Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lead Me From The Fear

U.S. Congressman Virgil Goode (R-VA) has a rather interesting view of there being a Muslim in Congress. Here's a letter he wrote to a constituent of his:
Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

The Ten Commandments and "In God We Trust" are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, "As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office." Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

The emphasis is my own. The xenophobia is Rep. Goode's (rhymes with "food") own. Aside from weirdly linking Keith Ellison with illegal immigrants (He was born in Detroit. And I'd wager money that most illegal immigrants are Roman Catholic), this whole rhetoric of "fear" behind their being Muslims in America (along with their scaaary Koran) is just frightening.

I'd also note that, while I don't think Rep. Goode has any obligation to have a Koran on his wall, the stern, "over-my-dead-body" language he used in addressing the Muslim student is rather disconcerting in its own right.

It's a good thing nobody mistakes the War on Terror for a War on Islam. Because that would make our job a whole lot tougher.


Anonymous said...

Whether you are willing to acknowledge it or not, indeed islam has declared war on us and the entire infidel world for that matter. You can mock people's fears over islam all you want, but you're just burying your head in the sand to deny we are at war with islam. We aren't at war with terrorism, terrorism is a tactic of war being used by the muslims.

Anonymous said...

I am a Muslim, but I feel that what the anonymous stated is correct. Yes, most of the people are burying thier heads in the sand as you have said. I feel a majority of Muslims, especially in the Islamic world, to some extent endorses the terror by Al Qaeda- likes. And the majority of Muslims and non-Muslims in the Western Nations blame the Western governments and their policies for the the Islamic uprising. Muslims, like us who are a very small monority cannot express ourselves as we are powerless and we will be labelled as Anti Islam by Muslims. Non-Muslims will no longer trust us as friends,neighbours and equals in our day to day lives. Believe me we are having a hard time.
We cannot simply convert our religion as our faith is an integral part of us. But I can assure you my moral support with the people who fight terror and I can understand Mr Goode's fear.

Anonymous said...

Sue Hail,

My goodness. So you think that a U.S. born Muslim who's pro-choice, pro sex-ed and pro-gay rights is going to bring us Sharia law?

If you really are a Muslim, I'm disheartened that you've apparently adopted the Virgil Goode position that's unable to distinguish among Muslims, and that sees Osama bin Laden and Keith Ellison as identical because both consider the Koran their holy book.

Muslims, like us who are a very small monority cannot express ourselves as we are powerless and we will be labelled as Anti Islam by Muslims. Non-Muslims will no longer trust us as friends,neighbours and equals in our day to day lives.

If you cannot express your true beliefs among Muslims and have the power to move, don't live among them. I assure you there are MANY places in America -- particularly in Rep. Goode's district -- where Muslims are not a community of any significant size or power, and where your willingness to agree that Islam is a threat will make you very welcome among your non-Muslim neighbors, although they'll probably leave a lot of conversion tracts in your mailbox.

Anonymous said...

What an amusing story we have here. I know Virgil Goode's first wife. She's a beautiful woman and a Sufi mystic who lives in Florida.

Anonymous said...

If 'moderate' is only used as a means to deflect valid criticism, than its time that some real action and goodwill be shown by moderates by making themselves available to protest in mass against alkaida and the extremists. There is plenty of extremism by Muslims in Saudi Arabia..England, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Sweden... etc. Let's not hush hush when it comes to those issues. If being American does not entail an urge to bring freedom to those who are not... than perhaps the so called cynics are not so far off the mark.

Just note the following story below -

The Evening Standard profiles a group of British Muslims from the notorious Al-Muhajiroun, who admire Osama and talk openly about bombing London and the glories of violent jihad — all the while collecting British welfare money. Note that Sayful Islam explains his turn to radicalism by saying, ""I made a decision that I wanted to follow what Islam really said." (Thanks to LGF.)

Four young British Muslims in their twenties - a social worker, an IT specialist, a security guard and a financial adviser - occupy a table at a fast-food chicken restaurant in Luton. Perched on their plastic chairs, wolfing down their dinner, they seem just ordinary young men. Yet out of their mouths pour heated words of revolution.

"As far as I'm concerned, when they bomb London, the bigger the better," says Abdul Haq, the social worker. "I know it's going to happen because Sheikh bin Laden said so. Like Bali, like Turkey, like Madrid - I pray for it, I look forward to the day."

"Pass the brown sauce, brother," says Abu Malaahim, the IT specialist, devouring his chicken and chips.

"I agree with you, brother," says Abu Yusuf, the earnest-looking financial adviser sitting opposite. "I would like to see the Mujahideen coming into London and killing thousands, whether with nuclear weapons or germ warfare. And if they need a safehouse, they can stay in mine - and if they need some fertiliser [for a bomb], I'll tell them where to get it."

His friend, Abu Musa, the security guard, smiles radiantly. "It will be a day of joy for me," he adds, speaking with a slight lisp.

As they talk, a man with a bushy beard, dressed in a jacket emblazoned with the word "Jihad", stands and watches over them, handing around cups of steaming hot coffee. His real name is Ishtiaq Alamgir, but he goes by his adopted name, Sayful Islam, meaning "Sword of Islam". He is the 24-year-old leader of the Luton branch of al-Muhajiroun, an extremist Muslim group with about 800 members countrywide, who regard Osama bin Laden as their hero.

Until recently, nobody took the fanatical beliefs of al-Muhajiroun too seriously, believing that a British-based group so brazenly "out there" could not be involved in something as "underground" as terrorism. The group is led by the exiled Saudi, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad, from his base in north London. Yesterday, in a magazine article, Bakri warned that several radical groups are poised to strike in London.

For all its inflammatory rhetoric, al-Muhajiroun has never been linked to actual violence. Yet, with the discovery last month of half-a-tonne of ammonium nitrate fertiliser - the same explosive ingredient used in the Bali and Turkey terror attacks - and with the arrest of eight young British Muslims in London and the South-East, including six in Luton, extremist groups such as al-Muhajiroun are under the spotlight like never before.

Detectives fear that the "enemy within", the homegrown extremists leading apparently normal lives in suburbia, now pose the greatest threat to security in Britain. Sayful and his friends fit this "homegrown" profile: three were born here, two came as young children from Pakistan; all were educated in local Luton schools; and they grew up in families of full employment - one of their fathers is a retired local businessman, two are engineers, and two worked in the local Vauxhall car plant.

The question is: how worried should we be? Is al-Muhajiroun nothing more than a repository for disaffected Muslim youths who have adopted an extreme interpretation of Islam - perhaps to cock a snook at the white establishment - but who are essentially posturing? Or does the group also perform a more sinister function, sucking in alienated young men and brainwashing the more impressionable into becoming future suicide bombers?

Although none of the arrested Muslims - aged 17 to 32 - appear to be current al-Muhajiroun members, rumours have circulated of informal links to the group. Moreover, parents of the arrested men have spoken anxiously of the "radicalising influence" of al-Muhajiroun militants who " corrupt" their children at mosques.

Nowhere has this public confrontation between radicals and moderates been more apparent than in Luton, which has the highest density of Muslims in the South-East - 28,000 out of a total population of 140,000 - and has long been regarded as a hotbed of extremism.

Sayful Islam, for one, is particularly proud of his contribution to Luton's hardline reputation. His exploits include covering the town with " Magnificent 19" posters glorifying the 11 September suicide bombers. "When I joined al-Muhajiroun four years ago, there were five local members," he says. "Now there are more than 50 and hundreds more support us."

The strange thing is that four years ago, Sayful Islam was a jeans-clad student completing his degree in business economics at Middlesex University in Hendon, north London.

The son of a British Rail engineer who came to this country from Pakistan, Sayful grew up in a moderate, middle-class Muslim family in Luton. At the local Denbigh High School, he is remembered as one of the smartest kids, and was selected to attend a science masterclass at Cambridge University. He would go on to marry, have two children and find work as an accountant for the Inland Revenue in Luton. He was thoroughly uninterested in politics.

THEN he met Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad at a local event. Within two years, he had swapped his decently paid job as an accountant for an unpaid one as a political agitator. What turned him into an extremist? And how far is he prepared to go to achieve his aims?

Prior to seeing the group at the fastfood restaurant, Sayful meets me at his semi-detached rented home in Bury Park, Luton's Muslim neighbourhood. He no longer works, even though he is able-bodied, he admits, preferring instead to claim housing benefit and jobseeker's allowance. He smiles sheepishly and says the irony is not lost on him that the British state is supporting him financially, even as he plots to "overthrow it".

"I made a decision that I wanted to follow what Islam really said," Sayful begins, sitting on his sofa in his thowb (a traditional robe) and bare feet. "I went to listen to all the local imams, but I found their portrayal of Islam was too secularised. When I heard Sheikh Omar [the leader] of al-Muhajiroun speak, it was pure Islam, with no compromise. I found that appealing.

"At the same time," continues Sayful, "wars were happening in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Afghanistan. People were being oppressed simply because they were Muslim. Although I had never experienced racism in the UK, it opened the eyes of a lot of Muslims, including mine."

But it was the events of 11 September that crystallised Sayful's worldview. "When I watched those planes go into the Twin Towers, I felt elated," he says. "That magnificent action split the world into two camps: you were either with Islam and al Qaeda, or with the enemy. I decided to quit my job and commit myself full-time to al-Muhajiroun." Now he does not consider himself British. "I am a Muslim living in Britain, and I give my allegiance only to Allah."

According to Sayful, the aim of al-Muhajiroun ("the immigrants") is nothing less than Khilafah - "the worldwide domination of Islam". The way to achieve this, he says, is by Jihad, led by Bin Laden. "I support him 100 per cent."

Does that support extend to violent acts of terrorism in the UK?

"Yes," he replies, unequivocally. "When a bomb attack happens here, I won't be against it, even if it kills my own children. Islam is clear: Muslims living in lands that are occupied have the right to attack their invaders.

"Britain became a legitimate target when it sent troops to Iraq. But it is against Islam for me to engage personally in acts of terrorism in the UK because I live here. According to Islam, I have a covenant of security with the UK, as long as they allow us Muslims to live here in peace."

HE USES the phrase "covenant of security" constantly. He attempts to explain. "If we want to engage in terrorism, we would have to leave the country," he says. "It is against Islam to do otherwise." Such a course of action, he says, he is not prepared to undertake. This is why, Sayful claims, it is consistent, and not cowardly, for him to espouse the rhetoric of terrorism, the "martyrdom-operations", while simultaneouslylimiting himself to nonviolentactions such as leafletting outside Luton town hall.

He denies any link between al-Muhajiroun and the Muslims arrested in the recent police raids. But, as I later discover at the fastfood restaurant, not everyone attaching themselves, however loosely, to al-Muhajiroun draws the same line. Two members of the group - Abu Yusuf, the financial adviser, and Abu Musa, the security guard - scorn al-Muhajiroun as "too moderate".

"I am freelance," says Abu Yusuf, fixing me with his piercing brown eyes. What does that mean? I ask.

"The difference between us and those two," interjects Abu Malaahim, pointing to Musa and Yusuf, "is that us lot do a verbal thing, [but] those brothers actually want to do a physical thing."

Referring to the latest truce offered by Bin Laden, and Britain's scathing rejection of it, Abu Malaahim adds: "He tried to make a peace deal. When terrorism happens, you will only have yourselves to blame."

How far are you prepared to go? I ask.

"You want to know how far I will go," says Abu Musa, his high-pitched lisp rising an octave. "When Allah said in the Koran 'kill and be killed', that's what I want. I want a martyr operation, where I kill my enemy."

Are you saying, I probe, that you are looking to kill people yourself ? "Yes," Abu Musa says, "to kill and to be killed." He emphasises each word.

What's stopped you doing it? "As you know from watching the news," intones Abu Yusuf, "there are brothers who do leave the country and do it." He is referring to the four Muslims from Luton who died fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the two British Muslims, said to have had ties to al-Muhajiroun, who last April left to become suicide bombers in Israel. "In-shallah [ Godwilling], there will be a time to go."

It is hard to know whether Musa and Yusuf are deadly serious or just pumped full of misguided, youthful bravado. Though I see coldness - even ruthlessness - in their eyes, I sense no malice. Both young men agree, perhaps foolishly, to be quoted using their real names, though they decline photographs - thus illustrating their uncertainty of which way to jump.

Muhammad Sulaiman, president of the Islamic Cultural Society, the largest of the 14 mosques in Luton, dismisses al-Muhajiroun as "verbal diarrhoea".

"They are an extreme Right-wing group - the Muslim version of the BNP," he says disdainfully. "They think Muslims should dominate, just like the BNP thinks whites should dominate. They use Islam as a vehicle to promote their distorted beliefs, particularly to unemployed young bloods who are vulnerable."

ALTHOUGH unemployment in Luton is just six per cent, the rate among Muslim youths is estimated at 25 per cent. "They are no more representative of our Muslim community than the BNP are of the white community."

Sulaiman insists that Sayful Islam and his crew are not welcome at the mosque. He cannot prevent them praying there, but he will never give them a platform. "I've told Sayful to bugger off and ejected him many times," he says brusquely. "Even Sayful's father, who I know well, thinks his son has been brainwashed."

But Sayful and his friends laugh at the idea that they are local pariahs. "The mosques say one thing to the public, and something else to us. Let's just say that the face you see and the face we see are two different faces," says Abdul Haq. "Believe me," adds Musa, "behind closed doors, there are no moderate Muslims."

They also mock the idea that they are attracted to al-Muhajiroun because they have suffered alienation from white society. "Do we look like scum?" they ask. "Do we look illiterate?"

As they call for the bill, Abu Malaahim flicks open his 3G mobile phone and, with a satisfied grin, displays the image, downloaded from the internet, of an American Humvee burning in Iraq.

Abu Yusuf says: "That's nothing. I downloaded the picture of the four burnt Americans hanging from the bridge." It's oneupmanship, al-Muhajiroun style.

Sayful, the only married one in the group, prepares to go home to his wife and children. Before he departs, he says he has a message to deliver.

"I want to warn that the police raids - if repeated - could create a bad situation.

"Islam is not like Christianity, where they turn the other cheek. If they raid our homes, it could lead to the covenant of security being broken.

"Islam allows us to retaliate. That would include" - he tugs his "Jihad" coat tight against the night air - "by violent means."

I have yet to see moderate muslims protest against Al Qaeda, or march for the rights of those non-muslims in muslim countries.
Perhaps, Mr. Ellison is in an excellent position to be a positive public muslim influence that will initiate and encourage moderate muslim marches against the crisis in Darfur, and all over the world where islamic intolerance is the law of many lands.

Anonymous said...

Does it indicate something about a commenter if most of the comment actually is cut-and-paste rather than original thought?

"I have yet to see moderate muslims protest against Al Qaeda, or march for the rights of those non-muslims in muslim countries. Perhaps, Mr. Ellison is in an excellent position to be a positive public muslim influence that will initiate and encourage moderate muslim marches against the crisis in Darfur"

Moderate Muslims have stood against the Holocaust deniers in Iran. They have joined the U.S. military and recruited other Muslims to fight violent Islam. And unlike the commenter, they may be aware that the people victimized in Darfur *also* are Muslim -- perhaps the commenter is still on the last civil war in the Sudan, which pitted the Arab and Muslim north against the more African and Christian/ animist south.

Archie Levine said...

I've seen some interviews with Goode and am disturbed by the fact that in the interview he pretty much says exactly, word for word, parts of the letter...I'm always a little paranoid, I suppose, but that starts to seem like this letter wasn't sent as an accident to the head of the Sierra Club in his district, but that it probably was a calculated stunt (ala Karl Rove) to generate exactly this kind of publicity and make him look a little like a victim at the hands of the liberal press who are exploiting the letter sent in "error" to the radial left-wing ideologue who promptly and gleefully turned it into a media frenzy.

Much more effective than if he'd had a press conference where he read the text of the letter all on his own.

I really miss America...and not the one that Donald Trump gave a second chance to.