Once again the terrorism story of the day is drenched in blood and religion, yet it is hard to know how the mainstream press should respond. The faces are are so familiar by now, with 57 dead and more than 100 wounded. The main question journalists face: Do you quote -- or even release, or link to -- the actual text of the letter from the al Qaeda network claiming responsibility? Why? Why Not?
If you do, you end up with something that reads like this news report from The Guardian:
A statement, which has not been authenticated, was posted on a website used by militant groups and said Amman was targeted because it is the "backyard" for US operations. The claim was signed in the name of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.
The statement said Amman is "a backyard for the enemies of the faith, the Jews and crusaders ... a filthy place for the traitors ... and a centre for prostitution."
It is a familiar equation -- Jews, Christians and a Western, consumer approach to sexuality.
I realize that this story is still very new. Yet it is interesting to read the first reports from the major newspapers and note the total lack of information about the religion element in the event.
The New York Times, of course, continues its almost total blackout on religious images and information related to terrorism. Then again, The Jerusalem Post also seems to assume that, by this time, its readers do not have to be told what they already know. Ditto for The Washington Post.
The Los Angeles Times, however, includes the following detail that is not exactly religious, but it does give some insights into the dynamics of this tragedy. We can expect this fact to be spun around in some conspiracy theory sites:
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israelis staying at the Radisson on Wednesday had been evacuated before the attacks and escorted back home "apparently due to a specific security threat." Amos N. Guiora, a former senior Israeli counter-terrorism official, said in a phone interview with The Times that sources in Israel had also told him about the pre-attack evacuations.
"It means there was excellent intelligence that this thing was going to happen," said Guiora, a former leader of the Israel Defense Forces who now heads the Institute for Global Security Law and Policy at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "The question that needs to be answered is why weren't the Jordanians working at the hotel similarly removed?"
Once again we see an attack by Islamists, justified with faith language. The attack targets moderate, pro-West Muslims, Jews and Christians.
At least that is what the bombers say. This is not what the newspapers say. Or, at least, they do not say it very often.
(Photo: The Grand Hyatt in Amman)