UPDATE: Not long after we posted this story, the New York Times reported that Minaj had cancelled her Saudi Arabia gig.
We last wrote about at length about Trinidad-born songstress Nicki Minaj in 2015, when she was paid $2 million for a single concert in the dictatorship of Angola. As we noted at the time, half of the people of Angola earn so little money that they’d have to work two million days – about 5500 years, which would take you back to the Bronze Age, the very beginning of writing systems, and the introduction of the wheel beyond Mesopotamia and environs – to bank $2 million. Although the Angolan government rakes in a great deal of money from selling oil, munch of that money ends up in the pockets of the ruling family and its cronies; meanwhile, one of the country’s dubious claims to fame is that it has the world’s highest mortality rate for children under the age of five.
To be sure, these grim facts didn’t
keep Mariah Carey, who’s notorious for taking this kind of dirty
money, for accepting a million-dollar fee in 2014 from Angolan
strongman Jose Eduardo dos Santos. And although Carey got such bad
press for that ethically tinged payday that she ended up apologizing
profusely, it didn’t keep Minaj, two years later, from taking an
even better deal. Even when human-rights groups challenged her
beforehand about having agreed to do the concert in Angola, she went
Biblical: “Every tongue that rises up against me in judgment,”
Minaj tweeted, “shall be condemned.”
In fact she doubled down: after she reached Angola, she took an Instagram photo with the president’s daughter, Isabel, who, like other relatives of other dictators, has accumulated a fortune by, well, doing not much of anything except being related to the guy at the top. The illicit source of Isabella’s wealth was either lost on Nicki or a matter of indifference to her, because her take on the subject, as expressed in her distinctive manner on Instagram, was as follows: “she’s just the 8th richest woman in the world….GIRL POWER!!!!! This motivates me soooooooooo much!!!!”
Motivates her to do what? Become a head
of state and fleece her subjects? This is, let it be noted, a woman
who, given her sales figures – she’s had seven singles
simultaneously on Billboard’s US Hot 100 – must be swimming in so
much dough that $2 million can’t possibly be anything more to her
than pocket change. Yet, for all the criticism, and despite her
efforts to burnish her image by identifying with AIDS and children’
charities, Minaj took dos Santos’s cash.
Afterwards, the criticism continued.
But the raunchy rapper didn’t learn her lesson. A few weeks ago it
was announced that Minaj, at the invitation of Saudi Arabian Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, planned to perform on July 18 at the
Jeddah World Fest alongside Steve Aoki, an American DJ, and Liam
Payne, a former member of the British boyband One Direction. In a
five-page open letter written in response to this news, the New
York-based Human Rights Foundation explained to Minaj in some detail
the human-rights violations committed by the Saudi regime and urged
her to withdraw from the event as an act of solidarity with the Saudi
In June 2016, as we reported here at the time, Angela Davis was celebrated by a feminist art center at the Brooklyn Museum for being “first in her field.” What field would that be? Diehard Communism? As a young woman she joined the American Communist Party and studied at Humboldt University in what was then the Soviet puppet state of East Germany, and has remained a devotee of Marx and Engels ever since. Or is her field domestic terrorism? In the incident that made her famous, she bought a bunch of guns that were used several days later by some pals of hers who invaded a courtroom, took the judge, prosecutor, and three jurors hostage, and ended up in a shootout with cops in which the judge was killed, the prosecutor paralyzed for life, and one of the jurors injured – the perpetrators’ goal having been to compel the release of Angela’s then husband, a Black Panther, Communist, and armed robber named George Jackson, from Soledad State Prison.
Arrested for her role in this atrocity,
Davis, despite massive evidence against her, was acquitted by a jury
that was plainly swayed by dishonest propaganda that painted her as a
victim of racial prejudice.
Thus began her career as a public
figure – specifically, as a full-time critic of democratic
capitalism, booster of Communism, and outspoken anti-Semite. She
palled around with Fidel Castro in Cuba and accepted the Lenin Peace
Prize in Moscow. She publicly supported the Soviet invasions of
Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. Twice in the 1980s, she ran for Vice
President of the United States on the Communist Party line. Meanwhile
she pursued an academic career, and the American university having
undergone a political sea change in the 1960s and 70s, her hard-line
Communist credentials only helped her advance: from San Francisco
State, where she taught Ethnic Studies, she proceeded to UC Santa
Cruz, where she taught in the History of Consciousness and Feminist
Studies departments and was appointed to the UC Presidential Chair in
African American and Feminist Studies. The website of Santa Cruz,
where is now listed as a “Distinguished Professor Emerita,”
provides a sugarcoated version of her criminal past and calls her “a
living witness to the historical struggles of the contemporary era.”
Nor has her fanatical Communism kept her from being a darling of the
American left, which has promoted her tirelessly as a heroine of
rights for women and black people.
Which brings us to her latest activities. On April 30, Davis joined “scores of other black women” at a Capitol Hill rally in support of Ilhan Omar, the hijab-wearing, Somali-born freshman Congresswoman from Minnesota. As the website of the left-wing TV/radio program Democracy Now put it, Omar had “been at the center of numerous right-wing attacks since taking office.” Translation: since her election in November, Omar had made a series of chillingly anti-Semitic comments, and a great many decent-minded people had had the audacity to take offense. There had been an effort to pass a resolution condemning her, but members of her own party had circled the wagons and rewritten the resolution so that it made no explicit mention of Omar and was at least as much a statement about “Islamophobia” as about anti-Semitism. Speaking to Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, Davis maintained that Omar had been “targeted because she is an immigrant, because she is Muslim, because she is a courageous, bold black woman who speaks out in defense of Palestinians.” She added: “I am extremely proud that finally we’ve elected someone to Congress who speaks out in such a powerful way on behalf of black women, on behalf of Palestinians, on behalf of all people who are oppressed.” Birds of a feather flock together.
Davis’s support for Omar made headlines. The Huffington Post, describing Davis as a “civil rights icon,” whitewashed the comments that had gotten Omar in trouble and took Omar’s word for it that she had received a mountain of death threats. At The Nation, one Rebecca Pierce celebrated Davis and her confreres for creating “a force field of support” around Omar “in the face of Islamophobic incitement from the Trump White House.” UPI bought the death-threats claim too, running a piece under the headline “Activists rally in support of Rep. Ilhan Omar after death threats.”
As for the rally itself…well, stay tuned. We’ll get to that on Thursday.
He still looks like a high-school kid –
in fact, he’s 34 – but he’s been called “by far and away the
most influential left of centre commentator” in all of Britain. To
read him is to be baffled by the thought that anyone, anywhere, could
possibly be influenced by him. The son and grandson of card-carrying
Communists, he’s the ultimate knee-jerk ideologue, who, in his
columns for the Guardian, his zillions of tweets, and his
endless TV appearances, never comes out with anything remotely
surprising, nuanced, perceptive, or thought-provoking. As we noted
when we first wrote about Owen Jones on August 2, 2016, he has
actually written the following sentences: “Modern capitalism is a
sham.” “Democratic socialism is our only hope.” These two
statements are at the core of his belief system. He is a fan of Cuban
Communism and for a long time was a staunch defender of chavismo
There’s more, to be sure. Jones is
gay, and never tires of railing against right-wing homophobia; at the
same time, however, he’s a big booster of Islam, and consequently a
sworn enemy of right-wing “Islamophobia.” But what about the fact
that sharia law calls for gays to be executed, and that several
Muslim countries do indeed punish homosexuality with death, while
others prescribe long prison terms and/or various forms of torture?
Well, when confronted with those facts, he had this to say: “I’m
done with people only mentioning LGBT rights when Islam is involved.”
This self-contradiction came to a head
in June 2016 when a jihadist killed dozens of people at a gay
nightclub in Orlando. Discussing the massacre on Sky News, Jones
attributed the murders to the perpetrator’s homophobia, but refused
to discuss the Islamic roots of that homophobia, claiming that to do
so would be to diminish the atrocity’s horror. Jones further
insisted that neither the host of the Sky News program, Mark
Longhurst, nor his fellow panelist, Telegraph journalist Julia
Hartley-Brewer, were, as Hartley-Brewer later wrote, “entitled to
venture any opinion on any issues arising out of this crime because
we were straight and therefore could not presume to care as much
about the deaths of 50 gay people as Owen.” In short, to quote our
own summing-up of the exchange, “Jones was trying to use his gay
identity to shut down any effort to link this mass murder to Islam.”
Pressed on his refusal to face the simple fact that Islam has a
problem with homosexuality, Jones walked off the show, later
asserting that he’d done so because Longhurst had “repeatedly
refused to accept that this was an attack on LGBT people” –
which, as Hartley-Brewer put it, was “a blatant flat-out lie.”
Jones’s walk-out drew many other
media comments. In the Spectator, Rod Liddle, wrote that “the
reliably idiotic left-wing columnist Owen Jones had a temper
tantrum,” storming off the TV set because neither Longhurst nor
Hartley-Brewer “would accept that the tragedy [in Orlando] was all
about Owen.” In the Mail, Katie Hopkins drew a clear line in
the sand: “Until Islam is tolerant of gay rights, we cannot
tolerate Islam….LGBT rights or Islam….It is a binary thing.”
Fellow gay writer Douglas Murray tweeted: “I’m sorry for Owen
Jones. I would also feel guilty if I’d spent my life covering for
the ideology that just killed 50 LGBT people.”
What happened on that Sky News show,
of course, was that Jones was confronted with the irreconcilability
of his pro-Islam and pro-gay stances. A more mature and honest
commentator would have felt compelled to acknowledge this conflict
and to do some serious rethinking. Instead, Jones sought to distract
the TV audience from his predicament by throwing a fit and lying
about his interlocutors. You might have thought that this pathetic
display would have put a dent in his growing fame. On the contrary:
it only enhanced his celebrity. Too many British newspaper readers
and TV viewers, apparently, prefer his self-referential,
ideologically reliable, and often hysterical commentaries to the
views of more sophisticated, intelligent, reflective, well-informed
Anyone who expected that Jones, after his Sky News crisis, would actually work out his self-contradictions on Islam and homosexuality has been sorely disappointed. Incredibly, nearly three years after the Orlando massacre, he’s still toeing the same exact line. “Muslims and LGBTQ people should stand together, not fight each other,” read the headline on his Guardian column for April 11. In the piece, he took on a current controversy in Britain, where primary schools have announced plans to introduce “LGBTQ-inclusive education” and Muslim families have protested, in many cases successfully pressuring the schools to withdraw their plans. Jones harked back to “Section 28,” the long-dead law introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1988 to prevent the “promotion of homosexuality in schools.” Section 28 was repealed in 2003, and the prejudices that gave rise to it have almost entirely disappeared from English society – except, of course, in the rapidly growing Muslim community, where the reigning views of gay people are far more chilling than those held three decades ago by even the most bigoted member of Thatcher’s government.
But Jones is
still unwilling to go there. Anent the ongoing Muslim campaign
against “LGBTQ-inclusive education,” he writes: “The dangerous
conclusion to draw from this saga is that Muslims and LGBTQ people
are on a collision course.” But Islamic doctrines being what they
are, how can he deny that these two groups are in fundamental
conflict? As has been the case for years, Jones, being unable to
honestly address this question, instead dodges it entirely and makes
this move: “That is certainly the battle cry of ever more
emboldened Islamophobes, who never talk of LGBTQ rights except when
it becomes convenient artillery in their bigoted war on Muslims.”
Note the wily wording here: Jones doesn’t exactly deny that being
gay is a capital crime under sharia law; he just shifts ground,
shoving Islamic homophobia out of the way and changing the topic to
right-wing “Islamophobia.” There should, he insists, “be bonds
of solidarity between two oppressed groups who are liable to have had
abuse yelled at them on the streets by the same people.” But how
often are Muslims in Britain actually victims of public abuse – and
how often are Muslims the abusers? Is a gay person in Britain more
likely to be harassed or beaten up by a Muslim or by a right-winger
of British extraction? Jones doesn’t dare to ask these questions,
the honest answers to which would upset his base, threaten his
Guardian gig, and slow his meteoric rise to the top of the
How vile an apologist for tyranny is
he? So vile that in February 2017, we spent a full five days on him.
We’ve discussed a good many professors of Islam or Arabic or Middle
East Studies who have incredibly ugly things to say about Israel and
Jews, but even in that crowd Hamid Dabashi stands out. A protégé of
Edward Said and a longtime Professor of Iranian Studies and
Comparative Literature at Said’s own longtime academic home,
Columbia University, Dabashi was named by fourteen Columbia students
and recent graduates in a 2004 video as one of the three most
anti-Semitic professors they’d had. In a 2005 article, he wrote
that Jews possess “a vulgarity of character that is bone-deep”
and that “a systemic mendacity…has penetrated the deepest corners
of what these people have to call their ‘soul.’”
In 2006, he savaged Azar Nafisi’s
widely praised book Reading Lolita in Tehran, about literature
classes that she taught secretly to women in post-revolutionary Iran,
calling her a postcolonialist tool and likening her to Lynndie
England, the U.S. soldier notorious for mistreating inmates at Abu
Ghraib prison in Baghdad. In 2007, when the Iranian tyrant Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad was asked to speak at Columbia, many observers criticized
the university’s president, Lee Bollinger, for issuing the
invitation, but what outraged Dabashi was Bollinger’s introduction,
in which he called Ahmadinejad “a petty and cruel dictator.”
Bollinger, wrote Dabashi, was a “white racist supremacist.” In
2011, he accused ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq of
having “demonized their own cultures and societies” “to advance
their careers” and “justify US carnage.”
You’d think that at some point
Dabashi’s job at Columbia would have been in danger. Nope.
Complaints have been made over the years, but Dabashi has never even
been rebuked, let alone disciplined, by any of the higher-ups at
Columbia. Far from being a pariah in the academic community, in 2015
it was reported that Dabashi, after giving a series of talks in
Germany in which he smeared Israel and minimized the Holocaust, was
now “the darling of German academe.”
And we’re here to report that he’s
still at it. On March 30, he took to Twitter to react to the U.S.
recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which
Israel had captured in the 1967 Six Day War and formally annexed in
1981. “What’s the difference between ISIS and ISRAEL?” Dabashi
asked in his tweet. The answer: neither has a claim to the Golan
Heights. “All of Syria belong to all Syrian people, not an inch
it either to ISIS or to ISRAEL.” He also wrote that if ISIS doesn’t
enjoy U.S. support, it’s because “ISIS does not have a platoon
of clean shaven and well coiffured columnists at the New York Times
propagating the cause of the terrorist outfit as the Zionists
columnists do on a regular basis.” Unusually for Dabashi, he
later deleted the tweets. It’s hard to imagine why, because they
were hardly any more offensive than many of his other public
statements about Israel.
that the government of Brunei has fully implemented sharia law in
regard to gays and adulterers – meaning that those found guilty of
these violations of Islam will henceforth be stoned to death –
politicians, celebrities, and commentators around the world have been
unhesitant in their expressions of outrage. People like Ellen
Degeneres, George Clooney, and Elton John have called for boycotts of
the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Dorchester in London, the Plaza Athenee
in Paris, and other the posh hostelries that the Sultan of Brunei,
Hassanal Bolkiah, owns in the U.S. and Europe; Deutsche Bank has
banned its employees from staying at the hotels, and the Financial
Times and other firms have cancelled events scheduled to take place
in them. Ads for holidays in Brunei have been pulled from London
buses; Virgin Australia terminated a deal with Royal Brunei Airlines,
the state-owned carrier, as has at least one major travel agency;
Western universities that have awarded honorary degrees to the Sultan
(who also serves as his nation’s prime minister, defense minister,
finance minister, and foreign minister) have said that they are
reviewing those honors.
Yet this fury over the Sultan’s action is not universal. Residents of Brunei interviewed by the Agence France-Presse gave it a thumbs-up. “I’m proud, because implementing the law feels like it solidifies the Islamic identity of Brunei,” said Muhammad Antoni, a 27-year-old worker. Haziah Zainal, a 36-year-old civil servant, said that famous people calling for boycotts should mind their own business. “These actions seem ignorant,” said Zainal, “as they have not even been here to experience what it’s like.” While everyone is focusing on Brunei, homosexuality is a capital offense in at least ten other Muslim countries, although in Yemen the punishment is applicable only to married men and in Qatar only to married Muslims. One of the countries in question is Saudi Arabia, but this has not prevented companies like Uber, Lyft, Twitter, and Snapchat from accepting Saudi investment or universities like MIT, funded by Saudi money. Polls have shown that close to half of Muslims in Britain would like to see sharia law introduced in that country, but when UKIP head Gerard Batten said on LBC the other day that many British Muslims do indeed hold anti-democratic views, his interviewer called this a grotesque exaggeration and branded Batten a far-right bigot for even suggesting such a thing.
Among those celebrating Brunei’s tough new laws was Daniel Haqiqatjou, a Harvard-educated American Muslim who, in a March 30 article, praised the Sultan for “implementing hudud [punishments dictated by sharia law] to crack down on sodomites and fornicators!” Haqiqatjou explained his enthusiasm as follows: “Allah created human beings in a certain way. Our bodies and minds are created in a certain way and only certain types of relationships allow human beings to flourish in this world and the next, while other types of behaviors lead to destruction and widespread suffering.” Taking note of the organized effort to persuade people not to stay at Brunei-owned hotels, Haqiqatjou wrote: “I think Muslims need to counteract any boycott by making Brunei their next vacation destination spot. Maybe some of these expensive spiritual tourism tours…can make Brunei the next go-to site, maybe attend a caning or two so Western Muslims can experience first hand what implementing hudud actually means.” If Haqiqatjou were some rara avis, of course, his views wouldn’t be worth heeding. The alarming fact, however, is that his number is legion.
You can’t keep
a good jihadist sympathizer and Jew-hater down. Less than a month
after being (sort of) officially chided by the House of
Representatives for her repeated use of anti-Semitic tropes, freshman
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who took that whole episode not just in her
stride but as a sort of joke, went to California to give the keynote
speech at a CAIR banquet.
This is a woman
who, as Michelle Malkin noted
says Trump is not “human.” On an Arab-American talk show, she mocked a college professor who treated terrorist organizations al-Qaida and Hezbollah with gravity. She cackled at how he named them with a sternness in his voice and questioned why the words “Army” and “America” are not uttered with equal contempt.
However many news
media may continue to treat CAIR – the Council on American Islamic
Relations – as a legitimate civil-rights organization, it was an
unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007 trial of the Holy Land
Foundation, which was found guilty of financing terror. CAIR has been
tied to the Islamic Association for Palestine, a front for Hamas, and
CAIR itself is considered a terrorist organization by the United Arab
Emirates. CAIR officials have been found guilty in court of
laundering funds directed at Hamas and of training with a terrorist
group and conspiring in terrorism. CAIR played a role in promoting
the “Clock Boy” charade. After any terror attack, CAIR is quick
to try to use charges of “Islamophobia” and “racism” to
silence anyone who dares speak the truth about jihadist ideology. Yet
to acknowledge any of this is still considered inappropriate at many
of our more respected newspapers and cable news networks.
So it is that
even a Congresswoman who’s been criticized for wearing a hijab in
Congress and who’s been in hot water for her comments about Jews
can get away with addressing a CAIR confab. In fact, this is no
first: Omar spoke
at a banquet for CAIR San Francisco in December 2017. Last month, she
spoke at an event sponsored by Islamic Relief, which Sweden considers
a Muslim Brotherhood front and which the UAE considers a terrorist
any case, this time around the event
was held by CAIR’s Los Angeles chapter. It was entitled “Advancing
Justice: Empowering Valley Muslims,” and the purpose of the evening
was to present the 2019 Champion of Justice award to Jewish Voice for
Peace, a radical anti-Israel group posing as an organization for
peace-loving Jews. Omar’s co-keynoter was CAIR-Florida executive
director Hassan Shibly, who, according
to the Jerusalem Post, is
“vehemently anti-Israel” and denies that Hezbollah and Hamas are
This time, at
least, there was protest. Signs and banners read “Omar equals
hate,” “CAIR hates Jews,” and “Ilhan hates Israel.” Well,
that certainly sums it up.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Rashida Tlaib. Ilhan Omar. Among the many things that this callow, determined, and dangerously fanatical trio of high-profile freshman House members have in common is an undisguised anti-Semitism.
But if at this
point you had to single out one of these young women for her
Jew-hatred, it would have to be Omar, the hijab-wearing Gentlelady
from Minnesota. Posting on Twitter in 2012, Omar expressed the wish
that Allah would “awaken the people and help them see the evil
doings of Israel.”
Later, while serving in the Minnesota
state legislature, Omar compared Israel to apartheid South Africa and
stood up for the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement,
which uniquely targets Israel for punishment for its purported
During her 2016 campaign for the U.S.
House, Omar denied supporting the BDS movement. Not long after her
election, in an interview with a Muslim publication, she affirmed her
support for it. In Islam there is a word for lying to the infidel in
the service of Allah: taqiyya.
In 2018, when someone dug up her 2012 tweet about Israel’s evildoings, she was widely criticized and apologized for it – kind of. But before long she was at it again. In a mid February tweet about the pro-Israel Beltway lobby, she hinted at stereotypical notions of Jewish avarice, thereby crossing a line that used to be respected by politicians of both parties on Capitol Hill. There ensued more criticism – and another sort-of-apology.
Days later, she essentially took the apology back. At a bookstore appearance on February 27, Omar told her audience that she considers it important to talk about the divided national loyalties of some political operatives and complained that those accusing her of anti-Semitism were just trying to keep her from introducing that discussion. Yet again Omar was in hot water: accusing American Jews of double allegiance is an old and familiar anti-Semitic trope. In any event, while concerned about the political influence of American Jews, she showed no interest in the powerful Washington lobbies of countries like Saudi Arabia.
By this point, Democratic Party leaders may or may not have been genuinely upset by Omar’s manifest anti-Semitism, but they were definitely concerned about its impact on the party’s fortunes. With that in mind, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that a resolution condemning anti-Semitism would be put to a vote in the House on Wednesday, March 6.
The resolution was apparently a lame
piece of work to begin with: in a draft that circulated on March 5,
Omar wasn’t even mentioned by name. Even so, it turned out that the
leaders couldn’t scrape together enough votes. New York Times
reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote
that while “older House Democrats” deplored Omar’s remarks
about Jews, “their young liberal colleagues” felt that Omar was
“being singled out for unfair treatment.”
On March 5, Pelosi and company announced a postponement: at the behest of the House Progressive Caucus, the resolution would be rewritten to condemn Islamophobia as well. As for Omar’s prized seat on the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee – an appointment that was indefensible to begin with – the chairman of that committee, Eliot Engel of New York, told CNN’s Erin Burnett that he wasn’t even “close to” taking it away. “I’m looking to get rid of anti-Semitism, not looking to punish anybody,” said Engel, who himself is Jewish. Early on March 7, it appeared that the whole resolution thing had totally fizzled. That night, by a vote of 407-23, the House passed an anti-hate resolution that was so absurdly broad that Omar herself was able to support it. During the vote she was seen in the House chamber sharing a laugh with a colleague.
So it was that this lame, half-hearted
effort to respond to Ilhan Omar’s Jew-hatred only underscored, in
the end, just how devoid of backbone the Democratic Party has become
on what should be the most clear-cut of moral issues.
Born in 1972 in Iran, Reza Aslan was brought by his parents to the U.S. seven years later when they fled the Khomeini revolution. He grew up in the Bay Area, where as a teenager he converted from Islam to Christianity and then converted back. He earned degrees in theology, writing, and sociology, and over the past decade or so has become a leading voice on religion, a subject he has discussed frequently on CNN, Fox News, and other TV networks and on which he tries to sound very modern.
No religion, he argues, is objectively true; on the contrary, each is a set of “symbols and metaphors” that represent one’s sense of connection to the divine and eternal and ineffable. He admits to identifying as a Muslim, but is at pains to insist that this is more a matter of cultural or aesthetic affinity than of thinking that Islam is “truer” than Christianity, Hinduism, or any other faith. Indeed he has said, in effect, that all religions are ultimately the same and that “we are all God.”
He presents himself as a man of high moral character with a deep interest in the divine; as a clear-eyed observer of and expert in religions; and as someone who respects all belief systems and is eager to focus on their similarities and not emphasize their differences. In practice, however, he consistently puts his finger on the scale for Islam. In his 2005 book No God But God, he depicts Islam as inherently benign, blaming pretty much everything that’s negative about it on Western imperialism. In another book published four years later, he strives to distance Islamic terrorism from Islam itself, to draw at least something of a moral equivalence between jihadist murder and the American “war on terrorism,” and to distinguish sharply between jihadism and Islamism. Indeed he actually defends the latter, making the ridiculous claim that the answer to “extremist Islamism” is “moderate Islamism.” Nearly two decades after 9/11, the absurdity of all this should be obvious to any halfway intelligent individual in the Western world. But instead Aslan’s fanciful, friendly picture of Islam has won plaudits across the U.S.A. and elsewhere.
Aslan hasn’t been satisfied with merely whitewashing Islam. In his 2013 book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, he sought to alter established views of Christianity; two years later, he produced and hosted a CNN series, Believer, in which he purportedly sought to take viewers on tours of Christian, Jewish, and Hindu doctrine and practice, at both their ugliest and most beautiful. As Alexander Waugh noted in the Spectator,
Each episode featured the sensational and disgusting practices of fringe groups connected to Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism, which, unsurprisingly, offended mainstream Hindus, Christians and Jews who did not care to be associated in the public mind with their pee-drinking, brain-eating, death-worshipping sub-sects. No discreditable customs of any Muslim sub-sect were shown. Since Aslan has elsewhere gone out of his way to dismiss Islamic terrorism as less of a problem than ‘faulty furniture’; has described jihadism as a mere ‘pop culture’; and has denied any link between the Islamic religion and female genital mutilation, he soon found (no doubt to his delight) that he had sharply divided America’s liberal progressive movement.
Waugh went on:
Aslan explained that the purpose of his Believer series was to reveal to the world how everyone is ‘the same’. His detractors interpreted this to mean that Christians, Jews and Hindus should stop complaining about the unappealing practices of Muslims because there are people doing equally appalling things in the name of their religions too.
Indeed, many of Aslan’s erstwhile fans began to feel that he was at once a shameless apologist for Islam and an eager denigrator of other religions. Even as he slickly denied the established connections between Islam itself and certain abominable practices that are considered matters of faith by its adherents, he exaggerated out of all proportion the prevalence of certain unpleasant aspects of other faiths.
What’s more, professional historians of religion began to look more closely at his academic record and noticed that his claims to be a credentialed historian, a professor of religion, and a Ph.D. in the history of religion were all bogus.
For all his efforts to represent himself as a man of faith, moreover, Aslan has certainly said things about various public figures that are, shall we say, rather deficient in what we in the West used to quaintly call Christian charity. After the 2017 terrorist attack on London Bridge, Aslan wrote a tweet in which he condemned not the terrorists but President Trump, whom he called “a piece of shit” for having refused to mince words about the danger of Islamic terror. (That tweet lost him his CNN series.)
That’s not all. Aslan has maintained, risibly, that women enjoy equal rights in Muslim countries where that is quite plainly not the case. Aslan has not only misrepresented the extent of female genital mutilation but also savaged the comedian Bill Maher when he condemned that practice and dared to acknowledge its connection to Islam. After he appeared on Good Morning America, his interviewer posted online a breathless summary of what she had “learned” from him about Islam:
Did you know Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet and a messiah? I didn’t. Did you know Muslims actually rank Jesus higher than the Prophet Muhammad? Again, I didn’t.
decided to give a bit of critical attention to Aslan now, it’s
because of his latest headline-making act. Last month, when that
group of students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky
were harassed outside the Lincoln Memorial by a group of fanatically
racist “black Israelites” and by a drum-banging Native American
“elder,” the boys were demonized throughout the mainstream media,
even though, as it turned out, they were the victims in that
encounter, not the bad guys. Aslan was one of those celebrities who
piled on, and he did so in a particularly nasty way, retweeting
a picture of the most prominent of the Kentucky boys, Nick Sandmann,
and writing: “Have you ever seen a more punchable face than this
It was one of
those comments that give the whole game away. After years of
promoting himself as a sober, sincere, and thoughtful student of
religion, and as a builder of bridges between different faiths and
cultures, and as someone who is, therefore, by definition, a decent
human being and a man of peace, Aslan, with this one tweet, shattered
that image forever. Sandmann is sixteen years old, a boy from
Kentucky who did nothing wrong and who, in a TV interview after the
Lincoln Memorial episode, acquitted himself with quiet dignity and
intelligence – qualities missing entirely from Aslan’s tweet.
Reza Aslan wanted to punch a teenage boy, someone’s child,
presumably because Aslan didn’t like what he thought he saw in the
look on the boy’s face. And this is supposed to be one of America’s
leading teachers of religion? No, thank you.
As we noted last week, the state of Minnesota has given us a new Muslim Congresswoman – namely, 37-year-old Ilhan Omar, who represents Minneapolis and surrounding urban areas, and who, after her election, publicly announced that, contrary to the impression she had left during the campaign, she is a firm supporter of the anti-Israeli BDS movement.
Elected to the U.S. House the same day was another female Muslim – Rashida Tlaib, age 42, who represents parts of Detroit and Dearborn Heights as well as several smaller municipalities. Tlaib, formerly a member of the Michigan House of Representatives, was the first Muslim woman ever elected to any U.S. state legislature. And she and Omar are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. (Omar wears a hijab; Tlaib doesn’t.) Suitably enough, they represent all or part of two of the most heavily Islamized cities in the United States – Minneapolis and Dearborn Heights.
Like Omar, Tlaib was celebrated by the international media throughout the campaign for being all these wonderful things: young, attractive, female, Muslim. What’s not to love? As with Omar, moreover, those same media have reflexively bought Tlaib’s self-characterization as a “progressive,” which of course even adds to her lovability in the eyes of the media. As evidence of her progressivism, they point to her membership in the Democratic Socialists of America.
Yet Tlaib is also a devout Muslim – in 2014 and again on November 17 of this year, she spoke at banquets held by the Los Angeles branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations – and of course there is nothing at all progressive about CAIR, a Muslim Brotherhood front group, or about orthodox Islam generally. until recently, moreover, Tlaib professed support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question; in an August interview, however, she stated that she was in favor of a one-state solution and a Palestinian right of return. Like Omar, she has also recently come out as a supporter of the BDS movement. At her victory party on Election Night, she danced while waving a flag. Not an American flag. A Palestinian flag.
The eagerness of Democrat voters in the upper Midwest to put people like Omar and Tlaib in office is disconcerting. But of course they’d already sent Keith Ellison, the current holder of Omar’s House seat, to Washington, despite his background in the Nation of Islam and his chumminess with Louis Farrakhan. And left-wingers all over America have embraced Linda Sarsour, a supposed feminist and leftist who has made clear her support for sharia law and for jihad. At this point, it seems safe to predict two things. One, the number of Muslims on Capitol Hill will continue to rise, despite their failure to distance themselves from some of the more uncomfortable aspects of their faith. Two, apropos of Omar’s and Tlaib’s switcheroos on Islam, it seems a fair bet that these are only the first of many about-faces that these two women will carry off as their careers advance.
Among the new Members of the U.S. Congress elected on November 6 is one Ilhan Omar. Previously, she was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. She was the first Somali American legislator to hold elective office in the U.S. She is now the first Somali American in the U.S. House. She and Rashida Tlaib, who was elected to the House on the same day, are the first Muslim women in the U.S. Congress. Representing a district that includes Minneapolis and several smaller cities, Omar will succeed another Muslim, Keith Ellison, who left Congress in order to run for State Attorney General of Minnesota, a race that he, too, won.
Now 37 years old, Omar denied during her campaign – specifically, at an August debate at a synagogue – that she supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. This was not a minor question, since her district, the fifth, has a sizable Jewish population. It is also by far the most Democratic district in the state, and has not voted for a Republican since 1960.
Since her election, however, Omar has come out of the BDS closet. After the news came out, Avi Olitzsky, the rabbi who sponsored that August debate, expressed the hope that he could “have a dialogue with her” and thus clarify her stance. Ah, dialogue. Credulous persons who have had pleasant encounters with this or that individual Muslim are often shocked to find that that individual actually believes certain things that don’t seem terribly pleasant at all. Their initial response is often to assume that there has to be some kind of misunderstanding, because, after all, the Muslim in question seems so charming. Surely a brief friendly talk will clear it all up.
Such, alas, is the way in which many Westerners are forced to confront the largely dark reality of Islamic belief.
To be sure, it’s not as if Omar entirely hid her contempt for Israel during the election campaign. In July, Haaretz reported that she had called Israel’s government an “apartheid” regime. She had not explicitly given a thumbs-up to BDS, but she’d opposed a proposed state law banning BDS. In 2012, Omar wrote a tweet in which she expressed the hope that “Allah” would “awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
A halfway sensible observer might have guessed from all this that Omar is, indeed, a BDS advocate, but all too many voters – especially, perhaps, in places like Minnesota, which is known for its “niceness” – are eager to dismiss such suspicions as the product of subconscious Islamophobia, for, after all, such a lovely young woman could not possibly hold such ugly thoughts. Despite the evidence that Omar is, in fact, a nasty piece of work, the national media ran predictably glowing profiles of her, with a particularly hagiographic one appearing in The New Yorker. On Election Day, Omar won her House seat with a remarkable 78% of the vote.
This, then, is the new representative whom the voters of Minneapolis and environs have chosen to send to Washington, and will have to live with for the next two years. Perhaps her constituents can take comfort in the fact that, so far anyway, there is no sign that she is any more virulent an anti-Semite than Ellison, whose longtime ties with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, perhaps the nation’s most prominent Jew-hater, did not prevent him from being re-elected to Congress five times.