Facts and truth. Here are two words all too frequently treated as synonymous. Indeed, as the writer Maya Angelou notes, ‘there’s a world of difference between facts and the truth. Facts can obscure the truth’.
Citing ‘facts’ in her second malicious attack against Professor Akbar Ahmed, the notorious Islamophobic yellow-journalist, Laura Rubenfeld, believes she has reached the ‘truth’ – that Professor Ahmed is an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood and that his agenda is actually to ‘Islamize’ Americans and the world.
Rubenfeld’s ‘facts’, which are about as credible as supermarket tabloid stories, as pointed out by Jonathan Hayden, are positioned on extremely flimsy associations (some of which are indirect and thirty-years-old) and very loose personal relationships (to people who are no longer living). Her ‘facts’ are as follows: Professor Ahmed’s previous appearances at various conferences concerning ‘Islamic knowledge’ is proof that he promotes the ‘Brotherhood agenda’. Some of Professor Ahmed’s work from the 1980s, which is used on the Brotherhood website, makes it obviously clear of his Brotherhood affiliation. Professor Ahmed’s Brotherhood link, moreover, is evident in the ‘fact’ that his friend, who is no longer living, once said something that could be interpreted as something the Brotherhood would promote. Of course, Rubenfeld never places these appearances or quotes in any kind of context. If she did, her argument would likely fall flat on its face.
Nonetheless, Rubenfeld, in desperation, resorted to an absurd ‘let’s connect the dots’ effort to slander Professor Ahmed. Her article is a conspiracy theory of the worst kind. It portrays Professor Ahmed as some kind of deceiver and radical Muslim. For those of us who actually know him, we were appalled at the vitriol of such commentary based on a highly questionable methodology.
But the most hysterical, indeed laughable, element of Rubenfeld’s article was when she suggested that: [t]hose who previously relied on Professor Ahmed’s reputation as a moderate need to ask what else Professor Ahmed is hiding.
Professor Ahmed isn’t ‘moderate’?! I had to read that line ten times to even believe what I was reading. For a moment, I thought I was reading The Onion.
How do we dissect Rubenfeld’s lies? For starters, it is useful to examine whether Professor Ahmed is even ‘moderate’ to begin with. I, among countless others, could argue that Professor Ahmed is more of a ‘mystical’ than ‘moderate’ Muslim. Ever since I can remember, he has always emphasized the works of the Sufi poet, Rumi, who writes about love, compassion and tolerance, all very ‘liberal’ values. Rumi aside, Professor Ahmed’s role models include Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr. John F. Kennedy, and Nelson Mandela. These individuals are humanitarians, universalists, and peace lovers. Professor Ahmed is a humanist, not a moderate.
Rubenfeld also blundered in her comments in light of Professor Ahmed’s forthcoming book of verse, Suspended Somewhere Between. In one of the poems, ‘What is it that I seek?’, Professor Ahmed writes: ‘It is God’s greatest gift/It raises us high above/It is the bridge over the rift/It is love, love, love’. Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, writes that Suspended in Between highlights the ‘love and hope of Muslims’. Daniel Futterman, the famous Hollywood actor and Academy Award nominated screenwriter, calls it a ‘book of love’. Walter Issacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, notes that it shows us Professor Ahmed’s ‘beautiful soul’.
Professor Ahmed has also spent years and years of continuous and arduous work in trying to improve relations between Muslims, Christians and Jews. He has befriended countless numbers of religious leaders, from Jonathan Sacks (Chief Rabbi of the UK) and Senior Rabbi Bruce Lustig of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, to Bishop John Chane of the Washington National Cathedral (with whom he recently published an article in the Washington Post that condemned attacks on Christian minorities in Muslim-majority countries), and too many others to name. On a more personal note, I’ll never forget when I joined Professor Ahmed in Houston to meet Catholic Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza. Fiorenza called the project we were then working on, ‘Journey into America’, as ‘the work of God’. You could literally fill a book with all the religious leaders that admire the work of Professor Ahmed. Yet, Rubenfeld insinuates that he is actually some kind of ‘Muslim monster’ with a sinister motive to impose Islam on the world.
Does Rubenfeld merit the credibility of these interfaith leaders and many other figures around the world that have embraced Professor Ahmed’s lifelong work?
I have known Professor Ahmed for about six years. He has been my academic mentor and the second most influential male figure in my life aside from my father, Christopher. He and his family have been to my home in Needham, MA, where we had an Italian feast. When I once lost my cool and let my temper get the best of me, Professor Ahmed pulled me aside and asked me ‘what would Jesus do?’ I’ve seen him comfort my father with compassion when I had a life-threatening accident in 2007. I’ve been with Professor Ahmed when we ‘hung-out’ with hip-hop artists in Buffalo. I’ve walked Bourbon Street with him in New Orleans to better understand its culture. I’ve even been to a Chicago Cubs baseball game with him at Wrigley Field because he wanted to learn about ‘America’s pastime’. Professor Ahmed, you see, is not just about family and friendship. He is about meeting new people, understanding new cultures, and taking part in new experiences. Rather than trying to ‘Islamize’ you, as Rubenfeld suggested, Professor Ahmed would rather show you his warmth and demonstrate his natural curiosity about the ‘other’.
I should also add that never once has Professor Ahmed tried to convert me to Islam. The topic has never even come up. Nor will it ever. ‘Islamizing’ is not his concern or prerogative. Teaching me the value of knowledge is!
No matter how hard Rubenfeld tries to twist-and-turn the character and conduct of Professor Ahmed, she will never (ever) be able to twist the fact that many, many people of all backgrounds and faiths respect him. No matter how passionate Rubenfeld becomes in her personal crusade against him, she cannot alter this evidence. These are the facts. This is truth.
If Rubenfeld wants even more facts to see the truth, she should try to arrange a meeting with Professor Ahmed. My only fear is that she still won’t see the truth because she doesn’t really seek it, nor does she value it. Unfortunately, Rubenfeld is blinded by the malignancy of hate. She will likely continue on her xenophobic crusade because Professor Ahmed will continue on with his work. We should expect more incoherent ramblings from Rubenfeld and the rest of the ignorant Islamophobic supermarket tabloid bloggers who twist the truth for selfish and monetary reasons. If she wants to keep her job with the cynical Steve Emerson, who is manipulating the American public with his anti-Muslim rhetoric, Rubenfeld will have to do so.
My final point is this. The only thing Rubenfeld’s article taught us is that the great English novelist, Alduous Huxley, was spot-on when he said that ‘facts’:
‘… are ventriloquists dummies. Sitting on a wise man’s knee they may be made to utter words of wisdom: elsewhere, they say nothing, or talk nonsense, or indulge in sheer diagolism’.
By Craig Considine