A September 22 Huffington Post webcast in response to Ben Carson’s reservations concerning a possible Muslim president showed once again the pitiful state of affairs concerning all things Muslim the media. HuffPo presented two dubious Muslim apologists for Islam and their propaganda without the slightest critical inquiry.
HuffPo moderator Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani turned to three guests for answers to the question “Does the GOP have a problem with Islam?” Saba Ahmed is a self-proclaimed “Islamic lobbyist,” past proponent of 9/11 Truther theories, and former anti-war Democrat suspiciously turned conservative Republican. She once knew and defended the Muslim man caught by the FBI in a 2010 Portland, Oregon, terrorism bomb plot sting.
Ahmed joined Harris Zafar, a member of the small Ahmadiyya Muslim community deemed heretical by other Muslims. Despite global Muslim persecution of the Ahmadiyya, Zafar has condemned “enemies of peace” who use “individual privileges” like free speech to engage in criticism of Islam deemed hateful. His Ahmadiyya colleague in the United States, Qasim Rashid, has even argued that American law can prohibit speech like Quran-burning. Writer David Freelander rounded out the panel with political commentary.
Zafar criticized Carson for “conflating a Muslim as somebody who wants to establish a theocracy,” an “entirely unjust and unfair way of looking at Islam.” Zafar invited Carson “to learn more about the true Islam and American Muslims by going to the source, go to the Quran,” whose literal text would somehow dispel all concerns about Islam. Calling for Carson’s apology, Ahmed similarly stated that his views “on Islam are very absurd” and he “needs to know the basics of Islam” rather than “being advised by some very anti-Islamic folks” like “Frank Gaffney in particular.”
“Islam strongly condemns all forms of terrorism,” Ahmed stated along with the now common Islam apologia that “extremists have hijacked our religion,” a view contradicted by the literature at her mosque. “There is nothing in the Quran that justifies violence,” she declared in an amazingly counterfactual manner, but rather Islam’s “laws of war have been misused by extremists” who are “deeply mistaken.” Defeating such individuals demanded an “ideological battle” drawing upon Islam’s asserted inherently benign nature, she argued with one of her oft-repeated tropes. “You can never win a war through the military,” she simplistically claimed.
Much of the webcast focused on sharia is a “new boogeyman term,” Zafar stated, but critics like Carson “clearly have no idea what sharia even is.” While “punishments…are misrepresented by extremists and very hardline governments like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Sudan,” Islam mandates that the “law of one’s homeland has predominance over all other laws.” His formulation left open the question of Muslims seeking to change the laws given that sharia “can influence your morals.”
For millions of American Muslims “sharia is just the way we live our life, the way we practice our religion,” Saba added, a law supposedly open to wide-ranging interpretations. The “way Saudi Arabia defines sharia is different than the way Turkey defines it, or the way Indonesia defines it,” although she did not explain whether sharia has any legal status in the latter two countries. “Sharia means the laws of the land…that can include the constitution,” agreed a viewer on social media quoted by Modarressy-Tehrani, as if sharia had no independent content that could guide Muslims towards certain objectives.
“Sharia is also pro-life, sharia is also pro-marriage, pro-traditional family values, pro-business, pro-trade, pro-defense,” the registered Republican Ahmed stated. Islamic “religious values align directly with the Republican Party platform…just like Judeo-Christian values.” Yet this assessment contrasts with her dovishness towards Islamic terrorists and ignores serious Islamic-conservative moral differences on issues such as interest, child marriage, polygamy, and even abortion.
Ahmed criticized that Republicans “don’t know much about Islam, so they tend to just associate it with terrorism” in “their own ignorant world view.” Republicans “have to tone down on this hatred and bigotry” concerning Muslims in order to win the presidency. Obama is “already the son of a Muslim, at least. Why is that such a big deal?” she asked while stating facts that Obama and his supporters often hesitate to discuss.
While a viewer stated on social media that the “Republican Party of 2015 is a hate group,” Zafar agreed that the “current state of the Republican Party is not the same Republican Party during the life of Ronald Reagan.” A “lower human nature” manifested itself both in Carson, who competed over “which religion is better,” and among Americans who were once again showing prejudice. There is a “large swath of the American population that defines what it means to be an American as the polar opposite of a Muslim,” Zafar stated.
Freelander considered “proper response” of Republicans towards Muslims would be to say that “Muslims are welcome in this country” and “are good family people too.” Republicans “got more traction by demonizing Muslims than by welcoming them. That’s a choice. You can easily imagine a different choice,” given supposed Muslim conservatism. Modarressy-Tehrani showed video of presidential candidate John McCain rejecting at a 2008 campaign stop an accusation of Barack Obama being a Muslim, eliciting Freelander’s dubious claim that McCain is a “skilled politician.”
So went the entire webcast without a single comment critical of Islam or its two featured representatives, individuals who demonstrated precisely the concerns of Carson. Arguments heard ad nauseam since 2001 trivialized the problems of Muslim-majority countries wracked by sectarian violence, egregious human rights violations, religious fanaticism, poverty, and weapons of mass destruction. Muslims from such countries (or even domestic converts) in turn provoked no concerns of following dangerous ideologies, as exhibited in massacres of Parisian cartoonists or military personnel in America. Why, for example, more Muslims in the United Kingdom have volunteered for the Islamic state than the British military was never a topic of discussion. Rather than Muslim “good family people,” a more pressing matter for the panelists was “ignorant” Republicans, many of whom had previously supported disappointing military campaigns to democratize Afghanistan and Iraq. How long can such dangerous, superficial political correctness continue in the media, the public’s supposed watchdog?