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Anti-Defamation League exploits fear of Muslims to undermine anti-gay bill

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Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. (Photo: David Karp/AP)

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. (Photo: David Karp/AP)

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) can’t quit pushing anti-Muslim bigotry.  The latest instance emerged in a peculiar fashion: in opposition to an anti-gay bill in Arizona pushed by religious conservatives.

The ADL landed on the side of liberals in opposing the legislation, which would have enshrined the rights of business owners to deny service to gays and lesbians if they justified it with their religion.  But one of the reasons the ADL opposed the bill, which was eventually vetoed by the state’s governor, was the specter of Muslims using the legislation to discriminate against non-Muslims. Or as an ADL official put it:

“A Muslim-owned cab company might refuse to drive passengers to a Hindu temple.”

Slate‘s William Saletan was the first to report on how the ADL exploited Islamophobia to kill the bill:

If you want to kill legislation that protects the right of Christians to withhold business services from same-sex couples, here’s one way to do it: Don’t warn people about Christians. Warn them about Muslims…

The first reference to Muslims in the Arizona fight, as far as I can tell, came from the Anti-Defamation League in a letter to state senators and in testimony before a state Senate committee on Jan. 16. If the bill were to pass, the ADL’s assistant regional director told the committee, “A Muslim-owned cab company might refuse to drive passengers to a Hindu temple.”

The ADL’s comments sparked pushback from the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Arizona:

The Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-AZ) today called on the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to apologize for stereotypical statements made about Muslims during recent debate over Arizona Senate Bill 1062, which would have shielded businesses from lawsuits if employees acted on religious beliefs to discriminate against customers…

“It is unconscionable that a group purporting to defend civil rights would resort to religious bigotry to promote its political agenda,” said CAIR-AZ Board Chair Imraan Siddiqi. “The introduction of this stereotypical scenario gave way to the narrative that Muslims are in some way serial abusers of ‘religious freedom based denials of service,’ which is completely baseless.”

The ADL has been praised for fighting to build mosques in communities that didn’t want to see Muslims praying in their backyard.  But the group has also legitimized anti-Muslim bigotry in a number of cases–most prominently when the ADL opposed the Park 51 Islamic center in lower Manhattan in 2010.

The opposition to the Park 51 mosque was no aberration. Donna Nevel and Elly Bulkin, two members of Jews Say No!, chronicled the ADL’s Islamophobia and attributed the bigotry to the group’s pro-Israel politics.  Here’s part of what Nevel and Bulkin wrote last year:

In 2003, an ADL press release praised President George W. Bush for appointing Daniel Pipes to the board of the United States Institute for Peace.[21] Pipes believes that “militant Islam” is “infiltrating America” and supports student monitoring of professors for their views on the Arab-Israeli conflict. [22] While the ADL commented on Pipes’ “important approach and perspective,” Muslim and Arab American leaders characterized his appointment as “a slap in the face for Islam” and described him as “a bigot” who “promotes fear and hatred of many communities, not just Arabs and Muslims…”

In the past decade, the ADL has been on the anti-Muslim side of three high-profile Islamophobic campaigns: the multi-year initiative to block the building of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center; an anti-Muslim smear campaign targeting educator Debbie Almontaser and the Khalil Gibran International Academy, the country’s first English-Arabic dual language public school; and Park51, the proposed mosque and Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan.

Outgoing ADL head Abraham Foxman has also justified surveillance of Muslims. And as we reported here, the group’s foundation gave $2,500 to Pipes’ anti-Muslim group, the Middle East Forum, in 2006.

Alex Kane
About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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26 Responses

  1. March 5, 2014, 10:11 am

    Racists never sleep

  2. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka
    March 5, 2014, 10:32 am

    Is anyone surprised? This group’s been a bastion of bigotry for years, if not decades.

  3. hophmi
    hophmi
    March 5, 2014, 10:51 am

    I would not have written it that way, much as the goal here was to defeat the bill, rather than do so in a way that passed muster with liberals who opposed it.

    There’s only one problem, which you conveniently left out. Muslim taxi cab drivers have actually been known to deny service to passengers on a religious basis, and to do so frequently.

    “For example, in Minnesota there already have been numerous complaints about Muslim taxi cab drivers who refuse service to passengers carrying wine bottles or other types of containers with alcohol.

    The Metropolitan Airport Commission, which coordinates aviation services in the Twin Cities, estimated that about a hundred people are refused service every month, and the numbers of those being refused for religious reasons have grown since 2000.

    According to a Fatwa (Islamic legal opinion) issued on June 6, 2006, by a local chapter of the Muslim American Society in Minneapolis, Muslim cabbies can refuse service to those carrying alcohol ‘because it involves cooperating in sin according to Islam.'”

    http://amestrib.com/opinion/hector-avalos-arizona-s-sb-1062-religious-freedom-discriminate

    When the Airport Commission in Minnesota challenged the practice, the drivers cried religious discrimination.

    http://www.startribune.com/local/11586646.html

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/01/25/oppenheim.cabbies/index.html?eref=rss_latest

    And this was not some once-a-blue-moon practice. It was happening well over 1,000 times a year. So I’d say that it’s definitely a good argument against the bill.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      March 5, 2014, 12:25 pm

      “There’s only one problem, which you conveniently left out. Muslim taxi cab drivers have actually been known to deny service to passengers on a religious basis, and to do so frequently.”

      Then bringing up the issue of alcohol would have been fair comment. (But probably not, because the issue in Minnisota was with the fines being imposed. That made it more a simple case of whether it was an infringement on religious liberty, more so than the AZ case.)

      But the Minnisota issue didn’t dehumanize the Muslims enough for the ADL bigot (probably because a lot of the Christians would have agreed with the objection to alcohol), so he had to create a spector out of thin air of Muslims running around willy-nilly refusing to drive a Hindu to temple. Especially when, as Hostage notes, they had an example with the B110 bus situation in Brooklyn that they could have used. But that wouldn’t have cast Muslims in a bad light, so the ADL was staying away from that one.

      Sheer bigotry from this bigoted group and no surprise you’re defending the indefensible.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 5, 2014, 1:34 pm

        “Then bringing up the issue of alcohol would have been fair comment. ”

        Why? Why is it any fairer than arguing that conservative Christians could deny services to women who have had abortions, even if that’s never happened? It’s a scenario based on other things that have happened. If Muslim cab drivers cite their religion as a reason to deny service to passengers, and a major Muslim communal organization tells them that it’s OK to do so, what is to stop them from making this claim in other contexts?

        Regardless of the slippery slope problems you might have with ADL Arizona’s argument (the regions are largely independent of the national organization when it comes to stuff like this), it’s fundamentally dishonest to cast the ADL in this way (no one seems to have bothered to provide the letter here) without mentioning that there are indeed examples of this elsewhere, as if the ADL made this problem up out of whole cloth.

        “But probably not, because the issue in Minn[e]sota was with the fines being imposed.”

        How do you conclude that? The issue clearly is the practice by Muslim cabbies of denying service to people carrying alcohol. Muslims make up around 1/3 of the taxi cab drivers at the airport in Minnesota. People complained about it; it was happening all the time.

        “But the Minnisota issue didn’t dehumanize the Muslims enough for the ADL bigot (probably because a lot of the Christians would have agreed with the objection to alcohol)”

        Oh please. Point me to anything showing that Christian taxi cab drivers in Minnesota were systematically denying alcohol-bearing passengers service or anything compared to fatwa by a major Christian organization telling Christian taxi cab drivers that it was OK to discriminate on that basis.

        As far as Hostage’s predictable example of the B110 bus (whatever makes Jews look bad, Hostage is for it), I know of no major Jewish organization that has supported the practice.

        “In fairness, Minnesota happens to have laws that make it illegal for any person, Muslim or not, to have an open container of an alcoholic substance inside a motor vehicle on a street or highway. So the state actually discourages cab drivers from giving service to people with ‘go cups’ at closing time.”

        I saw nothing in the articles indicating that Muslim cab drivers were denying service only to people with open containers, and also no explanation from the cab drivers that their basis for denying service was based on open containers, so this is a complete red herring.

      • traintosiberia
        traintosiberia
        March 7, 2014, 9:06 am

        Fatwa is overrated . Any Muslim can utter a Fatwa with or without any basis of any religious or traditional or historical ground and any Muslim can equally come out against that Fatwa or personally can reject it.
        It is not Papal Bull. It is not Halacha.
        The Fatwa against Salman Rushdie was denounced by Muslim scholar and was accepted by some. It was same tradition that allowed vehement denouncement of the attack on Twin Towers by Muslim clerics after it started emerging that religious zealot might have done it.
        It is the same reason other Muslim countries don’t give a hoot to the Fatwa of Iranian leader against Nuclear weapon.

        Minnesota episode is more of a hot air ballon than anything. BTW ,will I now get my ham and bacon from the Kosher Dili counter in the student cafe of Harvard and Sinai Hospital ? How can they refuse to carry those items?

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 7, 2014, 10:27 am

        “Fatwa is overrated . Any Muslim can utter a Fatwa with or without any basis of any religious or traditional or historical ground and any Muslim can equally come out against that Fatwa or personally can reject it.”

        I understand that. The same is true of rabbis. Here, you’re talking about a major American Muslim organization.

        “Minnesota episode is more of a hot air ballon than anything.”

        I don’t see why. I think it’s perfectly relevant in a discussion about the implications of SB 1062, as is the B110 in Brooklyn, as are the examples involving Evangelical Christians.

        “BTW ,will I now get my ham and bacon from the Kosher Dili counter in the student cafe of Harvard and Sinai Hospital”

        Are you serious? Can you not see the difference between your example and the example of a taxi driver? In your example, anyone can get served at the Kosher deli counter. It doesn’t mean they have to carry everything for everyone. You probably can’t get caviar in the student cafeteria. It doesn’t mean they hate Russian people.

      • Walid
        Walid
        March 7, 2014, 12:35 pm

        “BTW ,will I now get my ham and bacon from the Kosher Dili counter in the student cafe of Harvard and Sinai Hospital ?”

        traintosiberia, ham sandwich at a Jewish hospital; you want religion-ridiculous? 7 years back an ambulance driver having driven a patient to the Jewish General went to the hospital’s kosher cafeteria and rather than order a sandwich, pulled a ham sandwich from his pocket which understandably caused a big stir and following an argument and his refusal to leave, was thrown out of the hospital. The driver filed a charge against the hospital and the Human Rights Commission ordered the hospital to pay him $10,000 in damages. The Commission wrote in its decision that the hospital did not fulfill its obligation of reasonable accommodation and that the hospital’s actions infringed on the plaintiff’s freedom of religion not to be coerced to eat kosher food. – It was said at the time that the hospital had to spend several thousands of dollars to get the place disinfected and the walls repainted. The same year, (Shmuel should remember that one) the local YWCA was forced to paint over its windows and keep them shut at all times to prevent the young lads in the neighbouring Yeshiva from peeking into the windows where scantily-dressed maidens were exercising.

        There are equally ridiculous religion stories involving Muslims, their hijab and mixed classes, or of Sikhs with their kirpans, beards and turbans and so on. No. religion is immune.

      • The Hasbara Buster
        The Hasbara Buster
        March 7, 2014, 9:58 am

        @hophmi

        Why? Why is it any fairer than arguing that conservative Christians could deny services to women who have had abortions, even if that’s never happened?

        The outrage here is not the assertion that Muslim cabbies would refuse to drive passangers based on religious reasons. The outrage is the suggestion that obstructing someone from attending a non-Muslim temple could be one of those reasons.

        Concretely, the ADL stated that, based on his beliefs, a Muslim would not drive a Hindu to his temple. This, unlike the ban on alcohol, is not part of Islamic teachings, so that, essentially, the ADL is lying. The “example” they so casually provided has absolutely no base in the Muslim religion.

        By diverting attention to the refusal to drive people carrying alcoholic beverages, you’re trying to establish an analogy between intolerance of an intoxicating substance (which does exist) and intolerance of all religions other than one’s own (which the ADL argued but does not exist). That is a stupid comparison that could only be made in bad faith.

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        March 7, 2014, 4:50 pm

        As far as Hostage’s predictable example of the B110 bus (whatever makes Jews look bad, Hostage is for it), I know of no major Jewish organization that has supported the practice.

        Correction: sex segregated Haredi Mehadrin public bus lines are illegal and look bad all by themselves Hophmi. That’s why Mayor Bloomberg called them an outrage in the article that I cited. The Rabbinical authorities in places like Boro Park, Williamsburg, Kiryas Joel, and New Square support the practice of sex segregation. http://forward.com/articles/144987/sex-segregation-spreads-among-orthodox/

        The B110 is a repeat offender that appears to be getting protection from people like Haredi NY State Assemblyman, Dov Hikind (D- Borough Park).

        The fact that it’s okay with you for the ADL to defame Muslims, but not these large Haredi communities is pretty typical of the bigotry we’ve come to expect from you. Stay classy.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 8, 2014, 6:46 pm

        The fact, Hostage, that, once again, you’ve distorted my position, is typical of your dishonesty and bad faith. Stay classy:-)

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        March 7, 2014, 5:34 pm

        “Why?”
        Because it is based on a real life event, and not a fantasy by some ADL bigot.

        “as if the ADL made this problem up out of whole cloth.”

        Unless the ADL can cite to one example of a Muslim cabbie refusing to drive a Hindu to temple, then, yes, it made this up out of whole cloth.

        “How do you conclude that?”

        Because that’s what the cabbies were arguing against, and it adds a level of governmental action to the equation.

        “Point me to anything showing that Christian taxi cab drivers in Minnesota were systematically denying alcohol-bearing passengers service or anything compared to fatwa by a major Christian organization telling Christian taxi cab drivers that it was OK to discriminate on that basis.”

        You miss the point. I did not say anthing about Christians doing this in Minnesota. The point being that if the ADL were to complain about Muslims acting to defend a moral position, and the Christians in the country also agreed with that moral position, well it may cause those Christians to disagree with the ADL as to whether the law should be defeated. If the ADL said, “Well, if you pass this law, then a bunch of Muslim cabbies will refuse to take women to abortion clinics for their abortions, based on the cabbies’ religious views” then a whole hell of a lot of Christians would be full bore on board to support that law.

        “As far as Hostage’s predictable example of the B110 bus…, I know of no major Jewish organization that has supported the practice.”

        How is that relevant in any way?? The example which the ADL did used doesn’t even exist in real life, so they couldn’t point to any Muslim organization, major or otherwise, who was all for denying Hindus rides to their temples. But the B110 bus did happen, and was an example of religious Jews acting in a discriminatory manner based on their religion, but the ADL had to demonize Muslims.

    • Chu
      Chu
      March 6, 2014, 11:27 am

      Lol. what an odd comment. I’ll take a muslim cab driver any day over any American Israeli-Firster . If a cab driver refuses service to a drunk,it’s probably good practice to avoid them. Do you think a Muslim who see’s a woman heading to a party with a bottle of wine in a bag will refuse her service in St. Paul? This is loose ground for your prejudices, and the ADL’s as well.

      in Manhattan, it happens all the time. Brooklyn suburbanites can’t get a ride to their borough because cabs don’t want to drive that far. Cabs don’t have to pick up anyone, and can find an excuse to avoid any unwanted person in their cab.

      And the key word here is also Alcohol. The article is not saying they wouldn’t be picked up because people are Christians, but because they are drinking. Hardly comparable to the daily measures of racism that Israel performs, yes, the ones which you are so quick to defend.

  4. eljay
    eljay
    March 5, 2014, 11:32 am

    >> Muslim taxi cab drivers have actually been known to deny service to passengers on a religious basis, and to do so frequently.

    Using Zio-supremacist “reasoning”, the only possible solution to this problem is not justice or accountability, but UTP (Unserviced-Taxi-Passengers) terrorism and the creation of a democratic and UTPish State.

    Partition Israel and allocate 1/2 of it to the UTP State, which can then proceed to:
    – re-locate its threatening non-UTPish demographic to the new Israeli state; and
    – re-allocate land and resources both within and without its borders to itself and, preferentially, to its UTP citizens.

    And there you have it: Self-determination, democracy, well-serviced taxi passengers, and a state that is either just like every other Western state or no worse than Saudi Arabia or Mali.

  5. Hostage
    Hostage
    March 5, 2014, 12:03 pm

    And this was not some once-a-blue-moon practice. It was happening well over 1,000 times a year. So I’d say that it’s definitely a good argument against the bill.

    In fairness, Minnesota happens to have laws that make it illegal for any person, Muslim or not, to have an open container of an alcoholic substance inside a motor vehicle on a street or highway. So the state actually discourages cab drivers from giving service to people with “go cups” at closing time.

    I wonder why the ADL didn’t employ the graphic example of Orthodox Jewish bus contractors in New York? They have refused service to passengers who objected to their religiously-based, sex segregated seating rules. See “City Threatens to Shut Down Bus That Separates Men, Women: Mayor calls practice an “outrage” http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Orthodox-Bus-Men-Women-Separate-City-Threaten-Department-of-Transportation-132228333.html

  6. gingershot
    gingershot
    March 5, 2014, 2:17 pm

    The Israeli Lobby is NO LONGER tenable in the US.

    I declare it

  7. German Lefty
    German Lefty
    March 5, 2014, 3:19 pm

    A Muslim-owned cab company might refuse to drive passengers to a Hindu temple.”

    I have to say that I don’t quite understand the indignation about this statement. It was merely an example of what would be allowed under the proposed law. The purpose was to show how far-reaching the law would be. That any person or company can refuse service to anyone for any religious reason, not just Christians for homophobic reasons. The ADL official did NOT claim that Muslims are actually bigots. Therefore, the statement is not islamophobic.
    However, I think that the ADL should have added a few more examples. One of them should have been about Jews who would be allowed to refuse service.
    Remember when Miley Cyrus said, “It can’t be like this 70-year-old Jewish man that doesn’t leave his desk all day, telling me what the clubs want to hear.” This was merely an example, too. Nothing anti-Semitic.

    • Qualtrough
      Qualtrough
      March 6, 2014, 2:34 am

      Dissing Muslims is an automatic reflex for the ADL, they can’t help it. As a previous commenter pointed out, they could have just as easily used an example from their own religious community to point out the threat the bill posed. But that would not have allowed them to kill two birds with one stone: killing the bill and further sullying Muslims. It’s was a twofer they couldn’t pass up.

  8. bilal a
    bilal a
    March 5, 2014, 3:26 pm

    I am more worried about the Christopath’s exercise of their perceived religious freedoms on behalf of Jewish priviledge:

    “n the attack, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a car carrying six Palestinians in the West Bank, injuring all six, including two children.

    Police nab 3 youths for firebombing Palestinian taxi
    http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Police-nab-3-youths-for-firebombing-Palestinian-taxi

    Christians in Jerusalem want Jews to stop spitting on them
    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/christians-in-jerusalem-want-jews-to-stop-spitting-on-them-1.137099

    Jewish settlers allegedly storm Al-Aqsa Mosque, climb Dome of the Rock
    http://www.examiner.com/article/jewish-settlers-allegedly-storm-al-aqsa-mosque-climb-dome-of-the-rock

  9. joer
    joer
    March 5, 2014, 3:52 pm

    It’s amazing how short people’s memories are. I grew up in a Jewish suburb of Philadelphia in the 1970s and I can tell you if there was a rumor that someone was gay, his life was hell. Really, you could say anything or do anything to him. I remember a popular pretty mean girl challenged this effeminate kid to a fight and the whole school showed up to watch it. Of course, no one told any teacher. The pretty girl kept slapping the effeminate kid and he couldn’t do anything or he would really get beat up…then there was a game called Smear the Queer…and the best a gay kid could hope for if his secret got out would be that it would be a big tragedy. It’s just so slimy that they are picking gays as the big humanitarian issue to champion forty years after the fact. How about championing people who no one pays attention today…like Palestinians?

  10. seafoid
    seafoid
    March 5, 2014, 5:02 pm

    This looks like an interesting book

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/mar/20/imaginary-jews/

    Judaism as a sort of Christian version of how Sunnis see Shiism – ie the apostates.
    completely christian centric.

    I think Israel demystified Judaism. Same as any other people. Rather banal. Anyway just wondering about the logic of Islam as the mortal enemy of Judaism. Surely Christianity is the enemy and always has been .

  11. traintosiberia
    traintosiberia
    March 5, 2014, 9:53 pm

    Does not that what Israel does everyday? Denying water,road,education,health,travel,and housing to 50 percent of the people under Israel on the basis of religion? This man with fat cells all over his frontal part of the brain won’t get it . Or he may. He is just trying to represent the donors who pays for his food ,travel,education of his kids ,and housing .
    This harebrained has even attempted to discredit the Walt and Marsheimer by writing the book – Deadliest Lies – a book written following the template of Iraq war – that is selective memory,cherry picking ,showcasing,and then adorning with names of some Gentiles. Here he goes again – how best to denigrate Muslim other than getting under the bed of the Gentiles and waking them up with a thud of intellectual poops right out of the acquired cleft lips.
    Lets recap before he calls me anti-Semite – he supports Iraq war,Iran war,Libyan war,and war against Syria. He supports sanctions. He supports Cast lead, he supports Israeli incursion against all neighboring countries ,he the ouster of Morsi, and he is against any negotiations between the west and any of Israeli neighbors. He supports Israeli onslaught against Palestine and the policy of exploitative occupation. He denounces Park 51, he keeps quite on Guantanamo ,and he keeps quiet on racial profiling and on entrapment . He bats for AIPAC . He denounces Obama for pissing Nethahoo off! He is of Jewish faith. He will call it a deadliest lie if he is told that his hate for Muslim and support for Israel against the interest of US is directly rooted in his faith.

  12. hophmi
    hophmi
    March 6, 2014, 12:13 pm

    “Anyway just wondering about the logic of Islam as the mortal enemy of Judaism.”

    Who claims that Islam is the mortal enemy of Judaism?

    • Qualtrough
      Qualtrough
      March 8, 2014, 5:42 am

      C’mon, just Google ‘Islam Mortal Enemy Judaism’ and see for yourself.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        March 8, 2014, 6:43 pm

        I googled it. I didn’t see very much outside of the far-right. My guess is that there are a lot more Muslims who would call Judaism the enemy of Islam than there are Jews who would call Islam the enemy of Judaism.

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