THIS RING GIFT FROM THE CARPET SELLER
Where the hell she got that money
Tonight on CNN, Anderson Cooper will be doing “a special investigative report about a self-proclaimed former Islamic terrorist who is making good money from American taxpayers with a story that just doesn’t add up.”
This self-proclaimed terrorist, Walid Shoebat, was one third of a traveling anti-Muslim sideshow called the “3 ex-Terrorists,” and is now a very popular solo act on the Islamophobic fear-mongering speaking circuit. The other two members of Shoebat’s trio were Zachariah Anani, and Kamal Saleem.
In between his many tax-payer funded speaking engagements, Shoebat is a popular speaker at events such as Tim LaHaye’s Pre-Trib (Pre-Tribulation) Research Center conferences and John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI) events. Anani is a Lebanese-born Canadian citizen who claims to have killed 223 people while a Muslim terrorist. Saleem, under his real name, Khodor Shami, worked for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network for sixteen years, was hired by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family in 2003, and founded Koome Ministries in 2006 to “expose the true agenda of [Muslims] who would deceive our nation and the free nations of the world.”
As the research director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), I first became aware of Shoebat, Anani, and Saleem back in early 2008, when they were invited to speak at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s 50th Annual Academy Assembly, on the topic “Dismantling Terrorism: Developing Actionable Solutions for Today’s Plague of Violence,” for a fee of $13,000.
After demands by the MRFF for equal time to counter the anti-Muslim screed of the Shoebat and his fellow self-proclaimed ex-terrorists turned evangelical Christians, the Air Force Academy eventually allowed MRFF founder and president, and Academy graduate, Mikey Weinstein, MRFF Advisory Board member and Islam expert Reza Aslan, and MRFF Board member and former Ambassador Joe Wilson to speak to (deprogram) the cadets.
As Reza Aslan wrote on Anderson Cooper’s blog when all this was going on back in 2008, the claims of the three ex-terrorists about their exploits as Muslim terrorists have long been questioned by academics and terrorism experts who have found a plethora of unlikelihoods and outright impossibilities in their stories. Here are a few highlights:
According to Tom Quiggin, Canada’s only court-qualified expert on global jihadism, and a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police intelligence and national security expert, “Mr. Anani’s not an individual who rates the slightest degree of credibility, based on the stories that he has told.”Among other things, Quiggin points to Anani’s claim of killing hundreds of people after joining his first militant group in Lebanon at age 13. Anani, now forty-nine, would have been 13 in 1970. However, the fighting in Lebanon did not begin in earnest until 1975, and religious-based terrorism was practically unheard of there until after 1979. According to Anani, he left Lebanon for Egypt to attend Al-Azhar University at age 18, three years earlier.Professor Douglas Howard teaches the history of the modern Middle East at Calvin College in Michigan, where Kamal Saleem spoke last November. He was shocked to hear Saleem claim that a member of his family was the “the Grand Wazir of Islam.”“Wazir is a variation of vizier,” Professor Howard explained. “The Grand Vizier was a political role in the Ottoman empire. No Muslim would ever claim that in connection with the role of mufti, which is a scholar of Islamic texts. It’s like someone saying they were the governor of Christianity.”Professor Howard described the talk at Calvin College as “a tent meeting revival sermon sponsored by academic organizations.”
The Village Voice also reported on the Air Force Academy Assembly, which was co-sponsored by the American Assembly, a policy forum affiliated with Columbia University. Here’s what some of the eighteen New York students who attended the Assembly had to say about Shoebat and his fellow ex-terrorists:
[Omar] Khalifah, who is from Jordan, says he was shocked and offended by the proselytizing he saw. “We left our study for one week to try to find solutions, not to listen to a person who is speaking as a preacher, as if he is in a church,” Khalifah says. …… Khalifah and other New Yorkers say they were initially annoyed at the trio’s alarmist rhetoric, including claims that jihadist ideology is being taught in 90 percent of American mosques, and the characterization of Islam as an inherently violent religion. But they were truly offended by Shoebat’s announcement that converting Muslims to Christianity was a good way to defeat terrorism.Columbia law student Ernest Jedrzejewski compares the presentation to a Christian tent revival. “All we needed was a light from above and someone to suddenly get over an incurable illness,” he says.After the speakers left the stage, Khalifah approached Saleem and challenged statements that he considered offensive and inaccurate. Saleem claims that Khalifah went even further, addressing a death threat to him in Arabic: “You are an enemy of Islam and you must die.” Police questioned Khalifah but didn’t charge him. “All the allegations were proved to be unsubstantiated, and I was free to go,” Khalifah says. But it didn’t end there.Once the contentious presentation made national headlines, the self-proclaimed ex-terrorists put out a press release about Khalifah’s supposed death threat and the “smear campaign” orchestrated against them by Muslim groups and the “liberal media.” The three have also vehemently denied accusations by journalists and Muslim groups that they are “stooges of the Christian right,” saying that they were explaining their personal experiences in the jihadist underground, not proselytizing. “We are terrorism experts coming in to talk about terrorism. . . . Christianity worked for us, but that was not the theme of the speech,” Shoebat tells the Voice. “It’s racist to say a Christian is not allowed to be an expert on terrorism.”
The most obvious question, of course, is why, if their stories are true, haven’t these three self-proclaimed terrorists, who have been traveling the country for years admitting to numerous killings and other terrorist acts, not been deported or jailed. Well, apparently, even our government’s terrorist hunters don’t believe these guys. According to a New York Times article about the trio’s appearance at the Air Force Academy, “A spokesman for the F.B.I. said there were no warrants for their arrest.”
But wait, it gets worse. Shoebat and his ex-terrorist buddies aren’t the only anti-Muslim fear-mongerers who have been brought in to speak to the military and various government agencies. There’s also Brigitte Gabriel, founder of the ACT! for America and author of Because They Hate. In 2007, Gabriel, who has also spoken to other government agencies, delivered a lecture at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) as part of the JFSC’s Islam elective for American military and national security personnel.
During the question and answer segment of the lecture, Gabriel made her opinion of Muslims very clear. In answer to the question, “Should we resist Muslims who want to seek political office in this nation?,” Gabriel replied:
“Absolutely. If a Muslim who has — who is — a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day — this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”
As part of her answer to this same question, Gabriel also asserted that a Muslim’s oath of office is meaningless, giving the following reason:
“A Muslim is allowed to lie under any situation to make Islam, or for the benefit of Islam in the long run. A Muslim sworn to office can lay his hand on the Koran and say ‘I swear that I’m telling the truth and nothing but the truth,’ fully knowing that he is lying because the same Koran that he is swearing on justifies his lying in order to advance the cause of Islam. What is worrisome about that is when we are faced with war and a Muslim political official in office has to make a decision either in the interest of the United States, which is considered infidel according to the teachings of Islam, and our Constitution is uncompatible [sic] with Islam — not compatible — that Muslim in office will always have his loyalty to Islam.”
Both Shoebat and Gabriel appeared in Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West – the politically useful anti-Muslim pseudo-documentary distributed by the millions in swing states via DVDs inserted in major newspapers a few months before the 2008 election. But even more disturbing than this film being used to scare voters into voting a certain way, Gregory Ross, the film’s co-writer and director, stated in an interview that this film was also being used by the U.S. Navy. According to Ross, who is also Communications Director for Clarion Fund, the organization that produced the film and funded the DVD newspaper insert scheme, “I know that the U.S. Department of the Navy uses the film and that it has also been shown on Capitol Hill on many occasions in order to education politicians.”
While the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has made much progress with the military, including getting Brigitte Gabriel disinvited from speaking at the Air Force Academy, Islamophobes and frauds like Walid Shoebat continue to regularly speak to other government agencies, as will apparently be exposed on CNN tonight.
It is becoming a pattern of behaviour for the prime minister. He allows and promotes right-wing behaviour in Malaysia and then lectures about moderation in Oxford and now London.
But we in Malaysia know better. We live here, unlike foreigners and investors who live by glossy brochures and smooth sales pitch.
We know about the daily corruption from the lowly mata-mata to the Cabinet minister; the abuse of power; the lack of integrity in government; election fraud and now thanks to Bersih, we also know that it is the divide-and-rule policies of the government which have been making us suspicious of each other.
We are also told by bloggers that the wife of a Cabinet minister allegedly bought a ring for RM70 million from a New York jeweller.
There has been no denial from Putrajaya so it must be there is more than an iota of truth to this story!
RM70 million!!!!! Are you serious? This is a lot of money. I mean if the wife of Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary or Ananda Krishnan bought it, we would not wonder about the source of the money. But the wife of a government leader?
Never mind, this is Malaysia. We are not surprised by much anymore. We know the truth and can only laugh when the prime minister and ministers go on a road show and tell foreigners a fairy tale.
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS FROM THE CNN INTERVIEW WITH PRIME MINISTER NAJIB
by Din Merican
CNN has demonstrated its unwillingness to pursue real standards of journalistic conduct and instead allow politicians and businessmen to use its global platform to essentially spot propaganda and unsubstantiated commentary on their policies and actions.
CNN International, with a few notable exceptions, is well known for its softball interview style, eagerness to avoid controversy and do what it takes to get “big interviews” even if it means downplaying or covering up some of the ugly facts of a story. The July 14 interview John Defterios conducted with PM Najib is a perfect example.
Defterios starts with a somewhat sarcastic positioning of the Bersih movement as an umbrella movement for electoral reform. His tone was dismissive of whether that premise was true, leading into Najib’s answer that Bersih was just a political maneuver. Defterios asks what’s really behind this, mentioning a “generation” gap.
It is amazing that he would not even make a reference to Bersih’s stated demands, which were spelled out very clearly in its manifesto readily available on its website. 8 simple demands for free and fair elections. His summer intern could have found them online along with the actual evidence.
Najib is committed to Electoral Reform?
Najib replies that he is committed to electoral reform but Defterios does not follow up with the obvious question, why has the PM refused to entertain any of the demands of the Electoral Reform movement? What steps have been taken to reform the electoral process since Bersih 1.0, the last General Election 2008,and the Sarawak State election.
Moving along, when asked about the official response to the demonstrations Najib said the Police response was “mild” and they handled the situation delicately and without excessive force.
Defterios again fails in his duty as a journalist to ask about the tear gas, water cannons, injuries, attack on the hospital, police abuse of demonstrators, and completely ignored the fact that six people are still under arrest now under the Emergency Oorders and more are being arrested for simply wearing yellow shirts, plus media have been chastised for reporting favorably on the rally.
In a slightly redeemable moment just prior to asking about the Police abuse during the rally, scenes of tear gas and water cannon were being played on the screen next to Najib’s headshot in a moment almost as entertaining as the 2007 Zam interview following Bersih 1.0, one of the first youtube videos in Malaysia to rocket to over 100,000 views in a few days time.
John Defterios is presumably reachable on his twitter handle @JDefteriosCNNalthough he’s only tweeted once and not since January 20, which is odd given how active most other CNN hosts are on social media.
The scandal shaking Rupert Murdoch’s media holdings in Britain could be expected of a global media empire intoxicated with power and lacking any ethical base.
What is unfolding–revelations of bribery and massive phone-hacking–could go down as the greatest press scandal in the English-speaking world. Overarching it is a media machine built by Murdoch that is the most dishonest, unprincipled and corrupt of any media empire in the history of the English-speaking world (against stiff competition). And it is gargantuan, the largest media empire ever.
“If Rupert Murdoch were the Angel Gabriel, you still wouldn’t want him owning the sun, the moon, and the stars. That’s too much real estate for even the pure in heart,” commented Bill Moyers in 2007. “But Rupert Murdoch is no saint. He is to propriety what the Marquis de Sade was to chastity.”
Murdoch has made a travesty of what journalism is supposed to be about. And he has institutionalised this on a global level. He has taken what was the distinguished paper of record of the English-speaking world, The Times of London, and degraded it–making it not a watchdog of power, what the press should be, but an instrument to aid those in power whom he favors.
He took what had been New York City’s paper-of-the-people, the oldest continuously published daily in the U.S., the New York Post, and with his obsession for titillation and sensation, made it a disgrace. With his Fox News Channel, exactly the opposite of the “fair and balanced” outlet it claims to be, he and Republican political operative Roger Ailes have developed what is no more than an unbridled propaganda organ for the GOP.
An ideal of the press in the United States, and Britain and most English-speaking nations, is to be a check on power. There are checks and balances between branches of government, and a free press that’s supposed to challenge it all.
After many years of restrictions on who could do publishing–more than a century of various forms of licensing and needing royal permission in Britain–in the modern era anyone can do it. That’s if they have the money. Then they can own a press and publish a newspaper or magazine, or own a TV station or network or book-publishing company or movie studio or other media institution.
Murdoch, born to wealth, seeking through the press to project his political views, acquired media institution after institution beginning in his native Australia.
This now includes 150 newspapers in Australia including The Australian, the nation’s biggest paper. In Britain, The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun (and until the scandal forced him to close it, he owned The News of the World with its 2.7 million circulation). In the U.S., he owns the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal and the rest of Dow Jones & Company holdings.
He has been seeking to use The Wall Street Journal to take on what has been the U.S. paper of record, The New York Times, and become the new premier American newspaper. He owns the giant book-publishing company, HarperCollins. He owns the 20th Century Fox movie studio. He owns 20th Century Fox Television and the Fox Broadcasting Company. He has been trying in Britain to turn what started as his satellite TV network, Sky Television, into a merged company, BSkyB, a scheme now threatened by the scandal. His cable TV assets in the U.S. include Fox News Channel, Fox Movie Channel and Fox Business Network. Murdoch’s media holdings also extend to Asia, western Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
In 1985 he became a U.S. citizen because the Federal Communications Commission requires U.S. citizenship for holding a majority interest in a U.S. TV station and Murdoch was aiming to center his media empire in the U.S., he became a U.S. citizen. (His News Corp. now owns 27 U.S. TV stations.)
No matter the country in which he has operated, Murdoch has been deeply involved in aggressively manipulating government officials. As Moyers notes, “Politicians become little clay pigeons to be picked off with flattering headlines, generous air time, a book contract of the old-fashioned black jack that never misses: campaign cash…The ambitious can’t resist his blandishments, nor his power to get or keep them in office where they can return his favors.” It has been a “cozy relationship that Rupert Murdoch long enjoyed with the British power structure,” began an Associated Press article this week.
Investigative reporter Carl Bernstein writes in this week’s Newsweek of how under Murdoch “gossip, sensationalism, and manufactured controversy…substitutes” for the “best traditions and values of real reporting and responsible journalism…this journalistic ideal.” Meanwhile, “It’s hard to think of any other individual who has had a greater impact on American political and media culture in the past half century. But now the empire is shaking, and there’s no telling when it will stop.”
As Los Angeles Times journalist Tim Rutten wrote this week: “The seeds of Murdoch’s British newspapers’ abuse of trust and power were sown in a media culture whose essentials–salacious celebrity coverage, gossip, overt partisanship–have infiltrated our own under his influence. The meltdown in London ought to be a wake-up call.”
There have been disreputable media barons through the years. William Randolph Hearst’s outrageous activities are the subject of what has long been considered America’s finest film, Citizen Kane. But the scale on which Rupert Murdoch has operated, his reach through a wide variety of media, his ceaseless crusade for his political agenda, exceeds these moguls of the past. As British journalist William Shawcross wrote in his 1992 biography, Murdoch, Murdoch positioned himself to be “an international Citizen Kane, with influence beyond imagining.”
Will the scandal–and especially the criminal investigations and governmental (at long last) inquiries–bring Murdoch and his management circle down and lead to a break-up of his media empire? That would be a great outcome towards the goal of a free and independent media serving the public interest.