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War of the Worlds:

NPR Forum of Islamophobes

By Timothy Stinson, March 16, 2009


In late February, Bob Garfield of NPR'S On The Media (segment of NPR which is supposedly designed to criticize America's news media) hosted a discussion on criticism of Islam and  
free speech titled "War of the Worlds".
During this segment, he and his guests debate the rights of those who are often hostile toward Islam to do so under the banner of free speech.
What is perhaps most telling in this forum is that not only was he willing to use biased sources (short audio clips from anti-Muslim productions) to validate demonization of Muslims, some
of his statements were outright lies such as those concerning anti-Jewish and Christian documentation in the books of Palestinian school children.  Also telling is the fact that this is not 
Mr. Garfield's first time hosting a program defending the demonization of Islam, and that NPR has yet to host a discussion of the overwhelmingly negative images (and opinions) of Muslims
which permeate not only American media, but also influence foreign and domestic policy discussions in this country (look no further than the 2008 Presidential elections or reasons why
Americans support military intervention in the Middle East).
When confronted by a listener on his assertion that Palestinian school children were taught that Jews were apes and pigs, he admitted on the next week's show that he could find nothing to
confirm this assertion however, he went on to state that this was taught in Arab school books.  What makes this statement remarkable is that, this has also been challenged.
In neither case (statements on schoolbooks for Palestinian or Arab children) did Garfield quote his sources for these statements.
Ironically, Mr. Garfield has openly denounced the role that media played in fomenting hostility between Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda.
War of the Worlds

Earlier this month, right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders was denied entry into the United Kingdom to screen his controversial film about Islam. The British government's decision sparked the ongoing debate about free speech, xenophobia, and a clash of cultures when it comes to Muslim immigrants in western societies. In a piece that aired last April, Bob talked with some of the main players in the struggle to define the future of free speech in Europe.

Houdaiby, like Danish imam Chendid, takes pains to distinguish between free speech and insults, which he says are inexcusable. This prompts me to inquire about a double standard: What of the insults routinely hurled by Muslim clerics, politicians and mobs towards Christians and Jews?
What does he think, for instance, of Palestinian schoolchildren being taught that Jews are apes and pigs?
Houdaiby's response is to differentiate between insult and expression of legitimate grievances.
The story of hatred being taught in Arab textbooks has been widely disseminated by an alliance of American based neoconservatives and conservative Christian organizations and individuals
such as those listed below.
Nina Shea is probably one of Bob Garfield's sources for his statements on Islam and Palestinians.
Nina Shea
Like many neoconservatives, Shea has been sharply critical of Islam, often painting the religious group in broad strokes that fail to account for its many divergent tendencies. In 2005, for example, her Center for Religious Freedom published "Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques," an 89-page study of some 200 documents allegedly "disseminated, published, or otherwise generated by the government of Saudi Arabia and collected from more than a dozen mosques in the United States." The study concludes that a "totalitarian ideology of hatred" is being "mainstreamed within our borders through the efforts of a foreign government, namely Saudi Arabia."
The Evangelical Roots of American Unilateralism: The Christian Right's Influence and How to Counter It
Links with neoconservatives have also been forged around the issue of religious persecution. Michael Horowitz, a neoconservative senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, and Nina Shea of the Puebla Institute, were instrumental in mobilizing evangelicals around the issue of religious persecution. 14 Elliott Abrams, then head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, wrote extensively supporting the cause and, along with Nina Shea, was later appointed to the commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, eventually serving as its chair. 15 Abrams has moved on to human rights and Middle East policy positions at the National Security Council.
Dispatches From the Edge: Africa: The Right’s Stuff
Force has always been central to the neoconservative view of the world. During the 1980s, Abrams helped organize the contra war against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, and took part in the cover up of the horrendous El Mazote massacre in El Salvador by a U.S.-trained government battalion.  Abrams’ vice-chair on the CIRF was Nina Shea of Freedom House, an organization with a long rap sheet on destabilizing countries, including recently attempting to dislodge Hugo Chavez’s in Venezuela.  Shea founded the Puebla Institute in 1986 to fight the growth of liberation theology in Latin America and, according to former Contra leader, Edward Chamorro, worked with the groups trying to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. Like Abrams, Shea focuses on the issue of religion rather than human rights. According to Newsweek Magazine, Shea made “Christian persecution Washington’s hottest topic.”
Vatican joins the war on Islam
"Intellectual warriors against Islam have taken heart from the Vatican’s direct attack on the concepts of Islam. It is an opportunity for them to give air to their agenda and promote their objectives of demonizing Islam."
Nina Shea, whose organization, Freedom House, can assess freedoms elsewhere but in the US, takes advantage of the opening of new front by Vatican by attempting to present Islam as the ever growing threat to the Western world. “Before 1990s,” Ms. Shea said, “the biggest persecutors of Christians were communists countries.” With the fall of communism, majority of the Western analysts targeted Islam and the results are before our eyes today. No satisfied with the US progress against Islam on both the intellectual and practice fronts, Nina Shea concludes, “we are still very naïve…we need to educate people.”
A dangerous obsession
Other prominent neo-conservative members of the board include Center for Security Policy (CSP) president Frank Gaffney; former Central Intelligence Agency chief James Woolsey; and Heritage Foundation fellows Ariel Cohen and Nina Shea, who has served for years on the quasi-governmental US Commission for International Religious Freedom.
The Wahhabis Are Coming! An AEI Fear & Smear Production 2/16/2005
AEI: US should use "Hard Power" to Curb Wahhabi Texts
Nina Shea from the Center for Religious Freedom admitted that the study did not attempt to "assess the impact" of religious texts in American mosques.  She then proceeded to read a laundry list of extracts from Saudi subsidized texts warning Muslims not to take citizenship in the US, to reject the ways of "infidels" and then excoriated the hubris of self-appointed religious Saudi Wahhabi authorities ruling on proper ways of Muslims.
Hedieh Mirahmadi, now an AEI scholar, reclaimed her past Muslim credentials as having raised money for Islamic charities before proceeding.   Her most damning assertion was that the Wahhabi texts distributed to US mosques were a "crude manipulation of text, designed to exert control over otherwise diverse" and peaceful populations.  Her final recommendation was the most hawkish of all the panel: The US should use "hard power" to confront the Saudi ruling family which should then somehow "undo" years of "propagandizing" in the US and around the world.
Some members of the audience posing questions to the panel objected to the "MEMRI" approach of the research.  There was no statistical sample, and no quantitative data.  The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) in Washington, DC practically invented the game of selective retrieval, whereby after sifting mountains of data, objectionable texts can be extracted and translated to place their authors in the worst possible light.  Others were perplexed by the lack of any sort of damage assessment.  If the alleged "hate literature" distribution has been going on for decades in America, what were all of the negative consequences?  The panel was unable to provide answers.
Also see:
Dutch Foe of Islam Goes to Washington
The fiercely anti-Islam Dutch MP Geert Wilders traveled through the United States recently on a highly publicized trip to meet with politicians, promote his controversial film Fitna, and raise money for his legal defense back home.
Although Wilders’ stated goal was to campaign for free speech, his trip was sponsored and promoted by an unlikely coalition of groups united primarily by hostility towards Islam. His backers included neoconservatives and a right-wing Jewish group on the one hand and figures with ties to the European far Right on the other.
Since he was charged with incitement to hate and discrimination in the Netherlands this January and subsequently denied entry to Britain in early February on public safety grounds, Wilders has become something of a cause celebre for the U.S. Right.
Last week, he gave a private viewing of his 17-minute anti-Islam film to the U.S. Senate, where he was hosted by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ). He also appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s and Glenn Beck’s popular right-wing TV shows, met privately with the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and hobnobbed with former U.N. ambassador John Bolton at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
On Friday, he capped his busy week with an appearance at the National Press Club. At the event, he reiterated his calls for a halt to immigration from Muslim countries and pronounced, to raucous applause, that "our Western culture based on Christianity, Judaism, and humanism is in every aspect better than Islamic culture."
Wilders is also known for campaigning to ban the Koran, Islamic attire, and Islamic schools from the Netherlands, and for proclaiming that "moderate Islam does not exist."
For additional documentation on Islamophobia in the U.S, FAIR's (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) web site is a good resource.
See below:
Smearcasting documents the public writings and appearances of Islamophobic activists and pundits who intentionally and regularly spread fear, bigotry and misinformation in the media. Offering a fresh look at Islamophobia and its perpetrators in today’s media, it also provides four snapshots, or case studies, describing how Islamophobes manipulate media in order to paint Muslims with a broad, hateful brush.





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