Is Katherine Kersten on an Islamic Witch Hunt?

Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten has written two columns about the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) charter school in Inver Grove Heights, Minn. In the first article she alleges taxpayers are paying for an Islamic school and in the other she says a teacher has come forward to ‘break the wall of silence’ about religion at the school.

I’m not trying to argue whether or not TIZA is teaching Islam. It seems like there’s enough evidence to at least raise reasonable questions.

But I think reasonable is the key.

Kersten has gone beyond reasonable in her columns and is throwing any accusation she can at TIZA (And if this is a legitimate issue, why is it left to a columnist? Shouldn’t this involve journalistic research and balance?). Some of her arguments are ridiculous (serving halal food?) and others provide no balanced comparison (like comparable “Christian” charter schools that are located in churches or sponsored by Christian organizations, of which there are several). Her columns read like she’s more concerned with Muslims than she is with the separation of church and state.

Apparently Kersten thinks TIZA is guilty by association. It seems like she’s advocating some kind of witch hunt against Muslims. Like I said before, I’m not saying TIZA is innocent. I’m more concerned about Kersten’s rhetoric. I’d expect a journalistic approach to be more balanced and point to similar situations to prove her point. Instead we get bias and hostility (just read her e-mail exchange with TIZA’s executive director—how much info is she going to ask for in that first question?).

I’m not the only one asking these questions. The Minnesota Monitor has questioned Kersten and the Minnesota Monthly questioned TIZA’s executive director, Asad Zaman, about these issues last year (and pointed out what sounds like bias against Muslims in Kersten’s writings).

It’s clear that TIZA shouldn’t be teaching religion. But even if Kersten’s right it doesn’t justify her bias. It’s that kind of attitude that leads to the paranoid e-mail forwards I’ve received warning of Muslims storming America as undercover agents working to undermine our society. It also leads to the attitude behind the decidedly un-American post-9/11 hate crimes. How about we follow the American tradition of accepting all faiths, instead of attacking one faith and assuming it is guilty until proven innocent?

And I’m not the only baffled by Katherine Kersten’s writing. A quick Google search shows a number of publications and blogs ranting about Kersten’s conservative bias, poor writing and incorrect facts. As long as I’m not alone in scratching my head.

12 thoughts on “Is Katherine Kersten on an Islamic Witch Hunt?”

  1. You’re joking, right?

    No… um, apparently, you aren’t.

    Better get with the program, dude. It’s the MUSLIMS who are targeting you, not the Christians. Do you think for a minute that befriending the tiger means that it isn’t going to eat you?

    BTW–when I come to your website and see an ad for “SingleMuslim.com,” it doesn’t exactly give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Know what I’m sayin’?

  2. Um… OK. I think you’d be exactly what I’m talking about.

    And thanks for calling me a ‘tool’ on your site. That’s a great way to have some positive discourse.

    Also, that ‘Single Muslim’ ad–yeah, see how it says “Ads by Google” beneath it? Talk to Google. It’s just based on keywords, it’s not like I’m seeking out Muslim advertisers.

  3. Um, so you’d like to continue taxpayer-sponsored religious education just because you don’t like the messenger?

    And I’m not so sure that her “columns” are unreasonable. Ok, so the mention of halal food is a little inappropriate. But the rest seems pretty acceptable. In any event, I understand that this is a “column”, not a news story or in-depth investigation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a column a place for a writer to expound on whatever ideas he or she chooses, be they reasoned or hysterical, ludicrous or sensible?

    She does seem worried about the separation of church and state-in this case the church just happens to be Islam. If this institution is found to be teaching religion at taxpayer expense and punished, you can bet that every other charter school within a stone’s throw of a house of worship will be toeing the line. Which is the way it should be. This woman is just singling out one possible violator.

    “Post-9/11 hate crimes”? I did check out the link to the film you posted there. Without seeing it, I have some serious questions. While I don’t doubt that there were some “hate crimes” (19 murders, according to the film’s website), notably the Sikh man in Arizona, one of the remarkable things about this country (and its freedom!) is the relative dearth of said “hate crimes”. In fact, many here in this country have bent over backwards to accomodate Muslims and avoid the appearance of bias, when it was in fact 19 Muslim men who perpetrated one of the bloodiest acts of violence on American soil in the defining historical event of my (and your) adult lifetime.

    While I feel horrible for the people and families who suffered from those few attacks, I am also amazed at the civility and calm of the vast majority of this country after 9/11.

  4. Well, I guess we’re even-Steven, now that you called me a “psycho” (see your Twitter entry).

    And “tool” didn’t have as much to do with your picture (though you DO look like a stereotypical “protester”) as it did with your naive furtherance of the Islamic agenda.

    Please don’t tell me you don’t know about the Islamic agenda……?

  5. Rick: “Um, so you’d like to continue taxpayer-sponsored religious education just because you don’t like the messenger?”

    That’s not what I said. My point is beyond whatever TIZA is doing. Investigate them, figure out if they’re breaking the law, take the appropriate action. I’m all for that.

    My concern is with this columnist who has forsaken journalistic principals. If TIZA really is in the wrong (and maybe they are, I don’t know) then you don’t need to vilify them, throw in useless examples and leave out any sense of balance. How about pointing to other charter schools who are doing similar things (because they are) and explain how they’re just as guilty or innocent because of X, Y or Z? Suddenly it’s not a biased piece but it has some balance to it. That works a lot better than rhetoric.

    Just because she’s a columnist doesn’t justify being misleading or biased. In fact, the Star Tribune runs her column in the Metro section, as if it were straight news.

    If this is real news, then do a real journalistic piece about it.

    As for post-9/11 hate crimes, here’s a Justice Department report, a Washington Post article and a New York Times article. Maybe I should have linked to one of those instead. At any rate, cheering that it wasn’t worse doesn’t help address the wrong and racist reaction.

    The bottom line here is basic journalistic integrity. Instead Kersten has taken the low road and feeds into this Islamic agenda idea that Pete here seems to be so fond of.

  6. Oh, come on now, Abby.

    “The Islamic agenda” is furthered anytime any of us in this country pretend that the establishment of madrassas fronted by terrorist organizations is perfectly okay, and that they’re really no different from any other charter schools, and that folks like CAIR are really no different than the Knights of Columbus,* and that basically everything is all right and God (or Allah) is in His heaven.

    You know, I don’t care if you or anyone else wants to hate on me for being the bearer of bad news. But like I told Kevin, you’d better get with the program pretty soon here. A dhimmi is a horrible thing to be.

    *NOTE: Kevin never said that CAIR are like the Knights of Columbus, that’s just my own metaphor.

  7. OK, Pete, you’re off the deep end. So here’s the deal:

    I’m not interested in listening to your unsupported ranting. So either give us some linked, non-biased facts that make you sound like a sane person, or don’t bother commenting.

    Thanks.

  8. Dude, you’re the one whose entire website is decorated with Muslim ads (the latest are “Has Islam Got a Bad Name?” and “Muslim Photo Albums”). I don’t care if Google is sending them here or not–it should be your first sign that you’ve got a very serious problem.

    Ban me, delete me, whatever. But don’t act like you don’t know what you’re doing, and who your real masters are.

    I won’t bother commenting here again, you and your buddies can just curl up in your la-la land.

  9. It’s too bad people would rather take pot-shots at things they don’t like or don’t agree with instead of having an intelligent and thought provoking response.

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