Young anti-terrorist Muslims: NPR says why they do what they do (But what do they do?)

Young anti-terrorist Muslims: NPR says why they do what they do (But what do they do?)

In a kind of techno-jiujitsu, younger American Muslims have started using the same social media as ISIS terrorists -- in their case, as a counter-weapon.

This is the kind of enterprise reporting at which NPR often excels. Alas, that is not the case with the shallow, incomplete report that ran this week on Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Nearly all the trendy elements are there. You’ve got a little-reported interface of two socially hot topics, religion and terrorism. You have the coveted demographic of American millennials. And you’ve got Facebook and other forms of new media -- more familiar each year, but still radiating a cachet.

All the story lacks is what these young anti-terrorism Muslims are actually doing, when they do what they do. Isn't that rather basic information to include in a story of this kind?

The starting point -- the old saw that all Muslims get blamed for the actions of a tiny few -- threatens at first to sink the story into mediocrity:

Tired of being called a terrorist, Ranny Badreddine, a youth from Evansville, Ind., joined other young teens to create World Changers, an initiative that uses the cyberspace to combat misconceptions about Islam.
"Kids have to be worried about...going outside and being scared that someone is going to beat them up because they're Muslim," Badreddine says. "As a 13-year-old kid, I don't want to live my life being scared of Americans trying to hurt me because of what I am and my religion."
Many younger American Muslims say their parents and grandparents have long been reluctant to speak out and risk drawing attention to themselves. But Badreddine and his peers want to take a different approach. They want to use technology to push back against what they see as false portrayals of Islam.

The scapegoating complaint is hardly news anymore.

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WWJD: Here's a high-profile spokesman for that government effort to reduce America's food waste

WWJD: Here's a high-profile spokesman for that government effort to reduce America's food waste

"That shalt not toss food."

That was the headline on an NPR report this week on the government enlisting religious groups to help fight America's food waste:

Separation of church and state? When it comes to fighting food waste, the U.S. government is looking to partner up with the faithful.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday launched the Food Steward's Pledge, an initiative to engage religious groups of all faiths to help redirect the food that ends up in landfills to hungry mouths. It's one piece of the agency's larger plan to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030.
"We can make leaps and bounds in this process if we tackle this problem more systemically and bring a broader number of stakeholders to the table," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy tells us. By engaging religious communities, she says, "we are tapping into incredibly motivated and dedicated people."
Food waste connects to the core values of many faith communities, particularly helping the poor and feeding the hungry, McCarthy notes.
As we've reported, more than 1,200 calories per American per day are wasted, according to U.S. government figures. Loss occurs on the farm, at the retail level and in homes. We consumers often toss out foods because they've passed their sell-by date — but are still just fine to eat — or because we buy more than we can eat before it goes bad.

The Atlantic's Emma Green, who writes on religion and other topics, quipped:

Only at NPR would a piece on govt/faith partnerships to stop food waste start w/: "Separation of church and state?"

I wanted to make sure I understood Green's point, so I asked her about it. She explained:

Oh! It just struck me as funnily skeptical -- it's the lede, implying that church/state separation is the most important issue.


Overall, I found the story fascinating and was impressed by the breadth of sources — from Pope Francis to evangelical and mainline Christian groups to Jewish and Muslim organizations. NPR even cites action on food waste by a program "founded by the leader of Sufism Reoriented, an American spiritual order."

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Fighting Boko Haram: 'Ghosts' haunt otherwise fine New York Times report

Fighting Boko Haram: 'Ghosts' haunt otherwise fine New York Times report

Applause for the New York Times for keeping an eye on Nigeria, which has been struggling for years with Boko Haram terrorists. But the clapping is a bit muted because of the religious "ghosts" in the latest story.

As the most populous nation in Africa -- the Times puts it at 190 million -- Nigeria can be seen as a bellwether for the rest of the continent. And rather than a dry recital of official stats and statements, the 1,370-word Times story captures the dread under which many Nigerians live:

DAKAR, Senegal — A sense of fear nags at Hauwa Bulama every time she leaves home.
She worries that suicide bombers might be lurking at the vegetable stand where she shops for her six children. They could turn up at the hospital where she takes her relatives. Any woman in a hijab could have a suicide belt under her clothes, she fears. The frequent public announcements to avoid crowded areas in her northern Nigerian city only heighten her anxiety.
"You are always afraid," said Ms. Bulama, who lives in Maiduguri, a frequent target of the ruthless Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram. "When you take your child to be immunized, you don’t know who is seated next to you. You don’t know who is hiding what."
For Ms. Bulama and countless others in northern Nigeria and across the Lake Chad region, the victories scored by President Muhammadu Buhari’s multinational campaign against Boko Haram since taking office in May have mattered little to their daily lives.

The article acknowledges that the government of President Buhari has killed many Boko Haram fighters and shrunk their areas of control. An international fighting force, which includes Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon -- with armored vehicles from the United States -- has pushed back and scattered the terrorists. Buhari has even boasted that "technically we have won the war."

Yet the conflict has created more than 2.4 million refugees, the Times reports. The 200-plus schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014 are still missing, a clear sign of poor intelligence gathering. And the suicide bombings have continued -- two more in the last two weeks.

The newspaper praises Buhari for replacing ineffective army commanders and moving headquarters into the battle zone of northeastern Nigeria. But rebuilding the military will take money, something in short supply in the wake of the slump in oil prices.

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Justice Roy Moore: Latest gay marriage ruling draws personal cheap shot from CBS

Justice Roy Moore: Latest gay marriage ruling draws personal cheap shot from CBS

I’ve been following the career of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for some 18 years, ever since I visited him at the Etowah County courthouse in the summer of 1997. He was a circuit court judge at that point and he had posted copies of the Ten Commandments on the walls of his courtroom plus he opened all court sessions with prayer. One might think that anyone standing trial there would want all the inspirational help they could get, but the American Civil Liberties Union sued him for the prayers and for posting the commandments.

Moore fought them off and in 2000 ran an uphill battle to become the state’s chief justice. His victory didn’t get much publicity because of the Bush vs. Gore battle that dominated the news at the end of the year. However, he was removed from office in 2003 but reelected to the position nine years later.

The story of all that has been told elsewhere but one thing Moore has made clear during his entire career is his opposition to anything having to do with gay marriage. Last February, one day before a federal court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in Alabama, he instructed his probate judges to disregard the ruling. This created quite a bit of confusion, as you can imagine, and we took a look at the mainstream news coverage of that here.

Moore was overruled by the feds, yet this week he again issued an order to probate judges not to conduct homosexual marriages on the grounds that a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court from last March is still in effect.  I spent part of Wednesday scrutinizing several national newspapers’ coverage of this latest move and have been amazed at how all of them quoted Moore’s opponents without even an attempt to balance the story.

Again, as my colleague Jim Davis has already noted, this is nothing new when it comes to reporting on Moore. Apparently this is a story in which there is only one point of view worthy of accurate, informed coverage.

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Spiritual leaders we lost in 2015: Comparing the coverage at RNS and NPR

Spiritual leaders we lost in 2015: Comparing the coverage at RNS and NPR

Want a sense of time passing?

Read some of the many lists of "famous dead" cranked out this week. The Religion News Service does its part with a brisk list of 23 spiritual leaders who departed in 2015. Let's see how well they did.

RNS opens with a nice, measured lede:

They preached and inspired. They wrote and taught. Some lobbied in the halls of government. Others toiled to protect the environment and educate the young. Several died at the hands of persecutors.
Here is a list of notable faith leaders — and a champion of secularism — who left us in 2015.

From there, the list goes by date of death, rather than alphabetical order. First is Andrae Crouch, who merged several musical genres -- gospel, rock, country, even Hawaiian -- to electrify crowds and get even secular people to listen. As RNS reports, Crouch's songs not only found a home in hymnals, but won Grammys.

RNS seems to have taken care for broad religious representation. I count four Catholics, two Muslims and two United Methodists. I also see one each of several others -- Jewish, Baptist, Buddhist, Hindu, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, African Methodist Episcopal.

The list includes a brief rundown on each person, which is a service even for readers like myself, who are more than casually interested in religion. Some of the names make you go "Oh, yeah, I remember him!" People like:

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Mormons, baptism and children of gay parents: The drama intensifies

Mormons, baptism and children of gay parents: The drama intensifies

It’s a gift that keeps on giving. In terms of news value, the decision by leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to deny baptism to under-age children of gay parents is impossible to leave alone. I wrote about the initial coverage a week ago but a lot has happened since then.

If you've been hiding under a rock recently, here's how the Salt Lake Tribune describes the current situation:

No part of the new LDS policy on same-sex couples has generated more controversy -- and criticism -- than its prohibition against Mormon rituals for their children.
Stories flooding social media tell of canceled baby blessings, postponed baptisms, aborted priesthood ordinations and withdrawn missionary applications. Even many devout Mormons -- including congregational and regional leaders — report distress, despondence and despair over the upheaval.

Opponents of the church’s decision -- and there are many -- have helped things along by having a photogenic mass resignation of their church membership last Saturday. Being that a similar rally has already been scheduled for next Saturday, methinks the organizers are going to continue this media campaign for as long as they can. Most people in the news business can sniff out a manufactured event, so I'll be interested to see who covers Rally #2. Keep you eye on The New York Times, where editors appear ready to go to the mattresses.

What’s also helped the protesters' cause is there’s been no official comment from LDS leaders except for a 10-minute video placed on the church’s web site on Nov. 6 and a statement a few days later clarifying the new policy.

Not a smart move by the church, because their opponents are winning the media battle hands down.

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NPR trips on 'evangelical,' while covering big story on converts in Germany

NPR trips on 'evangelical,' while covering big story on converts in Germany

If you were going to pick a major news outlet that was high on the distrust/hate list of cultural conservative in America, it would have to be National Public Radio.

You know the old saying: How can you can tell when a Republican in Washington, D.C., has lost his soul? When the first button on his car radio is set to NPR. Or how about this one: What is the Episcopal Church? It's National Public Radio at prayer.

This is all quite sad, because a decade or so ago NPR's religion-beat work (as opposed to religion-linked coverage by political or cultural pros) was actually very good. If you know the history of the Godbeat there, you'll get my drift.

Anyway, it's interesting to get an email from a GetReligion reader that starts out like this, discussing an NPR feature about Muslims converting to Christianity in Germany:

As someone who tends to listen less and less to NPR, disillusioned with what I perceive as an absurdly left-wing bias in much of their reporting, I was pleasantly surprised by their attempt to cover several sides of the issues.

We will come back to this reader in a bit. But let me start off by saying that I was also impressed at the kinds of voices that were featured in this piece. This is a very complicated and emotional subject, as I stressed in a recent post about this topic that ran with the headline: "Muslims fleeing to Europe: Yes, press can find religion angles in this ongoing tragedy." This NPR report is way better than the norm.

Here is the start of the NPR piece, setting up the major themes:

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Muslim wins bake-off! Mainstream media are captivated!

Muslim wins bake-off! Mainstream media are captivated!

"African Christian bakes winning cake." Great story, eh?

No? Well, how about "South American Jew bakes winning cake"?

Still doesn't stir the blood? Then "Asian Muslim bakes winning cake" should.

That did it for much of the British press and, unfortunately, the United States' dominant newspaper as well.

"Muslim Winner of Baking Contest Defies Prejudice in Britain," trumpets the New York Times.  Then it tells the story of a second-generation Bangladeshi who's just won a popular TV baking show.

"The victory of Nadiya Jamir Hussain, a petite 30-year-old, head-scarf-wearing mother of three from northern England, in a wildly popular reality show called 'The Great British Bake Off' on Wednesday has been greeted by many in Britain as a symbol of immigration success," the paper says.

The article tags her as an "observant Muslim," without saying how, other than her hijab. It says she has "spurred debate about national identity," although she was born in England. And it says she is seen as "an example of female empowerment," like it's unusual for a woman to win a bake-off.

Then the story shifts into fourth-gear flattery:

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Can journalists handle questions about Catholic theology linked to LGBT issues?

Can journalists handle questions about Catholic theology linked to LGBT issues?

It's getting to the point where one is tempted to believe that many mainstream journalists simply have no interest in accurately reporting what the Roman Catholic Church, or many other traditional religious institutions, believe when it comes to doctrines linked to homosexual orientation and behavior.

Consider, for example, the top of this Associated Press report -- as posted at NBC News -- about that monsignor who staged a coming-out presser the other day. The headline: "Vatican Fires Gay Priest Who Came Out Before Global Meeting."

First of all, the Vatican doesn't "fire" a priest as a priest. He was fired from his position with the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Now, might this priest eventually be "defrocked" for violating this vows? That's another issue altogether.

Anyway, here is the top of this warped little AP story:

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican on Saturday fired a monsignor who came out as gay on the eve of a big meeting of the world's bishops to discuss church outreach to gays, divorcees and more traditional Catholic families.
The Vatican took action after Krzysztof Charamsa, a mid-level official in its doctrine office, came out in newspaper interviews in Italy and Poland saying he was happy and proud to be a gay priest, and that he was in love with a man whom he identified as his boyfriend.

Now, was Charamsa fired because he was gay?

The answer would be "no." The Catholic church does not discipline priests who -- from the church's doctrinal viewpoint -- carry the burden of being sexually attracted to those of the same gender. Temptation is not a sin. The questions in play are (a) has this priest honored his vows of celibacy, (b) does he support the Catholic doctrines and (c) has he taken public actions opposing church doctrines?

So, again, was Charamsa fired because he was gay?

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