Friday, October 16, 2015

Islamophobia & Religious Freedom by Hassan Shibly at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville

"We are honored today to have as our pulpit guest Hassan Shibly. A lawyer, a speaker, and a teacher, Mr. Shibly has dedicated his life to fostering a healthy cohesive relationship between the between American Muslims & society at large. He has taught courses on Islamic belief, law, history, spirituality and culture and serves as a consultant on Islam for NGO's, non-profit organizations, government agencies, media organizations, youth groups, and law enforcement. He lives with his wife and three children in the Tampa area, where among his other activities he serves as executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations. Please welcome Mr. Hassan Shibly."

"When we understand one another, by nature, we will also respect and love each other. It is my vision that any community where all cultures are understood and respected will be beacon of hope for the world." - Hassan Shibly

BUSTED: Feds arrest Fox News ‘terrorism expert’ for pretending to be a former CIA agent

A Recurring Fox News guest who claimed to be a long-time CIA agent was indicted and arrested Thursday for not, in fact, being a CIA agent.
Wayne Simmons claimed to have 23 years experience with the secretive federal agency as an “outside paramilitary special operations officer,” CNN reports. He was indicted for using that claim to gain security clearances and a post as a defense contractor advising military personnel overseas.
On his website, Simmons claims he joined the U.S. Navy in 1973, where he was recruited by the CIA,” and “spearheaded Deep Cover Intel Ops against some of the world’s most dangerous Drug Cartels and arms smugglers from Central and South America and the Middle East.”
Simmons also claims he has been a “terrorism analyst” for Fox News since 2002. In 2004, he claims former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recruited him to join the Pentagon Outreach Program for Military and Intelligence Analysts.
A Fox News spokeswoman told CNN that Simmons was an unpaid guest and never a host for the station, and declined further comment.
CNN pointed out that Simmons had a pattern of making “extreme and factually dubious” claims about terrorism, including a claim in January that there were “at least 19 paramilitary Muslim training facilities in the United States.”
He also denied waterboarding was torture and said that President Obama was a “novice who lacked a spine,” according to CNN.
Officials told the station that there had been suspicions about Simmons’ resume which were stirred when questions were raised with various government agencies about his statements.
As part of the indictment, Simmons is also accused of defrauding a victim out of $125,000 in a real estate-related scam.
If convicted, Simmons could face decades in prison for all counts, including 20 years for wire fraud, 10 years for major fraud against the U.S, and 5 years for false statements.

Nathan Crabbe: Showcasing efforts to improve the planet

"Conflict-driven coverage can give the public a narrow view of people and places with which they are unfamiliar. I saw an example during a speech last week at the Florida Free Speech Forum by Hassan Shibly, chief executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

A questioner asked Shibly why Islamic leaders weren't more critical of terrorists who kill and maim in the name of their faith. Shibly said that Muslims have actually been extremely vocal in condemning such violence, suggesting that those who think otherwise should “Google it."

He's right: A Google search for “Islamic leaders condemning terrorism” generated 6.4 million results. Yet terrorists gets the headlines, not Muslim leaders speaking out against extremism.

In today's section you'll find a guest column by Shibly, along with a piece by Anita Spring on Gainesville's United Nations Day event this week. I'm proud to be serving as chairman of this year's event."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The belief system of the Islamophobes

The discourse over Muslims today resembles the manner in which Jews were vilified around a century ago.

Arun Kundnani

Arun Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror.
Since the 1970s, Muslims have repeatedly been stereotyped in the US as dangerous terrorists. But, over the last six years, a new fear of Muslims has gradually entered the conservative mainstream: that Muslims are taking over the United States and imposing "sharia law".
In 2011, Republican Congressman Allen West called Islam a "fifth column" that had infiltrated US institutions. In a 2010 speech in Washington, Newt Gingrichdescribed sharia as "a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States".
Another candidate, Herman Cain, condemned what he called the "attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government", and said he would introduce a special loyalty test for Muslims wanting to serve in his administration. Another US Representative, Michele Bachmann, declared that sharia "must be resisted across the United States" and demanded national security officials investigate Muslim Brotherhood infiltration into the federal government.
Such fears are paranoid and lack any basis in reality. No significant Muslim organisation has called for sharia in the United States. For most devout Muslims in the US, sharia is a personal, moral code rather than a political programme.
Imminent Islamic takeover
Nevertheless, many conservatives view an imminent Islamic takeover as a real danger. The currentleaders in the 2016 Republican presidential field are playing on that fear. Donald Trump and Ben Carson have both made anti-Muslim comments in the last two weeks.
On NBC's Meet The Press show broadcast earlier this month, retired neurosurgeon Carson said: "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."

A few days earlier, during a question and answer session at a New Hampshire campaign rally, a Trump supporter said: "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims."
Trump nodded in response.
recent poll in Iowa found only around half of Republicans thought Islam should be legal in the United States. Forty-three percent of Republicans believe Obama is Muslim, according to a CNN poll. These attitudes are not simply a spontaneous reaction to 9/11. After all, this kind of rhetoric only really got going several years later. Nor are they a reaction to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Beyond the headlines lies an organised and well-funded propaganda campaign. According to an investigation by the Center for American Progress, seven conservative foundations spent over $40m on anti-Muslim propaganda between 2001 and 2009. Others estimate the amount spent is over $100m.
Among the groups funded is Brigitte Gabriel's ACT! For America, which has 170,000 members and models itself on the highly successful National Rifle Association.
The aim of this propaganda is to popularise an anti-Muslim version of the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that began to circulate a century ago. Like anti-Semitism, Islamophobia is not only about hatred. It is also an ideology that seeks to connect with people's social, economic, and political frustrations and advocate a course of action, even if the explanation and the action are based on falsehoods.
Secret sharia
Clearly, no national problems can plausibly be blamed on Islam. To have any effect, Islamophobic ideology needs a conspiracy theory that says the US is, despite appearances, secretly run by Muslims. Muslims can then be portrayed as a hidden force preventing American renewal. The message is a convenient one for the US ruling elite: don't blame the people who actually run the US, just smell the sharia.
To the Islamophobe, the US government is not what it seems. The Muslim Brotherhood has placed a Muslim in the White House and is implementing its secret sharia plan. It begins with school textbooks in Texas trying to present Islam in a positive light, Campbell's bringing out a halal version of its iconic soups, or the Obama White House refusing to use the phrase "Islamic terrorism".
Then, one day, Americans will wake up to an Islamic government. Europe, with its larger Muslim population, has already succumbed: It is now Eurabia, an Arab colony; London has already become Londonistan.
A century ago, America's Jews were likewise seen as infiltrators threatening Western values. Central to US anti-Semitic ideology was also a conspiracy theory that presented Jews as secretly pulling the strings of international finance and world revolution. Henry Ford, for example, used the pages of his Dearborn Independent newspaper to propagandise such views in the 1920s.
The modern discourse over Muslims today resembles the manner in which Jews were talked about then. In both cases, a religious minority is seen as a dangerous underclass destroying society from below with their alien values, as well as a hidden force secretly controlling the world from above, through their infiltration of centres of power.
American Jews were eventually able to overcome the worst anti-Semitism of the 20th century and establish security and equality in the US. Will Muslims be able to do the same? Unfortunately, history never repeats itself in the same way. The key difference is that, today, widespread anti-Muslim fears among the public provide a justifying pretext for a global US empire that did not exist in the 1920s. Islamophobia is not just an irrational fear, but a belief system that is useful to sections of power.
Opposing anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and all of their accompanying rhetoric are not just about defending the civil rights of Muslims in the US. It is also about removing one of the ideological supports of US imperialism.
Arun Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror and teaches at New York University.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Army of God? 6 Modern-Day Christian Terrorist Groups You Never Hear About

Just because they don't get as much coverage as ISIS or Boko Haram doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recently released an in-depth report on terrorism in the United States. Covering April 2009 to February 2015, the report (titled “The Age of the Wolf”) found that during that period, “more people have been killed in America by non-Islamic domestic terrorists than jihadists.” The SPLC asserted that “the jihadist threat is a tremendous one,” pointing out that al-Qaeda’s attacks of September 11, 2001 remain the deadliest in U.S. history. But the study also noted that the second deadliest was carried out not by Islamists, but by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995—and law enforcement, the SPLC stressed, are doing the public a huge disservice if they view terrorism as an exclusively Islamist phenomenon.
The report, in a sense, echoed the assertions that President Barack Obama made when he spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in February and stressed that Muslims don’t have the market cornered on religious extremism. In the minds of far-right Republicans, Obama committed the ultimate sin by daring to mention that Christianity has a dark side and citing the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition as two examples from the distant past. Obama wasn’t attacking Christianity on the whole but rather, was making the point that just as not all Christians can be held responsible for the horrors of the Inquisition, not all Muslims can be blamed for the violent extremism of ISIS (the Islamic State, Iraq and Syria), the Taliban, al-Qaeda or Boko Haram. But Obama certainly didn’t need to look 800 or 900 years in the past to find examples of extreme Christianists committing atrocities. Violent Christianists are a reality in different parts of the world—including the United States—and the fact that the mainstream media don’t give them as much coverage as ISIS or Boko Haram doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

Below are six extreme Christianist groups that have shown their capacity for violence and fanaticism.

1. The Army of God
A network of violent Christianists that has been active since the early 1980s, the Army of God openly promotes killing abortion providers—and the long list of terrorists who have been active in that organization has included Paul Jennings Hill (who was executed by lethal injection in 2003 for the 1994 killings of abortion doctor John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett), John C. Salvi (who killed two receptionists when he attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1994) and Eric Rudolph, who is serving life in prison for his role in the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta in 1996 and other terrorist acts. Rudolph, in fact, has often been exalted as a Christian hero on the Army of God’s website, as have fellow Army of God members such as Scott Roeder (who is serving life without parole for murdering Wichita, Kansas-based abortion doctor George Tiller in 2009), Shelley Shannon (who attempted to kill Tiller in 2003) and Michael Frederick Griffin (who is serving a life sentence for the 1993 killing of Dr. David Gunn, an OB-GYN, in Pensacola, Florida).
Although primarily an anti-abortion organization, the Army of God also has a history of promoting violence against gays. And one of the terrorist acts that Rudolph confessed to was bombing a lesbian bar in Atlanta in 1997.

2. Eastern Lightning, a.k.a. the Church of the Almighty God
Founded in Henan Province, China in 1990, Eastern Lightning (also known as the Church of the Almighty God or the Church of the Gospel’s Kingdom) is a Christianist cult with an end-time/apocalypse focus: Eastern Lightning believes that the world is coming to an end, and in the meantime, its duty is to slay as many demons as possible. While most Christianists have an extremely patriarchal viewpoint (much like their Islamist counterparts) and consider women inferior to men, Eastern Lightning believe that Jesus Christ will return to Earth in the form of a Chinese woman. But they are quite capable of violence against women: in May 2014, for example, members of the cult beat a 37-year-old woman named Wu Shuoyan to death in a McDonalds in Zhaoyuan, China when she refused to give them her phone number. Eastern Lightning members Zhang Lidong and his daughter, Zhang Fan, were convicted of murder for the crime and executed in February. In a 2014 interview in prison, Lidong expressed no remorse when he said of Shuoyan, “I beat her with all my might and stamped on her too. She was a demon. We had to destroy her.”
Eastern Lightning’s other acts of violence have ranged from the killing of a grammar school student in 2010 (in retaliation, police believe, for one of the child’s relatives wanting to leave the cult) to cult member Min Yongjun using a knife to attack an elderly woman and a group of schoolchildren in Chenpeng in 2012. Christian groups are not exempt from Eastern Lightning’s fanaticism: in 2002, cult members kidnapped 34 members of a Christian group called the China Gospel Fellowship and held them captive for two months in the hope of forcing them to join their cult. Although mainly active in the communist People’s Republic of China, Eastern Lighting has been trying to expand its membership in Hong Kong.

3. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)
The mainstream media have had much to say about the Islamist brutality of Boko Haram, but one terrorist group they haven’t paid nearly as much attention to is the Lord’s Resistance Army—which was founded by Joseph Kony (a radical Christianist) in Uganda in 1987 and has called for the establishment of a severe Christian fundamentalist government in that country. The LRA, according to Human Rights Watch, has committed thousands of killings and kidnappings—and along the way, its terrorism spread from Uganda to parts of the Congo, the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. The word “jihadist” is seldom used in connection with the LRA, but in fact, the LRA’s tactics are not unlike those of ISIS or Boko Haram. And the governments Kony hopes to establish in Sub-Saharan Africa would implement a Christianist equivalent of Islamic Sharia law.

4. TheNational Liberation Front of Tripura
India is not only a country of Hindus and Sikhs, but also, of Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics and Protestants. Most of India’s Christians are peaceful, but a major exception is the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT). Active in the state of Tripura in Northeastern India since 1989, NLFT is a paramilitary Christianist movement that hopes to secede from India and establish a Christian fundamentalist government in Tripura. NLFT has zero tolerance for any religion other than Christianity, and the group has repeatedly shown a willingness to kill, kidnap or torture Hindus who refuse to be converted to its extreme brand of Protestant fundamentalism.
In 2000, NLFT vowed to kill anyone who participated in Durga Puja (an annual Hindu festival) And in May 2003, at least 30 Hindus were murdered during one of NLFT’s killing sprees.

5. The Phineas Priesthood
White supremacist groups don’t necessarily have a religious orientation: some of them welcome atheists as long as they believe in white superiority. But the Christian Identity movement specifically combines white supremacist ideology with Christianist terrorism, arguing that violence against non-WASPs is ordained by God and that white Anglo Saxon Protestants are God’s chosen people. The modern Christian Identity movement in the U.S. has been greatly influenced by the Ku Klux Klan—an organization that has committed numerous acts of terrorism over the years—and in the 1970s, new Christian Identity groups like the Aryan Nations and the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA) emerged. Another Christian Identity group of recent decades has been the Phineas Priesthood, whose members have been involved in violent activities ranging from abortion clinic bombings to bank robberies (mainly in the Pacific Northwest). On November 28, 2014, Phineas Priesthood member Larry Steven McQuilliams went on a violent rampage in Austin, Texas—where he fired over 100 rounds at various targets (including a federal courthouse, the local Mexican Consulate building and a police station) before being shot and killed by police.

6. The Concerned Christians
One of the ironic things about some Christianists is the fact that although they believe that Jews must be converted to Christianity, they consider themselves staunch supporters of Israel. And some of them believe in violently forcing all Muslims out of Israel. The Concerned Christians, a Christianist doomsday cult that was founded by pastor Monte “Kim” Miller in Denver in the 1980s, alarmed Colorado residents when, in 1998, at least 60 of its members suddenly quit their jobs, abandoned their homes and went missing—and it turned out there was reason for concern. In 1999, Israeli officials arrested 14 members of the Concerned Christians in Jerusalem and deported them from Israel because they suspected them of plotting terrorist attacks against Muslims. One likely target, according to Israeli police, was Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque—the same mosque that was targeted in 1969 (when a Christianist from Australia named Denis Michael Rohan unsuccessfully tried to destroy it by arson) and, Israeli police suspect, was a likely target in 2014 (when Adam Everett Livix, a Christianist from Texas, was arrested by Israeli police on suspicion of plotting to blow up Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem).

In 2008, Denver’s KUSA-TV (an NBC affiliate) reported that members of the Concerned Citizens had gone into hiding and that Miller hadn’t been seen in ten years.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Research shows news overrepresents Muslims as perpetrators of domestic terrorism

11:50 AM, Jan 9, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Viewers of national television news see far more images of Muslims as domestic terrorists and Latinos as immigrant lawbreakers than is actually the case in statistics, according to a recently published study by a communications professor at the University of Illinois.
The study, published online last month by the Journal of Communication, sampled 146 episodes of news programs focused on breaking news carried by major broadcast and cable networks between 2008 and 2012.  Ninety of the programs included crime stories.

Travis Dixon, who led the research while a professor at the University of California in Los Angeles, found that among those described as domestic terrorists in the news reports, 81 percent were identifiable as Muslims. Yet in FBI reports from those years, only 6 percent of domestic terror suspects were Muslim.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Are All Terrorists Muslims? It’s Not Even Close

Dean Obeidallah | The Daily Beast | Full Article

...As Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, noted in its report released last year, the vast majority of terror attacks in Europe were perpetrated by separatist groups. For example, in 2013, there were 152 terror attacks in Europe. Only two of them were “religiously motivated,” while 84 were predicated upon ethno-nationalist or separatist beliefs....Even after one of the worst terror attacks ever in Europe in 2011, when Anders Breivik slaughtered 77 people in Norway to further his anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and pro-“Christian Europe” agenda as he stated in his manifesto, how much press did we see in the United States? Yes, it was covered, but not the way we see when a Muslim terrorist is involved. Plus we didn’t see terrorism experts fill the cable news sphere asking how we can stop future Christian terrorists. In fact, even the suggestion that Breivik was a “Christian terrorist” was met with outrage by many, including Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.
Have you heard about the Buddhist terrorists? Well, extremist Buddhists havekilled many Muslim civilians in Burma, and just a few months ago in Sri Lanka, some went on a violent rampage burning down Muslim homes and businesses andslaughtering four Muslims.
Or what about the (dare I mention them) Jewish terrorists? Per the 2013 State Department’s report on terrorism, there were 399 acts of terror committed by Israeli settlers in what are known as “price tag” attacks. These Jewish terrorists attacked Palestinian civilians causing physical injuries to 93 of them and also vandalized scores of mosques and Christian churches....Back in the United States, the percentage of terror attacks committed by Muslims is almost as miniscule as in Europe. An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims. In actuality, 42 percent of terror attacks were carried out by Latino-related groups, followed by 24 percent perpetrated by extreme left-wing actors.
And as a 2014 study by University of North Carolina found, since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim-linked terrorism has claimed the lives of 37 Americans. In that same time period, more than 190,000 Americans were murdered (PDF).
In fact in 2013, it was actually more likely Americans would be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. In that year, three Americans were killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. How many people did toddlers kill in 2013? Five, all by accidentallyshooting a gun.
But our media simply do not cover the non-Muslim terror attacks with same gusto. Why? It’s a business decision. Stories about scary “others” play better. It’s a story that can simply be framed as good versus evil with Americans being the good guy and the brown Muslim as the bad.... [Read Full Article]