Who the Hell is Haroon Moghul?

Haroon MoghulNow I am going to confess that I do not know Mr. Moghul.  I have never talked to Mr. Moghul.  I have never emailed Mr. Moghul.  I have never even seen Mr. Moghul until this morning when I found some comments he made on line about the shooting last week in Texas at the cartoon contest for caricatures of Muhammed.   Here are the comments that Mr. Moghul made:

I am Muslim, and after attacks like these, folks always ask, “Do you condemn terrorism?” Or they throw up their hands and say, “Where are the Muslims!” Well, to be blunt: Not at the event. In fact, every major mosque in the Garland, Texas, area not only shrugged off the anti-Islam event happening in their backyard, but also declined to exercise their equal right to peacefully protest it. It appears from early reports that the suspects were not currently involved with a mosque. This is because American Muslims — our mosques and our leadership — reject radicalism out of hand. — (Don’t be fooled by Pamela Geller By Haroon Moghul)

pamelagellerPamela Geller as you may or may not know is the radical anti-Islamist from the East Coast who sponsored the “Free Speech” shindig in Texas.  What could be more American than a free speech contest?  Who could be more American than someone wanting to uphold our First Amendment rights?  Where else in the world would you find a contest proving to the world that Americans are willing to denigrate the beliefs of a large religious following except in Texas?   And I am not talking about the beliefs of Baptists either.

Of course the followers of Ms. Geller immediately launched a reply to Mr. Moghul some of which is as follows:

The clearest indication that Haroon Moghul is a jihad terror-enabling charlatan is the fact that after jihadis attempt to commit mass murder at a free speech event, he doesn’t write a piece defending free speech and explaining why Muslims must accept it, or a piece condemning the Islamic jihadis and explaining why Islam’s death penalty for blasphemy must not be carried out in the modern age, or a piece calling for reform of the teachings and doctrines that Islamic jihadis use to justify violence and supremacism. ­­–  (Don’t be fooled by Haroon Moghul by Robert Spencer)

ExtremistsWho do I believe? Whose logic do I choose: The Jihadist Moghul or the Pro-American anti-Islamist Pam Geller?  This is a tough choice.  My background does not help.  I grew up as a Roman Catholic in an Italian neighborhood in New York.   Jews were evil because they killed Christ.  Protestants were misguided because they rejected the Pope and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Muslims were bad because they killed a lot of Christians during the Holy Wars and because they thought Muhammed was a better prophet then Jesus.  Hindus were weird because they had too many gods and Buddhists did not believe in God so they could not even be counted as a real religion.  I grew up with a father who was a WW II decorated combat veteran and who hated communists.  The French were not much better than communists to my dad since De Gaulle kicked us out of France shortly after the war was over.  Thus, my religious world was divided into good and bad.  Good= Roman Catholic.  Bad= All other religions or quasi-religions including kooky sects with make believe TV ministers.

ExtremistsSo now we are in this “War on Terror” started by the evil Jihadists.  A war that Europe and America had no responsibility for since all we wanted from the Arabs=Jihadists=Bad, was their oil and a place to send the Jews after the war so that we could expunge our guilt from having let so many of them die in Hitler’s ovens.  Ironic that so much of the Right Wing in America which proclaims to be against Islam also loves the Nazi swastika and anything connected with Heir Adolph.  This is a conundrum.  Nevertheless, I fear the Arabs, or Jihadists putting a bomb on the next plane I take or worse attacking my village in Frederic Wisconsin.  Despite the prevalence of 2nd Amendment rights people up here we might not have adequate munitions to ward off a full scale Islamist attack.  And besides that, we have enough laws already without my having to learn Sharia law.

Thus, I found myself wondering how great the possibility of another 911 was.  How much did I have to fortify my home?  How many rifles, pistols and RPG’s did I need to protect my turf from the evil Arabs?   There were other voices telling me that my fears were misguided.  Indeed, some were saying that I had more to worry about from the Pamela Gellers of the world than from the Ayatollahs.   The Southern Poverty Law center in their recent report on terrorism and hate groups cited the following study in their report in which they seconded the conclusion:

A survey last year of state and local law enforcement officers listed sovereign citizen terrorists, ahead of foreign Islamists, and domestic militia groups as the top domestic terror threat.  The survey was part of a study produced by the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. [CNN, 2/20/15]

Freedom of speechAs you know, a study of history is often the best way to understand the current problems we face. As the great philosopher Santayana said “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I therefore decided to undertake some historical research into the present animosity that we seem to have toward Arabs and Muslims in this country.  I wanted to see if Mr. Moghul was right or if Ms. Geller was right.  Is it simply a matter of “Free Speech” which those evil Arabs do not understand or is there a larger issue at play here.

Islamist ExtremistsOn the matter of “Free Speech”, it has been noted by some that all speech is not really free.  Some examples of proscribed free speech would include the classic “yelling fire in a crowded theater” but also such examples as burning a cross in your Black neighbor’s yard, telling your attractive co-worker how nice her boobs were, calling 911 on a joke or telling the Judge to go “F” herself.  Nevertheless, it is remarkable that Pam Geller has the guts to stick it to those evil Arabs by ridiculing their holy patriarch.  Somewhat ironic, since the religious right has never been a big supporter of free speech particularly when it comes to anti-war protests or criticizing Christianity.

“Usually, defending free speech rights is much more of a lonely task. For instance, the day before the Paris murders, I wrote an article about multiple cases where Muslims are being prosecuted and even imprisoned by western governments for their online political speech – assaults that have provoked relatively little protest, including from those free speech champions who have been so vocal this week.” —  In Solidarity with a Free Press: More Blasphemous Cartoons, by Glenn Greenwald

Fear-Ignorance1A source of my information was a book by Edward W. Said published in 1981 titled “Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World.”  This book was published nineteen years before 911 and eight years before the first Gulf war.  At this point in American history, most of us did not even know any evil Arabs and there was no War on Terror since it would be 8 years or so before the War on Godless Communists would end with the fall of the Berlin Wall.  We had plenty of other evil people to deal with and did not have to have any evil Arabs.  Most of us had never even had any falafel, hummus or baklava.

So I presumed that what Mr. Said said about the evil Arabs in 1981 might be a somewhat unbiased and as yet uncontaminated view of how Americans viewed Arabs way back over thirty years ago.  Here is what Mr. Said had to say about America’s view of Arabs in 1981:

The modern Western media, says Said, does not want people to know that in Islam both men and women are equal; that Islam is tough on crime and the causes of crime; that Islam is a religion of knowledge par excellence; that Islam is a religion of strong ethical principles and a firm moral code; that socially Islam stands for equality and brotherhood; that politically Islam stands for unity and humane governance; that economically Islam stands for justice and fairness; and that Islam is at once a profoundly spiritual and a very practical religion. Said claims in his book that untruth and falsehood about Islam and the Muslim world are consistently propagated in the media, in the name of objectivity, liberalism, freedom, democracy and progress.This summary is from Wikipedia.

I was startled and amazed by his conclusions.  The evil Arab portrayed in the press in 1981 is the same Evil Arab=Muslim=Jihadist portrayed in the American press today.  Fox News (Sic) commentator Lt. Col Ralph Peter has made the following comments about Islam:

“We do not have an Islamophobia problem in the United States; we have an Islamophilia problem – which places Islam above all criticism. And until we hold Islam to the same standards as every other religion, ethically and behaviorally, terrorism wins.”

Salon Magazine commenting recently about the role of Fox News in promoting Anti-Arab sentiment in America had this to say about the treatment of Arabs and Islam:

“The Islamophobia industry also goes to great lengths to sell its message to the public. The difference, though, is that in many cases the very networks that spread their product are themselves participants in the ruse to whip up public fear of Muslims. This is not a relationship of buyer and seller, where various characters that peddle panic purchase slots on major television networks to plug their merchandise. Rather, it is a relationship of mutual benefit, where ideologies and political proclivities converge to advance the same agenda.

Fox News, the American television station that brands itself as “fair and balanced,” is the epitome of this relationship.  It has been, for the better part of the last decade, at the heart of the public scare-mongering about Islam, and has become the home for a slew of right-wing activists who regularly inhabit its airwaves to distort the truth to push stereotypes about Muslims.” —  www.salon.com  

The comment in Salon was made in 2012 nearly thirty years after Said noted that there was a major effort in the US News to distort the teaching and canons of Islam.  Of course there will be those who note the following:

  • Islamic beheadings
  • Stoning of women guilty of adultery
  • Islamic persecutions of Christians in Arab countries
  • Islamic persecutions of Jews and other minorities

When these problems and atrocities are faithfully reported and repeated ad nausea in the news, it has the effect of distorting and even hiding the threats from other terrorists particularly Right-Wing and religious fanatics.  We see or hear of one Muslim related terror attack such as the Charlie Hebdo killings and we hear of news related items to this event for over two weeks.  In the meantime, other atrocities not related to Islam go unreported and virtually ignored.  Nevertheless,

A Homeland Security report produced in coordination with the FBI in 2014 counts 24 violent sovereign citizen-related attacks across the U.S. since 2010.  The government says these are extremists who believe that they can ignore laws and that their individual rights are under attack in routine daily instances such as a traffic stop or being required to obey a court order. DHS Intelligence Report

So let us return to the Patriot or Evil Jihadist (depending on your perspective) Mr. Moghul.  Here was a man who would apparently agree with Mr. Said.  Muslims are not evil people nor are all Muslims good people.  That’s right.  There are “Bad” Muslims. There are also many evil Christians but no one disparages all Christianity even though few people seem to actually practice the teachings of Jesus Christ.

goingtohellIn my home town, the religious right has managed to put up a billboard with the Ten Commandments on it.  I fail to see how this billboard promotes Christianity.  Christ gave us the Eight Beatitudes not the Ten Commandments.  The Ten Commandments are Old Testament.  The Eight Beatitudes are Christian through and through. I have asked many people why they did not put the Beatitudes up and why they put the Ten Commandments up.  I had much rather see Christians follow the Eight Beatitudes today and say they are for Compassion and Love.  Instead, I see too many so-called Christians who are for Hate and Intolerance.  Where did Jesus ever call for Hate or Intolerance?

“At the exhibition ‘Caricatura VI – The Comic Art – analog, digital, international’ in Kassel in Germany, a cartoon created by cartoonist Mario Lars has been removed after protests that it hurt people’s religious feelings.  The drawing depicts Jesus suffering on the cross and a speech bubble, which apparently contains words from God, who says: “Ey… you… I fucked your mother.” The caricature was displayed not only in the exhibition itself, but was also reproduced on a large advertising poster outside the building of Caricatura Gallery.  Barbara Heinrich, the city dean of the Evangelical Church in Kassel, said the caricature crossed a line of what is acceptable.” — Arts Freedom, August 29, 2012.

extremism-cartoonjpg-ff44d0d8e227b4c0I may not like your religion.  I may not like your Gods or your prophets.  But as long as your religion respects the rights of others, I will respect your religion.   I do not see the vast majority of Muslims as a threat to my way of life.  I see Muslim extremists as dangerous and misguided but I view them the same as I view Christian extremists.  Both categories include narrow minded zealots who pose a threat to other people because of their failure to deal with adversity through kindness and love.

Thus, I say that those who profess to be Christians and follow the word of Jesus have no precedent to denigrate, humiliate or ridicule the teachings of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or any other religion that they do not agree with.  Jesus would not have ridiculed or persecuted anyone.  Can you imagine Jesus holding a contest to see who could create the best caricature of a prophet named Muhammed?

Time for Questions:

Are you a Christian?  Do you understand and support the rights of other religions to practice their faiths?  Do you stand up to bullies and zealots who would ridicule and malign other religions?   What will it take for America to become a country that truly is a melting pot and tolerates racial and religious diversity?

Life is just beginning.

“Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.”  ― Voltaire

“Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged”  ― Rumi

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