Alternative Reality Reporting – A New Trend in Journalism?

In response to the Mona Charen’s column: “Leaning over backwards indicates head not screwed on straight”

In a recent column, “Leaning over Backwards Indicates Head Not Screwed on Straight,” Mona Charen commits the ultimate journalistic sin: rushing to issue passionate verdicts on a subject matter she fails to afford due research.

“In no case have Muslim leaders stepped forward to proclaim that an attack on a Jewish community center, for example, ‘is an attack on all of us’,” taunts Ms. Charen.

That’s a claim she is entitled to make, but it comes at the expense of her credibility as a journalist. Why, you ask? Well, for the simple fact that even a most elementary search on the internet is sufficient to make her eat her words.

I invite Ms. Charen to type in a phrase as generic as “protest synagogue vandalism” in Google and marvel at what she sees.

Lo and behold, the very first result is not an item from the Anti-Defamation League website or the Simon Wiesenthal center; rather, it is from the website of the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the very organization she singles out with criticism in her widely published column.

The item’s headline reads, “Chicago Muslims Decry Vandalism, Join Synagogue Clean Up.”

Click on the item and you can browse through photos of Chicago Muslim activists who volunteered to assist in the synagogue cleanup and who rallied quietly, holding up hand-written signs with slogans such as “Muslims against Anti-Semitism”, “Chicago Muslims: Drive Anti-Semitism Out”, and “Muslims Against Hate.”

A caption under one of the photos calls the defacement “an attack on all people of faith and conscience,” almost exactly the words Ms. Charen falsely asserts Muslim leaders have never spoken.

The attack which saw the Synagogue broken into and defaced with swastikas was not attributed to Muslims but to a white supremacist gang. Yet, had the culprit been Muslim, I assure you the Muslim protest would have been twice as loud.

I speak with assurance because the “Muslim leader” who led this initiative was non-other than yours truly.

In an interview with Chicago Public Radio, I was explicit in my condemnation of any and all attacks against Synagogues. During the clean up event, I held the hands of the local Rabbi as together we painted over the Swastikas amid cheers from the crowd.

One wonders, when was the last time Ms. Charen visited a vandalized Mosque and stood in solidarity with Muslims as she denounced Islamophobia in no uncertain words?

I resent the fact that I am forced to recount the above incident within the context of fending off a false accusation by a lazy columnist.

My sole inspiration in standing by a Jewish community under fire is an affirmation of that which I am, not a negation of that which I am not; I am moved by the teachings of my Islamic faith that urge human camaraderie, and not an aversion to the misguided vitriol of Islamophobic commentators.

Ms. Charen’s mediocre column is rife with many more false statements and simplistic conclusions – too many for a single rebuttal.

“CAIR’s website offers a link to ‘Muslim condemnations of terrorism,’ but all of the quotes date from September 11, 2001. There has been an eerie silence since,” she says.

In other words, Ms. Charen visited a single page on CAIR’s website and concluded that if a condemnation is not on that page, then it must not exist. Alas, reality is a bit more complex.

CAIR’s website happens to be replete with many instances of condemnations of terrorist acts since 9/11. As the matter of fact, as recently as July of 2005, CAIR played a leading role in organizing an endorsement by 150 Muslim organizations of a fatwa against any and all acts of terrorism – one of the most compelling displays of Muslim solidarity on any issue in American history.

Readers must not take Ms. Charen’s misstatement of the facts lightly. They must demand accountability from her and other columnists. In a charged atmosphere of paranoia and confusion, the responsibility of journalists to properly represent facts is more important than ever.

One must ask, what motivates the likes of Ms.Charen to level blatantly false accusations against Muslim-American leadership? What motivates her to laundry list random acts of violence committed by 7 deranged Muslims – which she admits are doubtless “mentally borderline types” – as if they were representative of the “Muslim spirit of the day?”

If Ms. Charen truly sees 7 isolated acts of violence committed by 7 deranged Muslims – and not a fatwa against terrorism ratified by millions of American Muslims – as representative of “the Muslim spirit of the day,” then that is an incriminating statement against her logical faculties rather than one against the integrity of Muslim Americans.