As jury selection began this week in Dallas in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation, the nation's largest Muslim charity andone suspected of ties with the terrorist group Hamas, Muslim-beat correspondent Neil MacFarquhar goes into a familiar defiant stance in Tuesday's trial preview, "As Muslim Group Goes on Trial, Other Charities Watch Warily."
In March, MacFarquhar defended the Muslim interest group CAIR, which he calleda "Muslim civil rights group" (the same one Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer accuses of having "intimate ties" with the terrorist group Hamas)from mean conservatives.
MacFarquhar was also the reporter who completely botched a straightforward account of the six imams removed from a plane in Minneapolis for suspicious behavior, by making the suspicious passengers come off as ignorant paranoids.
MacFarquhar frontloaded his Tuesday article with a boatload of uninterrupted defense talking points.
"The government, in the lengthy indictment and other court documents, accuses the foundation of being an integral part of Hamas, which much of the West condemns as a terrorist organization. The prosecution maintains that the main officers of the Holy Land foundation started the organization to generate charitable donations from the United States that ultimately helped Hamas thrive.
"The defense argues that the government, lacking proof, has simply conjured up a vast conspiracy by claiming that the foundation channeled money through public charity committees in the occupied territories that it knew Hamas controlled. The federal government, the defense says, has never designated these committees as terrorist organizations."
"Critics of government policy say the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Treasury Department has gone too far in using often secret evidence to condemn charities. The process unfairly destroys them, the critics say, though not one American charity itself has been convicted of supporting terrorism since the practice started in 2001. Some individual officers have gone to jail.
"These critics say that in its zeal to prosecute, the government has lost sight of the fact that the charities were delivering millions of dollars to the poor and to victims of disasters.
"They also say that undermining charities on the basis of little or no public evidence tarnishes the United States' reputation among Muslims globally, effectively helping the very groups the policy is supposed to subvert.
"'The Treasury Department has this 'complete taint' theory," said Kay Guinane of OMB Watch, a Washington group that advocates government transparency. If anyone in a charity is suspected of aiding a terrorist organization, Ms. Guinane said, the entire charity is deemed guilty.
"Other countries, like Britain, have managed to allow charities under suspicion to continue to deliver aid to the poor, she said, whereas the Treasury Department 'disagrees with any approach that says you can separate the real charitable work from the alleged terrorist activity.'
MacFarquhar often writes more as a voice for Muslim grievances than as an actual reporter, and does so here: "For American Muslims, whose religion stipulates that they give 2.5 percent of their annual income to charity, the shuttering of so many of their organizations without a hearing smacks of discrimination."