Zuhdi Jasser

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  • Fox Defends Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” Proposal As Other Journalists Criticize It

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Fox News figures are praising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposal to have “extreme vetting” of immigrants wanting to come into the United States and using questionnaires to vet their beliefs, saying “we’ve done it before,” that it “made sense,” and that it was part of a “a solution-based program.” Meanwhile, other journalists and media outlets are saying the idea “just beggars belief” and is an “impractical” attempt “to recast his Muslim ban in other, less obviously offensive terms.”

  • 8 Ways Right-Wing Media Exploited The Brussels Terror Attacks

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ & JULIE ALDERMAN

    Right-wing media quickly exploited the terrorist attacks in Brussels by stoking fears about the U.S. refugee vetting process, calling for the profiling of Muslims, stoking anti-immigrant sentiments, hyping anti-Muslim fears, blaming political correctness for the victims of terrorism, crediting Donald Trump with being "right" when he said Brussels was turning into a "hell hole," calling for torture and waterboarding, and criticizing President Obama.

  • Right-Wing Media Smear Mosque Before Obama's Visit

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Right-wing media smeared the Islamic Society of Baltimore (ISB) after President Obama announced that it would be the first U.S. mosque he visits in his presidency. Conservative media accused the mosque, one of the largest Muslim centers in the mid-Atlantic region, of having ties to terrorism based on cherry-picked, decades-old connections and former employees.

  • Lawyer Attributes Fox News' Coverage For Client's Murderous Threats Against Muslim Civil Rights Organization

    Lawyer Of California Man Convicted Of Making Threats To CAIR, Blames Alcohol, Depression, And Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    A California man was sentenced Tuesday to a year in jail and five years of probation for threatening to shoot employees of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) offices in San Diego and Washington, D.C. The lawyer for John Weissinger, 54, blamed alcohol, anxiety, depression, and Fox News coverage for his client's dangerous threats against CAIR.

    According to San Diego's CBS News 8, Wessinger's lawyer attributed his threats to the Muslim advocacy group to "problems with alcohol, anxiety and depression and [having] just finished watching a week of Fox News coverage on the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris when he threatened the CAIR offices." Weissinger's threats directly referenced the Charlie Hebdo attack as reported by NBC San Diego:

    "We're waiting for you. And you know what's going to happen? One day you're going to wake up and there's going to be a big, big incident," the voice on the recording states. The phone message was played in open court Tuesday.

    "You're going to be in the news. It's going to be like Charlie Hebdo. Guess what? It's coming your way motherf--ers."

    Fox has a long history of demonizing CAIR and Muslims. In November, Fox host Sean Hannity used a Pew Research poll titled "Views of ISIS Overwhelmingly Negative" to claim that a "significant" number of Muslims support ISIS, misleadingly claiming that the poll showed hundreds of millions of ISIS sympathizers. After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Fox News ignored Muslim condemnation of the attacks and instead telling Muslims and groups like CAIR to keep "their mouth shut when things happen."

    On numerous occasions, Fox News has likened CAIR to terrorist organizations. Fox personalities attacked the group after it condemned the December 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. Frequent Fox guest Dr. Zuhdi Jasser accused the group of seeing radicalization as "sort of normal behavior" and that it "inculcates those first steps of radicalization." In January, Megyn Kelly condemned Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and other Democrats for inviting representatives from CAIR to the State of the Union address.

    Recently, CAIR has reported an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes and according to TPM, "CAIR has faced a number of other threats in recent months, many of them in the immediate aftermath of terrorist attacks."

    (h/t TPM)

  • Conservative Media's Demand That Muslims Atone For Terrorism Is A Rigged Game

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    "Moderate Muslims don't speak out enough against the hijacking of their religion" Fox News primetime host Sean Hannity claimed in his first radio appearance after the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.

    In a year bookended by three major terror attacks against the West, blaming "moderate Muslims" for failing to condemn acts of terrorism has become a hallmark of conservative media coverage. The constant demand for penance -- from Muslims who have nothing to do with the acts of violence -- is a rigged game, aimed at convincing audiences that Islam is dominated by violent extremists.

    January's Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris set the stage for a year of anti-Muslim coverage. Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox News' parent company, tweeted that Muslims "must be held responsible" for terrorist attacks "until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer." Fox contributor Monica Crowley echoed his statements, claiming "I haven't heard any condemnation" of the attack from Muslim groups, while right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham claimed that similar attacks wouldn't occur if "most Muslims were against what was happening." When Paris was struck by terror again in November, Fox primetime figurehead Bill O'Reilly called for a "Million Muslim March," adding that people want to "see a mobilization of the good Muslims." Capping off the year of Islamophobic coverage, Fox daytime host Andrea Tantaros used December's terrorist attack by a Muslim couple in San Bernardino, California as an opportunity to peddle the myth that Muslims "don't come out and denounce [terrorism]."

    But conservative media's calls for "moderate Muslims" to condemn terrorism are disingenuous. Muslim groups and leaders have repeatedly and roundly condemned terrorism. After November's attacks in Paris, leaders from numerous Arab states and Muslim-majority countries called them "heinous crimes" that are "repugnant," and "against all human and moral values." Eleven months earlier, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, religious scholar Reza Aslan said "anyone who keeps saying that we need to hear the moderate voice of Islam, why aren't Muslims denouncing these violent attacks, doesn't own Google." Nevertheless right-wing media routinely ignored these condemnations, choosing instead to criticize Muslims for supposedly not speaking up. After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the spokesman from Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA condemned the attack on FoxNews.com, yet on the same day Fox News personalities claimed Muslims had not. Sean Hannity doubled down in his attacks against "silent" Muslims days after leaders of predominately Muslim countries, some of the largest Islamic groups in America, and Muslims across the world denounced the November Paris attacks.

    And when conservative commentators do acknowledge statements from mainstream Muslim groups, it's often only to ridicule those groups for speaking out. After the December 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), one of the largest Islamic organizations in America, quickly denounced the attack in a press conference after the shooters were revealed to be Muslim. Executive Director Hussam Ayloush reassured the country on CNN that "all American Muslims share with the rest of the country our sorrow today, our shock, and our agony for what happened."

    But rather than silencing criticisms, CAIR's response only drew outrage from conservative commentators who labeled the group a "terrorist organization" and "that Muslim group that ain't the best in the world." One Fox guest even went so far as to compare the press conference to "a pedophile sending NAMBLA out to speak for them," while others dismissed the statements as "damage control" and a "media crisis management plan." Frequent Fox guest Dr. Zuhdi Jasser somehow gathered from CAIR's statements that they "inculcate[] those first steps of radicalization" and see it as "sort of normal behavior."

    CAIR's condemnations also did little to curb conservative media claims that Muslims weren't speaking out against terrorism. Even while acknowledging CAIR's press conference, a segment on Fox's Outnumbered still claimed that Muslims weren't sending the message that terrorists "are much different than the rest of us."

    Many of the same conservative media figures who demanded penance from "moderate Muslims" for acts of terror also repeatedly suggested that Islam and Western society are fundamentally incompatible. Monica Crowley reasoned that Muslims weren't denouncing terror because "in Islam, the good Muslims are the jihadis, so the ones not carrying out violence are looked at as sort of crummy Muslims." Laura Ingraham stoked anti-Muslim fears by citing a faulty poll to falsely claim that Muslims "have a 5,000 percent greater chance of being connected with some type of jihadi group in the United States." Sean Hannity asked if "we have a clash of cultures we've got to consider?" in reference to resettling Syrian civil war refugees in the U.S., adding, "How do we know if they want to assimilate?" Bill O'Reilly called the European refugee crisis "the dramatic Muslim invasion." Fox News figures capitalized on the crisis to stoke fears that Muslim refugees may be terrorists, from Andrea Tantaros claiming "taking Islamic refugees would be suicide" to The Five co-host Eric Bolling saying male Muslim refugees are "going to be easily radicalized by ISIS."

    This tactic -- assigning collective guilt and then falsely accusing "moderate Muslims" of being complicit with violent terrorism -- has become a powerful weapon in conservative media's campaign to fearmonger about Islam.

    After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Caner Dagli, a professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross, pointed out that these demands are "really about political statements and maintaining a certain social hierarchy" and "an act by the powerful assigning collective guilt against the powerless":

    This is really about political statements and maintaining a certain social hierarchy. Demanding that innocent Muslims always make new statements about crimes they could not have stopped, from which they do not benefit, and have always condemned anyway, is an act by the powerful assigning collective guilt against the powerless. The critics who want Muslims to "speak out" only grow more demanding when Muslims actually do speak out, because by doing so Muslims have publicly affirmed the right of others to blame them collectively, regardless of whether they are accountable or not.

    Such political maneuvers -- and that is what they really are -- increase the leverage that can be exerted over Muslims in public life. Muslim voices are thus uniquely kept out of view unless they are apologizing for some atrocity they had nothing to do with.

    Endlessly accusing Muslims of being insufficiently outraged by terrorism helps prime conservative media audiences for a wildly distorted view of Islam. Vox's Max Fisher shed light on the mindset that these tactics breed: "the implication is that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise."

    That implication has consequences. While right-wing media figures heightened suspicions of the Muslim community, anti-Muslim backlash in America has been on the rise. The FBI reported that in 2014, hate crimes across the board decreased -- that is, except for anti-Muslim crimes, which rose about 14 percent. And according to a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, that trend may be "destined to accelerate."

    Just days after the attacks in Paris, a Muslim engineer attended a community forum to present an application for a zoning permit to replace his city's aging Islamic center. A crowd poured into the meeting to harass him. "Nobody wants your evil cult in this town," someone in the hall shouted, "because you are terrorists. Every one of you are terrorists ... Every Muslim is a terrorist, period. Shut your mouth." Vandalism at mosques reached a record high this year with anecdotal evidence suggesting that 2015 "has been one of the most intensely anti-Muslim periods in American history," as nearly twenty anti-Muslim incidents took place over the course of just one week in December.

    When conservative media commentators demand that Muslims condemn acts of terrorism and subsequently ignore their voices when they do, they are insidiously suggesting that Muslims condone terrorism. These demands are meant to make audiences suspicious of the idea of "moderate Muslims" and inflate the perception of extremists within the religion. Muslims are then left with seemingly no way to win, no matter how loud or how hard they try.

  • Right-Wing Media Attack Ben Affleck For Challenging Islamophobia

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Conservative media are attacking actor Ben Affleck for comments he made objecting to disparaging generalizations about Islam during a heated exchange with HBO host Bill Maher, using their dialogue as ammunition to continue claiming that the religion has a unique connection to extremism and that Muslims have not done enough to root out religious zealotry.

  • Fox Fears That Ensuring Religious Freedom In The Military Degrades Core Values

    Blog ››› ››› MICHELLE LEUNG

    Fox News spread fears that new military instructions that grant commanders the discretion to accommodate service members' religious practices and physical appearance will threaten the core military values and cohesion of the troops despite the fact that the Pentagon requires these accommodations be made on an individual basis in consideration to the health and safety needs of each unit.

    On January 22, the Department of Defense released new instructions on accommodations for religious expression -- instructions which they believe will reduce discrimination "toward those whose religious expressions are less familiar to the command." The Washington Post reports the new instructions will ensure "rights of religious-minority service members to display their beliefs outwardly -- such as wearing a turban, scarf or beard -- as long as the practices do not interfere with military discipline, order or readiness."

    On the January 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade turned to Fox's go-to anti-Muslim activist, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser who attacked the rule change as a threat to military readiness. Jasser argued that the rule change might be manipulated by "pseudo-civil rights groups that are really trying to weaken our unit cohesion, weaken mission readiness, and ultimately tee up the football for litigation Jihad or people like -- monsters like -- Nidal Hasan who want to wear a beard." Kilmeade agreed, adding "if your religion conflicts with what the rules are in the military, do something else."

    Later in the show, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck invoked the story of former army officer, Nidal Hasan, convicted of killing 13 people on a military base in Fort Hood, Texas to stoke fears that the new policy might hurt safety and unit cohesion:

    HASSELBECK: You can't help but think, I mean, people are harkening back to Nidal Hasan asking to maintain and grow a beard while a trial was going on. I think it definitely brings up concerns, both for safety, unified front, and just cohesion.

    But the new instructions came after a long struggle on the part of religious minority groups like Sikh, Jewish, and Muslim Americans who have previously been barred from serving in the military due to the strict dress and personal appearance standards. The new instructions will allow military departments to accommodate individual religious expression, but each individual will still have to be granted permission from his or her unit to assure that physical appearances "do not interfere with good order and discipline."

    The Washington Post further clarified that these new accommodations will not be allowed to affect safety or military readiness:

    According to the Pentagon, requests for such religious accommodation will still be decided on an individual basis but will generally be denied only if the item impairs the safe use of military equipment; poses a health or safety hazard; interferes with wearing a uniform, a helmet or other military gear; or "impairs the accomplishment of the military mission."

  • Shariah Panic Still Has A Home At Fox

    Blog ››› ››› HARDEEP DHILLON

    The fear of Shariah law creeping into the U.S. legal system is a myth, and The New York Times has reported that the originator of anti-Shariah movement is attorney David Yerushalmi, who has been described by the Anti-Defamation League as having a record of "anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black rhetoric."

    But don't tell Eric Bolling that. Yesterday, Bolling used his Fox Business Network show to push the creeping Shariah myth.

    Bolling also worried about whether Sohail Muhammad, a Muslim judge appointed to the bench by New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie, will have "a completely objective view on American case law." Bolling promised his audience: "We'll keep our eye on" the judge.

    During the segment, Bolling also claimed that "[w]hile folks worry about the mosque-ing of America, there's also a fear of creeping Shariah, the slow but steady influence of Shariah Muslim law into America." One of Bolling's guests was Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a star witness at the first of Rep. Peter King's (R-NY) anti-Muslim congressional hearings. Unsurprisingly, Jasser did little to alleviate Bolling's fear that Shariah is coming.

    Another of Bolling's guests, Bo Dietl, who can always be counted on to make disparaging remarks about Muslims, did not disappoint. He said that, unlike in "Muslimland," in America, "a judge will convict you for assault if you assault the woman, if you assault your wife, even under your aba daba law there." Dietl also expressed concern that "judges who are from the Islam can become judges in America and then they can start weighing these cases out and start to understand it under the Shariah law."