Islamophobes Try to Spin Anwar Al-Awlaki Speech at Convention in 2001 into Guilt by Association Smear of ISNA

Pajama’s Media, founded and funded by billionaire Aubrey Chernick, (who according to the Center for American Progress’ Fear, inc. report is one of the biggest donors to the Islamophobia Movement) recently posted a 20 minute video from September 1, 2001 in which Anwar Al-Awlaki spoke at the ISNA convention on the topic of “tolerance.”

Radical anti-Muslim bigot Walid Shoebat, whose story about being a former PLO Muslim terrorist and convert to Evangelical Christianity has thoroughly been exposed as a fraud by various organizations, including CNN, blogged about the video, claiming it proved,

When groups like the ISNA talk of encouraging non-Muslims to have ‘tolerance’, what they really mean is that non-Muslims should accept the intolerance of Muslims who are tolerant of each other. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what al-Awlaki is saying here. However, there are, no doubt, closed-minded rocket scientists who will refuse to do so.

The only thing more impoverished than the paragraph quoted above is Shoebat’s tortured reliance on guilt by association logic and omission of facts and context.

Awlaki’s speech was given ten days before 9/11, at a time when his radical views and support for terrorist attacks had not been formed–that would occur after 9/11 in a solitary Yemeni prison cell.

At the time of his convention speech Awlaki did not espouse radical teachings, instead his lectures and speeches largely focused on how to be a good Muslim, as well as the biographies of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions. These audio lectures made him popular amongst many in the American Muslim community and it is for this reason that he was invited to speak at the ISNA convention and also to be the Imam of Dar al-Hijrah Mosque in Virginia.

[B]efore al-Awlaki turned towards extremist thinking, his lectures and lessons were indeed beautiful, educational, and explained various aspects of the Islamic faith and about the prophets in a truly (positive) inspiring way.

Indeed, Shoebat glibly and conveniently glides through the fact that Anwar Al-Awlaki took part in a Pentagon luncheon several months after 9/11. The 900 pound question in the room that immediately jumps at you is: how’s ISNA supposed to know about Awlaki’s extremist views even before the CIA and the Pentagon?

The answer is once again because Awlaki did not openly espouse extremist and terrorist supporting ideas at the time. What drives this point home even more is the profile of Awlaki that was produced by the National Geographic after 9/11. The National Geographic team followed Awlaki for a whole day documenting how he spent his day, as well as interviewing him about his thoughts on AlQaeda and the terrorist attacks of 9/11. At the time Awlaki condemned the terrorist atrocities as well as AlQaeda in no uncertain terms.

There is no way that the people who did this [9/11] could be Muslim, and if they claim to be Muslim, then they have perverted their religion.

We encourage people to participate in blood drives, we encourage them to donate, and then we encourage the community to reach out. Part of the blame is on us that we haven’t been very active in reaching out to our fellow citizens, so that when these things happen we don’t have to go through this unfortunate backlash.(Emphasis Mine)

The real story here is how Awlaki tragically transformed in his time in Yemeni prison from someone who preached “tolerance” and condemned AlQaeda to aligning himself with them and their tactics, thereby contradicting his former declarations of tolerance. The contrast between his speech at the ISNA convention in 2001 and his pronouncements years later for Muslims in America to attack US interests couldn’t be anymore stark.

It is beyond loathsome, though not altogether surprising that Pajama’s Media and Walid Shoebat would try to tarnish ISNA with the Awlaki video, considering they are part of an industry that routinely pushes the ISNA is a Muslim Brotherhood front group myth.

Shoebat and Pajamas Media’s propagandistic hit piece on ISNA conveniently leaves out ISNA’s unequivocal condemnation of Awlaki’s extremist messages calling on Muslims to kill civilians.

When Awlaki’s extremism first surfaced several years ago ISNA released the following statement, ISNA Denounces Al-Awlaki’s Extremist Message of Calling on Muslims to Kill Civilians:

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) vigorously condemns Anwar Al-Awlaki’s latest video message of violence that reportedly urges attacks on America.

Such calls to perpetrate violent acts find no ground in Islamic teachings. Renowned Muslim American scholars have rejected Al-Awlaki’s extremist views which are based on lack of proper traditional Islamic training and discipline, a prerequisite for issuing Islamic opinions.

In 2005, ISNA sponsored a Fatwa, or Islamic religious ruling, against terrorism and extremism issued by the Fiqh Council of North America. The Fatwa states in part:

“Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilian life and property through suicide bombings or any other method is haram – or forbidden – and those who commit such barbaric acts are criminals, not ‘martyrs’.

In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:

  • All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam.
  • It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.
  • It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.
We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur’an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him.”

ISNA reiterates its condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism in the strongest terms and calls upon Muslim parents, teachers, leaders and Imams to take time to educate young people and their communities about the danger presented by the deviant teachings of self proclaimed scholars like Al-Awlaki.

Click here to view American Muslims Position Against Terrorism and Religious Extremism
Click here to watch videos on American Muslim Scholars Speak Out Against Terrorism and Extremism
Click here to read the Fiqh Council of North America Fatwa against Terrorism (emphasis mine)