Ethnic American Advisory Council should reflect ethnic diversity, Reynolds says

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State Rep. Mike Reynolds is putting the focus in the recent Centennial Koran uproar where it belongs: Why did Gov. Brad Henry create a state agency devoted promoting the interests of the Muslim religion, and why does it exist under a misleading name? I refer, of course, to the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council.

Reynolds has called on Henry to modify the membership or scrap the board, according to the McCarville Report Online:

"Governor Henry, why would you have an 'Ethnic Advisory Council' that includes members from only one ethnic group?" asked Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. "The council should either be reformed to reflect its apparent mission or preferably disbanded."

Actually, I think they do have multiple ethnic groups, although not reflective of the diversity of ethnic groups in Oklahoma. There are members from Pakistan and Iran as well as Arabs of various countries of origin. What they all seem to have in common is religion. We're still waiting on Gov. Henry to identify any of the members of this group who are Christians or Jews, despite the presence of many Jews and Christians of Middle Eastern or Near Eastern origin in Oklahoma.

Reynolds is wondering, too, about the reaction from GEEAC chairman Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour to legislators who declined the Korans:

Seirafi-Pour has complained that some lawmakers were rude, he noted, when they declined the Quran: "I don't understand why she rushed to the media and acted outraged that we turned her down," Reynolds said. "What was the point of asking us if we wanted a copy? I contacted her last week and she could not provide me with any mean-spirited responses. In fact she agreed to forward all of the e-mails on Saturday, but I have yet to receive them.

"I know that I have nothing to hide," Reynolds said."Apparently, that's more than the members of the Ethnic American Advisory Council can say. Why else would they and the Governor choose a name that disguises their Muslim identify?"

In related news, Rod Dreher has a story about a group who protested Six Flags over Texas sponsoring a special Muslim day at the theme park in conjunction with the Islamic Circle of North America. A Muslim legal group is suing the protest organizer for defamation:

Khalil Meek, board president of the Muslim Legal Fund of America, said the Muslim groups support the protesters' right to voice their opinions. What they object to, he said, is their allegation that the Muslim organizations, and therefore Six Flags, support terrorism.

The groups have filed a lawsuit accusing the protest organizer, Joe Kaufman, of defamation and slander and have obtained a temporary restraining order that prohibits him from harming, threatening or inciting violence against them.

From that same story, the city council of Carrollton, a Dallas suburb, deleted from a list of board appointees the name of a man who participated in the protest. Paul Kramer was denied appointment to the Construction Advisory and Appeals Board because he was visible in a newspaper photo of the protest.

Dreher notes that lawsuits have been used in other American cities against critics of Islam, pointing to a 2006 column by the Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby. The Islamic Society of Boston sued a Muslim reformer, along with "journalists, a terrorism expert, and the founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, plus the Episcopalian lay minister and the Jewish attorney who together with [Ahmed] Mansour [the Muslim reformer] formed the interfaith Citizens for Peace and Tolerance in 2004." Doesn't exactly sound like a group of fire-breathing Islamophobes, does it? But they were sued by the Islamic Society of Boston for calling attention to their connections with terrorism advocates and other extremists, for reporting on the presence of hate-filled Arabic literature at the ISB's mosque in Cambridge, and for raising questions about the city's selling land for the society's mosque at a bargain basement price. While the lawsuit was dismissed, it served the purpose of harassing and intimidating critics of extremist Islam.

You need to read that Jacoby column. Ahmed Mansour calls himself a progressive Muslim, and he suffered for his opinions back in his native country of Egypt:

He had learned the hard way that Muslim reformers who speak out against Islamist fanaticism and religious dictatorship can indeed end up in prison -- or worse. It had happened to him in his native Egypt, which he fled in 2001 after receiving death threats. He was grateful that the United States had granted him asylum, enabling him to go on promoting his vision of a progressive Islam in which human rights and democratic values would be protected. But would he now have to fight in America the same kind of persecution he experienced in Egypt?...

He holds three degrees from Cairo's Al-Azhar, the foremost religious university in the Islamic world, where he was appointed a professor of Muslim history in 1980. He would probably be there still if his scholarship hadn't gotten in the way. The deeper Mansour delved into the history of Islam, the clearer it became to him that the faith had been perverted into a ''false doctrine of hate" -- a doctrine that has been spread across much of the Muslim world and that has fueled great cruelty and bloodshed.

His mounting opposition to Wahhabist radicalism drew the wrath of the powerful Al-Azhar sheiks, who removed him from his classroom and tried him in a religious court. For two years, he says, he was pressured to recant. In 1987 he was fired. Then the Egyptian government imprisoned him for two months.

Undeterred, Mansour continued to write and speak out against radical Islam. He has authored 24 books and more than 500 articles, many of them denouncing as heretical any Muslim creeds that ''persecute and kill peaceful humans and violate their human rights." The real infidels, he has argued, are those who share ''the traits of Osama bin Laden and his followers." Before fleeing for his life, he worked with Egypt's leading human-rights activists, promoting democratic values, funneling assistance to persecuted Christians, and advocating for the reform of religious education.

This is the Islamic Society of Boston's idea of an anti-Muslim conspirator? Then what, one wonders, is its idea of Islam?

We've been asking the same question here about the Islamic Society of Tulsa, whose leaders called Jamal Miftah anti-Muslim for expressing in a newspaper op-ed sentiments similar to those expressed by Mansour about those who persecute and kill in the name of Islam.

(You can read more about the ISB lawsuit here, here, and here.)

After dismissal of the ISB lawsuit, Jacoby wrote:

What the lawsuit was really about, it seems to me, was intimidation -- intimidation of anyone inclined to raise questions or express concerns about the Islamic Society's leaders and their connections to radical Islam. Libel suits have become a favorite tactic of Islamists, who deploy them to silence their critics. In yet another document produced during discovery, the head of the Islamic Center of New England advises Abou-allaban to "thwart" Fox 25 with a lawsuit. "If Fox is being sued for this story," he writes, "it stands to reason that they will be prevented from reporting on the story further while the case is in court."

Sad to say, such legal intimidation works. Once the lawsuit was filed, Fox 25 and the Herald essentially ended their investigative reporting into the Islamic Society's radical connections.

So while the Islamic Society's lawsuit was without merit, that doesn't mean it was without effect. Serious questions remain about the Saudi-funded mosque going up in Boston. Will journalists, public officials, and concerned citizens insist on getting answers? Or will they choose instead to look the other way, unwilling to run the risk of predatory litigation and bad-faith accusation?

Dreher points out that many states have anti-SLAPP laws, which can be used to block such predatory litigation designed to shut down public debate, and links to a Judith Miller column in City Journal explaining how such laws have been deployed in situations like the ISB lawsuit.

The common theme: The use of lawsuits and other means to shut down criticism or scrutiny of the activities and associations of Wahhabist Islamic organizations in America.

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2 Comments

Nick said:

Michael thank you for your work on this issue. What an amazing thing it would be if our local paper were as diligent as you in their pursuit of a story. It really shows how simply underserved we are as a community with a paper like the World.

Pamela said:

Mike Reynolds was interviewed on KFAQ this morning. They revealed who a few of these people are and what groups they contributed to during elections. One of them was of course our governor. One or two of them own a home building business in OKC. I guess they will sue OK about HB 1804 at some point.

I agree. I love blogs because we are getting more accurate information than we are in our local paper. The Whirled is a waste of time and paper.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 30, 2007 12:36 AM.

Diana West on the Islamicizing of Oklahoma was the previous entry in this blog.

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