American Muslims Wage Grassroots Campaigns against Islamophobia Network
The small but influential network of anti-Muslim pundits and bloggers that have been central in the creation of widely accepted myths such as “President Obama is a Muslim,” that “practicing Muslims cannot be loyal Americans” and that “sharia is a threat to America” have been taking their show on the road. Speaking at packed gala dinners, fundraisers, conservative conferences and even training FBI and law enforcement, this small but interconnected network of speakers, bloggers and pundits have managed to attract elected officials, including senate and congressional representatives to attend their events.
In light of the recent report by the Center for American Progress, “Fear Incorporated: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” which exposed the $42.6 million industry that fuels the Islamophobia infrastructure in America, American Muslims have begun to challenge this grassroots movement by waging their own counter-grassroots movement. Through protesting their conferences, writing petitions to hotels that host them, forming coalitions with Muslim and non-Muslim organizations, and a wide array of other strategies, American Muslim organizations and activists are beginning to take the small industry of Islamophobic speakers head on. This type of agitation is being recognized by the network. As one of the chief architects of the Islamophobia network, Robert Spencer has noted, many Muslim Americans have begun to challenge their views head on, resulting in hotels backing out of speaking contracts for events where Spencer, Pamela Geller and Frank Gaffney are to appear.
This national trend is being played out in Annapolis, Md., this weekend. On Oct. 29, the Maryland Conservative Action Network will host the Turning the Tides conference, and they are facing protest due to the involvement of Frank Gaffney and several other leading Islamophobic speakers. Former Maryland Delegate Saqib Ali, along with Khuram Zaman, a social media activist, are organizing a coalition to raise awareness about the event to Maryland residents. Zaman and Ali have partnered with Equality Maryland, CASA de Maryland, the Islamic Society of Annapolis, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in denouncing the Turning the Tides conference.
The coalition has released this statement: “We unquestionably uphold the right of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. However, we cannot remain silent when bigots and hate-mongers come to our communities to spread their lies and intolerance.” They called on the following elected officials to reconsider their plans to speak: Senator Christopher Shank, Delegates Kathy Afzali, Patrick McDonough and Neil Parrot.
The opening panel of the conference is entitled “Shariah Law in America.” The panelists include Frank Gaffney, one of the nation’s leading Islamophobes and conspiracy theorists, who was cited extensively by the Norwegian terrorist Andre Breivik in his violent memo released in the wake of the horrific massacre he committed against 69 innocent men, women and children. Gaffney says that President Obama “may actually still” be a Muslim. Gaffney also argued that the new logo for the Missile Defense Agency “appears ominously to reflect a morphing of the Islamic crescent and star with the Obama campaign logo.”
Robert Stacy McCain, an extremist right-wing blogger who has referred to gay people as “faggots” and Mexican people as “Beaners” on multiple occasions, is also speaking. Fred Grandy and his wife, Catherine Mann-Grandy, both of whom are former radio show hosts who actively promote the idea that American Muslims are trying to secretly subvert the Constitution by implementing “Creeping Shariah,” will also be in the panel. Other speakers include Christopher Monckton, a British Nobleman who claims that President Obama supports “the communist world government” and that by signing the Kyoto climate treaty President Obama “would be signing away our freedom and democracy forever.” Monckton has a history of telling outlandish lies including falsely claiming he was a member of the British Parliament and claiming to have won a Nobel Prize.
The Maryland Tea Party accuses Saqib Ali and the coalition of silencing voices concerned with the spread of shariah, and the Maryland Conservative Action Network, Inc., responded to the coalition by saying: “we believe it is worthy of discussion to explore the tenets of Sharia Law. The panelists we invited have spent considerable time researching the subject and have much information to offer. Our objective is to inform the public of the panelists’ opinions, and leave it to the intelligence of our attendees to come to their own conclusions and to do further research on their own.”
Ali and Zaman claim that their efforts are seeking to “educate the public about what is going on right here in Annapolis. We want to stigmatize these forms of bigotry in the same way that anti-black bigotry and anti-Semitism are today. The Ku Klux Klan is an organization that is no longer welcome in polite society. These extremists are no different and should be regarded in the exact same way.”
Ali and Zaman have written a formal Statement of Concern Regarding MDCAN Conference in Annapolis and are encouraging all Maryland residents and other concerned citizens to spread the word about the conference on Facebook.
Daniel Tutt is the Outreach Director of Unity Productions Foundation, and a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
This article was published in the Huffington Post on October 28, 2011.
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