AJC calls Muslims a ‘demographic threat,’ actively involved in Islamophobic activities
AMP calls on ISNA to sever ties with the faith-washing Muslim Jewish Advisory Council
In the days since election results gave the world Donald J. Trump and the rise of demagoguery, some Zionist organizations have moved in quickly to exploit the air of uncertainty and fear in the Muslim community by offering questionable solidarity and so-called interfaith support. After a campaign in which Trump promised to ban Muslims from entering the United States, deport millions of immigrants and to create a Muslim registry, the American Muslim community has watched, dismayed and shocked, as the president-elect continues to appoint and nominate individuals with a decidedly anti-Islam bias.
Zionist organizations, which have a history of silencing Muslims on the issue of Palestine as well as dividing our community in efforts to create a “political firewall around Israel,”1 also have engaged in Islamphobic activities. However, now they are all too ready to announce their solidarity with the Muslim community. The American Jewish Committee (AJC), which is known to be intricately involved in the dissemination of Islamophobic rhetoric and policies, announced in November the creation of the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council2, co-convened by the Islamic Society of North America. The council’s purpose, according to the AJC’s website is to, among other things, develop a coordinated strategy to address anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Semitism in the U.S.
The American Muslims for Palestine asserts the AJC is exploiting the current political climate in attempts to divide the Muslim community into “good, moderate Muslims who cooperate,” and so-called radicals. AMP warns Muslims against cooperating with organizations like the AJC, which has in the past asked the government to retry University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian, after he was acquitted of several charges3; supported President George W. Bush’s Muslim registry program in 20034; and helped create the David Project, a Zionist organization that promotes Israel on college campuses and which held annual “Islamo-fascism Awareness Week” in the mid-2000s.5
AJC Chairman David Harris, who sits on the newly formed council, wrote in 2002 that Arabs and Muslims in the United States were a “physical threat” to Jews; that the demographic growth of Muslim Americans posed a “long-term political threat;” and exhorted Jews to distinguish between ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ American Muslim.6 After 9/11, Harris commissioned a private census of American Muslims in attempts to discredit the estimated 6 million to 8 million Muslims living here. “‘Six million has a special resonance,’ Harris wrote in a May 21 article in Jerusalem Report magazine. ‘It would mean that Muslims outnumber Jews in the U.S. and it would buttress calls for a redefinition of America's heritage as 'Judeo-Christian- Muslim,' a stated goal of some Muslim leaders,’” the AP reported on Oct. 27, 2001.7
Harris wrote about the demographic count he commissioned from a University of Chicago professor in a blog post on Aug. 19, 2002: “Whatever the actual number, however, what is indisputable, given current immigration policy, is that the Muslim population in the U.S. is likely to grow quite rapidly in the coming years.”8 Just a few months later, on Jan. 9, 2003, the AJC issued a statement supporting then-President Bush’s "Registration of Certain Nonimmigrant Aliens from Designated Countries Program,"9 commonly referred to as the Muslim registry. In that same 2002 blog post, Harris lamented the fact ‘moderate’ Muslim have been “kept at bay” by “radical groups as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the American Muslim Council (AMC), and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).’10
The following is a brief list of AJC activities that hurt the Muslim community in the United States and proves the AJC engages in Islamophobia:
A. Supported the Patriot Act in 2001 and 2008 as well as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. 11
B. Supported the use of Secret Evidence and asked Congress to reject the Secret Evidence Repeal Act in 2000.12
C. Supported national standards for drivers licenses, commonly referred to as a national ID card.13
D. Supported a national surveillance program.14
E. Called on the U.S. government to retry Sami Al-Arian after he was acquitted of several charges.15
F. Helped create the David Project, along with the ADL and AIPAC,16 which tries to stifle Palestine solidarity work on college campuses and which for years held the annual “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.”17
G. Supported Congressman Peter King’s hearings into the “radicalization of American Muslims,” on Capitol Hill in 2011, an event many called “McCarthy-like.”18
H. Cast aspersions on the leaders of the Islamic Society of Boston in attempts to prevent the construction of a new mosque.19
I. Came to the aid of the David Project, named in a libel lawsuit filed by the Islamic Society of Boston. Said David Project Director Charles Jacob: “The national leadership of the AJC has condemned the Islamic Society of Boston's lawsuit. It is a lawsuit brought against citizens who in our view raised important, legitimate, and well-substantiated concerns about the past and present leaders of the ISB, and about the evidence that certain of those individuals have been supportive of extremism." 20
J. Awarded noted Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali the Moral Courage Award. “Ayaan Hirsi Ali has literally put her life on the line for her beliefs,” Harris said in a press release. “She is indefatigable in her efforts to wake us up to the dangers that threaten our value system, indeed our very way of life.”21
K. To date, the AJC has remained silent on the nomination of Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist, prompting former AJC employees to publish an open letter asking for a condemnation of a man with virulently racist, nationalistic and Islamophobic rhetoric. 22
In light of this evidence, Muslims who joined the council, especially those associated with ISNA, should be hesitant to battle Islamophobia by teaming up with an organization with a history of Islamophobic activities. The inclusion of three people – Rabia Chaudry, Tahera Ahmed and Suheil Khan -- who participated in the Zionist-funded Muslim Leadership Institute trips to Israel, is not surprising. After all, MLI is basically a gateway for promoting the Zionist agenda. But at the very least, ISNA, should have known better.
AMP has reached out several times to ISNA leadership over the years in attempts to persuade them to cut ties with Zionists; not just because of the Palestine issue, although that is central to our work, but because Zionism and its connection to Islamophobia hurts all Americans.
It’s true the AJC does have a record of defending civil rights. But it is clearly selective as to whose rights they’ll defend. As is evident from the numerous press releases on the AJC website and articles written by Director David Harris, the AJC is not comfortable with the growing Muslim and Arab population in the U.S. or our efforts to organize politically. AMP asks the Muslims involved with this council then, why is the AJC reaching out now? Who benefits and for what aim?
ISNA recently released a statement trying to distance its board of directors from the newly formed council. However, it is still fully engaged in the council through the participation of its interfaith director, Sayyid Sayed.
Furthermore, while it explained that the ISNA board of directors was not apprised of the formation of the advisory council, it nonetheless reiterated its support for the council in a clarification statement released on Nov. 18, 2016. ISNA tries to deflect its responsibility in this faith-washing effort by pointing to the more than 30 Muslim and Jewish participants. This ignores the fact ISNA was named as a co-convener, sending a confusing message to the larger Muslim community during an already confusing and unsettling time. ISNA also stated that despite its support of the AJC-ISNA advisory council, its concern for the “domestic and international causes of concern to Muslims will remain strong.”
This assurance rings hollow given that ISNA can disregard so easily the AJC’s active role in Islamophobia in the United States. AMP once again calls on ISNA leadership to take the high road and set a strong example for Muslims across the country. Now is the time to stand strongly and without fear. It is time to form intersectional and interfaith relationships with Jews, the Black and Indigenous communities as well communities of color and other impacted groups who stand for justice and human rights for all people.
Furthermore, before ISNA even considers engaging with the AJC on any issue, but particularly with the new advisory council, it must call upon the AJC to renounce its previous anti-Muslim positions, actions and biases, including but not limited to those listed above. It must ensure the AJC will move forward in the spirit of protecting civil rights for all, including all Muslims; not just those whom the AJC deems ‘acceptable.’ Finally, ISNA must call on the AJC to support Palestinian rights and call upon Israel to end the occupation.
“The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall,” Reut Institute, Feb. 14, 2010.
2. “AJC and ISNA launch Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council,” AJC press release, Nov. 14, 2016 http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=7oJILSPwFfJSG&b=8479…
3. AJC urges government to pursue actions on Sami Al-Arian, AJC website
4. “AJC urges President to fairly implement immigrant registration program,” AJC press release, Jan. 8, 2003. http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=7oJILSPwFfJSG&b=8479…
5. Laughing at “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” by Ali Eteraz, The Huffington Post, May 25, 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-eteraz/laughing-at-islamofascism_b_67…
6. “Letter from the Home Front,” by David Harris, AJC, Aug. 19, 2002. http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ijITI2PHKoG&b=838459…
7. “Jewish group says estimates of Muslim population in U.S. overstated by millions,” by Rachel Zoll, Associated Press, Oct. 27, 2001. http://cjonline.com/stories/102701/rel_muslimpop.shtml#.WD8SfPkrLIU
8. “Letter from the Home Front,” Ibid.
9. “AJC urges President to fairly implement immigrant registration program,” Ibid.
10. “Letter from the Home Front,” 2002. Ibid
11. “National Security,” AJC.org
12. “AJC president calls on Congress to reject secret evidence repeal act,” AJC press release, Feb. 10, 2000.
13. “National Security,” Ibid.
14. AJC statement on Homeland Security, AJC.org
15. AJC urges government to pursue action on Sami Al-Arian, AJC press release, Ibid.
16. “The Great Islamphobic Crusade,” by Max Blumenthal, TomDispatch Dec. 19, 2010.
17. Laughing at “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week,” Ibid.
18. “Why the King hearing on terrorism are necessary,” by Yehudit Barksy, the Jewish Week, Feb. 11, 2011. http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial_opinion/opinion/why_king_hearing… ecessaryy.
19. "The David Project welcomes the American Jewish Committee," PRNewsire, March 15, No Year Given. http://www.wvva.com/story/6233117/david-project-welcomes-american-jewis…;
20. “David Project Welcomes American Jewish Committee,” Ibid.
21. “Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive AJC Moral Courage Award,” AJC press release, April 10, 2006.
22. “To the AJC's David Harris: Show Jewish Leadership. Speak Out Against Bannon and Sessions,” by Eliana Lauter and Jacob Levkowicz, Haaretz, Nov. 21, 2016.