Religious leaders slam Spencer And Geller’s anti-Muslim bus ads

Religious leaders slam anti-Muslim bus ads

New ads on Metro buses with a photo of Adolf Hitler and a prominent Muslim leader represent the “bigotry and hate” that divide people and spur hatred, religious groups said Monday morning.

“These ads are trying to say the Quran calls for hatred of Judaism,” said Ira Weiss, who represented the Jewish Islam Dialogue Society, which works to bring together Muslims and Jews. “It is easy to cherry-pick nasty parts of Scripture in any text – they were written thousands of years ago,” Weiss said at a news conference in Rockville. “These words used in the ads are like the devil using Scripture against its religion.”

The ads, created by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, feature a photo of Hitler speaking to Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was grand mufti of Jerusalem at the time. They ask people to stop aiding Muslims in an attempt to “end racism.” The ads, which are on 20 Metro buses, declare that “Islamic Jew-hatred” is “in the Quran,” adding the “two thirds of all US aid goes to Islamic countries.”

The Montgomery County Faith Community Working Group – which represents the county’s Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian communities – organized the news conference and rally, which drew about 100 people to the Rockville Metro station.

James Stow, director of the county’s Office of Humans Rights, said he was happy to support the religious protest against the ad. “Freedom is not free,” Stow said. “It’s heavy lifting.” He said he recognized that the group that bought the ads enjoys freedom of speech, but it should use that freedom to speak against hate.

Meanwhile, Pamela Geller of New York, who leads that pro-Israel group, said she was surprised by the protest because she has not heard of other protests against what she called the teachings of the Quran. “I am surprised that these same Muslim leaders are not protesting the anti-Semitic texts and teachings in the Quran,” Geller wrote in an email to The Gazette. “Instead they protest those of us that oppose such hate speech.”

The ads concern U.S. aid to other countries, Geller said. “So if that is the issue, why didn’t these protesters protest against the American Muslims for Palestine ad?” she asked, referring to that group’s ads on Metro buses in April.

Those ads read: “We’re sweating April 15 so Israelis don’t have to! Stop US aid to Israel’s occupation.” The message was superimposed over a tax return form, next to a picture of Uncle Sam waving an Israeli flag.

“As for bringing in religion where it is not needed, that is not my doing,” Geller wrote. “The Islamic jihadists have done that, impeding peace in Israel with their genocidal religion-based hatred, as Hamas so memorably expressed recently when they said on their Aqsa TV channel: ‘Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah.’ It is chilling that anyone in the U.S. would protest against an attempt to draw attention to that hateful and violent ethos.”

Those who attended Monday’s rally called the protest a good step forward.

Imam Faizul Khan, an administrator with the Islamic Society of the Washington Area and co-chairman of the Faith Community Advisory Council, said he came because he was “concerned with the message of division, bigotry and hate.” “I came today to help bring awareness to the community, and bring unity,” Khan said. “I believe the best next step is to create an infection of love in Montgomery County and continue our momentum.”

Weiss said he realizes that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs the Metro bus and rail systems, did not want to place these ads on its buses, but the advertising space has been ruled by the courts as a public forum protected by the First Amendment.

“We may not decline ads based on their political content,” WMATA said in an email to The Gazette. “WMATA does not endorse the advertising on our system, and ads do not reflect the position of the Authority. There is a disclaimer statement printed on the advertising stating this.”

The Gazette, 11 June 2014

Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester cancels speech by anti-Muslim Bigot

robert_spencer_exposed (1)

An invitation for Robert Spencer, a leader in the Islamophobia Movement to speak at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester has been rescinded according to the Boston Globe. It is a good sign that many are realizing that his hate has no place at a respectable institution.

The Boston Globe report has a couple of issues, first the title, describing Spencer as a mere “critic of Islam” is misleading, he is not a “critic,” he is a bigot who delves into and spreads deeply paranoid falsities/smears about Islam and Muslims daily. The article also unfortunately alludes to Jihad being defined as “holy war.” I’m also curious why the ADL is solicited for expertise on the subject when their record has been rather mixed in the fight against Islamophobia.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester cancels speech by critic of Islam

by Lisa Wangsness (Boston Globe)

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester rescinded an invitation Wednesday to Robert Spencer, a Catholic whose work depicts Islam as an inherently violent religion, to speak at its annual Catholic Men’s Conference in March.

The invitation was withdrawn after Muslims in Massachusetts expressed concerns to the diocese about the appearance of Spencer, scheduled to be a featured speaker at the DCU Center on March 16.

Spencer is director of the blog Jihad Watch and a leader of the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America, both of which are seen as anti-Muslim groups by some organizations that monitor extremism.

His books include “Stealth Jihad: How ­Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs,” “The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant ­Religion,” and “Inside Islam: A Guide for Catholics.” On his blog, he has argued that jihad is a central tenet of the faith.

After the Globe sought comment on his scheduled appearance from the diocese and from Muslim organizations Wednesday, the Islamic Council of New England sent an e-mail urging Catholic leaders to cancel ­Spencer’s appearance. The diocese agreed to do so shortly ­after receiving the e-mail.

“Although the intention of the conference organizers was to have a presenter on Islam from a Catholic’s perspective, we are asking Robert Spencer to not come to the Worcester Catholic Men’s Conference, given that his presence is being seen as harmful to Catholic–Islamic relations both locally and nationally,” Raymond ­Delisle, a spokesman for the ­diocese, said in a statement ­issued to the Globe.

The conference is a religious and social gathering for Catholic men, as well as their male friends and relatives, that typically includes talks from prominent Catholic men, a Mass said by the bishop, and the opportunity to attend confession.

Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal, cochairman of communications for the Islamic Council of New England, called the cancellation of Spencer’s speech “very reassuring” and said it was consistent with longstanding good relations between the Muslim and Catholic communities in Massachusetts.

“Somebody may have been blindsided by Robert Spencer, not knowing exactly what kind of hatemonger he was,” he said.

Spencer, in an e-mail late Wednesday afternoon, said the diocese had not notified him of the cancellation.

“If it does turn out to be true,” he said in another e-mail, “it is new evidence of the cowardice of Roman Catholic officials in confronting the reality of Muslim persecution of Christians and their inability to grasp the importance [of] basing genuine dialogue between religions on truth, however ­unpleasant, rather than on wishful thinking and comforting fictions.”

In an earlier e-mail, he ­defended his work.

“There is nothing hateful or bigoted about what I say,” he said. “My work is in defense of the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the equality of rights of all people before the law.”

In September, the American Freedom Defense Initiative posted ads in the New York subway system that referred to ­Islamists who opposed the state of Israel as “savages.” The group is now running a second series of ads featuring photographs of the burning World Trade Center alongside a quotation attributed to the Koran: “Soon we shall cast terror into the hearts of unbelievers.”

Spencer was a leading opponent of the Park51 project to build a mosque and Islamic ­cultural center in lower ­Manhattan, which he has referred to on his blog as the ­“Islamist supremacist mega-mosque at Ground Zero.”

He has also raised alarms about multiculturalism and what he believes to be the threat of Sharia, Islamic religious law, undermining American courts and civil rights across the world.

Oren Segal, codirector of the Anti-Defamation League’s ­Center on Extremism, called Spencer “the godfather of the anti-Muslim movement in this country.”

Segal said there are legitimate concerns about people motivated by radical interpretations of Islam, which he said his organization has spoken out about forcefully. But Spencer, he said, is part of “a cottage ­industry . . . that under the guise of fighting radical Islam is actually demonizing an entire religion.”

Spencer, in another e-mail, said that the Anti-Defamation League “has unwisely ventured into leftist advocacy politics, spending more time combating friends of Israel on the right rather than enemies of Israel on the left. Its record in this is nothing short of shameful.”

Spencer says on his blog, ­Jihad Watch, where he posts many times a day, that he does not believe all Muslims espouse violence or that Islam is a monolithic faith.

But he calls ­violent jihad a “central element of Islamic theology,” citing a Koranic verse that says, in part, “Slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them [captive] and ­besiege them and prepare for them each ambush.”

Omid Safi, an Islamic studies scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that there are indeed references like that to holy war in the ­Koran and that some ­Muslims in different periods of history have used them to justify their actions.

That does not mean, he said, that most modern ­Muslims accept them literally.

“If we go flipping through each other’s scriptures to persuade ourselves that other people’s scriptures contain violent elements, then that’s a losing game for all of us,” Safi said. “The question is: How do we make sense of them, and which ones do we call upon to live our lives today?”

In the Gospel of Matthew, he notes, Jesus says, “I come not to bring peace, but the sword.”

Safi also said that Spencer has no formal training in Islamic studies or Arabic.

Asked about his credentials, Spencer replied that his critics’ real problem is not his training.

“What I say about Islam is not unusual or eccentric,” he said. “Numerous scholars who have the credentials that those you have spoken with require, and many ex-Muslims, have made the same observations about Islamic doctrine that I have.”

Amjad Bahnassi, a member and occasional spokesman for the Worcester Islamic Center, said the Muslim community in the city generally has an excellent relationship with the ­Catholic Church.

Bahnassi said he counts a number of priests as friends and regularly speaks at ­Catholic churches about Islam. Next month he is scheduled to speak at Anna Maria College and Assumption College.

“I would have liked for them if they wanted to know about Islam’s view of Christianity to ask a Muslim,” he said of the ­organizers of the Catholic Men’s Conference.

Colorado faith leaders combat anti-Muslim ads with ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ campaign

Love thy neighbor launch

Colorado faith leaders combat anti-Muslim ads with ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ campaign

Standing in Denver’s main mosque on Christmas Eve, Christian, Muslim and Jewish community leaders launched an ad campaign promoting understanding and tolerance between the religious groups. “Love Thy Neighbor” ads on Denver buses are intended to combat anti-Muslim ads produced by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. The controversial group attracted attention with hateful posters in New York subways and DC metro stations.

The Colorado Muslim Society paid $5,000 for the “Love Thy Neighbor” ads, which focus on love as “a shared concept in the three religions.” Other religious leaders and interfaith groups then publicly embraced the message:

They said the ad they unveiled — at a time on the calendar devoted to love and understanding — is meant to respond to recent national tragedies and to replace anti-Muslim ads placed on buses last month.

“Our country is in the midst of a lot of divisions,” Temple Emanuel Senior Rabbi Joe Black said.“Hatred is only going to further violence and the breakdown of society.”

Denver’s tolerance initiative follows the lead of many faith groups around the country protesting the Islamophobic ads. The Denver ads proclaim: “9,757 Deadly Islamic Attacks Since 9/11/01. It’s Not Islamophobia. It’s Islamorealism.” Colorado’s religious leaders also stood together in solidarity after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Public renunciation of anti-Muslim bigotry is much needed, as hate crimes against Muslims have held steady at a record high. Meanwhile, anti-Islamic rhetoric has become commonplace in mainstream media.

Think Progress, 25 December 2012

The Growing Christian Movement Pushing Back Against Islamophobia

The growing Christian push back against Christianity’s Islamophobes is gaining steam. This has long been a reality that we are now seeing become more visible and strongly represented. This is the type of movement we’ve hoped would emerge for a long time.:

The Growing Christian Movement Pushing Back Against Islamophobia

by Amy Sullivan (The New Republic)

The loudest Christians making waves about Islam for much of this year have not been terribly, well, Christian. There have been the protests against plans to build mosques in places like Tennessee and New Jersey, and arson attacks on mosques in Joplin, Missouri and Toledo, Ohio. The anti-Muslim posters placed in New York City and Washington, DC subway stations by Pamela Geller’s organization. And that crude now-infamous video that sparked riots across the Middle East.

These contentious activities have garnered headlines and defined for many the “Christian” take on Islam in the U.S. And that’s been too much for a growing number of Christian organizations who are fed up with Islamophobia. Just in the past month, four separate campaigns have started to push back against extreme Christian voices and to preach a message of tolerance and love.

Sojourners—the community founded and led by evangelical author and speaker Jim Wallis—responded to subway ads calling Muslims “savages” by purchasing space to post its own posters in the same subway stations. The message is simple: “Love Your Muslim Neighbors.” After the mosque attacks in Joplin and Toledo, Sojourners bought billboards in both communities to broadcast the same message. “It’s only an extremist fringe that would ever attack another religion’s place of worship in this country,” explained Sojourners spokesman Tim King to the Christian Post. “But unless we offer up an alternative voice, it will be the message and acts of extremists that most across the country and the world hear.”

Geller’s subway ads also prompted a response from an interfaith coalition called Shoulder-to-Shoulder. The group worked closely with the United Methodist Women to produce a letter signed by 168 Washington-area clergy and religious organizations calling on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to donate any proceeds from Geller’s ads to charity. It also countered with its own Metro advertisement: “Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed.”

Two other religious campaigns are focused on educating Americans—and particularly Christian communities—about Muslims and Islam. On October 11, the Interfaith Alliance led by Baptist minister Welton Gaddy, along with the Religious Freedom Education Project of the First Amendment Center, released a guide called “What is the Truth about American Muslims? Questions and Answers.” The online document addresses topics such as the role of mosques in Muslim life, whether U.S. courts can ever substitute religious law for civil law (spoiler alert: no), and the meaning of Muslim words like “jihad” and “Taqiyya.”

The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, which was founded by Rev. Richard Cizik, is also undertaking a massive effort to broaden American perceptions of Islam and challenge stereotypes. The group produced and released an hour-long documentary called “Islam in America: The Christian Truth,” which tells the stories of American Muslims, but also of conservative Christians who have exchanged their fear of Islam for tolerance and understanding. Cizik and his colleagues intended the film to prompt discussion of Islamophobia in Christian communities, and they released it after the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in the hope that churches and other religious communities could discuss honestly their fears and beliefs.

Efforts like these too often go unnoticed or uncovered by journalists because they are earnest and have the goal of bringing people together instead of tearing them apart. That’s a sad commentary on journalism, but also on all of us who react to stories of religious hatred but flip past stories of religious cooperation with a “meh.” Too many of my colleagues also question whether campaigns to promote education or civility are actually representative of American Christians, because these efforts don’t fit the assumptions they have about who American Christians are. At the same time, they rarely ask whether Pamela Geller or Terry Jones of Qur’an-burning infamy represent anyone other than a small pitchfork-wielding band of followers. Until they do, the antics of Geller and Jones will make the front page while the efforts of Christians to push back against them will remain mostly exiled to the religion pages.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs explains message behind New York subway ads

Rabbi Jill Jacobs explains message behind New York subway ads

Inae Oh of the Huffington Post interviews Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, which took out an advertisementurging New York subway users to “help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors”, in an effort to counter Pamela Geller’s notorious “savages” ad. Rabbi Jacobs explains:

“I was very concerned that people might think that these ads speak for the Jewish community, as Geller couches her anti-Muslim message in the language of supporting Israel. The suggestion that she is speaking only about terrorists, and not about Muslims in general, falls apart as soon as you read her writings, which are fear mongering about Muslims in the U.S. and in the world, and about Islam as a religion.”

She adds: “I want to spread the message that 1800 rabbis – along with the majority of the American Jewish community – believes in partnership with our Muslim neighbors. We, of course, oppose all acts of terrorism. We will not, however, allow the actions of a small minority to be an excuse for dehumanizing an entire people.”

Counter Ads: Jews and Christians Strike Back

Choose LoveCounter Ad: Rabbis for Human Rights, North America

Pamela Geller’s hate ads seem to have backfired. The latest round of  counter ads promoting love and tolerance are truly inspiring.

In addition to subway ads,  the progressive Christian group, Sojourners, is also sponsoring a billboard near the Toledo mosque that was the site of a recent arson attack. (H/T: Young & Free)

Pro-Muslim Subway Ads to Hang Near Anti-Jihad Ads

By ASHWAQ MASOODI, New York Times

Updated, 6:47 p.m. | Striking back against an anti-jihad advertisement in the subways widely perceived as anti-Muslim, two religious groups – one Jewish, one Christian – are taking out subway ads of their own to urge tolerance.

Rabbis for Human Rights – North America and the group Sojourners, led by the Christian author and social-justice advocate Jim Wallis, are unveiling their campaigns on Monday. Their ads will be placed near the anti-jihad ads in the same Manhattan subway stations, leaders of both groups said and transit officials confirmed. The groups said their campaigns were coincidental.

The ad by Rabbis for Human Rights turns the language of the earlier ad, placed by a pro-Israel group, on its head. The original ad says, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.” The ad by Rabbis for Human Rights says, “In the choice between love and hate, choose love. Help stop bigotry against our Muslim neighbors.”

“We wanted to make it clear that it is in response to the anti-Islam ad,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, whose members include rabbis from all streams of Judaism.

The Sojourners ad simply says, “Love your Muslim neighbors.”

Another Christian group, United Methodist Women, an affiliate of the United Methodist Church, has placed similar ads in the same 10 Manhattan stations where the anti-jihad appears. The ads, which went up on Wednesday, say, “Hate speech is not civilized. Support peace in word and deed.”

One of the Methodist group’s ads, in Times Square station, is posted right next to one of the anti-jihad ads.

The anti-jihad ads, placed by the American Freedom Defense Initiative in 10 Manhattan stations, went up only after the group successfully sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which wanted to ban them. They were posted late last month – in the wake, as it happened, of violent protests that had erupted in many parts of the Muslim world over an American-produced video ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, and one of them was immediately defaced. They have been defaced at least 15 times since then, said Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the authority.

Last week, the authority changed its advertising rules to ban ads that could “imminently incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace.”

Mr. Donovan said the new ads “are accepted and conform with our guidelines,” adding, “The M.T.A. doesn’t endorse any of the ads we carry.”

The executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, Pamela Geller, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new ads.

 A new subway ad by United Methodist Women is also a response to the anti-jihad ad.

Rabbi Jacobs said: “Geller thinks she is speaking for the entire Jewish community. We are a group of 1,800 rabbis and we want everyone to know that we have to work in partnership with the Muslim community and do not believe in dehumanizing them.”

Sojourners’ campaigns manager, the Rev. Beau Underwood, said, “An essential tenet of Christianity is to love our neighbors.” He added: “In the face of religious extremism, the best response is to treat others like we would want to be treated. Our ad campaign has a simple message that is at the heart of our faith.”

Sojourners, together with some local interfaith communities, recently put up “Love your Muslim neighbors” billboards in Joplin, Mo., where a mosque was burned in August.

Sojourners solicitation for donations says: “Hateful anti-Muslim ads only result in violence, hatred, and more fear. Everyone — regardless of race, religion, or creed — deserves to feel welcome & safe when riding public transit in the United States.”

Dearborn: Muslims and Members of Other Faiths Successfully Counter Anti-Muslim Conference

MSNBC describes it as “dueling in Dearborn.” I think the real story is the rejection of Islamophobia, and the anti-Islam outsiders who arrived only to agitate:

Dueling in Dearborn over murder of a 20-year-old woman

By Kari Huus, msnbc.com

In Dearborn Mich., a Detroit suburb known for its concentration of Muslim Americans, anti-Islam leaders from around the country are gathering to discuss how to rescue women from that faith. The “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference on Honor Killings” on Sunday is named for a local Muslim woman murdered one year ago.

But Muslims, civil rights groups and other religious leaders say the conference is merely another event put on by well-known bigots to attack the minority religion. Their response was to schedule a town hall meeting just a few miles away on Sunday called “Rejecting Islamophobia: A Community Stand Against Hate.”

The honor killing conference, organized by Pamela Geller, who became nationally famous for her vocal opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque, aka Park 51 in Manhattan, is based on the premise that Mokdad, 20 years old when she died in April 2011, was the victim of an honor killing justified by Islam.

Mokdad’s family maintains that the killing was a tragedy that has nothing to do with their Islamic beliefs, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press.

“It’s not a case based on honor,” Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo, chief of homicide, told the Free Press on Friday.

In court, prosecutors have said the motive for Mokdad’s killing was that her stepfather, Rahim Alfetlawi had “been sexually abusing her,” Cataldo said, according to the report. They argue that when she threatened to go public about the abuse he killed her.

Cataldo said the family strongly objects to the conference using Mokdad’s killing, which they say was a tragedy that had nothing to do with their faith.

Geller insists this was an honor killing carried out by a devout Muslim because his stepdaughter was not following Islam, and that the family is covering it up. She alleges that law enforcers systematically cover up honor killings here and elsewhere under “stealth enforcement” of Islamic shariah law.

On her web site, Geller says: “Despite pressure from the media and members of Jessica’s family who want to cover up the honor killing aspect of her murder, we are not going to change the name of the conference. Unlike those closest to her, we are going to honor Jessica’s memory and stand up against the brutal practice that took her life.”

The Dearborn conference will feature speeches by Geller and Robert Spencer — author of the blog “Jihad Watch” — as well as several like-minded legal and religious figures. They have also invited a young man who says he was Mokdad’s friend to offer “firsthand testimony” that she was a victim of honor killing.

Stop the Islamization of America, which Geller and Spencer founded, has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit civil rights watchdog.

“Pamela Geller is the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead,” according to a profile published by SPLC on its web site. ”She’s relentlessly shrill and coarse in her broad-brush denunciations of Islam and makes preposterous claims.”

The Arab American Institute, a decades-old community organization in the Detroit area, discouraged Muslims and their supporters from protesting at the site of Geller’s conference.  But they organized a competing event, said AAI president Jim Zogby, because Geller and Spencer have become too prominent to ignore.

“Geller and Spencer have thousands of followers, and are given airtime to spew their hate on major American news networks, as if they are respected analysts with just another viewpoint,” Zogby said on the AAI announcement for the “Rejecting Islamophobia” town hall in Detroit.

Although many Americans have never encountered a Muslim in person, about 43 percent questioned in a recent Gallup Poll said they felt at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.

“This group, we cannot ignore. This is the time for our community to take a stand, along with all those who value America’s commitment to diversity and freedom of religion, against the politics of division and bigotry promoted by the Islamophobes.”

A variety of community, interfaith and religious leaders and Michigan public on their agenda, for a “community conversation about how to respond to these continued attacks,” said Zogby.

One participant who was just on his way to the town hall was Dawud Walid, who heads the Michigan office of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a civil rights advocacy group for Muslims.

“I think firstly we have to better expose who these anti-Muslim bigots are as well as their funders,” said Walid. “We believe that the Islamophobia that permeates our country is being pushed by a well-organized, highly-funded network.”

He says that while Dearborn and Detroit have become a focus for the activities of Geller and others of like mind, the problem is bigger.

“Islamophobia is a national illness,” he said.

Robert Spencer Fail: Tries to Use Death of Pope Shenouda III to Promote Sectarianism and Islamophobia

JihadWatch’s anti-Muslim fear-mongering director Robert Spencer likes to selectively highlight the most egregious and sectarian statements by Muslims to further his hate agenda against Islam/Muslims.

In the wake of the death of the Coptic Pope Shenouda III he posted a piece about how a cleric named Wagdi Ghoneim said that the death of Pope Shenouda was a “relief” because the Pope caused “sectarian strife” and sought to make Egypt into a “Coptic state.”

To address that specifically, I wonder if the irony is lost on Wagdi Ghoneim, he accused Pope Shenouda of having furthered “sectarian strife” but by writing what he did he himself engaged in “sectarian strife.”

While there are small fringe groups of Copts who wish to turn Egypt into a Coptic state, trying to push this concept as emerging from the Pope, or the mainstream of Copts is similar to the “Islamization” myth that ironically Spencer and his acolytes regularly engage in. The Pope himself was a nationalist and opposed “foreign intervention” and stated that while Copts are “marginalized” in Egypt they are not “oppressed.”

That said, the main point I want to highlight is the fact that Robert Spencer is attempting to shift focus from the overwhelming support and expressions of condolences and grief from Muslims for the passing of the Pope. He chooses one cleric and tries to attribute it as the general feeling of Muslim Egyptians.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

High ranking Muslim politicians, scholars, clerics, intellectuals and lay people expressed their sympathy and sadness at his passing.

“His holiness lived and died as a loyal patriot to his country,” Parliament Speaker Saad el-Katatni, an Islamist, told a joint meeting of the two chambers of parliament Saturday.

Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the highest seat of religious learning in the Sunni world, offered his condolences to the Egyptian people for such a great loss, saying,

“Egypt has lost one of its rare men at a sensitive moment when it most needs the wisest of its wise – their expertise and their purity of minds.”

Egypt Mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa also mourned the deceased pontiff as a great Egyptian and patriot, saying,

“His death is a tragedy and a great loss for Egypt and its people of Muslims and Christians.”

Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm and the party with the largest majority in parliament stated,

“The Freedom and Justice Party sends its deepest condolences to the Egyptian people and our Christian brothers over the death of Pope Shenouda III,” FJP leader Mohamed Mursi said.

Presidential contenders such as Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq also expressed their sadness,

Presidential aspirant Amr Moussa said he was saddened by Pope Shenouda’s death.

“We have lost a great value and a pre-eminent pope,” said Ahmed Shafiq, another presidential contender, and a Mubarak-era prime minister.

For more see: Egypt Muslims Mourn Pope Shenouda’s Passing

Here is a picture of Egyptian Christians expressing their thanks and reciprocating the “love” they received at the death of their leader:

Pope_Shenouda_Muslim_Christian_Unity

Egyptian Christians stand in front of a picture of the late Pope Shenouda III after receiving condolences from both Muslims and Christians. Signs read in Arabic (H/T: ZH):
“We feel your love. Thank you, Muslim brothers and sisters”

Frontpage Muslim-bashing Authority Can’t Do a Two Second Google Search

(via. Loonwatch)

Behold the erroneous misinformation factory at Front Page Mag, the online place where Islamophobes go to find spurious arguments that make them feel better about being intolerant of Muslims. Today’s gem comes from Raymond Ibrahim, a skilled harvester of Islamophobic cash cows, a particularly spite-filled individual with an obsession for essentializing Islam as a religion of war, slavery, and sexual misconduct.

Where before have I heard similar claims about a similar religion? Oh yeah. Every anti-Semitic website on the internet. The strong parallel between the claims, rhetoric, and methodologies of Anti-Semites and Islamophobes have been discussed many times before, so there is no need to repeat those arguments here.

Today, I will comment on Mr. Ibrahim’s unprincipled “research” which has as an a priori(beforehand) conclusion that Muslims are never victims, only perpetrators. What perturbed me is that Front Page praises Mr. Ibrahim as a “widely recognized authority on Islam” who can translate “important Arabic news that never reaches the West.”

You see, according to David Horowitz, anti-Muslim ideological commitment makes someone a “widely recognized authority” on Islam; not rigorous academic training, as those foolish liberals believe, with their pesky “facts,” their elitist “research methodologies,” and their vexatious love of “balance.”

o the matter at hand. You may have heard the recent story about two Egyptian Christian girls who were allegedly abducted by Muslims. Raymond pens an anti-Muslim hit piece entitled “Egypt: Christian Girls Kidnapped and ‘Sold’.” Ready for some bombshell evidence of Islam’s collective depravity? Won’t find it here. Raymond is upset that the Egyptian Newspaper, Al-Masry Al-Youm, didn’t report on this story with an acceptable level of anti-Muslim bias:

At the end of the Al-Masry Al-Youm report, we get a trailing sentence alluding to “claims” that two Christian girls “were abducted by Muslims and forced to convert to Islam” as the reason why Copts were demonstrating and clashing with the police in the first place.

This is the “claim” that Mr. Ibrahim wants to advance, the claim of the Christian protestors, i.e. the girls were kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam, and this sort of thing happens all the time because of the tenets of Islam. (Sigh). It should go without saying that mainstream Islam explicitly teaches againstforced conversions. Several Quranic verses can be produced to support this:

Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. So can you [Prophet] compel people to believe? (10:99)

If your Lord had pleased, He would have made all people a single community, but they continue to have their differences… (11:118)

If you find rejection by the disbelievers so hard to bear, then seek a tunnel into the ground or a ladder into the sky, if you can, and bring them a sign: God could bring them all to guidance if it were His will, so do not join the ignorant. (6:35)

The messenger’s only duty is to give clear warning. (29:18)

We know best what the disbelievers say. You [Prophet] are not there to force them, so remind, with this Quran, those who fear My warning. (50:45)

There is no compulsion in religion: true guidance has become distinct from error, so whoever rejects false gods and believes in God has grasped the firmest hand-hold, one that will never break. God is all hearing and all knowing. (2:256)

Say, ‘Obey God; obey the Messenger. If you turn away, [know that] he is responsible for the duty placed upon him, and you are responsible for the duty placed upon you. If you obey him, you will be rightly guided, but the Messenger’s duty is only to deliver the message clearly.’ (24:54)

Note that the last two verses were revealed in Medina, just in case anyone wants to bring up the tired, old canard that everything wise and peaceful in the Quran was abrogated. In fact, Al-Azhar University’s Commission for Embracing Islam may “spend several days making sure that the person wants to convert to Islam voluntarily and as a result of their own desire.”

Therefore, if it is true that the girls were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam, this would be an obvious breach of normative, mainstream Islamic teachings, not to mention Egyptian civil law. This would make it a case of criminal behavior, not normal religion. Whoever forces someone to be a Muslim is not behaving like a Muslim. Period.

However, as we shall see, we have strong reason to doubt these girls were kidnapped in the first place.

What are Mr. Ibrahim’s sources for claiming the two girls were in fact kidnapped and forced into Islam? A dubious Arabic website entitled “Free Christian Nation.” No possibility of bias there (sarcasm intended). Mr. Ibrahim boasts about his expert Arabic translation skills:

One must again turn to Arabic sources for the telling details. I have put together the following narrative and quotes based on these two Arabic reports:

The two girls, Christine Azat (aged 16) and Nancy Magdi (aged 14) were on their way to church Sunday, June 12, when they were seized. Their abductors demanded $200,000 Egyptian pounds for their release. The people of the region quickly put their savings together and came up with the ransom money; but when they tried to give it to the kidnappers, they rejected it, saying they had already “sold” the girls off to another group which requires $12 million Egyptian pounds to return them.

Two unsourced reports in Arabic? From which news agency? There are no authors or publishers listed on the reports. If you can read Arabic, seriously, check it out. So your ability to translate from some random anonymous Arabic websites is why you are a “widely recognized authority on Islam”?

But what our “widely recognized authority on Islam” failed to mention is that other mainstream newspapers (even in English, accessible to non-scholars, no translation necessary) have published reports contrary to his central claim. Mr. Ibrahim tells us about his scholarly research methods:

I tried to find this story in English-language media and, as expected, found nothing…

Oh really? I did a two-second Google search and found some. For example, Al-Ahram reported that:

During recent weeks, the two girls, who are cousins, have uploaded videos on YouTube announcing their conversion to Islam and that they were not kidnapped by ‎anyone. This came in response to the father of one of the girls reporting their‎disappearance. ‎

According to this report, the girls willfully converted to Islam, so Mr. Ibrahim tries to explain this away:

Some have tried to pass the usual rumor that the girls “willingly” ran off and converted to Islam, but even Egyptian officials reject this, saying that Al Azhar, which is the institution that formally recognizes conversions to Islam, has not acknowledged the conversion of underage minors.

This “rumor” happens to be based upon the Youtube testimony of the girls themselves, which would make it more than a rumor. The fact that Al-Azhar University did not announce their conversions is not proof that the girls didn’t willfully convert because, as Al-Ahram reports, Al-Azhar “does not accredit ‎conversion to Islam from anyone younger than 18.”‎ Minor details!

The point here is not whether the girls converted or not. I won’t get into “he said, she said” arguments about a pending legal case. The point is that Raymond, as usual, obviously didn’t research and balance his reporting, which means the only reason he brought it up at all is because it is useful ideological propaganda. His readers don’t read Arabic. They won’t double check his work. These blatant mistakes will get swept under rug, again as usual, to be replaced by the next propaganda item, the next blog post, the next hit piece. The erroneous misinformation factory marches on.

Does Raymond really want to help the Christian community in Egypt? Coptic Christians, whom Raymond pretends to defend, have rejected these kind of tactics and propaganda that divide Egypt along religious lines. Bishop Markos of Shubra al-Kheima told Al-Masry Al-Youm that:

Copts fall under the protection of the Egyptian state, and Muslims and Christians in Egypt fall under the protection of God, who mentioned Egypt and its people in the Quran and the Bible.

So don’t be fooled into thinking Raymond cares about these girls or even Egyptian Christians. He’s just using them and their story to whip up anti-Muslim populism, to use as a religio-political wedge issue in the campaign against Obama and liberals.

Undoubtedly, the guys at Front Page would not campaign for the human rights of these two girls if they had really converted to Islam. If their conversion to Islam was genuine, would Mr. Ibrahim and Horowitz support their religious freedom?

I ask these questions because, contrary to the 24-hour hate-on-Islam-a-thon at Front Page, Egyptian Christians who convert to Islam have also faced persecution. This certainly wouldn’t be the first case. As Al-Ahram reported:

This is not the first story of Muslim converts that has been a source of public debate and ‎concern. Camilia Shehata, who disappeared from her house in July 2010, was‎alleged to have converted to Islam only to be held in church after conversion to prevent ‎her from practicing her new religion.

Of course, stories about Muslims being denied religious freedom by Christians don’t quite fit into the Islam-is-all-evil-all-the-time-RSS-feed at Front Page Mag.

I’m not expecting an honest answer from Raymond.