Orlando shooting

Yes, Chick-fil-A opened on Sunday to help stranded fliers in Atlanta (This wasn't a first)

Yes, Chick-fil-A opened on Sunday to help stranded fliers in Atlanta (This wasn't a first)

Thanks to The Drudge Report, the Internet is buzzing with Chick-fil-A news linked to that massive power outage at the massive Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The hook for this blitz of cyber chatter? That would be the fact that the fire that shut down America's busiest airport took place on a Sunday. Thus, it was very symbolic that Chick-fil-A -- an omnipresent reality in Atlanta culture -- came to the rescue.

But most of the news coverage is missing a crucial fact about this Chick-fil-A on Sunday story. You see, this isn't the first time that this conservative company has done this. Can you remember the other emergency that inspired similar action? Think back a year or so ago and, yes, think "religion angle." Hold that thought.

Now, here is the Mashable.com report that, with lots of Twitter inserts, is getting all of that Drudge traffic:

Chick-fil-A, famed for never opening on Sundays and will likely never be, has made an exception.
The fast food chain is stepping in to feed passengers left affected by the Atlanta airport blackout, according to the City of Atlanta. They'll be served at the Georgia International Convention Center, where they are able to stay overnight, which is a pretty nice consolation given what some of these people have gone through. ...
It's a remarkable aberration from the company's policy on Sunday trading hours, rooted in founder Truett Cathy's devout Christian beliefs. The policy remains the same at the Chick-fil-A in the newly opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Its main tenant, the Atlanta Falcons, will only play one regular season game that doesn't fall on a Sunday. ...
See, this is how bad it has to get for Chick-Fil-A to open on a Sunday.

Actually, something is missing from that report and, well, the same angle is missing from most of the other online news reports about the not-on-Sunday angle in other reports.

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Mosque burning: Orlando Sentinel writes a sensitive follow-up, with some flaws

Mosque burning: Orlando Sentinel writes a sensitive follow-up, with some flaws

Shunning clichés. Following up a tragedy. Getting the human angle. The Orlando Sentinel's story on the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, which was set on fire the previous weekend, has several strengths. And a few flaws.

The sensitive piece shuns the clichés that infect many such follow-ups on terrorism. The people talk like people, not talking-head spokespersons. It's also honest about the terrorist acts that allow some people to think they have a right to lash out at all Muslims.

On the other hand, the paper talks about supportive neighbors without talking to them. And I raised an eyebrow when I realized the lede came from a Friday service before the fire:

FORT PIERCE -- As ceiling fans churned muggy August air through the mosque where Pulse shooter Omar Mateen once touched his forehead to the carpet in prayer, assistant imam Adel Nefzi preached that a sincere follower of God harms none.
He thundered that no man should fear the hand or tongue of a true Muslim.
It had been two months since Mateen walked into an Orlando nightclub and opened fire on a roomful of dancers, killing 49. And before the prayer service began and worshippers were still trickling into the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, Nefzi pondered the weighty task ahead of him.
"It's a heavy responsibility to speak about religion," said Nefzi, 53. "You are always afraid that people, they did not understand the right message."

It's much later that the Sentinel divulges the service took place last month -- after Mateen attacked the Pulse nightclub in June, but before the fire on the 15th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

To me, it looks like the writer simply wrote from unused notes, then updated the story. 

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Mainstream news media and those missing Muslim voices denouncing terrorism

Mainstream news media and those missing Muslim voices denouncing terrorism

How often have you heard talk radio and TV personalities lament that Muslims don’t denounce terrorism?

The general public also worries about that, and a major reason is that the mainstream media regularly ignore such denunciations when they occur.

Consider the June 12 Orlando attack. North American Muslims scrambled and got out a response of condolence and outrage the very next day, with more than 450 endorsers. The Guy found coverage only from a veteran Godbeat specialist, CNN religion editor Daniel Burke.  

This significant statement, “On the Carnage in Orlando,” hedged matters by noting the assumption of radical Muslim inspiration was based on news reports. But if that’s the case, the signers declared, that “would be a reprehensible distortion of Islam” that made this great world faith one of the victims of the attack.

“Any such acts of violence violate every one of our Prophet’s teachings,” they asserted. “Such an act of hate-fueled violence has no place in any faith.” Also, the “foulness” of the attack was worsened by occurring during Ramadan, Islam’s month of charity and spiritual purification.

There was also a plea to non-Muslims not to “place collective guilt on an entire community for the sins of individuals,” which would be “an egregious offense against the culture and laws of America.”

Did you hear about this? Did you see press coverage?

Organized Islam lacks the money, staffing and savvy to mount much-needed public relations campaigns. So assignment editors should keep this document on file because it names 450 moderates who can be phoned for comment after the next atrocity. The list features leaders from most major national Muslim organizations and local groups across North America.

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Apologizing to gays: Pope Francis' latest quotes send news media into a frenzy

Apologizing to gays: Pope Francis' latest quotes send news media into a frenzy

So you thought Pope Francis began a storm of news 'n' views three years ago, when he said, "Who am I to judge" gays? Well, brace yourself for the summertime blizzard of news and commentary with his latest remark -- that the church should apologize to gays, women, children, the poor and, apparently, anyone who likes weapons.

It was on another of those in-flight press conferences, like the one in 2013 when he dropped his non-judgmental bomb. Mainstream media love to pounce on Francis' off-the-cuff remarks, but few of them recognize the conversations flowing just under the surface -- even when they occasionally break into the open.

Yesterday, Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service asked Francis if the church should apologize to gays in the wake of Omar Mateen's shooting spree, killing 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando. She was asking because Cardinal Reinhard Marx had said the church had marginalized gays.

The pope answered with, well, an apology spree. Says the Associated Press:

Francis responded with a variation of his famous "Who am I to judge?" comment and a repetition of church teaching that gays must not be discriminated against but treated with respect.
He said some politicized behaviors of the homosexual community can be condemned for being "a bit offensive for others." But he said: "Someone who has this condition, who has good will and is searching for God, who are we to judge?"
"We must accompany them," Francis said.
"I think the church must not only apologize ... to a gay person it offended, but we must apologize to the poor, to women who have been exploited, to children forced into labor, apologize for having blessed so many weapons" and for having failed to accompany families who faced divorces or experienced other problems.

Does this signal the dawn of a "progressive" era in the church? Not according to a particular Dawn -- Catholic scholar and GR alumna Dawn Eden:

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Orlando through an Arab and (limited) Afghan media lens: Gays involved? Religion? No way!

Orlando through an Arab and (limited) Afghan media lens: Gays involved? Religion? No way!

Just so everyone knows where I'm going in this post, and to respond in advance to those who might accuse me of burying my lede, let me state here and now that the focus of this piece is about how media in the heart of the Muslim world -- the mostly Arab Middle East -- treated the Orlando massacre.

But first, this: The coverage in the United States and most of the world has been nothing short of overwhelming. The volume of information included in news stories, analysis and opinion pieces produced across the journalistic spectrum has been extraordinary.

Of course it wasn't flawless. How could it be when it had to puzzle together -- without having all the pieces -- the complexities of international terrorism, sexual orientation, cultural and religious influences, gun control and mass murder, presidential politics, the psychology of a twisted mind, and a state of almost unbearably sad raw emotion. Oh -- and doing it while under intense time and competitive pressures, and subject to instant online criticism.

So I'd say it's fair to conclude that today's unforgiving, report-first-confirm-it-later, 24/7 news cycle worked about as well as one can realistically hope it might. I tip my hat for a job well done to all those who worked from the scene and in news rooms to deliver this story of intense public interest.

Let's not overlook the good when perfection is out of reach. 

My reading of the preponderance of the coverage by mainstream, Western-oriented news operations was that it once again self-identified with the victims in the manner that follows every ugly manifestation of terrorist mass murder these days. What else could it do?

That is not to say there weren't pointed questions about America's politically sacrosanct gun culture. Or differences of opinion about the role played in Orlando by Islam and, in particular, the influence of the Islamic State.

Today, we are all Paris, Istanbul, Brussels, Mali, Kabul, Nigeria, Tel Aviv, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Syria, San Bernardino, etc., etc. There are far too many places to list them all.

Now, we're all Orlando. Who knows who we'll be in a week or two?

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Gays in the Quran: NBC report raises issues but doesn't answer them

Gays in the Quran: NBC report raises issues but doesn't answer them

As I wrote on Friday, mainstream media in the wake of the shooting in Orlando are just starting to feel their way around the ultra-sensitive topic of Islam and homosexuality. NBC News also tried its hand, building a story as a Q&A, or maybe a FAQ file.

But the answers are frankly what you might expect from a secular liberal news outfit:  

Islam's approach to homosexuality has been in the spotlight since the massacre at an Orlando gay club — criminal or compassionate? Prejudiced or progressive?
While ISIS death squads enforce an extreme version of Islam that punishes gays with death, the religion's history is far more nuanced. And like most relationships, when it comes to Islam and homosexuality — it's complicated.

Among the questions posed are "What does Islam say about being gay?" and "Who says homosexuality is punishable by death?" But by skewing its sources, NBC clearly tries to nudge us toward the "right" views.

The network is alert for spotting a coverage trend. As I noted on Friday, the Associated Press and other media have begun looking at 50 gay Muslim organizations that have been seldom covered. NBC News honestly reports Islamic antagonism toward homosexual behavior, saying it overwhelmingly teaches that "same gender sex is a sin."

NBC notes also how some Muslim national leaders have denounced the Orlando shootings while their own homelands jail or kill gays:

"Middle Eastern and North African countries have denounced the Orlando shooting when at the same time they criminalize homosexuality with sentences ranging from years in prison to the death penalty," said Ahmed Benchemsi, communications and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch. "Those governments should repeal laws and abolish practices that persecute people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity."

But when the article asks, "What does Islam say about being gay?", it doesn't answer immediately. First it quotes a historian who says, "There is sexual diversity in Islam." It also says that "most scholars agree" (a close cousin to the blurring expression "sources say") that early Muslims like Al Dalal and Rumi were gay.

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Gay Hispanics: Miami Herald stumbles in spinoff story from Orlando shootings

Gay Hispanics: Miami Herald stumbles in spinoff story from Orlando shootings

After gay rights, gun control and (more gingerly) Islamic terrorism, coverage of the mass shooting in Orlando gets subdivided in a weekend story in The Miami Herald, which examines the atrocity from the standpoint of gay Hispanics.

It's an interesting angle -- especially in Florida, the port of entry for many from Central and Latin America -- but it has some flaws. For one, it misses some religious "ghosts." The article brings up the topic of religion, then bounces off. Instead, it emphasizes twin themes:

Some want to make sure one fact is not forgotten: The vast majority of victims were Hispanics.
"This was not just an LGBT community," said Zoe Colon, director of Florida and southeast operations for the Hispanic Federation. "This was a Latino LGBT community."

Not that the tragedy doesn't call for a sensitive treatment. The newspaper appropriately tells the reactions of Orlando resident Edwin Lopez as he learned that 12 of the 49 people killed in the Pulse nightclub were personal friends.

Then the story launches rather blithely into a connection with a more general issue:

A difficult conversation has started about the struggle of being an LGBT person of color. For many Hispanics, a traditionally Christian culture laced with machismo and traditional gender roles could foster fear of rejection from one’s own family. That fear can prevent young people from coming out to their loved ones.
"You don’t want to be judged by your family. Those are the only people who have really been supportive of you your entire life," said Dominique Sanchez. The 19-year-old said she’s known people close to her who are reluctant to be open about their sexuality. "Your friends come and go. So if [your family doesn’t] accept you, then you don’t accept yourself."

We'll just note a few things in passing. One is whether Hispanics are people of color. I've met Cubans, Nicaraguans and others with skin lighter than my own, and I'm a white Anglo.

The Herald also offers no estimates on the number of gay Hispanics. Hence, we don't know the size of the social issue that’s the heart of this story.

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Gays and Islam: Even after Orlando shooting, many news media skirt the hard questions

Gays and Islam: Even after Orlando shooting, many news media skirt the hard questions

After the 9-11 terrorist attacks, I suggested a story on the verses in the Quran that dealt with killing unbelievers, including how local imams interpret them. My editor hesitated and said, "I'd rather do stories about diversity in the community."

That looks like the attitude among most mainstream media, 15 years later. We know that Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at an Orlando gay club, was Muslim and anti-gay. But what exactly does Islam say about homosexuality?

Many mainstream media seem to have been avoiding answering that, even when asking it themselves. They’ve chattered about how he checked Facebook and traded texts with his wife. They say he tried to buy body armor. And of course, they talk about gun control and homophobia.

But few have ventured into the minefield where Muslim communities border homosexuality. And of those that do, most concentrate on LGBT Muslims themselves.

In Florida itself, I could find only one newspaper -- my alma mater, the Sun Sentinel -- reporting on a "confused, broken community that lies at the intersection of the tragedy," as it calls them. One of its three subjects is college student Hytham Rashid:

There are not a lot of terms to describe gender identity or sexual orientation in Arabic, Rashid said. The word "transgender," for example, translates to "You are like a woman" or "You are like a man," which can be considered offensive, he says.  
As a gay Muslim, Rashid says he faces both Islamophobia and homophobia every day. He said in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, he doesn’t feel safe going to memorials and events.
"We can put up our stickers and wave around our rainbow flags in Wilton Manors, but the core issue is, there isn’t a safe space for us," he said.

The Sun Sentinel also imports a statement by the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity that there is "no religious justification or precedent in Islam for mass shootings targeting any population, regardless of identity." But it doesn't look at the Quran or the Hadith (the record of Muhammad's words and deeds).  Nor does it ask any leaders of the 15-20 mosques in its circulation area.

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Why a wounded Orlando survivor begged God to 'take the soul out of my body'

Why a wounded Orlando survivor begged God to 'take the soul out of my body'

Powerful.

So, so powerful.

That's the only way to characterize Orlando survivor Patience Carter's description of the hell that she endured at the Pulse nightclub early Sunday.

In a front-page story today, the Los Angeles Times puts readers in the middle of the heartbreaking scene.

The lede from the Times:

ORLANDO, Fla. — As Patience Carter and two friends cowered inside the handicapped bathroom stall, injured and pinned by a crush of bleeding bodies, the gunman who opened fire in the Pulse nightclub kept talking.
“He said, ‘Are there any black people in here?’ I was too afraid to answer,” said Carter, who is African American.
Carter continued: “There was an African American man in the stall with us... he said, ‘Yes, there are about six or seven of us.’ The gunman responded back to him saying that, ‘You know, I don’t have a problem with black people, this is about my country. You guys suffered enough.’”
Carter, a slight 20-year-old NYU student from Philadelphia, had just arrived in Orlando, Fla., for her first night of vacation.
On Tuesday she and others who sought refuge in the side-by-side men’s and women’s restrooms during Sunday’s attack recounted how the gunman barked orders, claimed to have accomplices and laughed during the attack, which took 49 lives.
They also described how those trapped in the restrooms played dead, reached out to police by phone and tried to arrange their escape.

The Associated Press, CBS News and the local Orlando Sentinel are among other news organizations sharing Carter's story.

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