Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Be afraid" is always Option One

There is, of course, legitimate concern about how the revolution in Egypt will ultimately play out. While there is still good reason to think the the military will be true to its word about returning to civilian government (because, as I've argued previously, there really is no gain to the military to stay in power), there is also cause for concern, such the the military's declared intention to put and end to the strikes that arose as part of the protests.

However, our media can always find another reason to tremble. Friday's New York Times had an article that opened this way:
Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Sunni cleric who is banned from the United States and Britain for supporting violence against Israel and American forces in Iraq, delivered his first public sermon here in 50 years on Friday, emerging as a powerful voice in the struggle to shape what kind of Egyptian state emerges from the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
So the very first thing it was felt necessary to say was "Ooh! Scary Muslim radical" and the second thing was "Ooh - Scary Muslim radical is a 'powerful voice' in shaping Egypt's future." Be afraid - be very afraid.

Then, after saying the scary Muslim radical addressed "a rapt audience of more than a million" (Ooh! Scary!), calling Qaradawi "an intellectual inspiration to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood" (Ooh! Scary!) and repeating the "supports violence" bit (Ooh! Still scary!), only then, in the seventh graph, does the article say this:
On Friday, he struck themes of democracy and pluralism, long hallmarks of his writing and preaching. He began his sermon by saying that he was discarding the customary opening “Oh Muslims,” in favor of “Oh Muslims and Copts”....

He urged the military officers governing Egypt to deliver on their promises of turning over power to “a civil government” founded on principles of pluralism, democracy and freedom. [Emphasis added.]
So the scary Muslim radical with the "powerful voice" and the "rapt audience" actually believes, according to scholars who have studied his work, that
Islamic law supports the idea of a pluralistic, multiparty, civil democracy.
But the NY Times couldn't lead with that, could it? After all, that would not have been scary.

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