No, that headline is not a joke: There really was a post in the “Communities” section of Washington Times website today suggesting that Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) converted to Islam. Even by the ever-increasing standards of right-wing conspiracy theories, this one is truly out there, and the paper appears to have already taken it down.
The post’s author is “Goodwill Ambassador Eliana Benador,” who works for an organization that represents West Bank settlers in Israel. Longtime readers of TPM may recall her from her days as a PR rep for anti-Iran neoconservatives: in 2006 one of her clients spread a phony story about the Iranian government requiring Jews to wear yellow stars on their clothing.
In her post, Benador claims that because an imam in New York offered unsolicited advice in a newspaper article to Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin, whose father was an Islamic scholar from Pakistan, there must be an understanding between Islamic leaders and Weiner that the congressman has secretly converted to Islam. That’s literally the entirety of her evidence: a wildly misconstrued quote in a fluff piece that appeared in a tabloid daily. From her post:
The Imam of New York has stated: “I would tell her [Huma] to be a little bit patient. In our book, if you think your wife, or husband, is doing something unacceptable, you start by counseling her.”
Counseling? For whom, Huma or Anthony? The Imam’s statement seems to state that Huma is in need.
Regardless, those are words of compromise offered by a leading Muslim Imam trying to make us forget that the Koran actually advocates stoning wives for adultery while turning a blind eye toward the sexual mis-deeds of the husband.
It is also important, when looking at this situation, to remember that observant Muslims practice Taqiyya , an element of sharia that states there is a legal right and duty to distort the truth to promote the cause of Islam.
(Correction: Paragraph removed for inaccuracies. Apologies are issued and we regret the error. The Communities)
Given the defense articulated by the Imam, which would be offered only for a Muslim man, we must believe this opportunity to remove this Muslim woman from a union with an non-believer would be quickly taken. Therefore we must consider that Mr. Weiner *may* have converted to Islam, because if he did not, we have to consider the unlikely, that being that Ms. Abedin has abandoned her Muslim faith, even while she still practices.
Weiner is very open about his Jewish faith, which he discussed in detail for a profile for Jewish magazine Moment last month. He represents one of the most Jewish districts in the country and is known for his vocal support of Israel in the House. He’s also cultivated a reputation as a hardliner against the Saudi Arabian government, calling on the United States to cancel aid to the country over its “propensity for exporting terrorists.”
The Benador post was down as of Monday afternoon after first being appended with a note, included in the excerpt above, informing readers that one paragraph had been removed “for inaccuracies.” TPM reached out to the Communities’ section, where the post first appeared, to try and get information on what happened and will post their response. A cached version with the full text is still accessible via Google.
Update: Jacquie Kubin, manager of the Washington Times “Communities” section, told TPM over the phone that she approved the piece, but that the newspaper’s editors ordered her to take it down after they learned of its content. Kubin added that she is not a staffer with the paper and the two sites are independently operated and connected through a revenue-sharing agreement.
“It was not reviewed or approved by the Washington Times editorial staff,” Kubin said. “I looked at her piece and we went through three days of revisions. I recognized that Ms. Benador has a very strong opinion and I tried to make sure that the article reflected things I could verify. She had worked it through to the point that what she had said — from her viewpoint — was defensible.”
Nonetheless, Kubin said the Washington Times editors called her after there was “a large amount of backlash” and she removed it from the site, the first time she has ever had to do so.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to Huma Abedin as “Saudi-America.” Abedin’s parents are Indian and Pakistani, according to CNN. She was born in Michigan and raised in Saudi Arabia.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.