Freedom of Speech does not mean accepting voices of incivility

Robert Spencer. AP photo

Freedom of Speech does not mean accepting voices of incivility

BY 

The First Amendment is one of the most cherished hallmarks of America. There is no other nation on earth that has such a robust right for citizens to articulate their thoughts – including scientific discourse, the ability to challenge the government, and even expressions of hatred and bigotry.

Eastern Michigan University recently hosted a debate on Islam in which an anti-Muslim critic named Robert Spencer was the key participant. People ranging from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to prominent rabbis have criticized anti-Muslim intolerance spewed by Spencer and his affiliate organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

I believe that Spencer has the fundamental right to speak hatefully about fellow Americans. I also know that people of goodwill have the right not to engage him in his rhetoric. Moreover, we have the right to challenge his bigotry by not granting him dignified platforms.

Passivity in the face of hate speech has cumulative consequences. Words matter, and discrimination is inspired by those who have loud voices that repeat sweeping false generalizations and stereotypes.

Spencer – and peers like Pam Geller, Pastor Terry Jones et al who seek attention and revenue from their exploits – come to our region to prove a point about Michigan Muslims that denigrates Muslims who have been here over a century. The oldest mosque in America was established in Highland Park in 1921, and the oldest socio-political expression of American Muslims comes from Detroit. America’s first Muslim judge, Adam Shakoor, hails from Detroit, and America’s first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison, is a Detroit native and Wayne State graduate.

Muslims guided by faith have been overwhelmingly law-abiding, peaceful and productive citizens of Michigan and America in general – counter to Spencer’s narrative.

We don’t have control over the United Kingdom barring Spencer from speaking there, nor do we have influence over other governments and people to force them to live according to American standards. We do, however, have the ability to influence civility. This includes pushing back against those who foment ethnic and religious intolerance such as Spencer and his acolytes. I encourage government officials and interfaith leaders to use their freedom of speech to drown out the speech of Spencer, Westboro Baptist Church and other merchants of vitriol who seek to prosper off of the backs of Michiganians.

Muslims in Politics: Islamophobes Worst Nightmare

Rep. Keith Ellison, one of two Muslims in Congress

by Garibaldi

Muslims make up 1 to 2% of the population in the United States, a number which is reflected in their limited political clout. This fact however does not hinder the Islamophobia Movement’s growing fear and anxiety about Muslim advancement in the political realm. LoonPolitics, as has been clearly demonstrated over the years, is a central feature of the surreal world of anti-Muslim bigotry.

One could be forgiven if while reading Islamophobic blog headlines one actually thought he or she was reading a chapter heading of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, or Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, or maybe even the Arabian Nights. President Barack Obama is still supposedly our first “Mooslim-in-Chief” according to AtlasShrugs’ Pamela Geller, JihadWatch’s Robert Spencer and a “healthy chunk” of Americans. Even after several House hearings on the subject, conspiracy theories about the insidious world-wide octopus known as the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrating all branches of the government are regular political parlay with prominent politicians such as Michele Bachmann. Former terrorism supporter and current Chair of the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Rep. Peter King is due to hold his millionth hearing on the supposed “pressing” issue of the radicalization of American Muslims. I can go on and on but you get the picture.

So why are Islamophobes so anxious? Why do they feel the need to pre-empt Muslim political advancement in the United States–at any and all cost? Is it a fear of phantom Sharia’ Law replacing the US Constitution? Is it a fear of the Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation of the Holy Quran replacing the King James Holy Bible as part of the canon of English literature? No, these are not the true reasons for their fear. As one of the godfathers of Islamophobia, Daniel Pipes put it at an American Jewish Congress convention, “the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims” is “dangerous.”

Pipes was speaking in the context of how such a scenario would “affect American Jews,” but his statement holds true with nearly all Islamophobes; they believe Muslim advancement in American life will challenge their agendas.

Almost anytime a Muslim is elected to congress, appointed as a judge, a city councillor and/or an advisor expect immediate Islamophobic backlash. Reverberating across the looniverse will be hundreds, if not thousands of blogposts and opinion articles, each one mirroring one another’s talking points.

Remember Rep. Keith Ellison and the manufactured “Koran swearing-in controversy?” Islamophobes were in a twist over Ellison putting his hand on the very same Quran Thomas Jefferson owned; un-American they claimed! Rep. Andre Carson recently faced a barrage of accusations about “stealth jihad” and slanders that he wanted public schools to teach the Quran–all because of a misunderstood and decontextualized four sentence quote ripped from a 15 minute speech. Who can forget when Judge Sohail Mohammed was appointed to a state bench and the immediate hysterics from Geller and company claiming Sharia’ Law had penetrated New Jersey–Gov. Chris Christie responded in bewilderment, “Sharia Law has nothing to do with this at all, it’s crazy!” There was also the ACT! for America campaign that targeted a Muslim Fulbright Scholar and Business professor, Parvez Ahmed appointed by Jacksonville’s mayor to a Human Right’s Commission–according to many the anti-Muslim bigotry was an embarrassing episode for the City of Jacksonville.

So it is not surprising that Islamophobes once again got bent out of shape when anti-Loon Ahmed Rehab was recently announced by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as part of an advisory committee on immigration issues (h/t: FernandoA).

The anti-Muslim Islamophobic websites would have us believe that Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former IDF soldier, appointed a “Hamas-linked” operative as an advisor! Most of the recycled headlines in the looniverse read, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Appoints Hamas-Linked CAIR’s Ahmed Rehab to Advisory Committee. Yes, you read that right, a former IDF soldier, now the mayor of one of the largest US cities supposedly appointed a Hamas-linked individual to his advisory committee. That’s as surreal as Islamophobic stupidity gets. I mean I know they pack a lot into those deep dish pizza’s in Chicago, but there ain’t nothin’ in those pizzas that would make Emanuel, ever, appoint a “Hamas linked advisor!”

The well worn anti-Muslim smear and slander campaign (they never provide real evidence of Hamas links) against Rehab seems to have fallen on deaf, or at least unsympathetic ears, as good judgement generally sees clear through Islamophobic BS.

The most ironic and surreal part of all this is the true missed terrorist link: Mayor Emanuel’s own father, Ari Emanuel was really a member of a terrorist organization, the Irgun, but for Islamophobes such a link would never be an issue.

Ellison Speaks of the Organized anti-Muslim Industry

Keith Ellison is well aware of Spencer and comp. He realized that their books, blogs, interviews, etc., infiltrated the highest recesses of the Republican party.

Keith Ellison Shrugs Off Conservative Mockers

“You know it still doesn’t matter,” Ellison said of the mockers and the hearing. “Because a lot of good people stood up. A lot of people who are not Muslims stood up and said this is bad, this is ugly and we don’t like it.”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) isn’t sweating the mocking his emotional testimony before Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) hearings on Muslim extremism last week generated from the right.

Asked by TPM Wednesday about the drubbing he’s received from conservative pundits since he teared up before King’s panel, Ellison basically said, what else is new?

“Well, you know, I don’t anticipate some people will appreciate everything that I say and stand for,” he said. “But I’ll say this: American people realize that when we say freedom and justice for all, that means all. You know, Muslims too.”

Ellison said it’s open season on the right when it comes to Muslims.

“Look there is an organized anti-Muslim industry in the United States,” he said. “It’s Pam Geller, it’s Robert Spencer, it’s Steve Emerson…it’s Frank Gaffney. They’re well-known entities.”

“They sell books doing this, they tell people they’re counter-terrorism experts, and you know,” Ellison added. “But what does that have to do with the whole economic discussion we’ve been having?”

Looking back on the King hearings, which generated more controversy about King than they exposed secret Muslim extremism in America, Ellison said they showed that the conservative anti-Muslim machine he describled is not the mainstream of the country.