SAN FRANCISCO – Everyone knows how it works. Everyone knows what it sounds like. Everyone knows how easy it is to get away with it.
Everyone knows, deep down, that hatred feeds on tolerance. That however well-intentioned, a society’s forbearance for the toxic slur, for the poison of ethnic or religious or racial prejudice, does hatred invaluable service.
No one knows this better than professional bigots. People like Pamela Geller, who pass themselves off as supporters of a worthy cause even as their hatred and prejudice stain and undermine anything and everything worthy about that cause.
For years, in the guise of supporting Israel, Geller has engaged in promoting hatred of Islam. In recent weeks, in a campaign timed to coincide with Muslims’ observance of the sacred month of Ramadan, her American Freedom Defense Initiative has run caustic, self-styled “pro-Israel” advertisements on the sides of public transit buses in San Francisco.
“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man,” the ads begin, white letters on black. Below it, in blue letters flanked by Stars of David, it read “Support Israel” and below that, in red, “Defeat Jihad.”
Last year, when Geller’s group tried to place the ads on public buses in New York, the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority rejected them as violating its prohibition on messages that demean individuals or groups. But in July, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that the Geller group had been denied First Amendment guarantees of free speech. That same day, the ads went up in San Francisco.
Geller told ABC News that the purpose of the ads was to counter “fallacious and dangerous” ads on San Francisco area transit trains a year ago, urging cuts in U.S. aid to Israel. “If I had my way, the (“support Israel” ads) would be in every city in the United States of America, and if I can get the funding, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”
To its credit, Muni, the San Francisco transit agency, did more than simply mount Geller’s message. It condemned the ads. Alongside them. In bus ads of its own.
In a move without precedent, Muni said in the new ads that its policy “prohibits discrimination based on national origin, religion, and other characteristics, and condemns statements that describe any group as ‘savages.’”
Muni spokesman Paul Rose said that while Muni is bound by the First Amendment, “Obviously we think the [Geller-sponsored] ads in place right now are repulsive and they definitely cross the line.”
Of late, in tandem with anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab attacks by radical settlers and Arab-hating Jewish youths in Israel and the territories (“He’s an Arab. He deserves to die,” a 14-year-old assault suspect told a court on Monday), there are troubling signs in America of a tendency to conflate hatred of Muslims with support for a Jewish state.
“The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures,” a “pro-Israel” NGO called the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights quotes Geller’s ideological inspiration as having said in a 1974 speech. “Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it’s the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are.”
In this light, Bay Area Jews are to be especially commended for denouncing Geller and her works. J., the community newspaper, said that “any right-thinking person, Jewish or not, must oppose these ads.” The Anti-Defamation League called the ads “highly offensive and inflammatory,” and the Jewish Community Relations Council and the American Jewish Committee issued a similar denunciation.
At root, this is what Geller denies: Israel can only exist as a democracy if it continually acts to foster and equalize the rights of its Arab citizens, not abrogate and dismiss them. It can only exist as a democracy if it actively works to end the unperson status of the Palestinians of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A true democracy cannot treat bigotry with understanding. It has to fight it, or its sense of democracy has no meaning.
At root, the Geller and pro-Kahane brand of “support of Israel,” is little more than a slash and burn Arab–hate that, if left unanswered, will tear apart the Israel and the Jewish community from within. It blinds people to solutions. It convinces people that there are no solutions. It persuades people that there are no options apart from violence, both of word and deed.
Israel has elaborate defense systems against military attack and terrorism. Its defenses against its own extremists are much more porous.
The Gellers and Kahanists attack Israel at the root. An Israel torn apart from within doesn’t need an external enemy to destroy it. The enemy is right here.
Omar Baddar and a host of other organizations responded to the hateful anti-Islam and anti-Arab conference put on by professional bigots Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. The founders of SIOA crassly titled the event, “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference.” Seeking to manipulate and abuse the memory of a young Muslim girl who was murdered by her step-father.
Her murder had nothing to do with Islam, but the hate-mongerers insist on trying to smear Islam at any opportunity.
In the following video we get the facts. We see how discriminatory and racist to the core the anti-Islam brigades behind the “conference” really are! We also see how scared they are of confrontation and being challenged on their hateful bigotry:
Maria Rosa Menocal published this gem of a book just before the events of September 11th, 2001, when a cadre of young Arab Muslim men driven by the politics of occupation, empire and rage combined their grievances with a religio-ideological veneer and flew out of a clear blue sky into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
The infamous day was seared into our collective conscious just as deeply as the burning aftermath that smoldered into the earth at Ground Zero, and with it a whole new era was upon us. One in which our confidence, our ideas, our principles and our policies were shook in a seismic way.
How did we react as a society and as a nation?
We clamped down on civil liberties, expanded surveillance on citizens to unfathomable and previously unheard of levels. We compromised the Constitution, built and invested even more in the Military Industrial Complex and invaded two nations while outsourcing torture. We paid lip service to Democracy while compromising with despots and apartheid regimes.
Initially, politicians, including President George W. Bush made statements to the effect that “we aren’t at war with Islam” and “Islam is a religion of peace.” Despite these fluffy statements, Islamophobia increased and cynical politicians and organizations oiled the machinery that would churn out the new bogeymen: Islam and Muslims.
Fear-mongering, especially amongst the Right continued apace and was given a new impetus with the election of Barack Hussein Obama (the “secret Mooslim”). This past summer 2010 saw the greatest backlash against Muslims since 9/11, the scene once again was Ground Zero.
A group of Muslim developers led by Sharif El-Gamal and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf created a project that according to them would mirror all the best in Islamic values, while also being an inclusive space that welcomed all faiths. It would be designed to facilitate events, programs, lectures, debates, studies, and in theory would be quite similar to the 92nd StreetY– they named the project Cordoba House.
Cordoba House was the perfect name for a project with such lofty aims. It immediately evokes images of the beautiful palm-like arches of the Cordoba Mosque and stirs the memory of Andalusia.
Anti-Muslims opposed to the mosque raised hackles at the name Cordoba, and with their usual blustering ignorance and foolhardy arrogance put forward the bizarre and illogical lie, that, by using the name Cordoba for their project, the developers were trying to build a “triumphal mosque” to mark the conquest of Islam.
Such mendacity is dangerous because it seeks to alter reality by revisiting history and washing it of truth so as to fit a particular agenda. Cordoba was the capital of Andalus, a culture, in fact a civilization that stands as a beacon and a warning to humanity.
Menocal’s book deals with this subject, and in contradistinction to the Islamophobes, relates that Cordoba and Andalus was for a moment in history the epitome of tolerance, culture, civility and harmony.
The story of Andalus is about,
a genuine, foundational European cultural moment that qualifies as “first rate,” in the sense of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wonderful formula (laid out in his essay “The Crack-Up”)–namely, that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time.” (p.10-11)
Cordoba is therefore not separate from the West, it is not the “other” as some wish to cast it, but rather it is quintessentially Western.
Andalusian culture viewed contradictions within oneself and ones culture as having the possibility of being “positive and productive.” These contradictions consisted of differing religions, philosophies, languages, races, etc. Something which we take for granted in our societies but which is under pressure from fanatical and retrograde forces who mirror the forces that brought down the Andalusian civilization.
The founding stone of this culture was one of the last survivors of the Umayyad dynasty, Abd al-Rahman who traversed from Damascus to Muslim Spain “Aeneas-like,” to become “the first, rather than the last, of his line.”
His arduous journey and homesickness for his native land were evident throughout his life. He wrote in verse his feelings of “exile”:
A palm tree stands in the middle of Rusafa,
Born in the West, far from the land of palms.
I said to it: How like me you are, far away in exile,
In long separation from family and friends.
You have sprung from soil in which you are a stranger;
And I, like you, am far from home. (p.61)
Not for much longer were his descendants to feel like “strangers.” Andalus and its jewel, Cordoba became home to a glorious civilization in which everyone, Muslims, Jews and Christians alike took part:
It was there that the profoundly Arabized Jews rediscovered and reinvented Hebrew; there that Christians embraced nearly every aspect of Arabic style–not only while living in Islamic dominions but especially after wresting political control from them; there that men of unshakable faith, like Abelard and Maimonides and Averroes, saw no contradiction in pursuing the truth, whether philosophical or scientific or religious, across confessional lines. (p.11) (emphasis mine)
Andalus produced such prominent Jewish poets, military leaders, governmental leaders, philosophers, theologians, architects, and intellectuals as: Dunash Ben Labrat, Hasdai Ibn Sharput, Maimonides, Samuel the Nagid, Ibn Ezra, Judah Halevi, Moses of Leon and a plethora of others. I cannot do justice to their contributions to humanity in this short review, for more on their works and lives read Menocal’s book.
These Arabized Jews ushered in a Jewish Golden Age and contributed to the redemption of Hebrew which had become a near dead language, relegated to the realm of liturgy,
The brilliance of the Golden Age came from Hebrew’s redemption from its profound exile, locked inside temples, never speaking about life itself. Maimonides, born in Cordoba just five years before Halevi left al-Andalus, described this post-exilic, pre-Andalusian state of things in his Laws on Prayer: ‘When anyone of them prayed in Hebrew, he was unable adequately to express his needs or recount the praises of God, without mixing Hebrew with other languages.’ It was not that Jews should speak other languages but that the Hebrew they spoke was no longer the language of true love, of complex emotion, of seemingly contrary ideas and feelings: maternal, erotic, spiritual, material, transcendent. Maimonides, Andalusian that he was, believed that God needed and wanted to be spoken to in a language alive with that whole range of possible emotions. It was an attitude that later allowed English to find its voice in the love sonnets of Shakespeare as well as in the prayers of the King James Bible. The prayers prove more satisfying, perhaps even more true, for being in the language of the love songs.
Hebrew’s redemption had come at the hands of writers who were masters of Arabic rhetoric, the Andalusian Jews, men as thoroughly and successfully a part of the cult of Arabic grammar, rhetoric, and style as any of their Muslim neighbors and associates. A century before Halevi took his final leave to find Jerusalem, Samuel the Nagid had first made Hebrew perform all the magic tricks that his native tongue, Arabic, could and did. He had been made vizier because his skill in writing letters and court documents in Arabic surpassed that of all others. He then went on to write poems in the new Hebrew style, among them verses recounting his glories leading his taifa’s armies to victory. In one fell swoop, Samuel’s Hebrew poetry, with its Arabic accents and prosody –the features essential to making alive for the Arabic-speaking Andalusian Jews–vindicated and completely exceeded all the small steps that others had taken in the centuries before him to revive the ancestral language, to reinvent it as a living tongue. Everyone, from Halevi to the nineteenth- century Germans who made the Andalusians into the noble heroes of Jewish history, knew that Hebrew had been redeemed from its exile thanks to the Andalusian Jews’ extraordinary secular successes, first during the several Umayyad centuries and then in the taifas. Because they had absorbed, mastered, and loved the principles that made Arabic easily able to sing to God and Beloved in the same language, they had been able to revive Hebrew so it could, once again, sing like the Hebrew of David’s songs, and Solomon’s songs. It was a great triumph…(p.161-62) (emphasis mine)
One of those whose story I found very intriguing was Judah Halevi who encapsulated all the contradictions and creativeness that was Andalusia. He was a profound poet, much admired by his peers and was considered one of the “greatest champions” of the Andalusian ethic. However, he transformed over time and turned his back on Andalusian culture, “he declared that it was all folly and inimical to Jewishness and had to be forsaken, in spirit certainly and — if possible, as he intended to do — physically. People were astonished, and some of them offended.”(p.163)
This sort of destructive change and move away from the Andalusian ethos afflicted Muslims and Christians as well.
[T]he first significant instances of cultural puritanism in the Iberian Peninsula were imported from places with little of the Andalusian experience. The Berber Muslims of North Africa never quite understood the Andalusian application of the dhimma, and they mostly disapproved of the syncretic culture that resulted from it. From the Berber sack of Cordoba at the beginning of the eleventh century on, a variety of “reform” movements swarming northward from across the Strait of Gibraltar always threatened to remake Andalusian politics and culture in their own image of Islam. At the same time, the Berber obtuseness was mirrored by the incomprehension with which the peninsula’s Christans were viewed by their coreligionists north of the Pyrenees. This was especially evident after Castile began to expand into territories that had been under Islamic rule for three and four centuries, and to incorporate their thoroughly Arabized populations, Muslims, Jews, and Mozarab Christians alike. An often stark difference in worldview separated the Roman Church as it had evolved outside the peninsula from the Christian communities within it. And these differences grew more profound in the decades and centuries that followed the Christian expansion southward…
During the second half of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth, more puritanical visions of these cultures converged in Iberia. The determinedly crusading forces from Latin Christendom and the equally fanatic Berber Almohads became influential parts of the landscape and inevitably met, head-on, on the plains between New Castile and old al-Andalus, at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, with disastrous results for the Almohads. The effects of the long-term presence of two expansive religious ideologies, each originally foreign to the Andalusian ethic, transformed the nature of the conflicts at hand. They made religious-ideological warfare a reality, cultural orthodoxy a real possibility, and monochromatic identity a realizable ideal.(267-68)
I have not recounted the amazing and spectacular contribution of Muslim scholars, philosophers, scientists, poets, musicians, theologians, architects, statesmen and leaders. This review would become very long if we recounted the lives of: Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Hazm, Abd al-Rahman, Abd al-Rahman III, Muhammad Ibn Abbad, Ibn Arabi, Ibn al-Khatib, al-Idrisi and the many others.
Nor have I recounted the glorious arabized Christian production and contribution in this period: the Alcazar, the syncretic identity of theMozarabs, the development of Mudejar architecture, the “for hire” activities and sagas of ElCid, Peter of Castile, the Abbot of Cluny’sQur’an, the translations by Christians of Arabic works into European languages and how it effected the diffusion of knowledge in Europe and the age of exploration.
How can I do all this justice, when even Menocal’s book seems to only give us a tantalizing glimpse and a thirst for more?
The dynamic, intellectual, creative, unique output in regards to language, literature, philosophy, theology, politics, and science serves as an ultimate rebuke to the concerted effort of Anti-Arabs and Islamophobes who claim that Muslim peoples accomplished nothing, were intellectually bereft, culturally barren and uncreative. The well worn talking point that makes frequent rounds in Islamophobic circles, the idea that ‘anything of value that Muslims created or invented wasstolen’ is forever put to rest and quietly mocked by al-Andalus.
Menocal’s book on Andalusia gives us insight into the possibilities of various religions, ideas, identities to not only coexist but to exalt in differences and to view them positively. It also warns us against the insular, narrow view of nationalism, fanaticism, supremacism, both religious and cultural. It is a warning that we would do well to listen to and comprehend for our own time and place.
For our readers to savor a bit of the Andalusian experience, I provide two beautiful examples of Andalusian Music:
Ibn Arabi–”Her Words Bring Me Back to Life”:
Mozarabic Chant: “Alleluia” and Mauritanian Samaa:
David Horowitz, founder and editor of FrontPageMag as well as Robert Spencer’s financier and boss is at it again, targeting Palestinians and Islam. Horowitz said of the Palestinians,
“No people have shown themselves as so morally sick as the Palestinians”, adding, “In the history of all mankind, there was never a people who strapped bombs on their bodies and killed innocent people. No other people has sunk so low as the Palestinians, and everyone is afraid to say it.”
About Islam Horowitz was likewise unrestrained, describing Islam as a religion possessed by,
“hate, violence and racism”,
This is the radical anti-Muslim and racist anti-Palestinian agenda that drives both Horowitz and Spencer. While Spencer’s anti-Muslim and anti-Islam animus is clear and copiously documented it is unknown whether he shares the same opinion about Palestinians/Arabs as his boss. What is certain however is that Spencer does not mind these statements, nor does he condemn them and therefore he is complicit in his boss’s hateful rhetoric about Arabs.
The full article can be read at Israel National News,
David Horowitz, conservative commentator, prolific author and founder of theFrontPage Mag web site, spoke out in response to ongoing Israeli Apartheid Week on campus. A full house gathered at the Brooklyn College library auditorium on Thursday evening, under exceptionally heavy security, to hear him.
The speech, delivered one day before the barbaricmassacre of five members of the Fogel family on Friday night in Itamar, became tragically prescient..
Describing the Palestinians, Horowitz said: ”No people have shown themselves as so morally sick as the Palestinians”, adding, “In the history of all mankind, there was never a people who strapped bombs on their bodies and killed innocent people. No other people has sunk so low as the Palestinians, and everyone is afraid to say it.”
Describing Islam as a religion possessed by “hate, violence and racism”, he said that a resolution to the protracted Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio could is not beyond reach. “If you disarm the Palestinians in the Middle East there will be peace, but if you disarm the Jews, there wil be further death and destruction.”