So, what did Perkasa do for the Jews?

They really don’t get it, do they? The more they come out with these pathetic little statements, the more damage they are doing to BN’s re-election.
They are so blinkered in their vision that they really don’t have a clue about public perception of their silly little objections.
The last I heard, this was supposed to be a country where freedom of expression was guaranteed in the constitution.
I am a foreigner, but I proudly attended the Bersih 3.0 rally and am proud that I was able to support my many friends who also attended. Perkasa needs to accept this and get over it.
I would imagine that Ibrahim Ali and his mob would dare protest in front of the Singapore High Commission because they know that the Singaporeans would only look at them in disbelief and sneeringly shake their heads. “A group of about 50 Indonesians hurled stones and pieces of wood at the Malaysia Hall in Jakarta on Friday, damaging parts of the building and injuring a security guard.”Ibrahim Ali, you are very much needed in Indonesia to protect Malaysia’s interest. Bullying Singapore is too easy a job for you.
Since Perkasa claims to be defenders of Islam, the Malays and the Malay rulers, why did they not march to the Indonesian embassy for the recent ‘song and dance’ protest?
Because they know that the very next minute, the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta will be up in smoke. So much for the Nusantara brotherhood.
By the way, where were our riot squads and their tear gas during all this? There were many other foreign observers at the Bersih 3.0 rally (including Australian Senator Nick Xenophon), why only picked on the three diplomats from the “little red dot”?Is it because Singapore has a large Chinese population and you hope to gain some political capital out of this, or is it because you are a bunch of cowards?It is really downright degrading that the Umno-BN government could actually encourage Perkasa to carry on with all their antics without any shame.
I am just lost for words. Singapore has already clarified the issue in a dignified manner. We should either accept it or leave it. Why keep dragging the issue and simply damage the good relations with our neighbour?The problem with Perkasa is that it wants to aggravate the issue for its own self-interest and our government has no guts to stop it.
If Perkasa is so upset with Singapore just because three of its diplomats in Kuala Lumpur were seen at the Bersih rally as observers, then it should also make a huge amount of noise and ask the government to boot out the Indonesian ambassador in retaliation for an unpleasant incident recently in Jakarta where theMalaysian flag was burnt by a group of locals.
Why does Perkasa want to vent its anger only on Singapore? I am sure the government has the answer.Diplomatic missions have their own political sections within their embassies to report on all political matters in their host countries as part of their duties.Most embassies/high commissions that have the resources would have dispatched their political attaches on the ground for a first-hand account of what transpired during Bersih 3.0.It’s not an issue and should not be raised by the Malaysian authorities.
Well, we complain about Indonesians demonstrating in front of the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta.

Now, we have similar thing happening in KL, albeit towards the Singapore High Commission with a different group of clowns, but on an issue already clarified by all parties. What goes around comes around indeed.Ibrahim Ali and your pathetic gang, you should do the same to the other embassies as their diplomats may have also sent officers to observe the rally – Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Australia, America, China, UK

By the way, what has “Long Live Malays” got to do with this?

Islam saved Jewry. This is an unpopular, discomforting claim in the modern world. But it is a historical truth. The argument for it is double. First, in 570 CE, when the Prophet Mohammad was born, the Jews and Judaism were on the way to oblivion. And second, the coming of Islam saved them, providing a new context in which they not only survived, but flourished, laying foundations for subsequent Jewish cultural prosperity – also in Christendom – through the medieval period into the modern world.
By the fourth century, Christianity had become the dominant religion in the Roman empire. One aspect of this success was opposition to rival faiths, including Judaism, along with massive conversion of members of such faiths, sometimes by force, to Christianity. Much of our testimony about Jewish existence in the Roman empire from this time on consists of accounts of conversions.
Great and permanent reductions in numbers through conversion, between the fourth and the seventh centuries, brought with them a gradual but relentless whittling away of the status, rights, social and economic existence, and religious and cultural life of Jews all over the Roman empire.A long series of enactments deprived Jewish people of their rights as citizens, prevented them from fulfilling their religious obligations, and excluded them from the society of their fellows.Had Islam not come along, Jewry in the west would have declined to disappearance and Jewry in the east would have become just another oriental cultThis went along with the centuries-long military and political struggle with Persia. As a tiny element in the Christian world, the Jews should not have been affected much by this broad, political issue. Yet it affected them critically, because the Persian empire at this time included Babylon – now Iraq – at the time home to the world’s greatest concentration of Jews.
Here also were the greatest centres of Jewish intellectual life. The most important single work of Jewish cultural creativity in over 3,000 years, apart from the Bible itself – the Talmud – came into being in Babylon. The struggle between Persia and Byzantium, in our period, led increasingly to a separation between Jews under Byzantine, Christian rule and Jews under Persian rule.
Beyond all this, the Jews who lived under Christian rule seemed to have lost the knowledge of their own culturally specific languages – Hebrew and Aramaic – and to have taken on the use of Latin or Greek or other non-Jewish, local, languages. This in turn must have meant that they also lost access to the central literary works of Jewish culture – the Torah, Mishnah, poetry, midrash, even liturgy.The loss of the unifying force represented by language – and of the associated literature – was a major step towards assimilation and disappearance. In these circumstances, with contact with the one place where Jewish cultural life continued to prosper – Babylon – cut off by conflict with Persia, Jewish life in the Christian world of late antiquity was not simply a pale shadow of what it had been three or four centuries earlier. It was doomed.
Had Islam not come along, the conflict with Persia would have continued. The separation between western Judaism, that of Christendom, and Babylonian Judaism, that of Mesopotamia, would have intensified. Jewry in the west would have declined to disappearance in many areas. And Jewry in the east would have become just another oriental cult.
But this was all prevented by the rise of Islam. The Islamic conquests of the seventh century changed the world, and did so with dramatic, wide-ranging and permanent effect for the Jews.
Within a century of the death of Mohammad, in 632, Muslim armies had conquered almost the whole of the world where Jews lived, from Spain eastward across North Africa and the Middle East as far as the eastern frontier of Iran and beyond. Almost all the Jews in the world were now ruled by Islam. This new situation transformed Jewish existence. Their fortunes changed in legal, demographic, social, religious, political, geographical, economic, linguistic and cultural terms – all for the better.
First, things improved politically. Almost everywhere in Christendom where Jews had lived now formed part of the same political space as Babylon – Cordoba and Basra lay in the same political world. The old frontier between the vital centre in Babylonia and the Jews of the Mediterranean basin was swept away, forever.
Political change was partnered by change in the legal status of the Jewish population: although it is not always clear what happened during the Muslim conquests, one thing is certain. The result of the conquests was, by and large, to make the Jews second-class citizens.
This should not be misunderstood: to be a second-class citizen was a far better thing to be than not to be a citizen at all. For most of these Jews, second-class citizenship represented a major advance. In Visigothic Spain, for example, shortly before the Muslim conquest in 711, the Jews had seen their children removed from them and forcibly converted to Christianity and had themselves been enslaved.
In the developing Islamic societies of the classical and medieval periods, being a Jew meant belonging to a category defined under law, enjoying certain rights and protections, alongside various obligations. These rights and protections were not as extensive or as generous as those enjoyed by Muslims, and the obligations were greater but, for the first few centuries, the Muslims themselves were a minority, and the practical differences were not all that great.
Along with legal near-equality came social and economic equality. Jews were not confined to ghettos, either literally or in terms of economic activity. The societies of Islam were, in effect, open societies. In religious terms, too, Jews enjoyed virtually full freedom. They might not build many new synagogues – in theory – and they might not make too public their profession of their faith, but there was no really significant restriction on the practice of their religion. Along with internal legal autonomy, they also enjoyed formal representation, through leaders of their own, before the authorities of the state. Imperfect and often not quite as rosy as this might sound, it was at least the broad norm.
The political unity brought by the new Islamic world-empire did not last, but it created a vast Islamic world civilisation, similar to the older Christian civilisation that it replaced. Within this huge area, Jews lived and enjoyed broadly similar status and rights everywhere. They could move around, maintain contacts, and develop their identity as Jews. A great new expansion of trade from the ninth century onwards brought the Spanish Jews – like the Muslims – into touch with the Jews and the Muslims even of India.
All this was encouraged by a further, critical development. Huge numbers of people in the new world of Islam adopted the language of the Muslim Arabs. Arabic gradually became the principal language of this vast area, excluding almost all the rest: Greek and Syriac, Aramaic and Coptic and Latin all died out, replaced by Arabic. Persian, too, went into a long retreat, to reappear later heavily influenced by Arabic.
The Jews moved over to Arabic very rapidly. By the early 10th century, only 300 years after the conquests, Sa’adya Gaon was translating the Bible into Arabic. Bible translation is a massive task – it is not undertaken unless there is a need for it. By about the year 900, the Jews had largely abandoned other languages and taken on Arabic.
The change of language in its turn brought the Jews into direct contact with broader cultural developments. The result from the 10th century on was a striking pairing of two cultures. The Jews of the Islamic world developed an entirely new culture, which differed from their culture before Islam in terms of language, cultural forms, influences, and uses. Instead of being concerned primarily with religion, the new Jewish culture of the Islamic world, like that of its neighbours, mixed the religious and the secular to a high degree. The contrast, both with the past and with medieval Christian Europe, was enormous.
Like their neighbours, these Jews wrote in Arabic in part, and in a Jewish form of that language. The use of Arabic brought them close to the Arabs. But the use of a specific Jewish form of that language maintained the barriers between Jew and Muslim. The subjects that Jews wrote about, and the literary forms in which they wrote about them, were largely new ones, borrowed from the Muslims and developed in tandem with developments in Arabic Islam.
Also at this time, Hebrew was revived as a language of high literature, parallel to the use among the Muslims of a high form of Arabic for similar purposes. Along with its use for poetry and artistic prose, secular writing of all forms in Hebrew and in (Judeo-)Arabic came into being, some of it of high quality.
Much of the greatest poetry in Hebrew written since the Bible comes from this period. Sa’adya Gaon, Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Ibn Ezra (Moses and Abraham), Maimonides, Yehuda Halevi, Yehudah al-Harizi, Samuel ha-Nagid, and many more – all of these names, well known today, belong in the first rank of Jewish literary and cultural endeavour.
Where did these Jews produce all this? When did they and their neighbours achieve this symbiosis, this mode of living together? The Jews did it in a number of centres of excellence. The most outstanding of these was Islamic Spain, where there was a true Jewish Golden Age, alongside a wave of cultural achievement among the Muslim population. The Spanish case illustrates a more general pattern, too.
What happened in Islamic Spain – waves of Jewish cultural prosperity paralleling waves of cultural prosperity among the Muslims – exemplifies a larger pattern in Arab Islam. In Baghdad, between the ninth and the twelfth centuries; in Qayrawan (in north Africa), between the ninth and the 11th centuries; in Cairo, between the 10th and the 12th centuries, and elsewhere, the rise and fall of cultural centres of Islam tended to be reflected in the rise and fall of Jewish cultural activity in the same places.
This was not coincidence, and nor was it the product of particularly enlightened liberal patronage by Muslim rulers. It was the product of a number of deeper features of these societies, social and cultural, legal and economic, linguistic and political, which together enabled and indeed encouraged the Jews of the Islamic world to create a novel sub-culture within the high civilisation of the time.
This did not last for ever; the period of culturally successful symbiosis between Jew and Arab Muslim in the middle ages came to a close by about 1300. In reality, it had reached this point even earlier, with the overall relative decline in the importance and vitality of Arabic culture, both in relation to western European cultures and in relation to other cultural forms within Islam itself; Persian and Turkish.
Jewish cultural prosperity in the middle ages operated in large part as a function of Muslim, Arabic cultural (and to some degree political) prosperity: when Muslim Arabic culture thrived, so did that of the Jews; when Muslim Arabic culture declined, so did that of the Jews.
In the case of the Jews, however, the cultural capital thus created also served as the seed-bed of further growth elsewhere – in Christian Spain and in the Christian world more generally.
The Islamic world was not the only source of inspiration for the Jewish cultural revival that came later in Christian Europe, but it certainly was a major contributor to that development. Its significance cannot be overestimated.

An Invitation Rightly Revoked Pamela Geller, an outspoken Islamophobe who spins wild hateful conspiracy theories about Muslims, as well as President Obama, had a speaking event entitled “Islamic Jew Hatred: The Root Cause of the Failure to Achieve Peace” cancelled in Los Angeles over the weekend following condemnation by a number of local advocacy groups. The speech sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America was terminated after the venue owner, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, intervened to prevent its tenant from hosting the controversial speaker.

Hussein Ibish, an award winning commentator on interfaith relations has stated:

 

Pamela Geller is without question one of the most enthusiastic purveyors of hate speech in the United States, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is to be congratulated…. Of course the appropriate response to hate speech is constructive speech, but organizations that are or wish to be respectable have an obligation not to treat hate speech as legitimate contributions to our national conversation. They are not.

 

Geller, a stylish, media savvy commentator and author has achieved international notoriety for her blog, media appearances, and speaking engagements that relentlessly pursue the theme of Islamic domination of the United States and elsewhere. She also promotes the theme that America is being corrupted by an evil President Obama, bent on following the nefarious religious agenda of Muslim overlords. An organization that she reinvigorated with Robert Spencer, Stop Islamization of America (SOIA) was declared a hate group in 2010 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a designation each vigorously opposes. Among the group’s works are protesting mosques, buying bus ads urging Muslims to abandon their faith, and opposing the imposition of Sharia law in the United States.

Her website Atlas Shrugs, has unleashed the contentions that:

  • President Obama is the illegitimate child of Malcolm X,
  • had a sexual affair with a “crack whore”,
  • “wants jihad to win”,
  • he was not born in the United States,
  • he never repudiated his Muslim faith,
  • and that the raid on the bin Laden compound was carried out by a coup over the President’s refusal.

 

Geller wrote on her blog:

 

The media can spin their subjugation and adulation a million different ways, but America did not vote for a “Muslim presidency,” which is what this is. Everything this president has done so far has helped foster America’s submission to Islam.

 

However, what catapulted Geller firmly into mainstream notoriety was her exploitation of the unpopular proposal to build an Islamic Center in downtown Manhattan, which she maintained was a Ground Zero trophy “victory” mosque:

 

I’ll call it a monster mosque too. It is. It is. And you cannot discount or avoid the fact that it is an Islamic pattern to build triumphal mosques on the cherished sites of conquered lands. Now you could say to me, “Do you really believe that this?” I am telling you that is how it will be perceived in the Muslim world, period. What one schmuck on Broadway thinks is irrelevant. It will be iconic to the jihad. It will be the icon, it will be the icon.

 

A central theme to her anti-Islamic views is the position that true Islam today is a homogenous political enterprise bent on applying Sharia law to dominate and oppress non-Muslims in both Europe and the United States. As she told the New York Times:

 

And I don’t think that many westernized Muslims know when they pray five times a day that they’re cursing Christians and Jews five times a day. I don’t think they know that….Oh, I believe in the idea of a moderate Muslim. I do not believe in the idea of a moderate Islam…. I think a moderate Muslim is a secular Muslim.

 

She was cited approvingly one dozen times in the 1500 page Islamophobic manifesto of accused Norway massacre killer Andres Brevick. She also has friendly ties to arguably Europe’s most notorious Islamophobe, Dutch politician Gert Widlers, who stated, “the Koran is a book that calls for hatred, violence, murder, terrorism, war and submission.” He also urged a forced assimilation contract, a ban on new mosques, anti-Muslim immigration laws and a closure of Muslim schools.

Coarseness Is Pervasive in Public Discourse While the most obvious aspect of this controversy and a primary focus of this article is that an unrepentant, odious bigot had a speaking event from a mainstream group cancelled, there are some contextual facts that are also worth mentioning.

It is a sad, but not particularly surprising, commentary on the state of public discourse that conspiratorial tainted flamethrowers like Geller have significant traction at all, particularly with mainstream groups. Fareed Zakaria noted, “A cottage industry of scaremongering has flourished in the West — especially in the United States since 9/11.” Geller’s toxic combative style has been mainstreamed by political commentators, like Keith Olbermann, Donald Trump, Neil Munro, Ann Coulter, Congressional candidate Charles Barron and Rush Limbaugh. This in your face style has also been replicated by entertainers like Charlie Sheen, Rosie O’Donnell and Howard Stern. Like Kim Kardashian, Geller, who once famously video blogged in a bikini, has also leveraged her sense of glamor as part of her relentless self promotion.

However, it would be wrong to merely suggest that bombast and style are solely responsible for her successful mainstream incursions. Like Glenn Beck, David Duke and Jesse Helms, her routine invocation of actual facts and events, are done in such a way as to cast the widest conspiratorial net and invoke the greatest fear possible. Moreover, to her supporters, she has great credibility, because both our education system and the newsmedia is ceding to the unrestrained blogosphere their previous role as a trusted purveyor of genuine information and perhaps more importantly, context. For instance when recent rocket attacks on Southern Israel and the prosecution of two important domestic criminal cases involving radical Muslim extremists received scant coverage, it offered an opening for bloggers who can gain credibility merely by covering the stories in the first place. Also important to this discussion is the decline of long form investigative journalism in the United States due to a shift in economics and popular taste. This too, leaves a vacuum for biased extremist commentators like Geller and her compatriots to fill in the blanks on the state of religion and extremism in America.

All Sides Share Blame and Responsibility To our collective discredit, for many on different sides of the religious or political divide, the most sought after tutors to a factually challenged and polarized constituency are not the most literate, but simply the most loud or divisive. Their echoes are further amplified by an increasingly self-selected and closed informational ecosystem fueled by fear. The New York Times pointed out that Geller operates “largely outside traditional Washington power centers–and for better or worse, without traditional, academic, public policy or journalism credentials.” For a scared and deeply distrustful constituency that Palinesque lack of credentialed formality in both her background and her public statements is a plus, a testament to her authenticity. She also channels Coulter and Malkin’s bluntness with a derisive lexicon that pegs adversaries as facists, thugs, whores and lowlifes.

To be sure, each Abrahamic religious community in America is guilty of pandering to bigots or other missteps. Muslim organizations, including CAIR (who also ironically protested Geller’s invite), have over the past decade invited Nazi Al Baker, formerly a top leader in one of the Holocaust museum shooter’s old hate groups to speak, as well as anti-Semite Abdel Malik Ali. Ali’s lectures blame Zionist Jews and the U.S. government for the 9/11 attacks and contend that the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd federal hate crime law is a plot to criminalize discussion of the “disproportionate numbers of Jews, Zionist Jews, in the media, in finance and foreign policy…” In addition, some Muslim groups have recklessly slung the title of Islamophobe or hater to legitimate commentators who raised legitimate questions about their positions, thereby undermining their credibility when a genuine bigot enters the stage.

Pat Robertson broadcast on national television a view of Islam that sounds a lot like Geller’s:

 

If we don’t stop covering up what Islam is, Islam is a violent, I was going to say religion, but it’s not a religion. It’s a political system, it’s a violent political system, bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination. That is the ultimate aim and they talk about infidels and all this but the truth is that’s what the game is. So you’re dealing with a, not with a religion, you’re dealing with a political system and I think we should treat it as such. And treat its adherents as such as we would members of the Communist Party or members of some fascist group.

 

The First Amendment Protects Haters and Our Right To Reject Them These are important times for lectures on power shifts in the Middle East, Israel’s security, the peace process, the continued promotion of anti-Semitism under the guise of criticism of Israel, the conspicuous Iranian nuclear efforts, as well as the continuing significant threat that even a degraded al Qaeda and its followers pose to the West. Perhaps the ZOA should have invited Fareed Zakaria to speak with a slightly different perspective. He observes that violent hateful radicals do exist in a slowly modernizing Muslim world where complexities are often left out of analysis: “The reactionaries in the world of Islam are more numerous and extreme than those in other cultures–that world does have its dysfunctions. But they remain a tiny minority of the billion plus Muslims.”

The First Amendment gives Geller a soapbox on the Internet and the lecture circuit, but it also gives responsible organizations the choice not to give a platform to or associate with bigots. As Dr. Ibish rightly observes, “The appropriate response to hate speech is constructive speech, but organizations that are or wish to be respectable have an obligation not to treat hate speech as legitimate contributions to our national conversation. They are not.”

Free speech rightfully protects even conspiratorial haters to exploit fears from stereotypes, and animus from half truths. It also requires that people of good will completely repudiate such contemptible manifestations of Islamophobia in the strongest terms possible. In the past I have vigorously criticized Muslim organizations (without hearing much from them) and those on the left and in academia for promoting or tolerating anti-Semitism. Jewish organizations who themselves have combatted anti-Semitism have a special moral obligation to make it known that religious bigotry, especially under the mantle of expediency or fear, is a unique toxin that poisons the lifeblood of all civilized pluralistic socieities.

President George Washington’s reflections to Jews from over two centuries ago in a letter to Rhode Island’s Touro Synagogue are as true now as they were then:

 

For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens….May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.

 

Brian Levin was Associate Director for Legal Affairs of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Klanwatch/Militia Task Force in the mid 1990s. He, along with SPLC’s Booth Gunter were recognized this month with a second place award for investigative journalism in a magazine by the Society of Professional Journalist’s Green Eye Shade Award for an article they did on Muslim extremism in the United States for SPLC’s Intelligence Report.

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