Pathological Islamophobe Targets American Faith Leader

By Ahmed Rehab | CAIR-Chicago

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In response to Fox News’s story Dishonorable Mention

and The New Republic Online article Prize Fighter

During a recent interview on Fox News, well-known Islamophobe, Steven Emerson, unleashed one of his trademark anti-Muslim character assassination campaigns against a respected American faith leader, Dr. Maher Hathout.

Emerson’s primary beef against Hathout is his unapologetic criticism of Israel’s inhumane policies against the Palestinians. Though that may be reason to disqualify him from receiving the “Tel Aviv County Commission on Human Relations” award, it is preposterous for special-interest agents like Emerson to enforce their self-centered view of the world on the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. Like many other Americans, the commission understands Hathout’s phenomenal contributions to Los Angeles, and to the United States.

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has launched its own smear campaign against Hathout, further insinuating the ridiculous notion that criticism of a foreign state’s human rights record is grounds to banish an American from civic life in his home town of Los Angeles, USA.

Even Jewish terrorist groups have chimed in on the attacks; the Jewish Defense League (JDL) which the FBI has deemed a” right-wing terrorist group” has come to the quick support of Steven Emerson’s efforts to discredit Hathout.

Hathout’s exemplary record of service to God and country is in no need of apology or defense; it is well-documented and available publicly for all to see.

It is Steven Emerson – the only controversial figure in this equation – whose shady record deserves further scrutiny.

A self-proclaimed expert whose style is characterized by extremist rhetoric and a dislike for open debate, Emerson harbors a long-standing track record of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry.

In March of 1995, Emerson told The Jewish Monthly, “nearly all (emphasis added) of the Islamic organizations in the United States that define themselves as religiously or culturally Muslim in character have, today, been totally captured or dominated by radical fundamentalist elements…”

Ironically, it took Emerson no more than a few days to demonstrate to the world why his credibility and integrity as an “observer of trends” should never be taken for granted – especially as they relate to Muslims.

In April of 1995, Emerson confidently asserted on a live broadcast of CBS News that the Oklahoma City bombing – then breaking news – showed “a Middle Eastern trait” because it was carried out “with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.”

“Oklahoma City, I can tell you, is probably considered one of the largest centers of Islamic radical activity outside the Middle East,” Emerson explained with an enthusiasm bordering on elation.

While Emerson preoccupied himself with indulging his knack for conjecture, “real” detectives worked calmly and professionally to reveal that, contrary to his “expert perceptions”, Timothy McVeigh and company were behind the bombings. Emerson’s incompetence was duly exposed; CBS decided not to renew his contract and blacklisted him for five years.

Then again, Emerson’s aversion to facts and affinity for bias are not breaking news.

A New York Times review of Emerson’s 1991 book Terrorist, said the book was “marred by factual errors … and by a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias.”

His 1994 controversial film, Jihad in America saw Robert Friedman from The Nation, a U.S. periodical accusing Emerson of “creating mass hysteria against American Arabs”

John F. Sugg, then of the Tampa Bay Weekly Planet, revealed in a 1999 article that Emerson’s priority is “not so much news as it is an unrelenting attack against Arabs and Muslims.”

“He’s made his life’s work discrediting Arab American and Muslim groups,” James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute told the Washington Post in 2001.

So what explains Emerson’s spin?

The Wall Street Journal, provided us with one answer 16 years ago: “Mr. Emerson’s prime role is to whitewash Israeli governments and revile their critics,” wrote Alexander Cockburn.

Who exactly is Steven Emerson and for whom does he work? Does he represent the interests of Americans, or the interests of a foreign state to which he has blind loyalty?

Emerson, who has ties to the Israeli Mossad according to the Jerusalem Post, has yet to disclose key facts regarding his activities, including his source of funding. While he criticizes Muslim-American organizations that function in full transparency, Emerson shrouds his work in secrecy.

It is within that context that I ask Fox News: how can any party with any semblance of objectivity look to a proven anti-Muslim bigot like Emerson for an unbiased opinion on a Muslim leader? Then again, this is Fox news.

The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations’ award to Dr. Hathout is a statement of support for leadership in promoting interfaith understanding. Proceeding full throttle ahead with the award will now serve another great statement: No to Islamophobia. The commission would send a clear message that there is no place for institutionalized bigotry in Los Angeles. My prayer is that other cities hear the message loud and clear and gear up to stamp Islamopobia and bigotry from their midst as well.

Copyright © 2006 CAIR-Chicago

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