Fanatics Defame Murdered U.S. Soldiers -- that's the title of a post by my Talk to Action colleague Chip Berlet about a seriously under-reported story. Several prominent Religious Rightists plan to exploit the murders of soldiers at Ft. Hood to promote anti-Muslim bigotry and religious war at a rally in Killeen, Texas on Sunday, November 21st. (That would be tomorrow.)
A small group of fanatics plan to hijack a memorial event on Sunday ostensibly dedicated to the memory of soldiers who died in an attack last year at Fort Hood, Texas. The event will feature speakers with a long history of vicious anti-Islamic bigotry and rhetoric that targets not the actions of terrorists but rather condemns the religion of Islam itself.
The upcoming competing event is titled "Reclaiming America at Fort Hood," and one website promoting the event states "America had enough of diversity, liberalism, appeasement, and silence. Diversity starts with the truth." According to advertisements, the event will take place November 21st 2010 at the Killeen, Texas Conference Center [near Ft. Hood]. The event is being organized by the Forum For Middle East Understanding. Among the key speakers announced are Robert Spencer, Walid Shoebat, retired General William Boykin, and Kamal Saleem. On Shoebat's website the event is described as "About Honor over Dishonor, Truth over Lies, and Facts over Self Delusion." It goes on to state that a "primary sponsor of the event is the ICTOA (International Counter Terrorism Officers Association).
The sponsoring organization is the Orwellianly-sounding The Forum For Middle East Understanding of Newtown, Pennsylvania, and the four speakers mentioned above are each featured in a promotional video for the rally titled "Remember Ft. Hood" that is a call for religious warfare in everything but name. Retired General Jerry Boykin is featured speaking in uniform behind Christian crosses describing himself as "a warrior" and "God loves warriors." Military images are shown throughout. The video flashes the historic slogan "Remember the Alamo" along with "Remember Ft. Hood." To suggest that the battle cry of Texas nationalism which was used to rally the forces of Sam Houston against the Mexican army, has anything to do with the murderous rampage of Major Hasan at Ft. Hood is dark, demagogic propaganda indeed. It is the demagoguery of religious war that merits more analysis than I can do in this short diary. But make no mistake about what this is.
Religion scholar (and Talk to Action contributor) Richard Bartholomew writes:
Obviously, the event is boilerplate Tea Party: using tragedy to promote fear and hate, and fear and hate to make reason look weak. I blogged on the line-up here; most of the speakers need no introduction. Shoebat is a pseudo-expert on terrorism, Islamic extremism, and Biblical prophecy, and he teaches that Obama is a secret Muslim and that the Bible has prophesised a Muslim anti-Christ. Boykin, like Shoebat, believes that the US is in a spiritual war against Islam with an apocalyptic dimension, and he was recently explaining how health care reform represents a "Marxist insurgency" and a Nazi-like conspiracy to "establish a constabulary force... that can control the population".
Crazy stuff, you may say. But the groups and individuals involved here are not nearly as crazy as they are effective propagandists who are known for having friends in high places, particularly in the military and in law enforcement.
The event and its sponsors are certainly unsettling. But even more unsettling is the blind eye that is too often turned to the activities of far rightwing demagogues whose views continue to percolate up through our national political discourse.