CNN.com Paints Would-be Mosque-burner as Anti-Muslim Radical, Omits That He's Muslim

CNN has, for years, touted itself as “The Most Trusted Name in News,” and yet time and again it belies its own claim to unique (among cable news networks) political neutrality. CNN.com editor Dan Gilgoff has once again undercut the channel’s gimmicky self-identification.

Gilgoff recently discussed Californian Roger Stockham, who drove across the country to Detroit, Michigan, planning to wreak inferno-laden havoc on an area mosque. Thankfully, he was arrested by Detroit police in front of the Dearborn, Michigan Islamic Centers of America before having a chance to do so.

In an astounding omission, Gilgoff attempted to paint Stockham as a radicalized redneck driven to violence by anti-Muslim rhetoric of some sort. But not once did he mention that Stockham is apparently a devout Muslim!

Gilgoff offers the following observation, succeeded by a quote from the executive administrator of the ICA, Kassem Allie:

To Allie, the incident is evidence that some Americans are being radicalized against Islam, turning the allegation of growing Muslim radicalization on its head.

"The suspect was apparently radicalized quite some time ago," Allie said. "And there are other instances of radicalization that are of great concern to us.

"I have no problem addressing Islamic radicalization," he said, monitoring the mosque's security cameras from a computer screen in his ground-floor office. "But there should be an acknowledgment that other communities have the same problem."

Indeed, dismay was expressed far and wide regarding the now-further tarnished reputation of the American Christian community, thanks to the actions of its newest celebrity adherent, Roger Stockham, would-be incinerator of mosques. There was, however, one rather sizeable problem with all the handwringing: Stockham himself is a Muslim, as Islamist Watch noted:

Back on January 31, the AP described the arrestee as "a Vietnam veteran-turned Muslim holy warrior" based on what he had said to a Detroit restaurant manager, who later testified that in addition to bragging about the plot, Stockham had told him about becoming Muslim and joining the "mujahedeen." Stockham's own attorney also called his client an "Islamic convert." Behaving like a radical Sunni, the defendant rejected his first lawyer because "he is a Shiite and I am not," asserting that the man attends the Shiite-run ICA. The same news item cites sources claiming that Stockham spoke fluent Arabic and quoted from the Koran during an interview.

Stockham’s beef with the Dearborn ICA was that it was a Shiite center, rather than Sunni, the strand of Islam of which Stockham himself is a devotee. Thus, as Islamist Watch pinpoints, the problem at issue here is not hostility towards Islam displaying itself in acts of violence – the “Islamophobia” CNN routinely insists is plaguing the American Muslim community. Rather, this is an instance of how Islamic balkanization has led to sectarianism run amok within the religion itself - and how such divisions can lead to violence.

To make matters worse, it appears Gilgoff could have learned the facts of the story here, had he bothered to try. He authored the piece on March 27, 2011. Stockham’s interception and arrest had occurred on January 31. In spite of the misguided hysteria which initially ensued, notable portions of which blamed Christians for spawning the likes of Stockham, the record had been corrected fairly early on…definitely long before Gilgoff wrote it up.

So was this willful obfuscation on Gilgoff’s part or sloppiness? Either way, it constitutes fairly egregious journalistic malfeasance for one who purports to edit a blog on genuine belief and practice of religion in the United States of America.

Gilgoff touted Dearborn Muslims' allegations of anti-Islam radicalization thusly:

Indeed, a common complaint around Dearborn, the epicenter of southeast Michigan’s Muslim community, is that the only time religion is mentioned in a crime story is when the suspect is Muslim.

Well, at least this story didn't mention it. But shouldn't it have?