A full-page ad by the Investigative Project on Terrorism in Wednesday's New York Times, followed by a prominent ad Thursday on the Times' website, is generating attention and controversy.
That's no surprise.
The ad called for the end of a prohibition on references to jihad and radical Islam in government publications and programs. It cited several examples of terrorist attacks motivated by radical Islamist ideology, and showed how organized groups try to bully anyone who calls attention to the connection. To do so, they argue, is inherently bigoted and blames all Muslims for the actions of a relative few.
Those critical of the ad cast it as anti-Muslim and Islamophobic.
That, too, is no surprise. If anything, it reinforces the ad's message.
The ad contained no critical statements about Islam, and it did not blame the vast majority of Muslims who do not engage in violence.
For specifically calling out Islamist groups which try to stifle debate, the Religion News Service called the IPT an anti-Muslim group in a headline. The service's stories are picked up on the Washington Post website, dramatically expanding their reach and influence.
The judgmental label is appropriate for a news story, RNS Editor-in-Chief Kevin Eckstrom wrote in response to a complaint from the IPT, even though the original IPT ad reserved special praise for "courageous Muslim voices who dare criticize radical Islam."
"We believe the IPT ad speaks for itself, and we quoted from it," Eckstrom wrote. He saw no problem with reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman's failure to contact the IPT seeking comment for her story, which again, cast the organization as "anti-Muslim."
But Grossman did turn to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), specifically mentioned in the ad as one of the groups trying to bully opponents into silence. The ongoing "Islamophobia industry that seeks to blame Islam for any violence or terrorism anywhere in the world," a spokesman said. The goal of such ads, he said, is to "demonize Islam and marginalize American Muslims."
No. The goal of the ad was to trigger a debate about acknowledging the role radical Islam plays in fueling terrorism in the United States and throughout the world. The terrorists themselves acknowledge this fact, but everyone else is supposed to pretend it doesn't exist.
The ad is judged without giving IPT a chance to respond. CAIR's claim that the ad's focus on radical Islam, and its praise for reformist Muslim voices, is part of an "Islamophobia industry" goes unchallenged.
The ad quotes Grossman's source, Ibrahim Hooper, denying radical Islam plays a factor in Boko Haram's campaign of brutality and horror in Nigeria, even though the terrorist group's leaders repeatedly say otherwise. "And we're tired of people coming on television and examining, 'Well, where does this ideology come from?' This ideology comes from nowhere," Hooper said.
If Grossman asked Hooper how that's true, or anything more than wishful thinking, her story never addresses the substance.
"I know IPT and CAIR have a long-running dispute," Eckstrom wrote, "but I'm not going to get involved in the middle of that fight. Just as you would not agree that you're 'anti-Muslim,' they would not agree with IPT's characterization of them as terrorist sympathizers. Again, that's not a fight I'm going to step into the middle of."
So much for a journalist's commitment to fact-finding. When the IPT writes that CAIR was founded as part of a Hamas-support network in the United States, it cites the official assessment of the FBI, reinforced by a written opinion from a federal judge who reviewed the evidence and found "at least a prima facie case as to CAIR's involvement in a conspiracy to support Hamas."
Open-minded people who take the time to review the record, including the original source documents admitted into evidence in a 2008 Hamas-support trial, are left scratching their heads by CAIR's ability to deny history.
"It is astonishing, given this history, that the mainstream American media should routinely describe CAIR as 'a Muslim civil rights organization,'" Peter Skerry, a former legislative director for Rep. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and senior fellow at Duke University's Kenan Institute for Ethics, wrote in an article for the Brookings Institution in 2011. "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."
Such hatred toward Muslims! Three years later, Eckstrom makes it clear that the pattern continues.
RNS is not alone. The Times said it would pull the ad from its website mid Thursday if the IPT refused to alter the text. The change demanded was fairly subtle. Originally, the ad said, "Stop the Islamist groups from undermining America's security, liberty and free speech." Now, it says, "Stop the radical Islamist groups..."
It's a minor distinction. But it came after Times' officials reviewed the ad in advance and found that it met their standards for publication. It was only after "being inundated with customer complaints" was the change ordered by publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.
While everyone was carping about the ad, the Boston Globe reported on newly released court papers from last year's Boston Marathon bombing. Among them, suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's note that he handwrote while hiding from authorities.
"We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all. Well at least that's how muhhammad (pbuh) wanted it to be [for]ever," Tsarnaev wrote. "The ummah is beginning to rise. [UI] has awoken the mujahideen. Know you are fighting men who look into the barrel of your gun and see heaven, now how can you compete with that. We are promised victory and we will surely get it.
"...I ask Allah to make me a shahied (iA) to allow me to return to him and be among all the righteous people in the highest levels of heaven. He who Allah guides no one can misguide. A[llah Ak]bar!"
Someone forgot to tell him radical religious ideology has nothing to do with terrorism.