On March 8, I was invited to appear on a panel on the television network Al-Hurra a U.S.-based Arabic language satellite TV channel, as the Clarion Project’s National Security Analyst. To be honest, I expected to be ganged up on. Instead, the Muslims fired away at the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar, using terminology that groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations claim are forms of “Islamophobia.”
The topic was Saudi Arabia’s blacklisting of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group. The other panelists were a professor of Islamic studies and a former member of the Saudi Shura Council
, the body that oversees the application of Sharia.
Both guests wholeheartedly endorsed the crackdown on the Brotherhood, with one even stating that it should have been done 20 years ago. The government of Qatar was a subject of scorn for its support of the Brotherhood and, to a lesser degree, so was Turkey. The host even asked me if it was possible that the Saudis would designate Turkey’s ruling AKP party as a terrorist group.
The lexicon of my Muslim co-panelists would have enraged the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the other large Muslim-American groups linked to the Brotherhood. They used terms like “Islamist” and “jihadist” without reservation.
While CAIR and its allies point to that kind of vocabulary as proof of anti-Muslim bigotry, these Muslim panelists expected the Arab audience to understand that this is not the case. They didn’t need to clarify what they meant because it is obvious that they weren’t attacking Islam or all of its adherents. I freely used similar terms without confrontation.
This aspect of the show demonstrates how CAIR’s voice is not reflective of the Muslim world.
CAIR rallies against these terms because it does not want its Islamist ideology questioned and it wants to silence its opponents. In the Muslim world, the use of terms like “Islamist” and “jihadist” are not offensive; they are necessary and understood. The controversy over them was manufactured by CAIR and similar groups for political purposes.
More broadly, my appearance on Al-Hurra is an indictment of the American media’s handling of Islamist issues.
When the Clarion Project published shocking information about the pro-Brotherhood views of senior Department of Homeland Security Advisor Mohamed Elibiary, not a single television news outlet in the U.S. covered it. On the other hand, an Arab television program broadcasted a segment about it.
When the Clarion Project led a campaign against an Illinois venue for hosting a Hizb ut-Tahrir conference and it changed course, the U.S. media covered it superficially in some cases and without information about the group’s extremism. The most positive coverage came from Al-Arabiya, the second largest media outlet in the Arab world.
Another lesson from the show is that we don’t need to avoid the issue of Islamism in order to build relationships with Muslims. We don’t need to censor ourselves to accommodate the sensibilities of groups like CAIR.