A reader writes: "I have noticed, as have friends and family, that there
is an abundance of information (both articles and artwork) showcasing the
Islamic religion in the Faith/Values section on Saturdays. Is The Wichita Eagle a voice piece for the Islamic community and should we expect to continue to see a deluge of articles praising this particular religion?"
The Eagle’s Communities Team leader, Tom Schaefer, edits our Faith & Values section and also writes a weekly column for that section. Here is his response to this reader’s question:
"Let me recast the reader’s question: How do we understand the events
of 9/11, the turmoil in the Middle East and the war in Iraq apart from understanding the religion of Islam?
"Many in this country — and in other non-Muslim nations — have had
little if any insight to the religion of 1 billion people. In our news
coverage, both in the daily paper and in the Faith & Values section, we’ve tried
to inform readers about the beliefs of Muslims, the reasons for many of
their fears and for the radical actions of some of their followers, and the struggles they’ve undergone as a minority religion among a
predominantly Christian population in this city and country.
"To present such news about Muslims — or any group or person — is not
to endorse who they are or what they believe. Each person must make that highly personal decision about matters of faith. Our job is not to praise
a religion, or endorse it, but to inform readers about it. We would be
remiss if we failed to do that.
"How much have we reported on Muslims in Faith & Values? Since the first of the year, we have had four cover stories in the
section specifically about Muslims: On Feb. 4, we profiled a local Muslim who
was making a pilgrimage to Mecca — a holy time for all Muslims. On March
11, we introduced readers to the first spokeswoman for the local Muslim community. On May 27, we published a story about the outrage among
Muslims worldwide over a disparaging cartoon of the prophet Muhammad that was printed in a Danish newspaper. And on Sept. 9, we looked back at what churches and other religious groups have done since that fateful day
five years ago to reach out to people of a different faith, namely Muslims,
so that they could better understand one another.
"The Faith & Values section has highlighted numerous people, issues
and events of various religions. The fact is, most people in Kansas
identify themselves as Christians, and much of our coverage in the Faith &
Values section has focused on that majority readership. Other religions –
Jewish, Baha’i, Buddhist and Hindu, to name a few — have also been featured
and will continue to be.
"From week to week, news may lead us to a religious or ethical issue
or person that we think would be beneficial for readers to know about even
if they disagree with its beliefs. It is our obligation, we believe, to present that news as fairly and objectively as we can, whether it’s
about religion or any other subject. In doing so, we believe we are serving
the readers of The Wichita Eagle, no matter what faith they espouse."