Former Christian Becomes Muslim;
Launches Controversial Web Site
By Jeremy Reynalds (bio)
Other Articles by Jeremy Reynalds
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Prior to the terrible events of 9/11, Canadian Bev Kennedy appears to have been a successful (Christian) businesswoman involved in internet publishing and web developing. However, her life was to soon become dramatically different -- both personally and professionally.
That turn of events occurred when Kennedy launched www.jihadunspun.com
(JUS), an internet news portal providing a different- than- usually- experienced look at the war on terrorism.
Kennedy told me by e-mail that jihadunspun.com has a very definite purpose. "We publish both mainstream and uncensored news on the basis that readers are intelligent and when presented with both sides, they are capable of coming to their own informed conclusions. I rallied like-minded journalists and web technicians from diverse backgrounds, religions and locations to undertake the venture ... "
The venture also affected Kennedy personally. As a result of research she undertook about 9/11 prior to launching her web portal, she also embraced Islam.
While jihadunspun.com has had an unexpectedly high number of visitors, the site has also attracted a huge amount of controversy. While some people condemn it as being pro-Islamic, one Islamic news agency claims that it could be a front for Western intelligence. With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to see what Kennedy herself had to say.
In an interview http://www.gsmpro.com/article/articledt.asp?hArticleId=184, Kennedy wrote that on 9/11 she was at a Boeing trade show unveiling a new product. She commented that because half of her client base was involved in the aerospace industry, she was furious at the "terrorists" (emphasis by Kennedy) who had committed the attacks. "However something changed for me the day George Bush, who professes to be a Christian, spewed out we are going to smoke them out of their holes.'"
Because Kennedy said she understood the Christ of the Bible to teach forgiveness and turn the other cheek, she said she was unable to understand why without any evidence (in her opinion) America was going to drop weapons of mass destruction on Afghanistan. Consequently she began searching the Internet "to find out what was really going on and who bin Laden was."
With the help of translation software, Kennedy wrote that she discovered revealing sites (primarily archived because many of them had bene shut down) containing "shocking" information.
That "shocking" information was enough to convince Kennedy that there was another side to the story of 9/11 than the one told by the American media and the U.S. government. "I unveiled lies, deceit, oppression, murder and a variety of horrors that we in the west were imposing on others. I began reading everything I could get my hands on and the more I read the worse it got ... I discovered that this war was a war against Islam that had been going on for years."
More specifically, Kennedy told me by e-mail in response to questions I sent her that there is routine censoring of the media:
"I discovered that this was due to censorship that resulted after 9/11 in part (America buying up all commercial satellite access, restricting reporter's access on the ground etc), but a great deal of our news has been censored for years in cases like Palestine. Most of us thought 9/11 came out of the blue indeed it did not, there have been many factors leading up to this event which we, the public, have had no access to through Western media and in a good deal of cases these days, the facts are simple misrepresented."
As a result of her discoveries, Kennedy said in an interview http://www.gsmpro.com/article/articledt.asp?hArticleId=184 she decided to launch www.jihadunspun.com, a voice that would provide "the other side of the story which is simply omitted or misrepresented from our newspapers in the West." Kennedy said she felt that her background as a magazine publisher would be very helpful in her new mission.
Kennedy felt her background would be a great help in such a venture as she had spent much of her professional life as a magazine publisher. She had also gained some web development skills in recent years.
However, Kennedy understandably felt that if this new venture was to become a success that she needed to have a better understanding of Islam. "As a very grounded Southern Baptist, I was not at all threatened to begin to dialogue with Muslims, which I did through message boards and the internet initially. Before long, I was engaging in discussion about religion until I arrived at the point where I realized that the worship of Allah was the true path and I reverted to Islam shortly before the portal went live in April, 2002. All praise is due to Allah for his leading me to his straight path."
Kennedy told me that JUS focuses on telling primarily English speaking North Americans about both sides of the war on terror, "so that readers can come to informed conclusions based on information presented from both sides."
KENNEDY'S VISION FOR JUS
Kennedy told me that because JUS is still in its infancy that it is still trying to find its "center. On any given day, we are still swinging more to one side than the other which is normal for where we are in the process."
According to Kennedy, independent news media are increasing because readers are getting fed up with traditional news sources. She commented:
"A good deal of what we read is simply propaganda and it's our aim to present information uncut and uncensored and leave the evaluating to the readers, where it belongs. That's said, there is propaganda on both sides which is why we are now adding more location reporters so we can gather facts first hand to augment the news we publish from other news sources.
When all is said and done, Kennedy said she hopes she will have established an information source "that is uncut, uncensored and without opinion, which is what true journalism is. Readers can then make informed decisions, not just the ones they are being pitched."
I was curious about what Kennedy thought of such individuals as radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza of London's Finsbury Park Mosque. Rumors have surfaced for months about the alleged ties between Hamza and the al Qaeda.
Kennedy's answer was interesting. She said while she does not know enough about Hamza to comment, "at JUS, we make no opinions - we present the information and let the reader evaluate it for themselves. As journalists, our role is not to render opinions we leave that up to the authors."
However, the Albuquerque Journal's Rick Nathanson would not have agreed with her. In a 1997 interview I did with him a few years ago while working on my master's thesis at the University of New Mexico, Nathanson commented that no journalists, himself included, come to their work with a blank slate. He said that assuming he could pick all of his stories, he may end up picking one that appeals to him more than another, so right there is the first chance for possible bias. Then as he begins to research the story, Nathanson said he is biased in whom he asks to respond, although that area of possible bias might be caused by the availability or non-availability of sources.
He told me:
"Then when I'm doing an interview and someone's talking, what they say and what gets translated into my notes represents another possible avenue for bias. Maybe not everything they say makes it into my notes. Maybe some things they say catch my attention more than others and I'm likely to take more thorough notes. I go back to the Journal. I sit down ... I look at my notes, and maybe I'm careful about what I pick and choose out of my notes. That's bias there. How I frame that story, what the angle ... is bias. Then the editor reads it. He says I don't like this angle, but I like what you've got further down in the story. Let's move that up.' So now we're introducing somebody else's bias. Where the story gets played in the newspaper represents more bias. What kind of a headline; how big the headline is and what the headline is. All of these leave room for bias. There's no such thing as truly objective journalism. There's that human factor that is always in the equation and because of that there is always going to be bias. You try to be as fair as you can."
In the same interview, Nathanson was passionate about the issue of objectivity, saying that "Any reporter who says he's truly objective is full of (it). There's no such thing as true objectivity. There are degrees of subjectivity and if you're a good reporter, what you can do is make a conscientious effort to keep your own personal biases out of a story. That's the best you can hope to do."
IS ISLAMIC TERRORISM REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ISLAMIC FAITH?
I wondered if Kennedy believed that Islamic terrorism is representative of the Islamic faith. According to Kennedy before you can answer that question you must first define the word "terrorism."
Kennedy said the dictionary definition of terrorism reads "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons."
Using this definition, Kennedy said "the answer is absolutely not. What is lawful in one society is not necessarily in another so the word "terrorism" is already a problem for the many acts the word is used to describe today."
Kennedy blamed President George W. Bush for what she called the current meaning of the word "terrorism." She said the word is routinely used for "anything and anyone who opposes the actions of his administration."
Kennedy suggested an experiment in semantics.
"Take any news item any day and replace the word terrorist' with "soldier" and you get an entirely different meaning. America is about to invade Iraq. Are civilians going to be killed? Yes. Why is this not called terrorism? Are the Iraqi people being intimidated and coerced? You bet. Still this is considered protecting our rights.'What rights do we have in and to their country? The terrorism' we hear about these days refers mostly to Muslims who are also trying to protect their very right to exist!
Kennedy added that if you then bring civilian deaths into the equation, it's important to there is violence against civilians on both sides. Kennedy said she believes that violence is going to escalate unless someone begins to look at the reasons which initiated the violence. However, there's a problem doing that, she said. Such research is "not likely if we can't readily access the other side of the story. This isn't rocket science there are always two sides to a story and as long as we ignore the real reasons, we will only escalate hate and further limit any chance there may be for peace."
Kennedy told me that although she is new to Islam that her faith "is not about violence but it is about justice."
She was passionate in her explanation of this concept.
"If we in North America experienced even one tenth of the aggression, oppression and genocide we have waged against Muslims under this administration, we would have already dropped nuclear bombs and wiped out large numbers of the worlds population. It is not surprising that we are trying to prevent nuclear weapons from reaching the hands of those who have suffered at the hands of American foreign policy. Sooner or later they will get these weapons so this effort is in vain. It's the reasons that have created this hate that must be eliminated."
WAAQIAH.COM AND JIHADUNSPUN.COM
I asked Kennedy about the current "jihad" (holy war) between her web portal and waaqiah.com,( a well known Islamic web site) and whether it could be compared to denominational infighting in the Christian church.
Let me explain. Here is a portion of is available about jihadunspun.com on waaqiah.com (which works with or on behalf of www.azzam.com, another fundamentalist terrorist- leaning Islamic web based news service).
"The front' behind Jihadunspun.com is supposedly a middle-aged Canadian businesswoman who is said to have accepted Islam after 11 September 2001. The Muslims can draw their own conclusions from this, bearing in mind the tenfold increase in the budgets and manpower of Western intelligence agencies in the post-September-11th World."
Kennedy said the conflict isn't exactly a jihad as it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with market share. In fact the controversy increases readership!
"JUS ... publishes articles of broad interest to western markets, Muslims and non-Muslims, and we keep our opinions off our pages to allow viewers to draw their own conclusions ... We are praised and attacked by both sides and we see these particular attacks as an attempt to pick up more market share ... In the overall scheme of things, it's (the controversy) become a non issue to us."
WWW.JIHADUNSPUN.COM: TERRORIST OR JUST TRYING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Kennedy told me that jihadunspun.com's being referred to on a few occasions as a terrorist site amazes her.
She called such thinking "a dangerous state of affairs when we are no longer prepared to learn and understand the motivations of others but rather try to silence those who fail to tell the party tale."
Kennedy's next comment was very revealing. She told me, "On any given day, we cover a lot of the stories that CNN does the only difference is that they take statements from Osama Bin Laden for instance and excerpt them and surround these with their own spin, we publish this material uncensored, uncut and without opinion. What on earth does this has to do with terrorism?"
9/11 AND KENNEDY
Kennedy called 9/11 a wake up call and while it was a horrifying demonstration of hatred, she said it wasn't something that came out of a vacuum. To Kennedy, there are even doubts as to who was behind the atrocity.
"We haven't even determined which enemy actually perpetrated this act and there are many holes in the official story. We can't simply kill all those who get in our road or who don't think like we do ... The good versus evil' spin is simplistic dualism that categorizes the world only through the eyes of its author and that can only result in more violence."
Kennedy said that if someone stormed her business and killed all of her employees the first thing she would want to know is how could she prevent it from reoccurring. But that has never happened in this case, she said. "We have never asked why and its time we stopped killing and started asking, and listening, if we want to live in peace."
Kennedy said she is doing the best thing she knows that will help the animosity between the opposing factions. "That is to get real information from both sides into the hands of the public who ultimately still have some influence in a free' society."
Is jihadunspun.com an objective news source? Well, think back a few lines to how objectivity so - called was described by Albuquerque Journal reporter RickNathanson. He said (and I believe quite accurately) that there is no such thing as true objectivity there are just degrees of subjectivity.
While Kennedy and others responsible for JUS may be "presenting the information," just what information are they presenting? Just because you present a barrage of unedited facts and choose not to paraphrase or excerpt them, it doesn't mean that you are presenting a balanced look at the issues. It just means you're presenting unedited propaganda from one side of the issue.
For example. One page http://www.jihadunspun.com/OperationUSA/ titled "Operation USA: The Great Contender," reads:
"Since the world changed September 11 2001 the Bush administration and their international coalition have undertaken an unprecedented assault on Osama bin Laden but countries and peoples who have offered less than 100 percent support for their retaliation. Here we look at the "motives, methods and means of their fight for "good versus evil.'"
I think it's pretty easy to see that verbiage such as this has as much "spin" (if not more) than anything being complained about by Kennedy. She just needs to be honest enough to admit that she has a very clear point of view and that material appearing in her site while not edited will have been carefully selected to reflect her own anti-war philosophy.
So I don't disagree with Kennedy that jihadunspun.com provides a clear view of the war on terrorism. It does but from the radical Islamic, terrorist, anti-American point of view. If you check out the site, know that going in and while you're there use the opportunity to pray for Kennedy for a return to her former love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico and is pursuing his PhD in intercultural education at Biola University in Los Angeles. He is married with five children and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work can be viewed here and weekly at www.americasvoices.org. He may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com