On Friday afternoon the White House announced the new members of the White House Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Advisory Council. Much like the initial council convened two years ago, the new group of advisors draws on prominent leaders of religious denominations, nonprofit organizations and congregations who have remarkable records of leadership and service:
- Susan K. Stern, Special Advisor on Government Affairs to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
- Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals
- Andrea BazÃ¡n, President of Triangle Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to building a prosperous and culturally rich region across North Carolina
- Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Policy Link, a nonprofit organization that strives to advance economic and social equity
- Brian Gallagher, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of United Way Worldwide
- Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
- Lynn Hybels, co-founder and Advocate for Global Engagement at Willow Creek Community Church
- The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church
- Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative and Masorti Rabbis
- Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of America
- Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)
- Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson, Moderator (Global Leader) for the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches
Additional members will be announced in near future. Full biographies of the new Advisory Council members are available here.
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Last week we tracked down Rep. King’s false claim that 80% of mosques are controlled by “radicals,” exposing it as having originated without evidence from a single, obscure scholar in a 1999 speech.
But our friends at Media Matters, doing what they do best, have released a comprehensive timeline of the appearance and evolution of this “zombie lie” over the last 10 years.
The report is both an impressive display of research and a telling insight into the “echo-chamber” of right-wing media. Having been introduced into the chamber, a falsehood like this finds its way to a broader audience of people inclined to believe and retell it, with each subsequent use only enhancing its perceived credibility.
This is particularly true of statements that speak to people’s deepest anxieties (like terrorism), confirming their existing biases and providing easy support for preferred political positions. Another prominent example is the infamous “death panel” myth that’s proven difficult to dispel since its humble appearance in a Sarah Palin tweet two years ago.
So it’s essential to firmly and consistently correct these statements whenever they appear. Big thanks to Media Matters for doing just that.
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Yesterday, a coalition of over 50 faith groups and human rights organizations released a letter to Congressional Rep. Peter King asking him to broaden the scope of his hearings on Muslim “radicalization” to include extremist threats from all backgrounds. (Read the full letter here).
King has stated he’s focusing on Muslims because “that’s where the radicalizing threat is coming from.” As we showed earlier this week though, it’s actually non-Muslims who have been involved in the most incidents of violent extremism in the past ten years.
In response to the letter, King put out a statement justifying the hearings with a different argument: that homegrown terrorists are the fastest-growing threat to the United States.
But a new report from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (a consortium of Duke University, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and researchers RTI International) shows that this claim is false as well.
Rather than increasing, the number of Muslims accused of terror attacks actually fell significantly in the last year, going from 47 in 2009 to just 20 in 2010. AP religion writer Rachel Zoll interviewed one of the authors of the report to put this number into context:
Charles Kurzman, a sociologist who wrote the study that was released Wednesday, said that given the widespread terrorist recruitment on the Internet and elsewhere, he considered the number of domestic terror cases relatively small. More than 2 million Muslims live in the U.S.
“Terrorism is a significant problem and Muslim-Americans are more susceptible to terrorist recruitment than other Americans. Fortunately, their level of recruitment is extremely low,” said Kurzman, who teaches at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Ultimately, the report reinforces the argument we highlighted earlier that there is no blueprint for a terrorist:
“There is no single profile or a common warning sign that signifies a “homegrown terrorist.” The diversity of the demographics, ethnicities, and life experiences makes the problem of detecting the homegrown terrorist an extremely difficult one for law enforcement.” (Page 14)
Actions like Rep. King’s hearings that single out any one group only distract us from this important challenge and ultimately make us less safe.
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Media Matters pointed out today that the anti-abortion group Live Action has released a heavily edited videotape in which a Planned Parenthood clinic worker is depicted providing aid to people engaged in sex trafficking of young immigrant women (the full video is available here, but I couldn’t get it to load). In the edited version, Live Action operatives pose as a pimp and a prostitute inquiring about obtaining medical checkups and abortions for young women they are trafficking.
The video is extremely disturbing, but it omits a very important fact: Planned Parenthood reported this alleged sex-trafficking activity to the FBI last week — and alerted the media — after Live Action operatives tried to pull off this same stunt at a dozen Planned Parenthood-affiliated facilities across the country.
Kyle at Right Wing Watch points out that religious right leaders have pounced on this video while failing to acknowledge that Planned Parenthood alerted federal investigators about the scheme. A few excerpts:
“Planned Parenthood has again proven that they are nothing more than a money-grabbing and highly corrupt abortion organization that will conceal a crime as disgusting as child prostitution — and ensure that it quietly continues.” [emphasis added]
Wendy Wright – CEO, Concerned Women for America
“Sex traffickers will take their victims to abortionists to end pregnancies or test for sexually transmitted diseases in order to keep their victims usable for sale. Planned Parenthood has apparently realized this, and that they could make not only one sale, but repeat sales. Medical professionals are on the front lines to detect a sex trafficking victim and are duty-bound to rescue the victims. Imagine the crushing despair of a trafficking victim, taken outside the shadows to a ‘respectable’ government-funded health care provider, only to learn that they are partnering with the trafficker to assist his illegal abuse. This latest tape confirms that Planned Parenthood continues to partner with abusing men against the women and girls they claim to serve.” [emphasis added]
Planned Parenthood is investigating the conduct of the employee in the video, so clearly there’s concern about her actions as they’re depicted on the edited tape. However, the bigger picture bears repeating: It is a matter of public record that Planned Parenthood reported the trafficking to the FBI over a week ago. There was even an AP story about it. I would wager a fair amount of money that FRC and CWA closely monitor media coverage of Planned Parenthood. It’s highly, unlikely that they did not see this story. But once again, we see that the facts don’t always get in the way of a good sound bite.
UPDATE: Planned Parenthood has fired the employee depicted in the video.
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Last week I broke down one of Rep. King’s favorite pieces of evidence for why his hearings on “Muslim radicalization” are necessary, showing how his claim that 80% of mosques are controlled by radicals isn’t backed up by evidence.
But made-up numbers about mosques aren’t the only statistics Rep. King and anti-Islam activists employ. They have also taken to selectively citing poll results to cast the Muslim community as uniquely affected by extremism. King’s op-ed in Newsday last month used a Pew forum poll showing 15% of Muslim-Americans between 18 and 29 (though only 8% of all Muslim-Americans) thought suicide bombing could be justified sometimes or often.
We addressed this claim before when Glenn Beck used these surveys to exaggerate the number of Muslim terrorists. But while an overwhelming majority of those 8% will never actually commit a terrorist act, any support for violence as a political solution is too much.
No one is more concerned about this problem than Muslims themselves, who have watched extremists distort and abuse the tenets of their faith, unfairly casting suspicion on the entire community. Their unequivocal condemnations of terror and strong efforts to root out radicalism are too often ignored in our current political debate.
But more importantly, looking exclusively at examples of Muslim support for violence dangerously distracts us from the reality that extremism comes in all forms. In fact, a recent CBS poll found that 16% of all Americans believe that taking violent action against the government is sometimes justified.
Furthermore, a recent study by the Muslim Public Affairs Council–using data from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the conservative Heritage Foundation–compared the incidents of violent extremism amongst Muslims and non-Muslims since 2001. The report’s findings are telling:
While MPAC’s Database recorded at least 43…incidents/plots by Muslim violent extremists, it also recorded 75 incidents/plots by non-Muslim violent extremists.
The reality is that there is no blueprint for a terrorist. They come from all socio-economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Singling out Muslim-Americans–as Rep. King’s hearings intend to do–not only foments fear and distrust when we need unity and courage, it distracts us from the real threats we face from all forms of extremism and thus makes us less safe.
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