ANDREW E. HARROD April 23, 2014
"[U]ninformed, inaccurate or consciously provocative journalism" concerning Islam worries Lawrence Pintak, founding dean of Washington State University's Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.
Unfortunately, Pintak's remedy to this problem, the online guide "Islam for Journalists" edited by Pintak, betrays an absurdly benign understanding of an Islam whose apparent only fault is being slandered by others.
"Across the Muslim world today," Pintak's introduction notes,
"extremists are wielding their swords with grisly effect, but the
pen...can be just as lethal."
The 2012 "lewd cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad" in the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo,
for example, receive Pintak's censure while, like many journalists
today, he uncritically applies the honorific "Prophet" to Islam's
founder. Charlie Hebdo's editor had condemned the weapons used in violent reactions to the anti-Muhammad "Innocence of Muslims"
internet movie trailer preceding his cartoons. Yet the "weapon he
controlled can do far more damage," Pintak warned in equating speech
with the violent reactions of others, then "evident in the
conflagration...erupting across the Muslim world."
Screenshot of the "Innocence of Muslims" portrayal of Muhammad. (Image: YouTube screenshot)
"A commitment to press freedom is in my blood," Pintak qualified against suspicions of censorship. Yet speaking of the 2005 Danish Muhammad cartoons and their violent response, Pintak showed sympathy for those who refused their publication.
"[M]any Muslim journalists," Pintak related in denying these "Motoons"
any news value, "simply couldn't understand why Western news
organizations would republish the offensive images just because" of a
legal right. Yet "journalism is not supposed to be a weapon" but rather
"to inform, not inflame; to understand, not distort," in contrast to
The Danish cartoons exhibited "in our increasingly interconnected world," writer Jonathan Lyons
similarly relativized, "a number of central issues." These included the
"proper extent of press freedoms; minority rights; the shifting
landscape of blasphemy laws and prohibitions; and the history of Muslim
grievance toward the West."
Rather than criticize Muslim rioters, Lyons complained that "almost
no one reported on...the Danish media and its supporters as cynical
provocateurs motivated by domestic political concerns."
Beyond free speech controversies, "Islam for Journalists" favored Islam with numerous biased and false statements.
After discussing how Islam "roughly translates as ‘surrender' or
‘submission'...to the will of Allah," Pintak noted that Muhammad in
Islam, "although he is not divine, he is considered ‘the Perfect Man.'"
"By imitating him," Pintak stated without any critical questioning of
Muhammad's example, "Muslims hope to acquire his interior
attitude-perfect surrender to God." Pintak also takes an uncritical
approach towards Muhammad's migration or hijara to Yathrib (Medina) in order to escape his pagan opponents in Mecca.
A Palestinian protester holds a Quran, the Muslim holy book. Credit: AP
"Muslims interpret Muhammad's decision to embark on this exodus as a
teaching that they should not live under tyranny," Pintak proclaims,
omitting any controversial discussion of the Islamic law Muhammad
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