Ayaan Hirsi Ali

A journalist's newsletter offers a glimpse into how Muslim Millennials think

A journalist's newsletter offers a glimpse into how Muslim Millennials think

One interesting note that came out of a recent Religion News Association meeting two months ago was a prayer meeting of Muslim journos who belong to the group. There was also a group of Jewish reporters who met for a Shabbat dinner.

Signs of a big change? As a veteran of probably two dozen such conferences, I remember the days when folks took care not to mention their religious preferences at all, even in the company of like-minded reporters. Some thought it was a journalistic sin to do so.

You never knew if that information could be held against you plus there were some newsrooms that –- if they suspected you were partial to a certain religious group –- would pull you off any stories about said group. Such rules were never applied to reporters from black, Hispanic, gay, Native American or other subsets, but I learned early on the less said about my personal faith background, the better.

So it was with great interest that I read Boston freelancer Aysha Khan’s entry on her “Creeping Sharia” newsletter.

Salaam! Last weekend I was in Columbus, Ohio, where I joined religion reporters around the country for the annual Religion News Association conference. There, I got to meet fellow Muslim journalists Aymann Ismail (Slate), Hannah Allam (BuzzFeed News), Amber Khan (Interfaith Voices), Jaweed Kaleem (L.A. Times), Dalia Hatuqa (freelance) and Dilshad Ali (AltMuslim). Seriously, how exciting is this photo?

These folks are pictured in the photo atop this blog that I got from Khan’s site. I assume Khan herself is on the far right.

When I went to RNA in D.C. for the first time two years ago, Dilshad, Dina Zingaro (60 Minutes), Ruth Nasrullah (freelance) and I were probably the only Muslim journos there. Last year, in Nashville, I think there were even fewer of us. But this year we were actually able to pray Jummah together in the hotel. Just surreal.

All of this got me to reading Khan’s new twice-monthly newsletter.

I’m guessing “creeping Sharia” is a tongue-in-cheek rebuke to those who see the specter of sharia law in America’s near future. Here’s a curated list of articles about Islam you might not see anywhere else.

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Finally: A decent mainstream news article about the Southern Poverty Law Center

Finally: A decent mainstream news article about the Southern Poverty Law Center

Well. Finally someone wrote a realistic, balanced piece about the work of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Washington Post Magazine staff writer David Montgomery put together a (roughly) 6,700-word piece that asks whether the SPLC is what it pretends to be — the ultimate (and accurate) judges of hate in America.

It gave ample voice to several of the SPLC’s most prominent critics, including one mainstream evangelical Christian organization that narrowly missed being in a bloodbath because of being labeled a hate organization.

See that speck there?” retired Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin says, directing my gaze to the ceiling of the Family Research Council’s lobby in Washington. I spy a belly-button-size opening in the plaster. “That’s a bullet hole.” … Fired on August 15th, 2012, by Floyd Lee Corkins.” …

Asked by an FBI agent how he came to single out the FRC, Corkins replied: “Southern Poverty Law lists anti-gay groups.” The gunman, who was found to be mentally ill, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

“He came in here to kill as many of us as possible because he found us listed as a hate group on the Southern Poverty Law Center website,” continues Boykin, FRC’s executive vice president, who is dressed today in a leather vest over a shirt and tie. “We and others like us who are on this ‘hate map’ believe that this is very reckless behavior. … The only thing that we have in common is that we are all conservative organizations. … You know, it would be okay if they just criticized us. … If they wrote op-eds about us and all that. But listing us as a hate group is just a step too far because they put us in the same category as the Ku Klux Klan. And who are they to have a hate-group list anyhow?”

The piece then switches venues to Montgomery, Ala., headquarters of the SPLC, which began in 1971 as a legal aid group, then expanded in the 1980s to monitor Klan groups.

Then the SPLC began widening its definition of hate and extremism.

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Southern Poverty Law Center gets sued by Christians and Muslims and hardly anyone covers it

Southern Poverty Law Center gets sued by Christians and Muslims and hardly anyone covers it

he Southern Poverty Law Center has had a pretty nice week, getting $1 million from George and Amal Clooney and another $1 million from Apple in the wake of the Charlottesville riots. And from JP Morgan, another $1 million.

But it appears that some of that money may need to go for a legal defense fund now that a conservative Christian organization is suing it for including its name on a hate group list (and on a hate map pictured above). And not only that, but a Muslim is suing the SPLC as well. 

What’s amazing isn’t so much the lawsuit from the Christians, which isn’t unexpected. It’s how, more than 24 hours since the story broke, mainstream media coverage of this story just hasn't happened. Considering how some of the best-known liberal groups or personages just dumped $3 million on the SPLC quite recently, don't you think a lawsuit against it would be news?

As for media -- this is one of those "conservative" news topics -- that have stepped in, Fox News began it this way:

A prominent evangelical ministry has filed a federal lawsuit against the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), saying it defamed the Christian organization as an “active hate group” because it endorses the biblical view of homosexuality.
The clash marks the latest chapter in a growing feud between those who embrace historic monotheistic beliefs, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim, and progressive activists who have begun targeting mainstream Christian groups that hold traditional beliefs about sex and other issues. 

By the way, Fox is one of the very few media organizations that covered Maajid Nawaz’s lawsuit against the SPLC in June. I looked up who else covered it and I found more conservative-leaning outlets: The National Review, Breitbart.com and the Washington Examiner.

Yes, there was a pre-lawsuit profile by the New York Times magazine. Other than that, there was a lot of silence from the other MSM.

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Trump and Muslims: Politico in-depth piece misses key questions about Muslim-led city

Trump and Muslims: Politico in-depth piece misses key questions about Muslim-led city

Politico's indepth story on Hamtramck, Mich., makes much of the fact that it's the only American city with a Muslim-majority government. So how many Muslims does it quote?

Just five. Out of 13 quoted sources.

"What America’s Only Muslim-Governed City Thinks of Donald Trump," the headline teases us. Politico paints Hamtramck as a model of diversity and acceptance, with Poles, Ukrainians, Albanians, black Americans and other folks besides Middle Easterners. Just the kind of place that Trump -- with his anti-Muslim, anti-immigration message -- says would erode American values.

OK, that's a valid starting thesis -- for an editorial or an opinion column, rather than the newsfeature this was supposed to look like. But the Muslim subjects in question aren’t even quoted until more than halfway down this 2,600-word story.

And the argumentative theme starts in the second paragraph:

After a November 2015 election, four of the City Council’s six seats are now held by Muslims—three of them immigrants—making Hamtramck’s council the first in the United States with a Muslim majority. Predictably—if ridiculously—the city has become a lightning rod among conservatives in fear of Islamic law erupting in America. At a recent talk in Boston, a Somali women’s-rights activist named Ayaan Hirsi Ali warned an audience of academics and real estate developers that Hamtramck’s City Council would soon bring Sharia to their American backyard.
But here in Hamtramck, on the eve of a Michigan primary in which Donald Trump is ahead in the polls by double digits, residents aren’t afraid that their city is about to suddenly establish a foothold for the caliphate. They’re more afraid of the Republican Party’s front-runner. "It’s unbelievable Donald Trump has made it this far," says friend and resident Aaron Foley, who is gay, African-American and the editor of a Detroit lifestyle magazine called Blac. "It really feels like a bad dream that we haven’t woke up from yet. This can’t happen. It upsets me that he’s made so many disparaging remarks, not just about Muslims, but about everyone."

That's right. In this story about Muslim-ruled Hamtramck, the first quote is from a non-Muslim who doesn't even work in town. Would have been interesting to get a quote also from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, instead of lobbing a glancing reference. The writer might have learned that she's an atheist, not a card-carrying conservative. Also that she's been under death threats for years for opposing Muslim extremists. So whether Hirsi Ali is accurate about Shariah, she speaks from experience.

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For the Times, Ayaan Hirsi Ali controversy has only one side

Brandeis University offered an honorary degree to a controversial speaker, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, then withdrew it under pressure from Muslim students. Controversies always have at least two sides, right? Not when the New York Times reports it. In its story on the dispute, the Times cites three sources who opposed Hirsi Ali’s appearance.

How many voices speaking on Hirsi Ali’s side? None.

There’s an attack by Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, calling her “one of the worst of the worst of the Islam haters in America, not only in America but worldwide.”

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