Muslims question choice of author for book on Islam
A national Islamic advocacy group today questioned the appropriateness of a prominent Jewish organization's decision to have a controversial author write a book on Islam for Jews. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says Khalid Duran, author of a soon-to-be-released American Jewish Committee (AJC) book called, "Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews", has a mysterious identity and was once convicted of defaming an Islamic center in Germany.
CAIR challenged Duran's credibility as a scholar on Islam and noted his ties to infamous Muslim bashers such as Steven Emerson, an author who Muslims say has a long history of attacks on Islam and on the American Muslim community. Duran was a consultant for Emerson's now-discredited 1994 PBS program, "Jihad in America".
Reports also indicate that Duran will co-author a book called, "Muslim America" with Daniel Pipes, another writer with an even longer history of Islamophobia than Emerson.
Pipes, Emerson, and Duran were among the first commentators to accuse Muslims of bombing the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Duran's book is one of two being published by the AJC to deepen "understanding and mutual respect between Muslims and Jews". (www.ajc.org) Rabbi Reuven Firestone wrote the companion publication, "Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims".
An AJC news release said Duran's book "neither ignores nor rationalizes the more problematic aspects [of Islamic culture]. [Duran] offers a forthright and tough-minded treatment of Muslim fundamentalism, a candid analysis of the status of women in the Muslim belief and practice, as well as an unsentimental assessment of the historical treatment of minorities within Islamic societies."
"Any effort to deepen mutual respect between faiths must, at a minimum, avoid the kind of conspiracy theories that are Duran's stock-in-trade. A sincere attempt to build bridges of understanding would not focus on 'hot-button' issues that have so often been used to stereotype Islam and Muslims," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad. Ahmad offered to have recognized scholars on Islam review Duran's book for stereotypical or inaccurate content.
As evidence of Duran's lack of credibility, Ahmad cited a 1997 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) report responding to complaints about accusations made by Duran contained in a May 12, 1996 broadcast of the French-language program, Dimanche Magazine.
Members of the Muslim community in Canada issued a point-by-point rebuttal to the program's alleged inaccuracies and distortions. Following consultations with more than 30 academics and other experts, including Sheila McDonough of Concordia University (called "the most qualified person in Canada [on this subject]") and two unnamed Canadian Security Intelligence Service analysts, the CBC Ombudsman issued his report.
The report's strongest language was reserved for the analysis of Khalid Duran's credibility. The CBC Ombudsman, Mario Cardinal, said, "A…factor which does not contribute much to Mr. Duran's credibility is the mystery surrounding his true identity. His real name is not Duran. 'That's my mother's name', he told me. His father, whose name he wishes to withhold, was Moroccan, but Mr. Duran was born in Berlin, which is the reason for his German passport…When asked about his real name, he remains vague."
"A third factor that undermines his credibility...is that he was sentenced in 1993 for making defamatory comments about the Islamic Center of Aachen(Aix-la-Chapelle), in Germany. His sentence was to retract his statements or pay a heavy fine or, failing that, to go to prison..." Duran challenged the report's findings, but has not explained the mystery surrounding his name or his conviction for defamation in Germany.