I am a huge fan of Reuters religion coverage. I find their articles frequently informative, detailed, nuanced and covering stories that other outlets miss. I also enjoy their "Faithworld" blog. Last month, the blog highlighted the concern of a reader (and yes, I stole the headline from them):
A reader recently objected to our use of the phrase "the Prophet Mohammad" in news stories, saying that he as a Christian did not consider Mohammad a prophet and many other non-Muslims presumably didn't either, therefore we should not write about him as if everyone agreed he was one. The reader wrote:
I've just noticed recently that Reuters is following in the footsteps of AP and AFP in designating the Islamic prophet Mohammad as "The Prophet Mohammad". I as a Christian don't consider him my prophet, and neither do, I'm sure, Jews, atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.
Why then have all the mainstream news outlets decided to treat us all as if we are Muslims? Rightly, he should be described as "the Islamic prophet Muhammad" rather than "The Prophet Muhammad".
Religion Editor Tom Heneghan noted that most reader feedback goes on a separate Reuters blog but that he wanted to highlight it on the faith blog as well. I thought both the reader question and the response were well-phrased. Reuters explains that they use traditional titles without endorsing them. If "president" is the term used by an elected official, an appointed official, or a dictator, they'll use that title:
In the religious sphere, we use official titles and honorifics that are common in the faith concerned and widely understood across religious boundaries. We refer to Jesus Christ, even though non-Christians would dispute his honorific "the Annointed One." The same goes for Buddha, a title ("the Enlightened One") for Siddhartha Gautama that non-Buddhists could also contest.
They note it's been their style for years. What do you think about using such titles? How do you think that media outlets should handle it?