Archive for Terrorism

ThinkProgress: The American Enterprise Institute’s Islamophobia Problem

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2012 by loonwatch

Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton recently wrote a 2 part report on the Islamophobic views held by some of the “prominent” think tankers at the neo-Conservative American Enterprise Institute.

One such think tanker is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In the first part of the report below Gharib discusses Ali’s recent speech in which she sympathizes with terrorist Anders Behring Breivik and shifts blame for his massacre onto the “advocates of silence,” i.e. liberals. Gharib also tip us for flagging the speech.

(Make sure to check out the second part of this report as well here.)

Conservative Think Tank Scholar Promotes Claim That Norway Terrorist Attacked Because He Was Censored

by Ali Gharib (ThinkProgress)

In a speech earlier this month, a scholar at an influential think tank and flagship of contemporary Washington conservatism, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), gave voice to one of the justifications for Norwegian anti-Muslim terrorist Anders Breivik‘s attacks, explaining that Breivik said “he had no other choice but to use violence” because his fringe views were “censored.” While accepting a prize this month from the German multimedia company Axel Springer, Somali-born Dutch AEI scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke on the “advocates of silence” — those she admonishes for purportedly stifling criticisms of radical Islamic extremism.

In the speech, flagged by the website Loonwatch, Hirsi Ali noted that she herself appeared in Breivik’s 1,500-word manifesto (Breivik reprinted a European right-wing article saying Hirsi Ali should win the Nobel Peace Prize). While she denounced Breivik’s views as an “abhorrant” form of “neo-fascism,” she then postulated that Breivik was driven to violence because his militant anti-multicultural views were not given a fair airing in the public discourse.

After speaking about how the “advocates of silence” repress discussion about radical Islamism, Hirsi Ali said:

Fourthly and finally, that one man who killed 77 people in Norway, because he fears that Europe will be overrun by Islam, may have cited the work of those who speak and write against political Islam in Europe and America – myself among them – but he does not say in his 1500 page manifesto that it was these people who inspired him to kill. He says very clearly that it was the advocates of silence. Because all outlets to express his views were censored, he says, he had no other choice but to use violence.

Watch a clip of the speech:

Hirsi Ali’s exclamation that the “advocates of silence” stifle discourse so effectively that Breivik was driven last July to kill 77 people — 69 slaughtered at a summer youth camp — is contradicted even by her own speech. In closing, Hirsi Ali said, “The good news is that recently the leaders of established conservative parties in Europe have broken the pact of silence,” citing comments against multiculturalism by the leaders of Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, Hirsi Ali has herself been a Dutch parliamentarian, a frequent contributor to mainstream U.S. and international publications, and author of a New York Times best-selling autobiography. Dutch anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders enjoys considerable success in Hirsi Ali’s own Netherlands. Views against multiculturalism don’t get censored, though some of the most bigoted ideologies are often driven to the margins in free societies.

Neither AEI nor Ayaan Hirsi Ali replied to requests for comments about her talk. But a public affairs official at AEI wrote to ThinkProgress, “AEI does not take institutional positions on policy issues. When our scholars speak, they speak for themselves.”

In her speech, Hirsi Ali said that “to speak out against radical Islamism is to be condemned as an Islamophobe.” But as detailed in the Center For American Progress’s report on Islamophobia, “Fear, Inc.,” the Islamophobe label applies not to those who rail against “radical Islam,” but rather against Islam as a whole. Not surprisingly, Hirsi Ali is herself in this latter category — yet another indication that Islamophobic views are not censored. In a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine, Hirsi Ali called for Islam to be “defeated.” The interviewer asked: “Don’t you mean defeatingradical Islam?” Hirsi Ali replied bluntly: “No. Islam, period. Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace.”

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz: ‘We Are Not at War With Islam’

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by loonwatch

Wildredo Amr Ruiz

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz

Is the oft-repeated phrase by both presidents George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama, “We are not at war with Islam” just hollow political-speak?

Wilfredo A Ruiz discusses:

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz: ‘We Are Not at War With Islam’

Former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have persistently affirmed: “We are not at war with Islam,” trying to assure 1.7 billion Muslims that the military actions of the so-called “war against terrorism” do not constitute belligerence against Islam or Muslims. This incessant message of denial is hard to swallow by many sectors of our society, and the world at large, since the United States has engaged in multiple wars of occupation in Muslim countries including Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, it conducts routine military incursions and bombardment campaigns on Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and other Muslim countries.
Furthermore, thousands of Muslim citizens around the world are subjected to arrest without formal accusations or due process of law. Incarcerations and even torture takes place at a network of international secret prisons and “black hole” locations operated or accessed by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.Unfortunately, in the American political arena there is also the perception that the government security and intelligence agencies and military apparatus are at war with Islam and Muslims.
They substantiate this notion with continuous discriminatory and prejudiced policies affecting American Muslims and their institutions. Let us take, for example, the harsh experience New York Muslims are undergoing with the NYPD. They are subject to widespread and ongoing espionage policies from their own police department, which include the opening of dossiers based on ethnic and religious profiling.
This openly unconstitutional practice is not based on suspiciousness of them committing crimes or being engaged in an ongoing criminal enterprise. Rather, the information recorded documents the restaurants they frequent, the books they check out, and even the times and places where they conduct their daily prayers.Evidently, the constant Islamophobic discourses have resonated to the military branches, resulting in the offering of multiple training courses with discriminatory, bigoted and offensive materials.
Some of these academic materials recently discovered are taught at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., in which mainstream Muslim persons and organizations are characterized as radical, violent extremists. The course even calls for treating the Muslim civilian population the way the Japanese were dealt with at Hiroshima, with nuclear attacks on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and wiping out civilians.
It promotes a total war on Islam affirming that there is no such thing as moderate Islam. The military training course participants are encouraged to think of themselves as a “resistance movement to Islam.” Other various training courses with xenophobic and bigoted content offered to the FBI have also been exposed. These are not isolated and unique classes, but multiple trainings held at numerous venues to hundreds of military officers and intelligence agents that are responsible for the safety and security of our nation.
Notwithstanding the military and FBI’s promises to review their courses and purge the training curriculums of Islamophobic materials, we need ask ourselves: How many other courses (most of them classified as “Secret”) have been offered and, perhaps, are still being offered in these highly secured and secret agencies without public exposure?
The sad reality is that our nation has institutionalized vigilance based on stereotypical ethnic and religious profiling. Let us just examine for a moment the recent incident at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, where an 18-month-old toddler, a daughter of American parents of Middle Eastern descent, was ordered off a plane by Jet Blue Airline’s officials who claimed she was on the TSA’s “no fly” list: a list obviously fed with the names of people selected based on ethnic and religious profiling. The toddler case is not the only one of its kind, as another 500 American citizens are also in these puzzling and sinister lists in the absence of due process. The lists are not only ineffective, but openly unconstitutional because individuals are included without notification or being told why they are on the list and without the chance to rebut the basis of their inclusion.

What will our political leaders do to try to erase the idea that the Nation is engaged in a war against Islam and Muslims? The major challenge they confront in this task is that the more time elapses, the more discrimination, oppression, persecution and injustices cements against American Muslims and their institutions.

President Obama still has the option and opportunity to rise to the occasion and confront this most delicate situation at the level it merits. He might, perhaps, start cleaning and straightening the Executive Branch from head to toe. The president should take steps that truly guarantee the elimination of racial and religious profiling exercised by law enforcement agencies and should swiftly end all the futile wars on Muslim countries once and for all. Perhaps, he should follow the Executive Order he signed back on Jan. 22, 2009, mandating the “Closure of Detention Facilities at Guantanamo” and the “Immediate Review of All Guantanamo Detentions.” Only such decisive actions will sustain the hollowed presidential words: “We are not at war with Islam.”

 Follow Wilfredo Amr Ruiz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnalistaInter

Walid Shoebat Still Fleecing Crowds with Snake Oil and Islam Equals the Anti-Christ Talk

Posted in Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2012 by loonwatch

Walid_Shoebat

Walid Shoebat

Walid Shoebat is still clowning around the USA, getting paid for his fake “ex-Terrorist” story:

Convert talks on prophecy, Antichrist

by Iris Pierce (Amarillo News)

Biblical prophecies reveal the Antichrist is going be a Muslim from the Middle East, Christ will ride on the clouds into Egypt, Turkey will invade Israel and the United States will be victorious in the fight against the Antichrist, Walid Shoebat told a crowd of about 120 Friday.

The self-described former terrorist and Islam-to-
Christianity convert spoke in Lubbock at a special insight rally hosted by Insight USA.

Insight USA, according to its president and CEO Faye Hardin, is dedicated to praying for and working against what she believes is the collusion of environmentalists and some U.S. government officials to take Americans’ land in the name of environmentalism.

Hardin invited Shoebat, she said, “because Walid Shoebat teaches (and) confirms with the Scriptures that God is going to judge the Middle East, and America is going to be saved. Our oil is going to gush. Our gas is going to gush. He is going to remove people who have the control, and we’ll be the largest oil and gas producers in the world — based on what the Bible says.”

Questionable points

“(Shoebat) was misleading people about Islam and Muslims and putting fear in people’s hearts,” said Samer Altabaa, imam of the Islamic Center of the South Plains.

Altabaa attended the 1.5-hour morning session of Shoebat’s Friday talk — Altabaa had to leave midday for prayers —
and took issue with a number of Shoebat’s statements about Islam and Christianity.

“I would say that this guy looks like he came from extreme Islam to extreme Christianity,” Altabaa said. “It looks like he loves extremism.”

Shoebat said he was born of a Christian American mother and a Muslim Palestinian father, raised in Bethlehem and was born with and retains U.S. citizenship.

His claims about his terroristic past have been called into question by several news organizations, including CNN, regarding his claims about his time spent in an Israeli jail, his participation in the bombing of an Israeli bank and his active involvement in terrorism.

Read the rest…

Reuters Figures it Out: Yemenis “Deeply Resentful” of Drone Attacks which “Often” Kill Civilians

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2012 by loonwatch

Why_do_they_hate_us_Muslims

It’s not rocket science, if you are going to employ tactics in which you kill 10s or 100s of more civilians for each terrorist then you are not going to be liked.

Reuters seems to have figured this out:

But many say U.S. drone attacks, which have often killed civilians and are deeply resented by Yemenis, may do more harm than good, potentially discrediting Hadi as a lackey of Washington and turning the wider population against him.

Now if we could only get the policy-makers and military strategists to realize this.

US Government Targets Yonas Fikre in Poorly Disguised Attempt at Retaliation

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2012 by loonwatch

Yonas Fikre accused the FBI of involvement in his torture in the UAE after he refused to become an informant for the FBI.

US Charges Yonas Fikre, American Who Claimed Torture, With Conspiracy

by Nick Baumann (Mother Jones)

Last month, Mother Jones broke the story of Yonas Fikre. An American Muslim now living in Sweden, Fikre claims he was tortured in the United Arab Emirates at the US government’s request after refusing to become an informant for the FBI. On Tuesday, less than three weeks after Fikre’s allegations were made public, the Justice Department charged Fikre, his brother Dawit Woldehawariat, and a third man, Abrehaile Haile, with conspiring to hide $75,000 worth of money transfers to the UAE and Sudan from the government, all in violation of federal reporting requirements for large international financial transactions. Woldehawariat, Fikre’s brother, was also charged with failing to file a tax return in 2009 and 2010.

There are no allegations of terrorism associated with the charges.

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations who has been working with Fikre, told Mother Jones on Wednesday that the federal charges were retaliation for Fikre’s refusal to cooperate with the FBI. “It is disappointing but not surprising that the FBI is retaliating against Yonas by filing specious charges against him after they promised to make his life difficult after he refused to become their informant,” Abbas wrote in an email. “While FBI agents lied to Yonas about many things, in this case, it seems that they have kept their word.”

Thomas Nelson, Fikre’s Portland, Oregon-based lawyer, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Tuesday that he was unaware of the charges against his client. But Abbas said he’s been in touch with Nelson since then and the two are working together to decide what to do next.

Here’s the charging document:

The Obama Team Just Doesn’t Get It: US Violence and Occupation Spark Terrorism

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , on May 4, 2012 by loonwatch

brennan

A bit of a long read, but well worth it (h/t: BA):

The Obama Team Just Doesn’t Get It: US Violence and Occupation Spark Terrorism

(Alternet.org)

John Brennan, President Obama’s chief adviser on counter-terrorism, has again put on public display two unfortunate facts: (1) that the White House has no clue as to how to counter terrorism; and (2) (in Brennan’s words) “the unfortunate fact that to save many innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives.”

In a speech on April 30, Brennan did share one profound insight: “Countries typically don’t want foreign soldiers in their cities and towns.” His answer to that? “The precision of targeted [drone] strikes.” Does he really mean to suggest that local populations are more accepting of unmanned drones buzzing overhead and firing missiles on the push of a button by a “pilot” halfway around the world?

Beneath Brennan’s Orwellian rhetoric lies the reality that he remains unable (or unwilling) to deal with, the $64 question former White House correspondent Helen Thomas asked him repeatedly on Jan. 8, 2010, about why terrorists do the things they do:

Brennan: “Al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

Is it possible he still has no clue? To demonstrate how little progress Brennan has made in the way of understanding the challenge of “terrorism,” let’s look back at my commentary in early 2010 about Brennan’s vacuous non-answers to Helen Thomas. At the time, I wrote:

Thank God for Helen Thomas, the only person to show any courage at the White House press briefing after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

After Obama briefly addressed L’Affaire Abdulmutallab and wrote “must do better” on the report cards of the national security schoolboys responsible for the near catastrophe, the President turned the stage over to counter-terrorism guru John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

It took 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas (now 91) to break through the vapid remarks about rechanneling “intelligence streams,” fixing “no-fly” lists, deploying “behavior detection officers,” and buying more body-imaging scanners.

Thomas recognized the John & Janet filibuster for what it was, as her catatonic press colleagues took their customary dictation and asked their predictable questions. Instead, Thomas posed an adult query that spotlighted the futility of government plans to counter terrorism with more high-tech gizmos and more intrusions on the liberties and privacy of the traveling public.

She asked why Abdulmutallab did what he did. Thomas: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”

Brennan: “Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. … They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”

Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”

Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”

Thomas: “Why?”

Brennan: “I think this is a — long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

Neither did President Obama, nor anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is the boilerplate about how al Qaeda evildoers are perverting a religion and exploiting impressionable young men. There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks.

Obama’s Non-Answer

I had been hoping Obama would say something intelligent about what drove Abdulmutallab to do what he did, but the President uttered a few vacuous comments before sending in the clowns. This is what he said before he walked away from the podium:

“It is clear that al Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations … to do their bidding. … And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death … while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress. … That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.”

But why it is so hard for Muslims to “get” that message? Why can’t they end their preoccupation with dodging U.S. missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Gaza long enough to reflect on how we are only trying to save them from terrorists while simultaneously demonstrating our commitment to “justice and progress”?

Does a smart fellow like Obama expect us to believe that all we need to do is “communicate clearly to Muslims” that it is al Qaeda, not the U.S. and its allies, that brings “misery and death”? Does any informed person not know that the unprovoked U.S.-led invasion of Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced 4.5 million from their homes? How is that for “misery and death”?

Rather than a failure to communicate, U.S. officials are trying to rewrite recent history, which seems to be much easier to accomplish with the Washington press corps and large segments of the American population than with the Muslim world. But why isn’t there a frank discussion by America’s leaders and media about the real motivation of Muslim anger toward the United States? Why was Helen Thomas the only journalist to raise the touchy but central question of motive?

Peeking Behind the Screen

We witnessed a similar phenomenon when the 9/11 Commission Report tiptoed into a cautious discussion of possible motives behind the 9/11 attacks. To their credit, the drafters of that report apparently went as far as their masters would allow, in gingerly introducing a major elephant into the room: “America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world.” (p. 376)

When asked later about the flabby way that last sentence ended, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission, explained that there had been a Donnybrook over whether that paragraph could be included at all.

The drafters also squeezed in the reason given by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as to why he “masterminded” the attacks on 9/11: “By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed … from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”

Would you believe that former Vice President Dick Cheney has also pointed to U.S. support for Israel as one of the “true sources of resentment”? This unique piece of honesty crept into his speech to the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, 2009.

Sure, he also trotted out the bromide that the terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world.” But the Israel factor slipped into the speech, perhaps an inadvertent acknowledgement of the Israeli albatross adorning the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Very few pundits and academicians are willing to allude to this reality, presumably out of fear for their future career prospects.

Former senior CIA officer Paul R. Pillar, now a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the few willing to refer, in his typically understated way, to “all the other things … including policies and practices that affect the likelihood that people … will be radicalized, and will try to act out the anger against us.” One has to fill in the blanks regarding what those “other things” are.

But no worries. Secretary Napolitano has a fix for this unmentionable conundrum. It’s called “counter-radicalization,” which she describes thusly: “How do we identify someone before they become radicalized to the point where they’re ready to blow themselves up with others on a plane? And how do we communicate better American values and so forth … around the globe?”

Better communication. That’s the ticket.

Hypocrisy and Double Talk

But Napolitano doesn’t acknowledge the underlying problem, which is that many Muslims have watched Washington’s behavior closely for many years and view U.S. declarations about peace, justice, democracy and human rights as infuriating examples of hypocrisy and double talk. So, Washington’s sanitized discussion about motives for terrorism seems more intended for the U.S. domestic audience than the Muslim world.

After all, people in the Middle East already know how Palestinians have been mistreated for decades; how Washington has propped up Arab dictatorships; how Muslims have been locked away at Guantanamo without charges; how the U.S. military has killed civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere; how U.S. mercenaries have escaped punishment for slaughtering innocents.

The purpose of U.S. “public diplomacy” appears more designed to shield Americans from this unpleasant reality, offering instead feel-good palliatives about the beneficence of U.S. actions. Most American journalists and politicians go along with the charade out of fear that otherwise they would be accused of lacking patriotism or sympathizing with “the enemy.”

Commentators who are neither naïve nor afraid are simply shut out of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM). Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald, for example, has complained loudly about “how our blind, endless enabling of Israeli actions fuels terrorism directed at the U.S.,” and how it is taboo to point this out.

Greenwald recently called attention to a little-noticed Associated Press report on the possible motives of the 23-year-old Nigerian Abdulmutallab. The report quoted his Yemeni friends to the effect that the he was “not overtly extremist.” But they noted that he was open about his sympathies toward the Palestinians and his anger over Israel’s actions in Gaza. (Emphasis added)

Former CIA specialist on al Qaeda, Michael Scheuer, has been still more outspoken on what he sees as Israel’s tying down the American Gulliver in the Middle East. Speaking Monday on C-SPAN, he complained bitterly that any debate on the issue of American support for Israel and its effects is normally squelched. Scheuer added that the Israel Lobby had just succeeded in getting him removed from his job at the Jamestown Foundation think tank for saying that Obama was “doing what I call the Tel Aviv Two Step.”

More to the point, Scheuer asserted: “For anyone to say that our support for Israel doesn’t hurt us in the Muslim world … is to just defy reality.”

Beyond loss of work, those who speak out can expect ugly accusations. The Israeli media network Arutz Sheva, which is considered the voice of the settler movement, weighed in strongly, citing Scheuer’s C-SPAN remarks and branding them “blatantly anti-Semitic.”

Read the rest here…

What If They Were Muslim?: Pipe Bomb Found At North Belfast Church

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2012 by loonwatch

The uptick in attempted bombings in Northern Ireland is causing concern that there will be a return to heightened sectarian conflict.

Another bomb has been discovered, this time in the grounds of a Presbyterian Church in North Belfast. (H/T: JD)

Can one imagine if Muslims had been behind this? It would be all over international media, and you can bet the anti-Islam haters would lump it in as one more attempted “Islamic terrorist” attack, but they would never call it “Christian terrorism”:

(u.TV News)

A suspect object discovered at a church in north Belfast has been declared a viable device, police have confirmed.

The pipe bomb was found in the grounds of the Ballysillan Presbyterian Church on the Crumlin Road area on Wednesday morning.

Evacuated residents have been allowed to return to their homes and the road has re-opened to traffic.

Chief Inspector Andrew Freeburn, North Belfast Area Commander, said the device was capable of causing injury or death to anyone in the vicinity.

“The people who carried this out have shown a callous disregard for everyone in our community, not least those local residents who have been inconvenienced through being evacuated.

“This incident will be fully investigated with view to bringing criminal charges against those responsible.”

SDLP Oldpark Councillor Nichola Mallon said the object was discovered during the cutting of grass on the grounds of the church.

She continued: “The people of North Belfast have seriously suffered through the years as a result of the brutality of the Troubles. They don’t want or need to live under the renewed threat and fear of disruption and attack as they have been increasingly forced to do in recent days.”

WhatIfTheyWereMuslim?: 5 Anarchists Nabbed in Terrorist Plot to Blow up Ohio Bridge

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

Ohio_Anarchist_Terrorism

The above individuals are charged with conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials. Imagine if they were “brown” or “Muslamic” looking, this would be called a terrorist plot from the get go. (via. WhatIfTheyWereMuslim)

This piece was reported not as a “terrorist” plot but rather simply a “bomb plot”:

By Pete Williams, NBC News justice correspondent
(msnbc.com)

Federal agents have arrested five people who were plotting to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, Ohio, an incident not connected to the anniversary of former al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden’s death, officials say.

Douglas L. Wright, 26, Brandon L. Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35, were arrested by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on April 30 on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce. Also arrested were Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23. Charges are pending against them.

The five were “controlled by an undercover FBI employee,” and agents had them under extensive surveillance for a long period of time. The explosives they allegedly purchased were inoperable.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

“There was never any danger,” one federal official said.

Court documents say the FBI became aware of the men in October. A confidential source told the FBI that they were acting suspiciously at a protest event, wearing masks, talking on radios, and saying they didn’t believe in peaceful protest. They carried flags associated with anarchist groups.

From that point on, the informant was in constant touch with the group members. Their goal, one of them said, was to destroy private property “to send a message to corporations.” Last November, they discussed setting off smoke grenades on Veterans Memorial Bridge in Cleveland as a diversion while they would be knocking bank signs off the tops of tall buildings downtown.

Federal officials say Wright, Baxter and Hayne describe themselves as anarchists who considered a series of evolving plots over several months.

As Stevens and Stafford came into the plot, they started talking about using explosives.

The informant brought in two people he said could help them get explosives. These people were actually FBI undercover agents. The group members agreed to buy tear gas and gas masks. Two weeks later, they said they wanted to buy plastic explosives.

A photo of the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge taken in 1995 as part of the Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record projects for the U.S. National Parks Service.

In late April, they settled on trying to blow up the Route 82 Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge. This bridge crosses from Brecksville, Ohio to Sagamore Hills, Ohio over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

On April 29, they met with the undercover agents and bought what they thought were two homemade bombs for $450. They planned to place them on April 30 but were arrested by the FBI.

The members of this group had a strong desire to commit acts of violence but no idea how to do it. At one point, a member of the group says what they needed was “mainly bleach,” because, he said, that’s what land mines and hand grenades were made with during World War II.

“The complaint in this case alleges that the defendants took specific and defined actions to further a terrorist plot,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven Dettelbach. “The defendants stand charged based not upon any words or beliefs they might espouse, but based upon their own plans and actions.”

In Norway’s Tragedy and a Nation’s Response Lies a Lesson For Us All

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2012 by loonwatch

Anders Behring Breivik’s destructive actions will not define a nation’s response and the lesson’s learned: (h/t: Roger via. Islamophobia Today)

In Norway’s Tragedy and a Nation’s Response Lies a Lesson For Us All

International media has been gripped by the trial of Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. A self-declared ‘Knights Templar Crusader’ who believed he was acting in ‘defense’ of Norway by killing a future generation of aspiring Leftist leaders he accused of abetting the ‘Islamization’ of Europe.

During the initial reporting of the rampage the speculation of who or what could be behind the attack was rife, most media outlets zeroed in on Muslims with many (mis)attributing the attacks to ‘Islam.’

“AlQaeda”… “the Muslims, who else,” many thought and were told. The rush to judgement was swift.

When the culprit was captured, Breivik’s Scandanavian features and anti-Islam manifesto belied the narratives swirling in the media, shell shocking a media-world expecting the arrest of a “disgruntled, unintegrated, bearded ‘brown’ emigre” from a Muslim majority nation.

Breivik’s ideology was formed in the far recesses of the internet, within the chambers of the blogosphere, where anti-Islam rhetoric coupled with conspiracies about the pending decline of the West created a toxic lethal cocktail of xenophobia and violent bigotry.

Ironically, Breivik claimed to be acting in the name of “Christianity,” claiming to be a scion and reviver of the medieval “Knights Templar” order of Crusaders, defending Europe from Islam while preserving its “Christian” culture and identity.

In the swift “rush to judgement” and the resultant revelation that the actual perpetrator of the atrocities in Oslo and Utoya was a man claiming to act in the interests of “Christianity” lies a lesson for us all.

It is well known that Christianity is a religion that promotes peace. The overwhelming majority of Christians in the world are averse to violence against innocents and view murder in the name of “Christ” as both illegitimate and unchristian. Just as we must recognize that the great religion of Christianity cannot be besmirched by the actions of a lone man, we must also ask the opinion-makers to be consistent and declare that Islam should not be essentialized as a “religion of violence” because of the actions of a lunatic fringe.

There is also another lesson that we can take away from the violence in Norway, and it relates to the response of the Norwegian people to the attacks.

Anger, a natural fiery fuel with the potential to engulf was present early on, but its tide ebbed because of the response of a nation. They were resolved, resolute that their disposition was not going to suffer a paradigm shift because of the actions of one man.

Quickly, the Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg who suffered his own personal loss in the attacks said, “we will respond to hate with our values.” A nation mourned, Christians and Muslims held joint services, healing songs were sung, and flowers left by citizens covered the destroyed, mangled concrete at the scene of the attacks.

A need to cover up the ugly…a need to respond to it with beauty. This characterized the essence of the collective Norwegian spirit, not a turn to fear and hate, but a response that said, ‘we will uphold our values.’ A reminder, it seemed to me, of the oft-repeated Quranic maxim, “return evil with good.”

Beauty will face ugliness and transform it, as the famous tradition relates, “God is beautiful and loves beauty.” In the response of the Norwegians to the nightmare of Oslo and Utoya lies a lesson for all of us, do not succumb to fear and hate, instead respond to it with justice, goodness and love of the most beautiful kind.

Jihad By Any Means Necessary?

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2012 by loonwatch

 

The following is a part of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series, which is a refutation of Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).  Specifically, I am herein refuting chapter one of his book, entitled “Muhammad: Prophet of War.”

An anti-Muslim canard that has gained considerable popularity in the post-9/11 world is the idea that Muslims can do anything, no matter how morally questionable, if it furthers the Islamic cause.  According to this idea, jihad can be waged “by any means necessary.”  Robert Spencer argues this in his book, writing:

Islam’s only overarching moral principle is “if it’s good for Islam, it’s right.” [1]

Spencer traces the birth of this Islamic “principle” to the life story of the Prophet Muhammad, specifically the raid at Nakhla.  To properly debunk this conspiracy theory, we must then transport ourselves back in time to this controversial event.

In the year 610 A.D., Muhammad declared his prophethood.  His people, the Quraysh of Mecca, violently rejected him.  The early Muslims suffered heavy-handed persecution, which they endured with patience for well over a decade.  Finally, the God of the Quran permitted them to take up arms in self-defense.  Muhammad and his followers, who had regrouped in the nearby city of Medina, engaged in guerre de course (commerce raiding) against the powerful Quraysh.

I have discussed Muhammad’s guerre de course in quite a lot of detail in a previous article.  This tactic was not only something considered acceptable in the Arabian context of the time, but also has a celebrated history in the American–as well as French and German–naval traditions.  Historically, it has been considered a valid military strategy and a means of waging economic warfare against a more powerful enemy.

The early military operations led by the Muslims were largely unsuccessful–that is, until the raid at Nakhla.  Muhammad had dispatched Abdullah bin Jahsh with secret instructions contained in a letter that were not to be opened until after traveling two days journey.  (This precaution was designed no doubt to thwart potential spies, who may have informed the Quraysh of Muslim “troop” movements, which could explain the earlier failed military expeditions.)

When Abdullah opened Muhammad’s letter, it read:

When you have read this letter of mine proceed until you reach Nakhla between Mecca and Al-Ta’if. Lie in wait there for [the] Quraysh and find out for us what they are doing. [2]

On the way to Nakhla, Abdullah and his fellow riders happened across a poorly armed Qurayshite caravan.  They debated among themselves whether or not to waylay it, for it was the last day of the month of Rajab.  The pre-Islamic culture at the time assigned four months of the year as sacred (of which Rajab was one), in which fighting was proscribed.  In addition to the four sacred months, fighting was forbidden in certain holy sanctuaries (i.e. Al-Bayt Al-Haram, the area around the Kaabah).

Abdullah’s contingent faced a difficult choice:

If [we] leave them alone tonight they will get into the sacred area and will be safe from [us]; and if [we] kill them, [we] will kill them in the sacred month. [3]

They were also not quite sure what day it was.  Was it the last day of the sacred month of Rajab or the first day of of the next month, Jumada (in which fighting was permitted)?  Prof. Reuven Firestone writes of this:

The uncertainty of the day is a natural result of the calendrical system of that period, in which the moon was the primary measurer of time, because the beginning of the month was established only by actual observation of the new crescent moon. [4]

Making matters worse was the fact that, according to the lunar calendar used by the Arabs, days change at sunset, not midnight.  One of the men explained to Muhammad later that

it was becoming evening. We looked at the crescent moon of Rajab, and we did not know whether we [struck during] Rajab or in Jumada. [5]

Initially, Abdullah and his men hesitated, but then decided to attack.  The Muslims shot and killed one of the Quraysh (a man by the name of Amr Ibn Al-Hadrami), captured two of them, and seized the caravan’s goods.  By killing Ibn Al-Hadrami, the Muslims had violated the pre-Islamic Arabian custom forbidding bloodshed during the sacred month.

When Abdullah and his men returned to Medina, Muhammad rebuked them, saying:

I did not order you to fight in the sacred month! [6]

Sir Thomas W. Arnold wrote of this incident:

In so doing, [Abdullah] had not only acted without authority but had violated the sacred truce within Arab custom caused to be observed throughout the month of pilgrimage.  Muhammad received him coldly with the words, “I gave thee no command to fight in the sacred month;” dismissed the prisoners, and from his own purse paid blood-money for a Meccan who had lost his life in the fray. [7]

Other Muslims in Medina also chastised the men.  Meanwhile, the Quraysh exploited the incident to further their war propaganda against the Islamic nation.  They effectively drove a wedge in the community of Medina, with Muslims distancing themselves from other Muslims, and non-Muslims from Muslims.  Muhammad’s leadership itself was called into question.

It was in this crisis that the following Quranic verse was revealed:

They ask you about fighting in the sacred month. Say, ‘Fighting in that month is a great offense, but to bar others from God’s path, to disbelieve in Him, prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its people, are still greater offences in God’s eyes: [their] persecution is worse than the killing [of Amr Ibn Al-Hadrami].’ They will not stop fighting you [believers] until they make you renounce your faith, if they can. If any of you renounce your faith and die as disbelievers, your deeds will come to nothing in this world and the Hereafter, and you will be inhabitants of the Fire, there to remain.  But those who have believed, who were driven out from their homes, and who strive for God’s cause, it is they who can look forward to God’s mercy: God is most forgiving and merciful. (Quran, 2:217-218)

This response from the God of the Quran successfully rallied the Muslims around their leader and their cause.  Muhammad’s treatment of the raid was splendidly balanced, neither making the Muslims look too warlike nor too humiliated: on the one hand, he paid blood money for the Qurayshite man that was killed (blood money was a form of restitution given to a victim’s family) and freed the two Qurayshite prisoners.  On the other hand, he released the two Qurayshite prisoners only in exchange for two Muslim prisoners, and also accepted the confiscated goods as legitimate spoils of war.

*  *  *  *  *

Robert Spencer writes of the Nakhla raid:

In Medina, these new Muslims began raiding the caravans of the Quraysh, with Muhammad personally leading many of these raids.  These raids kept the nascent Muslim movement solvent and helped form Islamic theology–as in one notorious incident when a band of Muslims raided a Quraysh caravan at Nakhla, a settlement not far from Mecca.  The raiders attacked the caravan during the sacred month of Rajab, when fighting was forbidden.  When they returned to the Muslim camp laden with booty, Muhammad refused to share in the loot or to have anything to do with them, saying only, “I did not order you to fight in the sacred month.”

But then a new revelation came from Allah, explaining that the Quraysh’s opposition to Muhammad was a worse transgression than the violation of the sacred month.  In other words, the raid was justified.  ”They question thee, O Muhammad, with regard to warfare in the sacred month.  Say: warfare therein is a great transgression, bu to turn men from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater sin with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing” (Quran 2:214).  Whatever sin the Nakhla raiders had committed was overshadowed by the Quraysh’s rejection of Muhammad.

This was a momentous revelation, for it led to an Islamic principle that has had repercussions throughout the ages.  Good became identified with anything that redounded to the benefit of Muslims, regardless of whether it violated moral or other laws.  The moral absolutes enshrined in the Ten Commandments, and other teachings of the great religions that preceded Islam, were swept aside in favor of an overarching principle of expediency. [8]

In true Spencerian fashion, he misleads the reader using lies of omission and commission.  Spencer does not clearly state that Muhammad had dispatched the “band of Muslims” on a reconnaissance mission, in order to “find out for us what [the Quraysh] are doing.”  This is why the Prophet of Islam later disavowed Abdullah’s actions, for he had “acted without authority.”  Also, no mention is made in Spencer’s book of the difficulty in ascertaining the day and month in which the raid took place.

Spencer’s biggest lie, however, is the following doozie:

Whatever sin the Nakhla raiders had committed was overshadowed by the Quraysh’s rejection of Muhammad.

In fact, it was not merely “the Quraysh’s rejection of Muhammad”, but, in the words of the Quran itself, their persecution [of the Muslims that] is worse than the killing” of Amr Ibn Al-Hadrami.  Here, the Islamic holy book was referring to the over decade-long period of Qurayshite persecution, during which the early Muslims suffered beatings, imprisonment, torture, and forced conversions; some of the early believers were even killed.  This, the God of the Quran argued, was worse than what the “band of Muslims” had done.  It would be difficult to argue otherwise.

Spencer goes on to say:

In other words, the raid was justified.

No, it wasn’t.  In fact, the Quran recognized and affirmed that the Muslims had committed a grave sin: “Fighting in [the sacred] month is a great offense.”

Many Western commentators have claimed that Muhammad and the Quran, by this passage, abandoned observation of the ban on fighting during the four sacred months.  The insistence on this view is based on their blind acceptance of the traditional opinion [9], held by various Islamic exegetes in medieval times, that this was a pre-Islamic tradition that was overturned by the advent of Islam.

Yet, a neutral reading of the Quranic text–both this passage and those that follow it–reveals the exact opposite: the Prophet Muhammad affirmed and respected the sanctity of the four sacred months.  The Quranic verse starts by saying, “They ask you about fighting in the sacred month.”  Obviously, Muhammad was being accosted by all sides about the raid at Nakhla, which threatened to be a public relations disaster for the Muslims.  How much easier it would have been for the Prophet of Islam to have simply declared the four sacred months a “pagan belief” that the Muslims did not accept.

After all, in another controversy in early Islam’s history, when Muhammad received significant criticism for having married his adopted son’s ex-wife Zaynab bint Jahsh, the Quran justified the act by declaring that: firstly, unlike in the pagan custom of the time, in Islam there is no prohibition against such a thing; and secondly, it was God himself who commanded Muhammad to marry Zaynab, and therefore, “the Prophet is not at fault for what God has ordained for him” (Quran, 33:38).  (It should be noted that the Islamic permission to marry one’s adopted son’s ex-wife is no more disconcerting than Judaism’s permitting of marriage to one’s nieces.)

The point is that the Quran didn’t just take the easy way out, which would have been to reject the four sacred months altogether.  (Muhammad could have also simply declared the pagans to be “disbelievers”, licit to be attacked at any place or any time.)  Instead, the Quran affirmed that it was indeed a grave offense to fight therein, and in fact, commanded Muhammad to tell the people so:

They ask you about fighting in the sacred month. Say, ‘Fighting in that month is a great offense.’ (Quran, 2:217)

The Islamic affirmation of the four sacred months occurs throughout the Quran.  Muslims are not to fight in these months, so long as the other side respects this prohibition:

Fight during the sacred months if you are attacked therein, for a violation of sanctity is subject to the law of just retribution.  So, if anyone commits aggression against you, attack him as he attacked you. (Quran, 2:194)

The Quran also affirms the idea of sacred spaces:

Do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque unless they fight you there. (Quran, 2:191)

This topic deserves greater elaboration, but for now, suffice to say that even in the jihad passages of chapter nine of the Quran–which the Islamophobes insist are (in the words of the anti-Muslim website ReligionOfPeace.com) “the final ‘revelations’ from Allah” about jihad–the four sacred months are affirmed.  For example, in the so-called “verse of the sword” (ayat al-saif), the Quran declares:

When the sacred months are passed, then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them… (Quran, 9:5)

Leaving aside for now the fact that the verse right before this one (verse 9:4) explains that this injunction refers only to those pagans who broke a treaty and waged war against the Muslims, there is another obvious point to be made here: Islamophobes insist that this passage was revealed in Muhammad’s last years and was his final, all-out call to war against non-Muslims.  (I will refute this argument in a future article.)  If we are to accept this claim, then we see that–even in this late stage of Muhammad’s decrees about jihad–the sacred months are to be respected.

In fact, the Quran goes so far to claim that it was God himself who decreed these months to be sacred.  More than this, the God of the Quran chastises the Qurayshite pagans for violating the four sacred months by “transposing them” for other months in the year, something they did out of convenience:

God decrees that there are twelve months–ordained in God’s Book on the Day when He created the heavens and earth–four months of which are sacred: this is the correct calculation. Do not wrong your souls in these months–though you may fight the idolaters at any time, if they first fight you–remember that God is with those who are mindful of Him.  Transposing sacred months is another act of disobedience by which those who disregard God are led astray: they will allow it one year and forbid it in another in order to outwardly conform with the number of God’s sacred months, but in doing so they permit what God has forbidden. Their evil deeds are made alluring to them: God does not guide those who disregard Him.  (Quran, 9:36-37)

In conclusion, it is not true that Muhammad justified the Nakhla raid, nor is it valid to claim that the Prophet of Islam simply made it legal when Muslims did it.  Spencer’s claim that ”if it’s good for Islam, it’s right” finds no basis.

The Quran acknowledged that the killing of Amr Ibn Al-Hadrami in the sacred month was a “grave offense” and Muhammad offered restitution to the victim’s family.  This mea culpa indicates that the Prophet of Islam acknowledged that wrong had been committed and he sought to right it.  Meanwhile, the “band of Muslims” involved in the escapade were duly chastised.  After they had expressed remorse for their sin, the God of the Quran forgave them “for God is Forgiving, Merciful” (2:218), and reassured them of their salvation.  That forgiveness was necessary in the first place indicates that they had committed a sin.

What the Quran didn’t do is claim that the Muslims had done nothing wrong.  All it did was point out the hypocrisy of the Quraysh, for they had committed greater offenses against the Muslims.  Robert Spencer would quickly claim that the Quran was committing a tu quoque fallacy, but there is a difference between a valid tu quoque argument and an invalid tu quoque fallacy.  Tu quoque (“you too”) arguments are not always illegitimate.  Of significance is the fact that, following the Nakhla raid, Muhammad (1) admitted that the Muslims had committed an offense, and (2) willingly submitted to the penalty of that offense (i.e. paid blood money).

The Prophet of Islam didn’t try to make something right because the enemy did something wrong.  More importantly, he didn’t try to get out of the penalty for the offense.  Instead, he admitted that his side had done something wrong, paid the penalty for it, and then pointed out that his accusers had committed far greater offenses without making any amends for it.  He was not trying to get out of the penalty, but only highlighting the Qurayshite hypocrisy so that they would not exploit the incident to further anti-Muslim propaganda.

Islamophobes today are also guilty of hypocrisy on this front: they are among America and Israel’s most hawkish proponents of war in Muslim lands.  During Muhammad’s pre-Badr expeditions, the Muslims had killed only one person, and this was in violation of their orders.  What about the hundreds and hundreds of Muslim victims who die at the hands of the American and Israeli military, without any form of restitution given to them?  We are told then that “this is war”…But when Muhammad’s men kill one person, then it’s the greatest tragedy in all of history.

Related to our opening question (Is Islam more violent than other religions, specifically Judaism and Christianity? Was Muhammad the most violent prophet or religious figure in history?) lies another question: the Biblical prophets–such as MosesJoshuaSamson,DavidSaul, etc.–engaged in genocide against the natives of Canaan.  Thousands and thousands of innocent people were slaughtered.  Are there any stories in the Bible of any of these Judeo-Christian prophets and holy figures giving restitution to the victim’s families?  One can already hear Robert Spencer crying “tu quoque, tu quoque!”, a word that he obviously does not properly understand.  Islam, identified as our enemy in the post-9/11 war, is put through a special standard, one that Spencer’s own religion could not withstand.

*  *  *  *  *

The Islamic principle of justice is to apply the law equally to all.  There are numerous verses of the Quran to this effect (i.e. 16:90: “God commands you to uphold justice and to do good to others”) and this topic would require another article to elucidate fully.  For now, however, it would suffice us to refer to the opening of sura (chapter) five, which is said to be among the final revelations of the Quran.  It was revealed after the conquest of Mecca.  In it, we see once again that the Quran affirms the idea of sacred months and sacred spaces.  More importantly, it commands Muslims to uphold justice and be fair even to their enemies:

Do not violate the sanctity of God’s rites or the Sacred Months…or the people coming to the Sacred Space…Do not let your ill-will towards a people–because they barred you from the Sacred Mosque–cause you to transgress against them.  Help one another to do what is right and good.  Do not help one another towards sin and aggression. (Quran, 5:2)

Robert Spencer traces “Islam’s only overarching moral principle” of “if it’s good for Islam, it’s right” to the raid at Nakhla, but the evidence simply does not bear his argument out.  Instead, all that becomes apparent is the Islamophobic tactic: if it makes Islam and Muslims look bad, let’s run with it.

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

Footnotes
1. Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), p.79
2. Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasulullah, p.287 (tr. A. Guillaume)
3. Ibid.
4. Reuven Firestone, Jihad, p.57
5. Ibid.
6. Ibn Ishaq, p.287
7. Thomas W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, p.30
8. Spencer, pp.5-7
9. It should be noted that the nineteenth century gave birth to the modernist movement within Islamic thought, which redefined jihad and challenged the long-held “traditional” opinion on the matter.  Today, the “traditional” opinion is held only by a few ultra-conservative Muslims, a view that should not to be conflated with that held by Radical Muslims such as Osama Bin Laden.

Kevin Forts: One of Anders Breivik’s US Admirers

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2012 by loonwatch

 

Imagine if a Muslim were corresponding with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, expressing support for his terroristic actions, wouldn’t he be locked up for material support of terrorism?

Kevin Forts is not the only US Breivik admirer out there:

Breivik’s US admirer

The young man has black hair and a piercing gaze, and poses with his arms behind his back. He wants to appear decisive and courageous for the photographer. His parents and friends have tried to dissuade him from taking this step, says Kevin Forts from Worcester in the US state of Massachusetts. “But I want to, so that I can represent the views of Anders Breivik that have otherwise been demonized by the mass media,” the 23-year-old told reporters from the Norwegian tabloid VG, the country’s most-read newspaper.

In a major story the newspaper reveals that Forts shares the views of mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. “I represent a nationalist alternative, just like Breivik,” he says. Forts writes letters to the assassin and exchanges ideas with him. As proof he shows off one letter the mass murderer wrote him from his prison cell.

Breivik praises the somewhat haggard looking American. VG quotes from the letter Breivik reportedly sent to Forts, in which he writes: “I have received letters from supporters in 20 countries, but you appear to be someone who can write well. Yes, I am absolutely interested in discussing ideological issues with you and am thinking about how we can work together.”

It could be a craving for attention that is now pushing the young American into the public eye. Since the attacks of July 22, 2011, the right-wing, anti-Islam scene has largely retreated from the digital public sphere. Its protagonists, who until then had used the Internet for regular exchanges, have rushed to distance themselves from Breivik’s acts. Chief among them is Fjordman, a Norwegian blogger, who until the killings had regularly exchanged ideas with Breivik and is considered to be a kind of ideological mentor to him. “It should be painfully obvious by now that Breivik does not care for anything greater than himself,” the anti-Islam author wrote in his blog of the ongoing trial this week.

Most are distancing themselves from Breivik, but not Kevin Forts. In a video of the interview posted on the VG website on Wednesday in which he explained why he is defending the murders, Forts said: “I believe it demonstrates a sense of nationalism and a moral conscience. He’s fighting against cultural Marxism and the Islamization of Norway and he found that the most rational way to accomplish that was through terrorist actions on Utøya and in Oslo.”

When asked how one could defend the murder of innocent children, Forts added: “Because I believe that he used it as an unprecedented attack. I don’t believe that it should occur again, but I do believe that it was atrocious but necessary in that it has raised awareness for it and Breivik did that with the executions.”

Forts says he believes Breivik is a “nationalist and a patriot and not the terrorist neo-Nazi that the media portrays him to be.” He continues by saying, “Now, all you see is the shock and the gore on Utøya and in Oslo, but you do not see the actual political ramifications that will come true in the future. I believe that, at that point, it will be impossible to hate Breivik, and you will see that he was actually acting in a matter of preemptive war.”

Spiegel Online, 18 April 2012

Who Commits Terrorism?

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2012 by loonwatch

 

Afghan VillagerA mourner cries over the bodies of Afghan civilians shot dead in their homes by a U.S. solider in Alkozai village of Panjwayi district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan on March 11, 2012. Photographer: Jangir/AFP/Getty Images

“Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.” ~ Peter Ustinov

Who Commits Terrorism?

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

If the Fox News promoters of racial profiling had been in charge of investigating the terror attacks in Norway on July 22, 2011, they might well have encountered blond, blue-eyed Anders Behring Breivik and his two smoking-hot guns only long enough to ask if he’d seen any suspicious-looking Muslims around.

After all, it has been a touchstone of the American Right, as well as right-wing Israelis, that Muslims are the source of virtually all terrorism and thus it makes little sense to focus attention on non-Muslims. A clean-cut Nordic sort like Breivik, who fancies himself part of a modern-day Knights Templar, is someone who would get a pass.

Or, as Israel’s UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman told a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2006, “While it may be true – and probably is – that not all Muslims are terrorists, it also happens to be true that nearly all terrorists are Muslim.” [Washington Post, March 7, 2006]

So, if you were tuned in to Fox News after the Norway attack, you would have seen smug-looking Fox talking heads recounting how this attack was surely an act of Islamic terrorism and even one exchange about the value of racial profiling to avoid wasting time on non-Muslims.

Yet, while the biases of Gillerman and Fox News represent a large chunk of the conventional wisdom, the reality is that terrorism is far from some special plague associated with Muslims. In fact, terrorism, including state terrorism, has been practiced far more extensively by non-Muslims and especially by Christian-dominated nations, both historically and in more modern times.

Terror tactics have long been in the tool kit of predominantly Christian armies and paramilitaries, including Breivik’s beloved Crusaders who slaughtered Muslims and Jews alike when Jerusalem was conquered in 1099.

Terror, such as torture and burning “heretics” alive, was a big part of the Roman Catholic Inquisition and the intra-Christian bloodletting in Europe in the middle of the last millennium. Terror played a big role, too, in genocides committed by Christian explorers against the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere and other unfortunate targets of colonialism.

More Crusading ‘Knights’

During the Jim Crow era in the American South, white Christians organized Ku Klux Klan chapters, which, like Breivik’s Templars, considered themselves Christian “knights” harkening back to the Crusades. The KKK inflicted terror on blacks, including lynching and bombings, to defend white supremacy.

In the 20th Century, there were countless examples of “red” and “white” terror, as Communists challenged the Capitalist power structure in Russia and other countries. Those violent clashes led to the rise of German Nazism which empowered “Aryans” to inflict terrifying slaughters to “defend” their racial purity from Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and other “inferior” races.

To prevail in World War II, the Allies resorted to their own terror tactics, destroying entire cities from the air, such as Dresden in Germany and Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

After World War II, the United States created the CIA to conduct what amounted to a war of terror and counter-terror against revolutionary movements around the world. This “low-intensity conflict” sometimes spilled into massive slaughters, such as U.S. terror bombings that killed estimated millions across Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

The CIA also recruited, deployed and supported proxy terrorists throughout Latin America. A generation of South and Central American military officers was schooled in how to intimidate and repress political movements seeking social change.

A fierce slaughter occurred in Guatemala after the CIA ousted an elected government in 1954 through the use of violent propaganda that terrified the nation. The CIA’s coup was followed by military dictatorships that used state terror as a routine means of controlling the impoverished population.

The consequences of the U.S. strategy were described in a March 29, 1968, report written by the U.S. embassy’s deputy chief of mission, Viron Vaky.

“The official squads are guilty of atrocities. Interrogations are brutal, torture is used and bodies are mutilated,” Vaky wrote. “In the minds of many in Latin America, and, tragically, especially in the sensitive, articulate youth, we are believed to have condoned these tactics, if not actually encouraged them. Therefore our image is being tarnished and the credibility of our claims to want a better and more just world are increasingly placed in doubt.”

Vaky also noted the self-deceptions within the U.S. government that resulted from its complicity in state-sponsored terror.

“This leads to an aspect I personally find the most disturbing of all – that we have not been honest with ourselves,” Vaky said. “We have condoned counter-terror; we may even in effect have encouraged or blessed it. We have been so obsessed with the fear of insurgency that we have rationalized away our qualms and uneasiness.

“This is not only because we have concluded we cannot do anything about it, for we never really tried. Rather we suspected that maybe it is a good tactic, and that as long as Communists are being killed it is alright. Murder, torture and mutilation are alright if our side is doing it and the victims are Communists. After all hasn’t man been a savage from the beginning of time so let us not be too queasy about terror. I have literally heard these arguments from our people.”

Vaky’s lament, however, mostly fell on deaf ears. Before long, much of Latin America was governed by murderous regimes, including the Southern Cone dictatorships which went so far as to create an international assassination combine called Operation Condor to spread terror among political dissidents by killing critics as far away as Washington and European capitals.

The Bush Role

These terror operations reached a peak when George H.W. Bush was CIA director in 1976. In that year, U.S.-backed Cuban terrorists blew up a Cubana Airline plane killing 73 people, with the evidence pointing at Cuban anti-communists Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles.

But those two right-wing Cubans continued to receive help and protection from the United States, including from the next generation of Bushes, Jeb and George W. (Thanks to the Bushes and their readiness to harbor these terrorists, Bosch lived out his golden years in Miami and Posada was spared extradition to Venezuela.)

Some of the worst examples of state terrorism occurred in Central America during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Reagan threw the support of the U.S. government behind the blood-soaked militaries of Guatemala and El Salvador (ironically, in the name of fighting terrorism). He also unleashed a terrorist organization, known as the Contras, against the leftist government in Nicaragua.

The butchery was shocking. Tens of thousands were slaughtered across Central America with the U.S.-backed Guatemalan army engaging in genocide against Indian populations of the highlands.

Though Reagan was the leading proponent in this application of terror in the 1980s, he is today one of the most honored U.S. presidents with scores of government facilities, including National Airport in Washington, named after him. (He is routinely cited by all sides in policy debates, including by President Barack Obama.)

Though Israel has been the victim of many horrible acts of Islamic [sic] terrorism, it also is not without guilt in the dark arts of terrorism. Militant Zionists employed terrorism as part of their campaign to establish Israel as a Jewish state in the 1940s. The terrorism included killings of British officials who were administering Palestine under an international mandate as well as Palestinians who were driven violently from their land so it could be claimed by Jewish settlers.

One of the most famous of those terrorist attacks was the 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem where British officials were staying. The attack, which killed 91 people including local residents, was carried out by the Irgun, a terrorist group run by Menachem Begin. Another veteran of this campaign of Zionist terrorism was Yitzhak Shamir.

And, these Jewish terrorists were not simply obscure figures in Israeli history. Begin later founded the Likud Party and rose to be Israel’s prime minister. Shamir was another Likud leader who was later elected prime minister. (Today, Likud remains Israel’s ruling party.)

In the early 1990s, as I was waiting to interview Shamir at his Tel Aviv office, I was approached by one of his young female assistants who was dressed in a gray and blue smock with a head covering in the traditional Hebrew style. As we were chatting, she smiled and said in a lilting voice, “Prime Minister Shamir, he was a terrorist, you know.” I responded with a chuckle, “yes, I’m aware of the prime minister’s biography.”

Defining Terrorism

The classic definition of “terrorism” is the use of violence against civilians to achieve a political goal. But the word ultimately has been transformed into a geopolitical insult. If “our” side is the target, it’s “terrorism,” even if it’s a case of local militants attacking an occupying military force. Yet, when “our” side is doing the killing, it is anything but “terrorism.”

Ramadan Present

So, for instance, when Palestinians trapped in the open-air prison called Gaza fire small missiles at nearby Israeli settlements, that is decried as “terrorism” because the missiles are indiscriminant. But in 1983, when the Reagan administration lobbed artillery shells from the USS New Jersey into Lebanese villages (in support of the Israeli military occupation of Lebanon), that was not “terrorism.”

Yet, when Lebanese militants responded to the U.S. shelling by driving a truck bomb into the U.S. Marine base at the Beirut airport, killing 241 American troops, that was widely deemed “terrorism” in the American news media, even though the victims weren’t civilians. They were military troops belonging to a country that had become a participant in a civil war.

As a Washington-based reporter for the Associated Press then, I questioned the seeming bias that the wire service was showing in its selective use of the word “terrorist” as applied to the bombing. Responding to my concerns, a senior AP executive quipped, “Terrorist is the word that follows Arab.”

Working journalists understood that it was an unwritten rule to apply the word “terrorism” liberally when the perpetrators were Muslims but avoid the term when describing actions by the United States or its allies. At such moments, the principle of objectivity went out the window.

Eventually, the American press corps developed such an engrained sense of this double standard that unrestrained moral outrage would pour forth when acts of “terrorism” were committed by U.S. enemies, but a studied silence – or a nuanced concern – would follow similar crimes by the United States or its allies.

So, when President George W. Bush carried out his “shock and awe” assault on Iraq, there was no suggestion that the destruction might be an act of terror – despite the fact that it was specifically designed to intimidate the Iraqis through acts of violence. Bush then followed up with a brutal invasion that has since resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths.

Many Muslims and others around the world denounced Bush’s Iraq invasion as “state terrorism,” but such a charge was considered far outside the mainstream debate in the United States. Instead, Iraqi insurgents were labeled “terrorists” when they attacked U.S. troops inside Iraq.

[This pattern continues to this day. On Monday, after Taliban fighters attacked Afghan government targets and offices related to NATO’s occupation of the country, the New York Times’ lead story characterized the offensive as “the most audacious coordinated terrorist attacks here in recent years.” However, the Times never describes raids by U.S. military forces, which have claimed large numbers of civilian lives, as “terrorism.”]

This double standard reinforces the notion that “only Muslims” commit acts of “terrorism,” because the Western news media, by practice, rarely applies the t-word to non-Muslims (and then only to groups opposed to the United States). By contrast, it is both easy and expected to attach the word to Muslim groups held in disfavor by the U.S. and Israeli governments, i.e. Hamas and Hezbollah.

Islamophobe Hearings

This double standard was on display in 2011 at Rep. Peter King’s Homeland Security Committee hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims. King refused to expand his investigation to include what some see as a rising threat from Christian Right “radicalization.”

Much like the Norway slaughter, a number of examples of domestic terrorism in the United States have emanated from the Right’s hostility toward multiculturalism and other policies of the modern American state.

Such cases of domestic terrorism have included the gunning down of presumed liberals at a Unitarian Church in Kentucky; violent attacks on gynecologists who perform abortions; the killing of a guard at Washington’s Holocaust Museum; and the shooting of a Democratic congresswoman and her constituents in Arizona.

From Breivik’s manifesto urging European Christians to rise up against Muslim immigrants and liberal politicians who tolerate multiculturalism, it is also clear that the Nordic/Christian mass murderer was inspired by anti-Muslim rhetoric that pervades the American Right. That bigotry has surfaced in ugly campaigns to prevent mosques from being built across the country or even an Islamic community center that was deemed to be too close to 9/11′s Ground Zero.

Rep. King’s hearings were inspired by the work of noted Islam-basher Steven Emerson, whose Investigative Project on Terrorism has sought to link the locations of mosques to the incidence of terrorism cases. Emerson, who has close ties to Israel’s Likud and American neocons, also was a key figure in the campaign to block the Islamic community center near Ground Zero.

In 2010, Emerson went on right-wing activist Bill Bennett’s national radio show and insisted that Islamic cleric Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leading force behind the community center, would likely not “survive” Emerson’s disclosure of supposedly radical comments that Rauf made a half decade earlier.

Emerson said, “We have found audiotapes of Imam Rauf defending Wahhabism, the puritanical version of Islam that governs Saudi Arabia; we have found him calling for the elimination of the state of Israel by claiming he wants a one-nation state meaning no more Jewish state; we found him defending bin Laden violence.”

However, when Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism released its evidence several days later, it fell far short of Emerson’s lurid descriptions. Rauf actually made points that are shared by many mainstream analysts – and none of the excerpted comments involved “defending Wahhabism.”

Imbalanced Propaganda

As for Rauf “defending bin Laden violence,” Emerson apparently was referring to remarks that Rauf made to an audience in Australia in 2005 about the history of U.S. and Western mistreatment of people in the Middle East.

“We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims,” Rauf said. “You may remember that the U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations. And when Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was Secretary of State and was asked whether this was worth it, [she] said it was worth it.”

Emerson purported to “fact check” Rauf’s statement on the death toll from the Iraq sanctions by claiming “a report by the British government said at most only 50,000 deaths could be attributed to the sanctions, which were brought on by the actions by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.”

What Emerson’s “fact check” ignored, however, was that Rauf was accurately recounting Leslie Stahl’s questioning of Secretary of State Albright on CBS “60 Minutes” in 1996. Emerson also left out the fact that United Nations studies did conclude that those U.S.-led sanctions caused the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five.

In the 1996 interview, Stahl told Albright regarding the sanctions, “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright responded, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”

Later, an academic study by Columbia University’s Richard Garfield put the sanctions-related death toll of Iraqi children, under five, at 106,000 to 227,000.

Emerson didn’t identify the specific British report that contained his lower figure, although even that number – 50,000 – represents a stunning death toll and doesn’t contradict Rauf’s chief point, that U.S.-British actions have killed many innocent Muslims over the years.

Also, by 2005, when Rauf made his remarks in Australia, the United States and Great Britain had invaded and occupied Iraq, with a death toll spiraling from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands with some estimates of war-related deaths in Iraq now exceeding one million.

Far from “defending bin Laden violence,” Rauf’s comments simply reflected the truth about the indiscriminate killing inflicted on the Muslim world by U.S.-British interventions over the decades. British imperialism in the region dates back several centuries, a point that Emerson also ignored. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Islam Basher Claims to Unmask Cleric.”]

It is Emerson’s kind of anti-Muslim propaganda that has infected the ability of the U.S. political system to deal fairly with Middle Eastern issues. Rep. King’s one-sided hearings became another opportunity to exacerbate American hostility toward Muslims.

Emerson has boasted about his role in helping to structure King’s hearings, but lashed out at King when the congressman refused to include Emerson on the witness list. “I was even going to bring in a special guest today and a VERY informed and connected source, who could have been very useful, possibly even critical to your hearing, but he too will not attend unless I do,” Emerson wrote to King. “You have caved in to the demands of radical Islamists in removing me as a witness.”

In a particularly weird twist, Emerson somehow envisioned himself as the victim of McCarthyism because he wasn’t being allowed to go before the House Homeland Security Committee and accuse large segments of the American-Muslim community of being un-American. [Politico, Jan. 19, 2011]

But such is the strange world of the propagandists who have managed to associate the crime of “terrorism” almost exclusively with Muslims, when the ugly reality is that the blood of innocents covers the hands of adherents to many other faiths (and political movements) as well.

It is that sort of anti-Muslim bigotry which feeds the Christian Right terrorism of an Anders Behring Breivik.

[In the wake of Breivik’s killing spree, the Center for American Progress produced a report on the well-funded bigotry of Emerson and other Muslim-bashers. Entitled “Fear, Inc.,” the 129-page report listed Emerson as one of five “scholars” who act as “misinformation experts” to “generate the false facts and materials” that are then exploited by politicians and pundits to frighten Americans about the supposed threat posed by Muslims. To read more on Emerson’s “misinformation” role, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Unmasking October Surprise ‘Debunker.'”]

 


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, “Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush,” was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, “Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq” and “Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’” are also available there.

History’s First Jihad: Was It Justified?

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2012 by loonwatch

Note: The following is a part of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series, a refutation of Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).  Specifically, this article addresses the bottom of page 5 of Spencer’s book (part of the section entitled “Muhammad the raider” in the chapter “Muhammad: Prophet of War”).  Admittedly, my rebuttal makes for a lengthy read, but it would be doing an injustice to this complex topic to sacrifice thoroughness for brevity.  Those looking for an easy, children’s book sort of read (in size 16 font no less) are encouraged to refer to Spencer’s book.

When it comes to matters pertaining to Islam, there is no buzzword quite like the word jihad.  In the West, especially among anti-Muslim elements, it is firmly associated with violence, terrorism, and perpetual holy war against unbelievers.  Even many well-meaning non-Muslims think that “moderate Muslims” do not believe in jihad and that this is a doctrine espoused only by radical elements of the faith.

But, the reality is that most observant Muslims accept jihad as an integral part of Islam.  It should be understood, however, that ”there are…many kinds of jihad, and most have nothing to do with warfare.” [1] Prof. Reuven Firestone writes:

The semantic meaning of the Arabic term jihad has no relation to holy war or even war in general. It derives, rather from the root j.h.d., the meaning of which is to strive, exert oneself, or take extraordinary pains. Jihad is a verbal noun of the third Arabic form of the root jahada, which is defined classically as “exerting one’s utmost power, efforts, endeavors, or ability in contending with an object of disapprobation.”

There are, therefore, many kinds of jihad, and most have nothing to
do with warfare.Jihad of the heart,” for example, denotes struggle against one’s own sinful inclinations, while “jihad of the tongue” requires speaking on behalf of the good and forbidding evil. [2]

Of these, there is jihad al-saif (“the struggle of the sword”, which will be referred to henceforth simply as jihad).  Using Firestone’s definition of “holy war” (“holy war is defined most broadly as any religious justification for engaging in war”[3]), it is difficult to accept the claim of some Muslim preachers that the Quran does not endorse the concept of holy war at all. [4]

Nonetheless, most modern day Muslims view jihad as their equivalent of the West’s just war doctrine. [5] War is religiously justified (and approved by God, a “holy war” in this sense) if it is in response to injustice, oppression, and aggression.  Certainly, the Quran provides considerable evidence to support the idea that war ought to be waged only in self-defense. [6]

The question arises, however: does the sira (biography) of the Prophet Muhammad support such a view?  Muhammad waged history’s first jihad: he mobilized the Muslim refugees in Medina against the Quraysh of Mecca.  Naturally, the circumstances and context of this event are pivotal to Islamic theology and the doctrine of jihad.  Did Muhammad wage a war of aggression against the Quraysh simply because they were infidels?  Or, was he waging a justifiable war of self-defense?  Muhammad’s motivations in this regard are instrumental to formulating Islam’s views on matters of war and peace.

It is no surprise then that Robert Spencer, the internet’s leading anti-Muslim ideologue, has dedicated an entire chapter of his book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), to the biography of the Prophet Muhammad.  Spencer depicts Islam’s holy prophet as a violent aggressor and warmonger.  Meanwhile, Muhammad’s enemies, the Qurayshite leaders, are portrayed as the hapless victims of Muhammad’s aggression.

Yet, as I pointed out in a previous article, this is a complete inversion of reality.  The truth is that Muhammad declared his prophethood in Mecca and preached his message peacefully for over ten years.  During this time period, the Qurayshite leaders persecuted him and his followers: the early Muslims suffered beatings, imprisonment, torture, and forced conversions; some were even killed.

The persecution reached such a level that the most vulnerable members of the Muslim faithful were forced to flee for their lives to the African land of Abyssinia.  Soon, the condition of Muslims in Mecca had become so unbearable that there was a very real fear that the nascent religion of Islam would be snuffed out altogether.  With the death of his guardian uncle, Muhammad lost tribal protection, leaving him extremely vulnerable to his enemies.

It was at this precarious moment in history that a group of influential men from the city of Yathrib (later to be renamed Medina [7]) accepted Islam and promised to protect the Prophet Muhammad.  They secretly met Muhammad while he was still in Mecca, and took two solemn oaths to protect him, known as the First and Second Pledge at al-Aqaba.  Under the cover of night, waves of Muslims began to flee Mecca to find refuge in Medina. Muhammad was one of the last ones to undertake the Flight (Hijra), a watershed event that is the Islamic equivalent of the Exodus.

For almost a decade and a half, Muhammad had advised his followers to endure their humiliation and persecution with patience.  Prof. Firestone writes:

Muhammad is invariably portrayed as steadfast in his refusal to respond to insult with violence…

The Muslims are portrayed in this early period as being regularly beaten and occasionally even tortured by their Meccan opponents, with virtually no recourse for the injurious treatment they received….

[T]hey most certainly refrained in most cases from violence in reaction to such harmful treatment. In at least one case, a person is killed simply for belonging to the new followers of Muhammad. [8]

But in Medina, the Muslim refugee community regrouped and prepared for battle against their avowed enemies, the Quraysh of Mecca.  The stage for history’s first ever jihad was set.

*  *  *  *  *

The Prophet of Islam had actually arrived in Medina to bring peace: the two major tribes of the city had been involved in a protracted civil war, and the city elders had hoped Muhammad could arbitrate between the two sides. (As peculiar as it sounds to us today, it was not unusual in the ancient world for holy men to be called in to arbitrate between warring factions.)

The newly arrived Muhammad called for an end to tribalistic rivalries, preached brotherhood, and ”fashion[ed] a united community (umma) out of disparate and contending groups: Muslim emigrants (muhajirun) from Mecca, Muslim helpers (ansar) from Medina [the Medinese that converted to Islam], Medinan Jews, and pagan Arabs.” [9]  Muhammad’s influence as an arbiter led to him to become the de facto leader of Medina.

Soon, Muhammad turned his attention to his former tormentors, the Quraysh of Mecca.  The first military expedition against them was dispatched about seven to nine months after Muhammad’s arrival in Medina in what is known as Hamza’s Expedition to the Seashore.

According to Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad dispatched Hamza ibn Abdul-Muttalib “to the seashore in the neighborhood of Al-’Is with thirty riders.” [10] There, they met Abu Jahl, one of Muhammad’s fiercest enemies, who was accompanied by “three hundred riders from Mecca.” [11] This would become the very first jihad operation in history, but how anticlimactic it turned out to be:

Majdi b. ‘Amr al-Juhani intervened between them, for he was at peace with both parties.  So the people separated from [one] another without fighting. [12]

Although there was no clash of swords on that day, the two sides did exchange enlivened battle poetry.  (Who would have thought that the very first jihad in history would have amounted to nothing more than the ancient equivalent of 1980′s battle rap?)

The Expedition of Ubayda bin al-Harith, the second such military operation [13], was equally uneventful.  Ubayda along with ”sixty or eighty riders” rode out to the valley of Rabigh, where they ”encountered a large number of Quraysh” [14] consisting of “more than two hundred riders led by Abu Sufyan” [15] Ibn Ishaq writes that “no fighting took place” [16]; Haykal writes:

The Muslim forces withdrew without engaging the enemy, except for the report that Sa’d ibn Abu Waqqas shot one single arrow, later to be called, ‘the first arrow shot in the cause of Islam’. [17]

Saad ibn Waqqas led a third group “into the Hijaz, but he [too] returned without engaging the enemy.” [18]

Muhammad himself led the next four expeditions (Waddan, Buwat, Safwan, and Dhil ‘Ushairah), each of which resulted in the same uneventful outcome: the Muslims kept going out to meet the enemy, only to find them gone.  Thus it was that the Prophet of Islam and his followers ”returned to Medina without a fight.” [19]

It was only with the eighth expedition that actual military combat took place.  Muhammad dispatched Abdullah bin Jahsh to scout the Qurayshite movements at a place called Nakhla.  Although Muhammad intended this expedition to be a reconnaissance mission, Abdullah took the initiative when his men happened across a poorly armed Qurayshite caravan, which they waylaid.  In the firefight that ensued, one of the Qurayshite men was killed, two more were captured, and the caravan’s property was seized.

When the men reported back to Medina, Muhammad was less than pleased with their actions for, as Sir Thomas W. Arnold wrote, Abdullah had “acted without authority.” [20] Muhammad “paid blood money” [21] for the Qurayshite man that was killed (blood money was a form of restitution given to a victim’s family) and freed the prisoners in exchange for two Muslim prisoners.  The confiscated goods from the caravan, however, were taken as spoils of war.  (The Nakhla raid became very controversial, and in a future article, I will deal with this particular event in more detail.)

Shortly thereafter, Muhammad decided to intercept a Qurayshite caravan led by Abu Sufyan, which was returning from Syria to Mecca.  As the Muslims advanced towards it, the Quraysh of Mecca were informed of this news and quickly organized a response.  Abu Jahl mobilized a large army who marched out from Mecca to meet Muhammad and protect Abu Sufyan’s caravan.

Abu Sufyan’s caravan successfully slinked past Muhammad’s men and into safety, which caused both the Muslims and the Qurayshite army to reconsider their objectives.   A group of the Quraysh argued that “there is no point in going to war” [22] now that Abu Sufyan’s caravan was safe.  They advised to

turn back and leave Muhammad to the rest of the Arabs. If they kill him, this is what you want. [23]

Abu Jahl, one of the powerful chiefs of Mecca, rejected this argument and declared: “No, by God, we will not turn back until God decides between us and Muhammad.” [24] With this said, most of the Qurayshite army pressed on towards Muhammad and his men, with an intent to deliver the Islamic movement a decisive blow once and for all.

Meanwhile, the early Muslims were themselves conflicted as to whether or not to retreat to Medina or to face the Qurayshite army marching toward them.  They certainly had the numbers to take on Abu Sufyan’s caravan, but they were heavily outnumbered against the larger Qurayshite force headed by Abu Jahl.  Some of Muhammad’s followers advised a hasty retreat.  But, Muhammad was of a different mind and decided to face the threat head on.  Of this, the Quran declared to the believers:

God promised you that one of the two enemy groups would fall to you: you wished the unarmed one to be yours, but it was God’s will… to cut off the root of the disbelievers, so that He may make the truth manifest and prove falsehood false, however hateful this be to the criminals. (Quran, 8:7-8)

It seems that both Abu Jahl and Muhammad saw it as a sign of weakness to retreat, one that would only embolden the other.  So it was that the two forces met at a place called Badr.  The Battle of Badr was the first (and most pivotal) battle of Islamic history.  In the words of Robert Spencer:

Above all, the battle of Badr was the first practical example of what came to known as the Islamic doctrine of jihad… [25]

Muhammad’s followers were heavily outnumbered, on a scale of three to one.  The Muslim battalion consisted of a meager 313 men, 70 camels, and 2 horses.  Meanwhile, the Qurayshite army was composed of almost a thousand men with 170 camels and 100 horses.  Spencer writes:

[T]his time the Quraysh were ready for him, coming to meet Muhammad’s three hundred men with a force nearly a thousand strong…[Muhammad] cried out to Allah in anxiety, “O God, if this band perish today Thou wilt be worshiped no more.” [26]

Whether it was better military strategy, survival instinct, or divine intervention, the Muslims were victorious on that fateful day.  They overcame the Quraysh, their former tormentors, who, after a pitched battle, eventually gave flight.  Islam had survived.

*  *  *  *

The details of the actual battle itself and the aftermath warrant further discussion (and I will write a future article on this topic).  However, the even more pertinent question arises: did the Muslims have just cause?  Or were their actions unprovoked aggression against unbelievers, as Spencer and other anti-Muslim ideologues argue?

To portray Muhammad as the aggressor, Islamophobes downplay or even deny the persecution of the early Muslims in Mecca.  (As we have seen, Robert Spencer just omits it entirely from his biography.)  Even if he had been persecuted aforetime, they argue, Muhammad was now living safely in Medina.  Indeed, Orientalists have long argued that Muhammad initiated an offensive war against the Quraysh by attacking them a year after the Flight (Hijra). (In reality, the sources indicate that it was a delay of seven-to-nine months, not a full year.)

The anti-Muslim website ReligionOfPeace.com (henceforth to be referred to as simply ROP) argues:

After his eviction by the Meccans, Muhammad and his Muslims found refuge many miles away in Medina where they were not being bothered by their former adversaries.  Despite this, Muhammad sent his men on seven unsuccessful raids against Meccan caravans…

Elsewhere, ROP argues:

The Myth:

The Muslims were under Persecution from the [Quraysh] Meccans while Living at Medina

The Truth:

…In fact, it was the Meccans who were acting in their own defense during this time.

Historians do not record any act of aggression by the Meccans against the Muslims during the time at which the second sura was narrated by Muhammad. There were no armies marching against them, nor any plans for such. The Meccans had no influence in this far-away town, and Muslims were not under persecution at the time by any stretch of the term as it is popularly understood today. According to the sequence of events in the Sira (biography), the Meccans were quite content with leaving Muhammad alone following his eviction (even though he had made a pledge of war against them)…

There is absolutely no record of Meccan aggression against the Muslims at Medina in the first three years after their arrival in 622.

Muhammad ordered the first raids against the Meccans a year after the hijra in February of 623, which eventually proved deadly. There is no record of Meccan aggression during this time.

As can be seen, the historical record provides absolutely no evidence that the Muslims were being threatened in any way by the Meccans, and fully supports the view that it was the latter who were acting in self-defense.  The Meccans had no interest in Muhammad and simply wanted to live in peace and pursue their commerce.  At each turn, the prophet of Islam unnecessarily harassed them with deadly and provocative actions that eventually forced battles on several occasions.

ROP’s basic argument is that Muhammad may have been a nuisance to the Quraysh in Mecca, but once he fled the city, they could care less about him or the Muslims in general.  He was no longer their problem or concern.

But, Muslim historians depict the situation quite differently, pointing to continued aggressive behavior of the Quraysh towards the Muslims; Ar-Raheeq Al-Makthum reads:

The Quraishites, mortified at the escape of the Prophet along with his devoted companions, and jealous of his growing power in Madinah, kept a stringent watch over the Muslims left behind and persecuted them in every possible way. They also initiated clandestine contacts with ‘Abdullah bin Uabi bin Salul, chief of Madinese polytheists, and president designate of the tribes ‘Aws and Khazraj [the two major tribes of Medina] before the Prophet’s emigration. They sent him a strongly-worded ultimatum ordering him to fight or expel the Prophet, otherwise they would launch a widespread military campaign that would exterminate his people and proscribe his women. [Narrated by Abu Da’ud]…

Provocative actions continued and Quraish sent the Muslims a note threatening to put them to death in their own homeland. Those were not mere words, for the Prophet received information from reliable sources attesting to real intrigues and plots being hatched by the enemies of Islam. Precautionary measures were taken and a state of alertness was called for, including the positioning of security guards around the house of the Prophet and strategic junctures. [27]

Indeed, the primary sources confirm (and Western historians accept as historic) that the Quraysh had attempted to assassinate Muhammad in Mecca right before he took flight (Hijra).  According to Ibn Ishaq, once they came to know that Muhammad was escaping the city of Mecca, the “Quraysh offered a hundred camels as a reward for whoever would seize Muhammad and bring him back.” [28]

This certainly goes against ROP’s argument that the Quraysh could care less about Muhammad once he left the city.  Even though the Quraysh knew he fled Mecca, they continued to pursue him.  In fact, this lends credence to the counter-argument: the Quraysh were very much concerned about Muhammad reestablishing a base of support in another city such as Medina.  Furthermore, they were ready to use force against him even outside the city’s limits.

Indeed, there is primary evidence to support the argument that the Qurayshite leaders exerted their influence on the leadership of Medina, especially Abdullah ibn Ubai [29], to expel Muhammad and the other Muslim refugees.  The Quraysh issued the following ultimatum:

O people of Medina, you have given safe-haven to our opponent[s].  By God, if you do not fight or expel them, we shall come out against you and kill your warriors and enslave your women. [30]

If Iran sent an official letter to the United States threatening to kill all American men and enslave their women unless the country abandons and even attacks Israel, would any reasonable person object to Israel interpreting this as an act of war?

Certainly, this threat created a sense of looming fear and insecurity in the nascent Muslim community, which was at the mercy of their hosts (the Medinese).  Muhammad himself took the threat seriously enough to sleep with a bodyguard posted outside his door.  Tafsir Ibn Kathir notes that verse 5:67 of the Quran was revealed in regard to his fear of assassination: ”The Messenger of God was vigilant one night, after he came to Medina…” [31] Then, the Quran reassured him:

God will protect you from mankind. (Quran, 5:67)

Haykal brings up a good point, noting that the Qurayshite leaders had earlier sought the official extradition of the Muslim refugees from the distant land of Abyssinia. [32] Would it not be reasonable to assume then that the Quraysh would similarly seek to pursue the Muslims when they fled to Medina?

The Quraysh feared (and one could say reasonably) Muslim hegemony spreading around the area of Medina, which lay directly in between the Quraysh and their trade routes to Syria (and the rest of the world).  But more than strategic concerns, the animosity between Muslims and the Quraysh had, after over a decade in strife, reached such a high level that it is unlikely that the Qurayshite leaders would have suddenly dropped their hostility towards the new religion.  It is therefore difficult to accept ROP’s argument that the Meccans didn’t display any hostility towards the Muslims in Medina.

ROP claims that “[t]he Meccans had no influence in this far-away town [of Medina]“, but the evidence seems to indicate otherwise.  Mecca was the most influential city of the Arabian Peninsula, and the Quraysh attempted to use this influence to pressure the Medinese to turn out Muhammad and his followers.  The fear of Mecca had been, after all, one of the major reasons the leaders of Taif had turned Muhammad out so quickly.

The Quraysh colluded with a fifth column within the ranks of the Medinese, a group referred to pejoratively in the Quran as the Hypocrites (Munafiqun).  They were led by an influential man named Abdullah ibn Ubai who, prior to Muhammad’s arrival, had been slated to become the unified chief of the two major tribes of Medina.  Ibn Ubai’s influence was quickly eclipsed by the Prophet of God, a fact that put the two men at loggerheads with one another.  The Quraysh urged Ibn Salul to expel the Muslim refugees, although Ibn Salul countenanced himself with less crude means of countering Muhammad’s growing influence within his city.

During the Meccan Period, the Quraysh had applied pressure to the Banu Hashim and Banu Muttalib to rescind their protection of Muhammad so that they could kill him.  When Muhammad fled to Medina, the Quraysh did the same with the Medinese.  We can see evidence of this, for instance, in the case of Saad ibn Muadh’s visit to Mecca in order to perform a religious pilgrimage.  Saad, a Medinese convert to Islam, entered the city under the protection of his old Meccan friend, Abu Safwan.  Abu Jahl, one of early Islam’s fiercest opponents, saw Saad with Abu Safwan and threatened:

I see you wandering about safely in Mecca in spite of the fact that you have given shelter to the people who have changed their religion (to Islam) and have claimed that you will help and support them.  By God, if you were not in the (protective) company of Abu Safwan, you would not be able to go to your family safely!

Saad retorted:

By God, if you should stop me from doing this, I would certainly prevent you from something which is more valuable to you, that is, your passage through Medina. [33]

That Abu Jahl, one of the chiefs of Mecca, issued such a threat indicates that the Muslims of Medina had every reason to feel threatened by the Quraysh.  Additionally, this exchange seems to have occurred before the initiation of Muhammad’s military operations.  In it, the Medinese man threatens a retaliatory move (if you block our entry to Mecca, we will block your way through Medina).

Qurayshite hostility was not limited to threats alone: their persecution of Muslims in Mecca continued unabated.  Some of the Muslims in Mecca were too weak to make the arduous journey to Medina, whereas others were detained against their will.  The Quran itself mentions this fact in verse 4:98, calling them the “weak and oppressed–men, women, and children–who have no means in their power nor any way to escape [Mecca].”  Ibn Ishaq writes that ”[t]he emigrants [Muhajirun] followed one another to join the apostle [in Medina], and none was left in Mecca but those who had apostatized [under duress?] or been detained.” [34] Their “houses in Mecca were locked up when they migrated…and sold” by the Quraysh [35], prompting Muhammad to reassure one of his followers about the “property which [they] lost in God’s service”:

Are you not pleased that God will give you a better house in Paradise? [36]

The Emigrants [Muhajirun] were barred from their homes and families in Mecca, whom they wished to visit.  They were also barred from making the pilgrimage to visit the Holy Kaabah.

It seems then that the faucet of Qurayshite hostility was not, as ROP implies, turned off the minute Muhammad and most of his followers fled the city.  It continued in the form of threats against the Muslims and those who harbored them, and active persecution of those Muslims still under Qurayshite control.

*  *  *  *  *

More than this, there is a point that is often overlooked by both the Muslim and anti-Muslim side, something that would seem to be the crux of the matter.  On the one hand, Muslims seem to argue that Muhammad had every reason to initiate attacks on the Quraysh due to their continued aggressive behavior.  On the other hand, the Islamophobic side argues the exact opposite, as ROP writes:

The only reason that this myth arose is the need for Muslim apologists to justify the more violent passages of the Qur’an’s second chapter, which was “revealed” shortly after Muhammad arrived in Medina following the hijra.  Passages from this chapter encourage believers to violence within the context of ending “tumult,” “oppression,” and “persecution.”

…[However, h]istorians do not record any act of aggression by the Meccans against the Muslims during the time at which the second sura was narrated by Muhammad.

It is true that chapter two of the Quran does include some verses justifying war (2:190-194, 216-218, and 244,), but the first passage ordaining war was in chapter twenty-two of the Quran (typo on ROP’s part?), in which the God of the Quran states:

Permission to take up arms is granted to those who are being fought, because they have been oppressed–And indeed, God has the power to help them!–those who have been unjustly driven out from their homes, only for saying “Our Lord is God.” (Quran, 22:39-40)

ROP claims that “[h]istorians do not record any act of aggression by the Meccans against the Muslims during the time at which the [twenty?] second sura was narrated by Muhammad.”  By this, ROP implies that Muhammad and the Muslims were living safely in Medina–for well over a year–before this passage came down.  Was Muhammad justifying war by looking to an old infraction, just as the United States used Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds in the 1980′s to justify war against him years later?

In fact, however, this passage, which permitted the Muslims to defend themselves–and constituted a declaration of war against the Quraysh–was revealed long before Muhammad’s military expeditions against the Quraysh were launched.  Ibn Ishaq places its revelation (“[w]hen God gave permission to his apostle to fight” [37]) to the Second Pledge at Al-Aqaba, which occurred right before the Prophet’s Flight (Hijra).  Ibn Ishaq writes:

The apostle had not been given permission to fight or allowed to shed blood before the second ‘Aqaba…[at which time God] gave permission to His apostle to fight and to protect himself against those who wronged them and treated them badly.

The first verse which was sent down on this subject…was: ‘Permission [to take up arms] is given…’ [Quran, 22:39] [38]

He writes elsewhere:

Then God sent down to [Muhammad]: ‘Fight them so that there be no more seduction’, i.e. until no believer is seduced [coerced] from his religion.  ’And the religion is God’s…

When God had given permission to fight and this clan of the Ansar had pledged their support to [Muhammad]…the apostle commanded his companions…to emigrate to Medina and to link up with their brethren the Ansar. [39]

Prof. F.E. Peters writes (emphasis added):

While still at Mecca, if we have the chronology right, during Muhammad’s last days there, a revelation had come to him for the first time permitting Muslims to resort to force, or rather, to meet Quraysh violence with violence (Quran 22:39-41). [40]

Other sources, such as Tabari and Wahidi, date this revelation to shortly afterward, to immediately after the Flight (Hijra).  Prof. Reuven Firestone writes:

According to Wahidi, sura 22:39 was revealed during the year of the Hijra immediately after Muhammad left Mecca. Abu Bakr is reported to have complained that the minute they would leave the limited protection of Mecca, they would be destroyed by their enemies.46 The verse was therefore revealed to allow them henceforth to defend themselves. Sura 22:39 is considered the first revelation allowing the Muslims to engage in fighting.47

46. P. 177. Similar words put into the mouth of Abu Bakr are also found in a number of the sources listed in note 47, following.

47. Many authoritative statements to this effect (i.e., statements attributed to specific early authorities) are collected in Tabari, book 17, pp. 172–173; Nahhas, vol. 2, pp. 233, 301, 525; Tafsir Ibn Abbas, p. 280; Tafsir Muqatil, vol. 3, p. 129; Tafsir Mujahid, p. 482. [41]

If Ibn Ishaq’s dating is to be accepted, this could explain why the Qurayshite leaders decided to finalize their plot to assassinate Muhammad.  Ibn Ishaq writes:

When the Quraysh saw that the apostle had a party and companions not of their tribe and outside their territory, and that his companions had migrated to join them, and knew that they had settled in a new home and had gained protectors, they feared that the apostle might join them, since they knew he had decided to fight them.  So they assembled in their council chamber…to take counsel what they should do in regard to the aspotle, for they were now in fear of him…

The discussion [among the Qurayshite leaders] opened with the statement that now that Muhammad had gained adherents outside the tribe they were no longer safe against a sudden attack and the meeting was to determine the best course to pursue… [42]

Ibn Kathir writes:

[The] Quraysh were concerned that the Messenger of God would leave and join [the people of Medina], since they knew that he had decided to do battle with them. They therefore gathered in the Dar al-Nadwa, the house of assembly…[and] discussed there what they should do about the Messeger of God, since they now feared him….They would kill him. [43]

The state of war between the Quraysh and the Muslims thus already existed by this point in time, far before Muhammad’s military expeditions several months later.  ROP argues this exact point, saying:

Muhammad eventually made an alliance with another town, Medina, that included provisions of war against the Meccans. The parties to the treaty were asked “Do you realize to what you are committing yourselves in pledging your support to this man? It is to war against all and sundry” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 299). The pledge to war is further confirmed in Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 305.

Therefore, it was only after Muhammad committed himself to armed revolution against the Meccans that the town’s leaders sought to have him either killed or evicted.

The weakness in ROP’s argument lies in the fact that the Quraysh had long before considered harming or killing the Prophet of Islam.  In fact, the Quraysh had implored Abu Talib, Muhammad’s uncle and tribal guardian, to rescind his protection over his nephew so that they could deal with him.  Their level of seriousness can be assessed by their complete social and economic boycott of Abu Talib’s entire tribe along with the Banu Hashim.  It can also be gauged by the fact that as soon as Abu Talib died, Muhammad felt threatened enough to flee to Taif.  Therefore, all that can be said is that Muhammad’s decision to battle the Quraysh convinced the chiefs of Mecca to finalize and actualize their idea of murdering the Islamic prophet, a plan that they were already mulling over in their heads.

Another weakness in ROP’s logic becomes apparent: on one page he argues that Muhammad declared war while “safe in Medina”, but on another page he (inadvertently) “concedes” that Muhammad declared war against the Quraysh while in Mecca.  (This is of course another case of an Islamophobe trying to further as many arguments as possible against Muhammad and Islam, a strategy that often results in contradictory claims.)

In any case, it is more likely that the later dating of verse 22:39 is more accurate, and that the failed assassination attempt on Muhammad’s life may have been the casus belli for the Quranic injunction of war against the Quraysh.  In this dating scheme, Muhammad was committed to war against the Quraysh immediately after he was forced out of Mecca.

Whether one accepts the earlier or later dating of verse 22:39, the fact is that Muhammad’s declaration of war occurred much earlier than when he finally launched military expeditions against the Quraysh.  This point completely nullifies ROP’s argument that “[h]istorians do not record any act of aggression by the Meccans against the Muslims during the time at which the [twenty-]second sura was narrated by Muhammad.”  In fact, Muhammad’s war declaration occurred at the zenith of Qurayshite persecution, when it had reached a tipping point and Muslims had to flee from Mecca entirely.

A state of hostility between the two sides already existed by the time the Prophet of Islam arrived safely in Medina.  It should be noted that there was no formal declaration of war because the Quraysh regarded Muhammad and his party as “renegades” and, in the words of ROP, as “armed revolution[aries]“.  They were seen as non-state actors against whom formal declaration of war was not needed.  Muhammad, on the other hand, quickly organized in Medina to establish his community not as a refugee community but as a sovereign nation onto itself.  Muhammad’s military forays were show-of-force exercises designed to convey this message to the Quraysh.  But, there were likely two other audiences in mind: firstly, these early campaigns were confidence-building measures for the benefit of the Muslims themselves.  Secondly, they were meant to send a message to the city that had granted his people refuge: the Muslims could stand their own ground against the Quraysh.

The seven-to-nine month gap of military conflict between the Quraysh and Muslims can be thought of as similar to the six-month Phony War during World War II.  The Phony War was the “name [given] for the early months of World War II, marked by no major hostilities” between the Allies and the Germans.  Military historian David Horner writes:

This period between the Anglo-French declaration of war and the fall of France is known as the ‘phoney war’ because of the very inaction of both sides.  The Germans were honing their plans for the assault on the Allies in the west, and the Allies too were busying themselves with organizing their counter-effort. [44]

Muhammad’s delay of seven-to-nine months, between when he expressed his intent to fight the Quraysh and the actual military expeditions against them, was due to the time needed to organize his community from a refugee population into a functioning state.

On the other side of the equation, the Quraysh of Mecca had not yet committed themselves to war against Medina itself.  It should be noted that Mecca was not in a state of war with the city of Medina overall, but only with the Muslim refugees (“renegades”) from Mecca (Muhajirun).  The Quraysh were not at war with the Medinese converts to Islam (the Helpers or Ansar) nor with the non-Muslim residents of Medina.  It is recorded that the Quraysh had actually initially said to the Medinese:

We have come to know that you have come here to conclude a treaty with this man (Muhammad) and evacuate him out of Mecca.  By God, we do really hold in abhorrence any sort of fight between you and us. [45]

This is also why Muhammad’s initial military campaigns against the Quraysh consisted of, in the words of Ibn Ishaq, “emigrants [from Mecca], there not being a single one of the [Medinese] Ansar among them.” [46] The war at this point in time was only between the Quraysh and the Muslim refugees (Muhajirun).

The Quraysh had not yet made the decision to attack Medina itself, a move which had the potential of uniting the city behind Muhammad.  Such an act would have also converted what the Quraysh saw as an internal conflict between a state and a renegade faction into an all-out war between two different (city-)states, an escalation that the people of Mecca may not have been ready to commit to.  Instead, they chose the less energy-intensive option of isolating the Muslims, hoping that the Medinese would, under Qurayshite pressure, expel them.  For their part, the Medinese were willing to harbor the Muslim refugees against Qurayshite wishes, but they had not yet accepted the idea of war with Mecca.

In light of our Phony War paradigm, it not only becomes apparent but also somewhat understandable why the Quraysh maintained hostilities towards the Muslims–why they tried to kill Muhammad, pressured Medina to expel or fight the Muslims, and oppressed Muslims stranded in Mecca.  As detestable as these acts may seem to Muslim historians, they are, at least to some degree, an expected part of war.

On the flip side, Muhammad cannot be accused of declaring or initiating an offensive war against the Quraysh.  All that can be said is that “Muhammad went on the offensive”, which is a much different matter.  No reasonable person would argue that the Allies had declared or initiated an offensive war when they invaded Normandy.  Instead, this was a case of the Allies going on the offense in a defensive war (against German aggression).  Likewise, Muhammad had declared a defensive war against the Quraysh at the height of Qurayshite persecution of Muslims, and it was only in Medina several months later that he went on the offensive.

This point also negates the anti-Muslim canard that Muhammad was “opportunistic” in terms of war and peace, i.e. that he called for peaceful coexistence when he was weak and war when he was in a position of strength.  (Based on this idea, Robert Spencer and other Islamophobes argue that Islam itself advocates such opportunism, i.e. Muslims calling for peace when they are weak and war when they are in a position of strength.)  In fact, Muhammad declared war against the Quraysh when, from a military standpoint, he was very, very weak.  According to Ibn Ishaq’s dating, the Prophet of Islam declared war against the Quraysh while still in Mecca.  He was not the leader of a powerful city but rather a hunted down rogue prophet who feared for his life.

Even if we accept the later dating, Muhammad conveyed his intent to battle the Quraysh as he fled the city.  He was a refugee leader at this time, nothing more.  His emerging leadership role in Medina was only just developing and far from determined.  Either way, Muhammad’s intent to square off with the far more powerful Quraysh can be seen as something courageous and not opportunistic at all.  The “peace when weak and war when strong” paradigm cannot be accepted; the Muslims, from a military standpoint, were quite weak.

Neither could it be said that Muhammad was now in a position of power because he had the Medinese to aid him.  The various factions of Medina had only committed to defending the city of Medina from attack.  Unless the Quraysh attacked Medina directly, Muhammad could not count on their support.  In the initial military campaigns, only the Muslim refugees (Muhajirun) took part, not the Medinese.  Muhammad had at his disposal a ragtag group of refugees, nothing more.  How then can we accept the claim that Muhammad was “opportunistic” and called for peace in times of weakness and war in times of strength?

*  *  *  *  *

That there was a financial component to such warring cannot be denied.  The Muslims of Mecca had been forced to escape the city under cover of darkness, with their life possessions reduced to what they could carry on their backs.  The Quraysh seized their remaining property in Mecca, aside from what they could sneak out. [47] Thus it was that the Muslim Emigrants arrived in Medina in an impoverished (and homeless) state.  The generosity of the Muslim Helpers sustained the refugees for some time, but faith and brotherhood could only be expected to go so far.

Military historian Richard A. Gabriel writes:

As the leader of this new community Muhammad was responsible for ensuring that it survived.  He and his people were on the brink of starvation and living in poverty.  During the early days in Medina they survived on dates and water, having no money to purchase much else…There was, in any case, little new land to be cultivated by the newcomers in the already developed agricultural community of Medina. [48]

(And yet we are expected to believe that Muhammad, whose “people were on the brink of starvation and living in poverty…surviv[ing] on dates and water”, was now in a “position of strength”!)

Raiding Qurayshite caravans was a solution to this financial dilemma.  Frances O’Connor writes in the History of Islam:

The Muslim community in Medina faced many challenges.  In particular, when the Meccan Muslims migrated there, they had no way to make money because they were not farmers like the Medinans, and most of their belongings left behind in Mecca had been confiscated by the Meccan tribes.  Muhammad sent a party of his followers to raid the Meccan trade caravans that were coming through the area.  This was a way for their followers to get supplies of food and other goods, as well as to demonstrate to the Meccans that the Muslims were not weak.  The Arabs of this time were accustomed to this type of warfare and competition as a means of survival, and the Muslims felt justified in harming Meccan economic interests. [49]

Robert Spencer writes:

In Medina, these new Muslims began raiding the caravans of the Quraysh, with Muhammad personally leading many of these raids.  These raids kept the nascent Muslim movement solvent… [50]

Spencer entitles this section of his book “Muhammad the raider“, clearly using the term “raider” in a pejorative manner.  I have myself opted to use the more neutral term “military expedition” to refer to Muhammad’s early operations against the Quraysh.  But, is “raid” an appropriate term to use?  What about “raider“?

From a purely technical standpoint, the word “raid” seems to be appropriate.  The dictionary definition of raid is: “[a] rapid surprise attack on an enemy by troops, aircraft, or other armed forces in warfare.”  The United States military routinely engages in raids, such as the infamous “night raids” in Afghanistan.  For some reason, however, the word has a positive or at least neutral connotation when used for our own military or our allies.  Meanwhile, when the term is used for our enemies or The Other, it has a very negative meaning.

More problematic is the Spencerian epithet of “Muhammad the raider.”  If Muhammad is to be given this name for having ordered military raids, then should George W. Bush or Barack Obama be called “raiders” for their role in ordering raids against the nation’s enemies?  Should it be “Bush the raider” or “Obama the raider”?

Spencer’s tactic of wordplay can also be seen with the following misleading statement of his:

In 622, [Muhammad] fled his native Mecca for a nearby town, Medina, where a band of tribal warriors had accepted him as a prophet and pledged loyalty to him. [51]

In fact, “the Medinese were agriculturists.” [52] The “tribal warriors” of the day were the desert Bedouins, not the urban and agricultural folks of Medina.  For the most part, the people of Medina were not wise to the ways of war.  In fact, as Richard Gabriel writes, “most Muslims were urban or agricultural folks, not bedouins, and knew very little about how to undertake a successful caravan raid.” [53] The city of Medina, had been from time to time involved in this or that battle or war, but how is this different from every other city and nation in history?  Should we call the United States a nation of “tribal warriors” simply because it is involved in war?

Richard Gabriel himself, whose book is nothing more than post 9/11 anti-Muslim polemic encased in a pseudo-scholarly shell [54], refers to Muhammad as a “marauder.”  Likening the vast desert to the open seas, ROP calls Muhammad and his followers “pirates.”  This is a consistent theme in Islamophobic literature.

Much has been written by Western commentators about the ghazu (raid) and how it was a “peculiar” pre-Islamic Arabian custom that Muhammad adopted.  For instance, Prof. Joseph Morrison Skelly writes of it:

It is historically apparent that raiding was commonplace among Arabs in the pre-Islamic era. Also, raiding was not considered immoral unless it entailed stealing from kinsmen…[It was] a pre-Islamic Arab practice later adopted by Muslims. [55]

Voices sympathetic to Islam argue that the early Muslims were operating in a completely acceptable way for that time.  Meanwhile, anti-Muslim elements argue that Muhammad should be condemned for accepting such a “barbaric” Arabian custom.

These discussions, however, seem to miss the crux of the matter: Muhammad and the early Muslims did not raid caravans belonging to random tribes or peoples.  Instead, their attacks were very specific and limited to caravans belonging to the powerful Quraysh, their arch-enemy, with whom they were already in a state of conflict with.

Had Muhammad simply been a marauder or pirate wishing to enrich himself, he would most certainly have chosen to attack caravans belonging to far less powerful peoples.  The Quran did not, however, legitimate raids against all non-Muslim peoples, but only against those who persecuted the Muslims, i.e. the Quraysh.  The Quran declared: “Fight in God’s cause against those who fight against you, but do not commit aggression, for surely, God does not love aggressors.” (Quran, 2:190) (This is of course important from a theological point of view.)

Having understood this, Muhammad’s decision to raid Qurayshite caravans need not be rationalized by citing some ancient Arabian custom.  Rather, one can actually look much closer to home.  The tactic employed by the early Muslims was identical to that used by the United States from its very inception.  Using the same “open seas” analogy, we see that the Prophet of Islam engaged not in “piracy” but in “commerce raiding”, which has been an accepted form of warfare throughout history and across all cultural lines.

The distinction between the act of piracy and commerce raiding is an important one to make.  There are two major reasons why piracy is considered illegitimate as compared to commerce raiding: firstly, pirates do not possess proper authority; secondly, “pirates attack merchants without distinction.”  Conversely, commerce raiding is vested in proper authority, and commerce raiders only attack commercial ships belonging to enemy nations.  Clearly, Muhammad’s expeditions fall into the latter category: he was the leader of a community, and he only targeted enemy caravans.

Commerce raiding is known in French as guerre de course (“war of the chase”) and in German as handelskrieg (“trade war”).  Both France and Germany have a long history of using this tactic, which is considered respectable and even celebrated.  This tactic also has a venerated position in American history, being used against the British during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783).  The Continental Congress formed the Continental Navy, which

was not expected to contest British control of the seas, but rather to wage a traditional guerre de course against British trade, in conjunction with scores of privateers outfitting in American ports.  The Continental navy’s ships were to raid commerce and attack the transports that supplied British forces in North America. To carry out this mission, the Continental Congress began to build up, through purchase, conversion, and new construction, a cruiser navy of small ships–frigates, brigs, sloops, and schooners.

…[The Continental Navy’s] cruisers ranged far and wide and demonstrated that British commerce was nowhere safe, not even in British home waters.

Retired navy officer and military author Joe B. Havens writes:

During that war, the Continental navy, privateers, and commerce raiding squadrons chartered by individual American states, and the navy of our French ally all played vital roles in our fight against the British.

The Continental navy’s squadrons and individual ships attacked British sea lines of communication and seized transports laden with munitions, privisions and troops. Continental and state Navy ships and privateers also struck at enemy commerce, taking nearly 200 British ships as prizes, forcing them to divert warships to protect convoys and trade routes. [56]

In fact, commerce raiding was used to boost American morale against the British and were instrumental in winning the war against such a powerful naval power.  Military historian James C. Bradford writes in the Atlas of American Military History:

The Continental Congress and the state governments issued letters of marque to ship owners, who then attacked enemy commerce. Captured and condemned vessels became prizes and the property of the owner, captain, and crew, among whom the spoils were divided according to the proportion of investment and crew rank.

Privateering proved to be both an effective weapon against the enemy as well as a profitable source of income for those in the business. For the British, the American privateers proved to be a major source of trouble, as their efforts, combined with later naval activity by the French, Spanish, and Dutch, led to the seizure of approximately 3,300 ships of the total 6,000 British vessels involved in overseas trade during the war…

Commerce raiding also made for good propaganda, as the exploits of individual captains made news both in America and in Europe. In March 1776, a squadron of eight Continental Navy vessels unders Commodore Esek Hopkins raided New Providence in the Bahamas and captured the British governor…The most distinguished American captain, however, was John Paul Jones, a native of Scotland who joined the Continental Navy and made an early name for himself capturing prizes off the coast of Canada…

[Jones] proceeded to raid British shipping off the coast of the British Isles, crowning this achievement by raiding the Lake District port of Whitehaven…underscoring the harassing role the American navy would play…In 1779, he captured a French merchant hulk and converted it into a forty-two-gun sloop…. [57]

The United States would use commerce raiding once again during the War of 1812 (“the second American revolution”), and continued to employ it throughout its history all the way to World War II (when it was used against Imperial Japan).  (In the post WWII world, the United States has the most powerful navy in the world and can now rely on blockades.  Commerce raiding is the tactic used by navies too weak to enforce blockades.)

In fact, since the very beginning of her birth, America has incorporated commerce raiding into its main strategy at sea.  Dr. Kenneth J. Hagan, Professor of Strategy and War at the US Naval War College, writes:

American submarine warfare against Japanese cargo vessels and oil tankers during World War II constitutes history’s outstanding example of successful guerre de course, or commerce raiding…[I]ts impact on the Japanese war machine and on the Imperial Japanese Navy’s sea-keeping potential was staggering. Of the 8.1 million tons of Japanese merchant marine shipping sunk in World War II, American submarines accounted for 4.8 million tons…

Guerre de course, or commerce raiding, is as old as naval warfare. It consists of an attack by an armed vessel–a privateer or warship–on an unarmed merchant vessel with the intent of capturing the victim and its cargo for the profit of the attacker. It is the favored tactic of a weaker naval power fighting a stronger one; for example, continental European powers have often employed it against England…

[G]uerre de course offered the only viable strategy for American naval policy makers from the moment independence was decided upon in 1776. The Americans were a lilliputian naval power compared with the British, and at best they could only sting Britain’s oceanic commerce while dodging the punitive might of the Royal Navy’s ubiquitous warships….[T]he U.S. Navy’s favorite weapon…[was the] hit-and-run mission…[C]ommerce raiding remained the preferred American way of fighting at sea until very late in the nineteenth century…

The pattern was set: American warships would not fight British warships, of which there were far too many to overcome, but they would capture British merchant vessels in order to acquire scarce capital and to sap mercantile Britain’s morale…Guerre de course could not defeat the Royal Navy, but by inclining London to negotiate a peace, it “made an enormous impact on the success of the war effort.”

George Washington understood the virtues of this strategy, as did a majority in Congress. [58]

Commerce raiding was accepted by the United States and the world as a valid form of warfare, and it was only with the advent of submarines that things began to change.  The Oxford Companion to American Military History explains:

The term GUERRE DE COURSE describes a form of maritime warfare aimed at disrupting seaborne commerce…[I]t is usually rendered as “commerce raiding” in English. Operationally, guerre de course resembles blockades in that it is primarily a form of economic warfare, in which combat with enemy ships is at best a secondary consideration…

Guerre de course, in contrast, is usually adopted by countries too weak to attempt such continuous, large-scale operations [such as blockades]; or unwilling to risk the kind of fleet action that may be necessary to impose or break a blockade. It is conducted by individual ships (naval warships or privately owned ships armed with guns and authorized by government letters of marque to engage in legal privateering) or small squadrons. These operate in hit-and-run fashion along oceanic shipping lanes…Strategically, guerre de course respresents an alternative to operations directed against the main naval forces of the enemy. Guerre de course in the form of privateering was widely employed by Americans in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

…[G]uerre de course aims to…undermine public morale by inflicting economic losses and depriving the population of necessary or familiar goods…

[I]n the twentieth century…the advent of torpedo-armed submarines, which brought to the guerre de course a ferocity and decisiveness it had not previously possessed. A surface cruiser operating under the rules of engagement accepted by nineteenth century navies was expected to board a prospective target, determine if the nationality and cargo made it a legal prize, and see the safety of the crew before taking further action.

However, the early months of World War I revealed that similar conduct by German submarines exposed them to enormous risks, and reduced their tactical effectiveness far below what was possible if such scruples were set aside. Guerre de course accordingly lost its traditional character as a relatively bloodless and vaguely romantic sort of peripheral operation, and became a desperate and murderous struggle capable of deciding a major war.

This trend culminated in the devastating campaign against Japanese commerce conducted by American submarines (and to a lesser extent by carrier-based aircraft) during World War II–a rare example of guerre de course waged by the stronger side… [59]

Muhammad’s military expeditions were commerce raids, not only completely acceptable in the Arabian context of the time, but also by American and international standards throughout history.  Just as commerce raiding had a ”traditional character as a relatively bloodless and vaguely romantic” tactic, so too was the ghazu (caravan raid) seen as a “relatively bloodless and vaguely romantic” tactic of the desert: only those merchants/caravans that resisted were fought and/or killed.

The question arises: are Robert Spencer and other Islamophobes in this country impugning the tactic relied upon by our nation’s Founding Fathers to gain independence from Britain and which America used to win World War II?  From every conceivable angle, Muhammad’s tactic of commerce raiding is similar to that employed by the Continental Navy, and by the U.S. Navy throughout its history.  It is only Orientalist hubris that allows one to talk of the early Muslim raids as part of some peculiar and “barbaric” Arabian custom, especially when the ghazu–unlike the submarine attacks by the United States during World War II–minimized innocent casualties.

Indeed, in the eight or so military expeditions preceding the Battle of Badr, only one Qurayshite died at the hands of the Muslims.  Even this action was carried out without Muhammad’s permission, and the Prophet of Islam expressed disapproval of it.  More importantly, Muhammad paid blood-money as a result of it, which, as discussed above, was an Arabian form of restitution given to a victim’s family.  The Muslim raids were certainly “bloodless” compared to “the devastating campaign against Japanese commerce conducted by American submarines”, which left countless Japanese dead.

Muhammad’s treatment of the incident at Nakhla reinforces the view that “commerce raiding”, not wanton bloodletting, was his intent.  He gave blood money to the family of the slain Qurayshite and freed the two Qurayshite prisoners in exchange for two Muslim prisoners.  But, Muhammad held onto and distributed the confiscated goods from the Qurayshite caravan.  The purpose of the attacks was to strangle the Quraysh economically.

It should be noted, however, that Muhammad did not succeed in this effort.  All of the initial military expeditions were failures, with the lone exception of the unintentional “success” at Nakhla.  Richard Gabriel notes, correctly, that the early Muslims “knew very little about how to undertake a successful caravan raid.” [60] From an economic standpoint then, one must question Robert Spencer’s claim that “[t]hese raids kept the nascent Muslim movement solvent.” [61] How did a series of unsuccessful caravan raids keep the “nascent Muslim movement solvent”?

Gabriel is also correct in thinking that there must have been something more than economic benefit that enticed Muhammad.  From a purely risk-benefit standpoint, raiding Qurayshite caravans was a bad idea: the raids were largely unsuccessful, and only ”succeeded” in earning the wrath of the vastly more powerful city of Mecca.  Writes Gabriel:

Muhammad must have known that any attack on the Meccan caravans would have been but the opening skirmish in a long campaign in which the Meccans would try to exterminate him and his followers…[T]he Meccan chiefs could raise significant military forces on their own, including cavalry, and had the money to hire mercenaries and bedouin warriors. Muhammad’s forces in Medina were small by comparison and certainly no match for the Meccans.

Muhammad was too good a strategic thinker not to have been aware of these realities. And yet, he went ahead with his plans to challenge the Meccans. [62]

Gabriel goes on to argue that Muhammad’s ”attacks on the Meccan caravans were but the first strike in a larger strategy of conquest and destruction of his enemies.” [63] Indeed, Orientalist commentators have long argued that Muhammad’s intention–when divine permission was granted to him to fight, when he fled Mecca, and when he launched raids against the Quraysh–was the conquest of Mecca.

Hindsight is 20/20, and it is easy for us now to think that the early Muslims would one day return to their city of origin as victorious conquerors.  Yet, this idea would have seemed far-fetched at the time: Muhammad and his handful of followers were driven out of the city of Mecca by the Quraysh, and were living as an impoverished and meek refugee community in the city of Medina.  Richard Gabriel himself argues that “Muhammad’s forces in Medina were small by comparison and certainly no match for the Meccans.” The Islamic community was at that time fearful of being wiped off the face of the earth entirely, and so it seems quite fantastic for Gabriel (or anyone else) to then turn around and argue that Muhammad’s intention by raiding the Qurayshite caravans was to start the process of conquering them.

There is another much more likely possibility, which can be understood by looking back to other examples in history of commerce raiding.  The Americans relied on commerce raiding in order to “undermine public morale by inflicting economic losses” [65] by which they hoped to “inclin[e] London to negotiate a peace.” [66] It seems far more likely that Muhammad raided Qurayshite caravans with the intention of inflicting heavy economic losses on his enemy, so that the mercantile Meccans would come to believe it too costly to carry on the conflict with the Muslims.  Muhammad’s goal then was not conquest but a favorable peace.

One could reasonably argue that Muhammad’s actions did the exact opposite and just infuriated the Quraysh, who then organized a force to meet the Muslims at Badr.  However, it is equally reasonable to assume that Muhammad, as the leader of an emerging nation, was not satisfied with the Phony War situation that existed in place of a real peace.  At any moment, the Quraysh could have switched from indirect hostility towards the Muslims to more direct military action against them.  Muhammad wanted a peace treaty between his community and the city of Mecca, one which recognized the early Muslims as a sovereign nation (with the respect and rights of one) instead of as a hunted down renegade movement.  In order to “earn” this position in Qurayshite eyes, Muhammad had to show that the Muslims could stand their own against them, which is what the initial military expeditions were expected to do.

Muhammad must have known that such provocative action could, in the short term, exacerbate the conflict and draw the two forces into all-out war.  But, in the long run, the plan was successful and culminated in a treaty between the two sides.  Just as the British came to regard the Americans as a sovereign nation instead of a rebel movement, the Quraysh, by signing the treaty, had come to recognize the Muslims as a sovereign nation.

Muhammad’s intention can be gleaned from the primary sources themselves.  During this phase of the conflict, no Quranic passage calls on the believers to make way for the conquest and subjugation of Mecca.  Instead, the Islamic holy book commands the believers to “prepare whatever forces you can muster, including warhorses, to frighten off God’s enemies and yours…but if they incline towards peace, you must also incline towards it” (Quran, 8:60-61).  This is repeated elsewhere in the Quran: “If they desist [in their hostilities], then there should be no hostility [towards them] except against the oppressors” (2:193).  The Quran was letting the Quraysh know that the Muslims were willing to pursue a peaceful resolution of the conflict, if they (the Quraysh) would but just stop their hostility.

It should also be noted that Muhammad had another audience in mind: his own Muslim followers and the people of Medina.  By securing small wins against the Quraysh, Muhammad was boosting the morale of the early Muslims, proving to their own selves that they could stand up to the Quraysh and that God was with them.  This message was also directed to the people of Medina: just as the Americans had to prove to the French that they were a viable force against the British, so too did the Muslims need to prove their viability to the people of Medina who otherwise might succumb to Meccan threats to expel the refugee population.

There is another piece of evidence that indicates that on Muhammad’s mind was not conquest but the peaceful recognition of his new nation.  On his very first military expedition, Muhammad set out to meet the Quraysh at Waddan.  He missed the Qurayshite force and prepared to go back home, but before he did, he signed a non-aggression pact with the people of the area, the Bani Damra.  Shortly thereafter, he also signed non-aggression pacts with other neighboring tribes, such as the Bani Madlij.  It is likely that Muhammad would have signed such a pact with the Quraysh, the greatest threat to his peoples’ existence, had they been so willing.  Indeed, when the Quraysh finally did offer terms of peace to Muhammad, he accepted them, much to the chagrin of some of his most ardent followers.

As noted above, commerce raiding has generally been a tool used by the weaker force against the stronger one.  Historically, the Americans, French, and Germans used this tactic against the powerful British navy.  The British, on the other hand, did not need to rely on it, and instead used the much more effective tactic of blockading their opponents.  Muhammad simply did not have the resources to blockade the Meccans, which would have brought the Quraysh to their knees (economically speaking).  That he could not even set up a blockade of Mecca means that he certainly couldn’t imagine, at this point in time, to conquer it.  It is much more realistic that commerce raiding was meant to force the Quraysh to recognize the Muslim nation and make peace with it, just as the Americans wished recognition, independence, and peace with the British.

The early Muslims were not pirates or marauders.  They, like the revolutionary Americans, engaged in guerre de course (commerce raiding) against the oppressive party, the Quraysh.  Just as the American exploits against British shipping have been celebrated for their valor, so too were the Muslim military expeditions against the Quraysh courageous.  The Muslims were facing off against heavily armored caravans.  In the very first such campaign, for instance, Muhammad dispatched Hamza “with thirty riders” against a Qurayshite caravan armed with “three hundred riders from Mecca” led by Abu Jahl. [66] The second such operation involved “sixty or eighty riders” from the Muslims, who “encountered a large number of Quraysh” [67] consisting of “more than two hundred riders led by Abu Sufyan.” [68] Even in these military raids, the Muslims were heavily outnumbered.  Using our World War II comparison, it would be like the U.S. navy engaging in operations against enemy merchant marines that were flanked by battleships and aircraft carriers.

The perceptive reader also ought notice that these caravans were led by early Islam’s arch-enemies, such as Abu Jahl, Abu Jahl’s son Ikrima, Abu Sufyan, etc.  These raids were not opportunistic acts of piracy against random persons, but rather, were legitimate military operations against a far superior foe.

*  *  *  *  *

Robert Spencer claims that the Prophet Muhammad was the most violent religious figure in history.  Yet, when similar acts of violence are highlighted in his own faith tradition, suddenly he cries foul and chants “tu quoque, tu quoque!”  In reality, his own religion cannot withstand the same standards he so mirthfully applies to Islam.

It is just barely an exaggeration to say that Muhammad’s raids look like girl scout outings compared to the early military exploits of the Biblical prophets and respected religious figures, i.e. the brutal conquest and annihilation of the people of Canaan by MosesJoshuaSamsonSaulDavid, etc.  But, there is a specific comparison that I think necessitates closer attention: the raids led by King David.

It is beyond dispute that David (of David vs. Goliath fame) is considered highly regarded in the Jewish and Christian tradition.  When the king wanted to kill him, “David found refuge in [a place called] Ziklag…and raided other [nearby] cities to stay financially afloat”  (as opposed to Muhammad who signed non-aggression pacts with them).  The Bible says of this:

1 Samuel 

27:8 Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites…

27:9 Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive, but took sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and clothes. Then he returned to Achish.

27:10 When Achish asked, “Where did you go raiding today?” David would say, “Against the Negev of Judah” or “Against the Negev of Jerahmeel” or “Against the Negev of the Kenites.”

27:11 He did not leave a man or woman alive to be brought to Gath, for he thought, “They might inform on us and say, ‘This is what David did.’” And such was his practice as long as he lived in Philistine territory.

David raided with such frequency that the question had to be asked of him, “[w]here did you go raiding today?”  During these raids, the great David annihilated every single man, woman, and child.  He then ran off with “much booty”:

From Ziklag David made an attack upon the Geshurites, Gerzites, and Amalekites, smote them without leaving a man alive, and returned with much booty.

If Robert Spencer would like to use Muhammad’s raids against the Quraysh as a blunt weapon to bludgeon the heads of Muslims with, then let us hit him back with David’s “plundering incursions”, which culminated in mass death and were part of a broader genocidal campaign.  Spencer won’t be able to respond, aside from his familiar cries of “tu quoque, tu quoque!”

Of course, I am not committing a tu quoque fallacy, first and foremost because it was Robert Spencer himself who posited the thesis that Islam is more violent than any other religion–and that Muhammad was the most violent religious figure in history.  Spencer has even penned a book with the title Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t.  In it, he intones that Islam is more violent than both Judaism [70] and Christianity.  It is Spencer’s central thesis, and yet when I chop off both legs of it [see footnote 70], he yells “tu quoque, tu quoque!” like the intellectual huckster he is.

In any case, this article of mine is part of the Understanding Jihad Series, which is answering the question: is Islam more violent than other religions (specifically Judaism and Christianity)?  This is the fundamental question I sought ought to answer, and therefore, it is of central relevance.

*  *  *  *  *

We can summarize our argument as follows:

* The Quraysh initiated the conflict with the Muslims by persecuting them.

* For over a decade, Muhammad preached peaceful resistance against such persecution.

* Finally, the God of the Quran permitted Muhammad and his followers to defend themselves against their Qurayshite persecutors.

* Islamophobes claim that Muhammad was opportunistic, calling for peace and tolerance while in Mecca, but war and violence when he was in a position of power in Medina.  But really, Muhammad declared his intention to fight the Quraysh while still in Mecca or just immediately after fleeing from it, at a time when he and the Muslims were still very weak.

* Following Muhammad’s declaration of intent to war against the Quraysh, a period similar to the Phony War of World War II came into effect.  Although no major or direct military combat took place during this period, the hostilities continued in other ways: the Quraysh threatened the life of Muhammad, as well as the safety and security of the Muslim refugees and those who harbored them.  The Quraysh were attempting to use their influence to coerce the people of Medina to expel or fight the Muslims.  The Quraysh also confiscated Muslim property left in Mecca, and continued to persecute those Muslims who had not been able to make the journey to Medina.  The Quraysh threatened to block the Muslims from returning to their homes or making religious pilgrimage, whereas the Muslims, for their part, threatened to harass Qurashite trade routes.

* Islamophobes claim that Muhammad initiated a war of aggression by targeting Qurayshite caravans.  However, a state of war had already existed long before Muhammad led his military expeditions.  Muhammad went on the offensive, which is not the same as initiating a war of aggression.  

* Muhammad and the early Muslims used the same tactic that the American revolutionaries used against the British navy: commerce raiding.  This has been a completely acceptable practice throughout history and differs from piracy in substantial ways.

* Muhammad’s intent was to compel the Quraysh to recognize the sovereignty of his new nation and make peace with it.

* Muhammad’s raids were far more morally acceptable than the early military expeditions of the Biblical prophets and religious figures, such as MosesJoshuaSamsonSaulDavid, etc., who committed genocide against the native population of Canaan.  David in specific led raids to plunder the local populations and then slaughtered them down to the last man, woman, and child.  This completely negates Robert Spencer’s central thesis, i.e. that Muhammad was the most violent prophet in history.

Most importantly, what is crystal clear is that the first military jihad in history was not waged against the Quraysh simply because they were non-Muslims.  (Instead, Muhammad signed non-aggression pacts with neighboring non-Muslim tribes.)  Jihad was not declared to fight infidels simply because they were infidels, nor was it to convert them to the faith of Islam.

The similarity between the early Muslims and the Americans during the Revolutionary War does not stop at tactics.  Rather, the overarching theme is the same: the Patriots were fighting to declare their independence from the powerful British.  If the American colonists were justified in waging war with the British due to high taxation and lack of representation, then how much greater right did Islam’s founding fathers have to fight off those who oppressed them for their religious beliefs, who drove them “out from their homes, only for saying ‘Our Lord is God’”?  Jihad was waged by the Muslims to defend against injustice, oppression, and aggression.  It is no wonder then that the nation responsible for inflicting the most injustice and oppression of Muslims today–for waging wars of aggression in their lands–would come to hate jihad so much.

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

Footnotes
1. Reuven Firestone, Jihad, p.17
2. Ibid., pp.16-17
3. Ibid., p.15
4. Having said that, I suppose it depends on one’s definition of “holy war”, with Prof. Firestone’s being the broadest possible.
5. Similar, but not identical.
6. For example, ”Fight in God’s cause against those who fight against you, but do not commit aggression, for surely, God does not love aggressors.” (Quran, 2:190)
7. From Medinat al-Nabi (the Prophet’s city).
8. Firestone, p.107
9. Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions, p.755
10. Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasulullah, p.283 (tr. A. Guillaume)
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibn Ishaq briefly discusses the “debate” over the exact order of the initial military campaigns. However, it seems that the first was most likely Hamza’s expedition, followed by Ubayda’s.
14. Ibn Ishaq, p.281
15. Muhammad Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, p.217. Ibn Ishaq states that the contingent was led by Abu Jahl’s son Ikrima.
16. Ibn Ishaq, p.281
17. Haykal, p.217
18. Ibid.
19. Ibn Ishaq, p.285
20. Thomas Walker Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, p.30
21. Ibid.
22. Ibn Ishaq, p.296
23. Ibid., p.298
24. Ibid.
25. Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), p.10
26. Ibid.
27. Saifur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum, p.125
28. Ibn Kathir, Qasas al-Anbiya, p.390
29. Abdullah ibn Ubai had been slated to become the king of the united tribes of Medina prior to Muhammad’s arrival.
30. Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol.2, p.495
31. Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 5:67
32. Haykal, p.223
33. Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol.5, Book 59, #286
34. Ibn Ishaq, p.230
35. Ibid.
36. Ibid.
37. Ibid., p.208
38. Ibid.
39. Ibid., p.213
40. F.E. Peters, The Monotheists, p.104
41. Firestone, p.54
42. Ibn Ishaq, p.221
43. Ibn Kathir, Qasas al-Anbiya, pp.151-152
44. David Horner, The Second World War: Europe, 1939-1943, p.34
45. Ibn Hisham 1/448, taken from Ar-Raheeq Al-Makthum
46. Ibn Ishaq, p.281
47. Refer to Ibn Ishaq, p.230
48. Richard Gabriel, Muhammad: Islam’s First Great General, p.73
49. Frances O’Connor, History of Islam, p.16
50. Spencer, p.5
51. Ibid.
52. Reinhart Dozy, Spanish Islam, p.16
53. Gabriel, p.73. Having said that, it should be pointed out that the caravan raids were led by Muslim Emigrants, not the Medinese.
54. Richard Gabriel is a military historian, not a scholar of Islamic history. His ideological bent can be gleaned from his previous positions in the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, which The Idiot’s Guide to the CIA describes as “[t]he CIA’s publishing division”, from which “the CIA produces its propaganda” (p.25). He was also an “expert” for the Brooking’s Institution, which (in the words of Glenn Greenwald) “[w]hen it comes to foreign policy and civil liberties” serves three functions: (1) justify war in the Muslim world, (2) provide the ideological defense for Israel’s right-wing policies, and (3) legitimize indefinite detention of Muslim suspects. Quite unsurprisingly, Gabriel’s works reveal himself to be an apologist for Israel and its war crimes, for which he was approvingly cited by the Islamophobic Daniel Pipes. What a magnificent coincidence that such a person would write a biased book against the founder of Islam.  In any case, most damning of all is Gabriel’s book itself, which makes his agenda self-evident. Many anti-Islamic websites refer to his pseudo-scholarly work.
55. Joseph Morrison Skelly, Political Islam from Muhammad to Ahmadinejad, p.41
56. Joe B. Havens, Chief, p.21
57. James C. Bradford, Atlas of American Military History, pp.25-26
58. Article by Kenneth J. Hagan in Walter L. Hixson, The American Experience in World War II, Vol. I, p.269-272
59. John Whiteclay Chambers, The Oxford Companion to American Military History, pp.305-306
60. Gabriel, p.73
61. Spencer, p.5
62. Gabriel, pp.73-74
63. Ibid.
64. Ibid.
65. Chambers, pp.305-306
66. Hagan, p.269-272
67. Ibn Ishaq, p.281
68. Ibid.
69. Haykal, p.217
70. It’s interesting that Christian Islamophobes, including Robert Spencer himself, will quickly throw Judaism and Jews under the bus whenever the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) comes up or whenever the violence of Jewish prophets or Jewish law is  mentioned. Yet, Spencer himself writes in his book, quoting another Islamophobe: “We cannot defend Western civilization without defending its Jewish component, without which modern Western culture would have been unthinkable. The religious identity of the West has two legs: The Christian and the Jewish ones. It needs both to stand upright. Sacrificing one to save the other is like fighting a battle by chopping off one of your legs, throwing it at the feet of the enemies, and shouting: ‘You won’t get the other one!’” (Robert Spencer, Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t, p.10)

Who Will Convict the US Government for “Material Support of Terrorism”?

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2012 by loonwatch

 

This past week saw the conviction of Tarek Mehanna for “material support of terrorism,” a special charge these days for those with Arabo-Muslamic sounding names. A charge that earned Mehanna 17.5 years in prison.

Aside from the problematic nature of the case, (Mehanna’s digital history proves he did not fit the picture of the eager-to-be-entrapped-or-turned-informant-wannabe-AlQaede-esque-terrorist, also Mehanna was essentially convicted of “translating documents”), there is another saliently unsurprising point that has been brought to the fore: the hypocrisy of the US government and the elite political class.

Hypocrisy amongst politicians? Like, what’s new, right?

Political hypocrisy is a given in our cynical culture, a daily fact of life. We are so used to the double standards when it comes to ‘crime and punishment’ that many of us are blind to it when it occurs.

So, the US government can train terrorists in the Nevada desert that it’s own State Department has designated part of a “foreign terrorist organization” and no one blinks an eye:

Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq…M.E.K. has remained on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations—which meant that secrecy was essential in the Nevada training. “We did train them here, and washed them through the Energy Department because the D.O.E. owns all this land in southern Nevada,” a former senior American intelligence official told me. “We were deploying them over long distances in the desert and mountains, and building their capacity in communications—coördinating commo is a big deal.” (A spokesman for J.S.O.C. said that “U.S. Special Operations Forces were neither aware of nor involved in the training of M.E.K. members.”)

Before Seymour Hersh uncovered the sordid fact that the US government was directly involved in the training of terrorists in Nevada, it was well known (though under-reported), that there was a bi-partisan involvement of current and former government officials in both lobbying and receiving money from the MEK:

Congressmen (including Democrats) and former government officials have met with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an organization that was designated a terrorist group in 1997 when the list was first compiled, and is STILL ON THE LIST–for now.

MEK has a very aggressive and organized lobby effort in Washington D.C. According to one House staffer, the MEK is “the most mobilized grassroots advocacy effort in the country — AIPAC included.” Their mission is to be delisted as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), push the USA to foment war with Iran, i.e. “regime change,” and have themselves installed into power. Sound familiar?

Again, the hypocrisy is glaring, and as we pointed out in the past, exposes some crucial points:

1.) It is a felony to provide a designated terrorist organization with “material support,” which many elected officials it can be argued have been doing!

2.) “Numerous Muslims inside the U.S. have been prosecuted for providing ‘material support for Terrorism’ for doing far less than these American politicians are publicly doing on behalf of a designated Terrorist group.” Read Glenn Greenwald’s piece for a far from comprehensive list of Muslims who have been charged for doing far less than what these politicians did!

What should we do? Sit idly by while those with power flaunt the rule of law and treat the rest of us like subjects and serfs unworthy of equality before the law? Have we ceded “immunity” to the powerful political class in consequence of their law-breaking?

Recently, the Department of Treasury has announced that it is investigating three former high ranking officials for receiving money from the MEK:

The Department of Treasury is investigating payments to three former top-ranking government officials for speaking on behalf of a group on the U.S. terrorist list…Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, former FBI Director Louis Freeh and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton.

While this is welcome news, it does put the government in the embarrassing position of investigating prominent officials for supporting terrorists while having simultaneously trained the exact same terrorists! The question is, who is going to investigate the government for training MEK operatives in the Nevada desert?

The three officials being investigated were not the only ones receiving money and perks in exchange for lobbying on behalf of the MEK. There are at least “nearly two dozen prominent former officials who have received up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees in exchange for their efforts on behalf of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK).”

This is why I propose a grassroots effort, starting with an online petition and campaign calling for the Department of the Treasury to expand its investigation of officials who have been aiding the US State Department designated “foreign terrorist organization” the MEK.

Those who will be the subject of this petition are as follows:

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey: Lobbied on behalf of, or met with and received money.

Former homeland security advisor Fran Townsend: Lobbied on behalf of, or met with and received money.

Former White House chief of staff Andy Card: Lobbied on behalf of, or met with and received money.

Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton: received about $20-30,000 per speech and a variety of perks, including first-class airfare to European cities.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge: Lobbied on behalf of, or met with and received money.

Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani: Lobbied on behalf of, or met with and received money.

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean: Lobbied on behalf of, met with and received money.

Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell: received about $20-30,000 per speech and a variety of perks, including first-class airfare to European cities.

Former FBI Director Louis Frieh: received about $20-30,000 per speech and a variety of perks, including first-class airfare to European cities.

Former Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson: Received money.

Former General Wesley Clark: Lobbied on behalf of, met with and received money.

Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif.: Lobbied on behalf of, met with and received money.

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo, R-Col.: Lobbied on behalf of and met with.

Ted Poe, R-Texas: Lobbied on behalf of and met with.

Dennis Moore, R-Kan.: Lobbied on behalf of and met with.

State Department Ambassador Daniel Fried: participated in phone calls “urging the pro-MEK members to pass along messages to MEK leaders in Paris.”

Former Sen. Robert Torricelli: Lobbied on behalf of, or met with and received money.

Former Sen. Evan Bayh: Lobbied on behalf of, or met with and received money.

Former CIA Director Porter Goss: Lobbied on behalf of, or met with and received money.

Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers: Lobbied on behalf of, or met with and received money.

Former National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones: Lobbied on behalf of, or met with and received money.

If this Department of Treasury investigation has any real teeth behind it, and is not just a mechanism to provide the illusion of justice, it will be comprehensive and thorough, including all those who received money, lobbied on behalf of or met with the MEK. Isn’t that what we have seen with those convicted of “material support of terrorism” for doing far less than these politicians?

Norway’s Mass Killer Breivik Declared Sane

Posted in Loon People, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2012 by loonwatch

Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing extremist who confessed to a bombing and mass shooting that killed 77 people on July 22, 2011, arrives for a detention hearing at a court in Oslo, Norway, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. About 100 survivors and relatives of the victims of the July 22 massacre attended the hearing in Oslo's district court - expected to decide to keep Breivik in jail until his trial begins in April. (AP Photo/Heiko Junge, Scanpix Norway) NORWAY OUT

Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing extremist who confessed to a bombing and mass shooting that killed 77 people on July 22, 2011, arrives for a detention hearing at a court in Oslo, Norway, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. About 100 survivors and relatives of the victims of the July 22 massacre attended the hearing in Oslo’s district court – expected to decide to keep Breivik in jail until his trial begins in April. (AP Photo/Heiko Junge, Scanpix Norway) NORWAY OUT

This may get Breivik less years, but terrorist-inspirers will have a harder time trying to deflect the influence their writings had on Breivik:

Norway’s mass killer Breivik declared sane

(BBC News)

A second psychiatric evaluation of Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik has found him sane enough to face trial and a jail term.

The findings contradict a previous evaluation, published in November, that found him legally insane.

Breivik is due to stand trial on Monday over a bomb attack and shooting spree last July that killed 77 people.

The 33-year-old, who insists he is mentally stable, was “pleased” with the new assessment, his lawyer said.

Geir Lippestad told reporters his client would defend his actions during his 10-week trial, adding, “he will also regret that he didn’t go further”.

Both reports will be considered by the court when it decides, at the end of the trial, whether he should be sent to a psychiatric ward or jail.

If Breivik is deemed to have been sane at the time of the killings then he could face 21 years in prison with the potential for indefinite extensions to his term as long as he is considered a danger to the public.

‘Crusade’

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

His first reaction was that he was pleased with the conclusion”

Geir LippestadBreivik’s lawyer

The second evaluation was approved by a court in January following widespread criticism of last year’s assessment that concluded he was psychotic at the time of the attacks and diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic – meaning he would most likely be detained in psychiatric care.

Many of his surviving victims believed he was sane, and that the only proper punishment would be a prison sentence.

“Our conclusion is that he is not psychotic at the time of the actions of terrorism and he is not psychotic now,” psychiatrist Terje Toerrissen, who carried out the second assessment with fellow psychiatrist Agnar Aspaas, told the Associated Press.

The full report is confidential, and the two psychiatrists will give their reasons for arriving at a different conclusion to the first team of experts when they testify during the trial, AP reports.

Breivik was charged with terror offences last month.

Prosecutors said at the time they were prepared to accept that he was criminally insane and would therefore seek compulsory psychiatric care, but they reserved the right to alter that view if new elements emerged about his mental health.

Update: (H/T: Jai)

Source: http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/16205754

Extract:

“Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway last year, plans to tell his trial he regrets “not going further”.

The 33-year-old is accused of committing the terrorist attacks on July 22, 2011, and will face court in Oslo on Monday.

“This will be extremely difficult, an enormous challenge to listen to his explanations,” his lawyer Geir Lippestad told reporters. “He will not only defend (his actions) but will also lament, I think, not going further.””

Seymour Hersh Reveals that MEK Terrorists Were Trained in the USA by the Pentagon

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2012 by loonwatch

As Glenn Greenwald noted in his book “With Liberty and Justice for Some,” equality before the law is an illusion in the United States. If you are wealthy and have political clout you are most likely to get away with breaking the law and committing crimes, such as “material support” of terrorism.

We reported in July of last year that many politicians from both parties were working with and receiving money from a US State Department designated terrorist organization, the MEK. A group Islamophobes are also quite fond of at the moment.

It was then revealed that the US and Israel have been supporting the MEK to carry out terrorist missions in Iran. Now it has been revealed by the trailblazing investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh that the Pentagon has been training the MEK in Nevada for years, starting in 2005:

US Pentagon Trained Iranian terrorists in Nevada: Hersh

Posted on 04/07/2012 by Juan Cole

The intrepid Seymour Hersh reports at the New Yorker that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) of the US military gave members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK or People’s Holy Jihadis) training in signals intelligence at a facility in Nevada during the Bush era. The MEK was then and is now on the US State Department’s terrorism watch list, so the Pentagon’s deployment of this group was quite illegal.

The MEK was given a base in eastern Iraq by Saddam Hussein, who used the some 4,000 guerrillas who gathered there to harass the Islamic Republic of Iran. The MEK had its origins in an Islamic-Marxist guerrilla group of the 1970s that fought the forces of the Shah. It joined in the revolution against the Shah in 1978-79 but broke with the Khomeini regime and turned to a massive campaign of bombing and sniping against it. In return, the regime killed some 10,000 suspected MEK members, many of whom it just shot down in the street. The group evolved into a political cult, with insistence on glaze-eyed absolute obedience to the leader, Maryam Rajavi, and cult-like practices such as forced marriages and divorces (not to mention the long history of violence inside Iran).

When the US occupied Iraq, some in the Pentagon adopted the MEK at Camp Ashraf near the Iranian border for use against Iran. The MEK has bought a lot of big American politicians and seems to have promised the Israelis it would recognize Israel if it ever came to power in Iran; figures connected to the Israel lobbies have hypocritically campaigned to have the MEK delisted as a terrorist organization, despite it long and bloody record of attacks on civilians. As recently as this year, NBC quoted unnamed US government officials alleging that the MEK has been assassinating Iranian scientists in Iran.

Hersh reveals a trail of blatant hypocrisy on the part of the US government. “Our” terrorists are not terrorists even if they have blown up non-combatants, but national liberation groups such as Hizbullah in Lebanon are designated terrorists. Government officials have even brandished the word “terrorism” to describe perfectly peaceful protesters and dissidents inside the US, while JSOC was flying dyed-in-the-wool terrorists to Nevada for training.

The USG Open Source Center translated a report in the MEK newspaper regarding the hobnobbing of Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton and others with the MEK leadership in Paris recently:

“– On 24 March, the NCRI secretariat website published a report on an international conference held in Paris to address MEK concerns and issues, which was attended by NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi as well as former high ranking officials from the United States and Europe including Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge, John Bolton, Patrick Kennedy, and Colonel Wesley Martin.. According to the report, the issues raised included the adoption of a “decisive policy” against Iran’s regime, protection of the rights of Camp Ashraf and Liberty residents, and the elimination of MEK’s “terrorist label.” Rajavi said that “the only way to prevent an Iranian atomic bomb or the occurrence of an unprecedented conflict” was “regime change” by the Iranian people and resistance. On the issue of Camp Liberty, Rudy Giuliani said: “Let us go there. Let us see it with our own eyes.” He added: “Currently the enemy of stopping Iran becoming nuclear is appeasement. This wrong perception has made Iran more determined in becoming nuclear. Let us stop appeasement. Let us stop the efforts for negotiations. Stop writing letters to the ayatollahs. Let us rise up and say as Americans that we are for regime change in Iran and we will take every step necessary to stop Iran becoming nuclear” (National Council of Resistance of Iran in Persian — Website of an exiled political umbrella coalition of Marxist and Islamist organizations — Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO), National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA), People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI), National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and Muslim Iranian Students Society (MISS); on US State Department’s list of terrorist groups since 1997; URL: http://www.iranncr.org/).”

As Sheila Musaji points out, lots of American Muslims are in jail for ‘material support of terrorism,’ but American politicians and pundits get a free pass for actively supporting the MEK– which, remember, is definitively on the terrorism watch list.

Note to the US government and the Neocons: George Orwell’s 1984 was a dark political satire, not a blueprint for how you should do things.

Islamophobia and Adoption

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2012 by loonwatch

orphanage_Islamophobia

The beds in my orphanage in Beirut lie vacant; the doctors and lawyers have cut the middleman out of the picture to make a bigger profit.

by Daniel Ibn Zayd

To quote from Stephen Sheehi‘s book, Islamophobia: The Ideological Campaign Against Muslims:

The issue of gender has been a key prong in the strategic trident to unify bi-partisan and mass support for US interventionism in the Muslim world. Both Arabic and English media have been flooded by a slew of contrived, opportunistic, and charlatan Muslim and Arab women, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji, Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan, and Brigitte Gabriel, advancing Western-centric attacks on Islam.

As Sheehi points out, these attacks have mostly focused on issues such as the veil, as well as honor crimes, with the advocates so listed vaulted to the top of expert panels and best-seller lists by virtue of their parroting the dominant discourse, as befits the role of the comprador class. To this shameful compendium we can add another woman, as well as another line of attack: Asra Nomani, and adoption in the Muslim world.

As an adoptee who has returned to his birthplace of Lebanon, I have been actively watching the rise of this trope in the media, on online forums, as well as in private online exchanges for the past seven years. For one example, in 2009 the AP reported on a couple trying to adopt from Egypt. Compared to the crime of this couple and the corruption of government officials there, it is nonetheless Islam that bears the burden of opprobrium in the article: Adoption in Egypt is defined as being “snarled in religious tradition”. This became a contentious discussion on the web site Canada Adopts[1], where the given of the argument was basically how to get around these Islamic invocations, as if they somehow were to blame for the legal transgressions of the would-be adopters.

For another example, we need go to Pamela Geller’s web site Atlas Shrugged. Here the tables are turned on would-be adoptive parents of Moroccan children who would be required to maintain the child’s Muslim faith[2]. Ms. Geller describes this as some evil Islamic fifth column in the making, despite the fact that most every orphanage on the planet is Christian-based and missionary in outlook and likewise requires that the parents be of a particular faith in order to adopt.

Similarly, in her article for The Daily Beast, Asra Nomani writes an article which implies that the orphaned children of Pakistan are being recruited by Al-Qaeda as future suicide bombers. Her answer to this problem? To undo the “antiquated, shortsighted, and regressive stricture that makes adoption illegal [within Islam]“. This focus on Islam as a problem for adoptive parents who supposedly want to help the orphans of the world is quite loaded, and needs to be deconstructed on two levels, first in terms of the historical and economic/political function of adoption, and second in terms of linguistic and theologic use/misuse of the term.

The Big Picture: Economics and Politics
Whatever the motivation for adoptive parents in the First World, it is a fact that adoption source countries have followed a particular pattern that would quite easily make an additional chapter to Naomi Klein‘s The Shock Doctrine, in which children become just another resource to plunder and export. Geller and Nomani, in their acceptance of adoption as a given institution in the civilized world, follow in the footsteps of the founding spokeswoman for the so-called plight of orphans, Pearl S. Buck, who in 1964 published the book Children for Adoption. In terms that mimic today’s rhetoric concerning these children, which we currently see repeated in the current hype concerning Kony in Uganda, attention is shifted from the needs of parents (to start a family, to procreate) to those of children (need for a nuclear-family environment), while simultaneously castigating the seeming indifference of their cultures and countries and their inability to care for them.

This infantilization of other countries, now requiring the intervention of a “doting Uncle”, leaves unremarked the fact that such countries–Korea in the 1950s; Uganda today–have been targets of First World punishment via war, sanctions, and economic exploitation. This would explain the presence in Nomani’s article of cliched photographs of children in Iraqi orphanages, as the move is made to the last holdout against such wanton appropriation of foreign children. Nine long years after the invasion of Iraq, however, their inclusion here begs the question: Where has Ms. Nomani been for the past five American administrations, the sanctions, warfare, and sponsored internecine battles of which have killed more children outright than could possible ever be adopted to the West? Furthermore, on a list of countries that allow refugees from these Muslim lands, the U.S. remains near the bottom, behind countries such as Sweden, not to mention leagues behind Iraq’s neighbors that have taken in millions of refugees.

To focus on these children without focusing on their families or communities thus becomes an ignoble hypocrisy; as if to say, “give us your huddled masses–but only if they are cute children and can be indoctrinated from an early age.” This brings us to the other propaganda photos used on the Daily Beast, showing children dressed as soldiers, evoking the specter of infants inculcated with anti-American sentiment, the major fear expressed by the article. Similar to the willful ignorance of the plight of women by Islamophobes in their own locales, Nomani seems not to notice her own culture’s use of such imagery and cultural tropes: she need just visit the Intrepid Navy Museum, or any Civil War town, to see the red, white, and blue version of what she claims to fear most.

But we don’t have to dig so deep when Nomani wears her sentiment on her sleeve:

The council, noting that the Prophet Muhammad was an orphan, supports adoption, citing a Quranic verse enjoining us to practice islah, or “to make better,” the condition of orphans. It says: “And they ask you about orphans. Say: Making things right for them (islah) is better.” (2:220) The women argue that adoption encourages ‚Äúthe protection and promotion of healthy minds.‚Äù Indeed. Perhaps it protects kids from becoming terrorists as well.

It might behoove the author to define “terror”, especially given the millions of Arabs and Muslims who have died as a result of overt American attempts to exploit their countries, or of subsidiary attacks from Israel, or via the dictators put in place to keep oil running freely.

This hypocrisy was perhaps best exemplified by an adoption that was lauded in the American press during the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006 [3]. “Logan”–inauspiciously named after the airport of his arrival–was “rescued” from Lebanon with special visas provided by U.S. Senators, while many Americans waited days and days for evacuation, and in racially profiled order. No mention is made of the 1400+ civilians killed in that conflict, a third of them children.[4] More importantly, nowhere do we read the fact that Lebanon has a long history of trafficking children. Sayyed Mohammad Fadlallah‘s orphanage system in the South, going back to the 1950s, was created in no small part in response to the trafficking of children from the poor and rural areas of the country. In this light, the Spence-Chapin organization exalted in Nomani’s article is no better than the Holt International Adoption Agency of post-war Korea: Not a civilizing entity, but instead a gentle face put on a monstrous industry. That Morocco sees fit to participate in such trafficking should not be seen as a sign of its enlightenment. Quite the opposite.

Most important to note is how one-sided the adoption argument is in all of these cases. Adoptive parents and the agencies and industries that support them speak of adoption as being the given. This ignores all evidence to the contrary, but most importantly the growing number of voices of adoptees, mothers, fathers, extended families, and communities who are speaking out against adoption which has become simply another form of humanitarian imperialism. Whether in the lyrics of the Moroccan-born French rapper YAZ [5], the laws passed by Korean-American adoptees who have returned to their place of birth and have effectively halted adoption from that country as of this year, or the court writs of mothers in Guatemala who are suing to have their children repatriated to them from the United States, the tide is definitely turning against the ongoing efforts of those such as Nomani who would use adoption as a juggernaut against the Third World, and Islam more specifically. In an effort to paint adoption as a given, a marker of civilization, she and others like her revert to the worst tropes of colonialism, Orientalism, as well as Islamophobia.

The Subtleties: It’s All in the Language
The tactics used in this article that attempt to reframe the Qur’an as supportive of Nomani’s claim are disturbing, and they are also with precedence, mostly from within evangelical Christian circles. Comparative use of the Bible to allow missionary inroads into subordinate populations now finds its equivalent in those who would propound the Qur’an as advocating for the equivalent treatment of Muslim communities. On the Christian evangelical side, “adoption” is redefined to mean our relationship to Jesus (pbuh), and by extension, adopting a child is therefore to be seen as “Christ-like”. Nomani gives us the mirrored reflection of this when she states that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was himself “adopted”.

Nomani further follows this evangelical/missionary lead when she advocates the use of the Qur’an as supportive documentation for such efforts. In both cases, though, the logic used is hugely flawed. Learning Arabic these past seven years and reading Qur’an on a daily basis has given me an idea of what Aramaic might have been like in a purely conceptual sense, both being Semitic languages of the same region. Furthermore, Levantine Arabic differs from Standard Arabic in its use of Aramaic and Syriac words, and thus I am working with a wider possible vocabulary to make the following points. Based on this, I can state that the word used for the modern-day idea of “adoption” is most likely a conceptual back formation from the English or the French–a colonial hand-me-down–or at best is a completely metaphoric use, since it also carries the meaning similar to the English “to start using [something]“, as in “cell phone adoption”.

Most telling is that the word I use in Modern Standard Arabic to describe myself–mutabanna (vaguely, “en-son-ed”)–is not the same words translated in the Qur’an as “adopted”. One such term, translated as “adopted sons”–‘ad‘iya’akum–comes from a root that means to be claimed by, such as a townsperson is claimed by a town; they are an extension thereof, a part of a greater whole. Here we see a positive use of the term. Another word used in the Qur’an (itakhadha) means moreso “taken in”, as in this example from the story of Joseph: “perhaps he might benefit us or we might take him in as a son”. This is more like acquiring a boy servant than it is adopting a child into one’s family. More to the point, Joseph’s “adoption” comes after he is bartered “as a merchandise”, according to the Qur’anic description; furthermore the Qur’an is very explicit that these are temporary and invalidated situations, and here we might say that this is a negative use of the term.

Our analysis here is aided by the English use of “adoption” which has strayed from its original meaning as well, especially since we know that adoption conceptually within the Anglo-Saxon tradition was about indentured servitude, and not family creation. This is made most obvious to me by the fact that the use of this word only has currency within a certain class of the population here in Lebanon, which lives closer to a globalized and globalizing Anglo-Saxon model than anything locally relevant culturally speaking. For everyone else not of this stratum I cannot say “mutabanna“, I have to state that I was an “orphan” (‘atm), or that I was in an “orphanage” (dar al-’aytam). My adoption, as understood locally, involving a “bartering of merchandise”, maps much more closely onto the example of Yusuf–seen as negative–than any other invocation that might be painted in a positive light.

The main point still holds true: The modern-day concept of adoption, as practiced in primarily first-world nations, has no precursor from Biblical times that would allow the imposition of this current notion on Biblical or Qur’anic readings or texts–it’s current use is a fabrication of modern-day needs and conceits. It thus becomes disturbing the lengths to which current interpreters of these Writs will go to twist the language and the stories to suit their purposes, such as the recent example found in the book Reclaiming Adoption, and now in this article by Nomani.

Comparatively speaking, and contrary to Nomani’s analysis, the Qur’an is extremely enlightening in this regard, if only because its language is unchanged and untranslated since its inception. Readings of the Qur’an reveal that its supreme invocation concerning orphans–representing the most vulnerable members of society–is that they be taken care of, that they remain within their community, that their filiation remain intact, that the community preserve their property until they should be of age to make use of it. This is very much in line with the given social fabric of the countries of this region, despite it being stretched to the breaking point by globalization and other foreign pressures.

But Nomani willfully leaves out the following, where the Qur’an also states: “None are their mothers save those who gave them birth” (–Al-Mujadalah, 58:2), and:

God did not give any man two hearts in his chest. Nor did He turn your wives whom you estrange (according to your custom) into your mothers. Nor did He turn your adopted children into genetic offspring. All these are mere utterances that you have invented. God speaks the truth, and He guides in the (right) path.

You shall give your adopted children names that preserve their relationship to their genetic parents. This is more equitable in the sight of God. If you do not know their parents, then, as your brethren in religion, you shall treat them as members of your family. You do not commit a sin if you make a mistake in this respect; you are responsible for your purposeful intentions. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful. –Al-Ahzab, 33:4‚Äì5

This call to communal care is offensive to Ms. Nomani and her advocates because it is preventing them from fulfilling their familial role as proscribed for them by Anglo-Saxon Capitalism, borrowing Margaret Thatcher’s maxim that there is no basis for society but the nuclear family. This way of seeing things is radically different from the majority of the planet that serves as source material for the wishes of those in the First World who plunder their children via adoption and surrogacy. This is best summed up by Mohammad Al-Haddad, after a scandal involving the kidnapping of Chadian children to France:

But why don’t the rich bother themselves with the poor? Now, we forbid immigration to poor adults, but we allow it for their children? All the same, to decide if a child can be adopted, we do not apply the same criteria in the West as in the Third World. In the West, the family is “nuclear”; the conditions that make a child adoptable are therefor the absence of a mother and father. In many African countries, on the other hand, the family is extended–that is to say it includes equally the grandparents, as well as maternal and paternal aunts and uncles: All work in solidarity to take care of the child. [6]

This lack of a strict concept of nuclear family on the scene where I find myself now, or anything outside of what is a given here–extended family and communal solidarity–explains the reaction of most of those who hear my story from this perspective: They apologize that I was removed from my family, my place, my land. They sympathize wholeheartedly with my efforts to re-establish an identity here and find family, because historically and culturally the notion of “adoption” or “guardianship” is, as locally understood, about the importance of place: One’s people, one’s house, one’s community. This is a welcome relief from the endless barrage of statements such as “you were chosen”, or “you are lucky” that most of us grew up hearing; furthermore, it explains why these tropes of being “chosen” or “lucky” are projected onto Biblical accounts, ignoring the historical context of the book and its cultural underpinnings.

The deceit of adoption revivalists is most revealed then by what they omit. In terms of the Bible, each and every invocation concerning the “fatherless” also contains within the same passage a call to care for widows and others who are unable to sustain themselves. Would not a logical conclusion of this be that the expectant mother–especially if she be single, or widowed–be afforded this same zealous care and protection?

In terms of the Qur’an, let’s re-examine the cited reference from the article, but in full this time:

And they will ask thee about orphans. Say: “To improve their condition is best.” And if you share their life, they are your brethren: For God distinguishes between the despoiler and the ameliorator. –The Cow, 2:219

This ayat from the Qur’an, in the deceptively abridged form put forth by Nomani, might support this Western modern-day notion of adoption, but only if one espouses supremacist ideas of certain cultures being better or more valid than others. Obviously, given the inability to read one ayat of the Qur’an out of the context of the whole, this is not valid. Everyone who is claimed to have been “adopted” in both the Bible and Qur’an, most notably Joseph (Yusuf) as mentioned, but also Moses (Moussa) (pbut), in fact pose a contrary argument to those who would read these Books so literally. For both were adopted against the wishes of their parents; their removal caused great anguish to their families; they did not start the true calling of their lives until they were returned to their rightful place, status, and people.

This is especially poignant in the Qur’anic story of Joseph, who is sold to and “taken in” by first a wealthy lord and then the king but whose destiny is to be returned to his family (note the class differential here). The Qur’anic story of Moses is even more pointed, when it states that Moses was taken in by “those who were his enemy, and the enemy of his people”. The Qur’an also forbids forced conversion, one of the primary motivating factors for missionary adoption practice historically speaking.

Analyzing the Qur’an even further, we can state that the removal of someone from their family is an ultimate act of self-inflicted alienation, since the only instances of such separation used in the Qur’an are metaphors for the punishment of removing oneself from the community of God–meaning, the result of one’s own sin. Thus you have the son of Noah (Noh) drowned, the wife of Lot (Loteh) left behind and destroyed, the progeny of Abraham (Ibrahim) as being “on their own” in terms of their deeds and the judgment thereof, etc. The point being that such a separation–as punishment–supercedes the strong familial bond otherwise implied. How then, could there be a willful separation of child from parent, condoned by God at that?

The concept that the orphan should be removed from a given community, however justified, only reveals the moral bankruptcy of those whose primary concern is, in fact, their own nuclear family, their own salvation that might come at the expense of others now “saved”, as well as what is left unsaid in these works: the desired conversion of the heathen multitudes; their civilization, modernization, and the end of the barbarian ways.

This is nowhere more clear than here in Lebanon, where the sordid history of children trafficked from the south and Palestine is starting to come to light. By my observations into paperwork in my orphanage, I can safely say that a full 40 to 50 percent of infants circulating through my orphanage were from Muslim families, myself likely included. Based on stories I know from other countries and locally, as well taking into consideration the Islamic concept of the orphanage, I can state that many of the parents of these children had no idea that they would never see their infants again. In this way missionary and classist disdain for the religion of these children and their families is a prime motivator in their being targeted for adoption/conversion in the first place, despite protests to the contrary.

This brings us back to the originating efforts of those such as Pearl S. Buck who saw the world through this particularly noisome lens of colonialism, conversion, oppression, and universalism. Given that this same Anglo-Saxon culture has done nothing to alleviate poverty, racism, classism, and mono-culturalism on its own home front much less in the world at large, why should anyone believe that it truly desires to improve conditions elsewhere in the world? Can we really imagine a God who would allow some of his gerents on Earth to wage economic and political wars on others, and then claim some state of grace in adopting their children away from them? How is this different from the Romans enslaving the children of the peoples they conquered, if we want a more relevant Biblical analogy?

One of the greatest ironies of Islamophobia is the projection onto Islam of the failures of Western society. Here it is no different. The communal culture that needs to be broken down to make way for individualized/nuclear family-based Capitalism now extends to abducting children from the Arab and Muslim world, now that most of the other supply countries (including the First World’s internal poverty belt) are finally making the morally right decision in preventing their children from being exported wholesale. That Nomani would take such a literal view of the words of the Qur’an in fact reveals her to be the regressive one. We should, as people of good faith, be doing everything in our power to keep families together, and to prevent the conditions of war, poverty, and illiteracy that do more to promote the ills of the world that are decried in this article than any nascent putative extremism. The “charlatans” of Islamophobia wreak more injustice with their words and deeds than any boasted threat that might come from Muslims worldwide.

There is no innocence or objectivity in terms of supporting foreign policies of bombing, pillaging, and marauding, while simultaneously pretending to advocate for “orphans”, and using the Holy Books to support this worldview. Indeed, the only “antiquated, shortsighted, and regressive stricture[s]” that need be undone are those of Imperialism as we live it today. If we are truly hoping to “save the children”, then the despoilers of Nomani’s ilk should stand up as the class and community of power that they are and change the foreign policy of their governments. There is no evidence to support adoption as being a cure-all of any kind, indeed, Ms. Nomani is one in a long line of pyromaniac firefighters who don’t know how horribly they reek of gasoline. Her pretense of speaking for women is offensive to those who work locally via religious, charitable, or civil organizations in order to keep families and communities together. But most of all, she offends those mothers that she finds no common cause with in an egregious classism masked by a selfish and narcissistic career-building Islamophobia.

Any examination of human trafficking in the world points a very accusatory finger and paints a very scathing picture of the majority of First-World nations; this is where religious references might best be applied first–and then the “orphan” problem will take care of itself. Those with an axe to grind concerning Islam such as Nomani would do better than to hide their phobic attitudes behind institutions such as adoption, the actions of which have very real consequences for those of us removed from our place, our families, our communities, our culture, and our faith. For such supposed saving grace is always resented by those on whom it is imposed against their will. And the reaped fruit of such crimes is just as bitter.

1) http://www.canadaadopts.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=14&t=000580
2) http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2011/05/want-to-adopt-a-child-convert-to-islam.html

3) http://www.eagletribune.com/local/x1876374699/One-year-after-adoption-from-Lebanon-child-is-thriving

4) http://www.inquisitor.com/pcgi-bin/NYD.cgi?NA=NYD&AC=File&DA=20091115GGY&TO=AD

5) http://www.inquisitor.com/pcgi-bin/NYD.cgi?NA=NYD&AC=File&DA=20111103GMO&TO=AD

6) https://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddjth7n9_2999b4fh7jx

Daniel Ibn Zayd was adopted in 1963 and returned definitively to his land of birth in 2004; there he teaches art and illustration and in 2009 founded the artists’ collective Jamaa Al-Yad. He has written for CounterPunch, The Monthly Review Zine, and The Design Altruism Project, as well as on his blog: danielibnzayd.wordpress.com. He is a contributor to Transracial Eyes, a web-based collective of transracial adoptees. He can be reached at @ibnzayd on Twitter and by email: daniel.ibnzayd@inquisitor.com.

Sheldon Adelson: “All Terrorists are Islamic”

Posted in Loon People, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2012 by loonwatch

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who is the biggest patron of Newt Gingrich's presidential bid, giving a reported $10m to a Gingrich-supporting Super Pac. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who is the biggest patron of Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid, giving a reported $10m to a Gingrich-supporting Super Pac. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

Newt Gingrich’s former, and Mitt Romney’s soon-to-be sugar-daddy, Sheldon Adelson recently commented on terrorism, and how he believes all terrorists are “Islamic” or “Islamist.”

Sheldon Adelson could have saved himself from looking like a complete doofus and unintelligent moron if he read our most popular article: “All Terrorists are Muslims…Except the 94% of Terrorists that Aren’t”

Peter King: Iran May Have ‘Hundreds’ Of Hezbollah Agents In U.S.

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2012 by loonwatch

Peter King: Iran May Have ‘Hundreds’ Of Hezbollah Agents In U.S.



WASHINGTON — Iranian-backed Hezbollah agents, not al Qaeda operatives, may pose the greatest threat on U.S. soil as tensions over Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program ratchet up, according to the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

“As Iran moves closer to nuclear weapons and there is increasing concern over war between Iran and Israel, we must also focus on Iran’s secret operatives and their number one terrorist proxy force, Hezbollah, which we know is in America,” said New York Rep. Peter King at a Wednesday hearing of his committee.

The hearing, which featured former government officials and the director of intelligence analysis for the New York Police Department, follows a foiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., and testimony by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in late January that Iran’s leaders are “more willing to conduct an attack inside the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.”

Opening the hearing, King said, “We have a duty to prepare for the worst,” warning there may be hundreds of Hezbollah operatives in the United States, including 84 Iranian diplomats at the United Nations and in Washington who, “it must be presumed, are intelligence officers.”

But Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said he was concerned that the testimony he was about to hear was based on outdated information and not current intelligence. He noted that “no current federal officials” were asked to testify on Wednesday.

“A word of caution is in order,” Thompson said. “When we examine our relationship with another country, we cannot look at any particular moment in time and pretend that it tells the whole story. We cannot view the politics, history and culture of any other country clearly by seeing a snapshot version.”

Referencing Clapper’s earlier testimony, Thompson said the director of national intelligence should be called in for a classified hearing, but added, “We should not engage in a public discussion that creates fear and delivers misinformation.”

King rejected the Democrat’s objections. “We’re not focusing on foreign policy,” he said. “We’re talking about an internal threat to this country.”

Most of the testimony — which came from former officials at the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Treasury, among others — concerned Iranian-linked attacks in other countries that dated back decades in some cases. However, Mitchell Silber, head of the NYPD intelligence unit that has come under fire for spying on the city’s Muslim community, said that between 2002 and 2010 his agency and federal authorities detected “at least six events involving Iranian diplomatic personnel that we struggle to categorize as anything other than hostile reconnaissance of New York City.”

The suspicious events, some of them publicly revealed for the first time, involved security guards at the Permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations and Iranian diplomats stationed in New York. Among the cases Silber cited:

    • On Nov. 16, 2003, at 2 a.m., uniformed NYPD officers on a subway train observed two men filming the train tracks. The men, who initially claimed diplomatic immunity, were security guards at the Iranian Mission who had recently arrived in New York.
    • In May 2004, despite warnings from the State Department, two more Iranian Mission security guards were observed videotaping infrastructure, public transportation and New York City landmarks. A month later, the guards were expelled by the United States, Silber said, for “engaging in activities that were not consistent with their duties,” or spying.
    • In May 2005, six individuals “associated with the Government of Iran” were interviewed by the NYPD after a call to a city hot line reported suspicious behavior. The individuals on a sightseeing cruise were reportedly photographing and videotaping landmarks such as the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges as well as “reportedly speaking on their cellphones in an unusual manner.” One of the individuals worked at the Iranian Mission while the other five had diplomatic immunity based on their positions within the Iranian government. They were later released.
    • In September 2008, during the U.N. General Assembly, several members of the Iranian delegation were seen taking photos of railroad tracks inside Grand Central Station. After questioning, they were “released without incident.
    • In September 2010, again during the U.N. General Assembly, federal air marshals reported suspicious behavior at the Wall Street Heliport, where four people were seen taking “still photos and videotaping the water line and structural area of the heliport landing pad” from a nearby parking lot. The four produced press cards showing they worked for the Iran Broadcasting Co. and were released.

Although authorities could link none of the incidents to actual plots, “Iran has a proven record of using its official presence in a foreign city to coordinate attacks, which are then carried out by Hezbollah agents from abroad, often leveraging the local community — whether wittingly or not — as facilitators,” Silber testified.

NYTimes: Killing of Iraqi Woman Leaves Immigrant Community Shaken

Posted in Loon People, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2012 by loonwatch

Alawadi

Alawadi’s daughter

Background on El Cajon, CA in light of the tragic murder and possible hate crime against Shaima AlAwadi:

Killing of Iraqi Woman Leaves Immigrant Community Shaken

By IAN LOVETT and WILL CARLESS (NYTimes)
Published: March 27, 2012

EL CAJON, Calif. — Shaima Alawadi’s family says they found the first note taped to the front door of their house on a quiet suburban street here. It said: “This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist,” according to her 15-year-old son Mohammed.

Like many others in the neighborhood, Ms. Alawadi and her husband, Kassim Alhimidi, are immigrants from Iraq. Mr. Alhimidi says he wanted to call the police. But his wife said no, insisting the note was only a child’s prank. In 17 years in the United States, they had been called terrorists before, he said.

But last Wednesday, her 17-year-old daughter found Ms. Alawadi in their dining room, lying unconscious in a puddle of blood with a severe head wound. Nearby lay another threatening note, similar to the one the family found a week earlier.

Ms. Alawadi, 32, died three days later, and the police say they are still trying to determine whether she was, indeed, targeted because of her religion or ethnicity, calling that just one possibility.

“At this point, we are not calling it a hate crime,” said Lt. Mark Coit of the El Cajon police department. “We haven’t made that determination. We are calling it an isolated incident, because we don’t have any evidence of anything similar going on at this point.”

Isolated or not, the crime has shattered the sense of security for Iraqi immigrants in El Cajon, exposing cultural tensions and distrust that have often simmered just below the surface since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Hanif Mohebi, director of the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that many Muslim women in the area were worried that Ms. Alawadi had been targeted because she wore a headscarf in public, as many observant Muslim women do.

“The majority of the community that wears scarves are concerned,” Mr. Mohebi said. He cautioned against a rush to judgment before the police had finished investigating. Still, he added, “the community has gone through some hate crimes before, and the assumption the people have is that they’re going through one now.”

Just two decades ago, El Cajon, just northeast of San Diego, was largely white and English-speaking. But as wars in their homelands pushed more and more Iraqis and other people to emigrate, the Middle Eastern population here has exploded. El Cajon now houses one of the largest Iraqi communities in the country. Middle Eastern groceries and restaurants dot both sides of Main Street, while on the sidewalks, many families stroll by speaking only in Arabic.

Ms. Alawadi and her family moved to the United States from Saudi Arabia in 1995, after fleeing Iraq during the first Gulf War. They have five children, and, for the most part, Mr. Alhimidi said, the neighbors made them feel welcome.

Still, even before this month, he was already familiar with the kind of language he says was on the notes left at his house.

“Some neighbors, I say ‘hi’ to them, and they just turn away,” Mr. Alhimidi said in Arabic, with his son Mohammed translating. “More than 95 percent of the time, I feel welcome. But once in a while, people shout at you. They shout ‘terrorist,’ or ‘go back to your country.’ ”

Most people in town lamented Ms. Alawadi’s killing as a tragedy. Janet Ilko, a middle school teacher, said the news had come as a shock to students.

“It was upsetting to everyone,” Ms. Ilko, 47, said. “Our community is very close-knit. Our students get along very well. People have been here a long time.”

But tension between the newcomers from the Middle East and some of the town’s other residents was also readily apparent on Main Street, even this week. One woman, 30, who was at a park with her children and refused to give her name, called the city’s Iraqi residents “territorial,” adding, “maybe because we are at war with them.” She said her own background was Mexican, though she had grown up in Southern California.

That tension extends to non-Muslims as well.

“I’ve lived here for 32 years, and I’ve been told many times to go back to my country,” said Sascha Atta, an immigrant from Afghanistan. “Here in El Cajon, most of the Iraqis are not even Muslim, they are Christian, but people don’t know the difference.”

One of those Iraqi Christians is Lara Yalda, 18, who fled the country with her family in 2004, living in Syria for six years before coming to El Cajon, where she is now in high school. She said that last year one teacher told all of the Iraqi students to go back to their country, complaining that they took welfare and other money from the United States. That teacher does not teach Iraqi students any more but still works at the school, she said.

Ms. Yalda said Ms. Alawadi’s death frightened her.

“Yeah, I’m scared,” Ms. Yalda said. “I feel sad, because here it is a free country, and there is no reason to kill her. She has a family. So why they kill her? ”

The killing does not make sense to Ms. Alawadi’s son Mohammed either.

“There’s only three people that know what happened,” he said. “God, my mom and the guy who did it.”