'Religion News Service' Mourns 2010 As a Year of Extreme 'Islamophobia,' Blames the New Media
Saturday's Washington Post published a religion-year-in-review piece by Kevin Eckstrom, editor of the Religion News Service. Eckstrom thought the year was defined by vengeful "Islamophobia" and disdained that "extreme voices" were opposing Islamic extremism:
Lingering questions about President Obama's Christian faith morphed into a belief among one in five Americans that he's actually a Muslim. Nearly 10 years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Islamophobia returned with a vengeance as a Florida pastor threatened to torch a pile of Korans, and Tennessee officials debated whether Islam is a religion.
This time, the resurrected stories were more pointed, the debates more polarizing. Old stories found new life online, and voices that once would have been dismissed as extreme were amplified by Facebook and Twitter.
"New media has had the effect of keeping certain news stories alive, bringing them back from the dead and propelling them into the news," said Diane Winston, a scholar of religion and media at the University of Southern California.
In a September editorial, Winston, a former reporter, slammed anti-Islam groups as promoters of paranoia and hate, and insisted journalists needed to expose them: "Their first task is to investigate why Islamophobia is on the rise. This entails exploring the social, cultural, economic and political conditions that inculcate fear, hatred and scapegoating. It also means asking who benefits from spurring widespread paranoia. For example, in Europe and the United States, a network of online Web sites provides a locus and rationale for anti-Muslim activity. But there’s been little examination of who funds and directs Stop Islamisation of Europe or Stop Islamization of America."
Eckstrom's review had nothing to say about Ground Zero mosque imam Feisal Abdul-Rauf's anti-American statements that we were an "accessory" to 9/11 on CBS's 60 Minutes. The anger, resentment, and conspiracy theories apparently are directed at Muslims, and never by Muslims:
In the United States, the ghosts of 9/11 loomed large as a fight over a planned Islamic community center a few blocks from Ground Zero became a litmus test for tolerance toward American Muslims. Evangelist Franklin Graham was uninvited from a National Day of Prayer event at the Pentagon for calling Islam an "evil" and "wicked" religion, comments he made in 2001.
Even as Michigan's Rima Fakih was crowned the first Muslim Miss USA, 53 percent of Americans admitted harboring unfavorable views of Islam. Oklahoma voters passed a preemptive ban on judges using Islamic law in state courts.
Perhaps Eckstrom would like to "admit harboring" unfavorable views of religious conservatives, since that's all over this article. It continued:
Omid Safi, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said he was most concerned by the reaction against the organizers of Park51, the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero.
"These are the most interfaith-y group of Muslims imaginable," he said. "They are as successful an American story as it gets; it's the perfect immigrant narrative. These are people who get sent by the State Department overseas to say Muslims can live freely in this country, and then they are caricatured as jihadist radicals."
Speaking of jihadist radicals -- like the ones caught trying to blow up a Christmas crowd in Portland or a subway in Washington, DC -- where were they in this religion-year-in-review piece? Nowhere.
Eckstrom's coverage of Christian religions also showed a liberal bias. He touted how rumors swirled about whether Pope "Benedict mishandled abuse cases," as if the period in question was recent, rather than The New York Times trying to reconstruct controversies from the 1980s, when Joseph Ratzinger was a bishop. The dismissive tone toward anti-Islam advocacy was missing when the Episcopalians ordained a second gay bishop, and the Episcopal diocese of Quincy, Illinois "finally ordained its first female priest."
Immediately after that, the Religion News Service promotes an obnoxious, smearing-by-numbers poll question trying to connect gay suicide to conservative opposition to homosexuality. It was a poll written and promoted by...the Religion News Service (that didn't make the Post).
A rash of teen suicides and gay bullying spurred religious leaders, rock stars and even Obama to join the "It Gets Better" project, and a poll in October found that two-thirds of Americans see a link between religious teachings against homosexuality and higher rates of suicide among gay youths.
Religious teachings against homosexuality are not enough to justify a ban on gay marriage, a federal judge ruled in August in striking down California's Proposition 8. And religious beliefs are not enough to justify the unconstitutional law that created the National Day of Prayer, another federal judge ruled in April.
You'd wonder if conservatives won on anything this year after reading this editorial disguised as a news article.