This summer’s “Intelligence Report” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) features an article by Robert Steinback titled the, “Jihad Against Islam”. The SPLC is a non-profit organization founded by civil rights lawyers and headed up by a group of lawyers, educators, and journalist that are known for tackling and exposing the activities of hate groups.
“Jihad Against Islam” focuses on the rise in anti-Islamic legislation, protest movements, and violent attacks on Muslims in America. The article cites the work of author and independent journalist Max Blumenthal. In a December 2010 articl, Blumenthal wrote about the roots of what he called ”the Great Islamophobic Crusade”. In the article, Blumenthal documents how this movement came about:
“The Islamophobic crusade was launched in earnest at the peak of George W. Bush’s prestige when the neoconservatives and their allies were riding high. In 2003, three years after the collapse of President Bill Clinton’s attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue and in the immediate wake of the invasion of Iraq, a network of Jewish groups, ranging from ADL and the American Jewish Committee to AIPAC, gathered to address what they saw as a sudden rise in pro-Palestinian activism on college campuses nationwide. That meeting gave birth to the David Project, a campus advocacy group led by Charles Jacobs, who had co-founded CAMERA, one of the many outfits bankrolled by Chernick.”
According to Blumenthal, the David Project first focused on getting professors fired if they espoused what the David Project perceived as a pro-Palestinian position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their first target was the Columbia professor Joseph Massad, The David Project produced a film designed to smear and discredit Massad. However, under close examination and the light of truth, none of the allegations made about Massad stuck. In fact, they were all either discredited or never corroborated. Eventually, Massad earned tenure, only after winning Columbia’s Lionel Trilling Award for excellence in scholarship.
But that didn’t stop the Islomophobic Crusade. A core group of hard-line Right-wing activists, including Robert Spencer, Brigitte Gabriel, Frank Gaffney, David Horowitz, and David Yerushalmi and eventually Pam Geller joined in to continue their relentless campaign to vilify Islam.
Their next big target was to halt the construction of a building for the Islamic Society of Boston in 2004. Rupert Murdoch owner of the Boston Herald and the local Fox News stations reported on the building of a “homegrown terror cell”. They claimed the project was funded by “the Wahhabi movement in Saudi Arabia or… the Moslem Brotherhood.” However, their protests failed the construction of the center after a group of liberal Jewish organizations held interfaith gathers that helped put out the flames of the anti-Muslim bigotry in the Boston area. The center was opened in 2007. Blumenthal quotes the Boston-area National Public Radio reporter Philip Martin reflections in September 2010, “The horror stories that preceded [the center’s] development seem shrill and histrionic in retrospect.”
The SPLC points to two key tactics the anti-Muslim bigots have been taken. The first is to paint Osama Bin Laden’s interpretation of the Koran as the only correct interpretation. And therefore, Islam is a violent religion. The theory claims that moderate or liberal Muslims are just faking it. The SPLC points out proponents of this theory often “Ignores other passages and centuries of interpretive scholarship that mitigate the Koran’s occasional violent verses. Some also point out that the many violent admonitions of other holy books, including the Bible, are not usually taken literally by believers.”
The SPLC points to two key tactics the anti-Muslim bigots have been taken. The first is to paint Osama Bin Laden interpretation of the Koran as the only correct interpretation. And therefore, Islam is a violent religion. The SPLC goes on explain the second key tactic is “to relentlessly attack individuals and organizations who purport to represent moderate Islam in America, painting them as secret operatives in the grand Muslim scheme (typically attributed to a conspiracy led by the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood) to destroy the West.”
Considering the two key tactics, the SPLC states, “It is particularly perplexing trying to discern the ultimate goal of this corps of activists. If their aim is to isolate and destroy the violence-prone fanatical Muslim fringe, then it doesn’t make sense to undermine moderate Muslims and argue that only confirmed terrorists are interpreting the Koran correctly. But both tactics make perfect sense if the aim is to build a widespread, irrational fear and hostility against Islam in general — encouraging, rather than helping defuse, an eventual global confrontation between East and West.”
The Islamophobic Crusade gained steam when the U.S. elected a president with the name Barack Hussein Obama. Fears of what the SPLC calls the “browning of America” created a spike in racist, Right-wing hate groups. As I reported on earlier in the year, for the first time ever the SPLC documented more than 1,000 hate groups.
The anti-Muslim bigots had their first success story when they protested the planned opening of a secular Arabic-English elementary public school in Brooklyn, N.Y. Using the campaign slogan “Stop the Madrass,” the succeed in painting the intended school principle Debbie Almontaser as a dangerous extremist. In spite of the fact that Almontaser was a distinguished educator and all the allegations by the bigots were discredited, while the school was ultimately approved, Almontaser stepped down in the face of mounting false criticism. At the time of her departure, the The New York Times lamented, “the work of a growing and organized movement to stop Muslim citizens who are seeking an expanded role in American public life.”
I’m going to skip over all the Islamophobic lies which gained national media coverage over the Park 51 community center, otherwise known as the so called “Ground Zero” masque, which was not located at Ground Zero. I’ll only point out that the two key tactics were once again employed and failed. The Park 51 gained the funding needed to move forward with the project.
The New York Times comment gets to the real meat of the matter. The ironically named David Project and the whole cadre of Islamophobic crusaders are actively working to undermine the U.S. Constitution. Thanks to their dishonest efforts, states like Oklahoma recently passed a state constitutional amendment prohibiting judges from making rulings based on Shariah law, which is essentially a pointless and idiotic law since U.S. judges can’t overide U.S. and it already been essentially thrown out in court. However, the more disturbing bit of legislation, as the SPLC points out, “Tennessee legislators in February introduced a bill that would establish certain Shariah practices as prima facie evidence of an intent to overthrow the Constitution. It would virtually criminalize Islam, theoretically subjecting Muslims who weren’t careful in their prayer practices to prison terms of up to 15 years.”
Once again, the SPLC lists the number of attacks on Americans by Muslim extremists since 9/11 and includes an account of attacks on Muslims, or people believed to be Muslim, as in the attack on the two Sikhs in California. The article notes that Muslims make up around .6 percent of the total U.S. population and of them, less than .1 percent have been involved in terrorist plots or attacks. While New York U.S. Representative Peter King holds hearings in congress on the “radicalization of American Muslims,” many Americans wonder why he has not equally focused on the Christian extremist that have been blowing up women’s health clinics and killing abortion providers. The answer really should be clear, Muslims make the perfect bogeyman for racist, small minded Americans. As the SPLC point out:
“Muslims are predominantly non-white. They practice an unfamiliar religion with unusual rituals. They are a small population in this land with a largely inconspicuous history here. They are regarded by many as a military enemy of the United States. They are perceived as a threat to the American social and cultural fabric. They have few ideological allies outside their own number. Never before has an American minority group had all of these factors arrayed against them.”
That pretty much explains why Muslims have replaced communists as America’s number one bogeyman. The sad thing is Americans have played the broken record of bigotry again and again and we always know how the song ends. If you don’t know, let me remind you, widespread bigotry in the U.S. has always ended in horrific acts of violence and an embarrassing splotch on our national moral character. I recommend the next time we see the anti-Muslim bigots coming, we all take up the example of the liberal Jewish groups in Boston. Even though I’m an agnostic, I personally will be happy to join in an interfaith gathering to protest the lies, distortions, and hate coming from the Islamophobic Crusade.