Portland paper apologizes to readers for story about Muslims that didn’t include outrage.

I didn’t write anything about the anniversary of 9/11 this year. In part because I didn’t have anything to say that I haven’t already said about it or which others hadn’t said better than I would.

That’s why I found this Time Magazine Blog entry by James Poniewozik rather interesting. It talks about a newspaper in Portland that found itself apologizing to its readers after after something it published on 9/11:

The Portland Press Herald has apologized to its readers for publishing images of Muslims celebrating the end of Ramadan, which this year coincided with the 9/11 anniversary. Among the outrageous statements that the accompanying article made: that Portland-era Muslims met to mark the end of the month-long holy fast, that they made a traditional call for charity, and that children played soccer.

Noting that thousands of local Muslims marked a holy day peacefully near the anniversary of a day when a few Muslims committed a mass murder (whose victims included other Muslims) was apparently beyond the pale. The paper’s editor and publisher wrote: “We erred by at least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on the front page.”

I thought perhaps it was a sarcastic apology, but I went and read the Portland Press article and it appears to be very sincere. It saddens me to think of how politicized 9/11 has become, thanks to our leaders using it as a convenient football, that any mention of Muslims near the date of the anniversary had better be full of bile and outrage or the public will have a shit fit. Not to mention the collective hysteria surrounding the non-Mosque at Ground Zero.

Here’s where we are in America, 2010: There is now one group of Americans whose peaceful religious observance cannot be noted by decent people, unless it is “balanced” by the mention of a vile crime committed in 2001 by people, with a perverted idea of the same religion, from the other side of the world.

Isn’t that a sad statement about the bigotry of the average American? That so many feel slighted if anything positive is said about Muslims without a corresponding mention of the bad some of them have done? Can you imagine the outrage if the same standard was applied to Christians? You’d never hear the end of how they’re being persecuted!

This is a depressing statement about the state of dialogue in America. Nine years after 9/11, there is now a widespread belief that, for one religious group of law-abiding Americans, the boundaries of acceptable behavior are narrower than for everyone else. Yes, you have the right to worship. But it would be decent of you to do it somewhere else. Or on another day. Or in such a way that the rest of us don’t have to know about it. So now we have a newspaper kowtowing to a national freakout, apologizing for the most innocuous kind of soft feature, because acknowledging that there are decent Muslims in America is offensive. (From the comments on the article: “I don’t want to here [sic] how caring the Muslim religion is on 9/11.” But hey: it’s only for a few days a year!)

But it’s equally depressing for the state of journalism. This is an extreme instance, but a too-common, craven attitude: if anything you do offends a lot of readers—whatever their reasons, regardless of the merit of the coverage—it is a mistake. If enough people make a loud enough stink—well, it was your job to make sure that never happened. For any reason. This business is in bad enough shape. Just fix it. Make it go away. Apologize.

Again, someone has said it better than I could have. There is one silver lining to this story and that’s that the apology drew its own barrage of complaints from folks who were outraged about the apology. That makes me feel a little better at least.

Sony can’t catch a break. Criticized by Muslim group for LBP song removal.

After being sued by the Church of England over the appearance of Manchester Cathedral in the hit FPS Resistance: Fall of Man it’s understandable that Sony would go out of its way to avoid offending religious sensibilities. So when a post showed up in the official European Playstation forums pointing out that a song in the soundtrack for LittleBigPlanet contained verses from the Qur’an and thusly could be considered offensive to Muslims, they opted to err on the side of caution and delay the launch of the game so it could be removed. Now they’re being criticized by a different Muslim group over that decision:

M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., president of the non-profit American Islamic Forum for Democracy told Edge on Monday, “Muslims cannot benefit from freedom of expression and religion and then turn around and ask that anytime their sensibilities are offended that the freedom of others be restricted.

“The free market allows for expression of disfavor by simply not purchasing a game that may be offensive.”

Jasser, who has also appeared on CNN, in the Washington Times and National Review, said that not only does the First Amendment support freedom of expression, but Mohammed also “defended the rights of his enemies to critique him in any way even if it was offensive to his own Islamic sensibilities or respect for Koranic scripture.”

[…] Jasser said that the demand to censor, as well as Sony’s willingness to bend at the request, is counterproductive to freedom of speech.

“…To demand that [the game] be withdrawn is predicated on a society which gives theocrats who wish to control speech far more value than the central principle of freedom of expression upon which the very practice and freedom of religion is based.”

Jasser added, “The fact that the music writer is a devout Muslim should highlight that at the core of this issue is not about offending ‘all Muslims,’ but only about freedom of expression and the free market.”

He still said that he does not endorse the use of Koranic verses in non-educational videogames, calling the literature “the words of God.”

But he took a clear stance in upholding First Amendment rights.

“AIFD stands against any form of censorship in the marketplace of ideas whether imposed by government or by corporations intimidated by the response of militants or those with an inappropriately sensitive level of political correctness,” Jasser said.

Needless to say, I agree with him. I can totally understand why Sony opted to play it safe, but I still think they should have kept the song. I also think we need more Muslims standing up and saying things like Mr. Jasser here.

Sony delays launch of “LittleBigPlanet” due to song with versus from Qur’an in it.

Apparently it’s considered offensive to Muslims to put passages of the Qur’an to music. One track licensed for the game has two lines straight from the holy text as lyrics so Sony decided to delay LBP’s release so they could remove the song:

During the review process prior to the release of LittleBigPlanet, it has been brought to our attention that one of the background music tracks licensed from a record label for use in the game contains two expressions that can be found in the Qur’an. We have taken immediate action to rectify this and we sincerely apologize for any offense that this may have caused.

We will begin shipping LittleBigPlanet to retail in North America the week of October 27th. Sorry for the delay, and rest assured, we are doing everything we can to get LittleBigPlanet to you as soon as possible.

Needless to say I find this silly, but it’s probably in Sony’s better interests to cover their ass and avoid the controversy that would otherwise result. The song itself is Tapha Niang by Toumani Diabate and can be heard on his MySpace page if you’re curious. I thought it was rather pleasant myself.

When people deluded by religion collide.

You get video clips like this one of a street preacher who calls a passing Muslim woman ignorant (the irony alone is worth watching the video for) and then goes on to say “Mohammad was a pedophile.” The Muslim woman hauls off and slugs the street preacher and then shouts out “Don’t talk about my prophet! I’ll kill you!” Check it:

Hemant over at The Friendly Atheist asks who’s in the wrong here?

So, be honest: What was your reaction to that?

  • I’m gonna just step back and let this thing play out…
  • The preacher was right about his take on Islam.
  • The girl was provoked and did the right thing.
  • The preacher was trying to provoke violence and got what he deserved.
  • I am so glad I’m an atheist.

Something else entirely?

My initial reaction is to pull up a chair and grab a bowl of popcorn ‘cause this could be very entertaining indeed. There’s a certain guilty pleasure in watching two people argue over which pretend God/Prophet is real. I will say that it doesn’t do the image of Islam any favors to have the Muslim woman react in the manner she did – religion of peace and love my ass – but it’s not like the Christians don’t have anything to answer for as well.  The only thing that really concerns me about this video, however, is that both of those people can vote in the next election.