Stop Trying to Split Gays and Muslims

Geller is attempting to pinkwash Islamophobia, but many in the LGBT and Muslim communities will not allow it to happen.

Chris D. Stedman, a humanist, who is also homosexual has been an outspoken fighter against anti-Muslim bigotry and takes on Geller and her cohorts’ claim that they have support from the gay community head on.

Homosexuality is a controversial topic in many Muslim American communities in which there is heated debate about the topic, but there appears to be a consensus that despite disagreements on homosexuality, respect and support for equal rights before the law, especially in the case of the marginalized has to be part and parcel of securing ones own rights.

Stop trying to split gays and Muslims

Anti-Islam crusader Pam Geller’s effort to foment hate between the two groups is based on lies and doomed to fail

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I have an earnest and sincere question for the LGBT community: Do you support Pamela Geller?

Geller, who is one of the most active proponents of anti-Muslim attitudes in the United States, rose to notoriety as one of the key instigators of the Park51 backlash, misrepresenting a proposed Islamic Community Center (think a YMCA or Jewish Community Center) by calling it the “Ground Zero mosque” and engaging in dishonest rhetoric and blatant fear-mongering. Her organization, Stop the Islamization of America, was identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, alongside extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis. And it’s earned that label — Geller and her allies have dedicated countless hours and millions upon millions of dollars to drum up hatred, fear and xenophobia toward Muslims.

Last week I learned that Geller and one of her biggest allies, Robert Spencer, are hosting a fundraiser for their anti-Muslim advertisements on the website Indiegogo. This disturbed me for a number of reasons, but particularly because Indiegogo’s terms explicitly prohibit “anything promoting hate.” (Despite reports from me and many others, Indiegogo has so far declined to remove the fundraiser; if so inclined, you can let them know what you think about that here.)

While I was looking into this, I discovered that Geller recently announced plans to run a series of anti-Muslim advertisements in San Francisco quoting Muslim individuals making anti-LGBT statements. Why? Because members of San Francisco’s LGBT community criticized other anti-Muslim ads she has run there.

I tweeted my appreciation that the LGBT community in San Francisco is standing up against her efforts to drive a wedge between LGBT folks and Muslims. Soon after, Geller retweeted me, claiming that she in fact has “huge support in Gay community.” Immediately, her supporters began to lob insults and even threats at me; Spencer himself suggested that I should be rewarded for supporting Muslims by someone “saw[ing] off [my] head.” (Meanwhile, though Geller, Spencer and their supporters kept tweeting at me that Muslims “hate gays” and want to kill me, many Muslim friends and strangers alike tweeted love and support for LGBT equality at me.)

As things settled down, I realized that Geller had stopped responding to me when I requested more information to back up her assertion that she has “huge support in Gay community,” after the only evidence she provided was a link to a Facebook group with 72 members. I’ve since asked her repeatedly for more information, but have not gotten a response.

I couldn’t think of a single LGBT person in my life that would support her work, but I didn’t want to go off of my own judgment alone. So I started asking around. It wasn’t hard to find prominent members of the LGBT community who do not share Geller’s views.

“The idea that the LGBT community should support Islamophobia is offensive and absurd,” said Joseph Ward III, director of Believe Out Loud, an organization that empowers Christians to work for LGBT equality. “[American Muslims] are our allies as we share a common struggle to overcome stereotypes and misconceptions in America.”

“Trying to drive a wedge between the LGBT community and other communities is old, tired and [it] doesn’t work,” said Ross Murray, director of News and Faith Initiatives for GLAAD. “Pitting two communities [like the Muslim and LGBT communities] against one another is an attempt to keep both oppressed. Wedge strategies are offensive and, in the long run, they do not work. Geller is not an LGBT ally — she’s posing as one because it is convenient to her [anti-Muslim] agenda.”

“As with any attempts at a wedge, these efforts seek to erase the real and powerful reality of LGBT Muslims and seek to create a false dichotomy: All the LGBT people are non-Muslim/Islamophobic and all the Muslims are straight and homophobic,” said Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, program director of the Institute for Welcoming Resources at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Particularly given the oppression, marginalization, hatred and violence visited upon the LGBTQ community, it is critically important that we use our spiritual, communal and political power to speak out against the victimization and vilification of any other community. As a Christian lesbian, I must stand against any attempts to victimize another because of their personhood.”

“There’s no doubt that there’s a great deal of religion-based bigotry against LGBT people, although it’s hardly limited to Islam. The Hebrew Scriptures also prescribe the death penalty for some homosexual conduct, but you don’t typically see people using this to inflame anti-Semitic or anti-Christian sentiment,” said John Corvino, author of “What’s Wrong With Homosexuality?” and coauthor of “Debating Same-Sex Marriage.” “To single out Muslims in this way is both unhelpful and unfair.”

Despite her claim, the work of Geller and her colleagues has plenty of opposition in the LGBT community. Why?

For starters, it’s wrong.

As Junaid Jahangir writes in a recent piece at the Huffington Post, “[Geller’s] selective references provide a misguided view of the current Muslim position on queer rights issues.” He rightly notes that her advertisements lift up the views of a controversial Muslim cleric, but ignore the “over 2,500 Muslim intellectuals from 23 countries [that] not only called for an international treaty to counter such clerics, but also called for a tribunal set by the United Nations Security Council to put them on trial for inciting violence.” In his piece, which is a must-read, Jahangir goes on to quote many influential, pro-equality Muslim leaders. Pointing to the activism they are doing to support LGBT rights, he demonstrates that Geller is unfairly — and dangerously — presenting a skewed picture of Muslim views on LGBT people.

“There’s no question that homophobia is rampant among the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims — but that doesn’t negate the fact that there are huge groups of Muslims who have easily reconciled their faith and sexual orientation, like LGBT people in other faith communities,” said Reza Aslan, author of “No God but God” and “Beyond Fundamentalism,” in a recent phone interview. “For a woman who leads an organization that has been labeled a hate group to try to reach out to a community like the LGBT community, by trying to make a connection based on bigotry, is harmful and ridiculous. Bigotry is not a bridge.”

Of course, members of the LGBT community are right to be concerned about the dangers of religious extremism and totalitarianism — whether it is Christian, Muslim or any other expression. But demonizing another community won’t help reduce the influence of religious fundamentalism.

You can be honest about your disagreements without being hateful. I’m a queer atheist, and I believe that there are ideas and practices promoted by Muslims in the name of Islam that are not only false — they’re extremely harmful. But to rally against Muslims and Islam as if they and it are some monolithic bloc is counterproductive; it creates enemies where we need allies. There are many Muslims who oppose cruelty and violence done in the name of Islam and favor equality for all people, and they are positioned to create change. We should be working with them, not standing against all of Islam. Based on my own experiences, I know that this is a much more constructive approach. In my book “Faitheist,” I tell several stories about Muslim friends who are not only accepting of my sexual orientation, but are also fierce allies for LGBT equality.

That’s the problem with Geller’s advertisements, and with sweeping, generalizing statements about entire groups of people: They don’t account for the diversity of ideas and traditions that exist within any given community. Geller focuses on a ridiculously tiny minority of Muslim extremists in order to paint her picture of Islam, and in doing so she neglects to account for the rich and varied traditions of generosity, selflessness, social progress and forgiveness present within Islam. Not only that, but her efforts alienate key allies — Muslim and non-Muslim alike — who share her concerns about Muslim extremists, but who also recognize that her narrow approach is unfair and dishonest.

Instead of adopting Geller’s approach, LGBT people should focus on building relationships. After all, support for marriage equality more than doubles among people who know a gay person. The Pew Research Center reports that of the 14 percent of Americans who changed their mind and decided to support gay marriage in the last decade, 37 percent (the largest category) cited having “friends/family/acquaintances who are gay/lesbian” as the primary reason. The second largest group in this astounding shift, at 25 percent, said they became more tolerant, learned more and became more aware.

In 2011, I wrote an essay encouraging more cooperation and solidarity between the LGBT community and the Muslim community:

[In 2009], a Gallup poll demonstrated something the LGBTQ community has known for some time: People are significantly more inclined to oppose gay marriage if they do not know anyone who is gay. Similarly, Time Magazine cover story featured revealing numbers that speak volumes about the correlation between positive relationships and civic support. Per their survey, 46 percent of Americans think Islam is more violent than other faiths and 61 percent oppose Park51, but only 37 percent even know a Muslim American. Another survey, by Pew, reported that 55 percent of Americans know “not very much” or “nothing at all” about Islam. The disconnect is clear: When only 37 percent of Americans know a Muslim American, and 55 percent claim to know very little or nothing about Islam, the negative stereotypes about the Muslim community go unchallenged.

The Muslim and LGBTQ communities face common challenges that stem from the same problem—that diverse communities don’t have robust and durable civic ties. This is why the Muslim and LGBTQ communities ought to be strong allies.

I continue to believe this, and Geller’s work isn’t helping. Geller, Spencer, and their supporters are wrong to try to pit the queer community against Muslims. Their efforts to force a wedge between us and the Muslim community are little more than fear-mongering — a tactic that has long been used to keep the LGBT community marginalized and oppressed.

Read the rest…

#MyJihad: Can “jihad” survive Pam Geller?

MyJihad3

An excellent article by Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon.com on the background, import and history of the #MyJihad campaign and the “counterjihad” effort to derail it.:

Can “jihad” survive Pam Geller?

by Alex Seitz-Wald (Salon.com) 

MyJihad.org bus ad featuring two volunteers, an American-Muslim and an Israeli-Jew. (Credit: MyJihad.org)

So you want to rebrand a word. It’s hard to think of a more difficult rebranding project than “jihad.”

Since Sept. 11, the term has become synonymous with terrorism and villainy — but now a group of Muslims is trying to reclaim the word from the extremists, and redefine “jihad” to mean something normal and peaceful and good. They realize this won’t be easy.

The campaign hinges on the idea that “jihad” has two commonly accepted usages. One is the violent, physical struggle most of us are familiar with. The other, which many Muslims and Islamic scholars consider the more correct definition, refers to the inner struggle to do good and follow God’s teaching; Muslims strive to attain this every day. This is the “proper meaning” being promoted by My Jihad, a public education campaign recently launched on billboards and on buses in Chicago.

“The campaign is about reclaiming Islam, and not just ‘jihad,’ from both Muslim and non-Muslim extremists,” said Ahmed Rehab, the leader of the effort, in an interview. “Whether it’s the bin Ladens and the al-Qaidas of the Muslim world, or the Pam Gellers and Frank Gaffneys of the non-Muslim world, ironically — even though they come from the two opposite ends of the spectrum — they agree exactly on the same definition of ‘jihad’ and on the same worldview of Islam versus the rest of the world.”

In fact, the ads were directly inspired by Geller, the anti-Muslim blogger and activist, who has plastered her own billboards on subways and buses in New York. They label Muslims as “savages” and incite viewers to “defeat Jihad.”

“Everybody was talking about the ‘savage’ part, but to me, that’s just sort of an insult — she thinks I’m a savage, I think she’s an idiot, we’re even,” he said. “But the problem for me was the use of the word ‘jihad.’ When no one seemed to care about that, I realized that we have a problem.”

In billboards on buses and subways, smiling Muslims and non-Muslims share universal human aspirations, personalized by the individual “jihads” of the non-actor volunteers who share their struggles. In this context, a jihad is no more threatening than a New Year’s resolution. “My jihad is to stay fit despite my busy schedule,” one woman with a headscarf and a barbell says. Others deal with raising children, doing well at work, and making friendships with different kinds of people. To Rehab, jihad means that when you are “confronted with two choices, you make the right choice and not the easy one.”

Ads have already gone up on buses in Chicago and San Francisco, and will soon go up in 10 other major American cities and a handful of international ones, including London, Sydney and Melbourne. There’s a website, Facebook page and Twitter hashtag where people can share their own personal jihads.

On Monday, Egyptian activists working with the group even unfurled a giant banner in front of the main church in Cairo wishing a Merry Christmas (Coptic Christians celebrate the holiday on Jan. 7) in contravention of hard-line Islamic proclamations that Christmas should not be recognized.

That may not sound so scary, but the opposition has been predictably vitriolic. The group’s Twitter and Facebook pages have received hateful messages from hard-line Islamists. Geller, predictably, is exercised.

She has written at least a dozen posts using the campaign’s #myjihad hashtag, which currently represent about two out of every three posts on the front page of her influential anti-Muslim blog. Geller also seems determined to play a game of bait and switch to sabatoge the rival campaign. She registered the domain name MyJihad.us (the real URL ends in .org) and is even trying to run copycat ads that are clearly designed to be confused with Rehab’s. In her ads, the peaceful Muslim is replaced with pictures of Osama bin Laden and the burning twin towers. She trying to get approval from the Chicago Transit Authority for the ads to appear on city buses, but they may be rejected for infringing on My Jihad’s copyright to the template.

One would think that My Jihad is exactly the kind of moderate Muslim voice that Geller — who claims to be so threatened by Muslim “extremists” — would want to promote. But in reality, “the extremists on both sides need each other for validation. And we’re a threat to both,” Rehab said.

Rehab is the executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), but he’s doing this on his own time and with separate funds to keep it a grass-roots effort. What started as a Facebook group less than a month ago has grown into a sophisticated public relations campaign that has already raised $20,000 and recruited dozens of volunteers, most of whom are “soccer moms” who don’t want their kids to feel intimidated at school because of their religion, Rehab said. “These are the army of My Jihad,” he quipped.

But can the popular conception of “jihad” really be changed with some ads and a hashtag?

“I would look at this conflict as I would any other product: We have an image problem,” said Arash Afshar, an Iranian-American marketing consultant who is not involved with the campaign. “This is exactly what Muslims should be doing … The way to combat an image problem is not to simply sit back and hope it goes away. You develop a branding strategy and motivate your already existing fan-base.”

The challenge will be to sustain the campaign, he said, pointing to the similarly buzzy and controversial Israel Loves Iran campaign.

The challenge is no doubt immense, however, explained Jean-Pierre Dubé, a professor of marketing at Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. “The problem we have here is that this is a case where we literally want to do an about-face on the interpretation of the word. And there’s so much passion behind how people have used this term that it’s hard to imagine this is something you can change overnight.”

Still, there are plenty of examples of brands dramatically turning their image around, Dubé said. Marlboro, contrary to its contemporary image of masculine ruggedness personified by the Marlboro Man, was initially marketed as a cigarette for women. Its signature red color comes from a red band on the tip designed to hide lipstick stains — “A cherry tip for your ruby lips,” as the slogan went. Likewise, Mountain Dew successfully remade itself as a drink for the X-Games in the 1990s. There’s even some precedent, of sorts, in the religious world. Catholicism essentially tried to rebrand itself in the 1960s with Vatican II, though the success is more dubious.

But those turnarounds took a lot of time and “tons and tons of money,” Dubé noted, and there was hardly the passion around the gender connotation of Marlboro as there is around the concept of jihad. What jihad needs is a “brand hijacking,” Dubé said, like what happened to Doc Martens in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when teenage grunge rockers took over what had been a gardening boot. When Doc Martens executives realized the potential, they immediately changed gears to capitalize on the trend.

The problem here for My Jihad, however, is that there is no central authority in Islam, unlike in Catholicism or with Doc Martens, and thus no “owner” of the brand associated with jihad. So you have Rehab and his cohort trying to execute a “hijacking of a hijacking,” as Dubé put it, to take back the word from the extremists who initially commandeered it. But in the end, no one can rightfully claim to be the final arbiter of the word “jihad.”

If you talk to other Muslim activists, they’ll probably agree that the general usage of “jihad” is an unfortunate perversion, but they are wary to engage in what seems like a losing battle over semantics, especially when there are so many other pressing problems with Islamophobia. Rehab said he’s sympathetic to this argument, but that semantics are important and that his community is starting to realize it. “That was my message to the community. Not only is it so misidentified, but we as Muslims — a lot of us — have resigned ourselves to that and moved on or even stopped trying to change it.”

This isn’t the first effort to change the popular usage of “jihad.” In 2005, Islamic historian Douglas Streusand submitted a paper to the Pentagon arguing that the military should stop using the word to refer to Islamist militants. “If we are calling them ‘people who strive in the path of God,’ in other words — if we are calling them meritorious Muslims — then we are implying that we are fighting Islam, even if we’re not,” he wrote. To make a comparison more Americans would understand, Streusand said calling militants “jihadis” is “like calling Germans during the Second World War ‘National Socialist Aryan Heroes.’”

UCLA law professor Khaled Abou El Fadl, a prominent critic of puritanical interpretations of Islam, has long campaigned against the modern usage of the word. “When I write an article speaking to extremists and convincing them that they are wrong theologically and morally and legally, I consider myself in a state of jihad. I expect to be rewarded by God,” he told NPR in 2006.

Rehab and his compatriots realize it will be difficult to change the meaning of “jihad,” but he’s hoping the campaign will at least “start a conversation” about a concept that is critical to the practice of Islam, yet completely misunderstood. The same could be said about Islam more generally in the West. The religion, omnipresent in pop culture and foreign policy debates, is still mysterious to so many Americans and its popular image too often dictated by the extremists, and not its everyday adherents. If nothing else, the fact that Geller feels threatened shows they’re doing something right.

Hopefully, this campaign can start to demystify Islam by taking the edge out of the scariest word in the religion and making jihad as quotidian as going to the gym. That’s Rehab’s jihad, what’s yours?

Close

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon’s political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

Adam Hasner: Islamophobe for Congress

Loonwatch has been reporting on Adam Hasner since 2009 when he first came across our radar screen for his alliance with Pamela Geller and endorsement of Geert Wilders. Not long ago he was pontificating about “Civilization Jihad” and other nonsense,

“We are not in a War on Terror,” Hasner said. “This is a civilizational struggle against an ideology of Sharia Islam.”

“It’s not just a threat on foreign soil,” he continued. “It’s also a threat from those who seek to destroy us from within. And we have a problem of domestic terrorism both in the violent form as well as in the civilizational jihad that we’re witnessing here in our own country and our own state.”

Adam Hasner: Islamophobe for Congress

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Congress’s anti-Islam caucus will likely grow in November, and Florida’s Adam Hasner may be its worst new member

Rep. Michele Bachmann has gotten a lot of attention lately for her witch hunt against Muslims in the U.S. government, but she’s not alone. In addition to the four lawmakers who signed on to her letters, there are a handful of others who together might be called the Islamophobia Caucus — and their ranks are likely to swell after November, thanks in part to one of the caucus’ most outspoken members, Rep. Allen West.

After redistricting made West’s 22nd Florida congressional district slightly more liberal, he moved to the 18th. Running in his place is Adam Hasner, the former Florida House majority leader who abandoned a previous bid for the Senate. Hasner has already earned top-flight endorsers, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and West himself, as well as several major conservative organizations.

But perhaps a bit farther down the list is Pam Geller, the anti-Islam blogger and activist who spearheaded the effort against the so-called ground zero mosque. While she may not have officially endorsed Hasner, they’re clearly comrades in the fight against Shariah law. “Pamela [Geller] and I were on the front lines of that together, fighting to make sure that we kept her safe here,” Hasner told a Fort Lauderdale crowd in June of last year. For her part, Geller has written numerous blog posts praising Hasner, whom she declared to be “my friend.” “So many patriots and elected officials joined us, like Adam Hasner,” she wrote in June of last year. Here’s a photo of them posing together from her blog. (Hasner did not reply to requests for comment.)

As the Florida Independent noted in September of last year, Hasner has been involved in a “long-time crusade against the supposed threat of Sharia in the U.S.” In 2009, he appeared on a panel in D.C. with Geller and Frank Gaffney, the man behind Bachmann’s with hunt, according to a press release unearthed by the liberal research group American Bridge. Robert Spencer, another key figure in the Islamophobia cottage industry, called Hasner a “fearless truth teller” (here’s a photo them posing together via Spencer’s blog, Jihad Watch).

Before that, Hasner invited notorious Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders to Florida. “When I invited Geert Wilders to join me for a Free Speech conference in Palm Beach County, not only did the hotel cancel its plans to have him come in, but I was the one who was asked by the Hamas front group, the Council on Arab-Islamic Relations, to resign from the Florida House of Representatives, because I was an Islamophobe and a hater,” he said in the Fort Lauderdale speech. Wilders has made crusading against Islam his top priority. He was under house arrest for hate speech in Holland and is barred from visiting several countries.

When Hasner caught flak for the invitation, he was unperturbed. “These are the same people who have been attacking me all session. This isn’t about being anti-Islam, this is all about the right to free speech and they are trying to stifle it,” he casually told the St. Petersburg Times in April 2009. Wilders personally thanked Hasner in his speech, saying, “We need strong leaders like we have here today, Allen West and Adam Hasner. We need strong men like that.”

Within just a few days of the Wilders speech, it was an event that Hasner did not attend that raised eyebrows. He apparently boycotted an imam’s opening prayers at the state Legislature. The Palm Beach Post reported at the time:

As usual, the Florida House opened session today with a prayer. But for the first time this year (and possibly the first time ever), that prayer was led by an imam, Qasim Ahmed, from the Islamic Learning Institute in Tampa. The prayer was videotaped by Ahmed Bedier, United Voices of America director, who remarked on the absence of House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton. Bedier said he was videotaping the “historic” moment. “We did notice Hasner’s empty chair. That’s definitely noticed,” Bedier said… Hasner said he wasn’t on the floor this morning for personal reasons and noted the iman was in the House at the invitation of Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek. “It’s Jim Waldman’s right as a member to invite whomever he wants,” Hasner said.

In 2011, according to a YouTube video of a speech uncovered by American Bridge, Hasner boasted about the real reason for his absence two years earlier. “When the imam who was invited by a state representative who was a Democrat from here in Broward County, when he was invited to give the morning prayer at the Florida House of Representatives, and I boycotted the prayer, I was the one who was ridiculed,” he said.

In 2008, Hasner helped found an anti-Shariah group called Florida Security Council with an activist named Tom Trento. While Hasner was never an official member, he touted his involvement with the organization, which later changed its name to United West. “You cannot fight an enemy when you will not acknowledge that an enemy even exists, and that enemy has a name, and that is Shariah-compliant Islam,” Hasner told a local conservative group in March of last year. “We cannot allow political correctness and multiculturalism or appeasement to cripple our defenses at home or abroad.”

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon’s political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.
MORE ALEX SEITZ-WALD.

Salon.com: Likely victory for MeK shills

MEK fighters in Iraq. (Credit: AP/Brennan Linsley) MEK fighters in Iraq. (Credit: AP/Brennan Linsley)

We’ve reported on the MeK terrorist organization and the powerful politicians who have lobbied on their behalf to have them de-listed as a terror group. All these politicians are guilty of “material support” but because they come from the privileged and powerful class the rule of law does not apply to them.

Now it seems likely that due to the lobbying efforts of the said politicians, the MeK will be removed from the list. (h/t: JD)

Likely victory for MeK shills

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Former U.S. officials, paid to advocate for a designated Terror group, are now on the verge of succeeding.

(updated below)

bipartisan band of former Washington officials and politicians has spent the last two years aggressively advocating on behalf of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK), an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the U.S. State Department as a “foreign Terrorist organization.” Most of those former officials have been paid large sums of money to speak at MeK events and meet with its leaders, thus developing far more extensive relations with this Terror group than many marginalized Muslims who have been prosecuted and punished with lengthy prison terms for “materially supporting a Terrorist organization.” These bipartisan MeK advocates have been demanding the group’s removal from the Terror list, advocacy that has continued unabated despite (or, more accurately, because of ) reports that MeK is trained and funded by the Israelis and has been perpetrating acts of violence on Iranian soil aimed at that country’s civilian nuclear scientists and facilities (also known as: Terrorism).

Now, needless to say, the State Department appears likely to accede to the demands of these paid bipartisan shills:

The Obama administration is moving to remove an Iranian opposition group from the State Department’s terrorism list, say officials briefed on the talks, in an action that could further poison Washington’s relations with Tehran at a time of renewed diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

The exile organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MeK, was originally named as a terrorist entity 15 years ago for its alleged role in assassinating U.S. citizens in the years before the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and for allying with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein against Tehran.

The MeK has engaged in an aggressive legal and lobbying campaign in Washington over the past two years to win its removal from the State Department’s list. . . . Senior U.S. officials said on Monday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to make any final decision on the MeK’s status. But they said the State Department was looking favorably at delisting MeK if it continued cooperating by vacating a former paramilitary base inside Iraq, called Camp Ashraf, which the group had used to stage cross-border strikes into Iran.

This highlights almost every salient fact about how Washington functions with regard to such matters. First, if you pay a sufficiently large and bipartisan group of officials to lobby on your behalf, you will get your way, even when it comes to vaunted National Security and Terrorism decisions; if you pay the likes of Howard Dean, Fran Townsend, Wesley Clark, Ed Rendell, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge and others like them to peddle their political influence for you, you will be able to bend Washington policy and law to your will. As Andrew Exum put it this morning: “I guess Hizballah and LeT just need to buy off more former administration officials.”

Second, the application of the term “Terrorist” by the U.S. Government has nothing to do with how that term is commonly understood, but is instead exploited solely as a means to punish those who defy U.S. dictates and reward those who advance American interests and those of its allies (especially Israel). Thus, this Terror group is complying with U.S. demands, has been previously trained by the U.S. itself, and is perpetrating its violence on behalf of a key American client state and against a key American enemy, and — presto — it is no longer a “foreign Terrorist organization.”

Third, this yet again underscores who the actual aggressors are in the tensions with Iran. Imagine if multiple, high-level former Iranian officials received large sums of money from a group of Americans dedicated to violently overthrowing the U.S. government and committing acts of violence on American soil, and the Iranian Government then removed it from its list of Terror groups, thus allowing funding and other means of support to flow freely to that group.

Fourth, the rule of law is not even a purported constraint on the conduct of Washington political elites. Here, the behavior of these paid MeK shills is so blatantly illegal that even the Obama administration felt compelled to commence investigations to determine who was paying them and for what. As a strictly legal matter, removing MeK from the Terror list should have no effect on the criminality of their acts: it’s a felony to provide material support to a designated Terror group — which the Obama DOJ, backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, has argued, in a full frontal assault on free speech rights, even includes coordinating advocacy with such a group (ironically, some of this Terror group’s paid advocates, such as former Bush Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend, cheered that Supreme Court ruling when they thought it would only restrict the political advocacy of Muslims, not themselves).

The fact that the Terror group is subsequently removed from the list does not render that material support non-criminal. But as a practical matter, it is virtually impossible to envision the Obama DOJ prosecuting any of these elite officials for supporting a group which the Obama administration itself concedes does not belong on the list. The removal of this group — if, as appears highly likely, it happens — will basically have the same effect, by design, as corrupt acts such as retroactive telecom immunity and the shielding of Bush war crimes and Wall Street fraud from any form of investigation: it will once again bolster the prime Washington dictate that D.C. political elites reside above the rule of law even when committing violations of the criminal law for which ordinary citizens are harshly punished.

* * * * *

Speaking of the assault on the free speech rights of Muslim critics of the U.S. under the guise of “material support” prosecutions (an assault which also erodes free speech rights for everyone), Michael May hasa great long article in The American Prospect on the horrendous, free-speech-threatening prosecution of Tarek Mehanna, whose extraordinary sentencing statement I published here.

UPDATE: In 2003, when the Bush adminstration was advocating an attack on Iraq, one of the prime reasons it cited was “Saddam Hussein’s Support for International Terrorism.” It circulated a document purporting to prove that claim (h/t Hernlem), and one of the first specific accusations listed was this:

Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians.

So the group that was pointed to less than a decade ago as proof of Saddam’s Terrorist Evil is now glorified by both political parties in Washington and — now that it’s fighting for the U.S. and Israel rather than for Saddam — is no longer a Terror group.

The Rush to Blame Muslims and the Meaningless Term “Terrorism”

Glenn Greenwald on point as always:

Via Loonwatch:

The omnipotence of Al Qaeda and meaninglessness of “Terrorism”

(updated below – Update II)

For much of the day yesterday, the featured headline on The New York Times online front page strongly suggested that Muslims were responsible for the attacks on Oslo; that led to definitive statements on the BBC and elsewhere that Muslims were the culprits.  The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin wrote a whole column based on the assertion that Muslims were responsible, one that, as James Fallows notes, remains at the Post with no corrections or updates.  The morning statement issued by President Obama — “It’s a reminder that the entire international community holds a stake in preventing this kind of terror from occurring” and “we have to work cooperatively together both on intelligence and in terms of prevention of these kinds of horrible attacks” — appeared to assume, though (to its credit) did not overtly state, that the perpetrator was an international terrorist group.

But now it turns out that the alleged perpetrator wasn’t from an international Muslim extremist group at all, but was rather a right-wing Norwegian nationalist with a history of anti-Muslim commentary and an affection for Muslim-hating blogs such as Pam Geller’s Atlas Shrugged, Daniel Pipes, and Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch.  Despite that,The New York Times is still working hard to pin some form of blame, even ultimate blame, on Muslim radicals (h/t sysprog):

So if this is somehow not considered “terrorism”, are we admitting that whether something is “terrorism” is solely a function of who did it?

That Terrorism means nothing more than violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes has been proven repeatedly.  When an airplane was flown into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, it was immediately proclaimed to be Terrorism, until it was revealed that the attacker was a white, non-Muslim, American anti-tax advocate with a series of domestic political grievances.  The U.S. and its allies can, by definition, never commit Terrorism even when it is beyond question that the purpose of their violence is to terrorize civilian populations into submission.  Conversely, Muslims who attack purely military targets — even if the target is an invading army in their own countries — are, by definition, Terrorists.  That is why, as NYU’s Remi Brulin has extensively documented, Terrorism is the most meaningless, and therefore the most manipulated, word in the English language.  Yesterday provided yet another sterling example.

One last question: if, as preliminary evidence suggests, it turns out that Breivik was “inspired” by the extremist hatemongering rantings of Geller, Pipes and friends, will their groups be deemed Terrorist organizations such that any involvement with them could constitute the criminal offense of material support to Terrorism?  Will those extremist polemicists inspiring Terrorist violence receive the Anwar Awlaki treatment of being put on an assassination hit list without due process?  Will tall, blond, Nordic-looking males now receive extra scrutiny at airports and other locales, and will those having any involvement with those right-wing, Muslim-hating groups be secretly placed on no-fly lists?  Or are those oppressive, extremist, lawless measures — like the word Terrorism — also reserved exclusively for Muslims?

UPDATE:  The original version of the NYT article was even worse in this regard.  As several people noted, here is what the article originally said (papers that carry NYT articles still have the original version):

Terrorism specialists said that even if the authorities ultimately ruled out terrorism as the cause of Friday’s assaults, other kinds of groups or individuals were mimicking al-Qaida’s signature brutality and multiple attacks.

“If it does turn out to be someone with more political motivations, it shows these groups are learning from what they see from al-Qaida,” said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism researcher at the New America Foundation in Washington.

Thus: if it turns out that the perpetrators weren’t Muslim (but rather “someone with more political motivations” — whatever that means: it presumably rests on the inane notion that Islamic radicals are motivated by religion, not political grievances), then it means that Terrorism, by definition, would be “ruled out” (one might think that the more politically-motivated an act of violence is, the more deserving it is of the Terrorism label, but this just proves that the defining feature of the word Terrorism is Muslim violence).  The final version of the NYTarticle inserted the word “Islamic” before “terrorism” (“even if the authorities ultimately ruled out Islamic terrorism as the cause”), but — as demonstrated above — still preserved the necessary inference that only Muslims can be Terrorists.  Meanwhile, in the world of reality, of 294 Terrorist attacks attempted or executed on European soil in 2009 as counted by the EU, a grand total of one — 1 out of 294 — was perpetrated by “Islamists.”

UPDATE II:  This article expertly traces and sets forth exactly how the “Muslims-did-it” myth was manufactured and then disseminated yesterday to the worldwide media, which predictably repeated it with little skepticism.  What makes the article so valuable is that it names names: it points to the incestuous, self-regarding network of self-proclaimed U.S. Terrorism and foreign policy “experts” — what the article accurately describes as “almost always white men and very often with military or government backgrounds,” in this instance driven by “a case of an elite fanboy wanting to be the first to pass on leaked gadget specs” — who so often shape these media stories and are uncritically presented as experts, even though they’re drowning in bias, nationalism, ignorance, and shallow credentialism.