Islamophobe Strikes Again: MPAC's Response to Steve Emerson's Latest Baseless Attack

April 9, 2007

In his most recent article, Steven Emerson persists in his campaign of defamation against MPAC, admits that there is a personal agenda behind this campaign, resorts to the most blatant mischaracterization of MPAC statements, and suggests that American Muslims should have no recourse to courts of law to defend their rights. Indeed, in his campaign against MPAC, Emerson has done more to reveal the true nature of his extremist agenda then in any of his other activities since his misguided rehabilitation by parts of the American media after the terrorist attacks on our country on September 11, 2001.

Throughout the 1990s, Emerson developed a well-deserved reputation for inaccuracy and anti-Muslim bias. Among his more notorious gaffes was an effort to blame Arabs and Muslims for the 1996 Oklahoma City bombing, claiming that the attempt to kill as many people as possible in the attack was "a Middle Eastern trait. By the end of the 1990s most media outlets had correctly concluded that Emerson belongs in the crackpot category due to his pattern of wild and irresponsible accusations, and he found himself largely dismissed and ignored. However, after the September 11 tragedy, Emerson was able to "rehabilitate" himself to some extent, by claiming some sort of completely unjustified vindication. Since then, he has been careful, to a very large extent, not to repeat the mistakes of the 1990s, to be uncharacteristically cautious in most of his pronouncements, and to leave the wilder accusations to underlings, minions and others.

However, in his emotional vendetta against MPAC, Emerson has let his guard down almost entirely, revealing again his penchant for wild and unjustified accusations, his fundamental dishonesty, and his extremist agenda. This agenda is essentially inspired by the Israeli ultra-right, and seeks to block the development of any major Muslim or Arab American political empowerment in the United States by denouncing any and all major organizations or prominent public figures from those communities as "extremists," and promoting insofar as possible fear and hatred of American Muslims in general by casting the community as a threat to our country and a fifth column.

In January 2007, Emerson appeared on Fox News Channel and denounced the Attorney General of the United States for meeting with a number of major American Muslim organizations, including MPAC. This appearance was characterized by grotesque mischaracterizations of MPAC's history, positions and role in the American Muslim community. MPAC's attorneys responded with a letter to Emerson demanding an apology and an end to the false accusations, and reminding him that legal remedies for false accusations are available to victims of liable and slander in the United States.

On March 14, 2007, Emerson published an article on David Horowitz hate filled web site, preposterously entitled, "Threatened by the Jihad". Obviously, even the title itself gives the game away: although this entire affair stems from Emerson's campaign of false accusations against MPAC (and other American Muslim organizations, for that matter), he is the one who is "threatened," in other words he positions himself as the victim when in fact he is the aggressor. Worse still, the title suggests that MPAC is synonymous with "the Jihad," which, in Emerson and Horowitz rhetoric means terrorism and extremism -- the fundamental accusation Emerson routinely makes against any and all prominent American Muslim organizations and leaders no matter what their actual policies and positions might be.

Emerson attempts to justify his defamation of MPAC in the article by willfully misinterpreting some comments by people associated with MPAC and twisting their meaning beyond recognition. In the worst possible faith, he misrepresents remarks by MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati at an ISNA conference in 2005. Al-Marayati called for American Muslims to be involved in the development of counter-terrorism and counter-violence policy in the United States and to work with the government in an open and transparent manner. However, he rejects the idea that American Muslims should "start spying on one another," just as most Americans reject the idea that Americans in general should be spying on one another (a project to do just that, the TIPSS program, was rejected overwhelmingly by Congress with vehement bipartisan objections from both the political left and right). Emerson bizarrely misrepresents these comments as instructing American Muslims to "not even attempt to observe any extremism or terrorist activity in that community" and "not to inform law enforcement authorities," which, of course, Al-Marayati had said nothing of the kind.

Emerson then cites Al-Marayati as calling for "a healthy, open, transparent" relationship between American Muslim institutions and the law-enforcement community and "open dialogues" between the two, something that many law enforcement officials have also stated is an important goal on their end. Emerson distorts these remarks completely beyond recognition bizarrely claiming "here Al-Marayati is instructing Muslim Americans not to cooperate with the FBI's preferred methods of investigation," and that "MPAC, and groups like it, are also clearly seeking to intrude into and ultimately to dominate the relationship between law enforcement and the Muslim community." It need hardly be observed that Al-Marayati's comments bear no resemblance whatsoever to Emerson's ridiculous misrepresentation of them. In fact, what Al-Marayati said is more or less the opposite of what Emerson claims he said, since Al-Marayati was calling on the American Muslim community to develop an open and healthy relationship with law enforcement, and to develop a good cooperative relationship with the authorities, which is the antithesis of telling people "not to cooperate" with the FBI.

In fact, MPAC has taken the leading role in trying to develop American Muslim input into the development of a sound counter-terrorism and counter-violence policy that will truly make our country safer, as well as promoting this agenda and these values within the American Muslim community. Emerson completely ignores or willfully misrepresents these efforts falsely claiming that "MPAC is on the record telling American Muslims not to directly cooperate with the FBI," a completely untrue and preposterous accusation based on a willful misreading of calls for the development of a healthy relationship between American Muslim institutions and our law enforcement community. This is an agenda which is embraced by law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels, and only extremists such as Emerson see anything threatening about the development of an open, cooperative relationship between Muslim institutions and the government. However, given that Emerson's goal is to prevent the development of any influential or effective American Muslim organizations, his distortions and false accusations are as predictable as they are patently ridiculous.

Emerson's article continues with the most tired and standard tactic of Islamophobes, a set of quotations ripped out of context and/or misrepresented to falsely paint moderate organizations as extremist and create a deliberately false impression of their policies and positions. In this case, Emerson tries to demonstrate that MPAC is "radicalizing" the American Muslim community and accusing the "war on terror of being a war against Islam." Let us examine the first quotation Emerson cites in this context. He quotes Aslam Abdullah, who was then associated with MPAC, of saying in 2002 that "[t]here are three specific lobbyists that are turning the war on terrorism against Islam, and citing specifically Christian evangelicals, political Zionists and Hindu extremists as seeking to use the war on terror to combat the influence of American Muslims. Abdullah observes that "many members of these lobbies are in the administration and in FBI, law enforcement and even Congress," a phrase which Emerson emphasizes by bolding, as if it were somehow a shocking or absurd allegation.

Nowhere does Abdullah say that the war on terror is a war on Islam. What he says, and perfectly accurately, is that there are some people and some organizations, including evangelical, pro-Israel, and extremist Hindu groups and individuals, who have sought to promote such an agenda, and that some of these people are present in government at various levels (although it is still a legitimate concern, this was perhaps more of a problem in 2002 that it is in 2007, it should be noted, as our national conversation on the subject has become significantly more sophisticated over the years). Not only is this absolutely true, and a completely different claim from Emerson's indefensible misinterpretation of the quotation, the crowning irony is that Emerson himself is a perfectly good example of an individual who has, in fact, sought to turn the war on terror into a campaign, if not against Islam as such, then certainly against all prominent American Muslim organizations, institutions and national leaders in what would appear to be a misguided effort to promote the interests of the extreme right wing in Israel. His campaign against MPAC, based as it is on lies and distortions, and being transparently political in nature, itself proves the validity of Abdullah's complaint that some people are targeting the American Muslim community and its national leadership in the name of the war on terror.

There is no need to refute individually the subsequent quotations Emerson uses to misrepresent MPAC's policies and positions. Suffice it to say that MPAC has a long history of promoting moderation and countering extremism among American Muslims, and of engaging seriously with the law enforcement and counter-terrorism communities in order to try to make our country safer and develop a positive, healthy working relationship between American Muslim organizations and institutions and the government at every level.

Towards the end of his diatribe, Emerson reveals the personal as well as political agenda at work in his defamation campaign against MPAC. He accuses MPAC of publishing in 2004 a personal hit piece against me" and of "failing to de-legitimize me through character assassination," as if Emerson had not been misrepresenting and attacking MPAC and all other national American Muslim organizations for over a decade previously in a patent effort to prevent the community from developing any political influence in our country.

He concludes by suggesting that American Muslims do not have the right to go to court when they have been libeled and slandered by Islamophobes such as himself: "MPAC's bullying attempts to stifle free speech will not stand. Such tactics should be vigorously opposed... Emerson seems to feel that he is or should be immune from basic legal standards that protect the victims of libel and slander and that American Muslims should not enjoy the same legal protections in civil court that other Americans avail themselves of routinely and as a matter of self protection in complete accordance with the First Amendment and all other laws in the United States.

Not only does Emerson want to prevent the American Muslim community from developing effective national organizations and political empowerment commensurate with its size and accomplishments, he wants them excluded from the normal American system of law and the protections of civil court, and for Islamophobes such as himself to have a free hand to spread wild and totally misleading accusations without being challenged. If he expects MPAC or the American Muslim community to simply sit back and allow him to defame all major national American Muslim organizations, institutions and leaders in an obvious effort to prevent the development of political influence and organization in the community, or for American Muslims to voluntarily renounce the protections afforded by the civil court system in our country, Emerson is going to be deeply disappointed. The more Emerson continues with this crude and transparent campaign of defamation, the more he risks once again being fully exposed as a charlatan and provocateur, and finding himself again widely rejected as a serious or legitimate commentator.

Related Links:
MPAC Special Report: "Counterproductive Counterterrorism: How Anti-Islamic Rhetoric is Impeding America's Homeland Security"
MPAC Calls Steve Emerson's Defamation of Mainstream Muslim American Leader "Un-American" (Sept. 5, 2006)
MPAC Challenges Steve Emerson to Release Full Recording (July 12, 2005)
MPAC Exposes Steve Emerson's Self-Serving Distortions (Jan. 28, 2004)



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