Shame on CNN - Shame on Beck
Shame on CNN - Shame on Beck
by Mike Ghouse
DALLAS - As a Muslim fighting for reform within our Muslim world, I watched the Secular Islam Summit, aired earlier this week on CNN Headline News'Glenn Beck show, with great anticipation. I believe in religious pluralism and the separation of mosque and state. I know Muslims need to speak upagainst Islamic extremism.
But that's not what we got with the "Secular Islam Summit," held atthe Hilton Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. The summit was supposed to beabout Islam, yet there was hardly a Muslim at the podium. With the exceptionof two panelists - Hassan Mahmud, director of sharia law at the MuslimCanadian Congress and author Irshad Manji who believes the Qur'an is thebasis for being a Muslim - the summit was filled with Islam bashers, some ofthem ex-Muslims. The event should have been called the Anti-Islam Summit.It's a shame CNN and Beck got suckered into giving so much air time to thisfraudulent gathering of Islam bashers.
The summit was just an attempt by extremists of another persuasion -hatred to Islam - who want to destroy Islam. Whether it was former Muslim"Ibn Warraq" with his book title, "Why I am Not a Muslim," or BanafshehZand-Bonazzi, a political and human rights activist, the theme was the same:They want one-fifth of humanity to disappear. At this "landmark SecularIslam Summit," there were no "moderate" Muslims.
The intent of the conference was bad from the start. Due to thisfact, mainstream Muslims, including progressive Muslims, chose not toparticipate in the conference. Days before the summit, I talked with leadersof groups challenging conservative interpretations of Islam, includingRadwan Masmoudi, president of Islam for Democracy, an organization based inWashington, D.C. We decided not to attend the meeting. None of us wanted tobecome tools in the hands of the anti-Islam extremists. The need to berepresented in the summit became less important than speaking out againstthe intent of the summit, which was Islam bashing.
In explaining his decision, Masmoudi told me, "The need for a new,progressive and modern interpretation of Islam for the 21st century is realand undeniable, as is the need for real reforms and democratization inMuslim societies. However, for that reinterpretation and reform to occur,the effort must be led by Muslims who are proud of their heritage, religionand culture and who are credible within their community. The people whoattended the 'Secular Islam Conference' are neither, and that is why thisconference was a complete waste of time and money, except perhaps to providesome anti-Islamic voices a podium from which to speak."
The speakers present were Islam haters such as Wafa Sultan, aSyrian-American who achieved notoriety when she slammed Islam on Al-Jazeeralast year. The Syrian-American Sultan was filled with rage and hatred forMuslims and Islam, even going so far as to declare, "You cannot be Americanand Muslim at the same time," an obviously false notion in a nation where aMuslim now sits in Congress.
If the intent was honest, at least half of the speakers would havebeen Muslims. The integrity of the organizers and the intent of the summitare questionable, and, indeed, downright dishonest. In its coverage, the St.Petersburg Times appropriately gave time to those who looked at the meetingwith a skeptical eye, noting that Georgetown University scholar YvonneHaddad said, "Legitimate scholars are horrified by the lineup. The speakersare extreme in their views. Basically, it's everyone known for damningIslam."
In contrast, CNN's Beck paraded these personalities on TV as if they carriedweight in the Muslim world. CNN and Beck were had. In an hour-long report,Beck featured the supposed dangers the organizers faced. A woman who calledherself "Raquel Saraswati" claimed she was a practicing Muslim and expressedfears about being No. 4 on a list of Muslims ashamed of being a Muslimbecause she used to model.
As Ahmed Bedier, an official of the Council on American IslamicRelations in Florida, said: These were folks who are "cashing and bashing."I have differences with CAIR on some points, but he was in tune with mostMuslims opinion about the summit.
Beck brought Manda Zand Ervin, founder and president of Alliance ofIranian Women, a group which describes itself as a human rightsorganization, on camera, and she went so far as to say that Muslims want aglobal caliphate in which we will throw Christians and Jews into the sea.I'm a Muslim. I do not want a global caliphate. And I absolutely do not wantto throw Christians and Jews into the sea. Beck failed to ask her toughquestions to find about the not so hidden agenda that appears to motivateher and so many others at this supposed Muslim gathering: fear mongering.
Shame on CNN.
Shame on Beck.
Mike Ghouse is a home builder and activist based in Dallas. He is presidentof the Foundation for Pluralism and the World Muslim Congress, organizationsdedicated to peaceful co-existence. He can be reached atMikeGhouse@gmail.com.