The Daily Caller

CNN interviews 100 Muslims for its '25 most influential' list, and takes a few hits from critics

CNN interviews 100 Muslims for its '25 most influential' list, and takes a few hits from critics

It’s been almost two weeks since CNN ran a “25 most influential American Muslims” list. Lists are popular in this clickbait era, but they are tricky things to put together, as was the case when Time magazine put together its “25 most influential evangelicals” list in 2005. Those of us who track such things had strong opinions back then on who should’ve been included and who should have been left off.

Unlike the evangelicals list –- which was assembled by Time’s staff –- CNN asked 100 Muslims who should be on this list. (Asking real evangelicals for input on the 2005 list might have improved it greatly).

What resulted was a list of 12 women and 13 men. Which I find curious. Did Muslims really vote in that many women? Religious lists tend to be skewed toward men. The evangelicals' list only had four women, two of which were coupled with their husbands.

So here’s what CNN had along with some comments from me and other publications. The list consisted of short videos each with a descriptive paragraph. I include a few of their choices:

Hasan Minhaj: The comedian -- Hasan Minhaj says his faith doesn’t inform his comedy, exactly, but growing up Muslim in California offered a unique perspective on American life. “I had the whole course of my life to think back on all these situations where I was on the sidelines, whether it was, like, not being able to eat pepperoni pizza all the way up to (President Trump’s) travel ban.” …

Ibtihaj Muhammad: The Olympian -- Ibtihaj Muhammad has heard the stereotypes about Muslim women: they’re docile and oppressed, wear nothing but black, speak only Arabic and aren’t allowed to play sports. “I speak English, I like wearing bright colors, I’m athletic and I’m on Team USA.” In the 2016 Olympics, Muhammad became the first Muslim-American to wear a hijab in Olympic competition, where she won a bronze medal in the team sabre event. …

Feryal Salem: The teacher -- Feryal Salem (is the) co-director of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program at Hartford Seminary. The Connecticut seminary offers one of the country’s few accredited programs for Islamic chaplaincy, which means that Salem has a large role in training the next generation of Muslim interfaith ambassadors and spiritual counselors …

Eboo Patel: The bridge builder -- Eboo Patel’s … Interfaith Youth Core is one of the largest inter-religious organizations in North America, with an $8.5 million budget and 45-person staff who train thousands of students on nearly 500 college campuses. The author of three books, Patel was also a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

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Gender-neutral God story: Have we hit the point where wins on Episcopal left are not news?

Gender-neutral God story: Have we hit the point where wins on Episcopal left are not news?

Old people on the religion beat (my hand is raised) will remember the 1980s, back when the mainline Protestant doctrinal wars over sexuality started breaking into elite headlines -- big time.

Year after year, some kind of mainline fight over gender and sexuality would score high in the annual Religion Newswriters Association poll to determine the Top 10 stories. More often than not, the Episcopal Church led the way in the fight for feminism and eventually gay rights.

These national headlines would, of course, inspire news coverage at the regional and local levels. Some Episcopal shepherds went along and some didn't. All of that produced lots of news copy, no matter what Episcopalians ended up doing.

At one point, while at the Rocky Mountain News, I told Colorado's Episcopal leader -- the always quotable former radio pro Bishop William C. Frey -- that a few local religious leaders were asking me why the Episcopal Church kept getting so much media attention.

Frey laughed, with a grimace, and said that was a strange thought, something like "envying another man's root canal."

Eventually, however, the progressive wins in Episcopal sanctuaries stopped being news, at least in mainstream news outlets.

Take, for example, that recent leap into gender-neutral theology in the District of Columbia, an interesting story that drew little or no attention in the mainstream press. Thus, here is the top of the main story from the Episcopal News Service:

The Diocese of Washington is calling on the Episcopal Church’s General Convention to consider expanding the use of gender-neutral language for God in the Book of Common Prayer, if and when the prayer book is slated for a revision.
He? She?

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Apple's Tim Cook has an interesting faith background, but the New York Times didn't find it

Apple's Tim Cook has an interesting faith background, but the New York Times didn't find it

Some folks in the media seem so disgusted with organized religion, they anoint their own moral leaders.

Which is what happened in this New York Times story about Apple’s Tim Cook and his call for moral responsibility. If you read the entire piece, you’ll see there’s not one mention of any religious background for this man.

Turns out he very much has a faith background, starting with his childhood in the Bible Belt. So why was it not mentioned?

First, the story, which builds up to a strategic use of the word "moral."

AUSTIN, Tex. -- “The reality is that government, for a long period of time, has for whatever set of reasons become less functional and isn’t working at the speed that it once was. And so it does fall, I think, not just on business but on all other areas of society to step up.”
That was Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, across the table from me over breakfast here in downtown Austin late last week at the end of a mini-tour across the country during which he focused on topics usually reserved for politicians: manufacturing, jobs and education.

The piece goes on to record his criticisms of President Donald Trump. Then:

And now Mr. Cook is one of the many business leaders in the country who appear to be filling the void, using his platform at Apple to wade into larger social issues that typically fell beyond the mandate of executives in past generations.
He said he had never set out to do so, but he feels he has been thrust into the role as virtually every large American company has had to stake out a domestic policy.

Then the writer steps in.

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Your depressing 'think' podcast: Faith, hate and details that mattered in Charlottesville

Your depressing 'think' podcast: Faith, hate and details that mattered in Charlottesville

Warning: This post is going to be rather depressing, especially for (a) old-school journalists, (b) religious believers seeking racial reconciliation and (c) consistent, even radical, defenders of the First Amendment.

I really struggled as host Todd Wilken and I recorded this week's Crossroads podcast (click here to tune that in) and I think you'll be able to hear that in my voice. From my perspective, the media coverage of the tragic events in Charlottesville, Va., descended into chaos and shouting and the public ended up with more heat that light, in terms of basic information.

The key question, of course, is what did these demonstrations/riots have to do with religion?

That's where this post will end up, so hang in there with me.

But let's start connecting some dots, starting with a shocking headline from the op-ed page of The New York Times, America's most powerful news operation. Did you see this one?

The A.C.L.U. Needs to Rethink Free Speech

As a First Amendment liberal, that made me shudder. The whole idea is that the ACLU is struggling to defend its historic commitment to free speech -- even on the far right. In the context of Charlottesville, that leads to this (in the Times op-ed):

The American Civil Liberties Union has a long history of defending the First Amendment rights of groups on both the far left and the far right. This commitment led the organization to successfully sue the city of Charlottesville, Va., last week on behalf of a white supremacist rally organizer. The rally ended with a Nazi sympathizer plowing his car into a crowd, killing a counterprotester and injuring many.
After the A.C.L.U. was excoriated for its stance, it responded that “preventing the government from controlling speech is absolutely necessary to the promotion of equality.” Of course that’s true. The hope is that by successfully defending hate groups, its legal victories will fortify free-speech rights across the board: A rising tide lifts all boats, as it goes.
While admirable in theory, this approach implies that the country is on a level playing field, that at some point it overcame its history of racial discrimination to achieve a real democracy, the cornerstone of which is freedom of expression.

The key, of course, is that the rally descended into violence.


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Elite newsrooms avoid 'liberal' issues, as Obama visits mosque with an interesting past

Elite newsrooms avoid 'liberal' issues, as Obama visits mosque with an interesting past

Present Barack Obama's visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, located in the old Catonsville suburb, was an event that was both important and symbolic for a number of reasons.

For starters, violence linked to the rise of the Islamic State, as well as acts of terrorism inspired by radicalized forms of Islam, have become a bloody normality in world headlines during the years of the Obama presidency. President Obama has attempted to maintain what his supporters argue is a graceful, calm stance on these trends in an attempt to avoid pouring gasoline on the flames. His critics insist that he has chosen blindness, for motives that remain unclear.

Oh, and then there are those bizarre numbers that keep showing up in polls whenever Americans are asked if they believe Obama is, in fact, a Muslim (despite his adult conversion into a liberal, oldline Protestant band of faith).

Thus, the speech at the Baltimore-area mosque received major coverage, as it should. Most of the coverage did a good job of covering, in glowing terms, the content of the Obama message (full text here). What puzzled me, however, was the lack of attention focused on the location. This left me -- as usual -- puzzled about current trends in "liberal" and "conservative" journalism. Hold that thought.

This passage in The Washington Post report captured the mainstream media tone:

The historic 45-minute speech at a large, suburban Baltimore mosque was attended by some of the country’s most prominent Muslims. In what appeared to be a counter to the rise in Islamophobia ...

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Pope in DC: Ssssshhhh! Francis also slipped away to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor

Pope in DC: Ssssshhhh! Francis also slipped away to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor

Whenever the pope -- any pope, at any point in time -- comes to town, the visit generates thousands of words of content from speeches, homilies, remarks by dignitaries and in reactions from Catholics and others on the street. It's a classic case of the big journalism question: OK. What's the news here? What goes at the top of the main story?

Throw in the superstar status Pope Francis currently enjoys with the mainstream press and this question becomes even more important.

In an early report on the pope's packed day in D.C., The Washington Post took a safe and responsible tact -- casting a broad net over a host of issues.

But what if, at the end of the day, Francis added a new and unexpected event to his calendar, one linked to issues that have dominated U.S. headlines this past year both at the U.S. Supreme Court and in Congress? Would that event be worthy of prime coverage? Hold. That. Thought.

First, here is how the Post opened an early version of its summary story:

A fast-moving Pope Francis plunged into his first U.S. visit with gusto Wednesday, embracing the adulation of jubilant crowds as he crisscrossed Washington and confronted enduring controversies that included global warming, immigration and the clergy abuse scandal.
The popular pontiff, who has captured the imagination of religious and secular Americans with his humble style, began to establish an in-the-flesh identity as a committed champion of the poor, the dispossessed and the planet. But he also positioned himself as a loyal adherent of church teachings and hierarchies that are much less popular than he is, pushing back, Vatican watchers said, on efforts to enlist him on either side of the culture wars.
The pope thrilled a White House gathering by introducing himself as the son of immigrants and aligning himself with President Obama’s climate-change efforts. But he also echoed the call for religious liberty that conservatives claim as resistance to same-sex marriage and other fast-changing social mores.

Lots of content, touching on many topics. However, at the end of the day Francis himself added a highly symbolic grace note -- slipping away to meet with members of the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order dedicated to helping the poor and elderly.

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Social media says Chapel Hill shootings linked to anti-Muslim hate; what did social media say about the gunman's beliefs?

Social media says Chapel Hill shootings linked to anti-Muslim hate; what did social media say about the gunman's beliefs?

Here is what we know at this point.

Three young Muslim students were gunned down in Chapel Hill, N.C. All three were clearly identified, in the omnipresent world of social media, as Muslims -- including two sisters pictured wearing head coverings.

Some people -- many using #MuslimLivesMatter -- are convinced that the shootings are receiving relatively little news-media attention because the victims are Muslims.

The message: This was a crime based on hatred of Muslims, so cover it that way.

Other people are convinced that the crime is receiving a relatively small amount of coverage because 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, the man charged with three counts of first-degree murder, has a social-media profile indicating that he is an outspoken atheist, a cultural liberal and, thus, a progressive in religious terms.

The message: The gunman had the wrong beliefs to provoke a storm of coverage in the secular media. This was, after all, a guy with a Facebook profile image proclaiming "Atheists for Equality" and a long list of "likes" that included dozens of pro-atheism sites, scores of anti-conservative sites and numerous pro-gay-rights sites. A few random choices from the list: The Southern Poverty Law Center, Scouts for Equality, Have a Gay Day, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Fundies Say the Darndest Things.

So what is happening in the actual coverage?

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The battle over a quote in The New York Times: Did Charlie Hebdo gunmen urge conversion to Islam?

The battle over a quote in The New York Times: Did Charlie Hebdo gunmen urge conversion to Islam?

Sorry, but it is time to make a familiar point all over again.

The other day, I noted that -- if you want insights into the mindsets of editors wrestling with the tricky, hot-button religion angles in the Charlie Hebdo massacre -- it is very important to study the early versions of stories in an elite publication (think The New York Times, in this case) and then contrast them with the versions that ran later.

This is hard to do because of the evolving WWW-era practice of actually removing earlier versions of the story from the online record. This raises all kinds of questions (including for media critics), such as: Did the earlier versions count? Is it accurate to say that a publication like the Times published something if the material no longer "exists" on the record? If a digital tree is removed from a digital forest, how do you discuss whether or not it existed in the first place?

Screen shots help, but it's impossible to screen shot everything. I suspect that stories are now changing so fast that those online time-machine search programs cannot catch everything. There are, of course, critics out there making their own copies of the earlier stories. Thus, via, we have this gripping passage from an early Times report, quoting survivors of the massacre:

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