Cathy Young and The Daily Beast clearly intended her hit piece on Pamela Geller and me to be a comprehensive source for lazy journalists, for everything that is wrong with us. The problem is that her piece is a farrago of misrepresentations and outright lies. Pamela Geller and I respond at Breitbart today:
The teaser to Cathy Young’s vicious and dishonest exercise in character assassination in The Daily Beast says: “Pam Geller and Robert Spencer are being viewed as free speech champions for their ‘Draw Muhammad’ contest, which turned tragic in Dallas last week. But once a moderate Muslim begins speaking, they quickly turn into what they hate.”
Leaving aside whether or not standing for the freedom of speech against violent intimidation is really “hate” at all, what exactly does Young think we turn into when we see moderate Muslims? People who murder Muhammad cartoonists? Fascist foes of free speech? She follows up this curious claim that we “quickly turn into what [we] hate” by retailing the story of how we both supposedly led a “smear campaign” against Zuhdi Jasser in 2011, yet he “graciously” defended our right to free speech in the wake of the jihad attack on our Muhammad cartoon event.
In Young’s crude black hat/white hat scenario, we’re the vicious flamethrowers smearing a moderate Muslim out of “hate,” while Jasser graciously brushes aside the smears and defends us nonetheless. Young claims that we think Jasser is a “a faux Muslim” or “a camouflaged extremist practicing taqiyya.” She doesn’t see fit to mention that in February 2014, long after this supposed “smear campaign,” Robert Spencer defended Jasser against an actual smear campaign from the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), calling him “a strong voice against Hamas-linked CAIR and other malignant Islamic supremacist forces.”
Young claims that this “sordid episode” shows that we are “no heroes for free speech.” Yet she offers no examples of how we, say, fiendishly tried to deny Jasser’s freedom of speech, or compel publications to censor him. The spirited and substantive disagreement we had with him was not a denial of free speech, but an example of it. For Cathy Young to present it as if it showed that we were somehow against free speech demonstrates that she has no idea what free speech really is.
That’s the way Young’s entire piece goes. If anyone knows smear campaigns, it is she. Her modus operandi is to offer a tendentious, incomplete, misleading version of events, designed to portray us as villainous and hateful as possible, while conveniently omitting everything that doesn’t fit her narrative, with apparent insouciance about how dishonest, false, and even defamatory the resulting picture may be.
How dishonest is Cathy Young? She claims that Pamela Geller has a “lengthy record of peddling anti-Muslim hysteria, targeting Muslims’ First Amendment right to worship, smearing innocent people as jihadists, and even excusing the slaughter of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia.” Notice that only two of those four charges has a link to substantiate it; Young doesn’t – and can’t — offer any examples of Geller “peddling anti-Muslim hysteria” or “smearing innocent people as jihadists.” As for the claim that Geller targets Muslims’ right to worship, Young links to a Geller column about a New Jersey city that had rejected a proposed mosque over zoning issues; after a lawsuit, the city paid the mosque leaders damages and the mosque was built elsewhere. Nowhere in her piece does Geller call for restrictions on Muslims’ freedom of worship or say that mosques in general should not be built; Geller was primarily concerned with the Justice Department and mosque leaders strong-arming the city over its legitimate zoning concerns. But Young doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a good smear.
Even worse is Young’s link to Geller supposedly “excusing the slaughter of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia.” For that, Young links not to Geller actually excusing anyone’s slaughter, but to Young’s fellow smear merchant, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs. Johnson libelously claims that Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic “slaughtered Muslims, and that makes him an ally of Geller, Robert Spencer, and the rest of their thuggish crowd.” His evidence for this? Geller saying that “there are no heroes in the Bosnian conflict, but the Muslim atrocities were far worse.” Does that sound like someone cheering on the slaughter of Muslims, or even excusing it? Any honest reader would have to acknowledge that Geller said that there were “no heroes” in the conflict and that both sides had committed “atrocities.” But we’re not dealing with honest readers here; we’re dealing with Charles Johnson and Cathy Young.
Young excoriates Robert Spencer for calling Islamic reform “quixotic” and “virtually inconceivable,” while not mentioning that this was in discussion with a moderate Muslim, Thomas Haidon, who said: “Spencer has rightly argued that until a reformist movement tables coherent and irrefutable evidence that the version of Islam envisioned by reformists is the ‘correct Islam’, then the movement will never have mass appeal in the Ummah.” How inconvenient for Young: a moderate Muslim agreeing with Robert Spencer on what she is trying to present as Spencer’s hostility to moderates and hatefulness regarding Islam!
Spencer, says Young, “sweepingly describes the faith of ‘millions’ of Muslim immigrants in the West as ‘absolutely incompatible with Western society.’” In the video to which she links, Spencer is speaking about not about Muslims but about Islamic law, which mandates stoning of adulterers, the amputation of thieves’ hands, the killing of gays and those who leave Islam, the beating of disobedient women, and more – as evidenced by the fact that all these practices and more are seen in Sharia states today, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. Does this mean that each and every Muslim immigrant to the West thinks that these practices should be brought West? No – and Spencer never says otherwise. But here again, Young doesn’t let the facts get in the way of her smear.
Young continues: “When America’s first Muslim congressman Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) (D-Minnesota) chose to use a Quran in his swearing-in ceremony, Spencer flatly stated that ‘no American official should be taking an oath on the Qur’an.’” Millions of Americans agreed – not least because of those passages of the Qur’an that call for warfare against and subjugation of non-Muslims. But Young doesn’t bother to try to refute Spencer’s arguments; for her it is enough to show that Spencer has departed from politically acceptable opinion, to signal to her Daily Beast groupthinkers that he is not to be believed. She does this again when noting that Spencer’s “2005 best-seller, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), has such chapter titles as ‘Islamic Law: Lie, Steal and Kill.’” Does Young prove that Islamic law does not, under certain circumstances, allow for lying, stealing, and killing? No. She doesn’t even try. She knows her Daily Beast readers will assume that it doesn’t, and hate Spencer for daring to say otherwise.
Showing that she will stoop to any low to defame us, Young even links to a hate site devoted solely to collecting libels and falsehoods about Robert Spencer, and claims that Spencer’s “account of Islamic history is blatantly one-sided. Thus, he tries to rebut the ‘PC myth’ that Jews in the Middle Ages fared better under Islamic rule than in Christian Europe by quoting from a 13th Century papal bull that affirmed the rights accorded to Jews—but fails to mention the many expulsions of Jewish communities from European countries and glosses over crusader massacres of Jews.” In reality, Spencer devotes several pages of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades to the Crusaders’ massacres of Jews in Eastern Europe (“Count Emicho of Leiningen and his followers advanced through the Rhineland, killing and plundering Jews in five German cities: Speyer, Worms, Mainz, Trier, and Cologne”) and several more to the Crusaders’ burning of a synagogue full of Jews in Jerusalem, which he calls “this atrocity, this outrage.” That’s “glossing over” in Cathy Young’s book.
And did Jews in the Middle Ages fare better under Islamic rule than in Christian Europe”? Young thinks that Spencer’s denying this is evidence that he is hateful. Yet the philosopher Maimonides, a Jew who lived for a time in Muslim Spain and then fled that supposedly tolerant and pluralistic land, remarked, “You know, my brethren, that on account of our sins God has cast us into the midst of this people, the nation of Ishmael, who persecute us severely, and who devise ways to harm us and to debase us….No nation has ever done more harm to Israel. None has matched it in debasing and humiliating us. None has been able to reduce us as they have….We have borne their imposed degradation, their lies, and absurdities, which are beyond human power to bear.”
No doubt Maimonides would have been the target of Cathy Young’s poison pen had he had the misfortune of being her contemporary.
Young claims: “When Spencer writes about moderate Muslims, it is invariably to disparage them as deluded, insincere, or irrelevant.” She left out endangered, as in the Moroccan cleric Ahmed Assid, who condemned violence in Islam’s name and about whom Spencer wrote: “So why isn’t Ahmed Assid celebrated as a hero, instead of fearing for his life?” Young doesn’t quote this because the specter of Spencer saying a moderate Muslim should be celebrated as a hero wouldn’t fit her demonization of him as supposedly denigrating all moderates.
“His targets,” Young said, “include reformist Muslims who are strongly critical of radical Islamism and have themselves been accused of being Islamophobic shills: Jasser, self-styled ‘Muslim refusenik’ Irshad Manji, Sufi Muslim convert Stephen Schwartz.” Once again, Young’s links are quite far from how she represents them. The one about Manji discusses her characterizations of certain aspects of Islamic history; it doesn’t say anything about her opposition to “radical Islamism.” And regarding Schwartz, Spencer wrote: “I was saddened to read Mr. Schwartz’s letter, particularly its heading, since I have never attacked him in any way. I have merely asked questions about his recommendations for a reconfiguration of Islam so as to make it no longer a refuge and motivating force for international terrorists. Had Mr. Schwartz answered these questions honestly, fully, and civilly, we might have been on the way to a fruitful dialogue that could have helped accomplish what he professes to work for: ‘convincing Muslims of the need for moderation.’”
Ah, but Cathy Young wants her readers to believe that Spencer has no interest in Muslim reformers “convincing Muslims of the need for moderation,” and so she doesn’t include that quote.
Young then bizarrely excoriates Spencer for failing to praise a suicide bombing, saying his “targets” also “include Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State: last October, a Spencer post on his site, JihadWatch, reported a Kurdish woman’s suicide bomb attack on ISIS troops in a besieged town under the jeering headline, ‘Kurdish Muslima carries out moderate jihad/martyrdom suicide attack against the Islamic State,’ and sneered at the idea that “the foes of the Islamic State are all moderate.” Clearly the foes of the Islamic State are indeed not all moderate, and it is hard to see how she can justify suicide bombing in any context, but for Cathy Young, demonizing Spencer and Geller is paramount; all other considerations are secondary, apparently even including basic questions of morality and ethics.
Stooping even lower, and running out of ammo on Spencer himself, Young takes up a nine-year-old post by a former Jihad Watch writer: “Spencer ostensibly disavows bigotry; yet a 2006 JihadWatch post,—written by the site’s co-administrator Hugh Fitzgerald but posted by Spencer himself—suggests that the most peaceful, non-violent, and even secularized Muslims are still a danger to the West as long as they have not explicitly renounced Islam, because either they or their children may revert to a more militant form of the faith.” This is a tendentious misstatement of what Fitzgerald actually wrote – as evidenced by the fact that she does not quote him: she can’t produce an actual damning quote. In any case, there are numerous examples of secularized Muslims becoming devout and militant. Coming so soon after the specter of Nadir Soofi trying to commit mass murder at our cartoon contest, to the professed shock and grief of his father, Young’s taking issue with Fitzgerald’s piece is nothing short of grotesque.
“Both Spencer and Geller,” Young charges, “relentlessly hype the Muslim peril in the U.S. Every violent crime by a Muslim becomes a one-person jihad, from a mentally ill Bosnian teen’s shooting spree at a Salt Lake City shopping mall to a drug addict’s meth-fueled rampage assaulting customers and staff at a Seaside, California Walmart.” With jihad groups calling on Muslims to commit “lone wolf” attacks in the West, Young would need to produce evidence that these cases had nothing to do with Islam. She does not, and doesn’t mention that Salt Lake City mall shooter Sulejman Talovic “was described as a religious Muslim, attending mosque on Fridays and praying outside of mosque as well”; “wore a necklace with a miniature Koran at the time of the shooting,” and “told his ‘girlfriend’ the night before that ‘tomorrow will be the happiest day of my life…’ (a likely reference to martyrdom).” Again, why let the facts get in the way of a good smear?
Young then expatiates on a post Geller deleted from her website. The deletion of material found to be inaccurate, however, is standard practice on the Internet, and a sign of Geller’s commitment to accuracy. Until Young begins to denounce the New York Times for stories it has taken down, her reference to a story Geller deleted is simply contemptible. Young appears to want her readers to believe that “vehicular jihad” is a figment of the “Islamophobic” imagination. She doesn’t tell them that in September 2014, the Islamic State told Muslims in the West: “If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car…” And even before that, this was an element of the jihadist arsenal.
Young then adds an outright lie: “In 2011, Geller agreed to settle a defamation suit by removing from her site several posts suggesting—with no evidence—that Columbus, Ohio attorney Omar Tarazi had ties to the terrorist group Hamas.” In her windy and poorly edited piece, she returns to this many paragraphs later, making the same false claims and declaring: “Geller herself has a rather strained relationship with the truth.” In reality, Geller won this case. Tarazi had sued for $10 million; he got nothing. Geller had several posts that made the same claim. She agreed to remove only two of many, as a courtesy; the agreement did not require her not to repost the same substance subsequently, and it was already up on other posts. There was nothing false about Geller’s claims regarding Tarazi: she had said that he had ties to CAIR, which has demonstrable ties to Hamas, and this was all established during the litigation.
Young continues her tissue of false and misleading statements: “Homicidal (and suicidal) non-Muslims can be recruited to the cause as well. In 2007, Geller harped obsessively on the notion that Virginia Tech mass shooter Seung-Hui Cho, a Korean national and a Christian, was a secret jihadi because of the mysterious ‘Ismail Ax’ tattoo on his arm.” No one has ever explained what the “Ismail Ax” tattoo was all about. Cathy Young, however, is sure it has nothing to do with jihad. How does she know? Because she hates Pamela Geller.
“Two years earlier,” Young tells us, “Spencer was one of the bloggers flogging the theory that Joel Hinrichs, a University of Oklahoma engineering student who killed himself by detonating a homemade bomb in his backpack near the campus football stadium during a game, was a Muslim convert and had planned a suicide bombing inside the stadium. This speculation was based on these incredibly incriminating clues: Hinrichs had recently grown a beard, had lived a few blocks from a mosque, and had a Pakistani roommate.” Once again, the links tell the tale: Spencer never mentioned his beard, and Young doesn’t bother mentioning that “investigators say they also found ‘Islamic jihad’ material in Hinrichs’ apartment when they searched it. Hinrichs, it turns out, attended a mosque near his university-owned apartment — the same one attended by Zacharias Moussaoui, the only person charged in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”
Young isn’t finished lying and distorting. She then turns to our supposed “Muslims-under-the-bed paranoia” which “drives distortion-riddled reports about the alleged encroachment of ‘sharia law’ in America—which can mean nothing more than utterly innocuous accommodations for practicing Muslims such as ritual foot baths on university campuses and at airports.” Can Cathy Young provide examples of public funding being used for holy water fonts or Torah scrolls on university campuses and at airports? Can she explain why she has no problem with public funds being used for this accommodation of Islam when similar accommodation would never be offered for Judaism or Christianity?
Young’s next Geller atrocity is a real stretch, even for her:
Take the “sharia courtroom” scandal in 2012, in which a Muslim judge in Pennsylvania was said to have let a Muslim immigrant off the hook for assaulting an atheist who had marched in a local Halloween parade dressed as “Zombie Mohammed.” The only grain of truth in this story was that the judge, Mark W. Martin, had quite inappropriately lectured the victim for abusing his First Amendment rights before dismissing the harassment charge for lack of evidence. But Martin, a Republican and an Iraq war veteran, was (as he confirmed to the media) a churchgoing Lutheran; the confusion was based on a misheard line in the audio of the court session.
Undeterred, Geller continued to insist that Martin was a “sharia judge” who had declared himself a Muslim in the court hearing and was probably lying about it in the aftermath—because, of course, Muslims lie.
Follow the link to Geller’s piece on this. Martin actually said during the hearing, “I’m a Muslim.” Later he denied being a Muslim, and Geller wrote: “He now denies that he is a Muslim, but that’s what he said. Ultimately, it is irrelevant if the judge is or isn’t a Muslim. What is germane is his sharia ruling, which is worse if he’s not a Muslim.” Young represents this as Geller insisting he was a Muslim and lying about not being one. And she even admits that Martin was wrong to lecture the victim for violating Sharia, but still skewers Geller for saying the same thing. Does Cathy Young, then, have no decency whatsoever?
Young then criticizes us for daring to criticize Bernard Lewis and journalist Michael Totten, without bothering to explain why either’s work should be off-limits to criticism. For a professed supporter of free speech, Young has an ugly and authoritarian tendency to regard substantive disagreement with those whom she favors as evidence of some moral defect. Yet they are richly deserving of criticism and disagreement. She quotes Totten, for example, sneering: “I got on the hit list of Pamela Geller and her flock of honking geese when, while reporting from Bosnia and Kosovo, I wrote about Serbian ethnic cleansing and war crimes. She insists not only that Serbian ethnic cleansing didn’t occur—never mind that I know some of the victims and visited some of the ethnically cleansed areas in person—but also that ‘every major US paper in 1999’ supposedly ‘debunked’ the ethnic cleansing that every knowledgeable and serious person knows happened. The woman lives in an alternate universe.” It is Totten, however, whose universe is off-kilter: the Geller post to which Young links makes it abundantly clear that at issue was not whether there were people killed and areas cleared out; at issue was whether or not the term “ethnic cleansing” was justified. So for Totten to declare that he had spoken to victims was simply off the point.
“Totten’s run-in with Geller,” says Young, “highlights another troubling aspect of her views: a propensity for Bosnian Muslim genocide denial and for valorizing Serbian mass murderers as leaders of anti-jihadist resistance. (‘The Serbs dared to fight. That’s what this is all about,’ she wrote in a 2011 post.)” In any conflict, one chooses sides. We believe Clinton chose the wrong side in the Balkans in the 1990s. We were right. Look at Sarajevo: once a dynamic and pluralistic city, it has now been ethnically cleansed of non-Muslims. Cathy Young won’t tell you that. As for the scurrilous charge of genocide denial, at issue here again is whether or not the term “genocide” is justified, not whether or not Muslims were killed or Serbian mass murderers are heroes. There is legitimate disagreement on this question. In “Srebrenica as Genocide? The Krstić Decision and the Language of the Unspeakable,” published in the Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal, Vol. VIII in 2005, Katherine G. Southwick writes:
In August 2001, a trial chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) handed down the tribunal’s first genocide conviction. In this landmark case, Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstić, the trial chamber determined that the 1995 Srebrenica massacres—in which Bosnian Serb forces executed 7,000-8,000 Bosnian Muslim men—constituted genocide. This Note acknowledges the need for a dramatic expression of moral outrage at the most terrible massacre in Europe since the Second World War. However, this Note also challenges the genocide finding. By excluding consideration of the perpetrators’ motives for killing the men, such as seeking to eliminate a military threat, the Krstić chamber’s method for finding specific intent to destroy the Bosnian Muslims, in whole or in part, was incomplete. The chamber also loosely construed other terms in the genocide definition, untenably broadening the meaning and application of the crime. The chamber’s interpretation of genocide in turn has problematic implications for the tribunal, enforcement of international humanitarian law, and historical accuracy. Thus highlighting instances where inquiry into motives may be relevant to genocide determinations, this Note ultimately argues for preserving distinctions between genocide and crimes against humanity, while simultaneously expanding the legal obligation to act to mass crimes that lack proof of genocidal intent.
If Geller is guilty of “genocide denial,” so also is the Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal. In reality, neither are. The raising of legitimate questions does not constitute either the denial or the excusing of the evils that Serbian forces actually perpetrated.
Intent on using every professional character assassin’s trick in the book, Young then throws in guilt by association, claiming that Srdja Trifkovic is one of Spencer’s “closest associates” and that Trifkovic is “not only a denier of Serbian war crimes but a former advisor to one of the accused perpetrators, Bosnian Serb politician Radovan Karadzic.”
In reality, Spencer has met Trifkovic in person only once. They are not associates, close or otherwise. They do not work together and never have. Ten years ago they were both featured in a documentary that neither of them produced; they did not meet on the set. This is not to say that Spencer accepts Young’s claims about Trifkovic – they are almost certainly as false as the rest of her claims – but only yet again to point out her cavalier disregard for accuracy. The claim that Spencer and Trifkovic are close and that therefore Spencer must share the thirst for genocide that Trifkovic supposedly harbors is the work of an earlier libel merchant whom Young invokes: “Kejda Germani, the Kosovar émigré writer who documented the Spencer/Trifkovic connection five years ago.”
Young can’t even get basic facts right: her fellow smear artist’s surname is actually Gjermani; Spencer documented the falsity of her claims years ago, but Young doesn’t deign to take notice.
After all these lies, all these distortions, all these half-truths, all these libels, Young, covered in mud and slime, piously intones: “treating Islam as a monolith, denying the possibility of reform, and demonizing Muslims en masse is not the answer.” Where either of us ever have done any of those things, she doesn’t say, and cannot say, for she is lying about us again. She claims: “Spencer has argued that Islamic reform has no theological foundation, but he ignores the work of such 20th Century thinkers as Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, who made the case for the abrogation of the Quran’s later, harsher texts by the earlier, more peaceful ones (rather than vice versa).”
Young is lying yet again: Spencer does not ignore Taha’s work at all. Last year, he wrote: “The Sudanese government executed Mahmoud Mohammed Taha for heresy after he said that the Qur’an’s Meccan suras, which are more peaceful, should supersede the Medinan suras, which are more violent.” In 2006, he published a piece by moderate Muslim Thomas Haidon, “Some reflections on the death of Mohammed Taha.” The one who is ignoring important facts is Young: she doesn’t mention that Taha was executed as a heretic for his ideas about Islam – a stark illustration that, as Spencer has pointed out (to Young’s disgust), reform will not be easy.
However dishonest and mendacious, Cathy Young’s piece is exhaustively researched. She clearly spent a great deal of time on it. Ponder for a moment the specter of a journalist spending dozens of hours researching and writing, and the Daily Beast publishing, a piece libeling two people who were just targeted by jihadist assassins. Cathy Young could have spent all that time researching and writing a piece about the would-be jihad mass murderers, Ibrahim Simpson and Nadir Soofi, laying bare for Daily Beast readers their guiding ideology, investigating to what extent their jihadi beliefs were taught in their mosque, and more.
Instead, this. Young’s protestations about supporting free speech are belied by her avidity to defame us; clearly she, and the Daily Beast, looked at the shooting at our event and decided that the real enemy was not Ibrahim Simpson and Nadir Soofi and their murderous ilk, but Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer and their “flock of honking geese.” They would rather see more people like Ibrahim Simpson and Nadir Soofi than like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. And so they will.