Raymond Ibrahim and the Middle East Forum - updated 8/2/2013

Raymond Ibrahim and the Middle East Forum

by Sheila Musaji

Daniel Pipes is the Director of the Middle East Forum (MEF) and Raymond Ibrahim is the Associate Director.  TAM has background on Pipes and MEF here.  He is also a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.  More on Horowitz here.  Interestingly, when I attempted to research exactly what “a Shillman Fellow” might be, I could find only a scholarship program at Northeastern University established by Robert J. Shillman.  Other than that, the designation pops up in numerous references to Raymond Ibrahim and to someone named Benjamin Shapiro who is also identified as a Shillman Fellow at the Horowitz Freedom Center.  So this appears to be only a designation handed out by Horowitz to his protege’s so that they can add an important sounding honor to their biographies.

At one time Ibrahim was an Arab language specialist for the Near East section of the Library of Congress.  His bio here.  He is an American Christian of Egyptian descent.

The Islamophobia cash cow by Salaam Abdul Khaliq notes that

... Post 9/11, the fastest and surest way to gain celebrity status in the West and garner respect and attention you would otherwise never achieve on your own mediocre merit is to go on an “Islam-bashing” campaign.

And, mind you, you don’t need to be an expert on the subject matter, just make sure to quote verses from the Qur’an out of context, cite Osama Bin Laden as the role model of Muslim behavior, bank on tired canaries like “Islam oppresses women,” and “Islam was spread by the sword,” and other washed out cliches, and voila!

You’re a celebrity, a famous author (a rich, famous author, mind you), a Good Samaritan defending the civilized world from the evils of Islam.

Meet Raymond Ibrahim, the latest client of the “Islamophobia cash cow industry.”

Ibrahim was recently a guest of Air Talk, hosted by Larry Mantle on the Pasadena-based NPR affiliate KPCC. Ibrahim had his 15 minutes at last.

An unknown and obscure menial research librarian at the Library of Congress, Ibrahim thrust himself into the limelight by writing a book called “The Al Qaeda Reader,” (published in 12/06). The newly Christened crusader finally broke down the doors of rejection and abject obscurity and made it to the pantheon of famous “Islam experts.”

And you wonder how many other poor research librarians have risen out of nothingness to sudden fame in a matter of weeks?

Not to worry, Ibrahim has now shown them the fastest path to sleazy righteousness.

Write something that bashes Islam and your “research librarian” title will suddenly transform into “historian of the Middle East and Islam” and “scholar and writer on the Middle East and Islam,” and many other promiscuous titles that have as much worth as fortune cookie sayings.

Then one wonders why a respected talk show host like Mantle would cede the podium to an Islamophobe like Ibrahim without balance, without bringing someone like Karen Armstrong. for example, to challenge his twisted and warped views.

Instead, Mantle let Ibrahim run amuck quoting verses from the Quran ad hoc and out of context, saying for instance that the verse “there is no compulsion in religion” was reprobated, meaning canceled out, by verses of war in what is known as “naskh.”

Ibrahim was given free reign to unabashedly spew lethargic tirades with impunity, shamelessly proclaiming that if Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, were alive today, he would do what Bin Laden is doing now.

Ibrahim also implied that American Muslims presented a danger to American society because their faith teaches them to kill their enemies wherever they are and by all means necessary.

Such alarmism and incitement to hate and paranoia are simply unacceptable, especially coming from an NPR affiliate station that prides itself in being liberal and inclusive.

It is unconscionable for a respected talk show host like Mantle to hand over the microphone to a petty, anti-Muslim research librarian to freely bash Islam and up the ante on American Muslims in order to hype his anti-Islam-disguised-as-a-critique-of-Al-Qaeda book for material gain.

Just like his fellow Arab American Islam-bashers Wafa Sultan and Nonie Darwish, Ibrahim ought to take notice that Arabs and Muslims have always been in the same boat. ...

As Loonwatch pointed out

... After this piece (by Salaam Abdul Khaliq) was published, Raymond revealed that he faced heat from his employers eventually leading to his “resignation”:

after this Islamist op-ed was published, I received much heat from my supervisors at the Library of Congress, partially culminating in my recent resignation from that American bibliotech — another institution that goes out of its way to appease, especially where Saudi money and princes are concerned.

It was good to see the Library of Congress take a stand against rabid anti-Muslims like Raymond Ibrahim. Notice also how he does what Islamophobes do best, resort to conspiracy theories and blaming it on those “influential” Saudis.

No, Raymond those who employed you at the Library of Congress weren’t “appeasers” or “dhmmis” beholden to the world wide influence of the Saudis, they just got fed up with your hate. Kudos to them.

In 2008 Ibrahim published an article Islam’s Doctines of Deception 

Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst published Interpreting Taqiyya, SPECIAL REPORT by Michael Ryan in rebuttal of that article.  The online summary reads

The recent article by Raymond Ibrahim is in this author’s opinion well-researched, factual in places but whose interpretation of taqiyya is ultimately misleading. It focuses on a very narrow use of the term taqiyya, which is sometimes used to refer to dissimulation allowed to Shias to preserve their own lives and the lives of others. It appears to be a polemical piece interspersed with cherry-picked citations from the Quran, the sayings of the Prophet and secondary works.

Islam is a universal religion that spans millennia of history and covers much of the earth’s population. Islam, however, does not have a central canon, a pope, or a single body that can set doctrine. So, it is extremely difficult to generalise about what Islam as a religion believes except in its core beliefs. One can always find Muslim jurists who offer opinions about matters of doctrine such as taqiyya, but it is also possible to find other respected jurists who disagree. So any assertion about doctrine needs to be carefully circumscribed.

An article Islamophobia and Anti-Catholicism—Two Sides of the Same Coin by Raymond Walker on the History News Network uses Ibrahim as an example of an Islamophobe.  The article lists many examples of past prejudice towards Catholics, and notes similarities in Islamophobic discourse and then says

Modern Islamophobes, like the Protestants of old, square their hostility to Islam with their professed attachment to tolerance and religious freedom by insisting that Islam is itself intolerant.  The far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, addressing the recent rally against the building of the Cordoba Mosque, explained that “the tolerance that is crucial to our freedom…  must defend itself against the powers of darkness, the force of hatred and the blight of ignorance.  It cannot tolerate the intolerant and survive.”  Geert concluded, “In the name of freedom:  No mosque here!” 

Islamophobes warn that the principles of Islam are incompatible with the rights and duties of citizenship.  Raymond Ibrahim, an associate director of Daniel Pipes’s conservative Middle East Forum, has recently written an article on “The Specter of Muslim Disloyalty in America,” in which he has warned of “the mandate for Muslims to be loyal to fellow Muslims and Islam—a loyalty that all too often translates into disloyalty to all things non-Muslim, including the American people and their government.”  Citing the Fort Hood shootings as an example, Ibrahim warns that, when push comes to shove, American Muslims’ loyalty to Islam will always trump their loyalty to America. 

Seen in a short-term perspective, Islamophobia is a product of the last ten years, a reaction to 9/11 and fuelled by an imprecise “War on Terror.”  Broadly speaking, though, Islamophobia has deep roots in Western history.  This long-term view should lead us to be skeptical when Islamophobia is justified as a legitimate response to intolerant “Islamism.”  Tolerance and religious liberty can, however paradoxically, serve as rallying cries for the religiously intolerant.  A religious tolerance that is conditional upon cultural assimilation is not a genuine tolerance.

UPDATE 11/4/2011

We just published an article Response to Raymond Ibrahim’s Attack on Sheikh Ali Gomaa on Ibrahim’s latest

This week, Raymond Ibrahim wrote an article Top Egyptian Muslim Declares All Christians ‘Infidels’.  In this article he attempted to “prove that”  Sh. Ali Gomaa, a professor at Al Azhar university and the Grand Mufti of Egypt used the word kuffar referring to Christians in a speech and this term means (according to Ibrahim) “infidel” and is “a word that connotes “enemies,” “evil-doers,” and every bad thing to Muslim ears”.  This was of course picked up by the Islamophobic blogsphere (Middle East Forum, Sheikh Yer’Mami, Front Page Magazine, Free Republic, Act for America, Jihad Watch, etc.).  In the article, Ibrahim links to a video of Sh. Ali Gomaa’s speech, but the video is entirely in Arabic with no translation.  The article was, as are all of Ibrahim’s articles, extremely negative and put the worst possible connotation, and drew the worst possible connections about this word.

...  I was extremely suspicious about his translation of and interpretation of Ali Gomaa’s speech.  Many other American Muslims were also wondering about exactly what was said and in what context, and numerous email group discussions took place.  I am not fluent in Arabic, and the same is true of many American Muslims.

Prof. Faroque Ahmad Khan took it on himself to investigate.  Dr. Khan requested Dr Ibrahim Negm—senior advisor to the Grand Mufti to provide a clarification of the remarks attributed to Sheikh Ali Gomaa. 

Here is the response that was received:

It is no exaggeration to say that the need for people from different religious backgrounds, countries, and cultures to live together in peace and harmony is the need of our time. The world has seen far too much violence and hatred over the past few years, and it has long been part of my mission as Mufti of Egypt to participate in initiatives which stress dialogue, cooperation, and mutual respect between all communities.

Despite all efforts, however, it unfortunately remains the case that we are living in difficult times when the words of Muslim leaders are regularly twisted and taken out of context so as to serve the political agendas and interests of writers whose sole purpose it is to put Islam and Muslims on the defensive, and to convince well-meaning citizens of the world that each and every Muslim is suspect, and so must be feared or censured. This recent uptick in Islamophobia has been monitored and written about by a number of credible observers. Some of these attempts are so intellectually dishonest that they hardly merit a response, except out of concern that the silence on the part of the victims of such smear campaigns is taken as evidence of their guilt.

In an entirely speculative and unsubstantiated article, Raymond Ibrahim absurdly tries to link my commentary on Muslim theological doctrine, delivered within the context of a mosque study circle, to the regrettable Maspero events in Cairo last month. My comments at the mosque that day were intended exclusively as a pedagogical explanation of the Qur’anic view on the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and as Ibrahim himself acknowledges, I explicitly said that this theoretical positioning has no effect on the duty of Muslims to live in peace and harmony with their co-citizens, the Copts of Egypt.  Rather, Muslims are obligated to live in accordance with their fellow Christian citizens, and always strive towards the upholding of safety, security, and prosperity for all.

Moreover, this is a long-standing position of mine, which I have reiterated on numerous occasions. Most recently, when churches were being targeted in Egypt, I took a clear stance on the impermissibility of such transgressions, saying that they violate the bond of citizenship in which all Egyptians participate. As co-participants in society, Egyptian citizens are all entitled to live together amongst each other, and conduct their daily affairs in peace, safety and security. Therefore, harming them or intimidating them – to say nothing of spilling their blood or destroying their houses of worship – is a stark violation of that trust. The Qur’an is clear that Muslims must honor their commitments. The Prophet has remarked that infidelity to one’s commitments is a sign of hypocrisy, and that one who reneges on a commitment and kills someone under his trust will be branded a traitor on the Day of Judgment, undeserving of any association with the Prophet whatsoever. This offence is so serious because it goes against the most fundamental objectives of the Shari’a, its very raison d’être: the preservation of life, religion, reason, honor and property.

It bears noting that Mr Ibrahim’s choice of wording is regrettable. The English word “infidel” carries with it strong connotations of exclusion and violence, inherited from the European experience of Christianity during the wars of religion which devastated that continent for decades. The Arabic “kafir” is a legal term which denotes very precisely and simply those outside the Muslim community, those who do not believe in the particular message and worldview of Islam. The much less charged translation “non-believer” is appropriate here, especially when there are explicit instructions accompanying any statement exhorting towards living in peace and harmony.

Muslims must always continue to speak out for the values of justice and mercy we hold dear, quite independent of what motives others may attribute to us. Indeed it is an act of allegiance to Islamic tradition to maintain at all costs that Christians in Egypt, though they diverge from us Muslims theologically, remain part of our nation, and that they must not be put in harm’s way at any cost.

See the TAM article Charges Against Catholic University Were Not Made by Muslims for a debunking of this story, and Ibrahim’s participation in writing about the crucifix “provoking Muslims”. 

UPDATE 8/24/2012

Raymond Ibrahim is at it again, the TAM article Crucifixions in Egypt & Al Azhar Fatwas Encouraging Violence?: More Islamophobic Nonsense discusses the latest and included:

Raymond Ibrahim on the algemeiner wrote an article making two allegations.  The first allegation was that the Muslim Brotherhood was crucifying people in Cairo.  In the article he used a quote he said he had translated from Arab media sources, and referenced a Sky News Arabic article as the original source of the claim.  The second allegation was that “Far from condemning these terrorists, Al Azhar, Egypt’s most authoritative Islamic institution, has just issued a fatwa calling for more violence and oppression, saying that “fighting participants in anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations planned for 24 August is a religious obligation.”

  Clare Lopez of the Center for Security Policy, and Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer of the hate groups AFDI and SIOA jumped on this bandwagon.  Both ridiculous claims are thoroughly debunked in the article.

The Loonwatch article Sodomy for Jihad or Islamophobic Hoax? debunks in detail an article in The Advocate, and Ibrahim’s promotion of this hoax. This article notes:


This claim reported by The Advocate is pure nonsense. It is a hoax purveyed by someone affiliated with the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an extreme right-wing organization whose founder and namesake is well-known for uncivil and racist attacks on liberal, progressive and leftist political groups.

The Advocate’s source is Raymond Ibrahim, a fellow at the Horowitz Center and at the Middle East Forum, who claimed that the religious directive was contained in a “2010 Arabic news video that aired on Fadak TV” and was advice given to Abdullah Hassan al-Asiri, who blew himself up in an attempt to assassinate Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayif in 2009. Some press reports stated that al-Asiri had carried explosives in his rectum.

In his post on the Gatestone Institute, Ibrahim elaborates:

Apparently a cleric, one Abu al-Dema al-Qasab, informed al-Asiri and other jihadis of an “innovative and unprecedented way to execute martyrdom operations: place explosive capsules in your anus. However, to undertake this jihadi approach you must agree to be sodomized for a while to widen your anus so it can hold the explosives.”

This is the video he’s writing about.

To a non-Arabic speaker, it would be reasonable to believe that the person speaking in the video is “Abu al-Dema al-Qasab” because Ibrahim does not give any context to the video. Apparently The Advocate believed this, because it posted a screenshot of the man from the video next to a photo of al-Asiri with the following caption:

Cleric Abu al-Dema al-Qasab (left) reportedly said suicide bombers like Abdullah Hassan al-Asiri (right), who hid explosives in his rectum, were allowed anal sex.

However, the person in the video is Abdallah al-Khallaf, host of “The morals of the Prophets, Peace Be Upon Them,” a show broadcast on UK-based satellite channel Fadak TV whose target audience is Shia Muslims.

In the video, al-Khallaf tells the audience that he is going to read an item from a website called “Muntadayat Usud al-Sunna” (Lions of the Sunnah forums).

Al-Khallaf reads the item from the website as if it is real. He also characterizes the alleged protagonists as “Wahhabis.” It appears his intention is to incite his audience’s disgust at the supposed thinking and behavior of Wahhabi Sunni Muslims who, he suggests, will justify anything in pursuit of their goals.

“one Abu al-Dema al-Qasab”

I found the likely source that Abdallah al-Khallaf reads in the video. The Internet Archive includes a forum post from 28 August 2009 on montdiatna.com.

The text appears to be at best an extremely vulgar joke and at worst sectarian defamation. It is written in a style commonly used for stories in which both the teller and listener know it is a joke or fiction.

The Electronic Intifada has translated this text into English. Please be warned that it contains very explicit language and imagery:

It is said that the terrorist who blew himself up in an attempt to assassinate Prince Muhammad bin Nayif inserted capsules of explosives in his anus like suppositories.

It is said – only God knows – that before he acted, the terrorist asked a sheikh, that he intends to insert explosive capsules in his rectum, seeking jihad, in order to carry out jihad operations, in desire for virgins.

The terrorist asked the sheikh the question in the following way: Our Sheikh, May God give you martrydom and virgins in paradise. I want to carry out a martrydom operation and so I presented myself to “Sheikh Bloody Butcher” [Sheikh Abu al-Dema al-Qasab].

He told me we devised a completely new and unprecedented way for martyrdom operations and that is to put explosives in your rectum. And in order to train you for this method of jihad you must agree to be sodomized for a period in order that your anus will be widened such that your rectum can take the explosives.

And my question, God have mercy on you: Is it permitted to offer my anus to one of the mujahidin brothers if the intention is pure and the goal is to train for jihad, and to widen my rectum?

And the sheikh offered praise to God and said: In principle sodomy is forbidden and out of the question. Except that jihad comes first, it is the pinnacle of Islam. And if the pinnacle of Islam cannot be achieved except through sodomy then there is no wrong in it.

The jurisprudential rule says: necessity overcomes what is forbidden. And if the only way to carry out a duty is with a certain thing, then that thing becomes a duty, and there is no greater duty than jihad.

After you are sodomized you must ask forgiveness from God and praise him abundantly and you must be certain my son that on Judgment Day, God rewards the mujahidin according to their intentions, and your intention, God willing is the victory of Islam.

This text, or versions with slight variations, can be found on several other websites by searching for the name “Sheikh Abu al-Dema al-Qasab” in Arabic.

Several features identify this story as a tasteless joke, especially the name “Sheikh Abu al-Dema al-Qasab.” It translates to Sheikh Bloody Butcher. This is not a real person. The post is peppered with phrases like “it is said” and “only God knows” which indicate storytelling.

The Advocate’s ongoing Islamophobic crusade

The Advocate was a cornerstone of the LGBT civil rights movement, providing serious journalism and analysis since 1967 for a community that suffered discrimination and even violence as it struggled for legitimacy and recognition…  ...

UPDATE 8/2/2013

I have just been made aware that Raymond Ibrahim is now able to post articles directly on Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch site, and therefore is officially part of the Jihad Watch team.  In this article Raymond Ibrahim: Buddhist common sense vs. Western nonsense posted today, Ibrahim praises the common sense of this statement by Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist monk:  “You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog.”

It’s hard to believe, but Jihad Watch may become even more openly hateful now that Ibrahim is an administrator, and can post directly. 


See Resources for dealing with Islamophobes & Islamophobia for detailed information about Islamophobes, the Islamophobia industry, and responses to hundreds of their ridiculous claims.


Originally posted 6/15/2011