John Esposito is the director of Georgetown University’sÂ Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU), a professor of religion and international affairs, and one of the most prominent scholars of Islam and the Middle East in the nation. He has called Muslim Brotherhood Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who advocates jihad-martyrdom suicide bombings and has praised Hitler’s genocide of the Jews, a champion of a “reformist interpretation of Islam and its relationship to democracy, pluralism and human rights.” Esposito has called the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) “phenomenal organization” and has spoken at CAIR fundraisers in order, he explained, to “show solidarity not only with the Holy Land Fund [that is, the Holy Land Foundation], but also with CAIR.”
The Holy Land Foundation was shut down and prosecuted for funneling money to the jihad terror group Hamas, which once boasted on its website about its murders of civilians in pizza parlors and on buses; the Justice Department named CAIR an unindicted co-conspirator in the case. Esposito himself refuses to condemn Hamas, as the Investigative Project notes: “In a 2000 interview in The United Association for Studies and Research’s (UASR) Middle East Affairs Journal, Esposito refused to condemn Hamas, which at the time was already designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S. State Department.”
Esposito has also co-edited a book, Islam and Secularism in the Middle East, with Azzam Tamimi. Palestinian political scientist Muhammad Muslih calls Tamimi “a Hamas member.” Tamimi has said: “I admire the Taliban; they are courageous,” and “I support Hamas.” When University of South Florida computer science professor Sami al-Arian was accused of involvement with the leadership of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has claimed responsibility for the murders of several civilians, he became a cause cÃ©lÃ¨bre, with his defenders ascribing his prosecution to “Islamophobia.” Esposito rushed to his defense, avowing: “Sami Al-Arian’s a very good friend of mine.” In 2008, Esposito advocated for al-Arian’s release, saying:
Sami Al-Arian is a proud, dedicated and committed American as well as a proud and committed Palestinian. He is an extraordinarily bright, articulate scholar and intellectual-activist, a man of conscience with a strong commitment to peace and social justice.
Al-Arian later pled guilty to “conspiring to provide services to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a specially designated terrorist organization, in violation of U.S. law.” Al-Arian also, according to Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), has “longstanding connections to associates of al Qaeda.” Wolf quotes a federal affidavit noting that –˜Sheik Rahman (the “˜Blind Sheik”) visited Al-Arian at his residence in Tampa and spoke at his mosque.” Rahman is currently serving a life sentence in U.S. prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center attack and additional terror plots.”
Also associated with the Blind Sheik is the man Esposito calls “my old friend Siraj”: the popular Muslim speaker Siraj Wahhaj. Wahhaj was designated a “potential unindicted co-conspirator” in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing for taking the Blind Sheik to speak at mosques in New York and New Jersey in the early 1990s. Wahhaj has warned that the United States will fall unless it “accepts the Islamic agenda.” He has also asserted that “if only Muslims were clever politically, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate.”
This is the “expert” whom the Washington Post calls upon to clear up Tony Blair’s “misconceptions” about Islam.
“Tony Blair misreads Muslim terrorism,” by John Esposito in the Washington Post, June 5:
The Boston Marathon bombings (April 15, 2013) and the Woolwich, UK attack and murder (May 22, 2013) are grim reminders not only of the continued threat from militant religious extremists but also of the need and importance for political and religious leaders, commentators and the media to put these horrific acts in their proper context.
Facile, superficial or biased statements and disproportionate coverage create a bias that plays to militant Muslims [sic] desire for national and international attention, terrorizes citizens in the belief that this may influence their country”s foreign policies and encourages copycats. At the same time, they risk reinforcing far right anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim (Islamophobic) forces, further driving a wedge between non-Muslim and Muslim citizens and alienating the majority of loyal mainstream Muslim citizens.
In reality, facile, superficial or biased statements like those of Esposito in this article play to militant Muslims’ desire for national and international victory against the Infidels, lull citizens into complacency insofar as they’re influenced to think the jihad threat is exaggerated or easily managed, encourage the manipulative Islamic supremacist victimhood narrative that is designed to discourage counter-terror initiatives, and damage free countries’ foreign policies with wrongheaded policies that sap their strength and encourage jihadis. At the same time, they risk reinforcing far Left suicidal pandering to Islamic supremacist forces, further driving a wedge between non-Muslim and Muslim citizens and alienating the majority of loyal mainstream citizens of all creeds.
In the wake of the Woolwich attacks, Tony Blair’s recent article in the Daily Mail, titles “The ideology behind Lee Rigby”s murder is profound and dangerous. Why don’t we admit it?: Tony Blair launches a brave assault on Muslim extremism after Woolwich attack,” ignores the facts on the ground and opts for a common (ideological) thread: “There is a problem within Islam — from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it”¦.It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.”
Though well intentioned, it perpetuates his long held belief since the Bush-Blair invasion and occupation of Iraq that the primary driver, the root cause of terrorism, is religion and not political and social contexts and foreign policies. It is wrong headed and doomed to continue to be part of the problem not the solution.
A similar flawed narrative can be seen in statements by other political leaders and media commentators such as London mayor, Boris Johnson’s article “By standing united, we can isolate the virus of Islamism” in the Daily Telegraph. The monolithic use of the term Islamism fails to distinguish between mainstream and violent extremist Islamists. Each are individuals or organizations that appeal to the religion of Islam but extremists, like their Christian and Jewish counterparts, are more often driven by political, economic or social issues and grievances, such as military intervention, invasion and/or occupation of land by foreign forces. They misinterpret or twist the religious beliefs of the mainstream majority to legitimate their hate speech, use of violence and terrorist attacks. Major polls (Gallup, Pew, Zogby and others) have long documented that widespread anti-Americanism or anti-European Muslim attitudes are driven by foreign policies. But that there is a distinct difference between the mainstream majority, who remain non-violent and admire and desire (Western) economic and technological accomplishments as well as the rule of law and freedoms and a minority of extremists who resort to violence and terrorism.
John Esposito knows very well that the there are armed groups of Muslims all over the world citing the Qur’an and Sunnah to legitimize their hate speech, use of violence and terrorist attacks. He also knows that there are absolutely no Christian or Jewish extremists quoting their Scriptures to justify hatred, violence or terrorism. He also draws above a distinction between violent and non-violent “Islamists” and Muslims, when the only really useful distinction is between Muslims who want to impose Sharia (by whatever means) on non-Muslim states, and those who do not. He completely ignores the fact that jihad violence existed for centuries before the invasion of Iraq, and instead tries to give you the impression that it is solely a result of that invasion.
Painting with broad brushes about mainstream Islam makes make innocent Muslims victims of discrimination, hate crimes and threaten their civil liberties. Yet, as also witnessed in public statements and denunciations by Muslim leaders, individuals and organizations in the US and UK and internationally, the vast majority, a mainstream consensus, abhor these attacks on their fellow citizens. While some municipal and national officials have done so, many others are challenged to develop a robust policy to counter terrorism policy, cooperating with mainstream Muslim partners.
Esposito concludes by parroting well-worn Islamic supremacist talking points: exploring Islam’s violent texts and teachings would be “painting with broad brushes about mainstream Islam” and exposing innocent Muslims to discrimination and danger. In reality, the truth is the truth. No innocent people should ever be victimized. Esposito is trying to blackmail the U.S. into refraining from speaking the truth because of the prospect (endlessly exaggerated by Islamic supremacist groups in the U.S.) that innocent Muslims may be victimized. In fact, we will all be victimized, and already have been, if we refrain from speaking the truth — as with the massive intelligence failures regarding the Boston Marathon jihad bombers, failures that may have been avoided if the Obama Administration weren’t intent on obscuring the truth about jihad terror.
John Esposito is aiding and abetting ignorance and complacency about the jihad threat, and thereby helping enable more jihad attacks. I expect his Saudi paymasters are pleased.