Two reporters with past ties to a US Muslim Brotherhood organization are currently reporting on events in Egypt for major US news organizations. Associated Press Cairo reporter Hadeel Al-Halchi is a former spokesperson for the Canadian chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization identified in US court documents as part of the Palestine Committee of the US Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, Los Angeles Times reporter Raja Abdulrahim received a scholarship from CAIR and her writings throughout her career have reflected positions consistent with CAIR’s.
AP reporter Al-Halchi has posted a series of tweets expressing increasing sympathy and admiration for Wael Ghonim, an activist who has claimed to have been behind the Facebook page that helped to set off the recent events in Egypt. Ghonim was a Middle East marketing manager for Google who was recently held incommunicado by the Egyptian government. Ms. Al-Shalachi’s tweets and retweets included the following statements:
- “Respect to Wael Ghoneim”
- “People calling ghonim interview a whole new uprising. He has injected new spirit into #tahrir and perhaps beyond”
- “Huge relief–Wael Ghonim has been released. Our love to him and his family.”
Authorities on journalism consulted by GMBDW say that at the very least, the tweets are unprofessional and at worst, suggest a loss of objectivity.
Ms. Al-Halchi is a former spokesperson for the Canadian chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Canada. In one of her reports on a strike at an Islamic news portal founded by Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, Ms. Al-Shalchi described the IOL leadership as “moderate” and global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi as a “relative moderate”:
The Qatari government has forced out the moderate leadership of a popular Islamic Web site and plans to reshape it into a more religiously conservative outlet, former employees of the site said Thursday. Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi, the widely respected cleric who co-founded IslamOnline and is known as a relative moderate, is no longer the head of al-Balagh, the company which funds the Web site, said his secretary, Youssef Aboul-Naga……..Al-Qaradawi is one of most influential voices in Sunni Islam, and has been criticized by more conservative scholars for allowing things like men and women to study together, encouraging Western Muslims to participate in their democracies, and condemning al-Qaida attacks such as Sept. 11.
In fact, IOL had been the most prominent voice of the global Muslim Brotherhood and numerous posts have documented its positions consistent with that role. Qaradawi, a virulent anti-Semite is often referred to here as the most important leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood, an acknowledgement of his role as the de facto spiritual leader of the movement. In 2004, Qaradawi turned down the offer to lead the Egyptian Brotherhood after the death of the Supreme Guide. He is also considered to be the “spiritual guide” for Hamas and his fatwas in support of suicide bombings against Israeli citizens were instrumental in the development of the phenomenon. A recent post has discussed a video compilation of Qaradawi’s extremist statements.
Ms. Al-Halchi’s Twitter bio describes her as a “Canadian journo covering the Middle East for the Associated Press based in Cairo, Egypt.” However, a February 2004 CAIR-Canada press release described her as the ” Communications Spokesperson” for the organization. As part of her work at CAIR-Canada she developed “media workshops” for journalists. Documents released in the Holy Land Trial have revealed that the founders and current leaders of CAIR were part of the Palestine Committee of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as identifying the organization itself as being part of the U.S. Brotherhood. A previous post discussed an interview with the Deputy leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in which he confirms a relationship between his organization and CAIR. Investigative research posted on GMBDW had determined that CAIR had it origins in the U.S. Hamas infrastructure and CAIR and it leaders have a long history of defending almost all individuals accused of terrorism by the U.S. government, frequently calling such prosecutions a “war on Islam.” US Muslim Brotherhood leader Jamal Badawi is also an important leader of CAIR-Canada as well as being a member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), headed by Youssef Qaradawi.
Ms. Al-Halchi is not the only individual tied to CAIR reporting from Egypt. LA Times reporter Raja Abdulrahim has filed numerous stories from the country. 2004 tax returns for the CAIR California chapter indicate that Raja Abdulrahim, at that time attending the University of Florida, received a $2500 academic scholarship from CAIR. Although the tax entry stated that recipients were “unrelated to the organization in any way”, archives of the student newspaper contain numerous letters written by Abdulrahim that are consistent with CAIR positions. For example, two weeks after September 11 she objected to calling Hamas and Hezbollah terror organizations:
I decided to respond to Guy Golan’s letter (“Jews must help all Arab people”) from Monday’s Alligator because he erroneously refers to Hamas and Hizbollah as “fundamentalist” and “terror organizations” that have “murdered innocent Israeli civilians.”It is time we see this conflict for what it really is — present day Imperialism. These Palestinians are not “terrorizing” Israelis, they are just defending their land and lives.
Two weeks later she alleged that Israel launched assaults on anybody who “looks Arab or is Muslim”:
America will punish only those responsible for this attack and will not launch a full-blown assault on anyone who looks Arab or is Muslim as Israel does in the Middle East. Contrary to what Gilinsky said, Israel does target innocent civilians.
In April 2010 year, Abdulrahim wrote an article on the backlash allegedly faced by organizations including CAIR as they “publicly confront the radicalization of Muslim youths.”
For the last decade, U.S. Muslim organizations have faced criticism that they don’t do enough to condemn — or prevent — extremism and terrorism. But now that many of the groups are speaking publicly about the radicalization of Muslim youths and even developing scared-straight-type programs to steer young people away from extremism, they are being criticized in their own community for saying too much. Critics contend that organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Muslim American Society are pandering to outsiders who equate Muslims with extremism.
None of this suggests that either Ms. Al-Halchi or Ms. Abdulrahim are deliberately slanting their stories or withholding information but their background does suggest a need for caution.
In addition to Ms. Al-Halchi and Ms. Abdulrahim, the Investigative Project (IP) revealed also in April 2010 that Sharaf Mowjood, writing for ABC news, had published a story about the shooting in Detroit of Imam Luqman Abdullah which sparked a controversy in which CAIR has been deeply involved. The IP pointed out that of all the stories written about the related autopsy photographs, the CAIR-Michigan homepage only linked to the ABC story written by Mr. Mowjood. According to various sources, Sharaf Mowjood is a former Government Relations Coordinator for CAIR:
“Sharaf Mowjood is a master’s degree candidate at the Columbia University School of Journalism. He is also the former Government Relations Coordinator for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Greater Los Angeles. At CAIR, Mowjood organized and participated in the Get Out the Vote Campaigns, candidate and town hall forums, and Lobby Days in Washington, D.C. He also met with elected officials from the city to the federal level, organizes workshops on voter and civic empowerment, and encouraged youth engagement with local mosque youth groups.”
In addition to his employment at CAIR, Mr. Mowjood has participated in events associated with the US Muslim Brotherhood including as a speaker at the 2006 Annual Conference of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California along with numerous USMB luminaries including Jamal Badawi, Muzammil Siddiqi, Iqbal Unus, and Salam Al-Marayati. Also speaking at the conference was Laila Al-Arian,, the wife of Sami Arian, the convicted leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the US (see note below).
There is no evidence that Mr. Mowjood is reporting on the Egyptian crisis.