And then he fled

fledI’m up feeding my baby right now and went to CNN.com. The front-page story is headlined:

Clerk changes robber’s mind, religion

The headline, of course, enticed me to read the article. But the piece, written by Kiran Khalid, is not really a news story.

It’s about a Long Island storekeeper named Mohammad Sohail who was confronted by a would-be robber with a baseball bat. Sohail pulls out a shotgun:

“He’s crying like a baby,” Sohail said. “He says, ‘Don’t call police, don’t shoot me, I have no money, I have no food in my house.’”

Amidst the man’s apologies and pleas, Sohail said he felt a surge of compassion.

He made the man promise never to rob anyone again and when he agreed, Sohail gave him $40 and a loaf of bread.

“When he gets $40, he’s very impressed, he says, ‘I want to be a Muslim just like you,’” Sohail said, adding he had the would-be criminal recite an Islamic oath.

“I said ‘Congratulations. You are now a Muslim and your name is Nawaz Sharif Zardari.’” . . .

Sohail said the man fled the store when he turned away to get the man some free milk.

Um, why is this story on the front page of CNN.com?

I mean, I have no doubt this is how the story went down, but this is the thinnest and most bizarre religion story I’ve seen in a while. I don’t even know why this is a news story. It reads like an in-house Muslim newsletter article.

We don’t have Mr. Nawaz Sharif Zardari around to ask for his side of the events. Perhaps we do have an account of one of the world’s latest Muslim converts. Of course, we could also have an account of one of the world’s latest cracked-out robbers. Or anything inbetween. I honestly have no idea why CNN put this story up. Can anyone help me out here?

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  • http://www.askyourpreacher.org AskYourPreacher

    That is just bizarre. It is almost a Muslim propaganda piece. CNN showing it’s objective and thorough reporting skills!

  • Desertprovost

    Ok so “the sword or the Koran” just became “The shotgun or the Koran” I do not know what is sicker this story or the fact that someone things this is a feel good piece! Conversion at the point of a gun WOW! If a christian did this we would here no end to it. Now if the new “convert” burns down a Jewish Community center why do I suspect our “hero” store owner feels no need to contact the police then also.

  • trnm

    @atheist: hm.. are you implying to refusal to eat BS from world news agency?
    also, wasn’t that Al Capone who said: with kind word and gun you can achieve a lot more than with just a kind word?

  • Tyson K

    This is indeed very bizarre, but CNN has done far worse. This is the network that gives Nancy Grace an hour of primetime seven days a week, people.

    I also think there is a huge hole in this story– how in the world did this unnamed robber know that the store clerk was a Muslim? Did he look at Mr. Sohail and guess that he was Middle Eastern (is he even Middle Eastern?) and thus assume that he was Muslim? Or did Mr. Sohail mention his religion at some point in his exchange with the robber? Not that any of this is really that important, but if you’re going to do news, at least answer the obvious questions. That’s a great deal of the missino of this website, I believe.

  • David

    It’s all about human interest. Human drama, love, compassion, spirituality, and potential starvation.

  • MichaelV

    Well it is a cute anecdote. But I’d expect to see it in one of those “weird news item” roundups.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    Well, last night on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, Stephen Baldwin baptized Hills star Spencer Pratt on national television in this week’s second-least convincing conversion. I expect all of the cable news channels will soon have a sidebar keeping a running tally. :)

  • Dale

    TysonK wrote:

    how in the world did this unnamed robber know that the store clerk was a Muslim? Did he look at Mr. Sohail and guess that he was Middle Eastern (is he even Middle Eastern?)

    I’d guess that the store clerk was a Pakistani with a non-partisan approach to given names. The choice of Nawaz Sharif Zardari is too much to be a coincidence. ;-)

  • Dale

    Oops, my link for Nawaz Sharif was bad.

  • kimbaichan

    “Congratulations. You are now a Muslim…”
    That’s awsome and hilarious. Why can’t news be nice every now and then? Would it be better if the headline read, “Hungry man killed by shotgun blast?”

  • Jerry

    I think what David said is correct: It’s a small human interest story involving religion. There are other questions I would have liked to have known as Mollie pointed out like how the robber knew the clerk was a Muslim, but that’s another issue.

    Actually what bugged me is the other coverage such as http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE5517EH20090602 which did not mention the religious angle at all.

    Another story, probably the source of the CNN story, was http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/06/03/Shopkeeper-changes-robbers-mind/UPI-88301244040333/

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jerry,

    It looks to me like UPI simply lifted the story from CNN. I’ve had UPI lift quite a few of my stories in recent years and it’s somewhat annoying.

    Anyway, the Reuters article is much better, I think, although it doesn’t mention the religion angle. However, if it’s just a video with no audio, how could that religion angle be verified, etc? Particularly when the man — the supposedly new Muslim — inexplicably fled the scene?

  • Jerry

    Mollie,

    You’re probably right about whom lifted the story from whom. I just assumed UPI.

    The robber’s internal state of mind and motives is the big unanswered question. Trying to put myself into his mind, I would think that fear, confusion, relief and who knows what else could be in the mix.

  • rsk

    “inexplicably fled the scene”???? He was a robber.. what do you think he’s going to do? Wait around in case the store owner decides to call the police?? No way.

    And also, I can’t help but post a reply to this comment: “the sword or the Koran” just became “The shotgun or the Koran” I do not know what is sicker this story or the fact that someone things this is a feel good piece! Conversion at the point of a gun WOW”

    Where do you get the idea that this compassionate store owner FORCED this man to convert at the point of his gun??? The guy was pointing his gun at a man who attempted robbery. The man said himself that he wanted to me a Muslim and the store owner obviously was trying to handle the situation with a little bit of humor (Congratulations. You are now a Muslim and your name is Nawaz Sharif Zardari)

    It takes a very narrow-minded person to read that and call it “converstion at the point of a gun”.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    An obvious question is how this would have been covered if the religion involved had been Christian.

  • http://www.samueljhoward.us Samuel J. Howard

    TV and cable news web site stories are often content from the channel rewritten for the web site, which likely explains how it ended up on the web site. I imagine web metrics will play a part in how long it stays prominent there.

    As for how it got on the channel in the first place, outside of stories of national or international import (Iraq, Katrina, the presidential campaign) or sustained ratings interest (Chandra Levy, Natalee Holloway) the colorful and fun stories that fill out cable newscasts are frequently otherwise ho-hum local stories like this (convenience store robbery) fed in from affiliates with interesting video (clerk’s got a big gun) and/or angles (compassionate clerk, conversion to Islam). It could just as easily be car runs into building, a sports blooper, a police chase, a building demolition, landlord objects to woman’s guide horse, or a puppy race. On a slow day, big gun in the video and robber doesn’t get any cash would probably have been enough.

    It may not be the best journalism in the world, but there’s not really anything surprising about it. This is how things work in cable news.

  • Franklin Jennings

    rsk,

    Actually, it only takes a man dedicated to plain recognition of facts. If that’s your definition of small-minded, well, I thank God for my small-mindedness.

    The man converted to a new religion while the guy who led his conversion trained a shotgun on him. I probably would have responded the way the shopkeeper did (not exactly, I would have put him in touch with the local parish’s RCIA, rather than just baptise him.) I don’t fault the shopkeeper for handling a really weird situation with grace and aplomb.

    But none of that can alter the facts one whit: the guy converted at the end of a shotgun. Let someone train one on you and I’ll bet you’ll profess your ever-loving loyalty to the Holy Trinity and all the angels and saints of the Church Triumphant, right up to the point he turns his back and you can run out of the store.

    Some folks really are so open-minded their brains fell out long ago.

  • sugi

    This looks like a staged holdup. The robber did not try to run? The store keeper did not ask robber to remove face mask even when he is on the floor? And then they are comfortable with each other to discus religion? I think police should check the validity of the tape and store keepers story. It is a cheep shot to get some good publicity for islam. Nice try !

  • http://technoyid.blogspot.com Izzy

    And now we know that the store owner has been busted for selling drug paraphenalia…


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