CNN’s Blinkered Understanding of World Religions

This brief CNN article is a masterpiece of misdirection.  Never the word “Islam,” but we do get:

“Boy was expected to return as Jesus”

“Prosecutors alleged the family came to New Mexico to prepare for Abdul-Ghani’s return as Jesus, so they could undertake ‘violent actions’ against the government.”

So…were these freaks, “Jesus freaks”?  No, but CNN would like to give the casual reader the impression that they were.  The average canned news consumer is unlikely to know that Islam regards Jesus as a prophet, and that Islamic texts say he will return on the day of judgement to destroy “the antichrist” or “the imposter.”  This “antichrist” is indeed, identified by some Muslims with the Christian church. Since they believe Jesus was a prophet subordinate to Mohammed, some imams preach that when Christ returns as part of the Muslim apocalypse, he’ll take special vengeance on those who worship him. None of this, however, is explained in the article.

The article goes on to reference another member’s belief she’d been directed by “the angel Gabriel”—another figure which Christianity and Islam have in common, and one which most American readers will associate most strongly with the Christmas story.  Again, the misplaced emphasis could lead readers to conclude that it was a “Christian jihad” being planned out there in the New Mexico desert.

And that, of course, is balderdash.  It does certainly appear that Siraj Wahhaj’s cult has some very nonstandard beliefs and practices for any faith, but it’s also quite clear that it’s an apocalyptic variant of Islam. CNN went to some lengths to muddy this issue, and to associate the desert dysfunction with another faith, innocent of any connection to it.  The casual reader may come away with a negative impression, not just of “those crazy Jesus-believers” but of all believers in general. And it’s likely this is the consummation the media most devoutly wishes, saying to themselves, “See, all religions are just the same when it comes to having violent extremists, especially Christianity.”

The more careful reader, though, will notice a violation of a rule all three Abrahamic faiths share.  The Ninth Commandment forbids “bearing false witness.” CNN’s story is a cautionary example of how this commandment can be violated without quite, technically, telling any outright lies.

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