Watching the jihad watchers

Ever since Muslim extremists commandeered passenger aircraft and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon — with another plane missing its target only because its passengers fought back — Americans have been very interested in Muslim extremism. Each terror attack committed by Muslim extremists since then has only fueled the curiosity and thirst for knowledge more.

And yet it’s really hard to find in the media much helpful information connecting the dots or explaining different varieties of Islam. Yes, there have been stories here and there. But considering that we’re almost 10 years out from the carnage of 9/11, I’m wondering how much longer we’ll have to wait for good investigative pieces of current threats. Of course, The New York Times and Washington Post were praising radical Muslim cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki as a moderate in the first few months after 9/11. The lesson isn’t that these papers were apologists for radical Islam so much as that exploring the ties and connections and people involved in terror attempts against the United States is really tough work. It’s also politically incorrect and dangerous.

And the newspaper industry is collapsing upon itself. We all know reporters who have been laid off or removed from the religion beat. Editors can’t devote the resources necessary to run an investigative project and journalists face more and more demands on their time.

There’s one journalist who really bucks this trend: Steve Emerson. An award-winning journalist who began writing about Muslim terrorism decades before most of us even realized it was a topic worth writing about, he’s been connecting dots and explaining ties between Muslim extremists here and in other countries for years.

In part because he’s really the only journalist devoting himself to this work, he’s got a target on his back. Though his own journalistic background includes The New Republic and PBS, some partisans have long disliked his work because of its implicit or explicit support for war in Iraq (which I and others opposed). Prior to 2001, they said his warnings about terrorism on American soil were scaremongering or Islamophobia. The critiques continue. But his Investigative Project on Terrorism remains one of the only places where you can find any information about terrorists or accused radicals.

I wish that more mainstream media would emulate and improve upon his difficult and dangerous work.

Instead they’ve decided to investigate — him. Or at least one newspaper did. Let’s look at the way that The Nashville Tennessean begins its piece. The one thing you won’t think, after reading this lede, is that the newspaper’s editors have any interest in simply sticking to the facts:

Steven Emerson has 3,390,000 reasons to fear Muslims.

That’s how many dollars Emerson’s for-profit company — Washington-based SAE Productions — collected in 2008 for researching alleged ties between American Muslims and overseas terrorism. The payment came from the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation, a nonprofit charity Emerson also founded, which solicits money by telling donors they’re in imminent danger from Muslims.

Emerson is a leading member of a multimillion-dollar industry of self-proclaimed experts who spread hate toward Muslims in books and movies, on websites and through speaking appearances. Leaders of the so-called “anti-jihad” movement portray themselves as patriots, defending America against radical Islam. And they’ve found an eager audience in ultra-conservative Christians and mosque opponents in Middle Tennessee. One national consultant testified in an ongoing lawsuit aimed at stopping a new Murfreesboro mosque.

Yeah. Kind of don’t even know how to respond to a lede like that. There’s so much to say about it.

For one thing, there’s no substantiation (here or later in the article) for the charge that Emerson’s group tells donors they’re in imminent danger from Muslims, which implies ALL Muslims, a charge the group denies. And to accuse Emerson of “spreading hate” toward Muslims — again, no attempt to deal with the complex spectrum of beliefs and practices within Islam — is outrageous. Emerson definitely is a tough critic of Muslim extremism. And he has his critics, particularly those American groups with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

But unless you believe that all Muslims are extremists, the charge that he spreads hate of Muslims an unwise one. It is through his Investigative Project on Terrorism that I’ve learned, for instance, about the travails of peace-loving Muslims who fight extremism in their midst. He is often critical of some Muslims in order to defend the activities of other Muslims.

And the general language used is just over the top. It’s simplistic, to say the least. A good rule of thumb — in reporting and otherwise — is to avoid pontificating on the motivations of other people. The phrases “fear Muslims” and “spread hate toward Muslims” may indicate something about the views of the newsroom. But particularly when attempting to accuse a respected journalist of lying and breaking tax law, the language should be more measured. In general, the entire article uses weasel words and jumps back and forth between Emerson and other anti-Muslim extremist groups without making it clear which groups are accused of what.

I don’t want to quote the whole thing, but the piece accuses Emerson of wrongdoing because he runs this IPT project which gives money to SAE. Tax and non-profit law isn’t exactly the most exciting stuff out there, but the reporter does his best by talking to a group that oversees charities that says this does not sound good. Here:

Because of its unusual arrangement with Emerson’s company, the Investigative Project’s tax returns show no details, such as salaries of staff.

[SAE spokesman Ray] Locker said the approach was vetted by the group’s lawyers and is legal. He said that Emerson takes no profits from SAE Productions and therefore the Investigative Project is a nonprofit.

That doesn’t fly, said Charity Navigator’s Berger. Berger said tax-exempt nonprofits must be transparent and disclose how they spend money and how much they pay their staff. Emerson’s group appears to be trying to skirt these rules, he said.

“It really undermines the trust in nonprofits,” he said. “This is really off the grid.”

The Frist Foundation’s Bird said the discrepancy between the Investigative Project’s application to the IRS and its practices is troubling.

“It looks like they told the government one thing and did another,” he said.

Now, early on in the story, we’re told that SAE says they use this arrangement for security reasons. I figured at some point we’d learn about the unbelievable security concerns the researchers for this project deal with on a day-to-day basis.

The fact is that this was the angle I was most interested in, as someone who has done investigative reporting. I’ve spoken with journalists who have been to their top secret bunker and have been told all sorts of stories about how hard they work to keep their location a secret. Like, you’re literally blindfolded on your way there. Why? No one ever needed to spell it out for me, but I figured it was because they were afraid of being targeted by Muslim extremists.

And so I assumed, when I first read this story, that the reason why they use this financial arrangement had something to do with these very serious security concerns. The word “security” is mentioned once, early on, as a reason, but it’s not gone into.

In a response from the IPT, the group says that The Tennessean did a very bad job reporting on the matter. And yes, it’s all about security. They say The Tennessean misunderstood the IRS form, which they explain. They quote a man who spent 20 years with the IRS who advised them as part of a team of accountants and lawyers. They say that the reporter ignored what they told him about the structuring of the relationship between the foundation and SAE which was “done to provide a layer of security for our employees. Emerson has been the subject of death threats because of his work, and our organization as a whole has also been threatened. All of this was approved by our outside legal and accounting experts.”

Now, maybe there is something to report in these financial arrangements. Like the nerd who studied economics I am, I’ve had fun digging through financial records for investigative stories. I can totally see where this financial arrangement would have seemed like a dramatic “gotcha” against IPT. Had I not known how much the group and its staff had been threatened and had to work to keep their cover protected, maybe it would have seemed like the perfect way to frame the story. Unfortunately, that seems like it was a mistake in this case. To drift past the very real security concerns and to fail to find anyone to defend the accounting and legal structure when such people are more than plentiful and to also accuse the group of having spread hatred without evidence makes for some serious problems.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter once gave me some very helpful tips on how to have the best story possible. One of the things she advocated was collecting all of your “gotcha” research and then presenting it to the target of your investigation and asking them to respond within a week or so. I remarked that this seemed very charitable to the target of the investigation and she replied that she didn’t do it for them so much as for her own sake. Sometimes when she would get a tip on a story she would get carried away and convinced of a company’s guilt. She needed to make sure she didn’t miss anything obvious that would blow her entire story.

A quick note about what I mentioned before, the drifting back and forth between the work of IPT and other groups that fight Muslim extremists. Instead of speaking with an accountant or lawyer or security expert about why the foundation structures itself the way it does, the reporter instead writes:

But Rebecca Bynum, editor of the New English Review, a Nashville-based online magazine that’s critical of Islam, said she has no problem with Emerson’s big take. Her nonprofit took in $30,000 in 2008 and has no paid employees.

“I know that (Emerson) does great work,” Bynum said. “They investigate very thoroughly. You can always count on what they say.”

The message anti-Islam authors and groups disseminate isn’t always accurate.

The article then goes on to present a one-sided argument where a history professor disagrees with things that some other people have written about Shariah. They are not given a chance to defend their work. But that’s not the point. Note the transition between the last two lines and that the Shariah disagreement has absolutely nothing to do with anything put out by IPT.

Perhaps the trouble is that The Tennessean has two stories here. On the one hand they have a story about disagreements over what is and what is not Shariah and how much Muslim extremism should concern Americans. On the other hand, they have a story about IPT and its tax structure. These stories could probably work much better separately.

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  • Jeffrey

    The Smietana piece is incredibly good and thorough, notwithstanding Mollie’s critique. It lays out the evidence, raises serious questions about Emerson’s work and funding, and does it without ideological axe-grinding. I hope Smietana, who is a frequent commenter here, is allowed to respond to Mollie’s charges because her attack seems more ideological than substantive. This paragraph is the tell which suggests more Brietbart or publicist than serious critique:

    There’s one journalist who really bucks this trend: Steve Emerson. An award-winning journalist who began writing about Muslim terrorism decades before most of us even realized it was a topic worth writing about, he’s been connecting dots and explaining ties between Muslim extremists here and in other countries for years.
    In part because he’s really the only journalist devoting himself to this work, he’s got a target on his back.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jeffrey,

    Rather than ASSERT that the piece is good and thorough, how about you substantiate that claim? Specifically why, citing passages or substance, do you think it was good and thorough? Specifically why do you think it was good journalism to ignore the security claims or legal and accounting defenses of the arrangement?

    I really would love to hear your defense — but go ahead and defend rather than assert or call names.

    Thanks.

  • http://religionnews.com Daniel Burke

    Emerson is so concerned about his security that he publishes his Washington address on his website.

    http://www.steveemerson.com/about/

    Get real.

    The work of Emerson, et alia is having a huge impact on Americans’ views of Islam, making it more than worthwhile to investigate where they are coming from and how they are funded.

    I commend Bob Smietana for his excellent and deeply important reporting.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Daniel,

    Yeah, that’s his mailing address. Not his physical location.

    I’m pretty sure the journalists I’ve spoken to who have been to the bunker wouldn’t be fooled by a blindfold on their way to 5505 Connecticut Ave.

    Although I am surprised that these security issues aren’t better known by actual religion journalists.

    Anyway, do you think that it was good to give short shrift to the security claims or legal and accounting defenses? If so, why?

    And what specifically do you commend in this report, if I may ask?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    A key question, for me:

    Is the Tennessean saying that all Muslims are alike, on these ultra-complex issues, or that Emerson is saying that all Muslims are alike, and thus to be feared, because if these issues?

    I do not see how anyone could make either statement with a straight face.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    It looks like 5505 Connecticut Ave is a UPS Store.

    On the tax structure (speaking as a former nonprofit watchdog), it does look like Smietana has a story here. The IRS 990 reports that Emerson is the sole director of IPT, and all of IPT’s expenses are paid to SAE Productions. Regardless of whether Emerson takes a salary from either organization, those are both issues – 501c3 nonprofits ought to have a larger board than just one person (you have to have 3 directors to receive 501c3 status, I believe, and 5 to 20 is more common), and it’s a conflict of interest for a 501c3 to pay 100% of its expenses to a for-profit company owned by a member of the board.

    If security issues are the reason for this, Smietana could have compared IPT’s practices with those of other nonprofits with similar concerns (such as Christian orgs with aid workers or missionaries in Muslim countries). I’m not sure why security concerns would lead to this kind of tax structure.

  • http://goodintentionsbook.com Bob Smietana

    Hi Mollie

    Thanks for mentioning the story and the feedback. The piece which mentions Emerson is part of a bigger series on the fear/mistrust of Muslims that is flourishing here in Middle TN.

    I want to take issue with is statement:

    The one thing you won’t think, after reading this lede, is that the newspaper’s editors have any interest in simply sticking to the facts:

    Since I wrote the lead, I want to make it perfectly clear that in our coverage, we were driven by facts. You may not like the facts or how we presented them–but this series is based on reporting not opinion.

    A couple of other points, backed up by the documents posted on the Tennessean’s website:

    The “Investigative Project on Terrorism” does not exist, despite Mr. Emerson’s claim to have started it as a nonprofit group in 1995.

    The reality is that in 1995, he started a for-profit company called SAE Productions, and he has a history of channeling charitable donations to that company. In particular, $600,000 in foundation grants he received for his for-profit company –despite that foundation’s rules which require it to give money only to 501-c-3 charities. (http://www.tennessean.com/article/20101024/NEWS01/10240374)

    In 2006, he started a non profit – called the “Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation.” He told the IRS that the IPTF would hire a subcontractor to do their work, in the 1023 application for tax-exempt status, which is posted at the Tennessean.

    The subcontractor was supposed to be an unrelated third party with no ties to Mr. Emerson, according to the IPTF application for tax exempt status. Instead, Mr Emerson, the sole IPTF board member, transferred $3.39 million to his own for profit company in 2008– a direct contradiction of what he told the IRS.

  • Ryan

    “Scaremongering” and words like fear have become more tools to shut down debate, investigation and conversation.

    Should we take down signs that warn of death from power lines because they are fear-based and meant to scare? Sometimes fear and being scared is the appropriate response to a situation. Now I realize that the issue of Islam and the radical vein is massively complex and I do not want the media to paint with a broad black and white brush. But it does grow tiresome to observe their mindset of telling me in advance what story or truth will scare me or be fearful. Why not just report what is true actually going on and let people draw their own conclusions.

    This seems to be what Emerson is doing and as a result we are learning that there is a wing of Islam that we legitimately and truly be afraid of…

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    We’ve heard privately from a few journalists about this story. One of them sent the following comments to me for posting:

    I am a journalist who invested a lot of time on the Islam and national security beat, though I’m now off that beat, and, in the current environment, have to be careful what I say. I do want to register that I thought The Tennessean’s story was shockingly bad, even by the low standards I have come to expect of American journalists covering Islam.

    When I was doing more writing about Islamic extremism in America, I had occasion to visit Emerson’s secretive headquarters. It was an amazing place. There were rows of analysts at computer screens, stacks and stacks of books, videotapes, newspapers and journals, and a busy hive of analysts hard at work. It was a stereotypical “war room atmosphere, where people had their sleeves rolled up poring over documents and videotapes, doing translations, and so forth.

    I know Emerson is a controversial figure, and I don’t by any means consider him above criticism. But Bob Smietana did a hatchet job on Emerson and his organization, one that showed no effort to understand the scope and sophistication of its work.

    I should also say that it was an Emerson analyst who told me, mere months after 9/11, that it was vitally important that people not demonize all Muslims. She told me that most Muslims in the US just want to get on with their lives, and are living in fear of the extremists, because they are often their first victims. That statement, coming from someone inside Emerson’s organization, a person who spent days, even years, immersed in counterterrorism investigations, carried a lot of weight with me. I have never forgotten it.

    It is disgraceful that Smietana and his newspaper portrayed Emerson and IPT as a bunch of hacks profiting off of fearmongering. This story — an editorial masquerading as straight news — is the best example yet of the general trend in American media coverage of Islam in this country, which, in my judgment, is driven primarily by the imperative not to explain what is actually happening with Islam in America (the good, the bad and the complicated), but rather as a form of public relations meant to congratulate right-thinkers and insult the unwashed masses who, in the eyes of many of us journalists, are just looking for an excuse to have an anti-Muslim pogrom.

    As someone who has a real interest in this material, even though I’m no longer covering it, I can tell you that I have learned far more solid, reliable, complex and valuable information about what’s really going on from IPT’s reporting and analysis than from the newspapers and newsmagazines that I routinely read.

  • Jeffrey

    I love the idea that it’s a “hatchet job” as the anonymous “Islam and national security beat” reporter by pointing out the shady financial relationship between the “charity” and corporation both run by the same person or that IPT’s work tends to peddle in the paranoid and hysterical.

    That’s the strength of the Tennessean piece. It takes a local incident and looks at the people behind that episode, asking hard questions about their financing, their tactics, and gives voice to concerns that maybe Emerson isn’t “really the only journalist devoting himself to this work” on the question of Islam in America.

    The fact that IPT has become the go-to source for many in the anti-Islam/anti-Muslim movement and those who are sympathetic is significant, especially when it has repercussions in ones hometown. That’s they story the Tennessean tells.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jeffrey,

    I know the reporter in question personally and approved his comments.

    What exactly is “shady” about the structure? The IPT posted a response which said, in part:

    We provided the newspaper with our 1023 application for tax-exempt status and with our 2008 tax return, most commonly called a form 990. The documents show that we told the IRS we were contracting out our management with a group that did not have tax-exempt status. That was approved. As for the for-profit nature of SAE Productions, the IRS is aware of that as well. That has not been questioned. We say IPTF contracts out with SAE Productions, which files tax returns with the IRS. All of that has been disclosed.

    Our application was submitted with the assistance of attorneys and accountants, including one with 20 years of experience with the IRS in exempt organizations.

    Smietana appears to have misunderstood one of the questions the IRS asked about our application. He writes:

    In a letter dated Dec. 8, 2006, the IRS asked if there would be any ties between the subcontractor and the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation. On Dec. 29, 2006, Emerson wrote back: “There are and will be no financial/business transactions between officers, board members or relatives of the aforementioned and applicant organization.”

    That miscasts the IRS’s question which can be seen on page 32 of the documents provided to the newspaper. The IRS asked whether there will be “any financial/business transactions between officers, board members, or relatives” of the foundation and its contractor. There is none. The IPT Foundation pays SAE Productions for management, which includes our rent, research expenses, salaries and benefits for our employees.

    It may be confusing and it may be unusual, but there is nothing inappropriate about it.

    “Charities certainly can pay for profit organizations for providing work for them as long as it’s at fair market value and furtherance of the organization’s exempt purposes,” said Edward Coleman. Coleman spent 20 years working with the Internal Revenue Service working on exempt organizations, including five years as director of the Exempt Organizations Division at the IRS national office. He was among the accountants and lawyers who advised the IPT Foundation in its application for tax-exempt charitable status.

    The article also ignores what we told Smietana about the expansion of our board of directors in 2009, and that the structuring of the relationship between the foundation and SAE Productions was done to provide a layer of security for our employees. Emerson has been the subject of death threats because of his work, and our organization as a whole has also been threatened. All of this was approved by our outside legal and accounting experts.

    Read more at: http://www.investigativeproject.org/2278/note-to-readers-on-tennessean-story

  • Jerry

    Bob, Thanks for your clarifying comments. Sometimes facts are, um, “inconvenient”.

    Also, any commentary about 9/11 should include the CIA strongly urging President Bush’s administration ahead of time to take action and that their advice was ignored. Emerson was not a lone voice in the wilderness, the intelligence services had a strong concern about the danger. …

  • http://religionnews.com Daniel Burke

    Molly:

    You’re right, that’s a mailing address. Bad on me for not checking that.

    More importantly, I agree with Mike Hickerson, that there are questions about why security should be listed as a justification for Emerson’s “unusual” (his words) tax structure, and I commend Smietana for uncovering the fact that monitoring Islam can be a lucrative profession these days.

    GetReligion jumped on Catholic sex abuse stories sourced by Jeff Anderson that neglected to mention that his firm has profited handsomely from the scandal. Is it inappropriate for Smietana to do the same for experts on Muslim terrorism?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Daniel,

    No, I think it’s more than fine to look into this “unusual” tax structure. I mean if you think that scarce reporting resources are better spent investigating the extremist watchers than investigating Muslim radicals, that’s one thing. But if you’ve made that decision, is the unusual structure worth looking into? Certainly. Do I think that the IPT is above reproach simply because it’s doing the job that thousands of papers have, for some reason, refused to do? No — investigate it all you want.

    And like I said, this was the angle I was most looking forward to — what’s up with this unbelievable security? This “unusual” structure seems like the perfect hook.

    I just think that looking into it requires less taking sides and more balance — show the people saying that this is horrible, show some people who say it’s necessary, show some people who say it’s neither, what have you.

    But only giving the slightest mention to security concerns, avoiding differing perspectives and stating — without evidence — that the group smears ALL Muslims with hatred? I don’t know how “commendable” that is.

    I do know that if I want more information on people like the guy who was just accused of plotting to bomb Metro stations, which my family and I are in every day, I could do worse than following IPT. Perhaps they’re “rewarded handsomely” because they’re doing the work that mainstream papers aren’t. And perhaps mainstream papers are failing in part because they sometimes seem driven to ignore rather than explore these threats.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    Mollie asked,

    What exactly is “shady” about the structure?

    For one, it wouldn’t meet the BBB Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability. (This is the group that I used to work for.)

    “Charities certainly can pay for profit organizations for providing work for them as long as it’s at fair market value and furtherance of the organization’s exempt purposes,” said Edward Coleman.

    Yes – that is the legal standard for transactions between charities and for-profit companies. However, many nonprofit ethical standards (not just the BBB’s) stress that transactions with companies connected with board members need to be conducted at arm’s length. Here’s the BBB’s standard on conflicts of interest.

    No transaction(s) in which any board or staff members have material conflicting interests with the charity resulting from any relationship or business affiliation. Factors that will be considered when concluding whether or not a related party transaction constitutes a conflict of interest and if such a conflict is material, include, but are not limited to: any arm’s length procedures established by the charity; the size of the transaction relative to like expenses of the charity; whether the interested party participated in the board vote on the transaction; if competitive bids were sought and whether the transaction is one-time, recurring or ongoing.

    The payments to SAE Productions constitute 100% of IPT’s expenses, and Emerson is the only board member (meaning that he couldn’t recuse himself when the transaction was being discussed or voted upon). Since IPT seems to have been set up for the express purpose of raising money to pay SAE, it doesn’t seem like competitive bids would have been sought, either.

    Better structures would be for IPT to be run by an independent board of directors, for IPT to undertake the operations itself, or for Emerson to cut out the middleman and solicit money directly for his work. There’s no law preventing an individual from raising money to undertake a project – that money just wouldn’t be tax-deductible. I also don’t see how being the employee of a for-profit provides any greater security than being the employee of a nonprofit.

    One final thing to note: just because the IRS approves an organization’s 501c3 application doesn’t mean its structure is ethical – or even legal! The IRS’s tax-exempt division oversees over 1 million 501c3 organizations, in addition to all of the labor unions, chambers of commerce, trade associations, political action committees and every other nonprofit group in the US. In my experience, the division is chronically understaffed, and white-collar crime investigators often ignore nonprofits because there are much bigger fish to fry in other sectors of the economy – not too mention that white-collar investigations are insanely expensive and time-consuming. A 501c3 can operate illegally for many years without anyone ever taking a look at it.

  • http://religionnews.com Daniel Burke

    Molly:

    I think Bob’s point is that you’re less likely to get good info on terrorists from Emerson these days than shadowy guilt-by-association charges and things like this:

    http://www.steveemerson.com/5976/house-dems-carry-islamists-water

    And this:

    http://www.steveemerson.com/5860/library-association-censorship

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Daniel,

    Why do you think that’s Bob’s point?

  • http://religionnews.com Daniel Burke

    Because he writes:

    “(Emerson) claims that extremists control 80 percent of mosques in the United States. In August, he claimed to have uncovered 13 hours of audiotapes proving that Feisal Rauf, the imam behind the proposed mosque near ground zero, is a radical extremist….

    “Emerson formed a Middle Tennessee connection last summer, when his organization uncovered pictures on a Murfreesboro mosque board member’s MySpace page. His company said the pictures proved connections to Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist organization, but mosque leaders said they checked with the Department of Homeland Security and found the concerns were groundless.”

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    But these lines say next to nothing about whether Emerson’s research is good or bad.

    First off, I searched the IPT site and couldn’t find anything IPT had “said” about the Hamas pictures, so I’m not sure what, exactly, the charges were. But that Emerson’s group and the mosque in question disagree about the charge doesn’t mean that we know if either of them are right.

    As for the claim of extremists controlling 80 percent of the mosques in the US, I couldn’t find anything in the story quoting Emerson or his group saying as such. I really think direct quotes, fairly contextualized, are of tantamount importance. It’s hard for me to know whether such a claim was made, much less whether it’s true, when it’s framed as it is in the line you quote.

    I looked on IPT and could only find reference to a Muslim leader speaking to the State Department in 1999 and accusing extremists of controlling 80 percent of the mosques in the country. Is that what Smietana is referencing? Or is it something else? I don’t know. Quotes would be very helpful.

    And yes he interpreted the audiotapes of Rauf (for instance how bad the US is compared to Muslim terrorists) as proof that the imam was a radical extremist. Others thought Rauf’s views to be mainstream Muslim or otherwise not a problem. But such analysis is open for debate, right? And while I actually trend closer to the latter view, I bet most Americans would be absolutely mortified to read some of what Rauf said about Muslim violence. Newsrooms, probably not so much.

    But I’d like to know more about the research, whether such research is representative of the larger body of work done and so on.

    You can read the links to his 2010 stories, including many from just this month, here http://www.investigativeproject.org/news.php

  • John Pack Lambert

    Whatever else Emerson does he is clearly not spreading hate towards Muslims. His link to Dr. Zuhdi Jasser’s website has lead me to a Muslim who understands that Sharia and the Constitution are incompatible as legal frameworks, and who is a moterate by loving America, as opposed to Iman Rauf who is a moderate because he hates America using the same language as the leftists (at least when he speaks in English) instead of the “Great Satan” rhetoric of Komeni.

  • John Pack Lambert

    I think this is the heart of the issue:
    “We received a question from someone in Tennessee about officials at the mosque. We found that one board member had pro-Hamas writing on his MySpace page. Hamas has been designated as a terrorist organization by the federal government since 1995. The implication, it seems, is that we should have chosen to withhold this information about a mosque board member from the public. That’s an odd position for a newspaper to take. No one disputes the accuracy of what we found, but somehow, releasing it is evidence of IPT’s sowing hate.” from the response at http://www.investigativeproject.org/2278/note-to-readers-on-tennessean-story

    It is now “Islamophobia” to tell other people that someone is a supporter of the terrorist group Hamas. We have journalists who interpret it as abject bigotry to expose supporters of suicide-bombings and rocket launches at civilians. This is quiet scary.

    ****

    Rauf and his wife Khan refused to sign the following pledge:

    “I renounce, repudiate and oppose any physical intimidation, or worldly and corporal punishment, of apostates from Islam, in
    whatever way that punishment may be determined or carried out by myself or any other Muslim including the family of the
    apostate, community, Mosque leaders, Shariah court or judge, and Muslim government or regime.”

    How are they moderate if they will not renounce physical punishment for leaving Islam?

  • http://augustiniandemocrat.blogspot.com/ Irenicum

    This is a fascinating discussion that illustrates how much preconceived notions underlie our arguments and of course our perceptions. I liked Bob’s piece in the Tennessean and thought it was primarily focused on the fear mongering that has occurred in Middle Tennessee. Of course we’ve seen a rash of that throughout the country in the last year to two years. It seems that we’re stuck in a false dichotomy of “every Muslim is a potential terrorist” to “there is no radical Islam.” And we all know that these two extremes are nonsense. And when we read or hear something from the “other side”, depending on which side we lean towards, we want to paint them with this stupid generalization. But that’s partisan hackery and serves to do nothing but shed heat and not light. An aspect of this story that isn’t being acknowledged adequately is that we are seeing a rise in nativism and xenophobia here in the US (and in Europe) which I believe is driven by the economic crisis, and at least here in the US, the election of a “foreign” looking President with a Muslim name.
    The concern about radical Islam is obviously legitimate. Stoking those fears inappropriately in order to make a profit isn’t. Especially when it comes close to painting every Muslim as suspect.

    As an aside, at what point does a legitimate concern for preserving a cultural “tradition/norm” as many non-Muslim Americans want to do become a xenophobic impulse that is potentially dangerous? A good deal of the controversy I see seems to come about from this very dividing line. And since this is about journalism, who is writing in a public venue about this in a nuanced way?

  • Kristie-Anne

    Irenicum, you are a breath of fresh air in this argument. Very interesting thoughts, and I mostly agree with you!

    Generalization is irrational and ignores certain aspects while bloating others causing the shedding of heat, as you said, without enlightenment no matter which side of the dividing line or perspective you lean towards. It is a startling blindness that we all must avoid.

  • http://goodintentionsbook.com Bob Smietana

    Irenicum:

    Thought you might be interested in 2 stories from the recent Tennessean project. One on the role of economics and demographics in promoting fear of Muslims. The other is on the history of intolerance towards minority faiths.

  • Julia

    FYI

    All non-profits are required to file a 990 report every year with the IRS. This report was drastically changed in the last year or so to include many questions on governance and possible conflicts of interest, as well as specific financial data.

    All these 990 reports are available for the public to review at Guidestar. The site also has lots of general information and explanations of the type of data found in the reports. The main purpose of the site is information for potential donors wanting to judge the worthiness of possible recipients of the donor’s financial assistance.

    You will need to register at Guidestar to view the 990 returns. Additional information is available for a subscription fee.

    Using Guidestar, I just found out that there are IPTF 990s for 2006, -07, and -08 tax years. IPTF had revenue of approximately $2 million in both -07 and -08. Approximately $50,000 of that revenue in 2008-09 was from securities that were non-cash contributions from 878 different donors. Interesting. In the most recent year about $1 million was spent on management and $2.3 million on program expenses. The organization had a loss in its last tax year.

    Check out your favorite charity.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I also really liked Irenicum’s comment. To me, I see some strong parallels with how Americans inside and outside media handled Communism and its threats. In the media you had most papers ranging from just normal apologetics for Communism, poo-poohing of the threat, etc., to outright Walter Duranty-type coverage.

    And then you had a variety of groups that opposed Communism, some worse than others.

    We tend to like dichotomy in our national conversations and maybe there’s some uncontrollable thing that requires us to have it, but I don’t like it.

  • http://www. Nadia

    I just want you all to know that I’ve found a new educational resource available for those who want actual facts about Islamic radicalization in the U.S.

    Take a look at this video that about the radicalization of young American Muslism.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpTd__AF2Ec

    N