Letter to NewsWeek for Publishing Defamatory Opinion Piece against IAMC and other Muslim American organizations

To

The Editor

Newsweek

Subject: Baseless allegations against IAMC and other Muslim American organizations

Dear Sir,


This bears reference to an online piece headlined “COVID Relief Funds Went to Violent Extremists” published on your website on December 7, 2020 at 6:30 AM EST (https://www.newsweek.com/covid-relief-funds-went-violent-extremists-opinion-1552485). This piece makes defamatory and patently false claims against several reputed and respectable Muslim American organizations including the Indian American Muslim Council. Specifically the piece refers to IAMC as “an anti-Hindu Islamist group with alleged ties to SIMI, a banned terrorist organization in India.”


IAMC is not anti-Hindu. It is not an Islamist group. It has no ties to SIMI.


It is hard to believe that a magazine of Newsweek’s stature has run so short of content that it is compelled to accommodate discredited ranters like Sam Westrop. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a respected organization working for racial justice and ending white supremacy, has described Middle East Forum, Westrop’s employer, as a “think tank run by anti-Muslim provocateur Daniel Pipes”, an “anti-Muslim activist” who has “spent the better part of three decades vilifying Muslims”. SPLFC says Pipes believes Islam will “replace” western civilization as a result of “unfettered immigration and blind multiculturalism.”


According to a Georgetown University initiative, the MEF is “a right-wing anti-Islam think tank that spreads misinformation, creates “watchlists” targeting academics… provides funding to numerous anti-Muslim organizations and has provided legal services to a number of anti-Muslim activists including [Islamophobic Dutch politician] Geert Wilders and [British far right anti-Islam activist] Tommy Robinson.”


A cursory Google check would have suitably informed your news desk of the utter lack of acceptability of MEF, Daniel Pipes or Sam Westrop in anything mainstream — US Congress, US Government, US think-tanks, or even the Intelligence Community. Westrop-Pipes-MEF have zero credibility in the human rights, civil liberties and religious freedom sector. Not quite the company Newsweek would like to keep.


On the other hand, Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), has wide acceptability in the US Congress, US administration and global civil society. A registered 501(c)3 founded in 2002 and having 17 chapters and thousands of members across the US, IAMC is a rights-based advocacy organization that champions Constitutional and democratic values of freedom, justice and peace both in the US and India.


IAMC interacts closely with members of Congress, Congressional committees, and other Congressional entities such as the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Over the years IAMC representatives have testified at Congressional hearings on human rights abuses in India, widely acknowledged to be facilitated India’s extreme right-wing Hindu nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Several US Senators and US Representatives regularly meet and interact with IAMC members to discuss the worsening situation in India in regards to human rights and religious freedom. At the 2020 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., IAMC’s representative was one of six panelists from across the world at a discussion on religious freedom called by the US Department of State.


The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal body established by Congressional law that advises the President, US Congress and the Department of State on global religious persecution, works closely with IAMC. In just the last six months, two Vice-Chairs of USCIRF have headlined Congressional briefings organized by IAMC. 


Earlier this year, IAMC was invited by the Harvard India Conference as a panelist to discuss human rights violations in India. IAMC has partnered with the University of Berkley on various projects over the years. IAMC regularly partners and/or collaborates with some of the most prominent rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, American Bar Association and The Advocates for Human Rights.


IAMC also has wide-ranging relationships with faith-based as well as non-faith-based advocacy groups. Its collaborators/partners/allies include Jewish Voice for Peace and Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR). HfHR is a Hindu-only organization that opposes the destructive Hindu nationalism of India’s ruling party, with which the Middle East Forum has been hobnobbing. IAMC’s list of partners also includes Equality Labs and Dalit Solidarity Forum, two of America’s largest Dalit rights groups, and Students Against Hindutva Ideology, that started from Yale University earlier this year and spread to campuses around the country.


All these organizations are bound by their common opposition to Hindutva, the ideology of Hindu nationalism that has wreaked havoc on India’s social and religious minorities since Mr. Modi became prime minister in 2014. It is because IAMC is at the forefront of a global fight against Hindutva that MEF, which is a steady partner of Hindu extremist organizations in the US, has started to write against us.


It is shocking that Newsweek has published a defamatory and libelous piece without giving any opportunity to the organizations who it calls “violent extremists” to respond to the allegations. I urge you to immediately withdraw Sam Westrop’s piece from your website and apologize to all the organizations that the article has defamed.


Rasheed Ahmed

Executive Director

Indian American Muslim Council