(Hat Tip: Jerry Jones)
If you are a Muslim or have an Arabic sounding name and have been elected to public office or appointed to advise a government official, then be prepared to have your name smeared by the far right-wing.
For example, Rep. Keith Ellison’s victory as the first Muslim elected to Congress is routinely used by the right-wing as evidence of the “Muslim Brotherhood” agenda to subvert and “Islamicize America.” Who can forget the widely-lampooned exchange between Rep. Ellison and Glenn Beck asking the congressman to “prove that he is not working with the enemy?”
Even if you are not yourself a Muslim, but are the son of a Muslim, you are not immune. The President of the United States is a practicing Christian, but one born to a Muslim father. That was enough for the far-right hacks to dish the same Islamophobic whack job on Barack Obama, i.e: accusing him of being a terrorist-sympathizer and a secret Muslim hell bent on destroying the United States through “stealth Jihad.”
Such conspiracy theories have now reared their ugly head in Illinois. A blogger by the name of Warner Todd Huston takes issue with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s appointment of Safaa Zarzour to the Illinois Muslim American Advisory Council.
After mocking the formation of the council, Huston goes on to write:
Among those appointed by the Governor to this board is ISNA Secretary-General Safaa Zarzour, a man who has been linked to organizations that fund Islamist terrorism.
Zarzour is known as a supporter and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group well known for pushing extremist Islamism and for funding terror throughout the world…Why has our governor appointed a terror supporter to a state board of advisors?
What evidence does Huston provide to support the quite serious claim that Zarzour is a “known supporter and member of the Muslim Brotherhood” or that he is a “terrorist supporter?” Zero. Not a quote, not a video, nothing but innuendo and poorly connected guilt by association smears.
Such lies and indulgences in conspiracy theory are especially egregious when one considers who Safaa Zarzour really is and what he stands for. He is the perfect example of a civically engaged citizen: an elected official, a prominent interfaith leader, an educator and an advocate for civil rights.
There isn’t exactly a ton of Muslim elected officials in Illinois, but Safaa Zarzour happens to be one: he was elected as a trustee of the Bridgeview Public Library several times, each time with an emphatic victory margin. In fact, he is twice elected, having also been chosen by voters as the Commissioner of the Bridgeview Park District where he currently serves.
Throughout his career, Zarzour has made a reputable name for himself as a civic leader in Chicago, a national interfaith leader, and a trailblazing educator having served as a High School principal for many years.
Mr. Zarzour’s civic and educational work has been featured in many media including 60 Minutes, PBS Front Line, Chicago Tribune, Time Magazine and many others. Mr. Zarzour has received several honors and awards for his public service.
It goes to show the extreme cluelessness of the far-right hate bloggers that they see fit to question the credentials of such an established name, one who is the recipient of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations’ 2009 Outstanding Service Award, handed to him by Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley at a prominent ceremony.
But Warner Todd Huston’s shoddy attempt to fear-monger about a Muslim adviser to Gov. Quinn comes as less of a surprise when one considers Huston’s own, very real and problematic associations and beliefs.
Huston is part of the nefarious Islamophobic network of bloggers that includes the likes of the far right loon Pamela Geller. Geller is the co-founder of SIOA, an organization labeled by the SPLC as an anti-Muslim hate group. One of its co-founders, John Jay has openly called for the annihilation of Muslims. Geller’s work was also cited by the anti-Muslim/anti-Left Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik as inspiration in his terrorist manifesto. A simple glance at Geller’s beliefs and activism reveals a radicalism that has earned her the appellation of The Looniest Blogger Ever.
Huston’s blog, Publius Forum has been featured on various far-right vitriolic hate sites with extreme and radical leanings, such as: Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com, RightWingNews.com, CandaFreePress.com, RightPundits.com, StoptheACLU.com, TheRealityCheck.org, Human Events Magazine, American Daily Review, etc.
Huston’s bias against the enfranchisement of qualified American Muslims like Safaa Zarzour are even less of a surprise when you consider that he has called for the “criminalization of Islam” (Wikiquote). In an article titled, “Making Islam Illegal—Is it the only Choice,” Huston goes on to answer his own question by writing,
The best course of action is to make public displays of Islam and certain of its practices illegal in Western nations.
He goes on to compare Islam to the KKK and calls for the USA to put Islam “down” by not affording it the status of being a religion, a regular meme amongst Islamophobes and their fascist counterparts in Europe such as Geert Wilders.
What is evident is that Safaa Zarzour and Warner Todd Huston are polar opposites. While Zarzour works in the interfaith world, contributes to society, stands up for civil rights and is the epitome of moderation, Warner Todd Huston represents those anti-Freedom voices who seek to sow discord amongst different faiths and undermine one of our most cherished freedoms: the freedom of religion. The notion that an extremist hatemonger would call for the marginalization of an award-winning and established community builder is testimony to the self-delusional farcical worldview of Islamophobes and of how little respect they have for the intelligence of the public and elected officials alike whom they hope to scare into compliance.
If anything Governor Quinn should be lauded as a role model of American integrity and inclusiveness and emulated from coast to coast. It is only by standing up for what’s right, that the cowardly forces of hate, divisiveness, and fear-mongering can be duly undermined.