All About Josh

Friday, January 03, 2003

ON HIS BLOG, Andrew Sullivan hands out the Paul Begala award for excessive liberal rhetoric in the media. I think I found a contender of my own. While reading a review for the solid Martin Scorsese flick "Gangs of New York," film critic Michael O'Sullivan writes:

To be sure, former Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris never threw a meat cleaver into anyone's back (one of Bill the Butcher's milder political "fixes"), but if images of Florida and hanging chads don't come to mind, then you're not paying attention.

So if the scene in which nativist Bill "The Butcher" murders his political rival by throwing a knife in his back doesn't remind me of Katherine Harris, I'm not paying attention? O'Sullivan is seriously stretching it here -- to put it mildly.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

THE WASHINGTON POST yesterday reported on a local Islamic cleric, Mohammad Asi, who formerly ran the Islamic Education Center right off Montrose Road in Potomac, MD. The Alavi Foundation, which funds the school and other local mosques, is controlled by the Iranian government and funds terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. The school itself is a bastion of anti-American hate.

This is profoundly disturbing. I've passed by the Islamic center many times, and thought of it as the Islamic equivalent of the Jewish day school that I attended in middle and high school -- it's in fact just down the road. Sadly, this couldn't be further from the truth. Are these schools teaching about the Constitution, pluralistic government and democracy alongside Koranic studies? Highly doutbtful. The school, which looks like an innocent, opulent educational outpost in affluent Potomac appears to be, a front to brainwash Muslim children into hating America. Khomeini's picture is adorned throughout the school. A large banner displayed in the school says "those who struggle against the U.S. will be rewarded by God." The school regularly extends invitations to Ahmed Huber, a Swiss Muslim who is a Holocaust revisionist and complains about "Jewish bankers." As reporter John Mintz wrote:

Rising from his woven prayer rug, he stands in his socks hollering his sermon into a bullhorn, denouncing "Jewish Zionist usurpers" and the Saudis.
On one recent Friday, he shouted that a suicide bomber in Israel always "goes to Allah."

This article could easily run as a complement to a column Marc Fisher wrote last year about the same Muslim Community School in Potomac. Here are some choice excerpts, straight from the mouths of the students there:

Is it reasonable to ask students at the Muslim Community School in Potomac whether there is a conflict between being an American and being a Muslim? It certainly seemed fair after six young people, all born in this country, all American citizens, told me that no, they did not believe that Osama bin Laden was necessarily the bad guy the president says he is, and no, they did not think the United States should be attacking Afghanistan, and, no, they might not be able to serve their country if it meant taking up arms against fellow Muslims.

"What does it really mean to be an American?" asked seventh-grader Miriam. "Being American is just being born in this country."

Almost no matter what they were asked, the students' answers often included something about how the United States should focus not just on bin Laden's terror network but on "the real terrorists," which is their code for Israel, which they refer to as "the illegitimate Zionist regime." Whether questions were about patriotism or faith or the difficulty of maintaining Muslim practices in a society that embraces open sexuality, the teenagers' thoughtful answers somehow found their way back to bashing Israel.
Her principal, however, was unwilling to denounce bin Laden because he does not trust the U.S. government to judge the evidence. "Being cautious doesn't mean we are turncoats," said Kareem, who is 50 and grew up in the District. "It means we want to wait until there are sufficient facts. I don't know Osama bin Laden. But whatever is said about him, I want it said about the Israeli prime minister. If we're going after terrorism, let's go at it at the roots, not the branches."

This is how minds are shaped.

The principal said he has a powerful emphasis on the Middle East in his curriculum because "it's an issue of life and death, and we're trying to empower the kids to be truthful and be honest. There is more that is the same among peoples than there is that is different. We all brush our teeth."

Yet a notice posted to all students and staff said, "Today's ice cream snack is in honor of Shaheed Mohamed Jamal Al-Durra," a 12-year-old Palestinian boy who last year was killed by Israeli Defense Force bullets in a firefight with Palestinian policemen. "We will always remember those who are responsible for taking his innocent, young life," the school notice said.

And a "media relations guide sheet" distributed at the school advised telling visiting reporters that "there is as much evidence pointing away from" bin Laden as there is "circumstantial 'evidence' pointing toward" him.

And this same principal wrote an essay about Israel in a school newsletter issued before the terrorist attacks: "This state with its cursed population . . . is founded on a racist, warped, cancerous ideology which says Jews are better than all other people."

Is the Muslim Community School teaching hate? Kareem said that was impossible, that Islam is a faith of peace. "Our kids are not insensitive or uncaring," he said. "It's not that they are targeting somebody. These are the reference points we are exposing them to, because we don't see ourselves in nation-state terms. We are our own nation."

But, wait, it gets even worse.

Here are some of the comments the school's former headmaster Asi has said, all documented in the Post article.

-- "Muslims will deal the deathblow to Yahud [Jews]," he wrote in an undated essay on a pro-Iran Web site called Muslimedia. In a 1996 magazine article, he wrote on the evil of his enemy: "A Jew is a Jew is a Jew."

-- Seven weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Islamic cleric Mohammad Asi made a speech at the National Press Club, calling them "a grand strike against New York and Washington" launched by "Israeli Zionist Jews" who had warned the 5,000 Jews at the World Trade Center to skip work. He warned America that if it continued to offend Islam, "the day of reckoning is approaching."

-- Asi was a provocative figure inside the Potomac Center, and FBI officials took note when he urged Muslims to take up arms against the forces of "kufr" or unbelief. "We should be creating another war front for the Americans in the Muslim world," Asi told a militantly anti-Israeli conference in 1990, just before the Persian Gulf War, as recorded on a tape unearthed by terrorism researcher Steven Emerson. "Strike against American interests," he said.

-- The current principal of the school, Salahudden Kareem, calls Asi "an authentic and rare and unique patriot."

Where are the genuinely mainstream Islamic groups condemning this hatred being spewed? Over 1,500 students attend this school -- no small number, and I'm guessing they are Muslims from all ethnic backgrounds. When Jerry Falwell says Mohammad was a terrorist, he gets inundated by critics who claim he is fomenting hatred for Islam. So where's the consistency -- why can't these same Muslim "anti-discrimination" groups speak out against something so blatant and occurring in their own backyard? (Potomac, MD is a mere 15-minute drive from downtown DC.)

I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Until Muslim groups condemn the educational insitutions and mosques that spread this anti-Americanism and hate, it's hard to take their anti-discrimination rants seriously. Last year, I took a course at American University where the professor essentially wanted us to compare the French reaction to Jews in the early 19th century to the current American and European reaction to Muslims today. My thesis was largely different from what the professor "wanted." I argued that Islam needs to develop a reformed movement so Islam can be consistent with the democratic principles of the West. European Jews bent over backwards to assimilate and become more "modern" -- in fact traditional 17th century Judaism was practiced much differently than how religious Jews practice their faith today. Judaism has evolved throughout time, and adapted to the context of the times. For example, synagogues are a relatively modern concept, introduced only after the destruction of the Second Temple.

Islam has failed to do that. Instead of bending over backwards, as the Sephardic Jews did in France to gain the acceptance of their Christian peers, it seems that Islamic groups are making every attempt to avoid being a part of America. It's not a matter of assimilation, which some view as abandoning religious practices and becoming entirely secular. It's about integration -- about not promising students with divine providence if they "struggle against the U.S." Is that so hard to ask?

Sunday, December 29, 2002

THE INSTAMAN makes reference to Al Franken's comments on "This Week" on race relations, where he said the top rapper in today's culture is white while the top golfer is black.

To that, I say interesting, but hardly unique. In 1956, long before the civil rights movement, one of the top baseball players (Jackie Robinson) was black while the top R&B singer (Elvis Presley) was white.

I'll leave it up to PunditWatch for the commentary, but it seemed that Al Franken was painfully out of place on the ABC News commentary team, next to the staid George Will and the serious Michel Martin. From Fareed Zakaria to Al Franken/Stuart Smalley? Hmm.