Archive for Nashville

Former SNL Star, Victoria Jackson, Questions Murfreesboro Mosque

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2012 by loonwatch

Vistoria Jackson, best known as a cast member on SNL.

Victoria Jackson

I hope she’s trying to outdo Andy Kaufmann. This is not the first time Jackson spewed her anti-Muslim views.

Former SNL Star Questions Murfreesboro Mosque


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – She’s best known for her satirical comedy on Saturday Night Live. Twenty years after leaving the hit show, Victoria Jackson is back in the spotlight, but this time it’s for her political views.

She’s now a controversial conservative commentator and she’s in Middle Tennessee taking a critical look at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

Victoria Jackson is best known for her dim-witted characters on Saturday Night live which brought her a lot of laughs, and fame. She now works as a citizen journalist.

“I’m trying to use my fading SNL fame to shine a light on the topic that nobody in the media will talk about,” said Jackson.

That topic is Islam. Jackson came to Middle Tennessee to produce a story on the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro and its new mosque now under construction. The comic-turned- conservative political activist doesn’t mince words about why she thinks this building is rising in the middle of rural Tennessee.

“This is the Bible Belt, and Murfreesboro is the buckle on the bible belt. And it’s a college town. So my feeling is they came here to convert people to Islam,” said Jackson.

Jackson brought her camera to the current Islamic Center offices in Murfreesboro — but no one was available for an interview. No luck either at the construction site just outside town.

Jackson did recently interview Congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik for her story. Zelenik has been an outspoken opponent of the mosque. Jackson claims there’s a fatwa , or Islamic decree ,calling for her death because of her criticisms.

“I tolerate all religions. Except the ones that want to kill me,” said Jackson

Jackson plans to post her story on the conservative web site Patriot Update. 

On Veterans Day, State Rep. Rick Womick (R-TN) Calls for Purging Muslims from the Military

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2011 by loonwatch

State Rep. Rick Womick (R-TN) speaks to ThinkProgress at an anti-Muslim conference in Tennessee

On Veterans Day, State Rep. Rick Womick (R-TN) Calls For Purging Muslims From The Military

By Eli Clifton and Lee Fang

ThinkProgress filed this report from the “Preserving Freedom Conference” in Nashville, TN.

State representative Rick Womick (R-TN) has made no secret of his anti-Muslim views. A New York Times article from July described Womick on the statehouse floor, warning his constuents that Islamic law was the most urgent threat to their way of life. But in an interview on the sidelines of the “Preserving Freedom Conference” at the Cornerstone Church in Madison, TN, Womick went to new extremes to paint Muslim Americans as dangerous and seditious.

In the interview, which took place on Veterans Day, Womick told ThinkProgress that “I don’t trust one Muslim in our military” and “if they truly are a devout Muslims, and follow the Quran and the Sunnah, then I feel threatened because they’re commanded to kill me.” When asked if Muslims should be forced out of the military, Womick responded “Absolutely, yeah.” Read the exchange:

FANG: What about the thousands of Muslims that are still in the military that are veterans, that are translators, that are active personnel. Is there some sort of policy solution that you’re advocating? […]

WOMICK: Personally, I don’t trust one Muslim in our military because they’re commanded to lie to us through the term called Taqiyya. And if they truly are a devout Muslim, and follow the Quran and the Sunnah, then I feel threatened because they’re commanded to kill me.

CLIFTON: You believe they should be forced out?

WOMICK: Absolutely, yeah.

Watch it:

Clergy Beyond Borders Embark on an Interfaith Caravan Trip

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2011 by loonwatch

Just look at the difference between Clergy Beyond Borders and hatemongers such as SIOA’s Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller. One group (guess who) promotes pluralism, respect for our Constitution and freedom while the other one sows divisiveness, hate and thrives off of fear.

Clergy Beyond Borders Embark on an Interfaith Caravan Trip

Symi Rom-Rymer (Huffington Post)

An unusual vehicle is stuck in traffic on the highway from Nashville to Murfreesboro, T.N. It may look like an everyday passenger van but a glance inside tells a different story. Two imams, two rabbis and one evangelical pastor sit cheek-by-jowl with boxes of interfaith material blocking the back windows. With the rain pelting against the windows, the pastor and one of the rabbis pull up Facebook, excitedly checking how many friends they have in common. The conversation swings from good-natured teasing to philosophical discussions and disheartening stories of humiliation suffered in a post-9/11 world. This drive is just one of many this group will have taken together by the end of their 15-day Religious Leaders for Reconciliation ride through cities in the American South and Midwest. Their goal is to bring a message of unity and of interfaith understanding to a country they feel is forgetting what that means.

“A rabbi next to an imam, next to an evangelical minister: it sounds strange,” explains Imam Yahya Hendi, founder of Clergy Beyond Borders, the organization sponsoring the ride, and the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University. “But this is the America dream. This is what America makes possible. This could be a joke in Saudi Arabia or maybe in Pakistan. This could never be a joke in the United States of America. This is a dream we need to protect. This is the reality we need to nurture.”

Deep recessions in the United States in the past have resulted in high levels of intolerance of immigrants and other minority groups. “History suggests that the quality of our democracy — more fundamentally, the moral character of American society — would be at risk if we experienced a many-year downturn,” Harvard economist Benjamin Friedman predicted in “Meltdown, a Case Study,” in The Atlantic in 2005.

For the clergy in the van, Friedman’s 2005 predictions are today’s realities. The stresses of the last decade have thrown American racism and prejudice into stark relief. An atmosphere of suspicion and misunderstanding has taken root, poisoning the religious and cultural plurality that many Americans point to with great pride. The motto of the trip is “One Ark, One Humanity,” drawing from the premise that followers of the three Abrahamic faiths share the same ancestor, Noah. In other words, to ignore that bond is to ignore one’s own faith. By talking about each of the religious traditions and better understanding them, the clergy hope to break down barriers between the practitioners of each of the faiths. Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, a ride participant said, “I don’t actually think as a Jew, that I know everything there is to know about God and about religious truth. I love my tradition, I read the text of my tradition, but it’s been my experience with Christians and Muslims that what I’ve learned [from them] enriches me, makes me a better Jew and makes me see things in my own tradition that I didn’t see before.”

The destination today is Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, T.N., the ninth city on the tour. While much of the media and political attention last year was focused on whether to build Park 51, the proposed Muslim cultural center in downtown New York, Murfreesboro was struggling with its own divisive debates over the building of a new mosque. No sooner had the land been secured, some members of the community opposed it. Bringing the matter to court over zoning laws, the case attracted the attention of national conservative groups. Soon, it was no longer about the legality of building the mosque but rather a referendum on American Muslims and on Islam itself. The Los Angeles Times reported that conservative activists were brought into Murfreesboro to say in court that “American Muslims — including those in Murfreesboro — want to impose Shari’a, or Islamic law, on the United States, and that the proposed mosque, gymnasium and swimming pool were part of a ‘stealth jihad.’” Meanwhile, the county’s planning commission argued that Islam was not a religion and therefore not eligible to own land for religious purposes.

The Judge ultimately ruled in favor of the Muslim community but just before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the local Islamic Center received a bomb threat. Thus far, no contractor is willing to take on the project of building the mosque.

In the van, this recent history is well known. There was some anxiety as the group rolled closer to the destination. The event, co-sponsored by the MTSU Muslim Student Association, the Wesley Foundation and the Jewish Student Union, would be open to the public. One of the clergy remarked that earlier in the day while in Nashville, he was told that he would be going to ‘Ground Zero.’ His students at Duke University told him that they looked forward to seeing him if he got back, not when.

The program at MTSU was billed as an interfaith event but Islam and Muslims were firmly at the center of the discussion. Could this panel of clergy bring some words of reconciliation or encouragement to this town torn apart by anger and suspicion? Imam Hendi, with great verve and enthusiasm, tried to impress upon his audience the seriousness with which he takes the American ideals of religious plurality and freedom. “Many years ago,” he thundered to the crowd, “I wanted to live free and I knew only in America can I live free. Only in the pluralistic, diverse America, can I be myself and I want America to continue to be pluralistic, to continue to be diverse. That is why I will continue to live in the United State of America. Not because I want it to be a Muslim America. No! If America wants to become Muslim, let me know so that I can move elsewhere.”

Laughter and applause greeted his words, but skepticism lingered. In this traditionally Christian majority community, some wanted to know if by advocating for religious pluralism, these clergy were really advocating for an amalgamation of the three religions. Absolutely not, was the immediate reply. “I am an exclusivist,” expanded Reverend Steve Martin. “How do I square that then with interfaith dialogue? Calling myself a Christian or claiming a certain faith experience doesn’t mean that I have it all figured out. Although I believe the truth of the faith that I claim is definitive, there’s a lot that I can learn about that faith by interacting with, by loving and caring, and deeply deeply respecting brothers and sisters of other pathways and other faiths. ”

Other questioners spoke more to the political discourse of recent years, demonstrating the influence conservative talking points have had within the community. “Do you believe that Christians should be able to build as many churches as they wish and Jewish people should be allowed to live in Saudi Arabia and build as many synagogues as they wish?” asked one audience member suspiciously. “How do you plan to even begin on the oppression of your [Muslim] women?” asked another.

These provocative questions resulted only in calm answers. I’m so glad you asked that question, responded Imam Hendi. “I stand by you for a Christian to be able to openly and publically worship in churches in Saudi Arabia.” Imam Abdullah Antepli, his colleague on the panel, jumped in, adding that not allowing minorities to pray in Saudi Arabia has no grounding in Islamic practice and is in fact a violation of Islam.

Turning the onus back onto the questioner concerned about Muslim women’s rights, Imam Hendi added some provocation of his own. “I feel so angry when I see women oppressed in some Muslim countries. That happens not because of Islam, but rather despite Islam. Look at the history of the past 20 years in Muslim countries. Turkey had a female president, [as has] Bangladesh and Indonesia. Pakistan had a female prime minister. The American debate, unfortunately, is still if we can have a female president.”

For many others, the themes of unity and of opening oneself up to ones’ neighbors resonated deeply and without rancor. They made it clear that the debate over the mosque not only affected the Muslim community, but the whole community. It was their image and reputations on the line. Laura, a Murfreesboro resident, summed up many of her neighbors’ feelings during the question and answer session. The portrayal of her town in the media over the past year was not a fair representation of her and of the people of Murfreesboro, she said. “There are many of us who support the mosque,” she added. “A number of us have made some efforts in community organizing in order to come together.”

As people lingered in the lobby following the program, the mood was positive. The message the clergy had been trying to impart all evening seemed to have fallen on receptive ears. “I think it was one of the best debates we’ve had, and I’ve been to several of them,” said Jennifer Roberts, another Murfreesboro resident. “In the last year, [this] is all I want to talk about. I started a diversity group where I work and we’re trying to get people just to learn. You don’t have to become. You don’t have to switch. If you know, it’s not as scary.”

Having been awake since 5 AM and arriving back at their hotel in Nashville 18 hours later, it had been a long day for the group. Early the next morning, they would pack up the van again and leave for their next stop: Louisville, K.Y. The schedule was punishing, but they had a mission. “A lot of voices in the name of religion have been dividing us,” said Imam Antepli, who had gotten up at 3:30 AM to join the ride. “We are struggling to turn our differences into richness. It is the core mission of the clergy to make religion a strong force of peace and reconciliation.”

Hutton Hotel Says “No” To Pamela Geller, SIOA and Rest of Islamophobiapalooza

Posted in Feature, Loon Sites with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2011 by loonwatch

It looks like the Islamophobes have been rejected once again. Queen bee Islamophobe Pamela Geller and her sidekick Robert Spencer have been given the boot by the Hutton Hotel in Nashville. I guess they didn’t want to open up their venue to the SIOA “nuke the Muslim” club and other fanatics who were gathering for a “Sharia Conference.”

Steve Eckley, senior vice president of hotels for Amerimar Enterprises said:

he wasn’t fully aware of the topic or the people involved when he booked the event in Nashville, and now he fears that resulting protests could turn violent. As well, the hotel’s other clients that day expressed concerns.

This marks the second time in two weeks that Geller and co. have been kicked out of a hotel. The first time was in Sugarland, Texas at the Hyatt, and though the Hyatt made some lame excuse as to why they kicked them out, it is pretty clear they didn’t want to get embroiled in the fiasco that goes along with being associated with hatemongers.

Geller is in hysterics and is urging her followers to deluge Hutton Hotel with angry calls and threats of boycott for being “dhimmis” and “sharia compliant.” At this rate, her and her followers will have to boycott all major hotels across the USA for refusing to serve her hate ideology and conspiracy theories.

Contact the Hutton Hotel and let them know that you appreciate the cancellation because right now they are most likely under siege by bigots and they may cave in if no one shows them support:

Hutton Hotel
1808 West End Ave
Nashville, TN 37203

Tel: 615-340-9333, Fax: 615-340-0010

EMAIL form: http://www.huttonhotel.com/contact_form/contact_form.cfm

Here is the email of the current manager of the Hotel, Steven Andre sandre@huttonhotel.com

Here is Geller’s rant:

The Hutton Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee is now sharia-compliant.

Steve Eckley, Senior Vice-President of Hutton Hotel, has caved to Islamic supremacist demands and cancelled our entire Preserving Freedom Conference scheduled for November 11th in Nashville. Eckley notified us that they will not honor our contract. Steve said that if we showed up we would not be let in. He said he has been getting threatening letters and calls. We are currently awaiting the written notification of the cancellation.

Steve Eckley’s phone number is 720 318 4238. He said he would not let us in the hotel if we showed up.  He was so ugly and hostile, it was shocking.

I was a scheduled keynote speaker, along with Robert Spencer, Wafa Sultan, Mark Durie, William Murray, Father Keith Roderick, and a host of voices for freedom.

This is the second time in no less than a week that a major hotel has capitulated to intimidation and demands to enforce the blasphemy laws under the sharia here in America. Opposing the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth is now forbidden in the war of ideas.

Just last week the Hyatt Place in Sugarland canceled a tea party event where I was scheduled to speak. They have since apologized, but that is hardly enough. Free speech, the cornerstone of our constitutional republic, is in serious jeopardy. Under the Shariah, criticism of Islam is blasphemy (punishable by death in Muslim countries living under the Shariah). This is the death of free speech in the continuing Islamization of America. This is yet another shattering demonstration of why I wrote my book Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance.

The silencing of free speech is key to the islamization of America.

Americans must boycott these cowardly enterprises and raise their voices in protest.

Hutton Hotel
1808 West End Ave
Nashville, TN 37203

Tel: 615-340-9333, Fax: 615-340-0010

EMAIL form: http://www.huttonhotel.com/contact_form/contact_form.cfm

Here is the email of the current manager of the Hotel, Steven Andre sandre@huttonhotel.com (hat tip Rob)

Nashville is a gateway city for refugee resettlement — whole Muslim communities are resettled in “gateway” cities like Lewiston, Maine; Shelbyville, Tennessee; St. Cloud, Minnesota; Clarkston, Georgia; and Jamestown, North Dakota. Nashville has one of the country’s highest Muslim populations.

I strongly urge all Atlas readers contact the Hutton Hotel and voice your concern with the abridgment of our cherished and hard-fought freedoms. This continuing restriction of free speech is a key front in the war on the truth. Your future, your children’s future and that of our country is at stake. I cannot impress this upon you enough.

Get this out to your lists, your friends, and all the freedom lovers that you know.

This cannot stand. Start calling. Now.

Gear Up for Some Good Ole Nashville Islamophobiapalooza: “Yeehaw!”

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

Tennessee is increasingly making a strong case as the capital of Islamophobia in the USA. From anti-Sharia’ legislation to the Murfreesboro Mosque controversy to organizations such as the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, Islamophobia is alive and well in the “volunteer state.”

So it may not be a big surprise that next month Nashville will be the locus for anti-Muslim hate and bigotry in the form of a conference titled: The Constitution or Sharia: A Freedom Conference.

The King and Queen of the Islamophobesphere, Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller will be headlining the event, but they aren’t the only hatemongers that are expected to speak:

Nashville, Tennessee – November 11, 2011

The Constitution or Sharia: Preserving Freedom Conference, the first true national conference on Sharia and the Islamization of America sponsored by major freedom oriented organizations! Not just another educational conference. Speakers, such as Pamela Geller, Wafa Sultan and Mathew Staver are action oriented and you will finish the day with an understanding of how to fight the advance of Sharia Law in the United States.

Speaker and panel topics will include

Sharia and Jihad
The European Experience with Sharia
The Dehumanization and Diminishment of Women in the West Under Sharia
Religious Persecution Under Sharia
The Muslim Brotherhood In America
Sharia and Legal Action 
Grassroots Organizing Against Sharia and Rabat (including Mega-Mosques)
Defending Liberty In Legislatures
Fighting Islamist Propaganda in the Media

Plus an action packed evening banquet!

See Tentative Schedule

SIGN UP NOW – Please go to event registration page

Confirmed Speakers include
  • Pamela Geller of Stop Islamization of America ** and Atlas Shrugs
  • Robert Spencer of Stop Islamization of America and Jihad Watch
  • J. Thomas Smith of U.S. Justice Foundation **
  • William J. Murray of Religious Freedom Coalition **
  • Andrew Miller and Lou Ann Zelenik of  Tennessee Freedom Coalition **
  • Frank Gaffney of Center for Security Policy **
  • Fred Grandy, former congressman and actor
  • David Frenchof  American Center for Law and Justice *
  • Andrea Lafferty of Traditional Values Coalition  *
  • Christopher Holton of Center for Security Policy
  • Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel
  • Dr. Mark Durie, Australia and Barrister Paul Diamond, United Kingdom
  • Wafa Sultan, Champion of women’s rights
  • Father Keith Roderick of The Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights
  • James Lafferty of Virginia Anti-Sharia Task force
  • Honorable Rick Womick
  • Kenneth Timmerman, author and journalist
  • Linda Brickman of Arizona Freedom Alliance
  • Rabbi Jonathan Hausman
  • Steve Gill, Syndicated talk show host and Michael DelGiorno, WTN talk show host

SIGN UP NOW – Please go to event registration page

Confirmed Speakers include
FREEDOM BANQUET: Separate evening event at the Hutton Hotel featuring special guest speakers including Hollywood actor and former congressman Fred Grandy and bestselling author Pamela Geller along with internationally known champion for women’s rights Wafa Sultan.

** Conference Sponsors / * Conference co-sponsors

SIGN UP NOW – Please go to event registration page

If there are any loonwatchers in and or around Tennessee they should consider going to this conference and perhaps speak with participants and speakers, much in the same manner Max Blumenthal does.

For more info on some of the characters and organizations that will be there, see:

Anti-Islam group finds fertile ground in Nashville

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on July 10, 2011 by loonwatch

Surprise, surprise, ACT for America or as they are better known ACT for Hate’s largest chapter is in Nashville. Bob Smietana does a good job reporting on them in the article below.

Anti-Islam group finds fertile ground in Nashville

by Bob Smietana

ACT! for America sums up its mission in four words: “They must be stopped.”

The “they” in question are Muslims, who ACT! for America’s leaders insist are involved in a stealthy jihad to destroy the United States from the inside out, replacing the Constitution with the Islamic legal code known as Shariah.

The Virginia Beach, Va.-based national nonprofit claims 150,000 members and spreads its message through books, websites, radio ads, cable television and the work of local chapters.

It has become a potent political force in Nashville, home to the largest ACT chapter in the nation. Local members have opposed new mosques and lobbied for laws limiting Islamic influence — including a new state anti-terrorism law that originally referenced Shariah law.

Their message appeals to Bible Belt Christians, who fear that Islam and secularization threaten their way of life, and Jewish and Christian supporters of Israel, who see Muslims as the enemy of that nation. Members point to the 2009 case of Carlos Bledsoe, a Muslim convert and former Tennessee State University student who confessed to murdering an Army recruiter in Little Rock.

Critics say ACT distorts the nature of Islam and labels law-abiding Muslims as terrorists. Local Muslims say they will stand up for their rights to religious freedom.

“We are not afraid of this ACT group,” said Rashed Fakhruddin, a member of the Islamic Center of Nashville. “But we are concerned about the climate of fear they are trying to create.”

ACT has nine chapters in Tennessee: Middle Tennessee — based in Nashville — Cleveland, Hermitage, Jackson, Lebanon, Knoxville, Memphis, Morristown and Niota. Charles Jacobs, president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, a Boston-based anti-Islam group, said he’s not surprised that ACT has caught on in Middle Tennessee.

“The extent to which ACT has been successful in Nashville reflects its strong leadership nationally and locally and the frustration of many citizens with the failure of Nashville’s civic leadership and the media to deal with this threat,” he wrote in an email.

Anti-Islam groups fight for new laws

Daniel Bregman, a Nashville eye surgeon, leads the Middle Tennessee chapter. Bregman’s wife, Joanne, an attorney, has been one of the group’s chief lobbyists at the state Capitol.

Bregman turned down several requests for an interview. He appeared in a promotional video produced by the charity’s national office for its recent annual conference, held in Washington, D.C. The video states that Nashville has the largest chapter in the country, although the group won’t reveal its membership numbers.

“There are a couple reasons why a large chapter is good,” he said on the video. “The larger you are, the more power you have.”

The video includes images of the couple, as well as images of the outside of the Islamic Center of Nashville. Bregman repeats the claim that Muslims in the U.S. want to impose Shariah law in the place of the U.S. Constitution and are threatening non-Muslims.

“The imposition of Shariah law, which is the objective of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists in this country, is that I become a second-class citizen,” he said. “If I don’t get killed first.”

ACT members see themselves as warriors in a clash between Western civilization and Islam. That belief is reinforced at local chapter meetings, which feature speakers from other national anti-Islam groups.

They include Frank Gaffney of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Security Policy and a star witness for opponents of the new Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. He has argued on ACT! for America’s cable show that Muslims should be arrested and tried as traitors if they follow any part of Shariah law.

He spoke at a March 15 ACT meeting held at New Hope Community Church in Brentwood, and a recording of his speech recently was posted online.

“Frankly, I feel I am in the presence of a lot of heroes,” he told audience members. “Folks like you are, in the end, what’s going to make a difference between victory and defeat in what I think of as the war for the free world.”

That message appeals to ACT supporters such as J. Lee Douglas, a Brentwood dentist.

Douglas said he usually takes a live-and-let-live approach when it comes to religion. But he doesn’t believe Islam shows the same respect to other faiths.

“I think with Islam, there is an effort to not just leave people alone,” he said. “There is a compulsion to force people to join that faith.”

Defenders called apologists, ignorant

Douglas was one of 100 or so people in attendance at a workshop Tuesday night — also at New Hope Community Church — sponsored by the local chapter of ACT! for America.

The session was titled “Persuading the Near Enemy.” According to the workshop leader, Bill French, a near enemy is anyone who thinks Islam has good points.

“The near enemy is the apologist for Islam, who, I have found, doesn’t know anything about Islam,” French told the group.

French is a former Tennessee State University physics professor who writes under the pseudonym Bill Warner and runs the Center for the Study of Political Islam. He has no formal training in Islamic studies and doesn’t speak Arabic.

He recently was listed as a member of “The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle” by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Reportmagazine, along with Gaffney, ACT founder Brigitte Gabriel and David Yerushalmi, a Phoenix attorney who drafted Tennessee’s anti-Shariah bill.

That law passed after all references to Shariah and Islam were removed. The final version made giving assistance to a terrorist group a class A felony.

Shariah law’s meaning debated

French’s books, with titles such as Shariah Law for Non Muslims, and talks are based on counting verses in the Quran and other Islamic texts. He says that more verses in those texts are about politics and violence than religion.

Therefore, he argues, Islam isn’t only religion. Instead, he sees it as a political system bent on world domination, disguised with a thin veneer of religion. Real Muslims who follow the true Islam want to spread their religion by force.

“Jihad is what made Islam great,” he said.

Page Brooks, assistant professor of theology and Islamic studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said ACT! For America confuses radical Islam with the more moderate mainstream version of the faith.

Brooks, who is a chaplain in the Army National Guard, spent 2010 in Iraq. He said the Muslims he met there were thankful that American troops were opposing terrorists, who used Islam to justify violence.

“Even the average Iraqi knew the difference between the radical jihadists and the average Muslim walking around the street,” he said. “We have to be careful about who we label as a radical Muslim.”

Brooks also took issue with how ACT! for America and its supporters describe the Islamic legal code known as Shariah. That code guides religious practice — such as how to pray or what to eat — as well as family law, business practices and rules for ethical warfare.

“A lot of it has to do with religious compliance and personal holiness,” Brooks said.

Ron Leonard, ACT chapter leader in Hermitage, said his group is only worried about terrorists.

“I want to make that real clear,” said Leonard, who retired from the Army National Guard in 2004. “It is not Muslims. It is the extremist elements that we are dealing with. Muslims are good people. There are people that take their extremist views to the point of killing people. And ACT is in a position to stop this from going on.”

War, religious right are at group’s roots

ACT! for America is the brainchild of Hanah Kahwagi Tudor, a Lebanese Christian who fled her homeland during that country’s civil war, which raged from 1975 to 1990.

Tudor, who goes by the pseudonym Brigitte Gabriel, first moved to Israel, where she worked for a television network owned by Pat Robertson.

She married a co-worker named Charles Tudor, a former cameraman for Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Praise the Lordtelevision show. The couple eventually settled in Virginia Beach.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she began speaking out about terrorism. She wrote two books — They Must Be Stopped andBecause They Hate — which became best-sellers.

In books and speeches, Tudor says that Islamic terrorists took over her home country, and she wants to stop them before they take over America.

Tudor declined to be interviewed. On Friday, the ACT! for America website announced she’d visit Nashville on a November date to be announced.

ACT and Tudor’s other nonprofit, the education group American Congress for Truth, took in a combined $1,612,908 in 2009, according to their latest federal tax returns, known as Form 990s. The groups asked for an extension for filing their 2010 tax returns.

Tudor was paid $178,441 in salary by the two charities.

The nonprofit uses constant email updates, conference calls with Tudor and other electronic means to keep in close contact with local leaders.

Email updates sent to supporters also regularly include a request for donations.

Julie Ingersoll, associate professor of religious studies at the University of North Florida, attended ACT’s recent national convention and wrote about her experience for religiondispatches.com.

Ingersoll, who is critical of ACT, said the event was well organized and professional and focused on an “us versus them” approach to Islam and to liberals, who are seen as supporting Muslims.

“It’s framed as this real fear of outsiders,” she said. “It’s tied to all of the tea party rhetoric about the real America.”

Middle Tennessee Muslims organize

ACT’s growing influence has led local Muslims and interfaith groups to become more organized.

Hillsboro Presbyterian Church recently hosted an interfaith Scripture study with local Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders. About 50 people attended.

Fakhruddin, of the Islamic Center of Nashville, helped organize opposition to the anti-Shariah bill, working with the American Civil Liberties Union as well as people of other faiths.

“It made us a stronger group,” he said. “We will not tolerate any acts of injustice. Not just to Muslims, but to all Americans.”

Local Muslims haven’t been politically active until recently, Fakhruddin said. Now they are more aware of how to get involved in the political process and have now gotten to know their state legislators. They also are committed to defending the U.S. Constitution.

“People know us a little better than they did in the past,” he said. “People will see what we stand for and who we really are now. We are Americans. We are not some other group. We stand up for America.”

John Sugg: What the People in Nashville Know about Steven Emerson

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

John Sugg tears Steven Emerson a new one.

John Sugg on why won’t the Tampa Trib tell you what people in Nashville know about Steve Emerson?

John F. Sugg was editor of the Weekly Planet in the 1990s, and group senior editor of Creative Loafing Newspapers until he retired in 2008.  In his tenure, he reported extensively on the Sami Al-Arian story.  After recent negative news broke about terrorism “expert” Steven Emerson, Sugg contacted CL about filing this post.

Steven Emerson, a self-styled terrorism expert, is a guy who had a profound and caustic impact on Tampa for more than a decade. Emerson has had much less of an impact on another city, Nashville, although his corrosive brand of often-inaccurate smear jobs recently slithered into Tennessee.

Still, Nashville’s citizens know a whole lot more about Emerson than folks in Tampa, despite his relatively recent arrival on the Tennessee hate-Muslim soapbox, where he jostles for the limelight with loopy religious fanatics and just plain old-fashioned Southern bigots.

Why that imbalance of knowledge about Emerson? The answer lies in a horrible miscarriage of journalism committed over many years by The Tampa Tribune, a series of atrocities the Trib could easily correct by just providing a dash of fair and accurate reporting, something history indicates the newspaper won’t do. Nashville should be grateful that it has a newspaper, The Tennessean, which unlike the Trib will fearlessly dig out the truth.

In tandem with his vassal reporter at the Tampa Trib, Michael Fechter, Emerson waged a decade-long jihad against a professor at the University of South Florida, Sami Al-Arian, accused by Emerson and Fechter of being a terrorist mastermind. Emerson and Fechter were backed by a shadowy network of former federal agents and foreign spooks, notably a disinformation specialist for Israel’s ultra-right Likud party named Yigal Carmon and a controversial ex-FBI official named Oliver “Buck” Revell – and a lot of money whose origins have never been revealed.

However, where their information came from was clear. As the great Israeli newspaper Ha’aretzexplained before Al-Arian’s 2005 federal trial: “Israel owns much of the copyright for the case; a well-informed source termed the prosecution an ‘American-Israeli co-production.’ The Americans are running the show, but behind the scenes it was the Israelis who for years collected material (and) transmitted information…” How did they transmit information? In part, via “secret evidence” slipped to our federales, evidence and accusers Al-Arian wasn’t allowed to confront (who needs that nasty old Sixth Amendment?). But reporters were also conduits for scurrilous “intelligence” claims. Fechter himself wrote that “former and current senior Israeli intelligence officials” loaded his stories with information. Those allegations, many ludicrous on their face, were rejected by a federal jury, despite a highly prejudiced judge and rulings that, if they had been issued against Martin Luther King Jr. would have prevented him from mentioning Jim Crow in his defense.

Over the years, while a Weekly Planet and Creative Loafing editor, I had a great deal of fun exposing Emerson, and the prevarications by Fechter and the federal government. I tried to put into contextwhat the anti-Muslim crusaders were up to. I joined a rather elite cadre of journalists that had tangled with Emerson – including famed investigative reporters Seymour Hersh, Robert I. Friedman and Robert Parry, who provided me with insight into Emerson’s real agenda.

Emerson filed two bogus lawsuits against me, the Weekly Planet (AKA Creative Loafing) and an AP reporter who had told me about questions he had had over the provenance of a document Emerson gave the news service. We obtained a court order that would have forced Emerson to produce real proof of his allegations – and he knew we were digging into who he really was and who paid his bills – so he ran away from the fight he started; the good guys (me, for example) prevailed.

It’s noteworthy that a number of dispassionate analysts had observations similar to mine. New York University scholar Zachary Lockman, for example, (as quoted on “Right Web”) wrote in 2005: “[Emerson’s] main focus during the 1990s was to sound the alarm about the threat Muslim terrorists posed to the United States. By the end of that decade Emerson was describing himself as a ‘terrorist expert and investigator’ and ‘Executive Director, Terrorism Newswire, Inc.’ Along the way, critics charged, Emerson had sounded many false alarms, made numerous errors of fact, bandied accusations about rather freely, and ceased to be regarded as credible by much of the mainstream media . The September 11 attacks seemed to bear out Emerson’s warnings, but his critics might respond that even a stopped clock shows the right time twice a day.”

Again, it’s sadly significant that the Trib never even provided such mild doses of context about its primary source, Emerson, in its inflammatory, intentionally erroneous and misleading, and often racist diatribes against Al-Arian. The Trib still gives Emerson ink – never questioning his claims and guilt-by-association-and-innuendo tactics, and never vetting his background, associations, financing and motives.

Some insight on Emerson’s millions has now been provided by The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, citing the Tennessean’s reports, on Oct. 26 awarded Emerson his nightly “Worst Person in the World” citation. Olbermann expressed regret that the network had previously used Emerson as a chattering head on terrorism topics. (Similarly, CBS did not renew its contract with Emerson after he claimed that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing had “a Middle Eastern trait” because it was carried out “with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.” That was a big “Oops.”)

The Tennessean reported that Emerson collects money through a non-profit, the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation, and then funnels that money to his for-profit SAE (as in Steven A. Emerson) Productions. Quoting Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchdog group, the Nashville paper reported: “Basically, you have a nonprofit acting as a front organization, and all that money going to a for-profit. It’s wrong. This is off the charts.”

That little bit of information on Emerson, contained in one report, is far more than the Trib told you about Emerson over a decade – despite Emerson using the Trib to provoke a legal firestorm that is still ongoing.

You do recall the firestorm, right? Emerson and Fechter launched a series of series of attacks on Muslims. No amount of hyperbole and vitriol-spewing was considered excessive by the Trib or Emerson. Fechter, for example, darkly hinted that the FBI found documents about MacDill Air Force Base among Al-Arian’s papers, insinuating some dastardly design. Nope. Al-Arian had twice been invited to speak to large groups of military and intelligence officers, and the sinister documents were, well, just the hand-out materials. Fechter, following the lead of his guru, Emerson, also tried to blame the Oklahoma City bombing on Arabs, an egregiously false story the Trib has never seen fit to correct. Emerson, meanwhile, said in February 1996 that Palestinian advocates at USF were involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Emerson promised proof “in the near term.” The proof never came, and the Justice Department said it had no records supporting the allegation.

You think the Trib might have called Emerson on that one? Hahaha.

The former head of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Robert O’Neill, twice concluded during the 1990s there was no evidence to prosecute Al-Arian, according to my multiple sources in the Justice Department. I don’t like quoting anonymous sources so I’ll be clear: O’Neill, now the U.S. Attorney for Florida’s Middle District, himself told me he had looked at the evidence and found no reason to prosecute. In 1998, the then FBI counterterrorism chief Bob Blitzer also told me “no federal laws were broken” by the Tampa Muslims.

Yet, after 9/11, propelled by hate-Muslim diatribes from Bill O’Reilly (who had been funneled highly slanted information by Fechter) and the fear by Jeb Bush that the University of South Florida would conclude a settlement with Al-Arian that would prove embarrassing to the Bushite regimes in Washington and Tallahassee, the federal government indicted Al-Arian. The trial concluded with the government failing to win a single guilty verdict against Al-Arian or his co-defendants, an immense disaster for the Bush Justice Department.

Al-Arian later plea bargained in order to preclude another trial on counts on which the jury didn’t reach a verdict – although notably no more than two jurors felt he was guilty on even those “hung” counts.  Al-Arian’s plea bargain stipulated that he had had no involvement in terrorist activities. Rather, he had provided some minor support to people who might have become terrorists, although it’s clear from the trial that any such activities by Al-Arian occurred when they were legal. The plea agreement supposedly ended all business between Al-Arian and the federal government. However, due to legal chicanery by a rogue federal prosecutor in Virginia, Gordon Kromberg – who has been called a doppelganger of Emerson – Al-Arian remains entangled in federal courts and on house arrest.

According to my federal sources, the Al-Arian case cost our government at least $50 million, and, no, the Trib and Emerson didn’t offer to pay part of the bill (you and I had that honor). And, with so many FBI agents chasing a guy whose “guilt” was mostly in exercising his First Amendment rights, the FBI missed another fellow flitting around Florida, a real terrorist with blood on his mind, Mohammed Atta.

The final chapters in the Trib’s pogroms against Muslims had a sadly humorous angle. Fechter, who had long been a tool of Emerson’s, finally got slightly honest and went to work for his mentor. And Fechter dumped his wife and children and shacked up with one of the federal prosecutors who tried Al-Arian. I don’t recall where Fechter got his journalism training, but he must have skipped the classes on journalistic objectivity and not sleeping with your sources.

So, The Tennessean’s articles might have provided an excellent opportunity for the Trib to revisit and maybe heal a terrible wound it was complicit in inflicting in Tampa. On Friday, I asked TribManaging Editor Richard “Duke” Maas if he had such an inclination – heck, I inquired, aren’t you interested in what The Tennessean wrote about a guy who had so much impact on Tampa and your newspaper? Well, not really, Maas responded, sounding more irritated than journalistically curious. He added that Fechter had left the newspaper, which I gather meant he felt the Trib was thereby absolved of responsibility.

If you happen to have a spare backbone, you might send it to the pathetic folks at The Tampa Tribune.

John F. Sugg was editor of the Weekly Planet in the 1990s, and group senior editor of Creative Loafing Newspapers until he retired in 2008.