'Tennessean' report unfair to anti-terror organization
by Ray Locker
October 26, 2010
The Tennessean's Oct. 24 article by Bob Smietana, headlined "Anti-Muslim crusaders make millions spreading fear," unfairly characterized the nature of the Investigative Project on Terrorism and our corporate structure.
First, Mr. Smietana cited one line in our 2008 tax filings to make the unsupported implication that our founder and executive director, Steven Emerson, somehow pocketed $3,349,000 in management fees from his relationship with the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation. He ignored the details in our tax form that showed that $2,373,000 of that money went to pay for program expenses, such as the high costs of conducting our research, and $1,017,000 in management and salary costs for our staff of more than 15 people.
Mr. Smietana said without attribution that we are "spreading hate" and provided no information to back up that subjective, opinionated claim. That goes against the accepted practice of newspapers keeping opinion on the editorial pages.
He also used loaded terms, such as "self-styled" to refer to Mr. Emerson, who has reported on these issues for more than 25 years. Our work has been recognized by national journalism organizations such as Investigative Reporter and Editors. His 1994 documentary Jihad in America received a George Polk Award. If you are to refer to anyone who reports on or studies any topic as "self-styled," wouldn't that also refer to virtually every employee at The Tennessean? Are all of your court reporters lawyers? Do your police reporters have degrees in criminal justice?
Group includes Muslim voices
The article also made the unsupported assertion that the Investigative Project on Terrorism is "telling donors they're in imminent danger from Muslims." That is patently false, ignores our track record and parrots the line of the radical groups we expose. IPT has been in the lead in identifying and assessing the threat of radical Islam. Many of the subjects of our work are either in prison or have been deported.
A visit to our website — www.investigativeproject.org — will show anyone that we also have Muslim supporters and readers. One recent story focused on a summit by moderate Muslims on Capitol Hill. We often feature Muslim voices who are waging a war of ideas against the Islamists, from Zuhdi Jasser at the American-Islamic Forum for Democracy to journalist Asra Nomani's fight for gender equity within her faith, and emerging voices like Abdur-Rahman Mohamed, a former radical who now combats extremist ideology. These are three very distinct voices with diverse backgrounds and points of view. And that's the point. There is no one voice of Muslims in America, and to accept someone or some group as playing that part is a form of soft bigotry.
The work of the Investigative Project on Terrorism is often controversial, because we're exposing those who try to cloak their true leanings. That in no way makes us anti-Islam or anti-Muslim. We're proud of our work and appreciate the support of those who know it best.
Ray Locker is the managing director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism and a veteran of 28 years in the newspaper business.