Friday, January 06, 2006

Media Watch: Reuters On The Boston Mosque

Recently, I wrote about the controversy surrounding the construction of a huge mosque in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood by the Islamic Society of Boston. Reuters presents their version of events, and frames this story as Jewish villains versus Muslim victims. Get out your crying towel. of the $24.5 million center has been stalled by lawsuits and a deepening row between Jewish and Muslim leaders that reflects broader suspicions facing American Muslims after the September 11 attacks.
Jews as villains, Muslims as victims alert #1.
The Islamic Society denies any connection to terrorism and considers itself victimized by a campaign to taint the mosque with accusations of ties to radical Islamic teachings. The society says it has repeatedly distanced itself from anti-Jewish statements by some of its leaders.

Among Jewish concerns is whether a former Islamic Society trustee -- outspoken Egyptian Sunni cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi -- praised Hamas and Hizbollah, which the U.S. State Department regards as terrorist organizations.
What has this "outspoken" man said? Reuters won't tell you, but I will:
In 1995, al-Qaradawi gave an address at the Muslim Arab Youth Association's convention in Toledo, Ohio where he vowed that Islam would "conquer Europe" and "conquer America." Earlier this past year, Al-Qaradawi declared that women should never lead men in prayers, calling the idea "heresy."

This was a step backward from al-Qaradawi's previously progressive attitude towards women: In 2003, he became the first prominent cleric to unequivocally support the concept of female suicide bombers. Al-Qaradawi declared that "women's participation in the martyrdom operations . . . is one of the most praised acts of worship."
There's more:
A website in Qatar associated with society trustee Yousef al-Qaradawi, an internationally known leader of extremists, calls for gays to be executed by either stoning or burning. Al-Qaradawi has been barred from the United States.
The library of the society's current Cambridge mosque contains literature containing vitriol directed against Christians, Jews, and Americans. While mosque spokesmen speak of ''dialogue" and tolerance, Qaradawi says ''there is no dialogue between us [and the Jews] except by the sword and the rifle."
Back to the Reuters article:
"Unfortunately, I see the Boston case as indicative of a growing trend in anti-Muslim rhetoric that has grown after 9/11," said Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest American Muslim civil rights group.

"It has especially impacted local Muslim communities in terms of building their mosques," he said. "High concentrations of Muslim populations are being given a hard time for just trying to practice their faith."
Muslims as victims alert #2. I'd love to see some substantiation of CAIR's claims. Where in the United States do Muslims have trouble practicing their faith? As CAIR often does, rather than addressing the issues, it claims victimhood.
"There is definitely fear in the fund-raising community about giving to Islamic organizations," said the Islamic Society's assistant director, Salma Kazmi.

"Everyone is worried about their name appearing on a list and whether they will get visited by the FBI," she said. "People want us to publish our donor list but if we do that we would never get any donations because everyone feels they'll be subject to all kinds of harassment."
Muslims as victims alert #3.

Reuters waits until the end to mention the most relevant issues:
A full-page advertisement in Boston's Jewish Advocate newspaper on Thursday accused the Islamic Society of using litigation to stifle discussion and of failing to answer questions raised by Jewish leaders who say July's bombings in London sharpened their concerns over mosques and terrorism.

One separate lawsuit brought by a city resident seeks Boston to force the Islamic Society to return the land under the mosque to the city, charging that the Boston Redevelopment Authority breached constitutional divisions between state and religion by selling the site at below-market value.
Does that mean that the mosque's critics may be justified? Don't ask Reuters.