The axiom that “once is an accident, twice a coincidence, but three times is a pattern” needs an extension when it comes to Baltimore Sun whitewashing the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Four times since Nov. 20, 2012, The Sun has published Op-Ed columns authored or co-authored by Zainab Chaudry, a founder and representative of CAIR’s Maryland chapter. Once during the period it also gave her additional space to spin extremism and castigate critics in a letter to the editor. The i.d. lines for Chaudry identify her group as “a civil rights and advocacy organization.”
In none of Chaudry’s five offerings does The Sun tell readers that CAIR has been exposed in trials and out-of-court settlements as:
* A Muslim Brotherhood spin-off;
* A group founded by Hamas members;
* Unindicted co-conspirator in the country’s largest terrorism funding case;
* An organization from which at least five former staff or lay leaders have been indicted, arrested or deported on weapons and terrorism-related charges; and
* A group with which the FBI ceased official cooperation.
Does that sound like the American Muslim equivalent of the National Association for Colored People or the Anti-Defamation League? It does on Sun opinion pages.
After Chaudry’s Op-Eds, CAMERA submitted letters to the editor of its own. They pointed out evasions, falsifications and omissions in the commentaries and their attached identifications of CAIR as an “advocacy and civil rights organization.” None of letters appeared in print editions of The Sun.
The devil’s in the details
The newspaper permitted Chaudry, in her most recent column (“Countering violent extremism,” Jan. 22, 2014), to minimize the danger of political Islam. For example:
She says just 33 of approximately 180,000 murders committed in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks “can be attributed to Muslim-American terrorism.” She doesn’t say that dozens or hundreds more attempted murders by would-be Islamic terrorists, including the Times Square and Northwest Airlines plots, were foiled.
Chaudry writes that “terrorists comprise different religions and ethnicities” and then implies that one Norwegian “Christian crusader” mass murderer equates to the threat from Islamic fundamentalists. But it’s the latter—not Christian, Jewish, Hindu or any other self-described religious terrorists—who have murdered literally hundreds of thousands of people from central Africa through the Middle East to the Philippines and Indonesia in the past three decades.
Most of the victims of Muslim terrorists have been other Muslims. But Chaudry transparently conflates killings by one Norwegian fanatic with bloody upheavals in numerous Muslim majority countries. That way the CAIR official evades the latter horrors.
Chaudry implies that America is “a society increasingly hostile toward specific minority groups,” in particular Muslim Americans. Yet the FBI’s annual hate crimes statistics indicate no anti-Muslim crime surge. In fact, Muslim Americans generally are well received by their fellow citizens—witness Marvel Comics’ much-ballyhooed new super hero, a Pakistani-American teenaged girl, who happens to be a Muslim. Marvel has no teenaged super heroes whose Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist faiths happens to be key parts of their identities.
But wait, there’s more
In an April 30, 2013 commentary headlined “Don’t let Israel discriminate,” Chaudry and another Maryland CAIR representative complained about Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-Md.) co-sponsorship of legislation to extend a visa waiver program (VWP) to Israel. VWP allows citizens of 37 European and other countries, including Japan, Australia and South Korea to travel in the United States for up to 90 days without a visa.
The writers claim the legislation would let Israel dispense with a “reciprocity” provision so it could “discriminate against Americans based on their ethnicity or religion”; in particular, they allege, against “Arab Americans and Muslim Americans.”
In fact, the proposal requires Israel to meet all VWP provisions except that requiring the non-immigrant refusal rate to be three percent or less. Israel’s at the time they wrote was 5.4 percent and had been declining. That means approximately 95 percent of Americans who apply, including Arab and Muslim Americans, already receive Israeli visas. South Korea, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other countries entered VWP, initially under temporary waivers, with higher refusal rates than Israel’s.
The legislation Cardin sponsored noted that America could refuse a visa to anyone on a variety of grounds, one of which is that an individual may threaten “the welfare, health, safety or security of the United States.” That provision covers, among others, radical Israelis, Jews or Arabs whom this country might not wish to admit. Reciprocity recognizes, among other things, that Israel possesses such a right of refusal r
egarding American citizens.
While alleging Israeli discrimination against Arab or Muslim Americans, Chaudry and her co-writer never mention actual discrimination against all non-Muslim Americans by Saudi Arabia, for example, which does not allow them to visit the Islamic holy city of Mecca or worship openly anywhere in the country, or against any U.S. citizen with an Israeli visa stamp on his or her passport. Transparency not found in the Sun would remind readers that CAIR reportedly has solicited funds from Saudi billionaire Prince Alalweed bin Talal al-Saud.
“Don’t let Israel discriminate” is one of many examples of CAIR invoking the language of civil rights on behalf of other agendas—bashing Israel, marginalizing or silencing critics of Islamic extremism or crying “wolf” over “Islamophobia” to claim imagined victimhood status.
About crying ‘wolf’
In a column headlined “The tide of Islamophobia; A Maryland conservative group has once again invited a well-known anti-Muslim activist to speak at its conference” (January 15, 2013), Chaudry castigates the Maryland Conservative Action Network for inviting “one of America’s most virulent Islamophobes” to speak at its conference. She then alleges anti-Islamic statements and actions by the invitee, Pamela Geller.
What’s fair for Geller—Sun space for Chaudry’s umbrage—should be mandatory for CAIR. Timely reminders for readers would have included CAIR’s failure to contest, in an out-of-court settlement (CAIR versus anti-cair-net.org), that it was founded by Hamas members and that the U.S. government has designated Hamas a terrorist organization. Yet this information did not appear in the newspaper.
A local columnist, Marta Mossburg, noted “CAIR is always described in the media as a leading advocacy group for Muslims in the U.S.” added “it has a darker side. It was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorist funding trial of the Holy Land Foundation. … The FBI cut ties with CAIR as a result of the information revealed about the group” (“A controversial speaker’s right to be heard,” Jan. 16, 2013).
Apparently that was enough Sun-light on CAIR. The paper quickly re-opened its pages to Chaudry for a second poke at Geller and rebuttal of Mossburg. In a long letter-to-the-editor, (“Group indulges hate speech,” January 21) the Maryland CAIR vice president claimed that identification of the Council on American-Islamic Relations as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case was settled by federal court and the Justice Department in CAIR’s favor.
Not quite. The judge in the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development retrial (2009), America’s largest terrorism funding trial to date, ruled that the prosecutor’s public disclosure of CAIR’s status as an unindicted co-conspirator had been a mistake. The judge did not rule that the listing itself was wrong.
The retrial resulted in five men being jailed for raising more than $12 million for Hamas. One was Ghassan Elashi, a co-founder of CAIR’s Texas chapter. He received a prison sentence of 65 years.
Chaudry’s letter also tried to rebut a critic of CAIR’s “MyJihad” public relations campaign. She asserted, as minimizers if not apologists for Islamic extremism are wont to, that the meaning of “jihad”—to struggle—“has been hijacked and misinterpreted by Muslim and non-Muslim extremists alike.”
That’s deception, self-deception or both. In Islamic thought there is internal jihad, a struggle for self-improvement. And there is external jihad, the holy war to defend or extend “dar al Islam,” the house of Islam, against or into “dar al harb,” the non-Muslim house of war.
That’s why one of the terrorist groups that attacked the Algerian natural gas facility early last year could call itself the “Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.” The mastermind of the deadly raid, as reported in the same edition of The Sun that carried Ms. Chaudry’s letter, referred to his “40 jihadists.” It’s why a terrorist group even more impatient than Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement) calls itself Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It’s why U.S. intelligence analysts worry about Western “jihadis” returning from Syria’s civil wars to wreak havoc here.
Chaudry also termed CAIR critic Geller “the leader of a designated anti-Muslim hate group.” That “designation,” given CAIR’s lack of candor, is meaningless.
In the Nov. 21, 2012 print edition of The Sun, a Chaudry Op-Ed (“In Gaza, the powerless multitude’s suffer”) spun Israel’s “Pillar of Defense” retaliation against rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip. In her telling the fighting amounted to a brutal “he-said, she said” between the Israelis and the Strip’s Hamas leaders. She supported this false equivalence by claiming a senior Israeli leader had vowed “a Palestinian holocaust” and that Israel’s target air strikes, instead of ignoring most of Gaza, left “virtually no safe haven remaining.”
For Baltimore Sun readers, a serious question is how to designate the newspaper’s avoidance of full disclosure, or disclosure of virtually any sort, regarding CAIR? An accident, coincidence, pattern or outright journalistic failure?