State Department advisor defends fired Guardian columnist Joshua Treviño who wanted Israel to kill Americans

Shahed Amanullah speaks at the Center for American Progress event “Red Faith/Blue Faith? Religion in the 2008 Election and Beyond.”

Ralph Alswang Flickr

Hours after The Guardian announced it had dumped Joshua Treviño, a Senior Advisor at the US State Department publicly defended the disgraced columnist, despite the fact that Treviño had openly called for, and gloated over, the murder of US civilians and called for acts of desecration offensive to Muslims in a series of controversial tweets.

Shahed Amanullah, Senior Advisor for Technology at the US Department of State, tweeted, “The writings of my friend @jstrevino deserve to be engaged, not suppressed.”

Amanullah “works on digital diplomacy projects for the Special Representative to Muslim Communities, who reports directly to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton” according to his Linkedin profile, a fact confirmed on at least one US government website.

Amanullah, who was elected in 2008 as a Democratic Party precinct chair in Austin, Texas, also spoke to VOA about his government outreach work to “Muslim communities” on 6 April 2012 in a video interview conducted at the State Department.

Backtracks but still urges engagement

When challenged on his support for Treviño, Amanullah backtracked, tweeting, “i absolutely do not defend those tweets in question, I find them abhorrent” and “I absolutely condemn them.”

Despite these qualifications, Amanullah still insisted Treviño should be engaged:
Amanullah’s Twitter bio carries the disclaimer that, “Tweets do not represent US gov’t.”

A right to free speech, not a right to our attention

Let’s be clear: Treviño has a right to free speech, but that does not translate into a right to be paid for his bigoted views and incitement to violence, nor does it impose an obligation on the rest of us to “engage” with such bigotry.

What Treviño has ever done or written to “deserve” to be engaged is a complete mystery.

On top of his violent fantasies about Palestinian solidarity activists, Treviño has a long history of extreme Islamophobic writings, and founded a website which identified its contributors with “Christian Knights” engaged in a holy war against their “enemy,” Islam.

While Amanullah and Treviño were friends in Austin, Treviño was busy stalking an interfaith peace rally and posting images of participants on his Flickr account with denigrating and religiously bigoted captions. Treviño for example referred to Rev. Ed Hartwell, founder of the Interfaith Community for Palestinian Rights, seen in this image, as a “quisling” and a “Christian cleric on the other side.”

By advocating “engagement,” Amanullah legitimizes Treviño’s views in a manner he would likely be immediately fired for if he advocated US “engagement” with any number of groups or individuals described as “Islamist” or simply deemed politically inconvenient.

How long would Amanullah last at the State Department if he urged “engagement,” with Reverend Jeremiah Wright or Minister Louis Farrakhan, Americans whom President Obama has publicly rejected and denounced?

Indeed, Obama even had an American, Anwar al-Awlaki, and his 16-year old son, extrajudicially executed, for the elder al-Awlaki’s views.

It is impossible to imagine, all things being equal, that if Treviño’s incitement and hate were directed at Israeli civilians, or Jews, or virtually any other group, that Amanullah would call Treviño “my friend” or do anything other than condemn him in the strongest possible terms.

Tolerance for racism

Treviño it should be emphasized has done more than just tweet and blog his extremist views. He used his position as communications director for California Republican Chuck DeVore in 2010 to write a speech reflecting his hateful views and delivered by DeVore at an Israeli consulate rally.

Ironically, Amanullah works as part of a government program intended to improve the image of the United States among Muslims around the world. The poisonous views and activities of those like his “friend” Treviño ensure such efforts will be futile.

The Obama administration has, unfortunately, rarely stood up to anti-Muslim hate and other forms of racism. To know that extremists such as Treviño are considered “friends” in the halls of the State Department is disturbing indeed.

Incitement to murder and hate speech

As a reminder, Treviño’s odious “ideas” amount to incitement to murder and celebration of the killings of US citizens. For example:

  • On 3 June 2010 in reference to 19-year-old American Furkan Doğan, killed execution-style aboard the Mavi Marmara, Treviño wrote, “Make no mistake: in choosing to aid Hamas on the #flotilla, Furkan Dogan raised his hand against his country. His fate was deserved.”
  • On 3 June 2010, Treviño tweeted, “There are some Americans we’re better off without. Furkan Dogan is one of them: #flotilla.”
  • On 1 June 2010, the day after Israeli forces murdered 9 unarmed civilians aboard the Mavi Marmara in international waters, Treviño tweeted, “Only way the #flotilla story gets better is if it’s revealed the IDF drew Muhammed on a bulkhead.”
  • On 2 June 2010, Treviño tweeted, “After examining the facts on #flotilla, I condemn Israel: for being too nice, too soft, too accommodating to the scum of the earth.”
  • On 31 May 2011, exactly a year to the day after the killings aboard the Mavi Marmara, Treviño tweeted, “Today is the one-year anniversary of the Gaza flotilla, on which I salute the IDF for doing the right thing, the right way.”




Let's not forget Trevino's proposal for rounding up Iraqis in concentration camps: "One might look especially to the Boer War, in which a fractious, semi-fanatical culture was slowly ground into submission by an occupying force - several years after the seeming success of the initial invasion. If it sounds familiar, it should: and so the means of victory there offer an instructive thought experiment for Iraq today. Make no mistake: those means were cruel. I have stated previously that I endorse cruel things in war - to eschew them is folly. The British achieved victory over the Boers by taking their women and children away to concentration camps, by laying waste to the countryside, and by dotting the veld with small garrisons in blockhouses at regular intervals."


The irony is of course that the British DIDN'T achieve victory against the Boers.

They won in the field, of course -- but in the eyes of the times, they handed political legitimacy to the Boers, and ensured that eventually they would come to rule South Africa.

Trevino repeats a very common mistake -- thinking that military force can win any struggle. I'm not a pacifist -- but military force is a tool, which can do certain specific things. It's no more a panacea than a hammer is appropriate for fixing your computer.


Mr. Amanullah is a public official and public figure with responsibilities toward “Muslim communities.” A “smear” implies I have attacked him personally or said something about him that is scurrilous or untrue. In fact all I have done is what he claims we should do with Trevino, which is engage with his ideas. I have commented only on Mr. Amanullah’s statements and posed questions about them. If that is a “smear” then all public debate in which someone challenges a person’s statements is a “smear.”



Amanullah and his ilk of "Pro-regressive" Muslims are an abomination to the Muslim community at large. They speak, talk, and act in the name of a community with ZERO standing and no support. Well exposed on this blog here:


This is disgusting, Ali. It's revolting to see you try to make something out of his initial tweets and smear (yes, that is what it is) Shahed, who has done more for the American Muslim community (which you put in scare quotes to imply he does something else) than you could ever dream of doing. This is the sort of drive-by hit job you see at Commentary's blog, where they distort a single tweet to try to destroy someone. As much as I am disappointed, I can't say that I am surprised, however. Ideologues, whether they be fascists on the right or Stalinists on the left, operate in much the same way.


Amanullah, as I’ve said, is a public official. He’s calling on us to “engage” a man who incites murder of US citizens and holds extreme anti-Muslim views. I have simply offered my reaction to Amanullah’s views. No one has alleged that I’ve misquoted him in any way or presented any inaccurate information about him. The complaint seems to be that I dared to comment on his views at all. How ironic that when I engage with Amanullah’s views some people try to call that a “smear” and a “hit job.” How frightening that there are people who think it is beyond the pale to criticize the comments of a government official. Should government advisors be immune to criticism? Thank goodness we still have the First Amendment in the United States.

Don’t you have anything substantive to say about the questions I’ve raised?


Thank you Ali for standing up to so-called figures of authority who seem to think that they can do and say whatever they please and never be called to task. For your readers who feel you not been reverential to such figures I would suggest they see the file Compliance which is the subject of a New York Times review and Glen Greenwald column. (see


What a bunch of malarkey. You just create your own narrative -- that your critics want you not to criticize government officials -- and run with it so that you feel better about smearing someone. No one is suggesting that you should not go after government officials. But what you did here, by implying that Shahed's tweet was an endorsement of everything Trevino has done, shows how intellectually dishonest you are and how, in terms of tactics, you're no different than people like Jonathan Tobin. I'm not going to convince you one way or another because it's impossible to put doubt into the mind of an ideologue. Just know that this sort of stuff is disgraceful, especially since you (and other pro-Palestinian voices) have been the target of these exact sorts of smears.


There’s a major disconnect between what you’re saying and what I wrote. I trust EI readers to read for themselves that I did not suggest Amanullah endorsed the specific tweets in which Treviño incited murder. It was however only after I challenged Amanullah that he specifically condemned them and of course I included those condemnations in the post. However, Amanullah continued to insist that we spend time and resources “engaging” Treviño. That’s where I disagree with Amanullah and “engaged” his ideas.


Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought smearing a person involves making up things about that person. Most of this article includes quotations directly from the source. How is that a smear?


What’s next? Maybe Amanullah should take up a collection to build a monument for Andrew Briettbart and Trevino, since racism and calls for killing Americans who oppose Israel’s illegal starvation blockade is somehow worthy of engagement.

These so-called moderate liberals are always there to purge or denounce people like Helen Thomas, Rick Sanchez or Octavia Nasr for the most trivial of issues, and stand by the reactionary firing of Shirley Sherrod (based on lies) or the denunciation of Reverend Wright who said nothing compared to what the Right’s culture warriors say every single day.

MLK described his character, but he’s taken it to a whole other level.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence.

Amanullah stands on the other side of the fence sticking up for bigots who advocate violence against righteous do-gooders. Shameful.

Good reporting you’ve done on this ugly episode.

Heres my curse: May the lice from a thousand politicians heads infest Amanullah’s armpits.


Here is a pretty complete expose of @jstrevino involvement with FBC Media, which was paid millions of dollars to place media in CNN, BBC and NBC in praise of the Malaysian government (which is itself blatantly corrupt). Trevino and his coterie of bloggers were spending a lot of time praising Najib Razak and attacking Anwar Ibrahim for being a sex maniac/terrorist. All of it fizzled out and its not even clear if Trevino got his pay from FBC chairman Alan Friedman (who is now hiding in Italy).