In his recent column ("Muslim leaders should get off the fence," Nov. 24), Steven Greenhut tries to put suspicion on the local American Muslim community as being duplicitous. By citing half-truths, omitting information and using questionable sources, Greenhut's column qualified more as yellow journalism.
If you take a closer look at his arguments, Greenhut is exposed for his own hypocrisy. He demands that Muslims "stop tolerating those clerics who preach venom against Israel," but on the other hand, he insists that Muslims "show more respect for the rights of people who criticize Islam, even if they criticize it in crude and unfortunate tones." This seems to be a double standard.
When dealing specifically with the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is obvious that Greenhut confuses criticism of Zionism with anti-Semitism. Zionism is a political ideology whose tentacles are rooted in racism. The Zionist movement practically translated into the uprooting of homes and lives of the indigenous people - the Palestinians - in favor of European settlers who claim their ancestors used to live there about 2,000 years ago.
The fact that those invaders were Jewish and the victims were Palestinian Christians and Muslims does not make this conflict a religious one, as many extremists from all sides would like to insist. It remains a national struggle, supported by people of all faiths, to end a racist occupation.
Zionism, indeed, has supporters among atheists, Jews, Christians and even some Muslims. Yet some of its most vocal critics happen to be Jewish. Such notables include Benjamin Joseph, one of the first Israeli draft resisters, who once said "a world in which there is no room for apartheid is really a world in which there should be no room for Zionism." Norman Finkelstein, a political science professor at DePaul University and the son of Holocaust survivors, wrote, "if Israelis don't want to stand accused of being Nazis, they should simply stop acting like Nazis." Tim Wise, a leading Jewish anti-racism activist, has described Zionism as "a form of white supremacy." Would Greenhut describe them as anti-Semites?
Accusing critics of Zionism and Israel of being anti-Semitic is an attempt to stifle debate on Israeli policies.
The Muslim community recognizes that hate speech and violence do exist against all religions and races. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim community stand on our record of condemning all forms of terrorism, racism and bigotry, including anti-Semitism. CAIR recently condemned an anti-Semitic white supermacist Web site and an Arab-American newspaper that was publishing the infamous "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Yet Greenhut did not mention this.
Instead, Greenhut quotes one of the world's leading Islamophobic hatemongers. Throughout his career, Daniel Pipes has exhibited a troubling bigotry toward Muslims and Islam. In 1983, a Washington Post book review noted that Pipes displays "a disturbing hostility to contemporary Muslims. He professes respect for Muslims but is frequently contemptuous of them. ... [His book] is marred by exaggerations, inconsistencies and evidence of hostility to the subject."
Would Greenhut refer to a white supremacist for an opinion on issues relating to African-Americans or Jews?
And what is Pipes up to today? Pipes has established the infamous "Campus Watch," which places any scholar who remotely criticizes Israel's apartheid policies on a McCarthyite blacklist. So much for the freedom of speech Greenhut claims to cherish.
In these times, the world is becoming more fractured, suffering from conflicts emanating from misunderstandings and hatred. Therefore, journalists ought to exhibit a greater sense of responsibility by being fair and accurate rather than divisive and sensational.
We in the Muslim community take very seriously our responsibility to stand up for the truth and against injustice, irrespective of who the perpetrators or victims are. It is the American way, the right thing to do and our core value: "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves or your parents or your kin (Koran 4:135)."
Ayloush is executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.