Today, Rep. Peter King is holding yet another round of his infamous hearings on “Muslim radicalization,” this time on the American Muslim response to his earlier hearings.
The problem, as usual, is that the central premise of King’s hearings remains untrue: Muslim Americans are neither particularly radicalized, nor are they uncooperative with law enforcement. Expert witnesses have even made a point of telling King this at the hearings themselves.
Faced with this problem, King has taken to ignoring the experts in favor of witnesses who will tell him what he already wants to hear, and this most recent round is no different. Testifying today are three people whose primary qualifications appear to be their willingness to confirm King’s conspiracy theories and falsely implicate their fellow Muslim Americans as contributing to radicalism.
Here’s a quick background on the three witnesses:
Jasser, who testified at a previous round of King’s hearings, is a physician and former Navy medical officer who has become the go-to spokesman of anti-Muslim extremists looking for Muslim allies to baptize their views. Media Matters has compiled information on Jasser here, and he was prominently featured in the Center for American Progress’s Fear Inc. report as one of the Muslim “validators” for Islamaphobic activists.
Jasser most recently came under scrutiny for serving as the narrator for the documentary The Third Jihad, an anti-Islamic movie produced by the right-wing Clarion Fund (whose board Jasser also sits on). The film prompted a major scandal earlier this year after NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly admitted to voluntarily appearing in it and showing it in training sessions for officers.
Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal writer most notable for her support of the misleading and dangerous tactic of profiling people who appear to be Muslims at airports, her defense of NYPD’s illegal spying and religious profiling program, and, of course, her support for King’s original hearings.
Writing in The Guardian today, Nomani previews her testimony at today’s hearing, reiterating these extreme views and attacking critics of the hearings.
A British doctor who grew up in London, Ahmed wrote mostly about international issues and her experience practicing medicine in Saudi Arabia before penning two op-eds in support of King’s initial hearings and another one the following year defending NYPD.
Ahmed’s invitation to speak appears to be the result of a chance meeting with King at her hospital. She also seems to have connected with the Clarion Fund, which published an interview with her earlier this month in which she attacks Muslim-American organizations despite admitting she has no contact with them.
The minority witness is an actual expert on human rights and the legal issues related to counterterrorism, serving as Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center. She has specifically written about King’s previous hearings and the deficiencies of his and his witnesses arguments.
Photo source: Alex Wong/Getty Images North America
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New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has come under recent scrutiny for supporting the New York Police Department’s massive surveillance operation on Muslim communities and individuals, a broad, unethical intelligence-gathering program that has come to light over the last few months. As a series of investigative pieces by the Associated Press revealed, the NYPD has been targeting Shiite Muslims not because of any previous crimes or wrongdoing, but simply based on their religion. Despite this, Bloomberg continues to deny any practice of religious profiling.
This week, more than two dozen religious groups condemned Bloomberg for continually defending NYPD’s Muslim surveillance. In a letter delivered to Bloomberg’s office, religious leaders (including FPL’s own executive director, Jennifer Butler) called on the mayor to put an end to religious discrimination and profiling.
“As religious leaders, we are concerned that constitutionally-protected activities, like religious practice and assembly, have been cited as possible reasons to suspect criminal activity. Additionally, we bear a sacred responsibility to honor America’s varied faith traditions and to promote a culture of mutual respect and the assurance of religious freedom for all…We urge you to conduct an urgent and thorough investigation into the practices of the NYPD to ensure that the agency’s trainings and practices support the constitutionally-protected right to worship without scrutiny for every religious community.”
The letter goes on to ask Bloomberg to eliminate false and offensive NYPD training materials, such as the extremely Islamophobic film that NYPD showed its recruits last year.
It’s encouraging to see diverse religious leaders rallying to support the Muslim community and reminding our elected officials that eroding trust between the Muslim community and law enforcement only makes us less safe. Hopefully, Bloomberg will reaffirm his previous commitments to religious pluralism and denounce NYPD’s harmful profiling program.
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In contrast to New York, where Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are defending their police department’s religious-profiling and spying scandal uncovered by the Associated Press, the police chiefs in America’s next two largest cities are charting a different course.
This week, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy Chicago made his department’s policy clear during the annual banquet of the Council on American Islamic Relations-Chicago:
He said police would follow leads in criminal cases, but the department “does not and will not conduct blanket surveillance and profiling of any community in the city of Chicago.”
“We are deeply committed to respecting the civil rights of all Chicagoans,” McCarthy said.
And last month, Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing explained the importance of community outreach while drawing a contrast with New York:
“When the going gets tough, we come to the table and have these difficult conversations about issues,” he said. “That’s what makes us good partners. On the other hand, NYPD is presenting a model of, they are buried in their departments and they do not engage communities.
“It doesn’t help fight crime,” he said. “Nobody wants to cooperate with a police department like that.”
Photo: Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy
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Despite the hawkish rhetoric that has dominated Washington the past few days, Pope Benedict and the American bishops have drawn a clear line in the sand against any preemptive war in the Middle East.
In a strongly-worded letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Bishop Richard Pate of Des Moines–the Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace–articulated the Church’s displeasure regarding possible military action:
“Iran’s bellicose statements, its failure to be transparent about its nuclear program and its possible acquisition of nuclear weapons are serious matters, but in themselves they do not justify military action. Discussing or promoting military options at this time is unwise and may be counterproductive. Actual or threatened military strikes are likely to strengthen the regime in power in Iran and would further marginalize those in Iran who want to abide by international norms. And, as the experience in Iraq teaches, the use of force can have many unintended consequences.”
This language matches the record of Pope Benedict XVI who throughout his pontificate has implored world leaders to avoid unnecessary conflict in Iran, most notably in separate meetings with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2006.
It is notable that Benedict’s predecessor, Blessed John Paul II also spoke out often against unnecessary military strikes, including the war in Iraq, a prophetic message that was sadly unheeded by American politicians.,
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After Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room helped expose the FBI’s extensive use of inaccurate and offensive training materials, the Bureau invited experts from the Army’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point to review all of their resources and help remedy the problem.
The review hasn’t concluded yet, but so far the investigation has uncovered over 700 pages of documents and over 300 presentations characterized by one of four criteria: “factual errors”; “poor taste”; using “stereotypes”; or containing information that “lacked precision.”
The update about the review came at a meeting between FBI director Robert Mueller and a host of Arab and Muslim advocacy groups and religious leaders.
While it’s troubling to hear about just how deep the problem with FBI training material ran, it’s encouraging to see such commitment to fixing it. The FBI’s actions set an example for law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies around the country who are similarly the targets of unscrupulous, anti-Muslim “experts” who sell misleading training resources.
Recent developments in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s attempts to move into a larger space have been met by fierce opposition, including an arson attack, illustrate the importance of the FBI’s change of course.
The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, which is responsible for investigating that very arson, is bringing in one of these anti-Muslim “experts” to train its officers in Muslim culture and terrorism. According to the Tennessean, the department is having Juan Guandolo, an activist who believes mosques are front groups for the Mulsim Brotherhood, give the training at World Outreach Church, a church whose pastor has publicly opposed the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s mosque.
I think these kinds of incidents are often the result of well-meaning local authorities not knowing any better. Drawing attention to the fact that these “trainers” have been rejected by major institutions like the FBI is an important step towards fixing the problem at all levels.
(H/T Islamophobia Watch, Think Progress)
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