Media coverage of Muslim Protests – One of the BBC’s Finest Moments of the Year
It is interesting to see the different and contrasting approaches the world’s media took to covering and discussing the recent demonstrations in the Islamic world, protesting against the *cough* film “The Innocence of Muslims” (the very making of which set the art of film-making back 50 years). Chinese protesters who during the same timespan, smashed up and burned down Japanese businesses and brutally assaulted Japanese nationals, can’t have been happy that their cause was overshadowed by coverage of the few thousand Muslim protesters in a handful of Islamic countries.
Newsweek chose to feature a ridiculous cover on its “Islamic Protests” issue, depicting ye stereotypical angry-Imam screaming to the heavens (said picture not being of any demonstration held in recent memory). The feature article was written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, since apparently Newsweek’s first choice, Pope Urban II who launched the Crusades, was unavailable.
As you’d expect from the Somali-born asylum seeker who fabricated her life story to win asylum in Holland, the tone of the Newsweek article was lecturing, one sided, preaching, highly-judgmental, superior-than-thou; everything Islamist extremists are accused of being themselves. Newsweek tried to get a #MuslimRage hashtag trending on Twitter. The hashtag was taken over by sarcastic Muslims, with hilarious results (best tweet;”Lost son Jihad in airport. Can’t shout for him. #MuslimRage”).
Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wasn’t much better. In trying to illustrate that the Islamic world has its fair share of bigots who routinely insult other religions, Friedman turned to MEMRI, an organization that’s become notorious for its highly inaccurate and highly selective translations of Arab media. For an outfit that’s spent the last decade trying to prove what scum Muslims are, the results were anything but impressive. Half of the anti-Christian and anti-Jewish bigotry MEMRI supplied Friedman are five years or more old; a few items even go back to 2001. And not a single item was from any prominent Arab writer, scholar, or religious leader.
Contrast the above with the highly professional and balanced coverage of the protests by the BBC. Its prestigious World Have Your Say program devoted numerous segments to the issues bought up by the “Innocence of Mulsims” film and subsequent protests. Participants in the programs included both Muslim and non-Muslim, with diverse opinions on the sacredness of both free-speech and the person of Mohamed. The BBC did not attempt to impose any sort of opinion, it gave people with a vested interest in the subject an suitable atmosphere and framework to air their viewpoints.
And the result was a series of lively and highly informative debates. Muslim participants were eloquent, humorous, moderate and quite balanced, fully aware of the importance of free-speech while defending, in a dignified manner, their right not to be assaulted for their religion or stereotyped as wide-eyed fanatics.
In contrast, some of their opposite numbers in the debates were their own worst enemies. Pamela Geller, the head of an American-Jewish organization that’s putting anti-Muslim advertisements in the New York City subway system, made the absolutely remarkable claim that “there is no such thing as an Israeli occupation. There is nothing called the Palestinian people.” Can anyone say “overcompensating-for-an-inferiority-complex-as-a-result-of-not-being-in-Israel”. Heck, I highly doubt whether many Israelis would share such Golda Meir 1970s sentiments.
(Sidenote; Geller claims that President Barack Obama is the love-child of Malcolm X. American-Muslims couldn’t have asked for more clueless detractors).
And then we had “Peter”,arguably one of the dimmest individuals ever to have their opinion broadcast on the BBC. The World Have Your Say producers are world class and unmatched when it comes to finding participants at short notice, and it’s quite telling that the best that could be found to argue for one particular opinion, was a man who several times made the ridiculous claim that “More than half of Muslims in the Middle East are illiterate. They can’t even write the word democracy in any language.” Even the host of the program couldn’t hide his astonishment. With his redneck drawl, it is easy to imagine “Peter” getting off air, going back home to beat his wife and looking for an African-American house to burn a cross infront of.
But by far the best coverage and commentary of the film-slash-protests-slash-cartoons-of-Mohamed wasn’t from a news program, but from BBC Radio 4’s hilarious The News Quiz show. I wish every pundit, blogger, aspiring comedian and media-celebrity-wannabe would take 40 minutes to listen to this episode in particular. Jokes on the issue were tasteful and well thought out. The best joke of the episode was one that connected the recent publication of topless pictures of Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William, and the publication of caricatures of Mohamed in the French weekly Charlie Hebdo; “If Kate doesn’t want pictures of her published, she should get a tattoo of Mohamed on her chest”.
Having been a fan of the BBC since I was a teenager, I regard Bush House with the same reverence others would reserve for Mecca or Jerusalem. This past week has further reinforced the well earned reputation the BBC has for impartiality, and an unmatched ability to professionally cover the issues of the day. It is times like these when the truly professional organizations stand out from those merely inclined to capitalize on the topics of the moment to sell a few more magazines, or carve out a niche for themselves in some odious political quarters.