Yesterday I wrote a post titled Associated Press and the Profit of Mohammed.  Citing a recent story, it said the AP “apparently insists that Mohammed be preceded by the word Prophet.”

AP has responded to Legal Insurrection with a denial that the term “Prophet Mohammed” is mandated by the AP stylebook, but every AP story I read, and all those I found, use that terminology.

This morning, the AP’s director of media relations, Paul Colford, wrote to Legal Insurrection to say this:

Prof. Jacobson:

Regarding your Thursday post, AP style does not require “Prophet” in front of Muhammad.

Thank you.

Professor Jacobson forwarded the email to me.  I wrote back to Mr. Colson and asked this:

If AP style does not require “Prophet” as an honorific, then:

1. Do you consider it an informally preferred style?

2. Is it up to each reporter to decide how to refer to Muhammad, so that a Muslim reporter (as Sarah El Deeb presumably is) can choose to employ it?

3. If not, why was the capitalized honorific not edited out or changed to lower case?

4. Can you cite recent stories in which Muhammad is referred to sans honorific?

5. Is this claim, made by another blogger who linked to this post, untrue: ”The Style Book from the 2009 book reads:

Muhammad The chief prophet and central figure of the Islamist religion, Prophet Muhammad.  Use other spellings only if preferred by a specific person for his own name or in a title or the name of an organization.”

6.What exactly does AP’s 2012 Stylebook (or the most recent one) say about Muhammad?

Colford responded:

AP Stylebook entry is as follows:

Muhammad The chief prophet and central figure of the Islamic religion, Prophet Muhammad. Use other spellings only if preferred by a specific person for his own name or in a title or the name of an organization.

Prophet Muhammad is italicized in the entry showing that AP would capitalize the P before name. It does not mean “Prophet” should always be used before the name.

And in response to my Question #4 above, he included the text of five stories, none appearing to use Prophet as an honorific.

I followed up:

So the stylebook hasn’t been updated, vis-a-vis Muhammad, since at least 2009?

Do I infer correctly, that it’s essentially up to the individual reporters to decide how to refer to him?  If so, are there similar rules for the acknowledged leaders of other religions?

Can you give me the hyperlinks on the first four stories below?  The fifth one’s mention of Muhammad is inside a quote.

Colford responded:

The recollection is that Prophet (italicized) was added to the body of the entry in 2006. Using the honorific preceding the name immediately makes the reference clear, especially given the ubiquity of the given name Muhammad in the Muslim world.

The point is that we don’t require it.

There’s been no substantive change since 2006, other than to change slightly “The prophet and founder of the Islamic religion, Prophet Muhammad” (2006) to the currently worded “The chief prophet and central figure of the Islamic religion, Prophet Muhammad” starting with the 2008 edition.

As for the stories I sent, they’ve been retrieved from our internal database.

Here’s a start on links, via Google:

http://bit.ly/UwuO9r

http://bit.ly/UwuV4U

After some Googling, I wrote back:

I found the stories.  With the exception of [Linda] Deutsch’s report [one of those he sent me], they all include Prophet as an honorific.

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/bomb-hits-pakistani-shiite-procession-kills-5

http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/05/21/215462.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/9991927

Colford’s response:

You must also account for variances in style and editing preferences at news organizations that use AP content, as well as multiple versions of many AP stories as news events unfold.

So there you have it.  Or do you?  Most of my questions (above) remain unanswered  And except for one story of the five he sent, all the ones I found did indeed refer to the “Prophet Muhammad.”  Without the original files that he said he couldn’t or wouldn’t retrieve, it’s impossible to know whether it was the individual newspaper or the AP reporters who included the honorific.  Besides, a newspaper is just as likely to remove the honorific to conform to its own stylebook.

In my original post, I said that AP “apparently insists” on using Prophet.  Mr. Colford’s response notwithstanding, I stand behind that.  It may not be de jure style, but it’s certainly AP’s de facto style.

But that’s not the end of the story.  I checked both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times for bylines of their own reporters, which would eliminate those “variances in style and editing preferences” at AP’s client newspapers.  Alas, it appears to be NYT style to invoke Prophet as the honorific; and though the LAT does too, the word is rarely capitalized.

This is, it seems safe to say, more evidence of what Mark Steyn refers to as “creeping sharia.”

Or, as commenter WayneM put it so beautifully after yesterday’s post:

This behavior is derived from the Artist’s Law of Bravery: Criticism of a religion is inversely proportional to the likelihood of its proponents killing you multiplied by their density.

 
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