Posts Tagged ‘Far Right’


“I don’t hope to reform angry bigots. Like the world that produced it, bigotry is complex.” (Getty Images)
Have you found yourself facing a lot of Islamophobic sentiment online these days? So has Helen Razer

By Helen Razer

 

Apparently, the world is headed at high speed to hell in a handcart stuffed with cash, fossil fuel and bombs. I have no notion what to do about this complex mess. I believe that anyone who says that they do know what to do about this complex mess is fairly deluded. I don’t think the answer is prayer, compassion or reason. And I certainly don’t believe the answer is despising Islam.

Despising Islam is currently a fairly popular hobby. It’s a bit like Pokémon GO for people who haven’t got the hang of their smartphones yet. Or, it’s part of a long tradition of falsely finding a single cause for all the bad stuff in the world.

At various times in western history, we have blamed Jews, women, the devil, indigenous peoples and everyone not in the west for things, like poverty, that are our own stupid fault.  Choose your victim, history. Gotta Catch Em All.

I don’t hope to reform angry bigots. Like the world that produced it, bigotry is complex. But, like the angry bigots, I too have moments of totally stupid simplicity. Every so often, I find myself arguing with angry bigots. I don’t do this with any hope of fixing angry bigots. I do it because making them feel bad feels good to me.

I too have moments of totally stupid simplicity. Every so often, I find myself arguing with angry bigots.

Yes. I know. This is not very noble. But, short of acquiring a PhD in international relations and political economy, redistributing all the world’s resources and wealth and convincing the UN it is a bunch of arse, that’s all I’ve got. Making myself feel better.

In an effort to make you feel better, I offer you an abstract of recent Facebook arguments with anti-Islam bigots. I will offer you a common argument, and then my response.

Oh. I should say that these are not intended for use by persons of the Islamic faith, who have had a lot of practice defending themselves. I do not presume to speak for Muslims. I am speaking only for shitty middle-aged white atheist ladies who enjoy being mean to idiots.

Islam makes women dress differently from men! Stop Islam!

Almost without exception, every society and culture and religion has different wardrobe conventions for women and men. Have you recently visited Australia? Just as an Australian man who dresses in a way that is perceived as too “effeminate” faces censure, a woman who fails to look sufficiently “feminine” will cop it.

Also, I am blocking you.

Islam has Sharia Law! The Quran is full of punishment!

Religious law is not peculiar to Islam. Have you heard of the canon law of the Catholic Church? Did you know about Judaism’s Halakha? Even those “non-violent” Jains Sam Harris told you about have codes, one of them being what we in the west would call suicide.

Look, fella. I believe in the usefulness of religious decree about as much as I believe you could find my clitoris with a torch and Google Maps. But, the thing is, people of all religions sometimes ask their clerics for rulings. Yes, it’s odd. No, unless it results in measurable harm to a person, it doesn’t harm your society or you.

The matter of religious law affecting state governance is, of course, another problem and, again, hardly peculiar to Islamic nations. And, the matter of extreme interpretation or misuse of religious texts is hardly just a Muslim thing, is it? Mussolini was pretty cosy with Mother Church. Just a few years back, Serbian priests blessed the forces that massacred and raped, whoops, Muslims. Like all institutions, and all texts, religion can get screwed up, especially in times of conflict.

Also, have you ever spent any time at all with the Old Testament? Swearing at your parents is a crime that demands your death (Exodus 21:17, Leviticus 20:9). So too, for men, not being circumcised (Genesis 17:14), having sex with a menstruating lady (Leviticus 20:18) or with another bloke (Leviticus 20:13).  Oddly, beating the life out of one of your slaves gets a free pass.

Also, I am blocking you.

Muslims Bomb People! Including Children!

The targeted death of all persons, especially children and civilians, is abhorrent. Again, this is not a Muslim specialty. We will never know the number of non-combatants killed by drone strike. We may never know the civilian toll of the Iraq war and the cruel sanctions that preceded it.

What we do know, especially following the Chilcot Report, is that the ongoing conflict between apparently Muslim forces and apparently democratic ones is often irrational, always horrific and very difficult to get one’s head around, as the best minds in foreign policy will tell you.

But, you know. You go Glen Coco. Blame The Muslims.

Also, I am blocking you.

Why Can’t Muslim Middle Eastern States Be More Reasonable, Like That Nice Place, Israel, Which Never Brings Religion Into Anything?

You mean, the same Israel that just appointed as the chief morale-booster to its defence forces a guy that says it’s technically okay to rape Arab women during combat? Or, do you mean another Israel?

Here’s a link. Here’s another one. They are from Israeli press. You will find that many Israeli and Jewish people are just as disgusted with the appointments of persons like Rabbi Eyal Karim as Muslim people are with the self-appointment of douche-lords from Islamic State.

Which brings us to your next question, before I start blocking you,

Why Don’t Muslim People Ever Condemned the Actions of Others?

They do. All the time. Including the Australian Grand Mufti who said, after the Paris attacks last year, “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims … at this time of unspeakable horror”.

A Muslim could tattoo France’s tricoleur one on cheek, “sorry” on the other and all the Quranic passages that counteract all the other Quranic passages which recommend battle. You’d not see it. Just like I’m no longer seeing you because YOU ARE BLOCKED.

Right. I figure these may save you some time. If you think any of the arguments are useful, don’t feel bad about cutting-and-pasting them from Helen. You will find that the bigots just cut-and-paste from the One Nation website—or, if they are a bit posh, the worst writing of Christopher Hitchens.

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The far Right, corporatist, religious and political lunatic fringe, has an extensive history of fabricating and manufacturing hoaxes to demonise perceived enemies, or competitors.

Mere reality is insufficient to satiate their lust for unbridled power, sociopathic hatreds and extreme paranoia, so that fantasies and fabrications are routinely manufactured to nourish their pornography of paranoia.

Conspiracism, the manufacture of the ‘demonic other’ and group, cultural ‘scapegoats,’ has persistently played a vital and core role, in far Right propaganda.

The grubby, listed hate preacher, Robert Spencer, adored by neo-Nazis, fascists and Catholic/Christian/Jewish extremists, is an intermediate cog in the larger, manufactured Islamophobia Industry machinery, which has been staple cash cow for far Right religious and politicised extremists, hate mongers and fascists preying and profiteering from real and fabricated cultural tensions.

Whilst innumerable examples could be cited, here’s a recent faux ‘news’ ruse, promulgated by the superstitious, Rightist Catholic fanatical loon, Robert Spencer who deludes that despite his lies, disinformation and deception, he is doing ‘the work of god.’

 

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Daily-Caller-Refugees

Via by Richard Bartholomew

Here’s one I missed from a month ago. From the Daily Caller:

A group of 51 refugees were brutally assaulted outside a night club in Murmansk, Russia, after they groped and molested women at a night club Saturday.

The refugees had previously been ordered to leave Norway for “bad behavior” and tried their luck in Russia. What they didn’t realize when they went out clubbing in Murmansk is that Russians have less tolerance when it comes to sexual assault on local women than other European countries.

…The refugees tried to flee but were quickly captured by the Russians. They then took them out to the street and gave them a beating they will remember. Police arrived to break up the fight but locals report that they threw a few punches at the refugees before arresting 33 of them. Eighteen refugees were in such bad condition they had to be take to the hospital.

As shown above, the story is illustrated with a photograph of a gang of burly men, one of whom has a club, beating up another man, who cowers on the ground.

The source given in the link above is an Italian report from Imola Oggi (without the photo), which in turn cites Fort RussThe Fort Russ article is in English (“translated by Tom Winter”), and states that it “was prepared from material on social network sites.”

However, it followed an earlier report on the same site (“translated by Ollie Richardson”) which has a somewhat different version of the story:

Several refugees from Arab countries were beaten in the middle of the night of Saturday in the city of Polyarnye Zori (Murmansk oblast), reported a FlashNord source in the law enforcement bodies of the region.

The incident occurred in the nightclub Gandvik.

“According to preliminary data, five refugees were beaten in the entertainment establishment. According to witnesses, they behaved insolently and had been pestering local girls,” — said the Agency’s interlocutor.

“Five”. As opposed to “51”. And no reference to any arrests. But there’s more: the original article from FlashNord can be seen here. It was followed up on the same day with a second article, confirming that there may have been a fight outside the nightclub, but that details could not be confirmed from CCTV and it was all over by the time the police arrived.

So, it looks like there was an incident of some kind – but it is far from clear that it was anything more significant than the kind of fight that tends to occur sometimes near venues where young men have been drinking and are perhaps “on the pull”. Were refugees involved? Was the incident provoked by anti-social behaviour towards female clubbers? Nothing in the report confirms any such details (and I can’t find further evidence elsewhere) – and the story of a mass incident involving dozens of arrests appears to have been a fiction.

The photograph used by the Daily Caller doesn’t make much sense: it shows just one man being attacked, and – somewhat crucially – it was taken in middle of the day. The site either didn’t bother – or forgot – to remove the photo’s metadata caption, which identifies it as actually showing Russian Cossacks assaulting a Ukrainian in Sevastopol in 2014. It was published in its correct context in the media at the time (see below).

Did the Daily Caller intend to deceive? Robert Spencer, always eager to spread stories about how Muslims are depraved, appears to have taken it at face value as evidence, as did other right-leaning sites.

Perhaps it was intended merely to be illustrative – but given that the Daily Caller clearly approves of the outcome in their version of the story, such a photo serves to titillate, and perhaps to exhort.

Have we really reached the point where a photo of a bunch thugs beating someone up is to be celebrated because someone has said that it shows a refugee, and has further assured us that the victim did something anti-social and deserves his fate?

Spencer-vs-Mirror

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Reclaim Australia Dominated by a Christian Cult Leader

brothernalliahd

Many may be surprised to find out that fervent nationalist group Reclaim Australia is driven primarily by a religious cult, Catch the Fire Ministries, and its political arm, Rise Up Australia. And the group wanting to “Keep Australia Australian” is headed by a Sri Lankan evangelist, Daniel Nallian, who moved to Australia in 1997.

Stating this fact by no means implies recent immigrants can’t have legitimate views about traditional Australian values, and multi-culturalism, (of course they can and do), but this challenges the common perception of Reclaim Australia as an extreme racist movement. Whilst convenient to the apologists of Islam to label them this way, the strange evangelical focus and multicultural nature of half its members provides a different narrative, albeit not one which is necessarily more conducive for an intelligent discussion regarding the perceived clash of Islamic and Western values.

According to “Evangelist Daniel’s” bio, Hillsong founder, Frank Houston, unsuccessfully “prophesied” over him in Sri Lanka, prior to his conversion by a member of his rock band. The Assembly of God evangelist claims that Jesus has saved his life multiple times.

Three months after experiencing salvation he came across his first trial during the communal violence in Sri Lanka when he was confronted with a mob who wanted to kill his parents. But praise God, his prayer as a new Christian was answered when the mob left without touching anyone. That day he said, “Lord, I will serve you as long as I have breath”.

Daniel Nalliah moved to Saudi Arabia to attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity, and was miraculously saved by Jesus again.

Pastor Daniel and his family were most miraculously saved from death and torture twice. He says, “If not for Jesus being alive, we would not be alive”! His testimony has touched the hearts of many all over the world.

Well, it’s good to have Jesus on your side.

The President of Rise Up Australia also believes Jesus communicates with him personally, and has ordained him with a special mission from God.

 While in Saudi Arabia, following an encounter he had with Jesus on 21st July 1997 (from 3.40am to 6.00am), in obedience to this, he decided to move to Australia and set up a base known as Catch The Fire Ministries Inc.

Then, Jesus appeared to Daniel again.

Dear Family in Christ,

On April 9, 2000 at 5:00am while in Ethiopia the Lord Jesus Christ woke me from sleep and spoke about Australia. He very clearly told me, Son, if my people will rise up and be proactive, they will stop the disaster which is coming on the land. But if my people sit back, relax and be reactive they will pay a heavy price to take back their land spiritually. He then spoke to me through (The Bible) 2 Chr. 7:14 and said, Gather my people across the land together and tell them to humble themselves, repent, pray and seek my face in one accord, then I will heal their land. This was the start of RISE UP AUSTRALIA prayer meetings.

There’s nothing like an argument from authority. Besides the obvious charlatanism these comments indicate a providential connection with “the land” which only aboriginal Australians lay claim to. One suspects the nationalism espoused by this particular Sri Lankan born follower of Jesus is subsumed by a larger cause.

Daniel Nalliah has claimed the Black Saturday bushfires were the result of the Victorian Government decriminalising abortion. The Queensland floods were due to Kevin Rudd speaking against Israel. He ran for a Senate seat for Family First party and disseminated brochures asking people to pray for God to pull down “Satan’s strongholds” which included bottle shops, gambling houses, brothels, mosques, and Buddhist and Hindu temples.

Reclaim Australian oppose multiculturalism, not multi-ethnicity. They oppose the melting pot of various cultures, insisting we enforce puritan Christian values on the whole society. Opposing Islam, abortion, gay marriage, promiscuity, pornography, and seeking Judeo-Christian focussed education, and other values of the religious right.

Unfortunately, this group adds nothing to debate on Islam, and the appropriate government response to jihadism.

Opposing Islamism with equally extreme ideas only adds height to the walls shielding Islam from appropriate examination. The core beliefs in jihad, martyrdom, the dar al-Harb, subjugation of women, and enforced religious belief underpin the ideologies of terrorist groups. The religion provides the ideology, and social network, to sustain the hatred, warmongering and predisposition towards violence which disenfranchised young men find so attractive.

Reclaim Australia provides succour to liberals whose knee-jerk response to any criticism of Islam is to brand it racism. Note the following in an otherwise well written expose by Jeff Sparrow:

 Let’s leave aside the question of how you can be “against Islam” without “targeting Muslims” (rather like being against Judaism without targeting Jews, one would have thought).

Many people say bad things about Christianity without facing accusations of “targeting” white Christians. Could we be against Nazism in the 1930’s without “targeting Germans”? Conflating the race of Jews and cultural traditions of Muslims provides a shield of political correctness.

Although, Sparrow’s remark paled in comparison to the apologetics of Anne Aly, who views criticism of Islam as the same thing as criticism of Muslims, at the hands of “bigots” and “racists.” Way to give your culture a free pass.

Applying the “racist” label too often shuts down debate, and censures the freedom to discuss the very ideas central to the conflict. Accusations of “racism” are too easy, and too convenient, a blunt instrument used to disarm opposing arguments. They also divert attention away from what appears to be significant motives within groups like Reclaim Australia, which is the debate about religious values, and the culture wars.

Reclaim Australia consists of a front for evangelical Christians. Those goose-stepping for God, combining religious zeal with associating with hate groups, are only reclaiming an historical bigotry. Australia was once a Christian country but never the sort of hollering, miracle worshipping, tele-evangelistic freak show that the backers of Reclaim Australia imagine.

This isn’t our country they are reclaiming. We should disavow their ideas, but for the right reasons. Opposing one totalitarianism with another misses the point altogether, providing a contradictory argument which undermines the Secular argument, the argument for tolerance and pluralism, freedom of speech, and religious freedom without religious coercion, within the framework of an agreed set of human rights and values.


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Conspiracism

It is very effective to mobilize mass support against a scapegoated enemy by claiming that the enemy is part of a vast insidious conspiracy against the common good. The conspiracist worldview sees secret plots by tiny cabals of evildoers as the major motor powering important historical events; makes irrational leaps of logic in analyzing factual evidence in order to “prove” connections, blames social conflicts on demonized scapegoats, and constructs a closed metaphysical worldview that is highly resistant to criticism.~1

When conspiracist scapegoating occurs, the results can devastate a society, disrupting rational political discourse and creating targets who are harassed and even murdered. Dismissing the conspiracism often found in right-wing populism as irrational extremism, lunatic hysteria, or marginalized radicalism does little to challenge these movements, fails to deal with concrete conflicts and underlying institutional issues, invites government repression, and sacrifices the early targets of the scapegoaters on the altar of denial. An effective response requires a more complex analysis.

The Dynamics of Conspiracism

The dynamic of conspiracist scapegoating is remarkably predictable. Persons who claim special knowledge of a plot warn their fellow citizens about a treacherous subversive conspiracy to attack the common good. What’s more, the conspiracists announce, the plans are nearing completion, so that swift and decisive action is needed to foil the sinister plot. In different historical periods, the names of the scapegoated villains change, but the essentials of this conspiracist worldview remain the same.~2

George Johnson explained that “conspiratorial fantasies are not simply an expression of inchoate fear. There is a shape, an architecture, to the paranoia.” Johnson came up with five rules common to the conspiracist worldview in the United States:~3

“The conspirators are internationalist in their sympathies.

“[N]othing is ever discarded. Right-wing mail order bookstores still sell the Protocols of the Elders of Zion…[and] Proofs of a Conspiracy [from the late 1700’s].

“Seeming enemies are actually secret friends. Through the lens of the conspiracy theorists, capitalists and Communists work hand in hand.

“The takeover by the international godless government will be ignited by the collapse of the economic system.

“It’s all spelled out in the Bible. For those with a fundamentalist bent, the New World Order or One World Government is none other than the international kingdom of the Antichrist, described in the Book of Revelation.

Conspiracism can occur as a characteristic of mass movements, between sectors in an intra-elite power struggle, or as a justification for state agencies to engage in repressive actions. Conspiracist scapegoating is woven deeply into US culture and the process appears not just on the political right but in center and left constituencies as well.~4 There is an entrenched network of conspiracy-mongering information outlets spreading dubious stories about public and private figures and institutions. They use media such as printed matter, the internet, fax trees, radio programs, videotapes and audiotapes.~5


 

If you want to jump out of this article, try these related pages:

The Conspiracism Collection:

The Sucker Punch Collection


CUFI Leader John Hagee confirms Christian Zionism is anti-Semitic

Ben Norton

Evangelical pastor John Hagee, the leader of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the US’ largest pro-Israel organization and the most powerful group in the Christian Zionist movement, has adamantly insisted that Christian Zionism is anti-Semitic.

WorldNetDaily (WND), a far-right website published an article in March 2015 about the “Blood Moon Prophecy,” an end-of-times theory that lunar eclipses are a sign that the world is on the brink of destruction and that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is near. The lengthy piece is about Hagee’s film Four Blood Moons, which endorses the eschatological theory. Toward the end of the article, WND quotes a spokesperson for Hagee:

“WND falsely claimed that Hagee does not believe that Jews need Jesus to be saved. In fact, Hagee never made such a claim and years ago directly denied assertions that he holds a dual-covenant theology,” he wrote. “In addition, while WND acknowledges that Hagee rewrote sections of ‘In Defense of Israel’ to clarify his relevant position, WND failed to note that the associated video promotion was also changed to accurately reflect his theology.”

Translated: WND claimed that Hagee believed the Jewish people could be saved by God without abandoning Judaism and converting to Christianity. Apocalyptic Christian Zionist John Hagee censured the publication for spreading a lie and defensively clarified that he does indeed believe that the Jewish people are going to burn in Hell for all of eternity unless they abandon Judaism and convert to Christianity.

In short, Hagee firmly insisted that Christian Zionism is anti-Semitic, and that the reason CUFI so obsessively and blindly defends Israel is not because they care about Jews (who, in their mind, will face eternal damnation unless they renounce their religion and become Christians) but rather because they genuinely believe the world is on the verge of total annihilation and the Bible supposedly tells them they must do so.

Christian Zionism

Christian Zionism is the belief that God gave the Jewish people the land of Israel in historic Palestine. Christian Zionists hold that this is part of a biblical prophecy, and is a necessary prerequisite before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the ensuing Day of Judgment.

This is not a view shared by all Christians, yet is very common among Evangelicals and conservative Protestants. In recent years, it has gained prominence in the US, particularly in the Bible Belt. A late 2013 Pew Research study found 82% of white evangelical Christians in the US believed God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people, while only 40% of US Jews believed the same.

John Hagee is the leader of CUFI, the most powerful Christian Zionist organization in the US, and likely in the entire world.

Some Jewish and Zionist organizations have criticized Hagee and the Christian Zionist movement. Eric Yoffie, former president of the Union for Reform Judaism, publicly proclaimed that, vis-à-vis “Israeli-Palestinian politics, John Hagee and the CUFI are extremists.” Yoffie “called for Reform congregations to not participate in CUFI’s events and to continue to call for public condemnation of inflammatory and bigoted statements from Christian Zionist leadership.”

Many Jewish and Zionist organizations, however, see Hagee and CUFI as important allies. At the CUFI 2013 Summit, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations—a coalition of 51 US Jewish groups, including some of the most prominent—voiced support of biblical Christian Zionist prophecies. “The prophets were not prophets of doom but prophets of hope; you just have to read it right,” he told them. “Here’s my advice: Don’t bet against the Jews. And the ‘Jewish lobby’ is a myth, but it’s our job to make it a legend.”

Israel itself has been more than happy to support CUFI. Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the US, spoke glowingly of the organization at its 2014 summit. Prime Minister Netanyahu has also enthusiastically supported the group, and has spoken at several of their annual summits.

Hagee’s History of Extreme Views

Hagee, who thinks we are the last generation of humans, is no stranger to controversy. In late 2014, he claimed that Ebola (along with the civil rights protests in Ferguson and elsewhere) was God’s way of “punishing” America, because Obama was trying to “divide” Israel.

The pastor has even gone so far as to essentially defend Adolf Hitler.  In a 2005 sermon, Hagee asserted that God sent Hitler as a “hunter,” in order to “hunt them [Jews] from every mountain and from every hill and out of the holes of the rocks … to get them to come back to the land of Israel.”

Once again, these are the views of the leader of, in CUFI’s own words, “the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States with over two million members and one of the leading Christian grassroots movements in the world.”

The Washington Post indicates that CUFI “can boast that it has members from every congressional district in America.” Foreign Policy included John Hagee in its list of the 50 Republicans with the most influence on foreign policy. The evangelical Christian Zionist was a much sought-after figure by the Republican Party in the 2008 presidential election. He ended up endorsing John McCain.

WND’s founder and CEO Joseph Farah responded positively to Hagee’s firm insistence on his Christianity-rooted anti-Semitism. “I’m happy to hear that Hagee no longer subscribes to those anti-biblical positions,” he said. “But we never asserted what Hagee believes, only what he said on videotape. I’m gratified he has repudiated all of that. It’s time for him to clean up another mess.”

Like Hagee, Farah resolutely maintains that Christian Zionism is, in its very essence, an anti-Semitic ideology, as, in his view, it is an “anti-biblical position” to claim that Jews are not automatically damned to eternal suffering in a lake of fire merely by virtue of their being Jewish.

 


Obama’s Christian Right Critics Agree with Islamic State
Featured photo - Obama’s Christian Right Critics Agree with Islamic State

In the furor over President Obama’s remarks last week at the National Prayer Breakfast, where he compared the rise of the Islamic State with the history of Christian extremism, it’s been lost that the president was carefully retreating from the idea that the U.S. is engaged in a grand civilizational war against Islam — a longstanding fallacy which many American politicians are apparently loath to abandon.

After the September 11th attacks in New York and Washington DC, then-President Bush made a memorable rhetorical choice to invoke the Crusades when describing the scope and nature of the coming American military response.

While the implications of such a statement were not evident at the time to many Americans, the same was not true abroad. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine reacted with alarm, saying: “We have to avoid a clash of civilizations at all costs,” and cautioning that “one has to avoid this huge trap, this monstrous trap.”

Fast forward more than a decade and the “monstrous trap” Vedrine warned of has ensnared the United States. After spending trillions of dollars and killing hundreds of thousands of people in the name of a “War on Terror,” the U.S. today remains mired in a seemingly endless cycle of conflict with an expanding array of religiously-influenced militant groups. The “War on Terror,” paradoxically, has resulted in the problem of terrorism becoming more widespread and virulent than ever.

At least part of the reason for this is that many American officials have continued in Bush’s tradition of defining the U.S. conflict with extremist Middle Eastern groups as a grand civilizational and religious battle, thus playing in to the same sharply polarizing narrative those groups seek to promote.

In the immediate aftermath of Bush’s declaration of a new crusade, Osama bin Laden himself cited Bush’s words in an interview as proof that America was a broadly hostile civilization planning to establish hegemony over the Middle East. Today, both Islamic State’s Dabiq magazine and Al Qaeda’s Inspire have regular sections devoted in part to publishing similarly helpful quotes from hostile Western officials.

Even as he has continued many of his predecessor’s worst policies in the war on terror,  Obama appears to be aware of the self-defeating dynamic created by grandstanding about civilizational conflict. Speaking in a recent interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, the president said that while he recognizes the stated ideological motivations of many terrorists, he rejects the “notion that somehow that creates a religious war.”

Citing the overwhelming majority of Muslims who reject the actions of groups such Al Qaeda and ISIS, the President warned against providing “victory to terrorist networks by overinflating their importance.” He also described the Middle East and South Asia as “ground zero for needing to win back hearts and minds [of] young people,” and cautioned against using vague terms such as “radical Islam” which could alienate people in these regions even further.

At last week’s prayer breakfast, the president went on to caution attendees against getting on their “high horse” on the topic of religious extremism, and compared groups such as Islamic State with perpetrators of Christian religious violence from the Crusades up through slavery.

These reasonable comments have inflamed those still devoted to the narrative of clashing civilizations, who seem unconcerned about escalating the present conflict even further. Republican presidential hopeful and Fox News personality Mike Huckabee attacked Obama for his alleged hostility to “Christians [and] Jews in Israel,” as well as what he described as an “undying” support for American Muslims. Rep. John Fleming, a Louisiana Republican, explicitly accused Obama of “defending radical Islam” and suggested that he had referred to Islamic State members as “freedom fighters.”

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, who has repeatedly and explicitly stated that the U.S. is in a “religious war,” has also criticized the President’s refusal to use religious terminology in defining the conflict, characterizing his decision as a conscious denial of reality. Alabama Republican Congressman Mo Brooks, for his part, suggested that Obama’s refusal to use terms like “Islamic terrorism” is likely “an unfortunate byproduct of the days when he was in a Muslim school.”

But in spite of these increasingly unhinged lamentations, Obama’s comparison of Islamic State to Crusaders and slave owners is not only accurate and historically sound, it makes practical sense as well.

Not only does such rhetoric help demonstrate a more rational and humane side of the U.S. to a generation of young Muslims, it also reinforces the message from Muslim leaders and clergy who have condemned terrorist groups for being radically out of step with IslamIndeed, many who have defected from Islamic State or managed to escape from its prisons have described it as being markedly different from the exemplar of Islamic civilization it purports to be.

“Obama is right to not use terms such as Islamic terrorism, both for pragmatic reasons and also because it is not a very accurate way to describe this phenomenon,” said Arun Kundnani, a professor at New York University and scholar of terrorism and radicalization. “The more we learn about groups like Islamic State and see how out of step they are with mainstream Islamic beliefs, the more it becomes clear that religion for them more operates more as a form of militarized identity politics than as theology. Referring to them in religious instead of political terms gives them a legitimacy they would not otherwise have.”

With extremist groups like Islamic State waging a desperate battle to validate their narrative and claim the mantle of Islam, it’s bizarre to see American politicians essentially weighing in on their side. After over a decade of disastrously mirroring the rhetoric and behavior of extremists, the time has come to take a more reasoned approach.

Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP


Bully pulpit? ‘Christian Nation’ advocate David Barton sues critics

Pseudo-historian David Barton is on the attack again – this time in court.

Barton, a prominent advocate of the discredited view that the United States was founded to be an officially “Christian nation,” is suing three people in Texas whom he says have defamed him.

Barton’s lawsuit asserts that Judy Jennings and Rebecca Bell-Metereau, who ran for the Texas State Board of Education in 2010, defamed Barton by publishing an ad noting that Barton has had ties to white supremacists. He’s also suing an internet journalist named W.S. Smith who asserted that Barton is liar.

This business about Barton’s connections to white supremacism goes back to 1991, when the Institute for First Amendment Studies reported that Barton had addressed a gathering in Colorado run by Scriptures for America, a group headed by an extremist preacher named Pete Peters.

At the Colorado event, Barton’s fellow speakers included anti-Semites, white supremacists and a Holocaust denier. Later that year, Barton spoke at Kingdom Covenant College in Grants Pass, Oregon, an institution affiliated with the racist and anti-Semitic “Christian Identity” movement.

I pointed this out in Church & State in 1993, and it was later reported by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in its lengthy 1994 report on the Religious Right. More recently, Media Matters brought it up last year when Barton was getting cozy with Glenn Beck.

My point is, many others have reported on these connections over the years. So why didn’t Barton sue the ADL or Media Matters?

In my 2000 book Close Encounters with the Religious Right: Journeys Into the Twilight Zone of Religion and Politics, I was careful to point out that there is no evidence that Barton himself is a racist or an anti-Semite. But that he twice addressed groups that hold these views is a fact. I even have a letter from one of Barton’s assistants claiming that Barton didn’t realize the extremist nature of these groups when he agreed to speak to them.

I still believe that he showed poor judgment. It must have been obvious when Barton arrived at these venues that extremists and hate-mongers were running the show. The honorable thing to do would have been to leave.

Is Barton a liar? He certainly spreads misinformation about American history, but whether he does so knowingly is a matter of debate. Barton seems to believe what he’s saying is true – even though it’s not.

On May 2, 1996, Barton appeared on a radio program with James Dobson of Focus on the Family. During the interview, Barton asserted that in his famous 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists that contains the famous “wall of separation between church and state” metaphor, Thomas Jefferson went on to say that “we will still use Christian principles with the government.”

The Danbury letter says no such thing [Editor’s note: Read it HERE] and I find it hard to believe that Barton had not read it by then. It could be that he is so wedded to his perspective that he sees things that are not there or draws wildly inappropriate conclusions based on scanty evidence.

In my opinion, Barton’s lawsuit is designed to intimidate his critics. If people have to spend time and money defending themselves in court, they might be reluctant to write about Barton in the future.

It’s the legal equivalent of a schoolyard bully’s shakedown. Barton has become famous (and wealthy) through his promotion of “Christian nation” claptrap. He has also become a public figure, someone who is open to criticism and barbs. He needs to develop a thicker skin.

I urge anyone threatened by Barton to resist him to the hilt in court.

P.S. Friday I will be speaking to Americans United’s Great Plains Chapter in Wichita, Kan., on “The Christian Nation Myth.” I will debunk Barton’s perspective. If you live in the area, come on out for this free event. Go here for more information.

Related articles:

  1. David Barton Files Defamation Suits Against Three
  2. David Barton: US should use biblical justice, just as the Constitution says
  3. David Barton Is Not A Historian
  4. Historians Agree: David Barton Is No Historian
  5. Faith, Freedom and Frankfurters: An Independence Day reflection on the “Christian Nation” myth
Rob Boston is senior policy analyst at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Rob, who has worked at Americans United since 1987, contributes to AU’s Wall of Separation blog, serves as assistant editor of AU’s “Church & State” magazine, and has authored three books on religion and politics. Column reprinted with permission.You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry.


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