Muslim bashing is the new cottage industry with its own industrial barons and wide web of fear mongering bloggers ready on a moment notice to echo the noise generated at the industry’s hate mills. The buzz word at the anti-Muslim network and its far-right bloggers this weekend was my recent visit to Fort Hood. The reporting was not on the content of my presentation or the purpose of my visit, but rather over a set of fictitious affiliations and unfounded accusations. The attack focused mainly on the fact that I am a director with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an umbrella organization that represents professional Muslim organizations and Islamic centers across the United States and Canada.
The buzz started from the Jihad Watch blog of Robert Spencer, the epicenter of anti-Muslim propaganda. Spencer harbors boundless hatred towards Islam and Muslims and spends his day spinning every piece of news involving Muslims that he thinks he could manipulate.
On December 2, Spencer published a posting on his blog insinuating that the organization I represent is an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood and that ISNA is involved in "a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands?" Let alone the absurdity of the claim, it is bogus and unfounded.
Spencer’s evidence for making this sweeping statement is a document in Arabic dated May 19, 1991, and signed by an obscure author. The document is written as a blueprint for gaining control over several Muslim American organizations. The document named ISNA as one of the prime targets of the author ambition, and this, Spencer thinks, gives him the liberty to brand ISNA as a Brotherhood vehicle. Spencer and his ilk in the Muslim bashing industry, including Steve Emerson, does not explain how he could appropriate the fantasy of an unknown author to assert that ISNA is an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Islamic Society of North America is an independent Muslim American organization governed by an elected council and led by an elected president. It has no affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, and has a membership that is too diverse in its religious orientation and so broad in its political views to be boxed into a singular ideological profile. ISNA has been on the forefront of working towards the integration of Muslim Americans into mainstream society, has been committed building bridges of cooperation and understanding through religious and ethnic lines, and actively engaged in interfaith dialogue and cooperation.
Rather than working to eliminate and destroy the Western civilization from within, as the Muslim bashers’ favorite document alleges, ISNA members have been working on strengthening their society by serving as medical doctors, public servants, professionals, professors, social workers, chaplains, and, yes, soldiers. Spencer and other anti-Muslim hate mongers have been using the Brotherhood-linked document to defame Muslim Americans and discredit their mainstream organizations in the same way the Protocols of Zion Elders was used by anti-Semitic pundits against Jews.
Spencer insinuating remarks were echoed by Andy McCarthy’s who had the audacity to reference the donations provided for the benefit of the families of the victims of Fort Hood rampage as “blood money.” McCarthy ‘s shameless comment drew evidently from the writings of Steve Emerson, the director of a shadowy investigative operation, whose investigative tools include guilt by association, innuendo, and half truths. McCarthy cited a statement by Emerson in which the latter urged the FBI to sever contacts with ISNA because it has been mentioned in a sealed affidavit as an “unindicted coconspirator.”
The “unindicted coconspirator” designation has been exploited by Muslim bashers and has been continuously used every time they reference ISNA with the hope that this cheap and abusive tactic would frighten the public and intimidate those who interact with ISNA. The designation is used by prosecutors as a “legal tactic” intended to allow the government to introduce hearsay evidence at trial. The DOJ Attorneys’ Manual instructs U.S. Attorneys not to name unindicted co-conspirators in indictments and directs them to avoid publicly naming unindicted co-conspirators. The public naming of ISNA is a clear violation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) guidelines and established court rules.
Muslim bashers do not care about the rules of decency and have in the past used the vilest means to discredit Muslims and their most sacred symbols. In an article published in the National Review Online (June 18, 2007), for instance, Emerson attributed to me a statement made by Salman Rushie in which Rushie argued that “assertion by ‘world leaders’ that the war on terrorism is not a war on Islam is nothing but a piece of propaganda and disinformation that was meant to appease Western Muslims and to maintain the coalition against terrorism.”
Similarly, Spencer’s writings have been described as fear mongering and hate speech by established scholars who examined them. Karen Armstrong, the renowned world scholar of region, described Spencer’s writings as a modern version of medieval demonization of Islam. “This entrenched hostility,” she writes in reference to medieval hostility, “informs Robert Spencer’s misnamed biography The Truth about Muhammad, subtitled Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion… Like any book written in hatred, his new work is a depressing read.”
Describing Spencer’s approach to finding the “truth about Muhammad,” she writes: “Spencer makes no attempt to explain the historical, political, economic and spiritual circumstances of 7th-century Arabia, without which it is impossible to understand the complexities of Muhammad’s life. Consequently he makes basic and bad mistakes of fact.” She points out that using Spencer’s method against any religion, including his own, would render it repulsive. “The traditions of any religion are multifarious. It is easy, therefore, to quote so selectively that the main thrust of the faith is distorted. But Spencer is not interested in balance. He picks out only those aspects of Islamic tradition that support his thesis.”
Spencer and Emerson will continue to insinuate the public against Muslims, publish best sellers book with the help of their cottage industry, and advance their hate mongering careers. With the help of their far right bloggers who are ready to publish and republish anti-Muslim propaganda without ever bother to check the accuracy of the information they are fed, they will continue to spin Muslim news. They might think that they can erode the religious freedom and civic liberties of law abiding Americans of the Muslim faith and still remain able to enjoy their own.
By working to erode the equal dignity of Muslim Americans, Muslim bashers are undoubtedly working to erode their own, and probably do not know it. Let us make sure that they do not succeed in that.
Dr. Louay Safi is executive director with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). He writes and lectures on issues relating to Islam and the West, democracy, human rights, leadership, and world peace. His commentaries are available at louaysafi.com.