Mainstream and 'alternative' media see Saudis very differently

Posted: Feb 16, 2005 12:00 AM

To see a classic example of the divergence between ?mainstream? and ?alternative? media coverage, consider the portrayal of the Saudis this past week. 

The ?respectable? daily newspapers and news wires have reported that the Saudis, though still subject to some criticism, are finally getting serious about fighting terrorism.  The blogosphere?the universe of ?blogs,? short for web logs?and talk radio, however, have been buzzing over the murder of a family of Egyptian Christian immigrants in Jersey City and the report on Saudi-funded jihadist propaganda found in American mosques that might help provide some context for that horrible crime.

What most Americans will never know is that last week human rights group Freedom House put out a first-of-its-kind report documenting, in excruciating detail, the poisonous venom found in Saudi-created and funded ?religious? materials available at prominent mosques across the United States.

A Lexis-Nexis uncovered just five?count ?em, five?news stories in ?mainstream? outlets on the Freedom House report.  But the number is actually worse than it looks. 

Four of the five are not traditionally part of the ?mainstream? mafia: the Washington Times, the NY Sun (a new conservative paper), the Dallas Morning News (also right-of-center), and the Wall Street Journal (in its ?B? section).  Somewhat surprisingly, the fifth outlet covering the Freedom House report was the Washington Post.

During the same span, more than 50 stories were written by ?mainstream? outlets on the hurriedly thrown together international counterterrorism conference that just ended in Riyadh.  In these articles, the Saudis were credited with calling for a new international center to combat terrorism and for achieving ?substantial progress? in fighting terror.

But while the Saudis were dazzling a pliant press with their good deeds, their true nature was on full display?in mosques inside our borders.

Nonpartisan human rights group Freedom House?incorrectly referred to by several media outlets as ?conservative??sent Muslim volunteers into more than a dozen prominent mosques across the country, and each was looking specifically for materials produced or sponsored by the Saudi government.

Since most of the documents were in Arabic, the research team spent nearly a year having two independent translators to review each one.  The results confirm what many Americans have long suspected, but until now did not have tangible proof that such incitement occurred in the United States.

Some highlights from the 67-page report:

· ?To be dissociated from the infidels is to hate them for their religion, to leave them, never to rely on them for support, not to admire them, to be on one's guard against them, never to imitate them and always to oppose them in every way according to Islamic law.?  (from material found in the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.)

· Regarding a man who has heterosexual sex outside of marriage or engages in homosexual activity: ?it would be lawful for Muslims to spill his blood and to take his money.? (from Al-Farouq Masjid, Brooklyn, NY)

· Regarding Jews: ?They kill Muslims, imprison them, destroy their lands, tear down their mosques, burn their holy book?no, no they have no dignity.? (from Islamic Center of Greater Houston)

Muslim leaders, of course, expressed shock and awe that such materials could have been on display at mosques here in America.  But according to the Freedom House report, the materials cited ?remain widely available in America, and in some cases dominate mosque library shelves.?

Imams from the mosques mentioned in the Freedom House report have further added that what they preach in their holy houses in no way reflects the venom spewed by the Saudis.  Maybe that?s true in some, or perhaps even many, mosques.  But certainly not in all.

To the extent the national press has covered the murder of a family of Coptic Christian immigrants from Egypt?which is to say only slightly?it has often been to stress how moderate the Muslims of northern New Jersey are.  Most Americans would like to think this true of all American Muslims, but at least in this region, it is a tired clich?/P>

The former imam at the El-Tawheed Islamic Center in Jersey City, Alaa Al-Sadawi, was convicted in 2003 of attempting to smuggle more than $650,000 to the terrorist organization Global Relief Fund in Egypt. 

One of Al-Sadawi?s former spiritual followers murdered in the name of Allah.  Alim Hassan, then 31, killed his pregnant wife, her mother, and her sister on July 30, 2002.  He reportedly stabbed the women more than 20 times each because they refused to convert to Islam.  According to reports, Hassan prayed regularly at El-Tawheed.

Radical Islamists may or may not be behind the recent murder of the Armanious family?though the mainstream media?s impulse is to favor the latter scenario?but what is clear is that it would not be surprising, both in light of what?s happened in Jersey City and nationally, as shown by Freedom House.

Just don?t expect the mainstream media to make that connection.