Shoddy Joe Kaufman cuts my work out for me

Last week Joe Kaufman posted to FrontPageMag.com an article regarding a resolution passed by the Student Government at the University of South Florida which supported the dismissal of Sami al-Arian, recently acquitted on terrorist charges. The student paper printed two articles supporting the college’s decision; according to Kaufman:

One of the letters drew the ire of a teenage girl named Danya Shakfeh. In the future, she would see to it that this “problem” would not be repeated.

Kaufman’s article diverges into a general broadside against a vast swathe of Muslim organisations and, in particular, a number of Muslim blogs. It demonstrates that he has a hostility not only to Muslim opponents of the state of Israel, but in effect to any mildly assertive Muslim. It is also one of the shoddiest pieces of writing I’ve ever seen, and easily the most insulting to its readers’ intelligence. (More: here, here, here; also see this earlier entry.)

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I’m in no real position to comment on affairs at USF, because I have never even been there. The obvious inaccuracies in this article, however, start pretty soon after the start of the article itself: the accusation that the MAS-Tampa’s article hosts articles which disparage non-Muslims can be refuted by simply following the link. The articles are hosted by the MAS in Minnesota, not Florida. However, one of the writings the “Americans Against Hate” press release cites is Sahih al-Bukhari - the most authentic collection of hadeeth, or reports from the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), in the whole of Islamic literature; another is Fiqh al-Sunnah, a problematic text even to Muslim scholars but hardly a piece of hate literature, and the third is To Be A Muslim, a short text by a Lebanese politician named Fathi Yakan, which Kaufman quotes thus:

A Muslim must always worship Allah and wage jihad until death in order to reach his ultimate goal… Regularly make the intention to go on jihad with the ambition to die as a martyr

The jihad referred to in the chapter Kaufman links is the general work of the “Islamic movement”, not military campaigning. If it referred to that, what would a man do when he became too old and infirm to participate?

The next untruth is where Kaufman disputes the claim that the Muslim American Society and the Muslim Students’ Association are peaceful, on the grounds that they “were created by members of the violent Muslim Brotherhood”. The MSA, in particular, is the main organisation for Muslim students in the USA, regardless of who founded it; it is the network for local student Islamic associations, even those run by students who may not agree with the Ikhwani ideology espoused by the MSA’s founders (and the position of any given local society may change when its committee changes, such as when a group of Wahhabis or members of another group win control of the committee, as has been known to happen here in the UK from time to time). The fact that a group was founded by members of a group which has, in other countries, influenced groups which used violence does not make the group violent. A group is violent if it uses, or facilitates, violence.

Kaufman then makes various accusations and rakes up a bit of dirt about sister Danya’s parents’ activities and their connection to Sami al-Arian, which the reader will note are based on the presumption that the word of the US government is truth. The Global Relief Foundation was shut down because the US government decided it was funding terrorists, not because it proved this before a court of law; Sami al-Arian was tried and acquitted on all charges. This means nothing to Kaufman. The question might be asked whether this is because Kaufman is slavishly devoted to the US government, or because he regards any Muslim as guilty until proven innocent.

He notes that sister Danya is “a Course Correspondent (Teaching Assistant) for SunniPath, an online Islamic academy, which like MAS-Tampa, has a website filled with hate and violence”. This is a straightforward lie. As evidence, he offers their reproduction of (at least) one entire chapter from Sahih al-Bukhari. This text is, as noted before, a collection of those hadeeth its collector considered absolutely authentic - not merely well-authenticated but rigorously so. It is not a propaganda pamphet and is not presented as such by SunniPath. It is presented as part of a library. Any Islamic library worth the bricks used to build it would have a copy. The actual quote is a predictive prophecy, not a command. It tells the Muslims that they will, in future, fight the Jews. I have seen the words, “This Jew is behind me, so kill him!”, quoted on their own as if they are the words of a Muslim to other Muslims, rather than words foretold to be issued by trees (Union of Jewish Students, frontispiece of Hizb ut-Tahrir: The New Face of Prejudice on Campus, early 1990s).

Kaufman thinks it contradictory that Danya both keeps a blog, and remarked in a motion she proposed to the USF Student Government that “bloggers are not a reliable source of information” and are “a tool to spread lies”. Actually, the resolution did not say that. It said this (emphasis is mine):

Whereas, bloggers are not a reliable source of information and can easily be a tool to spread lies and false accusations towards the Muslims in Tampa.

“Can easily be”, not “are”. So he has quoted Danya’s words and twisted their meaning. Blogs are almost never neutral sources of information: they are usually the work of one individual or one group, and they reflect their authors’ opinions. There are known to be a number of blogs which are indeed dedicated to throwing dirt at Muslims. FrontPageMag.com is not technically a blog, more of a webzine dedicated to the commentary of a number of mostly, but not exclusively, Jewish writers, many of them with a virulent hostility to Muslims. Kaufman’s article presently links four “symposia”, in which Muslim affairs and the affairs of Muslim countries are discussed by the notoriously filthy-minded Jamie Glazov with three others, none of them Muslim. One of these, “To Rape an Unveiled Woman”, begins with a picture of the bloodied face of a “victim of Muslim gang rape in Sweden”, discussing the supposed epidemic of gang rapes by Muslims in Europe.

Kaufman notes sister Danya’s enthusiasm for Imam al-Haddad, whom he describes as an “anti-Jewish and anti-Christian Islamic ‘scholar’”. Imam al-Haddad is not a modern imam, but belonged to the twelfth Islamic century (we are presently in the fifteenth) and is widely considered the renewer (mujaddid) of that century. His writings are immensely influential, particularly in Yemen and in the Muslim regions around the Indian ocean, and his descendents, many of them scholars, are to be found in all those regions. The quote with which Kaufman furnishes us is, of course, mainstream Islamic belief: that those who reject Islam are destined for Hell. Christians, of course, have similar beliefs about non-Christians, including Muslims, and in many cases even Christians of other denominations. It is not evidence of extremism and does not make the imam a hate-monger. Imams of his clan are not pacifists, but are not as a rule involved in politics. In the early days, they were known for going unarmed in the heavily armed environment of Hadramaut.

He alleges that sister Danya’s “own contempt for Jews” manifested itself with her use of the words “their alleged faith” to refer to the Jewish religion in a discussion of the koshering (Kaufman’s term) of food. Look at the actual blog entry, and the way her words have been twisted becomes obvious:

I was no longer convinced by the “People of Book” argument. Not because I don’t believe they are really People of the Book but the fact is, they don’t slaughter these animals according to any book, regardless of their alleged faith. I mean, if I, a Muslim, were to kill an animal by tearing it limb by limb then serving it, is it halal just because I am a Muslim? I think not and I have little reason to believe why it would be for meat slaughtered by the People of the Book. Further, who really knows the faith of the people slaughtering these animals to begin with?

So, she does not use the words Kaufman quotes to describe Judaism at all. Why on earth does Kaufman make such a flagrantly out-of-context quote that can be easily demonstrated as a distorted? Does he not think his readers will check?

Kaufman alleges that sister Danya’s blogroll (or list of blog links) are “complete with a full array of extremist sites”. These include A Mother From Gaza, whose author, he alleges, “gushes over new Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah”. “Gushing” is Kaufman’s assessment, but if you read the whole article you’ll be able to put it in context. It was the author’s impression of Mr Haniyah’s personality; she also said that she heard nothing new from him, which she expected. He states that Ahmad Yassin and Abdul-Aziz Rantisi were “executed” by the Israelis, which is not true: killings of that sort are called assassinations. Ahmad Yassin in particular was killed by a missile, which also killed bystanders.

He then cites an article entitled Extremists … Who?, posted on another of Danya’s linked blogs, Brilliance of Islam, and recycled from Nazmay but originating with a Pakistani shaikh named Muhammad Aslam Shaikhpuri, posted here. The article is about the general topic of Muslims labelled by westerners as extremists (it was sourced from Dharb-i-Momin, a pro-Taliban “newspaper”). The pictures on BoI are therefore out of context, but the author of BoI may have considered that the article applied just as well to Palestinian fighters. As for the entry in which “also repeats the often heard martyr’s mantra, ‘A believer wants his death more than life so that he could meet Allah’”, it is in an entry which does not mention martyrdom or fighting.

No doubt he could not overlook “Mujahideen Ryder” on account of the name, for which reason alone I’ve never linked the blog. I find it unnecessarily provocative, and undermines any attempt to disassociate Muslims, and jihad, from terrorism. Still, all Kaufman has on him is that he posted a positive assessment of a conference held by a group Kaufman considers extremist, but is in fact one of the mainstream Islamic organisations. He attacks both “Mujahideen Ryder” and Izzy Mo for praising Siraj Wahhaj, “potential co-conspirator to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center”. Well, the US authorities have had 13 years to prosecute him over this, and they would have done if they had any real evidence of involvement. And he is still free and still working. Kaufman is just throwing mud in the hope that some might stick.

Lastly, he attacks Umm Zaid of Sunni Sister for displaying “pictures of ‘peaceful’ Palestinian children”, flying what he calls a Hamas flag. In fact, it’s the standard green Islamic flag, or a variant thereon. It’s no more Hamas’s flag than it is Saudi Arabia’s. It is the Muslim flag, with the Islamic testimony of faith. I might also point out that people commonly “blogroll” other sites on account of a friendly relationship or in reciprocation of a link. Unless it is specified, it does not signify approval of everything on the linked site. I know I have many links to blogs which have content I don’t like.

I hope I have demonstrated that Kaufman’s malice leaves no Muslim out of its reach. He has condemned Muslims that any regular reader of their writings would know are peaceful people solely on the grounds that they articulate normative Muslim doctrine and participate in mainstream Muslim organisations. In some ways it is par for Front Page’s biased and often malicious course; much of its content consists of diatribes against Muslims and other immigrants, but Kaufman’s practice of flagrantly twisting people’s words, apparently not caring if his claims can be easily debunked, bring it to a new low.

(On a similar note, I recommend reading this article by Gary Younge in today’s Guardian, about the intimidation and vilification of American academics by the likes of Front Page founder David Horowitz; fatuous statements, such as the comparison of Paul Gilroy with Hitler, and irrelevances, such as vilification of an academic for things said outside the classroom and on things others said at the same event that he or she was not aware of, are much in evidence here as well.)

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