ISIS

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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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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In wake of more terror attacks in Europe, factual reporting of #Brussels news is crucial (updated)

In wake of more terror attacks in Europe, factual reporting of #Brussels news is crucial (updated)

Like many of you, I woke up to news of the terror attacks in Brussels.

Notifications about the bombings flooded my iPad screen as I opened my eyes.

As the disturbing headlines struck me, I saw a note on Facebook from a fellow Christian, Paul Brazle, a missionary to Belgium with whom my Christian Chronicle colleague Erik Tryggestad and I stayed during a 2009 reporting trip.

Brazle's note said:

'Ik ben veilig!' (I am safe - We are safe.)
With this message, folks in Brussels airport or metro can - via Red Cross data centre - inform family or friends who can't reach them that they are OK. Others... are not so lucky, to be able to say that.
As you wake up today to news of Bombings in Brussels....
we want you to know that we are safely well out of any harm's way, but listening to the news carefully and waiting for news of any in our network who may have had reason to be in the airport today, or near the one metro station in the Europa district where bombs went off.

The Associated Press reports that "there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday's attacks." Other news organizations — such as NPR and CNN — make no mention of a potential religion angle in their initial accounts.

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A mysterious murder: An ISIS wannabe and the case of the generic burning Buddhas

A mysterious murder: An ISIS wannabe and the case of the generic burning Buddhas

Journalists need to face this basic fact: It's hard to cover the Islamic State and its victims without talking about religion. This is especially true when a story involves a convert to ISIS and its radicalized form of Islam and the convert's story in set in a neighborhood in the American Bible Belt. 

Consider the following short item from The Charlotte Observer that caught the eye of a GetReligion reader. It's a tragic story about an ISIS convert, his family and his victim and it's easy to sense that readers are not getting all of the details.

For example, try to figure out the timeline of the tragic events in this report. Here's the top:

Prosecutors announced ... that they will seek the death penalty against a Burke County teen and ISIS supporter accused of robbing and killing his neighbor to get an assault rifle so he could commit mass murder.
Justin Nojan Sullivan, 19, was arrested last June and is accused of plotting to kill up to 1,000 people in support of ISIS, an Islamic terrorist organization. Court documents unsealed last month link him directly to the previously unsolved 2014 murder of John Bailey Clark, 74, who lived down the street from Sullivan and his parents on Carswell Road in Morganton.
Court documents said Sullivan planned to use the money he stole from Clark to buy the rifle. Clark was shot several times in the head. Deputies found him in a shallow grave on his property.

So there was an unsolved murder in 2014. Then Sullivan is arrested in June of 2015. What linked the young man to the earlier murder?

At this point, the story adds another rather fascinating date to the timeline.

The investigation started after a 911 call in April 2015 from Sullivan’s parents who said their son was pouring gasoline over their religious items.

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Did a familiar religion-news 'Blind Spot' shape coverage of ISIS genocide declaration?

Did a familiar religion-news 'Blind Spot' shape coverage of ISIS genocide declaration?

Back in 2008, I was part of the editorial team that produced a book called "Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion" for Oxford University Press. The whole idea was to look at a number of big national and international news stories and demonstrate that journalists could not do an accurate, informed, balanced job covering them without taking religion seriously.

I know. That wasn't a shocking thesis for a project linked to this website. What is shocking, nearly a decade later, is that most of the book's case studies remain amazingly relevant.

Hang in there with me on this. I'm providing background on the discussion that host Todd Wilken and I had during this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in). This was recorded soon after the declaration by Secretary of State John Kerry that, yes, the Islamic State was committing "genocide" in its slaughter of Christians, Yazidis, Shiite Muslims and other religious minority groups. This followed a 393-0 vote on a U.S. House of Representatives resolution on this topic.

As you would expect, mainstream news coverage focused on the politics that framed this issue. This story was all about Republicans trying to hurt Democrats in an election year, "conservative" religious groups trying to embarrass the White House, etc., etc.

Same old, same old. Politics is real, while religion is not all that important. For example, why not talk to the leaders -- here in America -- of churches that are directly linked to the flocks being massacred in Iraq and Syria? For Christians from the Middle East, there is more to this tragedy than election-year politics.

As I noted in a GetReligion post on this topic -- " 'Aides said' is the key: Why it was so hard to say ISIS is guilty of 'genocide' against Christians" -- the Kerry announcement received very low-key coverage, which is probably what the U.S. State Department wanted. The story then vanished from the mainstream press, while coverage in religious-market outlets continued.

This is, you see, a "conservative" news story that gets covered at places like Fox News. But why is that? Human rights used to be a liberal cause. Correct?

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'Aides said' is the key: Why it was so hard to say ISIS is guilty of 'genocide' against Christians

'Aides said' is the key: Why it was so hard to say ISIS is guilty of 'genocide' against Christians

If you are looking for the Washington Post story about the remarks on ISIS and "genocide" by Secretary of State John F. Kerry, don't look through the 50 or so stories promoted on the front page of the newspaper's website. This story wasn't that important.

You're going to need a search engine to find it. To save time, click here to get to this headline: "Kerry declares Islamic State has committed genocide."

But that headline doesn't capture the real news, since no one has been debating whether the Islamic State had committed "genocide" against the Yazidis. That was settled long ago. So the real news in this story was the declaration that that the word "genocide" also applied to members of the ancient Christian churches in this region, as well as other religious minorities.

Why did this step take so long? And why wasn't this an important story to the editorial masters of Beltway-land? Actually, you can see clues in a crucial passage way down in the Post story. Hold that thought, because we will come back to that.

First, here is some key material up top:

After months of pressure from Congress and religious groups, Kerry issued a finding that largely concurred with a House resolution declaring the Islamic State guilty of genocide. The resolution passed 393 to 0 on Monday night
Kerry said a review by the State Department and U.S. intelligence determined that Yazidis, Christians and Shiite groups have been victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing by the radical al-Qaeda offshoot, a Sunni Muslim group also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, its Arabic acronym.
“The fact is that Daesh kills Christians because they are Christians; Yazidis because they are Yazidis; Shia because they are Shia,” Kerry said in a statement he read to reporters at the State Department. “Its entire worldview is based on eliminating those who do not subscribe to its perverse ideology.”

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House says (393-0) that Christians are victims of ISIS genocide, but key voices are missing

House says (393-0) that Christians are victims of ISIS genocide, but key voices are missing

Clearly, "bipartisan" has to be the last adjective any journalist would use to describe the current political climate in the United States.

Thus, a 393-0 vote on a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives is an eyebrow-raising moment, no matter what issue is involved. In this case, it's crucial that the issue is linked to the Islamic State and its hellish massacres of religious minorities in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere -- including Orthodox and Catholic flocks that have lived and worshiped in these lands since New Testament times.

ISIS has destroyed ancient monasteries and churches, has razed or looted irreplaceable ancient libraries and sacred art. It has become rational to consider that Christianity may be wiped out in the region in which it was born.

So here is my question: Yes, this is a political story. But, for most readers, is this JUST a political story? Here is the top of the Associated Press "Big Story" report:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ratcheting up the pressure on the Obama administration, the House has overwhelmingly approved a resolution that condemns as genocide the atrocities committed by the Islamic State group against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria.
The non-binding measure, passed Monday by a vote of 393-0, illustrated the heavy bipartisan support for action on Capitol Hill. Secretary of State John Kerry is leaning toward making a genocide determination against the Islamic State and could do so as early as this week, when a congressional deadline for a decision has been set.
But the Obama administration officials have cautioned that a legal review is still under way and said it is likely Kerry will not meet Thursday's deadline.

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ISIS, rape and birth control: Stunning New York Times feature raises new questions

ISIS, rape and birth control: Stunning New York Times feature raises new questions

There are certain stories that, when you see the headline, you drop everything and click until the piece pops up in living color on your screen. Such is Sunday’s New York Times piece on ISIS’ rape culture. “To maintain supply of sex slaves,” the headline reads, “ISIS pushes birth control.”

When it comes to covering ISIS, one thinks things can't get any more horrifying and then more revelations come out about worse atrocities in the sad lands under their sway. Moreover, the story was set in Dohuk, an Iraqi city I visited 11 years ago, where a lot of these poor women who’ve escaped ISIS end up before they’re shipped out of the area for asylum purposes.

DOHUK, Iraq -- Locked inside a room where the only furniture was a bed, the 16-year-old learned to fear the sunset, because nightfall started the countdown to her next rape.
During the year she was held by the Islamic State, she spent her days dreading the smell of the ISIS fighter’s breath, the disgusting sounds he made and the pain he inflicted on her body. More than anything, she was tormented by the thought she might become pregnant with her rapist’s child.
It was the one thing she needn’t have worried about.
Soon after buying her, the fighter brought the teenage girl a round box containing four strips of pills, one of them colored red.
“Every day, I had to swallow one in front of him. He gave me one box per month. When I ran out, he replaced it. When I was sold from one man to another, the box of pills came with me,” explained the girl, who learned only months later that she was being given birth control.

Apparently there is quite the import business in contraceptives going on in eastern Syria and northern Iraq where ISIS has its female Yazidi prisoners. The piece continues:

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