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Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Media's Intolerable Ignorance

Or maybe I should have entitled this piece, "The Media's Intolerable Arrogance."

By now, everyone has heard about the Newsweek story that claimed that some of the U.S. interrogators at Gitmo flushed a Koran down the toilet in order to rattle their detainees. When this story broke internationally, there were anti-American riots and upwards of 20 people were crushed or trampled to death. And now Newsweek is retracting their story claiming that their anonymous source cannot be sure the allegation is factual.

In the Washington Post's coverage of the Newsweek disgrace, they report: "The intensity of the anti-American riots, fueled in part by outraged Muslim clerics and radio broadcasts by elements of the ousted Taliban regime, took many Western analysts by surprise (emphasis added)."

And all I can say to that is, "WHAT??!!" Who exactly was surprised that reports of desecrating the Koran would foment riots? Muslims view the Koran as sacred, as the very words of God. All Muslims are taught to treat the book with the utmost respect. Christians in Muslim countries are even advised not to place their Bibles on the floor because no Muslim would do that to the Koran and if a Christian has such low respect for his sacred text, it would convince them that Christians don't take their faith very seriously. In some Islamic countries desecrating the Koran is a crime punishable by death. And many Western analysts were surprised?!

That would be comparable to me shouting "FIRE!!" into a crowded theater and later saying I was surprised to have caused such a panic. I might be forgiven for the ruckus if my warning were based on fact, if the theater truly were burning. But if I carelessly hit the alarm and were thus responsible for the ensuing havoc and admitted later that I really had no evidence that the theater was on fire, I ought to be penalized.

The problem, as I see it, is that many of those who are reporting on Islam don't know much about it. In fact, the mammoth ignorance of religion by those who report on it is, at times, frankly staggering.

Newsweek Editor, Mark Whitaker said: "I suppose you could say we should have foreseen the consequences of the report, but we didn't." Y'think?

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