Monday, April 7, 2008

New York Cabbie Calls for Sharia Law, Axes Statue of Liberty - Why isn't This News?

Yousef al-Khattab started life as Joseph Cohen. He's a New York City cabbie, and understands American First Amendment. He also calls for Sharia Law in America, mocks the deaths of GIs in Iraq - and "says he's doing the country a service by 'exposing the truth.' "

If Yousef al-Khattab sounds familiar, that may be because this is my second post discussing him ("Freedom of Speech: It's Protected in America" (March 27, 2008).)

You might have read about him in the news, but many Americans couldn't.

First Amendment Protects New York Cabbie
Mocking Dead GIs in Iraq -
This isn't News?!

So far, as nearly as I can tell, the story of Yousef al-Khattab hasn't made it into American national news, except for two articles in (Even though 8 of the 9 hits for "Yousef al-Khattab" on Google News' first page of results this morning on Google News were on The Jawa Report, I don't count TJR as "news," since The Jawa Report appears to be more of an advocacy website, than a news service.)

Yousef al-Khattab seems like a newsworthy person, at least for 'human interest' stories. He's an American citizen, born into a Jewish family, who converted to Islam. That's interesting, right there. (FOXNews didn't tell the whole story. Yousef al-Khattab describes his family of origin as "a Secular Jewish family," a significant distinction in my book.)

There's also a strong tie-in with current events. Yousef al-Khattab maintains a website,, is colorful - and that's putting it mildly. Its rapidly shifting content has included
  • An ax blade hacked into The Statue of Liberty's side
  • Videos:
    • "Daniel Pearl I am Happy Your Dead :) " -
      mocking the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl
    • A puppet show lampooning U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq
  • The latest speech from extremist Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdullah Faisal
Sheikh Abdullah Faisal was convicted in the UK and later deported for soliciting the murder of non-Muslims.

Yousef al-Khattab hasn't made the mistake of relying on a commercial hosting service, like promoters of Geert Wilders' "Fitna." The American Muslim operates his website out of his home in the New York City Borough of Queens.

There, he 'exposes the truth,' like:
  • 9/11 was an "inside job"
  • U.S. foreign policy is to blame for the 9/11 attacks
Since he hasn't threatened anyone, and doesn't openly advocate the violent overthrow of the government, what he writes is free speech.

First Amendment Rights - Annoying, but Valuable

And what he says is free speech, defended by the First Amendment. He says he doesn't support terrorism, and hasn't threatened anyone. All he's doing is writing that he wants America to convert to Islam, and replace our present legal system with Sharia Law.

That's a set of laws that, on occasion has sentenced people to death by stoning for pre-marital sex and/or adultery. Sometimes, though, such offenders are merely subjected to a severe flogging. I don't approve of cheating on your spouse, or what goes on in the back of a car, but death or flogging is a crazy response.

Fair enough. The First Amendment guarantees free speech. That's one reason I can maintain this blog: even though some people in Berkeley, Washington DC, and other important places, probably don't approve of what I say.

First Amendment or Not, Some Speech is Worrisome

A political science professor at the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, Mia Bloom, is concerned about Yousef al-Khattab's website.

"'It may lead people who become radicalized by it to turn to other, more dangerous Web sites,' such as those run by terrorist organizations, she said." According to her, al-Khattab's message is "narrow" and "misinformed" - and she claims that he's trying to "proselytize or radicalize people who share some of these same ideas."

Professor Bloom isn't anti-Islamic: "[He] has obviously been duped or is duping others because that’s not what Islam preaches," she said, in a FOXNews article.

'Convert to Islam! Turn to Shria Law! 9/11 Was an Inside Job! GIs dying in Iraq is Funny!'
Why isn't This News?

There's no way for me to know, but there are some possible explanations. Note: I said "possible," not necessarily "likely."
  1. Reporters and editors for NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, The New York Times, and all the rest of traditional American mainstream news, don't have the resources and connections available to a guy living in a small town in central Minnesota
    • Assessment: Unlikely in the extreme
  2. So much has been going on recently, that there hasn't been room to report Yousef's amazing website
    • Assessment: Unlikely, but plausible
  3. A vast conspiracy is silencing the truth
    • Assessment: Unlikely in the extreme, but would make a good story
  4. Yousef al-Khattab and his website presents editors with uncomfortable dilemmas - he's
    • A member of a minority (Muslim)
      But isn't being oppressed (his website is up and running - and will stay up as long as he's smart)
    • Advocates a non-western lifestyle and value system
      Which rejects the sexual revolution, and all the other post-sixties changes
    • Uses First Amendment Rights
      But uses them in what may be unpalatable ways, even among the best journalistic minds
    - and, worst of all, may give weight to arguments for legislation like the Patriot Act
    • Assessment: Plausible, assuming that mainstream news is, if not biased, then living in a world where it's still 1969.
  5. It's pure coincidence - just as early Global Patriot reporting might have been randomly anti-American
    • Assessment: Very Unlikely: assuming that the preferential reporting is real - like attacks on recruiting offices that didn't make it into national news
As you see, I'm inclined toward option 4.

I think that people, including myself, are more comfortable when thinking along familiar lines. But: while I live in a culture which has forced me to consider alternative explanations for events and phenomena; I get the impression that the cream of American journalism is either surrounded by people with a uniform world view, or prefers to leave their own assumptions unexamined.

Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.