This article was published in March 28, 2019 edition of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper covering Armenian news since 1958.
As a professional researcher into American Islamism, I have to sometimes observe incidents of disturbing extremism. But even I was shocked and even a little angered by the anti-Armenian propaganda I’ve discovered being distributed by the Turkish government to American Muslims right here in Los Angeles.
When I attended the 21stannual convention for the Muslim American Society (MAS), held in Ontario, California, Turkey was the only Muslim country with its own booth and official representatives at the conference. MAS has been described by federal prosecutors as the “overt arm” of the Muslim Brotherhood and was designated as a terrorist group by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2014. Explaining why they designated MAS and other groups, even those which don’t engage in violence, an Emirati official explained, “Our threshold is quite low. … We cannot accept incitement or funding.”
“Incitement” is an apt word for Turkish-led Islamist activities in America. As I moved among MAS’s bazaar, offering books, t-shirts, and other materials, I was most surprised by Our Neighbours of a Thousand Years: The Armenians, an official Turkish government publication pamphlet that is more like a short book or miniature magazine with its 52 slick pages, abundance of photographs, and even a tiny music CD of folk songs in the back cover.
The falsehoods and repugnant rationalizations contained within are likely familiar to most Armenians. Among the lies are claims that Ottoman policy was only of relocation, not extermination and declaring atrocities were the fault of “disobedient state officials.” The booklet also blames Armenian nationalism for sparking violence while ignoring the impact of Young Turk nationalism and previous anti-Armenian pogroms. Our Neighbours also attempts to deny the Armenian Genocide, saying such claims are based on “forged documents and photographs.”
The pamphlet offers no sources for this or any of its other claims.
Why was Turkey the only Muslim country with a booth and official representatives at the convention? For the same reason that in 2015 the US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), an umbrella group of Islamist organizations which includes MAS, published a “Statement on 1915 Turkish-Armenian Events” embracing Turkey’s official genocide denialism.
When I began tracking Islamism in 2009, there was international support for American Islamist groups from many Muslim states. But after the 2010 “Arab Spring”, several states, notably the UAE and Saudi Arabia, began to fear Islamist groups would topple their own kingdoms and turned away from supporting them.
Turkey has now stepped in to fill this void.
Islamists incite hate against Jews, moderate Muslims, LGBTQ members, Christians, women, and Americans – all obstacles in their goal of establishing societies where Islamic law – as determined by the Islamists themselves – rules. Now, at the behest of the Turkish government, they’ve added the Armenian people to the enemies list.