by John Rossomando
May 5, 2017
University of California, Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian has made a career out of demonizing critics as Islamophobes and flipping the script, arguing jihad is not the problem, but its critics are. He accuses opponents of promoting a type of McCarthyism and a racist clash of civilizations against Muslims.
“…Islamophobia comes in as a way to rationalize a clash of civilizations, using cultural markers as a way of constructing difference,” Bazian said in a speech last month at the Muslim American Society’s (MAS) joint conference with the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) held in Baltimore. “Let me say the following: Cultural racism is another signpost for biological racism.”
Bazian’s anti-Semitism runs deep. As a San Francisco State University (SFSU) student in the late 1980s and early 1990s he campaigned against Hillel, the student Jewish organization. He allegedly participated in an assault on the SFSU campus newspaper, The Golden Gator, claiming it was filled with “Jewish spies,” a 2011 Campus Watch report said. Bazian also allegedly worked to prevent a Jewish student from being appointed to the Student Judicial Council. He also served as president of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), which was aligned with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Bazian has a long association with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to isolate Israel. He helped found Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in 2001 as an outgrowth of GUPS; SJP is known for its pro-Hamas stance and anti-Semitic acts such as disrupting an on-campus Holocaust remembrance event at Northwestern University. In recent years, Bazian has served as chairman of the national board of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). It is closely connected with groups that comprised the Muslim Brotherhood’s defunct anti-Israel network in the United States called the Palestine Committee. Bazian also raised money for KindHearts, a Hamas front whose assets were frozen by the U.S. government in 2006.
Bazian’s Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project that he founded in 2009 churns out academic papers through its Islamophobia Studies Journal that blames the West for terrorism. He also helped found Zaytuna College, the first Muslim liberal arts college in America.
For Bazian, screaming “Islamophobia” is a way to build a smokescreen against inconvenient truths when debating the facts about Islamist aggression.
Some in the Islamic community, such as California Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad, contend the entire concept of Islamophobia is about shirking responsibility.
“By declaring [Islamophobia], the number one threat to Islam and Muslims in the United States, we effectively bypass the central doctrines of self accountability, and moral fortitude; principles upon which our faith is founded,” Ahmad wrote in The Lotus Tree Blog in 2010. “The sooner we wake up and take an intrepid and honest look at ourselves, the better.”
Bazian’s hosts for his recent speech have their own ties to international Islamist movements.
Prosecutors describe MAS as the “overt arm” of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S., and it has been alleged to have financial ties to Hamas. ICNA retains a strong spiritual connection with Islamist pioneer Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi, founder of the radical South Asian Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami. In his book Jihad in Islam, Maududi argues that Muslims should destroy “all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it.” ICNA’s 2010 Member’s Hand Book advocates the “struggle for Iqamat-ad-Deen,” or the establishment of Islam in its totality, “in this land.”
In his MAS-ICNA remarks, Bazian specifically named Investigative Project on Terrorism Executive Director Steven Emerson, Pamela Geller, David Horowitz and Daniel Pipes as drivers of the “Islamophobic industry” dedicated to preserving Israel’s interests.
Playing off the foundations of Islam, Bazian defined the “five pillars of Islamophobia” starting with the government’s “constant war on terrorism that defines it as a war on Islamic terrorism.” He misleadingly cited data to argue that Muslims are responsible for only 4 percent of terrorism in the United States and Europe. He did not cite a source for his data, but did note that it covered a period ending in 1995 – before al-Qaida, ISIS, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and other Islamist terrorist movements that have recruited westerners and attacked Western targets.
Other “pillars” Bazian mentioned include the counter-jihad movement, neo-conservatives and liberal interventionists. But Bazian’s emphasis on “Islamophobes” is to be expected. One cannot expect to attract funding for an Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project without concocting the frightening specter of “Islamophobes.”
Bazian similarly denounced Emerson, Pipes and Geller following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings for connecting the bombings to jihad before the Tsarnaev brothers who carried out the attacks were identified.
“…[The] crime of the terrorist is immediate, while that of the Islamophobes is long-lasting, for it creates and impresses on our collective public mind the logic of hate and racism …,” Bazian wrote in an academic paper called “Boston Bombing, Islamophobia and Sudden Ignorance Syndrome.”
But this was no wild leap of logic. The pressure-cooker bombs used in Boston were just like those recommended by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s English language magazine, Inspire. Dhzokhar Tsarnaev later told investigators he and his brother, Tamerlan, got their idea for the bombs from the magazine.
In Bazian’s world, however, it’s Islamophobic and racist to connect violent and imperialistic interpretations of Islam to acts of terrorism today. The Tsarnaevs, indeed, were the bombers, he acknowledged. “But the Islamophobic machine committed crimes against our collective consciousness by exploiting the suffering and pain of our fellow citizens.”
Much of his MAS-ICNA speech was spent attacking Samuel Huntington’s 1993 essay, “The Clash of Civilizations?” which predicted global conflict would be driven more by cultural differences than ideology and economics.
Bazian dismisses this as a “clash of ignorance,” arguing that the past sins of white Western Christians are more important to discuss than jihadist terror.
“Bernard Lewis’ question about Islam of ‘What Went Wrong?’ should be asked in relation to European history with emphasis on the Inquisition, genocide of the Natives in the Americas, the European Trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonization, 8 Apartheid South Africa, WWI and WWII, with the good White Aryan Christian Europeans responsible for the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons against civilians recorded in history to this day,” Bazian wrote.
Then as now, Bazian charged that “Islamophobes” relished in a clash of civilizations.
“It’s interesting that repeated aggressions by Islamists, both violent and non-violent [including Bazian’s speech] don’t count for anything, while criticism of Islamists is used to say that the Bill of Rights is being rescinded,” Pipes told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. “That’s highly untenable considering that we’re not the cause of jihad.”
Islamophobia has nothing to do with misunderstanding Islam or Muslims integrating into Western societies, Bazian said at the MAS-ICNA convention. It’s about protecting Western dominance over the rest of the world.
“So often [what] you get with debate and discussion, immediately the Islamophobes who jumps in – ‘well Islam is not a race.’ Well, again, race is a socially constructed category, but the directions of how people are racialized could be for a number of areas,” Bazian said. “You could be racialized because of your language; you could be racialized because of your skin tone; you could be racialized because of your religion.”
Bazian’s cultural racism concept is a flawed one, said American Islamic Forum for Democracy founder and President Zuhdi Jasser. Islam is a belief system. It cannot be treated as a monolithic entity exempt from criticism.
“If you are going to believe that Islam cannot be debated and cannot be reformed, and cannot be changed, the bottom line is you have to make it into a racial identity,” Jasser said. “That’s why Islamists are wedded … to the idea of Islam as a single tribal identity that is defined by the leaders of that tribe who are imams, clerics or theocrats.”
Islamists then use this tribal identity to depict Christians, Israeli Jews and the West as the enemy, Jasser said.
Fellow Muslims also can be “Islamophobes” if they disagree with Bazian. That’s the word he used to slur Muslims who supported the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, which ended the Muslim Brotherhood’s brief rule. Presumably this included Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand sheikh of Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s most important clerical institution, who blessed Morsi’s ouster.
When it comes to aggressive clash of civilizations rhetoric coming from Islamists, Bazian turns a blind eye. He chose to write for UCLA’s newsmagazine Al-Talib in the late 1990s and early 2000s despite the fact that Al-Talib regularly featured pro-jihadist articles. For example, an article he wrote in the March 1999 issue appeared along with a piece praising Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.
The July 1999 edition contained an editorial titled “Jihad in America” that criticized calling Osama bin Laden a terrorist. Bin Laden, it said, was a “freedom fighter” who spoke out against oppressors.
By that time, bin Laden had publicly declared war on the United States, “Jews and Crusaders.” That fatwa invoked the Quran to declare that killing Americans “an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it…” The al-Qaida suicide bombing attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania took place the year before Bazian’s Al-Talib article.
Bazian could have opted to stop writing for the newsmagazine after the pro-terrorist articles were published, yet he chose to submit articles in Al-Talib’s September 1999 issue and again in Al-Talib‘s March 2000 issue.
“I think he is a classical civilizational Islamist supremacist,” Jasser said, “meaning that until he is caught and exposed on various positions he’ll do whatever possible to advance the concept that where Muslims are a majority that an Islamic state is the best avenue for governance.”
Islamists love clash of civilizations rhetoric because they view the world in terms of the Land of Islam and the Land of War ruled by non-Muslims, Jasser said.
Bazian’s effort to accuse “Islamophobes” of a racist clash of civilizations at the MAS-ICNA conference and on other occasions distracts from the Islamists’ stated desire to supplant Western civilization.