by Enver Masud
A fact here, a fact there, conclusions out of nowhere, and pretty soon you have an Islamic conspiracy to subjugate the United States and terrorize the world. In the recent PBS "documentary" Jihad in America, producer Steven Emerson, in his struggle to piece together a story, has set forth on his own jihad against Islam and Muslims.
Emerson begins with scenes of the World Trade Center bombing, and the arguable conclusion that the ultimate goal of Muslim extremists is to establish an Islamic empire. The fact that the so called extremists are waging a struggle to recover their lands from which they were forcibly evicted, or struggling for freedom from foreign domination, a fundamental ideal subscribed to by our founding fathers, is not mentioned.
After a perfunctory disclaimer that Islam or Muslims are not the issue in Jihad in America, which aired on PBS on November 21, 1994, Emerson and the "experts" interviewed mention Islam or Muslim about once a minute for the next fifteen minutes (we stopped counting after that). Contrast this with coverage of Christian or Jewish wrongdoing where the religion of the criminal, the militant, or extremist is seldom mentioned.
We are told "most Americans understand very little about Islam." Emerson, however, only adds to the misunderstanding. We are not told that Islam is the religion based on God's message conveyed by a line of prophets including Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. We are also not told that Islam recognizes Muslims, Jews, and Christians as "People of the Book."
Where Islam unites Muslims, Jews, and Christians, Emerson struggles to divide. Jihad, the subject of the "documentary," is not even defined. We are not told that jihad has many definitions, that in general it means struggle, and that the highest form of jihad is the struggle against self.
Emerson then pieces together film clips from diverse sources, and interviews with a handful of "experts." From this meager "evidence" he takes a gigantic leap to the conclusion that there is an Islamic conspiracy to rule the world. The documentary is filled with half truths, misstatements, and questionable conclusions. Some examples follow.
Afghanistan's freedom fighters, which were supported by the U.S. in their fight to expel the Soviet invasion, are portrayed as Islamic rebels "dedicated to spreading jihad." Having expelled the Soviets, these freedom fighters talk of spreading their jihad (struggle) to aid nieghboring countries dominated by other foreign powers. Surely "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is not for the U.S. alone.
Yes, Islam is used to rally the freedom fighters, but it is hardly a call to an armed war to spread Islam around the world. We talk of our War on Poverty; War on Drugs. President Reagan spoke of a "Crusade Against Drugs." Can Emerson not understand the hyperbole in the language of others?
Emerson jumps form the Ayatollah Khomenei led revolution in Iran to the assassination of President Sadat. The viewer is not told that it was the Shah of Iran's brutal suppression of his people, or of foreign meddling and domination in the Middle East that has caused so much suffering. Instead selected events are tied together to draw us to Emerson's conclusion of a grand Islamic conspiracy.
Emerson sees danger lurking everywhere. The stationery of the Alkifah Refugee Center in Peshawar, Pakistan (supported by the U.S.) which in translation reads "Office of Services to the Holy Warriors" is a "fact" pointing to a grand Islamic conspiracy. Emerson and the late Senator McCarthy, who saw communists everywhere, would have found a lot in common.
Abdullah Azzam, an Afghan freedom fighter, is given prominence in spreading jihad against Jews, Christians, and moderate Muslims. Azzam may be talking of armed war or a struggle to overcome foreign domination in the Middle East. But Azzam's speaking before groups in the U.S. does not prove a conspiracy to wage an Islamic war on the U.S.
Was Azzam the sole speaker at these meetings? Who else spoke, what was said, what action was taken, we are not told. Azzam speaks of the Soviets who invaded Afghanistan as the "enemy of Allah." Is this a call to Islamic war as Emerson portrays it, or merely Azzam's way of portraying the Soviet invaders, and their surrogates, so as to rally Afghan Muslims to drive out the Soviets? Emerson is drawn unquestionably to his conclusion of an Islamic jihad against the world.
We're shown a map of the Middle East and North Africa, and told that "Islamic holy warriors began launching attacks against Israel, Egypt, and Algeria." Who controls these attacks, what is the motive? We are not told. But Emerson has no doubts that they are all connected in a grand Islamic conspiracy.
From the Middle East and North Africa Emerson jumps to Azzam's fund raising efforts in the U.S., and branches of the Alkifah Refugee Center at several U.S. locations, as evidence of jihad in America. Is fund raising by the Irish in America who support the IRA, the Jews who support the extremists in Israel, or the fiery speeches of Louis Farrakhan, evidence of a conspiracy against America?
Target shooting practice by unidentified individuals is portrayed by Emerson as evidence of Muslims training for holy war. What is their connection with specific acts of violence? How are they connected in some grand Islamic conspiracy? Emerson tells us that they are, but for all we know the target shooters may only be members of the National Rifle Association pursuing their hobby.
In short, Emerson has taken a real act of terror, the bombing of the World Trade Center, and isolated events and persons from Pakistan to the U.S. and woven them with invisible threads into a grand Islamic conspiracy against the world. We know terrorists exist within many countries and communities. We also know one man's terrorist may be another's freedom fighter. Emerson fails to show us the threads which weave these diverse Muslims into a jihad against America.
In a nation of immigrants faced with rising tensions among communities, racial divisions, and frustration with immigration, Emerson uses a broad brush to denigrate Islam and Muslims. He misses the opportunity to present issues fairly, to create understanding, and possibly lead to just resolution of legitimate grievances. Jihad in America is not a documentary. It is a propaganda film like those used to demonize Jews in the days of Hitler.
[In tandem with his vassal reporter at the Tampa Trib, Michael Fechter,
Emerson waged a decade-long jihad against a professor at the University of
South Florida, Sami Al-Arian, accused by Emerson and Fechter of being a
terrorist mastermind. Emerson and Fechter were backed by a shadowy network
of former federal agents and foreign spooks, notably a disinformation
specialist for Israel's ultra-right Likud party named Yigal Carmon and a
controversial ex-FBI official named Oliver "Buck" Revell - and a lot of
money whose origins have never been revealed.
However, where their information came from was clear. As the great Israeli
newspaper Ha'aretz explained before Al-Arian's 2005 federal trial: "Israel
owns much of the copyright for the case; a well-informed source termed the
prosecution an 'American-Israeli co-production.' The Americans are running
the show, but behind the scenes it was the Israelis who for years collected
material (and) transmitted information"--Mitch Perry, "John Sugg on why won't the Tampa Trib tell you what people in
Nashville know about Steve Emerson?," creativeloafing.com, November
[Rarely has the United States seen a more reckless and bare-knuckled
campaign to vilify a distinct class of people and compromise their
fundamental civil and human rights than the recent rhetoric against
It would also be hard to imagine a more successful campaign. In the span of
the two years since the start of Barack Obama's presidency in early 2009, an
astonishing number of people have turned into a kind of political wolf pack,
convinced that 0.6% of the U.S. population is on the verge of trampling the
Constitution and imposing an Islamic, Shariah-guided caliphate in its place.
Like the communists that an earlier generation believed to be hiding behind
every rock, infiltrated "Islamist" operatives today are said to be
diabolically preparing for a forcible takeover.
Ironically, the Constitution seems more threatened by certain Americans who,
prodded into paranoia by clever activists, opportunistic politicians and
guileful media players, seem downright eager to deny Muslims the guarantees
of religious freedom and the presumption of innocence.--Robert Steinback,
"Jihad Against Islam,"
Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report, Summer 2011, Issue Number: 142]