Three militant neocon 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 to restore the level of trust and support the United States enjoyed prior to the missteps the administration took under the neocons' urging.
Frank Gaffney issued a warning to Karen Hughes, the newly appointed Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, demanding that she does not attend the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention. Ignoring the false alarm he set in a recent op-ed piece in the Washington Times, Ms. Hughes met with Muslim leaders and discussed her ideas for bridging the deepening divide between the United States and Muslim countries.
Gaffney told Hughes point blank: "Don't go there." Joel Mowbary, another neocon who is apparently more aware of the tactics of misinformation, 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"
Gaffney belongs to a small but vocal group of militant pundits, driven by deep seated hate of Islam and Muslims, and bent on maligning Muslim leaders and organizations in a bid to marginalize and isolate mainstream American Muslims. Gaffney joined two other well known Muslim Bashers, Daniel Pipes and Joel Mowbary, in demonizing ISNA and the leaders of the national Muslim organizations that met Ms. Hughes.
Utilizing several conservative publications, including the Washington Times, the trio leveled serious allegations against mainstream Muslim organizations, accusing them of supporting terrorism and promoting radicalism. Using quotes taken out of context, guilt by association, errors of fact, and innuendo, the group has been active in feeding lies to the public and inciting government officials and law enforcement agencies to conduct investigations, and then use these investigations as a basis for further maligning law-abiding and patriot American Muslims.
Pipes accused , last year, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) of being "part of the militant Islamist lobby," and contended that it was "well-disguised, and has brought in all the Islamist trends, giving them a patent of respectability."
After conducting a thorough investigation of Pipes's accusations, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) issued a statement that brought out the irresponsible nature of Pipes's attacks. "The Institute was aware of and took seriously the accusations made against CSID and some of the speakers at the event," Kay King, the director of Congressional and Public Affairs at USIP wrote. "These allegations were investigated carefully with credible private individuals and U.S. government agencies," she went on, "and found to be without merit. 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."
Gaffney, likewise, used misinformation and error of fact to justify his demands that the Bush administration isolate the most inclusive and mainstream Muslim convention. He contended, in a recent article, that the Senate Finance Committee "listed ISNA as one of 25 American Muslim organizations that 'finance terrorism and perpetuate violence.'" He, however, failed to disclose that the Finance Committee never found ISNA guilty of such allegations and that his reference relates to a letter sent by the committee chairman and the ranking member on December 22, 2003, asking the IRS to investigate Muslim charities for possible links to terrorist financing. 18 months have lapsed since February 20, 2004, the deadline set for the investigation, with no action, or even a congressional hearing conducted by the Finance Committee on the matter.
Mowbary, employing the same tactic of half-truths, quotes taken out of context, and innuendo, cited a Freedom House study that found Saudi publications in twelve mosques - out of 3500 throughout the country-that made bigoted references to followers of other religions. What Mowbary omits is the fact that the Freedom House, responding to complaints by American Muslim leaders of the misleading nature of the report title, stressed that their study was intended to uncover the bigotry of the Saudi publications, and was never intended to implicate US mosques. The Freedom House went a step further and invited two of ISNA leaders to a meeting for consultation on its report and to explore the question of religious extremism.
These shameless attempts by Gaffney, Mowbary, and 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 pubic and confound the fight on terrorism with the fight on Islam, and hence plays to the hands of the anti-American pundits who thrive on the missteps, and counterproductive actions and postures, urged by 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 their ability to succeed in drying the swamp of extremism that feeds into terrorist attacks can only succeed if the Jewish and Christian communities confront their bigots and extremists, and dry the ponds of bigotry in their midst.
It is heartening to realize that most Americans are able to see through the militant pundits' paranoia and bigotry, as Karen Hughes has amply demonstrated when she ignored the false alarm they set off on the eve of her meeting with Muslim leaders during ISNA convention.
Dr. Louay M. Safi serves as the executive director of ISNA Leadership Development Center, an Indiana based organization dedicated to enhancing leadership awareness and skills among American Muslim leaders, and a founding board member of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy. He writes and lectures on issues relating to Islam, American Muslims, democracy, human rights, leadership, and world peace. His commentaries are available at his Blog: http://blog.lsinsight.org
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