It's pathetic how American policymakers fail to recognize the significance of religion in the battle against terrorism. What is more pathetic, and likely a cause of policymaker's failure to recognize religion as essential to understanding terrorism, is that journalists don't really get religion in covering terrorism. If the newspapers and newscasts policymakers read and watch do not cover religion as an essential component of the story, it is not likely that the elected officials will understand its importance. Take for example accounts by two of the nation's leading news organization on the arraignment of the "9/11 Defendants." The New York Times article creates a colorful portrayal of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as the master and commander of the courtroom during Friday's legal proceedings, while The Washington Post portrays him as a sleepy, unkempt, sad individual whom no one should fear.
If you read between the lines, religion seems to have been everywhere in that courtroom, but the news stories hardly discuss religion. The NYT mentions the "talk of martyrdom" in the headline but only mentions it twice in the article. The Post did not mention martyrdom until the last paragraph.
The NYT mentions the word God not once, while the Post included the following quote that inadequately represents the significance of the words' meaning:
Just 24 minutes later, after the other detainees answered a series of mundane questions, Mohammed stood up to address the court. He opened by chanting Koranic verses in Arabic, complete with an English translation for the court, offering a few unexpected lyrical moments. But his words then veered sharply. Although polite and almost deferential, Mohammed quickly made clear his dislike of America.
"I consider all American laws under the Constitution to be evil and not of God," Mohammed said. He particularly took issue with a society that allows "same-sexual marriage" and other things that "are very bad." He said he could not accept a U.S. lawyer because the nation is "still in Iraq and Afghanistan and waging their crusade."
Am I missing the reason why the reporter would have left the Koranic verses out of the article? Can we at least get references?
The NYT did find time to include a word about Allah (unlike the Post), but the significance of the statement goes unsaid:
Mr. Mohammed, who is sometimes known as K.S.M., was at the first table. He could not, he explained, work easily with lawyers trained in the American legal system, which he described as evil. "They allow same sexual marriage," he said, "and many things are very bad."
He held his own in rapid fire back-and-forth with the judge dealing with the particulars of the proceedings, but then would retreat into another world. When Judge Kohlmann explained the risks of going through a death penalty case without a lawyer, Mr. Mohammed answered: "Nothing shall befall us, save what Allah has ordained for us."
A major theme of these articles is the significance of the legal battles that this incident represents. The proceedings and the outcome will have a huge impact on the country's ability to prosecute accused terrorists. However, the picture is incomplete if reporters leave religion out of focus or off the canvas.