Buried at 19 paragraphs into an A1 Wall Street Journal story on the religious tensions in the Gulf is a reference that appears to imply that religious issues are not part of the "real world." Accessing the article requires an expensive log-in (which I don't have -- I am relying on a dead-pulp version), but props to Rod Dreher of Beliefnet's Crunchy Con and the The Dallas Morning News for catching it Monday and calling us out for missing it. Here is the paragraph in question, followed by Rod's analysis:
Fear of Iran, of course, is anchored in real-world issues. Tehran's nuclear research push has caused widespread jitters and prompted Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to suggest they might start nuclear programs, too. Iran's involvement in Iraq since the toppling of Mr. Hussein's Sunni tyranny has stirred real fear that Iraq will be led by a Shiite regime loyal to Tehran. [Emphasis mine -- RD]
Classic. It appears that religious concerns are not, in the view of this reporter, part of the "real world." It appears that to this reporter and his editors, religion is a sideshow to the real world. And we wonder why our elites -- and we who depend on them for news, information, analysis and leadership -- have so much trouble understanding how the Middle East works.
I have never been to the Middle East (unless you count Turkey), and reporter Andrew Higgins writes from Muharraq, Bahrain, so I will defer to him on most matters regarding that area of that country. But based on what I have read in the past and now (Mark Bowden's Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis, The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam, a tremendous book), it must be said that one of the crucial mistakes American culture (including the media) has made over the years is underestimating the importance that Middle Eastern peoples attach to their religious faith in the "real world."
The Journal should be credited for putting this article on the front page, but whoever was responsible for this insinuation should take a closer look at the situation in the Middle East.