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The blinders are still on at the Times

The New York Times, supposedly America’s “newspaper of record,” has long boasted that it offers “all the news that’s fit to print.” But when it comes to American Muslims and Muslim organizations, the Times’s almost perfectly consistent policy has been “hear no evil, see no evil.” In this piece, Bruce Bawer takes a critical look at the latest absurd example of the Times’s typical spin on these matters.

The blinders are still on at the Times

By Bruce Bawer

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It’s good news. The Federal Bureau of Investigation – thankfully – appears to be coming out of its haze of political correctness when it comes to dealing with shady Muslim organizations. For all too long, the Bureau, in an apparent effort not to seem “Islamophobic,” overlooked mountains of evidence showing that certain American Muslim groups and leaders were not moderate at all and actually collaborated with them in what were supposedly joint efforts to defeat radicalism and terrorism. The classic case was that of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose actual extremism had long been obvious to observers who have their eyes open but which the FBI – and other government agencies, as well as the media – treated for years as a moderate group that was on the side of American democracy in the war against the West’s jihadist enemies. Though some news organizations and government bodies still treat CAIR as a legitimate mainstream organization, its image has in the past couple of years – finally – been tarnished in the eyes of many who have been simply unable to overlook increasing, and by now overwhelming, evidence that CAIR is, in fact, an Islamist front group. Blessedly, the FBI is among those that appear to have finally seen CAIR – and other unsavory Muslim groups – for what they are.

And so how does the New York Times report this story? Headline, December 17: “Muslims Say F.B.I. Tactics Sow Anger and Fear.” The article, by Paul Vitello and Kirk Semple, provides a perfect example of typical mainstream-media spin on these matters. “The anxiety and anger have been building all year,” begins the article. “In March, a national coalition of Islamic organizations warned that it would cease cooperating with the F.B.I. unless the agency stopped infiltrating mosques and using ’agents provocateurs to trap unsuspecting Muslim youth.’” From the outset, then, Vitello and Semple set out to reaffirm that the problem is not that many mosques are, in fact, places where jihadism is preached, terrorism celebrated, young men radicalized, and plots hatched; the problem is that the FBI is infiltrating these places – in short, doing its job.

The authors go on to quote Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America: “There is a sense that law enforcement is viewing our communities not as partners but as objects of suspicion….A lot of people are really, really alarmed about this.” As if to affirm Mattson’s moderation, Vitello and Semple identify Mattson as having “represented Muslims at the national prayer service a day after President Obama’s inauguration.” There is no mention of the Holy Land Foundation trials in 2007 and 2008, in which documents came to light revealing that Mattson’s organization, along with others, was, in the words of a Dallas Morning News column by Rod Dreher, “an integral part of the [Muslim] Brotherhood’s efforts to wage jihad against America by nonviolent means.”

On the Times website, Vitello’s and Semple’s article was illustrated by a photograph of Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab-American Association of New York. The article portrays Sarsour sympathetically as a moderate leader who lamented that the FBI “connection felt tentative” even from the beginning of the FBI’s “outreach” to Muslim groups in the weeks after 9/11 and who ”was baffled when bonds that she and other leaders established with a New York F.B.I. chief evaporated upon the arrival of his successor.” Vitello and Semple identify Sarsour’s organization as “a social-services agency”; what they somehow neglect to mention was Sarsour’s Hamas connections. According to a 2007 report by Militant Islam Monitor, Sarsour has a brother-in-law who at that time was “serving a 12 year sentence for his involvement with Hamas” and that Sarsour’s husband was, at that time, “facing deportation” owing to official suspicions that he, “together with his brother and Sarsour’s cousin, may have been involved in Hamas activities.” Another report for Militant Islam Monitor frankly labels Sarsour “a radical Islamist activist,” pointing out that in a 2004 Columbia Journalism Review article by Sarmad S. Ali, Sarsour “matter-of-factly document[ed] her family’s ties to Hamas,” and citing a remark in which Sarsour characterized the Anti-Defamation League as “absolutely the most racist organization in the United States.”

As for CAIR, Vitello and Semple stick to the same tired old line, innocuously referring to it as ”the nation’s most prominent Muslim civil rights organization” and noting that “by most accounts, the unraveling of ties between the F.B.I. and Muslim-Americans began two years ago, with the F.B.I.’s decision to stop sharing information” with CAIR. “The F.B.I.,” Vitello and Semple write, “said it was motivated by council executives’ failure to answer questions about links with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The executives denied any such connection, and accused the F.B.I. of staining the council’s reputation without due process.” Vitello and Semple do not see fit to include in their article any of the mountains of evidence documenting CAIR’s Islamist ties. Likewise, referring to the Justice Department’s closing down of several “Muslim charities,” the Times article quotes an ACLU comment that these actions have engendered “a pervasive fear” among Muslims “that they may be arrested, prosecuted, targeted for law enforcement interviews” if they contribute to Muslim charities; but Vitello and Semple fail to cite the massive evidence that these “charities” were in fact channeling money to jihadist groups.

In my book Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom, which came out earlier this year, I reported at length on the Times’s stubborn determination to portray prominent American Islamists as admirable “bridge-builders,” to promote writers such as Karen Armstrong and John Esposito who systematically whitewash Islamic jihad, and to demonize responsible critics of Islam. When the Times – after years of refusing to review such books – not only gave a very positive notice to Surrender but also praised another book that expressed concern about the Islamization of Europe, I thought that perhaps the Times was opening its eyes to reality. But Vitello’s and Semple’s absurd article (to which “Ali Adeeb and Majeed Babar contributed reporting,” according to a note at the end) shows that America’s supposed newspaper of record has yet to abandon its irresponsible head-in-the-sand approach to these crucial issues.