Oh, come all ye Jihadists!

And now for something completely different.

What we have here is the kind of commentary on the news that GetReligion tries to avoid, since the purpose of this blog is to offer criticism — positive and negative — of actual religion-news coverage in the mainstream press.

However, every now and then figures in the mainstream press simply say things that offer insights into what they actually think about religious issues and that, one could argue, offers insights into the coverage offered by their news organizations.

This brings us to an eyebrow-raising exchange the other day on NPR’s “On the Media” between host Bob Garfield and Aaron Zelin, who runs the Jihadology.net website.

The topic of the broadcast was described this way:

Voices of jubilation were heard all across the American media this week following the news of Osama bin Laden’s death. But one voice not likely to be heard in the mainstream media was that of Al Qaeda supporters, who reacted to the news in online forums.

You can listen to the exchange, if you wish:

Or here is a slice of the transcript, in order to show context:

BOB GARFIELD: Was there anything on any of the sites that you frequent to suggest Al-Qaeda and its 20 years of the most violent sort of mischief has maybe come to naught?

AARON ZELIN: I’ve not seen any evidence of that. Those who already believe that bin Laden is dead cite how when the leader of the Arabs in Afghanistan in the ’80s against the Soviets died, the Jihad continued. And then they gave the example of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He died, and the Jihad continued. So they still believe wholeheartedly that Al-Qaeda will keep on going and that the Jihad will continue, and that in the end they will be victorious.

BOB GARFIELD: Can you give me some specifics of the rhetoric that you’ve seen?

AARON ZELIN: Yeah, sure, I could give you some quotes.

“Please let them celebrate. They are celebrating their own end. Osama is in the heart of every Muslim, even those who don’t admit it publicly.”

There are some disturbing ones, such as, “I’ll cut the head of everyone who says Sheikh Osama is dead.” And then there’s this one — this is interesting: “Coming, oh, America, coming, oh, Jews, coming, oh, rejectionists” — which they’re referring to Shi’ites — “coming, oh, Kufar, secularists and apostates. Arrivals are coming and they are bringing the coffins with merciless devices.”

BOB GARFIELD: Wow. Come all ye faithful.

AARON ZELIN: Definitely. They believe in this stuff. Even if it sounds a little crazy to us, it’s not crazy to them. It’s completely rational because they have a completely different worldview.

(CUE: Audible sigh)

As the co-founder of this website — the honorable Douglas LeBlanc — put it in his note alerting us to this spew-your-coffee classic: “Why Garfield would cite a line from a joyous Christmas hymn in response to an apocalyptic list of targets — well, it boggles the mind.”

Consider my mind boggled. How do you feel about this, worthy readers?

Consider the comments pages open for interpretations of what, precisely, the NPR star was trying to say with this snarky zinger.

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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.

  • sallyr

    I think he was just picking up on the cadence and repetition of the “coming (fill in the blank) and some little blip in his brain about religion (Islam.. Christianity… pataytoe- patahtoe).

    Because it doesn’t even make sense – the Jihadists are saying they’re coming to kill people and the song is calling people to come adore. So it’s not really an analogy at all.

    May I add that I simply cannot stand the snarkiness of the 2 hosts on that program “On the Media”. They are so incredibly ignorant, and the same time act so ridiculously arrogant and self-rigtheous — a perfect couple to speak about what’s wrong with the media!!

  • http://preacherofthenight.com Chris

    I think this was a simple attempt at a witticism based on word association. The website quote was “Coming, O, Americans, coming, O Jews…” in other words, “We are coming, O you our enemies.” Garfield’s quote is calling the faithful to come. Not the same thing at all. But the “Come” and “Oh” triggered the phrase. He or his producer should have edited it out before broadcast.

  • Bram

    He was trying to assert a moral equivalence between Al Qaeda supporters and American Christians. He was being made uncomfortable by the difference between the two that their reactions to Bin Laden’s death show. Why that difference is uncomfortable for him and others in the MSM i don’t know.

  • Jerry

    His comment seems like a perfect example of offering people an opportunity to project what they think he meant onto him and the words he used based on personal assumptions.

    I really have no firm idea about what he meant. So this is a classic example where someone should ask him that question rather than make assumptions which might or might not be warranted.

    At the very least, people who don’t know him should look at his background as, for example, a critic of TV commercials for Advertising Age. And if you want to make assumptions about what he meant, perhaps he was thinking in advertising terms which would lead to sallyr’s and Chris’ observations about cadence and word associations.

  • Elijah

    Like others here, I can’t imagine the dotard Garfield even gave a thought to the linking tmatt suggests…even if the cadence just “popped into his head” wouldn’t a somewhat wiser person have at least paused before giving it utterance?

  • Dave G.

    I don’t get it. What’s the problem? It sounded like an off the cuff take on the cadence of the statements. Something that just brought that hymn to mind. Almost sarcasm. Maybe I’m missing it. Maybe he was trying to make a Smiley statement about how Christians are just as bad as terrorists and all that jazz. But for my money, it sounded like his mind just wandered for a minute and grabbed the first reference point that came by.

  • Passing By

    What Chris said in #2: it’s a simple word association. Whether it’s wise or foolish is anyone’s opinion.RE: #3 – there has been inappropriate equivalences drawn by media types in some cases, but I don’t see it here.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    I suspect he has no idea what he meant either.

  • Harold

    I think it’s a brilliant line.

  • Dave

    Irony. From his voice recording I would say pure and simple irony (which I could not have concluded from the intonation-free transcript).

  • Larry

    Thanks for presenting Bob Garfield’s excellent story. Garfield has nothing to apologize for. Perhaps Garfield was referring to the historical context of our popular Xmas song as a rebel call for Catholics – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/wear/7789477.stm .

    Garfield presented good journalism in his story about religious fanaticism. Political correctness aside, fanaticism is not exclusive to the Muslim religion.

  • Bram

    I agree that Garfield’s quip was a free association off the top of his head. But it says a lot about “where his head is at” — as the kids used to say — that one of the things foremost in his mind is a specious association of American Christians with supporters of Al Qaeda and militant Islam.

  • Kyle

    Yeah, I don’t necessarily read or hear malice toward Christians or moral equivalence between terrorists and Christmas carolers there either. It’s possible, I suppose, but I’m actually almost inclined to hear it as the exact opposite, as a wry, kind of snarky contrast between Muslim terrorists and Christmas carolers.

  • MichaelV

    Yeah, I just kinda chuckled and didn’t think much of it.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Gotta agree with Kyle. What, exactly, makes it certain that he was going for comparison instead of contrast?

  • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/ Anthony S. Layne

    Thanks for presenting Bob Garfield’s excellent story. Garfield has nothing to apologize for. Perhaps Garfield was referring to the historical context of our popular Xmas song as a rebel call for Catholics

    Yeah, nothing like an obscure conspiracy theory to really enlighten the masses. You’re right about the fanaticism … we’re starting to see more of it among New Atheists and radical liberals.

  • Chris Jones

    I’m with Dave (#10) and Kyle (#13) — I think it is irony meant to contrast the jihadists’ expression of their faith with the innocent piety represented by Adeste Fideles. Except where Kyle is “almost inclined” to hear the irony, I would say that there is no doubt in my mind that it is ironic.

    It’s clear to me that that is how the guest (Zelin) understood the remark, since his response was to refer to the jihadists’ “completely different worldview.”


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