by Jerry Gordon with “Max Vonheune” (April 2010)
In Mid-March, Tom Trento, executive director of the Florida Security Council, sent out an email alert seeking activists in the Philadelphia area bold enough to attend a press conference by the local chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) – a Muslim Brotherhood front. The Philadelphia CAIR chapter was protesting a worthy project of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) – the publication of The World of Islam, a series of books for middle-to-high school students by Mason Crest, Publishers, of Bromall, Pennsylvania. The World of Islam series, authored by eminent scholars, portrays a definitive, realistic and, dare we say, less airbrushed treatment of the beliefs, history and practices of a major world faith. Because the FPRI-sponsored series on Islam endeavored to portray a more balanced depiction of Islam than that contained in most world history texts from major US publishers, the Philadelphia CAIR chapter took it upon itself to hold a press conference criticizing The World of Islam. FPRI in a release posted on its website noted:
The books have been attacked as “anti-Islamic” by the Council for American-Islamic Relations. This assertion is without basis, and there is no better way to ascertain the truth than to read the books.
A limited audience came to the brief CAIR press conference that included an AP reporter and a young activist, who took the nom de guerre of Maximilian “Max” Vonheune.
Max Von Heune is the name of the louche German aristocrat character portrayed in . the 1972 film, Cabaret, based on a novel by British-born American author Christopher Isherwood I am a Camera, a film version of which appeared in 1955. Cabaret, which starred Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and Michael York, is about the end of the decadent Weimar Republic and the emergence of Nazi Germany in the early 1930’s. In the film version of Cabaret, Von Heune, portrayed by the late German actor Helmut Griem, and his English friend, the character Brian Roberts, portrayed by actor Michael York, witness the rise of Nazi fervor in a scene at an outdoor Biergarten. Watch this YouTube film clip in which an actor portraying a Hitler Jugend sings the chilling anthem “Tomorrow Belongs To Me.” At the conclusion of the song, the character Roberts turns to Von Heune and asks, “do you still think you can control them?” Having just watched Cabaret, the film clip struck a chord with our young activist prompting him to adopt the Vonheune nom de guerre.
Unlike most young adults with a background at left-wing elitist institutions, “Max” is not a liberal. Rather he is heavily influenced by the conservative anti-collectivist philosophy of Austrian-born Nobel laureate Friedrich Von Hayek, author of the classic The Road to Serfdom. The assault by CAIR on the free speech of conservative talk show host Michael Savage resonated with “Max.” “Max” felt emboldened to attend the CAIR press conference and engage the CAIR presenter, Moein Khawaja, with some tough questions. Max pulled off some verbal and graphic stunts that jarred the CAIR proceeding and which caught the attention and the camera of the AP reporter resulting in one line and picture in a Washington Times story that noted:
The press conference was temporarily disrupted by Max Vonheune, of Lansdowne, Pa., who asked Mr. Khawaja to sign his copy of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. Mr. Vonheune was asked to leave the event.
Thank you “Max” for consenting to this interview.
Gordon: What prompted you to come to the Philadelphia CAIR chapter press briefing against the The World of Islam Series?
“Max:” It is important for ordinary Americans to take a stand against CAIR while CAIR is so blatantly attempting to play the role of “good cop” for Jihad. The so-called mainstream media certainly isn’t going to ask the tough questions.
Jihadis use a several-pronged tactic of intimidation of “native infidel populations.” For example, recently at UC-Irvine, a luminary named Amir Abdel Malik Ali played the angry firebrand inciting the masses to scare Jewish and other pro-Israel students during so-called “Israel Apartheid Week.” Less pious Muslims have their use here too; they seem to be at the forefront of a gang rape epidemic in Scandinavia. Who knows, that may be coming soon to a metropolitan area near you. Recently, a man named Mbarek Lafrem was arrested for brutally beating and attempting to rape a nurse after she wouldn’t dance him with him at a Midtown Manhattan bar.
CAIR tries to present a happy, pleasant face, and Moein Khawaja, the local Philadelphia chapter “civil rights director” certainly is polite, soft-spoken and probably the kind of guy whose demeanor makes his mother proud. Yet this should not blind people to the fact that CAIR is using “lawfare” (silencing critics by filing and/or threatening lawsuits) as a means of censorship while publicly appealing to people to be more “sensitive,” which of course means saying nothing whatsoever critical of Islam.
Why did I go to the press briefing? I was largely prompted by the example Michael Savage has set by refusing to play the dhimmi. When CAIR targeted his advertisers a few years ago, he sued CAIR. As Savage’s lawsuit stated: “CAIR is not a civil rights organization but is instead a political organization designed to advance a political agenda that is directly opposed to the existence of a free society that includes respect and dignity for all people and all religions … CAIR’s fundamental purpose is to be a lobbyist for foreign interests.”
Gordon: Why did you bring a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf to the CAIR event?
“Max”: I recently bought a copy of Mein Kampf because I'm interested in reading about Nazism straight from the source. It was not because I have anything but brutally negative feelings toward Hitler and the Nazis.
The request for a signature was actually something quite spontaneous. Originally, I brought the book in the event I would be able to pose for a picture with Khawaja or one of the other CAIR flaks. I would have tried discreetly to hold up the book just when the photo would be taken. Call it an Alinskyite moment of inspiration.
Gordon: What were the circumstances behind your being asked to leave the CAIR event?
“Max”: After Khawaja’s short remarks, there was a question-and-answer session. My question was, “Does CAIR support the banning of free speech as in the case of Michael Savage from England?”
Khawaja: “That is completely unrelated, and …”
My response: “No, no, no. I know it’s unrelated, but I’m asking you a question because I want to know what CAIR is all about.”
Him: “No, I just said we support free speech.”
Me: “In all cases?”
Him: “In all cases.”
Me: “All right. Then I have another question for you.”
Him: “Next question. I’ll be glad to answer more questions afterwards.”
Me: “OK, I have another question here actually.”
Him: “Is there anyone else who’d like to ask more questions.” (I backed off.)
The whole press conference, including questions and answers, lasted about twelve minutes, and there weren’t that many people there. It was certainly reasonable to ask another question, which I tried to do. I raised my hand, and Khawaja clearly saw it but blew me off, saying “I’d like to close off ...” (Just to be clear, he did so politely; Khawaja is smooth and certainly deserves high praise from his employer for doing his job well.)
I asked another question: “… This is one more thing related to free speech. What does CAIR think about the massacre of 500 Christians in Nigeria by people who were of Muslim descent?”
His response: “I’m an American, not a Nigerian.”
Me: “No. No. I’d like to know. Free speech, man, I’m talking free speech. You have no opinion on that?”
Him: “I said I’m an American, not a Nigerian.”
Shortly thereafter I asked if he would mind autographing my copy of Mein Kampf. That certainly got the attention of the crowd. I mentioned the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the notorious Haj Amin Al Husseini, who was Hitler’s house guest in Berlin during WWII. Khawaja stated that the fact that I had a copy of Mein Kampf said something about me. He then mentioned calling the police and asked for a cell phone to do so. I figured it was time for me to quit while I was ahead, so I departed.
Gordon: You had an exchange with a Muslim woman who followed you. Why did she follow you and what was the exchange about?
“Max”: Tthe woman who followed me looked Middle Eastern and was wearing a hijab. I found this short episode relatively fascinating, because going solo to chase a man down the street certainly embodies something other the delicate modesty that we are ponderously instructed to appreciate among the hijab- or burqa-clad flowers of Islam. In any case, I still had my digital recorder on, and the following is the text of the exchange:
Her: “Can I know why you don’t like Muslims?”
Me: “I like Muslims a lot. I like the brave ones standing up in Iran.”
Her: “What do you know about Muslims?”
Me: “I know lots about Muslims”
Her: “OK, the Nigerian thing, like, what about it?”
Me: “Well, what do you think of the way 500 Christians were massacred? But first give me your name.”
Her:”No, I don’t have to.”
Me: “No, what’s your name? Well, then can I get a picture of you?”
Her: “No, you didn’t give me your name. You didn’t give me anything.”
Me: “Max Vonheune.”
Her:”I didn’t get that down.”
Me: “Max Vonheune.”
Her: “I still didn’t get that down.”
Me: “Well, listen. M-A-X V-O-N- H-E-U-N-E.”
Her: “No, no, no, no, no. I don’t like the way this interview is being conducted.”
Me: “I’m not interviewing you. Who are you?”
She departed right after that.
Gordon: Why did you choose the nom de guerre of Max Vonheune, the German aristocratic character in the film, Cabaret and Christopher Isherwood’s, I Am a Camera?
“Max”: Cabaret is one of my favorite musicals, I had recently seen the movie version of it, and no musical is more relevant to these times. The “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” Biergarten scene to me is the most disturbing scene there is in a movie musical. That scene is perfect for the current zeitgeist. It reminds me of the increasingly confident, swaggering attitude of the ever-growing number of Islamists (and their leftist allies) among us in the Western World. It particularly reminds me of the way so many useful idiots fell for the “change”/”hope” slogans used in the last election.
As for the name I gave, “Brian Roberts,” the main male character, who actually does confront Nazis in the movie (unlike Max) -- to his own physical harm -- would have been more appropriate. But that name these days doesn’t suggest Cabaret as much as it suggests the Comcast CEO or the Baltimore Orioles second baseman of the same name. In the stage version, that character’s name is Clifford Bradshaw, which would have made things confusing. Anyhow, the one thing I regret is providing the Philadelphia suburb of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania as my hometown when I really should have said Berlin, New Jersey.
Gordon: What motivated you to become an activist?
“Max”: Someone has to speak up. I have ancestors who fled totalitarianism, and I know it's important to do one's part to nip it in the bud. The job of intimidating people into silence in the face of blatant lies is much easier when people voluntarily choose to be “politically caponized” (credit Michael Savage for that term). When self-editing is so the norm, much less is required to silence a population.
Gordon: What in your background equipped you to confront CAIR?
“Max”: In regard to this question, I have to disagree with the premise that one needs special qualifications to speak out against lies, attempted censorship and an agenda which certainly does not have the best interest of most Americans at heart. People should be much more willing to speak out, no matter who they are, no matter what their self-assessed “qualifications” are and no matter who might be offended (or, more likely, considering the Left’s tactics, who might pretend to be offended).
Beyond that, I guess there’s not much more that “equipped” me. I’m not particularly fearful, being reasonably well-informed and being a bit impulsive, with a bizarre sense of humor on the side.
As you probably figured out by now, I'm a regular listener of Michael Savage, and therefore I constantly hear someone bravely speaking out about the need not to back down to Jihadis (as well as the Stalinist types now running the U.S. government via the Democrat party). Dr. Savage has also repeatedly emphasized the need for those who believe in the Constitution to employ, among other things, Alinskyite methods, from which they might have have previously shied.
Along those lines, I was also largely inspired by the courage and cleverness James O’Keefe, Hannah Giles and Andrew Breitbart used a few months ago with their undercover videos of ACORN in action.
Gordon: Do you believe you set an important example for others to follow?
“Max”: I don't try to set an example. To me, the best kind of leaders are those who don't think about acquiring followers but instead just do what they feel compelled to do. Maybe, along the way, others will voluntarily choose to follow their examples.
I do hope, however, that “Max’s” action there made people less intimidated by Islamists, or at the very least the polite, tie-wearing, oh-so-all-American Islamists that in this case CAIR was employing to further its agenda.
Gordon: “Max” thank you for this fascinating interview.
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