UPDATE: I just arrived in southern California for the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s weekend conference, after leading an all-day private seminar yesterday in San Francisco, and see that Robert Mackey has revised his piece. The passage in which he claimed that I said that Captain Zaharie was a suicide bomber now reads this way: “That photograph of the pilot’s T-shirt, and his support for Mr. Ibrahim’s political movement, led the anti-Islam blogger Robert Spencer to link Captain Zaharie with an Islamist cleric who has endorsed the tactic suicide bombing. However, the only evidence Mr. Spencer cited for his suggestion that Mr. Ibrahim is an Islamic extremist comes from the now-defunct website MalaysiaWatcher.com and another site, SarawakReports.org.”
Actually this is false as well, as the evidence that Anwar Ibrahim is associated with Sheikh Qaradawi is not just hearsay from a defunct website, but is photographic, as you can see. But again: what cares the New York Times for facts? Mackey also appends a correction: “An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that the blogger Robert Spencer had claimed that the pilot of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 might have plotted a suicide bombing. Mr. Spencer did not make that allegation in a post on his blog, although he did claim that the leader of the political party the pilot supported was connected to an Islamist cleric who has expressed support for suicide bombing.”
Here again: there are they in the photo, clearly conversing together at some conference or other. The photo is, as far as I know, not doctored. It is unlikely in the extreme that Anwar Ibrahim took the opportunity to denounce Qaradawi. Hence the Times piece is still thoroughly misleading, but better than it was.
No one yet knows what exactly happened to the Malaysian airliner that disappeared. The disappearance may have had nothing to do with jihad terror. There is no certainty about much of anything surrounding the flight at this point. Here at Jihad Watch I have posted some published news items that suggest that it may have been a jihad operation, but none of it has been conclusive; nor have I claimed otherwise.
Nonetheless, today the New York Times has a piece claiming that I said that “Captain Zaharie might have plotted a suicide bombing.” As that claim is patently false, I am writing this post and am also going to write to Robert Mackey, the author of the piece, asking for a retraction. Not that I’ll be holding my breath, of course: mainstream media “journalists” have their agendas, and they write to their agendas, and the facts be damned.
In the first part of the piece, Mackey uses such details as that Captain Zaharie had tagged Richard Dawkins’ “God Delusion” as a favorite on Facebook to try to establish that he is not a jihadist. Zaharie may not indeed be a jihadist, but tagging Dawkins doesn’t establish anything at all. Dawkins, of course, is an atheist. Zaharie is reported to be a “moderate Muslim.” Even a moderate Muslim is a theist, so his tagging of Dawkins may have been a recognition of a formidable intellectual challenge, or a reminder of something he wished to refute, or any number of things. Maybe it was an indication of his broad-mindedness. But since he was known as a Muslim, clearly Zaharie did not go completely down the line with Dawkins, and his tagging of the Dawkins material as a “favorite” doesn’t conclusively establish or rule out anything.
“Pilot of Missing Jet Expressed Interest in Democracy and Atheism on Social Networks,” by Robert Mackey for the New York Times, March 19 (thanks to Ted):
…Captain Zaharie made no secret of his desire to see the opposition People’s Alliance, led by Anwar Ibrahim, win power. That political stance, and the pilot’s evident disappointment with the results of the May 2013 election that Mr. Ibrahim said was marred by fraud, were initially characterized by some conservative journalists and bloggers as evidence of Islamist extremism. That misperception was perhaps fueled by an unnamed investigator’s description of Captain Zaharie as a “fanatical” supporter of the opposition.
As William Dobson observed in Slate, however, hearing that someone is a “fanatical supporter of Anwar Ibrahim does sound scary — as long as you know nothing about” Mr. Ibrahim, who is not a zealot but a committed democrat.
The terms “zealot” and “democrat” are not mutually exclusive; nor are they opposites. As the pro-Sharia Islamic supremacist Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said, democracy is like a streetcar. You ride it until you get where you want to go, and then you get off. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Gaza participated in elections, although Hamas has not held another since it won, and the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt was unlikely to have done so, either. Anwar Ibrahim may be a staunch supporter of pluralism, equality of rights for all, and republican government, but his support for democratic voting procedures doesn’t establish that.
In one Facebook comment posted in the run-up to that election, Captain Zaharie even referred sarcastically to Hishammuddin Hussein, the Malaysian defense minister who is now overseeing the investigation into the missing jet, as a “real joker!”
How is that pertinent? What does it establish? What does it even mean? Does Mackey have a word count he has to reach, so he is just tossing in any old thing?
In a photograph posted on Instagram by a friend and fellow political activist, Peter Chong, the pilot wore a T-shirt that referred to the May 2013 date of the election the opposition claimed was stolen, alongside the slogan “Democracy Is Dead.”
As Mr. Chong explained to The Lede in an Internet message: “The T-shirt came about after Malaysia 13th general election in May 2013. Malaysians upset that the side who had 47 percent of the votes remained the government, whilst the side with 51 percent remained the opposition. Thus the T-shirt’s message sums it up correctly and thousands were wearing it. It was a way Malaysians expressed dissatisfaction, a peaceful way.”
That photograph of the pilot’s T-shirt, and his support for Mr. Ibrahim’s political movement, led the anti-Islam blogger Robert Spencer to claim that Captain Zaharie might have plotted a suicide bombing.
Click on the link Mackey provides. It goes to a Jihad Watch post from March 16. Find in it where I “claim that Captain Zaharie might have plotted a suicide bombing.” Found it yet? No? That’s because it isn’t in there. Nowhere do I make such a claim. The only mention of suicide bombing comes at the end of the post, where I reproduce the photo above of Anwar Ibrahim with Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, with the comment: “Here is Anwar Ibrahim with Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the international Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader who has praised Hitler and endorsed jihad/martyrdom suicide bombing.”
I noted that Qaradawi has praised suicide bombing. I say nothing about Zaharie praising it, or plotting it, or anything about Zaharie and suicide bombing at all. Will Mackey retract? I doubt it. If he had any integrity he would, but I am long past expecting integrity from mainstream media journalists.
However, the only evidence Mr. Spencer cited for his claim that Mr. Ibrahim is an Islamic extremist comes from the now-defunct website MalaysiaWatcher.com. It was revealed in 2012 that MalaysiaWatcher and another site, SarawakReports.org, were created by a conservative American blogger and political consultant who was paid to launch personal attacks on Mr. Ibrahim. Last year, the conservative blogger behind the scheme, Joshua Trevino, admitted to Buzzfeed that he had been paid nearly $400,000 by the Malaysian government, and paid smaller sums to several other writers, to produce pieces attacking Mr. Ibrahim as a dangerous Muslim radical.
Again, click on the links. The story is not as Mackey represents it. Trevino and others were paid, yes. There is no indication in the report linked, however, that he or any of the other writers mentioned spread any false information. Qaradawi is manifestly a “dangerous Muslim radical,” and so why is Anwar Ibrahim associating with him, if he is so moderate and democracy-minded? Is the claim that Anwar Ibrahim is a founder of the International Institute of Islamic Thought false? No, it is true. And it is well established that the IIIT is a Muslim Brotherhood front. So there is perfectly good reason, quite aside from Joshua Trevino’s bank balance, to be concerned about Anwar Ibrahim, and the implications of Captain Zaharie’s “fanatical” support for him.
Robert Mackey owes me a retraction and an apology. If I hear from him, you’ll be the first to know!