Mohammed is mainly known for the fact that he was the defense attorney for Muslims who were arrested in the wake of 9/11 because of their ties to terror organizations. In one case, Mohammed fought the government’s effort to deport Mohammed Qatanani, the imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County and an influential member of the extremist — though well-connected — American Muslim Union. Though the New York Times praised him in 2008 during his deportation trial as a “revered imam” and portrayed the case as an overreaction to 9/11, Qatanani, a Palestinian, is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and admitted to being a member of Hamas when he was arrested by Israeli authorities in 1993 before coming to the United States. Though he claimed to be an advocate of interfaith dialogue (and was accepted as such by some liberal Jews), Qatanani was no moderate on the Middle East. His ties to Hamas were well known, and just the year before his deportation trial, Qatanani endorsed Israel’s absorption into an Islamic “Greater Syria.” Qatanani clearly lied about his record as an Islamist on documents that he used to enter the country. But he was nevertheless able to evade justice in the immigration courts because the judge accepted his undocumented claim that the Israelis tortured him.Qatanani also benefited from having some highly placed friends in the justice system as a result of the political pull of the American Muslim Union, which boasts Sohail Mohammed as one of its board members. The AMU was able to get former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, and then U.S. attorney Chris Christie to intervene on Qatanani’s behalf during the trial. As far as Christie was concerned, this was not a matter of merely signing a letter or making a phone call. The day before the Immigration Court announced its decision, Christie actually spoke at Qatanani’s mosque (Qatanani’s predecessor had boasted of raising at the mosque $2 million for Hamas via the now banned Holy Land Foundation) at a Ramadan breakfast dinner, where he embraced the imam while praising him as “a man of great good will.”Terror researcher Steve Emerson was quoted at the time as calling Christie’s involvement in the case “a disgrace and an act of pure political corruption,” especially since “I know for certain that Christie and the FBI had access to information about Qatanani’s background, involvement with and support of Hamas.”
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It seems another demographic group Democrats once took for granted is snapping out of Obama fever. At the Daily Beast, David Graham reports that American Muslims don’t think the president’s actions match his pro-Islam rhetoric. Aside from insisting that Islam is a religion of peace and appointing a few Muslims to important positions, Obama hasn’t met enough with American Muslim groups or “remade the political landscape for Muslims”:
“Just like the last time, we’re quite happy if any president offers positive rhetoric toward the Muslim world or Islam, but it really needs to be backed up with concrete policy initiatives,” says Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading American Muslim group. “We’re still in Afghanistan, we’re still in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian situation has gone south. We’re not there—we’re just continuing with the previous policies.”
It’s not just foreign policy. Across the board, Muslims are expressing disappointment with Obama’s progress on issues relevant to them in the domestic policy realm. What they express is not so much anger as disillusionment, a recognition that the president hasn’t remade the political landscape for Muslims. (American Muslim opinions mirror international opinions. A Pew survey released Tuesday finds that citizens in majority Muslim countries remain skeptical of Obama.)
Exhibit A is the Park51 project, the proposed mosque and Islamic center in Lower Manhattan that opponents dubbed the “ground zero mosque”. After delivering what appeared to be a full-throated defense of the project, he walked back his comments the next day, saying, “I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there.” It was a crucial litmus test for many American Muslims—and one that Obama failed. “He’s still missing the political courage to stand up for communities, and not just Muslim communities,” says Shireen Zaman, the executive director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a think tank on Muslim issues.
As the Left always does when discussing different ethnic groups, it’s simply assumed at the outset that the positions cited are intrinsically anti-Muslim.
Whatever you think of the wisdom of starting or continuing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, both conflicts were waged against specific governments the United States determined to be enemies, not against Muslims generally; indeed, both wars liberated their Muslim populations from nightmarish despots and gave them a genuine shot at liberty, so one could just as easily call a premature withdrawal from either theater anti-Muslim for enabling a descent back into totalitarianism.
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Rep. Peter King’s announced congressional hearings on Muslim extremism have brought on a tidal wave of condemnation of the level to which America allegedly embraces anti-Islamic bigotry, so it’s important to take a look at how American Muslims are really treated in this country.
We’ve noted before how polling data indicates that the American people don’t consider most Muslims to be terrorism supporters and FBI numbers show that Muslims actually comprise a very small share of the nation’s annual hate crime victims. And yesterday, the Center for Security Policy released a new report on religiously motivated hate crimes between 2000 and 2009, which “contradicts the false assertions that hate crimes against Muslims have increased, and that the alleged cause is widespread Islamophobia in America.” CSP president Frank Gaffney says:
This report is important because it exposes a false belief perpetuated by a few vocal groups that religious bias crimes against Muslims are on the upswing. The truth is quite the opposite. These arguments, unsubstantiated by hard factual data, are corrosive to community relationships at every level of American society, and a potential threat to national security.
First, the report’s summary chart [download here] shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans are peaceful to members of all faiths. There were a total of 6,319 anti-religious hate crimes perpetrated against Americans of all faiths in the last decade. As despicable as every single act was, that number is well within the range we should expect in a free society of over 300 million people (consider that in 2008 alone there were 16,272 murders, 89,000 rapes, and 441,855 robberies). Neither Jews, Christians nor Muslims are suffering any kind of hate-crime epidemic.
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At CPAC 2011, Ann Coulter made the following claim:
Democrats are all for meddling in other countries –- but only provided a change of regime will harm U.S. national security interests.
It probably wasn’t his intention, but this week the Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart has set out to prove her right. Beinart (who, recall, doesn’t think the War on Terror is a war and says conservatives only support profiling because we don’t believe people who look like us are capable of bad things) has chosen to lecture us about “the hypocrisy of the right’s shallow rhetoric on liberty and human freedom,” allegedly displayed by those of us who aren’t all that optimistic that a post-Mubarak Egypt will be any more free or humane:
[T]he people with the biggest megaphones on the American right—people like Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich—are not preaching democratic idealism. They’re warning that Egypt and Bahrain are about to become Iranian- or Taliban-style theocracies. They’re comparing Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter for not standing behind our favored strongmen. And they’re suggesting that, at the very least, America should demand that Islamist parties be banned. When it comes to Muslims and democracy, much of the supposedly idealistic American right turns out to be pretty pessimistic. It turns out that the people uninterested in the human rights of Muslims at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay aren’t all that concerned about them in Egypt or Bahrain either.
What human-rights disinterest are you referring to, Peter? The way I remember it, conservatives overwhelmingly condemned the actual abuse and the military punished those responsible all on its own, while waterboarding has saved American lives. And Beck, Palin and Gingrich’s doubts are far from groundless—the radical Muslim Brotherhood is among the factions vying for control of Egypt’s new government, and as David Horowitz sarcastically pointed out to Bill Kristol, recent history doesn’t suggest great odds for Egypt:
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Remember Katie Couric’s insipid suggestion that Americans needed a Muslim version of The Cosby Show to help us get over our seething Islamophobia? It earned derision in the blogosphere for its condescending view of the country as a hive of bigotry and its refusal to give the Islamic world any share of the blame for Islamic image problems, but PopEater reports that the idea is picking up steam among Muslims in the television industry:
“We want to see a typical Arab-American family that is just like every other family in America,” said Arab-American comedian Dean Obeidallah, who has developed a pilot for Comedy Central. “Television has had the ability to demonize Muslims and Arabs, but we realize that it also has the ability to humanize us.”
Couric’s suggestion might not be as radical or as far off as her critics decried. In fact, Muslim-American writers say that broadcast and cable networks are starting to be more receptive to scripts prominently featuring both Arabs and practitioners of Islam. A decade-removed from the September 11th terrorist attacks, television may finally be ready to portray Muslim-Americans as more than terrorists and taxi cab drivers.
“Hollywood would definitely embrace a Muslim ‘Cosby Show’ with one caveat: It would have to be really good. It’s the one factor that has linked shows about minorities like the ‘Cosby Show’ or even ‘Will & Grace.’ Currently, I believe Americans are open to any minority as long as the show speaks to universal human truths and makes them laugh,” said Muslim-American Hollywood television and movie producer Tariq Jalil, the executive producer of the comedy ‘Marmaduke.’ [Emphasis added.]
That’s true—as we discussed on January 3, neither the words nor the deeds of the American people indicate hostility toward American Muslims—and it’s nice to hear Jalil acknowledge what Couric didn’t, but that also undermines the alleged need for more Muslim programming in the first place.
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Sometimes outside-the-box thinking proves invaluable in solving the controversies that plague us, but sometimes it turns out to be a minefield of useless self-embarrassment. CBS anchor Katie Couric’s novel approach to combating alleged Islamophobia falls firmly in the latter camp. During a panel review of 2010’s biggest stories, Couric lamented the American people’s clueless intolerance:
“The bigotry expressed against Muslims in this country has been one of the most disturbing stories to surface,” Couris said. “Of course, a lot of noise was made about the Islamic Center, mosque, down near the World Trade Center, but I think there wasn’t enough sort of careful analysis and evaluation of where this bigotry toward 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, and how this seething hatred many people feel for all Muslims, which I think is so misdirected, and so wrong — and so disappointing.”
One wonders how Couric is measuring this “seething hatred.” By what Americans say? Doubtful—Newsweek’s latest poll on the subject found that 67% of Americans believe that “only some” or “very few” American Muslims “support the goals of Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalists,” and 62% believe “most” or “many” are “peaceable and do not condone violence.”
Is she judging by what Americans do? Equally dubious—according to the FBI’s most recent statistics, Muslims were the victims of 7.7% of all religiously-motivated “hate crimes in 2008,” as opposed to Jews, who were the victims of 65.7%.
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Television can be a force for liberty in totalitarian and theocratic societies, but it can be used to thwart liberty, as well. Case in point: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s Daily Beast report on disturbing events in Afghanistan:
In the past several weeks, controversial television presenter Nasto Naderi has stepped up a campaign he began this year accusing women’s shelters of supporting prostitution and other behavior considered immoral. In December, Naderi showed footage of a family guidance center run by the organization Women for Afghan Women, followed by pictures of family guidance and women’s shelter staff entering their offices. According to Naderi, women’s shelters encourage behavior that violates Islam, though he has yet to offer any evidence to support his allegations.
The unwanted attention has sent a chill through women’s rights supporters in Kabul and created an environment of both fear and defiance among shelter workers. In a conservative country with little history of providing safe havens for domestic-violence victims, the concern is that Naderi’s charges could do great harm—and put shelter workers at risk.
“By these kinds of programs, people’s minds may be swayed, and they may think negatively about these kinds of safe houses,” said Selay Ghaffar of the organization HAWCA, which offers legal aid and temporary shelter to Afghan women seeking to escape domestic abuse.
Naderi makes no bones about what’s really driving his propaganda campaign, boasting that his people “have fought 30 years to put the word ‘Islam’ in front of Afghanistan […] But some NGOs come and want to make another way for our country.” It certainly isn’t concern for the shelters’ quality—“Mr. Nadiri says he hasn’t visited any of the 17 shelters officially registered with the government.”
Women’s defenders fear the legitimization of the Taliban could mean the end of the shelters: