Written by Barry Rubin
I've heard a lot about the methods of CAIR, and of course we are all familiar with the incredible intimidation (combined with clever strategy) used against anyone who writes about Islam in any way other than simpering reverence. But experiencing it is another matter, showing the intense dishonesty with which such campaigns are conducted. On the positive side, though, there may be some signs that media gullibility on this matter may be declining.
Offered an opportunity to write and edit some books for the Mason Crest series on Islam, I welcomed the challenge of producing materials that combined proper scholarship, due respect, and honest inquiry on the subject, the same approach taken to any other subject.
What we wanted to do was in sharp contrast to the fawning narratives that do things like-an actual case-omit any mention of Muslim-ruled states involvement in the African slave trade while praising them for introducing the clock into the area. Equally, though, we were careful not to put in anything unfairly derogatory about Islam as a religion or about its adherents.
The goal was to create balanced books that were easily accessible to American students.
The results were quite pleasing. Ten books were produced totaling 640 pages and with lavish illustrations, well-received and ordered by many schools.
Then CAIR sought to attack this book series. CAIR seems to be, according to legal documents and documented reports, a creation of the Muslim Brotherhood and a group many of whose officials have been prosecuted and convicted for involvement with terrorist groups. CAIR, then, is not a defense organization for Muslims but an advocacy organization for revolutionary Islamist groups.
That's important to note because its real agenda is to prevent any critique of Islamism, the ideology of those trying to overthrow every regime in the Arabic-speaking world and many more as well.
CAIR's approach makes clear its lack of understanding the fact that there exists a set of professional scholarly ethics and principles. And that those who have been trained in this system make a really sincere effort to be fair, accurate, and make arguments based on facts that can be documented. If errors are shown, they are fixed.
The idea that not everyone is a propagandist without a conscience is beyond the grasp of all too many people nowadays.
Once it decided to attack the publications, CAIR had to find something wrong with them. It claimed the books promote anti-Islamic sentiment among U.S. school children and encourage them to believe Muslims are terrorists who seek to undermine U.S. society.
And how proud I am to announce that they couldn't find anything that was really defamatory or inaccurate. That's a really good achievement for the authors and editors!
Of course, they didn't give up. So they came up with a tiny number of points from 640 pages of text. And guess what? They are all based on demonstrable lies. CAIR couldn't come up with a single factual error or derogatory phrase.
In other words, they had to distort even these few cases. Here they are:
1. In my book, "History of Islam," CAIR quoted a passage as follows:
"Today, the great majority of Muslims accept the idea that jihad means a struggle against non-Muslims to increase the area under the rule of Islam."
Note that it doesn't say that they are favorable to such a step--though polls indicate a lot of them are--or are trying to implement it but that they understand this is what it means. Of course, the "struggle for self-perfection" idea is also there but does not negate the point made above.
Still, CAIR was only able even to claim this was somehow objectionable by omitting the following sentences:
"But they had for many years treated it as an archaic concept, something not suitable for the modern world. In contrast, Islamists seek to use jihad to mobilize revolutionary forces for violent struggle."
The idea that Islamists are trying to use a violent jihad to overthrow governments and launch attacks is hardly controversial, is it?
2. On a page in one of the books, a picture of two Muslim girls is on the same page as a subhead that refers to security threats. CAIR claims that the book is thus asserting that little girls are security threats.
Anyone who looks at the page will see that the photo is part of the previous section and the text makes it clear that these points are in no way being connected. Only someone consciously distorting the material could possibly make such a ludicrous claim.
3. One book contains the passage: "For the first time, Muslims began immigrating to the U.S. in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism."
By the way, this is the only "critical" section in five pages about the history of Muslim immigration to the United States.
But what is really fascinating here is that they altered the quotation. In other words, I can show that they lied, which should be enough-and would have been during past periods-to discredit whatever they said immediately. Here is the actual passage in question:
"For the first time [in the 1980s], some Muslims began immigrating to the United States in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism. At the same time, some Muslims in the United States also began to support Islamist ideology and the transformation of American society into a Muslim nation."
Note how they removed the timeframe, cut out the word "some" (so as to give the impression that all Muslims were being so accused), and eliminated the connection of the issue to Islamist ideology. The statement actually made in the book is true and easily proven. Again, this had to be a conscious decision to distort the text, knowing that if people saw the actual text they would see the accusations being made are false.
4. Among the hundreds of people cited in the bibliography is one article by Daniel Pipes, whom CAIR doesn't like because of his effectiveness in critiquing them and their Islamist movement. This is, of course, an attempt to "blacklist" specific scholars who CAIR doesn't like. I refuse, and so should everyone, to omit citing a scholar's good article because that individual has been put on a boycott list by any group. But aside from the quality of the work cited-which should be the only criterion used-the idea that finding one person you can slander among hundreds "proves" horrible bias defies every logical principle. Rather, it reveals the dishonest behavior of the accuser.
5. In one of the books, on Muslims in Europe, the chronology starts in 1988 and has a lot of references to terrorism. One CAIR official stated that this was discriminatory because "Muslims have been in Europe for thousands of years." Since Islam has only been around for about 1400 years, this is a good example of CAIR's accuracy.
But, guess what? The book is about contemporary issues and focusing on terrorism and radical activities. A different book in the series deals with the Muslims in Europe and elsewhere around the world in a way with which even CAIR could find no fault.
What then are the implications of CAIR's approach?
First, that no reference can be made to radical Islamists and their activities-i.e., CAIR itself and its friends-and anything of the srot will be portrayed falsely as derogatory toward all Muslims. In other words, under the guise of anti-defamation they want to camouflage their own activities. It is amusing to note that this includes points and claims made by the Islamists themselves thousands of times in their own literature.
Second, it is all right to lie to create phony "hate crimes" by deliberate misrepresentation.
Third, the media can usually be relied on to not spot these distortions and to not use them to reduce CAIR's credibility at zero.
Fourth, for every one person who defies what CAIR permits, ten or dozens will be intimidated into silence or into actually writing CAIR-approved propaganda.
But suppose books are actually authored which are good in scholarly terms and accurate in factual terms, refusing to omit material which CAIR doesn't like? Suppose a book series comes out which critiques Islamism but isn't hateful toward Islam?
Well, then they have to make up stuff. But since CAIR cannot find anything not falsified, its campaign in fact amounts to an endorsement of the books' fairness and accuracy! Thanks for the compliment
What does this remind me of? Secret police forces in dictatorships, which have to manufacture conspiracies and heresies in order to have something to do and to terrify the population into subservience. "Hate crimes" are organized against dissidents to smear their name and destroy their careers.
Are people beginning to see through this kind of behavior?
To read about and order the book series go here.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org.