Media Mum on Ground Zero Mosque Imam's Terror Ties, 'Blame America' Talk

August 3rd, 2010 12:00 AM

Many critics of the proposed Ground Zero mosque in New York have raised questions over the reported radical ties of the mosque's leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf – but mainstream media audiences would have to do some digging to learn about those connections. 

Reports on the mosque have portrayed its opponents as emotional Islamophobes who have an irrational fear of a “moderate” Islamic “cultural center” set to open just two blocks from the epicenter of the most devastating terrorist attack in our nation's history. The coverage has also attacked critics of the Islamic prayer center, such as former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

For example, a New York Times article from May 26 described recent opposition to the mosque as “a feverish exchange of words, culminating in remarks about Muslims from a leader of the Tea Party, Mark Williams, that were widely dismissed as racist.”

In contrast, the same article depicted supporters of the mosque in a positive light. “Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has led services in TriBeCa since 1983, told the [Manhattan community] board the [Islamic] center would help 'bridge and heal a divide' among Muslims and other religious groups.”

“We have condemned the actions of 9/11,'' the Times quoted Rauf as saying. “We have condemned terrorism in the most unequivocal terms.”

But legitimate concerns over the Cordoba House mosque – such as Imam Rauf's possible ties to terror groups and suspicion about who is paying the mosque's estimated $100 million price tag – have been ignored almost completely by The New York Times, The Washington Post and broadcast news.

According to the New York Post, Rauf is “a prominent member of a group that helped sponsor the pro-Palestinian activists” flotilla that initiated a deadly clash with Israeli forces in May.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a key figure in Malaysian-based Perdana Global Peace Organization, according to its [w]ebsite,” reported The New York Post on June 5. “Perdana is the single biggest donor ($366,000) so far to the Free Gaza Movement, a key organizer of the six-ship flotilla that tried to break Israel's blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip Monday.”

Members of the flotilla included the IHH, a Turkish group with Hamas ties that has allegedly provided weapons to Islamic militants.

The New York Post also reported that Rauf “told a London-based Arabic newspaper that he will turn to Muslim nations for funding” to pay for the $100 million mosque.

Some critics of the mosque are concerned that the money may come from foreign leaders or terror groups who seek the destruction of the United States. Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio has demanded to know the legality of the funding behind the mosque.

Rauf has also made remarks that some have called inflammatory and put his claims that he is a “moderate” Muslim into question.

In 2001, Rauf told CBS's '60 Minutes' that the U.S. was partially responsible for the September 11th attacks.

“I wouldn`t say that the United States deserved what happened. But the United States` policies were an accessory to the crime that happened,” Rauf said.

But, during the current controversy over the Ground Zero mosque, Rauf's controversial statement was only reported by one network news show – CBS “Evening News” on July 20. It was ignored by the other networks, as well as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Concerns over the mosque's funding were only mentioned briefly in a quote in one New York Times article from June 18.

“Legitimate and understandable concerns about these two endeavors have arisen, and it is good these are being aired and discussed,” the Times quoted Joseph Zwilling, the spokesman for the New York Catholic Archdiocese, as saying. “'It is acceptable to ask questions about security, safety, the background and history of the groups hoping to build and buy.”

And in a Nexis search of The New York Times, The Washington Post and the three network news organizations, the separate terms “Feisal Abdul Rauf,” “New York and Mosque” and “Cordoba” revealed that, since last December, the network news stations covered theMosque  issue 10 times, The New York Times covered it seven times and The Washington Post has covered it four times. None of those reports mentioned concerns over the funding sources or Rauf's terror ties and previous comments.

Instead much of the coverage has focused on the “bridge-building” of the proposed mosque.

In one particularly glowing article co-written by former Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR] lobbyist Sharaf Mowjood for The New York Times, all eight sources cited in the piece said they approved of the project or lauded its leader Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. CAIR, which calls itself a “grassroots civil rights and advocacy group,” has come under fire in the past for its alleged ties to international terrorist organizations.

“Those who have worked with him say if anyone could pull off what many regard to be a delicate project, it would be Imam Feisal, whom they described as having built a career preaching tolerance and interfaith understanding,” read the enthusiastically pro-Rauf article, which was double bylined with reporter Ralph Blumenthal.

The article also portrayed opponents of the prayer center as sources of potential anti-Muslim violence.

“[T]here is anxiety among those involved or familiar with the project that it could very well become a target for anti-Muslim attacks,” wrote Mowjood and Blumenthal. “Joan Brown Campbell…who is a supporter of Imam Feisal, acknowledged the possibility of a backlash from those opposed to a Muslim presence at ground zero.”

Also, on NBC's “Today” on July 20, the reporters mocked former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's request that “peace-seeking Muslims” “refudiate” the Gound Zero mosque.

“But of course, refudiate isn't an actual word, more like a blend of two words with similar meanings, refute and repudiate,” said reporter Peter Alexander, who quipped  later in the segment that Palin “will have plenty of time to coin some new words going forward, Matt [Lauer]. The scheduled groundbreaking on this [mosque] site is still years away.”

But while ”Today”  took no time to investigate the reasons behind Palin's criticism of the mosque, it did track down one of the planned building's two developers to comment.

“Where we are today is all about healing, is all about building bridges, is all about outreach, is all about reaching out to the community to let them know that there is a moderate Muslim, that there is a voice for the moderate Muslim,” the show quoted developer Sharif El-Gamal as saying.

ABC's “Good Morning America” also covered Palin's statement on July 20, but similarly gave no information about legitimate criticism of the mosque.

“[Mosque organizers] say it would be open to everybody and would include things like a gym and what they're calling a prayer center, which they insist is not a mosque,” reported Dan Harris. “The organizers say Sarah Palin is totally mischaracterizing this project. And they are not the only ones reacting.”

In response to Palin's comments, the show only quoted people who disagreed. “Sarah Palin has a right to her opinions, but I could not disagree more,” Michael Bloomberg was quoted as saying “Everything that the United States stands for and New York stands for is tolerance and openness.”

The program also interview Rauf's wife Daisy Khan, who is also a spokesperson for the proposed mosque.

“Well, in some ways, it, it raises the very question of what is at the heart of all of this furor. And that is ignorance,” Khan told ABC News about Palin's opposition to the Islamic prayer center. “I'm saying that she needs to educate herself about who the Muslim community is.”

While 54 percent of Americans oppose the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero, according to a July Rasmussen poll, the media appears to be reporting only the Left-leaning side of the story, which contends that the mosque is a good idea.

Left-leaning groups like the “pro-peace” J-Street and CAIR have supported the mosque, while both conservatives – like former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich – and non-partisans – like the Jewish civil rights group the Anti-Defamation League – have come out in opposition.

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