Cheered on by Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media, conservative activists spent the past year engaged in an anti-Muslim campaign that included efforts to block the planned Islamic center in lower Manhattan and demonize the imam spearheading the project. The bigotry has culminated in a Florida pastor's now-"suspended" plans to burn Qurans on September 11 -- plans that the pastor has explicitly linked to the controversy over the Islamic center.
As the nation prepares to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, numerous media figures have propagated anti-Muslim rhetoric, often smearing Muslims as "terrorists," "jihadists," and "extremists," and dismissing Islam altogether as a "militant" and "anti-Semitic" faith.
Earlier this week, Gen. David Petraeus released a statement condemning Florida* pastor Terry Jones' horrific plan to burn copies of the Koran outside his church on September 11 (which Jones has dubbed "International Burn A Koran Day"). Petraeus said:
It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan. It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community
He also commented of the proposed burning, "Even the rumor that it might take place has sparked demonstrations such as the one that took place in Kabul yesterday."
We've previously pointed out that a nationwide climate of Islamophobia has followed the right-wing media's ugly, inflammatory, anti-Islam response to the planned Park51 Islamic cultural center. In addition to Jones' proposal, this anti-Muslim wave has included protests across the country in opposition to local mosques and Islamic community centers, vandalism of existing mosques, and rallies against Park51 that have echoed the right-wing media's disturbing rhetoric.
Now Gen. Petraeus is making the completely obvious point that viciously anti-Islam protests undermine our anti-terrorism efforts and could lead to a violent backlash against our troops. How have the stokers of those fires responded? By attacking Petraeus, of course.
Yes, although all three conclude that burning the Koran is a bad idea, Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, and Frank Gaffney -- among the leaders of the anti-Park51 movement -- have declared that Petraeus' warning is "deeply troubling" and a "recipe for surrender." Instead, Spencer suggests that Petraeus should have issued a statement defending the church's right to burn the Koran.
Oh, and part of the reason that Geller and Spencer oppose the burning of the Korans is that they think the would-be burners are better off reading the books so they can learn about the evils of Shariah.
From the August 23 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
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Two recently released polls show that an increasing number of Americans believe the falsehood that President Obama is a Muslim. According to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of people who believe this false claim cite the media as the source of that information -- and, indeed, the right-wing media have incessantly promoted this lie.
Right-wing media are attacking President Obama's statement that he "believe[s] that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country" and are entitled to build a mosque in Lower Manhattan.
The Washington Times has an extensive history of promoting anti-gay smears, falsehoods, and distortions. In the latest example, the Times compared Judge Vaughn Walker, who found California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional, to "brutal" Roman Emperor Nero, writing that Nero, "like Judge Vaughn, wanted the community to embrace his unnatural way of life."
Today, the front page of Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller blared the headline "Justice Sharia: Critics allege Kagan is sympathetic to Islamic law" over a large picture of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.
The conservative media has been circulating this claim for months now -- though to be honest, we're more accustomed to it being paired with an image of Kagan in a turban, rather than one of her standing behind a podium.
Nonetheless, it's important to again set the record straight on this tired, Islamophobic attack, especially because The Caller has chosen to revive it just as the right is whipping up an anti-Muslim frenzy regarding the community center and mosque set to be built near Ground Zero.
The Caller reports that, according to some conservative critics (more about this merry band later), one of Kagan's "primary disqualifications" is the supposed "approval of Sharia" she demonstrated as the dean of Harvard Law School. The familiar laundry list of Kagan's alleged offenses includes "condoning the acceptance of $20 million from Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal -- who blamed the attacks of 9/11 on American foreign policy -- to fund programs on Islam," "spearhead[ing] the 'Islamic Finance Project,' a program aimed at mainstreaming Sharia-compliant finance in America," and "award[ing] the Harvard Medal of Freedom to the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, who critics say is a promoter of Sharia."
None of these attacks is remotely accurate.
In a Washington Times column accompanied by an image of Elena Kagan in a turban, Frank Gaffney attacked Kagan for allowing Harvard Law School to sponsor an Islamic Finance Project during her deanship. However, sponsorship of Islamic finance programs is not extreme; the Bush administration sponsored such programs, as have major banks.
From the July 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Today, Andrew Breitbart launched Big Peace, the national security analog to his other smear and conspiracy sites. He announced its kick-off with the following ludicrous statement:
The site is pro-freedom, pro-liberty, and pro-American but will not be an outlet for false information or propaganda. The unique mix of Schweizer, Gaffney, and Blackfive and our collective reputations will provide a check and balance.
That's right. Breitbart, delusional nut that he is, thinks that his and Frank Gaffney's "reputations" will help "provide a check and balance" that will keep the site from publishing "false information or propaganda."
You may remember Gaffney from his crackpot claim earlier this year -- published on Breitbart's Big Government, no less! -- that the Missile Defense Agency's "new" logo "appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo," which Gaffney identified as a "nefarious" "symbolic action" that he suggested represented an "act of submission to Shariah." Of course, Gaffney blamed Obama for his fanciful take on the logo, claiming it demonstrates how the administration "is all about accommodating that 'Islamic Republic' [Iran] and its ever-more aggressive stance."
I'm sure you can see where this is going. A few days later, Gaffney embarrassingly returned to Big Government to admit that "it isn't true that the MDA's logo is exactly new or, apparently, that it reflects an Obama-directed redesign." It turns out that "[t]he contract for a complete rebranding for MDA was let in 2007, during the Bush administration, although much of the work appears to have been done in 2008 in follow-on contracts during the presidential campaign in which the Obama logo was much in evidence." In offering this explanation, Gaffney apologized for any "confusion" caused by his insane conspiracy-mongering, though not for engaging in it.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Earlier we noted that the Washington Times fabricated a photo of Elena Kagan alongside a column by Frank Gaffney, who attempted to tie her to Shariah. In addition, in Gaffney's column, The Washington Times published a fabricated name of a program at Harvard University.
Gaffney quoted Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) saying:" Around the same time that Dean Kagan was campaigning to exclude military recruiters - citing what she saw as the evils of 'don't ask, don't tell' - Harvard University accepted $20 million from a member of the Saudi royal family to establish a Center for Islamic Studies and Shariah Law."
In actuality, the Saudi Prince (and major News Corp. shareholder) Alwaleed Bin Talal's $20 million gift to Harvard University established the Islamic Studies Program at Harvard University. According to the university, the program "bring[s] together faculty, students, and researchers from across the University and coordinat[es] their activities through one Program housed within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences." It appears that no program named the "Center for Islamic Studies and Shariah Law" exists at Harvard.
At no point in his column did Gaffney correct Sessions or refer to the program by its correct name.
From the April 7 broadcast of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Media conservatives have criticized an Obama administration nuclear policy review provision that would limit the role that nuclear weapons play as a deterrent, claiming that Obama was "undermining our national defense" with a "dangerous" policy. These criticisms have been rejected by nuclear experts, scientists, and military brass, who support a limited and narrow role for nuclear weapons.
From a February 27 post by Frank Gaffney on BigGovernment.com:
In a post here Wednesday, under the headline "Can This Possibly Be True?," I called attention to a "new" logo being used by the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) on the grounds that it bore a disconcerting resemblance to an amalgamation of the Obama campaign's logo and the symbols of Islam, the crescent and a single star. It turns out the answer is "no," it isn't true that the MDA's logo is exactly new or, apparently, that it reflects an Obama-directed redesign.
We have since learned that the logo has been used at the MDA website since at least October 2009. Matters are made more confusing by the fact that the agency continues to use its older shield-like logo for online and other purposes. The contract for a complete rebranding for MDA was let in 2007, during the Bush administration, although much of the work appears to have been done in 2008 in follow-on contracts during the presidential campaign in which the Obama logo was much in evidence.
It has also been observed that - rather than embracing the symbolic crescent and star, they could be interpreted as the targets of the intercepting swoosh in the MDA's latest logo. If so, the 2009 design would presumably be offensive to Islamists, rather than evidence of submission to them.
For these reasons, I am content to have the question posed in the last post be answered in the negative, and I regret any confusion caused by my suggesting otherwise.