This is going to be long, but I need to say it. I won’t be offended if you don’t want to hear it!
Just now I was looking for some information on Nepal and ended up reading at the Hudson Institute where I came across this report by Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News. It struck a cord because long before Judy and I started this blog, we and others of our friends had been reading and learning about the Islamist threat and specifically the Muslim Brotherhood’s quite clearly stated goal to turn the United States into a Sharia governed country.
You can protest that this goal is far-fetched, but it is indeed what they aspire to. Then I noticed on January 1, 2007 that the head of the Muslim America Society (the Muslim Brotherhood spin-off) spoke at our local mosque in Hagerstown, MD. His photo was on the frontpage but there was no mention of who he was. I wrote some letters to the editor that were never published attempting to educate the public, afterall everything I said had already been published in the Chicago Tribune in 2004.
The editorial page editor at the Herald Mail clearly dismissed what I had to say and acted as if I was a rabid racist, bigoted, hatemonger. That same attitude continued when the refugee issue began in earnest a few months later. I was puzzled why professional journalists would not have any curiosity about Islam in America in the wake of 911, or for that matter the refugee resettlement program. It was plain to see that we were never going to get our views to the public unless we took matters into our own hands and started writing ourselves.
Now comes Rod Dreher’s report last Friday at the Hudson Institute which answers my question so articulately about why journalists are not writing about the central issue of our time. After you read this you will understand that it is imperative that you become a citizen journalist.
[Mr. Dreher has up to this point in his narrative described his experience with certain Islamic leaders and the newspaper for which he works, The Dallas Morning News, emphasis is mine]
Now, I cannot say how typical the Dallas experience is of the broader American experience, but my contacts around the country suggest that this is standard operating procedure. Islam remains a sacred cow in many American newsrooms. My experience with the Muslim leadership in Dallas provides insight, in my view, into why American journalists have ignored the radicalism present in mainstream US Muslim organizations, and in particular why—with the singular exception of an extraordinary 2004 series in the Chicago Tribune—the mainstream media has shown almost no curiosity about the Brotherhood. Why? Reflecting on my experience as a journalist, and as a journalist dealing with Muslim leaders, I have several ideas as to why.
First, Muslims provide non-Muslim journalists with an opportunity to demonstrate their broadmindedness. Most journalists are secularists and cultural liberals, as survey after survey has shown. Cultural liberals have a natural sympathy for the
underdog, especially besieged minorities. As a general matter, they are predisposed to believe the best about all American Muslims, and to discount evidence to the contrary as right-wing paranoia.
Muslim leaders like Sayyid Syeed of ISNA and Mohamed Elmougy understand this, which is why they pitch their presentations to journalists as they do. The legacy of McCarthyism has such a powerful hold on the minds of many journalists that it disarms the instincts that every journalist has to nurture in order to do a proper job.
Now that the Cold War is over, we look back at the water-carrying and fellow-traveling so many mainstream liberals, especially journalists, did for the communists, and wonder how on earth they could have been so deluded.
Well, they saw what they wanted to see. One day, I am confident that historians and others will wonder the same thing about the silence and incuriosity of today’s journalists with regard to the threat from radical Islam in America.
Along those lines, I think at least some journalists sympathize with Muslim leaders because they—the Muslim leaders—have made enemies of conservative Christian counterparts. I have heard on many occasions journalists fuming that American society gets uptight about radical Islam, but ignores the threat from the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of the country—as if they were remotely the same thing! As if the sins and failings of the Christian right justified ignoring Islamic militancy. It is nothing short of bizarre that the secular fundamentalists in the US media are so consumed by fear and loathing of conservative Evangelicals that they give a free pass to Islamic religious fundamentalists who stand for a far more intolerant form of faith.
Similarly, I’ve observed that some canny Muslim activists have adopted the tactic of invoking the threat of danger to Muslims should critical stories appear in the media. The idea is that journalists should not write stories, even if true, that reflect poorly on the Muslim community, because somewhere, there might be a redneck thug who would use the information to attack innocent Muslims. Again, this plays well into the stereotype that many journalists have of the great right-wing un-
washed, lying in wait to carry out pogroms against defenseless minorities.
This is just one more reason why I believe that leaders from these Muslim Brotherhood-influenced organizations—CAIR, ISNA, MAS—are typically good at understanding the psychology of liberal American journalists, and know how to intimidate them. But it‘s also true that they know how to present a positive spin on themselves and their organizations. They adopt the language of civic engagement and civil society, and deploy it at every opportunity.
One young Muslim activist in Dallas who embraces Said Qutb’s message as spiritually enlightening is downright Tocquevillian in the language he uses in public. This is not entirely deceptive. The Muslim Brotherhood’s general strategy is to work through the institutions of civil society to achieve the ultimate goal, which is an Islamic state. It is obviously un-American to decide that Muslim citizens are to be distrusted when they want to participate fully in the political and civic life of this country. The Brotherhood activists understand this, and make this public goodwill work to their advantage. Without informed journalists making meaningful inquiries about the ultimate goal of this or that Muslim group, critics can come across looking like bigots who want to disfranchise and disempower honest Muslim citizens.
It is vital that the public be able to tell the difference between Muslims who honestly and legitimately want to be part of American public life, and those who are using the laws and customs of this country surreptitiously to undermine, and ulti-
mately destroy, them. But the news media, which is the institution best able to make that distinction, is failing to do its job.