Al-Qaida not a fringe opinion among Muslims, Shoebat tells South Dakota security conference

South Dakota emergency personnel who gathered Wednesday in Rapid City for a Homeland Security Conference got a controversial presentation about Muslim theology, culture and terrorism.

Walid Shoebat, who says he was a former terrorist in the Palestine Liberation Organization before converting to Christianity, said that Americans should focus on what he called the “culture of terrorism” among Muslims rather than “only the ones who carry out the explosive act”.

Shoebat said closet supporters of terrorism exist throughout the Muslim community in mosques, community groups and in the U.S. armed forces. “You’ve been infiltrated at all levels,” Shoebat said. “Are all Muslims who interpret for the U.S. military terrorists? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean you play Russian roulette.”

Shoebat’s appearance was paid for by a federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security as part of the second annual South Dakota Homeland Security Conference. He also spoke at the first conference last year in Sioux Falls.

Jim Carpenter, director of homeland security for South Dakota, said Shoebat was invited back this year because last year’s speech was among the most popular among the law enforcement, fire, medical and other personnel at the conference. “The critiques and evaluations that came back highly recommended that he come back again,” Carpenter said. “We acted on those, and that’s why he came back.”

In Wednesday’s presentation, Shoebat cited excerpts from the Quran, which is the Muslim holy book, that justified violence against non-Muslims and particularly Jews. These excerpts, he said, showed that Islam itself was inherently violent. He rejected what he called the “myth” that “the Muslim world is divided in two – moderate Islam and extremist Islam”.

Ex-Sen. Jim Abourezk, who is a Christian of Lebanese ancestry, said Shoebat throws “one blanket over all Muslims, whether good or bad, saying they’re all bad”. Shoebat’s rhetoric, Abourezk said, harms Muslims who “would love to be left alone and to be able to worship in the way they see fit”.

“He’s a scam artist and he’s a liar,” Abourezk said. “He doesn’t have any credibility when he claims he was a PLO terrorist.”

Rapid City Journal, 12 May 2011

Cf. Chris Hedges, “Your taxes fund anti-Muslim hatred”, Truthdig, 9 May 2011

Update:  See Richard Bartholomew’s comments at Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, 13 May 2011