Islamophobia Hurts Us All
Thank you for your July 2/9 issue on Islamophobia. Depressing but essential info.
Islamophobia is just a variation on the fearmongering that seems to appear periodically. In the 1950s, it was the Reds.
Oak Brook, Ill.
Recently our family bought burial plots in a cemetery close to where we live in a Chicago suburb—the ultimate act of putting down roots and making a statement that this is our country; this is where we will live and die. But now I and other Muslim Americans wonder when the nation of our choice will accept us as full citizens? What does the future hold for my children and grandchildren? Frenzied Islamophobia nine years after 9/11 was triggered by something as innocuous as the location of a cultural center/mosque, not a terror attack.
There is an urgent need for a commission to deal with this issue and for our nation to make it a priority. Islamophobia is potentially fatal for Muslim Americans and our nation’s pluralistic health. I am a founding member of a Chicago-based Muslim American think tank, the International Strategy and Policy Institute. It has conducted colloquies, published and done grassroots awareness work on pluralism.
I ask you to cover the case of Dr. Rafil Dhafir, a thirty-year American citizen born in Iraq. Dhafir sent aid to Iraq through his charity, Help the Needy, during the brutal thirteen-year Iraq embargo. For this crime of compassion he was arrested on February 26, 2003—one week after Sami Al-Arian’s arrest. He is listed with Al-Arian in this 2003 “Terrorist Financing” paper [pdf], written around the time of their arrests . Like Al-Arian, Dhafir was never released: he was held without bail for nineteen months and denied access to his own records. He was convicted of fifty-nine counts of white-collar crime (mostly IEEPA violations and mail and wire “fraud” in his running of the charity). See “Anatomy of a ‘Terrorist’ Prosecution: Dr. Rafil Dhafir and the Help the Needy Muslim Charity Case,” on Truthout.org.
Wilders, Breivik—No Friends of Mine
Max Blumenthal, in “Islamophobia’s Sugar Mama,” devotes several paragraphs to me and makes several errors and shoddy distortions. For example: “Expressing his solidarity with [Geert] Wilders, Pipes echoed the Dutch politician’s racial views on Muslim immigrants.” Hardly. I have repeatedly and publicly distanced myself from Wilders’s views of Islam, Muslims and Muslim immigrants. I have never expressed racial views on anyone, least of all Muslims.
Blumenthal willfully distorts a twenty-two-year-old quote. As I have established in some detail, the phrase “brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene” was a paraphrase of French leaders’ views, not my own.
Blumenthal writes of me, “In 2001 he neatly encapsulated the zero-sum mentality that defines his view…, declaring, ‘I worry very much, from the Jewish point of view, that the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims, because they are so much led by an Islamist leadership, that this will present true dangers to American Jews.’” Zero-sum mentality? Hardly. I pointed to the very real problem for Jews (among others) of a rising “Islamist leadership.” In an era of multiple and brutal US Islamist attacks on Jews, who could yet deny this is a growing danger?
“To his shame, Pipes earned eighteen citations in the manifesto of Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.” Another distortion, for Breivik mentioned hundreds of authors, some more often than me. He cited Hitler forty-two times, Muhammad thirty-six times and Osama bin Laden twenty-nine times. More apropos, he cited György Lukács fifty-one times, Karl Marx twenty-seven times, Theodor Adorno twenty-six times, Herbert Marcuse twenty-four times, Antonio Gramsci twenty-three times, Colin Barker twenty times and Barack Obama nineteen times. Were The Nation to boycott this posse of Marxists, leftists and their protégés, its pages would stand quite empty.
Daniel Pipes is understandably uncomfortable about being claimed as a source of inspiration by Anders Breivik—simply an indisputable fact, regardless of whomever else Pipes cites. The deranged Breivik pored over Pipes’s writings before engaging in mass murder. Of course Pipes does not countenance his crimes—but the question I raised is one of influence, intended or not, especially on susceptible minds. Does Pipes not feel even the slightest responsibility for the unintended consequences of his demagogy about a war of civilizations? Is he surprised that Breivik cites him as an incitement to violence? Pipes is offended, but is he naïve? Just a few quotes from one of his many articles, this one praising Europe’s leading neofascist, titled “Why I Stand With Geert Wilders” [National Review, Jan. 19, 2010]:
“Who is the most important European alive today? I nominate the Dutch politician Geert Wilders. I do so because he is best placed to deal with the Islamic challenge facing the continent. He has the potential to emerge as a world-historical figure. That Islamic challenge consists of two components: on the one hand, an indigenous population’s withering Christian faith, inadequate birthrate, and cultural diffidence, and on the other, an influx of devout, prolific, and culturally assertive Muslim immigrants. This fast-moving situation raises profound questions about Europe: will it retain its historic civilization or become a majority-Muslim continent living under Islamic law (the Shari’a)?… He represents all Westerners who cherish their civilization.”
Pipes attempts to distance himself from the effects of his writing by claiming that he is not anti-Muslim whatsoever, but simply warning against Islamic extremism. And yet, an article on his blog site, titled “Affirmative Action in Beauty Contests?” and ridiculing young Muslim Americans who participate in beauty pageants, is characteristic of his contempt. “They are all attractive,” he wrote, “but this surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants makes me suspect an odd form of affirmative action.”
Daniel Pipes may be a pernicious influence, but he is also a silly man.
In the 1970s I was mailed a traffic ticket from a city I had never been to. That was my first clue. It happened again in the ’90s when I tried to get an e-mail address at Yahoo. Then, reading the July 2/9 Nation, I saw my name in print. Another David Bluestein had aimed a snide ethnic insult at Laila Lalami. This David Bluestein could not disagree more with that David Bluestein. This David wishes Laila a long life filled with love, peace and happiness.