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Still getting it wrong

September 9, 2010, 5:33 pm | By Nick Sementelli

On the O’Reilly Factor this week, guest host Monica Crowley had Fox News religion correspondent Fr. Jonathan Morris on to discuss the Dove Center’s Qu’ran burning plans.

Though they admirably call out Pastor Jones as unrepresentative of true Christianity, they quickly slip into spreading dangerous mistruths, falsely claiming that moderate Muslims have failed to “[decry] the terrorist acts of the radical Islamists.”


MORRIS: And now it’s important for us to stand up and say, “This is not Christianity. He has no right to be saying it. He should be ashamed of himself.”

CROWLEY: And this is why your statement right there is so important, because we in the west have been saying where are the moderate Muslim voices?

MORRIS: Exactly, Monica, that’s it.

CROWLEY: Decrying the terrorist acts of the radical Islamists. Those voices have largely been silent. But when radical elements come up in Christianity and other religions, it’s up to say, “Hey, they don’t stand for us.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with this false argument on the blog, but it’s worth doing again. The Muslim community has consistently spoken out against acts of terrorism and continue to do so.

One of these outspoken moderate Muslims is the very person Crowley and Morris spent the beginning of their segment criticizing: Imam Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative, whose own denunciations of terrorism have been blatantly disregarded in the conservative campaign to smear and discredit him.

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Putting things in perspective

September 8, 2010, 11:30 am | By Nick Sementelli

This Venn diagram by Mark Schmidt made the rounds last week as a great illustration of how many people we’re talking about when we discuss Muslims, Muslim-Americans and al-Qaida.

With the Qur’an burning Florida church in the news lately, I thought it would be useful to update it:

Thumbnail image for MuslimPopulationChart.JPG

Credit to Technipol for the to-scale diagram.

Update: We updated the graph to include a more accurate estimate of the Muslim-American population. See the Pew Forum report, “Mapping the Global Muslim Population” for more information.

Update II: Added credit for the original image.

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Tennessee Burning

August 30, 2010, 1:11 pm | By Nick Sementelli

As my colleague John noted in his post last week, New York isn’t the only place where anti-Islamic sentiment is brewing. Mosques around the country are being protested and vandalized even in the absence of Ground Zero concerns.

One particularly egregious example is happening in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where the local Muslim community has faced vehement opposition in trying to build a place of worship. The outrage seems to have taken a violent turn with the news of a fire at the mosque construction site this weekend. The investigation into arson is still pending, but two previous acts of vandalism at the site suggest the fire may be connected to recently escalating protests. In an even more chilling turn, members of the embattled congregation reported hearing gunfire while they gathered at the site yesterday.

Political leaders play an important role in creating conditions that either foster or discourage this kind of violence. Just last month, Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsay explained that his opposition to the mosque didn’t violate his support for religious freedom because “you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion or is it a nationality, way of life or cult.”

At least those who oppose the Park51 project in New York have tried to insist that their stances are not based in Islamophobia. Unintentionally or not however, their nuance seems to be lost on a significant number of Americans who are unfamiliar with and afraid of their Muslim neighbors. Continuing to stoke the fears of the nation with talk of sharia law, “victory mosques” and connections between American Muslims and terrorists will only further incite those who see Islam as a threat and violence the only solution.

It’s time for pundits and political leaders who have spoken out against Park51 to stand up and denounce this rhetoric and violence. Even those who disagree on the particular politics of Park51 should be able to affirm that Islam is a peaceful religion and that we have nothing to fear from our Muslim-American neighbors. In the absence of such statements from leaders, we can only infer that they are happy to use some Americans’ dangerous misconceptions for their own political ends.

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Following the rules

July 30, 2010, 10:34 am | By Nick Sementelli

We reported a few weeks ago on the AP stylebook’s clear guidelines that journalists should avoid describing undocumented immigrants as “illegals.” Looks like Bruce Smith didn’t get the memo:

Immigration skirmish brews in quiet SC town

By BRUCE SMITH (AP) – 4 hours ago

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. — In a quiet Southern bedroom community of gardens and parks across the country from Arizona, another skirmish in the battle over illegal immigration is brewing.

Poor and uneducated illegals “come for the American dream,” said Villacis, 48, who emigrated from Ecuador four years ago.

There’s a reason journalists pursuing balance and accuracy should not be using politically loaded, dehumanizing language. We hope the AP catches this and makes a quick correction.

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Combating Wage Theft

July 1, 2010, 2:04 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Since President Obama’s election, the Department of Labor has been strengthening efforts to protect workers’ rights and enforce labor laws after eight years of neglect by the previous administration.

As part of this renewed commitment, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis has introduced a new campaign entitled “We Can Help” to fight wage theft– a shameful but not uncommon practice in which employers pay workers less then they’re owed, force them to work overtime without appropriate compensation, or falsely classify them as independent contractors to avoid payroll taxes.

Along with the injustice faced by individual workers, wage theft creates systemic problems in the labor market that hurt all workers. This fosters a “race to the bottom” that punishes employers who follow the law.

In addition to the DOL’s outreach program to help workers prevent and report wage theft, our friends at Interfaith Worker Justice have launched an online resource center at

IWJ president Kim Bobo was on The Ed Show this week and did a great job explaining the problem and what workers can do:

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