Imam's critic shortchanged

Coverage of Sheikh Ekrima Sabri gave his record a pass

March 11, 2006

by David Kopel

Following the lead of Yasser Arafat, many Arab hate-mongers have mastered the art of inciting terrorism at home, while offering peaceful platitudes to gullible Westerners. Last Sunday's Denver Postwas complicit in the terrorist deception, in coverage of a speech in Denver by imam Sheikh Ekrima Sabri. Appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem by Arafat, Sabri is the highest Muslim religious leader in the Palestinian Authority.

The Post's Annette Espinoza gave one paragraph to a call by Bruce DeBoskey, of Colorado's Anti-Defamation League, for Sabri to "repudiate" his "hateful rhetoric against Jews, against Americans." But Espinoza's article offered not a single example of the rhetoric that DeBoskey was denouncing. Instead, she followed up with three paragraphs of rebuttal, including Sabri claiming that any people who have a difference of opinion about "the Israeli occupiers are called terrorists and extremists." The same quote also appeared in large type, over the photo of Sabri.

Two more paragraphs quoted a member of the group which had invited Sabri expressing how "It really hurt" that the ADL "used mudslinging tactics against a holy man." The only quote from the speech itself was the caption underneath Sabri's photo: "Tell the people of Colorado our hands are extended with love and peace."

The article concluded with three paragraphs from Sabri fans who "were impressed by the imam's speech" and who praised the speech for providing "a very powerful counterbalance" to the perspective "that dominates the headlines." The overall effect of the article was to defame DeBoskey, by making his charges look unsubstantiated and mean-spirited.

I looked up Sabri on the websites of the Middle East Media Research Institute and of Israel Resource Review, both of which supply translated excerpts from Middle East media. Here's what the Post's "peace and love" holy man had to say:

Shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks, Sabri prayed, "Allah, destroy the U.S., its helpers and its agents." (Sermon on the official P.A. radio station, Voice of Palestine, Aug. 24, 2001). He demanded the release of the four Arabs convicted of the 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center. He declared to the West: "inasmuch as you love life -- the Muslim loves death and martyrdom." (Sermon on P.A. television, May 25, 2001).

Sabri also hated America when Bill Clinton was President, praying "Oh Allah, destroy America, for she is ruled by Zionist Jews ..." (Sermon, P.A. Radio, July 11, 1997).

Sabri's final solution for the Israelis was explained in an interview with Germany's Die Welt: "all those Jews who came here from all over the world, must return to the places from where they came. The Jews from Germany should return to Germany. (laughs) After all, you like them so much, don't you?" (Jan. 17, 2001). He calls the Israelis "sons of monkeys and pigs." (Sermon, July 11, 1997).

Grand Mufti Sabri lies to the Palestinians about why Jews wail at the Western Wall in Jerusalem (which is the last remnant of the Second Jewish Temple): supposedly "the Jews cry, repent, and remonstrate before Allah" because God chose Muhammed to be an Arab rather than a Jew. (P.A. Television, Jan. 11, 2001.)

Sabri extols mothers who encourage their children to become suicide bombers: "The mother is participating in the great reward of the Jihad . . ." He bragged about speaking with a boy the day before he died carrying out a terrorist attack, and concluded, "I am sure his mother was filled with joy . . ." (Al-Ahram Al-Arabimagazine, Egypt, Oct. 28, 2000.)

The Post's Espinoza received but did not respond to my e-mail asking about the choices she made in writing about Sabri.

The News(March 4) previewed Sabri's speech with a more balanced article by Myung Oak Kim. The Newsarticle, unlike the Post, summarized the substance of DeBoskey's charges. The article concluded with two short paragraphs from one of Sabri's Colorado supporters denying the accusations.

The article's "he said/she said" format left readers hanging. A better article would have investigated whether DeBoskey's charges were true. The reporter could have used the Internet to check the Sabri quotes which DeBoskey had supplied, and then asked Sabri or his Colorado handlers if they disputed the authenticity of the quotes.

Kudos to the Denver Web log "View from a Height," which scooped everyone else by reporting on Feb. 27 that Boulder Democratic lawyer Fern O'Brien would run against incumbent state Attorney General John Suthers. VFAH's short article also provided more information and analysis of O'Brien than either of the major dailies has offered, even after she officially announced her candidacy.

The Denver Newspaper Agency made a reasonable decision to provide the Sunday TV Book only to readers who request it. How about also giving readers a chance to opt out of "Parade"? It's a waste of paper and ink for the many subscribers who never look at it.


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