say 'no' to terrorism: Walid Shoebat.
PHOTO: Alicia Solsman
From the Converted
former radical PLO member turned evangelical Christian offers
his critical take on Islam
am a proud Islamophobe,” said Walid Shoebat, a Palestinian-American
evangelical Christian, to a crowd of 50 people Saturday night
at the Light of the World Christian Church in Latham. When
you criticize Islam, he said, you risk being labeled a bigot.
It is a risk he is willing to take.
heard Islam is a peaceful religion?” he asked the crowd. “Wake
In his three-hour lecture, Shoebat drew numerous parallels
between biblical references to the Antichrist and the Islamic
world, claiming that every country the Bible says God will
destroy in the end-times is a Muslim one. “What was in Mohammed,”
Shoebat said, “was Satan.”
Shoebat [an assumed name], was born in Bethlehem and raised
in the Islamic faith. He claims to have been a member of Palestinian
Liberation Organization, once jailed by Israeli authorities
after a failed bombing attempt. Now, he is an evangelical
Christian, and he travels the country to warn against the
threat of Islam, which he describes as “a political movement
cloaked with religion.” Shoebat’s 180-degree turn has gained
him widespread attention, and he has appeared on virtually
every major news outlet.
are in a war with radical Islam,” Shoebat said in a private
interview. “As Americans, we need to unite. This is not an
issue of Republican, Democrat, left wing, right wing; it’s
an issue of the survival of this nation. It’s an issue of
our freedoms [sic] to criticize religion. We need to protect
those rights, always.”
we’re moving into an arena where no one can criticize the
Islamic religion,” he continued. “People accuse you of being
an Islamophobe or a racist. That’s become ridiculous.”
One of Shoebat’s critics, Sheila Musaji, is the editor of
the American Muslim, formerly a print and now an online
publication. In the essay “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War
with the West,” Musaji called Shoebat “an extremist Christian
terrorist. This is not a former terrorist. This is a man who
used to hate Jews and now hates Muslims, who used to commit
violence against Jews and now justifies violence against Muslims.”
But Shoebat argues that his message is not one of hate or
love, but truth.
is what the Western mindset will always ask: Is peace attainable?
And if the answer to the question isn’t a ‘peace’ answer,
it is rejected,” he said. He compares the issue to dealing
with a drug dealer: The police come in, there may be a shootout
and officers may be killed, but the problem is resolved.
not a happy picture,” he continued. “You have to attain [peace]
first of all by removing the thugs in the community that are
teaching the fundamental, radical view of Islam. If you don’t
remove those, the community is destroyed. We’re not fighting
a real, serious war on terrorism. We’re not removing the thugs;
we’re simply fighting the results. They’re not going to the
source of what’s making the insurgents.”
He said that Islam must evolve from its origins, which he
claims are based on violence. But can Islam evolve?
the West?” he asked, “Yes. In the Middle East? No.”
Shoebat’s newest book, Why We Want to Kill You, follows
his previous book Why I Left Jihad, which details some
of the biblical contents of his lecture. He urged the churchgoers
Saturday night to give the book to their secular friends to
warn them about Islam, which he told them “looks like a legitimate
religion,” but exists only “to correct the Judeo-Christian
The Latham crowd was receptive, and many brought or purchased
books to be signed by Shoebat. During a question-and-answer
session following the lecture, a young churchgoer asked Shoebat
whether, if all faithful Muslims are perpetually at war, the
tens of thousands of civilian casualties in Iraq could really
be classified as “civilian” casualties.
Shoebat answered carefully: “Children are children, come on,”
he said, but added that not all the civilians killed were
Shoebat often needs security at his engagements and has received
several death threats, including one from his brother for
leaving Islam behind. Even his event at Light of the World
Church included a bag search.
more threats I get, the more I have to work harder,” he said.
“The more I will continue.”
went from one extreme to the other,” Shoebat admitted. “I
went from a Muslim fundamentalist to a Christian fundamentalist.
The problem with Christian fundamentalists is that they preach
a lot, and they give all the people a headache. They knock
on the doors and try to proselytize and convert people to
Christianity; that’s true. We give the world a headache. But
the Muslim fundamentalists are raising a generation to take
heads off. That’s a different story.”
prominent Chinese HIV/AIDS activist, Gao Yaojie,
will be freed from house arrest in order to travel
to the United States to accept an award from the
human-rights group Vital Voices Global Partnership.
During the 1990s, Gao, now 80, blew the whistle
on unhygienic blood-transfusion conditions that
were causing an AIDS
outbreak in China’s Henan province.
Chinese authorities initially warned Gao not to
attend the VVGP awards ceremony and put her under
house arrest to prevent her from traveling to
Beijing to apply for a visa. In both 2001 and
2003, Gao was similarly blocked from accepting
death of 13-year-old autistic boy Jonathan Carey
on Feb. 15, after allegedly being improperly restrained
by a care aide while riding in a van, added fuel
to a state effort to allow parents and guardians
of individuals who are mentally disabled to access
confidential medical and investigative records.
The current law does not allow parents to access
such information. Carey was under the care of
two aides from O.D. Heck Development Center in
Niskayuna when the boy supposedly acted up and
one of the staffers restrained him. After Carey
stopped breathing, the two aides reportedly left
the boy in the car while they finished more than
an hour of errands and shopping before calling
U.S. Supreme Court threw out an Oregon court decision
on Tuesday that would have awarded $79.5 million
in punitive damages to a widow suing Philip Morris
USA—maker of Marlboro cigarettes—on behalf of
her dead husband. Williams accused the company
of “massive market-directed fraud” that for decades
hid the true dangers of smoking; she said that
her husband, who died of lung cancer in 1997,
didn’t heed the surgeon general’s warning about
smoking because the company marketed cigarettes
as being safe. The Supreme Court overruled the
original decision on the grounds that the punitive
damages awarded far exceeded the actual damages.
Philip Morris could be held accountable, the court
said, only for the harm done to Jesse Williams
and his widow, and not to the smoking population
new Web site calls out community members and causes a stir
It’s time to shape up or ship out.” That’s the message the
creator of the recently launched Web site EmpowerHood.org
hopes to send to Schenectady residents who allegedly cause
the community harm. EmpowerHood currently names two area men
in its Hall of Shame and provides information about each,
including the details of their alleged offenses, photographs,
legal documents, and even license-plate numbers of those who
frequent the business owned by one the men.
The Hall of Shame exposure is part of EmpowerHood’s carrot-and-stick
approach to what its members say will make Schenectady a better
place to live and work, but the practice begs legal questions
about slander, defamation and the right to privacy.
Robert Alexson is the first man named in the Hall of Shame.
He owns the Union Street Bed and Breakfast and is well known
for hosting swinger parties on its premises.
Dana Swalla, who leads the EmpowerHood effort, lives near
Alexson’s business and has been a vocal critic of the establishment
for months. The Web site criticizes Alexson’s use of the 1362
Union St. business as a swingers club, his refusal to comply
with a city ordinance requiring that such adult entertainment
take place in industrial zones, and several additional “objectionable
property uses,” such as the presence of a bus and crane behind
EmpowerHood goes a step further in order to, as described
on the Web site, “protect the neighborhood” from Alexson’s
offenses by listing the license-plate numbers of individuals
who frequent the establishment.
in fact, she can testify, ‘I saw somebody get out of this
car and go into 1362 Union St.,’ then I don’t see anything
anybody can sue her for,” said Robert Stein, a copyright and
libel attorney based in New York City. He said Swalla likely
would encounter no legal repercussions if she chose to go
a step further and identify the name associated with each
license plate, an idea Swalla said she has considered and
may choose to do in the future. “If she photographed them
on a public street, then they’re fair game.”
The second “offender” named in the Hall of Shame, Andrew Wisoff,
said the allegations the Web site makes against him are littered
with misinformation and out-of-
context charges. EmpowerHood notes Wisoff’s pending lawsuits
against the city of Schenectady, reports that he currently
owes thousands in overdue taxes, and states that his rental
properties are not up to code.
Wisoff said that he first heard of his being named to EmpowerHood’s
Hall of Shame after reading a newspaper report. “Was I surprised?
No. Was I angry? No.” Wisoff said his inclusion in the Hall
of Shame is the result of the city’s attempt to “demonize”
him for refusing to submit to city demands and continuing
with legal proceedings against Schenectady.
He insisted that he is not the inattentive landlord the Web
site may suggest. “This is all typical landlord-tenant garbage,”
Wisoff said. “That Web site takes this totally out of context.”
As for the claim that he owes the city back taxes, Wisoff
said, “That’s just plain wrong. In fact, I just found out
that I overpaid by $5,000.”
Wisoff plans to send a written response to the Web site’s
allegations, which Swalla has agreed to post.
Swalla said she consulted an attorney before unrolling the
Web site to ensure the statements did not cross the line of
slander or defamation. “That’s why I’m sticking to information
that’s publicly available,” she said. “I’m also careful to
phrase things as being my opinion.”
Even though the Web site’s Hall of Shame section has incited
the most debate, Swalla emphasized that the site also is designed
to promote what she believes are Schenectady’s best businesses
in its Hall of Fame as well as provide tips for residents
to improve their community.
think a lot of people feel really helpless that they can’t
make a difference themselves, and I think what makes [EmpowerHood]
unique is it kind of helps people use the system to their
advantage,” Swalla said. “Not a lot of people know, for instance,
that you can get the name of a property owner by calling the
Although Swalla said she would like to think there aren’t
more people who deserve to go into the Hall of Shame, she
expected that it, as well as the Hall of Fame, would expand
in the future.
Got It Coming
push for a food co-op keeps getting stronger
Kevin Blodgett and plenty of his neighbors in Troy are eager
to bring a full-service grocery store to their downtown community.
More than 150 households have paid the onetime fee of $140
to become members of the Troy Community Food Cooperative.
Blodgett said that he and a half-dozen other Trojans have
spent the past year working as a core committee, undertaking
the preliminary work to figure out just exactly how one goes
about starting a co-op.
have visited other co-ops, talked with consultants,” he said.
Just last week, much of their hard work paid off, when the
members of the co-op elected its first board of directors.
Now criticial decisions—such as what foods will be carried—can
It is a big step, Blodgett said, but “now we are looking into
how we are going to get the money.” Initial estimates place
the cost of opening the co-op’s doors at $1.4 million.
Are they anywhere near that goal?
he said. “But all the major fund-raising haven’t even started
According to Cooperative Development Services, a national
nonprofit organization dedicated to helping start co-ops,
once membership reaches a certain level, he said, it gets
easier to attract large sums of money.
get a bunch of really committed people at the start to do
the leg work,” Blodgett said, referring to the usual model
for successful launches. “Then you start looking for members
to elect the board, then you go out and get a bunch [of] members.
And once you get the members you can go to three sources of
fund-raising.” These sources are bank loans, grants and private
you can’t do much of any of it until you have a lot of members,
cause nobody takes you seriously,” he said.
In that respect, the Troy cooperative is lucky in that it
already has a retail space. Alane Hohenburg purchased the
old Pioneer Market at 77-81 Congress St. (between Third and
Fourth streets) with the specific intention of starting a
Hohenburg has been agitating for a co-op since 2005. It as
a crucial element, she believes, to the continuing growth
of downtown Troy.
As anyone who lives in downtown Troy knows, there is little
in the way of grocery shopping: The closest large chain grocery
stores are in Watervliet or Brunswick; there’s also a smaller
chain market in the old Price Chopper space in Troy Plaza.
Uncle Sam Health Food on Fourth Street is popular but caters
to a specific crowd; and Stewart’s Shops offer a very limited
The co-op, Hohenburg said, “must be community responsive.
With the old Pioneer Market, we would be in a central spot,
in an area that the people in the neighborhood need the service.”
As of now, she said, the plan is to offer 30 percent conventional
foods, such as you would see on any grocery shelf, and 70
percent organic, minimally processed foods. Hohenburg said
that the hope is that the co-op will be a place where everyone
in the neighborhood, rich and poor, can shop
Blodgett, who is a member of the outreach committee, said
his main function now is to go to public functions, such as
Troy’s Farmers’ Market, to feel out what the community wants
from a co-op and to answer the community’s questions. They
are still more than 300 members shy of the number they feel
is needed to get the store under way.
more information, visit www.troyfood coop.com.
loose ends this week-