Some very useful information
by Islamist Watch
December 27, 2016
The profiles that follow illustrate how individuals across a wide range of fields advance Islamist ideas. They were chosen for their prominence and the damage they have inflicted. This is by no means a complete list and will be updated and expanded in the future.
- Executive Summary
- Ben Affleck
- Christiane Amanpour
- Karen Armstrong
- Max Blumenthal
- John Brennan
- Chris Christie
- Morris Dees
- Matt Duss
- John Esposito
- Glenn Greenwald
- Martin Indyk
- John Kerry
- Grover Norquist
- Leslie Wong
- James Zogby
- Countering Useful Infidels and Their Organizations
Americans have lived with the threat of attack by jihadi groups for nearly four decades. Despite this clear and present danger, some non-Muslim commentators, politicians, and other public figures challenge the idea that Islamism, a radical political ideology with ambitions of global conquest, has anything to do with this violence. We call such persons useful infidels (a variation on “useful idiots,” a term widely attributed to Lenin).
Useful infidels employ various methods. Some seek to redefine the threat by arguing that ISIS killers should not be described as Muslim terrorists out of fear that doing so would provide “the type of Islamic legitimacy that they are so desperately seeking, but which they don’t deserve at all.” Others seek to distract from the Islamist threat by claiming there is a deluge of anti-Muslim hate crimes or non-Muslim threats of violence where few exist.
Some cooperate with Islamist groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Others focus on depriving law enforcement of the necessary training and resources to recognize and counter Islamist threats. Or they legitimize Islamists as the only representative and acceptable face of American Islam, to the detriment of moderate Muslims, who are ignored and powerless.
Many useful infidels defame those who speak up about the threat of Islamism, both Muslim and non-Muslim, often accusing them of bigotry and claiming their critique, and not Islamism itself, is the cause of jihad, extremism, and violence. Some go so far as to compile blacklists of those accused of this alleged thought crime.
This demonization has painful consequences by confusing Americans and making them fearful to speak up. Those fighting the threat of Islamism, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, need to express themselves freely, without fear of their reputations or livelihoods destroyed because they stand up to a totalitarian ideology.
The media having an especially important role to unmask useful infidels, this handbook helps journalists in particular to recognize how useful infidels operate to shape public discourse on Islamism and to mainstream specious views. Non-journalists will also find it helpful to understand the hitherto-obscure function of useful infidels. We hope that journalists and scholars alike will build on this first analytic building block.
Ben Affleck has risen to become one of his generation’s most celebrated movie stars and filmmakers since co-writing the Oscar-winning screenplay for the 1997 film Good Will Hunting. Affleck subsequently appeared in a series of blockbuster films, such as 1998’s Armageddon, 2001’s Pearl Harbor, and 2002’s The Sum of All Fears, which made him an A-list celebrity. After a decline in his acting career, he rebounded as a director, notably for the Oscar-winning Argo (2012).
Affleck has eagerly used his celebrity status to promote progressive views on issues ranging from gay marriage to the minimum wage and universal healthcare, while donating time and money to the Democratic Party and an assortment of philanthropic and progressive causes.
Affleck has gained the most attention accusing others of bias toward the Arab-Islamic world. During an October 2014 debate on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, Affleck famously called the anti-Islamist views expressed by Maher and fellow panelist Sam Harris “gross” and “racist … like saying, ‘you shifty Jew.'”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent Islamist group named by federal prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator during the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial, subsequently added Affleck to a list of individuals it deems worthy of thanks from Muslims.
In His Own Words:
- “[T]he Arab terrorist thing has been done a million times in the movies.” — Applauding the decision by producers of his 2002 film The Sum of All Fears to replace the Palestinian Islamist villains of Tom Clancy’s novel with neo-Nazis. Slate, May 28, 2002.
- “I think [the Middle East] is the most misunderstood part of the world by certain people in the United States. … There is a perception in some circles that Islam is inherently more violent than Christianity, that this notion of jihad is inherent in Islam and leads Muslims to be more brutal than Christians. I think that is false.” — Agence France Presse, December 24, 2003.
- Bill Maher: “You’re trying to say … that’s all the problem is, these few bad apples. The idea that someone should be killed if they leave the Islamic religion is just a few bad apples?”
Affleck: “The people who would actually believe in that you murder someone if they leave Islam is not the majority of Muslims at all.” — Real Time with Bill Maher, HBO, October 3, 2014. (According to a 2013 Pew poll, the percentage of Muslims who support the death penalty for apostates from Islam is 79 percent in Afghanistan, 76 percent in Pakistan, 86 percent in Egypt, and 82 percent in Jordan.)
- “ISIS couldn’t fill a Double A ballpark in Charleston, West Virginia, and you want to make a career out of ISIS, ISIS, ISIS.” — Directed at Sam Harris. Real Time with Bill Maher, HBO, October 3, 2014. (As Politifact pointed out, the only such facility in Charleston is Appalachian Power Park, which has a maximum seating capacity of 4,500 for games, less than a fourth of what was then the most recent CIA estimate of ISIS fighting strength.)
Christiane Amanpour serves as CNN’s chief international correspondent. Hired by CNN in 1983, she gained widespread notice for her coverage of the 1990-1991 Gulf War and the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia.
Criticized by the New York Times for her emotional reporting and anti-Serbian speculation during the siege of Sarajevo, Amanpour later insisted this did not compromise her objectivity. “I now say truthful, not neutral. There is a difference here. Truthful is bringing the truth. Neutral can be creating a false equivalence between this side and that.”
Amanpour sparked considerable controversy with her 2007 series CNN Presents: God’s Warriors, which drew equivalency between Islamist terrorists and Israeli settlers. Even liberal MSNBC host Dan Abrams accused the veteran journalist of the “worst type of moral relativism” for failing to “distinguish between Islamic terrorists who utilize fierce violence to achieve warped goals, and the merely fiercely religious or even just those who fiercely believe in the state of Israel.”
In Her Own Words:
- “The impact of God’s Jewish warriors goes far beyond these rocky hills. The Jewish settlements have inflamed much of the Muslim world.” — CNN Presents: God’s Warriors, CNN, August 21, 2007.
- “The top Republican candidates have decided to make a war on Muslims — you know, 1.5 billion members of another faith.” — CNN, September 24, 2015.
Karen Armstrong is a popular author and prominent commentator on religion. Born in 1944 in Great Britain, she became a nun at age 17 but left the convent seven years later as a nonbeliever with claims of physical and psychological abuse. She told her story in the autobiographical Through the Narrow Gate in 1981 and shifted toward a career in teaching, writing, and broadcasting.
Two of Armstrong’s books charted the path she would take in the coming decades as a public intellectual: 1991’s Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet, which won the Muslim Public Affairs Council Media Award, and 1993’s A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Armstrong believes that Islamist terror is motivated by “humiliation” caused by colonial abuse of the Muslim world and continued Western support for repressive Arab regimes and Israel. “Every fundamentalist movement that I’ve studied, in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, is rooted in a profound fear of annihilation.”
Actions Speak Louder:
- Armstrong spoke at the 2012 annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an organization originally founded by Muslim Brotherhood activists and named as a co-conspirator in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation trial.
In Her Own Words:
- “The West has to share a responsibility for what is happening in the Middle East. If it had not persecuted the Jews, there would not have been the need for the creation of the State of Israel. The Muslim world did nothing to the Jews, and the Palestinians are paying the price for the sins of Europe.” — Interview with Al-Ahram, July 4-10, 2002.
- “[W]hen I saw the towers fall on September 11, one of the many, many thoughts that went through my head was, ‘We helped to do this.’ The way we split up these states, created these nation-states that ISIS is pulling asunder, showed absolutely no regard for the people concerned.” — Interview with Salon, November 23, 2014.
- Salon: “When you hear, for example, Sam Harris and Bill Maher recently arguing that there’s something inherently violent about Islam — Sam Harris said something like ‘Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas’ — when you hear something like that, how do you respond?”
Armstrong: “It fills me with despair, because this is the sort of talk that led to the concentration camps in Europe. This is the kind of thing people were saying about Jews in the 1930s and ’40s in Europe.” — Interview with Salon, November 23, 2014.
- “My problem with some current critics of Islam is that their criticism is neither accurate, fair, nor well-informed. I am sure they do not intend this, but in the 1930s and ’40s in Europe, we learned how dangerous and ultimately destructive this kind of discourse could be.” — Interview with the New York Times, December 26, 2014.
Max Blumenthal, the son of Clinton family confidante Sidney Blumenthal, is a controversial author, journalist, and partisan provocateur. During the administration of George W. Bush, Blumenthal found his home at the flagship publication of the left, the Nation, carving a niche for himself by critiquing and exposing various segments of the American right. These articles formed the basis of his first book, 2009’s Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party.
After the Obama administration took office, Blumenthal shifted his focus to Israel and became an outspoken supporter of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement. His 2013 book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel drew condemnation even from left-wing critics of Israel. The Nation‘s Eric Alterman blasted the book, claiming it “could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed).”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center has listed Blumenthal as one of the country’s most prominent anti-Semites. Tablet has described his work as “anti-Zionist polemic dripping with cartoon-like, racially weighted depictions of Israeli Jews. What distinguishes him from many other anti-Zionist writers is not his political views, but the obsessive nature of his work, which seems animated not by moral passion or analysis but by hate.”
Max’s reputation has crossed oceans: in 2014, the leaders of Germany’s main socialist party condemned the “well-known anti-Semitic journalist Max Blumenthal.”
Blumenthal sees so-called “Islamophobia” as a conspiracy by the pro-Israel lobby.
Actions Speak Louder:
- In June 2015, Blumenthal appeared with and was photographed alongside Asim Qureshi, a supporter of the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. Qureshi has urged British Muslims to “support the jihad of our brothers and sisters [abroad] when they are facing the oppression of the West.”
- Blumenthal has appeared as a speaker at numerous fundraising banquets for CAIR.
In His Own Words:
- “Little of recent American Islamophobia (with a strong emphasis on the ‘phobia’) is sheer happenstance. Years before … the Jewish-American establishment launched a campaign against pro-Palestinian campus activism that would prove a seedbed for everything to come. That campaign quickly — and perhaps predictably — morphed into a series of crusades against mosques and Islamic schools which, in turn, attracted an assortment of shady but exceptionally energetic militants into the network’s ranks.” — TomsDispatch.com, December 19, 2010.
- “Steven Emerson supplies all of the research for the Islamophobia bloggers … He basically claimed in this documentary that there were terror cells inside the U.S., which led to round-ups and prosecutions of Muslim leaders like Sami Al-Arian and the Holy Land Foundation. And all of these prosecutions have been completely discredited. These figures had no links to terror in any direct way, and yet some of them have been thrown in jail.” — Press TV