The Corner

The Times and the Muslims

The NYPD once again finds itself in the crosshairs of the New York Times. On Tuesday, theTimes resurrected a year-old story from the Village Voice about the showing of my documentary film The Third Jihad to officers participating in an NYPD training program. What was the new smoking gun that warranted a trifecta of an above-the-fold report from Michael Powell on January 24, an editorial (describing it as a “hate-filled film”) on January 25, and yet another report in theTimes on January 25 — all amplified across the mainstream media by an AP rehash?

The Times was apparently impressed by new and supposedly devastating information that it was over 1,500 police officers who viewed the movie. Never mind that there are almost 35,000 officers on the force.

Powell’s report on Tuesday was shoddy and biased, and ignored central facts presented by the movie. There was no analysis of the film’s ideas or the content that the officers actually viewed. The article instead simply channeled the scattered ramblings of the victimology of the opponents of the movie. Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism noted last year that “the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ protest that the documentary The Third Jihad smears Muslims reveals more about CAIR’s desire to hide its record than any concern for the civil rights of Muslim Americans.”Now, again, in following CAIR, the Times reveals its own exploitation of American Muslims in order to score political points.

Powell’s premise is that the film is discriminatory against American Muslims because it presents all Muslims as radicalized. Yet if Powell, a journalist, believed the film to be an affront to Muslims, wouldn’t he have felt a duty to speak with the devout Muslim who narrated the movie, to see why he was involved in its making? Powell made no attempt to discuss the film with me, or indeed with any other Muslims who sympathize with the film’s view. (The AP, on the other hand, did contact me and placed a one-sentence response from me in its otherwise sympathetic rehash of the Times piece.) I’m an observant American Muslim, one who has chosen to take on a “jihad against jihad” as an act of love for my faith, in order to help protect our children from the inherent separatism of political Islam. Times readers would have been well served by being given my perspective.

In 2007, the NYPD released a landmark report titled “ Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” a seminal piece of research on how radicalization occurs. I embraced it as a blueprint that could help American Muslims confront the threat to our religion and to our country. Groups like CAIR, on the other hand, saw it as an opportunity to drive a wedge between American Muslims and law enforcement. The attacks by the Times upon the NYPD have everything to do with the efforts of CAIR to use American Muslims as a tool to suppress dissent and frame our communities as victims of American society.

The Third Jihad is not anti-Islam or anti-Muslim. If it were, I would not have been a part of it. To this day, when it comes to Muslim diversity and the battle of ideas within Islam, it remains utterly bewildering why a major newspaper like the Times ignores anti-Islamist Muslim reformers. They essentially have no use in their political agenda for devout Muslims who maintain the courage to publicly take on the dominant American Islamist establishment from within.

— Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a devout Muslim, is president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and author of the forthcoming book A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot’s Fight to Save His Faith (Simon and Schuster, June 2012).


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