Excuses for Islamists

A conference at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) on April 16, 2010, offered “Critical Perspectives on the Criminalization of Islamic Philanthropy in the War on Terror.” Co-sponsored by the UCLA International Institute, the Critical Race Studies Program, and the UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law—and including speakers from UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies (CNES)—the conference proffered the usual apologist fare.

It was also an echo chamber. Of the approximately 30 people in attendance, 20 of them were academics. Several students showed up, in addition to the usual assortment of aging leftist revolutionaries.

The thrust of the conference was simple: The war on terror has led to a crackdown on Muslim charities, which has had a chilling effect on Muslims by rendering them unable to engage in Zakat (charity), one of the five pillars of Islam.

Unmentioned throughout this eight-hour infomercial was that the majority of the charities that have been investigated for financially aiding terrorism were found guilty and that decent Muslims are capable of giving to charities that do not foment bombings and beheadings.

Asli Bali, acting professor of law at UCLA, organized the conference and acted as one of the principal moderators. She responded to challenging questions from the audience by stating: “We will take three questions from presenters; others will have to wait.”

Jennifer Turner of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Human Rights Program was the speaker over whom everybody seemed to be fawning. Her presentation was titled, “Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity,” and, in typical ACLU fashion, she made excuses for Islamists’ bad behavior while bashing America.

She began by stating: “I’m not a social scientist. I am not here to offer any statistical analysis”—a fig leaf she employed to make wildly unsubstantiated claims, as when she announced that “the conviction in the Holy Land Foundation case was based on faulty evidence.” She didn’t bother to elaborate.

It turned out her “research” that had the entire room in a swoon consisted of the following:

I did 120 interviews with American Muslims in Michigan and Texas. People reported that they were unable to give Zakat. Some had stopped giving entirely. Some felt fear of deportation or denial of citizenship.

Turner excused her extremely small sample size with more platitudes about not being a statistician. She insisted that she did not ask leading questions, although the process was clearly an exercise in promoting victimhood. She did not verify the accuracy of her respondents or analyze any tax returns. In short, she relied on her own biased views to justify a predetermined conclusion.

University of Michigan, Dearborn, history professor Sally Howell actually found oppression in increased giving. As she put it:

Since 2001, there have been 14 new mosques, and 17 mosques have doubled in size. This is proof that people are not donating overseas.

Howell followed this with more bizarre commentary:

“The Arab charity LIFE [Life for Relief and Development] had their board resign one year after Israel invaded Lebanon.”

Foiled again!

“As a result of restrictive policies” a board member of another charity, according to Howell, “embezzled $10,000.”

Yes: and as a result of inconvenient and restrictive securities laws, Bernie Madoff was forced to steal. It was all America’s fault.

“Does government get to decide what is good Islam and what is bad Islam?,” she asked.

No, but it does get to decide what constitutes funding terrorism.

Howell concluded, “The FBI has to show results or lose resources.”

Erica James, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) anthropology professor, offered proof—of nothing:

“I have an anthropology background. I am here to theorize what is happening.”

Her solution to the supposed problems faced by Muslim charities? “Defiant giving.”

During the question and answer period of this panel, an audience member—resorting to the usual name calling directed at critics of Middle East studies— proclaimed that “well-known bigot Daniel Pipes wrote an article about ‘stealth Islamists.’”

The panelists all nodded in agreement. There was no word on Pipes’s findings regarding UCLA law professor—and moderator at this conference—Khaled Abou El Fadl’s status as, in fact, a stealth Islamist.

Laila Al-Marayati, the chairperson of KinderUSA—a charity that terrorism analyst Matthew Levitt included in his book on funding Hamas—portrayed the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah as harmless. As she put it, “Hamas helps Palestinian children in Gaza. I don’t consider Hamas and Hezbollah as threats to me and my family.”

Jonathan Benthall of University College, London, gave a talk that can be summed up in one quote: “The United States is the key to the problem.”

Mona Atia, assistant professor of geography and international affairs at George Washington University, claimed that “Egypt has been a model of fighting terrorism.”

Meanwhile, McGill University political science and Islamic studies professor Khalid Medani demonstrated willful blindness by opining, “Somalia is a place where Islamic terrorism is not possible because they are not organized.”

When asked if the definition of a terrorist was hard to prove, Medani responded, “You’re right. I try to critique them based on their own terms. I’m not a lawyer.”

No UCLA conference would be complete without offensive commentary from a member of the Center for Near Eastern Studies faculty. This time, CNES director and anthropology professor Susan Slyomovics—speaking during a break with colleagues about a book she’s working on—said:

If Jews can get reparations from Germany, then Palestinians should get reparations from Israel. After all, what the Germans supposedly did to the Jews [emphasis added] is what Israel is doing to the people of Palestine.

All the while, she kept smiling and laughing. Nothing makes for a good academic sitcom like Holocaust denial from a prominent professor of Middle East studies.

Despite eight hours of groupthink, I was able to finally cut through the leftist clutter to determine why the U.S. is investigating Muslim charities: 9/11 actually did happen, and the majority of the charities accused of funding terrorism actually did.

Only a UCLA Middle East studies conference could deliberately fail to grasp this.

Eric Golub is the publisher of the Tygrrrr Express blog. He wrote this article for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/suprkufrB suprkufrB

    Am I being fanciful here, or do I detect an echo of "don't ask and don"t tell?"
    Just wondering.

  • Isabella Overington

    There are none

  • Great Grandma Sie

    The ACLU is an evil organization funded by terrorists? Wonder if the speakers somehow received 'donations' from these 'charities' to further the smokescreen.

  • bostonian

    Are UCLA and ACLU tween brothers

  • Stephen D.

    Excellent post Mr. Golub. Were you present for this mutual admiration society meeting? If so, how, pray tell, did you keep the bile down!? Do these folks realize how old their storiy gets? Blame America and its behind the scenes "zionists ruleres" for all the troulbels of the world. Actual facts of these "charities" funding Terror is irrelevant. Give to another charity? Not possible. America has forced them to stop giving. What is commical is that Islam dictates their goal to be the rule over all the world. The first folks that will fall are those that today defend this system. Does the ACLU actually think they would be allowed to live in an Islamic society? It is like watching a snake eat its tail.

    • Isabella Overington


  • Jaladhi

    What Islamic charities??? These are all front for stealth jihad to help jihadin soldiers in the field. Promoting the cause of allah is more important than helping the poor people for them. Another question is why these "charities" only want to help poor people in Islamic countries – we never hear them helping the poor in countries where they earn their living?? They never heard "charity starts at home"??? No, no, no,…., it's against their religion to help infidels. They earn their living in the West but send that money out to "charities" in Islamic paradises. All these charities are a front for jihad and should be totally banned!!!

  • Isabella Overingotn

    There are no excuses I mean

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/GaryRumain Gary Rumain

    One wonders why the arselifers don't donate to the regular charities. Of course, its against the koran to help infidels.

  • http://www.lifeshaven.net Utopian

    Good comments. No political satire. No blind rage. Just rational assessment. Islam is in a death-match with the world, as their own words attest: "Fight and slay the pagans [any non-muslim] where ever you find them. Seize them. Beleaguer them. Lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war." Surya 9:5. While there are many Muslims who renounce this verse and other similar proclamations, is it not an act of folly to grant citizenship to any group of men who are sworn adversaries to American liberty? Sharia law is an affront to the greatest gift next to life, which is free-will within the parameters of human decency and disinterested love for one another.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/GaryRumain Gary Rumain

      Well put, Utopian.

  • lovezion

    Sorry, don't recall his name (excuse the typos too) :o)

  • Alex Bensky

    This trope that the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to Jews is, besides tasteless in the extreme, is on the face of it ludicrous. Twelve years after the Nazis took power in Europe, Europe had very few Jews.The number of Palestinians who left Israel for various reasons between 1947 and 1949 was somewhe4re around 700,00 (coincidentally about the same number of Jews who fled Arab lands) and is now four million or whatever.

    If the Israelis are imitating the Nazis they're doing a very, very poor job of it.

  • 9-11 Infidel

    Zakat is not the same as it is in the West. In the West we give charity to whomever needs it, Haiti, Africa, wherever. Zakat is for Muslims. And where is the greatest need for zakat right now? The plight of Iranian women in Iran? No…To support the persecuted Copts in Eqypt? No. How about the jihad being waged against the west? I mean isn't the jihad required of all Muslims to participate in? Oh don't give me that greater jihad tripe. The lesser jihad (quitaal) is to be waged against the world until the only deen left is Allah's. Of course, the zakat goes to terrorists which is why all these front groups for the jihad should be shutdown post-haste.

  • lovezion

    Shalom! THIS is how I'd answer to this asinine so-called anthropology professor whose total lack of sensitivity shows her brute nature:

    "For palestinians to get reparations [chuckle!] from Israel for WHAT SUPPOSEDLY ISRAEL DID OR DO TO THEM…they have to be (just as Jews were in nazi germany) all herded into concentration camps, without food nor water and all naked, forced to hard labor and/or to excavate their own tombs then murdered by shots and/or in gas chambers! All in cold blood! Also, what valuables did or do you have that went all into a Swiss bank??? When you stupid palestinians go through that… PROVIDED WE WON'T DENY IT, then maybe, just maybe Israel will think about when she has time and is in the mood."

    UNTIL WHEN??? For goodness sake! I wish they had gone through the same that Jewishh people did, I really and truly wish that. They'll never realize how good they would have it if they behaved decently with Israel. For now, I wish them to continue to rot under their rotten shiia laws! <:-((((

  • Samira

    I was at this conference and conclude competely with Eric. After the first panel, I asked a question that made the panelists roll their eyes. It was not answered but skirted, and I was never again called upon to ask another question. It was definitely "group think". Bravo Eric!

  • Samira

    Since the organizer, Asli, is Turkish, and this was a free "conference" that not only provided breakfast, but lunch as well, and provided transportation and lodging for academics from Montreal, and other distant universities, I'm suspect that it was underwritten by Fatullah Gulan, a very wealthy "fundimentalist" that is well known for contributing immensely to the current Turkish government. This government wants Turkey to become an Islamic Republic like Iran. Gulan also heavily funds Charter schools not only in Los Angeles, but around the nation.

    • Kevin

      So, Samira, you appear educated and informed; when do we get to read your blogs about all this?

      Thank you for seconding Eric's observations, too.

  • lovezion

    UCLA is theh grup that also defended that german nazi some years ago!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/GaryRumain Gary Rumain

    And not just around the nation. I've found that there's a chair in his name at the Australian Catholic University, of all places!!!

    Someone needs to investigate him and his organization in detail.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/GaryRumain Gary Rumain


  • http://intensedebate.com/people/GaryRumain Gary Rumain

    Yes, extremely poor. I put it down to the lack of gas chambers and the unavailability of Zyklon-B.

  • ViewPoint

    Since Hamas violently took control of Gaza in 2007, Israel has supplied the Palestinians in Gaza, on a weekly basis, with 12,000 tons of wheat, flour, meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, animal feed, and medical supplies… plus 1 million liters of diesel fuel, and 837 tons of cooking gas. In 2009, Israel sent 62,000 tons of humanitarian supplies into Gaza and opened its border crossing to more than 10,000 Gazans for medical treatment in Israel.

    Israel delivered humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in spite of the fact that they are Israel's most determined, venomous enemy. What other nation would do so much for those fixated on your complete annihilation?

    To say, "If the Jews can get reparations from Germany then the Palestinians should get reparations from Israel," is the height of absurdity.

    Did the Jews receive enormous amounts of nutrition and medical attention while under unprecedented German persecution?

    The Palestinians receive, "reparations," from Israel on a weekly basis… and have been for years.

  • gary fouse

    I had the pleasure of meeting Eric during a counter-protest last Jan (2009) at the WLA fed building. He is a warrior. That same month, I attended an event similar to the UCLA event at UC-Irvine, where I teach. Talk about being the skunk at the garden party. I was virtually the only one in a room of several hundred who defnded Israel.

    It's actually fun being jeered by these jokers.

    Hate week at UCI begins May 10. Old Norm Finklestein will be there.

    gary fouse
    adj teacher

  • Mayka

    Thank you for this great – while enraging – article. I'm a student of Middle East studies in Europe, and what I've experienced here in seminars and conferences comes very close to what is described in this article. I remember one panel discussion I went to: the official topic was the Iranian nuclear program, but after just a few minutes, people started to rant about Israel instead – excluseively! – , and the overall message of the event was that Israel is the true villain. One participant literally said "when will the US finally realize that there are only 14 million Jews on the world, but 300,000 Arabs?" – suggesting that the US better "sacrifice" Israel in favour of this overwhelming Arab minority. It was disgusting. On a conference in Amsterdam on "Islam in Europe", one participant described the Muslim quartiers around Paris as "concentration camps" and claimed it was Israel(!!!) which somehow manipulated Europeans to become more and more "islamophobe". It's insane. I thought the situation of Middle East studies would be modestly better in the US – but, worringly, it seems I was wrong?!

  • Mayka

    – I meant "Arab MAJORITY" of course — sorry!

  • Observer

    I was not at the conference. I cannot comment on the veracity of this article, except to say the person whom you accuse of being a holocaust denier, Prof. Susan Slymovicz, is the daughter and the grand daughter of Auschwitz survivors. Her other three grand parents died in Mauthausen and Auschwitz. As an academic, her work is generally very well received by her broad fields, her students seem to love her. If the quality of your reporting about her matches that of the rest of the article, it is worthless.

  • UCLA student

    Professor Slyomovics is Jewish, and the daughter of a holocaust survivor. she lost her grandparents in the holocaust. i find it highly unlikely, given her personal experience, she would be a holocaust denier.