Yavapai County Republican Women hosted anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Carl Goldberg at a meeting in Prescott Monday night, where he gave bizarre and unfounded warnings of “the existential threat” of Islam.
He told the 50 or so attendees to confront this "stealth jihad" by electing Republicans.
Goldberg gave a long-winded presentation in which he took verses from the Qur’an and other examples out of context in an attempt to prove his point about the Muslim "threat."
“They want to overtake our country and make this an Islamic country,” Goldberg said.
“And kill us, if we don’t agree,” a woman in the audience murmured.
The evening offered a chilling glimpse into the sowing of misinformation at a local, grassroots level in Arizona.
That night, it was hard to know which falsehood to begin with, if one wanted to set the record straight. There was the claim that children in public schools were “required to participate in exercises pretending to be Muslims, dressed like Muslims.” (In the few cases where teachers have tried to expose students to Islamic garb by allowing them to try it on, they've faced considerable backlash.) There was the claim that “a moderate Muslim is the one who doesn’t follow Islam the way they’re supposed to.” There was the allegation that Islam is not open to interpretation (centuries of scholarship and a robust tradition of interpretation disprove that one).
More enlightening than these false claims was the way in which Goldberg encouraged attendees to use the local Republican machine to take action.
“Urge your county and state GOP chairman to take a public stand against the Muslim Brotherhood,” Goldberg told the audience. He claimed that Democrats were fielding candidates from the Islamist political movement. “Only the Republicans can do it. It’s up to you, since you’re interested Republicans.” He urged attendees to “work through the GOP apparatus at the precinct level."
In the U.S., precinct leaders, known variously as chairs, committeemen, captain, delegate, or committee officers, depending on the district, are low on the political totem pole, but they wield influence nonetheless. They vote for party executives, are responsible for getting out the local vote, and help run elections.
“If we were to get conscious Republicans — Republicans who understand about Islam — get them into these empty precinct captain positions, we could perhaps influence the Republican Party to become more conscious and active about the Islamic threat,” Goldberg said.
The event carried overtones from an episode of the satirical Sacha Baron Cohen show Who Is America? In it, Cohen visited Kingman, Arizona, pretending to be an extreme liberal named Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello who had come to sell the city on the idea of building a mosque there.
“When I hear the word ‘mosque,’ I think of terrorism,” one man in the audience, which was composed of locals, shouted during the episode. “I’m racist toward Muslims,” another said.
In Prescott, during the question-and-answer portion of Monday’s talk, a man from the audience commented that Goldberg hadn’t mentioned Sunni and Shia Muslims and asked “whether we can use them against each other.”
At another point, when Goldberg predicted that in 60 years, the U.S. would be an Islamic country, a red-haired woman gritted her teeth and emitted an audible, “Ugh,” as if she had been punched.
Asked for a response to Monday’s event, after being sent Yavapai County Republican Women’s own preview of Goldberg’s talk (see below), local and state Republican parties and one national federation did not respond, or they declined to comment.
The Arizona Republican Party did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Lisa Ziriax, spokesperson for the National Federation of Republican Women, wrote in an email, “Our states and local clubs are affiliated with the national organization, but they operate independently under their own bylaws, leadership, and treasury, and determine their own program and meeting content. You will need to contact Yavapai County Republican Women directly for any additional information about this event.”
Alex Harris, president of Yavapai County Republican Women, who introduced Goldberg on Monday night, said, "Unfortunately, I am not in a position to respond."
Mark Sensmeier, chair of the Yavapai County Republican Committee, said he did not have any comment on the event, after being sent the advance promotional blurb.
“I was unable to attend it, so do not know what was said at the meeting,” he wrote Phoenix New Times in an email. “I am only vaguely aware of Dr. Goldberg and his writing.”
Goldberg's a regular on the Southwest Islamophobia-inducing lecture circuit. He said he started studying Islam after the 9/11 attacks. He obtained his Ph.D. in Russian history from the University of Michigan in 1974 (the University of Michigan has verified this information) and now teaches adult courses in Sun City and gives periodic talks of the sort he delivered Monday night. He was giving fewer talks now than he has in years past — in his heyday, he was giving 30 a year, he estimated. He said he wasn’t paid.
In an interview with Phoenix New Times, he described the threat to the U.S. as “gradual Islamization.” Asked to provide proof, he said, “It’s like the early stages of cancer,” admitting that it was "not yet" happening. Goldberg referred to Muslims as "Moslems," which he pronounced "MOZ-lems," an antiquated term with colonialist overtones that is often considered derogatory.
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The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a nonprofit Muslim civil liberties group that seeks to educate the public about Islam, spoke out about Goldberg when, in a course he taught, he equated Islam with Nazi ideology and the Ku Klux Klan.
“I think it’s really emblematic of how you get the rise of somebody like [President Donald] Trump coming into office and why he has such a big base of support here in Arizona, because this constant pulse of conspiracy theory ideology has taken on really well here,” Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of CAIR Arizona, said. “There’s a subsection of people that really believe that this stuff is true. They’ve bought into it, and they think they’re fighting for the future of America.”
Siddiqi said that CAIR tries not to pay people like Goldberg too much attention, unless the person poses a threat to public safety or is paid with public dollars. For example, CAIR has tried to stop the training of Arizona police by John Guandolo, an ex-FBI agent and another anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist. One such training session included "Understanding and Investigating the Jihadi Network." The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated Guandolo as a “Muslim basher.”
Goldberg kept a copy of Guandolo's book with him Monday night. He urged audience members to read it.