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.”

Brigitte Gabriel’s ACT! for America Draws Crowds with Anti-Muslim Message

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2011 by loonwatch
Brigitte Gabriel

We have been reporting on “Brigitte Gabriel” and her hate organization ACT! for America since we began our site a few years ago. It seems now people are speaking out more against her extremist hate due to recent flagrant Islamophobic events such as the one in Yorba Linda.

Brigitte Gabriel’s personal story is a crock, what she presents to her ignorant crowds is a crock, she presents a black and white world in which Muslims are the enemies of humanity, Christianity and Civilization.

For more on her read: A Case Study in Sincere Hypocrisy: Brigitte Gabriel

ACT! for America is Better Known as Hate for America!

Drawing U.S. Crowds With Anti-Islam Message

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN (New York Times)

FORT WORTH — Brigitte Gabriel bounced to the stage at a Tea Party convention last fall. She greeted the crowd with a loud Texas “Yee-HAW,” then launched into the same gripping personal story she has told in hundreds of churches, synagogues and conference rooms across the United States:

As a child growing up a Maronite Christian in war-torn southern Lebanon in the 1970s, Ms. Gabriel said, she had been left lying injured in rubble after Muslims mercilessly bombed her village. She found refuge in Israel and then moved to the United States, only to find that the Islamic radicals who had terrorized her in Lebanon, she said, were now bent on taking over America.

“America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America,” she said. “They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They are being radicalized in radical mosques in our cities and communities within the United States.”

Through her books, media appearances and speeches, and her organization, ACT! for America, Ms. Gabriel has become one of the most visible personalities on a circuit of self-appointed terrorism detectors who warn that Muslims pose an enormous danger within United States borders.

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of Long Island, will conduct hearings Thursday in Washington on a similar theme: that the United States is infiltrated by Muslim radicals. Mr. King was the first guest last month on a new cable television show that Ms. Gabriel co-hosts with Guy Rodgers, the executive director of ACT! and a Republican consultant who helped build the Christian Coalition, once the most potent political organization on the Christian right.

Ms. Gabriel, 46, who uses a pseudonym, casts her organization as a nonpartisan, nonreligious national security group. Yet the organization draws on three rather religious and partisan streams in American politics: evangelical Christian conservatives, hard-line defenders of Israel (both Jews and Christians) and Tea Party Republicans.

She presents a portrait of Islam so thoroughly bent on destruction and domination that it is unrecognizable to those who study or practice the religion. She has found a receptive audience among Americans who are legitimately worried about the spread of terrorism.

But some of those who work in counterterrorism say that speakers like Ms. Gabriel are spreading distortion and fear, and are doing the country a disservice by failing to make distinctions between Muslims who are potentially dangerous and those who are not.

Brian Fishman, a research fellow at both the New America Foundation in Washington, and theCombating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy at West Point, said, “When you’ve got folks who are looking for the worst in Islam and are promoting that as the entire religion of 1.5 or 1.6 billion people, then you only empower the real extremists.”

Ms. Gabriel is only one voice in a growing circuit that includes counter-Islam speakers like Pamela GellerRobert Spencer and Walid Shoebat. What distinguishes Ms. Gabriel from her counterparts is that she has built a national grass-roots organization in the last three years that has already engaged in dozens of battles over the place of Islam in the United States. ACT! for America claims 155,000 members in 500 chapters across the country. To build her organization, Ms. Gabriel has enlisted Mr. Rodgers, who had worked behind the scenes for the Christian Coalition’s leaders, Ralph Reed and the television evangelist Pat Robertson. (Ms. Gabriel herself was once an anchor for Mr. Robertson’s Christian television network in the Middle East).

As national field director, Mr. Rodgers planted and tended Christian Coalition chapters across the country, and is now using some of the same strategies as executive director of ACT! Among those tactics is creating “nonpartisan voter guides” that rank candidates’ responses and votes on issues important to the group.

Just as with the Christian Coalition’s voter guides, the candidates whose positions most often align with ACT!’s are usually Republicans. Mr. Rodgers previously served as campaign manager forPatrick J. Buchanan’s presidential run in 1996, and as a consultant for John McCain in 2008.

Ms. Gabriel and Mr. Rodgers declined to be interviewed in person or over the telephone, but agreed to respond to questions by e-mail. They permitted interviews with only their national field director and two chapter leaders they selected, though half a dozen other interviews were conducted with chapter leaders before they were told not to talk.

Ms. Gabriel says she is motivated not by fear or hatred of Islam, but by her love for her adopted country.

“I lost Lebanon, my country of birth, to radical Islam,” she wrote. “I do not want to lose my adopted country America.”

She insists that she is singling out only “radical Islam” or Muslim “extremists” — not the vast majority of Muslims or their faith. And yet, in her speeches and her two books, she leaves the opposite impression. She puts it most simply in the 2008 introduction to her first book, “Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America.”

“In the Muslim world, extreme is mainstream,” she wrote. She said that there is a “cancer” infecting the world, and said: “The cancer is called Islamofacism. This ideology is coming out of one source: The Koran.”

In what ACT! is calling “Open a Koran” day this September, the group plans to put up 750 tables in front of post offices, libraries, churches and synagogues and hand out leaflets selectively highlighting verses that appear to advocate violence, slavery and subjugation of women.

In the last year, the group played a key role in passing a constitutional amendment in Oklahoma banning the use of Shariah, a body of Islamic law derived from the Koran and from the Muslim prophet Muhammad’s teachings, sayings and acts. Most Muslims draw selectively on its tenets — in the same way that people of other faiths pick and choose from their sacred texts.

But group members and their allies have succeeded in popularizing the notion that American Muslims are just biding their time until they gain the power to revoke the Constitution and impose Shariah law in the United States.

“We can’t let Shariah law take hold,” said Susan Watts, who leads a large chapter in Houston.

ACT! members are challenging high school textbooks and college courses that they deem too sympathetic to Islam. A group leader in Eugene, Ore., signed up to teach a community college course on Islam, but it was canceled when a Muslim group exposed his blog postings denouncing Islam and denying the scope of the Holocaust.

A chapter in Colorado recently featured a guest speaker on “How to minister to Muslims,” and “Conversion success stories.” Mr. Rodgers said in a written response that ACT! does not encourage such activities.

Ms. Gabriel’s approach and her power appear rooted in her childhood trauma in the civil war in southern Lebanon. The war was a chaotic stew in which ever-shifting alliances of clan-based militias made up of Christian, Shiite, Sunni, Palestinian and Druse made war on one other, often with the backing of other countries. But in the rendering Ms. Gabriel shares with her American audiences, it was black and white. As her father explained to her, “The Muslims bombed us because we are Christians. They want us dead because they hate us.” (The refrain became the title of her first book.)

She moved to Israel in her early 20s to work for Middle East Television. Ms. Gabriel often mentions in lectures that she was an anchor for the network, but does not reveal that Middle East Television was then run by Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network to spread his politically conservative, Pentecostal faith in the Middle East.

On air as a reporter, Ms. Gabriel used the name Nour Saman. She married an American co-worker and in 1989 moved to the United States. They started a film and television production company, which says it has produced programs on terrorism for “Good Morning America” and “Primetime.”

She said she uses a pseudonym, voted on by her organization’s board, because she has received death threats.

Ms. Gabriel has given hundreds of lectures, including to the Heritage Foundation and the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va. Her salary from two organizations she founded, American Congress for Truth and ACT! for America, was $178,411 in 2009. And the group’s combined income was $1.6 million.

In Fort Worth, Ms. Gabriel spent nearly an hour after her speech signing books and posing for pictures with gushing fans.

“She really opened up my eyes about Islam,” said Natalie Rix Cresson, a composer, clutching a signed copy of Ms. Gabriel’s book. “I didn’t realize it was so infiltrated in the schools, everywhere.”

 

NYTimes: Imam Behind Islamic Center Plans US Tour

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2010 by loonwatch

Imam Plans US Tour

by Paul Vitello

The controversy over plans to build an Islamic center in downtown Manhattan subsided in November, almost abruptly, with the end of an election season that amplified its most emotional underlying issues.

But the imam behind the project has decided to risk reigniting that opposition by setting out on a nationwide speaking tour next month to promote the planned center and to foster dialogue about Muslim life in America.

“Controversy has never been a problem for me,” said the imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, whose proposal to build the high-rise community center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero made him the prime target last summer of opponents who viewed the plan, known as Park51 for its address on Park Place, as a Trojan horse for Muslim triumphalism. “I think the controversy of last summer helped initiate a discourse that has been very good for the country. I’m an American, and I believe that Americans are problem solvers. So I believe further discussion can only be good.”

The tour, which he described in an interview on Wednesday, is scheduled to begin in Detroit, the city with the largest Muslim population in the United States. It will include stops in Chicago, Washington, San Antonio and several college campuses, starting with Harvard, Yale, Georgetown and the University of North Carolina.

Because of death threats that the imam has received, none of his addresses will be open to the general public, though the local news media in each place will be invited to attend, and to ask questions afterward, he said.

Some of the project’s most outspoken opponents welcomed the imam’s plan for a speaking tour, though for reasons of their own.

“I think this will help to revive the opposition, not only from Americans in general but from Muslims in this country, who don’t want this thing built,” said Ryan Mauro, a conservative blogger and the producer of a documentary about the planned community center.

The film, “Sacrificed Survivors: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Mega-Mosque,” focuses on opposition by some families of 9/11 victims.

Pamela Geller, another conservative blogger who organized many of the public demonstrations against the center last summer, said she planned to marshal protests when the City Council meets next month to review Wal-Mart’s proposal to open a store in Manhattan. “Christine Quinn is against Wal-Mart, but she’s in favor of the megamosque. Typical liberal elitist thinking,” she said, referring to the City Council speaker.

Ms. Geller also predicted that the imam’s speaking tour would serve the opposition. “The opposition has never gone away, and will never go away,” she said.

At the height of the controversy over the summer and fall, Mr. Adbul Rauf was on a scheduled speaking tour in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The tour was sponsored by the State Department’s cultural exchange bureau, known as the Department of Public Diplomacy.

He considered canceling that trip in order to confront the opposition and rally support at home to his cause — a job that fell for the most part to his wife and partner in interfaith work, Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement.

“But in that environment, I realized that no matter what I did or said, I would be accused of something,” he said. And as it turned out, he added, the reaction of Middle Eastern Muslims to the controversy over Park51 was encouraging to him.

The idea that in the United States there could be a discussion, even an angry one, about building a mosque that some considered to be too close to ground zero — “that was an amazingly positive thing to people I met in the Middle East,” he said.

“The idea that the Jewish mayor of New York would be our most outspoken defender,” he continued, referring to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, “well, I think that really touched people. It was very positive ‘optics’ for the international Muslim audience, as they say in the State Department.”

If Mr. Abdul Rauf ever entertained thoughts of moving the planned center to a less contentious site — as he has admitted in interviews — Mr. Bloomberg’s support for Park51 has since made that unthinkable.

And to do so now would be “a betrayal of this great opportunity,” he added, referring to the discourse about relations between Muslims in the United States and their fellow Americans, which he plans to take on the road from mid-January until the early spring.

 

NYT: Intolerance and the Law in Oklahoma

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on November 29, 2010 by loonwatch

Intolerance and the Law in Oklahoma

(Editorial)

For a few days this month, it was illegal in Oklahoma for a state judge to base a court decision on Islamic religious law or consider any form of international law. It was a manufactured problem; the issue has never come up in the state’s courts. But more than 70 percent of voters in Oklahoma still approved a state constitutional amendment to that effect, apparently persuaded by anti-Islamic activists, and a few cynical politicians, that Oklahoma was about to be brought under Islam’s heel.

After Muslim groups challenged the constitutionality of the “Save Our State Amendment,” a federal district judge issued a temporary restraining order. Last Monday, the judge, Vicki Miles-LaGrange, held a hearing to determine whether to issue a preliminary injunction against the measure, and said she would make a decision by the end of November. A federal injunction is warranted to save Oklahoma from its pernicious folly and to prevent other states from following the same path.

Islam-bashing for political gain was a chilling feature of this year’s campaign. The proposed Islamic center and mosque in downtown Manhattan was publicly announced last year, but no one paid much attention until activists began loudly denouncing it in the middle of the midterm election campaign. Right-wing groups then made commercials attacking several Democratic candidates for respecting the First Amendment and saying they had no problems with the project.

Islamic law, known as Shariah, is no threat to our legal system and is not in force anywhere in the United States except within a religious community, in the same manner as Jewish Halakhic law or Catholic canon law.

Nonetheless, supporters of the amendment raised absurd fears that it could entangle the American courts at any minute. Rex Duncan, a Republican state representative and the author of the ballot measure, told The Los Angeles Times that Oklahoma does not yet have that problem. “But why wait until it’s in the courts?” he asked. He has also said that Muslims want to take away American liberties and freedom.

It is fear-mongering, of course, and all too successful. As James McKinley Jr. recentlyreported in The Times, the issue helped drive the high Republican turnout at the polls in Oklahoma.

That, combined with the national Republican wave, helped give the party veto-proof control of the Legislature and a Republican governor for the first time. Now Republicans in several other states are talking about similar measures. Muslim leaders in Oklahoma say they are getting more hate mail.

It’s bad enough that in its hatred the state amendment singles out a religion’s law for condemnation, in violation of the nation’s Constitution. Or that it forbids a longstanding practice of mentioning the laws of other nations in a legal ruling. It is not even clear what the implications might be if the courts allowed this measure.

Would private contracts or wills drawn up under religious law, a common practice, be unenforceable, or only those drawn up by Muslims? Could a judge refer to the Bible in a ruling, but not the Koran? How about the Book of Mormon or the teachings of Confucius?

The voters of Oklahoma were badly misled by demagogues into passing a profoundly un-American measure. Now it is up to the federal courts to prevent the hatred from spreading further.

 

NY Times Exposes Geller, Mentions LoonWatch

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on October 10, 2010 by loonwatch
The more Geller gets attention, the more her looniness is exposed

The New York Times ran a feature on anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller. The Times feature also mentioned LoonWatch! While it’s noteworthy for our site to be mentioned by the New York Times, we won’t let it get to our collective head. There’s too much work in exposing right-wing nuts like Geller to allow for that.

Outraged, and Outrageous (New York Times) h/t Rob

PAMELA GELLER’S apartment, in the fashion of the blogosphere, doubles as her office. It is a modern full-floor unit in a high-rise on the East Side of Manhattan that could belong to a socialite or the editor of a lifestyle magazine. There is ample light and a tasteful lack of clutter. The kitchen appliances are made of brushed steel; the countertops are slate. In the earth-toned living room hangs a painting, in vibrant colors, of a woman in a swimsuit.

It is in this genteel setting that Ms. Geller, 52 and a single mother of four, wakes each morning shortly after 7, switches on her laptop and wages a form of holy war throughAtlas Shrugs, a Web site that attacks Islam with a rhetoric venomous enough that PayPal at one point branded it a hate site. Working here — often in fuzzy slippers — she has called for the removal of the Dome of the Rock from atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem; posted doctored pictures of Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court justice, in a Nazi helmet; suggested the State Department was run by “Islamic supremacists”; and referred to health care reform as an act of national rape.

Ms. Geller has been writing since 2005, but this summer she skyrocketed to national prominence as the firebrand in chief opposing Park51, the planned Muslim community center she denounces as “the ground zero mega-mosque.”

Operating largely outside traditional Washington power centers — and, for better or worse, without traditional academic, public-policy or journalism credentials — Ms. Geller, with a coterie of allies, has helped set the tone and shape the narrative for a divisive national debate over Park51 (she calls the developer a “thug” and a “lowlife”). In the process, she has helped bring into the mainstream a concept that after 9/11 percolated mainly on the fringes of American politics: that terrorism by Muslims springs not from perversions of Islam but from the religion itself. Her writings, rallies and television appearances have both offended and inspired, transforming Ms. Geller from an Internet obscurity, who once videotaped herself in a bikini as she denounced “Islamofascism,” into a media commodity who has been profiled on “60 Minutes” and whose phraseology has been adopted by Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin.

FOR Ms. Geller, the battle against Park51 is only part of a much larger crusade in which she is joined by an influential if decentralized coalition that includes formergeneralsnew-mediapolemicistsresearchers and evangelicals who view Islam as a politically driven religion, barbaric at its core and expansionist by nature. Her closest partner is Robert Spencer, the proprietor of Jihadwatch.orgIncorporation papers for their American Freedom Defense Initiative list as founding members Anders Gravers, a Danish “anti-Islamization” activist (“Jihad is the knife slicing the salami of freedom”) and John Joseph Jay (“There are no innocents in Islam”). Their lawyer, David Yerushalmi, has sought to criminalize the practice of Islamwhen defined as adherence to Shariah, Islamic religious law.

This loose-knit cadre’s vision of Islam in an age of terror is not unlike a cold war view of Communism: a stealthy global threat creeping into nodes of power that must be opposed at all cost. “In the war between the savage and the civilized man,” Ms. Geller says, “you side with the civilized man.”

It remains unclear how much Ms. Geller is driving opposition to the Islamic center and how much she reflects it — polls suggest most Americans oppose the project — but her involvement can hardly be ignored. Atlas Shrugs, which gets about one million unique visitors a month, helped draw thousands to protests against Park51 on June 6 and Sept. 11. Ms. Geller, supported by a divorce settlement and blog advertisements, also played an important role in winning the resignation in 2007 of Debbie Almontaser, a Muslim principal who started an Arabic-language public school in Brooklyn; brought 200 people to Ohio last year to support Rifqa Bary, a Muslim girl who accused her parents of abuse; and helped draw vociferous objectors to a hearing this summer on a since-scrapped proposal for a mosque on Staten Island.

In conversation, Ms. Geller habitually refers to herself as a “racist-Islamophobic-anti-Muslim-bigot” — all one word in her pronunciation — which hints at her sense of humor and her evident frustration at her public persona. She wields a similarly broad brush against opponents, using terms like “diabolical” and “stealth jihadist” even for people like the journalist Christiane Amanpour and the Republican operative Grover Norquist.

The outrageous and the solemn are deeply intertwined in her character. Ms. Geller admits to using Atlas Shrugs to test topics significant (the conflict in Sudan) and outlandish (that a young Barack Obama slept with “a crack whore”). She has taken up arms against “honor killings” as well as against a Disneyland employee who fought to wear a head scarf. She inspires laughs at sites like Loonwatch, but critics say her influence is serious: a spreading fear of Islam and a dehumanization of Muslims comparable to the sometimes-violent anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism of earlier eras. Even some of her former right-wing allies say she has gone too far.

“I think she’s enabling a real bigotry — a lot of people are convinced by the propaganda she repeats like a mantra,” said Charles Johnson, who runs the blog Little Green Footballs, where Ms. Geller got her start as a frequent commenter. “Nine-eleven didn’t happen in a vacuum — it came from a long history. But when people like Pam Geller are the loudest voices out there talking about it, it drowns out everything else and makes everyone look crazy.”

Like many writers, Ms. Geller is fond of what she calls her “little darlings” — rhetorical flourishes, such as accusing the imam behind Park51 of “totalitarian Khomeinism.”Asked during an interview on Sept. 28 whether these extreme constructions undermine her credibility, Ms. Geller spontaneously erupted into song. “I gotta be me,” she sang, sounding not too bad, though not at all like someone who has opined extensively about the Mufti of Jerusalem and the Iranian revolution. “I gotta be free.

“I’m serious,” she added, returning to her Long Island-accented voice. “I haven’t thought about that song in a million years. But it’s really true.”

THE day last December when The New York Times first reported plans to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, Atlas Shrugs immediately objected. “I don’t know which is more grotesque,” Ms. Geller wrote, “jihad or the NY Times preening of it.”

She dropped the topic until May 5, when the project — including a mosque, sports facilities and cultural programs to promote understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims — won unanimous approval from a committee of Community Board 1.

The next day, Atlas bristled with outrage. It was a “monster mosque.” It was “sort of like a victory lap” — analogous to Muslims’ reconsecrating the iconic Hagia Sophia cathedral as a mosque after conquering Constantinople in 1453. “Insulting and humiliating.” “A stab in the eye of America.”

“This is Islamic domination and expansionism,” Ms. Geller declared. The only Muslim center appropriate near ground zero, she said, would be devoted to “expunging the Koran” of “incitement to violence.” (Though, she added, such a center “probably wouldn’t last two minutes without being bombed by devout Muslims.”)

Two days later, Ms. Geller invited readers to protest the “9/11 monster mosque being built on hallowed ground zero,” in a post that was among the first to spread the misimpressions that the project was at the World Trade Center site and would solely house a prayer space. The next week, The New York Post took up the cause (“Mosque Madness at Ground Zero”). Fox News booked Ms. Geller on Mike Huckabee’s television programSean Hannity hosted her on the radio.

The community board received hundreds of letters and calls from across the country; Ms. Geller had posted its contact information. She advertised its May 25 hearing, which was packed and marked by heckling (“You’re building on a Christian cemetery!”).

Next, the organization she and Mr. Spencer took over in April, Stop Islamization of America, held a rally on the anniversary of D-Day, which Ms. Geller marks as the moment Park51 became a national sensation. A post about it by El Marco, a conservative blogger, “went viral,” she said, a rare instance of a big debate’s bursting on the scene without “the mainstream media telling people what to think.”

Ms. Geller, though, had some suggestions. She and other bloggers quoted selectively from the imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, stressing his description of United States policy as partly responsible for 9/11. They branded him a “radical Islamist.” They declared that his talks against extremism and violence were “taqiyya” — the hiding of true beliefs, religiously sanctioned for Muslims, usually minority Shiites, under hostile rule. And Ms. Geller said, without evidence, that the center’s financing might be tied to terrorists.

Her assertions became common talking points for Republican leaders and other opponents. Soon, Rick A. Lazio, running for governor of New York, was calling the imam a “terrorist sympathizer.” Rush Limbaugh was describing Park51 as a “victory mosque.” Mr. Gingrich was talking about fighting “stealth jihad,” a favorite Geller phrase and the title of a book by Mr. Spencer.

Over the summer, Ms. Geller, irresistibly appealing to television bookers, appeared on programs across the political spectrum as the face of opposition to the Muslim center. Her claims were disputed often enough that the liberal media-tracking group Media Matters called on stations(ineffectually) to stop presenting her as an expert.

Opposition to Park51 grew — and with it, antipathy for Islam. A New York Times poll last month found that two-thirds of city residents thought the project should be relocated. A Quinnipiac University poll of likely New York State voters showed that 90 percent of Republicans — compared to 34 percent of Democrats — thought that a mosque near ground zero was wrong. And the portion of Americans with a favorable view of Islam reached its lowest ebb since 9/11 — 37 percent, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Ms. Geller said in the interview that it was “insulting to the American people” to suggest that she and her allies inspired the anger over the project. But if many people have a general unease over the idea of a mosque downtown, Ms. Geller has provided a vocabulary to express it and a framework to understand it: worries about Islam.

“I have an interesting play on words sometimes,” she said. “If people like it, I think that’s great.”

Mr. Spencer says Ms. Geller’s “genius” is translating his sometimes-obscure concepts into vernacular, plus a “charm and appeal” that motivates people to take action. Rich Davis, a founding member of their group, likened her to the lead singer who made the Who’s challenging music popular.

“I think of her like Roger Daltry,” said Mr. Davis, a Navy veteran from Pennsylvania. “He had a good look, a strong personality, and that’s how I think of her. She’s the front man for so many of us who feel the same way.”

PAMELA GELLER was born in 1958, the third of four girls. She grew up in Hewlett Harbor, one of Long Island’s Five Towns, an affluent, heavily Jewish enclave that spawned notables like the fashion designer Donna Karan. Her father, Reuben, owned a textile mill in Brooklyn and often worked 16 hours a day; he died in 1996. “I was closer to my dad than anyone,” Ms. Geller has written. “There was no one like him. He came up the hard way and made a success of his life the hard way.”

Her mother, Lillian, who died in 2006, was often in the kitchen when Pamela and her sisters — two became doctors, one a teacher — returned from school for lunch. Pamela was the most adventuresome and the most enthralled by New York, said Jessica Geller, the eldest. “She was the girl who couldn’t wait to drive,” Jessica added. “She loved everything about the city, the buzz, the excitement, the vibrancy.”

Theirs was, Jessica Geller said, an “unremarkable” postwar suburban household — mom, dad, school, work, cars, boys. The sisters went to Hebrew school, but attended synagogue mainly on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. (“It was more of a fashion show in many respects,” Jessica Geller recalled.)

Israel, which now forms a crucial piece of Pamela Geller’s politics, was not frequently discussed. Both parents were Democrats, but, in Jessica Geller’s view, “the liberal moms and dads of the ’60s and ’70s would be considered right-wing nuts by today’s standards.”

Pamela Geller said her early years were imbued with a sense of American power and rectitude, so pervasive that it need not be articulated. Many of her current concerns — political correctness, media cowardice, changing national identity, eroding individual rights — can be connected to those times.

“Growing up as the sort of tail end of the baby boomers, there was this feeling of invincibility in America,” she said. “We were free. The good guys won. The good cop is on the beat. I certainly don’t get a sense of that anymore.” (Jessica Geller put it this way: “What my sister really wants is for everything to get back to normal in America.”)

Pamela went to Lynbrook High School and Hofstra University, but left without a degree. She worked on the business side of The New York Daily News through the 1980s, then became the associate publisher at The New York Observer.

Colleagues at The Observer remembered her as brassy and vulgar — not an easy fit with the salmon-colored broadsheet’s effete ethos. Ms. Geller recalled pushing the publisher to endorse Rudolph W. Giuliani in his first mayoral bid, and being satisfied when the paper issued no endorsement. Married in 1990 to Michael H. Oshry, a wealthy car dealer from the Five Towns who was himself the son of a wealthy car dealer from the Five Towns, she quit in 1994 to stay home with her daughters.

Ms. Geller got nearly $4 million when the couple divorced in 2007, and when Mr. Oshry died in 2008, there was a $5 million life-insurance policy benefiting her four daughters, said Alex Potruch, Mr. Oshry’s lawyer. She also kept some proceeds from the sale of Mr. Oshry’s $1.8 million house in Hewlett Harbor.

“Pamela wanted to live in the city,” Mr. Potruch said. “He made certain that she had sufficient support to buy a co-op in the city and survive there without having to work.

“He supported her blogging,” the lawyer added, “even though he didn’t always agree with what she was saying.”

IT was 9/11 that drove Ms. Geller to her keyboard. She had barely heard of Osama bin Laden, she said, and “felt guilty that I didn’t know who had attacked my country.”

She spent the next year educating herself about Islam, reading Bat Ye’or, a French writer who focuses on tensions over Muslim immigrants in Europe; Ibn Warraq, the pseudonym for a Pakistani who writes about his rejection of Islam; and Daniel Pipes, whom she ultimately rejected because he believes in the existence of a moderate Islam.

Ms. Geller commented prolifically on Web sites focused on Islamic militancy, like Little Green Footballs. “She was always one of the first ones to start going way out there,” said Mr. Johnson. (Ms. Geller, in turn, dismissed him as “a reviled figure” who had abandoned his principles.) A fellow commenter called Pookleblinky urged Ms. Geller to start her own blog. She named it in homage to Ayn Rand’s championing of individual rights — Ms. Geller, unlike some of her allies, favors abortion rights — and, perhaps, to conjure the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Readership grew steadily, and spiked whenever she took on hot-button issues. In early 2006, when Muslims rioted over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad printed in a Danish newspaper, Atlas — unlike much of the news media — posted the cartoons, and hits leaped from scores to tens of thousands.

During the Lebanon-Israel war later that year, Ms. Geller video-blogged from an Israeli beach, flicking water at the camera, arching her bikini-bared back provocatively and equating Palestinianswith Hamas.

In 2007, she wrote often about Ms. Almontaser, the teacher who founded the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn — Ms. Geller called Arabic-language instruction a front for Islamist indoctrination. She joined Stop the Madrassa, an organization formed to fight the school, which later thanked her for speeding Ms. Almontaser’s ouster. It was this victory, critics say, that emboldened Ms. Geller’s circle and set it on a path to national influence.

“New York is the cosmopolitan city of the world,” Ms. Almontaser said last week. “They figured that if they could do it here, they could do it anywhere. And sadly, they did.”

The next turning point for Ms. Geller, a few months later, was a “counter-jihad” conference in Brussels. It threw her — and Mr. Spencer of Jihad Watch — together with anti-Islamic Europeans whom even some allies considered too extreme, like Filip Dewinter of Vlaams Belang, an offshoot of a Belgian party banned that was for racism and was allegedly founded by Nazi sympathizers.

Mr. Johnson of Little Green Footballs, a former comrade, attacked Ms. Geller and Mr. Spencer — whose interest in Islam began with family lore about a Greek great-grandfather killed by Turks — for meeting with “neo-Nazis.” They insisted they were not responsible for the views of everyone who stands in a room with them (though they have lobbed similar guilt-by-association accusations at Muslims, including the people behind Park51).

Ms. Geller went on to champion as patriotic the English Defense League, which opposes the building of mosques in Britain and whose members have been photographed wearing swastikas. (In the interview, Ms. Geller said the swastika-wearers must have been “infiltrators” trying to discredit the group.) And she formed a lasting partnership with Mr. Spencer.

It is partly philosophical: They and the anti-Islam movement in Europe share a fear of Muslim takeover. And it is partly practical: He helps her raise money and source some assertions; she helps him spread his ideas and, he said, “get results.”

THEIR first collaboration was informal. In 2008, Mr. Spencer posted Ms. Geller’s appeal to raise $4,000 for a headstone for Aqsa Parvez, a Muslim-Canadian immigrant killed by her father and brother for not wearing a head scarf. More recently, Mr. Spencer worked with Ms. Geller on her book “The Post-American Presidency,” published this summer by Simon & Schuster for what she described as a six-figure advance. He helped her sober up her tone, she said, by removing those “little darlings,” in hopes of bolstering the credibility of her argument that Mr. Obama is “not only presiding over but actively promoting the decline of America.”

The pair populated the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference with anti-Islam sympathizers by renting a room in the same hotel and hosting a talk by Geert Wilders, the Dutch anti-Islam activist who has tried to ban the Koran in his country. At this year’s conference, they hosted Mr. Gravers, head of Stop Islamization of Europe, whose motto is “Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense.” Mr. Gravers then asked Ms. Geller and Mr. Spencer to take over his group’s American affiliate, and turn it from a staid Web site into a political force.

They delivered. In April, they founded a nonprofit group called American Freedom Defense Initiative, which also uses the name Stop Islamization of America. They took out bus ads offering to help Muslims who wanted to leave the religion but were afraid of violent reprisals — and won in court when cities tried to suppress the ads. They brought crowds to support Rifqa Bary in Ohio and urged people to oppose the mosque on Staten Island.

Then Park51 emerged.

Mr. Spencer and Ms. Geller said they would rather have galvanized the nation with accounts of Muslim girls killed by male relatives over violations of family “honor.” But, Mr. Spencer said, to many Americans the plight of a Muslim immigrant girl is too abstract. “Most people are only concerned with their families and friends and their immediate circle,” he said. “There is a visceral connection that Americans have with 9/11 that is not felt about other issues.”

It is difficult to determine who finances their movement, since their new organization has yet to win tax-free status requiring documentation of donations. Mr. Spencer estimated that since 2009, the two have raised and spent about $150,000 for things like the bus ads and giant television screens for the 9/11 rally, some of it donated through Mr. Spencer’s Jihad Watch, a 501(c)3 nonprofit agency. In recent years, Jihad Watch has been a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which pays him a $132,000 salary and, as Politico.com has reported, has received significant contributions from philanthropists who back the Israeli right.

Asked how much her blog collects in reader donations and advertisements (one promotes a creationist Web site), Ms. Geller said only that it was enough to live on.

She is barreling ahead. Just last week, Atlas called on readers to boycott Campbell’s soup after the company announced that it planned to certify some products as halal — the Muslim equivalent of kosher — with the supervision of a group that Ms. Geller considers a front for terrorists.

“Warhol,” she wrote, “is spinning in his grave.”

 

Taking Bin Laden’s Side

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2010 by loonwatch

An excellent article by Nicholas Kristof on the issue of the Park51 Islamic cultural center and mosque. He portrays accurately how those fighting this are feeding into the ideology of Bin Laden and company.

Taking Bin Laden’s Side

Is there any doubt about Osama bin Laden’s position on the not-at-ground-zero mosque?

 

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

Osama abhors the vision of interfaith harmony that the proposed Islamic center represents. He fears Muslim clerics who can cite the Koran to denounce terrorism.

It’s striking that many American Republicans share with Al Qaeda the view that the West and the Islamic world are caught inevitably in a “clash of civilizations.” Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric who recruits jihadis from his lair in Yemen, tells the world’s English-speaking Muslims that America is at war against Islam. You can bet that Mr. Awlaki will use the opposition to the community center and mosque to try to recruit more terrorists.

In short, the proposed community center is not just an issue on which Sarah Palin and Osama bin Laden agree. It is also one in which opponents of the center are playing into the hands of Al Qaeda.

These opponents seem to be afflicted by two fundamental misconceptions.

The first is that a huge mosque would rise on hallowed land at ground zero. In fact, the building would be something like a YMCA, and two blocks away and apparently out of view from ground zero. This is a dense neighborhood packed with shops, bars, liquor stores — not to mention the New York Dolls Gentlemen’s Club and the Pussycat Lounge (which says that it arranges lap dances in a private room, presumably to celebrate the sanctity of the neighborhood).

Why do so many Republicans find strip clubs appropriate for the ground zero neighborhood but object to a house of worship? Are lap dances more sanctified than an earnest effort to promote peace?

And this is an earnest effort. I know Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan — the figures behind the Islamic community center — and they are the real thing. Because I have written often about Arab atrocities in Darfur and about the abuse of women in Islamic countries, some Muslim leaders are wary of me. But Imam Feisal and Ms. Khan are open-minded and have been strong advocates for women within Islam.

The second misconception underlying this debate is that Islam is an inherently war-like religion that drives believers to terrorism. Sure, the Islamic world is disproportionately turbulent, and mullahs sometimes cite the Koran to incite murder. But don’t forget that the worst brutality in the Middle East has often been committed by more secular rulers, like Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad. And the mastermind of the 1970 Palestinian airline hijackings, George Habash, was a Christian.

Remember also that historically, some of the most shocking brutality in the region was justified by the Bible, not the Koran. Crusaders massacred so many men, women and children in parts of Jerusalem that a Christian chronicler, Fulcher of Chartres, described an area ankle-deep in blood. While burning Jews alive, the crusaders sang, “Christ, We Adore Thee.”

My hunch is that the violence in the Islamic world has less to do with the Koran or Islam than with culture, youth bulges in the population, and the marginalization of women. In Pakistan, I know a young woman whose brothers want to kill her for honor — but her family is Christian, not Muslim.

Precisely because Palestinian violence has roots outside of Islam, Israel originally supported the rise of Hamas in Gaza. Israeli officials thought that if Gazans became more religious, they would spend their time praying rather than firing guns.

President George W. Bush was statesmanlike after 9/11 in reaching out to Muslims and speaking of Islam as a religion of peace. Now many Republicans have abandoned that posture and are cynically turning the Islamic center into a nationwide issue in hopes of votes. It is mind-boggling that so many Republicans are prepared to bolster the Al Qaeda narrative, and undermine the brave forces within Islam pushing for moderation.

Some Republicans say that it is not a matter of religious tolerance but of sensitivity to the feelings of relatives to those killed at ground zero. Hmm. They’re just like the Saudi officials who ban churches, and even confiscate Bibles, out of sensitivity to local feelings.

On my last trip to Saudi Arabia, I brought in a Bible to see what would happen (alas, the customs officer searched only my laptop bag). Memo to Ms. Palin: Should we learn from the Saudis and protect ground zero by banning the Koran from Lower Manhattan?

For much of American history, demagogues have manipulated irrational fears toward people of minority religious beliefs, particularly Catholics and Jews. Many Americans once honestly thought that Catholics could not be true Americans because they bore supreme loyalty to the Vatican.

Today’s crusaders against the Islamic community center are promoting a similar paranoid intolerance, and one day we will be ashamed of it.

 

Breaking News: Dalai Lama converts to Islam

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on May 26, 2010 by loonwatch

Tenzin Gyatso. Who!? The Dalai Lama. Oh ok!

Many Faiths, One Truth

WHEN I was a boy in Tibet, I felt that my own Buddhist religion must be the best — and that other faiths were somehow inferior. Now I see how naïve I was, and how dangerous the extremes of religious intolerance can be today.

Though intolerance may be as old as religion itself, we still see vigorous signs of its virulence. In Europe, there are intense debates about newcomers wearing veils or wanting to erect minarets and episodes of violence against Muslim immigrants. Radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those who hold to religious beliefs. In the Middle East, the flames of war are fanned by hatred of those who adhere to a different faith.

Such tensions are likely to increase as the world becomes more interconnected and cultures, peoples and religions become ever more entwined. The pressure this creates tests more than our tolerance — it demands that we promote peaceful coexistence and understanding across boundaries.

Granted, every religion has a sense of exclusivity as part of its core identity. Even so, I believe there is genuine potential for mutual understanding. While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions.

An early eye-opener for me was my meeting with the Trappist monk Thomas Merton in India shortly before his untimely death in 1968. Merton told me he could be perfectly faithful to Christianity, yet learn in depth from other religions like Buddhism. The same is true for me as an ardent Buddhist learning from the world’s other great religions.

A main point in my discussion with Merton was how central compassion was to the message of both Christianity and Buddhism. In my readings of the New Testament, I find myself inspired by Jesus’ acts of compassion. His miracle of the loaves and fishes, his healing and his teaching are all motivated by the desire to relieve suffering.

I’m a firm believer in the power of personal contact to bridge differences, so I’ve long been drawn to dialogues with people of other religious outlooks. The focus on compassion that Merton and I observed in our two religions strikes me as a strong unifying thread among all the major faiths. And these days we need to highlight what unifies us.

Take Judaism, for instance. I first visited a synagogue in Cochin, India, in 1965, and have met with many rabbis over the years. I remember vividly the rabbi in the Netherlands who told me about the Holocaust with such intensity that we were both in tears. And I’ve learned how the Talmud and the Bible repeat the theme of compassion, as in the passage in Leviticus that admonishes, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In my many encounters with Hindu scholars in India, I’ve come to see the centrality of selfless compassion in Hinduism too — as expressed, for instance, in the Bhagavad Gita, which praises those who “delight in the welfare of all beings.” I’m moved by the ways this value has been expressed in the life of great beings like Mahatma Gandhi, or the lesser-known Baba Amte, who founded a leper colony not far from a Tibetan settlement in Maharashtra State in India. There he fed and sheltered lepers who were otherwise shunned. When I received my Nobel Peace Prize, I made a donation to his colony.

Compassion is equally important in Islam — and recognizing that has become crucial in the years since Sept. 11, especially in answering those who paint Islam as a militant faith. On the first anniversary of 9/11, I spoke at the National Cathedral in Washington, pleading that we not blindly follow the lead of some in the news media and let the violent acts of a few individuals define an entire religion.

Let me tell you about the Islam I know. Tibet has had an Islamic community for around 400 years, although my richest contacts with Islam have been in India, which has the world’s second-largest Muslim population. An imam in Ladakh once told me that a true Muslim should love and respect all of Allah’s creatures. And in my understanding, Islam enshrines compassion as a core spiritual principle, reflected in the very name of God, the “Compassionate and Merciful,” that appears at the beginning of virtually each chapter of the Koran.

Finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever. As a species, we must embrace the oneness of humanity as we face global issues like pandemics, economic crises and ecological disaster. At that scale, our response must be as one.

Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world. From this perspective, mutual understanding among these traditions is not merely the business of religious believers — it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the author, most recently, of “Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together.”

 

Glenn Greenwald on the South Park Controversy

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on April 26, 2010 by loonwatch
Glenn Greenwald, the first nomination for induction in the Anti-Loon Hall of FameGlenn Greenwald, the first nominee for induction into the Anti-Loon Hall of Fame

LoonWatch has decided to publish an annual list of the year’s top ten Anti-Loon Warriors.  We are accepting nominations starting now and will announce the winners soon.  Today, I nominate the first potential recipient of this very prestigious award (second only to the Nobel Peace Prize), none other than prolific blogger Glenn Greenwald.  When it comes to Muslims and Islam, he gets it.  Glenn possesses an unfailing commitment to the principles of this country, and always speaks the truth.  For that, we here at LW salute you, Glenn!  Hats, hijabs, and yarmulkes off to you!

Glenn’s nomination for induction into the Anti-Loon Hall of Fame was sealed with his recent article on the South Park controversy.  In it, he shatters the myth that censorship is a Muslim only problem, citing other instances of religious groups seeking to censor the offensive and/or blasphemous, sometimes with the threat of violence and murder.  He laughs at the claim that Muslims are given “special treatment” (unless by this you mean extra screening at airports), or that Islam is free from criticism (it’s quite the opposite).  Glenn then exposes the hypocrisy of some of those who have taken up this South Park issue as the poster child of freedom of speech, underscoring their selective and unprincipled outrage.  Such unsavory folks don’t care about the principles of freedom and tolerance, and are instead using the incident to promote intolerance and demonization of a minority group.

The New York Times’ Muslim problem

by: Glenn Greenwald

Ross Douthat, The New York Times, today:

In a way, the muzzling of “South Park” is no more disquieting than any other example of Western institutions’ cowering before the threat of Islamist violence. . . . But there’s still a sense in which the “South Park” case is particularly illuminating. . . . [I]t’s a reminder that Islam is just about the only place where we draw any lines at all. . . .Our culture has few taboos that can’t be violated, and our establishment has largely given up on setting standards in the first place.  Except where Islam is concerned.

The New York Times, March 28, 2010:

A Texas university class production of “Corpus Christi,” by Terrence McNally, below, has been canceled by college officials citing “safety and security concerns for the students” as well as the need to maintain an orderly academic environment, The Austin Chronicle reported. “Corpus Christi,” Mr. McNally’s 1998 play depicting a gay Jesus figure, was scheduled to be performed on Saturday as part of a directing class at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Tex. But early on Friday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst condemned the performance, saying in a press release that “no one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the vast majority of Americans.” Although Tarleton’s president, F. Dominic Dottavio, first defended the students’ right to perform a play he considered “offensive, crude and irreverent,” university officials changed course late Friday night, canceling the performance after receiving threatening calls and e-mail messages, according to The Star-Telegram.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 8, 2010 (h/t Queerty):

A Fort Worth theater that had agreed to show a student-directed play with a gay Jesus character has withdrawn its offer.  The board of directors of Artes de la Rosa, which runs The Rose Marine Theater on North Main Street, decided Thursday against offering the venue for the production of Corpus Christi, just one day after saying it would. A March performance set for a directing class at Tarleton State University in Stephenville was abruptly canceled after the school received threatening emails.

It looks like Ross Douthat picked the wrong month to try to pretend that threat-induced censorship is a uniquely Islamic practice.  Corpus Christi is the same play that was scheduled and then canceled (and then re-scheduled) by the Manhattan Theater Club back in 1998 as a result ofanonymous telephone threats to burn down the theater, kill the staff, and ‘exterminate’ McNally.”  Both back then and now, leading the protests (though not the threats) was the Catholic League, denouncing the play as “blasphemous hate speech.”

I abhor the threats of violence coming from fanatical Muslims over the expression of ideas they find offensive, as well as the cowardly institutions which acquiesce to the accompanying demands for censorship.  I’ve vigorously condemned efforts to haul anti-Muslim polemicists before Canadian and European “human rights” (i.e., censorship) tribunals.  But the very idea that such conduct is remotely unique to Muslims is delusional, the by-product of Douthat’s ongoing use of his New York Timescolumn for his anti-Muslim crusade and sectarian religious promotion.

The various forms of religious-based, intimidation-driven censorship and taboo ideas in the U.S. — what Douthat claims are non-existent except when it involves Muslims — are too numerous to chronicle.  One has to be deeply ignorant, deeply dishonest or consumed with petulant self-victimization and anti-Muslim bigotry to pretend they don’t exist.  I opt (primarily) for the latter explanation in Douthat’s case.

As Balloon-Juice’s DougJ notes, everyone from Phil Donahue and Ashliegh Banfield to Bill Maherand Sinead O’Connor can tell you about that first-hand.  As can the cable television news reporters who were banned by their corporate executives from running stories that reflected negatively on Bush and the war.  When he was Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani was fixated on using the power of his office to censor art that offended his Catholic sensibilities.  The Bush administration banned mainstream Muslim scholars even from entering the U.S. to teach.  The Dixie Chicks were deluged with death threats for daring to criticize the Leader, forcing them to apologize out of fear for their lives.  Campaigns to deny tenure to academicians, or appointments to politicial officials, who deviate from Israel orthodoxy are common and effective.  Responding to religious outrage, a Congressional investigation was formally launched and huge fines issued all because Janet Jackson’s breast was displayed for a couple of seconds on television.

All that’s to say nothing of the endless examples of religious-motivated violence by Christian andJewish extremists designed to intimidate and suppress ideas offensive to their religious dogma (I’m also pretty sure the people doing this and this are not Muslim).  And, contrary to Douthat’s misleading suggestion, hate speech laws have been used for censorious purposes far beyond punishing speech offensive to Muslims — including, for instance, by Christian groups invoking such laws to demand the banning of plays they dislike.

It’s nice that The New York Times hired a columnist devoted to defending his Church and promoting his religious sectarian conflicts without any response from the target of his bitter tribalistic encyclicals.  Can one even conceive of having a Muslim NYT columnist who routinely disparages and rails against Christians and Jews this way?  To ask the question is to answer it, and by itself gives the lie to Douthat’s typically right-wing need to portray his own majoritarian group as the profoundly oppressed victim at the hands of the small, marginalized, persecuted group which actually has no power (it’s so unfair how Muslims always get their way in the U.S.).  But whatever else is true, there ought to be a minimum standard of factual accuracy required for these columns.  The notion that censorship is exercised only on behalf of Muslims falls far short of that standard.

UPDATE:   A few points based on the discussion in the comment section:

(1) Several people are insisting that the problem of violence and threats by Muslims is far greater than, and thus not comparable to, those posed by Christians and Jews.  This is just the same form of triabalistic, my-side-is-always-better blindness afflicting Douthat.  Who could possibly look at the U.S. and conclude that brutal, inhumane, politically-motivated, designed-to-intimidate violence is a particular problem among Muslims, or that Muslims receive special, unfairly favorable treatment as a result of their intimidation?  Do you mean except for the tens of thousands of Muslims whom the U.S. has imprisoned without charges for years, and the hundreds of thousands our wars and invasions and bombings have killed this decade alone, and the ones from around the world subjected to racial and ethnic profiling, and the ones we’ve tortured and shot up at checkpoints and are targeting for state-sponsored assassination?

(2) There’s no question that violence or threatened violence by Islamic radicals against authors, cartoonists and the like is a serious problem.  But (a) simply click on the links above — or talk to workers in abortion clinics about the climate in which they work — and try to justify how you can, with a straight face, claim it’s not very pervasive among extremists and fanatics generally, and (b) avoid exaggerating the problem.  The group that threatened the South Park creators is a tiny, fringe group founded by a former right-wing Jewish-American settler in the West Bank who converted to Islam and spends most of his time harrassing American Muslims (the former “James Cohen”; h/t Archtype); they’re about as representative of Muslims generally as Fred Phelps and these people are representative of Christians.  Moreover, numerous blogs displayed the Mohammed cartoons andplan to do so again; the notion that the Western World is cowering in abject fear from Muslim intimidation is absurdly overblown.

(3) Sarah Palin recently defended the Rev. Franklin Graham’s statement that Islam is “a very evil and wicked religion.”  That barely caused a ripple of controversy.  Imagine if a leading political figure had said anything remotely similar about Christianity or Judaism.  The claim that Muslims receive some sort of special protection or sensitivity is the opposite of reality.

(4) Ross Douthat previously cited with approval Jonah Goldberg’s explicit advocacy of right-wing censorship (h/t sysprog).  When Douthat starts speaking out against censorship of ideas he hates, rather than when it comes from the religions he dislikes, he’ll have credibility as what he pretends today to be:  a crusader for free expression.  Until then, it’s clear that he’s interested in little else other than wrapping himself in the banner of free expression as a means of advancing his sectarian conflicts.

 

John L. Esposito: Tom Friedman Gets it Wrong Again

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2009 by loonwatch

john-esposito

Professor John L. Esposito, a renowned expert on Islam and Muslim societies has come out with an excellent piece on Huffington Post, rebutting a horrendously inaccurate article from long time New York Times opinion columnist Thomas Friedman that has gotten a lot of circulation in the media.

John L. Esposito: Tom Friedman on Muslims and Terrorism: Getting it Wrong Again

Thomas Friedman, in his Dec. 15 column “www.jihad.com” repeats and reinforces the same tired, totally incorrect, but commonly-made generalization preached in his July 9, 2005 column, “If it’s a Muslim Problem, It Needs a Muslim Solution,” that “no major Muslim cleric or religious body has ever issued a fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden.” In his most recent column, Friedman continues to assert, despite readily available information to the contrary, that ” a “violent, jihadist minority seems to enjoy the most ‘legitimacy’ in the Muslim world today” and that “Few political and religious leaders dare to speak out against them in public”…..”How many fatwas — religious edicts — have been issued by the leading bodies of Islam against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda?” Friedman asks and then answers his own question with “Very few.”

The real truth is that Muslim religious leaders have indeed spoken out strongly and often to condemn terrorism and violence, but mainstream media like the NY Times and columnists like Friedman have chosen to ignore them. For example, Muslim scholars’ and organizations’ condemnations (including fatwas) of the 9/11 attacks, given from Saudi Arabia to Malaysia to the US, can be seen here. Asreported by the BBC, already on September 14, 2001, statements condemning terrorism in general and Bin Laden in particular were made by a significant, influential and diverse group of religious leaders, ranging from Shaykh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, the Grand Shaykh of al-Azhar University in Cairo (viewed by many as one of the highest authorities in Sunni Islam) to Ayatollah Kashani in Iran. In addition, the North America Fiqh Council joined with other internationally prominent Islamic scholars in issuing a formal fatwa on 27 September 2001 condemning bin Laden’s actions of 9/11 and also sanctioning Muslim participation in the United States’ military response in Afghanistan. For a more comprehensive list of statements made by individual leaders and organizations pre and post- 9/11, attacks in Europe and elsewhere, click here.

It is inconceivable that a knowledgeable reporter could be so unaware of major polls on Muslim attitudes towards religious extremism and terrorism and the many statements made by important Islamic leaders and organizations around the world denouncing acts of terrorism. Given Friedman’s knowledge of the area and best selling book on the Middle East, we are dismayed by what can only be willful ignorance. The Gallup World Poll and the recent PEW Center poll of American Muslims provide hard evidence that refutes Friedman’s views of the Muslim majority. Gallup data from 35 Muslim countries from North Africa to Southeast Asia, (see Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think) found that Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustified. The PEW study American Muslim attitudes concluded:

“Recent events such as the Fort Hood shootings and the arrest of five Muslim American students in Pakistan have raised questions about the threat of homegrown terrorism in the United States. However, the Pew Research Center’s comprehensive portrait of the Muslim American population suggests it is less likely to be a fertile breeding ground for terrorism than Muslim minority communities in other countries. Violent jihad is discordant with the values, outlook and attitudes of the vast majority of Muslim Americans, most of whom reject extremism.”

Friedman says “a corrosive mind-set” has developed that “says that Arabs and Muslims are only objects, never responsible for anything in their world, and we are the only subjects, responsible for everything that happens in their world.” If he is so concerned about encouraging Arab and Muslim responsibility and building more resistance against the terrorists, then a positive response from him and the New York Times would be to promulgate and support rather than ignore or deny statements from Muslim leaders and the mainstream majority of Muslims who are speaking out against terrorism in the name of Islam. For Friedman and the Times not to recognize this is more than simply irresponsible journalism; it borders on a polemical advocacy that alienates our most valuable partners, mainstream Muslims, and US-Muslim world relations. This post was co-written by John L. Esposito and John O. Voll, both from the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

 

A Case Study in Sincere Hypocrisy: Brigitte Gabriel

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2009 by loonwatch
Brigitte Gabriel

Brigitte Gabriel

Brigitte Gabriel is a notorious apologist for the fascist Phalange group, Kataeb, and the terrorist group, the South Lebanon Army (SLA), who were responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacres that slaughtered 1700 to 2000 Palestinians (mostly women and chidren).

Her story is that she grew up during that nation’s long, and bloody civil war.  It was a war that claimed many lives and saw many factions shift alliances and allegiance. Groups that were enemies in the morning became allies at night. Indeed, Muslims fought Muslims and Christians fought Christians.

She seems to play up this milieu to justify her views, as if we should – moved by her “alibi” – automatically excuse and accept them. But her alibi is objectionable since most Lebanese who grew up during this same war did not turn out as rabidly racist as she did.

Gabriel believes Arabs “have no soul!”

The difference, my friends, between Israel and the Arab world is the difference between civilization and barbarism. It’s the difference between good and evil [applause]…. this is what we’re witnessing in the Arabic world, They have no SOUL !, they are dead set on killing and destruction. And in the name of something they call “Allah” which is very different from the God we believe….[applause] because our God is the God of love.

(No soul? An oddly dehumanizing thing for an alleged Christian to say, don’t you think?)

It is no wonder then that theThe New York Times Magazine describes her as a “Radical Islamophobe.”

Brigitte’s self-contradiction is notable. At times she seems to acknowledge that “moderate” Muslims exist,

It’s the duty of all moderate Muslims to speak against the hate, against the Jihad… the people in the West must support the moderates.

The same Brigitte Gabriel on another day scoffs at the notion that a Muslim can be moderate,

America and the West are doomed to failure in this war unless they stand up and identify the real enemy: Islam. You hear about Wahabbi and Salafi Islam as the only extreme form of Islam. All the other Muslims, supposedly, are wonderful moderates. Closer to the truth are the pictures of the irrational eruption of violence in reaction to the cartoons of Mohammed printed by a Danish newspaper…derived from one source: authentic Islam.

And she spills out to the Australian News her bizarre definition of a radical Muslim:

a practising Muslim who goes to mosque every Friday, prays five times a day, and who believes that the Koran is the word of God, and who believes that Mohammed is the perfect man and (four inaudible words) is a radical Muslim.

Let me get this straight, so a Muslim who essentially observes the basic five pillars of Islam is a radical? That leaves us with 1.4 billion radical Muslims, so who gets to be the “moderate” Muslim, I’m confused.

So Brigitte, what is it? Are there any moderates or not? Brigitte seems to be telling us that the only acceptable Muslims are the ones who don’t practice Islam altogether? Or perhaps, she’s even implying that the only good Muslim is an ex-Muslim? 

The question becomes, how can someone so blatantly clueless get airtime anywhere other than on America’s Funniest Home Videos?

The answer, Brigitte has found her very own litte niche to settle within the lucrative business of Muslim-bashing. Her forte is to parlay her “otherness,” and so-called “insider knowledge of the Muslim world,” (the “I’ve been there, I know” line) into a cash cow. Meanwhile we are supposed to be duped into freaking out and running back to her for more “expert” advice brought to us from our loyal friend who ventures into the other side on our behalf.

Gabriel started two organizations, American Congress for Truth (ACT) and (she seems to be running out of ideas)  Act! for America  that receive plenty of funding and “donations” from the likes of the goonish Christians United for Israel and others. Maybe she thinks Americans are gullible or maybe she is a true hypocrite as Andre Gide said,

The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.

This very well may be the case with our merchant of intolerance and misunderstanding, Brigitte Gabriel.