By Hanan al-Harbi
On July 7, 2017, John Rossomondo published an article titled “Paranoid Terrorist Apologism Dominates ISNA Convention in Chicago.” As if the title did not speak for itself, this propaganda piece was printed in IPT News, the mouthpiece of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a so-called “research group” founded by Steven Emerson, a man widely denounced as being a dishonest bigot. The Southern Poverty Law Center has this to say about him:
Steve Emerson is a self-described “expert on terrorism” who has claimed that the Obama administration “extensively collaborates” with the Muslim Brotherhood; asserted that Europe is riddled with “no-go zones” and is “finished” because of Muslim immigration; and stated that 480 million to 640 million Muslims “support the notion that it’s okay to bomb the World Trade Center,” among other things. A reviewer for The New York Times Book Review said a 1991 book he co-authored on terrorism was marred by “a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias.” Despite this sorry record, Emerson, a former journalist who started the Investigative Project on Terrorism in 1995, has been repeatedly interviewed on Fox News, testified on several occasions to Congress, and been cited by government officials as an authority. But Emerson’s reputation took a huge hit in January 2015, when he claimed that Birmingham, England, was a “no-go zone” for non-Muslims and that in parts of London “Muslim religious police … actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone” not wearing “religious Muslim attire.” British Prime Minister David Cameron responded by calling Emerson “clearly a complete idiot,” and Ofcom, which regulates the British media, said the comments were “materially misleading.” In 1997, Emerson was accused of giving The Associated Press documents he claimed were from the FBI but were really written by him. The Tennessean reported in October 2010 that in 2008, Emerson’s nonprofit Investigative Project on Terrorism “paid $3,390,000 to [Emerson’s for-profit firm] SAE Productions for ‘management services.’ Emerson is SAE’s sole officer.” The paper quoted Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, saying, “Basically, you have a nonprofit acting as a front organization, and all that money going to a for-profit,” he said. “It’s wrong. This is off the charts.”
As for John Rossomando, who holds the title of “Senior Analyst” at the Investigative Project on Terrorism, his publications have all the hallmarks of hate speech. After bashing the 54th Annual ISNA Conference and some of its other speakers, Rossomando, makes the following groundless assertion:
Another ISNA speaker, John Morrow, who teaches at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana and directs the Covenants of the Prophet Foundation, launched into conspiratorial rhetoric accusing the U.S. of using the CIA to support jihadi groups with the intent of spreading anti-Muslim hatred.
“How do you ensure that the public continues to support the War on Terror, which is really a war on Islam and Muslims?” Morrow asked. “By means of terrorist attacks, by means of false flag operations, that way the eternal endless war of the globalist totalitarian fascists continues unabated to the pleasure of big brother, or as we know him in Islam, the one-eyed liar. The philosophy is clear. Keep the focus on fear.”
To start with, Dr. Morrow retired from his position as a Full Professor at Ivy Tech over one year ago. If Rossomando were a real journalist who adhered to professional standards, he would verify his sources prior to publishing information that is both false and misleading.
Dr. Morrow did not engage in “conspiratorial rhetoric.” On the contrary, he engaged in fact-based rhetoric. It is a confirmed fact that the CIA has supported terrorists and authoritarian regimes all around the world to advance its geo-political agenda. Has Rossomando heard of the Contras in Nicaragua, the Cuban exiles, the Salvadorean death squads, the Mujahidin and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and the various terrorist outfits operating in Iraq and Syria?
According to Rossomando, “This is the same narrative that ISIS jihadist recruiters use to lure disaffected Muslims into becoming terrorists.” No, it is not. Anyone who makes such allegations does not even have a Wikipedia-level knowledge of the subject at hand. So, good look to him when it comes to “Seeking a position as an open-source intelligence analyst,” as he advertised on his LinkedIn page. He is clearly unqualified to even comment on the Comics.
Unlike Rossomando, Dr. Morrow has been consulted by dozens upon dozens of governments around the world, including, the Obama administration, and, believe or not, the Trump administration. Regardless of their ideological inclination, and although Morrow does not mince his words, they value the depth of his knowledge, his non-partisan position, and his brutal honesty.
If Rossomando were a bona fide reporter, he would research his subject. As even a cursory investigation confirms, Morrow has been at the forefront of the war on Takfirism, described incorrectly by Islamophobes as “Radical Islam.” As the leader of the Covenants Initiative, a Muslim movement devoted to protecting the People of the Book, Morrow is a virulent critic of extremism and terrorism. His seminal study, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, was one of the factors that contributed to the Marrakech Declaration which reaffirms the rights of non-Muslim minorities in Muslim-majority nations.
Along with numerous other interfaith partners, Morrow helped get the Fortenberry Resolution passed in the House of Congress, thanks to which the actions of ISIS have been officially described as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. He has also worked incessantly to unite people of all stripes in a common struggle against all forms of intolerance and fanaticism.
Morrow is as far removed from terrorism as John Rossomondo, Steven Emerson, Joseph Farah, and Meira Svirsky are from intellectual honesty. Who, then, are the real “paranoid terrorist apologists?” I would venture to say that the title perfectly applies to Islamophobes who espouse grandiose and delusional anti-Muslim conspiracy theories for the same reasons that Hitler demonized Jews and the Serbs dehumanized Bosnians. As Bob Marley said, “If the hat fits, let them wear it.”
Considering that Morrow issued a religious statement excommunicating ISIS from the Muslim faith, it cannot be logically claimed that his rhetoric helps to recruit them. The same, however, cannot be said of Islamophobic fascists. The racist, paranoid, and hate-filled rhetoric of the extreme right is the fuel that fires violence against innocent and defenseless men, women, and children whose sole sin is that they are Muslim or happen to look Muslim. And since Muslims come from every race, ethnicity, and nationality all human beings can fall victim to the blind rage of intellectually-impaired racists.
Appealing to the humanity of 21st century hatemongers, the illegitimate offspring of the German SS, the Spanish Falange, the Italian Fascists, the Serbian Chetniks, the Zionist Stern Gang, and the American KKK, is in vain. For the modern-day Goebbels who work for the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, producing fake news and promoting conspiracy theories, the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim. As proud and patriotic people of faith, we have no choice but to fight the enemies of religious freedom in defense of our democratic values.
For those who really want a sense of what Dr. Morrow said at ISNA, the complete transcript of his speech, and the video of the entire session, is available on the Muslim Post: http://www.themuslimpost.com/the-role-of-faith-in-a-culture-of-fear-in-america/
Hanan al-Harbi is a Dutch-Syrian journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Iceland, in Reykjavík, where she studied Political Science She writes for Veterans Today, the Muslim Post, and many other publications.