Muslims use dual strategy to silence critics

This morning I heard an interview with Fresno’s own Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, the director of the Islamic Cultural Center here, on a national NPR newscast. Abu Shamsieh discussed his mosque’s decision to not hold a carnival marking Eid al-Fitr on September 11.

We didn’t want any extremists out there to exploit the pain of our country by saying that Muslims are celebrating 9/11… locally a mosque was attacked. Out of fear for our, for the safety of our community, we decided not to have huge public gatherings.

The interviewer asked about the ‘attack’. Abu-Shamsieh responded,

The Madera mosque, which is about 25 minutes drive away from Fresno was vandalized three times in one week. At one time a brick was tossed through the window of the mosque, two signs were placed inside the compound, one was placed outside — that refers to the mosque in New York — and labeling the Muslim community as a terrorist community… Muslims are concerned [about their safety] every time we approach 9/11. That’s something that’s understandable. However, what we really don’t understand is the ongoing rhetoric that is being placed on [the] airwaves, especially during the month of Ramadan. We welcome the questions about our faith, but the comments that really put down our faith — that’s unwelcome.

A few things:

The ‘attack’ on the Madera mosque was not quite what Abu Shamsieh describes. The Fresno Bee reported that “a brick nearly smashed a window”. Several cardboard signs were placed on the property, but nothing was damaged — the ‘vandals’ didn’t even spray-paint graffiti on the property, as they often do to my back fence. Nothing is mentioned about anyone seeing the brick thrown, so it’s possible that a better description of the event is that “a brick was found near a window.”

Sheriff's deputy with Madera mosque signs. Courtesy Fresno Bee.

Sheriff's deputy with Madera mosque signs. Courtesy Fresno Bee.

Do I have to say that such acts are despicable? But its interesting that when worse vandalism has been perpetrated against Jewish institutions in the area, the reaction has been to play down, not exaggerate the threat. Why is this?

As I wrote recently,

There is a campaign underway to define all speech critical of programs, projects or activities of Muslims as anti-religious hate speech, which is out of bounds.

Abu-Shamsieh wants to make it appear that criticism of the Ground Zero mosque plan, for example, is hate speech, the verbal equivalent of the brick that was [in some alternate reality] thrown through the window in Madera. And he wants everyone who objects to the behavior of Muslims or even the political platform of radical Islamism, to shut up.

Etymologically, the word ‘Islamophobia’ should mean ‘fear of Muslims’, but Abu-Shamsieh and others use it to mean ‘hatred of Muslims’, analogous to racism or antisemitism. Muslim groups are presently making a big deal about the massive ‘threat’ posed by Islamophobia in the latter sense. But they are quite happy to create fear, because fear is an excellent tool to silence criticism.

So the Quran-burning affair — not that it constitutes legitimate criticism — is presented as a possible trigger for anti-American violence around the world, including against American troops in Afghanistan. The Iranian Foreign Minister says that if they had succeeded in murdering Salman Rushdie or the Danish cartoonists, maybe the infidels wouldn’t be burning Qurans today. Of course they are trying to kill Americans in Afghanistan every day, not to mention burning our flags almost everywhere there are Muslims, but that’s to be expected.

In fact, Mr. Abu-Shamsieh himself participated in an attempt to intimidate critics by fear. In early 2009, the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno was the main sponsor of a huge pro-Hamas demonstration here in Fresno.  They brought in literally hundreds of Muslim students from out of town who occupied three of four corners of a major intersection.

A small portion of the pro-Hamas demonstrators in Fresno, January 2009

A small portion of the pro-Hamas demonstrators in Fresno, January 2009

One of their signs. Courtesy KMPH-TV.

One of their signs. Courtesy KMPH-TV.

A pro-Hamas demonstrator wrests Israeli flag from counter-demonstrator.  Courtesy Fresno Bee.

A pro-Hamas demonstrator wrests Israeli flag from counter-demonstrator. Courtesy Fresno Bee.

No more than 25 counter-demonstrators stood on the remaining corner, as waves of pro-Hamas students crossed the street, often threatening them verbally and sometimes physically. At one point when it appeared that verbal confrontations might escalate to violence, I called the police, to be told that ‘everything was under control’ (there were no officers visible). Apparently the Islamic Center had made an agreement with the police that they would prevent violence, and soon one of their marshals appeared on the scene and restrained the more aggressive students. But it was made clear to us that our safety was entirely in their hands.

What I see is a two-pronged strategy to make it impossible to criticize Muslims:

  • Define criticism of Muslims, their actions or politics as bigotry akin to burning crosses; and if that doesn’t work,
  • scare the hell out of the critics.

This is why they want everyone to think there is a large amount of bigoted Muslim-hatred out there (although FBI figures show that the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes is less than one-tenth the number of anti-Jewish ones), while at the same time doing their best to create a healthy fear of the consequences of saying things that Muslims don’t like.

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