You can tell the joke is old since it implies that it takes at least three examples for a journalist to declare a “trend” and to write an article about it.
In the Twitter age, journalists who wait ’til they find three examples will get scooped, whatever that word means these days, which is why we now have trend stories based on a single-data point or worse.
A prime example is the Associated Press “Big Story” feature that ran with the headline, “Soldier Says She Faced Harassment Over Muslim Name.”
Sgt. 1st Class Naida Hosan is not a Muslim — she’s a Catholic. But her name sounded Islamic to fellow U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and they would taunt her, calling her “Sgt. Hussein” and asking what God she prayed to.
So before deploying to Afghanistan last year for her second war tour, she legally changed her name — to Naida Christian Nova.
This did not solve her problems.
Before we can get to the trend in the story, let’s talk about that headline and second sentence.
What exactly is a Muslim name? And what types of names sound “Islamic?” Some names certainly have religious connotations. If someone is named Christian that would certainly sound like a Christian name. Similarly, if a man is named Mohammed their name might sound “Islamic.” But Hussein is a relatively common Arabic name meaning “good,” “handsome” or “beautiful.”
Thus, there are Christians throughout the world named Hussein, including Barack Hussein Obama. Does the AP think the president’s name is Muslim and “sounds Islamic?”
The “Muslim name” angle is the necessary for the article, though, since it serves to establish the implied trend that members of the military are being discriminated against for having names that sound Islamic (i.e., a name that would be common in Arab cultures). The AP has stumbled upon a potentially significant religious story.
But if such harassment is occuring, why didn’t the AP make the effort to find Muslim soldiers with Arabic names who can verify the discrimination? Instead, their sole confirmation of extreme anti-Muslim bias is the biased anti-Christian activist Mikey Weinstein: