“Suspected al Qaida operative Sajid Badat was described today as a bright, well- educated man from a deeply religious family.” So says The Scotsman.
He was, of course, “quiet” (has any suspect in a newspaper report ever not been quiet?): “Neighbours said the 24-year-old, arrested yesterday under the Terrorism Act, was softly spoken and respectful, while his former headteacher said he was a quiet teenager who took his religious beliefs seriously.”
Indeed, he seems to have taken some parts of the Qur’an, such as the Verse of the Sword (“slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” Sura 9:5) so beloved of Osama bin Laden, altogether too seriously
But this article, which is otherwise a perfectly ordinary news article, does a strange thing: twice it says that Badat was studying to be a “priest”:
“Born in Gloucester to a strict Muslim family who moved to England from Malawi, he is said to have been an active member of his community and had hopes of becoming a Islamic priest, according to reports.”
And again: “Locals have spoken of how the devout Islamic scholar and teacher had recently returned home after spending five years in Pakistan to train to become a priest.”
Maybe the locals did use the word, but in fact there is no priesthood in Islam. Badat “recently led prayer sessions during the month of Ramadan,” which makes him an imam. Isn’t the word “priest” is much more commonly associated with Christianity (at least Catholicism and Orthodoxy) than it is with Islam? Why call this guy a “priest” twice in the space of a few paragraphs?
I am not saying that there was necessarily any malicious intent here, but to use this word is a curious species of carelessness. It implies (particularly in versions of this story where “priest” was in the headline, all of which seem to have suddenly vanished) that Badat was associated with groups that in reality he would have had nothing to do with. Maybe it’s nothing, but remember: journalists choose their words (and pictures) very, very carefully, in order to try to create certain opinions in the reader.