Horowitz and Spencer’s Islamophobia

David Horowitz

Horowitz and Spencer’s Islamophobia

by Matt Duss

In a recent article for National Review Online, David Horowitz and Robert Spencer criticized the Center for American Progress’s report “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.” Following a familiar formula, the authors play the victim, accusing CAP of peddling “conspiracy theories” about anti-Muslim activists like themselves.

Even a cursory glance at our report, however, shows we have done no such thing. Quite the contrary, the dissemination of hateful anti-Muslim ideas by Horowitz, Spencer, and others is done right out in the open. CAP’s contribution was to document these efforts, to draw together the various strands in order to properly view them as part of a coherent whole — an organized campaign to spread misinformation about the religious faith of millions of Americans.

The authors first take issue with our use of the term “Islamophobia,” claiming “the purpose of the suffix — phobia — is to identify any concern about troubling Islamic institutions and actions as irrational, or worse as a dangerous bigotry that should itself be feared.” This is false. As my co-authors and I note in our report, we don’t use the term “Islamophobia” lightly. We define it as an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from America’s social, political, and civic life.

We think that any fair-minded reader of Horowitz and Spencer’s work, which our report extensively documents, would conclude that it qualifies.

Engaging in exactly the sort of careless slander that our report examines, the authors then deride similar reports from what they refer to as “[Muslim] Brotherhood fronts like CAIR [the Council on American-Islamic Relations], and jihadist apologists like the Southern Poverty Law Center.” Interestingly, they spare the Anti-Defamation League, which released a backgrounder earlier this year declaring that Spencer’s group, Stop Islamization of America, “promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam.”

Spencer’s group, the Anti-Defamation League wrote, “seeks to rouse public fears by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith and asserting the existence of an Islamic conspiracy to destroy ‘American’ values.” Should the Anti-Defamation League also be lumped with the “jihadist apologists”?

Rather than addressing such charges, however, the authors spend the majority of their response listing reasons why Islamic extremist terrorism represents a genuine threat to American security. But they are rebutting an argument we have not made. As evidenced by the considerable amount of workCAP has produced on the subject, we take the issue of national security extremely seriously — far more seriously than Horowitz and Spencer’s selective, inflammatory, and unscholarly rendering of the Islamic peril suggests that they themselves do.

It is enormously revealing that Horowitz and Spencer do not address the actual argument made in “Fear, Inc.,” which is that they, along with a small cadre of self-appointed experts and activists, promote the idea that religiously inspired terrorism represents true Islam. (“Traditional Islam itself is not moderate or peaceful,” wrote Spencer in 2006. “It is the only major world religion with a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers.”) They also promote the idea that Sharia law is incompatible with a modern society (“There is no form of Sharia that does not contain . . . [the] death penalty for apostasy,” wrote Spencer, obviously ignorant of the manner in which Islam is practiced by millions of Sharia-adherent Muslims in the United States).

The unmistakable implication of these claims is that all observant Muslims should be viewed with suspicion simply by virtue of being observant Muslims. That’s obviously Islamophobic. (It also flies in the face of the evidence. Earlier this year, the largest study of Muslim Americans ever done, the Muslim American Public Opinion Survey, found that “involvement with the mosque, and increased religiosity increases civic engagement and support for American democratic values.”)

It is worth noting here the irony of Horowitz and Spencer’s accusing CAP of promulgating a conspiracy theory, because, as the Anti-Defamation League’s backgrounder also notes, a conspiracy is precisely what those authors themselves allege in regard to American Muslims’ supposed efforts to infiltrate the American legal system with Islamic Sharia law. (For an examination and rebuttal of those claims, see CAP’s previous issue brief, “Understanding Sharia Law.”)

And finally, a word about the venue in which Horowitz and Spencer’s piece was published, National Review. While we don’t share many of this magazine’s positions, we recognize it as an institution of American conservatism and a key player in the American political debate. Its imprimatur matters, which is why we’re concerned that that imprimatur should be granted to characters like Horowitz and Spencer.

Back in the 1950’s, the stridently anti-Communist John Birch Society made very similar claims about the threat of Communism that Islamophobes now make about the threat of Islam. At one point, Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society, wrote that Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower was “a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.”

National Review’s founder and editor, William F. Buckley Jr., responded to Welch’s allegation with condemnation. “How can the John Birch Society be an effective political instrument while it is led by a man whose views on current affairs are, at so many critical points . . . so far removed from common sense?” Buckley asked. “That dilemma weighs on conservatives across America.” Buckley’s condemnation helped marginalize the John Birch Society from the mainstream conservative movement for decades.

In Horowitz’s FrontPage magazine on Feb. 3, 2011, Spencer wrote, “[Muslim] Brotherhood operatives are in the American government and working closely with it, thanks to Barack Obama.” On Sept. 12, 2011, Spencer criticized President Obama’s choice of a Bibleverse read at the 9/11 commemorations as evidence of the president’s “remarkable, unqualified and obvious affinity for Islam.” The list of similar allegations from Spencer is not short.

This new dilemma should weigh on conservatives across America. David Horowitz, Robert Spencer, and the rest of the Islamophobes we name in our report are the modern version of the John Birch Society. Judging Robert Welch’s allegations of President Eisenhower’s supposed Communist sympathies to be beyond the pale, William F. Buckley denounced them in the pages of National Review. It’s unfortunate that, rather than do the same in response to Welch’s heirs, today’s National Review gives them a platform.

— Matt Duss is a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress and the director of the Center’s Middle East Progress project. He is a co-author of “Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.”

Norway attacks suspect admits responsibility

Oslo Terrorism BombingOslo Terrorism Bombing

via Loonwatch:

Norway attacks suspect admits responsibility

(AlJazeeraEnglish)

The man suspected of a gun and bomb attack in Norway has called his deeds atrocious yet necessary, his defence lawyer said.

“He has said that he believed the actions were atrocious, but that in his head they were necessary,” defence lawyer Geir Lippestad told TV2 news on Saturday.

Lippestad said his client had said he was willing to explain himself in a court hearing on Monday. The court will decide at the hearing whether to keep the suspect in detention pending trial.

Earlier on Saturday, officials in Norway had charged a 32-year-old Norwegian man with killing at least 92 people in a gun and bomb attack described as the worst act of violence in the country since World War II.

Police confirmed to Al Jazeera on Saturday that the suspect had been named as Anders Behring Breivik.

Breivik, who confessed to firing weapons during questioning on Saturday, belonged to right-wing political groups. But officials said they are not jumping to conclusions about his motives.

Reports suggest he belonged to an anti-immigration party, wrote blogs attacking multi-culturalism and was a member of a neo-Nazi online forum.

But Norwegian authorities said Breivik, detained by police after 85 people were gunned down at a youth camp and another 7 killed in an Oslo bomb attack on Friday, was previously unknown to them and his internet activity traced so far included no calls to violence.

‘Beyond comprehension’

Breivik bought six tonnes of fertiliser before the massacre, a supplier said on Saturday, as police investigated witness accounts of a second shooter in the attack on Utoya.

If convicted on terrorism charges, Breivik would face a maximum of 21 years in jail, police said

If convicted on terrorism charges, he would face a maximum of 21 years in jail, police have said.

Norway’s royal family and prime minister led the nation in mourning, visiting grieving relatives of the scores of youth gunned down at an island retreat, as the shell-shocked Nordic nation was gripped by reports that the gunman may not have acted alone.

The shooting spree began just hours after a massive explosion that ripped through an Oslo high-rise building housing the prime minister’s office.

“This is beyond comprehension. It’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare for those who have been killed, for their mothers and fathers, family and friends,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Saturday.

Though the prime minister cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the gunman’s motives, both attacks were in areas connected to the left-leaning Labour Party, which leads a coalition government.

The youth camp, about 35km northwest of Oslo, is organised by the party’s youth wing, and the prime minister had been scheduled to speak there on Saturday.

‘Christian fundamentalist’ views

The blond-haired Behring Breivik described himself on his Facebook page as “conservative”, “Christian”, and interested in hunting and computer games like World of Warcraft and Modern Warfare 2, reports say.

On his Twitter account, he posted only one message, dated July 17, in English based on a quote from British philosopher John Stuart Mill: “One person with a belief is equal to a force of 100,000 who have only interests”.

The suspect was reportedly also a member of a Swedish neo-Nazi internet forum, a group monitoring far-right activity said on Saturday.

Nordisk, a 22,000-member web forum founded in 2007, describes itself as a portal on the theme of “the Nordic identity, culture and traditions.”

In comments from 2009-2010 to other people’s articles on another website, Document, which calls itself critical of Islam, Breivik criticised European policies of trying to accommodate the cultures of different ethnic groups.

“When did multi-culturalism cease to be an ideology designed to deconstruct European culture, traditions, identity and nation-states?” said one his entries, posted on February 2, 2010.

Breivik wrote he was a backer of the “Vienna School of Thought”, which was against multi-culturalism and the spread of Islam.

He also wrote he admired Geert Wilders, the populist anti-Islam Dutch politician, for following that school. Wilders said in a statement on Saturday: “I despise everything he stands for and everything he did”.

Nina Hjerpset-Ostlie, a contributing journalist to the right-wing website, said she had met Breivik at a meeting in late 2009.

“The only thing we noticed about him is that he seemed like anyone else and that he had some very high-flying, unrealistic, ideas about marketing of our website,” she said.

Police searched an apartment in an Oslo suburb on Friday, which neighbours said belonged to Breivik’s mother.

“It is the mother who lives there. She is a very polite lady, pleasant and very friendly,” said Hemet Noaman, 27, an accounting consultant who lives in the same building in a wealthy part of town. “He often came to visit his mother but did not live here.”

Oslo Deputy Police Chief Roger Andresen would not speculate on the motives for what was believed to be the deadliest attack by a lone gunman anywhere in modern times.

“He has never been under surveillance and he has never been arrested,” Andresen told a news conference on Saturday.

Populist party member

Breivik, who attended a middle class high school called Handelsgym in central Oslo, had also been a member of the Progress Party, the second-largest in parliament, the party’s head of communications Fredrik Farber said.

He was a member from 2004 to 2006 and in its youth party from 1997 to 2007.

The Progress Party – conservative but within the political mainstream – wants far tighter restrictions on immigration, whereas the centre-left government backs multi-culturalism. The party leads some public opinion polls.

A politician who met Breivik in 2002-2003, when he was apparently interested in local Oslo politics, said he did not attract attention.

“I got the impression that he was a modest person … he was well dressed, it seemed like he was well educated,” Joeran Kallmyr, 33, an Oslo municipality politician representing the Progress Party, told the Reuters news agency.

Progress leader Siv Jensen stressed he had left the party.

Breivik was also a freemason, said a spokesman for the organisation.

Newsweek: “Stealth Jihad” is Paranoid Speak

Robert Spencer popularized the term “Stealth Jihad,” and some in the Conservative wing such as Newt Gingrich have ran with it and are using it all the time. As has been exposed on Loonwatch and other sites, “Stealth Jihad” is paranoid speak and just another anti-Muslim conspiracy theory.

Lisa Miller takes on this term in her recent article which no doubt will have Spencer, whose site is described as “a hyperventilating anti-terror blog,” in fits.

The Misinformants

By Lisa Miller

Here is the latest semantic assault from the party that brought you “Islamo-facism” (circa 2005) and “Axis of Evil” (2002). The term “stealth jihad” is suddenly voguish among politically ambitious right wingers who see President Obama’s approach to terrorism as insufficient. If it sounds like a phrase from a military-fantasy summer blockbuster, that’s on purpose: in its cartoonish bad-guy foreignness, “stealth jihad” attempts to make the terrorist threat broader and thus more nefarious than it already is. The only thing scarier than an invisible, homicidal, suicidal enemy with a taste for world domination is one who’s sneaking up on you. In the words of former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at a July speech at the American Enterprise Institute, “stealth jihad” is an effort “to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Sharia.”

The term wasn’t Gingrich’s invention. It’s the title of a two-year-old book by Robert Spencer, whose hyperventilating antiterror blog, Jihad Watch, is cited and circulated widely on the far right. But the recent vicious debate over the proposed community center and mosque near Ground Zero gives Gingrich an excuse to use “stealth jihad” and its variants frequently—not just at the AEI but in an interview with this magazine. (In an essay on the conservative Web site Human Events, he referred instead to “creeping sharia.”) Gingrich’s like-minded peers have seized on the language, too. “Muslim Brotherhood operatives, like [Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the center’s founder and leader] are extremely skilled at obscuring … their true agenda,” said Frank Gaffney, founder of the Center for Security Policy, on FOX’s Glenn Beck show. “It’s part of the stealth jihad.”
‘A Little Intolerant, But Good Reason To Be’ Protesters for and against the building of a Muslim community center near Ground Zero talk about their reasons for supporting or opposing the project.

Words matter, and if you say them often enough and with enough authority, they start to sound true—even if they’re not. Abdul Rauf, for instance, has no affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood and is an “operative” (another nefarious word) only in the sense that running a small, progressive interfaith nonprofit is an “operation.” As for his “stealth jihad,” it’s virtually impossible to imagine how such an event would—logistically—occur. Would the construction of an Islamic prayer site near Ground Zero inevitably lead American women to wake up one morning and find themselves veiled and confined to their homes? “The term is ever-so-slightly goofy,” says Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley. The paranoia conveyed by “stealth jihad” brings to mind the anticommunist campaigns of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, Nunberg adds. Just as McCarthyites imagined a communist behind every lamppost, the word “stealth” conflates all Muslims with terrorists. In a stealth campaign you never know who your friends are.

Also, simply put, foreign words freak people out. “Jihad” and “Sharia” reinforce the sense among Americans that Muslims in general have an unfathomable world view. During World War II, formerly obscure words like “hara-kiri” and “kamikaze,” which suggested the “warlike ferocity” of the Japanese, became common parlance, Nunberg says. “There was this sense of being confronted with this hostile, alien culture.” The Japanese were “literally demonized,” he says.

Gingrich has already used the mosque debate to evoke many of America’s historic enemies, comparing Muslims indirectly with Nazis and communists and even the Japanese. “We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor,” he said on FOX recently.

But that is not true. Fourteen percent of Hawaiians call themselves ethnically Japanese, according to the U.S. Census, and dozens of Japanese temples stand near Pearl Harbor—as they have for decades. One of them, the Buddhist Aiea Hongwanji Mission, is less than half a mile away. “You can see Pearl Harbor from the roof, maybe. We’re really close,” says Wade Yamamoto, the temple’s treasurer. The temple allows people “to practice their religion from back home,” he says. Gingrich, a historian, might take a lesson here. After the attacks of Dec. 7, 1941, more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent—two thirds of them American citizens—were interned in camps in a shameful episode that later legislation called the result of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” Last week, a New York City cab driver was stabbed for answering the question “Are you a Muslim?” in the affirmative. Our enemies are dangerous. Let’s be clear about who they are.

With Johannah Cornblatt

David Horowitz says Palestinians are Nazis

David Horowitz

David Horowitz

David Horowitz, the former Marxist turned neo-Conservative and the person who funds such loathsome individuals as Robert Spencer and his Jihad Watch was at UMass where he faced strong opposition from students. He ended up calling Palestinians Nazis, said Islam is worse and more dangerous than Nazism and other crazy stuff.

Horowitz Brings Controversial Ideas to Student Union

By: Michelle Williams | February 25, 2010 | ShareThis

Editor’s Note: Due to the snow day, this article will appear in the paper edition of Thursday, Feb. 25. As such, the online article has been slightly updated.

FEATURE

Ashley Lesperance/Collegian

On Tuesday evening, former New Left radical turned conservative pundit and author of such works as “Hating Whitey: and Other Progressive Causes,” and “Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left,” David Horowitz spoke in the Cape Cod Lounge in the Student Union.

Outside the Lounge two UMass Police officers were stationed at the door, with numerous law enforcement officials inside in plainclothes.

Justin Thomas, vice president of the University of Massachusetts Republican Club, the RSO which brought Horowitz to UMass, defended the heavy police presence at the event, citing previous events including Don Feder’s speech in March 2009, which was disrupted by protesters.

David Horowitz is described by the Republican Club as a well-known author and lifelong civil rights activist. He was sponsored to speak at UMass for a payment of $5,000 plus expenses, including transportation, lodging, and payment for protection.

Those protesting disagree that his speech was worth funding.

“I am here protesting because, as a UMass student attending a public university, I don’t welcome homophobia, and Islamophobia that is integrated in Horowitz’s hate speech.” said Marah DeFlavia, a junior at UMass. “I feel that bringing Horowitz to this campus was socially irresponsible, and it sends a negative message regarding our campus.”

Protesters passed out flyers labeling Horowitz a racist, citing an article he wrote which likened calling Rush Limbaugh a racist to calling minorities racial epithets.

The evening seemed a perfect test of some of Horowitz’s primary tenets, as he has asserted that liberal thinkers suppress free thought in academia in such pieces as “The Professors: 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.”

Ultimately, this forum turned out better than last year’s contested gathering. Some protesters did speak out, and while they were asked to leave, none were forcibly removed or arrested.

The UMPD also implemented security measures, including not allowing audience members to bring backpacks with them inside. Members of the audience were also asked not to hold up signs or interrupt, though some disruption did occur.

UMass student Alex Tuffile was excited for the night’s events, having read all of Horowitz’s books. When asked his thoughts on the protesters, after viewing them quietly passing out flyers, he responded that he liked them. Citing past speeches, specifically the Don Feder speech, Tuffile said he feels the security measures are necessary.

“It was a disaster. I don’t have a problem with people when they protest, but it was ugly,” he said.

Thomas, the Republican Club vice president, gave opening remarks and thanked everyone for attending the speech, stating that Horowitz’s presence would hopefully facilitate conversation and debate.

Thomas explained why the Republican Club chose Horowitz.

“David Horowitz has been a strong proponent of free speech on campus,” he said.

Horowitz also provided an outlet for the club to display a more conservative speaker.

“You may remember Ms. Meghan McCain, who brought a more independent viewpoint [coming to campus.] Surprisingly for some, she wasn’t conservative enough,” said Thomas.

Next to speak was Derek Khanna, the president of the Republican Club. Khanna spoke of Horowitz’s lack of political correctness and the need for such in the University environment. Khanna spoke of not being able to call his country a “she,” and said, “Today, we live in a society where use of the word ‘niggardly’ requires an apology,” which the audience greeted with hissing sounds.

As he took the stage, Horowitz began his speech with an attack on liberals.

“Universities were set up to be free institutions that taxpayers pay for. It is due to out of control spending on faculty and out of control governmental loans that tuition costs are so much,” said Horowitz.

He went on to call college professors lazy, claiming they only work “nine hours a week, eight months out of the year.”

He continued to claim that professors generally represent just one side of the aisle politically. Horowitz sat in on a 90 minute civil liberties class during Tuesday’s classes, which he felt did not show multiple viewpoints on the subject.

“The professor tried to sell students on the decency of the Supreme Court, and denied them key information,” he said, furthering that he believes an educator’s job should entail “teaching you how to think, not what to think.”

Midway through his speech, Horowitz spoke on an educational department with which his views are commonly connoted. Horowitz said that women’s studies departments’ goals are to “make students into radical feminists.”

On the issues of gender and racial hierarchies in society, Horowitz claimed such inequities do not exist in America. He also said, to much audience protest, that the women’s studies department “doesn’t actually care about women,” because of genital mutilation occurring in Islamic cultures.

Horowitz expanded on his view of education stating that “the entire liberal arts college cannot give you a good education.” The only department Horowitz felt was of value was the engineering college, because through science, he believes the department presents facts without political slant.

Horowitz also told the crowd his views on religion. He deemed Muslims radicals, citing a poll claiming ten percent of Muslims agreed with jihad, or holy war. Making numerous comparisons to Nazi Germany, Horowitz called the Islamic jihad worse.

“Islamists are worse than the Nazis, because even the Nazis did not tell the world that they want to exterminate the Jews,” he said. In another comparison to Nazis, he added, “there are good Muslims and bad Muslims just like there were good Germans and bad Germans.”

After an hour of speaking, Horowitz took questions. Numerous students asked him about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, to which Horowitz responded heatedly, “The Palestinians are Nazis. Every one of their elected officials are terrorists.”

He spoke of how the countries in the Middle East were created and had no right to the lands that now make up Israel. “The Jews were attacked. They had every right to expel every Arab from both Israel and, when they were attacked in ‘67, from the West Bank.”

Zamil Akhtar, president of the UMass Muslim Student Association, spoke of how every Muslim, himself included, did not support the jihad, and said, “You said that you had not heard Muslims condemn the jihad. I can show you hundreds of Muslim scholars that disagree.”

“You also spoke of genital mutilation,” added Akhtar, “which is not a part of the culture – of my culture – as you said.”

Horowitz asked if Akhtar would denounce Hamas, to which Akhtar responded he would, and retorted by asking Horowitz if he would denounce Ann Coulter’s Islamophobic remarks, to which he responded, “It was a very apt satire.”

On the differences between sex and gender, UMass student Ashley Lesperance tried to explain the differences between gender and sex.

“Gender is defined as socially constructed to oppress women, versus sex which is what you are born with, gender is what is in fact socially constructed,” Lesperance told Horowitz.

Horowitz retorted by referencing former Harvard President Larry Summers, who drew criticism when he claimed women had lesser scientific abilities than women.

“Women possibly have a lower aptitude for math and science than men. And that’s a gender difference. Women have a lower aptitude in mathematics than men, and that is a scientific fact,” said Horowitz.

After a 30 minute question-and-answer of agitated remarks between the protesters and Horowitz, he told audience members lined at the microphone that he was finished answering questions and was escorted out of the room by his bodyguard.

Michelle Williams can be reached at mnwillia@student.umass.edu