The Hamas Smear: How Islamophobes Use Six Degrees of Separation to Smear Muslims
Lauren Green’s interview of Reza Aslan backfired on Fox News. Green’s obvious bias generated sympathy for Aslan. Many Americans were horrified at her blatant display of Islamophobia. Yet, Lauren Green’s statements were actually very mild compared to the anti-Muslim smears that Reza Aslan and other prominent Muslims are routinely subjected to–which few Americans speak out against.
Perhaps the crudest attack–used almost invariably against a Muslim who reaches any form of prominence whatsoever–is the Hamas smear. Its ubiquity is such that we ought to name a law after it. We’ve all heard of Godwin’s Law:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.
The Hamas smear deserves its own law. For vanity’s sake, let’s call it Danios’s Law. And, it goes something like this:
As a Muslim person becomes more prominent, the probability of anti-Muslim bigots linking that Muslim to Hamas* approaches 1.
*Or some other extremist group
It may not sound as elegant as Godwin’s Law, but it’s equally true.
How commonly the Hamas smear is used against Muslims became painfully obvious when I read Salon essayist Wajahat Ali’s guest article he wrote for LoonWatch. Ali masterfully used comedy to make impotent the very ugly “stealth jihadist” accusations levied against Muslims. Then, I realized that Muslims in general tend to have a running joke about this, since the Hamas smear is so prevalent against them. They have re-appropriated the smear, much as black Americans have re-appropriated the n-word. That’s how common (and hurtful) the bigoted slur has become.
Front Page Magazine and other right-wing media outlets tied Wajahat Ali to Hamas by pointing out that Ali was a member of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) during college. This, even though his joining the MSA during college is as intuitive as a black, Mexican, or Jewish person joining the black student union, the Mexican-American Student Association, or the Jewish Student Union respectively.
Islamophobes often use the MSA or CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to play a connect-the-dots game back to Hamas. CAIR is the largest and most respected American Muslim civil rights organization. Once again using dubious connections, CAIR is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, and in turn, to Hamas. With both the MSA (the largest American Muslim college organization) and CAIR (the largest American Muslim civil rights organization) connected to the Muslim Brotherhood and from there to Hamas, it is only a matter of connecting an American Muslim to the MSA or CAIR in order to link that individual to Hamas itself.
Sooner or later, any prominent Muslim is bound to be smeared in this way and linked to Hamas or some other radical organization. Even Rima Fakih, the Arab-American beauty pageant contestant who won Miss USA, was not safe from the smear. She stood accused of being tied to Hezbollah. The Hezbollah smear is a modified version of the Hamas smear, often employed against Shi’ite Muslims. (Hamas is a Sunni organization, whereas Hezbollah is a Shi’ite one.) In other words, being a bikini-clad beauty pageant winner is not enough to insulate oneself from being called a radical “Islamist.”
After the now notorious Fox News interview, the Daily Caller published an article claiming that Reza Aslan has “ties to extreme Islamists” and “is a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.” Elsewhere Aslan was called a “Khomeinist” and tied to the Iranian regime (yet another Shi’ite-centric version of the Hamas smear). These six degrees of separation sort of accusations are far more pernicious than anything Lauren Green said to Reza Aslan. They reek of McCarthyism, with “Islamism” being substituted for communism.
The list of American Muslims libeled with the Hamas smear is endless. But, what’s interesting is that not even non-Muslims are safe from this smear. President Barack Obama, who has a Muslim-ish enough sounding name, has been tied to both the Muslim Brotherhood and, in turn, Hamas.
I write for LoonWatch.com, arguably the internet’s most popular Islamophobia watchdog website. And, lo and behold, it did not take long for the Hamas smear to come along my way. The Islamophobes don’t even know my faith but they are certain that I am an “Islamist” and Hamas supporter. Whether a Muslim or simply a “Muslim sympathizer”, one can automatically be linked to Hamas using the Islamophobic approach.
Eric Allen Bell, a former diarist for The Daily Kos (he was banned by the unanimous consensus of the Daily Kos community for being an unrestrained bigot), accused LoonWatch of being tied to Hamas. Bell’s “connecting-the-dots” mentality and “math” prove how loosely the Hamas smear is used; Bell opined:
Loonwatch works with CAIR by broadcasting CAIR’s point of view. They are very consistent on this. Loonwatch is never in disagreement with CAIR. CAIR thanks Loonwatch in their “Hate Report”.
Connecting all of these dots is deeply, deeply concerning. Here is the math: Out of the Muslim Brotherhood come a number of terrorist organizations including Al Queda and Hamas. Out of Hamas comes C.A.I.R. and Loonwatch becomes a mirror for anything that C.A.I.R. wants to convey to Americans about how harmless Islam is.
All the evidence Eric Allen Bell needs is that “LoonWatch is never in disagreement with CAIR”, ergo LoonWatch must be working with CAIR. Does it take a mathematician to figure out the flaw in his “math” and the logical fallacy here?
Alright, so LoonWatch is linked to CAIR because we are, according to him, “never in disagreement”–and because CAIR supposedly thanks us in their “Hate Report” (I wonder why an American Muslim civil rights group would thank a website that monitors Islamophobia?). Ergo, LoonWatch = CAIR. Since Hamas = CAIR, therefore LoonWatch = Hamas. Oh yeah, let’s throw in Al-Qaeda into the mix as well. You see, it’s so plain to see, LoonWatch = CAIR = Hamas = Al-Qaeda.
Searching “LoonWatch” on YouTube reveals a video entitled “Loonwatch and Hamas”, created by a regular commentator on JihadWatch. The video is a painful ten minutes long, with a rambling “connect-the-dots” approach to smear me. What’s interesting is that the Islamophobic narrator mentions that I specifically condemned and denounced Hamas (which is what right-wingers always demand of Muslims and their sympathizers: “Do you, sir, condemn Hamas?”), but then goes on to explain why my condemnation and denouncement of Hamas aren’t genuine.
Hamas and LoonWatch Video:
So, what’s his argument to make this claim? The narrator intones: “A look at the numerous LoonWatch pages that come up from the term ‘Hamas’, we see that Danios and Hamas are quite compatible politically.” Really? I’m a strong supporter of pluralistic, secular, liberal democracy, whereas Hamas supports an ultra-conservative Islamic “Sharia state.” How’s that for compatibility?
The narrator then points to an article I wrote about Debbie Schlussel. In that article, I criticized Schlussel for insulting the victims of the Oslo terrorist attack in which seventy-seven innocent people were killed by a far-right wing extremist. Schlussel called the child victims of this heinous attack “bitches.” Interestingly, in the article I also pointed out that Schlussel linked the victims to Hamas, calling them “HAMASniks.” (Here again we see the Hamas smear in action, this time against murdered children.)
I passingly mention the Freedom Flotilla in the article, because Debbie Schlussel accused the child victims of having sympathized with it. (The Freedom Flotilla had attempted to provide humanitarian aid to the starving people of Gaza.) There is the narrator’s hook! He says that we should “place the Flotilla at the center of our discussion.”
The connect-the-dots is about to begin. It’s confusing, but it goes something like this:
Danios writes an article where the Freedom Flotilla is mentioned –> The Freedom Flotilla was organized by the Turkish NGO IHH and the Free Gaza movement –> the Free Gaza Movement is made up of forty different groups and individuals –> Huwaida Arraf (an Arab-American Christianby the way) is one of these people –> Arraf is the co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement –> The International Solidarity Movement’s website linked to the Free Marwan Barghouti campaign –> Huwaida Arraf is dedicated to her beliefs so much so that she would die for them –> Martyrdom is a hallmark of Hamas, therefore –> Huwaida Arraf = Hamas. Therefore, as you can clearly see, Danios = Hamas. Don’t you see?
The rest of the video goes on to find more threads between the Freedom Flotilla movement and Hamas, then linking all of that somehow to me. (I have nothing to do with the Freedom Flotilla, by the way.)
Oh yes, and we are told that our website LoonWatch.com also links to the “Hamas apologist Glenn Greenwald.” (Yet another “Muslim sympathizer” tarnished with the Hamas smear.)
The Hamas smear is an empty and meaningless line of attack, devoid of any intellectual substance. Unfortunately, however, it is all too often an effective means of tarnishing a person’s character. The only silver lining is that the Hamas smear is used so often and so flippantly by the Islamophobes that they might actually just wear it out.