Hey, New York Times! “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

etihad11This is an old, old problem. But it words matter, especially in the Middle East.

So, please scan the following lines from the New York Times “Generation Faithful” news feature that ran with the headline, “Some Arab Women Find Freedom in the Skies.”

Marwa Abdel Aziz Fathi giggled self-consciously as she looked down at the new wing-shaped brooch on the left breast pocket of her crisp gray uniform, then around the room at the dozens of other flight attendants all chatting and eating canapes around her.

It was graduation day at Etihad Training Academy, where the national airline of the United Arab Emirates holds a seven-week training course for new flight attendants. Downstairs are the cavernous classrooms where Ms. Fathi and other trainees rehearsed meal service plans in life-size mockups of planes and trained in the swimming pool, where they learned how to evacuate passengers in the event of an emergency landing over water.

Despite her obvious pride, Ms. Fathi, a 22-year-old from Egypt, was amazed to find herself here. …

A decade ago, unmarried Arab women like Ms. Fathi, working outside their home countries, were rare. But just as young men from poor Arab nations flocked to the oil-rich Persian Gulf states for jobs, more young women are doing so, sociologists say, though no official statistics are kept on how many.

Flight attendants have become the public face of the new mobility for some young Arab women, just as they were the face of new freedoms for women in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. They have become a subject of social anxiety and fascination in much the same way.

In case you missed the point, this news feature is about Arab women.

Or is it? Perhaps it would help to ask the following obvious question: Has there ever been a problem, in the Middle East, with young Arab women who are Christians working on any of the national airlines? How about Turks? Or the Lebanese?

You see, the word “Arab” is an ethnic reference. There are many Arab Christians, in Eastern Orthodox churches, Eastern Rite Catholic churches or even branches of Protestantism. And there are millions and millions of Muslims who are not Arabs.

The assumption, I think, is that this “Generation Faithful” story is about religion — that is about an interesting trend among Muslim women in this region. And, in fact, later in the story we read:

In the midst of an Islamic revival across the Arab world that is largely being led by young people, gulf states like Abu Dhabi — which offer freedoms and opportunities nearly unimaginable elsewhere in the Middle East — have become an unlikely place of refuge for some young Arab women. And many say that the experience of living independently and working hard for high salaries has forever changed their ambitions and their beliefs about themselves, though it can also lead to a painful sense of alienation from their home countries and their families.

At almost any hour of the day or night, there are a dozen or more young women with identical rolling suitcases waiting in the lobby of their dormitory to be picked up for work on Etihad flights. Though several are still drowsily applying makeup — and the more steady-handed have perfected a back-of-the-bus toilette that takes exactly the length of their usual ride to Abu Dhabi International Airport — they are uniformly well ironed and blow-dried. Those with longer hair wear black hair-ties wrapped around meticulously hair-netted ponytails. They wear jaunty little caps with attached gauzy scarves that hint at hijab, the head coverings worn by many Muslim women.

And there are plenty of passages in the story that stress tensions between the “Come fly with me” atmosphere and the traditions of, well, Islam.

Clutching her friend by the elbow, the Egyptian woman indicated one of the bouncers. “Isn’t he just so yummy?” she shrieked. The bouncer, who had plainly heard, ignored her, and the women filed past. Despite appearances, explained the Egyptian flight attendant — who asked not to be named because she was not authorized by Etihad to speak to the news media — sex and dating are very fraught matters for most of the young Arab women who come to work in the Emirates.

Some young women cope with their new lives away from home by becoming almost nunlike, keeping to themselves and remaining very observant Muslims, she said, while others quickly find themselves in the arms of unsuitable men. “With the Arabic girls who come to work here, you get two types,” the Egyptian woman said. “They’re either very closed up and scared and they don’t do anything, or else they’re not really thinking about flying — they’re just here to get their freedom. They’re really naughty and crazy.”

Now, the anonymous Egyptian woman uses the term “Arabic” to describe these young women — inside a direct quotation. That needs to stand. But that makes it even more important to note that “Arab” does not mean “Muslim.”

flt-attWho cares about this?

Well, millions of non-Arab Muslims care about this issue quite a bit. Obviously, Arab Christians do, as well.

But the story marches on and on in this fashion. Clearly, no one at the Times copy desk was sensitive to this issue. Toward the end, there is even a reference to the airline trying to keep “Arab family values in mind” when working with these young women. What might this phrase mean?

Far more than other jobs they might find in the gulf, flying makes it difficult for Muslim women to fulfill religious duties like praying five times a day and fasting during Ramadan, the Egyptian attendant noted. She said she hoped to wear the hijab one day, “just not yet.” A sense of disconnection from their religion can add to feelings of alienation from conservative Muslim communities back home. Young women whose work in the gulf supports an extended family often find, to their surprise and chagrin, that work has made them unsuitable for life within that family.

This is an interesting story, to say the least, since assimilation is one of the greatest challenges for traditional religious believers of all stripes in the modern world. But reporters need to be careful. On the religion beat, the words really matter. Ask Arabs who are members of minority groups in the Middle East.

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You too can be a spiritual dilettante

National_Cathedral_Sanctuary.jpgGetReligion has offered few sympathetic words for Sally Quinn or for On Faith, the religion blog that she founded with Newsweek editor Jon Meacham. As many readers will remember, Quinn identified herself as an atheist until Meacham challenged her assertion.

Since then, her specialty has been a spiritual dilettantism that declared evangelical women to be hyprocrites if they supported Sarah Palin’s vice presidential candidacy and that invited President-elect Obama to attend Washington National Cathedral because it’s such a pluralistic house of worship.

Now On Faith, in the name of social progress, is encouraging its readers to engage in a similar drive-by pluralism. Quinn writes:

Here’s what we’re inviting you to do.

Try a new faith (or non-faith) for one day. That exploration can include attending a different place of worship or an event hosted by another faith tradition, discussing faith with someone whose views differ from your own, or inviting someone of a different faith to experience yours.

Then come back to the site and tell us about your experience. What did you learn? What surprised you? What bothered you? What would you like to know more about? How did you experience with another faith impact your understanding of or appreciation for that faith or for your own? Take a picture and share that too.

Asking questions about another person’s spiritual experience for one whole day? Such boldness!

On Faith’s venture is, in some ways, a creative effort at reader participation, and some valuable insights may somehow emerge from the experiment. What’s so off-putting about the venture, however, is the editors’ assumption that readers are not already engaged in civil and frequent conversations with people of other faiths (or non-faiths, to use On Faith’s pedantic formula).

That may be true of editors who inveigh against people to their political and theological right, but for many others of us in daily American life, such interaction is not only inevitable but something in which we rejoice.

Photo of Washington National Cathedral used under a Wikimedia Commons license.

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Reincarnating Leonard Cohen

Singer Alexandra Burke recently won top honors on Britain’s X Factor TV talent competition, and she drove Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” to the top of the pop charts. Ruth Gledhill of The Times asked her colleague Alan Franks to reflect on Cohen’s spiritual life.

Franks adds little to a profile he wrote of Cohen for The Times Magazine in October 2001 (Gledhill links to it). The profile, though, is a tour de force as Franks writes with amazement that Cohen would spend much of the 1990s living as a Zen Buddhist monk on Mount Baldy with Zen master Joshu Sasaki Roshi.

The profile becomes amusing as Franks keeps returning to the paradox that Cohen, who rightly or wrongly has the reputation of a prolific seducer of women, would subject himself to celibacy.

Franks makes more fuss about it than Cohen, who is an expert in the concise and cryptic sound bite:

If you told any other icon or rock star that he must cook every day for an old man and rise at an hour when most good parties are just getting going, he would probably think he had died and was being punished for a life of excess. Presumably Cohen was on the run from just such a life, the complexities of which he has often mapped in his lyrics. He replies that this was not the case, that life in the monastery was essentially the same as everyone else’s life — “same emotions like love, hate and jealousy that you get in close contact with anyone” — but lived under a microscope and with no escape.

And no women. This must have been difficult for him.

“There were nuns.”

Precisely. I nearly ask him if it was the celibacy and other privations that have eventually driven him back down from the mountains and into his Los Angeles duplex, but this line of enquiry would be glib and dated. He insists he is not the ladies’ man that he used to be, and that anyway he was always rather surprised by his reputation as Lothario.

Leonard_Cohen.jpgThere’s not nearly enough about Cohen’s life as a monk, but what Franks offers is solid:

As a monk, Cohen’s name was Jikan, meaning The Silent One. The days there were evidently long and arduous, like some of his songs. “Well, actually, each day was more like two days,” he says. “If you are a senior monk with specialised duties, you get up at 2.30am. The general wake-up is 3am. I would get up a little earlier so that I could brew some coffee and smoke a couple of cigarettes before getting into the day. Then the bell would ring and one would get into robes and go into the meditation hall. Then there would be chanting for an hour, then two hours of sitting meditation, then breakfast in formal silence with a ritualised use of bowls and napkins, then a 15-minute break before the work bell, when you would turn up for the duties of the day. These really involved the maintenance of the facility — plumbing, shovelling snow, painting walls, making candles, cleaning and cooking.

“That went on till lunch, then there was another small break and an afternoon of work, then dinner and another evening meditation for two or three hours. The days would follow, one upon the other. After a stint as the meditation hall leader, I ended up as Roshi’s cook, or attendant. His diet was very specialised, but I’d known it for years. There was no private space and virtually no private time, we were all working shoulder to shoulder. It was a very simple day. There is a Zen saying: “Like pebbles in a bag, the monks polish one another.”

And then, many hundreds of words later:

“I’ve never been married, but I’ve lived a married life. It hardly matters. I remember Roshi saying to the monks, ‘You lead hard lives, you rise early, you spend hours on stone floors, but if you want to try something really hard, try marriage. That is the true monastery. Try the monastery of marriage.”

One other note: The lyrics as sung by Alexandra Burke draw from a closing verse composed by the late Jeff Buckley rather than Cohen’s original.

For a tour of this song’s evolution, listen to a bit of Cohen’s version (iTunes), then some of Buckley’s cover (iTunes), then Burke’s gospel-flavored award-winner (YouTube). Even the irascible Simon Cowell looks floored.

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The undercovered Hajj

amellie_-_stoning_of_the_devil_2006_hajjSo much for any significant coverage of the country’s first Muslim member of Congress and one of the more significant acts he’ll perform relating to his religion. Granted, Congressman Keith Ellison’s trip to Mecca for this year’s Hajj is not a public act in the sense that he traveled on his own dime and it relates to his personal spiritual life. But the act is public in the sense that it is a, well, public act of traveling.

The Star Tribune covered the trip with a measly little article that says little worth discussing other than for the issues that it failed to discuss:

Back home, he’s one of the 535 most powerful lawmakers in America, but last week, on the holiest week in Islam’s holiest city, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison was just one among the estimated 3 million travelers making the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Ellison, D-Minn., and the first Muslim elected to Congress, also became the first sitting member to make the hajj, the journey that all able-bodied Muslims are obligated to make once in their lifetime.

Ellison had been planning the weeklong pilgrimage since a trip to Saudi Arabia almost a year ago, said his spokesman, Rick Jauert, and hadn’t expected the lame-duck session and contentious battle taking shape in Congress over whether to provide financial aid to U.S. carmakers.

A reader of ours tipped us off about the story noting that it would seem that this story should have received more coverage than what you see above. The article, which ran Monday, tells us nothing about the significance of the trip to Ellison other than the fact that it was a personal pilgrimage. There is little context given regarding the trip and little about the history of the pilgrimage. There is also no mention of the fact that incidents during the Hajj have resulted in significant loss of life recently or that there are many important rituals, such a dress code, that go along with the pilgrimage.

See here the only other paragraph of significance from the Star Tribune article:

Jauert said Ellison was accompanied by fellow members of his Minneapolis mosque, although his wife, a Catholic, and his two sons stayed home. “It was a personal trip, a pilgrimage,” Jauert said, noting that Ellison paid for the journey himself.

That last paragraph raises even more questions that could be covered about Ellison but remain unsaid.

The PowerLine blog takes on the Star Tribune article and raises a couple of issues about the article that don’t actually appear in the version of the article that appeared on the Web site when I read it Tuesday.

For example, PowerLine says that the article states that “Ellison has an ‘unofficial role as America’s goodwill ambassador to the Middle East’” and that Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations was quoted in the article. Those quotes are absent from the Web site version of the article for one reason or another.

In a separate post, PowerLine makes the point that it would be difficult for editors to write a story about Ellison’s faith-based journey:

Too, while the tone of any news coverage would of course have been positive, editors may have wrestled with the question of how to reconcile a puff-piece on Ellison’s Hajj with their customary attitude toward observant members of other religious faiths. Thus, news coverage of Ellison presumably would have noted his participation in the ceremony in which pilgrims symbolically throw stones at the Devil[.]

Speaking for myself, I’m perfectly fine with that. Legend has it that Martin Luther once threw an inkpot at Satan, too. Still, a scrupulous editor could hardly help thinking about how his newspaper or television network would cover a ritual in which a conservative Christian — take, for example, another Minnesota Representative, Michele Bachmann — threw stones at the Devil. The ridicule that such a gesture by a Christian would provoke can hardly be imagined.

I would hope editors would avoid any urge to produce a puff-piece. Coverage of events of religious significance can be substantive and yet fair. I would hope that any good newspaper editor would be able to cover seriously ceremonies of religious significance even if the traditions were not as familiar to its readership.

To my knowledge, there was little media coverage of anything related to the Hajj for the country’s other Muslim member of Congress, Democrat Andre Carson of my home district centered on Indianapolis. Perhaps he did not go on the trip or has in the past. Perhaps he will (again?) someday and the media will have a chance to provide more substantive coverage.

On a final note, the Associated Press had slightly more substance to its story on Ellison’s pilgrimage, but it tracks the same disconnected attitude towards the trip. The article also quotes Ellison saying relatively predicable things about how people in the Middle East are encouraged about how the U.S. could change under President-elect Barack Obama.

Apparently, Ellison doesn’t read Congressional Quarterly, which had an excellent, but short, article by (my old friend) Shawn Zeller on how some American Muslim groups are concerned about Obama’s chief of staff appointment of Rahm Emanuel and his support of Israel. Whether CQ‘s reporting or Ellison’s point of view is a more accurate perception of reality is to be determined, but the issue is hardly straightforward and editors should be aware that there is not universal praise and excitement over everything Obama in American Muslim communities.

Image of Hajj pilgrims participating in the Stoning of the Devil.

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Thus departed Zarathustra

The ancient and formerly sizable religion of Zoroastrianism is facing dwindling numbers. Followers of the prophet Zarathustra — and devotees of the divine being Ahura Mazda — are worried about the survival of their Persian religion.

While Zoroastrians population declines from a heyday thousands of years ago are notable, even the decline in their numbers and importance over the last century is notable. At the first Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893 it was considered one of the top ten religions. Now, other than the late Freddie Mercury (a.k.a. Farrokh Bulsara), how many Zoroastrians do you know of?

TIME reporter Deena Guzder, reporting from Yazd, Iran, writes about the issue here. She begins by introducing a tower where tens of thousands of corpses have been placed:

Zoroastrians (known in India as Parsis) regard sky burials, in which the bodies are exposed to natural elements including vultures in open-topped “Towers of Silence,” as an ecologically friendly alternative to cremation, consistent with their religion’s reverence for the earth. A Zoroastrian priest clad in a long, cotton robe explains: “Death is considered to be the work of Angra Mainyu, the embodiment of all that is evil, whereas the earth and all that is beautiful is considered to be the pure work of God. We must not pollute the earth with our remains.”

The priest believes that open burials are a fulfillment of the central tenet of his religion, which is to practice good deeds. With a forlorn expression, he notes that, 3,000 years after the tradition of open burials began, there are not enough Zoroastrians left alive to keep the tower in Yazd open. Instead, today’s Zoroastrians who want to observe traditional burial practices must request in their will that their body is sent to a forested suburb in Mumbai, India, where the last Tower of Silence still operates.

The story isn’t long but packs in quite a bit of doctrine. The reader learns about various rites and accoutrement of the religion. We also learn a bit about what has dispersed believers from the region as well as the fierce debate over how to respond to the decline in numbers:

Despite their shrinking population, Zoroastrians remain fiercely divided over whether to recognize interfaith families, let alone accept non-generational Zoroastrians. Tens of thousands fled Persia during the Islamic incursions in the 10th Century and were granted refuge in India under the condition they did not marry outside their faith or proselytize to the Hindu majority. Ramiyar P. Karanjia, principal of a Zoroastrian religious school in Mumbai, India, insists, “Conversion is not part of our religion.” Yet, in India, home to the majority of Zoroastrians, the community is declining by about 10% every decennial census, according to a report released by UNESCO. Today, Zoroastrians remain a tight-knit and self-secluded community that strongly encourages marriage within the faith.

Perhaps I’m alone in my ignorance here, but I’m unsure what “non-generational Zoroastrians” are. It may have been a good idea to explain that a bit more.

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Memory eternal, Patriarch Aleksy II

PutinPatriarchAlexei 01Only days after the fall of the Soviet Union, I had a chance to talk with several veteran Russian Orthodox priests about the future of their church in Russia.

It is crucial, one priest told me, for outsiders to be patient and to realize that it would be impossible for the Soviet era to simply end and for the church to change overnight. The painful, complex and often inspirational truth, he said, was that the new Russian had four kinds of bishops. As I wrote in a column for Scripps Howard:

It’s impossible to understand the modern Russian church, one said, without grasping that it has four different kinds of leaders. A few Soviet-era bishops are not even Christian believers. Some are flawed believers who were lured into compromise by the KGB, but have never publicly confessed this. Some are believers who cooperated with the KGB, but have repented to groups of priests or believers. Finally, some never had to compromise.

“We have all four kinds,” this priest said. “That is our reality. We must live with it until God heals our church.”

It’s crucial to remember that all of this was taking place only a few generations after the Communists closed 98 percent of Russia’s churches and, in one brief period, killed 200,000 bishops, priests and nuns and then sent another 500,000 believers to die in labor camps. Millions later died in Stalinist purges. KGB records indicate that most clergy were simply shot or hanged. But others were crucified on church doors, slaughtered on their altars or stripped naked, doused with water and left outdoors in winter.

The KGB records also contained evidence about clerics who yielded. Russian Orthodoxy was a complex mosaic of sin and sacrifice, during the era of the martyrs, and many scholars and journalists in the West were quick to focus on evidence of ties between the KGB and the Russian church’s current leader, Patriarch Alexsy II.

The question many asked privately and, a few, openly: Precisely what kind of bishop was Alexsy II? To my surprise, these questions did not surface in the very muted obituary offered by the New York Times when the patriarch died on Friday. Here is a sample of the background material in the piece:

Aleksy II oversaw the largest Orthodox church in the world as the spiritual leader of more than 140 million people. He was the first leader of the church since the Bolshevik Revolution to be chosen without interference by the Soviet state, which had killed clergy members and believers and destroyed churches but which had allowed a church hierarchy to exist under tight control.

He rose to leadership in June 1990, days before Russia declared its sovereignty within the Soviet Union in the waning days of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika and just over a year before the August 1991 coup, a thwarted effort to restore Soviet rule. On Aug. 19, 1991, as tanks rolled into Moscow, the patriarch was leading a service on the Kremlin’s Cathedral Square outside the Cathedral of the Dormition. Aleksy celebrated his last liturgy at the cathedral, on Thursday, the day before his death.

As patriarch, Aleksy II significantly deepened the church’s role in everyday life in Russia, erecting and restoring cathedrals, introducing Orthodox religious education in public schools and becoming a prominent voice on moral issues.

More than anything else, the coverage on this side of the Atlantic has focused on the patriarch’s ties, and perhaps friendship, with the all-powerful Vladimir V. Putin. We are told that Putin has openly confessed his Orthodox faith. We don’t learn about the evidence of shared KGB ties.

cathedral christ the savior and st basil wp pdAs you would expect, the coverage is deeper in Europe. Click here to head over to the two-story package in the Times of London. By the third paragraph of the main story, readers learn:

Alexiy II was elected head of the Orthodox Church in 1990 and oversaw its restoration to a dominant role in Russian society thanks to open support from the Kremlin under Boris Yeltsin and in particular Vladimir Putin, the former KGB officer.

Patriarch Alexiy’s links with the Kremlin were clouded by allegations that he himself had been a long-serving KGB agent codenamed “Drozdov” (the thrush), who had been awarded a “certificate of honour” for his service by the Soviet authorities in 1988. He was accused of providing information on dissident priests, and the KGB even sent him to England in 1969 on a mission with a church delegation.

Yes, the accusations are serious. But the patriarch also talked, with some degree of candor, about the soul-wrenching compromises that church leaders were forced to make in the Soviet era.

How much did he confess to his priests and his brother bishops?

Meanwhile, there is another side of his public career and life story:

As Patriarch, Alexiy II oversaw the restoration of the Church’s authority in Russia after the fall of Communism as churches were rebuilt and reopened across the country. He was seen as a unifying national figure,his moral strictures and benevolent appearance offering certainty at a time of extreme economic hardship and political upheaval.

Alexiy II also presided over a reunification ceremony at Christ the Saviour cathedral in Moscow last year that ended an 80-year schism with the Orthodox faithful whose families had fled Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.

His death after an 18-year reign is likely to prompt an outpouring of grief in Russia, which has experienced a profound religious revival since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

So what kind of bishop was Patriarch Alexsy II? God knows. It is likely that more evidence will emerge and, no matter their opinions, the faithful will pray: Memory eternal.

PHOTO: Pascha, 2007, with Putin.

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It’s not the dread on your head that make you Rasta

Dreadlocked rastaYou would think that, since my alma mater is the University of Colorado, I would know a lot about Rastafarianism. But I don’t. And mainstream media articles such as the ones below, dealing with a lawsuit brought by a Rastafarian against his employer, aren’t likely to cure that problem.

Here’s the gist from the Boston Globe:

The right of a business to control its public image doesn’t trump workers’ right to dress or groom themselves differently if they are required to do so by their religious beliefs, the state’s highest court ruled today.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in the case of Bobby T. Brown, a Rastafarian who worked as technician at a Hadley Jiffy Lube owned by F.L. Roberts & Co. Inc.

Brown’s religion doesn’t permit him to shave or cut his hair. When the company instituted a new policy that required employees who worked with customers to be clean-shaven, Brown was only allowed to work out of sight from customers in the lower bay of the oil change shop, the court said in an opinion written by Justice Roderick Ireland.

That first line of the last paragraph is the sum total of the Globe‘s discussion of the actual religious beliefs at play here. That just won’t do.

The Associated Press didn’t do much better, with only this discussion tacked on to the end of its piece:

The Rastafarian faith urges followers to let their hair grow unbridled. Many grow their hair into long, matted strands called dreadlocks to express a oneness with nature.

Never mind that one article says Rastafarianism prohibits cutting hair while the other says it merely urges unbridled hair growth. (The AP article is closer.) The two articles cited are quick reactions to a Massachusetts high court case, so maybe we’ll get better treatment in future stories. But unless I’m the only person lacking in-depth knowledge of Rastafarianism, it seems odd that reporters wouldn’t provide a bit more information.

Total side note here, but if you are into Rasta music, I suggest Paula Fuga, a Hawaian ukelele player and singer (and part of my husband’s extended family) and some of her music has a distinctive Rasta edge.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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Why did these terrorists target Jews?

TargetStarofDavidSo let’s say that some very zealous, very strange missionaries arrived in a complex, multifaith city — perhaps even Mumbai, India.

Let’s say that they wanted to save souls. But, in addition to preaching to Hindus and Muslims and all kinds of people who live in India in large numbers, they went out of their way to preach at a highly symbolic Jewish location — perhaps even the Chabad House. It didn’t even seem to matter to these missionaries that there would be very few people at this location. They had to preach to Jews.

I’m making all of this up, of course.

But what would the press say about the motives of these very strange missionaries? Could we, based on their actions, assume that they believed they had a unique mission to preach to Jews? What would it mean to single out Jews in a city of this kind? Journalists would almost certainly report that these missionaries had an unhealthy obsession with converting Jews. Correct?

So what does it mean when you read the following Washington Post language in yet another report about the massacre at the Chabad House in Mumbai, where this highly trained, highly skilled team of terrorists focused on Americans, Brits and, yes, Jews?

Speaking in London, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that American and British citizens had been “singled out” for attack by the assailants. Officials in Washington, meanwhile, said they had independently corroborated Indian intelligence that links the attacks to Lashkar-i-Taiba, a Pakistan-based extremist group with roots in the disputed Kashmir region. …

It is not known how the attackers seized on the low-key Chabad House, along with high-profile hotels and a train station, as one of their 10 targets.

How did the killers seize on Chabad House? Perhaps they entered “Mumbai,” “Jews” and “center” into an Internet search engine? Is it really a mystery why they went out of their way to send a team to kill a handful of people at Chabad House, instead of another public target where more people would be sure to die?

If you still doubt that the killers had cultural and, dare we say, religious reasons to target Jews — some unique obsession with Jews — that doubt should end with the following report from the Telegraph. Reporter Damien McElroy offered this strikingly candid lede:

Jewish victims made up a disproportionate number of the foreigners killed after 10 Muslim fanatics stormed a series of sites in the Indian financial capital.

Muslim? Isn’t this a case where we need to use “Islamist” or some other more specific term?

And later we read:

Doctors expressed horror at the condition of the bodies recovered from the Nariman Building, which housed the Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch retreat.

“I have seen so many dead bodies in my life, and was traumatised,” a mortician said. “It was apparent that most of the dead were tortured. What shocked me were the telltale signs showing clearly how the hostages were executed in cold blood.”

So the leaders of this death squad, for mysterious reasons, assigned a team to go kill Jews where they knew Jews could be found. It also appears that these victims were tortured. Were victims tortured elsewhere?

This raises an obvious question. The killers targeted Jews in a unique manner. It appears that they may have singled out Jews for torture. And, as Julia Duin just noted in a blog post over at the Washington Times, it does not appear that the leaders of American newsrooms are as willing to report many of these hellish facts as journalists in Europe and, yes, Israel.

Surely this strange equation adds up to something. I am not sure what. But it adds up to something.

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