US religious freedom rep funded by Islamophobes

uscirf-vice-chair-zuhdi

(h/t: JD)

“Other Abstraction Fund-backed groups include Jihad Watch, an anti-Muslim blog published by Robert Spencer.”

US religious freedom rep funded by Islamophobes

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the US’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, repeated its request to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to investigate one of its own members, this time for being funded by the same group that backs a notorious Islamophobe.

Earlier this year, CAIR asked for an investigation of USCIRF Vice Chair Zuhdi Jasser for apparently seeking to deny religious rights to Muslim military personnel.

In a letter sent to USCIRF Chairman Dr. Robert P. George, Corey Saylor, director of CAIR’s Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia, wrote in part:

“We are writing today to expand upon the concerns regarding Dr. Zuhdi Jasser that were expressed on our letter to you dated January 24, 2014. Additional information has come to light regarding the financial dependence of Dr. Jasser’s American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) on groups known for promoting Islamophobia in the United States.

“Tax filings for the New York-based Abstraction Fund reveal that between 2010 and 2012, Jasser’s organization accepted $45,000 in grants and contributions. In 2012, 82 percent of the Fund’s total $1,982,930 contributions and grants went to groups known for their active role in spreading anti-Islam prejudice.”

The Center for Security Policy

Saylor’s letter cited funding of anti-Islam groups such as the Center for Security Policy, the head of which was a key witness for the plaintiffs in a controversial lawsuit against a mosque being built in Tennessee, where he promoted the notion that mosques want to “destroy western civilization from within.”

Investigative Project on Terrorism

Another group funded by the Abstraction Fund and cited in the letter is Steven Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism, which recently published an Islamophobic article stating: “Europe is still … captivated by the specious charms of the Arabs and Islam” and ” … pitiful Arab, whose inherent culture left him no shred of sincerity, creativity or courage.”

Jihad Watch

Other Abstraction Fund-backed groups include Jihad Watch, an anti-Muslim blog published by Robert Spencer. The Boston Globe has described Spencer as a man who “depicts Islam as an inherently violent religion.” Spencer has referred to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as a “con man. Someone who is knowing [sic] that what he is saying is false, but is fooling his followers.”

In June 2013, the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento requested that the Kolbe Academy, a Catholic school, rescind a speaking invitation they extended to Spencer. The diocese referred to Spencer as a “key leader in the anti-Islam hate movement in the United States.”

Stop Islamization of America 

Spencer is a co-founder of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Spencer’s Jihad Watch blog is also designated as a hate group by the SPLC, which named Spencer as part of the nation’s “Anti-Muslim Inner Circle.”

The Middle East Forum 

The Middle East Forum (MEF), headed by Islamophobe Daniel Pipes, also received funds from the Abstraction Fund. Pipes is infamous for quotes such as: “Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene. All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.” [Jasser has accepted donations from Middle East Forum.]

In concluding his letter to USCIRF, Saylor wrote:

“CAIR values, advocates for and has pursued legal action to protect free speech and freedom of expression. Dr. Jasser has every right to advocate for the causes and organizations with which he chooses to align AIFD. At issue here is the reasonable concern that arises regarding Dr. Jasser accepting financial support from anti-Muslim groups while he is serving on a commission advocating for religious freedom.

“Given the expanding evidence of AFID’s financial dependency on groups funding anti-Muslim prejudice in the United States, we do not believe Dr. Jasser can act as an honest voice regarding religious freedom domestically or internationally.”

In 2013, CAIR published a major report, “Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States,” which identifies 37 organizations dedicated to promoting the type of anti-Islam prejudice that can lead to bias-motivated incidents targeting American Muslims. The Islamophobia report is available on Kindle.

Jasser was featured in that report as an enabler of anti-Muslim bigotry. The report noted that Jasser heads a group that “applauded” an amendment to Oklahoma’s state Constitution that would have implemented state-sponsored discrimination against Islam.

Jasser also narrated “The Third Jihad,” a propaganda film created by the Clarion Fund, which depicts Muslims as inherently violent and seeking world domination. Following revelations that the film was shown as part of training at the New York Police Department, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly called it “wacky” and “objectionable.”

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Zuhdi Jasser: Shill For Islamophobes Resorts to Projection and Deflection

Zuhdi Jasser, the useful tool of Islamophobes everywhere has faced increasing and sustained opposition to his appointment to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

The USCIRF was, as the ACLU reported, created and guided by ‘special interests’ and has a history of deep anti-Muslim bias,

[S]ince its inception, the commission’s been beset by controversy. People who watch the commission closely say it was created to satisfy special interests, which has led to bias in the commission’s work. Past commissioners and staff have reported that the commission is “rife, behind-the-scenes, with ideology and tribalism.” They’ve said that commissioners focus “on pet projects that are often based on their own religious background.” In particular, past commissioners and staff reported ”an anti-Muslim bias runs through the Commission’s work.”

In this context it is not surprising that a Zuhdi Jasser should be appointed. However, the biased nature of the USCIRF does not take away from the very troubling aspects of Jasser’s appointment, no US governmental organization should be used and abused in this manner.

What is interesting this time around is that all pretense to objectivity has fallen and the ‘work’ of the USCIRF will forever be tainted.

A petition calling on the Senators to rescind Jasser’s appointment has received nearly 3000 signatures, (I urge everyone to sign it and pass it along. We need to be more active than the hate-mongers!)

In response to the large push back against the biased nature of the USCIRF and Jasser’s appointment, Jasser is trying to hit back, smearing everyone who sheds light on his alliance with hate-mongers and anti-Freedom positions as evil, fifth-column “Islamists.”

Classic case of projecting while deflecting

On the only medium that will let Jasser spew his fact-less innuendo unopposed, i.e Right-Wing media such as “The Daily Caller,” Jasser  says,

“You could actually use the list of people protesting us, it’s a pretty good list of some of the leaders of the Islamist movement in America.”

No surprise here, what else do you expect from the main protagonist of what has been lampooned as a bigoted, fear-mongering anti-Muslim film: The Third Jihad.

The article, written by one Caroline May goes on to claim that,

Last week 64 Muslim organizations — including Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) — expressed “deep concern” with Jasser’s appointment in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye and Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.

The only problem for May and Jasser is that it wasn’t only Muslim organizations (or ‘Islamists’ as they would have it) but also non-Muslim organizations calling on the Senators to rescind Jasser’s appointment. It was a veritable coalition of Muslim and non-Muslim civic and religious organizations:

More than 50 Muslim and non-Muslim civic and religious groups asked leading senators on Thursday (April 12) to rescind the appointment of an outspoken Muslim activist, Zuhdi Jasser, to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

But facts, those pesky things, why let them get in the way right? So, Jasser goes on to say,

Jasser contends, however, that the real enemy of religious freedom is the coalition of groups opposing him.

Classic projection and deflection. Instead of answering the very real concerns leveled against him, Jasser clams up, hoping the “Islamist” label will stick on his opponents and that the attention will subside.

To this day Jasser has not answered the following very specific concerns expressed by those dismayed that he would even been considered for the USCIRF:

1.) Most problematically, Jasser allies himself with and receives funding from anti-Muslim organizations and personalities who work tirelessly to curb the religious and civil liberties of Muslims in the USA.

Jasser’s organization has received funding, to the tune of $100,000 from a major backer of Rick Santorum, Foster Friess. Friess was featured as one of the major backers of Islamophobic organizations in the Center for American Progress‘s groundbreaking report, Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.

According to the Washington Post,

“Jasser received a $100,000 donation from Christian conservative financier Foster Friess, who is now bankrolling the super-PAC supporting Rick Santorum’s presidential bid. Jasser declined to elaborate on exactly how much Friess had given AIFD, though he said the financier contributed $70,000 to his organization in 2010 for a Muslim youth retreat hosted by the group. (Friess told MSNBC that he was backing Santorum because he is ‘incredibly versed in one of the number one issues of our time—and that is violent Islamic extremism.’)”

Jasser told Mother Jones that the AIFD had accepted $5,000 from the Center for Security Policy:

“The center published a report in 2010 warning that American Muslims are seeking to replace the Constitution with a strict interpretation of Islamic law. The “expert” in Islamic religious law cited in the report, an attorney named David Yerushalmi, is responsible for authoring draft anti-Shariah legislation that has served as a blueprint for anti-Shariah laws across the US. Yerushalmi has suggested that “acting in furtherance of Islam” should be a felony.”

Mother Jones also reports that,

“Jasser said his group has also received a one-time, unsolicited donation of $10,000 from the Clarion Fund, which is associated with Aish HaTorah, a right-wing Israeli group described by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic as ‘just about the most fundamentalist movement in Judaism today.’

The Clarion Fund has released several films that warn of Muslim conspiracies to reestablish a global caliphate. Jasser is a Clarion board member and in 2008 narrated a documentary bankrolled by the group called The Third Jihad, which darkly warns that Muslim extremists are attempting to “infiltrate and dominate America,” a conspiracy implicating most prominent American Muslim organizations. The New York Times reported that the film was shown to thousands of NYPD officers as part of their counterterrorism training, which the police department later apologized for.”

2.) In another blow to the religious liberties and freedoms of American Muslims, Jasser’s organization the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) supports state wide legislative bans on Muslim personal religious practice relating to: marriage, prayer, wills, etc. Jasser’s organization has published press releases “applauding” such legislation, which many, including US Courts have considered unconstitutional infringements on the religious liberties of Muslims.

3.) Jasser was outspoken in his opposition to an interfaith and Islamic Center in Manhattan, supporting efforts to block it from being built, remarking that, “This center is trying to change the narrative of 9/11 — to diminish what happened at Ground Zero.”

4.) Jasser’s advocacy and support for the NYPD’s illegal profiling and secret surveillance program targeting Muslims for monitoring at their houses of worship, businesses and universities is not only unconscionable but contradicts the USCIRF’s purported goals of reviewing “the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.” 

Jasser deflects from the above points and questions about his sordid relationship with those who undermine religious freedom here in the US because his real purpose is to be a shill for the Right-Wing propaganda machine.

Articles like the one in the Daily Caller are not meant to inform or provide analysis, but are geared specifically to justifying Right-Wing and Conservative causes. The Conservative audience is expected to swallow them whole and regurgitate it to the rest of the sheep, preserving and securing the echo chamber.

Fake enlightened liberal democrats making excuses for anti-Muslim bigotry

These are the type of guys that Spencer wants to see an alliance with, they repeat much of the same mantra as it is.

We have detailed a lot of anti-Muslim bigotry on the religious right-wing, but lest anyone think the religious right has a monopoly on Islamophobia, rest assured that some people on the left-wing have their own reasons for stereotyping and scapegoating Muslims. This is what we find in the latest hit piece by Pascal Bruckner, one of the nouveaux (“new”) French philosophers who defends loons like Ayan Hirsi Ali.

A common talking-point ceaselessly echoed in the Islamophobic blogosphere is that the term “Islamophobia” is part of a draconian conspiracy to silence anti-Muslim whistle-blowing. For example, the vitriolic hate site BareNakedIslam has a catch phrase, “It isn’t Islamophobia when they really ARE trying to kill you!” by which they imply that Islam and every Muslim wants to kill you. In this fashion, Bruckner begins with an incredibly sweeping claim:

Islamophobia was invented to silence those Muslims who question the Koran and who demand equality of the sexes.

At the end of the 1970s, Iranian fundamentalists invented the term “Islamophobia” formed in analogy to “xenophobia”. The aim of this word was to declare Islam inviolate. Whoever crosses this border is deemed a racist. This term, which is worthy of totalitarian propaganda, is deliberately unspecific about whether it refers to a religion, a belief system or its faithful adherents around the world.

We imagine a dim room full of bearded Iranian clerics sinisterly plotting to introduce Islamophobia into the Western lexicon to advance their insidious totalitarian agenda. In reality, far from being “deliberately unspecific,” Islamophobia has been defined by Runnymede Trust as “an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination.” It has been accepted by the United Nations and numerous government officials. Countless manifestations of Islamophobia are documented and recognized. But Bruckner dismisses all the stereotypes, prejudice, and hostility being thrown at Muslims as figments of our imagination. That is certainly shocking news to Columbia University Press and victims of the Bosnian Genocide.

Islamophobia was an important driving force behind the latest legally recognized genocide in Europe. According to Dr. Norman Cigar at the Strategic Studies Institute, the Serbians’ Islamophobic propaganda was necessary to justify the genocide:

In particular, these [Serbian] intellectuals have been instrumental in establishing and cementing an in-group/out-group dichotomy between the Muslims and the Serbs based on stereotypes, a fact which has been central to forming the environment and establishing the legitimacy for much of the violence that occurred.

[Qureshi, E., & Sells, M. A. (2003). The new crusades: Constructing the Muslim enemy. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 314]

It is precisely this “in-group/out-group” dichotomy promoted by Islamophobes, anti-Semites, racists, and other bigots that leads to so much civil strife and violence, including genocide. But despite this recent ugly European history, nowhere in his article does Bruckner acknowledge that bigotry against Muslims is a real issue. This is a classic example of Runnymede’s sixth point in their comprehensive definition of Islamophobia: criticism of the West made by Muslims is rejected out of hand.

Nevertheless, Bruckner wants us to believe that everyone who uses the term Islamophobia is simply an agent in the service of Ayatollah Khomeini. Perhaps Bruckner believes former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was secretly working for the Mullahs when he concisely summarized the issue:

When a new word enters the language, it is often the result of a scientific advance or a diverting fad. But when the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry, that is a sad and troubling development. Such is the case with Islamophobia.

In any case, Bruckner hinges his argument on the false premise that Islamophobia targets normal criticism of Islam rather than prejudice and hostility towards Islam. In fact, Muslims largely accept normal criticism of Islam as part of religious freedom. The Quran says:

There is no compulsion in religion. (2:256)

If it had been your Lord’s will, they would all have believed – all who are on earth. Will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe? (10:99)

Certainly, people who choose not to practice Islam are not Islamophobic. Normal criticism of Islam is acceptable in a modern pluralistic society, as is normal criticism of any religion or ideology. Muslims, like Jews and Christians, have likewise debated and reformed traditional laws on apostasy. However, what is unacceptable in our pluralistic society is spreading hate, intolerance, discrimination, stereotypes, and prejudice. Ignoring this important point, Bruckner pretends the term “Islamophobia” has nothing to do with anti-Muslim hateanti-Muslim violence, or religious discrimination. He sums up his beef:

The term “Islamophobia” serves a number of functions: it denies the reality of an Islamic offensive in Europe all the better to justify it; it attacks secularism by equating it with fundamentalism. Above all, however, it wants to silence all those Muslims who question the Koran, who demand equality of the sexes, who claim the right to renounce religion, and who want to practice their faith freely and without submitting to the dictates of the bearded and doctrinaire. It follows that young girls are stigmatised for not wearing the veil, as are French, German or English citizens of Maghribi, Turkish, African or Algerian origin who demand the right to religious indifference, the right not to believe in God, the right not to fast during Ramadan. Fingers are pointed at these renegades, they are delivered up to the wrath of their religions communities in order to quash all hope of change among the followers of the Prophet.

Let me get the conspiracy theory straight: Islamophobia was invented by Iranian fundamentalists to wage the Eurabia stealth jihad (“Islamic offensive”) and attack secularism, but “above all,” wants to silence any criticism of Islam and prevent any Islamic reform. As we’ve already pointed out, this is completely fabricated nonsense; long on confident presumptuous claims, short on supporting evidence.

Furthermore, Bruckner cares so much about Muslim women being stigmatized for not wearing the veil, but this so-called liberal democrat curiously has no concern for the religious rights of Muslim women who choose to veil out of modesty. It seems the right of people to reject religion is very important to Bruckner, but the right of people to practice religion, not so much. Liberal democracy for you but not for them?

Even the French President has somehow been fooled by the treacherous hidden hand of the Mullahs. He says:

Did not the French president himself, never one to miss a blunder – not compare Islamophobia with Antisemitism? A tragic error.

Of course, the comparison between Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism is perfectly valid. Yet strangely Bruckner, allegedly an enlightened freedom-loving liberal democrat and champion of reason, believes dehumanization of Jews is wrong (and it definitely is) but dehumanization of Muslims is… well, nothing to be concerned about. Rather, we are told Islamophobia is a term meant to “quash all hope of change” instead of protect innocent people from the majority’s bigotry. He concludes:

“Islamophobia” is one of the words that we urgently need to delete from our vocabulary.

Mr. Bruckner, the enlightened liberal democracy I know stands by the human and religious rights of all people with the goal of building a tolerant, pluralistic, fair, and peaceful open society. However, the “enlightenment” you peddle is a poor intellectual articulation of nativist tribalistic (us-versus-them) in-group/out-group populism which thoroughly, and ironically, mirrors the rigid fundamentalism you claim to be against.

In my estimation, you belong in the category of self-serving pseudo-liberal loons like Bill Maher.