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Working Through CRAAP – Protecting a Muslim

This is NOT a fact check. A fact check is where I test whether something is true or not, come to a conclusion, and expect you to believe me. While I hope that you would believe me if I’ve done my work correctly, many fact checking sites are routinely dismissed as “being in the tank for ____.” So I don’t want to do a lot of work on a regular basis and have you dismiss it out of hand because you don’t agree with me politically. Also, there are just too many news items and resources to check them all. You don’t need me or anyone else trying to keep up and tell you what’s true.

What you need is a tool to make your own choices about an article or resource that hold up to the scrutiny of others that you talk to or dispute with. You need a tool that can potentially poke holes in their articles with more convincing power than “____ a person I admire, says it is so.” What you need is the CRAAP (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose) Test – a tool that can be used against information items from across the political spectrum.

In this new, occasional, series of blog posts, I will work through the CRAAP test items I come across on the internet or in e-mail. I don’t care whether you agree with my conclusion – I want you to see my process.

Here’s an item I got in e-mail the other day from the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR):

CAIR Thanks Staff of New Mexico Business for Coming to Aid of Muslim Woman Harassed by Customer

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/25/16) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today thanked the managers and staff of a business in New Mexico who came to the defense of a Muslim woman harassed by another customer.

CAIR also asked police to investigate the incident as a possible hate crime.

The Muslim customer, who wears an Islamic head scarf (hijab), was verbally harassed by another customer at a Smith’s store in Albuquerque, N.M., on Wednesday morning. The harasser reportedly yelled: “Get out of our country, you don’t belong here, you’re a terrorist!”

A witness said almost all the store employees stopped what they were doing and came to the defense of the Muslim customer. The witness said: “There was even another woman that like went over to the woman in the hijab and put her arm around her and gave her hug and held her while the Smith’s employees came.”

Staffers got the harasser out of the store, but she reportedly waited in the parking lot for the Muslim woman to come out. “So all the Smith’s employees gathered around this woman and escorted her to her car and helped her load her groceries,” the witness said.

Police arrived too late to intervene in the incident.

SEE: Picture Captures Person Accosting Woman Wearing Hijab at Smith’s

“This collective defense of a person being harassed because of her faith shows the best of our nation and can serve as an example to others at a time of growing Islamophobia nationwide,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. “We urge law enforcement authorities to investigate this incident as a hate crime.”

Hooper noted that CAIR has documented an unprecedented spike in incidents targeting Muslims and other minorities in recent months, and particularly following the November 8 presidential election.

CAIR: Appetite for Hate Crimes a Growing Realty Across U.S. (CNN)

The Washington-based Muslim civil rights group is asking Muslim community members who believe their rights have been violated to contact local police and CAIR’s Civil Rights Department at 202-742-6420 or by filing a report at: http://www.cair.com/civil-rights/report-an-incident/view/form.html

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Here’s how I looked at the item through the lens of CRAAP:

Currency: The timeliness of the information.  When was the information published or posted?

I was sent this e-mail on 11/25/2016, about two days that this story in New Mexico was said to have taken place. It wasn’t an effort to create an emotion based on something that happened years ago.

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.  Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?

For me, this e-mail was quite relevant because I come from a perspective that every human being matters and no one should be mistreated on the basis of who they are as a human being. If I was writing a paper on the treatment of Muslims in modern America, this story would be relevant.

Authority: The source of the information.  What are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations?  Is the author qualified to write on the topic?

There is no identified Individual author for this newsletter. Based on the logo and e-mail address (not pictured), it clearly came from CAIR. I do expect that a Muslim organization is qualified to write on the treatment of Muslims.

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.  Is the information supported by evidence?  Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?  Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?  Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

I saw no spelling, grammar or typographical errors in this item, indicating that the editor took the time to proofread their work.

The information is supported by evidence and I did verify the story through another source. While the e-mail provided me with a link to the story, I instead went to Google and searched [muslim smith’s new mexico]. The first hit for me turned out to be the same item that CAIR cited:

Picture captures person accosting woman wearing hijab at Smith’s
By Madeline Schmitt
Published: November 24, 2016, 5:30 pm Updated: November 24, 2016, 5:49 pm – http://krqe.com/2016/11/24/picture-captures-person-accosting-woman-wearing-hijab-at-smiths/

KRQE appeared to be a local Albuquerque TV station. After verifying that their account matched what CAIR presented, I looked for the station’s About page. I found it at http://krqe.com/2001/03/15/about-us/. It seems like the real thing to me.  KRQE also has a staff bios page, where you could read that Madeline Schmidtt was an army brat and find out where else she has been a reporter.

In addition to the KRQE story, there was another story in the Albuquerque Journal that corroborated CAIR and KRQE and offered additional details based on interviews:

Muslim shopper wearing a hijab harassed by woman at grocery
By Maggie Shepard / Journal Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, November 26th, 2016 at 12:05am
Updated: Saturday, November 26th, 2016 at 11:13am – https://www.abqjournal.com/896172/muslim-shopper-wearing-a-hijab-harassed-by-woman-at-grocery.html

I’ll leave it to you to make a judgment about the credibility of the Albuquerque Journal. I found the story convincing it was the second story to confirm CAIR’s account.

Purpose: The reason the information exists.  Is its purpose to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?  Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?  Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

I would say that CAIR is likely biased in favor of Muslim welfare, just as the Catholic Diocese of Juneau is biased in favor of the welfare of Christians, especially Catholic Christians.

This particular item appears to be factual to me and intended to inform people on the CAIR list that there are non-Muslims willing to stand up for Muslims in difficult situations.

My conclusion – this was an accurate recounting of a peaceful event.

In general, I like to see things from a few independent sources before I’ll believe it. I think this is even more true for things that produce anger and/or fear than for a positive event like this.

Now that you’ve seen my process and how relatively straightforward it seems, I hope that you’ll try out the CRAAP test on something that you’re curious about or maybe something you’ve never thought to question before.

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