A top aide to President Barack Obama provided a keynote address at last weekend's 46th Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) national convention, a gathering that attracted thousands of people and also featured anti-Semitic, homophobic rhetoric and defense of the terrorist group Hezbollah.
In her remarks, Senior Advisor for Public Engagement and International Affairs Valerie Jarrett noted she was the first White House official to address ISNA. She spoke in general terms about interfaith dialogue and cooperation. She praised her hosts for "the diversity of American organizations, and ideas that are represented and will be debated" at the convention.
And she openly invited ISNA President Ingrid Mattson to work on the White House Council on Women and Girls that Jarrett leads.
During her 15-minute remarks Friday, Jarrett briefly echoed the challenge her boss issued in Cairo last month about the changes needed to bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis. "Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed," Obama said in his speech.
"Hamas," he added, "must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist."
Jarrett was less specific, saying:
"Lasting peace will require a concerted effort on behalf of the Palestinians as well to end incitement and increase security and by Israel's Arab neighbors to take steps towards normalizing [relations with] Israel."
That's a significant shift since ISNA is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas-support conspiracy and maintains significant leadership ties to its foundation 28 years ago by members of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. A more pointed statement also would have stood as a powerful retort to extremist sentiments offered in other segments of the conference.
While many panels featured criticism of U.S. policy and law enforcement, one stood out for its hate-filled rhetoric, and ISNA officials should have seen it coming a mile away. During a "meet the authors" session, Imam Warith Deen Umar, former head of the New York state prison chaplain program managed to:
- Argue that key Obama aides are "Israeli," proving Jews "have control of the world."
- Malign the motives of Jews active in the Civil Rights movement.
- Portray the Holocaust as punishment of Jews for being "serially disobedient to Allah."
- Insinuate that Hurricane Katrina was a result of tolerance for homosexuality.
"Rise up and fight. And fight them until turmoil is no more and strike terror into their hearts." You think there is no terror in Quran? It's called [word unclear] read it in the 56th Surah of the Quran. There's no lack of translation, there's no mistranslation There's not one Sheikh says one thing, no, it's very clear. 'When you fight, you strike terror into the heart of the disbeliever.'"
He has a website promoting a past book, Judaiology, which features an excerpt describing "the inordinacy of Jewish power." Jews, he wrote, are "an amazing people who can steal you blind as you watch. If you discover the theft, they can put you to sleep. If you wake up to them, they can put you back to sleep with mind games, tricks of fancy, smoke screens, and magic. Henry Ford almost uncovered them."
Umar's ISNA appearance Sunday afternoon promoted his latest book, Jews for Salaam: The Straight Path to Global Peace. In discussing it, Umar first thanked ISNA for inviting him to speak.
He then described a distinction between "holy Jews," who are devout, apolitical and poor, and "unholy Jews" who are greedy, conniving and all powerful. He looked to the White House for an example (hear the clip here):
"You need to know that Obama, the first man that Obama picked when we were so happy that he was the President, he picked an Israeli – Rahm Emanuel – his number one man. His number two man – [David] Axelrod – another Israeli person. Why do this small number of people have control of the world? You need to go back into your history and find out about France and Germany and England and America got together and offered the Israelites, who became the Israelites, they offered them Ghana, the plains of Ghana. Why don't you take Ghana since we beat you down so badly? That's what the Holocaust was all about. You need to read my chapter on the Holocaust and the anti-Holocaust movement. There's some people in the world says no Holocaust even happened. Some of their leaders say no Holocaust even happened. Well it did happen. These people were punished. They were punished for a reason because they were serially disobedient to Allah." [Emphasis added]
ISNA described the author's panel as "an interactive session which provides a wonderful platform to learn, share ideas, and provide literary contributions to society." Remarkably, ISNA included Umar in that platform despite a very public record of anti-Semitism, advocacy for jihad, and praise for the 9/11 hijackers.
Umar shared the microphone with another author who did not spew out bigotry, but who did cast Hezbollah as an innocent player subject to incessant Israeli onslaught. Cathy Sultan described her book, Tragedy in South Lebanon: The Israeli/Hezbollah War of 2006, as a history of "the tragedy of the repeated incursions and wars in South Lebanon, the complexities of the Lebanese politics."
She made no mention of Iranian funding for Hezbollah or Syrian meddling in Lebanese politics or its suspected involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Instead, she lumps Hariri among a list of "docile Arab rulers willing to acquiesce to the West and to Israelis' demands ... provided they eliminate or at least contain and disarm Hamas and Hezbollah."
Nor did Sultan describe indiscriminate Hezbollah rocket fire toward Israeli civilian communities, or the cross-border attack on an Israeli army base by Hezbollah that left three soldiers dead and two others kidnapped.
In response to a question, Sultan said "Hezbollah still serves a role. I think that Lebanon is still under constant threat from its southern neighbor. And I see nothing wrong, as long as Hezbollah abides by certain rules and regulations; I see no reason why Hezbollah should not remained armed."
The panel did not feature anyone with contrasting viewpoints to challenge Sultan or Umar. The program drew about 50 people, who sat passively during most of the remarks.
Umar's books were available for purchase at the convention. Government agencies were represented with booths of their own, including the departments of Justice, State, Homeland Security, Commerce, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Before the convention started, ISNA posted a statement for vendors which said "Any literature (fundraising or otherwise) is restricted to the assigned booth and must be pre-approved in writing by ISNA, in ISNA's sole and absolute discretion. Book selling vendors must complete enclosed form providing inventory of the literature to be sold at ISNA."
Judaiology devotes a chapter to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," allegedly the minutes of a meeting of Jewish leaders at the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897, in which they plotted to take over the world. Researchers have definitively proved that the Protocols were in fact forged in Paris sometime between 1895 and 1899 by an agent of the Russian secret police. This has not kept anti-Semitic groups from believing the validity of this forgery. For example, the Charter of Hamas states:
"For Zionist scheming has no end, and after Palestine they will covet expansion from the Nile to the Euphrates. Only when they have completed digesting the area on which they will have laid their hand, they will look forward to more expansion, etc. Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present [conduct] is the best proof of what is said there."
To Umar, however, the Protocols "remain a mystery:"
"Jewish leaders have denied [the Protocols] and called them a forgery, a pact [sic] of lies, absurd and counterintuitive. No Jew, they say, would ever resort to writing down such self-defeating words and plans. However their denials appear ineffective because the Protocols actually explain and reveal what others observe about the real activities and results of Jewish diplomatic, industrial, business, and political involvement among the peoples of the world... What is revealed and clarified is so shocking and stunningly in accord with the behavior and results of world events that involve Jews that it gives credence and importance, relevance and standing to what otherwise would simply be a biased and discredited documents."
A woman in the audience reminded Umar that Jews marched with Black people during the Civil Rights movement. But, Umar said, that was not motivated by a genuine desire for justice:
"The Jews in America used the black community to advance the Jewish community. In many instances in history, they gained much of what they gained by putting the African Americans out front to get things that were necessary to get through the politics of this country and of the social setting of this country."
Umar also managed to stray into a reference about same-sex marriage, which he said would prompt God's wrath:
"It's against the laws of Allah and against the laws of the Bible for homosexuality. And if you think the Quran talks about harsh punishment from Allah, you should read what the Bible says. I don't have the time to go into it, but it's in my book. The Bible is very hard on, he says, Allah says that the land itself is doomed. You wonder why things are happening in America are going to happen? You think that Katrina was just a blow of wind?"
This is the man responsible for the Muslim chaplain program in New York prisons for 20 years. He was forced out of that job after his praise for the 9/11 hijackers became known. This is who ISNA chose to showcase in a "meet the authors" panel and provide an unchallenged platform.
"My conclusion is that there should be more jihad," he said. "But people don't want to hear that. They're scared."
In Cairo, the President said:
"Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong" and a hindrance to peace. [Emphasis added]
But somehow, partnering with a group that invites the same thing is okay?