Conservative republican Muslim condemns Fox Report on congressional staffers as “Anti-Muslim Bigotry”

Suhail Khan, a conservative Republican who served as a political appointee in the Bush administration and currently serves on the American Conservative Union board, calls the Fox News report asserting that the Congressional Muslim Staff Association poses a national security threat “anti-Muslim bigotry.”

Khan, who currently works as a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement, an evangelical Christian religious freedom organization, worked as a Hill staffer in the 1990s, serving on the staff of Tom Campbell, a California Republican. In the mid-1990s, he said, he approached then-Speaker Newt Gingrich about obtaining a room for the small number of Muslim staffers to hold Friday prayers. Gingrinch granted that request, and the tradition continued through the tenures of Speakers Dennis Hastert, also a Republican, and Nancy Pelosi.
Over the years, the number of people attending grew, eventually leading to the creation of the CMSA around 2007, when Khan has already left Hill service and was working in the Bush administration. Like other Congressional staffer organizations, the CMSA does not receive any funding or support from the government; rather the status permits it to use space and provides a structure for leadership. Other groups include Christian and Jewish organizations that host prayer and study sessions. The CMSA, Khan said, engages in two main activities: hosting briefings on a variety of issues; and hosting a Congressional iftar each year that is widely attended, including by elected officials. Friday prayers are held by individual staffers, some of whom are also CMSA members, under the auspices of the House chaplain; they are not an official function of the CMSA.

Regarding the Fox piece, Khan said, “since 9/11 there have been a couple of individuals that have been spending a lot of money to cull through tapes and videos of conferences and TV programs and the Internet to look for information that is critical of Muslims and Muslim-Americans getting involved in public policy. They compile that into a guilt-by-association Powerpoint and then shop it to reporters.” These individuals include, said Khan, Frank Gaffney, who issues baseless warnings to members of Congress about “creeping shari’ah;” Paul Sperry, co-author of the book Muslim Mafia, which claimed that the Council on American Islamic Relations had infiltrated Capitol Hill by placing interns as spies; Kenneth Timmerman, a conservative writer and activist; Pamela Geller, the blogger who spurred much of the anti-Park51 fervor; and Robert Spencer, who runs the website Jihad Watch; and Steve Emerson, whose profits from a cottage industry of peddling fear of Islam were exposed last month by the Tennessean’s religion reporter Bob Smietana.

Islamophobia and Homophobia

Playing the homophobia card is costlier than playing the Islamophobia card. Or at least, the costs are more evenly spread across the political spectrum. Suppose Williams had said something hurtful to gay people instead of to Muslims. Suppose he had said gay men give him the creeps because he fears they’ll make sexual advances. NPR might well have fired him, but would Fox News have chosen that moment to give him a $2-million pat on the back?

As Islamophobia grows, it alienates Muslims, raising the risk of homegrown terrorism — and homegrown terrorism heightens the Islamophobia, which alienates more Muslims, and so on: a vicious circle that could carry America into the abyss. So it’s worth taking a look at why homophobia is fading; maybe the underlying dynamic is transplantable to the realm of inter-ethnic prejudice.

Theories differ as to what it takes for people to build bonds across social divides, and some theories offer more hope than others. One of the less encouraging theories grows out of the fact that both homophobia and Islamophobia draw particular strength from fundamentalist Christians.

“A Week of Dialogue” At Mosques, Inviting Non-Muslims Inside to Ease Hostility Toward Islam

This week, hundreds of mosques and Islamic organizations across the country have been encouraging their members to invite non-Muslims to attend prayers, discussions and tours of Islamic centers as a way to defuse hostility toward the Muslim population. “A Week of Dialogue,” materialized from a summit of Islamic leaders last month in New York and was, in part, a response to the furor surrounding a plan to open a Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero.

A New York Times poll in August found that 75 percent of New Yorkers had never visited a mosque, and that those who had, or who had a close Muslim friend, were more likely to support the Muslim center planned in Lower Manhattan. “In terms of rectifying this Islamophobia and bigotry, we should focus on our relationship with our neighbors,” said Zaheer Uddin, executive director of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, an umbrella group of mosques and Islamic groups in the city.

Juan Williams gave voice to such concerns this week when he said on the Fox News Channel, where he is a political analyst, that he got “nervous” when he saw people in “Muslim garb” on an airplane. National Public Radio, where Mr. Williams had also worked, terminated his contract on Wednesday; Fox gave him a new contract on Thursday. The organizers of the weeklong dialogue said the open houses were intended to help dispel just the sort of concerns that Mr. Williams expressed.

CBSNews.com: Conservative media pushing fears about Sharia law in America

In an October 13 article, CBSNews.com political reporter Brian Montopoli
notes that the “notion that Sharia law is coming to America has been
percolating in the conservative media for a while.” Montopoli cites
examples from Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Brian Kilmeade, and Newt Gingrich,
among others. He later reports that “fears of an outbreak of Sharia law
seem overblown at best. Even if there is somehow a serious push for the
imposition of Sharia law – or any other religious law – it would quickly
run up against the first amendment to the Constitution.”

From the CBSNews.com article:

The notion that Sharia law is coming to America has been percolating in
the conservative media for a while. Fox News’ Sean Hannity suggested the
arrest of the Christian missionaries in Dearborn reflected the
possibility that “Sharia law is taking over in Dearborn,” as did Fox
News’ Brian Kilmeade, who interviewed one of the men who was arrested.

At the Values Voters summit in September, Newt Gingrich said – to a
standing ovation – that “[w]e should have a federal law that says Sharia
law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States.” He has also
warned that jihadists are trying “to replace Western civilization with a
radical imposition of Sharia.”

The World is Watching

America’s reputation for religious tolerance and decency has taken a terrible hit with this brouhaha over the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. It is a self-inflicted wound, aided in no small part by the Tea Party and the fear-mongers at Fox News who never miss an opportunity to summon the darker aspects of our nature for political purposes. All this in the name of a higher patriotism, of course.

The Time Square bomber incident and the Timeline

“On May 1st, New York’s Times Square was the target of a failed terrorist attack. In the extensive coverage of the incident, you will find the timeline of the incident leading to the arrest of the suspect right before he scarped the country. The coverage will also include the news following the arrest, the charges against the suspect and the debate around the suspect’s Miranda rights. It will review some of  the immediate consequences of the incident including debates about the effectiveness of the no-fly list, the heightened security measures in NYC and potential effects of the incident on US foreign policy. International dimensions of the incident in linkage to Pakistani Taliban as well as the coverage by Pakistani sources have also been included. Finally, a collection of links related to the suspect’s background is available.”

LA Times: Pres. Obama: “We will not be terrorized.”

Associated Press via LA Times and ABC: Police Release the Video of “A Person of Interest”

CBS: On the Vehicle

Fox News: Potential Foreign Links

LA Times: NYPD: No Evidence of Taliban Links

Associated Press via My Fox, Democracy Now, LA Times: Times Square Hero

Associated Press via CNN, WNYC, The Washington Post and CBS News:The Timeline

Associated Press via CNN, La Times, Huston Chronicle: The Last-Minute Arrest

Suspect’s Background

“On May 1st, New York’s Times Square was the target of a failed terrorist attack. In the extensive coverage of the incident, you will find the timeline of the incident leading to the arrest of the suspect right before he scarped the country. The coverage will also include the news following the arrest, the charges against the suspect and the debate around the suspect’s Miranda rights. It will review some of  the immediate consequences of the incident including debates about the effectiveness of the no-fly list, the heightened security measures in NYC and potential effects of the incident on US foreign policy. International dimensions of the incident in linkage to Pakistani Taliban as well as the coverage by Pakistani sources have also been included. Finally, a collection of links related to the suspect’s background is available.”

CNN: The Incident’s Extended Timeline
BBC: Suspect’s Profile
Fox News: Glimpse into Suspect’s Life
MSNBC: Clues to Suspect’s Background
NYT: Suspect’s Background
USA Today: Suspect’s Background
CNN: Images of the Suspect Buying Fireworks
CBS: Suspect on US Travel Security List Since 1999

Popular Tv Host Calls America A ‘Judeo-Christian Country’

By Khalid Hasan WASHINGTON: American Muslims have expressed outrage following the assertion by popular right-wing Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that Muslim holidays should not be observed since America is a Judeo-Christian country. On the October 27 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly called the idea of closing public schools for the observance of Muslim holidays _absurd’. He made the remark during a discussion with Hillsborough County (Florida) Commissioner Brian Blair, who opposed the Hillsborough County School board’s decision to keep public schools open on Yom Kippur and Good Friday during the 2006-07 school year, a departure from the school district’s earlier practice of closing schools on those days. In December 2004, Hillsborough County Muslims, with the backing of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), asked the school board to close schools on the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr. Instead of giving students the day off on Eid-ul-Fitr, the school board voted to keep schools open on Yom Kippur and Good Friday during the 2006-2007 school year, arguing that the school district could close schools on days when a substantial number of students would be absent, but could not close schools specifically for the observance of religious holidays. Students however can take the day off on such occasions. In his discussion on the question with Blair, Bill O’Reilly said, So a Muslim wanted a Muslim holiday, which is absurd in a Judeo-Christian country. I mean we can’t be having Hindu and Buddha. I mean, come on. I mean this country is founded on Judeo-Christian traditions. Those traditions have been in play for more than 200 years. Christmas is a federal holiday. You know, somebody walks in and says, _Well, I just moved here and I want, you know, this Shinto shrine.’ And you’re going, _Well, look, this is a traditional American situation that we’ve done for hundreds of years.’ But now you knocked it out.