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Posted: November 15, 2000

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Emerson Mugs the truth

Mr. Ibrahim Hooper wrote the following editorial in reply to Mr. Steven Emerson's article - "Hillary & Hamas" published in The Wall Street Journal on November 03, 2000

by Ibrahim Hooper

Once again, Steven Emerson attempts to subject the American Muslim community and its representatives to the journalistic equivalent of a mugging. ("Hillary and Hamas," 11/3/2000) Only in this mugging, it is truth and fairness that get a knock on the head.

Emerson is the attack dog of the extremist wing of America's pro-Israel lobby who recently offered his sometimes six-year-old accusations against national Muslim organizations as a gift to the Lazio campaign. Lazio accepted that gift and used it in an attempt to ride to public office on the backs of American Muslims.

In the Emerson-Lazio smear campaign, ethnic and religious stereotypes, distorted information, partial citations, and complete fabrications are used as tactics of political intimidation.

Lazio's supporters even made the scurrilous charge that Hillary Clinton and American Muslim groups were somehow tied to the tragic bombing of the USS Cole. A Washington Post writer called this charge "political pornography." Other media outlets now report that Lazio actually solicited donations from the same group that he condemns as "supporters of terrorism."

We believe this attempt at political marginalization is being prompted at least in part by the pro-Israel lobby's alarm at the increased influence American Muslims and Arab-Americans are having on this country's political process and on policy toward the Middle East. Steven Emerson has long been the lobby's point man in this effort. But just who is Steven Emerson and why do almost all major media outlets regard his views as unfit for quotation?

Emerson is best known for his Islamophobic 1994 PBS program "Jihad in America." It was CAIR's exposure of the inaccuracies and distortions in this program that provoked Emerson's now-obsessive vendetta.

Emerson's anti-Muslim bigotry speaks for itself. He claimed Muslims were behind the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, wrongly attributed the 1996 downing of TWA Flight 800 to Muslims and once said Islam sanctions "genocide...as part of its religious doctrine." (CBS News, 4/19/95; Reuters, 7/31/96 and CNBC, Rivera Live, 8/23/96; Jewish Monthly, 3/95)

He was also allegedly involved in the 1998 international media coverage of a defecting "senior Pakistani weapons scientist" who claimed Pakistan was preparing for a nuclear first strike against India. The story later turned out to be a hoax. ("Steven Emerson's Crusade: Why is a journalist pushing questionable stories from behind the scenes?" http://www.fair.org/extra/9901/emerson.html)

Last year, Emerson was forced to retract accusations he made about a former journalism lecturer at California State University in Hayward, Ca. Along with the retraction; Emerson agreed to pay monetary damages. The Jerusalem Post said Emerson has "close ties to Israeli intelligence." (Sept. 17, 1994)

Emerson is involved in a lawsuit against a Florida newspaper, its senior editor, and a former investigative reporter for The Associated Press (AP). The complaint centered on allegations published by the newspaper that two AP reporters said Emerson gave them a document on terrorism supposedly from FBI files. The reporters said the document was actually authored by Emerson. The lawsuit also disputes allegations that Emerson gave false information to a Senate subcommittee during testimony in 1998.

Leslie Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) once called Emerson a "grand inquisitor" for trying to censor a CFR publication. (Forward, 5/10/96)

This is not the first time that the pro-Israel lobby has attempted to marginalize and exclude members of the American Muslim and Arab-American communities.

In the past, Muslim and Arab-American activists were attacked because of alleged "ties to the PLO." (Emerson was also part of that campaign.) Today we see that charge changed to "pro-terrorist." It is then used against any American Muslim who is politically active.

A few examples:

*In 1984 Walter Mondale returned campaign contributions from Arab- American leaders to avoid alienating pro-Israel voters. * In 1988, Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis openly rejected Arab-American leaders' endorsement for the same reason. 

*In 1999, House minority leader Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) was forced to withdraw his nomination of an American Muslim leader to the National Commission on Terrorism. Gephardt came under pressure from pro- Israel groups who claimed the Muslim leader is "anti-Israel" and an apologist for terrorist groups. 

*Pro-Israel groups also challenged the nomination of a Muslim woman to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. 

*This year, representatives of pro-Israel groups were the only non- governmental officials who testified before a congressional hearing in favor of the use of secret evidence in INS deportation hearings. American Muslims and civil libertarians believe secret evidence is unconstitutional and that it is used disproportionately against members of the Muslim and Arab-American communities. 

*Also this year, a radical pro-Israel group attacked an Arab-American lawyer at the State Department who stated that Israel had tortured hundreds of Palestinians. 

*As recently as this month, that same radical pro-Israel group attacked Vice President Gore's appointment of a prominent Arab-American activist as a campaign liaison on ethnic affairs. 

All of these incidents point to a game plan designed to prevent the American Muslim and Arab-American communities from taking their proper place in the political arena. 

It may be no coincidence that the most recent attacks came two days after the American Muslim Political Coordinating Council Political Action Committee announced its first-ever endorsement of a presidential candidate and just days before a national Muslim rally in Washington, D.C., to denounce Israeli brutality against Palestinian civilians and Islamic holy sites. 

But what of Emerson's charge that CAIR is a "supporter of terrorism?" 

First of all, CAIR does not support attacks on innocent people by any individual, group or state. I challenge Emerson to produce any evidence that we do. 

Second, CAIR's main focus is defending the American Muslim community against the very stereotypes Emerson promotes. If a woman is denied a job because she wishes to wear a religiously-mandated headscarf, CAIR is there for her. If a movie like "The Siege" stereotypes Muslims as terrorists, CAIR challenges that stereotype. 

Finally, anyone who cares to see what we actually do as an organization can visit our web site www.cair-net.org. How should American Muslims respond to Emerson's campaign of exclusion? We believe Muslims should avoid this attempt at distraction and redouble their efforts to make their voices heard in the political arena. 

We also ask that our elected representatives and candidates for public office put the interests of American citizens before those of a foreign government or its supporters. Steven Emerson and his colleagues should not be allowed to establish a pro-Israel "litmus test" for Muslim political participation in America.

Ibrahim Hooper is National Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group.
 
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