When one spots an article in the far-right, David Horwitz-edited FrontPage Magazine entitled, “Does Glenn Greenwald Hate America?” one might think they have a pretty good idea of the article’s point. One might safely assume that Glenn Greenwald allegedly “hates America” for any of his more progressive positions like his role in the Edward Snowden leaks, or his consistent critiques of drone strikes and the Patriot Act.
But no. The article, which was written by six-figure Islamophobe and Anders Breivik inspiration Robert Spencer, accuses Greenwald of “hating America” because of his ties to Muslims; specifically, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Imam Siraj Wahhaj.
CAIR, a Muslim civil liberties group, has long been a cog in any number of far-right conspiracy theories—Spencer refers to them as a “notorious Hamas-linked Muslim Brotherhood Front Group.”
Although CAIR’s past isn’t entirely spotless, the overarching conspiracy theories are utterly bogus. According to an article in the Times, “more than one [U.S. government official] described the standards used by critics to link CAIR to terrorism as akin to McCarthyism, essentially guilt by association.” An FBI counterterrorism expert, in the same article, noted that there were no “cold hard facts” that linked CAIR to extremists.
Then there is American-born Siraj Wahhaj, who’s engaged in such America-hating behavior as being the first Muslim to give an invocation at the US House of Representatives, and publicly praising American multiculturalism and religious freedom on numerous occasions. He successfully worked with the NYPD to fight high levels of drug use and crime in his neighborhood, Bedford-Stuyvesant, camping out in crack houses to drive drug dealers out of the neighborhood.
Spencer, perhaps using his convenient ability to read the minds of Muslims, insinuates that Wahhaj has the sympathies of a jihadist radical.
Just kidding! The foundation of Spencer’s argument is actually that Wahhaj was an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
This does sound bad—until you look into what “unindicted co-conspirator,” a charge that Spencer also throws against CAIR (referencing a 2008 case), actually means. In the case of the 1993 WTC bombing, more than 150 people made the list. It essentially means that Wahhaj was a suspect, almost certainly because he had allowed the Blind Sheikh, a conspirator in the attack, to speak at his mosque in the past. (Of course, at the time, the US government loved the Blind Sheikh because of his role helping the US in Afghanistan when the CIA intervened to secure his entry into the country despite his place on the terrorist watch list.)
In fact, calling Muslims “un-indicted co-conspirators” has been a frequent political weapon against Muslim-Americans, bred from a rhetoric that views not the actions of Muslims, but the associations of Muslims (however tenuous), as suspect.
Which is exactly what Spencer perpetuates, as he links Greenwald, Wahhaj, and CAIR with terrorists like an over-caffeinated Glenn Beck. It’s notable that Spencer extends this to Greenwald as, generally speaking, non-Muslims are exempt from this sort of guilt-by-association malarkey.
In fact, recently, the only non-Muslims regularly labeled “terrorists” or “terrorist sympathizers” are those working to expose NSA and other governmental abuses—Greenwald (and his partner David Miranda), Snowden, and Chelsea Manning—as opposed to non-Muslim folks who actually do commit acts of terror.
Spencer has unintentionally highlighted what makes Greenwald and CAIR allies, and why Greenwald has so vigorously critiqued Islamophobia in the past. Islamophobia doubles as an apology for a surveillance state. Spencer’s brand of Islamophobia not only has the potential to incite anti-Muslim violence, but brings with it an acceptance of mass surveillance as a necessary sacrifice in the battle against Islamic jihad.