Jewish groups “Phony Fatwa” slammed as publicity stunt
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today condemned a prominent Jewish organization for promoting what it called a “phony fatwa” to boost sales of a new book on Islam for Jews.
The Washington-based Islamic advocacy group says the American Jewish Committee (AJC) is claiming a “fatwa,” or Islamic legal ruling, has been issued against the writer of its new book “Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews” despite the fact that the alleged authors of the ruling disavow any such action. CAIR called on the AJC to stop “smearing” Muslims for political and financial gain.
For weeks, the AJC has been trying to interest reporters in an article from what the State Department called “a fairly marginal newspaper with a limited readership” that criticized Khalid Duran, the author of “Children of Abraham.” The AJC and Duran’s attorney attempted to portray the article as a “fatwa” and “death edict” from the Islamic Action Front in Jordan. On
Saturday, that group said no such ruling had been issued. (Associated Press, 6/30/2001)
Duran’s attorney, Michael J. Wildes, is the same person who promoted a 1998 story about an alleged Pakistani scientist who claimed that country was planning a nuclear first-strike on India. Scientific experts who interviewed the defector pronounced him a fraud. (USA Today, 7/7/98)
“It is despicable that the American Jewish Committee, despite its stated intent of fostering interfaith understanding, would engage in a cheap publicity stunt to boost book sales at the expense of Muslims and Islam. To succeed in promoting this ‘phony fatwa,’ the AJC had to shamelessly smear Islam by tapping into and exploiting existing anti-Muslim stereotyping and bias,” said CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad.
“This is also part of a failed campaign by pro-Israel extremists to hand-pick Muslim ‘leaders,’ to counter growing American Muslim political activism and to distract attention from news items such as war crimes charges filed in Belgium against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,” said Ahmad. Ahmad also
questioned why the AJC would seek to, on its own, create a new “Salman Rushdie” scenario when no one in the Muslim world had even heard of the alleged “fatwa.”
(The AJC and the ADL were the only groups to testify before Congress in support of the use of secret evidence against Muslims and Arabs. AJC Executive Director David A. Harris wrote in the May 28, 2001, issue of The Jerusalem Report: “We [the pro-Israel lobby] 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, together with Israel, is clear.”)
Since its publication in May, CAIR criticized Duran’s book as a “laundry list” of hot-button issues that have often been used to stereotype Islam. The Muslim group also said the choice of Duran as the author was inappropriate because of his mysterious identity (Duran is apparently not his real name), his past conviction for defaming an Islamic center in Germany, his vocal
support for a group on the State Department list of designated terrorist organizations, and his close ties to infamous “Muslim bashers.”
(Rabbi Reuven Firestone wrote a companion AJC Publication, “Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims” that did not take Duran’s polemical approach. CAIR representatives have consistently noted that Khalid Duran has the right to write anything he wishes and that the AJC has the
right to publish any book it chooses, no matter how distorted or inaccurate.)
A Publishers Weekly (5/28/2001) review of “Children of Abraham” said:
“He [Duran] writes that ‘the history of Jewish-Muslim relations is so complex that one can list as many positive as negative examples of their interaction,’ yet he relates mostly the negative ones, sabotaging his ostensible purpose. He also misstates facts about Islam and women in Islam, and mishandles the description of dhimmi (minority status) in Islam. His many controversial assertions lack supporting evidence. He presents farfetched, incendiary theories, such as, ‘the culprits in the Oklahoma City bombing [the Euro-American Timothy McVeigh and his fellow militia members] had an association’ with the terrorist Osama Bin Ladin…The Islam described here is ritualistic, suspicious, misguided and overpowered by Islamists…Most troublesome is his habit of analogizing Islamic behavior to Nazi behavior. The juxtaposition, like the book, treads an unwise path.”
The Chicago Tribune wrote: “When asked by the Tribune to examine the contents of the books, several experts on Islam and veterans of interfaith dialogue concluded that some of those fears [about the book’s stereotypical content] may be justified. Although the book on Judaism avoids self-criticism and ignores such tough issues as Orthodox extremism, they said, the book on Islam slams Muslims for everything from sexism to terrorism…[AJC is] representing to themselves and the Muslim community the best possible face of Judaism and the most aggressive face of Islam.” (5/3/2001)
The Tribune article also quoted Shalom Goldman, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Emory University, as saying: “In the history of Islam we go from the story of the prophet Mohammed to Khomeini in a couple of pages…In the Jewish book we don’t go from Moses to [militant rabbi] Meir Kahane. In [Rabbi] Firestone’s book, there are illustrations of women lighting shabbat candles. Go to Duran’s volume and you see impassioned Islamists chanting and brandishing weapons at a rally.”
Other mainstream Muslim groups (including the Islamic Society of North America) and Islamic scholars have also criticized the book. Dr. Aminah McCloud, professor of Islamic studies at DePaul University, said Duran’s book would only be useful in a course on “polemics.”