The Chicago News Cooperative is -- or was -- a nonprofit journalistic entity that produces content for the Chicago edition of the New York Times. It will cease filing this weekend, having lost an expected grant. Among the delights Chicago readers will miss: Suggestions that the GOP is fueling anti-Muslim rhetoric and even hate crimes, under the label of objective reporting. David Lepeska contributed “A Group to Counter Anti-Islam Sentiment” to Friday’s Chicago edition of the Times, making unsubstantiated assertions and commiting bias by omission.
As anti-Muslim rhetoric rises locally and nationally -- some of it fueled by the presidential campaign -- a group of Chicago-area Muslims is battling back, using tactics including a television ad campaign and public forums against bigotry.
Gain Peace, an Islamic outreach organization based in Chicago, spent $40,000 in December to counter negative portrayals and produce two television ads intended to promote Islam as a just faith. The spots, which will run through March in the Chicago area on Fox, CNN and TNT, depict friendly Muslim students and professionals and display a phone number and a Web site for more information.
“This is an election year and in the Republican primaries and elsewhere, generally we have seen more discrimination, hate and misunderstanding about Muslims,” said Sabeel Ahmed, director of Gain Peace. “We wanted to take it up a notch.”
“What’s worse than ignorance is misinformation, and that’s what I find Islamophobia normally falls under: It’s a process of miseducation,” said Mr. Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “But what can be done, can be undone.”
That un-do list has been growing. Last November, Pat Brady, the Illinois Republican Party chairman, urged the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the state’s leading immigrant support group, to expel CAIR-Chicago from its list of affiliated organizations. He cited “CAIR’s reported ties to Hamas terrorist supporters, its anti-Israel organizing and its tolerance for anti-Semitic discourse.”
The coalition declined and called Mr. Brady’s request “a descent into anti-Muslim hysteria.”
Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer would disagree; he has criticized some of CAIR’s prominent members' "intimate links" to the anti-Israeli terrorist group Hamas.
Lepeska even suggested that GOP “verbal attacks” during the primary may result in “hate crimes” against Muslims.
Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said the rhetoric might become more heated during the coming primary battles in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin. “In reaching out to your base, there’s a tendency to throw red meat out there,” he said.
The effect of these verbal attacks may go beyond the political. Hate crimes against Muslims increased nearly 50 percent in the United States in 2010, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation report released in November. That month, officials at O’Hare Airport fired a baggage handler who was accused of writing “Burn Islam” and “Filthy Muslim” on his Facebook page.
Officials from CAIR-Chicago plan to address anti-Muslim attacks from far right groups at their annual banquet next month. Leaders of the Nation of Islam are expected to respond to Muslim discrimination during the group’s convention at the United Center this weekend.
Yes, Lepeska actually highlighted the Nation of Islam, a black supremacist group, would be speaking out against discrimination by “far right groups.” Thank goodness such a mainstream group is there to speak out against "far right" radicals!