On 15 December, Mohammed Tariq Mahmood, his brother, and 9 children from the extended family were on a plane at Gatwick Airport in the UK – U.S. visas in hand and Disney-bound – when Mr. Mahmood, 41, was told by a British official that the visas had been revoked.
The family had to get off the plane and go home. Mahmood, the owner of a gym, wasn’t given a reason for the visa revocation.
Washington Post reports prominently that CAIR immediately called for an investigation and linked this event to Donald Trump.
U.S. officials strongly denied that the Mahmood family was targeted based on their religion. But the case prompted America’s largest Muslim advocacy organization to call for an investigation into whether Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States was being “implemented informally” by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Now, it’s idiotic to imagine functionaries of the Obama administration deciding to implement informally anything proposed by Donald Trump.
A responsible news organization would have accorded this theory of CAIR’s appropriate skepticism. We know from years of WaPo’s reporting that its writers are well able to convey skepticism about their subjects’ theories. They do it without interruption or respite when they’re reporting on Republicans.
So there’s that point. But there’s also the point that WaPo’s purpose in framing the story appears to be giving prominence – credence, in fact – to suppositions about an “anti-Muslim” backlash in the U.S. This is the article’s actual thesis sentence:
But on both sides of the Atlantic, Muslims said they feared that the true cause of the Mahmood family’s ban – and others like it – was the anti-Muslim hysteria being whipped up on the Republican campaign trail.
The “others like it” reference turns out to allude to the one case of Ajmal Masroor, another Brit who had his visa revoked this month. If there are more specific cases of post-Trump-ban-call visa revocations, they aren’t offered. WaPo merely uses the devices of literary impressionism to imply that there have been such cases: citing “others like it” when there’s exactly one specific case to list, and marshaling information from the State Department that 9,500 visas have been revoked over terrorism concerns since 2001.
There are four references to Donald Trump in the WaPo piece, and two to Republicans, in spite of the fact that neither Trump nor “Republicans” have any power to revoke specific visas to the United States.
The name “Obama” appears once:
Since then, President Obama has used an Oval Office address to preach tolerance, and to remind Americans that “it is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country.”
This is journalistic impressionism at its finest.
But it gets better. Here’s what Daily Mail managed to unearth and report about the Mahmood family that WaPo leaves unmentioned. I’ll let it speak for itself.
However, it has since emerged that a Facebook page claiming links to radical Islamist groups was set up by someone who has lived at the family’s postal address, according to ITV News.
The account, which includes information suggesting it may have been published as a joke, was in the name of Hamza Hussain – a first name shared by Mr Mahmood’s 18-year-old son. It reportedly lists the job titles ‘supervisor at Taliban and leader at al-Qaeda’.
When asked about the account, Mr Mahmood believed hackers may have been to blame, adding: ‘That could be anything, maybe a mistake.’
He said: ‘It is not my son’s Facebook page. It has a similar name, but not the same as my son’s.
‘The page is also linked to our home address and that could be coincidence. I don’t know why it is linked there. The name is not even the same. The authorities must have linked it simply because of the name Hamza.’
It was understood that the wives of Mr Mahmood and his brother had stayed at home for the trip because one of them was ill and one of the children did not have a valid passport.
But it is now believed that Mr Mahmood’s wife was in Pakistan at the time.
Apparently, Mr. Mahmood’s brother (whose name is never given) was denied entry to Israel eight years ago. A similar denial by the U.S. could indicate that the brother’s history raises red flags.
It has also been suggested the move by US authorities could be due to Mr Mahmood’s brother having been refused entry to Israel eight years ago, but no official explanation has been given by the US Embassy.
Interestingly, the top-rated reader comments at Daily Mail are all enthusiastic about the U.S. action in this case. A number of British readers seem to imagine that the U.S. has a care for our own security (or at least that our care is more vigilant than the UK’s).
We don’t know why the visas were revoked for the Mahmood family; there may have been no good reason. I wouldn’t wish security-enforcement mistakes on any blameless person. I assume such mistakes, which have affected innocent people of all ethnicities and religions, affect Muslims. It’s regrettable in every instance, and we should insist that our homeland security officials to do better when it does happen.
But it’s not a harmless thing to turn journalism into mendacious, propagandistic advocacy in order to sell a very particular, biased narrative about what’s going on. Intelligent readers inevitably reach the point where they no longer believe anything WaPo or another mainstream outlet with similar practices says.