Bruce Bawer: Media Takes Whitewashing of Islam to a Whole New Level



In the days since President Obama’s highly touted “speech to the Muslim world,” a number of commentators have pointed out that Obama, a self-described “student of history,” managed to serve up a pastiche of half-truths, exaggerations, and utter nonsense about Islamic history, and that even in his supposedly gutsier moments — as when he criticized the treatment of women in Muslim societies — he was hardly as forceful as the circumstances warrant.


It’s no coincidence that the commentators who have made these points have done so, almost without exception, not in major media organs but in places like Pajamas Media. For the flattering account of Islam that Obama served up in Cairo — the celebration of imaginary Islamic achievements in [1] science and culture, the evocation of a golden-age Andalusia where Christians and Jews were treated with respect and equality, and the references to the Koran that made it sound like the Sermon on the Mount — are of a piece with the fictions about Islam found regularly in the mainstream press.  This is certainly true of the New York Times, and it’s equally the case with the Washington Post — a fact that will be obvious to any reader of my new book, [2] Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom, in which the index includes the following entry:

Washington Post, 66, 102, 103, 149-51, 156, 163-64, 238, 262, 263-64, 276

Now, with the single exception of the very last Post reference (the one on page 276, which is a thumbs-up for columnist Anne Applebaum), my mentions of the Post in Surrender all point to the reliability with which the newspaper clings to what one might call a wishful-thinking view of Islam — as if Islam were, say, nothing more than Episcopalianism with prayer rugs and burkas.

On page 102, for example, I recount a 2008 speech in which Post managing editor Philip Bennett “lamented that the media, including his own newspaper, had failed to give the American public a clear understanding of Islam.” He was right — but his point was not that the Post routinely skirts the severity of Islamic doctrine and whitewashes Islamic views of freedom of speech and religion, women’s rights, and so forth. No, his argument was that his and other newspapers portray Islam too negatively. The answer to this dilemma, in his view? Employ more Muslim reporters and editors.

Then there’s page 150, where I cite a blog on the Post/Newsweek website by top-tier Islam apologist John Esposito. Esposito is the founding director of something called the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University — which means that the Saudi royal family pays his salary. Which, in turn, means that a man on the payroll of the world’s most oppressive Islamic regime is engaged by theWashington Post and Newsweek to provide their readers with objective facts about Islam. This perverse state of affairs is, alas, par for the course in today’s mainstream media.

Turn to page 156 of my book and you’ll read about a softball Post Q & A with media darling Tariq Ramadan that utterly failed to address, among other things, Ramadan’s refusal to condemn the stoning of adulteresses or to challenge this out-and-out Islamist’s bald-faced effort to come off as moderate.  On page 164, I note that the Post and New York Times, on the very same day (June 20, 2007), published op-eds by Hamas spokesman Ahmad Yousef; on page 238 I point out that while the Post op-ed page ran not only Yousef’s propaganda but also similar material by other Hamas and Hezbollah heavies, it rejected an op-ed it had commissioned from author Sam Harris to write about Geert Wilders’s short film Fitna for being “too critical of Islam.”  In short, as I put it in the book: “Harris was too extreme for the Post, but Hamas wasn’t.”

Finally, on page 263, I mention a 2008 Post/Newsweek website article by Feisal Abdul Rauf arguing for nothing less than “the integration of Sharia law” into Western law — a change which Rauf presents as nothing less than fair, even though it would entail (among much else) making homosexuality and adultery capital crimes.

As this sorry record suggests, the Washington Post has, in the years since 9/11, taken an unequivocal stand on Islam: in the name of liberalism and tolerance, it has chosen to minimize or overlook entirely the many extremely illiberal and intolerant aspects of the faith of Muhammed. And while embracing the mendacities of John Esposito and his ilk, and legitimizing terrorists’ disinformation by publishing it on its op-ed page, the paper routinely dismisses, distorts, and demonizes those who dare to speak uncomfortable truths about Islam.

No surprise, then, that when the Post ran a review of Surrender last Sunday it proved to be yet another splendid example of the Post’s Islam policy.Surrender contains nearly three hundred pages of meticulously documented evidence that Western leaders, media, writers, artists, and others (some motivated by fear, others by a misguided multicultural “respect”) are censoring and self-censoring, prettifying the facts about Islamic belief, practice, and history, and pillorying those who don’t follow their lead — and, as a result, eroding precious liberties. This is a genuine crisis for the free world.  But the Post’s review treated the hard facts as if they were the feverish delusions of a crackpot.

Take my comments on the Islamic Society of North America. Terrorism expert Steve Emerson has described the ISNA as a “Muslim Brotherhood front group with a long and documented history of support for terrorism.” Yet the Post’s reviewer, Paul A. Barrett, mocked my criticism of the ISNA, calling it “innocuous” and its leader “moderate.” Indeed, it now seems that just about any Muslim or Muslim organization that professes to eschew violence — no matter what his, her, or its religious beliefs, social views, long-term goals, and sub rosa connections may be — qualifies as “innocuous” and “moderate” in the eyes of papers like the Post.

Barrett further wrote that “Bawer veers into self-parody when he asserts that Muslims have cowed skeptics into self-censorship and inaction.”  It is as if the countless examples that I cite in my book simply did not exist. We are, make no mistake, deep into Orwellian territory here. What to make of reality-denial on such a colossal scale? How can even the most bone-rattling fear of retribution (or of being called a racist or Islamophobe) lead supposedly responsible-minded members of the West’s cultural establishment to say that two plus two equals five?

“His own work,” Barrett sneered, “shows that critics of Islam have no trouble publishing.” Yes, and the butchering of Theo van Gogh, and the current lifestyles of people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Geert Wilders, Robert Redeker, and Fianna Nirenstein — who must be accompanied everywhere they go by armed bodyguards — show that some of Islam’s critics have to go to a good deal of trouble to stay alive. But the travails undergone by these brave champions of freedom plainly mean nothing to the likes of Barrett — or, I’m sorry to say, to the editors of the Washington Post.