New York Times’ coverage of the city police department’s use of The Third Jihad in counter-terrorism training – two news articles and an editorial in 24 hours – raised a question:
Can readers rely on Times’ reporting about Islamic radicalism in the United States? Judging by the three items, the answer is no.
Its article “In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims,” by reporter Michael Powell (January 23), acknowledged that the story already was a year old, having been revealed by a Village Voice columnist in January, 2011. The Times’ update was that the documentary had been “shown to more than a thousand officers as part of training ….”
The Third Jihad was produced by the Clarion Fund, which previously released the documentary Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West. The newer movie asserts that while “only a small percentage” of Muslims are radical, many of the largest or most active U.S. Islamic organizations are not moderate and their leaders rely on “deception.”
The Times’ first news story omitted these distinctions, wrongly stating that the documentary said infiltration and domination was “the true agenda of much of Islam in America.” In its next-day editorial, “Hateful Film” (January 24), the newspaper labeled Third Jihad “noxious and dangerous stereotyping.” Furthermore, the editorialists declared, there was “absolutely no excuse” for the NYPD to screen it for nearly 1,500 (of the department’s 35,000) members.
The Times’ second-day news article, “In Shift, Police Say Leader Helped With Anti-Islam film and Now Regrets It” (January 24) should be read in part as an implicit correction of the first report. Reporter Powell more precisely wrote that the film “says the goal of ‘much of Muslim leadership here in America’” – not “much of Islam in America” – “is to ‘infiltrate and dominate’ … [and] portrays many mainstream American Muslim leaders as closet radical Islamists ….’” He does not insinuate this time that Third Jihad says most U.S. Muslims are “deceptive.”
Key omissions in both news articles and the editorial render them likely to mislead. Among the missing:
* The Times relied heavily on just two sources for its anti-Third Jihad accounts. One was Zead Ramadan, New York president of the Council for American Islamic Relations.
The newspaper neglected to inform readers that CAIR embodies the deceptive Islamic supremacist practices Third Jihad warns against. The Times omitted mention of CAIR’s role in the 2009 Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development retrial. This is the largest U.S. terrorism-funding case to date.
CAIR was an unindicted co-conspirator. Testimony indicated that the council was founded by members of a Muslim Brotherhood spin-off and functioned as a front for Hamas (the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization). As a result, the FBI and other federal agencies have broken formal contact with CAIR. The Times reminds readers of none of this.
Nor did the newspaper say that, as CAMERA’s Special Report, “The Council on American Islamic Relations: Civil Rights or Extremism?” has shown, at least five former CAIR staffers or lay leaders have been arrested or deported on terrorism or weapons-related charges. Or that CAIR has a long paper-trail of attempted intimidation of its critics and those of radical Islam in general, smearing them as “Islamophobes.”
The Times also neglects to mention that Zead Ramadan, its source, contributed $1,000 in 2010 to Viva Palestina, an organization lead by the antisemite George Galloway. According to terrorism expert Steve Emerson, when Ramadan was asked publicly if he considered Hamas a terrorist group, the New York CAIR leader evaded the question.
The paper’s other key source was Faiza Patel, a director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school. Relevant information about Patel and The Brennan Center that The Times omitted, Emerson said, included:
The center received CAIR’s “Safe While Free” award in 2009;
In a Huffington Post commentary, Patel “denounced the NYPD’s operation that resulted in the arrest of accused lone-wolf jihadist Jose Pimentel, charged with plotting to bomb U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan”; and
She apparently believes that law enforcement authorities should defer to Muslim community leaders who don’t believe domestic radicalization is a problem and should “not be spending police resources this way [in surveillance].”
Both New York Times news articles and the editorial ignore Peter Skerry’s analysis of CAIR in his essay “The Muslim-American Muddle,” which appears on the Fall, 2011 edition of National Affairs. Skerry, a professor of political science at Boston College and a senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and at th e Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., notes that CAIR’s Palestinian founders opposed the Israeli-Palestine Liberation Organization Oslo Accords but “had in mind a broad campaign to influence American media, public opinion and eventually policy.”
“It is astonishing,” Skerry states in his journal article, “given this history, that the mainstream American [news] media should routinely describe CAIR as an ‘a Muslim civil-rights organization.’ It is one thing for CAIR’s leaders to ritualistically deny and obfuscate the organization’s origins; it is quite another for America’s academic, political, and media elites to systematically ignore them.”
But ignoring CAIR’s origins, goals and activities, and keeping readers ignorant of them, is what The Times did. As a result of treatment like that of The Times, though barely 12 percent of U.S. Muslims told a Gallup poll that CAIR represents their interests, “that figure is higher than the one reported for any other Muslim-American organization,” Skerry observes.
Following the Holy Land Foundation verdict, support for the council “has come from various Saudi and Persian Gulf sources, almost certainly rendering CAIR more reliant on overseas funding than any other major Muslim-American organization,” the professor writes. “CAIR’s strident brand of identity politics may seem less frightening that fifth-column activism on behalf of Hamas, but it remains highly problematic,” Skerry observes.
Not, apparently, to The Times.
The newspaper reported that “the film posits that there were three jihads: One at the time of Muhammad, a second in the Middle Ages and a third that is under way covertly throughout the West today. This is, the film claims, ‘the 1,400-year-war.”
But The Times offers no context for such an assertion. Readers may infer, in the absence of comprehensive reporting, that the documentary peddled an unsubstantiated conspiracy view. However, Efraim Karsh, in his book Islamic Imperialism (Yale University Press, 2006), argues that “it is the Middle East where the institution of empire not only originated … but where its spirit has also outlived its European counterpart.”
Twentieth-century Islamists, from the founders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden, pursue jihad – violent or non-violent – to reestablish imperial caliphates and extend their reach until universal. “The last great Muslim empire may have been destroyed and the caliphate left vacant [the Ottoman Empire with its sultan, after World War I], but the Islamic imperial dream of world domination has remained very much alive ….”
In a posting at National Review Online, M. Zuhdi Jasser, the observant American Muslim who narrated Third Jihad, charged that The Times’ January 24 article “was shoddy and biased, and ignored central facts presented by the movie. There was no analysis of the film’s ideas or the content that the officers actually viewed. The article instead simply channeled the scattered ramblings of the victimology of the opponents of the movie.”
In a January 30 New York Post Op-Ed, “Of films and fear,” Jasser, president of the Arizona-based American Islamic Forum for Democracy, asserted that “political Islam is the lifeblood of groups like CAIR; they will never publicly acknowledge its incompatibility with [W]estern
liberalism and Americanism.”
Forbes.com contributor Abigail R. Esman, in “The Third Jihad Debate: Is The New York Times Islamophobic?” (January 30), pointed out that while the newspaper attempted to investigate Clarion, the film’s sponsor, it “made no effort whatsoever to look into the real motivations behind CAIR’s objections … or to question the reliability and decency of the source.”
Esman wrote that what The Times’ found “hateful” about the documentary were not so much the video clips of jihadi declarations and terrorist attacks but rather “allowing the NYPD to see that they exist ….”
Summarizing the clash over the documentary, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby (“A Second Look at The Third Jihad,” February 12), quoted Robert Jackson, the only Muslim member of New York City Council: “‘I initially thought from reading about it that it cast a negative image on all Muslims,’ he said. ‘In my opinion, it does not. It focuses on the extreme Muslims that are trying to hurt other people.’”
Rather than approach The Third Jihad controversy with traditional journalistic skepticism, rather than vetting all sources, instead of investigating on its own the role of Islamist front groups in the United States, The New York Times became a conduit for the censors at CAIR.
To see the documentary, go to www.TheThirdJihad.com .