Archive for New York Times

New York Times Article Understates How Overstated Islamic Terrorism Threat Really Is

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2012 by loonwatch

The New York Times recently reported on a study that showed how exaggerated the threat of “Islamic” terrorism is–how “Radical Muslim Americans Pose Little Threat.”  The article is a good one, but in fact, it doesn’t adequately convey how truly minuscule the threat is.  I’ll reproduce the article below and then briefly recount why Americans (and Europeans) shouldn’t fear Islamic terrorism at all:

Radical U.S. Muslims Little Threat, Study Says

WASHINGTON — A feared wave of homegrown terrorism by radicalized Muslim Americans has not materialized, with plots and arrests dropping sharply over the two years since an unusual peak in 2009, according to a new study by a North Carolina research group.

The study, to be released on Wednesday, found that 20 Muslim Americans were charged in violent plots or attacks in 2011, down from 26 in 2010 and a spike of 47 in 2009.

Charles Kurzman, the author of the report for the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, called terrorism by Muslim Americans “a minuscule threat to public safety.” Of about 14,000 murders in the United States last year, not a single one resulted from Islamic extremism, said Mr. Kurzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina.

The report also found that no single ethnic group predominated among Muslims charged in terrorism cases last year — six were of Arab ancestry, five were white, three were African-American and two were Iranian, Mr. Kurzman said. That pattern of ethnic diversity has held for those arrested since Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

Forty percent of those charged in 2011 were converts to Islam, Mr. Kurzman found, slightly higher than the 35 percent of those charged since the 2001 attacks. His new report is based on the continuation of research he conducted for a book he published last year, “The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists.”

The decline in cases since 2009 has come as a relief to law enforcement and counterterrorism officials. In that year, the authorities were surprised by a series of terrorist plots or attacks, including the killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., by an Army psychiatrist who had embraced radical Islam, Maj. Nidal Hasan.

The upsurge in domestic plots two years ago prompted some scholars of violent extremism to question the conventional wisdom that Muslims in the United States, with higher levels of education and income than the average American, were not susceptible to the message of Al Qaeda.

Concerns grew after the May 2010 arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen, for trying to blow up a sport utility vehicle in Times Square. Mr. Shahzad had worked as a financial analyst and seemed thoroughly assimilated. In a dramatic courtroom speech after pleading guilty, he blamed American military action in Muslim countries for his militancy.

The string of cases fueled wide and often contentious discussion of the danger of radicalization among American Muslims, including Congressional hearings led by Representative Peter T. King, a Long Island Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

But the number of cases declined, returning to the rough average of about 20 Muslim Americans accused of extremist violence per year that has prevailed since the 2001 attacks, with 193 people in that category over the decade. By Mr. Kurzman’s count, 462 other Muslim Americans have been charged since 2001 for nonviolent crimes in support of terrorism, including financing and making false statements.

The 2011 cases include just one actual series of attacks, which caused no injuries, involving rifle shots fired late at night at military buildings in Northern Virginia. A former Marine Corps reservist, Yonathan Melaku, pleaded guilty in the case last month in an agreement that calls for a 25-year prison sentence.

Other plots unearthed by law enforcement last year and listed in Mr. Kurzman’s report included a suspected Iranian plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, a scheme to attack a Shiite mosque in Michigan and another to blow up synagogues, churches and the Empire State Building.

“Fortunately, very few of these people are competent and very few get to the stage of preparing an attack without coming to the attention of the authorities,” Mr. Kurzman said.

Here are some key points that the article could have included to have truly conveyed how absolutely minuscule the threat of Islamic terrorism is to Americans (and Europeans):

1.  According to the FBI’s own database (available from 1980-2005), less than 6% of terrorist attacks in America were committed by Muslims.

2.  Europol has been documenting terrorism for the last half decade.  Their annual terrorism reports show that less than 1% of terrorism in Europe involves Muslims.

3.  Since 9/11–which was over a decade ago–zero U.S. civilians have been killed by Islamic terrorists.

4.  Similarly, zero European civilians have been killed by Islamic terrorists in the last half decade.  In fact, the only injuries incurred from Islamic terrorism were to a security guard who “was slightly wounded.”  Perhaps the “anti-jihadist” blogosphere should find this one security guard and give him a medal of honor and declare him a martyr for the cause.

Putting this into perspective, you as an American have a much greater chance of being struck or even killed by lightning than being killed by an Islamic terrorist.  Using conservative estimates, at least 300 Americans are struck by lightning every year, and of them, 67 die–way higher than the whopping zero Americans that die every year from Islamic terrorists.

Another way to think of this is that you as an American have a much higher chance of dying from a peanut than an Islamic terrorist: at least 120 Americans die from an allergic reaction to peanuts every year.  Should we wage a War on Peanuts?

The NYT article also fails to mention that many of those people arrested on charges of Islamic terrorism were in fact goaded into terrorism by the FBI, which has a habit of using entrapment as a means to orchestrate–and then foil–its own terrorist plots.  (See Glenn Greenwald’s article: The FBI Thwarts Its Own Terrorist Plot.)  That could explain why the number of arrests for Islamic terrorism do not match up with actual attacks and casualties.

Dr. Charles Kurzman is quoted in the article as saying of the would-be Islamic terrorists: “Fortunately, very few of these people are competent and very few get to the stage of preparing an attack without coming to the attention of the authorities.”  But, it’s not just that they happen to come to the attention of the authorities in the nick of time: it’s the fact that the authorities are the ones who fed them the idea of being terrorists in the first place.  That’s why so “few get to the stage of preparing an attack,” since they are being monitored even before the thought comes to their mind.

Even more worrisome is the fact that the vast majority of Muslims arrested on terrorism-related offenses have been accused of, as the article says, “non-violent crimes in support of terrorism, including financing and making false statements.”  Many of these arrests have been widely criticized by civil rights groups because six-degrees of association are used to incriminate American Muslims.

One other interesting aside: the NYT article mentions the Fort Hood Shooting, which was labeled as an act of Terrorism.  The shooter, Major Nidal Hasan, was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and the Army’s prosecutor is seeking the death penalty.  Hasan’s victims were all soldiers (aside from one, who was part of the U.S. Army Reserves).

Meanwhile, Staff Sargent Frank Wuterich was responsible for butchering 24 Iraqi civilians in what is called the Haditha Massacre: under his command, American soldiers systematically exterminated Muslim civilians, killing them execution-style.  This has been corroborated by eyewitness account, forensic and photographic evidence.  Yet, not only did the Army prosecutor not seek the death penalty for this war crime, but instead charged him with “involuntary manslaughter” and sought a maximum penalty of 90 days in the brig.  Even this Lindsay Lohan-style punishment was dropped in a plea bargain, with Wuterich let off with zero jail time and just a pay cut and demotion.  He didn’t even get fired.  Imagine walking into your job and shooting another employee and not getting fired!

Eight U.S. soldiers were charged for the Haditha Massacre.  Charges were dropped for six of them, and the seventh was acquitted.  Only one, Frank Wuterich, was held to account and all he got was a slap on the wrist: a pay cut and demotion.  Meanwhile, when it comes to acts of Islamic terrorism, it’s not just the perpetrators who are sought out and punished, but rather, their financiers, their supposed financiers, those who “harbored” them, those who made “false statements”, those who even gave them a pair of socks to wear or ponchos and raincoats to use, etc. etc.  Whole religions, nations, and civilizations are blamed for such acts.  Countries are bombed because they are held to be responsible.  But, the United States government could not find any responsibility or guilt in the men who actually held guns in their hands as they blasted a couple dozen Iraqi civilians–men, women, and children–to death.

Haditha Massacre

Imagine the comparison between these two men: Hasan is a Muslim and is therefore a Terrorist, even though he only acted against soldiers.  Meanwhile, nobody in the media (or anywhere for that matter) has called Wuterich a Terrorist, even though he slaughtered civilians.  Wuterich committed this act of terrorism ”negligent dereliction of duty” (that’s the euphemism we use to refer to the butchering of 24 Muslim civilians) as a retaliation for the killing of an American soldier (a soldier who was on Iraqi soil and part of an occupying force) by an IED.  If Hasan had killed 24 American civilians in Meriden, Connecticut (Wuterich’s home city) in retaliation for the death of a Muslim civilian from a U.S. drone strike, would anybody be calling this anything other than Terrorism?  Had that been the case, the right-wing and the media would be on a continuous spin cycle talking about how Evil and Dangerous those Moozlums are.   Muslims would be bending over backwards issuing apology after apology and uttering the mandatory serial condemnations of Terrorism.

A friend emailed me a comment made on Facebook by someone in the U.S. military, who said (in defense of Frank Wuterich):

Is it hard for me to believe that a human being lost his mind at the sight of the man fighting to his left being blown to pieces? No. It absolutely is not.

Why is it then so hard for you to believe that a human being lost his mind at the sight of seeing his entire family, neighborhood, village, and country being blown to bits by Americans (or Israelis)?  That he would then want to retaliate by killing Americans (or Israelis) just as Wuterich took his vengeance out on Iraqi civilians?  Palestinians have had their entire villages wiped off the face of the earth, yet I do not think this person (or the average American) would be so forgiving when that Palestinian would then take it out on Israelis.

Nidal Hasan, a Muslim, killed 13 soldiers on a U.S. military base, whom he specifically targeted because they were about to be dispatched to join an occupation force in Iraq and Afghanistan, two Muslim countries that have been savaged by the United States.   Meanwhile, Frank Wuterich was part of an occupying force and killed 24 Muslim civilians–civilians in a country that was occupied and savaged by the United States.  The former is an act of Terrorism; the latter is “negligent dereliction of duty.”  If you’re a Muslim, then it’s Terrorism; if you’re fighting Muslims, then at most it’s “negligent dereliction of duty.”

This is, as Glenn Greenwald always says, the true definition of the word “Terrorist”:

It means:  anyone — especially of the Muslim religion and/or Arab nationality — who fights against the United States and its allies or tries to impede their will.  That’s what “Terrorism” is; that’s all it means.

I’ve been inspired by an image I saw here to create this image to properly depict the situation:

Wuterich killed 24 Iraqi civilians in retaliation for one U.S. soldier being killed (a soldier, mind you, who was part of an occupying force on Iraqi soil).  Why are we so amazed at how primitive and backwards those Muslims are when they get angry about the over one million civilians we have killed of theirs?

Hasan’s act of violence is troublesome from a moral point of view because it occurred on U.S. soil, but Greenwald points to an example that occurred on Iraqi soil: this is the case of Faruq Khalil Muhammad Isa, an Iraqi born man who was officially accused of “Terrorism” for “the Murder of Five American Soldiers” on Iraqi soil.  Greenwald notes:

Isa is charged with “providing material support to a terrorist conspiracy” because he allegedly supported a 2008 attack on a U.S. military base in Mosul that killed 5 American soldiers. In other words, if the U.S. invades and occupies your country, and you respond by fighting back against the invading army — the ultimate definition of a “military, not civilian target” — then you are a . . . Terrorist.

Putting that in graphic form, we have:

Were the civilians of Haditha not “terrorized” by Frank Wuterich and his men?  Wasn’t that exactly the point of the massacre: to terrorize the Iraqi population to the point where they would no longer resist American soldiers?  Were the Muslim civilians killed in Haditha any less in a state of terror–terrorized–than the soldiers on the Fort Hood base?

One last point: the NYT’s article fails to make the logical conclusion: it’s not enough to say that the threat of Islamic terrorism is overblown.  Rather, the real question is why it is so: it’s to justify our many wars in the Muslim world and our occupations of their lands.  It’s war propaganda.

Addendum I:  

I would like to apologize for comparing Lindsay Lohan to Frank Wuterich: prosecutors sought much longer jail sentences on her than him, and she spent more time in jail than he did.  Does anyone want to create a side-by-side image comparison of Lohan and Wuterich?  I’ll update the article and put it up if it’s worthy enough.

Update I:

Here’s another “fun” graphic I just created:

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

In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2012 by loonwatch
An Islamic flag atop the White House in “The Third Jihad.”
An Islamic flag atop the White House in “The Third Jihad.”

In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims

By MICHAEL POWELL

Ominous music plays as images appear on the screen: Muslim terrorists shoot Christians in the head, car bombs explode, executed children lie covered by sheets and a doctored photograph shows an Islamic flag flying over the White House.

“This is the true agenda of much of Islam in America,” a narrator intones. “A strategy to infiltrate and dominate America. … This is the war you don’t know about.”

This is the feature-length film titled “The Third Jihad,” paid for by a nonprofit group, which was shown to more than a thousand officers as part of training in the New York Police Department.

In January 2011, when news broke that the department had used the film in training, a top police official denied it, then said it had been mistakenly screened “a couple of times” for a few officers.

A year later, police documents obtained under the state’s Freedom of Information Law reveal a different reality: “The Third Jihad,” which includes an interview with Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, was shown, according to internal police reports, “on a continuous loop” for between three months and one year of training.

During that time, at least 1,489 police officers, from lieutenants to detectives to patrol officers, saw the film.

News that police trainers showed this film so extensively comes as the department wrestles with its relationship with the city’s large Muslim community. The Police Department offers no apology for aggressively spying on Muslim groups and says it has ferreted out terror plots.

But members of the City Council, civil rights advocates and Muslim leaders say the department, in its zeal, has trampled on civil rights, blurred lines between foreign and domestic spying and sown fear among Muslims.

“The department’s response was to deny it and to fight our request for information,” said Faiza Patel, a director at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, which obtained the release of the documents through a Freedom of Information request. “The police have shown an explosive documentary to its officers and simply stonewalled us.”

Tom Robbins, a former columnist with The Village Voice, first revealed that the police had screened the film. The Brennan Center then filed its request.

The 72-minute film was financed by the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit group whose board includes a former Central Intelligence Agency official and a deputy defense secretary for President Ronald Reagan. Its previous documentary attacking Muslims’ “war on the West” attracted support from the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of Israel who has helped reshape the Republican presidential primary by pouring millions of dollars into a so-called super PAC that backs Newt Gingrich.

Commissioner Kelly is listed on the “Third Jihad” Web site as a “featured interviewee.” Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, wrote in an e-mail that filmmakers had lifted the clip from an old interview. The commissioner, Mr. Browne said, has not asked the filmmakers to remove him from its Web site, or to clarify that he had not cooperated with them.

None of the documents turned over to the Brennan Center make clear which police officials approved the showing of this film during training. Department lawyers blacked out large swaths of these internal memorandums.

Repeated calls over the past several days to the Clarion Fund, which is based in New York, were not answered. The nonprofit group shares officials with Aish HaTorah, an Israeli organization that opposes any territorial concessions on the West Bank. The producer of “The Third Jihad,” Raphael Shore, also works with Aish HaTorah.

Clarion’s financing is a puzzle. Its federal income tax forms show contributions, grants and revenues typically hover around $1 million annually — except in 2008, when it booked contributions of $18.3 million. That same year, Clarion produced “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” The Clarion Fund used its surge in contributions to pay to distribute tens of millions of copies of this DVD in swing electoral states across the country in September 2008.

“The Third Jihad” is quite similar, in style and content, to that earlier film. Narrated by Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim doctor and former American military officer in Arizona, “The Third Jihad” casts a broad shadow over American Muslims. Few Muslim leaders, it states, can be trusted.

“Americans are being told that many of the mainstream Muslim groups are also moderate,” Mr. Jasser states. “When in fact if you look a little closer, you’ll see a very different reality. One of their primary tactics is deception.”

Footage of an interview with the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, is used in the movie.Footage of an interview with the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, is used in the movie.

The film posits that there were three jihads: One at the time of Muhammad, a second in the Middle Ages and a third that is under way covertly throughout the West today.

This is, the film claims, “the 1,400-year war.”

How the film came to be used in police training, and even for how long, was not clear. An undated memorandum from the department’s commanding officer for specialized training noted that an employee of the federal Department of Homeland Security handed the DVD to the New York police in January 2010. Since then, this officer said, the video was shown continuously “during the sign-in, medical and administrative orientation process.” A Department of Homeland Security spokesman said it was never used in its curriculum, and might have come from a contractor.

As it turned out, it was police officers who blew the whistle after watching the film. Late in 2010, Mr. Robbins contacted an officer who spoke of his unease with the film; another officer, said Zead Ramadan, the New York president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, talked of seeing it during a training session the previous summer. “The officer was completely offended by it as a Muslim,” Mr. Ramadan said. “It defiled our faith and misrepresented everything we stood for.”

When the news broke about the movie last year, Mr. Browne called it a “wacky film” that had been shown “only a couple of times when officers were filling out paperwork before the actual course work began.”

He made no more public comments. Privately, two days later, he asked the Police Academy to determine whether a terrorism awareness training program had used the video, according to the documents.

The academy’s commander reported back on March 23, 2011, that the film had been viewed by 68 lieutenants, 159 sergeants, 31 detectives and 1,231 patrol officers. The department never made those findings public.

And just one week later, the Brennan Center officially requested the same information, starting what turned out to be a nine-month legal battle to obtain it.

“It suggests a broader problem that they refuse to divulge this information much less to discuss it,” Ms. Patel of the Brennan Center said. “The training of the world’s largest city police force is an important question.”

Mr. Browne said he had been unaware of the higher viewership of the film until asked about it by The New York Times last week.

There is the question of the officers who viewed the movie during training. Mr. Browne said the Police Department had no plans to correct any false impressions the movie might have left behind.

“There’s no plan to contact officers who saw it,” he said, or to “add other programming as a result.”

New York Times: Muslims Targeted in Wave of Firebombing

Posted in Feature, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2012 by loonwatch

All the facts on this are not clear yet, but it is being reported as a bias crime in many reports. If this holds true then it will be another manifestation of the all too real threat to Muslim communities from radical hatemongers.

Four Attacks in Queens With Homemade Firebombs

By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS (NYTimes)

A wave of arson attacks spread across eastern Queens on Sunday night, and the police said the firebombings were being investigated as bias crimes — with Muslims as the targets.

No one was hurt in the four attacks, in which homemade firebombs were apparently used. In three of the four attacks, the police said, Molotov cocktails were made with Starbucks bottles.

The first attack occurred just before 8 p.m. at a bodega at 179-40 Hillside Avenue.

Ten minutes later, another crude firebomb was thrown, this time at a private home at 146-62 107th Avenue, and the house caught fire.

Half an hour after that, an Islamic center at 89-89 Van Wyck Expressway was the target. The last attack occurred at a house at 88-20 170th Street, the police said.

The Islamic center, the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation, houses one of the most prominent Shiite mosques in New York. According to its Web site it offers funeral services, counseling and free SAT classes. It lists branches in several cities, including Montreal and Islamabad, Pakistan. Calls to the foundation were not returned Sunday night.

The firebomb, made with a glass Starbucks bottle, was thrown at the door of the center, possibly from a van as it drove it by, the police said. The door was blackened, but the building did not catch fire.

A similar weapon was found at the bodega, the site of the first attack, according to the police. The bomb might have been thrown from inside the store, because the counter sustained some damage, the police said.

It was the second attack, on 107th Avenue, police and fire officials said, that caused the most damage.

Shortly after 8 p.m., someone called 911, saying that a Molotov cocktail had been thrown at their home. The house caught fire, and it took more than 60 firefighters about 40 minutes to bring it under control.

In the fourth attack, two bottles were thrown at the house on 170th Street. A spokesman for the Fire Department said that the person who called 911 said they saw a vehicle drive by as the bottles were hurled toward their home. But the flames quickly fizzled.

In Islamic Law, Gingrich Sees a Mortal Threat to U.S.

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2011 by loonwatch
For Newt Gingrich, in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Shariah is a concern akin to terrorism.
For Newt Gingrich, in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Shariah is a concern akin to terrorism.

Discuss.

In Islamic Law, Gingrich Sees a Mortal Threat to U.S.

By 

WASHINGTON — Long before he announced his presidential run this year, Newt Gingrich had become the most prominent American politician to embrace an alarming premise: that Shariah, or Islamic law, poses a threat to the United States as grave as or graver than terrorism.

“I believe Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it,” Mr. Gingrich said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington in July 2010 devoted to what he suggested were the hidden dangers of Islamic radicalism. “I think it’s that straightforward and that real.”

Mr. Gingrich was articulating a much-disputed thesis in vogue with some conservative thinkers but roundly rejected by many American Muslims, scholars of Islam and counterterrorism officials. The anti-Shariah theorists say that just as communism posed an ideological and moral threat to America separate from the menace of Soviet missiles, so today radical Islamists are working to impose Shariah in a “stealth jihad” that is no less dangerous than the violent jihad of Al Qaeda.

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

Echoing some Republicans in Congress, Mr. Gingrich blasted the Obama administration’s policy of declining to label terrorism carried out in the name of militant Islam as “Islamic” or “jihadist.” Administration officials say such labels can imply religious justification for a distortion of doctrine that most Muslims abhor, thus smearing an entire faith.

But to Mr. Gingrich, whose campaign did not respond to a request for comment, the administration’s language smacks of the willful blindness of an earlier era. “The left’s refusal to tell the truth about the Islamist threat is a natural parallel to the 70-year pattern of left-wing intellectuals refusing to tell the truth about communism and the Soviet Union,” Mr. Gingrich said.

Shariah (literally, “the path to the watering place”) is a central concept in Islam. It is God’s law, as derived from the Koran and the example of the Prophet Muhammad, and has far wider application than secular law. It is popularly associated with its most extreme application in societies like Afghanistan under the Taliban, including chopping off a hand as punishment for thievery.

But it has always been subject to interpretation by religious authorities, so its application has varied over time and geography, said Bernard G. Weiss, professor emeritus at the University of Utah and an authority on Islamic law.

“In the hands of terrorists, Shariah can be developed into a highly threatening, militant notion,” Professor Weiss said. “In the hands of a contemporary Muslim thinker writing in the journal Religion and Law, Shariah becomes an essentially pacifist notion.”

The Arab Spring has set off a lively political and scholarly debate over the growing power of Islamists in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. But those are all overwhelmingly Muslim countries. The idea that Shariah poses a danger in the United States, where the census pegs Muslims as less than 1 percent of the population, strikes many scholars as quixotic.

Even within that 1 percent, most American Muslims have no enthusiasm for replacing federal and state law with Shariah, as some conservatives fear, let alone adopting such ancient prescriptions as stoning for adulterers, said Akbar Ahmed, chairman of Islamic studies at American University in Washington, who spent a year traveling the United States and interviewing Muslims for his 2010 book “Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam.”

The notion of a threat from Shariah to the United States “takes your breath away, it’s so absurd,” Dr. Ahmed said. He sees political demagoguery in the anti-Shariah campaign, which fueled rallies against mosques in the last two years from Manhattan to Tennessee.

All of the Republican presidential candidates have been asked about the supposed threat from Shariah. Representative Michele Bachmann told the conservative Family Research Council in a November speech that Shariah “must be resisted across the United States,” endorsing moves by several states to prohibit judges from considering Shariah.

Mitt Romney said in a June debate: “We’re not going to have Shariah law applied in U.S. courts. That’s never going to happen.” He immediately added, “People of all faiths are welcome in this country.”

For Mr. Gingrich, concern about Shariah has been a far more prominent theme. He and his wife, Callista, produced and narrated a 2010 film on the threat from radical Islam, “America at Risk,” that discusses the danger of both terrorism and Shariah against a lurid background of terrorist bombings, bloody victims, wailing sirens and chanting Muslim crowds. (Mrs. Gingrich does say, at one point, “This is not a battle with the majority of Muslims, who are peaceful.”)

One Muslim activist who is shown in the film calling for “separation of mosque and state,” Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, said he appreciated Mr. Gingrich’s support in an ideological contest with large Muslim advocacy groups in the United States that he believes have an Islamist slant.

But Dr. Jasser, a Phoenix physician and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, said non-Muslims like Mr. Gingrich were not the most effective advocates for what he believes is really a debate within Islam.

“Unfortunately, as long as a non-Muslim opens the discussion, whether it’s Gingrich or someone else, it’s going to hit a brick wall in the Muslim community,” Dr. Jasser said.

Mohamed Elibiary, a Muslim and an adviser to law enforcement agencies in Texas and to the Department of Homeland Security, is a conservative Republican who said he once idolized Mr. Gingrich. He said he no longer did.

He said the anti-Shariah campaign in the United States was “propaganda for jihadists,” offering fuel for the idea of a titanic clash of faiths. Those who truly want to protect American values should talk to Muslims, he said, not demonize them.

“There are plenty of American Muslim patriots who will defend American freedoms,” Mr. Elibiary said. “But you can’t be anti-Islam and find those allies.”

Yasir Qadhi: Anwar al-Awlaki’s Killing Illegal and Counterproductive

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2011 by loonwatch

Drone_Awlaki

An interesting perspective on the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki from Yasir Qadhi.

(Hat tip: Ginger)

An Illegal and Counterproductive Assassination

by Yasir Qadhi (New York Times)

ANWAR AL-AWLAKI, the Yemeni-American cleric who was killed Friday in a C.I.A. drone attack in Yemen, appears to be the first United States citizen that our government has publicly targeted for assassination.

The accusations against him were very serious, but as a citizen, he deserved a fair trial and the chance to face his accusers in a court of law. Whether he deserved any punishment for his speech was a decision that a jury should have made, not the executive branch of our government. The killing of this American citizen is not only unconstitutional, but hypocritical and counterproductive.

The assassination is unconstitutional because the Fifth Amendment specifies that no person may “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” A group of policy makers unilaterally deciding that a particular citizen needs to be targeted is, by no stretch of the imagination, due process.

The assassination is hypocritical because America routinely criticizes (and justifiably so) such extrajudicial assassinations when they occur at the hands of another government. We most certainly don’t approve the regimes of Syria or Iran eliminating those whom they deem to be traitors. In fact, Al Qaeda’s own justifications for murder stem from the notion that its members are qualified to be the judge, jury and executioner of those whom they view as enemies. America’s moral authority is undermined if we criticize in others what we do ourselves. It only reinforces the stereotype that the United States has very little concern for its own principles. Even Nazi war criminals got their day in court, at Nuremburg.

It is ironic to note that those who have actually attempted terrorist attacks on American soil and been caught were read their Miranda rights and went to trial, even though some were not United States citizens. Yet Mr. Awlaki, who has never been accused of himself directly attempting an attack, was not given this chance.

Lastly, the assassination is counterproductive because it feeds into the martyr mythology that makes Al Qaeda’s narrative so different from that of most other terrorist groups.

If our policy makers studied history, they would realize that Sayyid Qutb, a founder of radical Islam, while popular in his life, only achieved his legendary status after the Nasser regime in Egypt had him executed, in 1966. Instantly, his books became (and remain) best sellers. Killing people doesn’t make their ideas go away.

Mr. Awlaki was born in New Mexico in 1971 while his father was pursuing graduate studies. Though his parents returned to Yemen when he was seven, he later returned to the United States to pursue degrees in engineering and education. Eventually, he became an imam, or leader, of a mosque in California and later in Virginia. During these years, it is alleged that he met multiple times with at least three of the 9/11 hijackers. But for many American Muslims, he was only known for one thing: the telling of stories from the Koran. He lectured about the lives of the prophets of God, drawing from traditional Islamic sources (and sometimes even Biblical ones).

His captivating lecture style and copious quotations from classical sources made him extremely popular, especially among American Muslim youth. During these pre-9/11 years, these lectures, still available online, became some of the hottest-selling items at some Islamic conferences across America. At this stage, he was not publicly associated with any radical views. However, after 9/11, he adopted a more adversarial and anti-American tone, eventually moving back to Yemen. He was jailed for two years (and rumored to have been tortured).

It was only after his release that he publicly began supporting Al Qaeda and issuing messages calling for attacks upon the United States. It was alleged that he came into contact with or inspired a number of people to attempt terrorist activities: Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused in the 2009 killings in Fort Hood, Tex.; Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalib, accused of trying to set off a bomb hidden in his underwear on a 2009 flight to Detroit; and Faisal Shahzad, who tried to blow up a car in Times Square last year.

Mr. Awlaki’s ideas were dangerous. His message that one cannot be a good Muslim and an American at the same time was insulting to nearly all American Muslims. His views about the permissibility of killing Americans indiscriminately were completely at odds with those of mainstream Muslim clerics around the world. He needed to be refuted. And that is why many people, myself included, were extremely vocal in doing just that.

Mr. Awlaki needed to be challenged, not assassinated. By killing him, America has once again blurred the lines between its own tactics and the tactics of its enemies. In silencing Mr. Awlaki’s voice, not only did America fail to live up to its ideals, but it gave Mr. Awlaki’s dangerous message a life and power of its own. And these two facts make the job of refuting that message now even more difficult.

Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2011 by loonwatch

By ELIYAHU STERN

MORE than a dozen American states are considering outlawing aspects of Shariah law. Some of these efforts would curtail Muslims from settling disputes over dietary laws and marriage through religious arbitration, while others would go even further in stigmatizing Islamic life: a bill recently passed by the Tennessee General Assembly equates Shariah with a set of rules that promote “the destruction of the national existence of the United States.”

Supporters of these bills contend that such measures are needed to protect the country against homegrown terrorism and safeguard its Judeo-Christian values. The Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has said that “Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.”

This is exactly wrong. The crusade against Shariah undermines American democracy, ignores our country’s successful history of religious tolerance and assimilation, and creates a dangerous divide between America and its fastest-growing religious minority.

The suggestion that Shariah threatens American security is disturbingly reminiscent of the accusation, in 19th-century Europe, that Jewish religious law was seditious. In 1807, Napoleon convened an assembly of rabbinic authorities to address the question of whether Jewish law prevented Jews from being loyal citizens of the republic. (They said that it did not.)

Fear that Jewish law bred disloyalty was not limited to political elites; leading European philosophers also entertained the idea. Kant argued that the particularistic nature of “Jewish legislation” made Jews “hostile to all other peoples.” And Hegel contended that Jewish dietary rules and other Mosaic laws barred Jews from identifying with their fellow Prussians and called into question their ability to be civil servants.

The German philosopher Bruno Bauer offered Jews a bargain: renounce Jewish law and be granted full legal rights. He insisted that, otherwise, laws prohibiting work on the Sabbath made it impossible for Jews to be true citizens. (Bauer conveniently ignored the fact that many fully observant Jews violated the Sabbath to fight in the Prussian wars against Napoleon.)

During that era, Christianity was seen as either a universally valid basis of the state or a faith that harmoniously coexisted with the secular law of the land. Conversely, Judaism was seen as a competing legal system — making Jews at best an unassimilable minority, at worst a fifth column. It was not until the late 19th century that all Jews were granted full citizenship in Western Europe (and even then it was short lived).

Most Americans today would be appalled if Muslims suffered from legally sanctioned discrimination as Jews once did in Europe. Still, there are signs that many Americans view Muslims in this country as disloyal. A recent Gallup poll found that only 56 percent of Protestants think that Muslims are loyal Americans.

This suspicion and mistrust is no doubt fueled by the notion that American Muslims are akin to certain extreme Muslim groups in the Middle East and in Europe. But American Muslims are a different story. They are natural candidates for assimilation. They are demographically the youngest religious group in America, and most of their parents don’t even come from the Middle East (the majority have roots in Southeast Asia). A recent Pew Research Center poll found that Muslim Americans exhibit the highest level of integration among major American religious groups, expressing greater degrees of tolerance toward people of other faiths than do Protestants, Catholics or Jews.

Given time, American Muslims, like all other religious minorities before them, will adjust their legal and theological traditions, if necessary, to accord with American values.

America’s exceptionalism has always been its ability to transform itself — economically, culturally and religiously. In the 20th century, we thrived by promoting a Judeo-Christian ethic, respecting differences and accentuating commonalities among Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Today, we need an Abrahamic ethic that welcomes Islam into the religious tapestry of American life.

Anti-Shariah legislation fosters a hostile environment that will stymie the growth of America’s tolerant strand of Islam. The continuation of America’s pluralistic religious tradition depends on the ability to distinguish between punishing groups that support terror and blaming terrorist activities on a faith that represents roughly a quarter of the world’s population.

Eliyahu Stern, an assistant professor of religious studies and history at Yale, is the author of the forthcoming “The Genius: Elijah of Vilna and the Making of Modern Judaism.”

(source: The New York Times)

Pulitzer Prize Winner Andrea Elliot Speaks on Rising anti-Muslim Sentiment

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on March 31, 2011 by loonwatch

Andrea Elliot spoke to students at Duke university about the prevalent anti-Islam sentiment in American Society today. Here is an Excerpt from the Duke Chronicle,

Elliott discusses increasing anti-Islam sentiment

By Michael Shammas
March 31, 2011

American Muslims are facing increasing amounts of public distrust and hate speech, said Andrea Elliott, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The New York Times.

Elliott gave a lecture titled “Islam in a Post-9/11 America” in the Sanford School of Public Policy Wednesday afternoon to discuss the challenges Muslims face assimilating into American society. She stressed that some Americans are starting to believe that terrorism and Islam are synonymous, even though Muslims have fought for, and even died in the service of, the United States.

“The perpetrators of [the 9/11] attacks were of course not Muslim-American,” she said. “And even though some of their victims were, and even though thousands of American Muslims later served in the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, this episode left many Muslims feeling they have lost their face in America to… fear and suspicion.”

The event was sponsored by the Duke Islamic Studies Center, the Duke University Middle East Studies Center and the Sanford Institute’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy. After lecturing for nearly an hour, Elliott spent approximately 15 minutes taking questions from students and faculty in attendance.

Although 10 years have passed since the Sept. 11 attacks, Elliott said the amount of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States has actually increased in the past few years. In August, a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that only 30 percent of Americans held a favorable view of Islam. Five years earlier, the statistic was 41 percent. The poll’s results are reflective of recent events, Elliot noted.

“Just last year we’ve seen the fight over the Islamic center near ground zero, the spread of grass-roots opposition to the use of Shariah [Islamic law] and the buildings of mosques elsewhere in the country and the recent congressional hearings focused on Muslims,” Elliott said.

The media has largely been blamed for this resurgence in negative sentiment, with critics asserting that too much of the media’s coverage has focused on terrorism, she said. But people who solely blame the media are ignoring other factors at work such as “the tone set by the Bush administration” and the immediate reaction to the 9/11 attacks, which gave Americans a “frenzied crash course” on the religion, Elliot added.

“[After 9/11], the press was scrambling to make sense of the attacks and a fringe interpretation of Islam [held by the hijackers] was at the center of the story,” she said. “[But] Islam in most of its vast complexity was a subject that most journalists, like most Americans, knew almost nothing about.”

Elliott spent the rest of her lecture discussing what she has learned about Islam from her own work. She described her experience reporting on the life of an imam in New York City—a three-part series called “An Imam in America” for which she won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize—and the forced resignation of Debbie Almontaser. Almontaser was a Muslim who created the Khalil Gibran International Academy, the first English-Arabic public school focusing on the study of Arabic language and culture, only to be accused of radicalizing her students by a recently-formed group called “Stop the Madrassa.” The accusations were baseless, Elliott said, but Almontaser was forced out and replaced by a “Jewish principal who spoke no Arabic.”