Archive for patriotism

Are evangelicals a national security threat?

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2011 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon)

A new poll suggests that American Christians (unlike Muslims) are likely to put their faith before their country

By David Sirota

If you have the stomach to listen to enough right-wing talk radio, or troll enough right-wing websites, you inevitably come upon fear-mongering about the Unassimilated Muslim. Essentially, this caricature suggests that Muslims in America are more loyal to their religion than to the United States, that such allegedly traitorous loyalties prove that Muslims refuse to assimilate into our nation and that Muslims are therefore a national security threat.

Earlier this year, a Gallup poll illustrated just how apocryphal this story really is. It found that Muslim Americans are one of the most — if not the single most — loyal religious group to the United States. Now, comes the flip side from the Pew Research Center’s stunning findings about other religious groups in America (emphasis mine):

American Christians are more likely than their Western European counterparts to think of themselves first in terms of their religion rather than their nationality; 46 percent of Christians in the U.S. see themselves primarily as Christians and the same number consider themselves Americans first. In contrast, majorities of Christians in France (90 percent), Germany (70 percent), Britain (63 percent) and Spain (53 percent) identify primarily with their nationality rather than their religion. Among Christians in the U.S., white evangelicals are especially inclined to identify first with their faith; 70 percent in this group see themselves first as Christians rather than as Americans, while 22 percent say they are primarily American.

If, as Islamophobes argue, refusing to assimilate is defined as expressing loyalty to a religion before loyalty to country, then this data suggests it is evangelical Christians who are very resistant to assimilation. And yet, few would cite these findings to argue that Christians pose a serious threat to America’s national security. Why the double standard?

Because Christianity is seen as the dominant culture in America — indeed, Christianity and America are often portrayed as being nearly synonymous, meaning expressing loyalty to the former is seen as the equivalent to expressing loyalty to the latter. In this view, there is no such thing as separation between the Christian church and the American state — and every other culture and religion is expected to assimilate to Christianity. To do otherwise is to be accused of waging a “War on Christmas” — or worse, to be accused of being disloyal to America and therefore a national security threat.

Of course, a genuinely pluralistic America is one where — regardless of the religion in question — we see no conflict between loyalties to a religion and loyalties to country. In this ideal America, those who identify as Muslims first are no more or less “un-American” than Christians who do the same (personally, this is the way I see things).

But if our politics and culture are going to continue to make extrapolative judgments about citizens’ patriotic loyalties based on their religious affiliations, then such judgments should at least be universal — and not so obviously selective or brazenly xenophobic.

Robert Spencer Hates the U.S. Constitution

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by loonwatch
Robert Spencer hates the U.S. Constitution

Robert Spencer, director of the hate site Jihad Watch, has been steamed by the arguments of certain individuals and groups who have protested against the killing of Anwar Awlaki, such as the ACLU, Rep. Ron Paul, and writer Glenn Greenwald.

He says the following:

Perhaps the ACLU, CAIR, Greenwald and Paul would have been satisfied if we had airlifted an elite corps of defense attorneys into Yemen, along with a couple of cops to read al-Awlaki his Miranda rights and give him a chance to lawyer up.  Along with them, CNN could have sent all the equipment necessary to set up a satellite feed, so that al-Awlaki could have been given an international platform to spread his message of anti-Americanism, hatred and Islamic jihad.

Then everyone would have been satisfied that the rights of this stalwart American citizen had been respected, and al-Awlaki himself could have had time to ensure that his efforts to murder innocent Americans in the name of Islam would go on unimpeded if he were convicted and imprisoned for a long stretch.

What all these statements fail to take into account is that we are at war, and that this war is different from all wars that have gone before it.  Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen, yes.  He was also a traitor.  He was waging war against his native country.  He was an enemy combatant.  If an American citizen had gone to Germany and joined the Wehrmacht in 1942, and was killed in battle against American forces, would anyone have been raising “constitutional issues” over the killing?

Al-Awlaki was on the battlefield of this war when he was sitting at his computer exchanging e-mails with the Fort Hood jihad mass murderer, Nidal Hasan​ , or working out the details of the plot to blow up American cargo planes last year.  Thus American forces were perfectly justified, legally and morally, to take him out in such a setting, without sending him a lawyer or reading him his rights or spending a few million dollars to give him a global forum to air his views.

As the nature of warfare has changed, so must also our response to it.  Al-Awlaki was not a cat burglar assassinated by rogue cops.  His killing is not a violation of anyone’s civil rights.  That this question has even been raised is indicative of just how thick the fog of ignorance still remains about the nature of the conflict we’re in, who it is exactly that we’re fighting, and what precisely we should do about it.

The short answers:  This is an Islamic jihad.  Al-Awlaki was a jihadist, dedicated to killing Americans.  He got what was coming to him.

Well then, it’s very simple, you see. President Obama, or anyone in government, can say so-and-so is a terrorist and voila! That person should be deemed an existential threat to the United States and be killed without any due process of law.

First, Spencer says that Awlaki was a traitor. He may very well have been a traitor, but we have constitutional provisions that handle this issue in Article III, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution. But if it were up to Spencer then the President or someone else in government could simply declare someone a traitor and have that person’s life taken away.

I find this logic by Spencer very illustrating not because of how mainstream this type of warped thinking is in the U.S. amongst the political punditry, but because of the hypocrisy he shows when it’s a Muslim country that does the same thing.

Recently Iran declared one of its citizens, Yusef Nadarkhani, an apostate and, as Spencer’s hate site reports it, has now dropped that charge and replaced it with a charge of treason. The same charge Spencer throws at Awlaki. Iran declares one of its citizens to be a traitor without any evidence and Spencer is there to protest against this. But the United States declares one its citizens to be a terrorist without a shred of proof offered and Spencer is smiling at the prospect at the death of the accused.

Don’t expect Spencer to catch the contradiction there.

Second, Spencer said that Awlaki was waging war. How does he know that? Because the U.S. government says so.

But didn’t the Iranian government say that Yusef Nadarkhani was a traitor? Why not believe them, too? I’m sure they have secret evidence as well.

In all seriousness, the situation with Nadarkhani should make Spencer pause and think about the implications of what he is saying about Awlaki and how it can affect civil rights in America. Instead of lusting for blood, if Spencer cared at all about civil rights he would be concerned about the abuse or potential abuse that Obama’s decision to kill Awlaki could have in the future.

But evidence doesn’t matter to Spencer – except when it’s an evil Muslim country that is attempting to punish its citizens without due process. Spencer just eats up whatever proof the U.S. government gives him – even when that proof is admittedly weak.

The Obama administration has not made public an accounting of the classified evidence that Awlaki was operationally involved in planning terrorist attacks.

But officials acknowledged that some of the intelligence purporting to show Awlaki’s hands-on role in plotting attacks was patchy.

And:

Officials said at the time the United States had voice intercepts involving a phone known to have been used by Awlaki and someone who they believed, but were not positive, was Abdulmutallab.

The proof the U.S. is offering is not even of the “full proof” variety. It’s “patchy” and they’re admittedly not even “positive” it was Awlaki who was allegedly giving instructions to another person to commit a terrorist operation.

But for Spencer, and other fake patriots like him, whatever accusations the government hurls at someone are holy, while any attempts to examine the accusations of the government are met by hostile resistance from such fake patriots. Spencer and the fake patriots care little about the Constitution, but are more concerned with killing people who haven’t been proven guilty of any crime.

Look at Spencer jumping out of his seat to show this “proof” to his readers that Awlaki was a criminal:

Spencer says:

Here is more evidence that al-Awlaki was an enemy combatant — a commander in a new kind of war.

And then Spencer offers this damning evidence:

The Homeland Security/FBI bulletin, obtained by Fox News, specifically says Awlaki, an influential new-generation figure in Al Qeada, showed the suspected Christmas Day bomber how to detonate the bomb he is accused of hiding in his underwear….

See! Homeland Security said that Awlaki taught the underwear bomber how to detonate the bomb he hid in his underwear! Never mind that this “evidence” offered by Homeland Security and Spencer is simply an accusation. Also never mind that the accused underwear bomber himself, who is not even a U.S. citizen, is getting his day in court, while Awlaki – who was a U.S. citizen and had no opportunity to defend himself against the accusations made against him – had a missile fired at him from a drone that ultimately killed him.

This is how constitutional freedoms die. They die at the hands of fools who wrap themselves in the flag, while they simultaneously smash the essence of the country they claim to be fighting for because they are cowards.

My Take: New portrait of Muslim America shows community on edge

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on June 11, 2010 by loonwatch
Frankie Martin

(cross-posted from CNN)

Editor’s Note: Frankie Martin is Ibn Khaldun Chair Research Fellow at American University’s School of International Service and is a contributor to the new book Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam.

By Frankie Martin, Special to CNN

As I got off the plane in St. Louis in September 2008, I didn’t realize I was beginning a journey that would change my life.

On that day, I–along with several researchers working with Professor Akbar Ahmed, American University’s Chair of Islamic Studies–began a grueling project aimed at studying America’s Muslim population and its relationship to American identity. Now, nearly two years, 75 cities and 100 mosques later, Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam, will be published by the Brookings Institution Press this month.

In addition to providing unprecedented insight into America’s Muslim community, it also led me to look at my own country, the United States, in a different way.

I had taken Professor Ahmed’s class on improving relations between Islam and the West as an underclassman shortly after the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and had traveled across the Muslim world with him for the book Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization, listening to Muslim voices in countries including Jordan, Pakistan, and India.

On that trip, during which Muslims in eight countries cited “American negative perceptions of Islam” as the greatest threat to the Muslim world, I was ready for anything and eager to learn. After all, I had spent the second half of my life living and traveling widely around the world, from Kenya to China, and studying foreign lands in my international relations courses.

America was a different matter. This, I thought, was a country that I knew. Yet although I lived in the Baltimore suburbs until I was a teenager and went to college in Washington, DC, like many Americans I was familiar with only a few states, and had never experienced entire regions like the South.

Assisting a world-renowned anthropologist on a De Tocqueville-esque quest would change this. Like that earlier foreign traveler, Professor Ahmed saw his endeavor as a tribute to a nation that had welcomed him so warmly in crafting a study which would examine both the strengths of America and the parts that could be strengthened.

Within a few hours on our first day—which took us to Somali refugees in a St. Louis housing project—I realized I was experiencing something unique. Though I’m a Christian, I was seeing the country through Muslim eyes, including those of my professor.

But this was only part of the story. In order to see how Muslims were fitting into America—and what it meant to fit in—we would need to talk to Americans from all backgrounds and religions. Assisting us would be data from the roughly two thousand surveys we distributed in the field as well as countless conversations on our travels.

Over the next long months, we saw the ravages of inner city Detroit and the mansions of Palm Beach, Florida; the serene, impoverished Hopi Indian reservation in Arizona and a Silicon Valley “hackers conference” with scientists talking of settlements on the Moon and Mars. We spoke at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, spent an afternoon with Mennonites in Texas, were welcomed by the Mormon leadership in Salt Lake City, and visited coal miners in the West Virginia wilderness.

The diversity of people and beliefs was striking and inspiring. And, for the first time, I saw the fall colors in New England, the Grand Canyon, and a Hawaiian sunset.

We found the Muslim community to be hospitable and patriotic, as they often said that America was the best place to be a Muslim because of religious freedom. But the community is on edge, divided and facing a leadership crisis—contributing to the “homegrown terrorist” phenomenon—and reeling from post-9/11 hatred and prejudice.

I was shocked to see the challenges American Muslims are facing, from kids beaten up and called terrorists at school to people incarcerated without charge and subjected to inhuman treatment and mosques being firebombed. A Muslim community that feels accepted as true Americans and is encouraged to enter the mainstream will be the best defense against homegrown terrorism.

Witnessing the challenges facing the Muslim community led me to ask a question I never had before: what does it mean to be American? Although we met Americans who had a different idea of the country (one official at a Church of Christ chapter in Austin named “pluralism” as the greatest threat to America and the Founding Fathers as the source of this threat) for me, the team, and my professor, being American means embracing the ideals of the Founding Fathers, which include pluralism, rule of law, and civil liberties.

Today, feelings against Islam are running high, with a prominent radio host recently expressing his hope that the proposed New York mosque near Ground Zero would be blown up. Every week seems to bring a new controversy, from the high emotions of the mosque debate to last month’s discussion about the current Miss USA, a Lebanese immigrant, who was slammed as a Hezbollah agent because her surname was said to be shared by people linked to the organization.

In this environment, I was inspired during countless hours of research into American history to see how clear the Founding Fathers were on the subject of Islam in America. Thomas Jefferson learned Arabic using his Quran and hosted the first presidential iftaar during Ramadan, John Adams named Prophet Muhammad as one of the world’s “sober inquirers after truth” alongside Socrates and Confucius, and Benjamin Franklin, who cited the Prophet as a model of compassion, wrote of his hope that the head cleric of Istanbul would preach Islam to Americans from a Philadelphia pulpit, so passionate was his belief in religious freedom.

Today, America faces a crisis of identity. One focal point at the core of the debate is Islam, which some Americans see as a monolithic threat seeking the takeover of the country. They are fearful and suspicious of the Muslims in their midst. For many of these citizens, being a good American—and, for some, a good Christian—means opposing and fighting Islam.

My journey has led me to conclude the opposite. Being a good American means welcoming Muslims as the Founding Fathers did and following their guidelines on matters of law and security as laid out in the Constitution. As for Christianity, the attitude of the Founding Fathers was shaped by Christian thinkers like John Locke, who declared that the true Christian’s duty was to “practice charity, meekness, and good-will in general towards all mankind, even to those that are not Christians.”

Giving us hope for the future was data from our surveys, which showed that over ninety percent of Americans would vote for a Muslim for public office, and the similarly high percentage of people who are open to Muslims living in and being a part of this nation.

Some, however, inserted “if” clauses, indicating they believed Muslims could be American only if they followed narrowly defined rules, such as ceasing to identify as “Muslim” in favor of an exclusive “American” identity. The Founding Fathers set no such qualifications for “Americanness.”

Discovering America over the past few years has made me appreciate the inclusive vision of the Founding Fathers. Having traveled abroad, I know that their ideals also inspire people around the world, especially in Muslim countries. I can now say I am American with an awareness and pride I never had before.

With all of the challenges facing the country, perhaps the most important thing we can do as Americans is to consider who we really are. For me, being American means assuming and implementing the Founding Fathers’ vision of tolerance and religious freedom. The rediscovery of that vision has reaffirmed my belief in the promise of America.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frankie Martin.