It’s incredible. Imran Khan, Oxford blue, Pakistani cricketing legend, ex-husband of the late British billionaire James Goldsmith’s daughter Jemima, is now apparently a Muslim firebrand. Newsweek magazine is accusing him of whipping up anti-American feelings in Pakistan and Afghanistan after it reported — inaccurately, it now says — that US interrogators desecrated the Koran.
"The spark was apparently lit at a press conference held on Friday, May 6, by Imran Khan,” said Newsweek. "Brandishing a copy of that week’s Newsweek (dated May 9), Khan read a report that US interrogators at Guantanamo prison had placed the Quran on toilet seats and even flushed one. ‘This is what the US is doing,’ exclaimed Khan, ‘desecrating the Koran.’ Khan’s remarks, as well as the outraged comments of Muslim clerics and Pakistani government officials, were picked up on local radio and played throughout neighboring Afghanistan," Newsweek added.
Khan had every reason to be outraged by the alleged desecration of the Holy Book. But he is also a politician who knew the forces he was unleashing with his shock announcement.
Newsweek should not, however, blame him for the riots that followed that claimed at least 15 lives. For that it has only itself to blame. What did it expect when it reported the story? As an international newsmagazine, it should have known the turmoil it would create in the Muslim world.
It’s all very well to say journalists should report without fear or favour, but let’s get real, folks. Words can hurt, words can kill. And that’s what happened in this case. And nobody is the winner. Newsweek has had to eat its words, its credibility damaged. The Pentagon says the report was baseless. But Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan don’t believe what the Pentagon says, reports Reuters.
I will still read Newsweek. But it should not have touched this story. When the story broke, I was awed by the freedom of the US media that it could expose a story so damaging to national interests. But will it continue to enjoy such freedom? Political Animal reports: "A recent poll showed that 43% of the American public thinks the press has too much freedom." After this incident, those numbers are likely to rise even higher.