Saturday, August 8, 2009

Landmark Senate Hearing on Islamists- Insights into Explaining Government Behavior toward Muslims in US and Abroad- Part II-

Baran Advises Open War on American Activist Muslims
Void Likely to Result, Most Likely to be filled by Radicals

In the landmark hearing on Islamists held on July 10, 2008 before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Zeyno Baran, a Turkish immigrant and Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute offered a broad indictment of almost all American Muslim institutions. If her argument is accepted by the government, and there is evidence it is, then the existing American Muslim institutional presence is at risk with no plausible alternative offered by Baran's favorite Muslims: "the secular, liberal and cultural Muslims." This void is bound to be filled by a radical alternative that will make the present Muslim establishment dearly missed.

The Islamist Infrastructure in the US

Activist Muslims are often associated with schools of thinking such as the Brotherhood and the Salafis. Baran states: "To understand how and why this [American Muslim radicalization process] is happening, one has to look at where people learn about Islam, who represents Muslims and Islam, what activities are conducted by these groups, and other related infrastructure questions. This is where the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] comes in- the most prominent Muslim organizations in America are either created by or are associated with the Brotherhood and the Wahhabis and are therefore been heavily influenced by Islamist ideology. Over the course of four decades, Islamists have taken over the leadership in almost all Islam related areas in America. This is worrisome, yet almost no one in the US government deals with it" [Baran's emphasis].
While individuals influenced by one school of thought might have been involved in violence this does not indict the whole school of thought. After all, the Crusaders claimed to be motivated by Christianity. The Jewish, Eastern Christian and Muslim victims can not justly argue that the Crusades present an indictment of Western Christianity.

NAIT: The Waqf as a Radical Idea

Baran does not spare any of the major American Muslim organizations from her indictment. The Muslim Student Association (MSA) is indicted though MAS it is not unlike Christian or Jewish campus groups. This obsession with Muslims takes away from attention that should be paid to American Christian and Jewish extremists. I am not sure if Baran saw the documentary Jesus Camp to see what very young children are exposed to in the name of Christianity to know what radicalism and brain washing is. Baran even attacks the North American Islamic trust (NAIT)- NAIT is a Muslim endowment that holds title to Muslim institutions.

MAS and CAIR

Of course an Islamic conspiracy would not be a ball without CAIR and MAS. The federal government has received much criticism for its engagement efforts with CAIR, the largest American Muslim advocacy group with national and international credibility. Caving in to the pressure the noise produced on the web based garbage spread by extremist Jewish and Christian extremists and fanatics, the government has disengaged CAIR. One Arab American leader told me that he heard that the “government unhappiness” with the leadership of CAIR is behind the government’s position. Baran’s argument shows otherwise.

A Huge Conspiracy: Islamization Effort or Political Islam?

Immigrant communities are close knit communities. Personal relationships and friendships are very important. However, when it comes to American Muslims this reality is seen as part of a conspiracy:
"What is critically important in all these organizations is their support for one another; the same leaders appear in multiple organizations, tend to have familial relations, and move within the same close trusted circles. Outwardly they all appear different entities, but they are actually part of a carefully planned Islamization effort."

Intelligence and Advocacy: You quote me I quote You

The most troubling aspect of the wild accusations of “experts” on American Muslims is their circular argument. Intelligence relies on them to indict Muslims and they in turn reference the government action to validate their position. Baran adds: "It is also very important to note that despite their outwardly moderate positions, NAIT, ISNA, and CAIR were all named as un-indicted co-conspirators in the federal case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), which was charged with providing millions of dollars to Hamas." One Muslim activist told me that the government provided his attorney with a blogger’s hateful lunatic rants as evidence of his culpability in the case. The blogger in turn referenced the government case as evidence that she was right all along about the Muslim activist. This is the justice the US provides Muslim activists.

Baran’s Illogic: American Islamists Hate the US but Genuinely Want to Cooperate to Thwart Terrorism

Muslim activists have unequivocally condemned attacks against the US and offered their sincere efforts to combat extremism. It is not uncommon to hear these dedicated, ethical, indeed model citizen activists say to anyone who cares to listen from the government: "we are an asset not a liability," "we are against violence." "We are not the problem," "let us be part of the solution." These offers of partnership have been rebuffed due to this Baran logic:"Terrorist acts inside the US are huge setbacks for American Islamists…It is not surprising that most of these organizations offer their cooperation to prevent Islamist terrorism inside the US."[my emphasis]

America and the Turkish Un-delight: DOJ as an Islamization Agent

Baran's testimony is based on her immigrant background as a secular Muslim from a country that has adopted radical secularism that is completely different from the comparatively nuanced and sophisticated American secularism. The US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of association, no establishment of religion and most importantly the free exercise of religion. While Baran's native Turkey bans the Muslim scarf in universities and government buildings with this ban strongly backed by the hard line secularizing courts, the United States department of Justice (DOJ) sued on behalf of a Muslim girl who was not allowed to wear her head scarf in school. Given Baran’s logic, one would conclude that the DOJ is an Islamizing organization intent on spreading Dawa and imposing Shariah on the US.

The Government Unleashed on Baran’s “Undesirable Muslims”

While Ms Baran is entitled to her personal preference to the "secular, liberal and cultural" Muslims, she is not entitled to privileging this group as “true Islam” and using the government as a sledgehammer to bludgeon the others who incidentally have more credibility and grassroots following. It is a stubborn fact that activist Muslims are the ones who have built the institutions of American Islam that provided the much needed services that a “Friday Muslim” or a “Eid Muslim” needs from a place to pray Jumaa/Friday prayer to an Islamic will template. Those who are not happy with the "Islamists" dominance in American Muslim life are outlaw them, Turkish style, due to American tradition and the US Constitution. The battle is therefore being waged through investigations, prosecutions, indictments, harassment (an example is the Holy Land case who’s who list of Muslim activists unindicted co conspirator) and exclusion based on dubious allegations and legal theories.

The Other Muslims to the Test: Creating Alternatives

It is time for Ms Baran and her “pious and practicing, liberal, secular, and cultural Muslims” to establish their own American Muslim institutions and compete in the marketplace of ideas for the hearts and minds of American Muslims. I highly doubt that Baran’s favored groups are willing or able to produce alternatives. Baran’s ideas carried into government policy would ultimately create an institutional void that is bound to be filled by radical alternatives that will make the present Muslim establishment sorely missed.

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