What did it take for the Washington Post to accuse a Jewish man of racism for exposing a white man as an anti-Semite? That white man's conversion to Islam.
That's how reporter Bill Donahue treated Charles Jacobs, the president of my organization, Americans for Peace and Tolerance, in a January 17 puff piece on the influential Muslim convert and cleric, Imam Suhaib Webb: "An unlikely messenger becomes a guiding spirit to young Muslims."
Jacobs marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and received the "Boston Freedom Award" from MLK's widow, Coretta Scott King, for his work freeing black slaves in Sudan. But he is now apparently a racist because our organization's research into the radical Islamic ideology of an Oklahoma-born white male conflicts with the Post's portrayal of Webb as a cool former hip-hop DJ who knows how to hang with the kids while sharing his religious wisdom and liberal politics in rap lyrics.
I don't quite get the hipness angle. Webb's awkward affectations bring to mind Sacha Baron Cohen's parodic character "Ali G," a cringe-worthy mix of cultural appropriation, poseurism, and banality that would make Rachel Dolezal blush through her spray tan. But Donahue is a reporter on a mission.
Who's Slandering Whom Here?
That said, his cool pose isn't what makes the imam so objectionable, it just distracts from the underlying reality: Webb's hateful rhetoric towards gays, women, Jews, and American society, and his connections to terrorism. So Donahue had to resort to outright falsehoods in ad hominem attack, claiming that Jacobs "alleged that Webb was anti-Semitic, homophobic and in cahoots with the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, even as Boston's leading rabbis disagreed and one U.S. attorney, Carmen Ortiz, told the New York Times that Jacobs's claims were 'incredibly racist and unfair.'"
Some of these claims are demonstrably false. (Where is the Post's editor?) Jacobs never accused Webb of being in cahoots with the World Trade Center bombers. In fact, in 1993, when the bombing happened, Webb was just beginning to explore Islam after a youth spent smoking weed and getting involved in drive-by shootings as a member of the Bloods gang.
Worse, perhaps: Ortiz said no such thing regarding Jacobs' claims about Webb. She did pull that race card when Jacobs embarrassed her by pointing out that Webb's former mosque, a partner in the Justice Department's "Countering Violent Extremism" program that she led in Boston, is itself a major source of violent extremism.
It turns out Ortiz is not a credible source on matters of character, and this is not the first time she has slandered people. She resigned in disgrace after bipartisan outrage over her penchant for making baseless claims and "indicting the good guys" soon after Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz committed suicide after Ortiz indicted him on trumped-up charges.
It's a Religion of Peace, Ya'll
The Washington Post hasn't learned much since 2002, when it tried to sell Anwar Al Awlaki, the top al-Qaeda leader Obama droned in Yemen in 2011, as a kindly spiritual man who said things like: "There's always this association between Islam and terrorism, when that is not true at all – I mean, Islam is a religion of peace."
Now it prints this gem by Donahue: "Webb aims to make classical Islam relevant to modern Americans and to help a hate-addled world see that, if the prophet Muhammad were alive today, he'd be politically in sync with Bernie Sanders. He'd be tolerant of gays and abortion, and he would, like Webb's long-ago rap idols, be sickened by the systematic racism pervading America."
Ironically, Webb first came across the FBI's radar when he showed up with Awlaki at a 2001 California fundraiser for convicted cop killer, Islamist radical, and black nationalist Jamil Al Amin, a.k.a. H. Rap Brown. The FBI, which was surveilling Awlaki due to his relationship with the 9/11 hijackers, noted that Webb and Awlaki raised $100,000 for the murderer that night. Recently, Webb has apologized to ISIS for "speaking ill" of it, which didn't stop ISIS from putting out a kill fatwa against him.
We're Not Just Alleging, We Have Video
As for Webb's anti-Semitism and homophobia, APT has let Webb speak for himself in multiple videotaped sermons. In these sermons, Webb claims that effeminate men are cursed and that Muslims should fight gay marriage, asking America: "What on earth has happened to your values in 40 years?"
He complains that American girls are "bad people" because they "don't wear any clothes," and tells young Muslim men that their faith ("iman" in Arabic) will go "out the door" if they give a girl on the subway "one wink, one blink, one number, one digit, one note." He accuses Jews of trying to kill Jesus and being Muhammad's greatest antagonists, and tells his congregation that animosity toward Jews is understandable.
Webb's anti-Semitism was on full display in Boston during the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. He raised $300,000 for Islamic Relief, a Hamas-linked charity designated as a terrorist entity by Israel and the United Arab Emirates. In a series of increasingly hostile social media posts to his tens of thousands of followers, Webb laid into the Jewish State with such tweets as: "Modern Israel: Pioneers of Terror in the Holy Land," and "Israel: America's Frankenstein monster."
On his Facebook page, Webb posted an anti-Semitic cartoon of Netanyahu sitting in a Gaza-shaped tub of blood, waving a butcher's cleaver at screaming children. "Tells the story," was Webb's comment on the blood libel.
To its credit, the Post published a short letter by Jacobs that, in its online version, included links to Webb's hate sermons. As of this writing, however, neither Donahue nor the Post's editors have apologized to Jacobs or corrected the column.
It's About Subverting Facts for Narrative
Ronne Friedman, the rabbi of Boston's largest synagogue and Webb's closest ally among "Boston's leading rabbis" whom the Post claims disagreed with Jacobs about Webb's anti-Semitism, had to agree on one thing. After seeing Webb's anti-Semitic social media posts, Friedman told his congregation: "Imam Suhaib Webb posted or 're-tweeted' certain articles or cartoons that gave rise to Jewish concern." Unfortunately, the rabbi also made it abundantly clear that he will support Webb despite his anti-Semitism, essentially admitting that Jewish concern is not his concern.
That gets to the core reason the Washington Post would publish fake news whitewashing a white anti-Semite while bashing his Jewish critic as a racist. Whenever the facts interfere with the narrative—that radical Islam is not a true threat, that all Islamist leaders are well-meaning, and that their critics are racist Islamophobes—there will always be a leftist propagandist with a prayer shawl, like Friedman, or a leftist propagandist with a byline, like Donahue, who pops up to ask Jews, women, gays, or any other potential targets of Islamist terror: "Who are you going to believe, me or your racist lying eyes?"
That their denials get more and more ludicrous as the public buys into them less and less hints this will not be a winning strategy.
Ilya Feoktistov is a member of the board of directors of Americans for Peace and Tolerance.