What is it with the combination of being a medical doctor and a “Muslim? That’s a very legitimate question to ask, in light of a certain event that unfolded at the end of last week in Virginia.
Dr. Esam Omeish, who in addition to being an “M.D.” was, up until last Thursday, a member of the Virginia State Commission on Immigration. He also happens to be president of the Muslim American Society. By all accounts an accomplished professional and a responsible contributor to his community, Dr. Omeish’s world changed, seemingly overnight, when some very damning video was discovered at Youtube Dot Com.
Turns out that back in August of 2006, Dr. Omeish delivered a speech before an Islamic rally in Washington D.C., and made some statements that, by any objective measure, are rather troubling.
First, the part that has people really upset. Dr. Omeish is seen on the video tape saying to his Muslim audience, "...you have learned the way, that you have known that the jihad way is the way to liberate your land."
Is this something that has been taken out of context? Sure it is. I’m only providing a partial quote here. But can we just be very candid and honest here, and admit that hearing a Muslim in America - - or anywhere else- - utter the word “jihad,” is rather unnerving?
Since the discovery of the video, Dr. Omeish has explained that this jihad flap is all a big misunderstanding. Responding to the outcry, Dr. Omeish stated “in Islam, jihad is a broad word that means constant struggle - struggling spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, physically - in all respects. So my words were in support of people who are resisting occupation and people who are trying to ... remove oppression from their land.”
Okay…so all us “non-Muslims” need to keep an open mind, and think in terms of a broader definition of “jihad.”
But what about some of the other rhetoric that appears on Dr. Omeish’s You Tube debut? Elsewhere on the recording Omeish states that the ‘invasion” of Lebanon and “support of the Israeli war machine” are criminal, and should end now. And that Israel is “illegally occupying Palestine.” And that the United States Congress has an “agenda” to support Israel, and that agenda is ‘controlling” U.S. foreign policy.
Oh, really? And since when has it become socially acceptable in the United States to assert conspiracy theories about the undue influence of Jews (isn‘t this as “old school“ and as offensive as saying that “the Jews control Hollywood?”). And how much further should this kind of rhetoric progress before we are legitimately concerned about “anti-Semitism?”
This incident certainly raises concerns about Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine’s vetting process, for appointing members to his state commission. But it also bares at least some resemblance to a set of circumstances that unfolded earlier this year in Europe.
Recall that on July 1 of this year, authorities in both England and Scottland reported the discovery of a terror plot involving Muslim physicians and their plans to wreak havoc at airports in both London and Glasgow. Fortunately the plot was thwarted. But it was bad enough to raise concerns at 10 Downing Street about the adequacy of background checks that were being conducted on so-called “professional immigrants” into the U.K.
Similarly, the “discovery” of Dr. Omeish’s inflamed rhetoric in front of his Muslim “brothers” should raise concerns here in the United States. It should, once again, cause Americans to question where the true, peace-loving Muslims are. It should cause us to ask why, among the voices of hostility and hatred, we are not hearing from those who call themselves by the name of “Allah,” yet are also able to agreeably disagree with those who do not share their faith tradition, and not wish them harm.
I dared to raise these questions myself, just last Friday in Washington, D.C. While guest hosting a talk show on ABC radio’s 630 WMAL (a station where I frequently “fill-in”), I asked these very same questions, even as the news of Dr. Omeish was breaking. And quite quickly, I was inundated with some very enlightening email and telephone calls, labeling me as a “Nazi,” “a pawn in the big Zionist propaganda machine,” and a “hate monger who is painting with a broad brush every Muslim on the planet.”
I hadn’t asserted anything - - I merely asked a couple of questions. If you’re going to ask the questions, be prepared to be so-labeled.
But the questions are still worth asking.