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Don't blame Newsweek for Muslim violence

Newsweek is backing away from its earlier report that American servicemen flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet to taunt Guantanamo Bay prisoners — a claim that prompted violent riots in Muslim nations. CNN reports:

"Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges, and so will we," Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker wrote in the magazine's May 23 issue, out Sunday.

"But we regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst."

Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita blamed Newsweek's report for the unrest in Muslim countries.

"People are dying. They are burning American flags. Our forces are in danger," he told CNN.
By casually publishing unverified assertions, Newsweek has certainly behaved irresponsibly and unprofessionally, and done great harm to the image of the United States in the Muslim world. It deserves plenty of criticism on that score.

But I disagree with Mr. DiRita that Newsweek bears the blame for violent Muslim reactions to its report. Responsibility for that must lie with Muslims themselves.

If Al-Jazeera reported that Arab troops desecrated a Bible, would there be riots in the streets of any Western nation? No, there would not. Would the West's religious leaders be calling for holy war? Again, no. But for some reason, the mere rumor that Americans have defiled the Koran is seen as a perfectly legitimate reason for Muslims to go berserk.

To hold Newsweek responsible for the riots and threats of jihad that followed its report is to believe that Muslims are incapable of controlling their passions. This is an infantilizing, even dehumanizing view. We do the Arab world no favors by humoring its violent revenge fantasies. To truly respect Muslims, we should demand better of them.

Instapundit reader John Lynch shares my view.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the rioters need to be held resposible, but Newsweek also has some resposibilty. The are excessories to murder and should be held responsible.  

Posted by jwbrown1969

Anonymous said...

While I agree that you make a good point, I would point out that there's a reason that freedom of speech doesn't extend to yelling fire in a crowded theatre. Newsweek is guilty of throwing a lit match into a tank of gasoline, and they should be held responsible. 

Posted by antimedia

Anonymous said...

But that's like blaming Ferdinand's assasin for starting WWI. It's just nuts.

If Muslim society hadn't built all of these powder keg cities and prepared them for regular rioting on whatever theme the leadership desired, then these types of things wouldn't happen.

Even without Newsweek, a riot like this would have happened at some point, and more are sure to come. Newsweek shouldn't have been so irresponsible, but we've got to clean up the underlying causes instead of being satisfied by blaming Newsweek. We need to defeat the cultural image that this type of protesting is ok. 

Posted by Brian

Anonymous said...

Remember all the deadly Buddhist riots in Burma, Cambodia, Japan, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Tibet when the Taliban blew up the Buddhist statues at Bamiyan? Me neither. 

Posted by Joel

Anonymous said...

You make a valid point, there are definitely some hypocricies that lie deep within this entire story. But, Newsweek is just as aware as you are of what the reaction would be on the "Arab Street", and also knew exactly how propagandists like Al Jazeera would report the incident. Otherwise, why care if stuffed a book into a toilet? Newsweek wanted to stoak the flames of hatred in the mideast because it would pay them back two fold; 1) they would sell heaps of magazines, 2) they would do severe damage to the war effort and the Bush administration.

Isnt it possible to blame both the ideological hatred on the "arab street" and Newsweek both?  

Posted by Kevin P.

Anonymous said...

At last, somebody said what needed saying. Today I really missed not having a blog I wanted so much to make this point. Thanks... may your server get buried in an avalanche of hits... 

Posted by Mike J

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mike J. 

Posted by GaijinBiker

Anonymous said...

I made the same point in a comment on another blog a few days ago.

Newsweek is responsible for bad reporting.

A society that will start killing because someone around the world desecrated one of their holy books is a broken society.

I don't believe we need a 'war against Islam' or anything like that, but we need to treat Muslims like grown-ups. If a child throws a tantrum, you excuse them to an extent. If an adult does the same thing, at the very least he should be censured.

I feel strongly that supporting Muslim rights includes demanding Muslim responsibility.  

Posted by Dave Justus

Anonymous said...

Newsweek acted as the trigger for this explosion of violence with its dishonest reporting. I propose they be held accountable by paying reparations to the families of the victims they helped create. It is obvious that they were trying to implement more of their liberal agenda by attempting to make the Bush Administration look bad. The Magazine should have to pay the price. 

Posted by AtRandom

Anonymous said...

By casually publishing unverified assertions, Newsweek certainly behaved irresponsibly and unprofessionally, and done great harm to the image of the United States in the Muslim world 

Don't let you hated of the MSM cloud your mind. Do you actually think for a minute that the interrogators of the al-qaeda suspects (aka the real bad guys... the ones who actually attacked us) at Guantanamo haven't  flushed a Koran down the toilet, haven't pissed and crapped on a Koran, haven't poured menstrual blood on a Koran, etc.? Hell, I'd gladly do that if it would help extract information out of a suspected al-qaeda terrorist. You know you would too.

Newsweek’s version of this story has varied from the others over the last two years - ones in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post, and British and Russian news organizations - only in that it quoted a government source who now says he didn’t have firsthand knowledge of whether or not the investigation took place. Is that irresponsible and unprofessional journalism? Maybe? But don't blame the messenger when you know it happened, boo.


Posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

Ah, the "fake but accurate" argument. I was wondering when that would come up.

Reporting things that "you know" happened, based on your own personal prejudices, still thankfully falls short of mainstream journalistic standards.

And besides, your comment has nothing to do with the point of my post, which is that even if the Koran-flushing story had been true, it was not a valid reason for Muslims to kill people and threaten war against the United States. 

Posted by GaijinBiker

Anonymous said...

GB, Your Welcome.

Following up on Dave Justus' point:

When a petulent teenager throws a hissy fit, any good parent knows that if you appease, you'll get more of the same. The only way is a short sharp shock that basically says, "grow-up and fix that attitude fast".. or your risking a lot worse than your holy book down the toilet.

The US administration, basically one of the few "adults" left in world politics, needs to take note. 

Posted by Mike J

Anonymous said...

mike j,

on your last point. I think that riots in afgainstan will be a lot less frequent because of this incident. In civlized countires you vote, you do not riot. Those actions where cracked down on at the source.

It also helps that the leaders in Afganistian do not promte riots even if they might happen to agree with the purpose for riotinng (unlike in china). 

Posted by cube

Anonymous said...

Shame on Newsweek for publishing a poorly sourced story.
Shame on Muslims for killing thier fellow believers and rioting in the streets
Shame on these pervasive "anonymous sources" and the media that gives them a voice.
This issue is waaay more than a news weekly publishing an inflammatory story. 

Posted by GSR

Anonymous said...

Lee Harris over at Tech Central Station has a great article on this same point. link  

Posted by Paul



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