Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder and editor-in-chief of MuslimGirl—an online magazine where “Muslim women talk back” to combat “misconceptions surrounding Islam”—made headlines last week when she turned down an award from multinational beauty giant Revlon because of the company’s engagement with Israeli actress Gal Gadot.
“I cannot accept this award from Revlon with Gal Gadot as the ambassador,” Al-Khatahtbeh announced in a statement on Twitter. “Her vocal support of the Israel Defense Forces’ actions in Palestine goes against MuslimGirl’s morals and values.”
The rejection, of course, is well within Al-Khatahtbeh’s rights, but it’s also an invitation to examine precisely what MuslimGirl’s morals and values truly are. A good place to start may be a piece, published by MuslimGirl in 2016, entitled “Israel’s Organ Harvesting and the UK’s BDS Movement”.
Written by “Yelena,” a mysterious doula from San Francisco, the piece is mostly a rehash of professional anti-Semite Alison Weir’s riff on the blood-libel—a conspiracy theory in which Israel occupies Palestinian territory in order to murder the locals and loot their body parts. But like all knockoffs, the piece’s craftsmanship is poor, so Yelena’s version is helpful in that it sheds Weir’s usual scrupulosness and directly cites anti-Semites as sources. What sources does “Yelena” offer to document the ghoulish crimes of which she accuses the Jewish state? These include Iran’s PressTV and 9/11 Truther Michel Chussodovsky’s conspiracist web site, GlobalResearch. Both are classic “fake news” media, distributing anti-Jewish conspiracy theories by the shipping container throughout the Internet. Most troubling, however, is the article’s quotation of retired Cal State psychology professor Kevin MacDonald, a darling of far-Right anti-Semites, who couches standard white-supremacist teachings about Jewish “white genocide” in trappings of evolutionary psychology. Here’s what “Yelena” took from MacDonald: “Organized American Jewish lobbying groups and deeply committed Jews in the media are behind the pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy that is leading to war against virtually the entire Arab world.”
Of course, even the most scrupulous publications sometime publish regrettable pieces, although it’s hard to imagine how Al-Khatahtbeh, in her role as editor-in-chief, could let such blatant hate speech see the light of day. And it’s even harder to absolve Al-Khatahtbeh of responsibility considering that she had also published, in her past capacity as editor of Rutgers University’s Daily Targum, a piece by a student named Colleen Jolly which complained about the “Jewish nature” of Hillel and Jewish misuse of money.
Sadly, Al-Khatahtbeh’s history of bigotry doesn’t end there. In a 2012 video, which Al-Khatahtbeh has apparently tried to scrub off of her YouTube account but which remains archived online, she is seen boarding a C Train in Manhattan and delivering a spoken word piece called, “This is a Verbal Vendetta.” Spitting out angry and vaguely threatening lines like “You made us all one face of terror / You created the problems ensuing / And the mask you placed upon us, will be your own undoing,” Al-Khatahtbeh soon starts talking about “the puppet media” and at one points barks out “9/11 was an inside job!”
These vile examples of anti-Semitism weren’t concealed, and took no more than a moderate search online to find. That neither Revlon nor the media covering Al-Khatahtbeh’s rejection of Gal Gadot bothered doing minimum due diligence to accurately report on Al-Khatahtbeh’s views and beliefs is deeply troubling.
The implicit assumption here is that honoring a young Muslim woman means embracing stomach-turning extremes of racism, anti-semitism and conspiratorial lunacy. Luckily, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The cultural ignorance and condescension displayed by misguided people who honor outspoken bigots as token “representatives” of large population groups is both a symptom and a cause of bigotry.
John-Paul Pagano is a writer in New York. He blogs at The Socialism of Fools.