Reading between the lines

A few weeks ago, there was a bit of a discussion on the internets about whether the mainstream media does a good job of covering honor killings in America. It began with Phyllis Chesler writing:

The mainstream media rarely covers them. More often, local media does, but even local media does so walking on eggshells, careful to quote from at least one apologist and one know-nothing. Usually, the (hardcopy) mainstream media covers such events weeks later, only briefly, or as a way to "spin" any possible prejudice against the perpetrators involved. Sometimes they are mentioned, but only in passing. Rarely do follow-ups appear. Usually, a wire service piece is used, and no original reporting is done. Sometimes, the newspaper's blog might refer to a piece which first appeared in another newspaper which, in turn, has mentioned the subject only in passing.

National Review's Mark Steyn riffed on that here and here. The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf responded that the mainstream media was doing a great job of covering honor killings in America here and here.

It's not about an American honor killing but I thought of that debate when looking at the coverage of the alleged attempted murder of British actress Afshan Azad. She's appeared in many of the Harry Potter movies. Here's how CNN put it:

Abdul Azad, 54, and his son Ashraf, 28, are accused of attacking actress Afshan Azad earlier this month because of her relationship with a Hindu man, a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said. The family is Muslim.

I don't know if this is typically how the Daily Mail handles such news, but you pretty much have to read in between every line of this story to glean anything from it. After explaining the charges of assault and attempted murder, we get this:

As part of their bail conditions, they have to abide by an 11pm to 6am curfew and must not travel to London or contact an unnamed man.

Presumably the "unnamed man" is the Hindu from the CNN story. But nowhere do the words "Hindu" or "Muslim" appear in the Daily Mail. Neither do they in this E! story about the situation.

The Herald Sun in Australia began its story this way:

The strict Muslim father and brother of "Harry Potter" actress Afshan Azad have been charged with threatening to kill her because she has a boyfriend.

None of these stories is long. That's excusable for the initial story. But is this related to an honor killing? What are the theological defenses and refutations of honor killing? What role does religion play in this story? If you can't get the media interested in covering these issues when the target is famous, what hope do we have for good coverage when the victims are from a small town in the middle of the nowhere?

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