Opinion columns are just that, opinion. Nevertheless, they're supposed to be based on fact. Journalistic guidelines say so:
"Editorials, analytical articles and commentary should be held to the same standards of accuracy with respect to facts as news reports," asserts the American Society of Newspaper Editors' "Statement of Principles."
By that standard, Washington Post Metro columnist Petula Dvorak's "How Trump is bringing out the Muslim vote" (Feb. 26, 2016 print edition) failed.
Dvorak argued that Republican Party presidential primary candidate Donald Trump has incited bigotry against American Muslims with his call for a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration. But statistics did not support her claim that a wave of "Islamophobic" hate crimes threatens U.S. Muslims.
Dvorak said "reports of hate attacks against U.S. mosques tripled last year, compared to previous years, according to the Council on American Islamic Relations."
CAIR is not a reliable source on surging "Islamophobia," (more below). It was, however, an unindicted co-conspirator in America's largest terrorism funding trial to date, though Dvorak didn't mention it,
CAIR's tripling of mosque attacks means little by itself. Did they go from 100 to 300, or one to three? No numbers are provided.
According to FBI hate crime statistics for 2014, the most recent available, Jews were twice as likely to be victims of hate crimes as Muslims. And for both groups, that likelihood was still small ("Hate Crime Is Almost Nonexistent; How racist is America? The numbers speak for themselves," by Josh Gelertner, National Review, February 27).
No wave of religion-based hate crimes
If, "one of every 8,372 [American] Jews suffers a hate crime," then for U.S. Muslims the ratio is nearly 1 in 17,000. And, wrote Gelernter, "this is not an especially anti-Semitic country. In fact, it's just the opposite ...."
Thirteen years after al-Qaeda's destruction of New York City's World Trade Center and attack on the Pentagon, which killed nearly 3,000 people, the United States was even less anti-Muslim than anti-Jewish.
As for Dvorak's source, a co-founder of CAIR's Texas chapter was one of five men convicted in the 2009 Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development retrial—a case essentially about raising and laundering $12 million for Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip. CAIR is a spin-off of the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood, the mothership of most Sunni Islam extremist movements including Hamas and al-Qaeda. At least five former CAIR staff or lay leaders have been arrested, convicted and/or deported on weapons or terrorism-related charges.
The council's been crying "Islamophobia" and exaggerating hate-crime numbers—in part to discourage scrutiny of Islamist movements or influences—for more than a decade. Daniel Pipes and Sharon Chada, reviewing 20 "anti-Muslim hate crimes" listed by CAIR in 2004, founded at least six were invalid, including an alleged bombing outside a mosque for which no police report existed and a robbery-motivated arson attack on a second mosque (see CAMERA's Special Report, "The Council on American Islamic Relations: Civil Rights, or Extremism?" second edition, 2009).
Another Dvorak source, speaking not about "Islamophobia" but rather Trump-stimulated American Muslim public activism, was a policy analyst for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. MPAC, like CAIR and several other U.S. Muslim organizations, was "initiated and shaped by Islamists," Prof. Peter Skerry wrote in "The Muslim-American Muddle," National Affairs, Fall, 2011). He added that since then they've differed and evolved.
But MPAC's evolution included, according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, defending "charities" such as the Holy Land Foundation against federal prosecution and claiming insufficient evidence in cases like that of the "Virginia jihad network." Of the 11 men whose indictment MPAC initially opposed in that case, six eventually pled guilty, three were convicted and two acquitted ("MPAC staunchly defends terrorists and the charities that fund them," IPT News, Feb. 11, 2010). In 2013, the council reversed its opposition to government use of informants against suspected terrorists, acknowledging it could prevent some attacks from taking place.
Dvorak also quoted Ibrahim Moiz, a local lawyer "outspoken in his Northern Virginia Muslim community about adopting [adapting?] Islam to modern U.S. living. "Sometimes, we see America treating us like we're a cancer," he said, which Dvorak asserted echoed "a recent TED Talk by Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington."
There's more to Mogahed and adapting Islam to modern U.S. living than a TED Talk. She was appointed by President Obama to the administration's Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009 and co-authored Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think with Georgetown University Prof. John Esposito. Esposito, according to Middle East Forum, is "one of the foremost academic apologists for radical Islam...."
What do women want? Sharia?
MEF charged ("Does Sharia Law Promote Women's Rights?" by Cinnamon Stillwell, FrontPageMagazine.com, Oct. 20, 2009) that "Mogahed is making her name as a shill for sharia [Islamic religious] law. Mogahed employs the Gallup poll [which she supervised while executive director of the organization's Center for Muslim Studies] ... to portray sharia law as what Muslim women want."
Mogahed spoke by phone to the British-based Islam Channel women's television show "Muslimah Dilemma," hosted by a member of the radical Hizb ut Tahrir (the international, pan-Islamic Party of Liberation) in 2009. According to Stillwell, she "utter[ed] such preposterous statements as: '...we found that the majority of women around the world associate gender justice, or justice for women, with sharia compliance whereas only a small fraction associated oppression of women with compliance with the sharia."
On the program Mogahed also said "the perception of sharia and the portrayal of sharia has been oversimplified in many cases, even among Muslims. It is usually associated with maximum criminal punishment and laws that are hard for people to understand holistically, around family law, that to many people seem unequal for women. So I think that part of the reason is that there is this perception of sharia is that sharia is not well understand and in fact, Islam as a faith is not well understood."
Dvorak wrote that "it's tempting to blame all this [the alleged wave of "Islamophobia"] on the Islamic State and the frightening terrorist attacks in Pars and San Bernardino, Calif. But even after 9/11, it wasn't like this Muslims say. In fact, hate attacks against American Muslims spike during election cycles. Wonder why?"
Having failed to vet some of her key sources, or not disclosing the results if she did so, the columnist provided no statistical support for her claim that "hate attacks against American Muslims spike during election cycles."
What has been spiking in FBI tallies is radicalization among some American Muslims. Bureau Director James Comey said early last year his agency was investigating 900 suspects in all 50 states in the process of ISIS-like (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) radicalization. By early December, 56 had been arrested on suspicion of plotting or helping support the Islamic State in the United States.
It may well be that many or most Muslim Americans are reconciling Islam with modern U.S. living, to paraphrase Dvorak. Certainly there are Muslims in all walks of life, including the military and law enforcement, like members of virtually every other religious or ethnic minority. But only in Muslim American communities, at least as far as has been reported, have the FBI and other security agencies been required to pay such close attention to potentially, and sometimes actually lethal radicalization. A well-sourced, fact-based Washington Post Metro column on local examples, and what stimulates the need for such scrutiny by law enforcement, has yet to be written.