The NYT’s Version of a Moderate Muslim

On June 18, The New York Times ran a profile, U.S. Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground, that profiled Sheik Hamza Usuf and Imam Zaid Shakir who, according to The Times are “leading intellectual lights for a new generation of American Muslims who can help them learn how to live their faith without succumbing to American materialism or Islamic extremism.”

Reporter Laurie Goodstein goes out of her way to portray the men as people who previously had made extremist anti-American statements which they have since renounced on their way to moderation.

Fair enough, but just how moderate have the two become. For example, it is not until the second-to-last paragraph of the almost-3,000 word article that we come upon this nugget,

He [Shakir] said he still hoped that one day the United States would be a Muslim country ruled by Islamic law, “not by violent means, but by persuasion.”

This is what The Times views as a moderate view?

There is a very small movement in the United States called the Christian Reconstructionists who broadly want to do the same thing with Christianity — essentially create a Christian-based theocracy with the Old and New Testament as the fundamental basis for the legal system. Like Shakir, they don’t necessarily advocate violence, but I can’t imagine that The Times would agree that their views are “moderate” simply because they don’t advocate blowing shit up to get their way.

Similarly, in the context of American politics, Shakir is a religious extremist who seeks to overturn the American experiment with secular government for a religious theocracy not all that different from the Christian Reconstructionist vision. Shame on the New York Times for giving such extremism as pass as “moderation.”


U.S. Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground. Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times, June 18, 2006.

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