Thursday, June 16, 2005

Nawash-Zogby battle over extremism filled with hypocrisy June 16, 2005

Internal battle among Arab Americans moderates and extremists
Thursday June 16, 2005, Arab American Media Services
Permission Granted to republish
By Ray Hanania

While the war on terrorism debate focuses on extremists who excuse violence, not enough is done to support those Arabs and Muslims who denounce terrorism and extremism within their own community.

That’s the concern of a new organization called the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism founded by Kamal Nawash who recently organized a rally against terrorism in Washington D.C.

Not surprisingly, many of the nation’s "mainstream" Arab and Muslim organizations refused to support the rally. Some even denounced Nawash as a "traitor." They continue to attack him in public statements and columns simply because he believes Muslims and Arabs must do more to denounce extremism.

But while some Arab and Muslim American leaders disagree with Nawash, many in the White House and American government do not.

Recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named a delegation to attend a conference in Cordoba, Spain on intolerance and racism hosted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Originally, Arab and Muslim groups complained the delegation to Cordoba lacked an Arab or Muslim member, clearly an oversight. Rice heard the message but ignored their self-serving pitches to have themselves appointed to the delegation. Instead, she named Nawash and the vitriole against Nawash by rival Arab and Muslim activists has not stopped.

Rice and the Bush administration deserve a lot of praise for the courage to decipher through the complex challenges of America’s dysfunctional Arab and Muslim communities to find reasoned moderates.

Among the critics is a surprise, Jim Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute and a leading advocate for Arab political empowerment. Nawash claims Zogby falsely asserted in a widely distributed news release that Nawash is allied with notorious anti-Arab writers Daniel Pipes and Michelle Malkin. Nawash accurately notes Zogby is appealing to the emotions rather than reason.

Worse, Zogby knows his accusation is untrue. The week before, Nawash was asked on an AAI hosted TV show, "Will you condemn the statements of Daniel Pipes and Michelle Malkin in suggesting that Arabs be put in internment camps?" Nawash answered with an unequivocal, "I have and I do."

Incredulously, Zogby claims Nawash bashes other Arabs and Muslims, all while Zogby bashes Nawash. Nawash is correct in brushing off Zogby’s attacks off as "self-serving" rather than as "benefiting the Arab and Muslim community."

Despite his errors, Zogby continued the attack in his advocacy column that promotes the Arab American Institute agenda and his personal politics.


Nawash’s organization is new and its board consists of a wide range of Arabs and Muslims from across the country who openly and passionately debate issues but who remain united in the consensus that more must be done to combat terrorism.

No organization represents the Arab or Muslim American community. Nawash’s organization comes as close as any can, however, mainly because it tolerates free discussion and debate. Its membership is open not only to Muslims but to Christian Arabs, too, a group often excluded from the growing Muslim American activism.

Everyone claims to embrace peace and oppose violence, but Nawash does it unequivocally and more forcefully than most, including his critics.

To Nawash, the issue is principle and morality. Those on the moral high ground can be more effective. Arabs and Muslims who claim to be mainstream must separate themselves from the extremist minority that continues to exploit the growing emotion and dissatisfaction of the community.

Nawash is an unwavering advocate of Palestinian rights, but he does not use the issue as a shield to excuse the violence and immoral acts of suicide bombings that are committed in their name.

When Arabs and Muslims find it easier to criticize moderates than to criticize extremists, that’s not leadership. The continued attacks against Nawash only harm, not help, the challenges facing Arabs and Muslims in America.

Nawash has opened a very sensitive door in the Arab and Muslim community. The issue is not whether Nawash is too harsh on Arabs and Muslims who play both sides of the terrorism game.

Rather, the real question is why so-called "mainstream" Arabs and Muslims can’t muster the courage to denounce extremists who provide funding, forums, and political cover to suicide bombers, extremist organizations and totalitarian Arab World regimes.

(Ray Hanania is an award-winning nationally syndicated columnist. He is former national president of the Palestinian American Congress, an adviser to the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism and a former longtime member of the Arab American Institute. He can be reached at


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