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“Karachi Kids” in CNN’s Crooked Mirror By: Alex Alexiev
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, August 19, 2008


“Karachi Kids” is a powerful documentary story tracing the brainwashing of two American boys from Atlanta sent to a radical madrassa in the Pakistani port city by their immigrant father. Masterfully produced by Pakistani-American filmmaker Imran Raza, the film recently moved Texas Congressman Mike McCaul to urge Pakistani President Musharaf to let the kids go home.  Rep. McCaul also found it necessary to introduce a congressional resolution in order to get a reluctant State Department to do the same for the dozens of other American children subjected to jihadist indoctrination in Pakistani madrassas.

The film is as powerful as it is relevant today, with large parts of the territory of our “strategic ally” being Talibanized by violent extremists, many of whom are the product of these same jihadist madrassas. One couldn’t fault the filmmakers for thinking that Atlanta-headquartered CNN would actually be interested in helping native sons who were the victims of such indoctrination.  In fact, CNN International worked for months with the filmmakers toward that purpose.

Unfortunately, “the most trusted name in news” turned out to have a very different agenda. Shortly after the boys were sprung from their madrassa and returned home, CNN broadcast a program that claimed “Karachi Kids” was a bogus story, suggesting that both the director and Congressman McCaul were lying.

Why and at whose suggestion would CNN engage its vast news machinery to try to do in a low-budget film is a fascinating question.  What is certain is that the network, not the kids’ champions, is in the wrong.

In a broadcast on July 27, CNN tried to debunk Karachi Kids by arguing that the madrassa in question, Jamia Binoria, is “favored by Pakistani-Americans for its moderate and tolerant Islamic instruction,” that it has no ties to jihadist groups and, besides, it may have been simply mistaken for a well-known jihadist madrassa with a similar name.  To buttress these assertions CNN cited unnamed State Department officials, a picture of a US consular official with the madrassa principal, Mufti Mohammed Naeem, and an interview with him in which he denies any ties with militant groups.

Let’s consider each of these propositions in turn:

If Jamia Binoria is “favored by Pakistani-Americans,” that popularity has nothing to do with its supposed moderation.  Rather, it reflects the fact that the madrassa’s leader, Mufti Mohammed, makes a yearly trip to the U.S. for fund-raising and student recruitment among Pakistani-Americans of an Islamist bent – and has proven rather successful at it.

If a picture of a US official with the good mufti is, as CNN implies, proof of his moderation, then a gentleman by the name of Abdurrahman Alamoudi has no business serving a 23-year sentence in federal prison for terrorist activities, since he was photographed more than once with George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. 

The most interesting purported “gotcha” moment in the CNN report came when it cited an analysis of Karachi madrassas by the highly respected International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank to the effect that many confuse Jamia Binoria with the better known, and openly jihadist, Binori Town madrassa.  The network suggested that “Karachi Kids” director had therefore spent three years making a film about the wrong madrassa.

For anybody familiar with Pakistan’s madrassas, the CNN ‘gotcha’ not only serves to undo their entire argument,  it proves beyond much doubt that in attacking “Karachi Kids” and Congressman McCaul, the network engaged in disinformation. 

The ICG report they cite (and, therefore, presumably read) states in the very next sentence that the leaders of Jamia Binoria “have publicly adopted a pro-jihadi, anti-Western stance.” Nor does ICG support CNN’s “moderate madrassa” spin when its analysis bluntly states that, “Even those [madrassas] without direct links to violence, promote an ideology that provides religious justification for such attacks.” No mention of any of that in the CNN story.

And there is more. CNN is silent about Jamia Binoria’s role as a key member of an organization of Deobandi madrassas called Wafaq ul-Madaris al-Arabiya, whose head has publicly advocated forcing Pakistanis to abide by Shariah law and to expand its reach by violent means.

Nor is there any mention of the organization’s guiding Deobandi creed, which rivals Wahhabism in its violent and mysoginist worldview.  It is that creed that gave rise to the murderous Taliban and continues to guide it today.  It considers not only non-Muslims to be infidels; it also views Shia Muslims in the same way – and, therefore, among those who deserve to be killed.

In addition, the Deobandis see women as semi-human, at best. For example, a recent Deobandi fatwa ordered an Indian Muslim who had been raped by her father-in-law, to divorce her husband and marry the rapist, because she had become “unclean” to her husband.

CNN evidently sees nothing wrong with American kids being subjected against their will to this kind of “education.”  Worse yet, it is willing to deliberately besmirch the reputation of those that do.  Far from deserving the trust of the viewing public, CNN has with its attack on “Karachi Kids” earned yet another distinction in journalistic malfeasance: proud purveyor of jihadist disinformation.


Alex Alexiev is vice president for research at the Center for Security Policy, Wash. D.C.


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