Career Hatemonger Steven Emerson Enraged by CAIR-Chicago’s Positive Social Engagement

Notorious Islamophobe Steven Emerson is at it again.

This time the source of his wrath is Christina Abraham, CAIR-Chicago’s Civil Rights Director.

In a hit piece entitled, “Is This Who We Want Representing U.S. Interests Abroad?” published on his fluff website, “The Investigative Project on Terrorism,” Emerson shows once again why his website had better be called, “The Investigative Project on Mainstream American Muslim Organizations.”

The simple fact is that while Emerson desperately tries to run himself off as a “terrorism expert,” a cursory view of his website quickly reveals that, all too-often, the targets of his so-called investigations and reports are not terrorist groups but mainstream American Muslim organizations like CAIR, MPAC, ISNA, MAS, etc.

In considering his own question posed in the title of his piece, “Is This Who We Want Representing U.S. Interests Abroad?” Emerson offers the following answer, “The State Department and a U.S. university seem to think so.”

Right, so now we are left with a choice.

Option A: the State Department and the U.S. University – as well as the countless other institutions, churches, conferences, and universities who have hosted Christina Abraham – are clueless.


Option B: Emerson, the odd one out, is a lying propagandist.

For the self-delusional Emerson, the dilemma is easy to resolve: when Emerson disagrees with the world, the world is wrong and Emerson is right.

Of course, this sort of self-aggrandizement has come to typify the life and works of career Islamophobes like Steven Emerson and Daniel Pipes. In attempting to fool others, either they are either really clueless or they put their faith on the chance that the rest of us are really clueless.

Why is a “terrorism expert” so enraged by someone like Christina Abraham working to build bridges between civilizations via a State Department sponsored conference on human and civil rights in the Philippines? Could it be that Emerson is not really looking out for our national security concerns, that instead he is preoccupied with a whole different set of concerns on his mind? Looking over Emerson’s track record, it becomes apparent that he feels threatened by positive social engagement that challenges the stereotypes and misconceptions that he needs kept alive in order to succeed and prosper.

Emerson’s attack on Christina is laughable in many ways.

First, he runs his article off as an “investigative” report.

What, ask you, are the “investigative” techniques that our investigative expert employed to trigger his “exposé” of Christina Abraham and CAIR-Chicago? Answer: he googled “Christina Abraham.”

Question: and where did that lead him? Answer: CAIR-Chicago’s website.

In fact, many, if not all, of the attacks leveled against CAIR-Chicago have been as a result of attacking something CAIR-Chicago itself puts out there on our website or e-newsletter. Clearly, CAIR-Chicago has nothing to hide and is consistently transparent in reporting on its work.

Yet Emerson wrote – as if to flag something unusual – “CAIR was so proud that it issued a press release on February 11, 2009 entitled ‘Civil Rights Director Participates in State Dept. Delegation to Philippines.’”

OK, so let’s break it down for Emerson. CAIR did not issue the press release because it is “so proud,” but because that is what we do, we report on our work to our constituents and the public. (In fact it was not a press release but an “our news” report on our website and e-newsletter)

Only in the warped reasoning of Emerson, who himself operates under shadowy arrangements, are transparency and regular reporting a questionable practice that merits criticism and suspicion.

If anything, the question should be asked, why aren’t Steven Emerson and his ilk similarly transparent in their own work, and instead do all that they can to mask the shady machinations of what they do?

Second, Emerson asks “What was Abraham’s special expertise in ‘civil rights discrimination’ and ‘constructive civic engagement’ that merited her to be selected as an emissary of the United States to underdeveloped nations?”

OK. Again, let’s break down the obvious for Emerson:

Christina Abraham holds two degrees, soon to be three. She has a Bachelor’s in Political Science from DePaul University, a Masters in Social Sciences with an emphasis on Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago, and is set to obtain her Juris Doctorate in Law next month.

Christina has been a founding staff member of CAIR-Chicago’s civil rights department, helping build it into one of the most active and effective civil rights defense and advocacy offices in the country. Since the inception of the department 5 years ago, Christina has overseen the processing of 1600 cases reported to the Chicago office. She has helped resolve hundreds of instances of civil rights abuses, has led countless training workshops for civil rights activists from various other communities, and has led dozens of network and newspaper interviews advocating for our constitutional rights. She is on the board of international think tanks and is the recipient of prestigious social services awards.

Christina – who speaks three languages, is well travelled, and has a healthy bicultural background – earned her way to social relevance in her community and country via a notable academic and professional record of achievements.

Then comes along a pretentious self-promoter like Emerson who has never met Christina, knows virtually nothing about her, yet has the audacity to think he is uniquely privileged to pass judgment on Christina’s credentials and relevance in her own community and to her country. Worse yet, he musters the audacity to attack the judgment of “a U.S. University and the State Department” when they take a pass on his dribble.

Emerson also falsely claims that Christina is spreading allegations of “a US war against Islam.” He offers no evidence to back up his lies because no evidence exists. This view which he attributes to CAIR and Christina is not the view of CAIR or Christina. In fact both CAIR and Christina have spoken out against simplistic theories such as this.

For Emerson – who does not like to waste time thinking too deeply about the facts – criticizing aspects of US foreign or domestic policies, especially as they relate to American Muslims, is akin to declaring “the U.S is at war with Islam.”

Of course, the simplistic Emerson once again stands alone on that view. Many intelligent Americans – Muslim and not – have written voluminously on the Bush administration abuses of domestic civil rights and practices considered unconstitutional, some of which seemed to target Muslims and Arabs. Add to that the Iraq war, Guantanamo, torture, and you get a list of the issues that do not only concern Christina and CAIR but tens of millions of conscientious American citizens of all walks of life.

But in singling Christina and CAIR in this manner and appropriating to them an extreme view that he himself wordsmiths and puts into their mouths, Emerson lends us an up-close look at the sort of hypocritical and disingenuous analysis techniques he employs in trying to demonize and marginalize mainstream voices working within American Muslim organizations.

The rest of Emerson’s hit piece goes on about Hamas. Emerson’s forte has been to link anything and anyone who is publicly critical of the excesses of the Israeli government as “Hamas.” For evidence, he does not point to any court ruling or jury verdict, but to weak circumstantial quotes and the untried opinion of one FBI agent. For Emerson, due process is to be thrown out of the window when it comes to American Muslim organizations against whom allegations are dubbed as convictions.

Yet for every single person harboring the fallacious view that CAIR has links to Hamas, there are a dozen others who speak the truth. Even within the FBI, while Emerson references one agent, he ignores others such as Michael Rolince, a retired F.B.I. official who directed counterterrorism in the Washington field office from 2002 to 2005 and who stated, “Of all the groups, there is probably more suspicion about CAIR, but when you ask people for cold hard facts, you get blank stares.” (Source: New York Times, 3/14/2007)

So, the question before us now is:

Can Steven Emerson and his ilk be trusted as credible sources of information on Islam, Muslims or their representative organizations?

Who is Steven Emerson?

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

In March of 1995, Emerson told The Jewish Monthly, “nearly all (emphasis added) of the Islamic organizations in the United States that define themselves as religiously or culturally Muslim in character have, today, been totally captured or dominated by radical fundamentalist elements…” Ironically, it took Emerson no more than a few days to demonstrate to the world why his credibility and integrity as an “observer of trends” should never be taken for granted especially when they relate to Muslims.

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 are not breaking news. A New York Times 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, 5/15/95).

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.”

“He’s made his life’s work discrediting Arab American and Muslim groups,” James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, told The Washington Post in 2001.

Smear campaigns are not unusual for Steven Emerson; they seem to be his way of expressing disgruntlement with an opposing view.

“He has been run out of many respectable newsrooms. His response was the smear job. When The Washington Post shunned him, he branded the paper pro-Hamas.’ When the Miami Herald strafed Emerson’s shoddy claims, he wrote the city’s Jewish leaders claiming the paper’s reporter was nothing short of racist,’ Sugg wrote (Alternet, 06/12/2003).

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 Cockburn.

For whom does Emerson work? Does he represent the interests of Americans, or the interests of a foreign state at the expense of our nation’s own interests and healthy community relations?

Emerson, who has close ties to the Israeli Mossad according to The Jerusalem Post (9/17/1994), has yet to disclose key facts regarding his activities, including his source of funding. While he criticizes Muslim-American organizations that openly disclose their operating and financial details, Emerson shrouds his own in guarded secrecy.

Vince Cannistraro, a former Chief of Operations and Analysis at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center said of Emerson’s closest associates Steve Pomerantz, Oliver Revell and Yigal Carmon: “They’re Israeli-funded. How do I know that? Because they tried to recruit me.”

Of Emerson himself, Cannistraro says, “word has got around on what he (Emerson) is, that he’s a paid polemicist, not a journalist” (Weekly Planet, May 1998); he characterizes him as “dishonest” and “Joseph McCarthy-like” (The Forward, 1/26/96).

Journalist Jane Hunter calls Emerson’s brand of journalism “nimble in its treatment of facts, often credulous of intelligence sources, and almost invariably supportive of the Israeli government” (EXTRA! , October/November 1992).

In short Emerson does not advocate for the interests of the United States and never has. He is far more occupied with the interests of the extreme elements of a foreign government. He picks his battles with that litmus test in mind and draws enemies and friends with those criteria in mind. He continues to masquerade as a “terrorism expert” who cares about the interest of the United States for cover, but a deeper look into the disingenuous nature of his “investigations” and “reporting” and the targets of his work quickly gives him away for what he truly is.

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