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Soros-Funded Group Behind Course for Journalists That Downplays 'Jihad'

A new course on Islam designed for journalists tries to minimize the impact and importance of ''jihad'' by comparing it to the number of murders in America each year. That same course claims ''right-wing activists'' tried to tie American Muslims to terrorism and doesn't mention examples of Islamic attacks on press freedom.


That's the way a prominent news organization is teaching journalists in a three-hour online course. The Poynter News University, part of the Poynter Institute, launched the free course ''Covering Islam in America'' to guide the media on their coverage of Muslim communities.


The George Soros-funded Social Science Research Council, which received $50,000 from the Open Society Institute ''For Initiative on HIV/AIDS and Social Transformation,'' is one of the groups behind the initiative, along with the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. That fits with a theme for liberal financier Soros, who has spent more than $52 million on influencing the media. The Islamic course also links to another Soros-funded entity, the well-financed Center for American Progress.


In about 30 pages of text with links to other reports and articles, journalists can go through and read about the history of Islam, Muslims in America, and how to cover stories on Islam. Besides learning basic facts about Muslims and their history, the course adds ways to put ''jihad'' into perspective, attack conservatives, and provide a list of liberal groups that can be contacted for expert advice and quotes.


The pre and post-assessments give a hint as to the nature of the course. One question asked, ''What grievances might sources associated with 'Political Islam' hold against Western journalists?'' The answer is that ''Western journalists are seen as all of the following: ''hostile to Islam,'' ''focus too much on Islamic violence,'' ''viewed as water carriers for Western government agendas,'' and ''thought to be unable to understand Islam unless they embrace Islam.''


Course instructors Lawrence Pintak and Stephen Franklin are both former foreign correspondents. Pintak serves as dean at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University, which is a partner of the project. He also has two books on journalism and Islam and defends the biased, activist network Al Jazzera English.


This course is ''A project of The Poynter Institute funded by The Knight Foundation.'' Soros's Open Society Foundations have worked closely with The Knight Foundation. They partnered up to start the Investigative News Network, which received $200,000 from the Knight Foundation and $100,000 from the Open Society Foundations. The Knight Foundations President and CEO, Alberto Ibarguen, is also on the board for AOL and yet another key Soros backed group, the progressive investigative reporting start-up ProPublica.


There is some useful information in the Islamic course for those journalists that did not pay attention in their history classes and are ignorant of Islamic beliefs. However, this does not excuse statements that accuse conservatives of bigotry.


''Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a group of right-wing activists who view themselves as 'anti-Jihadists' have aggressively tried to tie American Muslims to terrorism overseas and in the United States. You can learn more about some of these groups in the following...''


The reports that journalists are told to look at to uncover the ''right-wing activists'' agenda are even more telling. The first is a report from none other than the Soros-funded progressive group Center for American Progress, which received $7.3 million from the Open Society Foundations since the year 2000.


Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, details charitable groups that ''spent almost $43 million financing anti-Muslim campaigns.'' One of the coauthors of the report is the Koch-hating Lee Fang, who writes for Center's left-wing blog Think Progress. Fang continuously goes after the Koch brothers for their contributions to conservatives and Tea Party support.


The other report is by The Tennessean in Nashville titled Anti-Muslim Crusaders Make Millions Spreading Fear. This article details the story of ''activists who have raised millions of dollars after they convinced donors that the nation's Muslim population posed a security threat.''


Another section of the course also encourages journalists to add context to their stories. They note it is important to explain political motives stating ''Politicians do not oppose or support proposed mosques and other Muslim-American projects without taking into account their own interests.''


One of the more offensive statements is that ''context is essential in covering this global story in a way that does not amplify fears of jihad.'' Journalists ''are far more likely to report on jihad-related incidents than other violence' which gives people a ''skewed impression of the prevalence of jihad.''


In order to combat this, journalists are told to compare the ''approximately 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001'' by terrorists to the general murder rate:


''To give those numbers some context, the FBI reports that approximately 15,000 people in the U.S. are murdered each year (A half-million individuals die each year from nutritional deficiencies, more than 800,000 from malaria, and two million from HIV/AIDS.) Jihad is not a leading cause of death in the world, even in the three countries that account for the bulk of the casualties: Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.''


The first section of the course described Shariah law and the concerns surrounding it. ''Most Americans have heard some reference to Shariah law. There is even a movement in the U.S. dedicated to fighting what its members claim is the encroachment of Shariah, or Islamic law, in this country.''


Without describing the concerns about the encroachment of Shariah law within the U.S., the course blandly described Shariah and compared it to other religions.


''Shariah literally means the "straight path." It is Islamic law based upon the Quran, the Hadith and the Sunna, which are the habits and customs of the Prophet Muhammad. At some level, Shariah governs every aspect of Muslim life. However, just as some Catholics might ignore strictures on birth control or Jews may eat pork, Muslims also sometimes veer off "the straight path."


While Catholics may ignore birth control rules or Jews may eat pork, they are rarely killed for doing so. In Islamic countries that abide by Shariah law, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, ''non-Muslims are not equal to Muslims under the law' and one can be stoned to death, beheaded, or flogged for ''crimes of sin such as adultery,'' as described by Former Muslims United Director Nonie Darwish. Just a week ago, a Sudanese worker was executed in Saudi Arabia for ''sorcery.''


Besides leaving out the violent nature of Shariah law, other important facts about radical Islam and journalism are omitted. No where in the course does it mention The Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard who published a cartoon of Muhammad sparked global riots around the globe. Protesters in 2006 ''burnt embassies and stormed several European buildings in a wave of rioting and flag-burning in which more than 100 people were killed.'' There was even an assassination attempt four years later.


Nor does it mention Molly Norris, another cartoonist who changed her name and went into hiding ''on the insistence of top security specialists at the F.B.I.'' She was ''threatened by Islamic extremists' for promoting ''Everybody Draw Muhammad Day'' on the internet after Comedy Central ''edited out references to Muhammad from an episode of 'South Park' that month' which ''triggered threats from extremists.''


This isn't the first time Soros foundations have advocated for Islamic causes. Soros's Open Society Foundations have funded and hosted events that promote similar ideas. Their ''At Home in Europe Project'' explored Muslim integration in cities across Europe. ''As a result of the attacks in New York, Madrid, and London, Muslim communities in Europe today are under heightened scrutiny. Yet, there is also increasing acknowledgment of the prejudice Muslims experience and the social and economic disadvantages they suffered.''


An OSI forum from 2004 had Olivier Roy discussed his book Globalized Islam, ''neo-fundamentalist movements, in particular al Qaeda, as a direct response to globalization pressures exerted by Western cultural and economic values. 'Islamic radicalization is a pathological consequence of Westernization,'' he said.'


Another OSI forum summary, this time from 2006, was described on its website, ''Central Asian leaders are exaggerating the danger posed by Islamic radicals, two experts asserted.''


Numerous Soros-funded groups chimed in on these issues too, such as The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It received $1,880,398 from Open Society Foundations since 2000, promoted recognition of the radical Muslim Brotherhood. The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation in 2004 received a $75,000 grant ''To challenge selective application of immigration law with regard to Muslims.''