by Raymond Ibrahim
When reading Western reports dealing with Islam, one must learn to read between the lines. Many of these reports do state the actual facts; but without providing proper context, Western readers are often left to interpret the information according to their own understandings.
One example: the ubiquitous term "sectarian strife" to describe Muslim-Christian clashes in the Middle East is factually correct; yet "sectarian strife" connotes comparable forces fighting one another, when in reality it is often nothing less than a vastly outnumbered Christian minority being grossly oppressed by Muslim majorities, as has happened for centuries.
Sometimes it is easy to fathom the true significance of a report (usually non-MSM). For example, a recent report titled "CAIR Wants Muslim-Turned-Christian Minister to Stop Training Immigration Officials" provides all the necessary data to reach an objective conclusion:
CAIR claims "We believe training by a person with such obvious bias against Islam and Muslims would only serve to heighten concerns American Muslims have about allegations of mistreatment at our nation's borders." Conversely, the apostate minister's supporters argue that "they're [CAIR] discriminating against him. They're saying only our kind of Muslim, only someone who has not converted from Islam ... only people we approve can work for the U.S. government in the immigration service. That's not the way it works in the U.S."
Accordingly, only a bit of contextualizing is necessary to understand what this is all about: CAIR does not want an ex-Muslim—someone well acquainted with Islam—to impart his knowledge to U.S. officials.
Other times, reading a report requires more cogitation to get to its ultimate significance. For insistence, MEMRI recently reported that
The Coptic Church in Egypt has expressed its objection to the U.S. Congress's appointment of a special envoy for minority affairs in the Middle East and Asia, who would be dealing with the Coptic minority in Egypt. They called on foreign Copts, who supported the appointment, to refrain from dealing with this subject. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Al-Nahda Party also objected to the appointment, claiming that it constitutes interference in Egypt's internal affairs.
This seems natural enough: Egypt's religious leadership rejects foreign interference. However, when one realizes why a special envoy was created in the first place—because of the nonstop, documented incidences of persecution of Copts in Egypt—one is left asking: why would the Coptic Church, which knows better than anyone else the persecution of its flock, reject help? Knowledge of the dynamics of Islam and dhimmitude leads to the conclusion that the Church is being pressured to say that all is well for Christians in Egypt—or else.
Finally, when dealing with the MSM, the significance of an Islam-related story must usually be dug out. Consider the following excerpt from a recent New York Times piece titled "Behold the Mighty Beard, a Badge of Piety and Religious Belonging":
[A]ll over the Muslim world, the full beard has come to connote piety and spiritual fervor. It is such a powerful cultural signifier, in fact, that it inspires non-Muslims, too…. Of course, the beard is only a sign of righteousness. It is no guarantor, as Mr. Zulfiqar [a Muslim interviewee] reminds us: "I recall one gentleman who came back from a trip to Pakistan and remarked to me, 'I learned one thing: the longer the beard, the bigger the crook.' His anticipation was people with big beards would be really honest, but he kept meeting people lying to him" [italics mine].
This comports especially well for Western readers who naturally agree that outer signs of piety certainly do not signify inner piety. Yet they overlook the inadvertent significance of this quote: in Islam, outer signs of piety on the one hand, and corruption and deceit on the other, are perfectly compatible. After all, the same source—Muhammad as recorded in the hadith—that commands Muslims to grow a beard also advocates deception and all sorts of other things hardly associated with Western notions of piety.
Readers must therefore become sensitive to the gradations of clarity in Western reports on Islam. Whereas many of those produced by the non-MSM make an effort to spell things out, the true significance of MSM reports—which are consumed by the majority—must be read between the lines.Raymond Ibrahim, an Islam-specialist, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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