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“Pamela Geller Is Not A Hero, But….”: Americans Must Stand Up To Those Who Intend To Inflame Rather Than Inform

I am grateful to live in a country where even someone as hateful as Pamela Geller can speak her mind. She can smear President Obama as the “jihadist in the White House” and speculate that he “choked up” with tears when he ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden. She can say that Pope Francis’ call for “affection and respect” towards Muslims means he has “become an imam.” She can compare Jewish Americans who support President Obama to Nazi appeasers and call comedian Jon Stewart “the most disgusting Jew on the planet.” She can suggest banning Muslims from becoming airline pilots. She can then claim that anyone who doesn’t want to hear her speak is “enforcing the Sharia.”

I am also grateful to live in a country where the law protects Geller’s right to say these things.

Sunday’s incident, in which two gunmen tried to attack an anti-Islam event that Geller and virulently anti-Muslim Dutch politician Geert Wilders hosted in Texas, was deeply troubling. Our freedom of speech means nothing if people are too afraid to speak. We saw this in a different context earlier this year when Sony pulled a raunchy geopolitical buddy comedy from theaters under threat of terror attacks. Say what you will about Pamela Geller, she has not backed down from any of her vile positions under fear of violence.

But it’s important to remember that the fact that she was attacked for her speech doesn’t make Geller a hero, or her speech any less hateful. As Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall put it yesterday, “a hate group is a hate group the day after someone takes a shot at them just like it was the day before.”

Local Muslim groups had the right idea when they stayed away from Geller’s event, declining to protest so that they wouldn’t give Geller the attention she so desperately wanted. Those who expose her hateful rhetoric — like my PFAW colleagues — also do important work, making sure the public knows that just because she is targeted by violent idiots doesn’t make her a serious thinker or a hero.

I know that Geller won’t back down from her hateful rhetoric after this event– in fact, the attempted attack will probably embolden her and cause some to take her more seriously. And we shouldn’t stop criticizing Geller — or, as she puts it, “enforcing the Sharia” — when she’s wrong.

As People For the American Way wrote in 2009 in response to a renewed spate of inflammatory right-wing rhetoric, Americans must “be willing to use their First Amendment freedoms to challenge those who exploit their political positions or media megaphones to promote lies that are intended to inflame rather than inform, that encourage paranoia rather than participation, and whose consequences are at best divisive and at worst, violently destructive.”


By: Michael B. Keegan, People for The American Way, The Blog, The Huffington Post, May 7, 2015

May 10, 2015 Posted by | 1st Amendment, Free Speech, Pamela Geller | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Church And State”: Mike Huckabee’s Christian Sharia Law

Mike Huckabee is known as a former governor, an author, a onetime Fox News host, and as a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. And now we have a new way to describe Huckabee: Christian Wahhabist.

For those unaware, Wahhabism is a sect of Islam, primarily practiced in Saudi Arabia, which follows a very conservative interpretation of the faith. Wahhabis demand that their religious principles be imposed as the law of their country. And Huckabee, in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN, made it clear that on certain social issues, he too believes that his religious beliefs should be the basis for the laws of the state.

But before we get to that issue, let me start with the reason Huckabee’s interview came to my attention. Huckabee stated that his continued opposition to same-sex marriage is based on the Bible, and that he can’t “evolve” on the issue “unless I get a new version of the scriptures.” He then added that it would be comparable to “asking a Muslim to serve up something that is offensive to him or to have dogs in his backyard.”

Being a Muslim who has offered many times before to be people’s “Muslim friend,” and to answer their questions the best I could about the faith, Huckabee’s dog comment immediately caused some friends to reach out on social media. “Are Muslims religiously prohibited from owning dogs?” they asked.

The simple answer: no. Nowhere in the Quran does such a prohibition appear. However, there are mentions of dogs in the Hadith, which are the sayings and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims view the Hadith as second only to the Koran in terms of being authoritative. But it should be noted that not all Muslims follow the Hadith and there are questions about the veracity of some of its passages.

In any event, there are passages in the Hadith that suggest dogs are “unclean”—but scholars note that was meant literally because it referred to dogs in the desert some 1,400 years ago. Consequently, some Muslims avoid dogs. But other passages of the Hadith say that Muslims can own working dogs, such as for hunting, farming, etc. And yet another passage notes that the Prophet Muhammad stated that God had forgiven a prostitute of her sins after she offered water to a dog in need of drink on a hot summer day. So, clearly, dogs are described in different ways in Islamic texts.

Bottom line: Many Muslims I know, including my own family, own dogs as pets. There was even a “Good Muslims Love Dogs” day in Canada few years back to counter bigots who urged people to taunt Muslims with dogs.

And regarding Huckabee’s remark that Muslims should not be required to serve food they find objectionable, my father was a cook and prepared pork for people daily. This was not a problem. In fact, there would only be a problem if the pork jumped off the plate and jammed itself into his mouth.

So Huckabee was wrong, but it’s not a big deal because he was clearly not trying to demonize Muslims as dog haters. But what is a big deal is his ludicrous argument that Muslims being asked to serve pork is the same as his desire to impose laws that bar gay Americans from getting married because it violates his religious beliefs.

Marriage, as our courts have found many times in the past, is a “fundamental right.” And there’s absolutely no comparison between that important right and the serving or not serving of pork.

Huckabee then gave us another baffling comment during his CNN interview. While complaining about courts striking laws that banned gay marriage, he stated, that “we don’t change laws because some people in a black robe just decide” an issue.

Well, actually, that’s exactly what we do. Our nation’s Founding Fathers set up our system of government so that we have a separation of powers and the judicial branch would interpret the law. And if a law were found to be unconstitutional by the courts, it would be struck down. This is all pretty basic stuff.

Still not done, Huckabee then defended the prohibition on gay marriage in certain states by noting that sometimes 70 or 80 “percent of the state’s population have affirmed natural law marriage.” Translation: If a majority of people support discrimination, then the court should defer to the will of the people.

Well, in 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws that made it a crime to enter into an interracial marriage in the seminal case of Loving v. Virginia, 73 percent of Americans supported such laws. In fact, it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that a majority of Americans finally approved of interracial marriage. So, if we followed Huckabee’s logic to its end point, then interracial married couples, like President Obama’s parents, should have been criminally prosecuted through the 1990s.

To be honest, Huckabee’s Wahhabist tendencies are nothing new. When he last ran for president in 2008, he argued that we “should amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.

What would be the reaction if a Muslim candidate for president (or even dog catcher for that matter) argued that we should amend our Constitution to agree with the Quran? The right wing in this country would explode. It would be all the Breitbart.coms of the world would talk about. But many of those same right-wing people who fabricate the claim that Muslims in America want to impose Islamic law have no problem when a Christian politician tells us point blank he wants to impose what is, in essence, Christian Sharia law.

The good news: Our First Amendment prohibits the establishment of any religion in our country, be it Christianity or Islam or anything else. That doesn’t mean people like Huckabee—just like Wahhabists in Saudi Arabia—won’t continue to advocate for their religious beliefs to be the law of the land. But in the United States at least, our laws must be based on public policy considerations and the Constitution, not passages of religious text.

And thank God for that.


By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, February 1, 2015

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Church and State, Mike Huckabee, Muslims | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Devil In Mike Huckabee”: Mr. Huckabee Far Overshadows His Kinder Gentler Gov. Huckabee

So Mike Huckabee is ending his weekly Saturday night show on Fox News as he thinks about a run for president in 2016.  Tragically, his Fox News audience will be stuck having to find other shows to enjoy, like reruns of Walker, Texas Ranger or the torture scenes from Zero Dark Thirty.

While Huckabee is thinking about his run for president, I thought it was time to think about Huckabee. And I’m talking both of them.  What do I mean? Well, there’s “Governor Huckabee,” a genial, compassionate person.  And then there’s “Mr. Huckabee,” his callous, rightwing alter ego.

First, however, I want to address those who are simply dismissing Huckabee as having zero chance of securing the GOP nomination in 2016.  They are wrong.

Sure, recent polls have Jeb Bush leading the GOP field. But Bush is as exciting to many conservatives as Hillary Clinton is to many progressives, meaning not so much. They are both viewed in essence like eating Brussels sprouts. Sure, you knew it’s good for you, but it’s not exciting.

But Huckabee (akin to Elizabeth Warren on the left) is like an ice cream sundae.  They excite people, and primaries tend to be dominated by voters who are the most excited.

And keep in mind that when Huckabee ran for president in 2008, he won the Iowa caucuses.  He also did well in other early primaries such as in Missouri, which he lost by 1 percent to the Brussels sprout of that field, John McCain.

Plus the GOP electorate has become more conservative since 2008.  In 2012, 50 percent of those who voted in the first batch of GOP presidential contests were Evangelical Christians, up from 44 percent in 2008.This bodes well for Huckabee in early primary states like Missouri, Colorado, and Minnesota, where the like-minded Rick Santorum won in 2012.

Bottom line: Huckabee is for real.  At least from an electoral point of view. But who is the real Huckabee is another question.

There’s the kindly Governor Huckabee who championed an increase in the minimum wage, hired more state employees and even expanded government services with programs such as “ARKids First” that provided health coverage for thousands of Arkansas’ children.

Now let’s meet “Mr. Huckabee,” whose views on a range of issues are truly frightening – I’m talking hide the children and grab a pitchfork scary.  Here’s a sample:

1. Huckabee wants Christian sharia law: Huckabee stated during his 2007 presidential campaign that we can’t change the Bible to line up with society’s “contemporary view,” instead we “should amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.” Do you think he really wants to stone to death woman who aren’t a virgin on their wedding night like it mandates in the Bible?

2.  Gays are a health hazard: Huckabee stated that “homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk.”

3. The Sandy Hook shooting is our fault: Huckabee blamed the horrific killing of 26 people, including 20 children, at the Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012 not on gun violence or even the act of a crazed gunman. Instead he said it was because “we’ve systematically removed God from our schools” and as a result we should not be “surprised that schools have become a place for carnage.”

4. AIDS insanity:  When running for the US Senate in 1992, Huckabee called for a quarantine of people who had AIDS. He also decried increased government funding for AIDS research, instead suggesting that money should come from “multimillionaire celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor [and] Madonna,” who should be encouraged to “give out of their own personal treasuries.” In 2007, Huckabee said he stood by these earlier remarks, but would phrase them differently.

5.  Michael Brown had it coming: In December, Huckabee told us that Michael Brown would be alive if he acted “like something other than a thug.”   He added that he was “disgusted” by politicians and athletes who flashed the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture.

6. Gay marriage makes Jesus cry: In 2013, Huckabee called gay marriage an “unholy pretzel” that has turned “holy matrimony” into a “perversion.” Huckabee also tweeted that “Jesus wept” over the 2013 US Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA. And Huckabee even said in September that he doesn’t care if he is on “the wrong side of history,” as long as he is “on the right side of the Bible” when it comes to gay marriage.

7.  Sorry if you are already sick: Not only does Huckabee oppose Obamacare, he opposed the one provision that most people like, namely that health insurers shouldn’t be able to deny coverage to those with preexisting medical conditions.

8.  Ignore court decisions/laws that God wouldn’t like: This past September, while speaking of abortion laws and gay marriage court decisions, Huckabee declared that we should not accept “ungodly” judicial rulings that “will cause us to have to stand before God with bloody hands.”

Sure, there are other Huckabee comments I could highlight, like his famous one from last January about women’s libidos, or how Martin Luther King, Jr. would be standing with him in fighting against marriage equality, but I think you get it by now.  Mr. Huckabee far overshadows his kinder, gentler Gov. Huckabee.

Now while many of you might be shaking your head in disbelief over Huckabee’s views, keep in mind that it’s likely that nearly 50 percent of the GOP primary voters in 2016 will agree with most, if not all of them.  And that’s far scarier than anything Huckabee has said.


By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, January 7, 2015

January 8, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Gun Nuts’ Vile Muslim Test”: Why Open Carry Activists Don’t Want To Extend The Right To Everyone

So what do you think the gun proliferation activists would say to a bunch of American Muslims exercising their constitutional right to bear arms on Main Street, USA? That’s the question writer and gun owner Jon Stokes asked in this piece at He wrote:

I’ve been thinking recently about the way that the Satanists are having a field day with so many laws that Christians are passing under the “freedom of religion” banner: stunts like putting a statue of Satan next to the Ten Commandments, or Satanist plans to hand out literature to school kids in Orange County. What if, I wonder, certain groups were to exercise their open carry rights in the same manner.

What if there were a group of Muslim open carry advocates who called themselves “Sword of the Prophet” and whose avowed mission was to bring Sharia law to the U.S., and they took to showing up armed and in large numbers outside of churches on Sunday, the way the OC guys do at the state house. Or what if there were a group of hispanic activist OCers, maybe an offshoot of La Raza who liked to organize armed protests at police stations and court houses, and who openly advocate the “reconquista” of the Southern U.S.?

The question was sincere and he’s got good reason to wonder. As he points out, gun rights were pretty well assumed in America until a certain clarifying event took place: the Black Panther Movement. (I wrote about this earlier here.) Then Gov. Ronald Reagan and the boys in Sacramento were none too pleased at the idea of African-American revolutionaries availing themselves of their Second Amendment remedies in the California State House:

[T]he story goes that in 1967, Gov. Ronald Reagan agreed to sign a California gun control law that made it against the law to walk around in public with a loaded gun after he saw a Black Panther rally… Black Panther Bobby Seale was interviewed about it later and verified that Reagan was there that day…

It’s certainly possible that Reagan was motivated by that rally. But there was a lot of unrest in America in those days and gun control was not a right-left issue then — even the NRA was for it.

(If you’d like to see an impassioned defense of the right to bear arms, watch this video. Wayne LaPierre sounds like a 5-year-old by comparison.)

Anyway, it wasn’t that long ago that the idea of armed Black Panthers roaming the streets with revolutionary zeal was enough to scare the heck out of people who otherwise would be pumping their fists in solidarity with the anti-government revolutionaries and cause them to withdraw their support for unfettered gun rights. But that was then and this is now. The world has changed and the gun rights activism has matured into a full-fledged movement. It’s more philosophically and ideologically based than it was before, largely as a result of some very conscious moves by gun enthusiasts to make it that way. But just how far does the principle of a right to bear arms go these days?

Well, here’s one fairly typical response to Stokes’ question:

First: Open Carry advocates are trying to get back to common sense and common law. They don’t want the government to have sole control of Force. And the reason for their open carry is purely for legitimate law abiding purposes. Namely self defense.

Now contrast that with: Muslims whose GOAL is to implement Sharia Law in the US. Okay…that right there is basically a declaration of war. Or how about: La Raza: Let’s reconquer the Southwest region of the US. Again, fightin’ words.

As far as the Black Panthers? Didn’t need to be a race issue about “black people carrying guns”. The issue was that they were carrying them in a threatening manner, not in a rational, law abiding, for self defense civil manner. And once again, the route chosen was to restrict or ban the open carrying of guns rather than just tool up and fight fire with fire. If I see threatening people carrying weapons in my neighborhood I’m not going to go cry to the government to take their guns away, I’m going to pack heat myself and encourage my neighbors to also do the same. Then we’ll see if the armed thugs are serious or not.

Evidently, individuals are allowed the unfettered right to bear arms as long as other individuals who believe in an unfettered right to bear arms agree with that individual’s motives for wanting to bear arms. It all depends, you see, on whether you are bearing your arms in a “rational, law abiding” manner. It is up to each individual to determine what that behavior looks like and if they aren’t happy about it, they will evidently start bearing arms in a threatening manner to “see if the armed thugs are serious or not.”

In fairness, there were a number of comments that said “it doesn’t matter, Muslims have the same right to bear arms as anyone else.” Under their principle, this should be the obvious answer.  But there were quite a few who made the point that what determines a person’s right to bear arms is intent and if your intention is to challenge the U.S. Government you shouldn’t be allowed to bear arms. Unless, of course, you are a fine upstanding gun rights activist who believes that the Second Amendment exists so that citizens can …. challenge the U.S. Government.

In other words, the Bill of Rights only applies to those whose intentions are “good.” And whether those intentions are good is to be determined by the people with guns. This is called “freedom.”


By: Heather Digby Parton, Contributing Writer, Salon, December 19, 2014


December 22, 2014 Posted by | Bill of Rights, Gun Control, Minorities | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The War On ACORN Must Never Die”: The Nonsense Is Back, Republicans Tackling Imaginary Problems

Remember the community group called ACORN? Rest assured, congressional Republicans do.

As regular readers know, I’ve occasionally marveled at the right’s preoccupation with the organization, which permanently closed its doors several years ago. As recently as two years ago, Public Policy Polling found that nearly half of Republican voters believed President Obama only won re-election because of ACORN’s interference – even though ACORN didn’t exist at the time.

Such paranoia has been especially common in Congress, where Republicans continued to insist on provisions in spending bills that blocked ACORN from receiving public funding, despite its non-existence.

All of that changed, however, over the summer, when GOP lawmakers seemed to realize it was time to move on. House Republicans finally appeared to be “throwing in the towel” in its campaign against the organization, dropping the anti-ACORN language from their spending bills. It was a bright, new, reality-based day.

And now that day is over. Zach Carter reports that the nonsense is back with a vengeance.

Fear not, America. House Republicans have resumed their war on the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, an anti-poverty nonprofit staffed by low-income people, a scant 4 1/2 years after the organization officially folded. […]

On Tuesday, House negotiators unveiled a bill to fend off a looming government shutdown that included the following ominous provision: “None of the funds made available under this or any other Act, or any prior Appropriations Act, may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, allied organizations, or successors.”

Remember, at present, there is no ACORN. Denying it funding is about as sensible as cutting off unicorn research.

All of which leads to the larger issue of Republicans tackling imaginary problems.

As we talked about over the summer,  House Republicans also voted this year to prevent the Department of Energy from blocking offshore-drilling permits, despite the fact that the Department of Energy has nothing to do with offshore-drilling permits.

Last year, House Republicans also approved a measure to block an Obama administration policy on welfare reform that didn’t exist. Some Republicans have taken up measures to prevent the imposition of “Sharia law” on the public, despite the fact that there is no effort to impose such a policy. My personal favorite was the effort to stop the “NAFTA Super-Highway,” which never really existed outside the overheated imaginations of the political fringe and Ron Paul.

But anti-ACORN provisions remain the quintessential example of the phenomenon. When will Republicans move on? At this pace, probably never.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 10, 2014

December 11, 2014 Posted by | ACORN, Congress, House Republicans | , , , , | Leave a comment

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