HANANIA: Media has no bounds when it comes to Muslim bashing, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Aug. 16, 2008

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Media has no bounds when it comes to Muslim Bashing
By Ray Hanania —
I had to laugh when I read Steve Huntley’s column in Friday’s Chicago Sun-Times. Steve, my former editor there, has fashioned himself as one of the leading enablers of anti-Muslim hate. He has company at the Sun-Times although the ranks of Muslim bashers have been weeded out in the newspaper’s transition from bully pulpit under the racism of Baron Conrad Black to returning to respectable journalism again as a great newspaper. Huntley is the odd-man out, though, with his narrow views on the Middle East.

Huntley, citing one of the most critical anti-Muslim newspapers in America, the Wall Street Journal, notes that Muslims have protested to Random House over a new book called “The Jewel of Medina.” And then Huntley goes on to set up the Council on Islamic Relations, CAIR, in his column, tying them into the theme that Muslims protest excessively and monitor the media too closely. (CAIR, in my opinion, is inconsistently either a leading proponent of free speech or often the leading vigilante squelching free speech.) The protests have led Randomn House to not release the book. The book is about the Prophet Muhammed who led and founded the Islamic religion that “only” a 5th of the people of the world observe. The book has been described as scurrilous and vicious and pure anti-Muslim hate.

And here’s Huntley, arguing that it’s sad when voices are silenced because of bigotry. What a hypocrite. Huntley served on the Sun-Times board at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-Arab voices were not only silenced and prevented from being articulated, but when they hate-mongering against Muslims and Arabs was at it’s ugliest and most vicious crescendo.

Believe me, if the book were a gossip-filled dissertation exposing Jesus as something other than the Christian Messiah, he’d be all over it demanding that it be removed from store shelves. Sure, he’d say, publish it, but don’t you dare sell it or face my ugly wrath!

Huntley didn’t write to blast the Wall Street Journal which hounded Chicago attorney Mazen Asbahi out of a job as a volunteer liaison between the Muslim Community and the Barack Obama campaign. The Wall Street Journal reported that Asbahi served on a board that had some members who were from another board who were … GASP! … Muslim! Eeeeiyiiiiiiieeeeee! Oh my God! Muslims are Americans too!

Guilt by association is the bludgeon that hypocrites like Huntley and the Wall Street Journal justify when the targets pray to the wrong religion.

It’s all pathetic and one reason why the mainstream American news media is faltering. It’s not just the economy. Hell, the economy has been up and down for years but you have never seen the devastation being reeked upon the print news media like the Chicago Sun-Times these days.

No. The print media is faltering because the writing in many newspapers over the past decade have turned to the far, ugly right. Conservative neo-fascism disguised as free speech used to bully and intimidate anyone who has a viewpoint that they dislike. And it hasn’t been just one newspaper. It has been most of the major newspapers. The writing has been filled with hate-mongering, and vicious slander of a religion and a people.

If a Gay person went on a killing spree, no one would write he’s a terrorist symbol of the evil Gay Rights movement. Andrew Cunanan. If a Chinese man on the street in Beijing goes on a knife wielding rampage killing two innocent tourists, no one calls him a representative of a terrorist people. If a Catholic farm boy fills a truck with explosives and parks it in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, no one calls Christians terrorists.

But, if one Arab or one Muslims does anything crazy, criminal or violent, the entire Islamic World is held responsible. Islamic terrorism. Islamic violence. Muslim fanaticism. Islamo-fascism. Those words role off the lips of writers who exploit anything to make Muslims and Arabs look bad.

No. The print news media isn’t suffering just because the economy is bad. Everyone is suffering because the economy is bad. The print news media is suffering because more and more open-minded people are turning to alternative sources on the Internet instead of reading their junk in the inked up pages of their newspapers and their minds. More and more journalists who have been shut out of the mainstream media because of their religion and ethnic heritage have found a stronger wider voice on the Internet. More and more people have found that the Internet, not hate-mongering newspapers like the Chicago Sun-Times, allow them the true essence of free speech that the mainstream news media hypocritically manipulates.

The Chicago Sun-Times, overall, is a better paper than it was when it was in the hands of imprisoned felon Conrad Black. But the anger from some corners in its newsroom remains far too disturbing. Not that newspapers care. They love to dish it out but they can never take the criticism. They slam everyone and then one someone slams them, they engage in campaigns of intimidation and libel.

I’m going to send Random House a letter thanking them for caring about the concerns of Muslims and Arabs – Christian Arabs, by the way, are Muslim by culture and although we don’t observe Islamic religious practices, we identify closely with the essence of the Islamic lifestyle that is really about peace, justice and family values. (Yes, every group has its dark side but, like I said, no one holds those bad apples as representatives of the entire orchard, except writers like the Chicago Sun-Times’ Huntley, I guess.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com and by email at rayhanania@comcast.net.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com