I attended a press conference today held at the headquarters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announcing a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the six “Flying Imams” against US Airways. If you missed this story, the group of Imams were pulled off a US Airways flight before departure in Minneapolis and questioned by the FBI for what some passengers described as “suspicious behavior.” The Imams claim in their lawsuit today that their civil rights were violated based on race and religion and they were not in fact acting suspicious or attempting to draw unnecessary attention to themselves.
But just before the event got underway, I noticed a cameraman packing his gear up and being told to leave before the press conference began – and I would soon learn that the banished colleague was a shooter for the Christian Broadcasting Network.
When asked why the CBN cameraman received the boot from the event, CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said:
“We have long barred the CBN from our news conferences because of their long, long history of vicious anti-Muslim bigotry and we have no motivation to promote that kind of intolerance and it is a private function and we have decided that they are not welcome.”
I later spoke to CBN Cameraman Steve Jacobi and CBN Correspondent Erick Stakelbeck who gave me a copy of the footage of Jacobi’s removal (like a seasoned shooter, he was rolling the entire time). Steve noted that in all of his years of covering press conferences, he has never been thrown out of one. “They didn’t let me do my job – and this is a free country,” Jacobi said.
I also learned that this is not the first time that CAIR has barred CBN from their pressers and watched footage of CBN getting the boot at the National Press Club in 2004.
I find it alarmingly ironic that here you have a press conference announcing a civil rights lawsuit that revolves around the issue of religious intolerance and the first thing the offended Islamic group does is kick the Christian broadcasters out. Not even the Nation of Islam or Louis Farrakhan who have been critical of other ethnic and religious groups in America have ever gone so far as to “ban” members of the media.
As I listened to the actual press conference, only one of the six Imams actually spoke to the cameras and microphones. It was a young, good looking man of about mid 30s dressed in a nice suit and well spoken. His name was Imam Didmar Faja and he described the events that took place on Nov 20, 2006. In his statement, he included this:
“Throughout these events, all I could remember was my life during the era of Communism in Albania. Under the totalitarian regime in Albania, I used to watch my family members being jailed for expressing their religious beliefs and practices. I could not comprehend the same could happen here in the US.”
In fairness to CAIR, I have no idea what it is that CBN has said that made them so angry as to deny them access to press events. But I also learned that CAIR gave Washington Times reporter Audrey Hudson the boot as well for her alleged bias.
So as long as Imams are talking about totalitarian regimes and banning members of our collective media from their press events, it should be noted that the fastest path to totalitarian rule in the US would be to eliminate the freedom of the press. And that’s exactly what CAIR chose to do today.
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