Why is this “conservative” news?

Pillar7 Society Universal Declaration of Human RightsIt appears that the following story is “conservative” news or, even worse, “Christian” news.

I cannot figure out why this is the case. Readers, perhaps you can enlighten me.

It seems, to me, that this is a story that combines elements of women’s rights and freedom of religion, both of which are strong themes in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Old-fashioned liberals used to have strong feelings about these kinds of human-rights issues.

Here is a short report from a Christian news source. Notice, however, that the report originated with mainstream-media sources in the region:

Reports are coming in of increasing persecution of Christian believers in the Saudi Arabia. A Saudi man recently cut the tongue of his daughter and burned her to death for converting to Christianity, according to a report by the United Arab Emirates-based Gulf News. The victim frequently wrote on various Web site blogs about her conversion from Islam. It is believed that she converted to Christianity after learning about the faith on the Internet and through Christian media.

The girl’s father is an employee of Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice — the arm of the government that enforces the nation’s prohibition of Christianity and conversion to Christianity. Sources close to the victim said that the father was being investigated for “honour killing” rather than murder, Gulf News reported. Shariah-ruled Saudi Arabia, where all Christian worship is forbidden, is ranked No. 2 on Open Doors’ 2007 World Watch List of nations where Christians are persecuted for their faith.

Under the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, apostasy is punishable by death if the accused does not recant.

And so forth and so on. I realize, of course, that mainstream journalists will discount this kind of story, since it comes from sources that are viewed as secondary.

Unfortunately, the only place I can find a mainstream reference to the killing of this convert is in a column in the New York Daily News — written by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. In other words, it is another advocacy piece. Thus the headline, “War on Christians in the Middle East must be stopped.”

The rabbi begins his piece:

An Islamic court in Shiraz, Iran, has just convicted two men of being infidels. Their crime? Converting to Christianity. The possible sentence? Death. Not too far away in Saudi Arabia, an outraged father recently hacked his own daughter to death for the same “abomination.”

In the daily drumbeat of Mideast news, there is one story of historic proportion that goes nearly unreported: the persecution and systematic destruction in the Islamic world of some of the world’s oldest Christian communities.

Again, here is my question: Why is this a “conservative” news story? Why is this hellish subject not worth mainstream attention?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    It is clear from reading internet sites concerned with the treatment of Christians in the Islamic world that there is tremendous persecution, brutality, and discrimination against Christians (whether Catholic, evangelical, or Orthodox) there.
    For example, Turkey wants to become part of the European Union. Meanwhile it is trying every trick in the
    book to destroy the Ecumenical Patriarchate headquartered in Istanbul and wipe out the Greek Orthodox Church there and in all of Turkey.
    Yet the coverage of this anti-Christian widespread phenomenon across the Islamic world gets almost no coverage of any consequence in the MSM.
    I think it is because the secular-atheist MSM is convinced that if the truth is covered adequately Christians in the West will want to declare a Holy War against Islam to rescue Christians and Christianity in the East. Which, at this point in history, is an absurd idea-especially since things turned out so badly when Western Christians tried to help the Christians of the East almost 1,000 years ago and wound up virtually destroying the Christian Byzantine Empire instead of rescuing their Christian brothers.
    But since most of the MSM don’t give a damn what happens to Christianity–especially in the Islamic world–it is better to let Christianity be wiped out than risk a Holy War starting.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    I do not accept your view, based on my own experiences and other journalists that I know, that the media is any kind of uniform “secular-atheist MSM.” Sorry.

    In fact, most journalists I know are still quite idealistic on human rights issues. They think of themselves as old-fashioned liberals, on those issues.

    But free speech does not seem to equal free religious speech.

    Freedom of conscience does not seem to equal freedom of religious conscience, unless it is, say, someone converting to Islam in, oh, Italy (which many, many people are doing).

    It is too simplistic to say this is some secular conspiracy. There is something more complex going on. Another wrinkle: Why isn’t Hollywood fighting for the rights of gays and lesbians in these lands?

  • Dave

    Perhaps some in the MSM regard Christian missionary work in Moslem countries as the soft side of what Bush did in Iraq — an imperialist outreach. This may be a mistake but it isn’t crazy, given the way Bush has wrapped himself in religion.

  • Ira Rifkin

    Could the more complex answer tmatt’s looking for be that Western journalists, in general, are reluctant to write about religious bigotry and violence in the Muslim world because:

    a) they regard it as commonplace; that is, its not news because they expect – and tacitly accept – Muslim insistence on religious domination on turf Islam claims as exclusively its own
    b) they fear being attacked (verbally and perhaps even physically) as Islamophobes
    c) they don’t know enough about the history of Christian-Muslim relations, or the history of lands now predominantly Muslim, to defend themselves against the charge of Islamophobia
    d) they’re afraid of losing access to Muslim nations and sources
    e) they’re immobilized by political correctness when it comes to covering Islam
    f) they’re functionally incompetent to cover this story
    g) all of the above?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    t matt–I agree with you that there is no conscious UNIFORMITY in the MSM. But a large enough critical mass so that the secular-atheist influence (The last reputable poll I saw revealed that about 80-90% of media personnel in the MSM ascribe to no religion) is so strong it powerfully affects news coverage to the detriment of all religions.
    I also believe there is a lot of truth to Ira Rifkins’ list which is excellent and maybe more true than my exposition. It shows deep thinking and I tend to shoot from the hip when something strikes me immediately.

  • http://catholidoxy.blogspot.com Irenaeus

    Because we’re the problem. That’s why.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt



    I have been studying that subject since about 1981 and have never, ever seen a number anywhere NEAR that high.

    There was the elites study of the Northeast in which 50 percent wrote “none,” when asked their religion. But even that would not cancel out the big factor today, which is the “spiritual” not “religious” option.

    I know few truly secular people in the MSM. I also know few who hold religious views that could be called “traditional,” in any tradition.

  • http://www.magdalenesegg.blogspot.com Rev. Michael Church

    Let me ask an alternative question: why does this story lack any clarifying detail? Neither the version you cite, nor Rabbi Eckstein’s opinion piece, gives us names, dates, or any quotes from anybody close to the event. Typically, the mainstream press looks for things like that before reporting a story.

    My (very brief) search of the Gulf News site couldn’t find the original story. That doesn’t mean they didn’t report it, and the lack of detail doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but it does give a hint as to why the story hasn’t been more widely covered.

    Another possible explanation, tragically, is the apparent frequency of hate crimes like this, coupled with the dramatic reduction in the number of foreign correspondents working for most news outlets. Remember that most murders in American cities — including some truly lurid ones — only get a brief mention, and that this was halfway around the globe in a closed society, where reporting is extremely difficult.

    In fairness to the MSM, the NY Times did report ten days ago on the outbreak of violence against Christians, by Hindus, in India lately. The story was short, but included quotes from a witness as well as government official, attempted both to describe the events and to put them in historical and political context, and was accompanied by pictures. So it’s not as though there are no reporters paying attention to the persecution of Christians in Asia.

  • http://www.magdalenesegg.blogspot.com Rev. Michael Church

    My apologies — a better search did turn up the original Gulf News article, by Mariam al Hakeem: http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/08/08/12/10236558.html

    However, it is worth looking at the sources cited: anonymous sources “close to the victim;” a Saudi website called Al Ukhdoud; a website (presumably Egyptian) called Free Copts. I can’t find the Saudi site, the Coptic one seems to be a news aggregator, and of course we have no insight into the nature of the anonymous sources.

    It isn’t clear that there’s any original reporting here, and it isn’t clear just what the facts are. Tough sledding for a foreign paper that wanted to cover the story.

  • Jerry

    It’s certainly being reported in Christian media, but why say that it’s “Conservative” news? I could not find a reference to it being reported on Fox.

  • Frank

    Thanks, tmatt, for posting on this issue. I think it’s a tremendously important one and have wondered myself about its apparent absence from the MSM.

    A question: is it the case that overseas acts of violence, excluding those associated with war or terrorism, are rarely reported in the U.S. mainstream media? My suspicion is “yes,” which may imply a general disinterest by the US mainstream media in the rest of the world.

    Yes, it’s true that these stories are complex, that they often include unnamed sources, that they often originate in less-than-major overseas media outlets… but general indifference trumps all. These other issues don’t even come into play if no one cares.

    For what it’s worth, tmatt, I think these are important human rights stories and should be reported more broadly, in this country and elsewhere.

  • http://nathanrein.com Nathan Rein

    For whatever it’s worth, the reference to the al-Akhdoud site seems to indicate this story:

    Letting Google’s translator bots loose on the page gives this:

    So far I haven’t been able to dig up any information on the site referred to as “Copts Ahrar.”

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Based on comments I received during the consideration of some “religious freedom” legislation backed by the administration, “Liberals” appear to consider any concern for persecuted Christians as cover for a stealth campaign by the Religious Right (TM) to dictate policy.

  • Brado

    To Jerry,

    I could not find a reference to it being reported on Fox.

    Please stop confusing Fox with a Christian or American or Conservative source.

    It is an Australian source as it is owned by Australians. It’s goal is globalization. Not the globalization that liberals think will bring the world up to American lifestyles, but the rest of the world’s globalization that will bring America down to their level.