Horrible Hamid

Hamid Dabashi

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.’”

Afar Nafisi

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.”

Lee Bollinger

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.

Farrakhan: the left’s favorite anti-Semite?

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.

On Tuesday we saw that Louis Farrakhan, the longtime head of the Nation of Islam, has, over the course of his career, has been a consistent hater of Jews and whites, an admirer of Hitler, and a friend of such admirable types as Muammar Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Farrakhan was chummy with somebody else too – Barack Obama. In 1995, Obama, along with Al Sharpton, Jeremiah Wright, and others, helped Farrakhan organize the so-called “Million Man March.” 

Askia Muhammed on Fox News

The two men were all smiles in a snapshot that was taken at a 2005 meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus, but that was kept out of the public eye until this year. (Upon finally releasing the picture, the photographer, Askia Muhammad, who at the time had been working for the Nation of Islam, explained that he had held it back for all these years because he realized that it could have seriously damaged Obama’s political career.)

Farrakhan and Castro

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Farrakhan hailed Obama as “a herald of the messiah.” According to Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam donated money to Obama’s 1996 campaign for the Illinois Senate; a former Farrakhan aid later said that during Obama’s time in the state legislature, the two men were in frequent and direct touch.

Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is a former Nation of Islam member (he once wrote under the Nation of Islam name “Keith X Ellison”) who has repeatedly defended Farrakhan’s anti-semitic and anti-white rhetoric.  

Tamara Mallory with Farrakhan, aka “The Greatest of All Time”

Cut to February 2018. Tamika Mallory, an organizer of the Women’s March, was spotted at a Farrakhan speech in which he spoke of “Satanic Jews,” said that “when you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door,” declared that “the powerful Jews are my enemy” and predicted that “white folks are going down.” He even “gave Mallory a personal shoutout,” according to the ADL. The event drew attention to Mallory’s longtime support for Farrakhan. (She once posted on Instagram a picture of herself with him, captioned “GOAT” – short for Greatest of All Time.) Under pressure to disavow Farrakhan, she refused, tweeting: “I won’t go back, I won’t redraw the lines of division. I want a new way.”

Linda Sarsour

As it happens, Mallory’s fellow Women’s March leaders,  Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour, also have ties to Farrakhan–and also refuse to cut him loose. In an official Women’s March statement, they said that they had chosen to remain silent about Farrakhan because they had been discussing the matter with “queer, trans, Jewish and Black” activists and were seeking to “break the cycles that pit our communities against each other.” When a black minister defended Farrakhan on Twitter, Sarsour wrote to him: “you are too blessed to be stressed. You are a man walking the path towards justice & standing up for the most marginalized. Stay strong and stay focused.”

You stay focused, too. Back on Tuesday with a few last words on Farrakhan. 

Farrakhan: from “Calypso Gene” to Saddam crony

Louis Farrakhan

We’ve devoted a lot of our attention on this website to famous Western entertainers – from Hilary Swank and Sharon Stone to Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn – who’ve performed for various Asian or African dictators in exchange for hefty paychecks. Pretty sleazy stuff, of course, especially given that the entertainers in question were hardly strapped for cash. No, it’s called selling out. 

There are, of course, other ways for celebrities to sell out.

An album of Farrakhan’s calypso cuts

Born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1933, Louis Eugene Walcott began his career as a calypso singer and violinist, using the stage names “The Charmer” and “Calypso Gene.” But apparently music wasn’t doing it for him. He needed more. In 1955 he attended a Nation of Islam event at a mosque in Chicago. It changed his life. Not long after, he joined the Nation of Islam and became Louis X, the use of “X” in place of a last name being a Nation of Islam practice based on the premise that black Americans’ last names were slave names and that their original African names were unknown. Later, Elijah Muhammed, the Nation of Islam leader, gave Louis the Arabic last name of Farrakhan, which means “The Criterion.”

Malcolm X (left) and Louis Farrakhan (right) at a Harlem rally

It was not long before Farrakhan was named a minister, serving first as the assistant to Malcolm X in Boston, then becoming head minister there. But Farrakhan proved himself to be a more loyal member of the cult than even Malcolm X. When the famous activist, who for most white Americans was the very face of the Nation of Islam, called out the cult’s leader, Elijah Muhammed, for sexually abusing teenage girls, Farrakhan publicly defended Elijah Muhammed to the hilt and declared Malcolm X to be “worthy of death.” A few weeks later, Malcolm X was murdered by three men with links to the Nation of Islam.

Warith Al-Deen Mohammed

After Elijah Muhammed died, Farrakhan served as a Sunni imam under the late leader’s son, Warith Al-Deen Mohammed,who gave him the name Abdul-Haleem. Leaving Mohammed’s movement in 1978, Farrakhan established a new Nation of Islam. At its head, he routinely made headlines by calling caucasians “white devils,” calling Jews “bloodsuckers” and Judaism “a gutter religion,” and calling Hitler “very great.” Speaking of the Jews in a 1985 speech at Madison Square Garden, Farrakhan exclaimed: “Don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!” Repeatedly, Farrkahan proclaimed that God had decreed the death of America, which he described as the most evil nation in human history. He pinned 9/11 on “the Jews.”

Farrakhan with Qaddafi

He was friendly with Muammar Qaddafi, who donated a billion dollars to Farrakhan’s political work, and who, speaking at a Nation of Islam convention in Chicago, said that he hoped to fund a black revolution in America. Farrakhan, for his part, called Qaddafi his “friend” and “brother.” He also befriended the leaders of Iran, Iraq, and other countries listed by the U.S. as state sponsors of terrorism.

He exchanged letters of support with Saddam Hussein, whom he praised as a “visionary.” Years later, he met with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A pretty appalling record. And yet it hasn’t kept a number of high-profile showbiz  figures from gladly collaborating with him. More on Thursday.

Praising slavery at Georgetown

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Prince Alwaleed bin Talal

During the last couple of weeks we’ve been looking at a bunch of Columbia University professors who’ve specialized in downplaying jihad, apologizing for the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and demonizing Israel and Western civilization. But Columbia isn’t alone. Georgetown University is one of America’s leading centers of Islamic studies. The campus boasts the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, founded in 1993 when the university accepted a $20 million from the eponymous prince, a member of the Saudi royal family. The prince himself personally picked out the Center’s first director, John Esposito, a longtime Saudi flunky, Islamic apologist, and author of several books, including The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? The book’s argument was that Islam represented no threat whatsoever to the West, and that those who maintained otherwise were bigots and fearmongers. The book came out two years before 9/11.

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John Esposito

Esposito is no longer director of the Center. It’s now headed up by one Jonathan A.C. Brown. In addition to running the Center, Brown holds a faculty position in Georgetown’s separate Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies (whose faculty includes several people who seem likely candidates for later attention by this site). Brown made headlines recently for a statement that deserves to be recorded here.

Brown, who is 39, is a born and bred American. Raised in Washington, D.C., he converted from Christianity to Islam in 1997. In addition to his position at the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, he’s a professor at Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and Chair of Islamic Civilization. He is also the author of several books and the editor-in-chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Law. In short, a leading figure in his profession, certified and credentialed by one of the top universities in the country. What Brown says about Islam, then, should not be viewed as coming from a marginal individual in the field.(He’s even been identified, from time to time, as “Sheikh Jonathan Brown.”)

Which brings us to a 90-minute lecture that Brown gave recently at the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon, Virginia. The lecture was entitled “Islam and the Problem of Slavery,” and Brown prefaced it by saying that, given the sensitivity of the issue, he was reading from a written text and not speaking off the cuff, because when he does the latter, he can engage in hyperbole which “makes sense within the context” but when reported on in print can sound disturbing and spark criticism. Yet the lecture, as it turned out, sparked a great deal of criticism – and with good reason. The whole thing, which can be viewed here and read here, was a first-class example of sophistry and logic-chopping.

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Jonathan A.C. Brown

Asking himself “Is there slavery in Islam?”, Brown responded by saying that it’s hard to “pin down what we mean by slavery.” He took his audience on an imaginary tour to a prosperous Mecca home in the 1400s, where members of the family were luxuriating together in a comfortable room. One man served them tea; meanwhile, another was being struck by the master of the house. The man serving tea, Brown explained, was technically a slave, but he was the same skin color as his masters (a detail on which Brown places great emphasis), and was gradually buying his freedom back from his master. The man being struck by the master, meanwhile, was the master’s son, whom the slave pitied because he, unlike the slave, would never be able to buy his freedom.

Brown went on to contrast this supposedly benign kind of slavery with a much harsher image: “a crew of dark-skinned youths clearing brush in the hot sun, their legs shackled and all joined by chains. A light skinned man watches over them with a weapon in hand.” What are we looking at? Brown explained: Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio overseeing and a “chain gang” of “juvenile delinquents.” This, Brown argued, is far worse than Islamic slavery.

More tomorrow.

Defending Ahmadinejad

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran from 2005 to 2013, called the Holocaust a “myth” and a “lie” and maintained that AIDS was a Western plot to destroy the Third World. He banned Western music from Iranian radio and TV and severely limited Internet access for most Iranian citizens. Even more than his predecessor, he cracked down on protests and tortured dissidents. He persecuted women and academics and forced scientists into retirement. Oh, and he promised to “wipe Israel off the map.”

On September 24, 2007, at the invitation of Columbia University’s then president, Lee Bollinger, Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at Columbia as part of its annual World Leaders Forum. While some members of the university community publicly criticized the invitation, others cheered Ahmadinejad on his arrival. For them, it appeared, hailing the Iranian leader was yet another way to express their contempt for then U.S. President George W. Bush.

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Lee Bollinger

Ahmadinejad’s speech received a mixed reception. Audience members laughed when he insisted that there were no gays in Iran, but applauded his negative remarks about Bush and the U.S. government and his insistence on the need to study “the root causes of 9/11.” The introduction to Ahmadinejad’s speech was given by Bollinger himself, who took the opportunity to call him “a petty and cruel dictator.” Bollinger may not have been the most hospitable of hosts, but his remarks were nothing less than factual.

But Hamid Dabashi, the Professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia whom we’ve been discussing this week, was outraged. Writing in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahran, he condemned Bollinger’s remarks in the harshest terms. Bollinger, he maintained, was a “white supremacist” whose remarks exuded “mind-numbing racism.” They echoed “the most ridiculous clichés of the neocon propaganda machinery, wrapped in the missionary position of a white racist supremacist carrying the heavy burden of civilizing the world.” They were, indeed, nothing less than examples of “propaganda warfare…waged by the self-proclaimed moral authority of the United States.”

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Hamid Dabashi

A columnist at the New York Sun suggested that Dabashi’s article was “perhaps the most severe public indictment yet of Mr. Bollinger’s behavior.” Judith Jacobson, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia, called Dabashi’s article “sheer demagoguery,” adding that “attributing President Bollinger’s remarks or behavior to racism is absurd.”

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Ward Churchill

Then along came Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder who attracted national attention in 2005 because of an essay in which he’d described those killed at the World Trade Center as “little Eichmanns.” Charged soon afterwards with plagiarism and other types of professional misconduct, he won support from fellow radical academics around the U.S. One of them was Dabashi, who in a published statement compared himself and other professors who had rallied around Churchill to the members of the slave army in the 1960 movie Spartacus who, when a Roman general demands that they identify their leader so that he can be executed, refuse to do so and instead stand up and say, one after the other, “I am Spartacus!” “Today,” wrote Dabashi, “every single professor teaching in the remotest parts of this country with an abiding conviction in the moral duty of democratic dissent is Ward Churchill. In the company of that magnificent chorus of hope for the democratic future of this country, I too am Ward Churchill.” Churchill was fired anyway.

Neil Clark’s “unpeople”

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Klaus with Putin, 2006

This week, we’ve been pondering the transformation of former Czech president Václav Klaus from a “champion of liberty” (to quote the head of the Cato Institute) into an apologist for Vladimir Putin. Many of Klaus’s former admirers have been dismayed by his seemingly inexplicable metamorphosis. One person who’s perfectly happy, however, is Neil Clark, a British journalist who’s written for many of that country’s major newspapers and political journals, including The Guardian, The Express, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman, and The Spectator. He’s also, not irrelevantly, a regular talking head on Russia Today. 

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Neil Clark on Russia Today

In September of last year, The Spectator ran an admiring profile of Klaus by Clark, who called him “possibly the West’s last truly outspoken leader.” Forget the fact that Klaus’s star has dimmed in many quarters: Clark insisted that his outspokenness “doesn’t seem to have done him much harm in the popularity stakes.” As for Klaus’s current opinions, Clark liked what he heard: “Listen to Klaus in full flow on the absurdities of the EU and it’s hard to think why any sane individual — on left or right — would want their country to stay in it.”

But what about Ukraine? Klaus did mention to Clark his “reservations…about the Ukrainian crisis,” but Clark didn’t probe further. Instead, Clark readily agreed with Klaus that the discomfort some people in the West feel over Klaus’s Ukraine “reservations” is a “worrying trend,” a threat to Western freedom. This statement made no sense whatsoever, and Clark didn’t make any effort to explain what he meant.

vladimir-putin_416x416It’s hard not to wish him well,” Clark said in closing, calling Klaus a “conviction politician” – a “throwback to the days when our leaders did stand for something and weren’t afraid to speak their minds.” It didn’t seem to bother Clark at all that Klaus’s chief conviction, these days, is a slobbering loyalty to the thug of the Kremlin.

Which might be puzzling, if you didn’t know anything about Clark’s own politics. Not only is he a useful stooge; he seems to be doing his level best to become the #1 useful stooge of our time.  In a November article for Russia Today’s website that read like something out of The Onion, he spoke up for what he called “the unpeople” – whom he defined as “human beings whose views don’t matter to Western Democrats.” Among those who fall into this category, he explained, are the following – and we quote:

* The millions of Syrians – perhaps a majority – who support their government, or at least regard it as preferable to the alternatives.

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Ahmadinejad: his fans don’t get no respect

* Iranians who voted for Ahmadinejad in the 2009 Presidential election.

* Belarusians who support President Lukashenko.

* Libyans who did not support the violent NATO-backed “revolution” against Muammar Gaddafi.

* People who lived in communist countries in Eastern Europe and who thought there were positive aspects of life under communism.

* Ukrainian citizens who did not support “EuroMaidan.”

* Venezuelans who voted for Chavez and Maduro.

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According to Neil Clark, democracy apparently means giving a thumbs-up to this

* Russians who support United Russia or the Communist Party.

Get it? Supporters of tyranny and totalitarianism are today’s victims of intolerance. Clark explains: 

A belief in democracy should mean respecting the idea that all peoples’ views are equal. However, that’s not the way it works in today’s so-called “democracy.” Today, those who have the wrong views (i.e. views which don’t align with the interests of Western elites) are treated as if they don’t exist.

That’s a pretty interesting conception of democracy – that it obliges one to equate democratic ideas with non-democratic ones, such as Communism, Nazism, Juche thought, Baathism, jihadism, you name it. Speaking of Juche thought, how did Clark manage to leave enthusiasts for the North Korean regime out of his list of those who’ve been cruelly disrespected by Western democrats? How about the folks who cheered ISIS’s terror attacks in Paris? Aren’t they victims, too? 

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Václav Havel

Given his eagerness to defend supporters of the worst thugs on the planet, and his enthusiasm for the pro-Putin Václav Klaus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that when Václav Havel died four years ago, Clark rushed into print with a repulsive attack on that hero of freedom:

Havel’s anti-communist critique contained little if any acknowledgement of the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women’s rights. Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.

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Cristina Odone

Cristina Odone, replying to Clark in the Telegraph, put it perfectly: “Havel above all would have enjoyed the irony that Clark, with his maverick views and pleasure in the sound of his own voice, would have been among the first to be taken out and shot (or maybe locked up in a mental institution) by the Soviet regimes he’s now an apologist for.”

Or, at one reader commented succinctly at Clark’s vile blog: “You really are a buffoon.”