Your Money’s No Good

amibera.JPGIt’s gotta be said. I am so sick of the Islamophobia in America right now, particularly fueled currently by the “Ground Zero” mosque and championed by key leaders in the Republican party. And by that I mean Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Fox News. It’s a dirty, divisive campaign tactic to garner votes in November and anyone with brain cells can see how transparent this is. My twitter feed can’t go ten minutes without getting a retweet from some dimwit on the issue or anti-Muslim sentiment.

But Congressional Candidate Ami Berra? Come ON.

Dr. Ami Bera, the Democrat challenger to Congressional incumbent Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), was blasted by the California Republican Party for accepting a $250 donation from the Sacramento chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. [cbs13]

First of all, it’s only a $250 donation. Second of all, it’s CAIR, one of the tamest, not-so-progressive, largest national Muslim advocacy group around. I’m not the biggest fan of CAIR’s work (mainly because it’s not left or inclusive enough) but the Republican candidate’s anti-Muslim targeting of Ami Berra’s campaign contribution is absurd. Third (and most importantly) CAIR is a 501c3 organization so they can’t make donations to candidates. The money came from Basim Elkarra, the current Executive Director of Sacramento-CAIR and who also happens to be elected to the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party. Which basically means it’s the individual citizen that made the donation, not an organization that said citizen works for.

Does the Doctor stand by his Muslim donor?

Dr. Bera gave the donation back. His spokesperson issued a statement, saying, “We returned the contribution after questions about the organization’s affiliations arose. This is a diversionary tactic designed by Rep. Lungren and his proxies to deflect from jobs, the economy and health care — the issues that this campaign is about.” [cbs13]

If it’s a diversionary tactic, why’d you give the money back? For the record Dr. Berra, Muslim-Americans donate AND Muslim Americans vote. You have them in your district. Some of them were probably even planning on voting for you. The fact that you folded to the anti-Muslim rhetoric on the right so easily will not bode well for you on November 2nd. How easily will you fold to them if you are in Congress? Pretty easily, I would guess.

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About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates and blogs at Follow her at

163 thoughts on “Your Money’s No Good

  1. “So when the average Joe sees the “Death to America” protesters in a random Muslim country, and then finds that the regular muslim American who could have been his neighbor or colleague was planning to blow up Times square, he is bound to get a few nervous tics.”

    That’s EXACTLY the reason why we need to fight to let the Muslim community center be built. Average Joe may not know much about Islam now, but if all he sees in the news is “Ground Zero Mosque trying to rub salt in wound of 9/11” or some other such nonsense, his limited knowledge will continue to be limited to Islam= 9/11 terrorists.

    People need to fight this and stand up for regular Muslims, people need to see that regular Muslims are not terrorists, but average Joes and Janes like the rest of the Americans. Muslim Americans are equal to any other Americans, and deserve their rights, just like any one else. If we given in to Islamaphobia, we just give it a chance to keep building, to give more and more ignorant fools the feeling that they have the right to discriminate against someone because they are Muslim.

    Second qeustion: Who exactly is it that is so against the community center being built? I’m curious because up here in not-much-exposure-to-people-from-other-cultures/religions/etc-white-Maine I haven’t heard anyone offended by it– I even randomly asked my Mom today (who is a nice local person who doesn’t know too much about Islam) if she found the proposal offensive and she looked at me like I was crazy and said “Of course not. Why would I be?”. So who is making the big fuss anyways?

  2. This is what Imam Rauf, the brains behind the proposed mosque, said in 2005 (I quote verbatim):

    We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaida has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims. While calling terrorism unjustified, the U.S. has supported authoritarian regimes with heinous human rights records and, faced with that,,,,, How else do people get attention?”

    So this guy thinks that Al-Qaida is actually better than the USA? It’s too bad he doesn’t clarify his point… you know, as in make a case that American GI’s, and not his fellow Islamic radicals, are the one’s carrying out near daily suicide attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan : ). Interestingly enough, he’s written a book called “What’s Right With Islam…”. Surely, the title says it all – the man is an radical apologist in sheep’s clothing. I found this on Amazon.

    From page 111 of Feisal Abdul Rauf’s book, “What’s Right with Islam”

    “It also would not be a violation of church-state separation to have a subsidiary entity within the judiciary that employs religious jurists from diverse religious backgrounds to comment on the compliance of certain decisions with their religious views and to provide guidance to their religious communities on how kosher or Shariah compliant these decisions are. ‘ – Feisal Abdul Rauf

    Note the word “religious jurist…” – the man is clearly a supporter of Shariah Law. By introducing Shariah Law, he wants America to go the way of Britain (which allows Shariah courts to rule on matters pertaining to divorce and financial matters).

    Suffice it to say, this is the mindset of the main pro-mosque protagonist. IMO – anything moderate .

  3. Wait, so your criticism of Islam now rests on the fact that Hitler “could” have chosen it as his religion? Are you kidding me? Let’s just ignore his countless actual statements affirming his belief in Christianity and how he justified, in part, his hatred of Jews through Christian theology, considering how prominent a part of it anti-Semitism had been historically.

    I can understand why you would try to distance your religion from Hitler, but ffs, stop blaming it on the rest of us. He has been variously described as a Muslim, Hindu, and an atheist on this blog alone.

  4. Manju, as a small govt. type myself, I think the whole guilt by association idea is ludicrous. Thanks for pointing out that the left isn’t immune to it.

    Yup, established religions should not be immune to criticism. Without the right to offend, freedom of expression is meaningless. I wonder why some people have such a hard time with the concept. The same constitutional provision that allows me to build my place of worship allows you to tell me what you think of my religion.

  5. I watched the clip (and saw it air originally as well), so I trust I will be deemed to have sufficient credentials to comment.

    The history of the U.S. involves a number of situations in which it has supported authoritarian regimes deemed useful to U.S. interests (hell, Hawai’i could serve as “ahem” ground zero for textbook examples). However, one of Al Quaeda’s (henceforth AQ) stated goals is to remove infidel (including but not limited to the US) influence from Muslim lands (which may include lands that are not normally considered Muslim in the Western hemisphere). There is no desire to replace infidel supported regimes with democractic regimes (i.e. AQ’s actions are not the reaction to something tantamount to what the US did in Chile). Rather there is a desire to replace one authoritarian regime with another. On that basis, the basis on which U.S. policy could be seen as justification for AQ is if the imam subscribes to the “he may be a bastard but he’s OUR bastard” theory, which is precisely the same theory the US government uses to justify its intervention. The US sees the world in terms of usefulness to American interests and AQ sees the world in reference to Islam. So, fundamentally (heh) there really isn’t a difference in methods and using guilt over American actions in “the region” to distract from or justify the actions of AQ seems pretty weak to me. Had AQ been trying to fight for a more democratic government, I could see the basis for the justification, but otherwise, I’m not convinced. It is fair to say that AQ is responding to US actions in the region and that certain US actions in the region have involved installing authoritarian regimes which are useful to American interests but may oppress the local populace. It is not fair to imply that AQ is out there to get rid of authoritarian regimes altogether as if they are some sort of crusading (folks, the jokes write themselves) human rights organization and that is why 9/11 occurred.

    Secondly, and to my mind more importantly, IF the above comment is accurate, the imam has no qualms about using taxpayer money to fund religious courts and doesn’t see that as an obliteration of the separation of church and state. THAT’s a moderate? If so, I am starting to see the foundation for Islamophobia. If your moderates appear to be of the same stock as those who would support the Salem witch trials, there is either a nomenclature problem or another more substantive issue. What “decisions” does the imam wish to review against the imprimatur of sharia law? The Fifth Circuit Court? Traffic court? Or just the “decisions” made by private actors in accordance with legislation passed and intepreted by organs of the secular government? I would have expected those kinds of comments from what is often referred to as the “Christian Taliban”, not from an ostensible moderate. What happens if a decision is NOT compliant with religious law? Does the religious judiciary demand compliance or does it more “moderately” leave the recipient to determine how he should act “good morning, Dr. Tiller!”?

    I’m very inclined to believe that there is a nomenclature problem (i.e. I do not think moderate means what the supporters of the imam think it means) and that a substantial majority of American Muslims are comfortable with and advocates of the separation of church and state. However, to the extent that is not the case (and to tie this back to the original post), I would suggest that calling out people who raise such issues as Islamophobes is inimical to the continued preservation of the same rights that allow the Park 51 complex to be built.

  6. @ente:

    The word ‘moderate’ has come to mean something rather different when followed by the word ‘Muslim’. Generally the word needs to cross a rather higher bar when applied to other religious persuasions.

    For instance, a Hindu swami doing this kind of “yes, but” apologies in regard, say to, the killings in Ahmedabad in 2002 (by, say, refusing to designate the Bajrang Dal as a fascist organization) wouldn’t qualify as a “Moderate” Hindu.

  7. wunderbar, I’m not sure that’s the case, I hope it’s not the case and if I am wrong and it is in fact the is the case, then that kind of double-standard or hypocrisy needs to be vigourously decried.

    In the case of the imam, assuming his quote is accurate and not taken out of context (in which case the context should be delineated), those types of comments need to be repeatedly raised and the imam needs to explain how those beliefs are compatible with his obligations as a citizen to uphold the US constitution. If he wishes to in fact amend the constitution, that is certainly his prerogative to state (it’s been advocated before, sometimes successfully and as many might argue, for the better), however I would argue that any belief that necessitates a change to the U.S. constitution is fairly significant and not middle of the road (and sometimes necessitates a civil war before it goes through). From my own perspective, regarding the ability to practice religion without endorsement or interference from the state, the imam’s apparent comments seem pretty frakking extreme.

  8. Abhi:

    I’m not sure what despotic regimes the Imam is talking about. The Shah of Iran? South Vietnam? Compared to the Taliban (and Saddam Hussein, these regimes were far more democratic. Where was the Imam when Saddam Hussein was guessing Kurds and running torture chambers (which make Abu Grahib look like Disneyland) and getting rich off shady oil dealings (UN oil for food scandal) while the average Iraqi starved? Or when Saddam’s son Udey was riding around Baghdad picking up random women to rape? Where was the Imam when the Bulgarian nurses and doctor were held under bogus charges in Libya? The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t get much more despotic than Wahabbism/Sharia Law, which the Imam seems to have no qualms about…

    IMO, the Imam’s real anger probably stems from the fact that there are US troops in Saudi as well as the American support to Israel. But if this is the case, why doesn’t the Imam condemn the Saudi Royal family? Muslims gave the USA permission to place troops within the vicinity of the Holy Land and Muslims have the power to kick them out peacefully… Ahhhh, but you see, the Imam will never admit to that. He just wants you to believe that because American (infidels) are in Saudi, and it pisses off radicals like Bin-Laden, and gives the latter a reason to wage jihad, that America is somehow responsible for all the ensuing deaths resulting from the jihad. He’ll never ever comment on the oil/money trail which has made a small but sizeable group of Muslims in the Middle East wealthy beyond all belief. As far as Israel goes, it would exist with or without American support – it has one of the best armies in the world.

    As you see, the Imam really has no case. American economic interests don’t benefit America alone. The presence of American troops all over the place is made possible by a vast number of Muslim nations which have offered crucial assistance in the War on Terror. What the Imam should really be doing is condemning this thing called “jihad” which is financed by wealthy Muslims. Instead of financing jihad, the money ought to be used for development in places like Gaza and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that jihad is a religious duty for Muslims, the same way that many Christians feel about missionary work. This is from Wikipedia:


    The beginnings of Jihad are traced back to the words and actions of Muhammad and the Qu’ran.[38] This word of Allah explicitly encourages the use of Jihad against non-Muslims.[39] Sura 25, verse 52 states: “Therefore, do not obey the disbelievers, and strive against them with this, a great striving.”[40] It was, therefore, the duty of all Muslims to strive against those who did not believe in Allah and took offensive action against Muslims.

    You could say, its equivalent to a resistant movement. Sure, there are many moderate Muslims who have no desire to become suicide bombers. But they cannot condemn their fellow believers who choose to do so, because dying in the name of God is a religious duty. Yes, other religions have suffered from this mentality (think “Crusades”), but that was a very long time ago. This complete failure to evolve and embrace secular ideology is what the Imam needs to expound on… for starters, writing a book called “What’s Right with Islam”, and supporting Sharia Law up and above secular judicial law, is not the right way to go.

  9. Strider:

    Let’s just ignore his countless actual statements affirming his belief in Christianity and how he justified, in part, his hatred of Jews through Christian theology, considering how prominent a part of it anti-Semitism had been historically.

    I can understand why you would try to distance your religion from Hitler, but ffs, stop blaming it on the rest of us. He has been variously described as a Muslim, Hindu, and an atheist on this blog alone.

    Are you kidding me? Do you think that a religion like Christianity, grounded in so many Jewish beliefs, could ever have become the national religion of National Socialist Germany? For starters, the Nazis were denying employment to Germans who were half-Jewish (Aryan Laws)… how then would they (the Nazis) have found a book full of Jewish myths (Bible) and a Jewish Savior (Jesus) acceptable?

    I suggest you read Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ,” to better understand what Hitler meant when he said Christianity was for the weak and feeble. Not that Nietzsche was anti-Semitic in the least bit, but he too believed that its grounding in Jewish ideology was its ultimate downfall/weak point.