Canadian Civil Society II – Islamophobia and Empathy

by

Howard Adelman

This blog continues the discussion of the core values of the Canadian civil religion in contrast to the Trump-Stone ethos now governing the polis in the U.S.  In the previous blog, I dealt with the first four values, but I reprint the whole list as a reference.

Canada                                        U.S.A.

  1. Civility                               Incivility
  2. Compassion                      Passion
  3. Dignity                               Indignation
  4. Diversity                           Unity
  5. Empathy                           Insecurity
  6. Impartial                          Partisan
  7. Egalitarian                       Inegalitarian
  8. Fairness                            Ruthless & even Unfair
  9. Freedom as a Goal          Freedom as Given
  10. False-consciousness       Humans as Falsifiers

Why is empathy, the fifth value above, different from compassion? Compassion is a feeling for the suffering of others. Empathy is a cognitive exercise, getting inside the head of another to understand how and why the individual makes the decisions he or she does. Empathy operates by adopting the point of view of the other as one’s own in order to understand the other’s perspective. This vicarious experiencing of the thoughts, feelings and frame of reference of another was largely evident in the debate leading up to the Members of the House of Commons passing an “Islamophobia” Motion, M-103, by a vote of 201-91 two months ago on 23 March 2017.

Before I analyze the Canadian debate on Islamophobia as an example of empathy for the most part, I want to first explain what Islamophobia is and why I offered “insecurity” as the antonym to “empathy” by tracking Donald Trump’s position on Islam. I also want to do this as an exercise in empathy rather than righteous haranguing against Donald Trump’s self-evidently outrageous statements on Islam.

Donald Trump’s criticism of Islam began long before he launched his campaign to become president and long before he assumed the Office of President of the United States of America. Some statements made five years earlier may have adumbrated one plank of a presidential campaign that would include negative statements about Islam. When Donald Trump took leadership of the Birther Movement, the organized effort to convince Americans and the world that: a) Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.; and b) that Obama was secretly a Muslim, in an interview on 11 December 2011, Trump articulated his more general warnings about Islam and Muslims.

In November of 2015, he uttered the outright lie that, “thousands of people [Muslims] celebrated in Jersey City in N.J. on 11 September 2001.” Though some residents of Jersey City claimed that Trump’s assertion was true and that “we saw it,” no video or photo has ever appeared to verify the claim. According to Trump, “There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it [the destruction of the Twin Towers] a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. No good.” In December of 2015, Trump put out a policy statement in his race to win the Republican nomination that warned of the “extraordinary influx of hatred & danger coming into our country.”

This is what appeared then on his campaign website:

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on. According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population. Most recently, a poll from the Center for Security Policy released data showing “25% of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified as a part of the global jihad” and 51% of those polled, “agreed that Muslims in America should have the choice of being governed according to Shariah.” Shariah authorizes such atrocities as murder against non-believers who won’t convert, beheadings and more unthinkable acts that pose great harm to Americans, especially women.

The citation of a notorious Islamophobe, Frank Gaffney and his organization, in itself fostered Islamophobia. Gaffney was even banned from attending the Conservative Political Action Conference when he levelled the same claim against the board members of being Muslim Brotherhood agents that he had accused Hillary Clinton’s aide, Huma Abedin, of being. Thus, Trump’s call on the campaign trail to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., his assertion in an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN that, “I think Islam hates us,” and that, “we can’t allow people coming into the country who have this hatred of the United States,” and his promise to absolutely implement a Muslim database, all offered evidence of his purported Islamophobia. The campaign climaxed in the two failed executive orders he issued when he became president to ban members of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

However, in Riyadh on Sunday as President of the U.S. appearing before an Arab summit of 50 leaders, he called his foreign policy, “principled realism,” though it is very difficult to discern any moral principles informing the doctrine. He asked for “partnerships” that would “advance security through stability, not through radical disruption.” In a slip of sloppy writing, he contrasted those prospective partners with perfection: “We must seek partners, not perfection.”  The ideal was self-reliance; the compromise was partnerships, partnerships even with predominantly Muslim countries.

Donald Trump made other mistakes in his overtures to these countries. He celebrated the pyramids and palaces of Giza and Luxor, the ruins of Petra in Jordan, all pre-Islam, but conspicuously not the grandeur in art and architecture, science and technology, thought and writing achieved at the pinnacle of Muslim civilization. However, he lauded Islam as “one of the world’s great faiths” and insisted that the war was against terror, against radical Islamicists; the majority of the victims were Muslims. He never used the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” that he claimed Barack Obama had been too cowardly to employ. He continued: it was not a war between civilizations.

How can we reconcile these assertions as President with Donald Trump’s claims as a campaigner? Was Trump guilty of Islamophobia, but quickly abandoned the belief after he became president and made his first foreign trip abroad to Saudi Arabia? Let me try to understand the position, but only after reviewing the debate on Islamophobia in Canada.

On 26 October 2016, the Canadian Parliament gave unanimous consent to a motion by NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair, condemning Islamophobia:

That the House join the 69,742 Canadian supporters of House of Commons e-petition (e-411) in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.

In his speech, the Hon. Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, NDP) said:

Mr. Speaker, hate crimes targeting Muslim Canadians have tragically become more frequent in recent years. Each time we hear of another, it weighs heavily on our hearts. We know that Canada is fundamentally a country of peace. Nous célébrons la diversité et les différences. Cela fait partie de qui nous sommes mais ces valeurs doivent être protégées. Les étincelles de haine doivent être condamnées. Nous ne pouvons pas rester sans rien faire. L’histoire nous l’a bien appris. Nous devons lutter contre la haine perpétrée à l’endroit de n’importe quel groupe de personnes en raison de leur religion, de leur ethnie, de leur langue ou de leur orientation sexuelle. We must actively fight hate perpetrated against the Muslim community and denounce, in this House, lslamophobia in all of its forms. Au nom de tous les néo-démocrates, je tiens à offrir mon appui à la communauté musulmane de Sept-Îles et à rappeler à toutes les communautés musulmanes du Canada que nous sommes avec elles.

What took place between the passage of this motion and three weeks earlier, on 6 October, when an almost identical motion was defeated by a handful of Conservatives members shouting, “Nay”?  Did Parliament deny the Canadian-Muslim community the recognition and empathy it deserved in the defeat of that motion? Was it subsequently moved by a petition with almost 70,000 signatures and/or the third attack on a newly-built Sept-Ȋles mosque that took place just four days before the motion passed? Was the defeat of the 6 October motion itself an act of Islamophobia that even went beyond the claim that it was an indication of a lack of empathy? Or was the vote of a handful of Conservative members of the House likely motivated simply by partisanship, as Mulcair claimed?

Ironically, the vandalism was probably not a hate crime. At the time of the unanimous passage of the motion, a man turned himself in to the police confessing responsibility for the crime. He said that he had become drunk that night in the bar next door to the cultural centre and did the damage, but he was too drunk to even know at the time that he had committed the crime. Nor, given the subsequent debate on a bill against Islamophobia, was the earlier dissent on the motion likely motivated by either partisanship or Islamophobia. It was more likely the Conservatives did not fully grasp the meaning and intent of the concept “Islamophobia’. They gave evidence that they had not been sufficiently empathetic to the position of the Muslims.

Why would they want to vote against a bill that condemned a form of hatred? One possibility is that they regarded Islamophobia as a term that did not mean “dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.” It was not anti-Muslim or anti-Islam at all. Islamophobia literally meant fear of Islam, Islam – phobia.  Fear is different than hatred. One can irrationally fear all Muslims even though very few are terrorists, but there is no necessary connection between fear of the other and hatred of the other.

However, the Ontario Human Rights commission offers a definition of Islamophobia as: “stereotypes, bias or acts of hostility towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general.” In the UK, the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia in its 1997 report, Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, defined Islamophobia as “an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination.” The concept is made up of the following eight recurring views of Islam as:

(1) a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change;

(2) separate and ‘other’ without ‘values in common with other cultures,’ being neither affected by them nor having any influence on them;

(3) ‘inferior to the West,’ ‘barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist;’

(4) violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism and engaged in a ‘clash of civilizations’;

(5) a political ideology used for political or military advantage;

(6) rejecting out of hand ‘criticisms made of the West by Islam’;

(7) hostility justifying ‘discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society’;

(8) seeing anti-Muslim hostility ‘as natural or normal’.

In contrast, antisemitism is defined as hatred aimed at Jews. Islamophobia has a wider range than hatred. There was a fear that the vagueness of the term and its broader cast would have the potential to stifle debate. Some even claimed that this was the only reason for introducing the bill, to stifle criticism of Islam even further. According to Dennis Prager, “The term “Islamophobia” has one purpose — to suppress any criticism, legitimate or not, of Islam.” Critics, specifically from the Jewish community, claimed that Motion M-103 put forth by Mississauga-Erin Mils MP, Iqra Khalid, would allow a person criticizing Islam to be subjected to criminal charges. A final reason offered was that, in contrast to B’nai Brith’s extensive collection of data and documentation of violence, harassment and vandalism against Jews, the equivalent documentation against Muslim and Islamic institutions was sparse.

Ironically, a Muslim academic, Ingrid Mattson, who holds the Inaugural Chair of Islamic Studies at Huron University College in London, Ontario, said that as much as hatred targets Muslims groups, there were many more antisemitic attacks in Canada. I was not able to ascertain whether Amira Elghawaby, the Communications Director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), who was also at the conference, agreed or whether she would simply say she does not know because the Muslim community is not as adept at collecting data as the Jewish community.

First tabled on 5 December 2016, M-103 passed in March by a vote of 201-91 and was referred to committee for further review. Why had it been subject to so much acrimonious debate? Why did opponents view it a slippery slope to limiting freedom of speech or even introducing Sharia law into Canada when that law ran counter to Canadian values and laws? Why did almost the whole Conservative caucus, with the exception of Michael Chong and Bruce Stanton, oppose the bill? Why were not these opponents swayed by the 29 January mosque shooting in Quebec City where six Muslim worshippers were killed? And why, according to an Angus Reid poll conducted between 13 and 17 March 2017, did only 12% of Canadians support the bill? 31% saw M-103 as endangering free speech, another 31% viewed it as a motherhood motion without any effect, and 17% viewed the bill and the debate as a waste of time.

Khalid’s motion required the government to undertake three initiatives:

  • Condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination;
  • Quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear;
  • Develop a government-wide approach for reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia.

The latter would require the heritage committee to create and maintain a data base on hate crime, much as B’nai Brith does for the Jewish community with respect to antisemitism in its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. Data collection on Islamophobia, in contrast, is sparse.

However, an effort to collect such data, however valuable, might also cause one to pause, especially if the data is to be assembled by government. For, in the age of digital communications, incidents of antisemitic remarks have expanded exponentially, suggesting a rising tide of antisemitism based only on the number of incidents recorded. As B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn opined, the comment section of any news media includes a plethora of comments condemning Zionist plots and Jews for murdering children. In addition to genuine acts of antisemitism – spray painting swastikas on gravestone, vandalizing synagogues and Jewish community centres – there are a plethora of crackpots now publishing antisemitic symbols and spreading hate.

The same can be said of hatred aimed at Muslims. Haroon Siddiqui gave a speech at the Aga Khan Museum that blamed the media, in particular, the National Post and the Postmedia newspaper group, for contributing to Islamophobia by looking for terrorists under every minaret and writing up every Muslim who makes an outrageous statement suggesting militancy or malevolence. On the other hand, given the incident yesterday evening in Manchester, one should not be surprised at the fear that a Muslim could be a terrorist. Should Harvey Levine, the Quebec Director of B’nai Brith, be condemned when he asked Montreal police to investigate two incidents of Muslim imams allegedly calling for the killing of Jews?  It should be no surprise that Levine had concerns about M-103.

Cannot the same be said about motions condemning antisemitism – that they go overboard and sweep up genuine criticisms in their compass? What is the difference between some strong criticisms of Israel and the xenophobia allegedly evident in statements and articles critical of wearing the niqab and the fearmongering that accompanied it. A motion was passed unanimously by the House of Commons, the Irwin Cotler motion, that noted “an alarming increase in anti-Semitism worldwide,” incidents that included a singular and virtually exclusive preoccupation with the alleged misdeeds of the Israeli government and even the denial of the right of self-determination for the Jewish people and the right of Israel to exist.  When does legitimate criticism of Israel become antisemitic?

There is one notable difference between the antisemitism and Islamophobia. The latter starts with fear and expands towards hatred. The former starts with hatred that fosters fear. But there are far more commonalities. And, in the final analysis, whatever the fears of creeping infringements on freedom of speech in both cases, whatever the ambiguities, whatever the comparative quantitative and qualitative analysis of victimhood, whatever the contradictions when some Muslim groups seem to be main purveyors of antisemitism and some Jewish organizations are major critics of the open-ended nature of the focus on Islamophobia, if one empathetically enters into the mindset of the pains and fears of members of either group, whatever the qualms, support for motions condemning both antisemitism and Islamophobia usually follow. Even when it does not, one must appreciate the relative civility in which the debate was conducted and honestly get inside the mindset of the person in opposition.

Which brings us back to Trump. I do not think he hates Muslims. I do think he used hatred and fear as means to advance his own political agenda. He should be condemned for manipulating people based on their irrational fears and hatreds rooted in their insecurities and, thereby, contributing significantly to a rising tide of Islamophobia.

With the help of Alex Zisman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weiner

Weiner

by

Howard Adelman

Calling someone a name, slandering him, is worse than stealing from him. For goods can be restored. A person’s unblemished good name cannot be. One never removes the stench of slander no matter how hard one tries to scrub it clean through remorse, expressions of regret and apologies, or even evidence of innocence. Once released, like an arrow, a slander cannot be intercepted, even if it falls wide of the mark, even if it ends up sticking out of a shield. Note that slandering someone does not mean you are lying. What you say may be very true. I was struck by that observation when I watched the documentary biopic on the political campaign of Anthony Weiner when he was running for mayor of New York City in 2013.

In Weiner, the filmmakers Josh Kriegman (a former Weiner staff member when Weiner was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives) and Elyse Steinberg documented the attempted political comeback in 2013 of Anthony Weiner from a sexting scandal. He had been re-elected seven times as the U.S. Representative (D-NY) in the 9th Congressional District in Queens. Weiner resigned his seat in 2011 when a photo of his erection under his underwear had been distributed on the internet.

Although he initially claimed that his twitter account had been hacked, he himself had evidently sent the photo to his 45,000 twitter followers in error. Whether it was a Freudian error is a separate question. Further, he tried to come clean at a news conference on 6 June when he informed the public that he had e-sex with six women whom he had never met. The film is about the mayoral campaign that took place two years later when Weiner attempted a political comeback. And the comeback seemed to be succeeding. He was leading in the polls when a new scandal broke in mid-campaign; a woman from Indiana released the photos and texts she had received from Weiner after he resigned in 2011.

The story then becomes fascinating as Weiner tries to keep his campaign on track as the media insist on dealing with a) the new and more explicit sex scandal and b) how he handled the fact that he in effect misled the American public in insisting he had been “born again” and had learned from the terrible mistake of his bad judgement. The documentary is fascinating on a number of levels. First, there is the detailed exposure of what goes into campaigning, from using contacts and obsequious rhetoric to wheedle money from potential supporters, to both receiving advice and keeping the paid staff on target in the face of a tidal wave of a second scandal threatening (and succeeding) in washing the whole campaign down the sewer.

The politics take place on a number of levels. On the one hand, the Clinton scandal of Bill Clinton’s presidential years shadows the whole film, not only because Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, worked closely as a political aide and confidante of Hillary Clinton running for President of the United States, but the ghost of the question of how Hillary could stand by her man haunts the whole biopic. Further, Huma Abedin was herself intimately involved in the rumbling scandal of Hillary using a personal email address while she was Secretary of State and more and more emails from her personal account were revealed as Hillary’s campaign unfolded.

In 1996, Huma Mahmood Abedin began working for Hillary as an intern three years after her father died when she was still a nineteen-year-old undergraduate at George Washington University. She rose to become Deputy Chief of Staff to the U.S. Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. It was in this period that Huma and Anthony culminated a courtship that had begun in 2007, though they had known each other since 2001. Huma married Anthony Weiner on 10 July 2010 when he was still a U.S. Congressman. Bill Clinton officiated at their marriage. She was pregnant when the scandal broke. Jordan Zain Weiner is four-years-old now. He is shown in his first political appearances being wheeled in his stroller by the candidate during his mayoral election run. He is also seen lying by his side in bed in the latest sexting scandal, but more on that later.

Today, Huma Abedin continues to serve as vice chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for President. At the same time, there is the echo of the Donald Trump campaign in the biopic, for Weiner comes across as a populist as well, one perhaps with a genuine feel for the plight of the middle class, but a populist nevertheless. In his case, a series of sexual electronic indiscretions, along with a failure of full revelation when the issue first arose (it was insufficient for him to say that worse could be forthcoming), was his undoing. When that omission combined with the fact that he repeated the offences at an even dirtier level even after he was initially exposed, confessed his indiscretion and supposedly vowed not to repeat the bad judgement, guaranteed that his campaign would tank. And it did.

The film is excruciating to watch. It is one thing for Anthony Weiner to allow the documentary to continue as his campaign unravels and as his failures torment him, but he vows to continue marching forward. Is the action courageous or foolhardy? Or did he really have no choice? After all, he is the cause of his own unmaking. But to watch Huma Abedin go through her private suffering in public and then, after first standing by and for her man, forced to withdraw, induced in me extreme pain and embarrassment for her. Withdrawing from the campaign after the second revelation for personal and political self-protection may have been a realistic appraisal that the campaign was going down the tubes, as well as a clear recognition that she was in a no-win situation. She could not now appear to stand beside her husband without looking like a ninny or a psychologically abused wife in a case in which political loyalty had morphed into political suicide.

In a situation where the activities of her husband were now endangering the larger political campaign of Hillary Clinton, to whom she owed as deep a loyalty, the dimensions of the tragedy are enormously inflated. The efforts at spin as the tornado whips down on the campaign are physically embarrassing. So it is fully understandable why she had to announce she was leaving the marriage on Monday when Anthony Weiner once again embarrassed her with his sexual compulsions.

However, Huma Abedin is not an innocent abroad. She had her own supposed scandals to worry about, some issues directly tied to her employment for Hillary Clinton and others to her being a devout Muslim. Re the latter, in the film Weiner loses his cool as he campaigns in a Jewish bakery presumably in Brooklyn. A man with a kippa is hectoring him for Anthony’s shameless behavior and repeatedly asking him how he can stand for election when he is supposed to be a model for others. Weiner leaves the bakery but soon returns to engage in a shouting match with the elector asking repeatedly who he is to judge him. As it turns out, we only learn afterwards that what likely instigated his losing his cool in such a self-destructive way was a remark he heard the man make. “And you married a Muslim.”

As it turns out, in the 2016 election, being a Muslim had become an issue as anti-Muslim bigotry became part of Donald Trump’s campaign. The issue arose just before Weiner initiated his attempted comeback mayoral campaign. Five Republicans (Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Trent Franks of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Thomas Rooney of Florida and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia) wrote a letter dated 13 June 2012 to the State Department Inspector General alleging that the Abedin family members were associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The allegations questioning security clearance for Huma began with her father. Syed Zainul Abedin was an Indian Muslim intellectual who, when Huma was two-years-old, took his wife and children to Jidda, Saudi Arabia, where he was offered the position by Dr. Abdullah bin Omar Nasseef, a chemist and biologist, who was then president of King Abdulaziz University. The post was director of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA), which was Syed’s specialty. He also began editing the Institute of Minority Affairs, Journal which in 1996 became The Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs.

The two thick issues in 1992, the year before his untimely death in 1993, provide no hint of any connection between Syed Zaimal Abedin and radical Islam. The first issue of 1992 has as its lead article one by the former Princeton University professor and famous Arabist, Bernard Lewis, entitled, “Legal and Historical Reflections on the Position of Muslim Populations under Non-Muslim Rule.” Bernard Lewis would never knowingly publish an article in a quasi-radical Islamist journal, and he would hardly likely to be “unknowing”.

An article by Fadwa N. Kirrish on “Druze Ethnicity in the Golan Heights: The Interface of Religion and Politics,” argued that Druze ethnicity infused with its unique religious orientation arose out of the circumstantial forces of the eleventh century and continues to be reinforced currently by different extraneous forces. These articles and others, as well as the special issue on Islamic banking, give no hint of a radical political program. Yet one of the right-wing sites, The Conservative Atheist, insists that the journal is managed by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, “a virulently anti-Semitic and sharia-supremacist organization.” However, Noah Feldman, director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program in Jewish and Israeli Law at Harvard University insists that, “I’ve never seen anything in any way radical” in the journal.

Syed’s wife, Saleha Mahmood Abedin, a Pakistani intellectual, took over the running of the journal as well as the directorship of the Institute after her husband’s death. Huma became assistant editor from 1996, when she first interned with Hillary Clinton. She retained that position until 2008, long after she started working full time for Hillary. (Her brother, Hassan, is the book review editor and her sister, Heba, is an assistant editor at the journal.) For criticisms of the allegations of Huma’s ties to radical Islam see The Washington Post, “Claims of Huma Abedin’s extremist ties are laughable,” in the 28 August 2016 issue, and a more thorough article by William D. Cohan, “Is Huma Abedin Hillary Clinton’s Secret Weapon of Her Next Big Problem?” in the February 2016 issue of Vanity Fair.

There is also a book length scholarly study by Marie Juul Petersen, For Humanity or for the Umma?: Aid and Islam in Transnational Muslim NGOs. Though I have not read the latter, my colleague Michael Barnett, currently University Professor of International Affairs and Political Science, George Washington University, and author of Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism, described this 2016 work as “a path-breaking study of Muslim NGOs. Avoiding the hype and following the theory and the evidence, Peterson produces a richly textured and nuanced appreciation of how these religious NGOs navigate the worlds in which they are embedded. At once careful and creative, hers is a study that not only shines a light on the complexity of Muslim NGOs, but also points a way toward understanding religious NGOs in an age of emergency and the relief-development nexus.”

Saleha was active in the International Islamic Council for Da’wa and Relief (IICDR), an umbrella organization based in Cairo for over 100 Islamic NGOs and GOs responsible for spreading the message of Islam (“develop Islamic action to match the divine mission of the Islamic civilization and assure the unity of the human family”), improving intra-Islamic accord and offering charity – to needy orphans and widows of course. That organization was then headed by Nasseef, the alleged link to radical Islam and the university president. Nasseef was an activist as well as scientist, a very prominent member of the worldwide scouting movement, chair of the Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies (Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi is one of the members of the Board of Trustees), chair of the World Muslim Congress, founding chair of the Sahm Al-Nour Trust and, until Syed died in 1993, Secretary General of the Muslim World League.

Andrew McCarthy is the former Assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who prosecuted Omar Abdel-Rahman, “The Blind Sheikh,” currently serving a life sentence in South Carolina for “seditious conspiracy” for his leadership of “The Islamic Group,” Egyptian terrorists responsible for the 1997 Luxor attack that killed 58 tourists and 4 Egyptians. McCarthy, based on his investigations, alleged that the Muslim World League was a supremacist Muslim organization.

What about IICDR? In the flowery language often associated with classical Islamic learning, it is described by its supporters as having a “mission of congeniality among different factions…cradling serenity and harmony.” They insist that until 9/11 nations were living in “a cooperative spirit,” and that a “state of tranquility and security prevailed, generating senses of cordiality and confidence, as well as of mutuality and interdependence.” The reality was that Islamicist extremism long pre-dated 9/11. Al-Qaeda was founded in 1988. Were the Muslim World League and IICDR, under the cover of congenial cooperation with all faiths and nations, promoting Islamic supremacism of which Islamicist terrorism was the hidden militant part? Were Muslim charities serving as conduits to launder money for terrorism?

Critics (The Global Muslim Brotherhood Watch, Shoebat, the Christian rescue organization, The Atheist Conservative, The Counter Jihad Report) of IICDR and other organizations connected to the Abedin family, claim that IMMA (the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs) had ties to Muslim extremists and is the principal tool for propagating the Muslim Brotherhood faith. The charge is not simply that the organization taught the superiority of the Muslim faith but the supremacy of that faith under the guise of interfaith dialogue. For example, the site Shoebat.com claims that IMMA itself has as its prime objective transforming “non-Muslim lands into Muslim lands until all lands have Muslim majorities.” I could find no evidence to support the charge.

Israel banned the International Islamic Council for Da’wa and Relief, in which Saleha was intimately involved, and which Nasseem chairs and which al-Qaradawi runs. In July 2008, Ehud Barak, then Israeli Defence Minister, signed the order banning it and 35 other Islamic funds around the world, all members of the “Union of Good” banned back in 2002 when it was charged with being an organization that funnels monies to Hamas. For a full frontal attack on Huma Abedin, see Lee Stranahan, “The Truth About Huma Abedin that Media Matters Doesn’t Want America to See,” published by Breitbart News then run by Stephen Bannon who now runs Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. (http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/01/18/the-truth-about-huma-abedin-that-media-matters-doesnt-want-america-to-see/)

In addition to the overcharged Islamic Issue, Hillary’s emails and the issue of the Benghazi Libya attack on the American embassy in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed (Huma testified for eight hours on the issue before the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi), there were suspicions of financial malfeasance. Investigations were initiated by Charles Ernest “Chuck” Grassley, the long-serving Republican senator from Iowa. The U.S. State Department subpoenaed documents on the Clinton Foundations charity for which Huma worked in 2012 while also simultaneously working part time for the State Department, Hillary Clinton personally as well as a private consulting firm. Was there a conflict of interest? Was she overpaid when she took maternity leave? With many exceptions, such as Senator John McCain and Senator Marco Rubio, Republicans in Congress were engaged in a multifaceted attack of innuendo on Huma that paid little attention to evidence-based research.

For example, when Huma was working for the State Department, she earned $155,000. That was the period in 2011 when Anthony resigned and gave up his salary of $174,000. Yet, in the film, they seem to be living in a luxurious apartment building during Anthony’s attempt at a comeback. In 2011, both were forced to sell their respective condos, hers in Washington and his in Forest Hills for which they received $629,000 and $430,000 respectively. Jack Rosen, a New York developer, rented them the luxury Park Avenue apartment presumably at a market value of over $3 million and a monthly market rent of $12,000, an amount greater than it seemed that they could afford. In 2012, unlike Donald Trump, they publicly reported a combined income of almost a half a million dollars from Anthony’s new consulting work, but the majority came from her four parallel jobs. However, no evidence has been produced of any wrongdoing.

Claims of overcharging the State Department for Huma’s part time work, of exceeding the allowance allowed for part time employees, of using her consulting work to promote patronage appointments, and charges of conflicts of interest, plagued her, but were evidently expected and de rigeur for anyone who worked for Hillary in the American system of checks and imbalances. So although Huma in the biopic lurks painfully in the background, while often enough in the foreground, in a sense the biopic is emotionally more about her than Anthony.

In watching Weiner, I was less interested in the obvious commentary about American politics as demanding spectacle and being a circus, with the clear recognition that such a process has to attract a certain type of personality which requires the hide of a hippopotamus with some sense of genuine compassion for the other. So the tragedy proceeds on a personal, interpersonal, social and political level touching the pinnacle of power in the world. Nothing could be more Greek than a picture of a penis undermining the centre of power in the world.

Often it is said that the job of documentary filmmakers and photo-journalists is to catch people in public office in the unguarded moments between their private and their public lives when their masks are taken off. But Anthony Weiner seemed to readily parade around in his underwear, or what appeared to be his underwear shorts, so that self-revelation in the unguarded moment was clearly a product of his own making just as Donald Trump’s campaign is unravelling as a result of who he is and how he conducts himself. However, the internet, the ubiquitous presence of cameras masquerading as cell phones, and the rise of the politician who literally lays it all out, seem to have given the photo-journalists and documentary filmmakers even more work.

All this is an aside to the issue of a tale and scandal-mongering. The woman eager for attention and delighted in her own quest for a moment of fame is a teller of tales. She is the instigator of the second scandal, even though everything she apparently reported was true. She claimed that she was driven to reveal all by the hypocrisy of Weiner’s candidacy and his half-hearted and misleading apologetics. But her performance seems to indicate a much greater concern with being in the sunlight herself. Further, CNN reported that the latest disclosure of Anthony Weiner’s not-so-hidden erection is a Trump supporter. So although Jeremiah 9:3 reads, “They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land,” the reality is that slander progresses and builds like a tidal wave as much in the so-called quest for truth as in the Trump business of propagating lies.

When the proverb says “a gossip betrays a confidence but a trustworthy person keeps a secret,” (11:13) we know for sure those homilies are partially dated at a time when it is almost impossible to keep anything secret. At the same time, it may perhaps be a more urgent time for promoting the principle that engaging in gossip and scandal mongering, whether in the pursuit of political advancement through hyperbole, exaggeration and outright defamation, or in the pursuit of truth, should be condemned. However, in analyzing scandal mongering, am I not myself engaged in precisely the exercise I seem to be criticizing?