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Radical Islam’s useful government idiots

When I was working at my last newspaper job, I wrote a fair amount about the radicalization of institutional Islam in America, owing mainly to the control of major American Muslim organizations by the Muslim Brotherhood. This has been widely documented; this paper [1], by the leading Muslim scholar Husain Haqqani (who is now Pakistan’s ambassador to the US) is a good place to start if you want to get the basic story. You may wish to familiarize yourself with the work of Dr. Zuhdi Jasser [2], an anti-Islamist American Muslim, to know more. Also, this 2004 series [3] by the Chicago Tribune digs deep.

This document [4]is also key. It’s a 1991 memo written by a top Muslim Brotherhood official in the US, outlining the organizations plans to infiltrate America with a number of front groups, which are named in the memo. It’s a who’s who of top Muslim organizations here. The document was seized by the FBI in a raid on a suspected terrorism organizer’s house, and introduced into evidence at the Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial in Dallas. The defense did not dispute the document’s authenticity, but as I recall, only said that it was outdated — a risible excuse.

Here’s the thing that drives people who understand this stuff crazy: the US government continues to embrace these organizations dedicated to radicalizing the US Muslim population. You know how bizarre this is? During the Holy Land trial, while US Justice Department attorneys were in a Dallas courtroom presenting evidence that the Islamic Society of North America is part of a network of Muslim Brotherhood front groups in this country whose mission is to commit stealth jihad, this same Justice Department — under George W. Bush, mind you — had representatives at the annual ISNA convention doing outreach.

All this came to mind this afternoon reading Christopher Caldwell’s review [5] of a new book by Zeyno Baran, a liberal Turkish-born Muslim and Washington-based policy scholar. Excerpt:

Her new book describes how Islamists have captured many Islamic religious and social institutions, including most of the Western ones. Islamism has supplanted more traditional tendencies and has become what most people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, understand as mainstream Islam. Gullible American and European policymakers have partnered with the wrong Muslims, freezing out their friends and empowering those who wish them ill.

Don’t miss this point: Baran seems argues that by privileging these radical-led US organizations — some of which take over mosques and force out any Muslims who disagree with their hard line — American and European governments are helping to empower people who, because of their institutional platform, will set the norms for Islam in the West. And worse:

Baran is a Muslim liberal and feminist who insists that there is a strong message of gender equality in the Koran. She worries that the dominance of these Muslim Brotherhood–inspired, frequently Saudi-funded groups is obscuring the diversity of Islamic culture and religious practice. But the problem is worse than she says. Radical, politicized groups are not merely drowning out more traditionally pious strains of Islam—they are wiping them out. This process is underway in Baran’s native Turkey. Baran is a defender of the model of moderate, state-managed Islam, set up by Kemal Atatürk and his successors. The former president of Turkey, Suleyman Demirel, wrote the book’s introduction. Alas, the gifted demagogue and Islamist Tayyip Erdogan has spent the better part of the last decade ripping this apolitical Islam out of Turkish society root-and-branch. It is more a museum piece than a living, breathing alternative to Islamism.

Caldwell says that the strategies to counter this advocated by Baran can’t work for a couple of reasons:

One is that Americans are too frightened of being disciplined and punished for breaches of political correctness to discuss honestly any aspect of any policy touching on Islam. Even this term—“political correctness”—does not do justice to the Zhdanovite lockdown that the government enforces when it comes to discussing Islam.

Tell me about it. Remember that 2007 controversy [6] over “Islam vs. Islamists,” a documentary commissioned by PBS that focused on efforts by anti-Islamist Muslims (Dr. Jasser was one of them) to fight radicalism in their own mosques and communities, often at the risk of their own lives? PBS refused to air it after complaints by major US Muslim groups — precisely the groups criticized by anti-Islamist Muslims as being water-carriers for radicalism. It is hard to overstate how powerful political correctness is with media, academic, and governmental elites on all this. Useful idiots, the lot. They don’t understand this stuff, and don’t want to understand it. To know something is to be responsible for it. If the major US Muslim groups are substantially controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, then we are in worse trouble than we think. That thought is dispiriting, so we have to deny it.

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19 Comments To "Radical Islam’s useful government idiots"

#1 Comment By SameOle On October 21, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

“Here’s the thing that drives people who understand this stuff crazy: the US government continues to embrace these organizations dedicated to radicalizing the US Muslim population. You know how bizarre this is? ”

Yes, because the government did the same thing with Zionist organizations and IRA sympathizers. We all know how well that turned out. It seems that there is no mistake so stupid or costly that our government isn’t willing to repeat it.

#2 Comment By Scott Lahti On October 21, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

Caldwell: “Americans are too frightened of being disciplined and punished for breaches of political correctness to discuss honestly any aspect of any policy touching on Islam. Even this term—’political correctness’—does not do justice to the Zhdanovite lockdown that the government enforces when it comes to discussing Islam.”

Huh? WTF? Exquease me? Has Caldwell – speaking of airbrushing history! – forgotten, conveniently enough, the whole Park 51 episode, let alone trolled the leading mass-market wingnut websites over the last decade? I don’t recall “the government” “enforcing” any kind of “Zhdanovite” (!) lockdown on, e.g., Our Lady of Wasilla and Newt Gingrich when they felt free to demagogue their Islamophobic claptrap on cable so thickly you could slice it and fry it in a pan.

The “liberal” and “patriotic” New Republic ought to be ashamed of itself for publishing anyone who attempts to score political points via the comparison of the U.S. of 2011, one of the freest societies in the history of the human race, to the Soviet Union of the Stalin years. Given the four-decade Muslim-and-Arab-bashing track record, though, of the magazine’s on-again-off-again owner, Martin Peretz, “the soft bigotry of low expectations” takes on in such precincts whole new galaxies of meaning. I invite Caldwell and TNR to live long, the better to spend the rest of their lives assaying the singular and lascivious joys of sphincterine auto-intercourse.

#3 Comment By K. W. Jeter On October 21, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

Caldwell: “Americans are too frightened of being disciplined and punished for breaches of political correctness to discuss honestly any aspect of any policy touching on Islam.”

Good point. It’s the same reason we don’t talk publicly about race.

#4 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 21, 2011 @ 7:37 pm

It is amazing how American conservatives like their Muslims liberal.

Despite that glaring discrepancy, wanting “the other” to adopt the political label one despises for one’s own community and nation, I’ve always thought you had a valid point about CAIR and ISNA, particularly when you’ve reported asking their representatives straight factual questions, and instead of giving you a straight denial (or affirmation), they go into a loud long-winded accusatory rant. Anyone who has any street smarts at all (and mine are limited) has seen that response from any person who hears a valid accusation they cannot deny but do not wish to admit to.

But I think this puts is a bit wrongly: “the control of major American Muslim organizations by the Muslim Brotherhood.” The problem, a subtlely different one, is that rather insignificant organizations with grandiose names, initiated by the Muslim Brotherhood, are being treated as if they were major American Muslim organizations. A rather small percentage of American Muslims actually relates to these organizations as their national leadership. In fact, Islam has no provision for a fixed leadership outside of the local mosque, and more than Judaism does.

When you tacitly acknowledge these self-styled grouplets as “major American Muslim organizations” you give away Islam to them, and you imply that American Muslims generally must be under the influence of the Brotherhood.

One reason I’m not the least worried about Muslims in Milwaukee is that the Islamic Society of Milwaukee is actively working with Ascension Lutheran Church, Bethesda Baptist Church, Milwaukee Mennonite, New Covenant Baptist, Congregation Shir Hadash, St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church, and dozens of others, in MICAH (Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope). Also, the local Muslim population are generally too busy running businesses that depend on non-Muslim customers to be plotting much of anything. I infer that it is like that in many communities across America.

So our government’s error is accepting that these self-styled big-name organizations represent American Muslims. That is ALMOST what you said, but not quite. In a way, it is like the question King Abdullah of Jordan posed in 1947: How do the American military in Europe know that European Jews want to emigrate to Palestine? “My Jewish advisors tell me so.” Any political movement will try to position itself as THE voice of whatever people. Let a hundred flowers bloom!

#5 Comment By Bruce Ross On October 21, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

“One is that Americans are too frightened of being disciplined and punished for breaches of political correctness to discuss honestly any aspect of any policy touching on Islam.”

The government has made a strenuous official attempt for the past decade to stress that we have no problem with Muslims per se. That’s just good diplomacy.

But I’ve seen no evidence whatever that Americans — the people at large — are in any way frightened as Caldwell argues.

#6 Comment By R Hampton On October 21, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

Rod, it’s the Saudi Wahhabis who are responsible – an important distinction. I used to document this stuff on a daily basis until it became an obsession that soured my mood and ate away my time for family and friends ( [7])

These Frontline episodes are a good introduction:

Saudi Time Bomb?
(episode 19.17, November 15, 2001)
For more than two centuries, Wahhabism has been Saudi Arabia’s dominant faith. It is an austere form of Islam that insists on a literal interpretation of the Koran. Strict Wahhabis believe that all those who don’t practice their form of Islam are heathens and enemies. Critics say that Wahhabism’s rigidity has led it to misinterpret and distort Islam, pointing to extremists such as Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Wahhabism’s explosive growth began in the 1970s when Saudi charities started funding Wahhabi schools (madrassas) and mosques from Islamabad to Culver City, California. Here are excerpts from FRONTLINE’s interviews with Mai Yamani, an anthropologist who studies Saudi society; Vali Nasr, an authority on Islamic fundamentalism; Maher Hathout, spokesperson for the Islamic Center of Southern California; and Ahmed Ali, a Shi’a Muslim from Saudi Arabia.
[8]

House of Saud
(episode 23.2, February 8, 2005)
The House of Saud has controlled every aspect of Saudi life and politics since the kingdom was established in 1932. But outside the Desert Kingdom, little is known about Saudi Arabia’s secretive royal family. In “House of Saud,” FRONTLINE explores how the Al Saud family maintains its hold on power in the face of growing tensions between Islam and modernity. Through interviews with members of the royal family, government officials, and other experts from Saudi Arabia and the U.S., the two-hour documentary also traces America’s relations with the Saudi royal family from their first alliance in the 1930s through September 11 and beyond to the present.
[9]

#7 Comment By Rod Dreher On October 21, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

It is amazing how American conservatives like their Muslims liberal.

Why do you say that? Your average conservative Christian has a lot more in common with your average liberal Muslim than with a conservative Muslim. It’s not a mutual conservatism that creates the affinity. It’s shared views on key issues. For example, a “conservative” Catholic and a “conservative” Bolshevik are two very different creatures, their conservatism determined by two very different standards. When the Soviet Union was in its final stages and suffered the coup against Gorbachev, the coup leaders were described as “conservatives” — which, of course, they were, inasmuch as they wished to conserve the old Bolshevik order. I was living in DC at the time, and I remember this made certain young conservatives irate. “How can you call them conservatives? They’re freakin’ COMMUNISTS!” was the complaint. Which was just a stupid category error.

But I’ve seen no evidence whatever that Americans — the people at large — are in any way frightened as Caldwell argues.

Yes, Caldwell is surely talking about the establishment class — media, government, military, academic. And see, this is a big problem. Most ordinary people in this country have no idea about the distinctions among Muslims. If they pay attention to our leaders in government and the media, they get this idea that all Muslims are an undifferentiated mass, and that they’re all Good and Not To Be Suspected. People understand intuitively that that’s b.s., but this leads them to make the opposite error, which is to think that all Muslims are Bad, and to be Suspected. So in this sense, the media’s chronic unwillingness to subject Islam in America to a fair and responsible level of scrutiny probably makes it harder for average Muslims to get a fair shake.

#8 Comment By Mitchell Young On October 22, 2011 @ 2:27 am

The United States of America survived and thrived for two centuries without any significant presences of Muslims — liberal or conservative. Why did we feel the need to allow them to settle? What benefit has it brought us?

#9 Comment By tdot On October 22, 2011 @ 4:13 am

even if you take ultra-traditional conservatives, it wouldn’t be a contradiction for them to oppose Islamism. sure you can point out commonalities between conservative Christianity and conservative Islam regarding society, but people make the 1950s out to be some dark theocracy directly analogous to the Taliban or something. now there’s plenty to criticize about the old America but let’s have some nu-ance mmmk?

also, “Islamophobic” — can we retire this word already? people aren’t quaking in their boots from American Muslims. honestly even if people started saying anti-Muslim (Muslimist?) instead at least the stupid -phobic suffix’d be retired.

#10 Comment By Greg Panfile On October 22, 2011 @ 7:51 am

Some points should be made: first, while Muslims view the Koran as a literal and accurate rendering of what Mohammed was told by an angel, the historical record is that the Koran was assembled after his death, and put in an arbitrary order by length of verse. What was included there and what was put in the Traditions was decided by people other than the Prophet, very similar to what happened with Christianity.

Because the Koran is viewed as comprehensive and thus applicable to political and social issues in addition to religious ones, Islam has been dogged throughout its history by two core problems: one, that there was no mechanism of succession defined, religiously or politically, and two, that while Mohammed specifically excluded the creation of a religious hierarchy and bureaucracy, human nature (possible inherited from the social organizations of primates and large predatory felines) tends to insist on a clear pecking order. This accounts for all the instabilities that have beset Islamic countries and empires from the seventh century till the present day.

Thirdly, it is pertinent that in relative terms, Islam is in effect in its 14th Century. One might note that, despite a shared religious belief in Christianity, it took our wondrous Western Civilization at least five hundred years of sectarian and nationalist bloodshed, to unprecedented levels when mechanized, to work out relatively stable political arrangements that generally are able to operate without much slaughter.

It would seem to me that our government should engage with these organizations rather than shun them, especially if their only sin is ‘stealth jihad.’ The latter term strikes me as somewhat passive-aggressive, in that if it is jihad it is not stealth and the opposite. Some form of contact is better than none, and one assumes that the FBI, DHS, and all sorts of alphabetical and well-funded spook organizations are all over this.

Lastly, given how the US has invaded two Muslim countries in the past decade, and is currently frozen by bribery into supporting the illegal occupation of Palestine, plus has when convenient for security and energy reasons embraced some of the most conservative and corrupt despots in the world of Islam, it should be no surprise we are having issues there. How could it be otherwise?

Were we to extract money from our political system, and institute a crash program to reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil by any viable means, we would then have the luxury of being evenhanded and participating in that area ethically, deciding issues on their merits. In which case we might find a very different attitude coming from the people who live there.

In the end, Muslims (who are incredibly ethnically and culturally diverse, as well as having major sectarian issues of their own to solve) will work out, one hopes as a humanist, their core problems… how to have responsible governance and smooth transitions, how to have a religious social order without clerical tyranny. But Westerners and Christians who are impatient about this would do well to reflect on their own centuries of attaining same, if they have, and how messy it was. History seems to be like laws and sausages more often than not.

#11 Comment By Tyro On October 22, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

I myself am wondering why “Wahhabi” appears nowhere in this post until the comments.

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 22, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

“The United States of America survived and thrived for two centuries without any significant presences of Muslims — liberal or conservative. Why did we feel the need to allow them to settle? What benefit has it brought us?”

There goes Mitchell Young with his totalitarian collectivism again. Since when in the United States of America do we decide that an entire ethnic or religious demographic is to be sought, allowed, or excluded? Each prospective immigrant is evaluated as an individual, according to a consistent set of standards that apply equally to all. If we are wide open, Roman Catholics, Buddhists, Confucians, Muslims, are all eligible. If our wide open spaces are filled and our alabaster cities dimmed by human tears, the bar is raised for everybody. Otherwise, the first religious faith we would have excluded was Catholics.

Actually, some Muslims are fifth generation Americans, belonging to mosques going back to the 19th century. Some of those complaining about “why we let Muslims in” are descended from immigrants who arrived later. Also, it is true that immigration quotas have at times been arranged to reflect an estimate of the current demography of the citizenry — which at no time in the 20th century would have totally excluded Muslims, because we weren’t thriving without them, we were thriving with them, working in our factories, along with the Poles, the Lithuanians, and various of my own ancestors.

#13 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 22, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

Writing separately as to Rod’s follow up question on liberals and conservatives:

Partly, I commented wryly on conservatives liking their Muslims liberal, because it highlights how sloppy the use of both terms has become. Partly, while everything you say is perfectly true, the use of these terms suggests that Muslims should be accommodating to us, but we should be accommodating to nobody. They make the compromises, we stand firm. It is a poor basis for dialog or coexistence with anyone.

What, after all, is a “liberal” Muslim? A Muslim who believes in free market capitalism? A Muslim who believes in separation of mosque and state? A Muslim who believes in civil liberties? A Muslim who is loose and flexible in their application of Qu’ranic precepts to modern life? (That last one, compared to similar notions of “conservative” and “liberal” Christians, may have been the biggest question on my mind. Are we saying, it is all right for Christian Americans to be strict Biblical literalists, but not for Muslims, here or elsewhere, to be strict Qu’ranic literalists?)

I am similarly dubious about the notion of “moderate Muslims,” a decadent liberal terminology if there ever was one. To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, moderation in pursuit of justice is indeed no virtue, extremism in defence of liberty is an oxymoron. Are moderate or liberal Muslims those who don’t take their faith seriously? Doesn’t history suggest that what are called “conservative” Muslims are a recently outbreak, not the conservators of an unbroken chain as they claim? There have been literally centuries in which Jews had an honored and exalted place in a number of caliphates (as well as significant persecution by the Almohades and some of the Fatamids).

#14 Comment By Rod Dreher On October 22, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

There goes Mitchell Young with his totalitarian collectivism again. Since when in the United States of America do we decide that an entire ethnic or religious demographic is to be sought, allowed, or excluded?

Come on, Siarlys, isn’t that a bit much? Could you not be accused of “universalist collectivism” by the same standards?

I don’t see that there’s anything wrong in principle for people of a nation to decide what kind of nation they want to be with regard to setting immigration policy. That goes for our nation, for Germany, for Mexico, for Botswana, for any nation. Why is any nation under moral obligation to be non-discriminating in this manner? If the American people, through their democratic institutions, decide they want to limit the number of immigrants from a particular group because they think, however wrongly, that that group won’t be a good fit in our culture, so what?

#15 Comment By Rod Dreher On October 22, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

I have already been over this, Siarlys. A “liberal Muslim” is one who takes a more liberal stance vis-a-vis his faith’s normative teachings. Same as a liberal Christian. This is not a “sloppy” use of the term, but a normal one. Why is this so difficult to understand?

Why shouldn’t Americans, Christian and non-Christian, not wish to see a liberalization of the Islamic faith? More conservative iterations of Islam tend to be highly oppressive of women and minority religions, including my own religion, and very hostile — sometimes to the point of violence — to the West. If I were a Muslim, I might well see this differently. But I am not a Muslim. The kind of values that I believe in are more likely to be held by a Muslim who is a liberal within the broader Muslim tradition than a conservative. Yet it is also true that an average Christian of the year 1500 probably holds more in common with a conservative Muslim of 2011 than he does with an average Christian of today. These terms are relative over the stretch of history, but certainly not meaningless for this debate.

#16 Comment By Mitchell Young On October 22, 2011 @ 10:48 pm

“There goes Mitchell Young with his totalitarian collectivism again. Since when in the United States of America do we decide that an entire ethnic or religious demographic is to be sought, allowed, or excluded?”

Well, seeing as how the Founding generation restricted naturalization to ‘free white persons’, I guess that would be from the beginning. And let me remind you that one of the happiest times of our history — the time when we grew to Superpower status and had the baby boom and put a man on the moon — that all happened while immigration was both restricted and quite consciously demographically balanced.

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 23, 2011 @ 11:37 pm

Rod, as far as use of the phrase “collective totalitarianism” goes, I am being deliberately provocative, in a semantical sort of way, but I am also being more conservative than you or Mitchell. I am simply saying that each INDIVIDUAL human being should be evaluated AS an individual, not as a member of a collective identity. What is wrong with that? Am I not speaking the language of the arguments conservatives employ to decry affirmative action?

One of the major reasons there is a distinct “black” subculture in this country is that people who chose to think of themselves as “white” forced all those with darker skin and African ancestry to live in distinct communities. If Robert Taylor’s plan for small public housing units scattered all over Chicago had been adopted around 1940, there would have been no ghetto, and no concentrated pit of despair like the one ironically named for him.

As for the notion of a “liberal” Muslim, I think you are proving my point. You want Muslims to be “liberal” because you want “them” to hold values more like yours, RATHER THAN the values you (in your more polemical mode) consider to be the TRUE values of Islam. I agree on the points about oppression of women and minority religions. After faith in the God who created the universe, I am more devoted to the First Amendment as embodying universal human values than much of anything else in the world. But I don’t consider that Muslims who accept those values have less commitment to Islam than the leadership of CAIR or ISNA do. And, (we’ve crossed swords about this at your old sight) — I consider Chaput and Burke to present, in more attenuated form, the same moral hazard that CAIR and ISNA do. But you, being conservative, find much to admire about Chaput and Burke. I think my position is more mutually respectful, between Christianity and Islam, without accepting violence or dominion theology from any faith.

Mitchell, you have half a point about “free white persons,” but in the Constitution, there is no such reference, and, whatever the prejudices of those making or enforcing various laws, there was never a time when free people of African descent did not emigrate to the United States, from the West Indies, from Britain, from Canada, or even directly from Africa. There was a girl born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Pakistan who graduated from elementary school with my niece. All the families had a nice lunch together afterward. I don’t look at her with the same eyes I look at the assassin of Salman Taseer, or those who honored the assassin. To each their own sins.

#18 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 24, 2011 @ 9:14 am

I generally try not to post twice in a row, but after a good night’s sleep, I think it is worth adding this about past and present immigration trends:

Free colored people aside, America continued to bring people of African descent and dark skin color into the country, albeit as property, even after 1808, when it was technically outlawed. The language of the constitution on THAT subject specifically doesn’t mention color or continent; it refers to “The Migration of Importation of such Persons as an of the States now existing shall think proper to admit.” No significant penalty was enforced until the hanging of Captain Nathaniel Gordon in February 1862.

If our European-derived ancestors wanted this to be “a white man’s country,” they shouldn’t have brought “non-white” people to do their work for them. Likewise, if our Anglo-Saxon ancestors wanted this to be a Protestant nation, they shouldn’t have brought Irish, Polish, Italian, Hungarian, or Croation Catholics, nor Greek, Russian, Serbian, or Bulgarian Orthodox, to dig their canals and labor in their factories. Sooner or later, you have to let them into the mainstream. It’s funny how racial criteria change over the years… As Catholics became more accepted, the KKK (What’s left of it) decided to admit Catholics. That might have tacitly happened earlier in Louisiana. For that matter, racialist talk of “our Anglo-Celtic heritage” is absurd. Anglos and Celts remained bitter enemies for several generations after migrating to these shores, including those who shared the same religion. In 17th century Virginia, “Scotchman” was the ethnic slur that brought men to blows.

#19 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On October 24, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

“If our European-derived ancestors wanted this to be “a white man’s country,” they shouldn’t have brought “non-white” people to do their work for them.” Actually our ancestors had slavery forced on them by Britain long before we were independent

“Likewise, if our Anglo-Saxon ancestors wanted this to be a Protestant nation, they shouldn’t have brought Irish, Polish, Italian….” So it stands to reason that if we don’t want the greed of rootless corporate types to replace the current population with third world privatives….