Saturday, September 09, 2006

David Selbourne: Can the West defeat the Islamist threat?

The Times of London
September 09, 2006
Can the West defeat the Islamist threat? Here are ten reasons why not

LET US SUPPOSE, for the sake of argument, that the war declared by al-Qaeda and other Islamists is under way. Let us further suppose that thousands of “terrorist” attacks carried out in Islam’s name during the past decades form part of this war; and that conflicts that have spread to 50 countries and more, taking the lives of millions — including in inter-Muslim blood-shedding — are the outcome of what Osama bin Laden has called “conducting jihad for the sake of Allah”.

If such war is under way, there are ten good reasons why, as things stand, Islam will not be defeated in it.

1) The first is the extent of political division in the non-Muslim world about what is afoot. Some reject outright that there is a war at all; others agree with the assertion by the US President that “the war we fight is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century”. Divided counsels have also dictated everything from “dialogue” to the use of nuclear weapons, and from reliance on “public diplomacy” to “taking out Islamic sites”, Mecca included. Adding to this incoherence has been the gulf between those bristling to take the fight to the “terrorist” and those who would impede such a fight, whether from domestic civil libertarian concerns or from rivalrous geopolitical calculation.

2) The second reason why, as things stand, Islam will not be defeated is that the strengths of the world community of Muslims are being underestimated, and the nature of Islam misunderstood. It is neither a “religion of peace” nor a “religion hijacked” or “perverted” by “the few”. Instead, its moral intransigence and revived ardours, its jihadist ethic and the refusal of most diaspora Muslims to “share a common set of values” with non-Muslims are all one, and justified by the Koran itself.

Islam is not even a religion in the conventional sense of the term. It is a transnational political and ethical movement that believes that it holds the solution to mankind’s problems. It therefore holds that it is in mankind’s own interests to be subdued under Islam’s rule. Such belief therefore makes an absurdity of the project to “democratise” Muslim nations in the West’s interests, an inversion that Islam cannot accept and, in its own terms, rightly so. It renders naive, too, the distinction between the military and political wings of Islamic movements; and makes Donald Rumsfeld’s assertion in June 2005 that the insurgents in Iraq “don’t have vision, they’re losers” merely foolish. In this war, if there is a war, the boot is on the other foot.

3) Indeed, the third reason why Islam will not be defeated, as things stand, is the low level of Western leadership, in particular in the United States. During the half-century of the Islamic revival, it has shown itself at sixes and sevens both diplomatically and militarily. It has been without a sense of strategic direction, and been unable to settle upon coherent war plans. It has even lacked the gifts of language to make its purposes plain. Or, as Burke put it in March, 1775, “a great empire and little minds go ill together”. In this war with Islam, if it is a war, the combination bodes defeat.

4) Next is the contribution to the disarray of Western policy-making being made by the egotistical competitiveness, and in some cases hysterics, of “experts” and commentators on Islam. They include hyperventilating Islamophobes as well as academic apologists for the worst that is being done in Islam’s name. On this battleground, with its personalised blogsites to assist self-promotion, many seem to think that their opinions are more important than the issues upon which they are passing judgment; and amid the babel of advisory voices, policy has become increasingly inconsistent.

5) The fifth disablement is to be found in the confusion of “progressives” about the Islamic advance. With their political and moral bearings lost since the defeat of the “socialist project”, many on the Left have only the fag-end of anti-colonial positions on which to take their stand. To attribute the West’s problems to our colonial past contains some truth. But it is again to misunderstand the inner strength of Islam’s revival, which is owed not to victimhood but to advancing confidence in its own belief system.

Moreover, to Islam’s further advantage, it has led most of today’s “progressives” to say little, or even to keep silent, about what would once have been regarded as the reactionary aspects of Islam: its oppressive hostility to dissent, its maltreatment of women, its supremacist hatred of selected out-groups such as Jews and gays, and its readiness to incite and to use extremes of violence against them. Mein Kampf circulates in Arab countries under the title Jihadi.

6) The sixth reason for Islam’s growing strength is the vicarious satisfaction felt by many non-Muslims at America’s reverses. Those who feel such satisfaction could be regarded as Trojan horses, a cavalry whose number is legion and which is growing. For some, their principle — or anti-principle — is that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. Others believe their refusal of support for the war with Islam, if there is such a war, is a righteous one. But the consequences are the same: Islam’s advance is being borne along by Muslims and non-Muslims together.

7) The seventh reason lies in the moral poverty of the West’s, and especially America’s, own value system. Doctrines of market freedom, free choice and competition — or “freedom ’n’ liberty” — are no match for the ethics of Islam and Sharia, like them or not. Yet in the “battle for hearts and minds” the US First Cavalry Division saw fit to set up “Operation Adam Smith” in Iraq to teach marketing skills, among other things, to local entrepreneurs. There can be no victory here. Or, as Sheikh Mohammed al-Tabatabi told thousands of worshippers in Baghdad in May 2003: “The West calls for freedom and liberty. Islam rejects such liberty. True liberty is obedience to Allah.”

8) The next indication that Islam’s advance will continue lies in the skilful use being made of the media and of the world wide web in the service both of the “electronic jihad” and the bamboozling of Western opinion by Muslim spokesmen. It is also a political enterprise in which Muslims and non-Muslims can now be found acting together in furthering the reach of Islam’s world view; the help being given by Western producers and broadcasters to al-Jazeera is the most notable instance of it.

9) The ninth factor guaranteeing Islam’s onward march is the West’s dependency on the material resources of Arab and Muslim countries. In April 1917, Woodrow Wilson, recommending to the US Congress an American declaration of war against Germany, could say that “we have no selfish ends to serve”. American levels of consumption make no such statement possible now. The US is, so to speak, over a barrel. It will remain so.

10) Finally, the West is convinced that its notions of technology-driven modernity and market-driven progress are innately superior to the ideals of “backward” Islam. This is an old delusion. In 1899, Winston Churchill asserted that there was “no stronger retrograde force in the world” than Islam. More than a century later, it is fondly believed that sophisticated hardware and Star Wars defences will ensure Western mastery in this war, if it is a war.

But as the Saudi “scholar” Suleiman al-Omar declared in June 2004: “Islam is advancing according to a steady plan. America will be destroyed.” As things stand, given the ten factors set out here, he is more likely to be proved right than wrong.

David Selbourne is the author of The Losing Battle with Islam, which was published in the United States in November last year

Peggy Noonan: The Sounds of 9/11

I Just Called to Say I Love You

The sounds of 9/11, beyond the metallic roar.

The Wall Street Journal
Friday, September 8, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

Everyone remembers the pictures, but I think more and more about the sounds. I always ask people what they heard that day in New York. We've all seen the film and videotape, but the sound equipment of television crews didn't always catch what people have described as the deep metallic roar.

The other night on TV there was a documentary on the Ironworkers of New York's Local 40, whose members ran to the site when the towers fell. They pitched in on rescue, then stayed for eight months to deconstruct a skyscraper some of them had helped build 35 years before. An ironworker named Jim Gaffney said, "My partner kept telling me the buildings are coming down and I'm saying 'no way.' Then we heard that noise that I will never forget. It was like a creaking and then the next thing you felt the ground rumbling."

Rudy Giuliani said it was like an earthquake. The actor Jim Caviezel saw the second plane hit the towers on television and what he heard shook him: "A weird, guttural discordant sound," he called it, a sound exactly like lightning. He knew because earlier that year he'd been hit. My son, then a teenager in a high school across the river from the towers, heard the first plane go in at 8:45 a.m. It sounded, he said, like a heavy truck going hard over a big street grate.


I think too about the sounds that came from within the buildings and within the planes--the phone calls and messages left on answering machines, all the last things said to whoever was home and picked up the phone. They awe me, those messages.

Something terrible had happened. Life was reduced to its essentials. Time was short. People said what counted, what mattered. It has been noted that there is no record of anyone calling to say, "I never liked you," or, "You hurt my feelings." No one negotiated past grievances or said, "Vote for Smith." Amazingly --or not--there is no record of anyone damning the terrorists or saying "I hate them."

No one said anything unneeded, extraneous or small. Crisis is a great editor. When you read the transcripts that have been released over the years it's all so clear.

Flight 93 flight attendant Ceecee Lyles, 33 years old, in an answering-machine message to her husband: "Please tell my children that I love them very much. I'm sorry, baby. I wish I could see your face again."

Thirty-one-year-old Melissa Harrington, a California-based trade consultant at a meeting in the towers, called her father to say she loved him. Minutes later she left a message on the answering machine as her new husband slept in their San Francisco home. "Sean, it's me, she said. "I just wanted to let you know I love you."

Capt. Walter Hynes of the New York Fire Department's Ladder 13 dialed home that morning as his rig left the firehouse at 85th Street and Lexington Avenue. He was on his way downtown, he said in his message, and things were bad. "I don't know if we'll make it out. I want to tell you that I love you and I love the kids."

Firemen don't become firemen because they're pessimists. Imagine being a guy who feels in his gut he's going to his death, and he calls on the way to say goodbye and make things clear. His widow later told the Associated Press she'd played his message hundreds of times and made copies for their kids. "He was thinking about us in those final moments."

Elizabeth Rivas saw it that way too. When her husband left for the World Trade Center that morning, she went to a laundromat, where she heard the news. She couldn't reach him by cell and rushed home. He'd called at 9:02 and reached her daughter. The child reported, "He say, mommy, he say he love you no matter what happens, he loves you." He never called again. Mrs. Rivas later said, "He tried to call me. He called me."

There was the amazing acceptance. I spoke this week with a medical doctor who told me she'd seen many people die, and many "with grace and acceptance." The people on the planes didn't have time to accept, to reflect, to think through; and yet so many showed the kind of grace you see in a hospice.

Peter Hanson, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 175 called his father. "I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building," he said. "Don't worry, Dad--if it happens, it will be very fast." On the same flight, Brian Sweeney called his wife, got the answering machine, and told her they'd been hijacked. "Hopefully I'll talk to you again, but if not, have a good life. I know I'll see you again some day."

There was Tom Burnett's famous call from United Flight 93. "We're all going to die, but three of us are going to do something," he told his wife, Deena. "I love you, honey."

These were people saying, essentially, In spite of my imminent death, my thoughts are on you, and on love. I asked a psychiatrist the other day for his thoughts, and he said the people on the planes and in the towers were "accepting the inevitable" and taking care of "unfinished business." "At death's door people pass on a responsibility--'Tell Billy I never stopped loving him and forgave him long ago.' 'Take care of Mom.' 'Pray for me, Father. Pray for me, I haven't been very good.' " They address what needs doing.

This reminded me of that moment when Todd Beamer of United 93 wound up praying on the phone with a woman he'd never met before, a Verizon Airfone supervisor named Lisa Jefferson. She said later that his tone was calm. It seemed as if they were "old friends," she later wrote. They said the Lord's Prayer together. Then he said "Let's roll."


This is what I get from the last messages. People are often stronger than they know, bigger, more gallant than they'd guess. And this: We're all lucky to be here today and able to say what deserves saying, and if you say it a lot, it won't make it common and so unheard, but known and absorbed.

I think the sound of the last messages, of what was said, will live as long in human history, and contain within it as much of human history, as any old metallic roar.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father," (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hometown Jihad: Our Newest Citizen?

By Patrick Poole
September 8, 2006

Da'wah [conversion] work can never succeed unless Muslims embed themselves within the very marrow of American society.
-Salah Sultan, Muslim American Society New York Conference, April 2004

Earlier this year in two separate articles for FrontPage Magazine, Hometown Jihad and Hometown Jihad: Blowback, I chronicled my discovery upon returning to my hometown of Hilliard, Ohio after a decade absence that an Islamic cleric, Dr. Salah Sultan, who is directly linked to the international Islamic terror network and is a protégé of HAMAS spiritual leader Sheikh Yousef Qaradawi, had not only moved into town since my departure, but was operating openly out of the local Islamic school that had taken possession of the city’s former library building.

When I last revisited the topic of my new neighbor, Sultan was just coming off his May 17th performance on Al-Risala TV (Saudi Arabia), where he blamed the 9/11 attacks on the US government, who he claimed coordinated the attacks so that the US could “terrorize the world” by launching the war on terror. Fortunately, MEMRI recorded his comments [video clip] and has provided a complete translation of Sultan’s Al-Risala interview:

I share the view of many Americans, French, and Europeans, who say that 9/11 could not have been carried out entirely from outside [the U.S.] - by Muslims or others. The confessions by some people could have been edited. But even if they were not edited, I believe that these people were used in a marginal role. The entire thing was of a large scale and was planned within the U.S., in order to enable the U.S. to control and terrorize the entire world, and to get American society to agree to the war declared on terrorism - the definition of which has not yet been determined.

In his interview, Sultan likened the alleged US-directed 9/11 plot to the movie, The Siege, where the US government uses a series of terrorist incidents to impose martial law in New York City, and he had previously authored an article, “The Movie ‘Siege’: Between Reality and Forging”, making this same argument. In his Al-Risala appearance, Sultan also praised the Yemeni al-Qaeda cleric, Abd Al-Majid Al-Zindani, who has been listed by the US government as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” and is prohibited from entering the country. A 2003 report by Josh Devon characterizes Zindani, who is a long-time associate of Osama bin Laden, as the “Yemeni Sheikh of Hate”.

In a stunning new development, I can report that Salah Sultan is just weeks away from obtaining his US citizenship. According to my sources, which are close to Sultan, he submitted all of the requisite paperwork and fingerprints this summer, and the approval of his citizenship application is imminent. Sultan current immigration status is currently listed on his resume as US Permanent Resident.

Immediately upon hearing this news, I contacted the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to check on the status of Sultan’s citizenship application, but was told by an official that they were prohibited from providing any information related to individual applications for privacy reasons.

My next phone call was to the local congressional office of Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH15), who serves as both the House Majority Deputy Whip (the fourth-highest ranking member in Congress) and the Chairman of the House Republican Conference. Not surprisingly, Representative Pryce’s staff had never heard of Salah Sultan, so they requested that I send them some background information before they made any inquiries.

Among the information I provided to Rep. Pryce’s office was detailed information about Salah Sultan’s close connections with Sheikh Qaradawi, who was listed by the US Government as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 1999. But in 1999, when Salah Sultan was founding the Islamic American University based in the Detroit area, Sultan not only appointed Qaradawi to the faculty, but also as a trustee and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the institution – despite the fact that he was banned from entering the US! Qaradawi served in the leadership of the university until Sultan’s departure in 2004.

An August 2005 report on Qaradawi by the Anti-Defamation League, Theologian of Terror, describes his activities and views, including his fatwas justifying HAMAS suicide bombings and authorizing the murder of American civilians in Iraq, who were identified as “invaders”. Sultan is one of the few Qaradawi associates identified by name in the ADL report.

Salah Sultan, however, is not just an associate and friend of Qaradawi’s, who he calls “our great scholar”. In fact, Qaradawi has integrated his protégé throughout his entire radical Islamic empire:

* Sultan issues “live fatwas” on Qaradawi’s website, the second most visited Islamic website in the world. Included among the fatwas Sultan has issued is one that declared that Palestinians were forbidden to sell their property to Jews; another that said that women are not allowed to go to the store without the husband's permission (4th fatwa); and a ruling telling an American woman who married a Muslim man who later got married to a second wife that if she objects to the second marriage and wants to keep her marriage she better get pregnant soon (3rd fatwa). This past June he was advising one inquirer whether to get married or join jihad. Sultan’s advice? Consider both. (HT: Solomonia and Miss Kelly)

* Sultan serves as one of 33 members of Qaradawi’s European Council for Fatwa and Research. This organization, chaired by Qaradawi, has as its goal the establishment of sharia as the operating legal system in Europe and asserts itself as the ruling government of Muslim’s living in predominately non-Muslim areas. Among the more famous of its fatwas was issued in 2003 during an annual conference organized by the council in Stockholm, Sweden, which declared that jihadist killings and suicide bombings were not to be identified as “terrorism”.

* Sultan’s biography at also lists him as a member of the International Association of Muslim Scholars, where Qaradawi serves as President, which in its 2004 meeting in Beirut backed the Iraqi Resistance, calling them “noble resistance fighters”. IAMS also declared it a duty for all able-bodied Muslims to resist American troops inside and outside the country, and prohibited any assistance whatsoever to the “American occupiers”.

But it is not just Sultan’s association with Qaradawi that is troubling. He had been in the country less than a year before he was making news. In 1999, Sultan spoke at a fundraiser for the Islamic Association for Palestine, which was closed down by the US government after 9/11 as the primary front group in the US for HAMAS, where he made a string of rabidly anti-Semitic statements (recorded in Rita Katz’s 2003 book, Terrorist Hunter):

What does "the Cause" mean to you? And what does it mean to your children?... How much do they know about these tragedies? Did we mention to them that the Children of Zion over there cut open the wombs of mothers. As Khalid M. Khalid mentioned in 1992 when he visited Shamir and saw on his desk a strange ashtray. He asked him, "What strange ashtray is this?" Shamir told him that this was the skull of an embryo. The skull of an embryo? An Israeli soldier opened the womb of a Palestinian mother, took out the embryo, cut off his head, and gave it to him as a present. He gave it to him as a present! This is the method of the Jews. Killing a Muslim or any other non-Jew does not matter to them. Because their motto is, "The gentiles mean nothing to us." This is what the text of the Talmud says: "If you come across a non-Jew kill him!"

Sultan has been listed for years as an associated scholar of the Muslim World League – the primary institution funded by the Saudi royal family for propagating the extremist Wahhabi faith worldwide. The Muslim World League runs several subsidiaries, including the World Assembly for Muslim Youth (WAMY), founded in the US by Osama bin Laden’s nephew, Abdullah, and the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), headed by bin Laden’s brother-in-law, which US officials asked the Saudis to close in September 2003 due to its financing of HAMAS and six terrorist training camps in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. The Saudis have yet to comply.

During 2000-2004, Sultan was on the Board of Trustees for the Muslim American Society, which a September 2004 exposé by the Chicago Tribune revealed as the primary front organization for the international Muslim Brotherhood in America. Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa A. Lappen recently provided for FrontPage readers extensive documentation on the Muslim Brotherhood’s long history and deep connections to Islamic terrorism.

Just how extremist Sultan’s views are was indicated by the open debate he conducted in 2005 with Tariq Ramadan, perhaps the most prominent and outspoken Islamic leaders in Europe, who had called for a temporary moratorium of shari’a law throughout the entire Muslim world. Ramadan argued that “these penalties are applied almost exclusively to women and the poor, the doubly victimized, never to the wealthy, the powerful, or the oppressors,” so the corporal punishments, including stoning, beheadings and amputations, should be suspended until Islamic countries can raise their standards of civil justice.

But among the most outspoken opponents of Ramadan’s proposal was Salah Sultan, who immediately weighed into the debate saying that “such an issue may give a chance to secularists and anti-Islamists to move to attack Islam itself”, and recommending that Ramadan should “consult trustworthy Muslim scholars in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other Muslim countries where Islamic legal penalties are still being applied”.

Sultan’s defenders (which includes our local newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch) will contend that he is not a supporter of terrorism as he signed the 2005 Fiqh Council of North America’s fatwa against terrorism (published by the Council on American-Islamic Relations), but as counterterrorism expert, Steve Emerson, noted regarding the document,

In fact, the fatwa is bogus. Nowhere does it condemn the Islamic extremism ideology that has spawned Islamic terrorism. It does not renounce nor even acknowledge the existence of an Islamic jihadist culture that has permeated mosques and young Muslims around the world. It does not renounce Jihad let alone admit that it has been used to justify Islamic terrorist acts. It does not condemn by name any Islamic group or leader. In short, it is a fake fatwa designed merely to deceive the American public into believing that these groups are moderate. In fact, officials of both organizations have been directly linked to and associated with Islamic terrorist groups and Islamic extremist organizations. One of them is an unindicted co-conspirator in a current terrorist case; another previous member was a financier to Al-Qaeda.

One could also wonder why it took them almost four years after 9/11 to condemn terrorism. Nonetheless, here we have yet again another example of Sultan’s active participation in an organization (he is one of the 18 members of the Fiqh Council of North America) with known associations to terror sympathizers, apologists and financiers.

That notwithstanding, Sultan is due to become a US citizen. According to my sources, this is set to occur within the next few weeks. I am also told that as soon as his citizenship is approved, he will be moving with most of his family back to the Middle East to take a new position (I’m told his new job will be in Bahrain, but Sultan is out of country preparing for his move, prohibiting confirmation of his destination at this point; I also hope to learn whether he will be working in a position amongst Qaradawi’s extensive network of businesses and organizations in Bahrain). Thus, as a US citizen with a US passport, Sultan will be able to come in and out of the country freely.

As I stated earlier, I provided this information about Sultan to Rep. Deborah Pryce’s staff. I was told that her office had subsequently contacted both the State Department and the FBI – neither of which is responsible for the USCIS, part of the Department of Homeland Security. I asked for an official statement from her office on this matter, but received no response. It might be that his citizenship application has progressed so far that its approval might be inevitable.

Since April, this story has progressed from a local interest story limited to my hometown of Hilliard, Ohio to one that raises serious questions about national policy. With Salah Sultan’s extensive connections to the international Islamic terror networks in view (which I uncovered with nothing more than an Internet connection), what exactly does one have to do and how many ties to terrorism does one need for our federal immigration officials to reject a citizenship application? Five years after 9/11, have we learned anything at all?

Another obvious question stands out from this episode: why would Salah Sultan be so willingly to become citizen of a country that he believes was behind the cruel murder of almost 3,000 of its citizens on 9/11 to justify further acts of conquest and terrorism in the Middle East?

As I was pondering that question, I recalled a warning delivered by a Muslim leader to Archbishop Giuseppe Germano Bernardini, the leader of the Roman Catholic community in Izmir, Turkey, who was told,

Thanks to your democratic laws we will invade you; thanks to our religious laws we will dominate you.

Then I remembered Sultan’s comments to the 2004 MAS convention that I opened this article with:

Da'wah [conversion] work can never succeed unless Muslims embed themselves within the very marrow of American society.

In the next few weeks, the US government might help Salah Sultan complete a crucial step towards his ultimate stated goal. If that’s the case, we have no one but ourselves to blame.
(My thanks to Ciaospirit for the assistance in researching this article.)

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Patrick Poole is an author and public policy researcher. He also maintains a blog, "Existential Space," where he writes on a number of cultural, political and religious issues.

Film Review: Borat

Equal-Opportunity Offender Plays Anti-Semitism for Laughs

The New York Times
September 7, 2006

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 6 — Fall is traditionally when Hollywood turns to more serious films, and the Toronto International Film Festival is where they are frequently shown. But a new movie that seems certain to raise hackles and induce squirming is a raucous comedy that makes its points by seeming to embrace sexism, racism, homophobia and that most risky of social toxins: anti-Semitism.

Screening at midnight on Thursday in Toronto, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” stars the chameleonlike comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as he impersonates a Kazakh reporter touring the United States, bringing his version of Kazakh culture to real-life Americans.

In one scene Borat insists on driving to California rather than flying, “in case the Jews repeat their attack of 9/11.” As he tours the South, he becomes terrified when he learns that an elderly couple who run an inn are Jewish. When cockroaches crawl under the door of his room, he becomes convinced the innkeepers have transformed themselves into bugs, and throws money at them.

In another scene Borat returns to his home village and participates in an annual ritual, “The Running of the Jews,” complete with giant Jew puppets that the villagers beat with clubs.
This anti-anti-Semitic humor is mixed in with other outrageous behavior, including slurs against Gypsies and gays, and a nude wrestling match. But in a world in which resurgent anti-Semitism has become — sometimes literally — an explosive topic, the movie may well hit a particular nerve, especially in Europe.

The British-born Mr. Baron Cohen, who calls himself an observant Jew, has performed this same high-wire comedy act for his HBO series, “Da Ali G Show,” in which he plays three characters, including Borat, each hilariously offensive in its own right.

The title character of the show, Ali G, is a vaguely Muslim British idiot with a hip-hop persona, who was the subject of a rather tame, and unsuccessful, film in 2002, “Ali G Indahouse,” released straight to video in the United States.

With “Borat,” Mr. Baron Cohen — who shares screenplay credit with several others — decided to head straight for the most sensitive areas of politically incorrect global culture, and for the first time will be doing so for a mass audience, far beyond the sophisticated niche of HBO. The film is to be released by 20th Century Fox on Nov. 3 on more than 2,000 screens nationwide.
(Borat is not explicitly Muslim, but Kazakhstan has a large Sunni Muslim population along with a sizable contingent of Orthodox Christians.)

Mr. Baron Cohen, who is appearing in Toronto as Borat, declined to be interviewed for this article and will be conducting interviews ahead of the film only in character.

20th Century Fox also declined to comment for this article or otherwise participate. Executives at the studio said that they were concerned about overemphasizing the political aspects of the humor, or otherwise labeling the movie, which they said they hoped would have broad appeal to a young audience.

The film is experimental and highly unusual for Hollywood, in some ways reminiscent of the guerrilla humor of Andy Kaufman, who baited members of the unsuspecting public with his characters, or the buffoonery of Charlie Chaplin as a Hitler-esque tyrant in “The Great Dictator” in 1940.

Film historians said that Hollywood was usually reluctant to take on controversy in general and had particularly avoided treating anti-Semitism in the past.

“Hollywood has a history of avoiding controversial topics, and notably did so at the end of the 1930’s, with the rise of Nazism and anti-Semitism,” said Jonathan Kuntz, who teaches American film history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Studios “were afraid of offending audiences, and of limiting their popularity in the European market,” he added. “And because so many moguls were Jewish, they were afraid this would be used to attack Hollywood as anti-Nazi.”

Today too Hollywood is often reluctant openly to discuss anti-Semitism, as was evidenced by the careful debate over Mel Gibson’s 2004 blockbuster, “The Passion of the Christ.” Only when Mr. Gibson was heard making anti-Jewish slurs this summer during a drunken-driving arrest did a few Hollywood veterans speak out against him.

“Borat” was to some extent made outside the Hollywood system. Fox kept the film off its production list and created a separate company, One America, to be the nominal producer. Mr. Baron Cohen also ran into creative differences with his first director, Todd Phillips, who left the production last year, while the film shut down for five months. The veteran comedy director Larry Charles eventually completed the film.

A spokesman for Mr. Baron Cohen said that Mr. Phillips’s departure was “a mutual decision.”
During the shoot Fox ignored numerous protests from the Kazakh Embassy in Washington, whose officials were concerned about the depiction of their country as prejudiced.

Early indications are that the film will be a hit. It rocked audiences with laughter at the Cannes Film Festival, where Mr. Baron Cohen was photographed on the beach wearing a neon-green kind of thong, and won an audience award at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan this summer.

Still, “I can almost guarantee you that not everyone will get the joke,” said Richard B. Jewell, a professor of film history at the University of Southern California. But he added: “In my opinion it’s a very healthy thing. Some of best films that have been made in the last 50 years have been black comedies.” He cited “Dr. Strangelove,” which poked fun at nuclear holocaust.

“What can be more serious?” he asked. “It makes people think about these things in ways they don’t when there are more straightforward, serious, sober films.”

Coltrane 101: Echoes of a Giant

Critic’s Notebook

The New York Times
Published: September 8, 2006

JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER’S more ambitious concerts, while playing to an audience impressed by flash and smoothness, never completely lose their pedantic side; they’re always functioning in part as lessons. But sometimes that doesn’t sound so appealing. The cost of living is rising faster than salaries, and now even pleasure is work? And whose jazz history is this, anyway? Doesn’t jazz activate a loose, adaptable kind of intelligence that teaches you to be suspicious of someone else’s agenda?

I guess the pedagogical aspect can be a drag if you don’t feel close to what’s being played, or if the momentum of the performance falls off. On the other hand, that teaching mission is always a great strength of Jazz at Lincoln Center. It reminds you, in an increasingly sponsored-up arts environment, that there are goals beyond corporate branding.

So let’s approach Jazz at Lincoln Center’s opening concerts of the new season, a series of shows based on the music of John Coltrane on the 80th anniversary of his birth, as beginner classes. If you buy a ticket, you’re likely to learn something no matter what. You’ll learn much more if you do a little preparation. Jazz at Lincoln Center has provided us with a working list of the music to be played; think of this article an annotated homework assignment, to be supplemented if possible with some extra-credit listening on your own. Don’t be alarmed. You have a week to prepare.

The Legacy

Next week, Thursday through Saturday at the Rose Theater, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will present “Coltrane,” a program of his pieces originally recorded between 1957 and 1963. Some will be expanded for big band; in the concerts’ second half some pieces will be played by smaller breakout units within the orchestra.

Meanwhile, at the Allen Room in the Jazz at Lincoln Center complex, Kevin Mahogany will be singing nightclub sets with a backing quartet, drawing from the album “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman.” And in the following months various other nightclubs and concert producers will be putting on worthwhile concerts built around Coltrane.

The repertory for the Lincoln Center shows has doubtless been chosen to break down Coltrane into his various strengths: his kind of blues, his kind of modal jazz, his ballad styles and his superstudious paradigmatic pieces, stuffed with quickly moving chords. This encapsulates the official Coltrane, the period that brooks few arguments about its merits.

As far as Coltrane’s later work — mid-1965 to 1967 (when he died) — that music is alive from within and mysterious from without, and perhaps it’s better celebrated by other musicians anyway. (The accompanying list of highlights includes other concerts, including one by his widow, Alice Coltrane, that might do the job.) But let’s not get hung up on this issue. The works to be played next week are suggestive pieces that have meant a lot to the last few generations of jazz musicians, and there is much to make of them.

The Early Works

Born in 1926, Coltrane grew up in Hamlet and High Point, N.C., moving to Philadelphia after high school; the top of the second-tier jazz towns in the Northeast, it was his home base as he worked through roadhouses across the country, apprenticing with bandleaders like Eddie (Cleanhead) Vinson, Johnny Hodges and Dizzy Gillespie.

When Coltrane made the album “Blue Train” in 1957, for Blue Note, he was 30 and had only one album out under his own name. By that year Sonny Rollins, the saxophonist perceived as his rival, had already made a dozen, and he was four years younger. “Blue Train” was the newly pulled-together Coltrane, after an entanglement with drugs and drinking, and a long period in music spent learning, faltering and near-missing.

“Moment’s Notice,” a piece from “Blue Train” on the Rose Theater program, is an unusual and quickly moving set of chord changes, and soloing through it can challenge improvisers. Double that for “Giant Steps,” which has also made it into the Rose Theater set list.

In “Giant Steps” the chord changes arrive even faster: once every other beat. Coltrane worked obsessively on “Giant Steps” and the whole harmonic theory behind it. But he had his doubts about it, finding it too mechanical, and seldom performed it thereafter. The tune has accrued weight over time as a finger-buster, an étude to prove one’s facility with harmony.

A clip that appeared on YouTube last month shows the song apparently being played by a robot, blowing air through the tenor saxophone, with machine hands fingering the keys. The robot, if it is a robot, sounds pretty good playing it.

At a certain point, about 1961, Coltrane’s name became shorthand for the idea of cultural rarefaction. You might remember Coltrane references in movies like Woody Allen’s “Alice” or Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues,” or from books like Ken Kesey’s “Sometimes a Great Notion”: they propose Coltrane as a kind of sacred mystery, an unparsable source of enlightenment. But he was a down-home character too, and the raw country sound was always with him.

That’s the unique and spooky thing about Coltrane: his stolidity, and his deep countryness. In photographs, distinct from the hard-shell hipster urbanites around him, his eyes register the same note of guileless concentration that you see in Walker Evans’s pictures of farm families from the 30’s.

The Bluesman

The lovely title track from “Blue Train” was just the beginning of a family of original blues pieces. The album “Coltrane Plays the Blues,” recorded a little more than three years later, has proven weirdly resistant to age. Lesser known within the Atlantic Records period that produced the albums “Giant Steps” and “My Favorite Things,” it is beautiful for its new-old kind of blues, a more droning, largely major-key, easy-tempo, antique-sounding kind than the ambitious bebop blues tunes circulating through jazz of the 1950’s. (“Mr. Knight,” from “Coltrane Plays the Blues,” is scheduled to be part of the Rose Theater concerts.)

“Coltrane Plays the Blues” doesn’t collect all Coltrane’s blues pieces of that period: among others, there’s the Moby-Dick of them all, “Chasin’ the Trane,” from “John Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard,” recorded in November 1961.

“Chasin’ the Trane,” also on the Rose Theater list, is a blues in F, and a 16-minute spell of off-the-cuff, cropped statements that eventually roll out into long, precise, stirring improvisations. Bach-like in hardness and precision, these lines gobble up the horn, jumping all over it within single phrases.

There are bootleg recordings preceding it that give the general idea — I cherish one from the Sutherland Lounge in Chicago, eight months earlier — but this performance is the first well-known indication of the greatness of Coltrane’s band, with the bassist Jimmy Garrison and the drummer Elvin Jones. (This is not to ignore the pianist McCoy Tyner, but he drops out for “Chasin the Trane,” to make the band a trio.)

The Romantic

In his time Coltrane had no peer as a player of romantic ballads; he learned from Johnny Hodges, the master of that form. For his first wife, he wrote “Naima,” which is on the Rose Theater set list. Perhaps it’s the insistent pedal tone, grounding everything, or the wide intervals, or the rich harmony; but “Naima” almost reinvented this type of tune in jazz, building on Hodges saxophone showcases like Duke Ellington’s “Warm Valley” yet intimating something deeper, a kind of contemplative, I’ll-see-you-in-the-next-world feeling.

Shortly, though, Coltrane moved on and started making a new and different kind of ballad, hymnlike songs with ancient and slightly tragic overtones. And in the tradition of jazz musicians who made sure they knew the lyrics to a song before playing it on the horn — Lester Young, for the best example — he began writing his own texts to base the ballads on, imitating the rhythm of how the words might be spoken.

The culmination of this approach was the “Psalm” portion of “A Love Supreme.” But the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has chosen instead something equally powerful: “Alabama,” which was recorded in the studio but came out on the LP “Coltrane Live at Birdland.” It was recorded two months after the bombing of a Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.; within that time the suspect, a Klansman named Robert Chambliss, was found not guilty and received a small fine and a six-month sentence for possessing the dynamite.

The first part of Coltrane’s “Alabama” sounds as if it were through-written, its phrases a little unnatural; it has been long suspected that it is tied to a written text, though none has been found. At the middle comes an easy-swinging improvised portion, less than a minute long, and then the re-entrance of that strange theme. The music projects a feeling right next to despair, but still intent on moving forward.

If anyone wants to know why there’s such a major fuss still made about John Coltrane, why he is so loved and referred to, the reason is probably inside “Alabama.” The incantational tumult he could raise in a long improvisation, the steel-trap knowledge of harmony, the writing: that’s all very impressive. But “Alabama” is a kind of perfect psychological portrait of a time, a complicated mood that nobody else rendered so well.

“John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman” is another mood record, but one accessible to anyone who listened to pop music on the radio in the 20th century: the kind generated by a deep male voice singing heavy-lidded love songs. It serves as the backbone of the gig at the Allen Room next week, with the baritone singer Kevin Mahogany and the Coltrane-influenced tenor saxophonist Todd Williams, who was part of Mr. Marsalis’s bands in the late 80’s and early 90’s, before leaving to play in the Times Square Church.

It is a supermeditative record, with the drummer Elvin Jones, elsewhere as forceful as a truck, playing barely audibly on songs like “They Say It’s Wonderful,” under Johnny Hartman’s cellolike voice and Coltrane’s broad sound. As with the best Coltrane ballad recordings, these songs conjure something bigger than earthly love. For each listener the record occupies a distinct imaginary space.

At Lincoln Center the trick will be to make the music work in a very real space, a high-rent commercial zone with glasses clinking and tabs mounting. Come armed with a version of it in your own memory, and remember that Coltrane brought a lot of listeners up short 40 years ago. If we do our homework, we might be able to catch up to him now.

Film Review: The Protector

Be sure to check out Tony Jaa's "Ong Bak: Thai Warrior" is a fantastic martial arts action film and Jaa's physical ability is a jaw-dropping wonder to behold.

"The Protector" is a dance of action figures
Special to Newsday
September 8, 2006

"Give me my elephants!!!" isn't exactly "Hasta la vista, baby" or "Make my day." But Thai action star Tony Jaa - playing a member of an ancient Thai order of elephant keepers - isn't really big on words. Dislocations, hematomas, and demolished decor, yes, he delivers. Just as "The Protector" will deliver him on a flower-strewn path into the consciousness of the American young and kung-furious.

The sound equipment on this Thai import might have consisted of a hammer and a bag of walnuts, but the choreography of the film - "presented" by Quentin Tarantino, who has put his imprimatur on a number of notable Asian action films ("Hero," "Iron Monkey") - is spectacular.
The quandary faced by kung-fu stars, from Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan (who has a cameo here) to Jet Li, is that the bar isn't just raised from movie to movie, it gets raised during the movie. If you make your first fight scene unbelievable, the next two or three are going to have to be more unbelievable. So you hedge.

Not Jaa, who seems to be going for broke right from the start, as his character Kham loses his father and his two elephants to evil poachers who take the animals back to Sydney - and a restaurant that specializes in endangered species! (See: "The Freshman"). While the viewer wonders about the culinary possibilities, Kham opens a can of Muay Thai whuppass on the head of underworld Australia, which is being led by the evil Madame Rose (Xing Jing).

There is very little in terms of storytelling or filmmaking that's at all new in "The Protector." The film itself is made to look rough and grainy, perhaps to emulate an old Shaw Brothers production of classic Hong Kong kung-fu cinema, which also inspires the narrative stasis. The story merely serves as a springboard for the hero to do what he does best - which is to beat several dozen men at a time to near death - and that's wise, since Jaa seems to possess more raw sweetness and naivete than he does sex appeal.

As per the usual scenario, the hero is virtually invincible, mowing down more foes than The Bride in "Kill Bill," but he has to meet his match at some point - or come close. Kham comes close three times - against a capoeira fighter (Lateef Crowder) a swordsman (Jon Foo) and then a man big enough to have his own zip code (Nathan Jones). You'll be exhausted when it's over, of course, but harbor a lingering sense of vicarious accomplishment.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Eric Meola Discusses 'Born to Run' Photoshoot

Born to Run: The Unseen Photos

A conversation with Eric Meola about his shoot for Bruce Springsteen's seminal Born to Run album.

By Monica R. Cipnic · Photos by Eric Meola August 2006

I was sitting in the front room of Max's Kansas City late one July day in 1973, reviewing a photo shoot that just had wrapped, when I was introduced to Eric Meola. A few minutes later, I happened to notice a somewhat familiar figure walk by the table and head into the back room; it was Bruce Springsteen. Eric excused himself and also went into the back room, because as it turned out that night Bob Marley and The Wailers, in their first New York City appearance, was the opening act for Bruce Springsteen in what would be a legendary six-night stand. I was already a Bruce fan and decided then and there to stay for the show, which was a great one, and the first of many I attended.

Subsequently, as I got to know Eric, I visited his studio and viewed his commercial assignment work and published his photography over the years editorially. When I first saw the Born To Run album cover, with its bold black-and-white photograph and elegant, yet simple design, I knew it would become an instantly recognizable classic. A few weeks ago, while sitting with Eric in his Long Island home on the day he received the first printed copy of the book, Born To Run: The Unseen Photos, we chatted as we paged through it together and I couldn't help but ooh and aah over a number of these never before published images, presented so beautifully in the quadratone printing.

You're known for your color imagery -- a lot of which is centered on primitive cultures. How did you come to photograph Bruce?

I had heard some of Bruce's songs in the spring of 1973. I have this vivid recollection of standing on 18th Street near Gramercy Park, later that year, and a guy rolled down the window of his car and "New York City Serenade" was on his radio. And it hit me. That fast.

I lived around the corner from Max's Kansas City and one afternoon I walked by and saw that he would be playing there that night, so I went. And that was it. ... The show was the usual early Seventies "take no prisoners" Bruce. So I started going to Bruce shows in New Jersey, and ran into him one day. I started photographing the stage shows, and got to know Clarence. ... At that time, I was, for all intents and purposes, a groupie. But I wanted more than anything to get the message out, that there was this guy and you just had to go and see him.

What was Springsteen like to photograph more than 30 years ago?

At the time I didn't think he knew much about being photographed -- at least not on his first two albums. But Born to Run was different. Looking back, I realize he had given it a lot of thought, and that he had a sense of projecting a persona that went along with the songs and the lyrics for that album. But he didn't know how to communicate that to me -- what it was he was after. There was so much else going on for him -- writing the music, the lyrics, getting the sound right in the studio. If you look at the covers of the first two albums there's no sense of who he was or who he was about to become. He was searching, but so was I.

And, somehow, it all came together on that one hot June day in 1975.

This is a book about 2 1/2 hours in your life. Looking at the pictures, it seems it was a very busy 2 1/2 hours. How much did you "plan" the shoot, and how much just happened? And why did you shoot in black-and-white?

I was very much influenced by Dan Kramer's images of Bob Dylan; and by Bruce's on-stage moves. I kept reading over and over about how there was such a disparity between the stage shows and the albums. ... I couldn't do anything about that. But what I could do was try to put on film -- still pictures -- what I personally felt in my gut about his performances. That's what I wanted to capture -- the interplay between him and Clarence, the sense of a brooding, street-wise poet who held an audience in the palm of his hands, and kept them spellbound with his music.

So I planned to shoot in black-and-white, because I thought it would help to simplify the images and to me, that's what rock 'n' roll was always about -- the contrast, the shadows, black leather, white light.

Most of these photographs have never been seen before? Why not?

I've always held them back. Part of the reason was that within a few months after the shoot, Bruce was in a lawsuit with his first manager. And then, there was the "hype" -- the covers of Time and Newsweek. And I was just glad to get the cover of Born to Run, not to mention that I had taken quite a diversion from my own career to follow Bruce, and that I was starting to go off on long assignments. ... Around the time of Born to Run I did my first huge advertising campaign, photographing coffee plantations around the world.

And I always had a sense of history about these images; not because I happened to photograph Bruce at that moment in time, but that all of it -- the lyrics, the album cover, the other photographs -- captured a moment of change, a moment of innocence suspended in time.

The story of this photo shoot almost seems like a fairly tale: "Photographer assigns himself to photograph the cover of one of the most important rock 'n' roll album ever." Do you have any advice for young photographers who will read this and think, "OK. But, just how did Eric REALLY get to take these pictures?"

I'll answer that metaphorically, because the mechanics of how it happened are documented in the book.

Jon Landau, who now manages Bruce, wrote a review after seeing Bruce for the first time. And he's always quoted as saying "I saw rock 'n' roll's future and its name is Bruce Springsteen." But his piece starts out with him saying, "On a night when I needed to feel young...." And that was it for all of us. Bruce talks to that thought in "Thunder Road": " you're scared and you're thinkin' we ain't that young anymore...'"

There's this point where you're about to grow up and you don't want to -- you fight it with everything you've got. I wanted to photograph this guy because I believed in his music and what he had to say. The truth is, I vacillated between thinking I was nuts and knowing I was lucky to be in on a moment in time I would never forget.

You're donating all of your earnings to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. Why?

I guess at a certain time you measure yourself and say, "What have I done?" Or, more likely, "What haven't I done?"

The lyrics and the spirit of Born to Run have always meant a lot to me. A few months before we sent the book out to be printed, Bruce called me and wanted to know if I was doing this because I thought he wanted me to. And of course I said "no." But that summer of 1975 will always be magical for me, and the two least quoted lines of "Thunder Road" are probably the most important lines of the song:

...with a chance to make it good somehow, Hey what else can we do now?

Doing this is cool -- I've never felt better about anything in my life. One day in the studio Clarence turned to me and said, "Someday, 30 years from now, there will be books about this." Well, he was right. I just didn't know that one of them would be mine.

-- Born To Run: The Unseen Photos (Insight Editions), with over 100 black-and white quadratone printed images, introduction by Daniel Wolff, and foreword and notes on the photos by Eric Meola, will be available in two editions, hardcover for $39.95 and a signed and numbered limited edition of 1,350 with a signed print for $195.

CAIR at ORD: Vampires Inside the Bloodbank

by Srdja Trifkovic
5 September 2006

We’ve learned with two months’ delay that on June 21 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security took officials of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) on a behind-the-screens tour of U.S. airport security measures at O’Hare International in Chicago. During the tour Customs and Border Patrol agents outlined their high-risk passenger lookout system to the guests. The decision to take Muslim activists to point-of-entry and Customs stations, secondary screening and interview rooms at America’s busiest airport was made in response to CAIR’s complaints that Muslims were being unfairly targeted for scrutiny on arrival in the United States. This is not the first time CAIR was able to intimidate American institutions into compliance with its dictates, but it is by far the most alarming such incident to date.

Brian Humphrey, Director of Field Operations at O’Hare, assured his guests that agents do not target Muslim passengers for special screening and explained that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are obliged to complete an interactive cultural sensitivity course. The course, which teaches agents, inter alia, that Muslims believe jihad is an inner struggle against one’s sinful desires, was developed by Margaret Nydell, professor of Arabic at Georgetown University and the author of Understanding Arabs, a notable piece of Islamophile apologia. Professor Nydell’s are of special interest and expertise is Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it should be added that Georgetown’s Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy is lavishly funded by Saudi money and that its head is one of the world’s leading apologists of jihad, Dr. John Esposito.

Nydell’s instruction and CBP’s companion training manual and video, were described as “politically correct drivel” by a Customs and Border Protection supervisor: “It’s all about how Islam means peace and tolerance,” he told WorldNetDaily. “We’re told how to deal with Arabs and Muslims, that they are loving people and not terrorists. That jihad is struggle with sin and has nothing to do with violence.” Customs agents involved in the CAIR tour at O’Hare told the same source that they were outraged that sensitive counterterrorism procedures were revealed to an organization tainted with terrorist links.

CAIR claims to be “just another civil-rights group,” devoted to protecting the rights of Muslims and promoting a better understanding of Islam in America, but there is more, much more, than meets the eye:

—Ihsan Bagby, a founding Board member of CAIR, maintained that Muslims “can never be full citizens of this country [the U.S.] . . . because there is no way we can be fully committed to the institutions and ideologies of this country.”

—Shortly after it was founded with foreign Arab money in 1994, CAIR called the guilty verdict in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing case “a travesty of justice” and a proof of the all-pervasive “Islamophobia” in the American society.

—In 1995 CAIR condemned the conviction of Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh, for conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks, as a “hate crime.”

—CAIR advisory-board member Siraj Wahhaj was named in 1995 as one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the scheme to blow up New York City sites in 1993.

—In July 1998 CAIR’s chairman of the board, Omar Ahmad, declared that the Kuran should be America’s highest authority and that Islam is not in America to be equal to any other religion, but to be dominant.

—In August 1998 CAIR condemned the targeting of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

—In October 1998 CAIR demanded the removal of a Los Angeles billboard describing Osama as “the sworn enemy.”

—That same year CAIR denied bin Laden’s responsibility for the twin East African embassy bombings.

—In November 1999, at a Muslim youth rally in Chicago, Omar Ahmad praised suicide bombers: “Fighting for freedom, fighting for Islam—that is not suicide.”

—After 9-11 CAIR called for donations: under a picture of the flaming Towers the hyperlink took donors to the website of the Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic charity whose assets were frozen soon thereafter by the Treasury Department. On July 27, 2004, a federal grand jury in Dallas, Texas, returned a 42 count indictment against the HLF that included conspiracy, material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and money laundering.

—A week later CAIR called on people to donate to the Global Relief Foundation, another Islamic charity from Illinois, whose assets were also frozen in December 2001, and which has provided assistance to known Islamic terrorist groups.

—In December 2002 CAIR called the closure of the Holy Land Foundation “unjust” and “disturbing.”

—CAIR claimed the closure of the Global Relief Foundation was due to the racial profiling of a group that “had established a track record of effective relief work.”

—In 2002 CAIR embarked on a campaign to place a package of pro-Islamic books and CDs in thousands of American libraries. It claimed the program was not subsidized from abroad, but kept quiet about $1/2m donation from Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud

—which gave a Wahabi seal of approval on the materials.

—In 2003 CAIR complained about the FBI surveillance of mosques, but remained mute when it was revealed that the Al-Farooq mosque in New York was complicit in collecting funds for al-Qaeda. Undeterred, it has continued to demand amendments to the USA Patriot Act to protect the Muslims from eavesdropping.

—In September 2003 Bassem Khafagi, CAIR’s community relations director, pleaded guilty to lying on his visa application and was deported.

—After the March 11, 2004, bombings in Madrid, Ibrahim Hooper said a Muslim convert in Florida who allegedly had her hijab pulled by Spanish tourists “is also victim of terrorism.” Adolf [sic] Ali, head of CAIR Florida, insisted that Florida should reinstate the electric chair for “kuffars [infidel] accused of causing offense to Muslims.”

—In April 2005, the founder of the Texas chapter of CAIR, Ghassan Elashi was found guilty of supporting terrorism. He was the third CAIR-connected figure to be convicted on federal terrorism charges since 9-11.

—Also in April 2005, CAIR orchestrated a nation-wide campaign to have my book The Sword of the Prophet banned from the National Review Online bookstore.

—in August 2005 when WMAL, a Washington, D.C. talk radio station, succumbed to CAIR’s pressure and fired presenter Michael Graham for his comments on the link between Islam and terrorism.

—In April 2006 a federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of a $2 million defamation lawsuit by CAIR against former U.S. Rep. Cass Ballenger. The suit was filed in response to an October 2003 interview in which Ballenger said CAIR raised funds for terrorists and did so “with actual malice, wrongful and willful intent to injure and with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity.”

This is only a partial list, and it is likely to be enriched in the months and years to come. And yet, in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, CAIR’s lading PR duet—Palestinian-born Nihad Awad and American-born Ibrahim Hooper

—were invited to the White House. When receiving them President Bush may have been unaware that CAIR’s condemnation of the attacks was delayed, and only came in December of that year. Until that time it had referred to the “alleged attackers,” implying that someone other than the named 19 were the real culprits.

CAIR’s medium-term agenda became apparent in May 2004, when it issued a report claiming that anti-Muslim incidents in the United States had increased by almost 70 percent in 2003. The study “outlined”—euphemism for superficial or fraudulent research—over a thousand “incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment.” (The word “experience” denotes an entirely subjective view of a situation or event that could not be pumped up into an “incident.”) Claiming that “hate crimes” alone had jumped by 121 percent, CAIR demanded a public inquiry into post-9/11 policies impacting the Muslim community, legislative actions to curb the use of profiling by law enforcement agencies, strengthening of hate crime prosecutions, and “modifications” to the Patriot Act to end “abuses” of the Muslim community.

With that “report” and the associated demands, reflected in the campaign to censor books and media outlets uncomfortable to jihad, the true agenda of CAIR is finally clear. It is a radical political group that does not merely want to change the nature of discourse on Islam in America, it wants to Islamize America. It wants to transform America into a barren wasteland of mind-numbing uniformity of thought, on par with Saudi Arabia and Mauritania. Messrs. Awad and Hooper are not Islamic community activists seeking to better the lot of their co-religionists, they are political visionaries who want the U.S. government to be Islamic “sometime in the future.”

Emboldened by the lack of moral fiber in the host-society that they despise, with each victory CAIR activists become ever more cocky. Arsalan Iftikhar, national legal director for CAIR, thus promised in September 2005 that it was time for everyday Muslims to “defend the image and reputation of the community and Islam in general”: “I am here to teach you how the American Muslim community can legally empower itself to protect itself in the American courts.”

It is high time to turn the tables and use the courts against CAIR. It has been playing its pernicious game far too long, and needs a healthy dose of the law itself—and the law is clear:

Whoever provides material support or resources or conceals or disguises the nature, location, source, or ownership of material support or resources, knowing or intending that they are to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out [terrorist acts] . . . shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

There is a clear link between CAIR and persons and institutions with terrorist connections, and it defies belief that such an organization is still allowed to operate—let alone to be given VIP tours of America’s border defenses by the Department of Homeland Security.

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Clarence Page: Give Parents a Chance to Choose Schools

September 07, 2006
The Chicago Tribune
Clarence Page

WASHINGTON--What if you took junior high school-aged boys, rated as "high risk" in their low-income, high-crime urban neighborhood, and plopped them down in a low-enrollment high-quality school in rural Africa?

That's the premise behind the Baraka School, a project put together in Kenya, East Africa, by American volunteers and foundations for early-teen boys from Baltimore, Md. Why Kenya? Besides being less expensive than a lot of places, it is a place where "boys can live the lives of boys," spokesmen say. The kids can swim in natural streams, terrify each other with pet reptiles and watch real elephants parade through real forests instead of vegetating in front of video games.

A year in the lives of one group from Baltimore is chronicled in "The Boys of Baraka," a critically-acclaimed documentary by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady that played briefly in theaters last year. Its broadcast debut is scheduled for Tuesday night, Sept. 12, as part of the "P.O.V." independent film series on PBS (check local listings).

What happened to them? Mostly they thrived. As portrayed in the movie, they arrive at the mostly white-run school jet-lagged, homesick and shocked by the prospect of an academic year without Game Boys, let alone reliable electricity.

But they adjust. Their tough, defensive street attitude slowly melts. They take on a new excitement about learning, teamwork and the vast dimensions of true manhood in a world beyond the 'hood back home.

"This school is very strict!," says Richard, an aspiring preacher. "You fail one class, you're going back. . You know what, I'm going to keep on trying until I can't try no more. Some people give up, but this is the only chance I got!"

Another boy's mother is arrested while he is in Kenya. His grandparents keep the news from him. He arrived street-hard, but eventually is so transformed that, back home, he earns the highest score in all of Maryland on a state math test and gains admission to Baltimore's most competitive high school.

But the school ends sadly. Terrorist uprisings in Kenya force Baraka to close in the summer of 2003 before the boys featured in the film can begin their second year. Their parents are distraught and outraged. Their sons' performance has blossomed from mediocre to outstanding. Now, as one mom says, "If you send them to Baltimore, you're sending them to jail."

"It's a war zone here," one father argues with a Baraka representative. "They're more likely to be killed over here than over there."

During its seven years of operation, the program served about 95 boys. Most arrived at the school three to four grade levels behind. So far, a Baltimore Sun follow-up found in March, their graduation rate exceeds than that of their non-Baraka peers. Of those who could be located, eight alumni went to college; two joined the Navy, one joined the Army; one spent time in prison.

The Baraka project teaches something critical about the impact of environment on learning and behavior. No kid should have to leave his home, family and country to get an education free of shots fired in the night and police helicopters overhead. But, as this film shows, the change could do a lot of kids a lot of good.

And there's another, more controversial lesson the Baraka story offers: a powerful argument for more school choice, even if that means vouchers for private schools.

The earnest parents in this movie, mostly moms and grandparents, fighting hard to get their kids a better chance at life, illustrate why polls show growing support for private school vouchers among African-American parents, as long as they do not take money from the public schools.

Housing vouchers have offered similar help to a fortunate few. One now-famous example emerged out of a class-action racial discrimination lawsuit filed 40 years ago by Dorothy Gautreaux and three other Chicago public housing residents. Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in their favor, more than 6,000 poor, black Chicago families have moved out of densely concentrated black neighborhoods and integrated into mostly white suburban neighborhoods with the help of Section 8 federal housing vouchers.

The result mostly has been a win-win all around. Studies by the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University found, in the program's first two decades, that at least children's attitudes toward school improved in their new neighborhoods. Their grades did not suffer, and they were more likely than their city counterparts to graduate from high school, get good jobs and enroll in four-year colleges.

Environment matters. Responsible parents often do a better job than government agencies of deciding what schools and neighborhoods are best for their kids. They deserve a chance to show it.

Page is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist specializing in urban issues. He is based in Washington, D.C. E-mail:

Froma Harrop: Islamic Terror's Endless 'Root Causes'

September 07, 2006
Froma Harrop

In Oliver Stone's movie "World Trade Center," the people who know least about the Sept. 11 horror are the two Port Authority cops closest to it. Asian peasants follow the awful events on television, but the men buried under smashed iron and concrete don't know the "who" or the "why" or even that the towers had collapsed.

Through their own courage and that of their rescuers (this is a true story), the officers live to learn what happened. But five years later, neither they, nor anyone else, fully understand "why."

That Islamic terrorists hate the United States is an all-purpose explanation. Dig deeper into the reasons for that hatred, though, and the confident answers of "expert opinion" don't quite satisfy.

Since that gruesome blue-sky day, Islamic radicals have staged more attacks and have been foiled in others. But try to find a connecting theme, other than psychosis. There's only a pile of shifting motives.

Denmark just arrested nine Muslim men preparing explosives for some new outrage. Why, no one knows for sure. Could be the Danish cartoons of Muhammad. Could be because Denmark has troops in Iraq. Could be something else.

When German authorities caught two Lebanese men planting bombs on trains, they assumed the motive was the war in Lebanon. Turns out it was the cartoons. The suspects did tack Lebanon onto their grievance list, but actually, the attack had been planned before the war began.

The 2004 bombing of commuter trains in Madrid took place in the days preceding a Spanish election. Its goal, the thinking went, was to scare voters into replacing a government that had sent troops to Iraq. They did, but three weeks later, a bomb similar to the ones used in the March massacre was found on a track near Madrid.

Why did Islamic terrorists bomb nightclubs in Bali? Were they aiming at Bali itself, a Hindu island in mostly Muslim Indonesia? Was the target Australia because it sent troops to Iraq -- or Australia because it helped liberate East Timor from Indonesia? (Nearly half the people killed were Australian tourists.) Was it an objection to bikinis?

The attacks on Mumbai commuter trains have been linked to Pakistani anger at India's control over much of (Muslim) Kashmir. The bombings on London subways were traced to sons of Pakistani immigrants supposedly unhappy over how they're treated in Britain. Intelligence officials say at least one had trained with al-Qaida in Pakistan, where the terrorist group was also prepping suicide bombers to blow up 10 airliners flying from London to the United States.

Terrorists vowed massive attacks against France over its ban on Islamic headscarves in public schools. And a Muslim gang murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam over a movie he made.

Given this Wal-Martian selection of motives, one must smile at the five-years-after editorial in The Economist, which states the number of jihadis has multiplied since Sept. 11, "partly as a result of the way America responded." By that, the British magazine means the war in Iraq.

We can agree that the war was based on trumped-up evidence, that it was poorly planned and that it is going badly. But Islamic terrorists are attacking people on nearly every continent -- many who have little or nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy. Multicultural, huggy-bear, we're-not-in-Iraq Canada has uncovered a plot by 17 Muslims to invade its Parliament and chop off the prime minister's head.

Perhaps terrorists see countries that make sensitive analyses of their complaints as easy marks. If so, then the eagerness to prettify mass murder with "root causes" could itself be a root cause.

Ann Coulter- Joe Wilson: The End of an Error

Ann Coulter
September 7, 2006

As National Public Radio described the story behind Joe Wilson's amusingly titled book, The Politics of Truth (available on the $1 table in fine bookstores everywhere), in May 2004:

"Last July Wilson wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times saying that this particular intelligence regarding Iraq was false. A week later, columnist Robert Novak revealed that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative."

This is like saying: "John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan; Reagan later died." Every word of that is true, but what it implies – that Hinckley killed Reagan – is false.

In the exact same way, the grand White House conspiracy promoted by Wilson and the mainstream media cites chronological events to prove causation.

The media's conspiracy theory is:

1. Wilson said Bush's famed "16 words" in his 2003 State of the Union address – "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" – were a lie.

2. Wilson's wife was then revealed to be an "undercover" spy at the CIA, exposing Wilson and his family to danger.

3. Therefore, she was "outed" by the White House as retaliation against Wilson for calling Bush a liar.

Point 1 of leftists' conspiracy theory has been proved false since Britain's Butler Commission reviewed its government's pre-war intelligence on Iraq and concluded that "the British government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium."

It was again proved false when our own Senate Intelligence Committee also concluded, in July 2004, that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium from Niger.

So there went the White House's motive for muddying up Wilson: Government fact-finding commissions, here and in the United Kingdom, were muddying up Wilson on their own simply by finding facts.

Point 2, that Wilson's wife was an undercover agent, has been proved false even to the willfully blind since Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald announced the conclusion to his pointless investigation last year, saying that Plame's employment with the CIA was not undercover, but merely "classified."

Everything is "classified" at the CIA. They have no idea when 19 terrorists are about to hijack commercial aircraft and slaughter 3,000 Americans, but the CIA is very good at play-acting James Bond spy games.

How covert was Valerie Plame at the CIA? Her top-secret code name was "Valerie Plame."

All this should have been enough to end conspiracy theories of White House skullduggery. But the nation's newsrooms simply continued asserting that someone in the Bush White House had "outed" Valerie Plame, despite the fact that revealing her employment with the CIA was not illegal.

Thus, as recently as January of this year, a New York Times editorial said the issue of the "leak" about Wilson's wife, whom the Times called "a covert CIA operative whose identity was leaked" (two strikes already), concerned "whether the White House was using this information in an attempt to silence Mrs. Wilson's husband, a critic of the Iraq invasion."

Wilson was more precise about the White House "leaker," variously naming Karl Rove, Lewis Libby and Dick Cheney as the source. He even described "a meeting in the suite of offices that the vice president occupies, chaired by either the vice president or Mr. Libby," where, Wilson said, the decision was made to destroy him.

(If the secret plan hatched in the vice president's office was to send evil spirits to enter Wilson's body and make him act like a fool, the plan worked brilliantly.)

Now it turns out, even Point 3 of leftists' conspiracy theory was false: The original "leaker" of Plame's name to columnist Bob Novak – not a crime – was not in the White House at all. It was Richard Armitage, a State Department official and opponent of the Iraq war.

The information that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA had nothing to do with harming Wilson. It did not come from the White House. It did not even come from someone who supported the war in Iraq.

The rest of the world found out Armitage was Novak's source last week, something Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald knew from the first week of his investigation. So what was Fitzgerald investigating?

Even people who think the president should not be subject to civil suits in office do not deny that Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky and lied about it in a civil suit brought by Paula Jones. However irritating it is to leftists that lying about sex under oath is a crime, there was a crime that Ken Starr was investigating.

What was Fitzgerald investigating? Not only was there no underlying crime, there was not even – as the Times put it – "an attempt to silence Mrs. Wilson's husband" (or an attempt "to respond to people calling you a liar in the New York Times," as normal people put it).

Fitzgerald's entire investigation was nothing but a perjury trap from beginning to end for anyone who misremembered anything about who told whom what about a low-level nobody at the CIA who happened to be married to a Walter Mitty fantasist.

Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is Godless: The Church of Liberalism.

Joe Kaufman: CAIR's Extremist Makeover

Joe Kaufman
September 7, 2006

“The change at CAIR starts with a brand new identity that reflects our core values of being.” These are the words found in the new flash presentation on the website of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The presentation introduces a new look for CAIR. Gone is the boring blue logo, replaced by an equally boring emblem that now includes an Islamic pattern combining four crescents and stars. Regrettably, while the logo did receive a facelift, the organization is still the same CAIR – the same radical Islamist group that it was when it began more than twelve years ago.

Tomorrow night, September 8th, CAIR will be sponsoring an event featuring the former President of Iran, Mohammad Khatami. Khatami, during the recent fighting in Lebanon, described Hezbollah as “a shining sun that illuminates and warms the hearts of all Muslims and supporters of freedom in the world.” Indeed, no matter what CAIR says, the core is still well intact.

Part of CAIR’s core is its co-founder and Executive Director, Nihad Awad. Awad started the group, along with two fellow representatives from the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), in June of 2004, just three months after Awad publicly proclaimed his support for Hamas.

Another part of CAIR’s core is its National Spokesman, Ibrahim “Dougie” Hooper. In April of 1993, Hooper told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future.” These quotations from CAIR’s two main leaders represent an ideology that has driven the group to the front of the American Islamist community.

The fact that four of CAIR’s former officials have been convicted in and/or deported from the United States, all found to have had ties with Hamas or al-Qaeda, is indicative of the “core values” that CAIR’s flash presentation speaks of, and it is the reasoning behind the speaking invite of someone such as Mohammad Khatami.

Seyed Mohammed Khatami served as Iran’s fifth President, from August of 1997 through August of 2005. Once thought of as a reformer, Khatami has embraced extremism on a number of occasions, most notably with respect to his views on the terrorist organization Hezbollah. Less than a month before leaving office, in July of 2005, he stated on Al-Arabiya TV (Dubai), “It is not in Lebanon's best interest to stop the resistance. We always support this idea. We believe that Hezbollah has an authentic Lebanese identity. We love Hezbollah… Hezbullah will remain and will keep its weapons.” And as reported in the New York Times, during the recent fighting that took place in Lebanon, Khatami likened Hezbollah to “a shining sun that illuminates and warms the hearts of all Muslims and supporters of freedom in the world.” Also according to the article, Khatami sent a hate-filled letter to Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, which stated, “Zionists’ shocking atrocities in Palestine and Lebanon are a sign of their violent nature.”

Khatami’s visit to the U.S. has drawn the ire of many, including that of the Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. Concerning Khatami’s invitation to speak at Harvard University on the eve of 9/11 (following the CAIR speech), Romney stated, “State taxpayers should not be providing special treatment to an individual who supports violent jihad and the destruction of Israel.”

It is obvious that this is not of concern to CAIR, as the group is throwing out the red carpet for the so-called “reformist.” According to CAIR’s website, in addition to the speech, there will be “a private reception with President Khatami, including a photo opportunity.”

The event is being held at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Arlington, Virginia. This is the same venue that hosted CAIR’s 11th Annual Banquet, in December of 2005. That affair featured Siraj Wahhaj, a former National Board member of CAIR, whose name appears on the U.S. Attorney’s list of potential co-conspirators to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

By bringing Mohammad Khatami, an extremist that supports terrorists, to speak at its event, CAIR has shown that its new image is nothing but a farce, and its new logo is little more than ‘window dressing’ to that farce. CAIR is no more of a reformer than its Iranian guest.

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Joe Kaufman is the Chairman of
Americans Against Hate and the host of The Politics of Terrorism radio show.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Daniel Pipes: Improvising After 9/11

Daniel Pipes
September 6, 2006

The five years since 9/11, in retrospect, have been like a perpetual workshop in which Americans argue about the nature of their enemy and how to defeat him.

Along the way, they have made plenty of mistakes, ranging from former secretary of state Colin Powell's claiming that 9/11 "should not be seen as something done by Arabs or Islamics," to not allowing an Arab to board an airplane because he wore a t-shirt bearing Arabic script. What impresses me, however, is how Americans have constantly, if slowly, improved their understanding of the enemy, as can be seen in everything from presidential rhetoric to airplane security. Much of this evolution has been improvised – using existing tools in new ways, preserving old laws but applying them in new circumstances.

Here's one such example: Hamid Hayat, a 23-year-old cherry packer from Lodi, California, was convicted in April 2006 of providing material support to terrorists by attending a paramilitary training camp in Pakistan during 2003-04. In the course of a police interrogation, when asked who else had gone to the terror camps, Hayat fingered his 18-year-old American-born cousin, Jaber Ismail, saying he "went, like, two years ago." Did Jaber attend the same camp as him? "I'm not sure, but I'll say he went to a camp." Hayat later modified his story, saying that Ismail and another relative "didn't talk to me about going to camps or anything. But you know I'm sure they went to the camp...'cause they memorize the Holy Koran."

Jaber Ismail had, in fact, lived in Pakistan for four years, along with his father Muhammad, a 45-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan; his mother; and his two siblings. Predictably, Jaber explains his Pakistan years benignly: "I was memorizing the Koran because it was important to my mom." Jaber and Muhammad were so close to Hayat, they listed him as an emergency contact in their passports.

On returning from Pakistan to Lodi on April 21, 2006, the Ismail family changed planes in Hong Kong. Three family members got permission to go on, but Jaber and his father were stopped, so they returned to Pakistan. On trying again two weeks later, they learned that, though not charged with a crime, they were on the U.S. government's terrorism watch-list, and that they could only enter the United States after getting "clearance" from the embassy in Pakistan. That meant submitting to an FBI interrogation and to lie detector tests, which they refused to do.

On Aug. 9, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claiming the Ismails have been denied their civil rights. The ACLU lawyer, Julia Harumi Mass, states that "They want to come home and have an absolute right to come home. They can't be compelled to waive their constitutional rights under threat of banishment." Michael Barr, director of the aviation safety and security program at the University of Southern California deems it "very unprecedented" for U.S. citizens to be rendered stateless in this fashion. Usama Ismail, 20, complains that his brother and father are being treated "like foreigners or something."

Is the Ismails' exclusion legal?

To get a reading on the feds' legal basis, I turned to William West, former chief of the National Security Section for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Miami, Florida. "It is a rare decision, but within the legal pale," he explained to me.

"Section 215 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 USC 1185 allows for the ‘travel control' of the entry and departure of citizens. U.S. citizens use their passports only within the rules, regulations, and proscriptions as issued and decided by the president. Travel restrictions on U.S. citizens are seldom utilized (and usually to keep criminal or national-security suspects from fleeing). The law, however, does also allow for entry control."

West expects that the Ismails "ultimately will be allowed back into the country. But in the short term, DHS has a legal basis for excluding them."

The DHS not only applied the law to scrutinize possibly dangerous Islamists but its actions suggest a possible conceptual breakthrough, signaling that the U.S. government sees the "nationality" of radical Islam to be incompatible with American citizenship. Thus do Americans improvise and make gradual progress in their War on Terror.

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Mr. Pipes ( is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures (Transaction Publishers).