Sunday, 19 September 2010

Reporting on Muslims: the double standard

Why do Muslims see the Pope as a threat?  Muslim demonstrators against the Pope's visit in the UK:

Perhaps it is because the Pope had this to say about true religion in his meeting with representatives of other religions in the UK:

"So it is that genuine religious belief points us beyond present utility towards the transcendent. It reminds us of the possibility and the imperative of moral conversion, of the duty to live peaceably with our neighbour, of the importance of living a life of integrity. Properly understood, it brings enlightenment, it purifies our hearts and it inspires noble and generous action, to the benefit of the entire human family. It motivates us to cultivate the practice of virtue and to reach out towards one another in love, with the greatest respect for religious traditions different from our own.

Ever since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has placed special emphasis on the importance of dialogue and cooperation with the followers of other religions. In order to be fruitful, this requires reciprocity on the part of all partners in dialogue and the followers of other religions. I am thinking in particular of situations in some parts of the world, where cooperation and dialogue between religions calls for mutual respect, the freedom to practise one’s religion and to engage in acts of public worship, and the freedom to follow one’s conscience without suffering ostracism or persecution, even after conversion from one religion to another. Once such a respect and openness has been established, peoples of all religions will work together effectively for peace and mutual understanding, and so give a convincing witness before the world."

Reporting the terrorist threat against the Pope

In the United Kingdom, six Muslim men have been arrested in a suspected assassination plot against the Pope.

Yet many of the reports, particularly in those emanating from Associated Press, actually fail  to mention the word 'Islam' or 'Muslim'  - instead they describe the men as 'London street cleaners' or 'Algerians'.

Imagine if reports on paedophile priests entirely omitted the word 'catholic priest' and instead described the culprits as 'middle aged men', or perhaps a 'religious worker'.  Yeah, never going to happen.  Yet the Catholic priest who sexually abuses a child is acting in direct contravention of his religion, and in breach of his promise of celibacy.  The Muslim jihadist by contrast, is acting in a way expressly authorized and envisaged by his.

The Ground Zero Mosque debate

Yet this kind of skewed positive reporting of Islam is not new.  The media consistently play down Islamic connections to terrorism.  And consistently vilify those who draw conclusions from the ongoing series of terrorist threats, as US journalist Debra Saunders has pointed out:

"Last week, Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent said he had found "clear evidence that there's a direct link between public anti-Islam sentiment and public opposition" to the ground zero mosque. A Washington Post poll reported that 49 percent of Americans have generally unfavorable views of Islam and 66 percent oppose the Islamic center. His smoking gun: Two-thirds of those 66 percent have generally unfavorable views of Islam.

Funny. In 2002, after the priest-child sex abuse scandal erupted, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 52 percent of Americans - including three in 10 Catholics - expressed an unfavorable opinion of the Roman Catholic Church. Now I don't recall pundits referring to the majority of Americans as anti-Catholic bigots who are too stupid to know that most priests are not pedophiles. They likely figured, negative stories yield negative poll numbers.

Consider Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who shot to death 12 soldiers and one civilian in 2009. Ditto Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, the Nigerian arrested for trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas. Add the attempted Times Square and New York subway bombings. Islamic extremism was the common thread in those stories - which makes it amazing that Islam polls better today than the Catholic Church in 2002."

And in Australia by those who should know better....

Of course, concerns about the rise of Islamic terrorism; the persecution of Christians in Islamic countries; the failure to allow the free exercize of the Christian religion in Indonesia, Malaysia and other Islamic countries; and the consistent serious threats against anyone who criticises Islam, are not the only reason to be concerned about its rise. 

The reality is that although there are commonalities between Islam and Christianity, the cultural and values differences are immense. 

Yes Muslims promote modesty for example - but quite frankly the version of modesty or segregation of the sexes in particular that several Imans have vocally called on Australian women to adopt go a lot further than any version of modesty that I as a traditionally inclined Catholic could ever support (though no doubt has its supporters among the pseudo-Amish faction of traditionalists). 

And already the push in this direction has started, with a Municipal Swimming Pool in Dandenong obtaining an exemption from the Equal Opportunities Act in order to impose modesty standards at a public event in order to make Muslims feel more comfortable.

Yet even raising these concerns will see one labelled as a neo-nazi over at Sentire Cum Ecclesia.

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