The sad truth is that modern Americans are just not that interested in international news. Knock down the twin towers and we might pay attention for a few weeks, but otherwise we’re just not that concerned about world affairs. But Kardashian affairs? That’s another matter.
Meanwhile, mainstream news editors — I’ve been studying the subject for 30 years — are not that interested in religion news, unless it is directly linked to politics and, thus, religion can be turned into politics.
I’ll say it again: Religion news gives way too many journalists sweaty palms.
Thus, one would be hard pressed to find a news topic that would harder to push for improved coverage than religion news on the other side of the world.
GetReligion readers are not typical news consumers, of course. Still, if your GetReligionistas want to write a story that draws few, if any, comments, all we need to do is write about, oh, mainstream news coverage of moderate Muslims and religious minorities in some tense and bloody corner of the world.
It’s enough to make you want to write about Justin Bieber or something like that.
Or how about this? How about a real religion story that contains a hot search-engine term? Here’s a story that, for rather obvious reasons, is getting some, uh, coverage at the moment. Take it away Agence France-Presse:
SHARM EL-SHEIKH – On a barren hill in Sharm El-Sheikh, not far from the famous beach resorts with their bikini-clad patrons, Islamist activist Ahmed Saber ponders the fate of revealing swimwear if his party comes to power.
The swimsuit has been at the center of a growing debate over the Islamists’ plans for tourism, one of Egypt’s key currency earners.
Speaking to AFP at a voting station, Saber seeks to present a liberal outline of his party’s position on the bikini. “You’re free to do as you please as long as you don’t harm me,” he says. The Sharm El-Sheikh tour guide then goes on to explain that: “Some sights might harm me. For example, women wearing bikinis on the street. There are special places for bikinis.”
After decades of repression by a secular police state, the Muslim Brotherhood finds itself fending off questions about its plans for beach resort mainstays like bikinis and alcohol —- considered un-Islamic by some.
This is a valid story to cover and, as always when covering Islam, the pivotal word is “some.”
However, this is precisely why this particular article is so disappointing.
It focuses on the fact that the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood appears — repeat appears — to have moderated it stance on enforcement of laws about female modesty. The story also stresses that there are Muslims to the doctrinal right of the Brotherhood and their power is on the rise. Thus, we read:
But along the beaches, hotel workers said they were worried, particularly about ultra-conservative Salafis who won more than 20 percent of the votes in the election’s first two rounds.
You see, the Muslim Brotherhood used to be the party for those seeking a powerful role for Sharia law in Egyptian life — something that a vast majority of Egyptians favor. Now, the Salafis are to the doctrinal right of the Brotherhood.
This story, however, never even mentions Sharia and never asks any of these believers to discuss or explain their beliefs. In other words, where is the religious content in this story? Where are the actual facts about the religious laws that are being debated?
In other words, what does Islam teach about female modesty and how do Egypt’s competing groups — liberals, so-called “moderates,” Brotherhood leaders, the Salafis — think on this topic? What are their leaders telling their people about how they would interpret and enforce Sharia?
In other words, where is the heart of the story?
And now, back to bikinis and beaches.