Corey Saylor, a prominent Muslim activist in the United States, made a stunning admission last week. Speaking at a counter-Islamophobia conference at the University of Minnesota, Saylor admitted that anti-Muslim sentiment is driven in part by jihadists who kill in the name of Allah.
During a session titled "How Islamophobia Became Mainstream," Saylor told the audience in the Hubert Humphrey Auditorium that "violent extremist groups that claim that Islam gives sanction to their actions contribute to Islamophobia."
"There's no doubt about it," he said. To not acknowledge the impact that groups like ISIS have had on attitudes about Islam and its adherents "would be to not have a complete conversation."
Oddly enough, Saylor's acknowledgement that jihadists make people frightened of Muslims and Islam took place at a conference organized by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) — a group with historical ties to Hamas, a jihadist organization that, by Saylor's logic, contributes to the problem he is trying to fix.
Such irony was baked into the overall agenda of the May 10, 2018 conference titled "Challenging Islamophobia." For example, the conference, dedicated to promoting the rights of Muslims in American civil society, featured a talk by Hatem Bazian, a professor at UC Berkeley who has worked assiduously to undermine the rights of Jews on college campuses in the United States.
For example, Bazian founded two groups, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and American Muslims for Palestine. Members of SJP have shouted down pro-Israel speakers and, in some instances, physically attacked Jews on college campuses.
During his talk, Bazian asserted that David Horowitz promoted Islamophobia in American society by writing The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America and getting it sold in airport bookstores.
"It's not easy to get your book to be sold in airport bookshelves," Bazian said. "There has to be some sophisticated marketing agency behind you."
Horowitz's targeting of academia, Bazian argued, "is part of a sophisticated campaign to neutralize possibility in an area where we could have sophisticated critique, not only of ourselves but also society in general."
The absurdity is palpable. Bazian, who helped undermine the principles of civil society by establishing a cadre of anti-Zionist shock troops who harass Jews on college campuses, accuses Horowitz of undermining the ability of college professors to do their work. And how has Horowitz done this? Through engaging in a critique of his own by writing and selling a book.
Bazian's schtick should be familiar by now.
Just as Palestinian leaders demand the rights of sovereignty and self-determination while denying the Jews the same rights in Israel, Bazian does essentially the same thing in American civil society. He demands that his fellow Americans respect the rights of his fellow Muslims while at the same time orchestrating a persistent campaign of harassment against Jews in the US.
The rights of women in Muslim-majority countries were also a topic of conversation at the conference. The overarching message was that when people ask about the status of women under Islam, it is not because they care about women's rights, but because they want to feed anti-Muslim sentiment.
For example, when the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) came up, a woman in the audience compared the abhorrent practice to plastic surgery — "Is that a mutilation?" — and to male circumcision, which unlike FGM has real health benefits.
Instead of hitting the ball out of the park by declaring that FGM is an abhorrent practice that should never be tolerated in any society, the conference panelist who took the question, Rashed Ferdous — founder of the Islamic Resource Group and a GOP activist — waffled. He started off well enough by declaring truthfully that FGM is not unique to Islam and is not practiced in Bangladesh, where he grew up.
But then he suggested that there is no real connection between FGM and Islam by declaring, "Why do you think that's going to be part of somebody's religion?" The fact is that many Muslims follow the hadith that quotes Mohammed declaring FGM a "noble" practice.
To make matters worse, Ferdous suggested that the people who raise the issue with Muslims are not smart enough to have an in-depth discussion about the practice. In Ferdous' view, the problem is not with the practice itself, but with the people who ask about it.
Somebody needs to inform the folks at CAIR of a truism of American society: If you are going to assert rights for yourself and your community, you have to accord those same rights to others. To do otherwise is an act of supremacism.
It's a basic rule of the public square in the US.
Dexter Van Zile is a Senior Research Analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (camera.org).