So why did the paper recently run a glowing feature of a Muslim cleric who said he hopes the U.S. would be a Muslim country ruled by Islamic law? The Times even ran it -- in the middle of a war on Islamic terror -- on its front page.
"Every Muslim who is honest would say, I would like to see America become a Muslim country," imam Zaid Shakir admitted in the last paragraph of a long story that spent the preceding 2,862 words trying to convince us how progressive and moderate Shakir is.
Talk about burying the lead. If this is the new voice of moderate Muslims in America, God help us (and I don't mean Allah).
Ironically, the story was titled, "American Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground." Modern? Islamic law is based on 1,400-year-old Bedouin justice that metes out beheadings, amputations and stonings. It also sanctions polygamy, denies women basic rights and merges mosque and state.
The Times also profiled Shakir's California partner, Sheik Hamza Yusuf, also described as "hip" and popular with Americanized Muslim students and converts. The pair tours college campuses speaking to packed auditoriums.
These aren't your father's imams, the Times says. They are "a new generation of imams who can reconcile Islam and American culture" -- even as at least one of them hopes for the Islamization of American culture.
"They say that Islam must be rescued from extremists," the story said. "The two are challenging the influence of Islam's more reactionary sects, like Wahhabism and Salafism, which has been spread to American mosques and schools by clerics trained in Saudi Arabia."
Hmm. A check of Yusuf's bio reveals he himself studied Islam in Medina, Saudi Arabia, a fact not mentioned in the piece.
That's not all that was left out.
Yusuf just two days before 9-11 made an ominous prediction in a California speech that triggered an FBI investigation, according to the Washington Post.
"This country is facing a terrible fate" for occupying Muslim lands, Yusuf warned. "The reason for that is that this country stands condemned like Europe stood condemned because of what it did.
"And lest people forget that Europe suffered two world wars after conquering the Muslim lands, Europe's countries were devastated, they were completely destroyed," he added. "Their young people were killed."
FBI agents paid the imam a visit to question him about the incendiary remarks, according to the Post's account. When they knocked on his door, his wife answered and told them he wasn't home. "He's with the president" in Washington, she said.
The agents thought she was joking, but she wasn't. Yusuf was one of many Muslim leaders invited by the White House to meet and pray with President Bush in the weeks after 9-11. (He's the cleric who convinced Bush to ditch "Infinite Justice" as the name for the Afghan war since it might offend
The rehabilitation of Yusuf's image was already in progress, thanks to his Muslim friends in the administration such as Suhail Khan. Now the Times is taking it to the next level, no doubt pleased with Yusuf's political activism, which has included taking vanloads of Arabs to antiwar protests outside the Republican National Convention. The paper is willing to apologize for even Yusuf's past anti-Semitic remarks. In 1995, for example, he called Judaism "a most racist religion."
"Both Mr. Shakir and Mr. Yusuf have a history of anti-American rhetoric," the Times allowed, "but with age, they have tempered their views."
The Times wants us to believe that these leopards have matured and lost their radical spots. But are they really gone? Or did they temporarily disappear as 9-11 brought more scrutiny?
Shakir, who still hopes to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Quran, once praised the effectiveness of "armed struggle" such as the one that brought the Taliban to power. A copy of the pamphlet he wrote was found in the apartment of a suspect in the first World Trade Center bombing.
Never mind all that, the Times says. The imams are now just a couple of tweedy, goatee'd moderates "encouraging tolerance." Uh-huh, that's certainly what they'd have us believe anyway. "