Jamal Miftah Category
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has declined to issue the executive order necessary to reauthorize the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council, according to a story in the Oklahoman.
Fallin had 90 days after she took office in January to decide whether to extend the life of the councils, which were formed by executive orders issued by two earlier governors; Democrat Brad Henry formed the ethnic-American council and Republican Frank Keating formed councils dealing with Hispanic and Asian-American affairs.
Fallin deserves credit for taking the right step, given the predictable backlash from CAIR and their allies. The misleadingly named group, supported with state funds, was not about all ethnic groups or even all Middle Eastern cultures. Middle Eastern Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Baha'i were not given a seat at the table.
GEEAC would have been more accurately called the Governor's Islamic PR Council. In May 2007, the chairman of GEEAC sought an on-air opportunity to respond to the public TV series America at a Crossroads:
The Governor's Ethnic-American Advisory Council requested a chance to set the record straight after previewing the series before it ran on the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority from April 15 through 20.
"We thought there were a couple of segments that did not put Islam in a positive light," said Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, the council's chairman.
Later in 2007, GEEAC (an agency of the State of Oklahoma, remember) offered a special centennial edition of the Koran to legislators; legislators who politely refused were publicly excoriated. An story on the Koran controversy by Brian Ervin included quotes from GEEAC chairman that confirmed the group's purpose -- advocating for Islam in Oklahoma.
"The name wasn't of my choosing, but we were happy with it. You'd have to ask the Governor why we're called that," she said.
She offered her best guess, though.
"The thing is, Islam is not limited to the Middle East--there are Muslims of West African descent and other nationalities from around the world," said Seirafi-Pour.
"If it had been called the 'Middle Eastern American Advisory Council,' it would have limited membership to Muslims of Middle Eastern descent," she added.
Seirafi-Pour was as clear on the purpose of GEEAC as Governor Henry was deliberately obtuse.
Thanks to Gov. Fallin for disbanding this inappropriate and deceptive use of taxpayer dollars and government imprimatur. Thanks to blogs like zTruth and columnists like Diana West for helping to shine a light and keep the pressure on. Thanks to legislators like State Rep. Mike Reynolds and former State Rep. Rex Duncan helping to shine the light on GEEAC's activities. And thanks to all the BatesLine readers who took action, turning reports on these pages into a positive result at the State Capitol.
An e-mail from a friend called my attention to this widely-circulated 2006 essay by Canadian blogger Paul E. Marek: "Why the Peaceful Majority Is Irrelevant." The title refers to the supposition that most Muslims are peace-loving, in contrast to the radicals who call for jihad against the West. Marek counters the idea by citing numerous examples from history where a peace-loving majority in a nation failed to stop a violent and radical minority from imprisoning and murdering millions.
The essay opens with Marek recalling a conversation with a German of noble birth:
"Very few people were true Nazis" he said, "but, many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories."...
We are told again and again by "experts" and "talking heads" that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unquantified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam. The fact is, that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history....
History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points. Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by the fanatics. Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awake one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun. Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Bosnians, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others, have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late. As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life.
I encourage you to read Marek's entire essay. Regular BatesLine readers will recall what happened in Tulsa to a peace-loving Muslim named Jamal Miftah after he published an op-ed column denouncing terrorism in the name of Islam.
In 2009, Marek wrote a second essay, expanding on the theme: Why the Peaceful Majority Might Be Dangerous. He tells the story of two Canadian Muslim young women who, though raised in the west, opted for the strictures of sharia:
Both Hardi and Mubarka present us with a perplexing conundrum because they are members of what has become known as the "peaceful" Muslim majority. They don't have a violent bone in their bodies, and are clearly law abiding and productive members of Canadian society. But, they are also both part of a very small minority within Canada where they and their fellow Muslims have very little effect on Canadian politics or on the evolution of Canadian cultural norms. What if though, Hardi and Mubarka were part of a Muslim majority where they and their co-religionists held the power?
Both women are Muslims first and Canadians second. No matter how much respect one may have for either woman's character, there is little doubt where either would place her loyalty if faced with choosing between the Canadian traditions of liberty for all, or Sharia. There is also little doubt that if they were part of a majority, they would acquiesce to the demands of the Muslim clerical class and choose Sharia for all Canadians.
It is therefore irrelevant in the grand scheme of things whether or not Hardi or Mubarka are "good" people; most people on the planet are, no matter their religion, race, or culture. What matters in the greater sense, is that as parts of the Muslim collective, neither woman would set aside her Muslim beliefs in order to safeguard and protect the full rights of non-Muslims to live as they choose. What's even more disturbing, is that both women have experienced the gender freedoms afforded them in Canada, yet both have voluntarily resigned themselves to the greater Muslim collective.
As long as each woman is part of a small minority within Canada, she offers Canada much; but once she becomes part of a significant minority, or heaven forbid, a majority, she becomes dangerous. Why? Because Muslims wherever they form a majority choose Islamic norms over the broader more tolerant standards of the West. If given a chance, as has been clearly demonstrated the world over, they would unravel hundreds of years of hard fought human rights gains and replace them with the medieval practices of their faith. As such, both Hardi and Mubarka are simply bit players in a monstrous and destructive Muslim vortex that would drag civilization backwards hundreds of years.
About 160 people protested in Tulsa on Friday afternoon over the fighting between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.
Muslim Iman Arthur Farahkhan said the nonviolent protest was by "people of conscience" who want to help "stop the violence and cease all fire."
"I couldn't have a good weekend knowing people in the conflict won't have one," Farahkhan said during the protest at the intersection of 71st Street and Memorial Drive.
He said he wants the United States to intervene in the ongoing clash.
"We're here to say, 'Please, President (George W.) Bush, stop the massacre,'?" Farahkhan said.
Israel unleashed its bombs Dec 27 in a bid to halt weeks of intensifying Palestinian rocket fire directed at Israel from the Gaza Strip....
(I think "Iman" should read "Imam" for that is Mr. Farahkhan's title.)
So that's one week of counterattack by Israel following "weeks of intensifying Palestinian rocket fire" -- rockets fired from within Israel's own sovereign territory, territory that it granted to allow Palestinian self government and that has now fallen under the control of a terrorist group whose goal is the destruction of Israel. Hamas has been launching rockets at civilian targets. (Hamas has also long been involved in suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians -- for example, the March 2003 bomb attack on a city bus in Haifa which killed Abigail Litle.)
Israel has responded by taking out Hamas' headquarters building and other facilities used by Hamas as part of its military infrastructure -- targeted attacks aimed at destroying Hamas' capability to attack Israeli citizens.
I find it ironic to read at the end of the story that, "Palestinian protester Houssam Soueissi said, 'We're here to stop the killing of women, children and civilians.'" That's exactly what the Israeli Air Force is trying to do: Protect women, children, and civilians by eliminating an evil organization that has been attacking women, children, and civilians for decades. If Soueissi and the others were serious about their desire to end violence in the Holy Land, they'd be holding up signs saying, "Go IAF! Death to Hamas!"
Does that protester's name ring a bell? Houssam Elsoueissi was one of several men who Jamal Miftah says angrily confronted him in November 2006 after services at the Islamic Society of Tulsa's mosque. Here's Miftah's story as it appeared in my December 13, 2006 column in Urban Tulsa Weekly:
On Nov. 18, Miftah was attending prayers at the mosque. After prayers, Miftah says he was chatting with friends when he was confronted by the imam (prayer leader) of the mosque, Ahmad Kabbani.
Kabbani told Miftah that he should be ashamed of himself for writing the article, saying bad things about Muslims in front of non-Muslims. After Kabbani called Miftah "anti-Islamic," Miftah walked away from the confrontation into the corridor.
There Miftah says he was confronted by the president of the mosque's operating council, Houssam Elsoueissi (also known as Abu Waleed). In a loud voice, Elsoueissi called Miftah "anti-Muslim" and a "traitor" for writing against Muslim organizations.
Miftah defended the accuracy of his article. During the confrontation, 10 to 15 Arab men gathered around in a threatening way, some of them waving shoes and cursing him. A friend of Miftah's stepped in and rescued him from the confrontation.
Miftah says there are witnesses and security cameras that will corroborate his version of events.
In our conversation last week, Miftah explained that there is an implied threat in the label "anti-Muslim." In some parts of the Muslim world, apostates, those who abandon Islam, are deemed worthy to be put to death....
The next day at the mosque, Elsoueissi told one of Miftah's friends that he had obtained a restraining order prohibiting Miftah from returning to the mosque unless he were to apologize in front of Friday congregation.
Miftah says he was told that on Nov. 20, after the final prayer service of the day, Elsouessi discussed Miftah's article, which he said contained "anti-Islamic things."
Elsouessi announced to the assembled faithful that there was a restraining order against Miftah and anyone who saw him in the mosque should call the police.
Elsoueissi is a defendant in Miftah's lawsuit against IST and several other leaders and members of the mosque, for assault and battery, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, relating this incident. (A scheduling conference in the case is set for January 26.)
So there appears to be some consistency here between a willingness to show solidarity with Hamas terrorists and to condemn Israel's efforts to defeat the terrorists, while publicly condemning (allegedly, I have to add) a Muslim who condemns terrorism in the name of Islam.
It happened on September 5, but only recently did it make the news.
Last Thursday, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Sheldon Robinson was honored by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority as Trooper of the Month for his quick thinking and action in subduing a man in who had come into the Burger King at 41st and Memorial in Tulsa with the apparent intent of shooting the place up.
On Sept. 5, Robinson dropped his wife and two children off at the Burger King restaurant at 41st Street and Memorial Drive and was pulling into an auto dealership across the street for an oil change when his cell phone rang.
"My spouse told me there was a man inside with a gun, saying he was going to kill everybody," said Robinson, an 11-year veteran of the highway patrol who is assigned to the Creek and Muskogee turnpikes.
Robinson turned around in time to see people fleeing the building, including his wife, who grabbed the couple's two children and hid in a nearby trash container area, closing the doors behind her.
Robinson went in, saw the man with a .40 caliber Glock and a box of ammo beside him, and blindsided him while the man's hand was off his gun, wrestling him to the ground to try to cuff him.
Pay close attention to this next sentence (emphasis added):
"It was one of those deals of being in the right place at the right time," Robinson said. "I believe he would have loaded up that gun and gone to town because he was praying for Allah to help him carry out his mission."
The man with the Glock was Jerome Norvell Denson, described in the jail population report as a 24-year-old black male, 5'11", 230 lbs. Court records give an address in the Normandy Apartments, a Section 8 complex just west of Sheridan on 36th St. He was booked into jail by Tulsa Police on Nov. 24 at 5:25 pm. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 24. He has been charged with planning, attempting, or conspiring to perform act of violence, and possession of a firearm while in the commission of a felony.
Given Trooper Robinson's report that Denson invoked Allah, it's worth mentioning for the benefit of non-Tulsans that Denson's place of residence is a little over a mile north from the Islamic Society of Tulsa mosque. The Burger King where the incident occurred is a half-mile south and a mile east of Denson's address.
So what happened between the incident on Sept. 5 and when he was booked into jail on Nov. 24? Court records show that he was originally charged with the two felony counts on Sept. 11.
There's an interesting note in the docket report for Oct. 6:
CARLOS CHAPPELLE: DEFENDANT PRESENT IN CUSTODY REPRESENTED BY CLAY IJAMS. STATE REPRESENTED BY KIM HALL .CASE CALLED FOR INTIAL APPEARANCE. STATE DECLINES DEFENDANT BASED ON CHARGES AND PAST HISTORY/DANGER TO COMMUNITY. DEFENDANT OBJECTS TO STATE'S DENIAL INTO PROGRAM. DEFENDANT DECLINED ; DEFENDANT SET FOR PRELIM 10/22/08 AT 9:00 AM ROOM 344. BOND TO REMAIN. DEFENDANT REMANDED TO CUSTODY .
I'm wondering what is meant here by "state declines" and "program."
The original charges were dismissed at the state's request on Oct. 29, and then he was charged again on November 7 and back in custody on the 24th. Here's the OCIS docket report on the new charges.
The only other time Jerome Denson shows up in court records is for failure to pay an ambulance bill four years ago. He doesn't turn up on Google, except in reference to this incident.
The incident didn't make the news when it happened in September. TPD public affairs office sends a daily e-mail update to the press with information on significant occurrences in the previous 24 hours. I don't seem to have received a Sept. 6th report, but there were numerous e-mails on Sept. 5, all pertaining to Neal Richard Sweeney, who had been shot the day before and had died that morning. That probably explains why TPD didn't mention Denson's arrest in their news releases: An actual murder trumps a prevented murder, although the situation at the Burger King was certainly dramatic enough.
We'll keep an eye on this case. I'd welcome any information you may have on Jerome Norvell Denson or this case.
(Via Jihad Watch.)
UPDATE: On June 15, 2009, Denson pled nolo contendere on two counts, PLAN/ATTEMPT/CONSPIRE TO PERFORM ACT OF VIOLENCE and POSSESSION OF A FIREARM WHILE IN THE COMMISSION OF A FELONY. He was sentenced by Judge Clancy Smith to five years in prison with credit for time served.
My oldest son and I attended Tuesday night's speech by Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, sponsored by sixthirtyone, TU's conservative student association and newspaper. The speech was well attended. There were no protesters. Four Tulsa police officers were there to keep an eye on things.
Pipes's speech, "Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy and Helping the Moderate Muslim Ally," was a clear and concise identification of the enemy in the global war on terror. The enemy isn't terrorism -- terrorism is a tactic. The enemy isn't Islam -- to say so is ahistorical, turns friends into enemies, and leaves the US with no policy options. Pipes pointed out that the current threat is only a few decades old.
The enemy is a terroristic, extreme, totalitarian form of Islam: Islamism, which like Fascism and Communism before it, sees America as an obstacle to its goal of worldwide hegemony.
Following the speech, Pipes took questions from the audience.
After the speech my son and I spoke to several of the other attendees, including some professors from ORU, and then joined several of the students from sixthirtyone at Kilkenny's. It was a pleasure to get to know these bright and energetic young conservatives. I've asked them to keep me informed about their activities and future dates in their lecture series.
Middle East expert Daniel Pipes is speaking tonight at 7 p.m. at the University of Tulsa's Alan Chapman Activities Center (ACAC). The title of his speech is "Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy and Helping the Moderate Muslim Ally."
(Naturally, the TU Muslim Students Association sought and was granted permission to protest this speech.)
From Pipes's biography:
Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University....
He received his A.B. (1971) and Ph.D. (1978) from Harvard University, both in history, and spent six years studying abroad, including three years in Egypt. Mr. Pipes speaks French, and reads Arabic and German. He has taught at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, the U.S. Naval War College, and Pepperdine University. He served in various capacities in the U.S. government, including two presidentially-appointed positions, vice chairman of the Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships and board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace. He was director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in 1986-93....
Pipes is the author of 12 books including Militant Islam Reaches America (2002), The Rushdie Affair (Birch Lane, 1990), In the Path of God (Basic Books, 1983), and Slave Soldiers and Islam (Yale University Press, 1981).
I received this notice from the parent of a TU student who was concerned that the number of protesters would outnumber the attendees.
This is an opportunity to gain insight into Islamism from a world-renowned scholar and at the same time provide some support and encouragement to the TU conservative student group that is sponsoring Pipes's appearance.
As See-Dubya says, "Whom to root against?"
The worst reactionary impulses of the seventh century, or the engines of postmodern degradation? A pox on both their houses.
That's in reference to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint filed by the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) on behalf of an 18-year-old Tulsa woman who was refused employment in the Abercrombie Kids store at Woodland Hills Mall because she, a Muslim, wears a hijab. The girl alleges that the store manager told her that the headscarf doesn't fit Abercrombie's image.
This ought to be laughed out of court. Of course a company ought to have the freedom to hire whom it pleases and to consider its public image in whom it hires to deal directly with the public. Freedom of association is a fundamental First Amendment right which is meaningless without the freedom not to associate.
Anyway, this is not about religion, it's about clothing and appearance. The hijab is not mandated by religion; it is mandated by culture, and its use and appearance varies from one Islamic country to another. The zTruth blog pointed out, regarding a CAIR hiring complaint against McDonald's in Dearborn, Michigastan:
Muslims insist this is a obligatory dress code, which I contend is not. I've only read in the Quran that women should dress modestly and cover their breasts. Nowhere have I read in the Quran that hair and/or the face is to be covered up but, perhaps, I missed it.
See-Dubya notes the strangeness of the situation:
This plaintiff is fighting to preserve her modesty while going to work for a company that's injected more soft porn into our cultural bloodstream than Cinemax?
I have to wonder if the choice of Abercrombie and Fitch was deliberate on CAIR-OK's part: Send a young Muslim woman in a hijab to apply for a job at a company that has been the subject of protests from conservative Christians for its skanky catalogs and advertising. Perhaps CAIR thought that they could build an alliance with conservative Christians by making A&F their target.
I won't defend A&F's "image," but that isn't what's under attack. It's the right any organization -- whether a Christian bookstore or a vintage clothing consignment shop or a church or a school -- should have to set dress standards in line with the organization's purpose.
Noting the Jamal Miftah case, See--Dubya says, "This is radical Islam asserting itself yet again in the heartland." Left-wing politicians in Oklahoma aren't offering any resistance. Gov. Brad Henry set up a special state commission to promote Muslim concerns, but disguised its purpose with the name "Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council." The zTruth blog reported last November that State Sen. Andrew Rice, the Democratic nominee for U. S. Senate, was the main speaker at CAIR-OK's fundraising banquet in Tulsa, praising CAIR's work, despite the organization's connections with radical groups Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
On the other side of the aisle, Republicans are keeping a close eye on the activities of groups connected with radical Islamist groups. On July 30, Sen. Tom Coburn joined Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl in writing Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to object to Federal funding of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA):
Earlier this year, it came to our attention that at least two State Department grantees were funding Muslim outreach programs operated by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an unindicted coconspirator in a recent terror financing trial, and a leader of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS). The Muslim Brotherhood, whose radical and violent agenda has been extensively documented, is an Islamist organization opposed to Western liberal democracy and considers both entities part of its U.S. network....
Despite the Muslim Brotherhood link to these entities, in December 2007, a grant of nearly $500,000 was awarded by the U.S. State Department to the University of Delaware which employs a leader of the AMSS, Muqtedar Khan, to manage the grant. The grant is meant to foster dialogue between the U.S. and clerics in Muslim countries.
In 2006 and 2007, the National Peace Foundation received State Department grants of $466,000 and $499,999 to conduct similar programs in partnership with ISNA.
Staff from the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Governmental lnformation, Federal Services, and International Security met with State Department officials from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs which manages these grants. When explaining the vetting procedures used for these grantees, your staff admitted that they do not vet the grantees used to implement these Muslim outreach programs. Instead, they rely on the grantees to vet themselves. Accordingly, the Slate Department is funding organizations without having a proper understanding of their membership, affiliation or whether they may be pursuing an agenda that is at odds with
U.S. policy -- to wage a war of ideas against the extremist ideology that inspires terrorism around the world, including here in the United States.
Even more troubling, the decision to award the grant managed by Mr. Khan of AMSS was based on a recommendation letter from the International Institute of Islamic Thought (lIIT), another unindicted coconspirator in the terror financing trial referenced above. Like ISNA and AMSS, the Muslim Brotherhood considers lIIT part of its U.S. network through which it wages a "civilization-jihadist process" to destroy Western civilization....
When Senator Coburn first learned that the State Department was funding Islamist entities, he requested a meeting with Goli Ameri who, at the time, was the nominee to become the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and would manage the bureau that issues these grants. During the discussion of her nomination, Ms. Ameri promised Senator Coburn that the State Department would stop funding these entities once she was confirmed.
Unfortunately, sometime after Ms. Ameri was confirmed, ISNA announced new sub-grant funding from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to carry out a new Muslim outreach program. An ISNA press release stated that these federal funds paid for a U.S. delegation to meet with Dr. Ali Goma, the Mufti of Egypt. In 2003, Ali Goma was
quoted in Egypt's "AI-haqiqa" newspaper defending terrorist acts in Israel....
We are sure that you would agree that Americans should not have to fund their enemies in the form of misguided "outreach" efforts. To that end, please provide a response to the following questions by August 9, 2008:
(I) By what date will all funding to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations (including organizations identified in the attached Muslim Brotherhood memorandum) through grants, cooperative agreements. fellowships, contracts or any other funding vehicle, be curtailed?
(2) By what date will you establish Department-wide, standardized procedures to prevent funding from being provided to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations (including organizations identified in the attached Muslim Brotherhood memorandum)?
That memo was linked from the home page of Steven Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism. Emerson testified recently to the House Terrorism Subcommittee about the State Department's misdirected outreach funding. Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs calls it the "State Department of Islam": "Frightening in its failure .............. deadly in its implications. The damn thing must be scrapped. Top to bottom, starting with Condhimmi."
ISNA is the owner of Tulsa's al-Salaam Mosque and is one of the defendants in Jamal Miftah's lawsuit against those who assaulted and defamed him as anti-Muslim for speaking out against terrorism in the name of Islam.
Rick Moore calls the lawsuit "one of those 'Iran-Iraq War' kinds of disputes in which you wish both sides could lose, but only after a long, bloody and costly serious of battles."
Sharp Right Turn notes this story and news of Tyson Foods' decision to cancel Labor Day as a paid holiday at its Shelbyville, Tenn., plant in favor of Eid al-Fitr.
Tod Robberson at the Dallas Morning News opinion blog challenges readers to justify the hijab as a religious matter:
Religious custom is not the equivalent of religious belief or religious doctrine. I contend that the headscarf has evolved as a custom and expectation in Islam, but it is by no means a requirement for women who adhere to Islam to wear it.
And in case you missed it, CAIR sued Mission Foods earlier this year for requiring its workers to wear pants:
Fatuma Hassan and five of her Muslim co-workers lost their jobs at Mission Foods tortilla factory last month after they said that wearing a new uniform with pants violated their Islamic beliefs.
''For me, wearing pants is the same as being naked,'' said Hassan, 22. ''My culture, my religious beliefs, are more important than a uniform.''...
The Mission Foods clash has also led to a lawsuit. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group, filed a religious discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Mission Foods had implemented the new dress code for factory workers and said the traditional Muslim clothing was too loose-fitting and posed a safety hazard near machines.
jedijson at Kick the Anthill is another conservative Christian (and a Tulsan, too, apparently) pulling for A&F in this situation:
No, I'm not hip on a company that puts out soft-porn pictures as their advertisements to entice my children into their stores, but still. Whenever a special-interest group tries to overstep a company's policies, it just rankles me to no end.
On Wednesday, July 23, District Judge Linda Morrissey denied motions by the Islamic Society of Tulsa, Mujib Cheema, and the North American Islamic Trust to dismiss Jamal Miftah's lawsuit against them. Miftah is suing Cheema, IST, and NAIT, as well as several other individual leaders in IST for assault and battery, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Earlier this year, Judge Gordon McAllister granted several motions to dismiss, but gave Miftah's attorneys 20 days to present an amended petition. It was this amended petition that was the subject of the latest motions to dismiss, which were denied.
We will keep you posted on developments. Here is a link to BatesLine's Jamal Miftah category, where you can catch up on the dispute between Miftah and IST regarding IST expelling him over his op-ed condemning terrorism in the name of Islam.
DOCUMENTS: Here are some of Jamal Miftah's court filings in this case:
- June 22, 2007: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Original Petition
- October 30, 2007: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Response to Motion for Dismissal
- April 2, 2008: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Amended Petition
- May 15, 2008: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Motion for Continuance
- June 9, 2008: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Response to Motion for Dismissal
Reading the amended petition, item 3 above, will get you up to speed on the incident that prompted the lawsuit. The response to the motion to dismiss the amended lawsuit, item 5 above, is the plaintiff's explanation for why the mosque and the national entities that own it have been named as defendants in the suit.
See-Dubya updates readers at Michelle Malkin's blog, with a reminder of some of the threats that have been made against Miftah. Readers there have posted some words of encouragement for him in the comments.
See-Dubya links to this Hot Air video report about Miftah by counterterrorism reporter Erick Stakelbeck, from February 2007.
Gates of Vienna has excerpts from the amended petition summarizing what happened to Miftah as the result of his op-ed. The excerpts also speak of Miftah and other members of the mosque raising concerns, earlier in 2005, about the lack of transparent accounting practices at IST, involving cash payments to outside organizations. The Gates of Vienna blogger writes: "It's good to know that someone is using one of ISNA's preferred weapons against them."
I received an e-mail from Nageena Shahnaz Miftah, the wife of Jamal Miftah, responding individually to the seven people who spoke at the recent "press conference" (really a rally) held at the Islamic Society of Tulsa for the purpose of denouncing State Rep. Rex Duncan and other legislators who declined to receive a Koran from the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council. The seven speakers were there to condemn Duncan and the others as intolerant and bigoted.
Jamal Miftah was confronted at IST's mosque in a threatening way, called anti-Islamic, and then expelled from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's mosque, all because of an op-ed piece he wrote condemning those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam. The incident took place a year ago Saturday on November 18, 2006.
I suspected that the Miftah family would find it sadly ironic that this mosque would be the site of a condemnation of bigotry, and that turned out to be true.
I've added Mrs. Miftah's comments to my earlier entry about the press conference and about the latest information about the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council. Click that link to read what she has to say.
Urban Tulsa Weekly reporter Brian Ervin digs deeper into the controversy over the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council (GEAAC) and its gift of a special centennial edition of the Koran to state legislators. As BatesLine first reported back in May, the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council was created by executive order of Governor Brad Henry. Its meetings are held in state office buildings and its activities are supported by taxpayer-funded employees of the state's Office of Personnel Management. Unlike the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which offered centennial editions of the Bible to legislators, the GEAAC is a government agency, not a private religious group.
Ervin provides, for the first time in print, the full text of the e-mail from GEAAC chairman Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour to legislators offering "the holy book of Quran." He also provides the full text of State Rep. Rex Duncan's response, also for the first time in print. (Chris Medlock had it online previously.)
Ervin saved the biggest news for last. After Henry's spokesman denied knowing whether the GEAAC was exclusively Muslim -- "I do not know if all members are Muslims because we do not ask appointees to any board to disclose their religious affiliation." -- and denied knowing the reason that Henry chose the awkward name for the group, Ervin asked Seirafi-Pour about the reason for the name:
"The name wasn't of my choosing, but we were happy with it. You'd have to ask the Governor why we're called that," she said.
She offered her best guess, though.
"The thing is, Islam is not limited to the Middle East--there are Muslims of West African descent and other nationalities from around the world," said Seirafi-Pour.
"If it had been called the 'Middle Eastern American Advisory Council,' it would have limited membership to Muslims of Middle Eastern descent," she added.
MORE: There are videos on YouTube of the press conference held at the Islamic Society of Tulsa (IST) in response to the centennial Koran controversy. The user who posted them has disabled embedding so you'll have to follow the links below to watch the video.
It was more of a rally than a press conference. No questions from the press were allowed. Speeches were given by representatives of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance (the anti-evangelical lobby group), the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, the Oklahoma Conference for Community and Justice, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR, the PR arm of the Wahhabi lobby in the United States), Say No to Hate, the Islamic Society of Tulsa, and the Jewish Federation of Tulsa.
From their remarks, it seemed that none of the speakers had read Rep. Duncan's complete e-mail, despite it being only three sentences long.
It's interesting that the OCCJ spokesman acknowledged that the GEAAC was "made up of American Muslims of Middle East countries," a fact that was omitted by mainstream coverage of the press conference. (That's about 20 seconds into part 2.)
I imagine Jamal Miftah finds it ironic to hear all these people talking about tolerance at the Islamic Society of Tulsa.
UPDATE: Jamal Miftah's wife, Nageena Shahnaz Miftah, sent me an e-mail with her reaction to the Islamic Society of Tulsa press conference, with a message to each of the participants, including one from her daughter to Allison Moore, a leader in IST who had been her daughter's Sunday school teacher prior to Jamal Miftah's expulsion from IST. (I've added some identifying notes in square brackets for the speakers she addresses.)
Here is my message to all the participants of this drama; Please come and talk to us and find out why my husband was declared anti-Islamic, anti Muslim in the very same place (the so called Al Salam Mosque) where Mr. Duncan and his fellows are now being condemned for refusing to accept Q'uran because of the passiveness shown by the Muslim leadership when it comes to condemn terrorism or take practical steps to stop terrorist activities.
My responses to each of the speakers is as under:
1- Mrs. Sandra Rana is probably the same lady, who didn't even had the courage or decency to speak truth about my husband's situation to a fellow Christian, Mr. James Mishler back in 2006.
2- Mr. Marlin Lavanhar [of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry]: Please investigate to find out about the unapologetic bigotry of IST, CAIR and ISNA toward my husband. The way the leadership of these organization reacted (or remained silent) to my husband's op-ed piece condemning terrorism is suggestive of their real objective which appears to be promotion of violence and siding with terrorism.
3- Mr. [Keith] McArtor [of Tulsa Interfaith Alliance] please; who are you giving all these good lessons to?! the IST leadership? Please find out what they did to my husband when he had come peacefully to offer his prayers to the so called peace mosque on November 18th, 2006.
Sir, they have two faces: one is when they want to fool American people with beautiful faces and voices of people like Sheryl Siddiqui, Sandra Rana, Allison Moore etc. The other one is for their own members where they use the street gang sort of tactics through other leaders of the so called mosque to suppress the voices of moderate muslims against terrorism like the one of my husband.
4- Now to Justice Waidner, Say No to Hate. Ma'am you are in the wrong place and with the wrong group. Please don't waste your time on their face saving maneuvers. Come talk to me.
5- Mr. [Oliver] Howard [of Oklahoma Conference on Community and Justice], although me and my family are saddened with Mr. Duncan's refusal to accept the gift of Quran, we understand the obvious reason; hypocrisy of muslims' leaders around the world in the west and the US and especially within the leadership of IST, CAIR and ISNA.
5- Mr. [Razi] Hashimi [of Council on Islamic American Relations], where were you hiding when my husband Jamal Miftah was expelled from the so called Al Salam Mosque where you are lectuing on peace. what was his fault? Condemning Terrorism!
6- Mr. David Bernstein [of Jewish Federation of Tulsa], you are in the wrong place you should have come here and heard the prayers for destruction of Jews and Christians by the then Imam of this so called Mosque, Ahmad Kabbani, during the period of war between terrorist of Hizbullah and Hamas with Israel. When my husband refused to participate and agree with those prayers, the said Imam single him out in an attempt to ridicule him.
7- Now for Allison Moore, my daughter Syeda Mufleeha Miftah who used to go to Sunday school to her classes prior to November 18th, 2006:
"Ms. Moore, I was very disappointed when I heard from my friends that you lied about my father's article by saying that he has written in his article that Tulsa mosque is supporting terrorism. This was in fact a misinformation campaign about my dad started by IST leaders to which you were a party. Why are you now complaining about misinformation? What you sow so shall you reap."
The reason that my husband was expelled from Tulsa mosque is he was not giving the IST leadership the free hand to work in gray areas by laws of the land and laundering money to people/organizations of dubious credentials for which he has documentary evidence besides letters sent to the IST leadership during the year 2005 through certified mail. He would not let them use the mosque to preach hatred to the community members and has always condemned terrorism by his words and deeds.
Would all the speakers, minus the hypocrites, come and talk to us?
Nageena Shahnaz Miftah
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.
"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.
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.
In the Washington Times, columnist Diana West considers the press reaction to the
decision by a growing number of legislators not to accept a Koran from the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council (GEAAC):
Of course, it's the rejection of the Korans that's making headlines, not their state-sealed if privately funded distribution. No one asks what the Koran has to do with Oklahoma's centennial, for Pete's sake; or why a government organization is proselytizing about "the exact words" of Allah; or how those words in that book sound to non-Muslims leery of Islam's age-old message to convert, submit or die. In our weird world, it's not the Islamic message that's branded hateful or even insensitive; it's the person who rejects it. This is the technique that usually shuts people up.
In digging into the GEAAC, West covers much of the same ground I did (see "GEAAC is back" (from last week) and "Is there only one kind of Ethnic American in Oklahoma?" (from May), but West also found this in the Islamic Society of Tulsa's October newsletter -- the quote is on page 9, but the story that contains it begins at the bottom of the front page.
Meanwhile, local Muslim advocates display utter bewilderment that anyone could construe Islam as anything but "very peaceful, very inclusive." To enlighten them, someone might bring up the key Koranic concept of jihad, or maybe ask a Muslim "apostate" in fear of his safety for leaving Islam, or a persecuted Christian or Jew in fear of his safety living under Islam, to explain.
Or, to keep things local, someone might ask Allison Moore, an Oklahoma Muslim quoted in recent stories, for elaboration. Why? Ms. Moore works on a newsletter published by the Tulsa Islamic Center. I downloaded the October issue and read an article that compares consorting with lax Muslims, ex-Muslims and non-Muslims -- "people of religious innovation and misguidance, those who abandon the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and advocate other beliefs" -- to nothing short of "doom itself" and "taking poison."
The article continues: "A man with any intellect should not sit in their assemblies nor mix with them. The result of doing so will either be the death of his heart, or, at the very best, its falling seriously ill." This is... how shall I put it?... not very inclusive.
Meanwhile, Chris Medlock is exposing the distortions in the way the media has been covering what State Rep. Rex Duncan said and did regarding the Commemorative Centennial Koran and the way they haven't been covering Rex Duncan's background.
zTruth is a blog, evidently based here in Tulsa, that focuses on Islamic organizations in the West and the spread of dhimmitude, homeland security, and immigration enforcement. Here's a recent entry with a stunning insight into attitudes of the leadership of the Islamic Society of Tulsa:
On August 25th, The Council of American Islamic Relations, CAIR of Oklahoma, and the Islamic Society of Tulsa honored 25 non-Muslims. Three of the evening awards went to Joe Picorale, John Fanning and Jim Robinson who were honored along with 22 other honorees for their contribution in promoting peace, goodwill and a greater understanding of mainstream Muslim beliefs.
Who are Joe Picorale, John Fanning and Jim Robinson? They are the three founders of TulsaTruth who believe, among other things, that there was a controlled demolitions of the WTC on 9/11 and that it was a conspiracy to frame the Muslim world. They also believe there is no proof Osama Bin Laden was involved in 9/11. I guess his videos that play the martyr wills of the men who flew the planes into the World Trade Center aren't good enough.
Read the whole thing to read the praise offered to the three "Truthers" by Allison Moore, who nominated them for the honor.
Here's a description of the awards evening from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's September 2007 newsletter (large PDF download):
On August 25th, the Islamic Society of Tulsa and the Council on American Islamic Relations co-sponsored a gala evening to reinforce our relations with people of extraordinary goodwill in our state. These non-Muslims supported Muslims through hard times, defended Muslim's rights and promoted our causes. At the event, they were recognized with a plaque, candies, corsages and boutonnieres and their remarkable actions were retold to the audience. The evening ended with the honorees walking down the red carpet with lines of applauding Muslims on both sides.
The PDF includes a list of the honorees (including former Mayor Susan Savage and Deputy Mayor Tom Baker) and photos of the event, including the very attractive plaques that were given to each honoree.
It's a noble thing for a community to honor outsiders who have been especially kind of helpful to them. But what does it say about the Islamic Society of Tulsa that its leaders would choose to honor these people who deny that radical Islamists killed 3000 people on September 11, 2001, but banned a man like Jamal Miftah, a Muslim who wrote an op-ed condemning terrorism in the name of Islam?
Jamal Miftah, who in November 2006 was angrily confronted, called "anti-Islamic," and expelled from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's al-Salam mosque over his op-ed condemning those who commit terror in the name of Islam, filed suit today against the Islamic Society of Tulsa, the national Islamic organizations who own and operate the mosque, and certain mosque leaders as individuals, as well as two mosque members who were involved in the confrontation.
KOTV has transcribed the text of the complaint, which alleges assault, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The paragraphs that make up the last count may help you understand what Jamal and his family are going through:
24. The acts of Defendants, individually and jointly, are outrageous in that Defendants knew that if they labeled Jamal Miftah a “traitor… anti Muslim and anti Islamic” his life would be forfeit should he be found in a Muslim Country and labeled apostate and that he would live in constant fear and dread of vigilante “justice” from certain Muslims in the United States. 25. The acts of Defendants are the proximate cause of severe emotional distress in that Jamal Miftah is now labeled as apostate, forced along with his wife and four children to attend to prayers in their home, apart from the fellowship of other Muslims, prevented from traveling to any Muslim Country, including his homeland of Pakistan and robbed of his peace of mind and right to speak freely against those he believes have brought his faith into disrepute via attacks on his adopted homeland and other acts of terrorism.
Please pray for their protection and for the protection of their attorney, B. Kent Felty, who has shown a lot of courage in taking on this lawsuit.
(You may recall that Felty represented 52 Indian men in a civil rights case against the J. J. Pickle Co., which had confined them to the factory and forced them to work for less than minimum wage. Federal district court handed down a $1.2 million judgment against the company.)
UPDATE: See Dubya reminds us of a couple of anonymous comments posted from a Pakistani IP address which underline the seriousness of the threat implicit in the label "anti-Islamic." And he notes that the discovery process in this lawsuit "turn up all kinds of interesting information about how Islam is planned and directed in North America."
The magazine Insight is reporting on an effort to identify mosques in America which are promoting radical Islam, specifically the establishment of shari'a law and the imposition of Islam on the nation:
“Our initial investigation has concluded there are between 400 to 500 radical Islamic centers in the U.S.,” said David Gaubatz, the director of counterintelligence and counterterrorism for the Society of Americans for National Existence. “In those places, they preach an extreme version of Islam that says America and the West is the enemy. They espouse violence, hatred and the need for terrorism.”
Gaubatz is a former senior U.S. intelligence official, who now works for the Mapping Shari’a in America Project (www.mappingsharia.com), which is supported by SANE, a national non-profit group devoted to investigating the 2,300 Islamic centers in the U.S. for extremist activity.“...
Gaubatz maintains that he and his team of field workers at the Mapping Shari’a in America Project are not only focusing on major metropolitan areas. Although there is plenty of Islamist activity in cities such as Detroit, Dearborn, Michigan and Washington, he says radical Muslims are also establishing education and religious centers in small towns.
“They’re branching out and teaching the Jihadist ideology in small towns across America, especially in rural areas in places like Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina,” Gaubatz said.
I learned about this on a blog entry which expresses hope that the mapping project will take a look at the Islamic Center of Tulsa, given its ties to national Wahhabi organizations and its treatment of Jamal Miftah, who was angrily confronted and banned for a time from the Islamic Center of Tulsa's mosque after publishing an op-ed critical of those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam. Mosque leaders were especially upset with Miftah because he called attention to the fact that some American mosques had been involved in supporting terrorism.
That same blog entry has an interesting item about the struggle for control of a Trenton, N. J., mosque. The mosque was founded in 1981 as a place of prayer for all Muslims, regardless of their sect, and preaching of the Friday sermon was rotated. Now a group aligned with Salafism has gained control, and the mosque's founders are trying to regain control.
Erick Stakelbeck's latest report on Hot Air is an interview with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Jasser, a cardiologist living in the Phoenix area, was born in Wisconsin and served 11 years as a Navy medical officer. He believes faithful Muslims are freer to practice their faith in America than in any other country on earth and that Islam is not incompatible with American notions of liberty.
In his interview with Stakelbeck, Jasser discusses the "flying imams" and their lawsuit against the "John Does" -- the passengers who alerted the crew to the strange behavior of the Muslim clerics. Jasser's organization is helping to fund the defense of the "John Does" in a lawsuit brought by the imams. One of the imams leads the largest and oldest mosque in Phoenix, and Jasser used to attend Friday prayers there, but was offended by the imam's use of the pulpit to preach his political opinions. Jasser believes the imams' lawsuit against those who blew the whistle on them is an attempt to stop our "front line of defense in the war on terror." "We need to find a way to immunize our citizens to reporting things because we need their eyes and ears."
Jasser also addresses the compatibility between Islam and a free and open society and discusses the film "Islam vs. Islamism."
It's encouraging to know that there are voices like Jasser's out there opposing the use of Islam to achieve political ends. It's in the country's best interests to give attention to organizations like AIFD and to people like Jasser and Tulsa's Jamal Miftah as a rallying point for American Muslims who object to the politicization of their faith.
And before you argue that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim or that moderate Muslims aren't true to their faith, please read this article by Jasser, in which he argues that anti-Islamist Muslims are key to winning the War on Terror:
Whether many pious Muslims acknowledge it or not, non-Muslims who believe that ‘the religion of Islam is the problem’ are growing in numbers. I can either dismiss their arguments as “Islamophobic” as so many do, including the Islamists, or I can begin to address some of the central issues raised positively in the spirit of understanding, logic, and most importantly in the spirit of American security....
Most should understand that strategically, identifying ‘Islam as the problem,’ immediately alienates upwards of one quarter of the world’s population and dismisses our most powerful weapon against the militant Islamists -- the mantle of religion and the pulpit of moderate Muslims who can retake our faith from the Islamists. The majority voices in the middle, the non-Islamist and anti-Islamist Muslims who understand the problem, have to be on the frontlines. They cannot be on the frontlines in an ideological battle being waged, which demonizes the morality of the faith of Islam and its founder, the Prophet Mohammed. We cannot win this war only on the battlefield. Political Islam has a viral recurrence in the form of an infection which needs a Muslim counter-jihad in order to purge it. Thus, we cannot win this ideological war without the leadership of Muslim anti-Islamists....
It is important to be academic about this assessment and not assume that what appears to be the silence of the majority of Muslims equates to agreement with the Islamist leadership who exerts a stranglehold over the community. We are doing our national counterterrorism efforts and Muslims a disservice if we assume that the ‘lowest hanging fruit,’ which comprise all currently Islamist organizations (CAIR, MPAC, or ISNA - to name a few) and their proportionally limited membership speak for all American Muslims. Their silence on the need for reformation and the need for Muslims to lead an anti-Islamist effort from within our faith community represents their own Islamist agenda of the members and donors but does not represent the general Muslim population.
MORE: From the perspective of Britain, Christopher Hitchens explains the problem with governments recognizing and validating radical Islamic leaders while ignoring moderates like Jasser.
It means that they find, to their annoyance, that the most extreme elements in their community are being recognized as interlocutors instead of themselves. I've heard a lot of secular Pakistanis complain that the cops, when they think we better go talk to the community, walk straight past them and head for the imam at the mosque, assuming that he's the one they want to talk to. Which means, of course, pretty soon these are the people who'll be handing out the welfare payments. They'll become the go-to people. Because they'll have a grant from the taxpayers, and they'll be the administrators of it. They will become the reps. It's a big, big mistake. We're going to regret it hugely.
That quote is from an interview given in conjunction with Hitchens's article "Londonistan" in Vanity Fair, about the growth of Islamic radicalism in the British capital.
A few days ago I wrote about OETA's scheduled program "Islam in Oklahoma," which aired Friday night, and about whether the people invited to participate in the discussion would provide a balanced and complete view of the topic. (Because of unexpected family schedule complications, I didn't get to see the show.)
A reader contacted OETA to raise the question directly and got a reply that began:
Thank you for sharing your concerns about Islam in Oklahoma. Please note that OETA worked with the Oklahoma Governor's Council on Ethnic Diversity to select the panelists and to ensure a balanced panel.
I assumed from the name that this council had representatives from the Hispanic-, Asian-, African-, and other hyphenated-American communities. Oklahoma has had influxes of many different ethnic groups over a century of statehood: Lebanese, Russian Jews, Czechs, Italians, Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Hmong, to name just a few.
In Googling for mentions to "Islam in Oklahoma," I found this reference on the Oklahoma Women's Network blog
As a followup to PBS' recently aired "America At A Crossroads" series, OETA has taped a program featuring Oklahoma Muslim leaders. I urge you to watch this program on Friday, May 4th at 9:00 p.m on your OETA channel....Two of the many outstanding women leaders in Oklahoma's Muslim community are Sheryl Siddiqui, Director of Community Relations and American Outreach with the Islamic Society of Tulsa, and Marjan Seirafi-Pour, Chairperson of the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council.
That's interesting, I thought. I knew who Sheryl Siddiqui was, and that she was slated to be a panelist on the program, but I'd never heard of Marjan Seirafi-Pour. And I thought it was interesting that a Muslim leader was the head of this Ethnic American Advisory Council, given the relatively small number of Muslims in Oklahoma compared to other ethnic groups.
So I Googled Marjan Seirafi-Pour and hit this agenda for the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council from August 2005. Here is the list of council members:
Dr. Sandra Kaye Rana, Chair
Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, Vice-Chair/Secretary
Dr. Riaz Ahmad
Malaka A. Elyazgi
Dr. Basel S. Hassoun
Dr. Mohammad Karami
Karen E. Bak
Dr. Fayyaz H. Hashmi
The membership doesn't seem very diverse or very representative of Oklahoma's ethnic heritage. Where are the Czechs from Prague, Italians from Krebs, and Russians from Hartshorne? Where are the Greeks and Filipinos?
According to the Governor's web page about the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council (GEAAC), the monolithic membership is intentional. "Ethnic" appears to be a euphemism for something different:
On May 27, 2004, Governor Brad Henry issued Executive Order 04-21, which created the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council. The purpose of the Council, which is to be made up of from five to 15 representatives of Ethnic Americans of the Middle East/Near East community of the state of Oklahoma, is to:
1. Provide advice and assistance to the Governor on the development and implementation of policies, plans, and programs relating to the needs and values of the Ethnic American community;
2. Provide advice and assistance to the Governor in matters involving civil liberties, equal rights protection and freedom of religion of the Ethnic American community;
3. Develop, coordinate and assist other public and private organizations with understanding problems concerning the Ethnic American community;
4. Conduct training programs for community leadership;
5. Cooperate with the Department of Education in advising and assisting school districts concerning Ethnic American issues; and
6. Secure appropriate recognition of Ethnic American accomplishments and contributions to the state of Oklahoma.
All Council members are appointed by the Governor.
Here is the current list of members:
Vice-Chair / Secretary
Dr. Riaz Ahmad
Malaka A. Elyazgi
Dr. Fayyaz H. Hashmi
Dr. Basel S. Hassoun
Dr. Mohammad Karami
Dr. Sandra Kaye Rana
Let's strip away the silly "Ethnic American" euphemism and take the detailed information at face value. The council is to be "made up of from five to 15 representatives of Ethnic Americans of the Middle East/Near East community of the state of Oklahoma." If they really mean Middle East/Near East, there should be some Oklahomans of Israeli heritage -- Israel is in the Middle East -- perhaps some Armenian Christians, Lebanese Christians, Coptic Christians from Egypt, maybe someone from an old-line Lebanese merchant family like Bayouth or Beshara or Coury or Elias or Saied. The French teacher from my high school is Jewish and from Morocco and has lived in Oklahoma for at least 30 years. Wouldn't he be a good pick for such a council?
I may be wrong, and I haven't checked every name on the list, but I'd be willing to bet every one of the board members is a Muslim. Here are a couple who are for sure. I'll check the other names and add info here as I find it.
Dr. Riaz Ahmad, a biology professor at University of Central Oklahoma, is quoted in a departmental newsletter: "We have also been to Mecca, Saudi Arabia twice to do pilgrimage."
Malaka A. Elyazgi's husband Mohamed was quoted as a spokesman for the mosque in Norman following the October 1, 2005, suicide bombing on the OU campus. He was a business partner in a small shop in Oklahoma City with Mufid Abdulqader, who was indicted as a fundraiser for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, of which Abdulqader's half-brother is the supreme political leader.
(Abdulqader's story is frightening. He was a civil engineering student at OSU, worked at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and then went to work as an engineer with the City of Dallas. In his spare time, his rock band performed at Hamas fundraisers, where he sang lyrics like, "With Koran and Jihad, we will gain our homes back, hey, hey, hey! My precious eyes are for Palestine, the agony of death is precious, killing Jews . . . Death to Jews, is precious. Jews will not fear threats, only action. So Hamas, hit them with the shoe bottoms of Islam and Hamas!")
So why would Gov. Brad Henry issue an executive order to set up a special council for Muslims, giving it a name designed to hide its true purpose?
Some further Googling turns up a story in Wednesday's Oklahoman explaining why OETA is airing "Islam in Oklahoma," and suggesting that I'm right in my assumption that the GEAAC is really all about Islam:
State Muslims challenge TV show
By Judy Gibbs Robinson
Oklahoma Muslim leaders will respond this week to what they say were some inaccuracies in the recent public television series "America at a Crossroads."
The Governor's Ethnic-American Advisory Council requested a chance to set the record straight after previewing the series before it ran on the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority from April 15 through 20.
"We thought there were a couple of segments that did not put Islam in a positive light," said Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, the council's chairman.
OETA Director John McCarroll agreed to let council members preview the series and gave them 30 minutes of air time starting at 9 p.m. Friday to respond.
"They were concerned there might be a backlash in Oklahoma because most of it did deal with Islamic extremists," McCarroll said.
Feedback to discussion
The station invited viewers to submit questions and comments and got about a dozen each day, McCarroll said. Those responses will form the backbone of a panel discussion by Sheryl Siddiqui of Tulsa, Imad Enchassi of Oklahoma City and David R. Vishanoff of Norman. OETA's Gerry Bonds will moderate.
Siddiqi is director of outreach/community relations for the Islamic Society of Tulsa. Enchassi is president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City. Vishanoff is a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Oklahoma.
The Public Broadcasting Service series "America at a Crossroads" consisted of 11 documentaries exploring challenges confronting the United States in a post-9/11 world. Topics included the war on terrorism, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the experience of American troops serving abroad and the struggle for balance in the Muslim world.
(Hat tip to American Infidel.)
The story has GEAAC speaking on behalf of the Islamic faith. GEAAC "requested a chance to set the record straight," because they "thought there were a couple of segments that did not put Islam in a positive light."
Next Friday night at 9, OETA, Oklahoma's public television network, will air "Islam in Oklahoma":
Oklahoma is home to more than 30,000 Muslim Americans. Join leaders from Oklahoma's Muslim community as they address the questions and issues raised by America at a Crossroads, Friday May 4 at 9 p.m.
(Is it just me, or does the background of that title image look more like Hebrew than Arabic?)
OETA says more panelists will be announced, but for now they only list Sheryl Siddiqui, a leader in the Islamic Society of Tulsa, Imam Imad Enchassi, Ph.D., president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, and Dr. David Vishanoff, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Oklahoma.
The facilities of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City and of the Islamic Society of Tulsa are owned by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which is part of a network of Saudi-funded organizations working to extend the influence of Wahhabism in the US. (There's more detail about NAIT and its related organizations -- the Wahhabi lobby -- in this post I wrote some months ago.)
There's a name that ought to be on that list of panelists discussing Islam in Oklahoma -- Jamal Miftah. His name belongs on the list for his eloquent condemnation of terror in the name of Islam. But it also belongs there because of the response that he received from the leaders of the Tulsa mosque, who confronted him angrily in the prayer hall and in the corridor of the mosque, saying that because of his column he was anti-Islamic, a label that could be heard by others as a thinly veiled incitement to violence against him.
Just this week, two more threatening comments targeting Miftah were posted from a Pakistan IP address at JunkYardBlog, simply because he condemned those who use their religion to justify their acts of violence.
If OETA spends an hour talking to two leaders of Wahhabi-connected mosques, without hearing any other Muslim voices, viewers will not get the complete story of Islam in Oklahoma. If you agree, drop a line to email@example.com. OETA says they want input on the show's content, so let 'em (politely) have it.
UPDATE: A reader sent the following note to OETA:
I have always thought of OETA as an educational channel that was fair. However; regarding the upcoming program on “Islam in Oklahoma”, Oklahomans deserve an unbiased discussion. If OETA has two leaders of Wahhabi-connected mosques on the discussion panel without hearing any other Muslim voices, viewers will not get the complete story of Islam in Oklahoma. Please do the right thing in providing a fair and balanced program by inviting other Muslims such as Jamal Miftah.
Oklahomans are not stupid, please don’t portray us as such.
Here's the reply from OETA public information manager Ashley Barcum:
Thank you for sharing your concerns about Islam in Oklahoma. Please note that OETA worked with the Oklahoma Governor’s Council on Ethnic Diversity to select the panelists and to ensure a balanced panel.
We do have a non-Muslim academic on the panel, Dr. David Vishanoff, who is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He will be on hand to provide an objective viewpoint. Due to the short time of the program, the producers would like to keep the panel limited to the three panelists, which includes Dr. Vishanoff.
Please note the panel discussion will primarily involve a discussion of the experience of Muslims in Oklahoma. What the program intends to do is provide a look at the local experiences of those practicing one of the state’s minority religions. It is an ongoing conversation sparked by the recent PBS series America at a Crossroads.
In addition, the program will be moderated by Gerry Bonds, a veteran broadcast journalist.
Please let me know if you have additional questions or concerns.
Why, that makes it all better, doesn't it? The governor says these two Muslims are representative of the diversity of Oklahoma Muslims so it must be so. Never mind the ethnic diversity within Islam -- Arab, Pakistani, Indonesian, Turkish, North African. Never mind that there are other views than the Wahhabi view, even if those other views aren't as well funded.
And how can you have a panel discussion about local experiences of practicing Muslims while ignoring a very local, very recent experience of an Oklahoma Muslim that made national news?
Notice that the website statement that there would be additional panelists has been contradicted by Barcum, who now says that those three are it.
MORE about "America at a Crossroads," the PBS series to which "Islam in Oklahoma" is a follow-up: Okie on the Lam had this entry on April 9 about PBS's decision to suppress one of the films in the series. The film was called “Islam vs. Islamism: Voices From The Muslim Center.” It was one of 34 proposed films for this series selected for a research and development grant by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Here's the description in the list of grant awards:
Islam vs. Islamism (Martyn Burke, Frank Gaffney and Alex Alexiev, ABG Films Inc., Los Angeles) will explore how Islamic extremists are at war with their own faith, and how the consequences of their ambitions and policies devastate the socio-economic potential and well-being of the Muslim world. The filmmakers will follow the stories of several Muslims who have been victimized by the radicals and who are fighting back.
Sounds like a story that needs to be told, right? The CPB thought so, because it then selected the film for one of 20 production grants -- the money needed to get the film made.
But now PBS is refusing to broadcast the film. One of the film's executive producers, Frank Gaffney, explained why in an April 12 Washington Times op-ed:
As it happens, I was involved in making a film for the "America at a Crossroads" series that also focused on, among others, several American Muslims. Unlike Mr. MacNeil's, however, this 52-minute documentary titled "Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," was selected through the competitive process and was originally designated by CPB to be aired in the first Crossroads increment.
Also unlike Mr. MacNeil's film, "Islam vs. Islamists" focuses on the courageous Muslims in the United States, Canada and Western Europe who are challenging the power structure established in virtually every democracy largely with Saudi money to advance worldwide the insidious ideology known as Islamofascism. In fact, thanks to the MacNeil-Lehrer film, the PBS audience soon will be treated to an apparently fawning portrait of one of the most worrisome manifestations of that Saudi-backed organizational infrastructure in America: the Muslim Student Association (MSA). The MSA's efforts to recruit and radicalize students and suppress dissenting views on American campuses is a matter of record and extremely alarming.
In an exchange with me aired on National Public Radio last week, however, Robert MacNeil explained why he and his team had refused to air "Islam vs. Islamists," describing it as "alarmist" and "extremely one-sided." In other words, a documentary that compellingly portrays what happens to moderate Muslims when they dare to speak up for and participate in democracy, thus defying the Islamists and their champions, is not fit for public airwaves -- even in a series specifically created to bring alternative perspectives to their audience.
The MacNeil criticism was merely the latest of myriad efforts over the last year made by WETA and PBS to suppress the message of "Islam vs. Islamists." These included: insisting yours truly be removed as one of the film's executive producers; allowing a series producer with family ties to a British Islamist to insist on sweeping changes to its "structure and context" that would have assured more favorable treatment of those portrayed vilifying and, in some cases, threatening our anti-Islamist protagonists; and hiring as an adviser to help select the final films an avowed admirer of the Nation of Islam -- an organization whose receipt of a million dollars from the Saudis to open black Wahhabi mosques is a feature of our documentary. The gravity of this conflict of interest was underscored when the latter showed an early version of our film to Nation of Islam representatives, an action that seemed scarcely to trouble those responsible for the "Crossroads" series at WETA and PBS.
You can read an independent perspective on the dispute here. The film may yet air, but there are no guarantees.
Just posted on FrontPage magazine is an in-depth interview with Jamal Miftah, the Tulsa Muslim who last fall wrote a bold guest opinion condemning terrorism in the name of Islam and was expelled from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's mosque.
The interview fills in some fascinating details about Miftah's background in Pakistan -- some things that he hinted about in earlier stories and in my conversations with him. He talks about his life in Pakistan before coming with his family to the United States in 2003. Living in the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, on the border with Afghanistan, he saw the harm done to ordinary Pakistani Muslims by militant misleaders who led them into battle against U.S.-allied forces across the border.
After the fall of Taliban regime, the leaders of TNS started coming back into Pakistan along with the groups of ordinary people who had gone with them to fight. During the course of time, ordinary people including myself realized that all the leaders made it back to their homes safe and sound, whereas a number of the ordinary men never returned. They either got killed or were held for ransom by Afghans and possibly the Taliban.
The interview also delves into his views on his faith and on the global war on terror. Miftah doesn't believe that Osama bin Laden is running an independent terrorist organization:
During the Soviet-Afghan conflict, many warlord groups, including that of Osama bin Laden's group, were receiving American money and equipment to fight the Soviet Union. After the fall of the Soviet Union, some of those groups joined hands to start the campaign for removal of American forces out of Saudi Arabia. They attempted to mobilize support within the Muslim world for their cause by misguiding the Muslims that the presence of 'infidels' in 'the land of pure' was a great sin and should therefore be prevented by Jihad. The campaign was supported by the inflow of petro dollars and was the joint agenda of Osama bin Laden and the then Crown Prince (the present King) of Saudi Arabia. He, during Clinton's earlier era, was very vocal about the removal of American armies from Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan was thus used as a launching ground for the campaign by the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia and their most trusted family friend Osama bin Laden who was to lead the campaign and the proxy war for the Saudi Kingdom.
The interviewer, FrontPage managing editor Jamie Glazov, challenged Miftah on his belief in a "silent majority of the peace-loving Muslims around the world":
Upon what evidence do you base this view that the “majority” are peace-loving? For instance, do the majority of Muslims in the world reject the teachings of their own religion -- which mandates war against non-Muslims? (i.e. The Verse of the Sword, Sura 9:25, 9:29, etc.) Do the majority reject the imperative to subjugate the world under the rule of Islamic law – which is a mandate deeply embedded within Islamic teaching and tradition? (i.e. Sura 9:29, Sahih Muslim 4294; and a host of other evidence from all the Sunni madhahib and Shi’ite sources as well).
Miftah explains how he and many other Muslims interpret those verses:
Let me first clarify the misconception about the teachings of Islam or for that matter any other religion. The Qur’an was revealed over a period of 23 years. The revelation, as such, was during times of war, peace, oppression and rule of Muslims. Each verse, as such, has to be read in context of the conditions prevalent at the time of revelation and also the conditions of the Arab Society at that time.
In response to this and to Miftah's quoting of several verses from the Qur'an, Glazov pretty much says (as politely and graciously as he can), "No, you're wrong," and quotes a number of Islamic scholars down through the years who reject the moderate Muslim hermeneutic, including Sayyid Qutb. Miftah is not deterred and explains why he and many other Muslims reject the teachers that Glazov cited.
If you're a Christian, put yourself in Jamal's shoes for a moment. Someone who isn't a Christian comes along and tells you that you don't really follow the Bible because you don't agree with the method of interpretation used by Charles Taze Russell or Tony Alamo or David Koresh or Felix Manalo. Can you see how offensive that would be?
Glazov seems to shift his argument to say that there isn't any "sect of Islam or a school of Islamic jurisprudence that is generally regarded as orthodox and does not teach the subjugation of unbelievers." He creates a sort of circular argument. Why are the sects or schools who don't teach the subjugation of unbelievers considered unorthodox? Is it because they don't teach subjugation of unbelievers or is it for some other doctrinal reason? Or is it because they aren't backed with Saudi petrodollars?
It's a variation of the old "no true Scotsman" fallacy: "No true Muslim believes in peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims." Jamal Miftah says, "I am a true Muslim, and I believe in peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims." The response -- "Well, then, you must not be a true Muslim."
Aren't we working against our own safety and security to recognize the violent wackos as normative and to treat Muslims like Jamal Miftah as marginal?
To his credit, Glazov asks Miftah what can be done to support moderate Islamic voices. Miftah's response:
Unfortunately, the majority of the mosques in the U.S. and in West are under Wahabi control. The Muslims living in those parts of the world should particularly be vigilant towards the activities going on in places of worship (mosques) and should rise up against the self-imposed leadership in such places, if they witness any suspicious activities. They have a responsibility to the societies they live in, raise and educate their kids and therefore should not tolerate any activity which is aimed at causing harm to the countries they live in.
(Yesterday, JunkYardBlog linked to the story of a Newcastle, Australia, mosque that was taken over by university students who follow Wahhabism. The students "evangelized" members of the mosque, then won elections to control the board.)
Miftah goes into detail about his expulsion from the mosque in November, setting out a clear time line. He draws this conclusion about the actions of the mosque's leadership:
In my case, it was a very daring attempt by the leadership of the mosque, who first tried to silence me by scaring me with the word “anti-Islamic,” which carries a lot of repercussions and finally made me an example for other Muslims by expelling me out of the mosque. It now makes me believe, from the kind of response and the treatment that I received, that there are elements within the mosque leadership who have sympathies for terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda. To root out and expose such elements we need moral support from organizations like yours and also legal help to prosecute such rogue elements.
Miftah sought the help of the ACLU in pursuing legal action against the mosque, but the ACLU said they didn't have the resources. (Glazov notes that the ACLU has plenty of money for other projects. A couple of examples: defending the pederasts at NAMBLA or working with an accused terrorist operative to develop a curriculum for teaching Islam in the public schools.)
If you're an attorney and can assist Jamal with his case, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MORE on moderate Muslims:
Rod Dreher responds to a reader who emails about the notion of banning Muslim immigration, thinking about the demographic differences between Muslim immigrants to parts of Europe and those who come to America.
The point here is that the situation can be a lot more complicated than simply saying, "It's Islam's fault." And if you make a blanket indictment of Islam itself, as my friend points out, you risk marginalizing good people, solid citizens. But on the other hand, when you look at poll data of British Muslims, for example, you find shocking levels of support for Islamic law (versus British civil law). Whatever the root causes of this state of affairs, it's frightening.
I am reminded by all this of how little, really, we know about the Muslims who live in the West. Or at least in America. I know the kinds of Muslims I've interacted with professionally here in Dallas, and it's not encouraging to me as someone who would welcome truly moderate Muslims here. On the other hand, I've been told by Muslims and non-Muslims, people who know a lot more about this stuff than I do, that the leadership in mosques and Islamic institutions in the US has been bought by Saudis, and that ordinary Muslims don't dare object.
Dreher links to a National Review article he wrote about the al-Farooq mosque in Brooklyn, home to the first World Trade Center bombers and investigated for continuing to fund terror organizations. Dreher wrote about the fear non-Muslims in Brooklyn had about saying anything remotely critical of their Muslim neighbors.
If it's too dangerous for Arab Christians to speak out against Islamist neighbors, what is it like for dissenting Muslims? A senior terrorism analyst with The Investigative Project, which specializes in monitoring Islamic radicalism, insists that Muslims of goodwill believe, with reason, that standing up to Islamist thugs will get them killed. "Fundamentalists are the ones who have the drive. For non- fundamentalists, speaking out against them is not worth their life," explains TIP's Evan Kohlmann.
Kohlmann says that Islamic radicals get away with their activities both by stifling dissent within Muslim communities and by "turning any criticism into a civil-rights and a humanitarian issue. They know that by appealing to our sense of diversity and humanity, they evade scrutiny." Indeed, many non-Muslims in the liberal neighborhoods flanking the al-Farooq mosque would consider it racist and McCarthyite to question the loyalty of their Muslim neighbors.
MORE: A moderate American Islamic organization is offering to defend any of the passengers who might be targeted in a lawsuit by the "flying imams" against US Airways:
Lawyers and a Muslim group say they will defend at no cost airline passengers caught up in a lawsuit between a group of imams and U.S. Airways if the passengers are named as "John Does" and sued for reporting suspicious behavior that got the Muslim clerics booted from a November flight....
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Phoenix-area physician and director of American Islamic Forum for Democracy -- a group founded in 2003 to promote moderate Muslim ideas through its Web site (http://www.aifdemocracy.org) -- told The Washington Times his group will raise money for legal fees for passengers if they are sued by the imams.
"It's so important that America know there are Muslims who understand who the victims are in air travel," said Dr. Jasser. "But I hope it doesn't get to that point because the backlash will be even greater when Americans see Islamists trying to punish innocent passengers reporting fears."
From AIFD's press release:
4. It is our hope as Americans and as Muslims that U.S. Airways stand firm in its defense of its actions to have the gentleman removed for concerns regarding their behavior after entering the plane. This is not about race or religion. It is about the privilege to fly securely.
5. The constant exploitation of America's culture of political correctness especially in this setting of what is the most dangerous environment of air travel is out of touch with America's priorities. Such misguided priorities by Muslim activist organizations like CAIR will make the legitimate defense of our civil rights far more difficult when more serious complaints of racism and discrimination are involved. America is quickly becoming numb to their constant refrains and the polls demonstrate the profound ineffectiveness of their tiring campaigns.
6. The organized Muslim community should instead be working on developing a strategic plan to counter militant Islamism within the Muslim community. That would do a lot more to change public opinion than suing the airlines who are trying to keep Americans who travel safe.
A few weeks ago, CBN News anti-terrorism analyst Erick Stakelbeck visited Tulsa to talk to Jamal Miftah, the Pakistani Muslim who was kicked out of the mosque of the Islamic Society of Tulsa for his guest opinion condemning those who commit acts of terror in the name of Islam. Stakelbeck also interviewed me during his visit.
The story will air tomorrow (Tuesday) on "The 700 Club," seen on the ABC Family Channel (Cox Cable channel 37) at 8:00 a.m. Central time, and again at 10:00 p.m. The story should also appear on the cbnnews.com website after it airs.
Click here to see Stakelbeck's earlier, brief report about Miftah on Hot Air.
UPDATE: Here is a link to the text and the video of Stakelbeck's report on Jamal Miftah.
Today's "Vent" video on Hot Air features Erick Stakelbeck of CBN News reporting from Tulsa about Jamal Miftah, who was expelled from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's al-Salam mosque for his op-ed condemning those who commit terror in the name of Islam. If you haven't heard about this situation, this is a good overview.
UPDATE: I'm disappointed at most of the comments on this entry about the Stakelbeck report, comments that are dismissive of Miftah's courage, arguing that there's no such thing as a moderate Muslim.
There are times when I'm torn between the urgency to write about a topic and the fear of not doing the topic justice. This is especially true when, because of family and work demands and home chores, I don't get to sit down to write until it's late, and I'm tired and distracted. It's even more true when doing a topic justice has an impact on someone's life and reputation. The difficulty is that, in this case, not writing about a matter also has an impact on someone's life and reputation.
In late December, someone tried to post a comment on my entry about Jamal Miftah, the Tulsa Muslim who published an op-ed piece in the Tulsa World condemning those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam. You'll recall that, for his trouble, Miftah was the target of an angry confrontation after prayers, and it was communicated to him that he was not welcome to come back. I wrote several entries about Miftah, and made the controversy the subject of my column in the December 13 Urban Tulsa Weekly.
The comment, posted from a Tulsa IP address by someone named Riaz Noor, accused Miftah of being guilty of murder and immigration fraud. Specifically, Noor claimed that his sister was Miftah's wife and that Miftah had murdered her, then used a visa obtained in the dead woman's name to bring his second wife to the United States.
By e-mail, I asked Miftah to respond to the accusations, and I asked some very specific questions of Noor, and both responded by e-mail. I had no way of verifying the claims, and I chose not to publish Noor's comment or to say anything about it.
In the meantime, Noor continued to publish the same accusations, verbatim, on seemingly every web page that mentioned Miftah. Miftah phoned me and asked if we could meet, as he wanted to show me some documentation that would rebut Noor's claims. We met a week ago, on New Year's Day.
Miftah told me that he had indeed been married to Noor's sister back in Pakistan, and that she died in Karachi in May of 1987. It was an arranged marriage, and Miftah never accepted her as his wife. He decided to send her back to her village. The morning of her death he was at work, and she phoned to plead with him to allow her to stay, but he refused. Sometime later he got a phone call that his sister-in-law had been gravely injured and had been taken to the hospital. But when he arrived, he learned that it was his wife who was there -- she had tried to kill herself. Two surgeries were performed to try to save her, but without success.
In a comment on In the Bullpen (one of the blogs where Noor's accusations appeared), Miftah wrote:
The fact of the matter is that at the time when [Riaz Noor's] sister attempted suicide, his other sister (Shahida) was there along with others. They took her to Jinnah Hospital in Karachi and after struggling with life for more then 10 hours and two major surgeries to save her life; she died on the night of May 21, 1987 (which can be verified from Hospital record).
So he knows how his sister died and that’s why never challenged her suicide before.
Miftah showed me a faxed statement from a specific Karachi police station setting out the police record in the matter.
It was a year and a half later, during a visit to Pakistan by his sister, who lived in Tulsa, that Miftah and his new wife went with his sister to the American consulate to apply for an immigration visa to the U.S. Miftah showed me the stamped and dated receipt from the consulate, establishing that the visa was obtained for his second wife. The document makes Riaz Noor's claim -- that Miftah obtained the visa for his first wife, then fraudulently used it for his second wife under his first wife's stolen identity -- an impossible scenario. The timeline doesn't work.
Miftah showed me other documents and provided me with some additional information. There is another thread to the story, a fascinating thread, but it will have to wait for another day. From what I was shown, and from what I was able to verify independently, I believe Jamal Miftah is an honest man and is telling the truth.
This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is about Jamal Miftah and his treatment by leaders of the Islamic Society of Tulsa's al-Salam ("Peace") mosque over his guest editorial in the October 29 Tulsa World. (Here's a link to the text of his op-ed.)
The same issue has another letter from Miftah, in which he makes the case from the Qu'ran that the Holy Land belongs to the Jews, and that means that Palestinian attacks on Israel cannot be justified as jihad. (It's on a page with the rest of the letters, so scroll down once you click to it.)
In the story I link to eteraz.org, a blog and web community for progressive Muslim activism. Ali Eteraz interviewed Jamal Miftah and has written several more articles about the situation. Another site of interest is the Free Muslims Coalition:
The Free Muslims Coalition is a nonprofit organization made up of American Muslims and Arabs of all backgrounds who feel that religious violence and terrorism have not been fully rejected by the Muslim community in the post 9-11 era.
The Free Muslims was created to eliminate broad base support for Islamic extremism and terrorism and to strengthen secular democratic institutions in the Middle East and the Muslim World by supporting Islamic reformation efforts.
The Free Muslims promotes a modern secular interpretation of Islam which is peace-loving, democracy-loving and compatible with other faiths and beliefs. The Free Muslims' efforts are unique; it is the only mainstream American-Muslim organization willing to attack extremism and terrorism unambiguously. Unfortunately most other Muslim leaders believe that in terrorist organizations, the end justifies the means.
Here's an interesting piece from their blog about the two faces of Saudi Arabia -- is it friend or foe to the West?
So is the Saudi Arabian government a friend of the United States or does Saudi Arabia propagate hate and intolerance among American Muslims and Muslims world wide? The answer to both of these questions is yes. The Saudi Arabian government is a great friend to the United States and at the same time many in Saudi Arabia, including some who receive government funding propagate hate and intolerance against anyone who does not share their Wahabi inspired ideology. The answers to both these questions may seem inconsistent and counter intuitive but these seemingly inconsistent answers reflect the complexity of modern day Saudi Arabia.
By now everyone has heard of the historic compact between the Saudi Royal Family and the fanatical Wahabi religious establishment. According to this agreement, the Saudi Royal family deals exclusively with matters of state while the Wahabi religious establishment deals with issues of morality which includes substantial control over the education system and the substantive interpretation of Islam. It is this division of power that produces the two faces of Saudi Arabia.
As long as my column is this week, I've got much more material that I didn't use, particularly from my interview with Jamal Miftah, and I have more research to do on Saudi funding of Islamic organizations in the West. I hope to get this material out here on BatesLine or in UTW.
Jamal Miftah was on Fox News talking about the confrontation at the Islamic Society of Tulsa over his op-ed condemning terror in the name of Islam. Ms. Underestimated has video.
In the video Miftah makes it clear that it was not some back-pew parishoner who confronted him in the prayer hall, but it was Ahmed Kabbani, the imam of the mosque. And it was the head of the operating council of the mosque, Houssam Elsoueissi, who confronted him in the hallway. Both called him "anti-Islamic" for what he wrote in the article, and he regards that an implied death threat, as it is considered a meritorious act to kill an apostate Muslim.
A little over a week ago, Ali Eteraz of the progressive Muslim online community Eteraz.org interviewed Tulsan Jamal Miftah about the anti-terrorist column he wrote and the backlash he experienced.
Eteraz published a follow-up after the Tulsa World's story last Friday, December 1, including Miftah's response to the story (also published here at BatesLine). In the conclusion, Eteraz urges his readers to urge two national organizations to get involved -- the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Then, last Saturday, Eteraz defended Miftah on the point of his op-ed which seems to have generated the most controversy:
Even mosques and Islamic institutions in the U.S. and around the world have become tools in [terrorists'] hands and are used for collecting funds for their criminal acts. Half of the funds collected go into the pockets of their local agents and the rest are sent to these thugs.
Noting the complaint of the Islamic Center of Tulsa that Miftah has accused IST of being such a mosque, Eteraz writes:
The thing is, Miftah didn't say what the IST is saying he did. He didn't say "American mosques support terrorists." He said "even" American mosques have been subverted in the past. Just because the IST does not know of any that have been so subverted does not mean that Miftah becomes wrong. He is right to call them liars.
It's an interesting perspective, and interesting, too, to read the comments.
Since it's a month old, Miftah's op-ed has passed into the Whirled's archives, but I found the complete text here.
UPDATE: Eteraz has posted some further thoughts, seeing some lessons for Muslim reformists, and he also posted an e-mail from Miftah:
Think about forming an Alliance of like-minded Muslims, and let's begin our Jihad (struggle) against such rogue leadership of the so called Islamic institutions, who, in the name of Islam, are misguiding the ordinary simple Muslims and continuously causing a bad name for our pious religion.
In Miftah's e-mail, there's an interesting comment about forgiveness which stands in contrast to Christianity: Jesus taught, in Matthew 6 in connection with His model prayer, that God's forgiveness of us is dependent on our forgiveness of those who have wronged us. In Islam, divine forgiveness for a transgression against someone is dependent on the forgiveness of the victim of the transgression. In other words, if I steal from you, I must gain your forgiveness before God can forgive me.
I met Jamal Miftah a couple of days ago, and we spoke at length. It was very interesting, and some of the thoughts he expressed to me about the nature of his faith are reflected in the e-mail that Eteraz has published.
At long last, the Tulsa World has printed a story about Jamal Miftah's expulsion from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's (IST) al-Salam mosque. You'll recall that it was an op-ed by Miftah that was published by the Whirled that triggered the situation. The story made local TV in Tulsa and Oklahoma City last Friday and immediately attracted attention around the blogosphere. I wrote about it here on Sunday, and the story was discussed on KFAQ Monday and Tuesday.
So it's curious timing: the Whirled seems to have waited until they had something to report that put IST in a positive light:
Local mosque lifts ban on outspoken member
By BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
The governing board of Tulsa's Al-Salam mosque ruled Wednesday night that a Pakistani native who had been banned from the mosque can return.
Houssam Elsoueissi, president of the operating council at the mosque, said he would announce at Friday's service that Jamal Miftah is free to attend services as long as there is no disturbance, and that no one at the mosque should confront him.
Miftah was banned last week after a confrontation at the mosque over a guest commentary he wrote that appeared Oct. 29 in the Tulsa World.
Let's look at the timeline:
On Friday, November 24, KOTV reporter Omar Villafranca reported on the incident and Miftah's expulsion. Miftah describes how he was confronted and threatened at the mosque and says he had filed a police report about the confrontation.
Miftah says several Muslims told him he is no longer allowed at the mosque. He says leaders told him there is only one way he can come back to worship.
[Miftah:] "There are two members of the community who spoke to them [mosque leaders] and they have said, 'Well, he has to apologize. He has to take his article back, and that is the only way we can let him come back into mosque.'"
Villafranca concluded his story with this:
Now, I did speak with one of the leaders of the mosque and he has a different version of the story. He told me that Miftah was being loud in the prayer hall and that's why he was asked to leave. The leader also told me Miftah can come back to the mosque if he apologizes for being loud in the prayer hall. He also added that the apology does not have to be public. And, Terry, he also says that he does not have to apologize for that column.
(I have been unable to find the story on KOTV's website.)
And we spoke with one of the leaders of the mosque, he told us Miftah was being loud in the prayer hall and that is why he was asked to leave. He also said Miftah can come back to the mosque, if he apologizes.
So although Miftah and this unnamed mosque leader differ about why he had been asked to leave and what he has to do to be re-admitted, both agree that he was expelled and that there was a condition placed on his return.
On Wednesday, November 29, this message from Jim Mishler, executive director of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, was posted as a comment on an earlier entry. In the message, Mishler reported a conversation with Dr. Sandra Rana, whom Mishler identified as a member of the mosque's governing board. Note how the story has changed, and note how it conflicts with the Whirled's reporting.
She reports the following::
- First, the blog is incorrect in its most important statements. The mosque did not "expell" the man and he has not been told he can return only following an apology for the article.The Shura has not taken any official position on the article nor on censuring its author. In addition, the Islamic Society of Tulsa has strict rules about and is very careful in who it gives money. Only organizations on the USA approved list are given contributions from IST.
- Then, about the incident. The man was physically removed from the mosque's prayer center by the Tulsa Police Department after a discussion about the article became an argument which ended with the author cursing, threatening to hit someone and refusing to leave when requested. The building supervisor called the police at that time. A restraining order was filed but was ended after 2-3 days by request of the mosque's leadership. He can attend prayer services at the mosque without restriction as long as he acts in an appropriate manner during prayers.
(I posted a comment responding to this. In short -- Miftah believes that is the reason for his expulsion and the condition for his return, and he did not make any claim about IST's contributions.)
There's also a conflict between what Rana is reported as saying about a restraining order and what mosque council president Elsoueissi is quoted as saying in today's paper:
Elsoueissi said he talked to police about getting a restraining order against Miftah to prevent further incidents at Tulsa the mosque.
Did they get one and drop it, or did they just talk about getting one?
Miftah e-mailed me with this response to the reported comments of Dr. Rana:
As regards Dr. Sandra Rana's response or contradiction, I have to make the following submission: - I believe I have met Dr. Rana a couple of times in meetings of IST. - I feel sorry that Dr. Rana preferred to misrepresent facts or has been misinformed about the events of the night of November 18th, 2006, and made the conclusions without any fact finding. I am also surprised as to why she volunteered to provide clarification on financial matters relating to IST without being asked by Jim Mishler or challenged by me in my article. - She claims that the man was physically removed from mosque prayer center by Tulsa Police Department. It is too shallow a claim to comment on. I would just request you to please contact Tulsa Police Department and find out for yourself the name or names of police officers who escorted me out of the mosque.
- As regards my behaviour at the time of discussion or argument or claim that I was becoming violent, speaks of the truth it self. How can a man with my physique and age can dare to become violent against a group of 10 to 15 Arabs waving the boots at his face. I was rescued out of the mosque by a fellow Pakistani living in Tulsa for the last 40 years. Last but not the least, the incident occured inside the mosque hallway which remains under survellance camera 24/7. You may please request her for video of the incident and judge for yourself what was going on and how I was rescued out of the mosque.
- Also why was the restraining order filed in the first place and then withdrawn by mosque leadership, as per her claim, in 2 to 3 days?
- The fact is that after Isha congregation (the last prayer of the day) on November 20, 2006, two days after the incidence, my article was discussed in depth by mosque administration and the faithful were informed about decision by mosque leadership of banning me from mosque until such time that I agree to apologise in front of Friday's congregation (preferrably on November 24th, 2006). This decission was conveyed to me earlier on Sunday through Khan Muhammad Zareef, which was refused by me. I asked him to convey to mosque leadership that I intended to sue them for threats, intimidation, and expulsion from mosque and if they were courageous enough then they can come and say in front of judge and jury that I was expelled from mosque for being anti-Islamic and if they did that, then I will accept whatever they say including my submission to OBL [Osama Bin Laden].
I can go on and on on the subject, but to what point. You can not win from liars. I again feel sorry for Dr. Rana, she should have done some fact finding before levelling any allegations. I invite her to talk to Mohammad Zareef Khan, she knows the guy very well, and she knows that he never lies and once she ascertains the truth, then I am sure she would owe me and Jim Mishler an apology for misrepresenting the facts.
The IST leaders quoted in the Whirled story said their only disagreement with Miftah's op-ed was with this statement:
Even mosques and Islamic institutions in the U.S. and around the world have become tools in their hands and are used for collecting funds for their criminal acts. Half of the funds collected go into the pockets of their local agents and the rest are sent to these thugs.
Here's the section of the Whirled story reacting to that statement:
"We agree with most of his article, except the one statement that American mosques support terrorists.
"Our mosque does not, and I don't know of any that do," [mosque spokeswoman Sheryl Siddiqui] said.
Tulsan Mujeeb Cheema, executive director of North American Islamic Trust, said Miftah's views on bin Laden were "mainline views among American Muslims."
However, he said, "I was surprised that a person who has been in the U.S. for only three years, and not part of any national Muslim organization, would speak so confidently about Islamic institutions in the U.S."
Who is Mujeeb Cheema? As I outlined in an earlier entry, he is a leader in several prominent national Muslim organizations which are said to be a means of extending the influence and control of the extremist Wahhabi sect of Islam over the Islamic community in the United States. In 2004, Freedom House released a report about the hate-filled Wahhabist literature funded by the Saudi government which has become prevalent in American mosques. (Here is a link to a PDF of the full 95-page report.)
Earlier today, Jamal Miftah copied me on a reply he sent to the Tulsa Whirled in response to the claims made by IST leaders in the story. Here it is in full:
Dear Sir, I am perturbed and disappointed by the comments made in this publication of Tulsa World by Houssam Elsoueissi (Abu Waleed), president of the operating council of IST mosque, and Mr. Mujeeb Cheema, Executive Director of North American Islamic Trust. I will first take Mr. Houssam's comment.
While attempting to appear very generous for having agreed to make the following announcement on Friday services (that is today): "Mr. Jamal Miftah is free to attend services as long as there is no disturbance and that no one at mosque should confront him."
Is it a conditional permission?
From the tone of his language it appears that permission is conditional and that they have no remorse or regrets for the incident.
Is he implying that I was responsible for causing disturbance, if any, in the mosque, while confronted by ordinary Muslims in the mosque?
He is trying to create the impression that I was responsible for causing disturbance. So far as this allegation goes I was only responsible to the extent of writing the article which was published in Tulsa World on October 29, 2006. Any subsequent disturbance or excessive actions were initiated by Mr. Kabbani, Imam (leader) of the mosque, and Mr. Houssam Elsoueissi himself. The accused me of being traitor, anti-Muslim, and threaten me while inciting others to rise against me on the night of November 18, 2006.
I am also surprised why office bearers of IST are so defensive about channeling funds to illegitimate organizations by them. My article does not say anything to that effect by IST mosque in Tulsa, rather it was reference to the mosque in Brooklyn (Al-Farooq Mosque), New York, California, Albany, New York, Bridgeview, Illinois, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and one in Texas, and the result of investigation on the London bombing plot, leading its trails to funneling of earthquake donations collected in Britain to the terrorists involved. I have not yet made any allegation about IST on this count, yet some of their activities that I am aware of and have evidence certainly create doubts about legality of some of their activities.
Now to Mr. Mujeeb Cheema’s following assertion: “I was surprised that a person who has been in US for only three years and not part of any national Muslim Organization would speak so confidently about Islamic Institutions in US”.
Is he implying that for a Muslim, three years is too short a period to form an opinion and then in order for him to be confident, he has to be a member of national Muslim organizations to have knowledge of any illegal activities!
Mr. Cheema, I was not born three years ago. I have been a reader of the Times, Newsweek, and World Economist since 1980. There was, of course, a small break during 2003 and 2004, when I was in the process of settling in US. I am very well informed about what’s going on around the world and in the US, and especially with the internet revolution since 1990’s, events around the world are only a click away. The current state of affairs of the Muslims around the world is a result of the typical psychology of the leaders of so-called Muslim organizations where they are barred from expressing their views, as the leaders of such organizations for the fear of being exposed keep those voices suppressed by accusing them of being un-Islamic or Anti-Islamic when they speak or protest, and that’s what exactly happened during the shameful incident at IST’s mosque in Tulsa.
After going through the current ordeal, I feel and believe that the majority of the office bearers of IST that I have dealt or experienced are unfortunately liars, and I would prefer to boycott them and rather say my prayers on my own instead of saying it after a hypocrite like Mr. Ahmad Kabbani, the Imam of Tulsa mosque.
Thank you very much Mr. Houssam and Mr. Cheema!
I, however, thank Madam Sheryl Siddiqui from the depth of my heart for her honest efforts to diffuse the situation, but her efforts seem to have faded with the comments made by the others. She has also tried to communicate the wrong impression by relating my expulsion from the mosque by suggesting that it was as a result of disturbance. If at all any one was to be expelled from mosque for causing disturbance, then it should have been Mr. Ahmad Kabbani and Mr. Houssam and the group of 10 to 15 Arabs incited by them against me on the night of November 18th, 2006, and in all fairness not me.
More as it develops.
Yesterday I received a nice note from Jamal Miftah, the Pakistani immigrant who wrote a bold op-ed piece condemning al-Qaeda and terrorism in the name of Islam, and has suffered expulsion from the local mosque as a result:
I am Jamal Miftah and the unfortunate writer of an article against activities of Al Qaida. I still am unable to to give a rational reason to the unrational behaviour of the office bearers of Islamic Society of Tulsa, which amounted to gross vandalism in this civilized society and country. They have no shame or remorse todate and are constantly lying and shifting their position on the unfortunate occurance all the time. I can only pray for them and hope that their hearts will soften one day so that they can realize the pain and the suffering they have given to me and my family in the last 9 or 10 days. I thank you all for the much needed moral support.
I plan to continue to dig into this story and will keep you informed.
RELATED: Ali Eteraz, who posted an interview with Miftah which I linked, complains that no one in the "Rightosphere" is interested in staying with the story:
The rightosphere was all over the news about Jamal Miftah, the guy in Oklahoma who wrote an article condemning bin Laden and then subsequently got kicked out of his mosque. Good for the rightosphere.
But once the rightosphere had done their celebratory dance about how there are no "moderate" Muslims, it went along on its merry way. Meanwhile, I went and talked to Miftah. You think the rightosphere would want to follow up on it since they are so serious about empowering moderates.
Not quite. I gave it a day and a half to see if any of the big boys — hell, even little boys — would pick up my conversation with Miftah. Plenty of my readers went out and touted it. Nada. Oh look its me, having to do it all by my effing self, yet again.
He has a point. A Technorati search turned up only two links to the interview. (Technorati seems to have missed my link.)
Blogger Ali Eteraz has posted an interview with Jamal Miftah about his banning by the Islamic Society of Tulsa (IST). (See my previous entries on the topic here and here.)
(Eteraz describes his website, eteraz.org, as "the first interactive blog for Positive Muslim Activism." "Eteraz is an online forum whose goal is to mobilize people of conscience throughout the world to identify, discuss, and take action on political and religious issues involving Islam and the Muslim world. Eteraz seeks a humanist vision of Islam for the future and looks to illuminate the wisdom and spirituality that made Islam a great religion historically by creating community, promoting informed opinions and more than anything else, moving its members to real world action." In Urdu, the word "eteraz" means "heartfelt disagreement." The site's structure is similar to that of RedState.org, where anyone can start a diary, and editors can choose to elevate certain diary entries to the main blog. In recent entries readers are encouraged to be thoughtful about where they give end-of-year zakat (alms), voting is opened for awards to honor the best of the Islamic blogosphere, and a call to write letters to the Tulsa Whirled in support of Jamal Miftah.)
In the interview, Miftah says that he doesn't fear reprisals from the Muslim community for his op-ed, but he does fear al-Qaeda sympathizers. He mentions the verses from the Koran which he cited in the original draft of the op-ed, but which he removed at the insistence of the Whirled. He talks about his relationship with the IST's leadership and gives some insight into the internal workings of the mosque, and he talks about his feelings and his plans:
Nor is Miftah excessively bitter. He certainly feels betrayed and angered by the fact that he was called numerous names by the IST and pushed out. However, instead of taking any aggressive actions, he has simply reiterated to the mosque leadership that he is not going to rescind his article; he is not going to apologize for what he said; and in fact, he is going to wait for them to apologize to him for mistreating him. What troubles him most is that he enjoys going to the mosque and feels the right to worship has been taken unfairly from him. "There's just one mosque. There's no place for me to go to say my prayers. A mosque is Allah's house and no one has the power to take that." When I asked what would happen if he was never welcomed back, he stated that he hoped enough funds could be raised for a smaller mosque that he could attend.
Eteraz draws a couple of lessons from the interview, including one about mosque leadership style:
It is clear from what Miftah described to me, that the Islamic Society of Tulsa does not elect its leaders; it merely appoints them. In those situations, dissent and disagreement, can only be dealt with in an authoritarian manner, namely, banning. The Islamic Society of Tulsa needs to consider its own democratic reform.
Eteraz is hopeful that CAIR will encourage such reform in American mosques. I wonder if knowing that one of the Tulsa mosque's leaders is a CAIR board member would cause his hope to dwindle.
I wonder, too, whether the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT)'s ownership of the IST property contributes to its authoritiarian style of governance. See Dubya at JunkYardBlog notes that the Episcopal Church USA uses centralized ownership to enforce conformity with its liberal "orthodoxy" -- defy the hierarchy and lose your church building. (You can ask the good folks of Tulsa's Church of the Holy Spirit how that works. They're now meeting in a converted house on 41st east of Garnett.)
(The Presbyterian Church USA is doing the same thing, using centralized building ownership to prevent dissenting (Bible-believing) churches from leaving the denomination. In fact, one PCUSA presbytery is even allowing the sale of a church building to be used as mosques, evidently to make sure it doesn't fall into the hands of evangelicals.)
This entry is a work in progress, a place to summarize links and information for later analysis, by me or other bloggers.
The story of Jamal Miftah, the Muslim who was banned from the Islamic Center of Tulsa for writing an op-ed critical of al-Qaeda and those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam, has attracted the attention of Little Green Footballs, the premier blog on radical Islamism.
The comments on the LGF entry express shock and dismay that radical Islam appears to have a foothold in the American heartland. Although I know a few local Muslims, mainly co-workers at my old job, I don't know much about the Muslim community in Tulsa, so I've begun to do some digging.
In my searching, I came across the name of Mujeeb Cheema. Below is a summary of the references I've found so far. I'm not meaning to suggest anything suspicious about him, but his name crops up in a lot of places, and by following that name around the Internet, I'm learning about connections between Islamic organizations in America.
- This list of new Oklahoma corporations in the June 3, 1998, Journal Record, lists Cheema as the agent and incorporator for the Islamic Society of Tulsa (IST), with an incorporation date of September 22, 1997.
- This Catholic World News story from February 1997 describes Cheema as chairman of the Islamic Society of Tulsa. The story is about an Oral Roberts University administrator apologizing for ORU students gathering outside the mosque to pray for the conversion of the Muslims present.
- This investment article about the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) lists Cheema as Chairman of NAIT's board and its Executive Director. It links to a list of Directors and Officers of the Dow Jones Islamic Index Fund. Cheema is listed as secretary of the fund since 2003, Managing Director of Hawkins International from 1980-2003, and Executive Director of NAIT from June 2003 to the present. (The document properties have a September 2003 creation date, but this board overview dated April 2005 still shows Cheema with the same titles.)
- Cheema, as chairman of IST, is quoted in this 2002 University of Tulsa press release, saying that the new 150-seat mosque on the TU campus "might become the first building constructed on an American college campus for the specific purpose of serving as an Islamic mosque."
- Cheema is quoted in this March 2003 article about Oklahoma allowing Muslim women to wear headscarves when posing for driver's license photos. Cheema is named as a board member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). (His name does not now appear on the list of board members on CAIR's website.)
- Cheema is listed as a member of the board of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) on ISNA's website.
UPDATE: Here are some additional facts gleaned from the Tulsa Whirled's archives:
- December 15, 2002: Cited as a national board member for National Conference for Community and Justice
- February 2, 2003: Cited as a trustee of the Tulsa Community College Foundation.
- September 27, 2003: Cited as a spokesman for IST in a story about the mosque's new imam.
- October 4, 2003: Story about his hiring as executive director of NAIT. The story also says: "The titles to Tulsa's Al-Salam mosque and Peace Academy school properties are held by NAIT, [Cheema] said."
What is this NAIT that lists Cheema as executive director? The NAIT website says (emphasis added):
The North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) is a waqf, the historical Islamic equivalent of an American trust or endowment, serving Muslims in the United States and their institutions. NAIT facilitates the realization of American Muslims' desire for a virtuous and happy life in a Shari'ah-compliant way.
NAIT is a not-for-profit entity that qualifies as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. NAIT was established in 1973 in Indiana by the Muslim Students Association of U.S. and Canada (MSA), the predecessor of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). NAIT supports and provides services to ISNA, MSA, their affiliates, and other Islamic centers and institutions. The President of ISNA is an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees of NAIT.
NAIT holds titles to mosques, Islamic centers, schools, and other real estate to safeguard and pool the assets of the American Muslim community, develops financial vehicles and products that are compatible with both the Shari'ah (Islamic law) and the American law, publishes and distributes credible Islamic literature, and facilitates and coordinates community projects.
[T]he Islamic Society of North America is a front for the promotion of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi political, doctrinal and theological infrastructure in the United States and Canada. Established by the Saudi-funded Muslim Students Association, ISNA has for years sought to marginalize leaders of the Muslim faith who do not support the Wahhabists’ strain of Islamofascism, and, through sponsorship of propaganda and mosques, is pursuing a strategic goal of eventually dominating Islam in America.
ISNA provides indoctrination materials to about 1,100 of an estimated 2,500 mosques on the North American continent. Through its affiliate, the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) – a Saudi government-backed organization created to fund Islamist enterprises in North America – it reportedly holds the mortgages of between 50 and 79 percent of those mosques. Through this device, ISNA exerts ideological as well as theological influence over what is preached and taught in these institutions and their schools.
In December 2003, the chairman and ranking Democrat of the Senate Finance Committee, Senators Charles Grassley and Max Baucus, respectively, listed ISNA as one of 25 American Muslim organizations that “finance terrorism and perpetuate violence.”
This Chicago Tribune feature story recounts a battle over a mosque that was founded in the 1950s by Palestinian immigrants, but taken over by newcomers and deeded to NAIT in the 1980s, over the objections of long-time members.
Stephen Schwartz, an academic, a journalist, and a follower of Sufism, testified in 2003 before the Senate Homeland Security subcommittee about the spread of Wahhabi influence in the American Muslim community:
Wahhabi-Saudi policy has always been two-faced: that is, at the same time as the Wahhabis preach hostility and violence against non-Wahhabi Muslims, they maintain a policy of alliance with Western military powers — first Britain, then the U.S. and France — to assure their control over the Arabian Peninsula.
At the present time, Shia and other non-Wahhabi Muslim community leaders estimate that 80 percent of American mosques are under Wahhabi control. This does not mean 80 percent of American Muslims support Wahhabism, although the main Wahhabi ideological agency in America, the so-called Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has claimed that some 70 percent of American Muslims want Wahhabi teaching in their mosques.1This is a claim we consider unfounded.
Rather, Wahhabi control over mosques means control of property, buildings, appointment of imams, training of imams, content of preaching — including faxing of Friday sermons from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — and of literature distributed in mosques and mosque bookstores, notices on bulletin boards, and organizational solicitation. Similar influence extends to prison and military chaplaincies, Islamic elementary and secondary schools (academies), college campus activity, endowment of academic chairs and programs in Middle East studies, and most notoriously, charities ostensibly helping Muslims abroad, many of which have been linked to or designated as sponsors of terrorism.
The main organizations that have carried out this campaign are the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which originated in the Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA), and CAIR. Support activities have been provided by the American Muslim Council (AMC), the American Muslim Alliance (AMA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, its sister body the International Institute of Islamic Thought, and a number of related groups that I have called "the Wahhabi lobby." ISNA operates at least 324 mosques in the U.S. through the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). These groups operate as an interlocking directorate.
In a 2002 Q&A with National Review, Schwartz had this to say about Wahhabist influence over American mosques (emphasis added):
Unfortunately, the U.S. is the only country outside Saudi Arabia where the Islamic establishment is under Wahhabi control. Eighty percent of American mosques are Wahhabi-influenced, although this does not mean that 80 percent of the people who attend them are Wahhabis. Mosque attendance is different from church or synagogue membership in that prayer in the mosque does not imply acceptance of the particular dispensation in the mosque. However, Wahhabi agents have sought to impose their ideology on all attendees in mosques they control.
Ever wonder why more Muslims don't speak out publicly against terrorism and violence committed in the name of Islam? Ever wonder why you don't read more op-eds by Muslims like this?
Because of lack of knowledge of Islam, Muslim youth are misguided into believing by the so-called champions of the cause of Islam that the current spate of killings and barbarism, which has no equal in the recent civilized history, is jihad in the name of Islam. They are incited, in the name of Islam, to commit heinous crimes not pardonable by any religion and strictly forbidden in Islam....
Even mosques and Islamic institutions in the U.S. and around the world have become tools in [Al-Qaeda's] hands and are used for collecting funds for their criminal acts. Half of the funds collected go into the pockets of their local agents and the rest are sent to these thugs.
They are the reason for branding the peaceful religion of Islam as terrorism. The result, therefore, is in the form of Danish cartoons and remarks/reference by the Pope.
I appeal to the Muslim youth in particular and Muslims of the world in general to rise up and start jihad against the killers of humanity and help the civilized world to bring these culprits to justice and prove that Islam is not a religion of hatred and aggression.
I appeal to the Muslim clerics around the world that, rather than issuing empty fatwas condemning suicide bombing, they should issue a fatwa for the death of such scoundrels and barbarians who have taken more than 4,267 lives of innocent people in the name of Islam and have carried out more than 24 terrorist attacks on civilian installations throughout the world. This does not include the chilling number of deaths because of such activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is well over 250,000.
I appeal to al-Zawahri and his band of thugs to hand themselves over to justice and stop spreading evil and killing innocent humans around the world in the name of Islam. Their time is limited and Muslims of the world will soon rise against them to apprehend them and bring them to justice.
Jamal Miftah wrote those words in an October 29, 2006, Readers' Forum op-ed in the Tulsa Whirled. In "thanks" for his bold writing against Islamic terrorism, he has been expelled from the Islamic Center of Tulsa, the mosque which owns the old Stevenson Elementary School building north of 51st between Yale and Sheridan. He also says that he has been he subject of threats of violence. He has been told that he cannot come back to the mosque unless he takes back what he wrote. Oklahoma City's KWTV News 9 has the story.
In his op-ed, Miftah mentioned that he, his wife, and their four children came to the U. S. in 2003 from Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border. He lost a dear friend who chose to follow al-Qaeda and fight against the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. Please keep the Miftah family in your prayers for safety. The Muslim engineers that I've known and worked with in Tulsa are much more like Jamal Miftah than those who ejected him from the mosque. These Muslims love America, they love the American way of life, and they are apologetic for the terrorism done in Islam's name. To them, jihad is the inward struggle to subdue the passions, not conquering the land of the infidel.
What he says about American mosques collecting aid for terrorism may well be true. For years, Irish social clubs in America collected money which, whether the donors knew it or not, went to fund the operations of Irish nationalist terrorist groups. Certainly the opposite is true: many American mosques have received capital and operating funds from Arabic Muslim groups who hold to strict Wahhabi Islam.