A coalition of US civil liberty groups is demanding answers for defamation of Islam and creation of grass roots Islamophobia in the American society.
SIOA (Stop Islamization of American) is an organization co-founded by Robert Spencer. He claims he has given two, two-hour lectures on Islam to the FBI, which has invited anti-Islamic lecturer.
Coalitions of Muslims seek and other civil liberty groups have now demanded that FBI director Robert S. Muller explain how individuals with clear anti-Muslims agendas can be employed to train the nation's law enforcement agents.
Spencer has been described as an Islamophobe who spread propaganda and hateful literature to depict Islam as evil and innately violent. Many say that demonizing Muslims is nothing new in the United States but it peaked after the September 11 attacks.
The Dove World Outreach Center's pastor, Terry Jones, has called for the burning of the Holy Quran on the anniversary of 9/11. He has also asked for other religious groups to join the event.
The following is a transcription regarding Islamophobia in America with Islamic expert Kamal Helbawy in London, and Ibrahim Hooper of CAIRE (Counsel of American-Islamic Relations) in Washington and from the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Calvin Hubbard joins us on the phone from Maryland.
Press TV: I would like to thank you all for being with us here on Press TV. Mr. Hooper, I'd like to start with your groups' objections to Robert Spencer director of Jihad Watch, he's associate director of SIOA. You've objected to him giving lectures to the FBI. He's also called an expert on Islam and sharia, so why shouldn't he be giving classes?
Cooper: Let's just say he calls himself an expert on Islam and sharia. This is the same individual who called the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) a con-man. He's the co-leader of one of the most vicious anti-Muslim hate groups in America SIOA. This is a group which has a campaign to block mosques in New York and around the country. They have put out a step-by-step guide to know how to block a mosque from being built in local communities. The bizarre thing is he and his co-author Pam Geller the other of SIOA who by the way says Islam inspired Nazism and puts pictures on her website claiming it's the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) portraying him as a pig! They have just come out with a book attacking President Obama as an enemy of America.
Press TV: If I could just come in here because this is the article on SIOA's website, and they have written in response to your letter to the FBI. I quote here, “They describe your group as the Hamas linked Islamist-hate group the Counsel of American-Islamic Relations.”
Cooper: Whenever you can't challenge what we say, it's much easier to make personal smears and attacks of this sort. Notice that they don't refute anything we say in the letter. All of it is sourced, accurate information. So, they cannot attack that, thus they attack the messenger in other words.
Press TV: Mr. Hubbard, They've criticized Spencer as well. They have placed him as an Islamophobe alongside many other well-known figures like David Horwitz and Daniel Pipes who we've had on Press TV before. Do such voices and opinions get too much airtime in the media because that has been a criticism?
Hubbard: Yes, I think they do and I think some of the statements they make are overstated but at the same time the question I'm trying to understand, and maybe the gentleman on the other line can help explain. If we had a reason to fear the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, and the Germans after Hitler invaded Poland, why wouldn't we have a reason to fear the Muslims after 9/11?
Cooper: Well, I hope we don't want to recap what we did to the Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, which was put them in concentration camps. Is that your suggestion, that American Muslim should be put in camps?
Hubbard: Not at all.
Press TV: Let me just bring in Mr. Helbawy here because very quickly we have gone into what many would say is the core of this argument, which is the fear that is among certain non-Muslims not only in America but in Europe as well regarding the Muslim communities. Where is this fear coming from? We haven't had any demands for the Quran to be burnt on September 11th. We haven't had in the last nine years; we didn't have it under George Bush, but this year we are hearing those calls and we're getting media attention to those calls as well.
Helbawy: Let me say that the fear from Islam or Islamophobia, is occurring at different degrees and levels in different countries. It has the highest level in America unfortunately. This implied democratic superpower in the world. And we have to be brave enough to differentiate between real terrorism, which Muslims suffer from more than the West and between Islam, and spreading Islam or what we call dawree. But we have to be wise enough to understand the West, especially America. They claim they are Christians without committing themselves to proper Christianity or the values of Christianity. We should not expect them to respect Islam properly. And from my own understanding, if they accepted Christianity, which came from the East, because Christianity was not born in the West, Jesus the prophet was from Palestine, which is a country that is suffering nowadays due to Israeli attacks and the Zionist movement that America and the West support.
Press TV: Let me just come in here.
Hubbard: That's absolutely incorrect. There was no Palestine when Jesus was there. There was no Palestine until after 135 A.D. You can be straight on that.
Press TV: I think Mr. Helbway is saying according to the Bible that Jesus is from the East, as it's set in the East. He is not someone who came out of the West. Are you surprised Mr. Hubbard as we've touched on Christianity a bit there that a church, the Dove World Outreach Center, that is calling for the Qurans to be burnt across America on September 11th. Are you surprised that a church in America is so openly calling for this?
Hubbard: I am. I'm still waiting for someone to tell me why after 9/11 we shouldn't fear Islam. I'm still waiting. And there was another attack in New York. They will attack again and should we be saying we should not fear Muslims?
Hooper: Well, I can tell you that because...Can I comment here and answer that question?
Press TV: Go ahead Mr. Hooper.
Hooper: The faith of Islam did not attack on 9/11. You had some individuals falsely claiming to act in the name of Islam do this. People do things like this all the time for a variety of reasons: for religious, for secular motivations. When the IRA (the Irish Republican Army) was blowing up pubs in Northern Ireland, Catholicism was bad and you have to suspect all Catholics because we knew that Catholicism didn't approve of those things but unfortunately a Muslim does something they shouldn't do and falsely says it's in the name of Islam. Then people say well maybe we should suspect Islam. We find through our research that it is because people have a very low level of knowledge about Islam and they have a low level of interaction with ordinary Muslims and that's why we do outreach campaigns to educate people about Islam and we encourage ordinary Muslims to meet their friends and neighbors to decrease the prejudices that is unfortunately growing. And the question became why now? I think unfortunately we are seeing the anti-Muslim sentiment rise hand in hand with the rise of the tea party movement in the United States. Even immediately after 9/11 you did not see this hatred of Islam that you are seeing now. But the tea party movement unfortunately has given bigots a voice. Now they feel they have some legitimacy and they are part of a movement; the tea party movement, which will support this kind of bigotry.
Press TV: Mr. Helbawy, these right wing movements, (I'm not calling the tea parties right wing movement) but we have seen an increase as statistics show of right wing movements in American and we have also seen them in Europe where you are in London. The English Defense League has seen a surge over the last 12 months. Do you think there is a link with Obama's presidency and the rise in this right wing whether it be in America or Europe?
Helbawy: I would say that Obama started his career in the White House with very good words theoretically but in fact I do believe after more than one year of him being in power and in office he's the weakest president of America. If Bush was the worst American president in the history of America, Obama is the weakest president in the history of America. Because he gave a very flowerily speech almost a year ago and nothing materialize from that. The right wing is growing and dominating the political orientations. We can see that not only in attacking Islam but also we can see that in Afghanistan. Where Obama sent 40,000 new soldiers and officers and changed strategies three times. America is not on the right way, America is doing wrong things and bad things just like in the era of Bush.
Press TV: Okay, let me jump in as we don't want to start too many topics. Mr. Hubbard you asked why people should fear Islam after September 11th. What do you think that Muslims should be doing? I mean we have talked about outreach programs in different communities.
Hubbard: If Muslims in America are going to be honest and promote Islam as a faith then they should show the fact that the Quran unquestionably promotes killing, maiming and assassinations and that was based on the very actions of their prophet who did time and time again. It was done in 63 battles and there were 500 Jewish men in beheaded and if you want Quran verses, I can give them to you about fighting in the name of God; fighting is prescribed. It's foolish to deny the text here as the foundation of any faith is its doctrine. Well, all know that it was Muslims who did 9/11.
Press TV: Mr. Hooper go ahead.
Hooper: Yeah, I mean this comes up time and time again. I am assuming my colleague there is of the Christian faith as I was originally, and I think he might do well to look at similar kinds of things in the Bible. In particular, in Deuteronomy and other places, often people bring up these out of context verses in the Quran that they display as mandate for Muslims to kill, to maim and murder people. Of course, nobody takes it that way. It's about circumstances and historical events during the life of the prophet. Nowhere does it say to go out and kill people in the Quran. I was on a program the other day with a similar person who said well in the Quran it says to kill the innocents. It doesn't say that. And we give out free Qurans to people who ask for them here so they can see for themselves that is non-sense.
Press TV: Let me get a reaction from Mr. Hubbard here because it's a fact that you can go to the Bible and take out many verses to references to violence, death and killing. Would you be happy with the Bible being portrayed in that way?
Hubbard: Good question. I'm glad you brought up Deuteronomy because there are mass killings mentioned by Jehovah. But the verses are time and place specific. The Quran voices are not. When it says fight in the cause of God it's not time and place specific. It's not historical, it's a general mandate for the Muslims to make war on the unbelievers. Do not believe that there is any other answer this.
Hooper: You know I've been a Muslim for several decades. I've been around Muslims all this time, been in mosques and I've never heard any Muslim actually put forward that interpretation. I've never heard a Muslim teach their children to go out and kill the unbelievers. Or I'm lucky you didn't use the word infidel, which is one of the words non-Muslims say that Muslims use to refer to infidels.
Press TV: You know, let me take one minute here, as I would like to talk with Mr. Helbawy on what's being discussed. It's probably a debate you hear in many parts of the Western world between Muslims and non-Muslims. But we are talking about Muslims at the other end of Western society. There are British born Muslims, English people who have become Muslims and many Americans who were born Muslims. What role do they play in this discussion?
Helbawy: Please give me two or three minutes to explain because our friend in America when he talked about killing in Islam. If his eye is swollen, he should go to an American doctor who specializes in eye diseases. But in Quran and Islam he made himself a scholar. This is he first point and this is mislead and misinterpretation. It reminded me to answer his question in regards to a seminar I attended in Denver University. They were talking about jihad and the Fiqh(Islamic Jurisprudence) of jihad in Islam. And a scholar from Holland came and said the same thing that Islam is saying kill them or wherever you find them. And I asked him why did you not mention the previous verse in the Quran? I said it's in Surah Al-Baqarah, and it says believers if you fight, you fight in the sake of Allah and don't make any aggression. It says to fight only those who are fighting you because God does not love aggressors. Here we have three points. First of all, God does not love aggressors. Secondly, if you fight you fight against those who are fighting you. Thirdly, it should be for the sake of God; not for the exploitation of petroleum, oil, or iron or rubber as America is doing at present. It is a problem that people like our friend in America is making a scholar of himself and trying to disparage Islam. If he wants to learn a real science, he will go to the scientists; he will go to the scholars. So, this is one of our problems in the West. Those that are ignorant in religion even in their own religion are trying to judge Islam.
Press TV: I think you have made your point Mr. Helbawy. We are very short for time please let me come in.
Hubbard: 100 years from the death of Muhammad in 732 A.D., the Muslims were 160 km from Paris. Are we to believe that the Muslims went all the way from the Arabian Peninsula to 160 km from Paris because of defending themselves? No! They went by an offensive, violent and bloody campaign all the way.
Press TV: Now we are back to this point Mr. Hubbard. You are picking out a particular aspect of history but we could do the same with Christianity as you are doing with Islam. I mean the Christians had the crusades and again it goes back to that point. Is it fair to just focus on one angle, one history or one view or history of religion.
Hubbard: I'm glad you brought it up. The crusades as bad as they were in many aspects, the crusaders were the responsible for years of bloody violence against the West. They were responding to that.
Hooper: So, when Pope Ervin said God wills it, that was a response?
Hooper: Mr. Hooper, let me just end with you as you commented there. It's almost like there are many things that are similar between these two religions. Isn't that what we should be focusing on now?
Helbawy: Can I say something?
Helbawy: Well, we stress that all the time, but I think what you're seeing here is systematic. It started out with Muslims in American but then we ventured out to demonization of Islam. I think that's what you are seeing here. It's not just a mosque can't be built here. Does this person have anti-Muslim biases? You're seeing the demonization of the faith itself. If you demonize the faith of Islam and you have millions of American Muslims, what is going to be done with those people? There are logical conclusions to ideologies. If you say Islam is intrinsically evil and Muslims are intrinsically evil, you must have a policy that flows from that very dangerous thing.
Press TV: Mr. Helbawy I know you wanted to comment but we will have to leave it for another show. It was a topic that twenty-five minutes does not do justice to. I'd like to thank all my guests: Expert on Islamic Studies, Kamal Hebawy in London, Mr. Calvin Hubbard from the International Embassy in Jerusalem on the phone in Maryland, many thanks for your comments, and the national communication director for CAIRE Ibrahim Hooper in Washington.