Posts in Religion

While young Muslims deliver flowers, the US media fails twice

While the US media was having a field day with a non-story about a fringe pastor who wanted to burn the Quran, and while Islamophobia and anti-Muslim incidents were skyrocketing including urinating in a mosque and attacking a Muslim cab driver, young Muslims in a small city in the Middle East delivered flowers to a church. This was a “gesture of peace and coexistence,” the group of young Jordanian Muslims who delivered the flowers said.

Photo credit: Thameen Kheetan - The Jordan Times

“Shall we burn a copy of the Bible as a response to that? No, this is not what should be done,” Zeid Oweidi who was among a group of ten Jordanians told reporters at the Greek Orthodox Church in Amman last week. His comments were made against the backdrop of threats by Terry Jones, the pastor of a Florida church who planned to burn copies of the Quran on the 9th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

While extremists in places like Afghanistan demonstrated violently over the planned burning of the Quran, young Jordanians last week simply walked to a nearby church following the evening prayers and delivered flowers.

Following this gesture, I received an Email from someone belonging to the Christian community in Jordan urging fellow Christians to reciprocate by delivering flowers to Muslims after Friday prayers. I guess in this case instead of violence begetting violence, goodwill begets yet even more goodwill.

Sadly, for the US media this was a non-story. Who cared about a small, stable country like Jordan? Who cared about a handful of young Muslims delivering flowers when there were others demonstrating violently? Which one would get readers’ attention, violence or flowers? Sadly, the US media chose violence. Who can compete with death and blood? The sexier always wins.

Covering this story and bringing it to the world’s attention is crucial these days. While the average American news consumer is currently being inundated with images of extremist Muslims, a small story like this one should have deserved at least a fraction of the coverage that the Florida priest fiasco received. I understand that this is not a national story and it didn’t happen on US soil but in this interconnected media sphere the location of the story doesn’t make a difference anymore. We have already experienced that. An angry mob in Beirut attacked a Western embassy in reaction to cartoons that appeared in a Danish newspaper, while demonstrators in Pakistan marched the streets in reaction to an off-beat announcement by a priest in small American city. Nowadays, every story is a global story.

The disappointing fact is that the US media failed twice in this case: first in blowing the story of the Florida priest out of proportion by giving this isolated, planned act (which never happened) more than its share of coverage, and bringing it to the attention of the global audience. The second was in ignoring acts of Muslim goodwill that would have clearly showed that while some Muslims might burn flags and effigies, there are others, like this group of young Jordanians, who would simply deliver flowers.

Quran Burning and the US media: It’s a question of ethics

The first amendment is a genius piece of work. It gives American journalists the freedom to express and air information, it gives ordinary citizens the power to vocally criticize authority, and it also gives the priest of a small church in Florida the right to publically burn Qurans on the ninth anniversary of September 11.

Terry Jones
Pastor Terry Jones. Photo credit: AP

Although burning a holy book doesn’t legally violate the US Constitution it is a clear provocation and should be, at least in my book, defined as hate speech. This priest in Florida knows he could do this but the question really is: should he? It is the same question that I ask the American media that has managed to blow this small story out of all proportion. This story could have been briefly covered as an isolated incident happening in a small Florida town. Instead, the media grabbed it and ran. They extensively covered it, analyzed it, and brought talking heads to debate it. Yes, they have the right to publish and air whatever they wish – and expand or diminish any event but, again, should they?

A story that could have been easily forgotten has now become an event that is being watched globally. It will go down as another example of “Muslim-hating Americans.” It will be exploited by extremists in their attempts to recruit future followers. In their attempts to extensively cover Islamophobia, can journalists actually endanger American lives?

The Arabic media has slowly started to pick up the story in the same pace that they picked up the Danish cartoons story which eventually unleashed more than a few bombshells.  Here is a round up of the Arabic media coverage of the Quran burning  story.

Media practitioners should be careful when they decide whether to cover or bury a story, for today the consequences of this decision can be grave.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appealed to the media today asking them not to cover the planned burning event on September 11 “as an act of patriotism.” I don’t see shying away from giving big attention to a small story as an act of patriotism per se, but mostly as a question of ethics. But ethics, as we well know, can be elusive.

Good Friday or Sad Friday?

While I was having a discussion with Jeff about Good Friday this morning, I realized that Good Friday (which I believe is the Western term) is called “Sad Friday” or Aljoumaa Al Hazeeneh (الجمعة الحزينة) in Arabic. I have never noticed this before.

I guess Sad Friday makes more sense (to me at least), as it is the day of the crucifixion. But then again in the Christian faith it is the start of good things to come. This difference in cultural perspective is really intriguing, no?

Anyway, be it Good Friday or Sad Friday, Happy Easter everyone.

Disturbing morning reading

I was extremely disturbed to read (via What’s in up in Jordan) that Jordanian columnist Abd Allah al Qaq has openly asked [in Arabic] in Al-Dustour daily for the death penalty to be imposed on the Afghan, Abdul Rahman, who converted to Christianity. I guess every author is entitled to his opinion, but calling for the death of someone who chose to change religions is something I just cannot tolerate. It also seems that Al-Qaq is not the only one who wants Abdul Rahman dead. Sigh!

Hundreds of people protested in a northern Afghan city following reports that a man who faced a possible death penalty for converting to Christianity would be released, officials said. About 700 Muslim clerics and others chanted "Death to Bush" and other anti-Western slogans in Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday, officials told The Associated Press. Clerics have called for protests across Afghanistan against both the government and the West, which had pressured President Hamid Karzai’s administration to drop the case against Abdul Rahman. Source: [CNN]

Mad, mad man!

It seems that the case of the Afghani Islam-to-Christian convert is attracting attention from the international community. One of the more outspoken is Amnesty International, which released a statement condemning the acts of the Afghani authorities.

ConvertAmnesty International today called on the Afghan authorities to urgently commit themselves to judicial reform and the upholding of international standards as Abdul Rahman, 41, reportedly faces calls for his execution in connection with his reported conversion from Islam to Christianity.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the government of Afghanistan is bound to uphold Article 18, which provides that "everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and that "this right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice."

I’m assuming that due to international pressure, Afghnistan has suddently found itself between a rock and hard place and deciced to declare this man unfit for trial, as he might just be "mad."

Prosecutor Sarinwal Zamari said questions have been raised about his mental fitness. "We think he could be mad. He is not a normal person. He doesn’t talk like a normal person," he told The Associated Press.

No comment!

UPDATE: The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has called for the release of Abdul Rahman, saying the man’s conversion was a personal matter and not subject to the intervention of the state. Here are some excerpts from their press release:

Islamic scholars say the original rulings on apostasy were similar to those for treasonous acts in legal systems worldwide and do not apply to an individual’s choice of religion. Islam advocates both freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, a position supported by verses in the Quran, Islam’s revealed text. …We urge the government of Afghanistan to order the immediate release of Mr. Abdul Rahman.