Our Statements

Tennessean Newspaper Shields Islamic Radicals in Nashville

Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) and Tennessee Freedom Coalition call Tennessean news reports on Nashville’s radical Islamists “intentionally deceptive,” call on publisher Carol Hudler to uphold journalistic standards at the newspaper. Activist groups cite 5 cases of deceptive reporting, fault Tennessean for covering up Muslim group’s promotion of Anwar Al Awlaki’s writings.
 
Awlaki Links on Olive Tree SiteToday Americans for Peace and Tolerance called upon the publisher of the Nashville Tennessean to cease the paper’s whitewashing of radical Islamic activities in Middle Tennessee, which include hateful statements in the community and local universities.
 
Dr. Charles Jacobs, APT President, said, “The Tennessean’s reporting consistently accepts as valid and true all claims put forward by the extremist Islamic leadership, but always questions, rejects or distorts what its critics say. Has it ever occurred to the reporters and the editorial board of the Tennessean that Islamic radicals have serially deceived the American people, especially about their extremist activities? Truth at the Tennessean seems not to be a function of facts and evidence but of who is speaking.”
 
On May 13, APT released a 15 minute video – “Losing our Community” – which documented the anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-Western and homophobic teachings of radical Islamists who had been embraced by the civic leadership in Nashville.
 
These leaders include liberal Christian clergy, “progressive” rabbis, as well as Vanderbilt and Tennessee State Universities. 
 
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“Losing our Community,” criticized the Tennessean’s religion reporter, Bob Smietana for ignoring what he knew, or could easily have known, about the hateful teachings on the Vanderbilt campus and at the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN) mosque in his reporting.
 
In his May 18th article that covered the APT video, Tennessean reporter Chas Sisk continued to mislead the Nashville community about the threat of extremist Muslims. 
 
Jacobs said, “Sisk’s article is replete with easily detectable distortions of the video. Any fair-minded person who watches our video and then reads Sisk’s description of it will be given a powerful example of how political correctness has corrupted journalism. The Tennessean is obviously reluctant to report the news honestly when confronted with Islamic leaders behaving badly.”
 
“The Tennessean uses the cover of journalism to promote its ideology. Indeed, Sisk’s intentional mischaracterization of Muslim leader Binhazim’s statements in our film is a model lesson in the disappearance of journalism standards,” he added.
 

There are 5 cases of Sisk being clearly dishonest with his readers about the video. Each case represents an important, sensitive issue:
 
1. The mandated killing of homosexuals
 
The video shows Binhazim teaching Vanderbilt students that Islam commands Muslims to execute homosexuals.
 
When a Vanderbuilt student asks Binhazim about his own opinion on the matter, Binhazim explains that under Islam he has no choice but to follow the teaching. In another lecture on our film, Binhazim says:
 
“Allah is the one who commands me and tells me what to do. This is number one. This requires removing from ourselves any personal opinions. One must always remember that Islam is not about personal opinions.”
 
Sisk tries his best to exonerate Binhazim:
 
“The video does not quote Binhazim as calling for violence, but he does say traditional Islamic law calls for the death penalty for homosexuality. Binhazim said he was simply giving an academic answer to a question.”
 
“This was not, is not an endorsement of one view point of religion or the other,” he said. “This does not mean that this is the position I hold.”
 
Sisk gives him a pass, allowing his readers to think that Binhazim does not hold that view personally, omitting the key part where Binhazim says he cannot hold a different personal opinion according to Islam.
 
2. On the necessity of Muslims living under Sharia law
 
Sisk says our video shows Benhazim saying only “That many Muslims around the world are drawn to Sharia, or Islamic Law.” 
 
But Binhazim clearly states something much more problematic: Islam demands Sharia law must be applied to matters of state and community:  
“The idea that you can separate Islam to become an individual experience to everyone, that Islam is a private matter, and that it cannot be a state matter, and a community matter – that is not the teachings of Islam.”
 
3. On science vs. religious belief
 
Sisk says our film has Binhazim stating simply, “that science and technology should not lead to the abandonment of Islamic beliefs.”
 
Actually, Binhazim said that science should be SUBORDINATE to Islamic beliefs in order to prevent secularization of Muslim society. He said this in the context of attacking Westernization as something Muslims have a problem with:
 
“In its original sense, Muslims have a problem with Westernization. Science and technology are accepted in our culture and our tradition, but they are to be subordinate to Islamic beliefs and values in order to guard against the secularization of Muslim societies.”
 
4. How Muslims should behave in the West
 
Sisk claims that Binhazim says in our film only “that Western Muslims should set an example for Muslims in other parts of the world on how to behave toward westerners.”
 
This is a complete fabrication. In the context of his prior assertion that “Muslims have a problem with Westernization,” Binhazim actually insists that Western Muslims must lead the Muslim world in a reactionary confrontation with Western thought and civilization:
 
“You, as the leaders of tomorrow, will guide the Muslim world’s reaction to Westernization and Western thought. Your reaction to that – by you living in the West, you are not necessarily removed from that responsibility, because this is really where the engagement and the encounter is taking place.”
 
Sisk’s misleading reporting purposely whitewashes extremist Muslims leaders’agenda of keeping Muslim immigrants separate from American society and radicalizing the established and historically moderate Muslim population in America.
 
5. To Binhazim, who are the Jews and Christians? What are their Holy Texts? What does he tell us about his thoughts? What does he really believe?
 
Sisk says that our video claims that Binhazim teaches only, “that Jewish and Christian scriptures have been changed from their original meaning.”
 
This is a travesty. Our film shows Binhazim explaining that he cannot or does not tell Jews and Christians what he actually believes about their holy texts. He says:
 
When Muslims say they believe in the Gospel and in the Torah, they qualify that…They believe that there has been a change in the text of the Torah and the Gospel… Therefore originality was lost. Authenticity was lost.” 
 
So what to Jews and Christians are holy, sacred texts, are actually in the view of Islam as taught by Binhazim, surely not: they are false texts. But Sisk could never report this deception. How could Jews and Christians dialogue in good faith with a person who is lying to their faces?   
 
REGARDING CLAIMS OF INACCURACIES IN OUR VIDEO:
 
1. Sisk complains that our film does not mention Carlos Bledsoe’s trip to Yemen. It’s true for this video, but our first video – “Losing Our Sons” – on Nashville radical preachers, released two months ago, described the trip, which was facilitated by a Muslim leader from Nashville.  
 
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According to investigations launched after he committed his crimes, Carlos’s recommendation was provided by Abdul Aziz, the former imam of the Somali Al Farooq mosque. 
Carlos had decided to study Arabic and teach English at the Al Khair Institute in Yemen. Al Khair Institute promotes itself as an academy specializing in teaching languages and computer technology.. Yet all incoming students must sign a promise to abide by a list of conditions that seem strange for a language and computer school:
“These are the conditions required of the student who wishes to study at the “Yemen al-Khair” Institute for Languages and I.T.: It is incumbent upon the student to be firm upon the way of the Pious Predecessors, as Muhammad and his companions are known. It is essential for the student to have a real desire and to make a strong effort to acquire knowledge of the religion, by attending the general lectures.”
The Yemeni school also requires references, but not from professors of languages or computers, but from an imam in the applicant’s local area who follows the most radical type of Islam, the Salafi sect, which is practiced by Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and which includes Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi state religion.
According to Melvin Bledsoe, Carlos’s father, the school was just a façade for a terrorist recruitment center.
 
2. Sisk faults APT for failing to mention that the 1998 New York Times article we cited stated that former ICN Imam Abdulhakim Mohamed had cleaned up the radical Brooklyn mosque by 1998. But it is Sisk who fails to tell his readers that in 2003, 5 years after Abdulhakim supposedly cleaned the mosque up, the FBI raided it again for raising money for Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch. It seems that despite Abdulhakim’s protestations to the contrary, extremist activity continued at the Brooklyn mosque unabated. 
 
The 2003 New York Times article actually faults Abdulhakim for lying to them back in 1998:
 
“Surrounded by Islamic incense shops and booksellers on Atlantic Avenue in the Boerum Hill neighborhood, imposing Al Farooq Mosque in Brooklyn has a history of raising money for Osama bin Laden, dating to the days when Mr. bin Laden and the United States had a common enemy in the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan.
 
Those days were supposed to be gone, though. Five years ago, the imam at the time, Abdulhakim Ali Mohamed, said that ”in 1994, this mosque finally settled down” and broke ties with terrorists.
 
Yesterday, however, news crews crowded around the mosque again, drawn by the federal government’s charge that a Yemeni cleric bragged last year that he had raised money for Al Qaeda through the mosque.”
 
The Tennessean’s most glaring omission:
 
The Tennessean’s reporting completely avoids one of the most salient findings in our film: That Awadh Binhazim’s organization and Amar Razali, Olive Tree’s Communications Director, both promoted online writings by Anwar Al Awlaki. 
 
Awlaki is considered to be the most dangerous Al Qaeda leader alive, primarily because his online publications are able to reach, appeal to, and incite Western Muslims. Yet the Tennessean chose to avoid addressing this point in our video.
 
Jacobs said, “It is now generally accepted by most Americans that mainstream media reporters are not motivated byreporting the facts; instead they see themselves as righteous fighters who through their careers improve the world. This means that they have to report only those facts that advance their mission. 
 
We suspect that Mr. Sisk did not report the hateful things he knew about Nashville’s Muslim leaders perhaps because he does not trust the citizens of Nashville. He seems concerned about bigoted backlash against what he perceivesasa vulnerable minority.  
 
The Tennessean has lost its way. The paper no longer believes that its mission is to inform its readers in the honest and fairway expected bya democratic society. Instead,it has become an advocate of a particular politically-correctnarrative, that trumps the truth.This sort of “reporting” hides inconvenient truths from the citizens the Tennesseanis supposed to serve. Worse, the paper has denied a voice to authentically moderate Muslims who want to assimilate and become peaceful Americans.
 
We call upon the Tennessean to honor the foundational ethics of journalism by dropping the ideological template with which it shapes its coverage of this difficult and challenging issue.”   
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