Whatever Happened to Steve Emerson’s “13 Hours” of Rauf Audio?

A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Steven Emerson had “unearthed” thirteen hours of “audio tape” of Faisel Rauf, containing material that was both “shocking” and “explosive”:

Among the shocking revelations Emerson’s team will reveal next week — they found Rauf:

Defending wahhabism – a puritanical version of Islam that governs Saudi Arabia

Calling for the elimination of Israel by claiming a one-nation state, meaning no more Jewish State.

Defending Bin Laden’s violence

Although this caused much excitement, some of us were able to cast our minds back a whole six weeks or so to the previous time a conservative pundit had released an “explosive” recording of someone speaking; the results had not been encouraging.

And indeed, Emerson’s “discoveries” failed to deliver the goods. Most of the “exposé” turned out to be a public lecture which Rauf gave in Australia in 2005, which was freely available anyway as an mp3 from a university website; the only new material was a 2006 13-minute talk with a journalist named Mark Sommers, made when Rauf thought he was off-mic,  but there was nothing there which exposed him as  being a secret extremist. Overall, Emerson’s “revelations” turned out  to be nothing more than his own extrapolations from Rauf’s public political views – views which we all knew anyway – to an extremist motivation.

However, various sites, having hyped Emerson, struggled to make the best of it: at WND the shameless Aaron Klein seized on Emerson’s gloss on Rauf’s one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict to give the impression that Rauf had used the word “eradication” in relation to Israel (incidentally, it should be recalled that Klein and other conservatives who affect outrage at Rauf’s one-state preference themselves object to a two-state solution, for other reasons). In one quote from the 2005 lecture, Rauf discusses prejudice, observing that “If gender is not what distinguishes us we’ll look at skin colouring and say: niggers or whities, or whatever”; clutching at straws, this was headlined around the net as “Imam Rauf Drops The N Word”.

The off-mic discussion even included a point that Pamela Geller, who was Emerson’s primary conduit, was forced to contradict: that Rauf doesn’t “want a demographic Islamic state”.  Geller assured her readers that this was a lie and an example of “stealth jihad”, but a secret recording in which Rauf continues to present himself as a moderate in private is somewhat lame as an exposé. Geller, as expected, milked the subject of Emerson’s audios more than anyone, but even she’s moved onto other subjects and the topic has failed to gain momentum.

Meanwhile, Walid Shoebat has tried to get in on the act, with awful disclosures of his own taken from Rauf’s statements in Arabic. His first attempt at this was in June, and he appeared on Fox in mid-August, warning that Rauf’s

…support of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic jihad movement has been expressed by him in the Arabic language. His manifesto ha s been expressed by – in Al-Ghad newspaper, and hadielislam.com, in several news media. In fact, Americans should listen to this. He says that the trend toward Islamic law and justice begins by religious movements like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic resistance. This is a straight support for terrorism.

Media Matters has some background on this:

We asked Ahmad Moussalli, a widely quoted expert on Islamic movements and professor of Political Science and Islamic Studies at the American University of Beirut, to read the Arabic sources Shoebat cited on August 18 (they can be found here and here) and to evaluate his claim that they show “a straight support for terrorism” and for “Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic jihad movement.” Moussalli responded that Shoebat’s remarks are a “blatant misrepresentation of the denotation and connotation of Mr. Rauf’s statements in Hadielislam and Al-Ghad newspaper. Rauf never expressed his support for the three organizations.”

Omid Safi, professor of Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina and expert on Sufism, also reviewed the Arabic articles and concluded that “they do not show any support for terrorism.” Safi added that “the accusation of ‘Muslim double-speak’ is one of the common accusations used by Islamaphobes like Shoebat” and said: “I would simply suggest dismissing what comes out of his mouth as much as I would dismiss anything David Duke would have to say about the essential nature of Judaism.”

Of course, Rauf has made statements and holds positions that are controversial and arguable. But if his opponents are so convinced of his essential malice, why the constant recourse to distorted quotes and sensationalised stunts?