Friday, July 1, 2011

Islamic Rep. Ellison draw anti-Muslim tea party Challenger-Salon

Keith Ellison, one of two Muslim members of Congress, has drawn a Tea Party challenger who says she is running because she believes Ellison is a "radical Islamist."

Lynne Torgerson wrote a post last week on the website of Tea Party Nation on the need to ban Shariah in the U.S., and her claim that Ellison sees Islamic law as supreme:

I, Lynne Torgerson, am running for Congress in Minnesota, against radical Islamist Keith Ellison.  Keith Ellison fails to oppose banning Islamic Sharia law in the United States.  He accuses people of trying to ban it as "conspiratorilists." [sic] Keith Ellison also fails to support that the United States Constitution should be supreme over Islamic Sharia law. 

Torgerson actually ran last cycle, garnering 4 percent as an independent. A Minneapolis criminal defense attorney, her campaign website was dominated by critiques of Islam:

"And, what do I know of Islam? Well, I know of 911."

And here's a video uploaded yesterday of Torgerson asking Ellison at an event whether he believes Shariah or the U.S. Constitution should be supreme in the United States.

"I believe that the United States Constitution, which has been amended well over 25 times, is the bedrock of American law," Ellison says. "This whole movement to ban Shariah -- bills like this have been introduced in 22 states -- in my view is a very thinly disguised effort at religious persecution of people that are Muslim."

Sara Forestier and Jacques Gamblin in "The Names of Love"

French guilt over the Nazi-collaborator Vichy regime and the World War II deportation and murder of thousands of Jews has produced an entire genre of French cinema that shows little sign of abating, 60-odd years on. But perhaps no French movie has tackled this topic more oddly, or more pleasurably, than Michel Leclerc's sweet, sexy and deceptively lightweight romantic comedy, "The Names of Love." (I guess that's an audience-friendly translation of the original  title, which might be more accurately given as "People's Names.") On one level Leclerc's film, a major hit and award-winner in France, is an archetypal Gallic fable on the pitfalls of l'amour, especially when Cupid's arrows have brought together a repressed middle-aged bachelor and an uninhibited, free-spirit younger woman.

OK, so "free spirit" is a bit of a euphemism when we're talking about Baya (Sara Forestier, winner of the best-actress C├ęsar, or French Oscar), the radiant, half-Algerian heroine of "The Names of Love." Baya is flamboyantly promiscuous, or as she puts it, a "whore." Mind you, she's a whore with political aims: She has sex with right-wing guys -- French nationalists, wonky neoliberals, Islamic fundamentalists, you name it -- and uses her mind-blowing talents to convert them to the cause of left-wing egalitarian socialism. You may hop into the sack with Baya as a fan of Milton Friedman or Jean-Marie Le Pen or Maggie Thatcher, but you come out ready to raise llamas, ride a solar-powered moped and live in a yurt.

Now, buttoned-down Arthur (Jacques Gamblin) isn't a "fascist," even in Baya's all-encompassing use of the term. He's a dull, decent, suit-wearing Frenchman, a center-left Socialist voter and a veterinarian who specializes in avian diseases. (I'm not quite sure why it seems both funny and sad to have a character who's an expert on flu in ducks and geese, but it is.) Baya shouldn't be remotely interested, but something clicks between them right away. Because Leclerc and co-writer Baya Kasmi's playful screenplay -- they are real-life partners, and there's clearly an autobiographical element here -- frequently has Arthur and Baya break the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience, we understand the secret connection between them long before they do. Arthur is Jewish in much the same way Baya is Arab, by descent but not by upbringing, and both are carrying family secrets that shape their personalities in ways they barely recognize.

There are a few awkward moments in "The Names of Love" when Leclerc and Kasmi venture too close to delivering a lecture about tolerance or an anti-jingoistic lesson in the polyglot nature of contemporary French identity. But mostly they handle some profound and tragic elements of French history by way of thoroughly endearing comedy and a pair of mismatched, irresistible characters. (Not to mention a delightful supporting cast that includes Jacques Boudet as Arthur's taciturn dad and Carole Franck as Baya's motormouth lefty mom.) Forestier is of course the centerpiece as the frequently naked Baya -- hey, it's a French comedy -- whose luscious sexuality isn't quite as liberated as she thinks. Gamblin's performance is much subtler but also rewarding, as Arthur struggles to shed the overcoat of Parisian reserve that enshrouds his personality. A profound masterwork of French cinema? Hardly. But in its joyful and high-spirited fashion "The Names of Love" suggests that we must learn from the past but live for the future, and that definitely doesn't just apply to French people.

"The Names of Love" is now playing in New York and Los Angeles, with wider national release to follow.

Do I spot crescents in this CityCenterDC promotional brochure?

There is a giant real estate development happening in downtown Washington, D.C., near the White House, on the site of the old convention center. Boring news for non-D.C. residents. But I'm willing to bet that the CityCenterDC complex -- office space, retail, condos, your standard massive downtown "revitalization" project -- will soon be very interesting to a lot of people who don't live in the area. Not because anyone cares about urban land-use issues, but because of one of the project's investors: Muslims.

The Washington City Paper noticed a bombshell buried at the bottom of a New York Times piece:

Even before the Qatari investors became involved, Hines and Archstone determined that leasing to banks would not help them create lively shopping streets, Mr. Alsup said. But as it happened, their hesitancy on bank branches meshed with the policies of their financial partners, who adhere to the restrictions of Shariah, or Islamic law, including the ban on collecting interest. Restaurants will be able to serve liquor, but retailers whose primary business involves selling alcohol will not be allowed, Mr. Alsup said.

That's right: Shariah law, a stone's throw from the U.S. Capitol. I am assuming the Times just neglected to mention that in addition to banning bars from the complex, all women will be required to wear the niqab, and obviously all infidels will be murdered, while shopping at the Apple store or whatever ends up there. And no dancing!

What's astounding is that as far as I can see, Matt Drudge hasn't picked this up. Pamela Geller hasn't written a lengthy screed about it. Robert Spencer has not weighed in. No one at the Corner has mocked liberals for mocking the threat of creeping Shariah. Get on it, guys! SHARIAH LAW HAS BEEN IMPOSED IN WASHINGTON!

Anthony-Weiner-converted-to-Islam meme spreads

This interview with Robert Spencer, the go-to Islam expert for the right wing, offers a taste of the worldview of the Shariah fear-mongering set:

Frontpage: I would like to talk to you today about Anthony Weiner’s marriage to his Muslim Brotherhood wife, Huma Abedin.

How is it exactly that a Muslim woman connected to the Muslim Brotherhood is married to a Jewish man? Something is not fitting here, right?

Spencer: Jamie, Islamic law prohibits a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim man. A Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman, but not the other way around. This is yet another manifestation of Islamic supremacism: the idea is that a wife will become a member of her husband’s household, and the children will follow the religion of the father. Thus, Muslim men marrying non-Muslim women ultimately enriches the Islamic community, while the non-Muslim community must forever be made to diminish.

Consequently, when a non-Muslim man begins a relationship with an observant Muslim woman, he is usually pressured to convert to Islam, and such conversion is made a condition of the marriage. Of course, laws are often honored in the breach, and this is not always true. So while we know that Huma Abedin’s parents were devout and observant Muslims — indeed, her father was an imam — we don’t know what exactly is going on with her marriage to Anthony Weiner.

Certainly the most likely scenario is that Weiner did convert to Islam, as Abedin’s mother, a professor in Saudi Arabia, would almost certainly have insisted that he do so. Weiner has made no public statement of this conversion, but since it would almost certainly have cost him politically if he had announced it, this silence is not any indication that he didn’t actually convert.

However, it is also possible, given the recent scandal involving Weiner’s apparently frequent and sexually charged contact with other women, that the rumors that the Abedin/Weiner union is a political marriage of convenience are true. After all, in 2008, Hillary Clinton was running for president. There were widespread insinuations that she was involved in a romantic and/or sexual relationship with Abedin, her ever-present personal assistant. Those whisperings persisted into Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. Abedin’s 2010 marriage to Weiner, at which Bill Clinton presided, put those rumors to rest.

In Islamic law, a Muslim must officiate a marriage ceremony; hence if Bill Clinton was the only one officiating, the marriage was not valid according to Islamic law. Huma Abedin would undoubtedly have known that. Thus, if no Muslim was officiating along with Clinton, Weiner would not have had to convert to Islam, as the whole thing was a charade from the outset, apparently entered into with the full awareness of all parties concerned.

Emphasis added.

This is the second time we've heard the baseless claim that the very Jewish Weiner might have converted to Islam when he married Huma Abedin.

The important point here is that Spencer is no fringe figure; he's at the very center of the anti-Muslim movement in the United States. His bio describes the impressive access he has to both mainstream and right-leaning media sources:

His articles on Islam and other topics have appeared in the New York Post, the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News, the UK's Guardian, Canada's National Post, Middle East Quarterly, WorldNet Daily, First Things, Insight in the News, National Review Online, and many other journals.

Spencer has discussed jihad, Islam, and terrorism at a workshop sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the German Foreign Ministry. He has also appeared on the BBC, ABC News, CNN, FoxNews's O'Reilly Factor, the Sean Hannity Show, the Glenn Beck Show, Fox and Friends, and many other Fox programs, PBS, MSNBC, CNBC, C-Span, France24 and Croatia National Televison (HTV), as well as on numerous radio programs including Bill O'Reilly's Radio Factor, The Laura Ingraham Show, Bill Bennett's Morning in America, Michael Savage's Savage Nation, The Sean Hannity Show, The Alan Colmes Show, The G. Gordon Liddy Show, The Neal Boortz Show, The Michael Medved Show, The Michael Reagan Show, The Rusty Humphries Show, The Larry Elder Show, The Barbara Simpson Show, Vatican Radio, and many others. He has been a featured speaker at Dartmouth College, Stanford University, New York University, Brown University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, Washington University of St. Louis, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and many other colleges and universities.

I asked Spencer about his claim, and he emailed: "If [Weiner] converted, it was almost certainly for convenience, not out of conviction." Spencer also amended his statement that Weiner "most likely" converted to "most immediately obvious":

"'Most likely' is a bit overstated. That is the most immediately obvious scenario, given Abedin's background and self-identification as a Muslim. It is, as is obvious from the rest of what I said, not the only possible scenario," he wrote.

What did he say this time? Let's go to the tape!

MediaMatters' Political Correction provides the video and the transcript:

GOHMERT: And I know the president made the mistake one day of saying he had visited all 57 states, and I'm well aware that there are not 57 states in this country, although there are 57 members of OIC, the Islamic states in the world. Perhaps there was some confusion whether he'd been to all 57 Islamic states as opposed to all 50 U.S. states. But nonetheless, we have an obligation to the 50 American states, not the 57 Muslim, Islamic states. Our oath we took is in this body, in this House. And it's to the people of America. And it's not to the Muslim Brotherhood, who may very well take over Egypt and once they do, they are bent upon setting up a caliphate around the world, including the United States. And this administration will been [sic] complicit in helping people who wants [sic] to destroy our country.

Yep, just your typical "Barack Obama is a Muslim who wants to Muslimize America because he hates us" screed. Pretty standard, par-for-the-course insane racist paranoia, from a congressman. This bizarre right-wing fantasy-land bullshit is at this point so common that when I saw this video, I was like, "man, wake me when Louie Gohmert says something really awful." He needs to really think outside his awful box of bigoted garbage to impress me, these days!

So that's pretty depressing, right? Louie Gohmert: I am desensitized to your horribleness.

newt muslims

Newt Gingrich has become one of the most vocal Muslim-baiting Republicans in the country, from his call for a federal ban on Shariah to his comparison of the organizers of the "ground zero mosque" to Nazis. But Gingrich's recent rhetoric represents a little-noticed shift from an earlier period in his career when he had a strikingly warm relationship with the American Muslim community.

As speaker of the House in the 1990s, for example, Gingrich played a key role in setting aside space on Capitol Hill for Muslim congressional staffers to pray each Friday; he was involved with a Republican Islamic group that promoted Shariah-compliant finance, which critics -- including Gingrich -- now deride as a freedom-destroying abomination; and he maintained close ties with another Muslim conservative group that even urged Gingrich to run for president in 2007.

Gingrich's changing relationship with the Muslim community mirrors a similar evolution in the Republican Party at large. President Bush won a majority of Muslim votes in 2000, but after Sept. 11 and the subsequent passage of the Patriot Act, the invasion of Iraq, and Abu Ghraib, Muslim Americans shifted to the Democratic column. After Bush -- who had at least given rhetorical support to the idea of non-discrimination -- left office, explicitly anti-Muslim voices in the GOP became more prominent, most visibly during the hullabaloo last summer about the planned Islamic community center near ground zero.

Among them was Gingrich, who launched a particularly feverish media and fundraising offensive against the so-called "ground zero mosque." Last summer Gingrich also delivered an address at the American Enterprise Institute warning of "stealth jihadis" using "political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools" to destroy Western civilization. "Shariah in its natural form has principles and punishments totally abhorrent to the Western world," Gingrich declared. In its blanket condemnations of Shariah -- a broad term referring to the Islamic legal tradition -- this was hardly a nuanced speech.

But a little over a decade ago, the same man, as speaker of the House, went out of his way to give Muslim staffers space for Friday prayers in one of the House office buildings. At a Council on Foreign Relations event last week, the interfaith activist Eboo Patel recalled that, when Gingrich was approached about the issue by a Muslim staffer friend of Patel's, the speaker promised, "I'm going to make sure you have a place to pray for 50, and our staff will move the tables and the chairs for you. And as long as I'm speaker, you can count on that." Joked Patel: "So Mr. Gingrich has the distinction of helping to facilitate Shariah." (Ironically, a conservative group recently called for an investigation of controversial imams who allegedly addressed this same weekly prayer meeting.)

Gingrich's warm relations with the Muslim community continued well into the mid-2000s. Around 2004, for example, he participated in a planning meeting of the Islamic Free Market Institute, according to an activist who also attended the meeting. "His tone was nothing like what you hear today," recalls the activist. "He was very positive, very supportive. His whole attitude was that Muslims are part of the American fabric and that Muslim Americans should be Republicans."

By the standards of the Gingrich we know today, the Islamic Free Market Institute was essentially engaged in "stealth jihad." The now defunct group, founded by conservative activist Grover Norquist in 1998 to woo Muslim Americans to the GOP, was involved in educating the public and policymakers about Islamic or Shariah-compliant finance. Its 2004 IRS filing reported the group spent tens of thousands of dollars to "educate the public about Islam[ic] finances, insurance, banking and investments." To most people, there's nothing nefarious about Islamic finance -- there is a large international banking business centering on special financial instruments that are compliant with Islamic strictures against interest, and so on.

So in 2004 Gingrich attended a planning meeting of a group devoted to promoting Shariah-compliant finance. Fast forward to 2010 and here's what he said in his speech to the American Enterprise Institute:

"[I]t's why I think teaching about Sharia financing is dangerous, because it is the first step towards the normalization of Sharia and I believe Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it. I think it's that straightforward and that real."

Mother Jones recently reported that Gingrich attended another Islamic Free Market Institute meeting in 2001 at which he was said to be "attentive and supportive."

As late as 2007, a Republican group called Muslims for America actually nominated Gingrich for president in its newsletter, citing the fact that "unlike other politicians, Gingrich does not see us at war with Islam." The group is run by the Hasans, a Colorado family that became big Republican donors after amassing a fortune in the HMO business. The matriarch of the family, Seeme Hasan, both founded the group Muslims for Bush in 2003 and, according to her bio, represents Gingrich's group, American Solutions, in Colorado and Nevada. The website of Muslims for America prominently features a picture of Gingrich with Seeme's son, Muhammad Ali Hasan.

Seeme Hasan was not available to comment about Gingrich's evolution, but she told Talking Points Memo last August that she was considering leaving the GOP because "the past few years in the Republican Party has been constant humiliation for Muslims."

Gingrich, for his part, is currently on a cruise in Greece and his spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Walid Shoebat

The Department of Homeland Security this month paid $5,000 to anti-Muslim terrorism "expert" Walid Shoebat to speak at a conference for South Dakota law enforcement, despite Shoebat's history of dubious claims about the threat of Islam as well as his own background.

That $5,000 figure was unearthed by a public records request filed by Rapid City Journal reporter David Montgomery. Shoebat is an evangelical Christian whose website describes him as a "former PLO terrorist [who] now speaks out for USA and Israel."

However, as Hussein Ibish and others have documented, Shoebat's claims about his past are largely unsubstantiated, down to whether his real name is really Walid Shoebat. He, for example, claims that, in his Islamic extremist days in the 1970s, he threw at a bomb at a Bethlehem bank. But the bank says it never happened, and there are no news reports of any such terrorist attack. Surveying Shoebat's history of questionable claims, Ibish concludes that he is a "shameless fraud."

It is beyond dispute that Shoebat holds views of Islam well outside the mainstream. He told a Missouri crowd in 2007 (via Nexis) that "Islam is not the religion of God -- Islam is the devil." He has also said President Obama is "definitely" Muslim.

Nevertheless , Shoebat has managed to build a career speaking on Islam and terrorism before law enforcement and military audiences, Jewish groups, and on Fox and WorldNetDaily. At the South Dakota homeland security conference this month, Shoebat spoke about on "Jihad in America. "

Shoebat's appearance -- his second in two years in South Dakota alone -- is the latest sign of the institutional embrace of self-styled terrorism experts who are both openly hostile to Islam and unfit to provide well-grounded information to law enforcement. (For recent examples of this phenomenon in New York City and around the country, see here and here.) At last year's conference in South Dakota, Shoebat reportedly encouraged attendees to tap the phones of Muslim student groups because "you can find out a lot of information that way."

The federal Department of Homeland Security told me it had no role in inviting Shoebat to the conference -- but it did provide the grant money that paid him.

"This event was hosted and managed by the South Dakota Office of Homeland Security, a separate entity from the federal Department of Homeland Security," said DHS spokesman Matthew Chandler. "If states use grant money from DHS that is intended for training, the onus is on the state to abide by the standards."

It's not clear what those standards are. The South Dakota Office of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A typical Shoebat tactic is to quote selectively from the Quran, painting Muslims as cartoonish evil-doers. For example it's hard to see how this bit of Shoebat's speech this month, quoted by the Rapid City Journal, will add to law enforcement's understanding of Islamic extremist terrorism:

"If you meet the unbelievers, then smite off their necks," Shoebat quoted the Quran, a translation of the fourth verse of chapter 47.

"What part of ‘smite off their necks’ do you Americans not understand?" he asked.

Here, finally, is Shoebat holding forth about Islam and the "mark of the beast":

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