The disparity between the perspectives and values of the political elites and their allies and those of the common people grows ever wider. We saw it again tonight on Staten Island, where my SIOA colleague Pamela Geller and I attended, along with SIOA-New York's Pamela Hall, a civic meeting that discussed the mysterious sale of a Roman Catholic Convent to the Muslim American Society, the Muslim Brotherhood's chief operating arm in the United States.
The fix was in, as is always the case. The meeting featured three Muslims affiliated with the MAS, who were billed as being there to answer questions and allay the fears of the community. No opponents of the sale were set to speak from the dais; they were only allowed to ask questions from the floor after the MAS operatives made their presentation. The MAS men came armed with folders for the crowd, full of commendations of the MAS from the likes of the Boy Scouts, the Rotary Club, etc., and began distributing them. I had prepared a one-page summary of the Investigative Project's dossier on the Muslim Brotherhood, and it was also being distributed among the crowd, along with the full 40-page version -- but then one of the local officials running the meeting announced that no materials were to be distributed, as this was a meeting devoted to giving an opportunity to the MAS to explain itself to the community, and now people were distributing material "against" -- it had to stop. Many in the crowd took exception, however, to the MAS operatives distributing their folder full of soothing detours as well, and so ultimately that was stopped too and all the printed matter left up front for anyone to take.
Soon thereafter the meeting started, and after some other business, the Muslims began their presentation. They spoke in calm, measured tones. They spoke about their many years in the community, their children, their work (two were physical therapists, one a high school math teacher). They spoke, of course, of the need for "mutual respect." They spoke about the need for both sides to communicate and get to know each other better. They spoke about reassuring someone with a sentimental attachment to the convent building (many of those present had been educated by the nuns who lived there) by saying, "God will be praised in that building." They praised the Muslim American Society as an upstanding civic group with "50 chapters in 55 states across the nation" (yes, you read that right). They spoke of the MAS's commitment to establishing a virtuous and just American society. They denigrated Steve Emerson and his Investigative Project as Islamophobic and claimed that he purveyed falsehoods. When challenged later by an IPT official to name even one specific falsehood in the IPT report on the Muslim American Society and Muslim Brotherhood, one of the Muslim spokesmen said only, "Later on."
I asked them if they were prepared to denounce Hamas and Hizballah, both of which were publicly endorsed by MAS leader Mahdi Bray, as jihad terrorist organizations, and to renounce any intention to bring Sharia to the U.S., in line with the Brotherhood's stated goal of "eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house" so that Allah's religion is "made victorious over other religions." In response, the main spokesman for the three hemmed and hawed and emitted billows upon billows of airy nonsense -- to the increasing impatience of the crowd. This spokesman, made nervous by the crowd's vocal disdain for his ever-lengthening non-answer, did ultimately call Hamas and Hizballah terrorist groups and renounce any intention to bring Sharia to the U.S. But since these positions are at odds with what are known to be the positions of the MAS, it seems likely that he was only saying this under pressure -- otherwise he wouldn't have needed to offer so much empty and condescending verbiage to the crowd before getting around to the point.
The other questions were pointed, informed and full of righteous indignation. Challenged about the MAS's leader, the unsavory Bray, the chief spokesman, a physical therapist named Ayman, called him a "civil rights activist." Challenged on whether he thought the people in the room were the Infidels that the Qur'an directs Muslims to wage war against, he told the questioner, "No, you are not an Infidel," and explained that the Qur'anic Infidels were only those who knew the truth and still rejected it. He did not mention, of course, that the Qur'an doesn't envision any other kind of Infidel, and that it has no conception of people who reject Islam in good faith.
Ayman defined jihad as the right of a nation to defend itself whenever it is oppressed and occupied -- a definition large enough to drive a bomb-laden truck through, and that fact didn't elude the questioner, who further asked him whether that definition would indeed make Americans Infidels, because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He explained that no, he wouldn't be raising his five children here if he thought America was Infidel. Another one of the Muslims on the dais insisted that Sharia was democratic and protected democracy. Once again, the glaring contradiction of all this with the words and deeds of the MAS leadership and the Brotherhood was left unexplained.
And so it went. Ultimately, one of the Muslim spokesmen, the other physical therapist, whose name was Muhammad, became firm. Asked if the MAS would prove the sensitivity to the community that the spokesmen were insisting they had by leaving the community, he said: "We are exercising our freedom of religion. We will not apologize for being Muslim. We will not apologize for being American."
Ringing words, but ultimately empty -- ignoring, yet again, the aspect of Islam that is political, and that would subjugate women and non-Muslims and deny the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience. And when they were challenged on such issues, the Muslim spokesmen retreated behind their clouds of rhetorical smoke.
Finally, when the local officials tried to stop the questions from the floor while there was still a long line of people waiting to be heard, and to bring on instead a couple of local dhimmis (including a Christian Arab minister in a clerical collar) to explain how wonderful their experience had been living next to the Muslims of another Staten Island mosque, the crowd had had enough of being railroaded and lied to, and wouldn't quiet down. The meeting was summarily ended, prematurely. But it mattered little. The fix was in from the start.
Pamela has more information and pics here.