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Haters Gonna Hate: Houston Chronicle Attacks Accurate Breitbart Report on Texas Islamic Tribunal

HOUSTON, Texas — The Houston Chronicle attacked an accurate Breitbart Texas report on an Islamic tribunal in January by asserting the same facts Breitbart reported. The Breitbart article revealed the existence of an “Islamic Tribunal” operating in Irving, Texas.

The smear by the Houston Chronicle appears to be a seemingly left-of-center desire to defend Islamists at any expense, but also possible retribution for Breitbart Texas managing director calling them out on a dishonest report about Ted Cruz. The Houston Chronicle later corrected their story, but did so without acknowledging it.

Another possible motivation by the left-wing Houston Chronicle smear could be from an issue that occurred several years ago. In that instance, the Houston Chronicle’s Joe Holley falsely claimed that True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht was under a “DOJ investigation.” The writer admitted in an email that he and the Houston Chronicle didn’t actually know if that smear were true, but they had “heard it somewhere.” The Breitbart Texas managing director called both the writer and the paper out publicly. The floundering newspaper later secretly corrected their false report, never acknowledging that they had been wrong. The paper never apologized to Engelbrecht for the damaging smear.

The Houston Chronicle reported, “An article by right-wing news organization Breitbart published in January about the existence of an Islamic tribunal first sparked the rumors.” The Breitbart article did not report any rumors. All facts reported in the article came from the Islamic Tribunal website, as it appeared on January 26, 2015. There have been many changes made to the website since that time.

The Houston Chronicle article states:

An Islamic tribunal does operate in the Dallas area, and has done so for several years. But the imams that run the panel do not usurp state or federal law. What exists is a forum where Islamic scholars help settle business disputes and other non-criminal matters. The rulings are non-binding and work within the guidelines of U.S. law.

Breitbart Texas interviewed Dr. Taher El-badawi, in January on this specific issue. The second paragraph of the Breitbart article quotes El-badawi saying the tribunal operates under Sharia law as a form of “non-binding dispute resolution.” He was listed at the time as a “judge” on the website. Three other “judges” were listed on the site at the time. The website no longer refers to the men as “judges” but rather lists them as “Imams.”

On the issue of supremacy of U.S. and Texas law, El-badawi was not as clear as the Houston Chronicle would have you believe. El-badwi told Breitbart Texas that most of the time, the laws of Texas and the U.S. are in agreement with Sharia law. When pushed further on the issue about conflict in the laws, the Imam said “we follow Sharia law.” Breitbart Texas then, once again, reported the voluntary nature of the tribunal. “If the parties are not satisfied with the tribunal’s decision, they do not have to accept it and they can take the matter to Texas civil courts.” He did not say what the social ramifications of rejecting the “judge’s” decision would be.

The website listed four “judges” at that time: Imam Yusuf Z.Kavakci, Imam Moujahed Bakhach, Imam Zia ul Haque Sheikh and Dr. El-badawi. It stated in January that the Islamic Tribunal resolves business disputes, divorce (Talaq) cases, community problems, serious family problems, and Khula. All of which, the Houston Chronicle reiterated while attempting to discredit the Breitbart article.

For a third time, Breitbart Texas reported the voluntary nature of the tribunal. “El-badawi restated several times that participation in the tribunal is voluntary. However, he would not discuss what happens to someone who did not follow their rulings.”

The Breitbart article then went on to report several postings on the tribunal’s website explaining how Sharia law applies.

In American courts, men and women are supposed to be treated equally under the law. Under Sharia law, and in this tribunal according to El-badawi, that does not appear to be the case. Breitbart reported:

‘The husband can request the divorce directly from the tribunal,’ El-badawi stated. ‘The wife must go to an Imam who will request the divorce for her.’ He called it ‘two paths to the same result.’ The practice of Khula is the process where a wife can initiate a divorce proceeding and where the husband can agree to the divorce in exchange for a financial compensation. It appears the wife must agree to give up any claim to the “dower” that was not already paid or to return it if it has already been paid. Once the financial issues are resolved the husband can then proclaim the Talaq (divorce).

He then stated the tribunal follows Texas law in regards to child support, visitation, and custody. He said that in most cases custody of the children is awarded to the mother.

Nowhere in the Breitbart article does the writer refer to the tribunal as a “court.” However, a tribunal is defined by Meriam-Webster’s Dictionary as “a court or forum of justice.” The four Islamic attorneys call themselves “judges” not “arbitrators.” Words mean things.

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