardcore Republican idealogue saw a Nazi hand in the whole event:

Jonah Goldberg Sees Nazism Behind NASA Administrator’s Outreach to Muslims

by Blue Texan

In case you hadn’t heard, wingnuts are freaking out that Charles Bolden, the head of NASA (and a former astronaut and Marine Corps General), said a few nice things about Muslims. And naturally, the Pantload discovers swastikas at the root of the problem.

Gleichschaltung is a German word (in case you couldn’t have guessed) borrowed from electrical engineering. It means “coordination.” The German National Socialists (Nazis) used the concept to get every institution to sing from the same hymnal. If a fraternity or business embraced Nazism, it could stay “independent.” If it rejected Nazism, it was crushed or bent to the state’s ideology. Meanwhile, every branch of government was charged with not merely doing its job but advancing the official state ideology.

Now, contemporary liberalism is not an evil ideology. Its intentions aren’t evil or even fruitfully comparable to Hitlerism. But there is a liberal Gleichschaltung all the same. Every institution must be on the same page. Every agency must advance the liberal agenda.

So true. I mean, what kind of Nazi would impose a political agenda on NASA?

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

Or the surgeon general?

Former surgeon general Richard H. Carmona yesterday accused the Bush administration of muzzling him on sensitive public health issues, becoming the most prominent voice among several current and former federal science officials who have complained of political interference.

“Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried,” he said.

Or the Justice Department?

The Justice Department advocated in early 2005 removing up to 20 percent of the nation’s U.S. attorneys whom it considered to be “underperforming” but retaining prosecutors who were “loyal Bushies,” according to e-mails released by Justice late yesterday.

There’s a reason Pantload was dubbed, “one of the stupidest people in our public discourse.

 

Members of Congress Advancing anti-Muslim Hysteria

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2010 by loonwatch

constitution

A very interesting read on some of the anti-Muslim machinations amongst some members of Congress that go right over our heads or that we don’t perceive.

How Members of Congress are Advancing anti-Muslim Hysteria to Push a Radical Legal Agenda

January 28, 2010 | by Liliana Segura

Roughly one month after the massacre at Fort Hood and a little over a week after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the “underwear bomber”) tried to blow himself up over the city of Detroit, one of the most conservative Republicans in the Congress, South Carolina Representative Gresham Barrett, re-introduced a sweeping piece of legislation that he first rolled out in 2003 as a freshman on Capitol Hill.

The Stop Terrorists Entry Program (STEP) Act was originally introduced on September 11 (naturally), 2003 “to bar the admission of aliens from countries determined to be state sponsors of terrorism, and for other purposes.” At the time, these countries included Iran, Libya, Syria, North Korea, Iraq and Cuba. The bill not only sought to bar presumed enemies of the state from entering the U.S., it also would have forced “nonimmigrant aliens” — visitors with a temporary visa — to leave the country, within 60 days of its passage.

In other words, they would be deported.

The STEP Act never got very far. But a few days into the new year, Rep. Barrett decided to try again. “Twice in the past two months, radical Islamic terrorists have attacked our nation and the administration has failed to adapt its national security and immigration policies to counter the renewed resolve of those who seek to harm our citizens,” he announced. “In light of these unfortunate facts, the Step Act of 2010 bars the admission of aliens from countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism and Yemen.”

Iranian advocacy groups were especially vocal in their alarm over the re-introduced bill. In an open letter to Barrett on January 9, Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), described his bill as an attempt to “make discrimination against Iranians into United States law.”

“You have said you are reintroducing the STEP Act in response to the Fort Hood shooting and the Christmas Day attempt to blow up an airplane over Detroit,” Parsi wrote. “We hope you recognize that no Iranian has been involved in any of these attacks, or the 9/11 terrorist attacks for that matter. The individuals who carried out the Fort Hood attack and the Christmas day attempt — an American Army major and a Nigerian national — would not have been affected in the slightest by the sweeping provisions offered in your bill.”

This point was reiterated by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, who crowned Barrett one of his “Worst Persons” on his January 12 segment. Pointing out that Major Nidal Hasan was born in Arlington, VA and went to high school in Roanoke, Olbermann said, “I guess, congressman, you need to expand your STEP program to stop aliens from infiltrating our homeland from such nests of terror as Interstate 81 in Virginia.”

The day before Barrett officially re-introduced the STEP Act, NIAC delivered thousands of letters to his office, urging him to reconsider. “Your bill punishes innocent Iranians and implies that ‘stopping terrorists’ means barring them from entering the U.S. to visit family or go to school,” the letters read.

Surprisingly, hours after the letters were delivered, Rep. Barrett’s office said he would get rid of the language that would lead to the deportation of immigrants from Iran and other countries. “Unfortunately, many have been misinformed on the true nature of this legislation,” Barrett claimed in a statement released alongside the bill. “Contrary to some reports, the STEP Act does not contain any language that calls for deportation of citizens from countries identified as state sponsors of terrorism who have already obtained a United States visa and currently reside in the United States … Citizens from these countries who have already obtained a United States visa and currently reside in the United States will not be affected by this legislation.”

NIAC declared this “a major victory,” but warned that the fight is not over. The revised version of the bill still basically criminalizes Iranians and others, banning them from obtaining U.S. visas.

The STEP Act may be a uniquely bad — not to mention far-fetched — example of legislative efforts to install blatantly discriminatory policy into American law books in the name of national security. But the danger it represents, even in its softened version, is hard to overstate. “That people even consider dropping those pieces of legislation is pretty troubling,” Corey Saylor, legislative director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told AlterNet. At a time when blatant and far-reaching anti-Muslim measures are being enacted in other parts of the world — such as the Swiss ban on minarets or the campaign to ban the hijab in France — new attempts to target Muslims in this country are cause for concern. “I think we’re headed in a very disturbing direction, in which anti-Muslim hysteria is growing, and I think it’s something that we all need to address,” CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told AlterNet.

The issue should be addressed sooner rather than later. Within days of Abdulmutallab’s foiled bomb attempt, the White House announced that citizens of 14 predominantly Muslim countries — Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Algeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Cuba — would now be subject to additional screenings at airport security, a policy that will remain in place “indefinitely.” As with the STEP Act, this effectively criminalizes whole global populations, feeding into the “clash of civilizations” narrative that has fueled so many destructive post-9/11 misadventures. Nawar Shora, the legal director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, called the 14-country directive “extreme and very dangerous.”

“All of a sudden people are labeled as being related to terrorism just because of the nation they are from,” he told the New York Times.

In a statement released by CAIR, executive director Nihad Awad argued that the policy amounts to racial profiling (a practice candidate Obama vowed to abolish as president). “Under these new guidelines, almost every American Muslim who travels to see family or friends or goes on pilgrimage to Mecca will automatically be singled out for special security checks — that’s profiling.”

Is ‘Homegrown Terrorism’ on the Rise?

Soon after the shooting at Fort Hood, Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing titled “The Fort Hood Attack: A Preliminary Assessment.” Lieberman has been one of the most vocal members of Congress stressing the threat of “homegrown terrorism,” which, by his definition, takes the form of radicalized Muslims within the U.S.

Lieberman was one of the first to call the shooting at Fort Hood an act of terrorism. “We don’t know enough to say now, but there are very, very strong warning signs here that Dr. Hasan had become an Islamist extremist and, therefore, that this was a terrorist act,” Lieberman said in an interview on Fox News on November 11.

Whether to label Hasan a “terrorist” versus a violent criminal may sound like a semantic debate, but the policy implications are very real. As with the recent heated debate over the fate of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — conservative commentators insist he deserves no right to due process, and a group of U.S. Senators are peddling a bill that would require civilian officials to consult with intelligence authorities when taking an alleged terrorist into custody — what is at stake is the question of whether, ultimately, we could see a different, undemocratic set of legal standards for Muslims who commit violent crimes. By the logic of today’s right-wingers, the Beltway snipers could potentially have been labeled terrorists and tried before a military commission rather than the ordinary criminal justice system. (Although, given that John Allen Muhammad was executed late last year, it’s hard to imagine that a military trial would have led to a tougher sentence.)

Of course, there is some truth to the “homegrown terrorist” meme. Lieberman’s hearing took place just before news broke that five young men from Northern Virginia, ages 18 to 24, had been arrested as part of a terrorist probe in Pakistan, allegedly attempting to help plan jihadist attacks against their own country. Earlier last year came the news that young Muslim American men from Minnesota have been radicalized into traveling to Somalia to join the Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group Al Shabab. These stories have led to numerous media reports with headlines like “Homegrown Terror on the Rise.”

Meanwhile, on the home front, the case of Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a convert to Islam who shot and killed two military recruiters in Little Rock, Arkansas last year, took a turn for the bizarre when the 24-year-old changed his plea from “not guilty”to “guilty” in a letter to his presiding judge in which he claimed to have connections to al-Qaeda. According to MSNBC, “Muhammad also called himself in the letter a member of Abu Basir’s Army,” a reference to the alias of Naser Abdel Karim al-Wahishi, the Yemeni group’s leader.

“This was a jihad: attack on infidel forces,” Muhammed wrote. His lawyer was skeptical. “He’s said lots of things. None of them seem to be real consistent with each other.”

Nonetheless, these cases have lent themselves to an easily woven narrative, in which terror cells are being planted all over the country, with dastardly plots in the works.

“There’s definitely a rise in jihad recruits and volunteers in the United States, whether they’re concerning plots here in the U.S. or whether they involve material support to terror plots overseas,” Steve Emerson, author of American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, told Fox News in December.

At least one recent study suggests that the homegrown Islamic terrorist narrative is overblown. In a report funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and published this month, North Carolina-based researchers David Schanzer, Charles Kurzman and Ebrahim Moosa write: “In the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, and subsequent terrorist attacks elsewhere around the world, a key counterterrorism concern is the possible radicalization of Muslims living in the United States. Yet, the record over the past eight years contains relatively few examples of Muslim-Americans that have radicalized and turned toward violent extremism.”

While the report found relatively low numbers of radicalized Muslim-Americans, it discovered an “increased Anti-Muslim bias.”

“Muslim-Americans perceive a stronger anti-Muslim bias from both their day-to-day interactions and the media, a bias that is confirmed in public opinion polling. While Muslim-Americans understand and support the need for enhanced security and counterterrorism initiatives, they believe that some of these efforts are discriminatory, and they are angered that innocent Muslim-Americans bear the brunt of the impact of these policies.”

“Muslim-American communities and law enforcement agencies,” the authors concluded, “must make efforts to cooperate more closely to overcome mutual suspicions and achieve common goals.”

Unfortunately, law enforcement’s ties to Muslim communities remain strained. Last year the FBI officially severed ties with CAIR over allegations that the group had ties to Hamas, an ironic decision given the fact that, most recently, it was CAIR who brought the recent case of the five would-be terrorists from Northern Virginia to the attention of the FBI.

Writing about Lieberman’s November hearing, author Chip Berlet called it “an example of flawed, biased, or discredited scholarship being used in a zealous propaganda campaign that will do little to enhance public safety and much to expand bigotry against Muslims in the United States.” Berlet continued:

The main thesis of Lieberman’s renegade Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is that there is a looming threat of “homegrown terrorism” by domestic “Jihadists.” To use the tragic shootings at Fort Hood to further promote this biased propaganda as part of an ongoing political campaign is grotesque.

At issue is the validity of the concept of “Leaderless Jihad” and the idea that “extremist ideology” somehow has created squads of anti-American terrorists lurking in domestic Muslim communities where “Leaderless Resistance” cells and “lone wolfs” are even now plotting acts of “Jihadist” violence — just like the right-wing domestic terrorists in the 1980s and 1990′s which culminated in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in April 1995.

Sounds scary.

The Oklahoma City bombing, however, was not the act of a “lone wolf,” and while it involved a clandestine terror cell, it was not an example of “Leaderless Resistance.” In fact, there is no evidence that “Leaderless Resistance” was adopted as a successful terror strategy by the ultra-right in the 1980s and 1990′s, which undermines the whole concept of “Leaderless Jihad” being peddled by Lieberman.

Nevertheless, Lieberman and committee ranking minority leader Susan Collins have long been pushing this theme. In May 2008 they released a controversial report titled “Violent Islamist Extremism, The Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat” warning that “the threat of homegrown terrorism is on the rise, aided by the Internet’s capacity to spread the core recruitment and training message of violent Islamist terrorist groups.” Lieberman subsequently went after YouTube in an attempt to get videos taken down that he considered to be spreading a dangerous message. Some 80 videos were removed from the site.

Among the critics of Lieberman’s targeting of YouTube was the New York Times editorial page:

While it is fortunate that Mr. Lieberman does not have the power to tell YouTube that it must remove videos, it is profoundly disturbing that an influential senator would even consider telling a media company to shut down constitutionally protected speech. The American Civil Liberties Union has warned that the “Homegrown Terrorism” bill and related efforts “could be a precursor to proposals to censor and regulate speech on the Internet.”

Bigots On Capitol Hill

Beyond Congressional hearings that push the “homegrown Islamic terrorist” narrative — or even repressive pieces of legislation like the STEP Act — CAIR’s Corey Saylor says the alliances formed by members of Congress like Barrett with members of the anti-Muslim right are far more dangerous.

“It’s less the legislation and more the legitimacy that’s offered to some of the anti-Muslim bigots by members of Congress,” he says.

One example Saylor cites is Rep. Paul Broun, a Republican member of the House from Georgia. Broun recently invited a man named David Yerushalmi to testify at a hearing on Capitol Hill. “Yerushalmi belongs to an organization that once called for adherence to Islam to be punishable by 20 years in prison,” says Saylor.

Yerushalmi is the president and founder of the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE), which, in addition to seeking to criminalize Islam, has statements on its Web site such as: “There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote.”

“This man has the right to free speech, he has the right to believe what he believes,” says Saylor. “But he gets legitimized because someone like Paul Broun invites him to Capitol Hill and gives him a platform … That allows him to go out and push his hate speech.”

Two days before Christmas, CAIR sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to address what it described as a “rise in Anti-Islam hate, Islamophobic incidents, and rhetoric targeting ordinary American Muslims.” Among these incidents was “an attack on a Sikh youth in Texas who was mistaken for a Muslim,” “a Colorado sheriff who called the U.S. Marines ‘Travel agents to Allah,’” and “a spate of vandalism incidents at mosques nationwide.” It also listed a disturbing number of anti-Muslim incidents among supporters of and aspiring elected officials, as well as elected officials themselves.

Most memorable, perhaps, was the attempt last year by right-wing members of Congress to convince the public that CAIR itself was engaged in a sinister conspiracy to infiltrate and take over Congress, by dispatching interns to Capitol Hill. Last October, U.S. Representatives Sue Myrick, R-South Carolina, was joined by Rep. Broun as well as Arizona Republicans John Shadegg and Trent Franks in issuing a call for a federal investigation into CAIR’s attempts to place interns in the Committees on the Judiciary, Intelligence and Homeland Security. The accusation was inspired by a book titled Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that’s Conspiring to Islamize America, written by Dave Gaubatz, an anti-Islamic activist who posed as an intern for CAIR in an attempt to prove that the group is trying to infiltrate Congress. (Rep. Myrick wrote the introduction to the book.)

The backlash against Myrick and her co-conspirators was swift. “These charges smack of an America of sixty years ago where lists of ‘un-American’ agitators were identified,”wrote Reps. Michael Honda, D-CA, Barbara Lee, D-CA and Nydia Velazquez, D-NY in a letter on behalf of the Congressional Tri-Caucus, and signed by 87 members of Congress.

“The idea that we should investigate Muslim interns as spies is a blow to the very principle of religious freedom that our founding fathers cherished so dearly. If anything, we should be encouraging all Americans to engage in the U.S. political process; to take part in, and to contribute to, the great democratic experiment that is America.”

The Obama administration didn’t have much to say about the Muslim-intern conspiracy theory, perhaps making the strategic decision to simply let the rumor die. But the White House did not respond, either, to CAIR’s December letter asking Obama to address the trend toward anti-Muslim sentiment.

“I don’t know why they don’t respond,” CAIR executive director Ibrahim Hooper told AlterNet, “but all we can do is ask.”

While Myrick and her supporters — whom Hooper refers to as “the usual suspects” peddling anti-Muslim bigotry — have not really been taken seriously outside the right-wing blogosphere, they have had some effect. “I think they’ve made the whole administration rather skittish about associating in any way with Muslims or Islam,” Hooper says. (Certainly, the ugly fear-mongering and lies that sought to portray Obama as a “secret Muslim” were on full display even before his election.)

Corey Saylor says that although the Muslim-intern conspiracy theory pushed by Myrick has mostly gone away, it’s not dead. “They’ve been working on sort of retooling their message and it’s slowly starting to crop back up again,” he says. In Myrick’s case, this means repositioning herself as an ally of moderate Muslims.

“We’re trying to work with mainstream Muslims and help give them a voice and hear where people stand and help them think about the issues,” she recently told the Charlotte Observer.

Saylor says Myrick is simply trying to insulate herself from further accusations that she is prejudiced against Muslims. “Keep in mind,” he says, “she’s the one whose on the record as saying [after 9/11] that we need to take a look at who’s running our convenience stores.”

According to the Observer, “Myrick met with Jibril Hough, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte, shortly after the Fort Hood shooting to address what Hough said were inflammatory remarks by Myrick to local media about Islam.”

“A part of me thinks that she means well, but that doesn’t mean her message is well-meaning,” Hough told the Observer, noting that she has softened her rhetoric. “She’s being more careful.”