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An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia

Exhibit 33: WorldNetDaily's Persecution Complex

WND claimed that the murder of a Coptic Christian family was done by Muslims. But when it turned out that Muslims didn't do it, WND abandoned the story, not even telling its readers the truth -- and certainly won't apologize to any Muslims.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 5/30/2005

We overlooked the following when it occurred a few months ago -- what with that slanted all-Schiavo-all-the-time coverage the ConWeb threw itself into -- but it's worth noting as yet another example of WorldNetDaily presenting speculation as news, and then bailing out on covering the story when it stopped fitting its preconceived notions and its editorial bias.

In a Jan. 26 column headlined "Jihad in Jersey City," WND editor Joseph Farah insinuated that the killing of a family of four Egyptian Coptic Christians -- Hossam Armanious, his wife and their two daughters -- in Jersey City, N.J. was perpetrated by Islamic terrorists because the family "loved to witness their faith -- especially to their Muslim acquaintances." Farah quoted the Michael Meunier, president of the U.S. Copts Association, as saying that "The Armanious family members are modern-day martyrs in Islamic fundamentalists' war on Christianity." He excoriated police and the media for not making "the logical assumption" that the death of the family was "the horror of this kind of centuries-old anti-Christian persecution apparently coming to America."

One clue that Farah was leaping far beyond the facts was the following statement: "As an Arab-American, Christian journalist, it reminds me of the way law enforcement officials and the news media discarded any evidence that the Washington-area 'Beltway snipers' had an Islamic terrorist motive." But the Beltway snipers, John Allan Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, weren't Islamic terrorists; their motivation was apparently money and revenge. (Remember, WND also thought it was important to report supermarket-tabloid speculation that Muhammad and Malvo were gay lovers.)

WND "news" stories ran with the Islamic-terror angle. A Jan. 31 article recycled a New York Sun article claiming the family was “systematically tracked by a radical Islamic website." A Feb. 1 story claimed the way the family was killed "resembled executions by radical Islamists shown on the Arab satellite channel al-Jazeera." A Feb. 16 article by Sherrie Gossett on a press conference held by the slain family's relatives quoted Meunier as saying that "the manner of the slayings was consistent with passages in the Quran that describe how to kill an infidel." A March 1 article by Maria Sliwa warned that "Evangelical Christians in the United States have reason to keep an eye on the murder investigation of four Coptic Christians slain last month in New Jersey," suggesting that one family member was more viciously attacked because she was "too vocal in sharing her faith." Sliwa added that the family's "fellow churchgoers" are allegedly worried that the family's killing "will encourage an increase in the persecution of converts (and those who convert them) in the U.S., as is the case in Egypt." And a March 2 article quoted an American Coptic leader calling for an FBI investigation of the killings to determine whether it was "religiously motivated."

Not to be outdone by Farah, WND columnist Craige McMillan lept from speculation to baseless assertion in a Jan. 27 column claiming that the killings were "the ritual Islamic murder of a Christian family who fled to America dismissed as a burglary," using the killings to explain, as the column's headline stated, "Why Islam does not belong in America."

But a March 4 WND article reported the arrests of two suspects in the killings -- but it appeared that they weren't Islamic terrorists at all. One suspect "was released from federal prison in April 2004 and spent time in a halfway house before moving into the second-floor apartment of the Armanious' two-family home with his girlfriend," the story notes, adding that "Someone using Hossam Armanious' debit card drained thousands of dollars from several of his accounts during a string of ATM visits in the days following the murders."

Huh? Why didn't WND tell us that little factoid before? After all, the ATM withdrawal was made public by police on Feb. 28, according to a Nexis search, and reported in papers such as the Philadelphia Inquirer and by the Associated Press.

Apparently, the only reason WND didn't mention it at the time it became known to the "mainstream media" is because such a common criminal tactic didn't fit with the Islamic-terrorist meme in which WND was so invested. In fact, once it became clear that the Armanious family was killed by common robbers than by jihad-driven Muslims, WND stopped covering the story completely, referring to it only once more, in a March 12 story on the "Internet chat site" that purportedly threatened Armanious -- even though that alleged threat had nothing to do with the Armanious family's slaying.

That article cited a blog called Jihad Watch, which is also cited in WND's Feb. 1 story. The blog's author, Robert Spencer, wrote a Jan. 27 article about the case for the conservative journal Human Events, which along which WND fanned the speculative flames. Spencer also regularly writes for David Horowitz's, where a version of his Human Events article appeared.

It's certainly not as if there isn't anything to report following the capture of the two suspects. As a result of the speculation fueled in part by Spencer and WND, there is now much tension between Coptics and Muslims. As the Christian Post reported: "Some Christians refused to believe the official version of what happened, and some Muslims demanded an apology for what they called unjustified suspicions and verbal abuse by the Coptic community."

If it involves apologizing to Muslims, count WND out. The fun went out of the story when the killers turned out to be something other than wild-eyed anti-Christian fanatics. WND's editorial handbook seems to dictate that it's only persecuted Christians are newsworthy. Type the words "Christian persecution" into WND's search engine, and it returns (as of this writing) 388 articles with headlines such as "Christians persecuted in Vietnam," "Vietnamese Christians flee for their lives" and "Christian beaten by Muslim gang." Yet once the Armanious story became about baseless accusations against Muslims -- accusations WND helped promote -- it couldn't run far enough from it, despite its pledge to be an "uncompromising disseminator of news."

Besides, WND is too busy trying to make money off of portraying Muslims as "mad mullahs" by shilling a bigot's scaremongering book and not telling its readers about his company's financial interests and his own personal interests in promoting the issue.

If Farah and his crew can't use even the flimsiest of premises to depict Muslims as bloodthirsty terrorists or terrorist collaborators and appeasers, it apparently won't cover Muslims at all.

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