South Africa

Gay Muslims: This RNS feature offers one-sided coverage of a retreat in South Africa

Gay Muslims: This RNS feature offers one-sided coverage of a retreat in South Africa

Gay Muslims are media-sexy these days, especially since Omar Mateen opened fire on a gay nightclub in Orlando in June. With its feature on the annual Inner Circle retreat in South Africa, the Religion News Service avidly joins the journalism pack.

Typical of many social-issues articles these days -- as with The Associated Press on Russia's expulsion of a pro-gay missionary -- the piece is written entirely from the viewpoint of the subjects. Not only about what they think, but how they feel, how they perceive non-gay society, how they interpret their holy texts.

In other words, the story covers one side of a debate and one side only. Example:

Cape Town-based Imam Muhsin Hendricks founded The Inner Circle 20 years ago in his garage as a safe space for queer Muslims. He now sees the annual gathering as a refuge for those who feel ostracized by LGBT communities because of their Muslim faith and shunned by Muslim communities because of their sexual orientations or gender identities.
"Tomorrow will be very emotional," Hendricks said before the closing ceremony at the end of a busy week. "People are already suffering withdrawal symptoms and separation anxiety because now they have to go back to these horrible contexts, and here was such a beautiful space of acceptance and love. They’re going to miss that."
The "beautiful space" Hendricks cultivates each year has much to do with the scenery and camaraderie, but also with the legal and social environment in which the retreat is held.

The Inner Circle gathered 125 LGBT Muslims and their allies from around Africa. They talk out anxieties, analyze issues and share ideas for coping. They sprinkle their quotes with terms like Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, patriarchy and "hate agenda." They prefer the term "queer," although the article never really says why.

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Powder-puff press: Tutu's daughter marries a woman, and media hand her the mic

Powder-puff press: Tutu's daughter marries a woman, and media hand her the mic

"Tell us how the bad men hurt you": As she often does, M.Z. Hemingway adroitly blends humor and precision in finding the nugget of a story.  Her suggestion for a GR post on the daughter of Desmond Tutu was devastatingly accurate, not only for the BBC but for the Guardian.

The Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth recently married a woman -- an atheist, at that -- and now she's complaining that the church yanked her preaching license. And the BBC and the Guardian help her complain. Not just by reporting her quotes, but enshrining every word as gospel.

Here we go with the BBC:

Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth followed her father into a life in the Anglican church, but when she decided to marry the woman she loved, she had to leave.
She married her long-term Dutch girlfriend, Marceline van Furth, in a small private ceremony in the Netherlands at the end of last year, but they went public last month when they had a wedding celebration in Cape Town.
"My marriage sounds like a coming out party," explains Ms Tutu van Furth.
"Falling in love with Marceline was as much as a surprise to me as to everyone else," she tells me.

At least the BBC quotes church law: "Holy matrimony is the lifelong and exclusive union between one man and one woman." So why is Tutu van Furth making an issue of it? To advance what she calls a "very important conversation'" about same-sex marriage:

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What can we make of the prayers of Oscar Pistorius?

When it comes to famous Bible passages, even those favored by athletes, 1 Corinthians 9: 26-27 will not appear near the top of many lists: I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Nevertheless, anyone who pays close attention to the left shoulder of runner Oscar Pistorius will be able to see most of that verse in a tattoo that juts out from underneath his sleeveless running jersey.

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The second storytelling rule: Get the name of the church

The first storytelling rule: Get the name of the dog.

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Mandela the sinner? Mandela the prophet? Yes, cover both

One of the greatest mysteries in life is the moral complexity that is often found in the hearts of great men and women who live truly great lives and, even, in their best moments perform great deeds that can be called blessed, or even holy.

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The Methodist roots of Nelson Mandela

A giant banner outside the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg — which I visited during a 2009 reporting trip to South Africa — uses those terms to describe Nelson Mandela, although many more certainly could be applied.

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