It's the beginning of Ramadan and as I write this millions of fellow worshippers are taking to their fast with the natural reflection and focus on family, friends and overall well being. It's time to refocus, replenish and what I call, an introspective time of year.
Turn the other cheek. Hold your anger. Be patient.
Well, Michelle Bachmann and her posse are testing me. Big time.
By now you are well aware of her nonsensical concern about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff, Huma Abedin. And Bachmann's real patriotic concern about Abedin being privy to all sorts of national security stuff via clearance. Why? That's because Bachmann and her Bourne-esque crack team are busy linking her deceased father to Muslim Brotherhood. How you ask? Well it's easy, he knew a guy, who knew a guy who, also knew a guy. Thirty years ago. Yes I'm serious. That's the chain of association that this former presidential candidate and her four fellow Representatives are having sleepless nights about.
Then I thought about what was happening last summer during this time. What oddball controversies were shoring up about Islam then? Let me remind you. We were in the throws of the Republican race. And Tennessee's Murfreesboro Mosque was in the eye of the storm. Protests, delayed permits, hold ups, court injunctions were almost daily occurrences that pretty much filled up the calendars of the mosque developers and those hoping to be parishioners. The place still isn't finished yet.
Last July, Herman Cain all part of his feeding into his base political game-playing, indicated during his campaign stump his concern about this place of worship not being an "innocent mosque." Proof? Who needs it. Just say it let it be tweeted and retweeted, shared and linked. And once you have other blogs picking up on your story and sound bites you are good as gold.
What about the year before? Date: June 6, 2010. Location: New York City. Scene: The first of what was to become an entire summer, fall, winter and following spring full of Anti-Ground Zero Mosque protests.
That fall was the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and Pastor Terry Jones (who can miraculously spot a photo opportunity in between his Bible readings) was generous enough to offer to burn Qurans to commemorate this tragic anniversary. Well of course, that led to protests across America with 20 related deaths in the Middle East and Asia. Throwing a big fat wrench, PR nightmare for U.S. foreign policy initiatives, existing international relationships and putting the stationed U.S. troops at risk in these hot zones.
Oh, "what about the President's birther issue?" you ask? Don't fret! Well that has been the steady theme since the man basically stepped into the Presidential arena. So I'm slotting this one in the "2008 to present" category. Don't forget the most recent Gallup poll show that one out every six Americans still believe that he is Muslim. That's 11 per cent. A pretty high number if you ask me.
Now back to the present concern at hand. The latest witchhunt courtesy of Michelle Bachmann.
She as a dutiful American is bravely taking charge and leading her band of brothers -- namely fellow Republican Representatives, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Thomas Rooney and Lynn Westmoreland -- in this dangerous game of Six Degrees. The fact that she is pointedly marking her attack specifically on one person, that person's family including a deceased parent, makes this all the more frightening.
Jon Stewart brilliantly played her idiotic game with an even tighter association chart. Three degrees. Her, HSBC's $1,000 USD Campaign donation and now the just revealed status of that bank being the go-to place for terrorist cells. Bam!
Democratic Representative, Keith Ellison, also a Muslim, was one of the first to speak out against this charge when he spoke to Anderson Cooper on CNN's AC360. Ellison pointing out obvious similarities between Bachmann's hunt and McCarthyism was not lost on Bachmann. What did she do? Well, she promptly added his name to her list of Muslim Brotherhood wannabees who should also be looked at. So basically anyone who goes against Bachmann or questions her accusation's validity, motives -- or gasp! Patriotism -- are automatically slotted under the Brotherhood category. Makes sense? Sure, why not? It's not like we haven't seen this one coming.
Enter Faisal Gill.
Gill, was part of George W. Bush's administration. In 2004, after being appointed to policy director for the Department of Homeland Security by the President, Frank Gaffney who heads a right wing think tank, (and I'm using "think" rather loosely here) called Centre for Conservative Policy (CSP) immediately raised concerns about Gill's alleged ties to "jihadists" during Gill's tenure as director of the American Muslim Council. Of course Gill was exonerated after an investigation, but that charge and association still sticks in the wonderful world of the interwebs.
Before Gill, Grover Norquist was the focus of Gaffney. Norquist whose wife is Muslim, was accused in 2002 of "helping the Muslim Brotherhood spread its influence in the nation's capital" during the first Bush Administration.
Why am I mentioning Gaffney here? Well, it's important. Yes he's obviously far in the fringe territory to be taken seriously however it is his word that Michelle Bachmann is taking when it comes to Abedin. No proof, just his word. And that's dangerous.
And for the record he was also going around the media circles shouting out his concerns about the Ground Zero Mosque and was touting himself as the Sharia "expert" during the protests against the mosque in Murfreesboro.
Now, these allegations about Abedin are now being spread like wildfire, endlessly picked up from one blog to the next internationally. So much so, now, that the Arab media outlets have repeated such false accusations in Egypt. The Result? Shoes and tomatoes being thrown at Clinton's car with her and her Deputy Chief Of Staff inside. Were they after Hillary? Or Huma? Sure Morsi isn't a popular president-elect, but just like conspiracies that floated around during the Arab Spring, such tall tales get read, filtered, manipulated, spread and believed if you hear about it long enough, or better yet, see it being posted everywhere you surf.
And herein lies the problem. It's not that we are thin-skinned and we have to buck up and deal with it. Sure we have to deal with it. We have been "dealing" with this sort of nonsense for over a decade. However, unlike 10 years ago, social media is now bigger, faster and stronger and can easily be converted into a dangerous weapon just by pressing "send." Ask Rick Santorum. Or if you have the stomach, then Google him.
Once that label comes out and gets picked up by one loosely researched and barely fact-checked blog after another, the disastrous false accusations stick. It doesn't matter how many retractions you put out there. It's there. Forever and ever and ever.
Ellison brilliantly drove that point home. On CNN he expressed his concern about this happening to someone else, someone who isn't as well connected and highly placed and coveted as Abedin. What if there was some mid-level employee who doesn't have the protective shield that affords Huma? Who doesn't have Boehner and McCain among others, standing up for them? How is he/she going to wade through something like this?
In today's ballooning and increasingly influential social media and online blogging landscape, sure sticks and stones can break bones, but a correctly phrased Google search can be even more devastating.
Follow Hina P. Ansari on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hinapansari