Bloomberg News

Why Muslim news media have shied away from covering the Uighur persecution story

Why Muslim news media have shied away from covering the Uighur persecution story

As with other religions, Islam embodies the concept of like-minded believers sharing a global destiny no matter which nation they live in.

In Arabic, this idea is known as the Ummah. Militant Islamists invoke it repeatedly to convince Muslims they are obligated to aid Muslims persecuted by non-Muslims.

How does this work in practice? As with Christians (the extensive history of Christian nations fighting other Christian nations is hardly unknown), the idealized notion that co-religionists can count on fellow believers in stressful times is highly limited.

Witness the lack of global Muslim efforts to assist their Chinese Uighur co-religionists currently being brutalized by the Chinese government. Or the relative dearth of Uighur-related news coverage emanating from Muslim-majority nations.

Western media, on the other hand, have covered the Uighur story like a blanket — despite the geographic, logistical and political hurdles making it difficult to do so. Here at GetReligion, we’ve posted repeatedly on the Uighur situation the past few years.

One Western publication I think has done an excellent job with the story is Foreign Policy. The magazine has published, online, two strong pieces on the Uighurs in just the past couple of weeks.

Here’s one from late October that tells how China is planting strangers who absurdly identify themselves as “relatives” in Uighur homes to monitor them. Here’s the second, published last week, detailing that Uighurs are so desperate to escape Chinese persecution that some are actually fleeing to Afghanistan for safety.

Consider that for a moment. True, Afghanistan is a Muslim nation. But it’s also a land of continual warfare where even the innocent can become collateral damage at any time. So fleeing to Afghanistan hardly ensures peaceful sanctuary. And yet they do.

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May Allah be praised? Saudi women finally get to drive (for some vague, secular reason)

May Allah be praised? Saudi women finally get to drive (for some vague, secular reason)

Can anyone guess what was a major international religious event this past Tuesday?

Obviously, we're talking about Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive. Some of you may have heard a wave of applause around the world, as the Saudis were the international hold-outs on this issue.

Driving may not have a whole lot to do with religion, but Saudi Arabia's decision may say something about the lessening influence of Islamic radicals.

Ah, but here is the key for those who are concerned about religion-news coverage: I am not convinced that many scribes understood that. So let's see how some journalists explained this change. We start with BBC, the brand name in international news:

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has issued a decree allowing women to drive for the first time, to the joy of activists.
The Gulf kingdom is the only country in the world that bans women from driving. Until now, only men were allowed licenses and women who drove in public risked being arrested and fined. ...
Campaigner Sahar Nassif told the BBC from Jeddah that she was "very, very excited -- jumping up and down and laughing".
"I'm going to buy my dream car, a convertible Mustang, and it's going to be black and yellow!"

CNN noted the ruling had nothing to do with religion -- other than a ruling cabal of Wahhabi Islamists have long placed curbs on women being in any public place, including a car. So no religion, other than a symbolic change long opposed by a powerful group of Islamic leaders.

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Russia pulls trigger on Jehovah's Witnesses and, this time, mainstream media take notice

Russia pulls trigger on Jehovah's Witnesses and, this time, mainstream media take notice

This will be no surprise to anyone who's paid attention, but President Vladimir Putin's Russia has officially lowered the boom on its Jehovah's Witnesses.

The government's plan is to obliterate the organization's ability to function as a viable religious movement within its borders, treating it as a dangerous, hostile movement from outside Russian culture. The key slur is "Western."

That's a growing trend in Russia, as you have not noticed.

Here's the meaty top of a New York Times piece that delivered the news last week:

MOSCOW -- Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday declared Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination that rejects violence, an extremist organization, banning the group from operating on Russian territory and putting its more than 170,000 Russian worshipers in the same category as Islamic State militants.
The ruling, which confirmed an order last month by the Justice Ministry that the denomination be “liquidated” — essentially eliminated or disbanded — had been widely expected. Russian courts rarely challenge government decisions, no matter what the evidence.
Viktor Zhenkov, a lawyer for the denomination, said Jehovah’s Witnesses would appeal the ruling. He said it had focused on the activities of the organization’s so-called administrative center, a complex of offices outside St. Petersburg, but also branded all of its nearly 400 regional branches as extremist.
“We consider this decision an act of political repression that is impermissible in contemporary Russia,” Mr. Zhenkov said in a telephone interview. “We will, of course, appeal.”

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Once again: Cover the values built into globalization, not just the financial stories

Once again: Cover the values built into globalization, not just the financial stories

Perhaps our most damaging limitation as humans is our inability to see past the tip of our collective nose. We constantly fail to fully consider the likely consequences of our actions, no matter how much past experience we have to draw on.

Instead, we -- which is to say those of us who think we have something to gain -- repeatedly drink the Kool-Aid in anticipation of the short-term gains promised by some elite pushing for our buy-in for whatever they're selling.

Such is the case with globalization. It has economically benefited many but left many more economically floundering, psychologically bewildered and emotionally irate in its wake. No wonder it's at the center of the American presidential campaign.

We hear a great deal from the presidential candidates about international trade deals and the loss of jobs to nations with cheaper labor or to advancing technology (witness the journalism trade). We hear about the pluses and minuses of the global migration of economic and political refugees. These are all hallmarks of the Age of Globalization.

Here are three recent analytical pieces detailing globalization's role in the Clinton-Trump presidential campaign. Click here. Then click here. Finally, click here.

What's missing from these pieces? As GetReligion readers, the answer I'm seeking should be obvious.

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Citizen Trump in Orlando: Press must note evangelicals who attend and those who do not

Citizen Trump in Orlando: Press must note evangelicals who attend and those who do not

(Cue: audible sigh)

Do we really have to keep writing about Donald Trump and THE evangelicals? It would appear so, since he is headed to Orlando today to talk to a Florida Pastors and Pews event, organized by the American Renewal Project.

Once again, the team behind this story seems to think that we are dealing with Trump efforts to fire up THE evangelicals and THE "religious conservatives." That's kind of like saying a candidate is reaching out to THE Jews, THE Catholics, THE Muslims, etc.

That won't cut it. It's really crucial for journalists, when covering this kind of event, to give readers some of the details on who is taking part and who is not.

This is especially true for an event in Orlando, which is a hub city for evangelical megachurches and parachurch ministries. The Orlando area -- especially the suburbs -- is also a very important region in Florida (and thus national) politics, when it comes to gauging evangelical enthusiasm at the polls.

So let's look at the Bloomberg News report that The Miami Herald picked up about Trump's appearance. He is expected to say more about his opposition to the Johnson Amendment, the IRS rule that prohibits churches from endorsing individual political candidates, as opposed to making faith-driven statements about moral and cultural issues in public life.

I'll comment on that issue once we see the press coverage of what Citizen Trump has to say. However, it's important to stress that -- as is so often the cases -- there is no one evangelical camp on that topic. In fact, some evangelicals would like to see that rule enforced in a more consistent manner, affecting churches on the left as well as the right.

What's the first thing I noticed about how Herald editors handled this Bloomberg News report?

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