Smearing Perry on Jihad
It is unfortunate that the American Thinker recently published an article by Pamela Geller entitled "Perry's Problematic Pals," discrediting the aspiring Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, such that he has now been dubbed "the stealth jihad candidate" by one popular blogger.
Pamela begins her attack on Perry by pointing to the politician's alleged friendship and cooperation with the Aga Khan, the philanthropic head of the Ismaili Shi'a sect that rejects the traditional, orthodox concept of jihad as aggressive warfare against unbelievers.
Instead, the Ismailis favor an interpretation of jihad as working on and financing charitable, economic projects to improve the well-being of humanity as a whole. However, while Geller concedes the Ismaili rejection of violence, she goes on with her smear-by-association in pointing out that the Assassins were historically Ismailis.
True enough, but the Ismailis, at the zenith of their influence, also gave rise to the Fatimid ruling dynasty in Egypt (969-1171 CE) that was notorious among orthodox clerics for flouting the discriminatory restrictions for dhimmis.
Would it be valid to infer solely from such historical information that the Ismailis are an entirely peaceful sect? Of course not. The point is that the Ismailis do not advocate violence or advancement of Shari'a in politics anywhere in the world today.
Indeed, as Daniel Pipes notes, the Aga Khan is "a leading anti-Islamist figure." It is therefore difficult to see how Perry and the Aga Khan are working to advance an Islamization cause via "taqiyya."
Geller also quotes Perry as saying: "Traditional Western education speaks little of the influence of Muslim scientists, scholars, throughout history, and for that matter the cultural treasures that stand today in testament to their wisdom." In her eyes, this amounts to "whitewashing Islam's bloody historical and modern-day record." On the contrary, Perry's words do not equate to whitewashing at all.
She would only have a point if Perry were explicitly denying that Islamist terrorists draw from broad elements of traditional theology as part of the jihad ideology or saying that jihad has never meant warfare against unbelievers in Islamic history. In a similar vein, attempts by classicists such as myself to promote Latin philosophy and literature in schools today do not amount to whitewashing the bloody conquests and wars of Rome.
Pamela further denounces Perry for having shared a platform with Grover Norquist, but one need only note, as Pipes did, that all of Perry's connections to Norquist concern taxation issues, not Islam.
It is truly amazing how Geller never seems to vet herself with the very same smear-by-association tactics she uses to libel her opponents. One case of dubious connections on her part, which goes deeper than any links Perry may have with the Aga Khan and Norquist, will demonstrate her hypocrisy.
One of the primary reasons Geller has declared her support for the far-right UK street movement known as the English Defense League (EDL) is because the organization has featured a "Jewish division" (hailed by her main colleague as a "development much to be applauded"). The EDL Jewish division's leader -- Roberta* Moore -- is described by Geller as the person she "most trusted" in the EDL; and when Moore fell out with the EDL amid professed concern on Moore's part over the presence of neo-fascists in the group, Pamela withdrew her support for the EDL too. What is clear is that she wholeheartedly endorses Moore and the Jewish division, and it was their part in the EDL -- more than anything -- that apparently led Pamela to gush routinely about the EDL. For instance, she once proclaimed how she wished she "could be there to stand with the English Defense League" in support of a rally for Geert Wilders.
In reality, however, the fallout between Moore and the EDL's leadership was not due to allegations of infiltration by neo-Nazis. Rather, the EDL leadership and numerous members of the rank-and-file were alarmed at Moore and the Jewish division's alliance with and outspoken support for the American-based Kahanist group "The Jewish Task Force (JTF)," headed by convicted terrorist Chaim ben Pesach (aka Victor Vancier), who is also banned from entering Israel.
Vancier did much to set back the work of Soviet Jewish dissidents like Natan Sharansky in the 1980s with his bombing campaigns directed at, amongst other targets, an FBI informer's car and a hall where the Soviet State Symphony Orchestra was performing. Unsurprisingly, Vancier has praised Baruch Goldstein -- perpetrator of the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre -- as a "great hero."
In light of all the above, would Pamela care to explain her affection and support for her own problematic pals: namely, Roberta Moore and the Jewish division? If she thinks Perry should be vetted as a potential "fifth column" candidate for some very flimsy smears by association, why does she believe herself to be exempt from her connections with Patricia Moore and the Jewish division? Does she endorse their outlooks? Does she denounce the association with Vancier and the JTF? If not, why not?
Americans have every right to be concerned about Islamism, whether in violent or nonviolent forms, yet nothing will be achieved through demonization of political figures just because they might associate with someone who happens to be a Muslim. Pamela's recent attack on Rick Perry, who has a strong record of support for Israel, is only to be expected from someone who regularly resorts to libelous ad hominems against those with whom she disagrees (e.g. calling journalist Jeffrey Goldberg a "Jewicidal Jihadi"). Let us hope she will refrain from such reckless behavior in the future.
*corrected, originally eroneously Patricia
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and an intern at the Middle East Forum. His website is www.aymennjawad.org, and he can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pamael Geller Responds here.