Terrorism

'Islamophobia': In reports on student kicked off Southwest flight, there's that term again

'Islamophobia': In reports on student kicked off Southwest flight, there's that term again

We journalists love victims.

Victims make for easy stories and enticing clickbait.

For one example, see GetReligion's posts on this week's alleged-gay-slur-on-a-cake-sold-by-Whole-Foods brouhaha: here and here.

For another, perhaps you've heard about the college student who was kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for the crime of ... speaking Arabic.

To read the news reports, it seems obvious that the student is a victim of "Islamophobia." Yes, that vague, undefined term shows up in most of these stories with no real explanation of what it means. Again.

If you're a regular reader of GetReligion, you know how we feel about that.

The only problem: When you read the full details of what happened in the latest scenario, it becomes a bit more complicated than the simple headlines.

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When reporting on the Islamic State, try reporting on more than its ties to Islam

When reporting on the Islamic State, try reporting on more than its ties to Islam

We're told that on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, ISIS is consistently losing ground, thanks in the main to air strikes led by Russia and the United States. But here's something else, perhaps even more important.

Poll results released last week said that ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, and, in Arabic, Daesh) is also losing ground in the battle for popular support among Arab Muslims

This piece from The Washington Post details the poll in question. Here's the nut of it:

The new poll, based on face-to-face interviews with 3,500 respondents ages 18 to 24, suggests that young Arabs are both increasingly fearful of the terrorist group and less swayed by its propaganda, compared with previous years. More than half the participants ranked the Islamic State as the No. 1 problem facing the Middle East, and 3 out of 4 said they believed that the group would ultimately fail in its quest to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
The survey suggests that religious fervor plays a secondary role, at best, when young Arabs do decide to sign up with the Islamic State. When asked why Middle Easterners join the group, the participants listed joblessness or poor economic prospects as the top reason. Only 18 percent cited religious views — a “belief that their interpretation of Islam is superior to others” — and nearly as many picked sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites as the chief motivating factor.
Young Arabs from countries with high unemployment rates were more likely to list economic hardship as a top reason for wanting to join the Islamic State, the survey found. The results align with the findings of other researchers who have noted that many recruits use religion mostly as a rationalization.

Now that's interesting. Economics is said to be the driving factor; not religious radicalization but religious rationalization. Which is to say that there's more to the problem of ISIS than its version of Islam, as some on the anti-Muslim right -- including you-know-which-presidential-wannabes -- loudly exclaim.

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'Like a beautiful dream': Francis' rescue mission for Syrian refugees gets graceful coverage

'Like a beautiful dream': Francis' rescue mission for Syrian refugees gets graceful coverage

Pope Francis surprised news media yet again when he flew back from an ecumenical meeting last weekend with 12 new passengers: three families of Syrian refugees.

Francis said the Vatican would sponsor the families and get them settled in Italy, in a clear object lesson for other nations.  And the lesson was not lost on mainstream media, which covered the story with grace, sensitivity and intelligence. At least, when they got over being caught off guard again.

Francis came to the Aegean island of Lesbos to visit refugees from the war-ravaged Middle East along with two Eastern Orthodox leaders: Bartholomew I, patriarch of all Orthodoxy, and Ieronymos II, the archbishop of Greece.  But as NBC News and other media report, the pope got a last-minute idea to do more: to sponsor three families directly and set an example for the world.

Says NBC:

The religious leaders had lunch with eight refugees to hear their stories of fleeing war, conflict and poverty and their hopes for a better life in Europe. Then they prayed together, tossing a floral wreath into the sea in memory of those who didn't make it.
The pope vowed to continue helping refugees.
"Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and need to be treated as such," he tweeted Saturday.

Video clips tell the story even more vividly. One from Euronews shows a man falling at Francis' feet, sobbing "Thank you, thank you." On CNN, a little girl clutches his ankles, apparently in overwhelming gratitude. He then gently lifts her to her feet.

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Washington Post raises another one of 'those' Jerry Falwell, Jr., gun questions

Washington Post raises another one of 'those' Jerry Falwell, Jr., gun questions

As best I can tell, there are plenty of important subjects in public life on which Jerry Falwell, Jr., and I would sharply disagree.

For starters, there is the whole Donald Trump thing. Also, it certainly appears that we disagree on some basic gun-control issues, since I lean toward stricter controls.

However, I have always thought that the most important skill in Journalism 101 is the ability to accurately quote someone with whom one disagrees. With that in mind, let's return to a recent controversy involving Falwell and editors at The Washington Post.

Do you remember the mini-media storm in which the Post noted that Falwell had urged Liberty University students to purchase handguns and learn how to use them should they ever be attacked by heavily armed terrorists? What? That isn't the story that you remember?

This issue was clarified in a latter headline and updated text, but now it's back.

So let's start at the beginning -- again.

Watch the CNN clip at the top of this post and then reading the following. Here is the quote as published in the Post:

“It just blows my mind that the president of the United States [says] that the answer to circumstances like that is more gun control,” he said to applause. “If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now …,” he said while being interrupted by louder cheers and clapping. “Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” he said, chuckling.
“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he says, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he said, “and killed them.”

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Another loaded question in the news: What does Islam teach about violence?

Another loaded question in the news: What does Islam teach about violence?

DAVID’S QUESTION:

Why don’t mainstream Muslims acknowledge that the Quran orders them to do just what ISIS does?

MIKE’S QUESTION:

Does the Quran tell Muslims to kill anyone who doesn’t become a Muslim?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

David’s full question -- posted before the latest slaughter aimed at Christians in Pakistan, children included, and the bombings in Belgium -- asks why Quran passages “explicitly order the killing of non-Muslims.” Mike, posting after those atrocities, wonders “why there is so much violence and murder in the Muslim faith.”

The Wall Street Journal‘s Sohrab Ahmari observes that “Islamic terrorism is now a permanent and ubiquitous hazard to life in every city on every continent” and “not a single day now goes by” without an attack somewhere. With much of today’s terror enacted in the name of God, fellow Muslims are the majority among innocent victims. The Global Terrorism Index counts 32,685 killings during 2014, an 80 percent increase over 2013. Not all were Islam-related and, notably, in the West only a fifth of them were.

The Islamic State and similar factions claim to follow precedents from Islam’s founding, in the holy Quran and collected hadith teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Nabeel Qureshi writes in USA Today that his conversion from Islam to Christianity, described in “Answering Jihad,” resulted from “the reality of violent jihad in the very foundations” of Islam that provides terrorists’ “primary recruiting technique.” Graeme Wood of The Atlantic documented the importance of the early religious texts for current terror ideology.

Yet Muslim scholars say the revelations often applied to specific circumstances and some passages abrogate earlier ones.

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Mangling the message: Papal Easter talk gets a warped reflection in The Mirror

Mangling the message: Papal Easter talk gets a warped reflection in The Mirror

How many gaffes can you pack into the start of a story? In its coverage of Pope Francis' Easter message yesterday, the UK-based Mirror seemed to be trying to find out.

And what a time for sloppy reporting -- the most important holiday on the calendar of the world's largest religion.

Check this out:

Pope Francis says defeat Islamic State 'with weapons of love' during Easter message
Pope Francis has urged the world in his Easter message to use the "weapons of love" to combat the evil of "blind and brutal violence" following the tragic attacks in Brussels.
The Roman Catholic church leader said an Easter Sunday Mass under tight security for tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square.
After the service, he gave a traditional speech in which he addressed violence, injustice and threats to peace in many parts of the world.
He said: "May he [the risen Jesus] draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world."

Francis did decry multiple social ills: armed conflicts, "brutal crimes," ethnic and religious persecution, climate change caused by exploiting natural resources, fears of the young and the elderly alike. And yes, he denounced terrorism, "that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world."

But he said nothing about the Islamic State -- or, for that matter, the acronyms of ISIS, ISIL or Daesh. Nor did he tell anyone to use the "weapons of love" in the Middle East conflict.

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Mirror image question: No American coverage of the murder of Muslim merchant in Glasgow?

Mirror image question: No American coverage of the murder of Muslim merchant in Glasgow?

It's time, once again, to look at the mirror image of a story that is in the news. We are, of course, in the final days of Holy Week for Western churches.

Let's change the context and flip the key details to create our mirror-image case. Let's say that, somewhere in Europe, the following tragedy took place. It is days before Ramadan and a Christian merchant, extending a hand of fellowship during these tense times, posted a message extending good will and affection for his Muslim neighbors as they entered a holy season.

Hours later, in our hypothetical story, one or two Christians enter the man's shop and brutally murder him, stabbing him repeatedly and then stamping on his head.

Police quickly make it clear that this was a "religiously prejudiced" attack.

Yes, this would be a major story in Europe. But do you think it would draw significant coverage from elite newsrooms on this side of the pond? Or would it be one of those stories that is ignored, other than in alternative media sources that come with political labels attached?

Now, what is the actual story? Let's turn to the BBC, which is hardly a minor news source:

A 32-year-old man has been arrested after a Glasgow shopkeeper was killed in what Police Scotland are treating as a "religiously prejudiced" attack.
Asad Shah, 40, was found seriously injured in Minard Road, Shawlands, at about 21:05 GMT on Thursday. He died in hospital. The incident happened hours after he apparently posted social media messages wishing his customers a happy Easter.
Police said both Mr Shah and the arrested man were Muslims.
A post on Thursday from an account that appears to be Mr Shah's said: "Good Friday and very happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation x!" ...

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Hey media, here's one way to overcome that tired 'anti-Muslim backlash' storyline

Hey media, here's one way to overcome that tired 'anti-Muslim backlash' storyline

The backlash is baa-aack.

More precisely, the "Muslim backlash" stories are back. Just check out the front page of Thursday's USA Today.

As for an actual backlash against Muslims in the U.S.? That's a subject of some debate.

Here at GetReligion, of course, we've touched on this topic again and again and again.

With your indulgence, I'll reference one more time what I said in the immediate aftermath of this week's Brussels terror attacks:

Key, again, is factual reporting that highlights the various strains of Islam (as we have said a million times, there is "no one Islam") and avoids the simplistic "Islamophobia" propaganda that plagued so much of the coverage last time.

USA Today, whose news coverage is to journalism what McDonald's cheeseburgers are to fine dining, didn't get the memo. But give the national newspaper credit for going all the way with its totally predictable, stereotypical approach. This is the online headline on the story featured in Thursday's print edition:

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Film at 11? Is it news that ISIS might crucify kidnapped Salesian priest on Good Friday?

Film at 11? Is it news that ISIS might crucify kidnapped Salesian priest on Good Friday?

One of the hardest parts of being a reporter, on any beat, is trying to figure out what to do while you are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Let's say that a major event has taken place and that you have written that story. However, you just know that there will be other developments. Do you try to get ahead of it and write an advance story about what MIGHT happen, about the developments that you know the experts are already anticipating, if not investigating? Then again, if lots of scribes do that, it's possible that they will influence the story that they're covering.

This happens all the time in political coverage. Right now, major newsrooms are cranking out stories based on the whole "what will the candidates do next in an attempt to stop Donald Trump, etc., etc." line of thought. It's speculation mixed with blue-sky planning.

As you would imagine, I am thinking about a specific story now looming in the background, as the churches of the West move through Holy Week toward the bright liturgical grief of Good Friday. I am referring to that note that I added the other day, at the end of a post with this headline: "Did gunmen in Yemen kill the four Missionaries of Charity for any particular reason?"

The hook for the post was a comment by Pope Francis in which he wondered why journalists around the world were offering so little coverage of the deaths of these four nuns. I added:

So what's the bottom line at this point, in terms of the pope's lament about the news coverage? Have we reached the point where attacks of this kind are now normal and, well, not that big a deal? Did these news reports really need to be clear about who lived and who died in this case? Did the faith element -- the "martyr" detail -- matter in the original coverage of these killings or did it only become valid when the pope said so?
Just asking. And does anyone else fear that we may soon see the missing priest in an Islamic State video?

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