Berkeley’s mayor is a radical anarchist, too

Yvette Felarca

This week we’ve been examining the ugly antics of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a California-based “anti-fascist” group whose members carry out violent protests at which they behave like a bunch of fascists. We’ve been focusing especially on BAMN leader Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley middle-school teacher, and on the group’s successful attempt on February 1 last to close down a scheduled lecture by conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, BAMN caused about $100,000 in damages on the UC Berkeley campus and about four or five times that much damage in downtown Berkeley.

Milo Yiannopoulos

One of the questions that were widely raised after BAMN’s Berkeley hijinks was why the police stood down during the whole thing. Videos taken in the midst of the violence showed Berkeley police officers standing nearby but staying completely out of it, allowing thugs to take over the city streets in which they are pledged to keep the peace. There was a total of one arrest. Police officers asked by reporters about their failure to intervene replied by suggesting that the matter be taken up with the mayor and chief of police. Obviously they had been ordered not to interfere with BAMN.

Arreguin being sworn in as a City Council member

Attention turned, then, to Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin, whose public response to the incident was to call Yiannopoulos – falsely – a “white nationalist” and to say that he was not welcome in Berkeley. Some very interesting answers have since emerged. On April 21, the Heat Street website reported that Arreguin is a member of BAMN’s Facebook page. Yes, that’s right: the mayor of Berkeley belongs to the violent anarchist group – a group identified by the FBI and State Department as a terrorist organization – that did hundreds of thousands of damage in his own city. He and Felarca are also Facebook friends. An activist interviewed by Heat Street described BAMN as being “like a cult.”

Arreguin and Che

As it happens, Arreguin’s entire career has been in local Berkeley politics. After attending UC Berkeley, he served on many local government boards, including the Rent Stabilization Board, from 2004 to 2008. For the next eight years, he was a member of the City Council. He has only been mayor since December 1, 2016. Arreguin’s own Facebook page, by the way, features a picture of him with his cat. The cat is named Che.

Yiannopoulos with Ann Coulter

Yiannopoulous isn’t the only speaker to have been targeted lately by the punks at Berkeley. Conservative author Ann Coulter, who has written a dozen or so New York Times bestsellers, was invited by the College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation (YAF) to give a speech on campus. It was originally scheduled for today; campus officials, using the excuse of security concerns, canceled the event, but after an international outcry offered to let her give a talk on May 2, during a week known at Berkeley as Dead Week because everybody’s busy studying for final exams. Coulter insisted she would come today as planned; meanwhile the College Republicans threatened to sue the college if it didn’t come up with a suitable venue. Yesterday, however, Coulter announced that she would not be coming to Berkeley after all, because the College Republicans and YAF, also citing security concerns, had changed its mind about hosting her. “Everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away,” Coulter lamented.

Foreign Policy: a despicable whitewash

Jonathan A.C. Brown

Back in March, we spent several days examining Jonathan A. C. Brown, a convert to Islam who runs Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and teaches in Georgetown’s Department of Arab and Islamic Studies. In particular, we paid attention to a February lecture by Brown entitled “Islam and the Problem of Slavery,” in which he did a masterful job of whitewashing his adopted faith. His lecture professed to address the question: “Is there slavery in Islam?” The answer to this question is clear: Yes. But Brown served up one ridiculous qualifier after another.

What, after all, he wondered aloud, do we mean by slavery? The line between a slave and some paid employees, he suggested, is not a clear one. (Ridiculous.) In many ways, people are “slaves” to their spouses and others whom they love. (Also ridiculous.) Slaves in Muslim households have traditionally been treated much better than prisoners on American chain gangs. (Prove it.) Unlike antebellum slavery in the American South, Muslim slavery has never been “racialized.” (An outright lie.) During the days of the Ottoman Empire, many slaves were well-treated and widely respected. (Again, prove it. And even if true, so what?) Brown waxed philosophical: “What does ownership mean?” “[W]hat does freedom mean?” After his talk, Brown entertained questions from the audience, and in reply to one of them he stated quite clearly: “It’s not immoral for one human to own another human.”

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Deservedly, Brown’s lecture drew widespread attention and condemnation. But others have rushed to his defense. Enter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who, writing on March 16 under the aegis of the respected journal Foreign Policy (where she is an assistant editor), presented the reaction to Brown as an example of Islamophobia. The title of her piece was “The Making of Islamophobia Inc.,” and under the title was this summary: “A well-funded network is trying to strip the right to speak away from American Muslims and fanning the politics of fear.” Allen-Ebrahimian argued that while Brown’s work is largely “aimed at making Islamic thought more accessible to general audiences,” his “attempts to explain the faith have made him a hate figure for the American right.” In his February lecture, she claimed, Brown had “addressed slavery in Islam, hoping to combat the idea that Islam could ever condone the subjugation and exploitation of human beings.”

Robert Spencer

In response, according to Allen-Ebrahimian, right-wingers had come out in force, misrepresenting Brown’s arguments. Brown, she lamented, “is the victim of an increasingly empowered industry of Islamophobia that constricts the space for balanced and open dialogue, sidelining the very Muslims who are doing the most to promote peaceful, orthodox interpretations of Islam.” Allen-Ebrahimian compared these critics of Brown to “the McCarthyites of the 1950s.” Singling out one of those critics, the Islam expert Robert Spencer, Allen-Ebrahimian actually suggested that Spencer’s writings had inspired the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. She also cited such websites as the Daily Caller, Heat Street, and Breitbart, calling them part of “a self-reinforcing online ecosystem that churns out frenzied headlines and constructs alternate online biographies…in which normal American Muslims are painted as Muslim Brotherhood-linked, jihad-loving, rape-defending threats to the American way of life. Brown’s lecture lasted like chum in shark-infested waters.”

Fortunately, Allen-Ebrahimian’s reprehensible, mendacious screed wasn’t allowed to stand. Tune in tomorrow.