Washington Times ‘Hypocritical’ on Press Freedom


Posted Mar 15, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Right-wing paper refuses to publish responses to biased coverage

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/15/07) - A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called the right-wing Washington Times newspaper “beyond hypocritical” for claiming to support a “robust media” while refusing to publish responses to alleged anti-Muslim bias in its reporting and commentary.

The newspaper made that claim in an editorial today attacking the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In its editorial, the paper also falsely portrayed American Muslims as recent immigrants, despite the fact that the Islamic community has deep historical roots in this nation, beginning with the Muslim slaves who were brought to America from West Africa.

The Times editorial stated: “This is a lesson [about a robust media] our Muslim brothers will learn sooner or later as they become accustomed to life in America.”

In a statement, CAIR said:

“It is beyond hypocritical for a newspaper long known for its Islamophobic content to claim to defend a ‘robust media’ while at the same time refusing to publish responses from those it smears.”

As evidence of the Washington Times’ refusal to publish editorial responses from Muslims, CAIR cited a letter to the editor it sent to the paper earlier this week. That letter, headlined “Washington Times Seeks to Silence American Muslims,” has not appeared in that newspaper. It stated in part:

“It seems that Internet searches of extremist anti-Muslim blogs have replaced responsible journalism at the Washington Times. That can be the only explanation for the laundry list of recycled smears, distortions and outright falsehoods littered throughout S.A. Miller’s hatchet job on the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group.

“CAIR is a grass-roots expression of American Muslims who resolved to rise to the challenges facing our society, namely to confront intolerance and promote justice. As the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group, CAIR’s 32 chapters bring together Americans from every walk of life. The diversity represented by CAIR’s staff, volunteers and supporters is a reflection of the diversity of America.

“We are the same group that launched an online petition drive, called ‘Not in the Name of Islam,’ designed to demonstrate Muslim repudiation of terrorism and religious extremism. CAIR is also the group that launched a television public service announcement campaign of that same name and coordinated a ‘fatwa,’ or Islamic religious ruling, against terrorism. . .

“Just a few of the falsehoods and distortions in Miller’s article include: 1. Despite what Miller falsely claims, CAIR has no ties of any kind, whether financial or ideological, to terrorism. 2. Rabih Haddad was never a ‘CAIR fundraiser.’ He spoke at a single CAIR chapter event many years ago. 3. Ghassan Elashi was not a ‘founding board member’ of CAIR. 4. At least one CAIR official spoke to the reporter, despite the false claim in the article that ‘CAIR officials did not return a call seeking comment.’. . .”

Another letter, as yet unpublished, sent from Lebanon to the Washington Times (and copied to CAIR) by the above-mentioned Rabih Haddad states:

“Allow me to express my extreme dismay and disappointment in the level of unprofessional and erroneous reporting exhibited in [the article smearing CAIR] in which the writer states: ‘However, CAIR officials have been charged with—and some convicted of—offenses related to the support of terrorism, including CAIR fundraiser Rabih Haddad’. . .

“This is a total fabrication as far as I am concerned and I would strongly recommend that your reporters and writers do a little deeper research on their pieces than the average Google search to get their facts straight. I was never a CAIR official, not that I wouldn’t have been proud to be included among them, and to this day I have not been charged with any thing save overstaying my visit visa which I was in the process of remedying when I was arrested. . .”

Haddad demanded an apology and a retraction.

“The Islamophobic articles and commentaries in the Washington Times are apparently designed to marginalize and disenfranchise American Muslims and their representative institutions by exploiting growing anti-Islam sentiment in our society,” said CAIR Legislative Director Corey Saylor.

Saylor, the author of CAIR’s letter to the Times, added: “The fact that CAIR comes under attack by anti-Muslim extremists should come as no surprise to anyone who works for positive social change. All proponents of justice, including leading organizations in America’s civil rights movement, have faced similar attacks designed to silence their voices.”

A front-page article in yesterday’s New York Times quoted government officials as saying CAIR’s critics engage in McCarthyite tactics. The article stated:

“More than one [government official] described the standards used by critics to link CAIR to terrorism as akin to McCarthyism, essentially guilt by association. ‘Of all the groups, there is probably more suspicion about CAIR, but when you ask people for cold hard facts, you get blank stares,’ said Michael Rolince, a retired F.B.I. official who directed counterterrorism in the Washington field office from 2002 to 2005.”

Saylor challenged the Washington Times to balance its Muslim-bashing content with commentaries solicited from credible sources in the mainstream American Muslim community. “Washington Times readers deserve more than agenda-driven hit pieces designed to silence Muslims and smear their institutions.”

CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.