All faiths must face their demons
September 18, 2005
Three militant neoconservative pundits spoke vehemently against the
Bush administration's gesture to include American Muslim leaders in
discussions on how to deal with the rising tide of anti-Americanism
and restore the trust and support the United States enjoyed prior to
the missteps by the administration at the neocons' urging.
Frank Gaffney demanded Karen Hughes, the new undersecretary of
state for public diplomacy, not attend the Islamic Society of North
America (ISNA) Convention (The Washington Times, Commentary section,
Aug. 30, Page A14). Ignoring his false alarm, Mrs. Hughes met with
Muslim leaders and discussed her ideas for bridging the deepening
divide between the U.S. and Muslim countries.
Mr. Gaffney warned Mrs. Hughes: "Don't go there." Joel Mowbray
gave her the benefit of the doubt, allowing her to make one mistake
for one time: "Given that it is highly unlikely Hughes knew exactly
what she was walking into, she deserves the benefit of the doubt --
this time." (The Washington Times, Sept. 1, Op-Ed, Page A23).
Mr. Gaffney belongs to a small but vocal group of militant
pundits, bent on maligning Muslim leaders and organizations in a bid
to marginalize and isolate mainstream American Muslims. He joined two
other well-known Muslim-bashers, Daniel Pipes and Mr. Mowbray, in
demonizing ISNA and national Muslim organizations' leaders who met
The three leveled serious charges against mainstream Muslim
organizations, of supporting terrorism and promoting radicalism. Using
quotes out of context, guilt by association, errors of fact, and
innuendo, they have fed lies to the public and incited government
officials and law enforcement agencies to conduct investigations and
use them as a basis for further maligning of law-abiding and patriotic
Last year, Mr. Pipes accused the Center for the Study of Islam and
Democracy (CSID) of being "part of the militant Islamist lobby," and
said it was "well-disguised, and has brought in all the Islamist
trends, giving them a patent of respectability."
After a thorough investigation of Mr. Pipes' accusations, the U.S.
Institute of Peace (USIP) issued a statement that brought out the
irresponsible nature of Mr. Pipes' attacks. "The Institute was aware
of and took seriously the accusations made against CSID and some of
the speakers at the event," wrote Kay King, USIP director of
Congressional and Public Affairs. "These allegations were investigated
carefully with credible private individuals and U.S. government
agencies and found to be without merit," she added. "The public
criticism of CSID and the speakers was found to be based on quotes
taken out of context, guilt by association, errors of fact, and innuendo."
Mr. Gaffney, likewise, used misinformation and errors of fact to
justify his demands the Bush administration isolate the most inclusive
and mainstream Muslim convention.
He contended the Senate Finance Committee "listed ISNA as one of
25 American Muslim organizations that 'finance terrorism and
perpetuate violence.' " He, however, failed to disclose the Finance
Committee never found ISNA guilty of such charges and that his
reference relates to a letter sent by the committee chairman and the
ranking member on Dec. 22, 2003, asking the Internal Revenue Service
to investigate Muslim charities for possible links to terrorist
financing. Eighteen months have passed since Feb. 20, 2004, the
deadline set for the investigation, with no action or even a Finance
Committee hearing on the matter.
Mr. Mowbray, using the same tactic of half-truths, quotes out of
context and innuendo, cited a Freedom House study that found Saudi
publications in 12 mosques -- out of 3,500 throughout the country --
that made bigoted references to followers of other religions. Mr.
Mowbray omits mentioning that the Freedom House, responding to
complaints by American Muslim leaders about the misleading title of
the report, stressed its study was intended to uncover the bigotry of
the Saudi publications and was never intended to implicate U.S.
mosques. The Freedom House went a step further and invited two ISNA
leaders to consult on its report and explore the question of religious
These shameless attempts by Mr. Gaffney, Mr. Mowbray and Mr. Pipes
to malign mainstream Muslim organizations and leaders are not driven
by rational and objective considerations, but by paranoia, prejudice,
and irrational fear of Islam and Muslims. Such irrational and
emotional anti-Muslim postures can only confuse the public and
confound the fight on terrorism with the fight on Islam, and hence
plays into the hands of anti-American pundits who thrive on the
missteps, and counterproductive actions and postures urged by Mr.
Gaffney and his ilk.
Mainstream American Muslims have already taken a principled and
firm position against the senseless killings of unarmed and
defenseless civilians. But they can dry up the swamp of extremism that
feeds terrorist attacks only if the Jewish and Christian communities
confront their bigots and extremists, and dry the ponds of bigotry in
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