What a wonderful story of solidarity: Muslims joining French Catholics at the funeral of Father Jacques Hamel, uniting in sympathy for the victim of knife-wielding ISIS sympathizers.
Let's hear the thoughts and feelings of the Muslims after the funeral.
Or not. At least not if you read the Associated Press' account. Or those of many other media.
Muslims are mentioned six times in the AP story, including the headline. A hundred of them, just at the Rouen cathedral. And dozens more around France and Italy for Mass, "as a gesture of interfaith solidarity following the attack on the priest."
Yes, it's nice to show not that all Muslims are haters. And it's true that actions speak louder than words. But since a news story is made of words, shouldn't some Muslims have gotten to say a few of them?
I'm not even sure how much original reporting AP did here. Looks like at least some of the story is borrowed from other reports:
ROUEN, France — French media reported Tuesday that roughly 100 Muslims attended the funeral Mass of a Catholic priest slain by two men who claimed allegiance to the Islamic States, capping a week in which Muslims in various European nations attended Masses to express sympathy and solidarity.
The Archbishop of Rouen, leading Tuesday’s solemn funeral Mass, said Father Jacques Hamel tried to push away his attackers with his feet, saying "go away, Satan," remarks that underscored the horror of the murder at the altar that touched a chord throughout France.
Hundreds of priests and bishops filled the sumptuous Rouen cathedral along with many hundreds more people, including Muslims who have joined in the grieving since the murder of the 85-year-old priest, slashed by his attackers while celebrating morning Mass.
Who were those 100 Muslims? Imams? Professors? Quranic scholars? How many mosques did they represent? Why did they feel the need to come?
AP, of course, was not alone in its lack of curiosity. Most mainstream media, including CBS News and the Wall Street Journal, simply tossed in a statement that Muslims attended the funeral, without bothering to talk to any of them.
But Reuters and The Star did manage to quote a Muslim who attended Mass in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. "This was basically a message of unity, aside from peace," a woman named Hayat says. "All those here live in peace every day." Not a stellar message, but still worth seeking out.
BBC got Muslim attendees to speak in Rouen, although it piggybacked on Agence France-Presse: "Muslims and Jews attended the ceremony in a show of solidarity. 'It was a duty,' Hassan Houays, a Muslim maths teacher from Saint-Etienne, told AFP. 'We are here so that we can get along together.' "
BBC also reports that a group of "prominent Muslims" support the French government's plan for a new foundation to help fund new mosques, an attempt to blunt Saudi money that spreads the Wahhabi version of Islam. "We must speak up now because Islam has become a public issue and the current situation is intolerable," the Muslim coalition says, according to a the weekly Journal du Dimanche.
The Guardian does better, quoting an imam who rejects the idea of burying the killer in the town where he killed the local priest:
“Given that he’s a terrorist who has done us much wrong, he doesn’t deserve any respect,” Mohammed Karabila, imam of the mosque at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, told Europe 1 radio. “Having said that, his remains have to be buried somewhere. There will be no official [mosque] representative and no prayer at the mosque.”
Note, however, that both statements are pulled from elsewhere, not direct interviews. And that robs readers and viewers of a vital aspect of the story: reaction to comments by the main celebrant of the funeral Mass in Rouen:
"Evil is a mystery. It reaches heights of horror that take us out of the human," Archbishop Dominique Lebrun said during the two-hour Mass.
"Isn’t that what you wanted to say, Jacques, with your last words, when you fell to the ground? After you were struck by the knife, you tried to push away your assailants with your feet and said, ‘Go away, Satan.’ You repeated it, ‘Go away, Satan.'"
With those words, Lebrun said, "You expressed … your faith in the goodness of humans and that the devil put his claws in."
Wouldn't it have been interesting to learn what impressions and messages the Muslims would take back to their communities? And not only them, but Jews who may have been attending. Archbishop Lebrun mentioned their community, too. Were any of them in the cathedral at the time?
The AP piece had a few other gaffes as well. Like calling the Rouen cathedral "sumptuous." That annoyed one of our Faithful Readers. She notes that the dictionary definition is "extremely costly, rich, luxurious, or magnificent" -- an odd description of a medieval Gothic church.
AP also quotes Archbishop Lebrun inviting people to "return to churches on Aug. 15, the day celebrating the Assumption of Mary, to express that 'violence will not take over in their hearts.' " How many readers would know what the Assumption of Mary was? It's the Catholic belief that Mary was taken into heaven, body and soul.
And in acknowledging Jews during the Mass, Lebrun said they stand with Muslims, "already decided to unite for: ‘Never again.' " Again, nothing on where that phrase came from.
And it matters. As David Efune of the Algemeiner Journal has said, Jews picked up the phrase after the Holocaust. "[I]t symbolizes the Jewish people’s collective resolve to never stand by the blood of their brethren and to never allow innocents to be brutalized for the crime of being Jewish."
Now, that background would have been instructive to bounce off the Muslims who attended Father Jacques Hamel's funeral. Do they agree? And will they take that message back to their own communities?