Saturday, September 21, 2002

More on Pipes/Netanyahu/Ashrawi

Some readers have challenged my criticism of Daniel Pipes' commentary on demonstrations in Colorado and Montreal last week. A typical one, from Wind Rider:

Might participate in the poll if you substitute your name for Pipes', and add a third choice - 'both'

Case in point - your characterization of the Canadian and Colorado speaking events. Little bit of difference with brazen violence and people listening to the speaker and on occaision holding up small cards that say 'I disagree'.

What color is the sky in your world?


To which I respond:

The issue of the protester's methods at the two universities is secondary. The lowest common denominator is that the goal of the anti-Netanyahu crowd and the anti-Ashrawi crowd was the same: to prevent the other's voice from being heard. It would be hypocritical for those opposing Netanyahu's appearance to invoke "freedom of speech" had the tables been turned and had Pipes been demonstrating against an Ashrawi appearance in Canada. (The stakes are different, however; realize that a campus speech by Ashrawi might be the only chance for some to hear the Palestinian viewpoint, whereas--Netanyahu speech or no Netanyahu speech--pro-Israel voices and money dominate in the media and smoke-filled backrooms.)

That's why the reverse is true: it's hypocritical of Pipes to invoke freedom of speech for his comrade-in-arms Netanyahu, when his goal was to make sure no-one heard Ashrawi speak. The Concordia protesters succeeded in shutting the event down, while Pipes wishes he could have shut down Ashrawi.

Now that that's out of the way, no doubt the behavior of the Canadian crowd was outrageous and unacceptable, and completely un-Islamic (if indeed a significant number of them were Muslims, which I doubt).

It's disingenuous, however, for Pipes to characterize these tactics as a systematic methodology of opponents of Israel. I have participated in or documented at least a dozen anti-Israel protests and I have never witnessed any violence, with possibly one minor exception.

However, I personally watched an AIPAC intern cross a police line at an anti-Sharon protest in DC and punch a Muslim, and one of The Lobby's South Sudanese friends assaulted an African American Muslim at an anti-Sudan demonstration led by pro-Israel activist Michael Horowitz. There is in fact such a history of the pro-Israel camp's attempts at crushing opposing views--yes, sometimes violently--that it really does not benefit them to start pointing fingers.

To their credit, it was characteristically politically adroit of the pro-Israelis to use the "I disagree" cards, and the addition of that pious little touch was no doubt influenced by a realization that they could capitalize off of the Concordia students' retarded behavior three days earlier. But this was just one aspect of the event; the supporters of Israeli colonialism did not simply wish to show their "disagreement," they want--as Pipes himself said--to marginilize, to exclude, and to silence.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Pity me, I've been victimized.

When I was fourteen I knew a girl who always had some devastating personal issue or another to unload on me. Her brother was always trying to kill himself, or her parents hated her, or she was running away from home or something. Being the nice, bleeding heart guy that I am, I always felt compelled to listen to her endless whining and try to help her in some way. But of course I never really liked her, I never really respected her. How can you respect someone drowning in self-pity? It's human nature to be repulsed by undignified people.

In America today, folks vie for political influence by assuming a mantle of victimhood. This has its origins in the fact that there are real victims of America's march through history which this nation has never really faced up to. Some of those victims made imperfect but measurable gains during the civil rights era, so every group jockeying for power these days portrays themselves as similarly victimized. By adopting the language of the civil rights movement, they hope the legitimacy of actual victims rubs off on them, thus allowing them to tap into lingering white guilt as fuel to propel their particular cause.

Don't think I'm talking just about homosexuals or the handicapped or any of the favorite targets of conservative criticism of victimhood. Considering that Evangelical Christians and their allies among the Jewish community are some of the biggest whiners, it's amusing that right-wingers have the gall to criticize anyone else for playing the role.

Since victims are all the rage nowadays, it's hard to blame Muslims in America for having a tendency to whine as well. It's easy to understand why, because it's a fact that Muslims have been mistreated in this country to some degree--I myself recently tussled with some neo-Nazis in rural Ohio who had a problem with my wife's face veil. It's also understandable that Muslims would adopt the vocabulary of the left, since liberals have been Muslims' main allies.

But there's a problem with Muslims making themselves into the victim. First, it's undignified. Just like I couldn't stand the girl I felt an obligation to help out, crawling around whimpering and begging isn't going to foster Muslims' self-respect, nor is it likely to make other Americans impressed with Islam, even though they might feel guilt-tripped into throwing a few crumbs from the political table.

Second, it's simply not the case that, relatively speaking, Muslims in America have suffered to any great degree. It's silly and--as Civil Rights Commissioner Robert Ingram points out--even offensive to even imply that Muslims have been treated as badly as other folks. It would be a mistake to feel safe and secure, but it's a testimony to the American people's progress and tolerance that there hasn't been systematic rioting or lynching of Muslims in the US (so far). After all, in other parts of the world, Muslims are slaughtered for far less significant reasons than 3,000 people dead and several billion dollars worth of damage. That's not to belittle the 9/11-fueled murders of Muslims that did occur, but overwhelmingly, Americans have maintained relatively tolerant attitudes toward Muslims in America, even though the government has launched what appears to be the beginning of a crackdown that "real Americans" are likely to eventually suffer from.

Finally, though many of the Muslims who have internalized the language of the left and lecture piously about human rights when it comes to how they themselves (read: Palestinians) are treated, they don't seem quite so moved at the deaths of Jewish children targeted by Muslims who ignore Islamic rules of engagement. This inconsistency doesn't go unnoticed, and gives the appearance (ahem) of a double standard. (Can't wait to see the hate mail on this one--I'll deal with the issue then.) This of course applies to "Israelis" as well, who derive political benefit from the killing of their civilians but will slaughter Arabs at the drop of a hat.

I don't want to address at this point the question of whether or not, or to what degree, Muslims should be involved in the political process. I'm just suggesting that in whatever arena we find ourselves, let's conduct ourselves as men and women and not just randomly adopt any strategy that is currently in vogue--even if it seems to be an expedient means of achieving success.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Oh, goody! Pop bigot Daniel Pipes, a guy for whom "life began" when the planes hit the twin towers, has served up another steaming shovelful of fertilizer. What a joy it is to read this guy. His stuff requires no real effort to deconstruct, no deliberate propaganda analysis to realize how he intends to deceive the reader.

But that's a question that has haunted me--"to deceive" entails a deliberate twisting of facts. Pipes gets the facts so wrong one wonders whether his problem isn't that he's dishonest but that he may not the sharpest tool in the shed. Does he reject coherent reasoning and skew reality because he assumes--being an Ivory Tower Intellectual--that anyone who reads the New York Post is probably a gullible chump who moves his lips when he reads, and probably won't know the difference? Or is Pipes a dimwit who can't quite wrap his head around certain concepts, a guy who made it through Harvard by virtue of social promotion and a smart, big-shot dad?




Wait a minute, you say. You can't graduate from Harvard and be an idiot, you say. But I've sat in a room with Pipes while he tried to claim that a major difference between "Islamists" (bad Muslims) and "moderate Muslims" (good Muslims) is that "Islamists" are trying to convert Friday into a "sabbath" akin to the Jewish sabbath, wherein Muslims would be forbidden to work. (That might not sound odd to the unversed, but this is an issue no-one cares about or has ever even heard of.) Then there was the time he tried to argue that Muslims were not discriminated against in America because in the many instances in which they are discriminated against, and then fight for their rights, they often win--but its bad for Muslims to fight for their rights because that's asking for "special privileges" and a symptom of a growing "Islamist" menace in America. Whee! A syllogistic roller-coaster ride!

Islamists seek public financial support for Islamic schools, mosques, and other institutions. They also lobby for special quotas for Muslim immigrants, try to compel corporations to make special allowances for Muslim employees, and demand the formal inclusion of Muslims in affirmative-action plans. [From "The Danger Within: Militant Islam in America"]

So in his latest, Pipes argues that opponents of Israeli apartheid are "bad" because they succeeded last week in shutting down a planned speech by Netanyahu, while Israel's proponents are "good" because they didn't manage to shut down a speech last week by Hanan Ashrawi. Indeed, he implies, those who do not respect free speech are a danger to our American way of life. Their contempt for Western Liberal values is symptomatic of the immorality of their anti-Israel views, while our respect for free speech proves that we are civilized and democratic.

Except that Pipes neglects to mention in the article that that he helped lead a demonstration outside the auditorium where Ashrawi was speaking, ranting: "We should work so that this type of anti-American spokeswoman is not welcome on American campuses."

Daniel Pipes: dimwitted or dishonest?


I and many other Muslims have long been suspicious of some of these pro-jihad websites that seem to bend over backwards to be "more radical than thou," like Khurasaan.com (now apparently down), Taliban-News.com, and Jihadunspun.net. These websites are characterized by their unusually open support for Usama Bin Ladin, their extremely snazzy, appealing graphics, and their technological sophistication. Visiting them, with their appeals that you "register" to participate in the site, leaves one with the vague feeling that one has stumbled upon an intelligence gathering operation. I first noticed this phenomenon a few years ago, when an extremely well-done website surfaced with all kinds of rousing jihad rhetoric and graphics and links, and a form urging people to "join the jihad!" and sign up with their names and contact info. That tactic is nothing new--Al Muhajiroun has been performing the same function in Britain for several years.

It turns out that indeed US intelligence is apparently supporting at least some of these websites, many of which (like Taliban-News.com) have turned up on PA-based ISP BurstNET. As one FBI agent says: "Often it is more beneficial for us to keep such sites up and running." Apparently the sites have been enjoying Omar Bakri Muhammad-like protection from the domestic intelligence services.

If true, this doesn't necessarily mean that FBI agents are the authors of the content of the websites. I probably made a mistake a couple years back when I assumed that the infamous Sakina "Ultimate Jihad Challenge" website was a trap laid by some intelligence agency for zeolous yet dumb Muslim kids. The main reason was the site was so, so incredibly goofy and unwise that no real mujahideen would even consider something as stupid as this hare-brained scheme. I even exchanged some e-mails with the site administrator because I was going to do an investigative story for the Islamic news service I used to work for on how law enforcement was trying to entrap Muslims (too bad I didn't save the e-mails). The guy insisted on a cash payment of $6,000 before he would even tell me where the supposed camp was located. Turns out the guy behind it was arrested and charged with "invitation to weapons training" or something, so I was right in thinking he was stupid and not a real mujahid, but wrong in thinking it was an intelligence op. Never underestimate people's capacity for stupidity.

Instead of actually authoring the sites, the feds may just be trying to ensure their continuity while naive, impressionable Muslims continue to express and read the unpopular views of other Muslims--an act which, in the post-9/11 world, is potentially criminal. However, there's no getting around the fact that there is something very, very...odd about JihadUnspun.net, for example. It looks like it was put together by several people with computer science and journalism degrees and an unlimited bank account.

I just received the following from investigative reporter Steven Epstein, an expert in Islamic terrorism. This information is mind-blowing. Truly.

(For the thick headed, this is a parody.)

-----------

Dear Colleagues and Fans,

If you have been following my reporting for the last few years, you are aware of my warnings about American Muslim groups like the National Muslim Students' Organization(NMSO). I can now announce that through my investigative reporting, I have discovered that the NMSO actually engineered the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and moreover, routinely brags about it.

FACT: On a 1976 roadtrip, Billy Ray Hassenpfeffer, the brother-in-law of NMSO Executive Director Altaf Hassan, once stopped for a Slurpee at the Flagstaff, Arizona 7-11 where, a mere 15 years later, one Muhammad Siddiqi would land a job as a clerk. Mr. Siddiqi, a Pakistani by nationality, had once shined the shoes of Osama bin Ladin's cousin's hairdresser in his previous job in his native Peshawar, according to unnamed intelligence sources.

FACT: Mr. Hassenpfeffer is currently under investigation for failing to return a library book he checked out as a high school student. Hassenpfeffer claims to have "lost" the book, a biography of rock star Elvis Presley. It is claimed by many Islamist Turks that Presley, a known anti-semite, was of Turkish descent. Moreover, unknown intelligence sources say the teenaged Hassenpfeffer would repeatedly disparage the then-popular rock group KISS, whose lead singer and bassist were Jewish, as "tone-deaf clowns."

FACT: Hassan, linked by marriage to an anti-Jewish fan of anti-semites and an associate of an associate of someone who served bin Ladin (by repeatedly and unapolegetically giving the terrorist leader "mullet" hairdos in the 1970s), told ABC News on Sept. 13: "We condemn this attack in the strongest of terms." Note that Hassan pointedly did not specify WHICH attack he was condemning, a deliberate omission that implies tacit acceptance and even praise for the terrorist attacks, non-existent intelligence sources say.

FACT: Mr. Anwar Hadeed, NMSO's Communications Director, is a Palestinian.

I am available for lectures and media interviews.

Mr. Steven Epstein
Director
The Investigative Project

Monday, September 16, 2002

Bismillah alhamdulillah assalaatu wasalaamu ala rasulillah

In the Name of Allah. Praise be to Allah, and may prayers and Peace be upon the Messenger of Allah.

This is basically a depository for my thoughts on various issues. I'm an American convert to Islam. Maybe you're reading this and you're not Muslim and you're thinking, I don't care about something some raghead or some religious person writes. Maybe you're Muslim and reading what I'm writing and you're making all kinds of judgements that I'm extremist or liberal or Salafi or Modernist or deviated in some way and what a moron I am. Here's an idea--send me an e-mail and tell me in a pleasant, logical way how you think I'm wrong and if I'm wrong, I'll change my mind. If you're really interested in the truth and not just on an ego-trip, I would love to hear from you.

Imam Al-Shafi'i used to pray, when he was debating with someone, that Allah would make the truth come from the other person, in order that the truth would come forward but that his intention would not be corrupted and would remain for the sake of Allah alone and not for the sake of winning arguments.

Or, maybe you'll think this page is just boring. Oh well, sorry I couldn't entertain you.

The topics I generally write about might be considered to be of a "political" nature. The only difference between a "political" event and a "personal" event is the difference in scale and geographic proximity to the event. Thus I never understood why if my neighbor or relative is raped, God forbid, its considered a "personal" event, but if many women are raped in Bosnia or Indonesia in the course of a war, its a "political" event, and therefore I should somehow not be as concerned. Only someone lacking in humanity would make a distinction between two equivelant events that differ only in location.

There is however a distinction between "trivial" and "important," so that if my neighbor loses an election race for board member in the building I live in, I'm mildly interested in the same way I'm only mildly interested if tweedle-dee or tweedle-dum wins in the Presidential election. Neither will have much of an impact on me or anyone I know, except maybe to make my life worse by banning pets from the building or throwing all the Muslims in jail. Lots of people spend lots of time pontificating on trivial issues, content to hear the sounds of their own voices. They use all the jargon and think they've said something intelligent, when their intention behind having opened their mouths in the first place is invalid. My purpose is to communicate my ideas in the hope that in some small way, I'll advance the human condition, for the pleasure of my Creator.

May Allah grant us His Guidance and Mercy. Ameen.