NYT Still in Denial Over Fort Dix Six and "What Role Religion Played"

Reporter Kareem Fahim reported on an open house conducted by a New Jersey mosque connected to the Fort Dix Six terrorism investigation in Saturday's Metro section ("Open House At Mosque Of Suspects Proves Tense"). The slant was apparent throughout the story.

"The man sat in the back row of the mosque, his arms folded, unsure whether his hard opinions would change.

"'I'm concerned about the Muslims,' the man, Richard Smekal, 68, said just before an open house at the mosque, the Islamic Center of South Jersey, where four of six men accused of plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix had worshiped.

"'Personally, I believe that Islam is a religion of the sword' he said. But he admitted that he had never asked a Muslim.

"The meeting at the mosque - for community members, local officials and law enforcement authorities - was perhaps an opportunity to do just that. But Mr. Smekal walked out, past the booklets about Islam and the refreshments, before a question-and-answer session at the end of the meeting. Still, many of the more than 100 people who attended, apparently harboring similar concerns about the mosque and the religion, asked questions of their own, steering the evening dialogue toward an angry conclusion.

"The tension in the mosque, on a residential street in this town of 7,000 people, was a mark of the suspicions that have arisen - or perhaps simply been shaken loose - after the arrest of the six men, who the authorities said had acquired guns and trained at a weapons range, all in preparation for a spectacular attack on soldiers at Fort Dix.

"The men lived in New Jersey and Philadelphia. Mohamad Shnewer, 22, is portrayed by investigators as the group's leader. He, Serdar Tatar, 23, and three brothers - Eljvir, Shain and Dritan Duka, ages 23, 26 and 28, respectively - face charges of conspiring to kill uniformed American soldiers, which carry a possible sentence of life in prison. A sixth suspect, Agron Abdullahu, 24, is charged with helping illegal immigrants obtain weapons, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison."

Then Fahim made the same P.C. blunder as his Metro section colleague Alan Feuer last week.

"The authorities have called the men Islamic extremists, but have not detailed exactly what role religion played in the plans they are accused of making. There has been no indication of involvement by the mosque here in Palmyra or another one in Philadelphia where four of the men occasionally prayed.

"Regardless, the leaders of the mosque here last night found themselves on the defensive because of the accusations against the six men: at one point, a resident stood up and accused the congregants of endangering the lives of Americans by not reporting the extremist leanings of the Duka brothers."

If Fahim had kept up with the news (or even read his own story from May 10). The headline to Fahim's earlier story read (emphasis added): "In Large Immigrant Family, Religion Guided 3 Held in Fort Dix Plot."

Alternately, Fahim could have read the actual criminal complaint, like the New York Post and other media outlets managed to do, which spelled out what occurred when the suspects went to get a video duplicated onto a DVD: "The DVD depicted 10 young men who appeared to be in their early twenties shooting assault weapons at a firing range in a militia-like style while calling for jihad and shouting in Arabic 'God is Great')."

Fahim continued: "Rafey Habib, a professor of English at Rutgers University's Camden campus and a member of the mosque's executive committee, tried his best to respond to the anger, speaking about Islamic beliefs and about the mosque's teachings. 'Given the frightening situation in the world today,' he said, 'we need to begin the process of understanding one another.'

"Since the men were charged on May 8, there have been reports of anti-Muslim acts in New Jersey, according to Afsheen Shamsi, a spokeswoman for the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In one case, a man was reported to have yelled racial slurs at a Muslim woman headed to a Laundromat; in another, a Jordanian woman was punched in the face by a man who threatened to kill Muslims. 'We're really concerned about the backlash,' Ms. Shamsi said."

Also, a NYC-based journalist named Kareem Fahim (possibly the same person as the Times' journalist) has written for the left-wing Village Voice and penned a screed for the Winter 2003 edition of Amnesty, the magazine of the left-wing Amnesty International, as part of a series called "The Moving Target - Profiles in Racism," about Muslim immigrants and alleged harassment after 9-11.