A small group of fanatics plan to hijack a memorial event on Sunday ostensibly dedicated to the memory of soldiers who died in an attack last year at Fort Hood, Texas. The event will feature speakers with a long history of vicious anti-Islamic bigotry and rhetoric that targets not the actions of terrorists but rather condemns the religion of Islam itself.
The official Fort Hood anniversary memorial event (in the photo displayed on the link and here) was held on November 5, 2010.
The upcoming competing event is titled "Reclaiming America at Fort Hood," and one website promoting the event states "America had enough of diversity, liberalism, appeasement, and silence. Diversity starts with the truth." According to advertisements, the event will take place November 21st 2010 at the Killeen, Texas Conference Center. The event is being organized by the Forum For Middle East Understanding. Among the key speakers announced are Robert Spencer, Walid Shoebat, retired General William Boykin, and Kamal Saleem.
On Shoebat's website the event is described as "About Honor over Dishonor, Truth over Lies, and Facts over Self Delusion." It goes on to state that a "primary sponsor of the event is the ICTOA (International Counter Terrorism Officers Association).
The local Chamber of Commerce is distancing itself from the event. According to a report by Rob Munoz on the KXXV-TV website there was an e-mail sent out "by Killeen Chamber of Commerce President John Crutchfield last week noting the event, which has been soliciting businesses under the name 'Fort Hood memorial event' and advising its members that '...neither this organization or this event is supported by Fort Hood or the city of Killeen...'"
The official memorial service was held on November 5. On that date in 2009 Major Nidal Malki Hasan allegedly opened fired on fellow military personnel at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people and injuring 32 others. The shooting was the worst on a U.S. military base in history. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, fired more than 200 rounds before a police officer shot him, which left Hasan, 40, paralyzed from the chest down.
On November 17th, 2010, Colonel James L. Pohl, who presided at a military hearing for Hasan, recommended that the American-born Muslim be court-martialed on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Pohl also recommended that a conviction carry the death sentence. This report will go on to an Army colonel at Fort Hood, who will make the final decision as to whether Hasan is tried and whether he will face the death penalty. (based on an article in the Los Angeles Times)
According to Bartholomew, "Shoebat is a pseudo-expert on terrorism, Islamic extremism, and Biblical prophecy, and he teaches that Obama is a secret Muslim and that the Bible has prophesised a Muslim anti-Christ."
Abdus Sattar Ghazali wrote about Shoebat and other anti-Islamic bigots on the website of Muslim Military Members, "an organization providing information, communication, and coordination for Muslims in the US Armed Forces." "Walid Shoebat has built a lucrative speaking career by manipulating the fears and whipping up hatred between Jews and Muslims," wrote Ghazali. Shoebat told the "Springfield News-Leader, a Missouri newspaper, on Sept. 24, 2007 that he sees "many parallels between the Antichrist and Islam" and "Islam is not the religion of God -- Islam is the devil."
Of General Boykin, Bartholomew writes that:
===Boykin, like Shoebat, believes that the US is in a spiritual war against Islam with an apocalyptic dimension, and he was recently explaining how health care reform represents a "Marxist insurgency" and a Nazi-like conspiracy to "establish a constabulary force... that can control the population".
A number of high-ranking military officials condemn holding terrorism by Islamic militants as a justification for a war between Christianity and Islam.
Among them is Ike Wilson, a Colonel in the United States Army and an Associate Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy at West Point Wilson warns that this formulation is not just wrong, but puts soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan at a higher risk for injury and death. I discussed this with Colonel Wilson when we were both on a panel on "Religion in the Military" at the annual Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The panel discussion addressed the issue of aggressive apocalyptic beliefs held by some Christians.
"These high-profile speakers are pseudo experts who should be rejected by every serious analyst in the counter-terrorism and law enforcement community," said Thomas Cincotta, of Political Research Associates who is writing a report on Islamophobia and homeland security.
Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem, and Robert Spencer joined another anti-Islamic speaker, Zachariah Anani in addressing a special forum for cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy. At that event, reports Ghazali, "Shoebat urged his audience to resist 'political correctness' and not to fear being labeled a 'xenophobe, Islamophobe or American bigot.'"
Shoebat, Saleem, and Anani were billed as "former terrorists," at the 50th annual United States Air Force Academy political forum held in Colorado Springs, Colorado on February 8, 2008.
In his article for Muslims serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, Ghazali reported that:
===The three anti-Muslim fear-mongering bigots have spent the past couple of years on speaking tour across America but this is the first time that the trio has spoken at a military academy for which they picked up $ 13,000.
==="Walid Shoebat is either a self-admitted criminal or complete fraud. In either case, the public and law enforcement authorities have a right to know," said CAIR-SV Executive Director Basim Elkarra.
===Not surprisingly, in February 2007, the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV) called on campus police at the University of California - Davis to detain Walid Shoebat who was scheduled to speak at UC Davis because he has stated publicly that he bombed an Israeli bank and participated in other acts of violence in the Middle East.
Larry Zilliox, Jr. is a Virginia private investigator with over eighteen years experience. He runs Investigative Research Specialists, which trains law enforcement investigators, and he is a member of the International Association of Counterterrorism & Security Professionals.
"The most important point is to track behavior not belief," says Zilliox. "If you focus on beliefs, it diverts people's attention from the problem, which is illegal violence." It is true," Zilliox states, "that a belief system can be used to cloud a person's mind and manipulate them into taking religious beliefs and turning them into harmful or violent acts." But this should not be extended into suspicion of any entire religious group. And this is especially true when law enforcement personnel "come from a religious background."
Investigators and analysts need to be sure that they do not wrongly put people into the category of suspects simply because "those people don't believe what they believe," says Zilliox. He notes that "politics and religion can be polarizing." And to make matters more complicated, "people tend to stereotype when they process information." When he trains law enforcement investigators, Zilliox teaches them to be aware of and struggle against these tendencies.
In 2009, James Cavanaugh received the International Association of Chiefs of Police Civil Rights Award. For over 30 years Cavanaugh worked for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, with a special emphasis on potential violence motivated by political or religious beliefs. Cavanaugh rejects tossing all Muslims into the category of potential terrorists. He urges law enforcement professionals to "Know Your Real Enemy, Protect Your Friends."
Cavanaugh argues that most "Americans could clearly see the difference, and we [all] have to clearly see the difference between" Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network and the Muslims in "greater Islam." Cavanaugh warns that those "who can't see or won't see [this difference are ] only playing into the script written by the terrorists themselves....Muslims don't feel responsible for 9/11 because they are not - not anymore than Christians feel responsible for the terroristic acts of the Ku Klux Klan."
Cavanaugh admonishes his colleagues to be clear-eyed:
===As law-enforcement officers, prosecutors and those on the front line of protecting all we have to look clearly through the fog, the rhetoric and the thin disguises....We have to know who the enemy is and know who our friends are. We have to do everything we can to protect our friends and do everything we can to stop, to defeat capture and kill our enemies....Attacking mosques, threatening to burn or burning holy books, vitriolic talk declaring Islam is the enemy are all wrong.
= = =
Research assistance provided by interns at Political Research Associates, especially Aram Boghosian, Alex Lach, and Yasemin Koc. I got Richard Bartholomew's name wrong in an earlier version. Sorry about that.