Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The illogic of the case against the Holy Land Foundation

The insidious and vicious little article that this responds to is the one signed (anonymously) by "darrell" found as a response to Jason Trahan's misguided "crime blog" posting at the Dallas Morning News at:

See also my posting on Mr. Trahan's blog of a few passages from “Complex Inequalities: The Case of Muslim Americans After 9/11.,” by Dr. Michelle D. Byng, Temple University, as background for what follows.
My comments on Jason Trahan’s writing and on the purloined piece by “Darrel T” (has he neither the honesty nor the courage to let us know who he is?). Darrel’s piece, by the way is from a website that exists for the sole purpose of smearing CAIR.

1. The use of the word “radical” to describe the Muslim Brotherhood is a “frame” (see passages from Dr. Byng's article) that has no merit. It is a “genetic fallacy” – a conclusion based on an argument that the origins of a person, idea, institute, or theory determine its character. There is much evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood is NOT a “radical” organization.

“Jihadists loathe the Muslim Brotherhood (known in Arabic as al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen) for rejecting global jihad and embracing democracy. These positions seem to make them moderates, the very thing the United States, short on allies in the Muslim world, seeks. But the Ikhwan also assails U.S. foreign policy, especially Washington's support for Israel…”

From “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood.” Leiken, Robert S. (Director, Immigration and National Security Programs, Nixon Center) and Brooke, Steven (Research Associate, Nixon Center) Foreign Affairs, Mar/Apr2007, Vol. 86 Issue 2, p107-121. (One could assume, I trust, that scholars from the Nixon center are neither un-American nor dangerous liberals.)

2. Saying that all of the Philadelphia participants are “Hamas members or sympathizers” is the logical fallacy of “Straw Man,” —oversimplifying an opponent’s viewpoint and then attacking the opponent for holding a view that she does not hold. Many people (even non-Muslim, non-Arab Americans; for example, the largely American Jewish “US Campaign to End the Occupation”) sympathize with many of the goals of Hamas—such as the end of the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territories. It is also physically impossible for an American citizen living in the United States to be a “member” of Hamas. Neither the writer of this purloined post nor the FBI defines what, exactly, they mean by “being a member of Hamas.”

3. Lara Burns’s testimony is her opinion and the opinion of the FBI. Most of what she says is the logical fallacy of “begging the claim” wherein the conclusion that needs proof is stated as the thesis of the argument. She interprets conversations that took place (at least partly) in a language that apparently none of the people who have drawn these conclusions understand. Lara Burns has never been to Palestine and does not speak Arabic, and her testimony under oath demonstrates that she has no understanding of the Palestinian-American community—or of the ways in which Americans support all manner of foreign causes (the hundreds of millions of dollars the Jewish community in the United States gives in support of the illegal “settlements” in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, for example; or the Lutheran World Federation support for its hospital in East Jerusalem; or the Episcopal Church support of its hospital in Gaza). Her testimony is, of course, intended to “prove a point” not to disclose TRUTH.

4. “There is a clear reason Omar Ahmad is listed as an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ in the Holy Land Foundation trial.” Once again—and this is much more egregious—Darrel's scurrilous piece uses the logical fallacy of “begging the claim.” Stating that the “reason” is the “assertion” is clearly not an argument. What is the “clear reason?” Is it that Mr. Ahmad has committed an act of terrorism—or urged anyone else to do so? Is it that Mr. Ahmad opposes US/Israeli policies regarding the occupation of Palestine? Is it that Mr. Ahmad has taken part in the political processes of the United States in order to advance the cause of Islam in America? What is it?

5. And here we have the most problematic logical fallacy in this entire piece, and perhaps the most insidious argument of the Holy Land Foundation trial—even though it has, as far as I know, never been stated precisely. It is the logical fallacy of “the slippery slope.” The writer of this article presents the following statement (presumably by Mr. Ahmad, but without attribution): “This can be achieved by infiltrating the American media outlets, universities and research centers ... if Muslims engage in political activism in America and started to be concerned with Congress and public relations we will have an entry point to use them to pressure Congress and the decision-makers in America.”

Note: John McCain has “infiltrated American media outlets, universities, and research centers.” It would difficult to find an organization that fits this description more closely than “Campus Watch,” a rabid right-wing pro-Israel group that harasses American professors who say anything in favor of the Palestinians. The Log Cabin Republicans “engage in political activism.” The AFL-CIO is “concerned with Congress and public relations.” The ADL and AIPAC exist for the very purpose of “pressur[ing] Congress and the decision-makers in America.” That’s how politics works in this country. For a Muslim organization to become aware that they must engage in the political process is a positive development for American democracy—the inclusion of a marginalized minority in "business as usual" in our country.

Finally, it is absurd to use as proof of some sort of conspiracy Shukri Abu-Baker’s 1993 statement that Hamas “is classified a terrorist (organization). By constitution, by law, if I wanted to adopt its work, they kick me out, they kick me out of this country...” Whatever Mr. Abu-Baker meant, it could not have been that they were doing anything illegal—because they were not! The designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization did not happen until 1995. It is true that many Americans “classified” Hamas as a terrorist organization (no one I know would argue the point). But supporting Hamas, even openly, was not illegal in this country in 1993. It would have been terribly, terribly unwise because of popular opinion against any Palestinian resistance to Israeli ethnic cleansing of the West Bank, BUT IT WAS NOT ILLEGAL. Ask Vanessa Redgrave, for example, how unwise support of the Palestinians was (is). She has been vilified for her support of the Palestinians. As far back as 1982, her performances with the Boston Symphony were cancelled because of pressure from the pro-Israeli community of Boston (she sued the BSO and won, by the way). Shukri Abu-Baker was simply stating the “facts on the ground.”

The proliferation of pseudo-intelligent and pseudo-logical diatribe, posing as discourse, in this country is terrifying. Darrel’s posting is designed (just as is Lara Burns’s testimony is) to prove preconceptions based in bigotry and xenophobia, not to enlighten or search for truth. Americans seem often to forget that the religion that most of us—probably including Darrel—espouse with our lips but not with our hearts tells us that, “You shall know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will make you free.”