The media coverage on the recent terrorist attack on Samjhauta Express raises a few questions: Why do the media refuse to identify the real reasons of the terrorists? And do the media have different standards while covering different religions or are they consistent? This article by Jerry Thomas focuses on the reporting patterns of the reputed secular newspapers, The Hindu and the Times of India.
The Hindu on Islam and Hinduism: Comparison of Editorials on Terrorism and Dalit Lynching
Immediately after the terrorist attack on Samjhauta Express where 67 people were burned, The Hindu wrote an editorial titled ‘Peace and the burning train’ (February 20, 2007). In this editorial, it wrote about the history of the Samjhauta express, the pattern of terrorists attack and concluded by saying:
“Terrorists aim at disrupting normal life. The best way to honor the victims of terrorism is to ensure that life goes on in the midst of heart-rending grief. And the best way to defeat terrorist designs is to ensure that the peace process remains on track.”
If we read this editorial, we would think that terrorists are deranged foreign diplomats or at best aliens trying to disrupt every peace move of us. The best way to defeat them is maintain peace.
We went back a little further to the terrorists attack on World Trade Center ob September 11th where thousand were burned alive. The Hindu then had an editorial titled ‘An attack on the civilised world’ (September 13, 2001). This editorial began by writing: “THE FALLOUT OF a serial assault by some faceless sky-faring terrorists on the citadels of America's economic and military might is unimaginably devastating. Utterly despicable are the four separate but transparently coordinated acts of terror that rocked America on Tuesday. Hardly concealed is the dastardly political motive of the criminals, but it has not been easy to determine the physical and psychological magnitude of a truly phenomenal tragedy.”
Yes, truly a political motive and not religious!!!
Then, it offered the advice on how to combat the terrorism: “With the borderless terrorists having struck at the heart of American power and pride, Mr. Bush should respond in a manner that will not at all aggravate the escalating instability of the global strategic and political order.”
Yes, truly a diplomatic solution!!!
However, what surprises us is the absence of any reference to the Islam and the Koran. Terrorists masterminds like Bin Laden have said in no uncertain terms that their agenda is to spread and honor Islam. After the WTC attack, Bin Laden said: “These events have divided the whole world into two sides. The side of believers and the side of infidels, may God keep you away from them. Every Muslim has to rush to make his religion victorious. The winds of faith have come. The winds of change have come to eradicate oppression from the island of Muhammad, peace be upon him” (Text: Bin Laden's statement, The Guardian, October 7, 2001).
In fact, Bin Laden’s words have been supported by the Koran. Among the many verses regarding to Jihad in the Koran, read this one:
“But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repen
t, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”
Or this one: Surah 47:4
“When you meet the unbelievers in the battlefield strike off their heads and when you have laid them low, bind your captives firmly. Then grant them their freedom or take ransom from them, until war shall lay down her armour. Thus shall you do. Had Allah willed, He could Himself have punished them (without your help); but He has ordained it thus that He might test you, the one by the other. As for those who are slain in the cause of Allah, He will not allow their works to perish. He will vouchsafe them guidance and ennoble their state; He will admit them to the Paradise He has made known to them”. I
f the terrorists themselves are saying their motives supported by their religious text, then why are the newspapers not naming it? Terrorism is caused by Islam- let us say it. Maybe we should not speak against any religion including Islam. If that is the case, let us look at reporting the Hinduism.
After the lynching of the five Dalits in a Haryana village, the Hindu wrote an editorial titled ‘A grisly act’ (October 21, 2002). In this editorial, the Hindu, in no uncertain terms, condemned the act. It condemned without qualification and without exploring the root causes. It even criticized police for not acting on time. Yes force was needed. In the concluding paragraph, it also remarked: “The odious practice of untouchability, and the sanction accorded to it by religious tradition and sustained by the economic inequity that prevails are indeed the forces behind such incidents.”
Yes, religious tradition and not political motive!!!
Hinduism has been named. So, it is not the policy of this newspaper not to name any religion.
Observation: When it comes to reporting about Islam and Hinduism, there are two different standards. When Hindus kill though not regular, thier religious tradition is blamed. When Muslims kill almost daily, it is always political and not religious though Muslims themselves declare thier religious motive.
The Times of India on Islam and Christianity: Comparison of Editorials on Danish Cartoons and the Da Vinci Code
While during the time of Danish cartoons, the Times of India (TOI) published an editorial titled "Danish cartoons provoke violent protests in Muslim world". Similarly while during the screening and related protest of the Da Vinci Code, the TOI carried another editorial titled as ‘Competitive Faith’. Let us compare both these editorials.
From ‘Danish cartoons provoke violent protests in Muslim world’: (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-1408575,curpg-1.cms )
It began by writing "The right to freedom of expression is not an absolute right. All rights, legal and moral, come with responsibilities that contextualise them. A right can qualify to be so only if it is exercised with responsibility, to the individual and society. The right to freedom of expression can be no exception. The current controversy over cartoons featuring Prophet Mohammad misses this point. Certainly, that does not justify the violent response to the insensitive depiction of Islam. But to defend an act that has provoked people across the world to react with indignation, under the ruse of freedom of expression, is to misunderstand the right."
Here the blame was squarely put on those who asked for publishing the cartoons and Times of India supported its complete censorship in all media.
From ‘Competitive Faith’:
(http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1529128.cms) In the editorial defending the screening of the Da Vinci Code, however, ToI blamed all those asked for its complete censorship.
It wrote, "In asking for a ban, Christian groups in India have crossed the boundaries of civil protest." It continued it pretentious championing, "A ban on any work of art, particularly one that doesn't purport to stoke animosities between different religious or ethnic groups, is untenable in a democracy such as ours. Christian groups are, of course, free to peacefully protest against the film and even boycott it if they so wish. But they must not demand a ban let alone call for punitive action against Dan Brown. The state, too, must not give in to these protests."
From ‘Danish cartoons provoke violent protests in Muslim world’: Again, during the Danish cartoons protest (or riots), ToI lectured on how the freedom of expression, especially when it touches the matters of faith, should be all the more responsible. It wrote, "Rights, especially when they touch upon issues of faith, can have repercussions beyond the confines of geography and culture. Unfortunately, those who champion the right to freedom of expression tend to forget this. The result is a skewed debate."
ToI continued: "Take the argument that any compromise on the right to freedom of expression will kill the space for dissent. Can dissent be discussed as an abstract category without taking into account concrete realities? If a cartoon, a novel or a painting can provoke bloodshed, it is insensitive to insist on its dissemination in the public sphere."
From ‘Competitive Faith’: TOI again changed its tone during the Da Vinci Code by writing, "Far too many times fundamentalists belonging to different persuasions have held the state to ransom and succeeded in enforcing a ban on controversial books and films. Every time that happens it represents a step back for freedom of speech and artistic expression. At the same time it deals a body blow to religious pluralism and tolerance."
From ‘Danish cartoons provoke violent protests in Muslim world’: The Times of India concluded by defending its stance of complete censorship on cartoons as a matter of principle and not even as stance out of fear or pragmatism. It wrote, “This is neither a compromise arising out of fear nor mere pragmatism; it is being sensitive to a difference of opinion, or to the prospect of lives being lost. That balance can be maintained even while criticizing the climate of intolerance, if there is any.”
Observation: During the Danish cartoons, ToI blamed the publishers and not the Muslims who rioted, burned and killed. During release of the movie the Da Vinci Code, ToI lambasted Christians for asking any kind of cenorship and preceived the mere request as a threat to freedom. There were no riots or killing from Christians. (Note: We are not supporting any kind of cenorship. If you read our articles published during those times, you will see that. We are exposing the double standard of the ToI.)
Observation: There are two different standards for covering Islam and Christianity.
Final Comment: Can anyone educate me on why there are two standards for reporting about Islam and Hinduism or Islam and Christianity. Why the media do not apply the same standards to Islam and name Islam? We want the religious motive of all fanatics and terrorists to be identified. We want freedom of expression both in Danish cartoons and the Da Vinci Code.