1.5 billion acting as one

Looking for hidden assumptions in journalistic assertions, such as in a PBS story about Muslim athletes and Ramadan. First line:

The world’s more than 1.5 billion Muslims have begun observing the holy month of Ramadan, when they fast every day from dawn to sunset and offer special prayers and gifts to the poor.

That’s almost certain to be wrong. The figure includes people who are simply defined as Muslim geographically or ethnically, and then not all people who define themselves as Muslim observe Ramadan, and some who observe Ramadan do it selectively. It’s just dumb to assume that all “Muslims” are of the devout variety and obey all the putative rules.

It’s a weird kind of covert social pressure, probably unintentional. They should be more careful. It’s already a widespread mistaken assumption that all Muslims obey all the putative rules, no matter how stupid or cruel or both; the media shouldn’t be helping to entrench that assumption.


  1. says

    The idea that there are people who are culturally Muslim because of family background or geography who don’t practice every last inane detail of Islam seems to really confuse some people. One of my Muslim friends who doesn’t follow the dietary laws (among many other things) was once accused by an American Christian of lying about being Muslim because she ate pork and drank alcohol.

    She’s also white, with blonde hair and blue eyes–as is not entirely uncommon among Albanians–adding another layer of “you can’t be a real Muslim.”

  2. Forbidden Snowflake says

    As long as there are countries where Islam is enforced by the authorities, we cannot know the number of True Muslims, and shouldn’t just parrot the highest estimate.

  3. says

    To me, it’s lazy reporting. Addition of the word ‘observant’ before ‘Muslims’ would have sufficed. But then, as Ophelia says, it is difficult to gauge the true number of observant Muslims. Catch 22!

  4. Godless Heathen says

    It’s lazy and it’s pretty common for the people in power to make those sorts of sweeping generalizations about minority groups. But yeah, they really shouldn’t do that.

  5. says

    Great example of someone assuming that members of a social category are all the same. This is where stereotyping and prejudice begin. Good catch!

  6. sailor1031 says

    Just another example of how low NPR journalistic standards have fallen since the Bush administration parachuted in new executives and a bunch of apparatchiks from VOA.

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