Saturday, February 11, 2006

Misleading Headlines

We saw a short (6 column inch) version of the linked AP article in the Lincoln Journal Star. The headline said, "Imam: Conflict Brings Understanding," so we were very interested in what kind of understanding it had brought. Reading the article (particularly the passage below), it seemed to us that the only "understanding" he was talking about was the West learning not to mess with Mohammed. There was no evidence at all that he had learned that his own role in fomenting the violence has had serious, negative consequences for the image of Islam all over the world.

Perhaps that was in the full version of the article, and that part was just trimmed for the Journal Star? Internet to the rescue: we found the long version on the Washington Post (registration required) under the headline "Danish Imam Condemns Cartoon Violence:"
"The volcano was inside," Ahmed Abu Laban, a Palestinian immigrant to Denmark, said at a mosque in Copenhagen. "Now it's erupting, and after the volcano there will be peace again."

Abu Laban called for more dialogue, saying Muslims do not understand Europe and that Europeans are reluctant to learn more about Islam. "We shall talk in Denmark. We shall talk in New York. We shall talk in Geneva ... and they will listen to us that we believe in God. And most importantly ... do not touch Muhammad."
This was the "understanding" the Journal Star headline referred to. Furthermore we searched in vain in the version on the WaPo for any evidence that Abu Laban was "condemning" the violence as asserted in the WaPo headline.

We saw claims that he and his group were not responsible for the violence, after they "sought outside help because they found it hard to make their voices heard in Denmark." Translation: We couldn't get Danish Muslims to riot over this, so we had to shop around for some goons elsewhere.

A spokesman for the group is quoted as saying, "We distance ourselves from the violence. We still don't think it's because of our protest that people in some places have used violence." That's a far cry from "condemning" it. That's simply another verse of the It's Not My Fault song, sung while cheering on the rioters. There's no call for calm in the Muslim world, no condemnation of killings and firebombings, and certainly no admission of fault for starting the riots.

Interestingly, a large majority of Danes see through Abu Laban's denials (from the same article):
Public opinion in Denmark turned against the group after several of its leaders went on trips to the Middle East in December, carrying a dossier with the cartoons from Jyllands-Posten newspaper and other images they said were offensive to Muslims.

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen accused them of giving Denmark a bad name, saying he was "stunned" to learn about the trip.

The leader of the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party, Pia Kjaersgaard, went a step further, accusing the group of conducting a defamation campaign against Denmark.
A poll released Friday showed 58 percent of Danes believe the Danish imams bear the main responsibility for the recent violence, including flag burnings and attacks on Danish embassies. The Megafon institute survey said 22 percent of the 1,033 Danes interviewed blamed Jyllands-Posten.
To the WaPo's credit, they did put the whole article up, but why the misleading headline suggesting Abu Laban was opposed to the violence he fomented? Why twist his self-serving denials of responsibility into a peace-making role that he manifestly is not playing?

Update: The same article, still headlined "Danish Imam Condemns Cartoon Violence" is now on the ABC News site and available w/o registration. Still no indication whatsoever in the article of any actual condemnation of violence by Abu Laban. Wishing this worm is a moderate will not make it so. In fact it's just rewarding his bad actions.

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