Forbes Op / Ed
by Abigail R. Esman
Forbes, Febuary 26, 2012
Point de Bascule presents some parts of Abigail R. Esman's Op / Ed. You can access to the complete 3 section article by clicking on part 1/3, part 2/3 and part 3/3, and published on Forbes magazine's website (H/T Tarek)
Just last week, in fact, in yet another story filled with misinformation and paradox, the New York Times — that newspaper which evidently viewed the plans of a radical Muslim to bomb the U.S. Capitol as being less than “fit to print” — has confused Islam with Islamism, inadvertently defending a school of the religion even the majority of American Muslims reject. They should know better by now.
According to the Times, a new organization in Chicago, Gain Peace, has launched an advertising campaign aimed at defending Islam against attacks. In itself, this is fully understandable and would be laudable — were it not for the fact that among the schools of Islam Gain Peace defends is one which stands against American democratic values. Worse, the organization the Times cites (again) on the issue — and who supports the Gain Peace project — is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In case anyone has forgotten (and evidently the Times editors have), CAIR has been named an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the largest terrorism funding case in American history; the FBI no longer recognizes the group as a legitimate representative of American Muslims, and the U.S. government overall, including our liberal Democratic president, has banned it from involvement with government policy and investigations.
That’s pretty powerful stuff. It’s certainly powerful enough that the New York Times should think twice about using CAIR as its resource (and its only resource) when speaking about Islam in America.
But it doesn’t. And so when reporting on the proposed expulsion of CAIR from Illinois’ “leading immigrant support group” due to its ties to Hamas, the Times sympathetically suggests its agreement with CAIR’s assessment of the situation: “a descent into anti-Muslim hysteria.”
No, it’s not.
Let’s go over this again, shall we? Rejection of radical Islam – and those associated with known Islamic terrorist organizations – is not the rejection of Islam. It is no more than what it is expressed to be: rejection of radical Islam. Accusing those who reject radical Islam as being “Islamophobic” is the equivalent of saying that all Muslims are radical – a statement that we who fight against radical Islam and Islamism do not make. The conflation of Islam and Islamism comes, rather, precisely from those who call opponents of Islamism – or political, fundamentalist, radical Islam — “Islamophobes.” Put another way: To claim that opposing radical Islam is expressing opposition to Islam is, in fact, to claim that all Muslims are radical. Is that what the Times thinks? If not, why does it keep saying so?
But in this one short report on the Gain Peace outreach group and its advertising campaign “’intended to promote Islam as a just faith,” the Times not only continues its absurd accusations, but misrepresents the truth about the threat of radical Islamic groups in the USA. Among other misstatements, the article claims that:
That’s simply not true. It would be difficult for even the most objective person to believe that the organization named “Shariah4USA” is not calling for the institution of Sharia in the USA. It would be equally difficult to believe this of the organization Hizb ut-Tahir, which describes itself on its own website as aiming “to restore the Islamic Khailifa [sic] State” and establish “an Islamic way of life” in which ”all of life’s affairs in society are administered according to the Shariah rules.” (Hiz but-Tahir, by the way, has, coincidentally –or perhaps not — held conferences in Chicago in the past.) U.S. judges have, as well, relied on Shariah in making their decisions in the past: witness cases in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in which the courts have made decisions based on a defendant’s “belief he was acting according to his religious law,” and therefore failed to rule on the basis of federal law in their courtrooms.
And there’s more. “Hate crimes against Muslims increased nearly 50 percent in the United States in 2010,” the Times reports. What it omits: the vast majority, by far, of religious-based hate crimes in America are crimes against Jews. In fact, though Muslims outnumber Jews in the US, the FBI reported that more than 65 percent of all hate crimes that year were anti-Jewish, while 13.2 percent were anti-Islamic. (Worth noting: anti-Islam crimes in 2009 were at 9.3 percent. The increase to 13.2 percent does not represent a 50 percent rise, but saying so does make for pretty sensationalist reporting.)
And about that reporting: the piece in the Times was contributed by a Chicago-based freelancer, David Lepeska. This is the same David Lepeska who also recently reported on Turkey’s “safety,” citing its “open-minded Islamists” with apparent admiration – this despite the “open-minded Islamists’” habit, of late, of imprisoning its journalists on trumped-up charges of sedition and the fact that Turkey’s intellectual, secular elite – that is, its pro-democracy, Westernized population — fears deeply for the future of their republic and the legacy of its founder, Kemal Ataturk.
Oddly enough, however, Lepeska has also noted as recently as last September that “The threat of terrorism is a real concern for Chicago officials, with world leaders expected at both the Group of Eight and NATO summits here next year. The city has been home to violent extremists and the target of terrorist plots: David C. Headley of Chicago helped to plan the deadly November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, and documents taken from Osama bin Laden’s compound in May included plans to attack the city.”
And even last September, also for the Times, he reported:
So what, then, has he forgotten in the interim?
Hoping for answers, I sent an e-mail to Lepeska, asking whether he distinguished between those who were anti-Islam and those who were anti-Islamism. His response:
It’s unfortunate that he seems to have lost sight of that difference — as if being anti-KKK (to use an example I’ve used in the past) is the same as being anti-Christian; as if being anti-Nazi is the same as being anti-German; as if being allergic to strawberries is the same as being allergic to fruit.
I’ve got news for him. I defend freedom. And I, like millions of Muslims, am anti-Islamist. But I am not anti-Islam. And I most certainly do not lump “most Muslim groups” into “that radical category.” And here’s a surprise: neither do Muslims like, oh, Irshad Manji, for instance, or Zuhdi Jasser, or Farhana Qazi, or the 88 percent of American Muslims who say that CAIR does not represent them.
(Qazi, who on March 8 is to receive the National Committee on American Foreign Policy’s 21st Century Leader award, in fact has herself pointed to the distinction between Islam and Islamism in a Washington Post piece, observing that “yes there is a difference; the latter represents a growing minority of Muslims who wish to govern by Islamic law in the United States and abroad.”)
America’s Muslims deserve better. (...) The New York Times enjoys a prestigious place as one of the top opinion-making forces in the world. It had better get its facts right along the way.