A sensationalized television news report about a Tennessee Muslim community may have spurred vandalism on a Nashville mosque. Middle Tennessee’s WTVF Channel 5 this week ran a heavily hyped two-part series: “Inside Islamville: Is a Local Muslim Community Tied to Terrorism?” Go here and here to see the series.
Islamville is the nickname for a private community (or “compound,” as reporter Nick Beres described in the report) that has existed near Dover, Tennessee since the early 1980s. The reason for the series is a video called Homegrown Jihad, made by PRB Films and the Christian Action Network, which accuses the community of being one of 35 terrorist training grounds in the country.
Beres bases his entire report on the unfounded accusations raised in the video. Well, that and the fact that a couple local people say that Islamville residents keep to themselves, which they find suspicous. The reporter also went to visit the place with a local sheriff. The sheriff, the lone voice of reason, says he has never had a problem with the community, nor has he received any complaints.
That’s it. No FBI reports, no government FOIAs. Just a whole lot of B-roll featuring Arabic-looking people blowing up buildings and American soldiers shooting back as Beres narrates: “The war to seek out and destroy terrorists is never ending. That means overseas and, disturbingly enough, also here on American soil. The domestic terrorist threat is real and some believe it’s nurtured in remote areas of this country, including middle Tennessee.”
The news piece also includes a clip from Homegrown Jihad, which makes the unchallenged assertion: “Overwhelmingly, the vast majority of Muslim organizations inside the United States are affiliated with terrorist groups overseas.”
After teasing the results of his investigation throughout the story, Beres concludes at the end that he saw no evidence that Islamville was a terrorist training camp, nor did he see any “anti-government signs or flag desecration.
What’s really troublesome is that the reporter never bothered to provide any sort of context about whether Christian Action Network (CAN) is a credible source. If he did, he might have mentioned that in addition to a vehement anti-Muslim crusade, CAN also promotes an extremist anti-gay agenda and once ran a commercial that said, “There are rumors that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian.”
Following the series this week, vandals spray-painted a Nashville mosque and youth center unconnected to the Islamville community.
According to the Nashville Scene blog:
“Muslims Go Home” and a Crusade-style cross were scrawled across the front of Al-Farooq Islamic Center on Nolensville Road, says Salaad Nur, a spokesman. He says the mosque, which primarily serves members of the Somali community, has contacted the police and the FBI.
“They also left a letter at the youth center that says Muslims are friends of Satan and we are here to destroy the United States and to destroy Israel and things of that nature,” he says. “We’re a little bit shaken up. I hope this is just a scare and things don’t get any worse than this.
“It’s unexpected,” he adds. “The only thing I can think of is the sensationalized reporting [by Channel 5] over Sunday and Monday. That’s the only thing I can think of. Even after 9/11 we have never had any vandalism.”
When reporting like that of Channel leads to threats and vandalizing, as it appears this one may have, it becomes a bigger problem than just sensationalistic, phony “controversies.” It really shouldn’t have to be said, but it’s not a reporter’s job to further the hate propaganda of an extremist organization in the name of “fair-and-balanced” journalism.
Try to imagine for a moment the outcry if a news team reported on an “alleged” terrorist training camp in some rural white community. The reporter barges into a church service with a camera and then intersperses the piece with video of the Oklahoma City bombing. Unfortunately, that’s what we’re dealing with here.