"It's not even Islamophobia, it's beyond Islamophobia," Daisy Khan, wife of Ground Zero mosque planner Feisal Abdul Rauf, told ABC's Christiane Amanpour Sunday. "It's hate of Muslims." As we noted yesterday, New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking to a Muslim gathering at Gracie Mansion, called critics of the mosque plan "un-American" and implied that they seek "to implicate all of Islam" for the 9/11 attacks.
Yesterday, an ugly crime occurred in New York that seemed to confirm this narrative. Michael Enright, a 21-year-old film student, allegedly stabbed taxi driver Ahmed Sharif, 43, in the throat. The Wall Street Journal has the details:
According to an account provided by Mr. Sharif through the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Mr. Enright started out asking Mr. Sharif friendly questions like how long he has been in the country, if he was Muslim and if he was observing fast during Ramadan. Mr. Enright became silent for a few minutes and "then suddenly started cursing and screaming" before the stabbing, the statement says.
Police said that Mr. Enright stabbed the driver through an opening on the side of the taxi's protective partition. Mr. Sharif was able to scramble out of the cab, lock its doors and then call 911. An officer on patrol nearby arrived to find Mr. Enright sprawled out on the street, having fallen after climbing out one of the cab's back windows.
Sharif is out of the hospital, but it was a close call: "Prosecutor James Zaleta said that an emergency medical technician who treated Mr. Sharif said had the wound 'been a fraction of an inch longer or deeper, he would have been dead at the scene.' " Enright is charged with attempted murder, with the stipulation that the attack was a hate crime.
The New York Times's account of the crime presents it as fitting the narrative of anti-Muslim hatred. It opens with a crisply dramatic account of the incident, followed by some basic facts (Enright's attempt to flee, his arrest, Sharif's medical disposition, the charges, a quote from Enright's lawyer informing us that the suspect is "terrified," the poor baby).
That takes us through 15 paragraphs. Paragraphs 16 through 18 put the crime in a broader context:
The violence that erupted during the cab ride came amid a heated and persisting national debate over whether to situate a Muslim community center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero. Upon learning of the attack on the cabdriver, some Muslim groups called for political and religious leaders to quiet tensions.
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement: "As other American minorities have experienced, hate speech often leads to hate crimes. Sadly, we've seen how the deliberate public vilification of Islam can lead some individuals to violence against innocent people."
In a statement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said, "This attack runs counter to everything that New Yorkers believe, no matter what God we may pray to." He said he had spoken to Mr. Sharif and told him "ethnic or religious bias has no place in our city." He invited him to come to see him at City Hall on Thursday.
By contrast, here's the third paragraph of the Journal story: "The attack comes amid tensions over a planned mosque near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in Lower Manhattan, but police didn't link it to the simmering debate."
Back to the Times: Paragraphs 19 and 20 report that cops believe Enright was drunk, though that wasn't Sharif's impression. Paragraph 21 gives us some background about Sharif, including that he opposed the Ground Zero mosque on the basis "that there was no need to put it there."
Paragraphs 22 through 38--the last 17 paragraphs of the story--tell us of the suspect's background: "What is known about Mr. Enright presents a complicated picture." He lives in Brewster, a suburb north of New York City. He goes to the School of Visual Arts. He has some previous arrests for minor crimes. He spent time embedded with Marines in Afghanistan for a film-school project called "Home of the Brave."
Then--in paragraphs 28 and 29--comes this:
Mr. Enright is also a volunteer with Intersections International, an initiative of the Collegiate Churches of New York that promotes justice and faith across religions and cultures. The organization, which covered part of Mr. Enright's travel expenses to Afghanistan, has been a staunch supporter of the Islamic center near ground zero. Mr. Enright volunteered with the group's veteran-civilian dialogue project.
Joseph Ward III, the director of communications for Intersections, said that if Mr. Enright had been involved in a hate crime, it ran "counter to everything Intersections stands for" and was shocking.
It's shocking, all right. It's also news! The Times hasn't exactly buried the lead here: The attack is a significant story in itself, and it's an entirely defensible editorial decision to begin by simply telling what (allegedly) happened.
But revealing the suspect's association with the pro-mosque left so low in the story shows atrocious news judgment. Rehearsing the America-hates-Muslims narrative first strongly suggests that the Times's reporting is driven more by an ideological agenda than by the facts of the case.
That ideological agenda is shared by Intersections International, as evidenced by the organization's Aug. 2 statement supporting the Ground Zero mosque:
The controversy surrounding this project stems from the fact that the proposed building location lies in close proximity to the former World Trade Center, the site of the horrific terrorist attack in New York City on September 11, 2001. Intersections grieves along with those who suffered losses in that tragedy. Intersections acknowledges that any association between that event and this project is a fabrication. Further, Intersections applauds the work of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan, principals in The Cordoba House, for their long-term and steadfast commitment to interfaith relations. While acknowledging the real pain that 9/11 continues to evoke, Intersections deplores those who would use this project to promote fear and vitriol for personal gain or partisan politics.
The claim that "any association" between the 9/11 attacks and the mosque "is a fabrication" is preposterous. As the Associated Press has reported, "the center's association with 9/11 is intentional and its location is no geographic coincidence." And when Intersections International "deplores those who would use this project to promote fear and vitriol for personal gain or partisan politics," it adds its voice to those who falsely claim that anti-Muslim bigotry is pervasive and is the prime or only reason for Americans' opposition to the mosque's siting.
Yesterday's crime almost certainly was the act of a lone disturbed individual. But the nature of that disturbance cries out for scrutiny. A highly plausible theory of the case is that the attacker sought to advance the narrative that America is filled with anti-Muslim bigots whose hatred is behind the opposition to the Ground Zero mosque. Had Enright succeeded in fleeing the scene, there is little doubt that the propagators of that narrative would have seized upon the crime even more aggressively than they have in making their case.
Ahmed Sharif's attacker seems to have chosen him as a victim because of his religion--a factor that, if proved, makes the attack a hate crime under New York law. If our theory is correct, the motive for this alleged anti-Muslim hate crime was bigotry against Americans.
No one is responsible for the crime except for the criminal. Even so, shame on Mayor Bloomberg, Daisy Khan, the New York Times and everyone else who has promoted the destructive lie that it is hateful to take offense at the Ground Zero mosque and that America is a nation of haters.
Maybe We Should Call It a 'Partial-Earth Construction'
We noticed an interesting locution in an early story on the Times website about the attack on Ahmed Sharif. It referred to the Ground Zero mosque as "Park51, the proposed Islamic center that some critics call the 'ground zero mosque.' "
You see what they're trying to do here, and it's not necessarily indicative of bias. "Ground Zero mosque" is the most recognizable appellation for the as-yet-nonexistent whatever-it's-supposed-to-be, but it's not the formal name, and the pro-mosque side of the debate would prefer to call it something less in-your-face. So the Times resorts to apophasis, calling it the Ground Zero mosque by telling readers it's not calling it that.
It reminds us of partial-birth abortion, or what the Times calls "the medical procedure critics call partial-birth abortion." Supporters of the Ground Zero mosque may be less than thrilled with that association.
[SO WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A CASE OF A MAN WHO WORKS TO PROMOTE TOLERANCE OF MUSLIMS BEING ACCUSED OF STABBING A MAN WHO IS OPPOSED TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CORDOBA HOUSE MOSQUE NEAR THE SITE OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER. FAR FROM BEING A CASE ISLAMAPHOBIA, IT SEEMS TO BE A CASE OF ISLAMAPHILIA. - LEO RUGIENS]