Paris attacks

In wake of more terror attacks in Europe, factual reporting of #Brussels news is crucial (updated)

In wake of more terror attacks in Europe, factual reporting of #Brussels news is crucial (updated)

Like many of you, I woke up to news of the terror attacks in Brussels.

Notifications about the bombings flooded my iPad screen as I opened my eyes.

As the disturbing headlines struck me, I saw a note on Facebook from a fellow Christian, Paul Brazle, a missionary to Belgium with whom my Christian Chronicle colleague Erik Tryggestad and I stayed during a 2009 reporting trip.

Brazle's note said:

'Ik ben veilig!' (I am safe - We are safe.)
With this message, folks in Brussels airport or metro can - via Red Cross data centre - inform family or friends who can't reach them that they are OK. Others... are not so lucky, to be able to say that.
As you wake up today to news of Bombings in Brussels....
we want you to know that we are safely well out of any harm's way, but listening to the news carefully and waiting for news of any in our network who may have had reason to be in the airport today, or near the one metro station in the Europa district where bombs went off.

The Associated Press reports that "there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday's attacks." Other news organizations — such as NPR and CNN — make no mention of a potential religion angle in their initial accounts.

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Sorry, Heartland, you suffer from a major case of Islamophobia — an elite newspaper said so

Sorry, Heartland, you suffer from a major case of Islamophobia — an elite newspaper said so

On the front page of Sunday's Washington Post — below the banner coverage of "A blizzard for the ages" — ran a long, long profile of a young Muslim woman from Kansas.

The nearly 4,000-word story, told by a Pulitzer Prize-winning feature writer, follows a now-familiar media premise: Americans, particularly those in backward places like the Heartland, treat Muslim women who wear hijabs with suspicion and even disdain.

In this story — dubbed "The Education of Maira Salim" — the Post declares that Muslims like Salim are "enduring the worst spasm of Islamophobia in their lifetime as they decide their relationship with America."

We have, of course, repeatedly highlighted the problem with that word.

Granted, a lot of people on Twitter seemed to really like the Post's story on Salim. The piece was described as "beautifully sensitive," as "an engrossing read" and as "the very best of what the Washington Post does," just to cite a few examples.

And certainly, the story benefits from a talented writer:

 

 

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Houston, we have a problem: What's wrong with all those 'Muslim backlash' stories in the media

Houston, we have a problem: What's wrong with all those 'Muslim backlash' stories in the media

The backlash is back.

Back on the front page, that is.

Before dissecting today's Houston Chronicle story, a little background: After the San Bernardino massacre, the New York Post splashed the inflammatory headline "Muslim Killers" across its tabloid cover. At that time, we noted that — ever since 9/11 — the phrase "Muslim backlash" has entered America's lexicon. 

In follow-up posts, we questioned media reporting a "surge" in anti-Muslim crime without providing hard data to back up that factual claim. Moreover, we pointed out bias by media using the term "Islamophobia" without bothering to define it.

That leads to Houston, where firefighters battled a Christmas Day blaze at a storefront mosque. Investigators called the fire "suspicious," citing multiple points of origin. 

The fire serves as the news peg for the Chronicle's Page A1 report today on anxiety in the area's Muslim community:

Even before investigators determined that a Christmas Day fire at a southwest Houston mosque was set deliberately, Muslims in the Houston area were on edge.
Recent terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., were followed by threats to area Muslims on social media and elsewhere. Now, in the aftermath of the arson at the mosque, local Muslim leaders and public officials are organizing a meeting to try to calm fears and ease tensions. 
M.J. Khan, the president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, said he understands the community’s growing anxiety. 
“Families and children come, and we do take precautions to make sure people are protected and feel safe,” said Khan, whose organization operates the mosque. Still, he added, “These are places of worship, and we cannot make them fortresses.”
The fire broke out at around 2:45 p.m. on Christmas Day at the small mosque inside the Savoy Plaza strip center, near Wilcrest Drive and Bellfort Avenue. About 80 firefighters helped extinguish the blaze, which significantly damaged the worship hall.

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On the red-hot Islam beat: (1) Helpful, if recycled, info, (2) far-fetched 2016 scenarios

On the red-hot Islam beat: (1) Helpful, if recycled, info, (2) far-fetched 2016 scenarios

The Council on American-Islamic Relations reports that 2015 has produced at least 63 incidents of vandalism and harassment against U.S. Muslims, the most since it started counting in 2009 and three times the 2014 total -- a spot story to pursue.

The biggest spike of such crimes occurred in November, likely a reaction to “Islamists” downing a Russian plane in Egypt October 31 followed by atrocities in Lebanon, Nigeria and Paris that together slaughtered  429 innocent victims and injured hundreds more. Next came the San Bernardino attack that murdered 14 partygoers and injured 22, then the December 15 announcement of an anti-terror military alliance among 34 Muslim nations.

CAIR provides new news. But recycled information can be manna on the red-hot Islam beat as newswriters prepare explainers. The ever-reliable Pew Research Center has assembled prior data for a valuable online report, “Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world.” Thank you Pew. 

We learn – or are reminded -- that Pew surveys show 86 percent of U.S. Muslims think violence against innocent civilians is rarely or never justified, compared with 7 percent who think it’s sometimes justified, and 1 percent saying it is often justified. 

That’s somewhat reassuring, though the “sometimes” number is worrisome and, by Pew’s estimate of 1.8 million U.S. Muslim adults, 1 percent saying “often” equals 18,000 radicals. Notably, 48 percent of U.S. Muslims think their religious leaders haven’t done enough to oppose Islamic extremists.

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Hey media, in the name of journalism, can we please stop the 'Islamophobia' bias?

Hey media, in the name of journalism, can we please stop the 'Islamophobia' bias?

There's that word again — this time on the front page of the New York Times.

What word?:

Islamophobia

What does it mean? The Times doesn't say. But the newspaper reports that there's been a "surge" in it:

Hebh Jamal does not remember the Sept. 11 attacks. She was 1. Growing up in the Bronx, she was unaware of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and was mostly insulated from the surge in suspicion that engulfed Muslims in the United States, the programs of police surveillance and the rise in bias attacks.
But in the past year, especially in the past several months, as her emergence from childhood into young womanhood has coincided with the violent spread of the Islamic State and a surge in Islamophobia, she has had to confront some harsh challenges of being a young Muslim in America.

Similarly, as GetReligion noted yesterday, the Los Angeles Times used the I-phobia word in a recent story on Muslims women saying headscarves have made them a target for harassment:

The Washington-based nonprofit Council on American–Islamic Relations has documented dozens of Islamophobic incidents nationwide since last month, including many against women wearing headscarves.

Dictionary.com defines "Islamophobia" as "hatred or fear of Muslims or their politics or culture."

So what's my problem with journalists sprinkling their stories with that term? 

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Washington Post misses multiple hints about faith in Eagles of Death Metal story

Washington Post misses multiple hints about faith in Eagles of Death Metal story

I’m not really a heavy metal fan but when I saw this piece posted in the Washington Post about the band that was playing during the terror attacks at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, I had to take a second look.

I was swimming through this longish piece when I began noticing all sorts of hints about faith being dropped by Jesse Hughes, the lead singer of Eagles of Death Metal. Anyone who’s been in a Christian subculture could pick them up instantly. I am not sure the reporter was attuned to this at all, unfortunately, and Hughes wasn't really big on the God talk but he kept dropping hint after hing. It's obvious this man is one mixed-up guy, albeit quite entertaining.

Anyway, this piece has more ghosts (places where the reporter should have picked up on the spiritual element) than a Hogwarts Halloween party. Here’s how it started:

From head to toe, the Eagles of Death Metal lead singer is like a neon sign advertising the trappings of American rock. Tight jeans. Bright tattoos. Bold views. Wild hair. Several stints in drug rehab. And above all: sexually charged lyrics.
On Nov. 13, Hughes was belting those sexually suggestive lyrics on stage when three members of the Islamic State forced their way into the Bataclan concert hall in Paris. Hughes managed to escape but scores of his fans did not. Strapped with suicide vests and armed with Kalashnikovs, the gunmen slaughtered 89 people at the Bataclan. Across the city, coordinated attacks claimed 41 more lives.
In a statement, the Islamic State tried to paint the concert hall as a hedonistic pleasure palace “where hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice.”

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Here's what's missing in that Associated Press story on America's Little Syria

Here's what's missing in that Associated Press story on America's Little Syria

Talk about false advertising.

In the title, I made it sound like I'd tell you what's missing in that recent Associated Press story on America's Little Syria.

But here's the deal: I'm not entirely sure I know what's missing. Or if something really is. How's that for wishy-washiness?

I've read the AP report three times — going on four — and each time at the end, I find myself going, "Hmmmmm."

Maybe you can help me figure this out? 

Let's start at the top:

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A few days ago, a pastor asked Syrian-born restaurant owner Marie Jarrah to donate food to a welcoming event for recently arrived Syrian refugees. Jarrah, who said she regularly helps people in need, declined.
Like many of Allentown's establishment Syrians, she doesn't think it's a good idea to bring refugees to the city. She clung to that view even before last week's terrorist attacks in Paris. "Problems are going to happen," said Jarrah, co-owner of Damascus Restaurant in a heavily Syrian enclave.
As debate intensifies nationally over the federal government's plan to accept an additional 10,000 refugees from war-ravaged Syria, a similar argument is taking place in Allentown — one with a sectarian twist.
Pennsylvania's third-largest city is home to one of the nation's largest populations of Syrians. They are mostly Christian and, in no small number, support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — a dynamic that's prompting some of them to oppose the resettlement of refugees, who are Muslim and say they fled violence perpetrated by the Assad regime.

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'Would Jesus take in Syrian refugees?': Washington Post asks the right question

'Would Jesus take in Syrian refugees?': Washington Post asks the right question

In a post yesterday afternoon on the Paris attacks, U.S. politics and Syrian refugees, I pleaded for introducing a little theology into the discussion.

My main points, in case you missed them:

Not that every story quoting a Christian must ask "What would Jesus do?" But I'd be curious to know how the folks quoted — presumably Christians — balance their politics with their theology: Did Jesus say anything about how to treat one's enemies? If so, does what he said have any application to the refugee situation?
Along those same lines, does the Bible say anything about how Christians are to treat refugees? Does tightening one's borders fit the theological content of the Scriptures? Why or why not? On social media, Christians certainly are asking those sorts of questions (and yes, coming to different conclusions).
Given the big news in Paris — and beyond — now would seem like prime time for reporters to engage such discussions.

About the same time my post went live (so, unfortunately, I can't claim credit), The Washington Post published a story by Godbeat pro Michelle Boorstein that asks:

Would Jesus take in Syrian refugees?

That's definitely the right question, if you ask me.

The Post's lede:

For many American Christians, the Paris attacks have revealed a conflict between two priorities: The cause of persecuted Middle Eastern Christians and a hard line on security.
Following reports that one of the Paris attackers had a Syrian passport and had allegedly registered as a refugee, multiple GOP presidential candidates called for bans on Syrian refugees. On Monday, multiple GOP governors joined in. Considering the United States has absorbed fewer than 2,000 Syrians, this may seem like political posturing, but Congress is set later this year to debate funding for another 10,000 who President Obama has said he wants to admit. 
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said Sunday that Christians only, not Muslims, should be allowed in. Ben Carson said accepting any Syrian refugees requires a “suspension of intellect.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Donald Trump and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also said the country shouldn’t take any more Syrian refugees.
Over the weekend, prominent evangelist Franklin Graham repeated calls he’s made before to scrutinize Muslim refugees. ...
The question is particularly complicated for conservative Christians, who have become increasingly concerned in the last few years about the plight of Christians in the Middle East and simultaneously are often the most guarded about border security and increased immigration.

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In story on Paris attacks, U.S. politics and Syrian refugees, is there any room for theology?

In story on Paris attacks, U.S. politics and Syrian refugees, is there any room for theology?

Since the Paris attacks, my Facebook feed has filled up with two things:

1. Temporary profile pictures in the blue, white and red colors of the French flag.

2. Friends debating the pros and cons of allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.

Michael, a minister, sparked 100-plus comments when he declared:

I know a lot of people will strongly disagree with this, but I think terrorists within our borders is the price we must be willing to pay if absolutely necessary for showing Christ-glorifying love and help to Syrian refugees who live with this evil every day. A sovereign God has called us to help and defend the cause of the immigrant, regardless of the costs. "Your kingdom come, your will be done..."

Phil, also a minister, seemed to take a different position with this status:

The attack on France included at least one Syrian refugee. What will happen to us when we take them in? Do we want to invite our enemies into our house and support them?

Enter Donald Trump into the discussion, courtesy of The Washington Post.

Read the Post's lede, and many of the issues my friends are debating on social media emerge:

BEAUMONT, Tex. — For John Courts, the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed at least 132 people provided more evidence of something he has long suspected: Syrian refugees are not to be trusted.
“I think they’re wolves in sheeps’ clothing,” said Courts, 36, a police officer in this industrial town in southeast Texas who attended a political rally for Donald Trump on Saturday. “Bringing those refugees here is very dangerous. Yeah, they need help, but it’s going to bring terrorism right into our front door.”

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