Revisiting the BBC’s downplaying of religion in Middle East conflicts

As was noted here recently, backgrounders produced by the BBC on the topic of the flare-up of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia were remarkable for the fact that they downplayed the religious aspects of the clash between those two theocracies.Sunni Shia 2

Via Oren Kessler of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies we learn that the BBC is not the only Western media organization to have adopted such an approach.

“On January 4, Vox published a lengthy article on the Saudi-Iranian rivalry that concluded, predictably, that “it’s not really about religion.” The very next day, the same author published a similar piece that offered this: “No one who seriously studies the Middle East considers Sunni-Shia sectarianism to be a primarily religious issue.””

Kessler’s analysis of the issues behind such framing includes the following:

“First, most post-religious Westerners have never felt the pull of faith. The prospect that a mentally sound person—let alone billions of them—would let spiritual conviction guide their most consequential actions doesn’t quite add up. So too the notion of religion as one’s primary identity marker. We deem one’s nation to be an entirely legitimate identity marker; indeed, it’s the default option, and in this country, failure to take sufficient pride in being American is grounds for suspicion. The prospect that faith, or even membership in a faith community, could fill that role rings hollow.

Second, from a policy perspective, nonreligious motives are more comforting. Addressing terrestrial motivations (money, land, grievance) is far easier than confronting a person’s closest-held beliefs and the immutable scripture that underlies them. That’s particularly the case because scrutinizing specific religious doctrines remains one of the last great taboos, all the more so when the faith in question is the supposedly non-white creed of Islam.”

Read the entire article here

3 comments on “Revisiting the BBC’s downplaying of religion in Middle East conflicts

  1. Present christian populations have big Historical deficiencies and cannot even imagine what religious beliefs were a few centuries ago which is present time for moslems! How was Damascus for exampe taken from the greeks in the 8th C. by the turks? greeks were so fed up with the discussions about …the nature of Christ (…) which would seem a joke nowadays that they opened their doors to the turks to stop that and were killed or forced to convert ultimately by them. Because of…the nature of Christ…

  2. Didn’t anyone else hear Avi Shlaim’s vile comments about Ehud Olmert being sent to prison? It was on the BBC World Service. Why did they choose him to comment? They could have chosen any “friend of Israel” such as George Galloway or Ken Livingstone! They would probably have been less offensive!

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