Sunday, August 31, 2008

CNN Defends Islamism

By Supna Zaidi

In an election year, no one wants to discuss the nuances of difficult topics like the "war on terror." Sound bites and bipartisan attacks are used to vilify honest work and gloss over real issues that affect the safety and security of the American public.

Just ask Imran Raza. CNN reduced his documentary, "Karachi Kids," to a lie when it published an online article entitled, "'Terror' School Turns Out To Be A Moderate Madrassa," because the school did not teach violence like suicide bombings in class, negating three years of work by the filmmaker.

The documentary follows two Pakistani-American brothers from Georgia to a Pakistani madrassa called the Jamia Binoria Institute for religious schooling. Though Islamist indoctrination is evident throughout the documentary, Raza made the mistake of not distinguishing between Islam and Islamism, and more subtly violent Islamism from its subversive non-violent jihadi schooling.

Islamism is political and does not believe in the separation of church and state. Rather, it believes in the supremacy of Islamic law (Shari'a), and wishes to encourage its spread not only in the Muslim world, but in the West as well.

Islamist ideology is spread through violence and non-violent strategies. The violent means is self-evident: USS Cole bombing, 9/11, Madrid and London bombings, etc. The non-violent strategy is at the heart of "Karachi Kids." This is done through indoctrination, proselytizing, and gaining special rights for Shari'a through secular legal systems. Algeria, Turkey and Iraq, are prime examples of countries where Islamists have put down their guns and formed political parties to affect the same changes they sought violently in years past. Hamas is another in the Palestinian territories. CNN failed to realize that both forms of Islamism are the 'terror' we are fighting.

In the documentary, the principal of the school states, "We work on altering the mindset of the student. So when they return to their home countries they will work on altering the minds of the other kids." He continues, stating, "These children will be able to convert non-Muslims and the Muslim children who are deviating from Islam."

Such an education changes the brothers significantly over their three-year stay at Jamia Binoria. When Raza first meets the boys they state that they want to go home and that the school is "disgusting." At the end of the video they say they feel like robots, despite passionately arguing that Muslims were not behind 9/11, not one Jew was killed on 9/11 and that Americans are the real terrorists. So, is this madrassa moderate just because it does not have "Bomb Making 101" in its class schedule?

The CNN article states that the state department thinks so . As for CNN's own independent investigation, CNN "spoke to its [the school] head, who denied the allegations made in the documentary." Funny, if I was asked whether I taught terror, I would deny it too. But, CNN has analysts. All they had to do was google "Deobandi", the brand of Islam taught at this madrassa. CNN would have then learned that while the Deobandi school of thought does not believe in violence, it "militantly" believes the inferiority of other religions, cultures, women, and promotes Islam as the solution to all political, social and economic problems through evangelism. What kind of Americans does that make the brothers' upon returning to America, besides the fact that they can't hold a job since they didn't learn math, English, social studies or other secular topics emphasized in public schools in America .

CNN failed to understand this nuance between non-violent and violent Islamism. Congressman Michael Mcaul did not, stating, "This demonstrates why we need to focus our resources on the epicenter of the war on terror in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region," said Rep. McCaul. "The madrassas come to America and recruit children to indoctrinate them into Islamic extremism ."

The issue of nuance is critical in understanding the long-term dangers of indoctrination versus short-term fears of outright violence. Bipartisanship in American politics is preventing America uniting against a common enemy, Islamism. Americans cannot allow disinformation to reduce the "war on terror" to "the liberal media" versus "Bush neocon crusaders." Islamism threatens both conservative and liberal American ideologies. Particularly, liberal advocacy of gay rights, women's lib and pluralism.

All individuals - conservative or liberal, atheist, or Orthodox Jew, or Muslim must be able to live equally under the same umbrella of democracy and secularism. This means, "to each to his own" has boundaries. The line is crossed when one individual's principles encroach on his or her neighbor. Islam does not. Islamism does. And when the latter does, democracy ends.

(Supna Zaidi is editor in chief of Muslim World Today, a bi-weekly newspaper based in California and assistant director of Islamist Watch at the Middle East Forum. She can be emailed at

Source: Muslims World Today
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