Sometimes, it’s hard to believe what your ears are hearing — especially when you are listening to broadcast journalists having to work on deadline under tremendous amounts of pressure. That is why journalists hire experts, people to help them navigate the dense and often tricky language and symbolism of complex organizations, rituals and traditions.
Take Islam, for example.
Near the end of a CNN interview with CNN’s Middle East expert, superstar anchorman Anderson Cooper seeks insights into these haunting images of Major Nidal Malik Hasan, taken hours before he allegedly began shooting his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood. It is a Thursday morning and Nasan is wearing clothing that suggests he has just come from prayers or is heading to the mosque.
Thus, Cooper turns to CNN’s Octavia Nasr, although Cooper himself is a veteran reporter in the Middle East. The transcript says:
COOPER: Octavia Nasr, what he is wearing, is that traditional for a Jordan? Or somebody who has spent time in Jordan? I mean it looks — I think it looks pretty — like outfits I’ve seen in Jordan.
NASR: Yes. That’s the traditional Muslim, really. The dress and the head cap. So it’s basically Muslim. It’s not necessarily — so you would see people in Jordan, yes, wearing this. It’s just a comfortable dress, basically underneath the robe that you’re seeing there would be pants, comfortable pants. And the head cap.
So it’s not really a look that you would see around here in the U.S. often. So I personally find it a little bit unusual to see someone in a convenience store with this kind of Muslim garb. Now it could be that, you know, this is from today. So it’s not a day of prayer. Tomorrow is the day of prayer, Friday.
So it is a bit unusual, I find, for him to be wearing this. Except if this is his casual wear and he’s going there in the morning to get his coffee and from the store owner we learned that he went in there very comfortable, sometimes in sweats, sometimes in his workout clothes and sometimes in this garb.
COOPER: Octavia, is it possible that — I mean some people pray every day or even pray five times a day and some people would just go on a Friday. Is it possible that he went every day?
NASR: Of course it is possible, yes, absolutely. That is possible. From my conversation with the store owner, it seemed to me that Friday was an important day of prayer for him. That’s the only day that the store owner mentioned as …
COOPER: I see.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, Friday is THE day of prayer — a day when Muslim men are obligated to pray by their tradition. The tradition calls for them to take a full bath, to use perfume and to attend the mid-day Friday prayer service called the Jumu’ah.
Women are allowed to attend, but this is a service of great importance to men in Islam. The tradition teaches that those who attend will have their sins forgiven — any sins committed since the previous week’s Friday service.
As the tradition teaches:
Narrated by Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, “When it is a Friday, the angels stand at the gate of the mosque and keep on writing the names of the persons coming to the mosque in succession according to their arrivals.”
Surely the Middle East expert and Cooper knew this. It’s something like wondering why liturgical Christians would make a special attempt to attend the Mass, Holy Eucharist or Divine Liturgy on Sundays. It’s a rather basic fact.
I would assume that the problem is that they could not assume that the viewers knew this?
“… It seemed to me that Friday was an important day of prayer for him.”
Really? Who knew?