Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, April 2011
Greg Ball Follows Peter King in Another New York Anti-Muslim Hearing
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 11, 2011
Under the guise of reviewing preparedness for any possible terrorist attack, another anti-Islam and anti-Muslim hearing was held by the New York State Senate on Friday, April 8, 2011. Like a similar Muslim-bashing hearing by the Republican congressman Peter King last month, the New York hearing drew sharp rebuke by Democrats. In a letter addressed to Republican lawmaker Greg Ball, who called the controversial hearing, 11 Democrats said that the hearing is designed to "isolate and villify Muslims."
Ball was blasted by the Democrats for inviting two nationally known bashers of Islam - Nonie Darwish and Frank Gaffney - to the hearing. "The actions and words of some of the witnesses invited by you seek only to inflame hysteria and place an entire faith under suspicion," Brooklyn Sen. Kevin Parker said in a letter about the hearing, which Ball calls "Reviewing our Preparedness: An Examination of New York's Public Protection Ten Years After September 11."
Parker, who said he represents the largest Muslim Pakistani community outside of Pakistan, added, "When you look at his line-up this looks more like a Peter King attack on Islam than it is a valid investigation of New York's ability to protect itself from a terrorist attack."
"They are not people who are experts in security," said Senator Kevin Parker. "They are folks who have developed their name by spending their time criticizing and attacking Islam, which is not where we think we ought to be as a legislature."
Nonie Darwish, who was born in Egypt and converted to Christianity after immigrating to the U.S., has written books assailing Islam as oppressive to women, intolerant and diametrically opposed to American views about individual liberty.
Frank Gaffney was a witness for the plaintiffs in a controversial lawsuit against the construction of the Tennessee mosque. Gaffney has promoted the false belief that President Obama is a Muslim.
"This hearing will provide a venue to unqualified individuals who profit from maligning Muslims," reads the letter signed by 11 senators, including Bill Perkins, Liz Krueger and Velmanette Montgomery. "The Senate should not lend voice or credibility to those who advocate intolerance, hate, and promote bigotry," the letter states. The letter also calls for an investigation of hate crimes and discrimination against Muslims as well as those from the Arab, Sikh and South Asian communities.
A coalition of civil rights and interfaith groups challenged the anti-Islam bias of Nonie Darwish and Frank Gaffney, two of the nation's leading Islamophobes. CAIR-NY Civil Rights Manager Cyrus McGoldrick appeared on a panel with Linda Sarsour, advocacy and civic engagement coordinator for the National Network for Arab American Communities.
Sarsour, a Brooklyn native, said there were hundreds of thousands of peace-loving, law-abiding Muslims in the city. She said giving a public platform to people who wished to assail the religion in the name of national security just added to “a new era of increasing xenophobia.“ “We are part of the solution,“ she said of her fellow Arab-American New Yorkers.
"CAIR believes that political correctness has no place in discussions of security. We also believe that facts, not fear-mongering or false allegations, are the foundation of a sober and objective review of public protection. Finally, we believe that founding principles such as liberty and pluralism need not be escorted to the back of our national bus as we achieve our goal of defeating violent extremism," McGoldrick said adding:
“Issues negatively impacting American Muslim civil liberties include bigoted opposition to the building and expansion of American mosques, the use of Muslim-bashers as law enforcement trainers, violent extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda, and the introduction of anti-Islam legislation in state legislatures nationwide.”
McGoldrick's testimony also examined the role of American Muslim individuals and institutions in preventing violent extremism, outlined CAIR's work in helping to undermine violent extremist narratives, detailed the major issues impacting the civil liberties of American Muslims, and offered recommendations such as funding Muslim community organizations' programs that protect youth from violent extremist influences.
Nonie Darwish argued that Islam is a threat to the U.S. She said that schools and mosques throughout the Arab world commonly teach children to embrace violence as a way of dealing with nonbelievers and that women are brutally punished for perceived sexual crimes. “You’re supposed to hate America,“ she said. “You’re supposed to hate Western culture.“
That brought an angry response from Sen. Eric Adams, a Brooklyn Democrat. “It wasn’t the Quran that brought down our buildings,“ he told Darwish. “You are bringing hate and poison into a diverse country.“ Addressing Ball, the committee chairman, he demanded to know “why are we allowing her to bring this poison into a hearing“ dealing with the state’s preparations for a possible terror attack.
That didn’t quite end the argument. Darwish, continuing her argument that her former religion was a sinister ideology, went on to complain that Islam allowed men to have women as slaves for sexual purposes. “Are you aware of the number of Muslim cops who are protecting the city?“ said Adams, who was a police officer for two decades before becoming a legislator.
Darwish, a self-styled "former Moslem" has written that "Islam is cruel, anti-women, anti-religious freedom and anti-personal freedom in general." A review of her book, "Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law," states: "For Darwish, Islam is a sinister force that must be resisted and contained."
She told the New York Times: "A mosque is not just a place for worship. It's a place where war is started, where commandments to do jihad start, where incitements against non-Muslims occur. It's a place where ammunition was stored." Darwish's group, Former Muslims United, once put up a billboard stating "Stop the Murfreesboro Mosque" in an attempt to block the construction of a mosque in Tennessee.
Frank Gaffney said virtually every major Muslim group in the U.S. was part of an effort — part political, part military — to impose Islamic religious law on the country and install a supreme leader, or caliph, to rule over all. Gaffney said there are terrorist training camps operating in the U.S. right now, including one in upstate New York, where jihadists are preparing for armed insurrection.
Gaffney, president of the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, is the employer of David Yerushalmi, author of the template used to promote anti-Islam bills in a growing number of state legislatures. Yerushalmi is also head of the anti-Islam hate group Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE).
On its now password-protected website, SANE offered a policy proposal that would make "adherence to Islam" punishable by 20 years in prison, called for the immediate deportation of all non-citizen Muslims and urged Congress to declare war on the "Muslim Nation," which SANE defined as "all Muslims."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recently noted that Yerushalmi has "a record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry."
A Journal News editorial on the controversial hearing
New York Lower Hudson Valley Journal News has denounced the anti-Islam witnesses at the New York State Senate hearing. In an editorial titled, “Greg Ball's 'security' role? Helping spread intolerance,” the paper said under the guise of exploring the serious issues of emergency preparedness and public protection, Sen. Greg Ball has invited a pair of virulent, high-profile and unabashedly anti-Islam critics to testify in hearings Friday in Manhattan. The odds of either Nonie Darwish or Frank Gaffney, Ball's firebrand invitees, informing or improving our safety and security are absolutely nil. Here under is the text of editorial:
“One reality of religious bigotry and intolerance is that those who spread it, or aid and abet in its dissemination, very often aren't the ones who have to answer for it.
“For instance, a deranged Florida preacher burned a Quran last month in Gainesville, and more than a score of innocent people in Afghanistan have lost their lives, victims of Taliban-exploited anger and extremism. The dead have included U.N. workers in tinderbox regions who sought to preserve human life and dignity. They needed Pastor Terry Jones' help like a kick in the teeth.
“We hope the same isn't said later of state Sen. Greg Ball, R-Carmel, who heads the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security & Military Affairs Committee, a key assignment in a state that knows all too well the derivative costs of intolerance and religious extremism — and should also know of the need for more understanding, smarter heads and less vitriol.
“Under the guise of exploring the serious issues of emergency preparedness and public protection, Ball has invited a pair of virulent, high-profile and unabashedly anti-Islam critics to testify in hearings Friday in Manhattan. The odds of either Nonie Darwish or Frank Gaffney, Ball's firebrand invitees, informing or improving our safety and security are absolutely nil.
“Darwish, an Egyptian-American, is director of the group Former Muslims United and founder of Arabs for Israel. Gaffney is a right-wing newspaper columnist and self-styled expert on Islam. In interviews and writings, both leave a trail of sweeping and broad-brush condemnations of Islam and affronts to good sense. A New York Times article in August quotes Darwish, weighing in on a proposed mosque in Murfeesboro, Tenn.: "A mosque is not just a place for worship. It's a place where war is started, where commandments to do jihad start, where incitements against non-Muslims occur. It's a place where ammunition was stored." Her 2008 book, "Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law," asserts that Islam is "not a true religion" and that "inside Islam, it's a rotten religion."
“No doubt it was just such comments that state Sen. Kevin Parker, D-Brooklyn, had in mind when he wrote in a Tuesday letter to Ball: "The actions and words of some of the witnesses invited by you seek only to inflame hysteria and place an entire faith under suspicion." Eleven Democrats signed the letter; it should have been a bipartisan condemnation.
Insight from Gaffney
“Gaffney is no less incendiary than Darwish. He alleged in a 2009 TV interview that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center — all theories the Daily Kos blog properly noted under the label "Wingnuttery." He was recently profiled in a series by The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville about "Anti-Muslim crusaders (who) make millions spreading fear." The newspaper reported that Gaffney, as president of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Center for Security Policy, earned a salary of $283,300. Last year, Gaffney testified in a Murfeesboro lawsuit — it was a civil action against the proposed mosque — that Islam was not a religion. Gaffney acknowledged, under oath, however, that he was no expert on the matter. Ball should have taken him at his word.
“Gaffney also brings this insight, from a 2009 column for The Washington Times: "With Mr. Obama's unbelievably ballyhooed address in Cairo Thursday to what he calls 'the Muslim world' … there is mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself." The remarks speak for themselves.
“This is the kind of hairbrained thinking and pseudo expertise that Ball, the newly minted committee chairman, has lined up to help advance the causes of safety and security in New York, which actually is under constant threat of terrorist attack, according to real experts. So far, Ball and his dim helpers offer little help.”
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