Sunday, July 24, 2005

Media complicity in Islamist deceit

I wrote yesterday about Hizb ut-Tahrir in the context of The Guardian having unwittingly invited one of its members onto its staff. The New York Times gave the group the spotlight last weekend in a piece ineptly titled, "Anger Burns on the Fringe of Britain's Muslims." (Thanks to a friend and reader for passing a copy of the article my way.) The article's author, Hassan M. Fattah, closely follows the rules of the relativist branch of journalism: one, achieve the semblance of objectivity by giving supposedly equal time to two sides of an issue; two, a "fact" doesn't need to be checked if it's in quotes; three, misspell the names of the people you interview, just to throw off the bloggers who might want to do the background research you eschewed. He manages to breeze right past two glaring contradictions in the statements of Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Dr. Imran (not Imram, as Fattah writes) Waheed.

Waheed has been publicly calling for an end to western liberal democracy for years. In a 1998 debate over capitalism vs. Islamic economics, Waheed ended his rambling and mystically circular argument with this statement:
"The Islamic Khilafah state will certainly place all man-made ideologies in the dustbin of history, and carry the Islamic dawa to the world."

This kind of Islamist "we will bury you" bluster has become all too familiar lately. Yet whenever some Wahabbi "spokesman" starts chirping about world domination, the media roll their eyes or wink and nod as if it's all a big joke.

But set Waheed's dustbin comment alongside Hizb ut-Tahrir's stated desire for a restoration of the caliphate, to "lead them into the battlefields of jihad to spread Islam and protect the Muslims" (from a publication in the 1999 "Leaflet" archives on the Hizb ut-Tahrir website). This is clearly a call for the expansion of Islam by violent means. And here's what Waheed has to say about the recent London bombings:
"We know that the killing of innocents is forbidden," Dr. Waheed said. "But we don't see two classes of blood; the blood of Iraqis is just as important to us as English blood." He emphasized that they in no way condoned the bombings. "But when you understand things from that perspective, why should we condemn the bombings?"

Why do reporters and editors insist on helping Islamists talk out of both sides of their mouths? Why the exculpatory paraphrase wedged into the middle of an inflammatory quote? Waheed "emphasized" that they "in no way" condoned the bombings? Just tell me what he said. Don't recast his words to make him seem less mendacious. Refusal to condemn is tacit support, and a convenient way to express support in a society seriously considering shipping you off to your ancestral shithole in Lahore.

After questioning the innocence of the victims of the London bombings (and thereby repeating an old Islamist rationale that there is no such thing as a civilian in dar al-harb), Waheed objects to recent calls in England for restrictions on Hizb ut-Tahrir. "Such efforts, Dr. Waheed said, are a 'clear attempt to blur the margins between political Islam and violence.'" (The sheer gall of some Muslim leaders lately is simply jaw-dropping. I nearly choked on my croissant while listening to a podcast of the Brian Lehrer Show a week after the attacks, when M. T. Sherwani, director of the Muslim Center of New York in Flushing, said: "Islam is the real victim today."*)

The second contradiction the Times reporter chose to let slide by unchallenged is Waheed's bizarre assertion that Hizb ut-Tahrir is "not trying to recruit people." This will come as a surprise to readers who might have been paying attention to Waheed's own description earlier in the article of how he joined the group: "Then he happened upon a Hizb ut-Tahrir member canvassing for the party, and everything clicked, he said." A few lines later, the reporter writes that Hizb ut-Tahrir "actively proselytizes within the Muslim community." Why let Waheed get in the last word, especially when the last word is an outright lie? No other cult or hate-group would be treated with such deference in the press. Islamists have managed to get our attention; let's set aside the relativist and multicultural paradigms and give their words and actions serious, critical attention instead of becoming partners in their dissembling.

*Note: My original post misattributed this statement and bungled the word order of the quote. The attribution and quote are now accurate, and the podcast is available through WNYC's podcast feed. The release date of the show is July 13, 2005.

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