CT forum rejects AJC attempt to exclude muslim speaker
In the second such incident in two weeks, a Jewish group's call to have a Muslim speaker excluded from a public forum designed to promote intercultural understanding has been rejected by event organizers.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) had asked that Ghazi Khankan, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relation's New York chapter, be denied the right to speak today at a panel discussion, titled "Understanding Islam - after 9/11," sponsored by the Connecticut Humanities Council and the World Affairs Forum. Other panelists include Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and author James Reston, Jr. (The forum will be held at 4 p.m. on the University of Connecticut's Broad Street Campus.)
Last week, the Florida Commission on Human Relations rejected a similar demand by that state's chapter of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to exclude a Muslim representative from a panel discussion at an annual civil rights conference.
In response to the AJC demand, World Affairs Forum Executive Director Eileen Heaphy was quoted as saying, "He [Khankan] comes highly recommended and we look forward to hearing from him."
"AJC e-mail messages circulated to religious and community leaders, and obtained by CAIR, make false and defamatory accusations against our organization," said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad. In one e-mail from the AJC's Ellen Israelson wrote, "Regarding Ghazi Khankan - I have an entire file on Ghazi…Ghazi has always been vocally anti-Israel." (See note below concerning similar activities by the ADL.)
"As we have recently documented, this is just one part of a nationwide, politically-motivated smear campaign by the AJC, the ADL and other Islamophobic groups designed to marginalize and disenfranchise the Muslim community in America. We thank the event organizers for rejecting these exclusionary tactics," said Ahmad.
"Muslims, like every emerging ethnic or religious minority in our nation, have to struggle to take their proper place in the American social and political arena. But no other group ever had to contend, as we do, with
another minority actively seeking to block its progress. We believe the current ratcheting-up of this malicious campaign is prompted by alarm at the growing influence American Muslims are having on this country's political process," said Ahmad.
To support its assertion that there is on ongoing smear campaign against Muslim groups, CAIR cited a recent Los Angeles Times article that laid direct responsibility for the campaign at the feet of specific
organizations. Times reporter Solomon Moore wrote: "Pro-Israel or Jewish organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Defense League and the Middle East Forum think tank have provided news organizations with reams of critical documentation on Muslim leaders in recent weeks." (Los Angeles Times, 11/3/2001)
Today's Washington Post carries an article that says "Jewish groups and some conservatives have been lobbying the president to stop courting certain Muslim leaders."
The Post article quoted the leader of one of these groups as saying: "There is no such thing as peaceful Islam…Islamics cannot fit into an America in which the first loyalty is to the American Constitution. They should be encouraged to leave. They are a fifth column in this country."
In the May 28, 2001, issue of The Jerusalem Report, AJC Executive Director David A. Harris wrote: "We dare not underestimate the Arab and Muslim lobbies [in America] or delude ourselves as to their ultimate objectives. The stakes are too high. The call for action by American Jewry…is clear."
The Middle East Forum's Daniel Pipes, one of the foremost proponents of the current anti-Muslim campaign, goes so far as to recommend "vigilant application of social and political pressure to ensure that Islam is not
accorded special status of any kind in this country." (Commentary, November 2001) (The "special status" Pipes refers to includes ordinary religious accommodations for Muslims in the workplace and "inclusion of Muslims in affirmative-action plans.") In that same article, Pipes wrote: "The Muslim population in this country is not like any other group…they harbor designs for this country that warrant urgent and serious attention."
In a recent Salon.com interview, Pipes was questioned about his recommendation that "officials need to scrutinize the speech, associations, and activities of potential visitors or immigrants for any signs of
Islamist allegiances and keep out anyone they suspect of such ties."
Pipes told Salon.com: "Look, I like this country as it is and I don't want it to turn into something quite different…If you want to see an Islamist country, then you will have the opposite view from mine…The danger is within…" He has also compared American Muslim voter registration drives to those of the Communist Party USA.
NOTE: In 1999, the ADL agreed to pay $25,000 to a community relations fund and said it would not spy on other organizations as part of a settlement with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and other groups. The settlement resolved a class-action lawsuit filed in 1993 that accused the ADL of spying on Arab-American, pro-Palestinian and anti-apartheid groups and individuals. (Associated Press, 9/28/1999