"Values" Voter Summit: Of Train Wrecks and Frankenstein's Monsters
It’s said that “Birds of a feather flock together,” and from September 14 to 16 this will once again be the case. The upcoming Values Voter Summit, organized by the obsessively anti-gay, fundamentalist Christian extremist Family Research Council (FRC), bills itself as the “Premier Conservative Event of 2012” and is a crucial date in the electoral calendar. As such, the conference will entail a massive migration to Washington D.C. of religious fanatic “birds of prey” of all different types. Oh, the strange and sundry variety of intolerant Christian fundamentalist creatures that will migrate, blazing hatred in tow, to our nation’s capitol! Indeed, the Values Voter Summit is a sight to behold insofar as it offers a perverse glimpse into the freefalling degeneration of evangelical Christian fundamentalism in U.S. politics.
As I’ve noted in the past, while the odious Fred Phelps and his bizarre gang of Westboro Baptist Church clowns (of “God Hates Fags” fame) can be considered a moth-eaten, chintzy carnival of sorts, the FRC is a virtual Cirque du Soleil of horrendous anti-gay, Islamophobic, fundamentalist Christian and unconstitutional lobbying. It’s not for nothing that the Southern Poverty Law Center has called the FRC a “hate group.” In addition to equating homosexuality with pedophilia, the FRC has defended world-class cretin Congressman Todd Akin’s stupefying misogyny exemplified by his notorious suggestion that so-called “legitimate rape” exists. More feared than respected among conservatives, the FRC has become a ghastly and grotesque edifice of Dominionism within American politics. In this crucial election year, the FRC conference is most assuredly something to watch, in the same manner as one would observe a train wreck in slow motion.
The summit’s website depicts a radical evangelical festival resembling a sort of Christian Jihadi Convention. The summit will include a breakout session facilitated by the freshly appointed Executive Vice President of the FRC, retired Lieutenant General William Boykin, an infamous and utterly putrescent Islamophobe about whom I’ve written much. Among numerous other putrid statements, Boykin has scandalously suggested that Muslims’ civil rights “should not be protected under the First Amendment.” Now an “ordained minister,” this constitutional derelict fancies himself a sort of “Holy Warrior” in U.S. combat fatigues waging a perpetual battle against the forces of Satan – or, in his case, “demonic” Islamists spawned from Somali “principalities of darkness.” Boykin rounds out the Family Research Council’s relentless Islamophobic witch-hunt with his own John Rambo-esque war against domestic Muslims, whom he feels are intent to “destroy us as a Christian Army.” It’s no exaggeration to say that an evangelical fundamentalist Christian zeal that mirrors Al Qaeda’s Salafist-Jihadi fanaticism quite positively possesses Boykin.
Boykin’s Islamophobia workshop will be co-facilitated by Kamal Saleem (a.k.a. Khodor Shami), a truly bizarre charlatan whose claim to fame is having perfected a fictionalized, shameful “ex-Muslim terrorist” shtick. Sound familiar? Indeed, Saleem is one of the infamous “Three Stooges” of Arab extraction, a troupe that also features Zachariah Anani and Walid Shoebat. The three claim to have been “Islamist terrorist” fighters, yet their CVs appear to be comprised of amateurish fabrications that would be perfect for a spoof film along the lines of The Naked Gun or Hot Shots. In fact, the stooges’ “terrorist” bona fides resemble Star Trek actor William Shatner’s qualifications to be an actual Starship Captain. Their expertise is isolated to a realm of pathetic cakewalking and self-ridicule before racist fundamentalist evangelicals, Christian Zionists, and Islamophobes. Finding steady employment in the fundamentalist media and conference circuit, Saleem also manages an enterprise known as “Koome Ministries,” whose claimed goal is to “expose the true agenda of [Muslims] who would deceive our nation and the free nations of the world.” The following outlandish statements rank among Saleem’s absolute worst:
• Saleem, who is of Lebanese Sunni Muslim extraction, claims to be a descendant of the “Grand Wazir of Islam,” a title equivalent to “General Secretary of Catholic Papacy” or “Prime Minister of Judaism,” i.e. it’s a laughably phony appellation.
• Saleem claims to have worked for various belligerents during the heady days of the Lebanese Civil War, on all opposing sides: the Muslim Brotherhood of Lebanon, the secular PLO/Fatah, the mutually-opposed Syrian and Iraqi Ba’athist governments, Saudi Arabian royals, and the Afghan mujahideen. The man supposedly even broke bread with the late Muammar Gaddafi in Libya! In sum, the man isn’t simply a fraud, but a confused fool to boot.
• Saleem on the perils of Comprehensive Immigration Reform: "So what happened is, when they are here, the Sharia law will, what happened when [Obama] allowed in the name of the Hispanic people, Mexican people, ‘let’s make them American,’ now all the illegal Muslims will be legalized here and terrorism will be legal in United States of America..." Additionally, Americans must put a stop to the present administration’s actions of “sending millions to Hamas to import Muslim people... This world will become past tense and one day we’ll be wearing ragheads." Huh?
The aforementioned may appear almost humorous to your average, rational thinker. Who in their right minds could take such preternaturally wild concoctions seriously? The disturbing fact is that while these statements are absurd, they’re also considered very useful from a perspective of the more cynical Machiavellian strategists among our foes. The true value of Saleem’s disgraceful and bigoted act doesn’t lie in its (nonexistent) veracity, but its utility as misinformation and hate propaganda that benefits the enemies of the U.S. Constitution. This disturbing fact is as surely the case today as it was in 2008, when the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs, CO hosted this very same ignominious faux-terrorist trio at their 50th Annual Academy Assembly to speak on the topic, “Dismantling Terrorism: Developing Actionable Solutions for Today’s Plague of Violence.” This scandalous action provoked a fierce backlash from civil rights groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the four-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated organization of which yours truly is Founder and President.
The sickness wrought by the Islamophobia espoused by Boykin, Saleem, and that viper’s nest of high-octane bigotry known as the Family Research Council has manifested itself in hideous incidents such as March’s brutal murder in Southern California of Iraqi mother of five Shaima Alawadi, and August’s mass-shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. However, the FRC’s dehumanization campaign isn’t isolated to our American Muslim brothers and sisters alone. LGBTQ communities, religious minorities, atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers, women, and ultimately, all mainline or heterodox Christians have been the targets of FRC’s fervent hatred campaigns. All Americans should respond with the utmost constitutionalist vigilance to those who masquerade hatred and exclusivist religious sectarianism in the disingenuous garb of “family values” or “traditionalism.” Our solemn duty is to rebuff the bullies and sickos at the FRC with the true American values of interfaith dialogue, a defense of the rights of non-fundamentalist Christians, religious, nonreligious, and sexual minorities, and a firm rejection of those who advocate lynchings and pogrom-style attacks on the multitudes who stand in the crosshairs of these disgusting and dangerous hypocrites.
NOTE: As this Op-Ed goes to press, the world has been shaken by news that on Tuesday, September 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens was killed in Benghazi along with three American staffers in a Salafist-led attack on the U.S. Embassy. Salafist demonstrators also attacked the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, whereupon the U.S. flag was torn down, burned, and replaced by the black Al Qaeda flag. While details on the motivations behind the attack are still emerging, it appears that a horrendous hate-speech film allegedly launched by Israeli-American Sam Bacile and promoted by Qu’ran-burning fundamentalist Pastor Terry Jones sparked the attacks. The film is a mocking and inciting depiction of the life of the Prophet Mohammad that torturously, deceptively, and ignominiously attempts to tie the origins of Islam to themes of homosexuality and pedophilia, and a call to arms for Christian-Zionist proponents of an apocalyptic “Clash of Civilizations.” Some have even suggested that the film was produced by a shady circle of exclusively evangelical Christians, hell-bent on intentionally feeding the flames of sectarian madness in the region.
We at MRFF absolutely condemn this provocation by Bacile and Jones, and have in the past directly confronted the hate-mongering Pastor by communicating with the Afghan National Army (ANA) and offering to donate a new Qu’ran to replace every copy of the Muslim holy book that Jones burned. The repellant film and ensuing mayhem in North Africa make absolutely clear the fact that, in the words of retired ambassador Chas W. Freeman, “It turns out that all that is required to be hated is to do hateful things. Ironically, as we ‘search abroad for monsters to destroy,’ we are creating them – transforming our foreign detractors into terrorists, multiplying their numbers, intensifying their militancy, and fortifying their hatred of us.” All Americans should condemn the fully-fledged national security threat that this vile strain of Islamophobic stupidity represents. Radical, fundamentalist Islam is a clear and present danger that must be fought and defeated in the name of basic human rights. However, its adherents are a distinct minority within the broader mosaic that constitutes Islam. It is of the utmost importance that we assiduously look inward and examine our nation's own actions vis-a-vis the venerable Muslim faith and its nearly 2 billion followers as a means to ensure that we are not purposefully or inadvertently creating and amplifying the Frankenstein's monsters who are assailing us.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at helpbuildthewall.org.
Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein is president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy. He previously served as White House Counsel in the Reagan administration and general counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corp. He is the author of the recently released book, "No Snowflake in an Avalanche: The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Its Battle to Defend the Constitution and One Family's Courageous War Against Religious Extremism in High Places" (2012, Vireo).