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The Offensive Pastor and Our Responsibility - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Last Saturday passed without incident.

When all was said and done, obscure American Reverend Terry Jones did not burn any copies of the Quran, after distancing himself from his previous threat that he intended to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

The anniversary of September 11 passed without any incidents like those promised by Reverend Jones taking place, however the question that remains is; how can we allow an individual, a self-proclaimed religious pastor, to have this level of influence, causing the entire United States – and many other countries around the world –to hold its breath [in anticipation of his actions]?

How can the media cover an event or incident such as this, which could have violent and wide-ranging implications, without also reporting on the man behind this? Unfortunately, in this age of news updates and global digital communication, this is simply not possible. Although the general consensus was that Reverend Terry Jones was a marginal figure that did not deserve the media attention being granted him, ignoring this news and not reporting it would also have been a journalistic mistake.

As past of the Pastor’s unusual biography, it emerged that the university that Reverend Jones claimed to have obtained a PhD from had no record of this. Jones, with his eccentric and listless features, and whose church has a congregation of less than 50 worshippers, was able to become national news in America, and indeed international news, with major news networks reporting his ravings. For days, this crafty figure appeared on the most important and prestigious media apparatus in the country….and it was during one of these media appearances that he bluntly revealed that he has never even read the Quran.

Therefore, is Jones not synonymous with many of those Muslim preachers that raise the flag of Islam and incite violence? For figures such as this are also able to command the interests of the media and the entire world. Is this not the case with regards to those who issue fatwas against “Mickey Mouse” and “Barbie?”

One can easily find thousands if not millions of results for the Reverend Terry Jones via internet search engines like Google, and this is not surprising given that this is the man whose actions prompted US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and General David Petraeus to comment and respond to his plans, warning against the consequences that these would have on the lives of America.

Jones has managed to manipulate the media, and in fact managed to take the media hostage with regards to covering his actions and statements. Reverend Terry Jones is now infamous, after he was previously unknown, and the credit for this must be given to the media’s obsession [with Jones] which has convinced the public that it must deal with him and his actions.

This is a worrying and concerning issue…for the media is the air that keeps marginal figures like Reverend Terry Jones alive. However what is our responsibility – as belonging to the culture that is being targeted – with regards to covering and reporting Reverend Jones, for the world also feared our response towards his insulting plans?

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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