I am swamped in meetings all week, so I am running late and missing out on some stories. The Divine Ms. M is on the road, too. So thanks to young master Daniel Pulliam for pulling 666 duties (somebody had to do it). Please hang in there with us. Meanwhile, Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher has been doing some very GetReligion-y work all week over at his new Crunchy Con blog at Beliefnet. The chain of posts began with this story in The New York Times about the breakup of an alleged terror plot in Toronto. Dreher did some intense paragraph counting and decided that, well, denial isn't just a river in Eqypt. Here is a sample of Rod's "See no evil" post from last weekend:
Who were these people? Several paragraphs down, the Times finally gives a hint by saying that they are "mainly of South Asian descent." Ah, now we're getting somewhere! Are they Hindu extremists from India? Vietcong.2? Nepalese Maoists?
Surprise! They just might be Muslims, as the reader is left to figure out for himself by clues left in the 21st (!) paragraph, when the Times says the Canadian suspects might have had contact with two men recently arrested in Georgia: "Those two were Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, 19, an American of Bangladeshi descent, and Syed Haris Ahmed, 21, a Pakistani-born American."
You know, we happen to have been for nearly five years in a vast and bloody conflict with Islamic radicals who openly wish to destroy us in the name of Islam. And here we are, deep into a story about a possible major bomb plot, and the Times cannot bring itself even to mention the religion of suspects arrested by the FBI on terrorism charges, even though their religion would be a vital clue to understanding the story. Is it more important to know that these guys are of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin, or that they are Muslims (something I'm only guessing based on their names; the Times doesn't tell the reader until the next paragraph, and then only by quoting an FBI official)?
We soldier on till the 25th paragraph, when the names of some of the arrested in Canada are finally listed. Several of them are named Muhammad. Another clue! Then, in paragraph 27, a brother of one of the arrested men defends the suspects as good people, saying, "They go to the mosque."
By day two, the Times had dug into the mosque angle -- since this was, as it turns out, a pivotal element of the story. This is not a surprise, based on patterns in previous events. And, of course, the people at the mosque are not of one mind about what is going on, before or after the arrests. That is to be expected and that is part of the story.
So the Times did report:
Members at a mosque prayer meeting on Sunday said the six fellow worshipers who were arrested included the eldest, Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43, described by several acquaintances as a school bus driver and an active member of the mosque who frequently led prayers, made fiery speeches and influenced young people who attended the services.
"He spent a lot of time with youth," said Faheem Bukhari, a director of the Mississauga Muslim Community Center who sometimes attended prayers at the mosque. "He'd take them for soccer or bowling, and talk to them." Mr. Bukhari said Mr. Jamal never openly embraced violence or talked about Al Qaeda, but was "very vocal and I believe could incite these young kids for jihad."
The issue, again, is whether the MSM is actually afraid to discuss the religious elements of these terrorism stories and, to be specific, the actual divisions inside Islam about faith and life in the Western world. Rod has continued to write about these issues this week -- often producing fierce debates among those commenting at his site. Check it out.
Photo credit: "Nile River Sunset" by Matthew Floreen, BiblePlaces.com.