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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Wednesday, June 05, 2002
1:34 PM

Amna Arshad, One of the women pictured in a caption accompanying a May 19 story about a revival in Muslim dress codes after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks writes the Post today,responding to an earlier reader's criticism:

Ms. [Marjorie] Barnett misinterpreted the caption, in which a young woman stated that the Sept. 11 attacks strengthened her pride and faith in being a Muslim.

The increase in our pride and faith as Muslims did not stem from the attacks; rather, it was inspired by the misdirected backlash against Muslims following the attacks. Muslims across America, as well as our non-Muslim friends, stood together against the unjustified reactionary violence. In our efforts to battle ignorance and stereotypes, we better understood our role and better solidified our identity as Muslim Americans.

There's a little more at the link. Here's Barnett's letter, in which she said:

I wonder what part of the attacks makes her proudest: Mass casualties? Property destruction? Economic loss? Orphaned children?

As I said at the time (scroll down), the caption as printed in the Post did say that one of the students said "the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks strengthened her faith and pride as a Muslim." In the on-line edition, this was later changed to read, "These young Muslim college students started wearing hijab as a result of a deepening of their faith." There's a big difference.

I wondered at the time whether the caption writer had screwed up in the first instance. Apparently not, aside from not attaching the explanation that faith was strengthened through the experience of banding together in the face of "violence" and "efforts to battle ignorance and stereotypes." That, too, is rather majorly different from taking pride in the attacks.

But one sterotype is that Muslims generally have been much more vocal about how the wider world perceives them than about the abomination of murdering a few thousand people and hijacking Islam to justify it. I don't feel that's an ignorant stereotype. Statements about "standing together in the face of reactionary violence" have a ritual feel to them, and are not very satisfying even on their own terms. Where is the Muslim Martin Luther King who will stand up and condemn, withhout equivocation, terrorist attacks as an atrocity upon this storied religion? It's not like there aren't opportunties for this going forward.

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