January 13, 2006
Al-Jamarat...The Rest of the Story!
By Aishah Schwartz January 13, 2006 Yes, it is true, on January 12, 2006, many Hajj pilgrims died in a stampede at Mina, Saudi Arabia. Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajoon. But what will it take for the truth of Islam to prevail? It's as easy as the click of a mouse button running a query on the terms "rituals of hajj", and in some cases even easier to tap into pre-existing research, as in the case of CBS. For anyone reporting on Islam it would seem that the basics are known, or that is to say, easily known; the basic's being that Islam is based on 5 pillars. Hajj being the fifth pillar, Al-Jamarat, or stoning, being a part of the Hajj process. What is disturbing to me, yet again, is the fact that although accurate information pertaining to hajj is readily available, and in some cases even already a part of past record, print media has once again misrepresented information with regard to Islam. The miscarriage of information is disseminated through the Associated Press (AP) and subsequently delivered through two of the most 'reliable' sources of news and information, as is hammered into the minds of listeners and readers through various corporate slogans: ABC News "America's #1 Broadcasting Company" "America's Favorite Network" "More Americans get their news from ABC News than from any other source" and CBS News "America's Most Watched Network" "Everybody's Watching CBS" Now, it might seem like small potatoes to some, but there is a distinct difference between what the news has reported and the truth with the most recent case of dissemination of misinformation about Islam. First Case in Point In the AP story distributed through ABC News Misplaced Bag, Haste Led to Hajj Stampede, not only in the third paragraph, but also in the story's accompanying picture is found the following text, with regard to the purpose of al-Jamarat or as referred to in the article, the 'stone throwing ritual': In the stoning ritual, all pilgrims must pelt a series of three pillars called al-Jamarat, which represent the devil, to purge themselves of sin. (Third paragraph of story) The stampede occurred as tens of thousands of pilgrims headed toward al-Jamarat, a series of three pillars representing the devil that the faithful pelt with stones to purge themselves of sin. (Picture caption with article) Second Case in Point In another version of the AP story Stampede Kills 345 at Hajj Ritual circulated via CBS News we have the following: In the stoning ritual, all the pilgrims must pass by a series of three pillars called al-Jamarat, which represent the devil and which the faithful pelt with stones to purge themselves of sin. (Fourth paragraph) Interestingly enough, a CBSNews.com interactive slideshow provides the following, which correctly states: "In Mina, the stones are tossed at three stone pillars in a symbolic rejection of Satan." The Fundamentals of Islam - Click on the third link for "Hajj" and then click on the number "5" for Mina and you get the exact text. Third Case in Point The organization that ran the story from which other news organizations obtained copy: The Associated Press (AP). Q. How many people hear or read an AP story? Depending on whether the story ran on the state, national or international wires, more than a billion people may read, hear or see news from The Associated Press. (AP FAQ's) Ethics and Principles: The good newspaper is fair, accurate, honest, responsible, independent and decent. Truth is its guiding principle. (Associated Press Managing Editors' (APME) Statement of Ethical Principles) The newspaper should guard against inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortion through emphasis, omission or technological manipulation. (Associated Press Managing Editors' (APME) Statement of Ethical Principles) "…we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions." (AP Statement of News Values and Principles 11/29/05) In this age of instant information, anyone with a discerning eye can ferret out the truth with just a few strokes at a keyboard. Would it not behoove those who claim to be the most watched, listened to and trusted, and who aspire to uphold accuracy and responsibility as primary principles in the course of business, to let the information disseminated through their collective outlets reflect truth and accuracy to the best of their capabilities, to include their reporting on Islam and Muslims? It would appear instead that for the purposes of the 'powers that be' behind organizations like AP, ABC and CBS that perpetuating an impression to the world that Muslims are a silly lot who think that throwing a handful of pebbles at a pillar will purge them of their sins, when the truth is that the actions of al-Jamarat are those of religious symbolism not mockery. Al-Jamarat is the ritual commemoration of Ibrahim's (Abraham) stoning of Satan when the latter tried to tempt him to disobey Allah, which doesn't even come close to the reported statements that the purpose of throwing the pebbles is to purge one from sins. Guess what AP, ABC and CBS? Muslims abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias and distortions too. Related: Heaven…The Rest of the Story Image © 20th Century Fox Copyright © 2005 Aishah Schwartz Permission is granted to circulate among private individuals and groups, to post on Internet sites and to publish in full text and subject title in not-for-profit publications. Contact author for all other rights, which are reserved.