Monday, May 03, 2004

2004.122 A Bishop should be blameless 

Today Richard Harries, the Anglican Bishop of Oxford, was interviewed by John Humphrys on the BBC Radio Four Today programme. The Bishop said that the media, in reporting current worldwide Al Queda suicide and other bomb outrages, should not say they are committed by Islamic terrorists. Instead, the Bishop maintained, the media should say they are committed by anti-Western terrorists. The reason? To avoid causing offence to the majority of Muslims who do not support terrorism.

There are many things wrong with this contention. Here are just some of them.

1. It is true that the terrorists are Islamic. The Christian religion, which the Bishop is paid to uphold, nowhere says that a reason for not reporting the truth is that to do so may offend some people. The judgment of God is according to truth, said St Paul.

2. It is not true that all the outrages are anti-Western. The Islamic outrage at the Red Sea city of Janbu on 3 May was directed at the Islamic Government of Saudi Arabia. On the same day three Chinese engineers were killed in an Islamic car bomb blast in the Pakistan port city of Gawadar. That, like many other Islamic outrages in recent times, was directed against the Islamic Government of Pakistan. Many other examples could be cited where Al Queda terrorists operated against targets other than the West. Apart from 9/11, more Muslims than westerners have been killed and injured by Al Queda blasts.

3. More offence is (or should be) caused to law-abiding Muslims by their co-religionists who commit wanton murder on innocent civilians than by the media who accurately report these attacks. It is the attacks themselves that damage the reputation of Islam, not the reporting of them.

4. Islamists have committed many wicked attacks against Christians, and continue to do so. In many Islamic countries, for example Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, it is forbidden or dangerous for Christians even to carry out the worship of their God. A Christian bishop, bidden to defend the faith, should be scolding those who murder his co-religionists rather than scolding journalists who merely report the truth.

The Bishop of Oxford should think again, and renounce his misguided views about the media. A Bishop must be blameless, said St Paul. I fear this particular Bishop, though earnest and well-meaning in many ways, fails to live up to that strict requirement.

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