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This is Britain Mr Taheri, even Benador’s spin will not suffice!
By Shaikh Riyad Nadwi, PhD
28 July 2005

Yesterday, The Times published an article by one Mr Amir Taheri calling on Muslims to stop using 'their bodies as advertising space for al-Qaeda'. According to him, 'Growing a beard has nothing to do with Islam' and 'Muslim women should cast aside the so-called hijab, which has nothing to do with Islam'. Now if you are wondering, as I imagine many would be, who this Mr Taheri is and whence his authority to issue such a fatwa, the answer can be readily found. I believe it is necessary to look at some of his earlier pronouncements and the people who have created the mirage of authority around him.

Although he now pretends to know what the 'true Islam' is, in the aftermath of 9/11 he attacked Western politicians for their attempts to distance Islam from terrorism by publishing an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled 'Islam Can't Escape Blame' (27.10.01). He wishes, as do all of his Neocon associates, to convince the world that Islam is the problem. In addition, two years ago in 2003 he published an article in National Review entitled 'Perles of Wisdom' (7.5.03) suggesting that 'The Prince of Darkness' Richard Perle is in fact a fountain of wisdom.

The question is: what did he or his publicist Eleana Benador hope to achieve by publishing yesterday’s article in The Times? Surely, they are not so naïve as to think that Muslims will come upon Taheri's fatwas and suddenly decide to shave their beards and remove their hijab. Muslims take their fatwa from recognised religious scholars not shoddy Neocons. The aim of the article can only be a psychological one aimed not at Muslims but at the general British public. It is, as far as I can see, designed to capitalise on the current tragedies to create a sense of fear and exacerbate tension among the Muslim and other communities in this country. The hope is that whenever a British person sees a Muslim woman in hijab or a man with a beard, he should not perceive it as a reflection of love for their Prophet and dedication to God but he or she should see it as a terrorist threat and a sign of impending danger.

If anyone thinks that I am reading too much into this article then I suggest we ponder on the recent history of Benador Associates, who are credited with creating the image and popularity of Mr Amir Taheri. There are a number of pro-Israel organisations in the USA dedicated to promoting war against Muslim countries and they do not flinch from using unscrupulous tactics (e.g. the notorious WMD fallacy). The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, the Project for the New American Century, the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Middle East Forum, The Hudson Institute and the Hoover Institute are all famous for the stance they took in the run up to the war on Iraq. Each of these organisations shares a number of 'overlapping memberships and interests… One thing that many had in common was their joint use of Benador Associates' (Rampton and Stauber 2003, p. 56) run by Eleana Benador who lists among her clients Khidhir Hamza, the Iraqi nuclear scientist who had claimed in his book that Iraq had a nuclear bomb. She also famously promoted the American born Israeli citizen Barry Rubin, who is the sole proprietor of the Israeli journal, Middle East Review of International Affairs, from where 11 of the 16 pages of the famous 10 Downing Street 'dodgy dossier' were derived. This was a document that was purportedly based on high-level British intelligence data and later turned out to be lifted almost verbatim from an article in that journal.

The question that everyone needs to ask is: how long can we continue to allow these pro-Israel activists to dominate policy and strategic thinking in the West? Be it the killing of an innocent Brazilian man in a shoot-to-kill policy or the launch of pre-emptive wars on the backs of dubious fears, for as long as we continue to adopt policies and methods that are rooted in the idea that 'other' races do not deserve a right to recognition or compassion, we will persist in hurtling down the road to a 'clash of civilisations'. We must understand that to attack the sentiments of faith among Muslims is no different to attacking the sentiments of ethnicity among the Jews. We are identified by our faith, as they are by their race. Anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic behavior are equal in the effect they have on hearts and minds.

Demanding the shaving of beards and the removal of hijab is tantamount to the requiring of the Jews to disown elements of their much loved Jewish traditions. Joe Hagan of the New York Observer once interviewed Eleana Benador and wrote that 'her job was not only to work the phones for her clients, but sometimes to help polish their message' (7.4.03). Must we not speculate therefore as to the amount of polishing she may have provided to Mr Taheri's latest 'fatwas' in The Times?