Sunday, June 01, 2008

Misconstruing Apostasy

Many of you no doubt read or heard about Edward Luttwak's poorly founded article in NYTimes, in which he argued that Muslims would see Obama as a lapsed Muslim. The article attracted many on-line responses, as well as letters to the editor, most of which were critical. Here the Public Editor of the Times, addresses the paper's decision to publish the article.

The Public Editor - Entitled to Their Opinions, Yes. But Their Facts? - Op-Ed -

"All the scholars argued that Luttwak had a rigid, simplistic view of Islam that failed to take into account its many strains and the subtleties of its religious law, which is separate from the secular laws in almost all Islamic nations. The Islamic press and television have reported extensively on the United States presidential election, they said, and Obama’s Muslim roots and his Christian religion are well known, yet there have been no suggestions in the Islamic world that he is an apostate.

"Luttwak said the scholars with whom I spoke were guilty of “gross misrepresentation” of Islam, which he said they portrayed as “a tolerant religion of peace;” he called it “intolerant.” He said he was not out to attack Obama and regretted that, in the editing, a paragraph saying that an Obama presidency could be “beneficial” was cut for space.

"Shipley, the Op-Ed editor, said he regretted not urging Luttwak to soften his language about possible assassination, given how sensitive the subject is. But he said he did not think the Op-Ed page was under any obligation to present an alternative view, beyond some letters to the editor.

"I do not agree. With a subject this charged, readers would have been far better served with more than a single, extreme point of view. When writers purport to educate readers about complex matters, and they are arguably wrong, I think The Times cannot label it opinion and let it go at that."

Published responses to the article.

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