Nod your head affirmatively if you agree that journalists are only as good as their sources, no matter what the story. Seeing nothing but affirmative head bobbing in GetReligion land, I'll now ask my follow up question:
Who or what constitutes an authoritative and trustworthy source?
Does the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL and Daesh) qualify as a trustworthy source in stories about how the terrorist group treats Christians in its self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq?
No way, you say? An absurd proposition? An even worse idea than taking as unquestionable truth the preposterous pandering of a certain presidential candidate (feel free to name your favorite political villain)?
But wait. It seems some international news outlets, western politicians and UN diplomats may not be as careful about this as we're trying to be. That, according to a recent essay in The Spectator, the nearly 200-year-old British news and culture weekly that leans right.
Here's the top of the Spectator piece, penned by Luke de Pulford, a member of the British Conservative Party's human rights commission.
Christians continue to be slaughtered in the Middle East. But as reports of genocidal atrocities mount up, our governments have found a new reason to sit on their hands. Christians, the theory goes, don’t have it as bad as the Yazidis. As ‘people of the book’, Christians enjoy privileged status. Rather than suffering the full extent of Islamic State’s depravities, they can pay a tax (Jizya) in return for protection. It sounds credible and contains just enough theology to bamboozle the secular population of the international community. Here’s the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights:
‘While Christian communities still living in Daesh controlled territories live difficult and often precarious existences…their right to exist as Christians within any Islamic State existing at any point in time, is recognised as long as they pay the Jizya tax.'
The UN has said it. Parliamentarians around the world have said it. Respected international NGOs specialising in genocide have said it. Case closed, you might think. Until you realise that the evidence for the Jizya claim originates almost exclusively from Isis. Yes, you read that right. That reliable source of accurate information on the treatment of minorities in the Middle East. They wouldn’t lie, surely?
Before proceeding, let's explain the Arabic term, jizya, also rendered in English as jizyah. Here's the Spectator again.
... The Jizya has its origins in the Qur’an (9:29, Surah al-Tawbah) under which ‘people of scripture’ (Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and Sabean-Mandeans) paid a tax in exchange for guarantees of protection. The Jizya has expressed itself in different ways down the centuries, always falling short of modern standards of religious freedom, but broadly allowing for selected minorities to keep their faith and to worship provided they cough up.
Doesn't sound too bad, does it?
Sure, it means Christians are second-class citizens. But that's just the way it's always been in Muslim-ruled lands. Nothing new here, so why make it an issue now?
Because even if you accept this inherently discriminatory tax, the Islamic State, as the Spectator underscores, does not uphold its end of this offer that cannot be refused. Christians cannot worhship freely in the caliphate and they are not protected. In fact, they're slaughtered along with Yazidis and others.
So it's just another Islamic State shake down scheme misrepresented to the outside world for propaganda purposes as something far more benign than it truly is.
Here's an article from The Wall Street Journal that shows how this can play out in stories, including ones published by elite international journalists. The quote below is from a story on problems Christian face across the entire Muslim Middle East, including within the caliphate. (Warning: the newspaper's pay wall make block your access.)
In the Quran, Christians are protected as “people of the book” -- a reference to the three monotheistic religions, and extremist groups respect the decree to varying degrees. Jesus Christ is recognized as a main prophet in Islam as is Moses.
Some Christians do live in Islamic State’s core caliphate in Syria and Iraq, but they are forbidden from practicing their religion openly and are forced to pay jizya, a religious tax levied on minorities.
In those countries, the group [Islamic State] has pointed to its treatment and coexistence with Christians -- despite heavy discrimination -- as an example of strict adherence to its creed and respect for monotheism.
Sure could use a bit more explanation, couldn't it?
If you Google Middle East Christians its apparent that Christian-oriented and politically conservative publications (the latter thinking, I'm sure, that many if not most of their readers are at least culturally Christian) publish the bulk of the many stories produced on the plight of Middle East Christians, most of whom are connected to the faith's Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic traditions.
That's not any more surprising than a Jewish publication writing mostly about Jews or a Hindu publication focusing on Hindu concerns.
GetReligion readers know that this site runs more blog posts about stories involving Christian issues, because these topics dominate religion-news coverage in Western media (and this is what appeals most to our predominantly Christian readership). Appealing to audience tastes is how the journalism business works.
But what's the responsibility of mainstream -- read that as secular -- American media? Should more stories about Christian suffering be produced than about Muslims, for example, who suffer as much -- and in terms of absolute numbers, far more so -- under the Islamic State? You will note that GetReligion has always stressed the coverage of religious rights for all religious minorities in that region, including non-radicalized forms of Islam. Note these GetReligion posts on the real impact of the infamous blasphemy laws in Pakistan.
Just where is the Goldilocks spot here? I admit Its hard for me to gauge.
Your thoughts? Please post them below.