Thursday, March 16, 2006

Double standards

It's another one of those double-standard things that just kind of gradually hits you in the face. You're reading along in the Chicago Tribune in a two-author byline story about why there's been so much of an uproar over the cartoons satirizing Muhammad. All of a sudden you realize something -- these ladies keep referring to Muhammad as "the Prophet," complete with a capital "P."

Now isn't that something? The Chicago Tribune is making a statement of faith and no one bats an eyelash about it. "A statement of faith?" you ask. Yes, a statement of faith. Ask any believing Christian and he or she will tell you that Muhammad was not a prophet, never mind The Prophet. Ask a Buddhist or Hindu and they're more than likely to say something similar. It's only Muslims who believe this.

Now when was the last time you read an article about Jesus in the paper that used the word "Christ" after His Name or referred to Him by the title Christians ascribe to Him on a routine basis, "the Lord"? You can't remember it, can you? I thought not since it never happens.

So I wrote a letter to the editor, not of the Tribune, but of Editor & Publisher, the magazine of the newspaper business. Here's what I said:
As I was reading a Chicago Tribune story, "Why cartoons sparked furor," by Margaret Ramirez and Manya A. Brachear and published on Feb. 7, 2006, I was struck by the number of times Muhammad was called "the Prophet" in the story. Six times in this 1,250 word piece the writers refer to him as "the Prophet" with an extra two references coming from direct quotes.

This is rather curious. Do not the Tribune and all other secular media outlets realize that they are making a statement of faith about who Muhammad was when they use the phrase "the Prophet"? That is Muslim belief, not secular fact. Nowhere that I have seen does a secular newspaper ever refer to Jesus Christ as "the Lord," though that is the common parlance for Christians. In fact, most won't even use the word "Christ" since that is the Greek word for "Messiah" meaning anointed one, hence a statement of faith.

Granted, it gets rather tiresome to use "Muhammad" throughout a story. But using the title accorded to him by his followers immerses the secular press into an area it should not go -- the endorsement of a particular religion. In other words, if secular outlets are going to give equal coverage to religions, either they should refer to Muhammad simply as "Muhammad," or they should start referring to all other deities by the titles claimed by the adherents of those particular religions.

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