Sunday, November 21, 2004

Islamophobia--The Syracuse Post Standard's Slanted coverage of the Dhafir Trial


I am writing you to tell you about the jaundiced perspective that the Syracuse Post Standard has taken in covering the trial of Dr. Rafil Dhafir. Ask members of the Muslim community, supporters of Dr. Dhafir and court monitors and they will all to varying degrees tell you that reporting has been highly prejudiced against Dr. Dhafir. We set up this blog: ( to begin recording their comments and hopefully yours should you decide to help us document this injustice, (To read more learn more about Dr. Dhafir go to:

The Post Standard reporters have consistently reported on the trial as if he were the prosecutions stooge. The reports almost exclusively record the prosecutions side of the case and ignore it when the prosecution's witness is subsequently trounced by the defense, has as often been the case. They are not above sensationalism--printing photos or comments that are at best dubious. See my letter to the editor and photo..

Several of Dr. Dhafir's supporters have spoken to one of the reporters, John Obrien about his prejudicial coverage. He does not believe that his reporting is prejudicial. Some at the paper have commented that this is the way a trial is covered--beginning with the prosecution and then the defense. However, such a cookie cutter approach fails when the prosecution has almost all the witnesses and the defense relies on the cross-examination to expose the truth.

While the Post Standard has done some positive features on the Muslim community (as we note below they have run some highly racist articles and letters to the editor) it has consistently slammed Dr. Dhafir and done the prosecution's bidding. Last year it reported several times that Dr. Dhafir had an Iraqi soldier's uniform in his home. The only purpose of such an attack was to titillate and tarnish Dr. Dhafir and smear him as a terrorist as the prosecution, Attorney General Ashcroft, Governor Pataki and others have been all too willing to do.

Below you will find a letter printed in the letters to the editor section in the Post Standard that if written about any other ethnic group besides Muslims would have brought lawsuits. You will also find an article that shows how the paper blatantly ignored the relief efforts of the local Muslim community to support earthquake ravaged Iran and instead slanted the article to titillate by focusing on suspected HTN terrorist Ayman Jarwan. The words of Mohamed Khater and Magda Bayoumi clearly point out the paper's transgression over the coverage of the Earthquake relief effort in their letter to the editor dated December 12, 2003:

Mr. Ayman Jarwan called The Post-Standard on behalf of the Islamic Society of Central New York to publicize the relief effort that is being arranged by the society in response to the devastating earthquake in Iran and to ask people to donate to this humanitarian cause. The information he provided was similar in nature to what was written in your paper the day before and was provided by Church World Services and the Red Cross. The result, though, was completely different. More than 90 percent of the article was about Mr. Jarwan and the Help the Needy case, ignoring his request and that of the president of the society, to concentrate on the message, which is simply to try to help other human beings at a time of calamity.

The Post Standard decided not to report on the civil rights abuses and the denial of Dr. Dhafir's sixth amendment right to visit with legal council. This was documented in the bail motion filed on December 22, 2003 ( ). In the hearing of the bail motion on January 27, 2004 we learned more, such as Sargeant Powlina of the Justice Center, said he was told by the government to deny access to legal counsel. Given that the Post Standard had knowledge the CBS's 60 minutes had done a segment on the abuses at the Justice Center (Shackling prisoners to their beds at night) you would think that they would be keen to further investigate the matter. For more on the injustices committed by the prosecution/government go to: and read the Friday, October 29, 2004 entry--'Detroit Dhafir--What's Wrong with the War on Terrorism'.

We have met twice with the paper over the last year, once about the treatment of Muslims the other over the coverage of the Dhafir trial. We have had numerous conversations with the editorial staff about their slanted perspective.

It is time to raise the public's awareness about the Post Standard's prejudiced coverage of the Dhafir trial. We ask for your help.

Here is what you can do:
--Go to the trial and write a letter to the editor ( , type 'Post Standard Letter' in the subject box of the email)and post it to the blog:
--Call the Editorial page editor Mark Libbon 315-470-2233 and the letters editor, Fred Fiske, 315-470-2163 and ask them to publish my letter to the editor below.
--Come to the trial and see for yourself and post your opinion to this blog: (
--Call the editors of the paper. They are the ones that edit down the reports, select the pictures to be printed and pick titles:
Don Cazentre--315-470-2297
Jon Hand
Mike Grogan--315-470-6046
The Post Standard's General Telephone Number is: 315-470-0011
God Bless,
Madis Senner

PS. Not all has been bad with the Post Standard. Religion reporter Renee Gadou did report on the intimidation and interrogation of 150 Muslim families that donated to Dr. Dhafir's charity. The editorial staff on August 8, 2004 slammed NY Governor Pataki for smearing Dr. Dhafir in an editorial. When I called to buy reprints the paper told me no because they did not want to be perceived of as supporting Dr. Dhafir. As someone that has published in the NY Times, Barrons and others I have never before seen a newspaper pass up the chance to make a few extra bucks.

Letter to the Editor December 2, 2003 (Published in the Syracuse Post Standard)

Excuse me for not joining in the celebration of the end of Ramadan. You see, while local Muslims have been celebrating this "holy month," their brothers in Iraq have been ambushing and killing American soldiers. While they have been greeting each other with "Eid Mubarek," their compatriots have been shooting down our helicopters. And while they have been clamoring for "justice" for one of their own charged with serious crimes, the bodies of innocent Americans have been arriving home in coffins, the victims of cowardly Muslim terrorists.

No, I won't be celebrating Ramadan, nor should anyone else concerned with increasing Muslim fanaticism and terrorism around the globe.

The head of the Islamic Society of Central New York stated at Tuesday's gathering, "I remind you, America is not at war with Islam." That is certainly true. However, considering that Muslim terrorists have made Americans the prime targets for their gutless and hateful acts, with the tacit approval of many of their governments worldwide, I have to wonder whether Islam is not at war with America.
Michael Lydon
North Syracuse


A man awaiting sentencing for helping a Syracuse charity send money to Iraq in violation of U.S. sanctions is an organizer of a local Islamic group's effort to raise funds for victims of the earthquake in Iran.

Ayman Jarwan, who pleaded guilty to two felonies in the Help the Needy charity case involving Iraq, contacted The Post-Standard on behalf of the Islamic Society of Central New York to announce the fund-raising effort for Iran.

The Islamic Society last week sent about $1,500 to the International Federation of Red Cross for the Iranian victims and it is seeking more donations, said Anwer Ahmed, president of the society.

Jarwan urged Central New Yorkers to show compassion for the people of Iran, where at least 28,000 died in Friday's 6.6-magnitude quake and tens of thousands of others were injured or orphaned.
"In times of calamity and crisis, we have to stand up for other humans. We have to show our human face towards others,"
Jarwan said.Jarwan said his guilty plea in the Help the Needy fund-raising case should not deter anyone from donating money to the Islamic Society for Iran."The funds will go through the mosque here, the Islamic Society.

There's no reason why people have to worry," said Jarwan, who is employed by the Islamic Society as its refugee coordinator and manager of special projects

.The Islamic Society will send donations from Central New Yorkers to Iran via the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva, Jarwan said."You don't have to mention my name," Jarwan said.

U.S. Attorney Glenn Suddaby - whose office prosecuted Jarwan - declined Wednesday to comment on Jarwan's involvement in the effort to raise funds for Iran.If the Islamic Society funnels donations it receives for Iran through the Red Cross, Suddaby said he would not expect there to be any legal problems.

Ahmed also declined to talk about Jarwan's involvement in the Islamic Society's earthquake relief effort."I really don't want people to be distracted. I want people to focus on the tragedy and the relief effort," said Ahmed, who is a professor at Syracuse University.

In April, Jarwan pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiring with officials of the Syracuse-based Help The Needy charity to violate sanctions against sending money to Iraq.

Defense attorney Jim McGraw said at the time that Jarwan was involved in a conspiracy to provide food and humanitarian aid to starving people in Iraq.

Jarwan also pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the federal government by "impairing and impeding" the Internal Revenue Service's collection of income taxes.

Under executive orders issued under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, Americans can donate food, medicine and material humanitarian aid to Iraq only after they get a license. They are forbidden to send money there.

Iran is on a State Department list of nations that are terrorism sponsors, and U.S. sanctions prohibit most trade there. Agencies that are aiding the relief effort, such as the American Red Cross, are applying for licenses from the Treasury Department.

A grand jury investigating Help the Needy indicted Jarwan, of 111 Lafayette Road; Dr. Rafil Dhafir, of Manlius; Osameh Al Wahaidy, of Fayetteville; and Maher Zagha, of Amman, Jordan.The four were accused of funneling more than $4 million of Help the Needy donations into bank accounts in Jordan controlled by Zagha.Prosecutors believe at least $160,000 of that money was then sent to individuals in Iraq.

Dr. Dhafir, an oncologist, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. Al Wahaidy pleaded guilty in April to violating the Iraqi sanctions. After he was arrested, Al Wahaidy was suspended as an imam at Auburn state prison and fired as a math instructor at the State University College at Oswego.Zagha is in Jordan and has not been arrested.A fifth man, Ahmed Yusef Ali, who was the head of Somali Relief Network of Troy, pleaded guilty in May to filing false documents with the IRS in an attempt to assist Help the Needy disguise the source of some of its money.Accountant G. William Hatfield, 56, of Sherrill, pleaded guilty in federal court to helping Dr. Rafil Dhafir file a false tax form with the IRS.

How to helpChurch World Service: P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.Designate contributions for account No.6815 (reference Iran Earthquake). Contributions can also be made by credit card by calling (800) 297-1516.

American Red Cross: Call (800) HELPNOW or send a donation to the Onondaga-Oswego chapter of the American Red Cross, 220 Herald Place, Syracuse 13202 or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. Mark the donation specific to the Iran earthquake fund if you want. Call Dick Blansett, director of the Onondaga-Oswego chapter's financial development, at 234-2216 for more information.The Islamic Society of Central New York: Donations can be sent to ISCNY, 925 Comstock Ave., Syracuse, NY 13210.