US Muslims rally for journalist detained in Egypt

World Bulletin / News Desk

About 100 Egyptian Americans and members of The Council on American-Islamic Relations have demonstrated in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Washington D.C., calling for the release of U.S. citizen journalist Mohammed Soltan.

Soltan, a U.S. citizen of Egyptian origin, has been on hunger strike in an Egyptian prison for 80 days after being detained on August 25 last year.

He was taken into custody after being shot during a protest against the military-backed ouster of Egypt’s former president Mohamed Morsi, and his trial has been postponed several times.

After the protest, Soltan’s brother, Omar, told the Anadolu Agency that his life and that of his brother were at risk.

He said that, with Mohammed’s health deteriorating rapidly, he urgently needed to be treated and the United States authorities should protect the rights of one of their citizens.

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US activists rally for journalist detained in Egypt

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

American Muslim Society and Egyptian Americans demand release of U.S. citizen held behind bars in Egypt for “supporting” the government of the country’s toppled leader, Morsi.

WASHINGTON - About 100 Egyptian Americans and members of The Council on American-Islamic Relations have demonstrated in front of the Egyptian Embassy in Washington D.C., calling for the release of U.S. citizen journalist Mohammed Soltan.  

Soltan, a U.S. citizen of Egyptian origin, has been on hunger strike in an Egyptian prison for 80 days after being detained on August 25 last year.

He was taken into custody after being shot during a protest against the military-backed ouster of Egypt’s former president Mohamed Morsi, and his trial has been postponed several times.  

After the protest, Soltan’s brother, Omar, told the Anadolu Agency that his life and that of his brother were at risk.

He said that, with Mohammed’s health deteriorating rapidly, he urgently needed to be treated and the United States authorities should protect the rights of one of their citizens.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency



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CAIR protests textbook bill; says it’s rooted in anti-Muslim bigotry


Photo Credit: News-Journal

A bill making its way through the Florida legislature requiring local school districts to review textbooks used in classrooms is now the target of the the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, known as CAIR.

The group contends that the bill, SB 864: Instructional Materials for K-12 Public Education, introduced by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, would create an unfunded mandate posing an unnecessary burden on local school districts, according to its statement released Monday, which says:

SB 864 has the potential to jeopardize the entire Sunshine State school system with an unnecessary law for a problem that does not exist by:

  • Imposing a tremendous unfunded mandate on our school districts
  • Depriving school districts of the state’s “economy of scale” in textbook purchasing power
  • Reducing Florida’s influence over textbook content
  • Opening the adoption process to social and political bias
  • Threatening the constitutional requirement for a uniform system of free public schools



However, what is really at stake for the group is its claim that the bill was prompted by anti-Muslim bigotry. Hayes sponsored the bill in response to a history book that residents of Brevard County claimed in July emphasized Islam’s influence on the world while minimizing Christianity and Judaism.

“World History,” published by Prentice-Hall, “has a 36-page chapter on Islam but no chapters on Christianity or Judaism,” Florida Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne said. “It’s remarkably one-sided.”

The dispute eventually spilled over into Volusia County, where critics said the text “whitewashes” the history of Islam.

The bill is nearing passage in both chambers.

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Zhudi Jasser: White House Lacks ‘Courage’ to Use the Word ‘Muslims’

The White House lacks “courage” to use the word “Muslims” when admonishing communities to look for extremist tendencies among children, said Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.

“They are talking about Muslims. They’re talking about Islamism. Yet they don’t have the courage to name it. You’re not going to have a policy that way. You can’t have national security by PR,” Jasser told “Fox Friends” Monday.

The issue came up in a recent speech by a White House official at Harvard University on April 15, the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings.

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Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama’s assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, delivered an address titled “Countering Violent Extremism and the Power of Community.” She urged American parents, religious leaders, and friends to watch children for tendencies toward terrorism.

Monaco’s speech did not mention radical Islam, but stressed the agency’s efforts in “stemming domestic radicalization to violence.” A number of domestic attacks have had ties to radical Islam, including the bombings at the Boston Marathon and the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Texas.

“Violent extremism is not unique to any one faith. And, as Americans, we reject violence, regardless of our faith,” Monaco told the Harvard Kennedy School Forum.

Jasser said it was “obvious and glaring” that Monaco didn’t mention the “issue of [the] radicalization of jihadism, the ideology of radical Islam.”

The politically correct culture that downplayed the role of Islamic extremists in violent attacks made the cause of moderate Muslims more difficult, Jasser said.

“Those of us who are doing reform work, that realize that it’s Muslims that can fix this, are left in the margins, while the apologists who are in denial and want to put obstacles in our counterterrorism work in this country are working with the White House preventing the work that needs to be done,” he said.

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Muslim group claims measure requiring local school boards approve texts also …

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — A Muslim activist group says a bill that would require the state’s school districts to review textbooks used in classrooms creates an unfunded mandate and opens the door to biased learning materials.

Ghazala Salam, with the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Monday that the bill (SB 864) unfairly burdens school boards with the approval of textbooks, which is now handled at the state level. School boards can currently select textbooks from a list drawn up by the Florida Department of Education or review the books at the district level.

The group contends the bill sponsored by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, is based on an anti-Muslim bias. Hays introduced the measure after hearing complaints from constituents that a history book emphasized information about Islam and underrepresented Christianity.

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A new Muslim renaissance is here

by Rabia Chaudry


By: Rabia Chaudry


History is witness to a time past when the Islamic civilization produced globally unparallelled architecture, literature, science, philosophy, theological discourse, and cultural influences – influences so strong it made European nobles want to dress like Muslims. Critics of Islam and Muslims scoff at this romanticism, asserting that Muslims have not produced anything great since the Middle Ages and most likely will never again. The inherent bigotry and even fallacy of that argument aside, for those critics I have to say, look out, a new Muslim renaissance is upon us.

In the midst of growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the US since 9/11, or perhaps thanks to it, this generation of Muslims is abandoning the traditional professions expected from immigrant parents (doctors, engineers, business people) and entering fields we all once thought were closed to us. The last decade has seen a steady and sure emergence of American Muslims as artists, writers, performers, activists, media personalities and intellectuals (on a global scale Muslims rank as top intellectuals). Inside the DC beltway you see evidence of this shift as well. Young American Muslims are working in national security, public diplomacy, foreign policy, politics – we have our share of hacks and wonks now too.

In a climate where America still finds itself in an uncomfortable dance with Islam, the fact that Muslims themselves are becoming thought and culture leaders in America has tremendous prospects. Anti-shariah bills loom large across the country, violence against Muslims happens and is encouraged, the homeland security apparatus is still figuring out how to work with Muslims as partners and not suspects, and a large swath of the public cannot even stomach something as innocuous as Muslims being in a patriotic coca-cola ad. But instead of being cowed, young American Muslims have reacted by demanding to tell their own stories, become influencers, and claiming their rightful place in US institutions and discourse.

This dynamism hasn’t been limited to the intersection of American Muslims with the prevailing culture. In the past five years American Muslims are leading movements to revive or reform perspectives on religious inclusion, most notably the inclusion of women and LGBTQ Muslims in sacred spaces.

On the issue of women’s leadership, inclusion, and status in Islam, there is a clear call to revive the traditions of female scholarship, leadership, and open mosque spaces. It’s no small thing that the Grand Mufti of Egypt Shaykh Ali Gomaa has acknowledged the permissibility of women leading men in prayer in the Western context after the persistence of female North American Muslim activists and scholars on the issue. A movement to explore the spaces allotted women in American mosques has lead to a larger discussion on what it means to be “Unmosqued”, or be part of a generation that feels little relevance and connection to any place of worship. “Muslim feminism” is being taken seriously by Western Muslims as the antidote to patriarchal expressions of Islam. The long standing idea, from the colonial period onward, that mosques and religious leadership are male spaces is finding its match not in a global Muslim arena, but in a Western Muslim one.

Similar to other faith traditions in the US, Islamic orthodoxy and traditionalism is being challenged on the issue of LGBTQ inclusion. A progressive Muslim movement is forcing Muslim debate and discussion on the limits of tolerance and inclusion. While the prevailing rulings of the theological boundaries on homosexual lifestyles are unlikely to change anytime soon, Western Muslim institutions have been moved to adopt a position similar to Orthodox Jewish leaders. A public recognition by a major Muslim organization of universal human dignity, and the right not to be discriminated against based on sexual orientation, would be nearly impossible to find in Muslim majority countries today, and just as difficult to find in the US a decade ago.

Social challenges such as finding suitable marriage partners is pushing conversation on interfaith marriage, traditionally an option for Muslim men, but now seriously being discussed among American Muslim women. Not just discussed, but supported by some religious leadership.

An interesting trend on these issues is that American Muslims by and large seek religious validation for revisiting and reforming rulings. They even depend on traditional Islamic principles such as ijtihad to, some may say, do away with other traditional Islamic principles. As such, a modern Islamic orthodoxy with Western Muslim scholarship at the helm, grounded in faith but embracing pluralism and change, seems to be the balance most American Muslims are gravitating towards

It’s heady, scary, and exciting to watch the face and discourse of American Muslims change and expand before your eyes. The Islam I grew up with in America is not the Islam my children are experiencing. The possibilities for their lives are much more expansive than the possibilities for my life were. The largely comfortable integration and success of American Muslims that sets them apart from their counterparts in Europe also lends space for these possibilities. From tremendously increased participation in American civic and cultural life, to pressing internal demands on religious orthodoxy, another generation or two will see a vastly different American Islam that will likely have an impact on Muslims globally. From marginalized minority, American Muslims are poised to become mainstream leaders and influencers. And it’s no small irony that while historians bemoan conquest and Western colonialism as the death knell for Islam’s “Golden Age”, this new Muslim renaissance is growing out of the West itself.

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New York Police Drops Special Unit that Spied on Muslims

Djibouti (HAN) April 19, 2014 – The Special police unite with New York Police Department has abandoned a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped, the department said. Stephen Davis, said. The unit’s detectives were recently reassigned, he said.

“Understanding certain local demographics can be a useful factor when assessing the threat information that comes into New York City virtually on a daily basis,” Mr. Davis said. “In the future, we will gather that information, if necessary, through direct contact between the police precincts and the representatives of the communities they serve.”

Paesh Buhan, who is from India and now lives in Brooklyn, agreed that ending the surveillance program will help restore trust in the police.

The move by New York City’s new police commissioner to disband a unit that spied on the everyday activities of Muslims could be just the first step in a dismantling of some of the huge  intelligence-gathering machinery built by his predecessor.


More information emerged from the Associated Press  about the New York Police Department’s vast program to spy on Muslim communities. Court documents in a civil rights suit challenging the program reveal that the police Demographics Unit filed over 4000 reports in the last three years on Muslim community activities. In the same period, the Associated Press reports, the division logged the details of 200 conversations recorded in clandestine visits by police and informants.

The AP, which first reported on the Demographics Unit two in 2011, also reported today that at least one police informant paid by the NYPD to spy on Muslims said he used a strategy called, “create and capture.” The AP, which viewed texts between the informant and a police detective,

PJT-MohamedHersi-5.jpgIn Canada: A Toronto security guard on trial for allegedly attempting to join the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab said he believed it was his religious duty to do so, an undercover police officer testified.

“It’s the ultimate sacrifice you can make for your religion,” Mohamed Hassan Hersi said, according to the testimony of the officer, whose identity cannot be disclosed to due a publication ban. “Basically it’s God’s will.”

Three years after Mr. Hersi was arrested at Toronto’s Pearson Airport as he was about to board flights to London and Cairo, his trial is now underway and jurors are hearing from the undercover officer who befriended the Somali-Canadian.  The trial comes amid concern over the radicalization of Canadians — dozens of whom have joined Islamist terror groups in the Middle East and Africa. Al-Shabab was behind last year’s massacre at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that left two Canadians dead.

A 28-year-old Canadian who grew up in Toronto, Mr. Hersi came to the attention of police in September 2010 when an employee of a Toronto dry cleaning business found a USB device in a bag of clothes, according to a statement of “agreed facts” released by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The dry cleaner turned the jump drive over to Toronto police, which found it contained a copy of The Anarchist’s Cookbook, a Canadian Forces Department of National Defense Operational Manual and reports from Intercon Security, where Mr. Hersi worked. When he was arrested at the airport, Mr. Hersi was carrying his Canadian passport, US$6,000, 1,100 Euros, and what was described as a “black spy pen.” On his laptop, police found the “Anarchy Cookbook” and the “U.S. Navy SEAL sniper training syllabus.” Source National Post Globe And Mail .


Among other anti-terror programs that are getting a hard look from Commissioner William Bratton is a unit that stations NYPD officers in foreign cities such as London, Paris, Tel Aviv and Amman, Jordan. Also under review are the protocols for when and how to conduct surveillance in the hunt for terrorists.

Bratton, who has been in office for three months, was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a liberal Democrat, and given a sweeping mandate to ease tensions between the 35,000-officer department and the city’s minorities.

Over the past few years, Bratton’s predecessor Ray Kelly and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg vehemently defended what has become the nation’s largest intelligence-gathering, anti-terrorism operation outside the federal government, saying the lack of any major attack on the city since 9/11, and the lowest overall crime rate in a generation, are proof it is working.

But Bratton and his allies say the unit-by-unit review of the NYPD’s intelligence and counterterrorism operations is necessary to eliminate possible inefficiencies, better deploy resources and respond to criticism that the department has trampled on civil rights.

The review is expected to bring tighter restrictions on how the department gathers intelligence and make it less secretive.

On Tuesday, the department confirmed the dismantling of the Demographics Unit, which sent plainclothes officers to mingle with Muslims in bookstores, restaurants and mosques and listen for terrorist plots. The secret program was revealed in a series of stories by The Associated Press in 2011.

The program was the target of lawsuits and allegations that the department was violating Muslims’ civil rights and sowing mistrust in the community. A high-ranking NYPD official acknowledged in a deposition made public in 2012 that the unit’s work had never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation in the previous six years.

Under Bratton, the department concluded that the information collected by the unit could be better gathered through direct contact with community groups, officials said.

Another one of Kelly’s initiatives that could be scaled back or eliminated is a program that posted more than a dozen detectives in major cities abroad. It is intended to give the department more timely intelligence on terror plots. But critics have questioned whether the officers have access to any meaningful information.

Critics also have questioned the department’s widespread use of security cameras and have suggested the electronic eyes violate New Yorkers’ privacy.

Former NYPD officer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who has called the overseas program a waste of resources, said Bratton’s willingness to re-examine how the nation’s largest police department combats both terrorism and conventional crime will benefit the city.

Bratton, who also headed the New York force in the early 1990s, “has the ability to sit down and listen to what people have to say,” Adams said. By the end of his 12-year tenure as commissioner, he added, Kelly “had the attitude, ‘I’m not going to explain anything I do, and I’m not going to listen to anyone but me.’”

Bratton has sought to project himself as a leader who is more accessible and responsive.

“It’s a different tone,” said Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.

Kelly, now a security executive for a global commercial real estate firm, didn’t respond to requests for an interview Wednesday.

Paesh Buhan, who is from India and now lives in Brooklyn, agreed that ending the surveillance program will help restore trust in the police.

“It’s kind of weird. You can’t just randomly start monitoring a certain group of people without any reason,” he said. “I wonder: Who else are they monitoring?”

Adam Wallace, who lives in Manhattan, said he sees merits to the now-disbanded program: “If you’re not doing anything wrong, it doesn’t matter if people are watching you.”

He said that while some aspects of the surveillance could prove troubling, overall he’s with the NYPD: “I’m glad they’re looking out for us.”

Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz, Jake Pearson and Michael Sisak contributed to this report.

Edited and Updated by Geeska Afrika Regional Security Reporter.


HAN Geeska Afrika Online (1985-2014), the oldest free independent Free Press in the region, brings together top journalists from across the Horn of Africa. Including Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Djibouti, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Oromo, Amhara, Somali, Afar and Harari. Plus, we have daily translations from 150 major news organizations in the Middle East and East African regions. Contact at



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Young Muslims Choosing to Wear the Hijab Despite Rising Tide of Islamophobia

News Report,

Anna Challet,

Posted: Apr 21, 2014

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Salmon Hossein, an Afghan-American Muslim working on a joint law and public policy degree at UC Berkeley and Harvard, says that his own family hates that he has a beard. The outward sign of his Muslim faith, he says, makes his family worry about his future.

“They say, ‘How are you going to get a job? How are you going to be successful?’” He knows that they’re just looking out for him, he says. But he intends to keep his beard; it provides him with a connection to his spiritual journey.

Hossein, who spoke on a recent panel of young Bay Area Muslims in San Jose organized by New America Media in partnership with the One Nation Bay Area Project, is among a generation of young Muslims who grew up in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the rise of Islamophobia in America. Some have personal experience with hurtful speech and ignorant comments about their faith. Yet many still choose to show their faith through practices like prayer and fasting, wearing a hijab (head covering), or growing a beard.

For these young people, finding the personal meaning in these practices is part of the path toward finding their own identity within the faith.

“Your practice is what identifies you as a Muslim,” says Rasheeda Plenty, an African-American student of Islamic theology at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, the first liberal arts Muslim college in the United States. “Do this, don’t do this, fast, or hijab – you’re in this Muslim community. Everyone’s doing that, everyone expects you to do that. But [growing up], there wasn’t a conversation of the why … How is this connecting me to my creator? What is this doing for my heart?”

About a quarter million Muslims live in the Bay Area, and close to half are under the age of 35, according to the first-ever study of the Bay Area Muslim community. The study was co-authored by Dr. Farid Senzai, a political science professor at Santa Clara University, and Dr. Hatem Bazian, an ethnic studies professor at UC Berkeley and co-founder of Zaytuna College.

Hossein, who grew up in Alameda County and Southern California, was in eighth grade at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. It was his second day at a new school in Los Angeles.

He remembers that in his homeroom, his teacher asked him if he was from Afghanistan, and followed with the question, “Do you know anything about what’s going on?”

Some of his classmates went on to refer to him as “Afghanistan” throughout his time in school.

He recalls going to his family dentist a few years ago when he first grew his beard; someone in the office whom he’d known since he was a child laughed when she saw him and said, “Oh my God, you look just like the terrorists.” She said it “almost lovingly,” and Hossein says it was hard to be mad at her.

It wasn’t the only time he got that reaction. A law student classmate of his recently said, “You’re starting to look like the Taliban.”

But Hossein says these attitudes have only made him more determined to keep his beard, a physical connection to his faith and his very identity.

Sadia Saifuddin, a student at UC Berkeley, is Pakistani American and grew up in Fremont and Stockton, Calif. She is the first Muslim student to serve on the UC Board of Regents.

Like Hossein, Saifuddin remembers facing scrutiny at school at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She recalls that she chose to start wearing a hijab – a “public and external symbol of [her] faith” – just a few months before Sept. 11, 2001. After the attacks, she says, she faced a “barrage of questions” at school, though she was only in the fourth grade.

Those questions have persisted into her adulthood. But despite much of the criticism she hears about wearing a hijab, including the assumption that women who wear it must be “oppressed,” she says that wearing it has been liberating for her – and that being able to choose whether or not she wears it is what’s important.

“I get to talk to people and the first thing I worry about isn’t how good my hair looks or whether I gain a couple of inches, because a lot of that is covered up and it’s really more about what I have to say,” she says. And for many women, she says, it’s a way of feeling closer to God.

These practices can also connect some young Muslims to their larger communities in very personal ways.

RoSeanna Shavers, who is African-American and grew up in the Nation of Islam, says that when she was very young, she told her mother that she wanted to be white. “Next thing you know, I was in Muslim school,” says Shavers.

She says that going to an Islamic school helped with what she called her “color sickness,” and gave her something to hold onto, connecting her with her African-American identity. While she is now non-practicing, she says, “[Islam] is in me.”

The One Nation Bay Area Project – a collaboration between the Marin Community Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy – works to strengthen relationships between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Visit their website to learn more about the project.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the dangerous anti-Islamic logic of the war on terror

It’s been over a week since students at Brandeis compelled their university to refuse Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary degree, and the blogosphere is still roiling with grievance. Kirsten Powers laments Islam’s preferential treatment in USA Today. Mark Steyn notes the incident, as part of a eulogy to free speech in this weekend’s Spectator. Bill KristolJohn PodhoretzAndrew Sullivan and Ross Douthat have all registered their disgust at this assault on a free and open discourse. Zev Chaffets at Fox describes the incident as an “honor killing.”

For those new to this story, let me first assure you that upon withdrawing his offer of an honorary degree, Brandeis president Frederick M. Lawrence did not attempt to stone Ali to death. Rather, he invited her to come speak on campus to engage the student body “in a dialogue about these important issues.”

I’d like to further that dialogue here by interrogating what’s really at issue in the Ali controversy, but first a quick review: Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia — where, at age 5, she suffered the torture of female genital mutilation at the hands of her own family. She sought asylum in the Netherlands from the Somali civil war, despite the fact that she’d been residing in Kenya at the time, a discrepancy that would later cost her a seat in the Dutch Parliament.

She wrote the screenplay to Theo van Gogh’s 2004 film “Submission,” which juxtaposed passages from the Quran with images of an Islamic woman being abused. The film got van Gogh assassinated by a Muslim extremist, and sent Ali into hiding. She now runs a foundation with the unassailable goal of protecting women from “forms of oppression … justified by religion or culture.”

The petition that cost Ali her honorary degree acknowledges the legitimacy of her grievances with Islam, but condemns the “hate speech” through which she expresses them. The petition quotes her as saying:

Violence is inherent in Islam – it’s a destructive, nihilistic cult of death. It legitimates murder … the battle against terrorism will ultimately be lost unless we realize that it’s not just with extremist elements within Islam, but the ideology of Islam itself …

Ali told Reason magazine in 2007, “There are Muslims who are passive, who don’t all follow the rules of Islam, but there’s really only one Islam, defined as submission to the will of God. There’s nothing moderate about it.”

Curiously, not one of the pieces protesting Brandeis’ decision actually quotes Ali’s past rhetoric. Instead, they refer obliquely to her “stinging attacks on non-Western religions,” “provocative ideas” or, most opaquely, her “life and thought.” The simplest explanation for this chronic omission is that to actually engage with Ali’s rhetoric would be to expose the absurdity of the Judeo-Christian persecution complex that informs so much of the genre.

One of the most popular lines of argument in the Ali apologias is that Brandeis is guilty of applying an outrageous double standard, one that allows for the hateful criticism of Judaism, but not a fair critique of Islam. Bill Kristol complains that while the university refuses to honor Ali, they saw fit to bestow a degree on playwright Tony Kushner in 2006, despite the fact that Kushner had “called the creation of Israel as a Jewish state ‘a mistake’ and attacked Israel for ethnic cleansing.”

Andrew Sullivan echoes this complaint, writing in the Dish:

Kushner was challenging his own ethnic group just as powerfully as Hirsi Ali is challenging her own. But here is the question: why is he lionized and Hirsi Ali disinvited? Why are provocative ideas on the “right” less legitimate than provocative ideas on the left?

The irony of this argument is that by equating Kushner’s anti-Zionism with Ali’s condemnation of Islam as a “nihilistic death cult,” Kristol and Sullivan exemplify a double standard exactly opposite to the one they allege.

Whatever one’s opinion on the necessity of a Jewish state, it is a fact that a portion of the Jewish community has been opposed to state Zionism for centuries. Whatever one’s feelings on Israel, it is a fact — confirmed even in the work of Zionist historians like Benny Morris – that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced from their homes by Israeli soldiers in 1948. Thus Kushner’s statements align him with a minority position in the Jewish community, and assert a historical fact. Ali’s statements assert that no form of Islam deserves our tolerance, because inherent to the religion is a violent fascism that must be defeated. Kushner asks Jews to question the violence required to establish and maintain a majority Jewish state, in a region densely populated by Palestinians. Ali asks the U.S. government to declare war on the Muslim faith. Her “provocative” ideas aren’t less legitimate because they come from the right. They’re less legitimate because they assert that every “true” follower of Islam subscribes to an ideology of terror.

As Isaac Chotiner of the New Republic has pointed out, one need only imagine an alternate universe, in which Ali grew up a Palestinian victim of Israeli violence, then publicly decried Judaism as a nihilistic death cult, to understand that Ali’s defenders aren’t arguing for fairness, or open discourse. This is not a content-neutral debate about free speech. No one believes that a university’s coercive power in giving or withholding honorary degrees is a threat to the First Amendment.

What’s at stake in the Ali controversy is whether we should grant legitimacy to critiques of Islam that would be labeled hate speech if applied to the other Western religions. The only rationale for doing this would be if her statements, for all their off-putting ferocity, articulated an inconvenient truth. This is the argument her defenders imply, but are evidently too intimated by “liberal fascists” to forthrightly make.

The backlash the students of Brandeis have incurred for asserting that Islamaphobia is in fact bigotry, reflects precisely what makes Ali’s rhetoric so dangerous. Far from being a fringe position in our discourse, the idea that Islam is a uniquely malevolent ideology is the necessary fiction behind the war on terror.

To be clear: Fundamentalist religion is a scourge. And without question, fundamentalist Islam enjoys more political salience in many countries across the Middle East, than fundamentalist Christianity does in American politics (though the influence of the latter is considerable). What is fictitious in Ali’s rhetoric, and in the logic of our public policy, is the notion that Islam is uniquely susceptible to violent interpretation, and therefore all Muslims are inherently suspect.

If you believe Islam is forever and always more hostile to secular democracy than any other faith, look to the Bosnian war. There an insurgent Christian sect battled a Muslim-led government that favored pluralism. A 1995 CIA report estimated that 90 percent of the war’s atrocities were committed by Serbian Christians, their attempts at ethnic cleansing blessed not by imams, but by priests.

Chris Hedges, who covered the Bosnian war on the ground for the New York Times, wrote in his 2009 book “I Don’t Believe in Atheists“:

The danger is not Islam or Christianity or any other religion. It is the human heart—the capacity we all have for evil. All human institutions with a lust for power give their utopian visions divine sanction.

The idea of Islam’s inherent toxicity was used to sanctify the war on terror from its very beginning. To frame the conflict as the kind of struggle between good and evil that appeals to all audiences, we could not allow the possibility that Islamic extremists are formed in part by external factors such as poverty, the tyranny of secular autocrats, or least of all Western intervention. We needed to explain the hijackers with the idea of an innately violent Islam, for the same reason we need a “culture of poverty” to explain our urban poor: If the enemy is an abstraction, we are absolved of responsibility. So the hijackers didn’t hate that we starved Iraqi children with our sanctions, they hated our freedom. So extremists weren’t empowered because we systematically crushed nationalist movements, leaving them the best-organized opposition to puppet governments, they were empowered because the arc of Islam bends toward terrorism. Similarly, we must question the existence of moderate Muslims, because the tools of the military and the security state are ill-equipped to accommodate such nuance.

That Ali’s defenders are afraid to explicitly endorse her rhetoric reflects the impotent victory of American liberalism, which has forced bigotry to retreat into subtext, where it still informs policy. To see what I mean, look no further than the recently disbanded  “Demographics” unit of the NYPD. Launched with the help of the CIA, the unit lingered around New York City’s mosques and halal stands for the past decade, making the Muslim population of the city feel like criminals, while generating exactly zero terrorism leads.

Hedges’ book warns that in positing religion as the one true source of human atrocity, new atheists like Sam Harris “externalize evil.” And once evil is no longer understood as a tendency inside all of us, which must be stifled through scrupulous self-reflection, it becomes a quality peculiar to them, whom we must destroy by any means. This externalization of evil is what allowed Harris to defend torture as a tool for the protection of human rights, and Hitchens to defend the illegal invasion of Iraq as a way of protecting a liberal world order. It’s what allows Ali to argue for the elimination of the world’s most popular faith, in the name of women’s rights and secular tolerance.

Ali argues that because some of the Quran’s rhetoric legitimates violence, everything associated with the book is poisoned. It seems only fair then, that the students of Brandeis applied the same logic to Ali herself. Because when neoconservatives and Iraq War cheerleaders rise to defend her, they aren’t defending freedom of expression, or the prerogative to call a violent ideology what it is. They are defending the sanctity of their own jihad.

Follow Eric Levitz on Twitter @EricLevitz.

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