Friday afternoon correction: I messed up.
Here at GetReligion, we critique media coverage of religion on short deadlines, which I have likened to "pulling a tooth a day."
This morning, I read a New York Times front-page story on Islam and violence at least three times — or at least I thought I read the full story — and I couldn't quite place what was wrong with it. Something just seemed to be missing. In the post below, I asked if it was really possible for a 767-word story to cover the full breadth of the question.
Here's the problem with my post: I thought I had reached the end when I came upon a list of "Related Coverage" links (see image below). In fact, I didn't scroll down far enough and missed the entire last half of the story.
I didn't figure out my mistake until a reader made a comment mentioning a "Jesus" quote in the story. "What Jesus quote?" I immediately thought. When I clicked on the link again, I discovered my mistake.
Please accept my sincere apology for my error. I'll strive to do better in the future.
Original post: Just how tough is daily journalism?
This tough: In 800 words or less, fairly and fully explore whether Islam is inherently violent.
That, basically, is the challenge faced by the writer of a 767-word story that appears on the front page of today's New York Times.
The subject matter certainly seems timely and relevant:
CAIRO -- Islamist extremists behead Western journalists in Syria, massacre thousands of Iraqis, murder 132 Pakistani schoolchildren, kill a Canadian soldier and take hostage cafe patrons in Australia. Now, two gunmen have massacred a dozen people in the office of a Paris newspaper.
The rash of horrific attacks in the name of Islam is spurring an anguished debate among Muslims here in the heart of the Islamic world about why their religion appears cited so often as a cause for violence and bloodshed.
The majority of scholars and the faithful say Islam is no more inherently violent than other religions. But some Muslims -- most notably the president of Egypt -- argue that the contemporary understanding of their religion is infected with justifications for violence, requiring the government and its official clerics to correct the teaching of Islam.
After a quote from the Egyptian president, there's this:
Others, though, insist that the sources of the violence are alienation and resentment, not theology. They argue that the authoritarian rulers of Arab states -- who have tried for decades to control Muslim teaching and the application of Islamic law -- have set off a violent backlash expressed in religious ideas and language. Promoted by groups like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, that discourse echoes through Muslim communities as far away as New York or Paris, whose influence and culture still loom over much of the Muslim world.
In all, the Times story quotes five sources -- including an "outspoken atheist" with an Arab name.
But can a 767-word story and five voices truly capture the full breadth of a faith held by more than 1 billion people?
In repeated posts, GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly has made this key point:
(T)he mainstream press has been torn between two "big ideas" when it comes to Islam. The first is this: "Islam is a religion of peace." The second is: "There is no one Islam." The problem, of course, is that these two messages clash. Clearly, many Muslims do want to reach some form of peace with core values in the modern world (think article 18 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.) However, there is no one Islam. Many Muslims do not want, for example, to allow people to convert to other faiths. Many do not want free speech, if that means blasphemy.
If there is no one Islam, then answering the question of whether Islam is inherently violent -- as the Times attempts to do -- becomes much more difficult in a limited space.
Just how tough is daily journalism? Did the Times team cover the whole spectrum? Read the full story and find out.