In a truly ghastly spectacle, the professional Islamophobe set is descending like a flock of vultures on Huma Abedin, the new wife of New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, who has notoriously just stepped down after being caught in a "sexting" scandal. The US-born Pakistani-American Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who has comported herself with perfect dignity throughout the unseemly affair, was first accused of having converted Weiner from Judaism to Islam as part of a socialistic conspiracy to undermine America. Are we making this up? No. A screed to this effect evidently ran in the Washington Times on June 12, written by one Eliana Benador. The piece appeared in the paper's online "Communities" section, which seems to straddle the line between guest-editorialism and mere unedited bloggery. But this piece went so far over the line that even the arch-conservative Washington Times (owned, SourceWatch reminds us, by "Reverend" Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church) pulled the story toot sweet. However, Justin Elliot, writing on Salon the next day, saved this egregious smear-job from the Memory Hole (both quoting from it at length and preserving a screenshot of it on Twitpic).
What's the (ahem) evidence here? A quote from someone Benador vaguely and inaccurately identifies as the "Imam of New York" (the original source, the daily Metro of June 7, identifies him as Omar Abu-Namous, imam of the 96th Street Islamic Cultural Center), in which he counsels that Abedin have "patience" with Weiner. Benador fumes (in very bad prose):
Given the defense articulated by the Imam, which would be offered only for a Muslim man, we must believe this opportunity to remove this Muslim woman from a union with an non-believer would be quickly taken. Therefore we must consider that Mr. Weiner *may* have converted to Islam, because if he did not, we have to consider the unlikely, that being that Ms. Abedin has abandoned her Muslim faith, even while she still practices.
Now isn't this cute. Any objective reading of this encounter would compel the conclusion that Abedin and Abu-Namous are secular and tolerant Muslims, who are OK with a mixed marriage and even forgiving of libertine indiscretions. But since no such entity can exist in Benador's universe, the exact opposite conclusion is assumed: Weiner has been secretly converted to Islam, likely as part of some far-reaching and subversive conspiracy. Benador asks if Abedin hasn't "been groomed to access leading political movers and shakers to advance the cause of Islam in America, including a politically positioned marriage to Congressman Anthony Weiner?"
Dismissing the seeming tolerance of Abedin and her imam, Benador invokes "Taqiyya , an element of sharia that states there is a legal right and duty to distort the truth to promote the cause of Islam." Right, when we're dealing with these sneaky Muslims it is perfectly reasonable to assume that everything is the opposite of what it appears: the innocent is sinister, the tolerant is a facade for a jihadist plot, etc. (Note that Islamophobe sophists throw the term taqiyya around in the same pseudo-knowing way that anti-Semites love to show off their familiarity with the secret Zionist doctrine of hasbara, to similalry imply that all Jews are lying, manipulative schemers.)
Even the WT should have been aware that a Benador by-line is a dubious touchstone for veracity. Benador's own Wikipedia page (which is probably all too flattering, given that the moderators flagged it with the note "This article is written like an advertisement") states that she has worked as a PR flack for such neocon icons as ex-CIA director James Woolsey and ex-New York Times columnist AM Rosenthal, and recalls the following faux pas:
In May 2006, a sensational story by Benador's client Amir Taheri appeared in the National Post claiming that Iran's government had passed a law requiring Jewish residents to wear a yellow insignia. The story proved false and the National Post issued a retraction. Benador, whose PR firm placed the item, signaled that "newspapers are, ultimately, solely responsible for the accuracy of what they print." In regards to the incident, Benador was attributed as saying "Terming accuracy with regard to Iran 'a luxury'...My major concern is the large picture..." [Sic]
Excuse us, who was just accusing Muslims of distorting the truth in advance of an ideological agenda? We noted at the time of the "yellow insignia" non-story that such fabrications only paradoxically vindicate Iran's mullahs, making them look like the victims of sinister Jewish propaganda campaigns.
Anyway, so the Weiner-is-a-Muslim theory wouldn't fly even with the reactionary WT. The wacky-right FrontPage Magazine is among several such outlets now circulating a story similarly touting the Abedin-is-an-Islamist-agent theory, while stopping short of accusing her of having converted her priapically obsessed husband. The FrontPage screed, by one Arnold Ahlert, asks in its headline, "Why Is Weiner's Muslim Brotherhood Wife Not Resigning?"
Anthony Weiner resigned yesterday, unable to withstand the relentless pressure put on him for his sexting extravaganzas. Yet if an article written by former PLO terrorist-turned-Christian and Israel supporter Walid Shoebat...is any indication, it may very well be that the wrong member of the family resigned. According to Arabic sources translated by Mr. Shoebat, Huma Abedin’s mother and brother are both associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Walid Shoebat, for those not in the know, is a professional ex-Muslim who now runs a Walid Shoebat Foundation that happily provides propaganda ammo to the Islamophobes (in the same lugubrious manner that professional ex-Jew Israel Shamir does for the anti-Semties). Even Shoebat's Wikipedia page makes note of the widespread skepticism of his claims about himself—including from sources with a vested interest in believing him, such as the Jerusalem Post. Shoebat's screed, "Weiner's In-Laws and the SECRET Muslim Brotherhood Connections REVEALED," seems to be the original source for the Abedin conspiracy theory. This is the most incriminating paragraph:
Al-Liwa Al-Arabi (translated here) claims to have leaked an extensive list, which was partially published by Al-Jazeera and several other major Arab newspapers. The detailed list included Huma’s mother, Saleha Abedin, as belonging to the Brotherhood’s secret women's division known as the Muslim Sisterhood or what is known as the International Women's Organization (IWO). Egyptian Al-Dostor revealed that the Sisternood included 63 International members that span 16 different countries; it's also confirmed by the Arab Centre for Studies, headed by researcher Abdul Rahim Ali. Neither Huma nor any major western media outlet even mention what is common knowledge in the Arab world.
The astute progressive blog Bartholomew's Notes on Religion deconstructs this jive in a post entitled "Witch-Hunt Against Huma Abedin." Upon scratching Shoebat's allegations, Bartholomew finds (surprise, surprise) there's little there:
[T]he link given for Al-Liwa Al-Arabi leads to an obscure and short-lived blog from January 2010, while the al-Jazeera piece is largely derivative of Egyptian newspapers (so far as I can tell from Google translate). The aforementioned Abdul Rahim Ali appears to be the actual source, but where he got his information from remains unclear.
Pretty flimsy for the lurid headlining of explosive claims. Concludes Bartholomew:
But even if Shoebat’s claim turns out to be correct, it’s a rather big jump from identifying a “member” of the Muslim Brotherhood to showing that that this person’s daughter is therefore a spy working against the USA...
There is no evidence that Huma Abedin has been involved in any wrongdoing. The abuse now being heaped on her by conservative websites is no more than a witch-hunt against a successful young woman, at a time when she is doubtless suffering great personal distress and humiliation over her husband’s sexual failings. It's distasteful to witness.