On the evening of November 5, 2009, the day Nidal Malik Hasan committed the Fort Hood massacre, evidence rapidly mounted that it had been an act of jihad. He’d called himself a “devout Muslim”; he’d been known to wear traditional Muslim clothing; he’d posted a Muslim prayer on his apartment door; he’d spoken approvingly of suicide bombers; just before committing the murders, he’d distributed copies of the Koran to his neighbors.
But while at least some other media were quick to report on these facts, CNN either ignored them or did its best to give them short shrift and leave them unexamined. As one observer put it, “the network seemed to be making a masterly effort to avoid giving this data a cold, hard look,” even as it sought to portray Hasan as a case of PTSD or, perhaps, as a good soldier who (for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with Islam) had undergone a psychological break as a result of U.S. actions in Iraq. In an effort to illuminate the massacre, Wolf Blitzer grilled a panel of psychiatrists – not Islam experts.
Then there was CNN’s report, aired last September, on small Yemeni girls who die in childbirth. The reporter said that the practice of taking child brides was common in a certain “tribal region of western Yemen” and referred to the “cultural tradition of child brides.” But she was careful not to mention that this “tradition” can be traced directly to the Prophet Muhammed himself, who wed his wife Aisha when she was six years old and consummated the marriage when she was nine. Imams have preached ever since that any girl of that age is fair game for husbands, however old.
By omitting these facts, and by entirely leaving out the “I” and “M” words, CNN’s reporter was deliberately obscuring the reason why not only Yemen but the Muslim world generally is awash in pregnant little girls, many of whom die in childbirth because they’re too small to deliver a baby.
In May 2014, CNN’s website ran an op-ed that started out by lamenting the phenomenon of honor killing. But instead of acknowledging that this crime occurs almost entirely among Muslims – because it’s consistent with the Koranic view of women as upholders of family honor – the author, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, segued into the entirely unrelated case of Elliot Rodger, the psychologically troubled 22-year-old who murdered six people in Santa Barbara, supposedly out of sexual frustration, before killing himself.
Lemmon’s point was apparently to highlight the universal issue of violence against women – even though four of Rodger’s six victims were men. But to link a lone sicko like Rodger (who would have been hospitalized, or locked up in the slammer, if he hadn’t committed suicide) with perpetrators of honor killing (who are acting in accordance with religious ideology and who often escape punishment because their communities and government authorities actually approve of their actions) is utterly outrageous – a way of removing Islam entirely from the picture when it should, in fact, be front and center.
But then, removing Islam entirely from the picture is one thing at which CNN is absolutely terrific.