New York Post Publishes New Smear Against Huma Abedin

Academic journal described as “radical Muslim” had Bernard Lewis on its advisory board

At the New York Post, a breathless “exposé” from Paul Sperry:

Huma Abedin worked at a radical Muslim journal for a dozen years

Hillary Clinton’s top campaign aide, and the woman who might be the future White House chief of staff to the first female US president, for a decade edited a radical Muslim publication that opposed women’s rights and blamed the US for 9/11.

…Huma Abedin published articles in a Saudi journal taking Clinton’s [1995] feminist platform apart, piece by piece. At the time, Abedin was assistant editor of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs working under her mother, who remains editor-in-chief.

…Headlined “Women’s Rights Are Islamic Rights,” a 1996 article argues that single moms, working moms and gay couples with children should not be recognized as families. It also states that more revealing dress ushered in by women’s liberation “directly translates into unwanted results of sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility and indirectly promote violence against women.” In other words, sexually liberated women are just asking to be raped.

“A conjugal family established through a marriage contract between a man and a woman, and extended through procreation is the only definition of family a Muslim can accept,” the author, a Saudi official with the Muslim World League, asserted, while warning of “the dangers of alternative lifestyles.” (Abedin’s journal was founded and funded by the former head of the Muslim World League.)

The story has also been picked up uncritically and derivatively by the Daily Mail, and cited widely by the usual right-wing pundits [UPDATE: it has also been Tweeted by Donald Trump’s son].

It’s true that the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs has Saudi backing – indeed, it shares its London address in Goodge Street with the Muslim World League – but it can hardly be called a “Saudi journal”.  It is actually a standard academic journal, and publication is managed through the mainline academic publisher Taylor and Francis. Details of the editors and advisory board as of 1998 can be seen here – it is worth noting that the advisory board at that time included none other than Bernard Lewis, who is hardly known for his Islamist sympathies (here he is being praised at American Thinker). Huma Abedin is listed as one of two assistant editors, but given her studies in the US and work for Hillary Clinton from 1996 (when she was 20), it seems likely that her association with the journal over the years has been nominal.

The item highlighted above by Sperry was one of two that appeared in a “Documentation” section that followed the regular academic articles that were published in issue 16 (2). In other words, it is presented as a primary source rather than as a piece of academic research. It consists of

Excerpts from the open letter of the Secretary General of Muslim World League, Makkah Al Mukarramah to Mrs Gertrude Mongella, Secretary General of the United Nations, Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 4-15 September, 1995

Unfortunately, an expensive paywall means that it’s impossible to assess comprehensively whether Sperry has fairly represented his source, but here’s a bit of extra context for his “smoking gun” quote, gleaned from Google Scholar:

A more serious problem is the use of mass media for the exploitation of women as sex objects and in stereotyped images which are generally negative and passive and foster disrespect for women and invite prejudice and violence directed against them. This increases the challenges that women face in preserving their personal dignity. In a society vitiated by spiritual vacuum and an upsurge in normlessness, this directly translates into unwanted results of sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility and indirectly promote violence against women.

The chain of reasoning may be arguable, but it is difficult to see how this can be reduced in good faith to “sexually liberated women are just asking to be raped”. It should also be noted that there is nothing exclusively Islamic in the above, and it wouldn’t be out of place in a Catholic or Evangelical journal. And indeed, the other item in the journal’s “Documentation” section is a reprint of a piece called “Women: Teachers of Peace”, by, erm… Pope John Paul II, originally published as his Message for the 1995 World Day of Peace. That’s an odd thing to find in a “radical Muslim journal” – and an odd thing for Sperry to have missed, unless he is deliberately dishonest.

Sperry also takes quotes from an article by Abedin’s mother, Saleha M. Abedin, which appears to show she is opposed to “women’s empowerment”. Again, it’s impossible to judge her article in the round, but from what can be seen from the first page, it is reasonable to form the view that Sperry is over-simplifying and sensationalising. She also apparently argued that 9/11 was the result of a “spiral of violence”, although again all we have is a quote out of context.

Sperry also writes:

[Clinton’s] closest adviser served as an editor for that same Saudi propaganda organ for a dozen years. The same one that in 1999 published a book, edited by her mother, that justifies the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation under Islamic law, while claiming “man-made laws have in fact enslaved women.”

Sperry is here referring to Women in Islam: A Discourse in Rights and Obligations, by a certain Fatima Umar Naseef. The book was published by the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs in 1999, and then by the International Islamic Committee for Woman & Child in Egypt. S. Abedin is listed as having supervised and edited the translation into English. As an exhortatory religious text it seems somewhat out of place among the academic titles listed as belonging to the IMMA’s “book series“; the subject of “circumcision for women” is addressed on pages 219-220, concluding:

Circumcision for women is allowed but is not ordered because the aforementioned hadith is weak. When the Prophet (s) prescribed circumcision for the Muslim nation he specifically referred to Muslim men. There is no proven or authentic evidence that the Prophet (s) ever ordered a woman to be circumcised – and Allah (T) knows best.

Of course the phrase “circumcision for women is allowed” should be challenged, but the above is far from being a “justification” of the practice – indeed, it’s clear that the author disapproves of it. Sperry wants his baying readership to infer that S. Abedin edited some sort of fundamentalist tract written to promote FGM when it is clear that this is not the case. However, it’s possible that Sperry made an error here: the first sentence of the section states that “circumcision is a religious duty”, and he may not have bothered to read on to see that the discussion at that point concerns males.

But there’s a bigger point here than just the proper context for specific statements: S. Abedin has produced a body of work over the years as a writer, editor, and publisher, and trawling through the lot will probably unearth various passages that might be objectionable in one way or another (along with much that may be unremarkable or progressive). Some of these may reflect her own views, but picking out such phrases “gotcha” style does not truly enlighten us about who she is and what she stands for; and to argue that this is what her daughter – an assimilated American married to a non-Muslim – “really” wants to promote stretches unsustainable claims even further.

Huma Abedin has been a hate-figure for elements of the US right for some time, although some conservatives, such as John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake, denounced the way she was being smeared in 2012 (the conspiracy theory aspect of those claims, that H. Abedin has a non-Muslim husband as “cover”, has recently been revived by Roger Stone). The thin pickings presented above are more of the same, but characteristic of a man who once wrote a column for for WND calling for US forces in Afghanistan to threaten to put pig blood in the water supply.

UPDATE: Roger Stone, while not mentioning Sperry directly, in conversation with Alex Jones has taken credit for recent media stories about Huma Abedin. Stone also extrapolated further on the “genital mutilation” claim, describing S. Abedin as “a prominent advocate for genital mutilation” and has “has written extensively about genital mutilation”. Jones responded with the grotesque query “Did Huma have her genitals cut off?” Details at Media Matters.

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