Sharia law

Coast-to-coast coverage of anti-sharia protest offers lots of heat, but little or no light

Coast-to-coast coverage of anti-sharia protest offers lots of heat, but little or no light

Arguments about religion and freedom took to the streets around the country this past weekend as a group called ACT for America staged anti-sharia law demonstrations at roughly 28 locations around the country.

I wasn’t aware of the event until I read a piece in the Seattle Times announcing the rally. The lead sentence, which began with, “Supporters of an organization considered a hate group by local Muslims will gather in Seattle on Saturday…” told me all I needed to know about the Times’ take on the event.

Once again, we have one of those news stories where editors already know who is totally good and who is totally evil (there are no variations or debates on either side, you see) and there is no need to let readers hear from other voices. It's much easier just to write an editorial.

Sadly, the Seattle paper didn’t improve things much with its post-rally story

Supporters of an organization labeled an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center gathered Saturday in downtown Seattle as part of a national “March Against Sharia,” but were outnumbered by counterprotesters who used horns, whistles and chants to drown out their message.
The counterprotest, called “Seattle Stands With Our Muslim Neighbors,” drew a few hundred people to target the much-publicized demonstration sponsored by ACT for America. That group claims Islamic Sharia law — which is not in effect in the United States -- is a threat to American values. Sharia is religious law found in the Quran, and some Muslim-majority countries use Sharia law in their legal systems.

Did other media do better?

The report from ABC-TV quoted its Seattle affiliate and a Minneapolis newspaper about the status of rallies in both those cities, then quoted an Islamic studies professor in Hamilton, Ontario to comment on what’s going on in the States. Weren’t there any Islamic studies scholars in American universities who could be quoted?

CNN’s report was only a little better: 

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AP shows that ISIS recruits know little about Islam; but what about top ISIS leaders?

AP shows that ISIS recruits know little about Islam; but what about top ISIS leaders?

Do you remember the controversial Atlantic cover story by Graeme Wood -- "What ISIS Really Wants" -- that caused waves of online clicks and almost as many heated arguments in major newsrooms and on university campuses?

Here is that link again, in case you've lost it. It's clear that this essay remains highly relevant, especially in light of that recent Associated Press "Big Story" piece about the degree to which many ISIS recruits do, or do not, understand the basic tenets of Islam.

In an earlier GetReligion post about that Wood essay, I argued that he wanted to show that the leaders of the Islamic State were wrong when they claimed that their radical version of Islam is the true faith and that all Muslims must embrace it or be declared heretics. At the same time, he insisted that President Barack Obama was wrong when he stated that "ISIL is not Islamic."

Thus, here is Wood's thesis: 

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.

Note that Wood separates the leaders of ISIS from the "psychopaths and adventure seekers" drawn to its flame. Wood is interested in the religious views of ISIS leaders -- the imams and the teams creating all of those online videos. For the leaders, this is a religious crusade.

This recent AP piece, on the other hand, focuses on the faith, or lack thereof, of the recruits themselves -- with an emphasis on the testimonies of those who fled ISIS. For many recruits, religion had little to do with their decision to join the cause.

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