Censoring hate, Local Qur'an burning ignored by national media

The Islamic Center of East Lansing posted pictures on-line after vandals burned a Qur'an in front of its Mosque on Saturday. The Center says vandals then scattered torn pages from holy text in the streets. The incident is being investigated by the FBI as a possible hate crime, but it didn TMt make national headlines.

The reason? Many news outlets including NBC have made it a policy not to provide video during or after any acts of hate involving the Qur'an.

NBC25 found this out when it called the network TMs wire service asking if it would make interviews with Muslims affected in East Lansing and video gathered by the Lansing NBC affiliate available. NBC News Channel refused.

This raises several questions. Should acts of hate ever be censored? If they should be censored, when? Is this dangerous? Does it lead to unfair or inaccurate reporting?

In NBC TMs case it may have lead to inaccurate reporting.

While NBC decided not to cover Qur'an burnings in the U.S. over the weekend, it did cover a deadly riot in India Monday that came in reaction to news of a Qur'an burning.

NBC TMs script sent out over the wires to all of its affiliates says, Thirteen Qur'an protesters were killed in clashes with police Monday in confrontations across Kashmir after rumors a Qur'an was burned in the United States| The main incident that incited the riots was a planned Qur'an burning in Florida, which was canceled. Iranian T-V repeatedly showed another Qur'an burning that reportedly took place in Tennessee.

NBC calls the burning in Tennessee a "rumor" in its script from the NBC News Channel Foreign News Desk, however a producer at the NBC News Channel National News Desk say affiliate stations in Tennessee notified them of Qur'an burnings that took place over the weekend.

The network also covered other acts of violence or anger that came in reaction to the Qur'an burnings without mentioning the Qur'an burnings as fact.

For example it reported on a protest in Iran during which demonstrators threw rocks at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran and set American flags on fire in response to the threat of a Qur'an burning. A former president of Iran however talked about the protests being in reaction to actual Qur'an burnings.

NBC25 wanted to know what local Muslims thought about censorship of acts of hate against Muslims when they involve the desecration of the Qur'an.

Dr. Mohammed Saleem of the Flint Islamic Center says he understands the decision to censor, and believes it was made to prevent violence and acts of hate.

Dr. Saleem also says it is not serving the intended purpose at this point. People know about the burnings and are already reacting with deadly consequences overseas.

If everybody knows, let TMs talk about it, so that at least we can explain to the common person where we are, says Dr. Saleem.

He says he hopes Muslims across the world will try to lead an interfaith dialogue aimed at achieving peace and understanding with those of other faiths, so such violence stops.

The Islamic Center of East Lansing which was targeted with the burned Qur'an said on its website, "The Islamic Center of East Lansing calls for a tolerant response in the face of this unfortunate incident. We condemn any act of violent protest anywhere in the world."

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