Benny Morris in London: “a mob of Moslem hooligans”

Last month, Benny Morris gave a lecture in London courtesy of the LSE’s Middle East Centre. Many were unhappy at Morris being afforded such a platform, given his views on Muslims and Arabs, e.g.:

The phenomenon of the mass Muslim penetration into the West and their settlement there is creating a dangerous internal threat.

The Muslims are busy killing people, and killing people for reasons that in the West are regarded as idiotic. There is a problem here with Islam.

[T]he notion of sharing power or being a minority in a non-Muslim Arab polity is alien to the Muslim Arab mentality.

After the event, an article by Morris was published online by The National Interest, in which he relayed the hostile reception he experienced in typical fashion:

As I walked down Kingsway, a major London thoroughfare, a small mob—I don’t think any other word is appropriate—of some dozen Muslims, Arabs and their supporters, both men and women, surrounded me and, walking alongside me for several hundred yards…Several spoke in broken, obviously newly acquired, English. Violence was thick in the air though none was actually used. Passersby looked on in astonishment, and perhaps shame, but it seemed the sight of angry bearded, caftaned Muslims was sufficient to deter any intervention. To me, it felt like Brownshirts in a street scene in 1920s Berlin—though on Kingsway no one, to the best of my recall, screamed the word “Jew.”

Morris continued to talk about the questions he received from “Muslim participants” including “girls with scarves”, before concluding that “Muslim intimidation” is “cowing” the “British Christian majority” into “silence”.

But that (ahem) subtle messaging proved too much of a strain for Morris, and it now appears that he spoke in rather blunter terms to Makor Rishon, an Israeli newspaper:

As soon as they saw me I was surrounded by a mob of Moslem hooligans, screaming and cursing at me as I advanced toward the building…I had the feeling that I was surrounded by Nazis, except that instead of black shirts these were wearing Arab scarves on their heads.  They were unambiguously Islamofascists.  Some of them screamed in their broken foreign English that the UK should never have allowed me into the country.

This is the kind of person the Israel lobby will promote – and reminds me what a relief it was that Morris did not have the opportunity to spread his hate in Cambridge last year.

Dressing Like a Terrorist

Like many others, I was dismayed to learn of the two imams wearing traditional Muslim garb who were forcibly removed from an airplane that was to carry them to a conference on Islamophobia.  The passengers who were removed from a Delta/ASA flight in Memphis, Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghloul, apparently frightened other passengers and upset one of the pilots, who refused to fly with them on board.  Not everybody was dismayed, however.  The Delta/ASA pilot and the frightened passengers have received support from numerous voices among the American commentariat.

The situation was a clear-cut case of ethnic profiling.  On this everybody should agree.  Some of those who support the pilot’s action want to disclaim their support of profiling, but such a desire is dishonest.  People need to accept the realities of the positions they express, even if those positions attach to descriptors that have negative connotations.  If you support the pilot, you are supporting an instance of ethnic profiling.  Either accept that fact or develop a different opinion.

I have been reading commentaries about the case with much interest.  One argument in particular keeps arising:  the notion that Rahman and Zaghloul deserve what happened to them because they dressed like terrorists.  The reasoning goes like this:  Muslims commit terrorism; Muslims look a certain way; a certain look thus portends the possibility of terrorism.  In short, those who appear to be Muslim are worthy of extra scrutiny because they are more likely to be terrorists than other people.

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On why Liberal Defenders of the ‘Mosque’ Get it Wrong

This article below is also published in Religion Dispatches. A version of it can also be found on AlterNet – Aisha Ghani

Let me begin by stating what this article will not be doing: it will not be addressing the racist – but also vapid and unimaginative – bigotry coming from far right circles in the ‘mosque’ debate. Rather than attempting to deconstruct that ultimately banal rhetoric, I will focus on an issue that remains largely unaddressed: the troublesome terms and conditions upon which “Park51” has emerged a ‘defensible’ endeavor within — not conservative — but ‘liberal’ discourse.

In the past weeks, we have seen how liberal defenders have responded to the ‘fear and trembling’ that the mere idea of a mosque induces, through a series of disavowals. Instead of challenging the racist assumptions that buttress such rhetoric, many liberals have decided to offer ‘clarifications’. Time and again, the public is being reminded of the fact that Park51 is not  a mosque but an Islamic community center that promotes ‘inter-faith’ dialogue.

Daisy Khan and Imam Rauf, the leading figures behind the Park51 initiative, have not only repeated this mantra, but have in fact produced it. When liberal defenders have wittingly or unwittingly referred to Park51 as a mosque, the response from folks at the Cordoba Initiative has been gratitude in the form of this corrective: thank you for your support, but Park51 is not a mosque.

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Bloomberg defends Mosque Construction at Ground Zero

Perhaps the most unlikely support for the planned Muslim Community Center at ground zero (aka Cordoba Mosque) comes from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Speaking publicly this morning at Governors Island off the tip of Lower Manhattan, Bloomberg presented several arguments in favor of the community center – arguments that were also intended to delegitimize at least some of the ‘Islamophobic’ assumptions that are so deeply embedded in the rhetoric of those opposing the plan; i.e.- coming from people like Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and the Anti-Defamation League (an organization which, at least in theory, claims to exist in order to combat anti-semitism.)

Although Bloomberg’s speech tends, more often than not, to invoke a rather romanticized conception of  ‘American ideals,’ he also manages to cite other critical moments in U.S. history – moments when hysterical bigotry has similarly served to occlude the religious freedoms of communities that are now considered to be America’s erstwhile ‘Others.’ Accordingly, Bloomberg does a pretty good job of blending historical fantasy and fact in his attempt to sway American public opinion in favor of the community center. Here’s the transcript of his speech:

“We’ve come here to Governors Island to stand where the earliest settlers first set foot in New Amsterdam, and where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted. We come here to see the inspiring symbol of liberty that more than 250 years later would greet millions of immigrants in this harbor. And we come here to state as strongly as ever, this is the freest city in the world. That’s what makes New York special and different and strong.

Continue reading “Bloomberg defends Mosque Construction at Ground Zero”