Is the Solution to Hire More Muslim Journalists? – by Daniel Pipes

http://www.danielpipes.org/blog/826 

Is the Solution to Hire More Muslim Journalists?

by Daniel Pipes

Weblog

March 4, 2008

Philip Bennett, managing editor of the Washington Post, offered a franker set of views than perhaps he intended when he spoke on March 3 at the University of California-Irvine’s Center for the Study of Democracy about media coverage of Islam, as reported by Alan Blank in the Daily Pilot. Bennett, Blank writes,

 thinks news organizations ought to hire more Muslim reporters. To illustrate this point he drew mainly from quotes of notable colleagues and statistical polls, rarely giving his own opinion directly. “Six of 10 Americans, according to a 2007 ABC Poll, don’t understand the basic tenets of Islam,” Bennett said. He attributed this to the lack of Muslims working in American newsrooms. “At the Post I want more Muslim readers and I want more Muslim journalists.”

 Bennett assumes, with touching naïveté, that to be Muslim is know Islam. Less touching is the assumption that not to be a Muslim is not to know Islam. This fraudulent expectation of special insight from one’s status, religious or otherwise, needs strenuously to be rejected.

 Bennett’s thinking gets worse from here:

 Words poorly translated from Arabic to English are a big source of confusion caused by the lack of Muslim voices in the American media, according to Bennett. Zeyad Maasarani, 22, a Muslim reporter for California’s most circulated Muslim publication, Southern California in Focus, agrees with Bennett that terms like “jihad,” “madrasa” and “hijab” are a big source of the public’s misunderstanding of Islam. “Jihad means holy war, which is the definition that most Americans know, but it also means struggle, and valiant attempt,” Maasarani said

 Unreported here is that Southern California in Focus is affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the continent’s leading Islamist organization. More importantly, madrasa and hijab are simple terms that most politically aware readers understand, while jihad is more accurately understood by the simple “holy war” translation than through complex interpretations – as I have at some length argued elsewhere.

 Finally, Bennett unintentionally revealed the appallingly primitive state of understanding of Islam in his own institution:

 One such word that has been contentiously debated in newsrooms is “Islamist,” which generally refers to a political movement governed by Islamic law. Bennett said at the Washington Post editors still have not decided whether to add it to their style book. Some argue the word is a useful distinction for movements like Hamas and Hezbollah, but others at the Post argue that it is too vague and should be omitted in favor of a more specific description.

 Comment: It’s all very well for Bennett to sniff patronizingly at the knowledge of Islam among average Americans, but I am impressed with their learning curve since 9/11 as well as their common sense. Far less impressive to me is a group of sophisticated editors that cannot even, after all these years, decide to use the word Islamist. Someone has a problem understanding Islam, but it’s Philip Bennett, not his readers. (March 4, 2008)

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Monday, March 10, 2008 

1. Being knowledgeable about Islam and being malicious about Islam are two different and distinct criteria. The whole lot of non-Muslim scribes appears to be mixing the two to come out with distorted picture of Islam and Muslims. Muslim writers in Media, at least, leaving out the fringe and the bought out, can make good contribution to the subject which is now engaging the attention of the US and western world in general. I have no hesitation in accepting that hundreds and thousands of non-Muslims have spent their lives studying Islam, Muslim world and Arabic too, just to get some insight into the esoteric world that so differs from the Western society. Not all of them are bigoted and scare-mongers. Some do have made a career out of their hatemongering. A balanced view of Islam and Muslims promoting a more positive approach to the study and practice of Islam should be a welcome suggestion and should not be off-handedly rejected on distorted illogical argumentation. Philip Bennet’s suggestion is more accommodative. Dr. Pipes’ rejection is typical of his tangential logic to put down any unsavory initiatives. Readers can make their own judgments. 

2. Instances abound, where the wordsmiths are busy day and night in propagating the special meaning of any word, be that English or Arabic or any language, through constant usage and hammering their agenda to convey their own needs. Dr. Daniel cannot categorically deny that words from one language or country or region, travel to different language, country, group and region are not subject to such treatment of completely denuding the word of its original definitive meaning or usage. Brown has pointed out to that phenomena and he is on much solid ground than Dr. Pipes. 

3. The usage of ‘Islamist’ is user driven new meaning that some Muslim baiters have been promoting, just as an exercise in hair-splitting. This is an attempt to move from the obnoxious collective profiling of Muslims, to a more subjective definition to give a respectable color to their negative exercise in camouflaging their bigotry under the trappings of high scholarship. 

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

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