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Monday, March 25 2019 @ 04:24 PM EDT

US Air Force Academy encourages Islamophobia?

By: Abdus Sattar Ghazali* -

Three self-styled "ex-terrorists" - Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zachariah Anani - were star speakers on February 5, 2008 at the 50th annual United States Air Force Academy political forum in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The three anti-Muslim fear-mongering bigots have spent the past couple of years on speaking tour across America but this is the first time that the trio has spoken at a military academy for which they picked up $ 13,000.

Shoebat urged his audience to resist "political correctness" and not to fear being labeled a "xenophobe, Islamophobe or American bigot." "The problem with Islam is if you speak out against Islam, you are a racist," Shoebat told a group of about 250 cadets and students.
Saleem said "if America is taken down and Sharia laws take over, there is no hope," he said during a spirited talk, in which he shouted and stomped in driving home his points.

Anani called it a mistake to limit discussion about terrorism to "radical Islam." "There is no radical Islam; there is Islam itself," he said.
In the past events at campuses and TV appearances, they made similar bigoted and inaccurate statements about Islam and Muslims. They told one California university audience that Americans need to "wake up to the dangerous realities of the Islamic faith."

Walid Shoebat has built a lucrative speaking career by manipulating the fears and whipping up hatred between Jews and Muslims. He told Springfield News-Leader, a Missouri newspaper, on Sept. 24, 2007 that he sees "many parallels between the Antichrist and Islam" and "Islam is not the religion of God -- Islam is the devil."

Zachariah Anani, who claims to have killed 223 people in the name of Islam, says he is an advocate against what he calls "the violent doctrines of Islam." (Michigan Daily, Jan. 30, 2007)

Another prominent speaker at the Air Force Academy is Islamophobe and controversial "terrorism expert" Steven Emerson, whose apparent lifelong goal is to banish Muslim Americans from American civil life. Like all professional propagandists, Emerson aspires to be detective, prosecutor, judge, and jury.
It is an unfortunate consequence of the post 9/11 life in America, where fear-mongering is a reality, that notorious career Islamophobes, such as these individuals, are subjected to little scrutiny and virtually no credibility tests.

Who are they? Shoebat and Kamal Saleem, are U.S. citizens and Zachariah Anani, is a Canadian. Shoebat and Saleem say they are former members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, according to their Web site. Saleem converted to Christianity after being treated by a Christian doctor. The three are evangelical Christians who being are promoted by their publicists as "the former terrorists" who "practiced hatred against Christians, Jews and Americans" and were "part of sleeper cells in the USA." Not surprisingly, many civil right groups, academics and at least one Canadian expert on jihad have called the men fakes.

Who is Walid Shoebat?

Walid Shoebat has found a way to make money by fabricating a fantasy story and claiming to be a former terrorist. Shoebat's father was from Beit Sahour in Palestine and his mother was an American Christian. His father was not a practicing Muslim and Shoebat spent very few years in Palestine. When Shoebat was young his father killed another man in Beit Sahour and the family was forced to leave town while Shoebat was young. Walid Shoebat and his mother returned to the United States and he was raised a Christian. Shoebat now gets between $13,000 to $15,000 per speaking event, and mostly speaks to right-wing or Jewish groups.

Shoebat does not merely regurgitate the same polemical and superficial criticisms of Islam shared by other luminaries in the Christian Right and the growing anti-Islam crowd but he confirms these unwise beliefs by suggesting that there is some credibility to them.

Who is Kamal Saleem?

Doug Howard, a professor of Middle East history at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., says he and several other academics have been researching the men since Kamal Saleem spoke at the college last fall.

"We suspect he's a fraud," Howard said. Howard has determined that Saleem's real name is Khodor Shami, a Lebanese who immigrated as a student and worked for the Christian Broadcasting Network for 16 years starting in the late 1980s. He was hired in 2003 at Focus on the Family.

Who is Zachariah Anani?

Tom Quiggin, Canada's only court-qualified expert on global jihadism and a former Police intelligence and national security expert, says that Zachariah Anani's tales of terror and murder just don't jibe with the time and place he claims to have been killing. "Mr. Anani's not an individual who rates the slightest degree of credibility, based on the stories that he has told," said Quiggin, who is also a Senior Fellow at the Center of Excellence for National Security in Singapore.

"It appears to be that Mr. Anani is nothing more than an extremist who is trying to create an imaginative history from a contemporary set of fears and stories," said Quiggin. "Mr. Anani's myths that he has built up around himself lack validity on a number of key points." (Windsor Star, Canada - January 20, 2007)
Why they are not arrested?

The question is if the three were actually terrorists then why they weren't jailed or deported?

Robert Birach, an immigration law attorney in Detroit, says the men would have had to have disclosed their affiliation with the PLO on their applications to become U.S. citizens if what they claim is true. "Failure to list the affiliation on the citizenship application is enough to go back and open the file and charge them with fraud and perjury," Birach said. "And now they are admitting to being former terrorists. So under the Real ID Act, that's enough for their removal from the United States."

According to Rev. Jim Sutter of the, every known terrorist is on one or more of the 12 US watch lists, and the combined watch list used by TSA to screen airline passengers. Shoebat is going around the country, making this claim over and over that he used to be a terrorist - are you really naive enough to think that if his claim were true, he wouldn't be on a watch list?

Shoebat has a "highly questionable" background. He has admitted to not using his real name as he travels around the country, picking up a small mountain of cash at speaking engagements, through his writing books and columns, where he tells us how Islam is evil, and how he was a big, bad former terrorist. Yet he freely flies around the country, not being on anyone's watch list or the no-fly list.

UC Davis police asked to detain admitted 'terrorist'

Not surprisingly, in February 2007, the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV) called on campus police at the University of California - Davis to detain Walid Shoebat who was scheduled to speak at UC Davis because he has stated publicly that he bombed an Israeli bank and participated in other acts of violence in the Middle East.

"Walid Shoebat is either a self-admitted criminal or complete fraud. In either case, the public and law enforcement authorities have a right to know," said CAIR-SV Executive Director Basim Elkarra.

The Muslim Student Association (MSA) at UC Davis had also called on the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate and deport Shoebat for past acts of terrorism.

"We are concerned that a self-confessed 'ex-terrorist' is walking free in this country, simply because he has converted to Christianity and supports this country's policies toward Israel," according to Shazeb Qadir, president of the Muslim student group.

Why Shoebat is not arrested? Mission statement on his website gives us some clue: Walid Shoebat Foundation: An organization that cries out for the Justice of Israel and the Jewish people.

Who is Steve Emerson?

A self-anointed "terrorism expert" whose rhetoric is characterized by charged terminology and a dislike for open debate, Steve Emerson harbors a longstanding track record of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry.

In April of 1995, Emerson confidently asserted on a live broadcast of CBS News that the Oklahoma City bombing - then breaking news - showed "a Middle Eastern trait" because it was carried out "with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible." "Oklahoma City, I can tell you, is probably considered one of the largest centers of Islamic radical activity outside the Middle East," Emerson explained with an enthusiasm bordering on elation.

While Emerson preoccupied himself with indulging his knack for conjecture, real detectives worked calmly and professionally to reveal that, contrary to Emerson's "expert perceptions", Timothy McVeigh and company were behind the bombings. Emerson's incompetence was duly exposed; CBS decided not to renew his contract and blacklisted him for five years.

Then again, Emerson's aversion to facts and affinity for bias were exposed by the New York Times. Its review of Emerson's 1991 book Terrorist said the book was "marred by factual errors... and by a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias."

His 1994 controversial film Jihad in America caused veteran reporter Robert Friedman to accuse Emerson of "creating mass hysteria against American Arabs" (The Nation, May 15, 1995).

John F. Sugg, then of the Tampa Bay Weekly Planet, revealed in a 1999 article that Emerson's priority is "not so much news as it is an unrelenting attack against Arabs and Muslims."

So what explains Emerson's anti-Muslim and anti-Arab spin? The Wall Street Journal provided us with one answer 16 years ago: "Mr. Emerson's prime role is to whitewash Israeli governments and revile their critics," wrote Alexander *censored*burn.

In January 2007, Emerson appeared on Fox News Channel and denounced the Attorney General for meeting with a number of major American Muslim organizations.
His agenda is essentially inspired by the Israeli ultra-right, and seeks to block the development of any major Muslim or Arab American political empowerment in the United States by denouncing any and all major organizations or prominent public figures from those communities as "extremists," and promoting insofar as possible fear and hatred of American Muslims in general by casting the community as a threat to our country and a fifth column.

Not only does Emerson want to prevent the American Muslim community from developing effective national organizations and political empowerment commensurate with its size and accomplishments, he wants them excluded from the normal American system of law and the protections of civil court.

Steve Emerson was the keynote speaker at the final Plenary Session and Banquet hosted by Lt Gen John Regni, Superintendent of the Air Force Academy.

Air Force Academy's invitation to such anti-Muslim and anti-Islam speakers tantamount to its tacit endorsement of their Islamophobic views. The First Amendment protects even bigoted speech, but those who value mutual understanding should have an equal right to speak out and be heard. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) had offered to help the Academy officials find representatives of the Colorado Muslim community who can offer a balancing perspective to the "hate-filled rhetoric" of the invited speakers. But CAIR's offer was rejected which further indicates that the Academy was bent on poisoning the minds of cadets with the hate-filled rhetoric of these individuals.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is a contributing writer to the American Muslim Perspective website.

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