GOP Anti-Muslim Limbo:  They’ve Lowered the Bar Again! - updated 6/14

GOP Anti-Muslim Limbo:  They’ve Lowered the Bar Again!

by Sheila Musaji

Recently, I wrote an article The GOP Anti-Muslim Limbo:  How Low Can They Go? in which I listed many of the anti-Muslim comments and activities of some of our elected representatives.  In that article, I mistakenly said that they could not go any lower.  I was wrong.

Yesterday, State Senator Greg Ball (R-NY), chairman of the Veterans, Homeland Security & Military Affairs Committee held a hearing titled “Reviewing our Preparedness: An Examination of New York’s Public Protection Ten Years After September 11”.

Prior to the hearing, there was a great deal of concern within the American Muslim community about two of the “experts” he has called to testify Frank Gaffney, and Nonie Darwish.  There was also concern as to why Sharia would be a topic of discussion in a hearing about the preparedness of New York’s law enforcement to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks.

It was not only Muslims who were concerned.  Eleven democratic senators sent a letter to Senator Ball objecting to the inclusion of such individuals.  You can see the full text of the letters back and forth here.  For some reason Darwish was scheduled to speak at the hearing under the pseudonym “Nahid Hyde.”

Here is the press release from Sen. Parkers office about the letter sent by concerned congressmen to Sen. Ball:

Senators Urge Chairman Ball To Reject Bigotry

(Brooklyn, NY) Today, Senator Kevin Parker was joined by Senators Tony Avella, Adriano Espaillat, Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Liz Krueger, Velmanette Montgomery, Jose Peralta, Bill Perkins, Gustavo Rivera, Diane Savino, and Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a letter to Senator Greg Ball opposing the participation of Nonie Darwish and Frank Gaffney in upcoming hearings before the Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs Committee. On April 8, 2011, Senator Ball will hold a hearing, “Reviewing our Preparedness: An Examination of New York’s Public Protection Ten Years After September 11.”

Regrettably, he includes a topic not germane to the security of New York, Shariah (Islamic law). The Chairman has invited Nonie Darwish, an individual unqualified to speak on Islamic jurisprudence and has a long record of using racist and incendiary language that has no place before any committee of the State Senate. Ms. Darwish has referred to Islam as “not a true religion” and to President Obama’s mother as a “radical” for marrying a Muslim. She told the New York Times in an August 7, 2010 article: “A mosque is not just a place for worship. It’s a place where war is started, where commandments to do jihad start, where incitements against non-Muslims occur. It’s a place where ammunition was stored.”

“I am greatly concerned that a committee of this Senate seeks to criminalize an entire faith tradition,” said Senator Parker. “Moreover, the individual selected by Chairman Ball lacks the credibility and credentials necessary for a substantive policy hearing,” continued Parker. “We in New York face serious challenges with regards to protecting our state, this portion of the hearing merely serves as a distraction.”

Although some seek to isolate and vilify Muslims, this diverse community has played an instrumental role since the founding of our nation. Today, hundreds of thousands of Muslim Americans are a part of the fabric of our state. They are our neighbors, physicians, entrepreneurs, educators, legislators and serve in law enforcement.

It is disconcerting that in the past two years, there has been a growth in vitriol against Muslims and those who are perceived to be Muslim. This coincides with an increase in violence and discrimination against Muslims, Sikhs, Arabs and other members of the South Asian community. Thus, I ask Chairman Ball to withdraw the invitation to Ms. Darwish and Mr. Gaffney, and call upon him to take this opportunity to hold hearings that truly address the safety and well-being for all New Yorkers,” said Parker.

David Freedlander reports that Ball defended the presence of Darwish, saying that “We have to understand who our enemy is, and we have to understand the culture of jihad and get beyond the feel-good politics of political correctness and have New Yorkers have a clear look at people who want to destroy our city and our state.”

Glenn Blain reports that Ball further defended Darwish’s inclusion by saying she spent more than 30 years in Egypt and is qualified to discuss Shariah law.

Amazing logic.  I suppose that means that since I have spent more than 60 years in the United States, than I am qualified to testify officially on Constitutional Law.

The entire five hours of the hearing is available on youtube HERE.  Darwish’s testimony on “the culture of jihad” starts at 2:01:06.  Gaffney’s testimony on “the threat of Sharia to America” starts at 2:38:57.

Peter King was the first to testify at today’s hearings, and used it as a platform to raise the same issues already raised in his hearings.  He appears to be firmly committed to a position, and facts are not going to get in the way.

Nonie Darwish

used the platform to attack Arabs “The education of Arab children is to make killing of certain groups of people not only good, it’s holy. It becomes holy in our culture.”  She worked in all of her particular views — oppression of women and religious minorities, polygamy, honor killing, female genital mutilation.  She also gave her definition of jihad and said she had never heard the definition of jihad as a struggle until she came to America. 

Darwish for the most part talked about her personal experiences in Egypt.  But, she did state that in American mosques, before she left Islam, the mosques were “advising us against integration”, there was “much preaching that was anti-Semitic”, “encouraging jihad”, “encouraging us to be alienated from this society”, showing “contempt for this society”, and “political”. 

She then claimed that “nobody is speaking” against abuse of Christians in Egypt for example, and that “Sharia is not a religious right in America, it is against our Constitution”.

Frank Gaffney

pushed his Center for Security Policy Sharia Report, and managed to work in all of his bigoted views as “facts” — Muslim organizations whose purpose is to convince us that they are cooperating with law enforcement,  taqiyyah, the Muslim Brotherhood, the HLF trial, anti-CAIR, anti every national Muslim organization, anti-Sharia.  As an American Muslim I reject his opening definition of Sharia.

Gaffney once again attacked the proposed Cordoba House project in NYC, saying that it was “part and parcel of this effort to insinuate Sharia into the U.S.” and “fits the profile of triumphalist mosques built on sacred ground of defeated people elsewhere around the world.  “I believe it should not be allowed to happen here.”  He also responded to Linda Sarsour’s testimony, saying “you can hear all day long from the Linda’s of this world or organizations like cair what they believe or what they want you to think they believe ... I believe that the facts make clear that there are dangerous people acvross this country, we have to engage in triage and start with the most serious threat, and I believe we have avoided for too long the violent proponents of Sharia ... we have to give this a higher priority than the wack job who shoots a congresswoman in Arizona.”  Other tidbits — “We need to empower genuinely moderate Muslims - how you define that is their adherence to Sharia.”  -  “Are we going to go to internment camps - if something terrible happens, we might.”“The essense of the point, Sharia, as it has been practiced for overly a millenium in Islam is a political and seditious activity, not a religious protected activity.”

After talking about French no-go zones.  Gaffney said that there are communities across America, like Islamburg in NY where local FBI and local law enforcement dare not enter, part of Jamat al Fuqra under Sh. Jilani of Pakistan.  Gaffney was asked by one Senator to clarify this statement, and Gaffney said that the FBI is not responding to evidence that there are groups like those in Islamburg, and that he would be happy to provide information, and that he has documentation.

Not only was he allowed to spew vicious bigotry about Islam and Muslims, but he accused the FBI and local law enforcement of either being afraid to do something about, or refusing to do something about existing evidence that a dangerous group has a compound somewhere in New York.  That seems like a serious charge that requires investigation.

Actually, I would like to know if Darwish, or Gaffney have provided evidence to the appropriate law-enforcement agencies about their claims.

All of the “testimony” of these two anti-Muslim bigots was a real distraction from the purported purpose of these hearings.  We have real concerns about political radicalization, and how best to counter any discourse that sees terrorism and violence as reasonable or legitimate responses to perceived injustices.  A discussion of our preparedness to deal with any future incidents of terrorism could have been a constructive effort to assess and improve our responsiveness to terrorism and natural disaster.  This unecessary sideshow simply distracted from that worthwhile purpose.

What Sen. Ball succeeded in doing by including these two in that discussion was to provide a platform that gave a veneer of “respectability” to outright bigotry and hatred.  He allowed them to throw out every what everyone knows false claim they could get in in the time allotted. 

UPDATE 6/14/2011

Last night the GOP candidates for President in 2012 held a debate in New Hampshire, and true to form Islamophobia was displayed proudly.  Prior to the debate, a coalition of American Muslim organizations had called on the candidates to reject Islamophobia and stick to the issues. 

Herman Cain is still searching for a test that will show which American Muslims are loyal to the United States and the Constitution.  Newt Gingrich suggested that all Muslims should be suspect until they prove their loyalty and they deserve higher scrutiny, like Communists or Nazis.

The only candidate who opposed this shameful rhetoric and who seems to have actually have read the Constitution was Mitt Romney.  As an American Muslim, I take the silence of the candidates when these shameful statements were being made as tacit agreement.  None of them denounced the statements made by Gingrich and Cain.  If they are willing remain quiet while American Muslims are being thrown under the bus and the Constitution is being undermined to get a few votes, then they are as despicable as those making the actual statements.  As an American Muslim voter, I would not vote for any of them.

See the following reports for more specifics:  Dan Gilgoff of CNN, Benjy Sarlin of Talking Points Memo, Andy Ostroy of Huffington Post, Michael Scherer of Time. 

As Dilshad Ali noted in an article The Loyalty Test

This goes beyond making American Muslims a general negative issue in the upcoming presidential election, or beyond the ridiculous hype being built over shariah law taking over this country. This is a suggestion by presidential candidates who are out speaking in a very public forum that a certain population of America must endure loyalty tests to prove their worth as Americans and their support for the constitution.

I find it beyond belief that in this country, where freedom of speech and freedom of religion are two sacred founding American principles, that two presidential candidates are suggesting that some Americans must prove their loyalty simply because they practice a particular faith. Since when has a public declaration of constitutional loyalty ever been the ticket one must buy for being American?

To be sure, elected public officials are asked to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, and of course any future president would want to make sure that the members of his or her cabinet are firm supporters of this quintessential American document. After all, our country was founded upon this document, and it allows us the very freedoms to say what we want and believe in what we want, among many other things.

The incredible thing about this idea of making American Muslims take some sort of loyalty oath is that Cain feels it is not bigoted to apply this only to Muslims. In a question asked of him at the presidential debate about why he would single out Muslims, Cain responded, “It is not bigoted, it is called being careful and cautious.” But if you look at the Constitution itself, Article VI says this:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. (emphasis added)


Conservative Republicans and Islam: A New Crusade for Votes and Funds, John L. Esposito and Sheila B. Lalwani


See Frank Gaffney’s Obsession with Sharia and Nonie Darwish Perfects Double Speak for more on Gaffney and Darwish and their “expertise”, and A Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry for information on the rest of their colleagues in this burgeoning industry.  See Islamophobia no longer questioned - even by our elected representatives for quotes from these elected representatives.  See Islamic Sharia and Jewish Halakha Arbitration Courts for background on this whole anti-Sharia craze.

TAM has an article The American Muslim Community and Rep. Peter King’s “Islamic” Radicalization Hearings which has a great deal of background on Peter King and these hearings, and an extensive article collection.  We also have a series of articles breaking down various aspects of the hearings:
Peter King’s Hearing: What Was the Point? discussing the content of the hearings, with a collection of articles written after the hearing ended. 
Peter King’s Civics Lesson for American Muslims which has a collection of anti-Muslim statements by elected representatives and government officials made during and before the hearings. 
Existing reports and studies on radicalization in the American Muslim Community  and Polls, Surveys, and Statistics Relating to Islam and Muslims  with actual hard evidence about issues of concern that was so lacking in the hearing. 
Response of Civic Organizations and Interfaith Community to “Muslim Radicalization” Hearings  
Elected Representatives & Government Officials Who HAVE Questioned Islamophobia with quotes from elected representives and government officials attempting to counter the bias of this hearing both during and before the hearing. 
- Peter King’s hearing: witness testimonies - allegations but no facts which includes responses to allegations and background on the witnesses.
- Zuhdi Jasser and AIFD - Identified by Rep. King as the Ideal American Muslim Leadership
- Does Rep. King’s IRA/Terrorist Connection Matter?
Answers to Peter King’s Claims About the American Muslim Community which lays out all of his claims and allegations and provides detailed answers to each.  (e.g. Do Muslims cooperate with law enforcement?  Do Muslims speak out against terrorism and extremism?  Are most Muslims terrorists?  Are 80 to 85% of mosques run by radicals?  Have American Muslim organizations responded to the issue of radicalization?  Are mosques the source of radicalization?  etc.)
- The scope of Rep. Kings Hearings Creates Homeland “in"Security

All of these articles will be updated as further information comes in, and there will be more articles in this series.