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Journalists





The Washington Post's Chronic CAIRless Syndrome


Why do Washington Post reporters and editorial systematically keep relevant background about the Council on American Islamic Relations from readers?

CAMERA has questioned Post coverage of CAIR—an unindicted co-conspirator in the United States' biggest terrorism funding trial to date—for years. No answer has been forthcoming, not even after CAMERA provided the newspaper's last three ombudsmen with public record information casting doubt on CAIR's self-portrait as a civil rights advocate for Muslim Americans.

The late Deborah Howell, Post ombudsman from 2005 to 2008, told CAMERA's Washington office she had brought its complaint to the newsroom's attention but, in essence, staffers rebuffed discussion of it. And The Post has continued citing CAIR as a credible source, virtually never telling readers that, among other things:

*In that 2009 federal case, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development retrial, five men were sentenced to prison for raising more than $12 million for Hamas. Hamas is the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, a U.S.-government designated terrorist organization. Receiving a 65-year term was Ghassan Elashi, co-founder of CAIR's Texas chapter;

*In an out-of-court settlement of a suit it brought, the council reduced libel claims to omit contesting assertions it was founded by Hamas members, founded by Islamic terrorists and funded by Hamas supporters;

*Including Elashi, at least five former CAIR lay leaders or staffers have been arrested, convicted and/or deported on weapons or terrorism charges; and

*A council “media guide” to proper reporting of Islamic issues was “pure propaganda,” according to Investor's Business Daily.

All this and more can be found in CAMERA's 2009 Special Report, “The Council on American Islamic Relations: Civil Rights, or Extremism?” copies of which have been provided to Post staffers on numerous occasions.
 
Giving CAIR a pass. And another. And another

CAMERA has not urged The Post, or other news outlets, to ignore CAIR. Rather, it repeatedly has recommended that the newspaper and other media provide the minimum context necessary. Readers reasonably ought to be able to determine for themselves whether the council is, as it implies, a Muslim American version of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) or the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), or, as its history indicates, a Muslim Brotherhood derivative.

But no. When it comes to CAIR, The Post has its back. Among recent examples:

*“How the Trump campaign decided to target Muslims; Influenced by 9/11, candidate and aides focused on ‘radical Islam,'” June 22, 2016. CAIR's Corey Saylor, director of its “department to monitor and combat Islamophobia” is quoted. No information about CAIR is included;

*“After Orlando, anxiety fills Muslim congregations; Worshipers in nightclub shooter's town, already enduring epithets, worry about what might come next,” June 19. This Post report cites “Omar Saleh, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Florida chapter, which has offered free legal assistance to the Muslim community in which [Omar] Mateen [who committed the Orlando nightclub massacre] lived.” Again, no background on CAIR;
 
*“Trump's broadside after massacre shakes Islamic group,” June 15. The feature leads with, and follows uncritically, CAIR's claims of rising anti-Muslim sentiments and actions across the United States. Yet again, nothing in the article would flag the organization's credibility for readers;
 
*“‘It could get a lot worse for Muslims in America',” a May 4 Op-Ed by Post columnist Dana Milbank. Writing “[Presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee Donald] Trump can't be blamed for everything his followers do. But his ascent has coincided with a rise in the number of anti-Muslim incidents to the highest level the Council on American-Islamic Relations has ever found.” Readers are not told that CAIR has a history of exaggerated claims about anti-Muslim activity. Nor are they reminded that, the council's old and new warnings of “Islamophobia” notwithstanding, according to FBI hate crime statistics Jews still are members of the religious group most likely to be targeted. In 2014, for example, of more than 1,100 reported hate crimes based on religion, nearly 57 percent aimed at Jews, 16 percent at Muslims.
 
Coincidentally, while The Post repeatedly presented CAIR as a credible source, including reporting its post-Orlando offer of legal assistance, the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the council should be tried for fraud. The case involves hundreds of people who had relied on CAIR for legal aid. See “CAIR to Stand Trial for Massive Fraud; The Council on American Islamic Relations is now charged with fraud and cover-up perpetrated against hundreds of Muslims,” The Clarion Project, June 22. The project is a non-profit organization that describes itself as “fighting extremism, promoting dialogue.”
 
If a tree falls on you in the forest …

The Post does not appear to have covered the appeals verdict. A Nexis search indicates no U.S. newspapers did.

The Clarion Project, like CAMERA, like historian and publisher of Middle East Quarterly Daniel Pipes, The Investigative Project on Terrorism's Steven Emerson and many others have been listed, or better, putatively black-listed, in a CAIR report. The council tars them as key players in an imagined national network fostering Islamophobia. The report, referred to obliquely by The Post in its June 15 article, is risible, slanderous and potentially libelous.

Asked about it by KPFA-FM radio, Berkeley, Cal., CAMERA replied, in part:

“CAIR's self-described study of ‘Islamophobic networks' alleges ‘CAMERA is pervasively inaccurate and disguises its anti-Muslim agenda by omitting important information.” ‘Pervasively inaccurate' sweepingly implies a pattern of error. Yet the study appears to supply not one example. The allegation itself is not only pervasively inaccurate, it is slanderously and perhaps libelously so.

“As to our supposed camouflaged ‘anti-Muslim agenda,' again, where are the examples? The one specific mention is of our ISNA [Islamic Society of North America] Special Report—but nothing in the report itself is quoted. Perhaps because it can't be; CAIR attempts a weak smokescreen, confessing ‘unlike other Islamophobic organizations, CAMERA does not communicate obvious bigotry in their literature.' (See CAMERA's Special Report, “The Islamic Society of North America: Active, Influential and Rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood,” 2012)
 
“In fact, CAMERA does not communicate bigotry at all. But it's our contention, which we believe the public record amply supports, that CAIR's objective is not so much to fight anti-Muslim prejudice but to use the cry of ‘Islamophobia' to censor discussion and analysis of Islamic extremism.”
 
FBI Director James Comey said that last year the bureau had more than 900 active cases, some in each of the 50 states, into suspected Islamic State sympathizers or other potential terrorists. George Washington University's Program on Extremism noted the arrests in the United States in 2015 of 56 individuals on suspicion of plotting on behalf of or otherwise supporting the Islamic State. (See “Washington Times Notes Record Terror Levels,” CAMERA, Dec. 7, 2015.) Islamophobia, or newsworthy information?
 
Islamic extremism short of terrorist radicalization also would seem to be newsworthy, by definition. But not apparently to CAIR, which purports to find “Islamophobia” everywhere. As the Clarion Project notes, “CAIR wages an unrelenting campaign to discredit its critics as anti-Muslim bigots and moderate Muslims as puppets of an “Islamophobia network” (“Special Report: The Council on American Islamic Relations; Fact Sheet”. The paper covers some of the same material as CAMERA's Special Report on CAIR, but extends the period under review through 2013.)
 
In relying uncritically on CAIR as a source, The Washington Post and other news media undercut themselves and short-change readers, listeners and viewers. The question is why? The answer would be newsworthy.

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