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AP denies “Prophet Mohammed” is in stylebook, but it is AP’s style

AP denies “Prophet Mohammed” is in stylebook, but it is AP’s style

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:

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.

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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“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.'”

—When I read that, I immediately recalled this gorgeous transvestite (no, not the Filipino one in Japan who tried to take advantage of my drunken vulnerability in that night club) … this one, from London:

Perry admits to fear over Islam

Grayson Perry, the Turner Prize-winning artist who is perhaps better known to the general public for his extravagant cross-dressing, has admitted that he censors himself when it comes to matters relating to Islam.

Speaking at a meeting organised by the Art Fund, Perry said that it was simple fear which stopped him from addressing Islam in his work. ‘I don’t want my throat cut’, he said.

But he is the prophet for Moslems, isn’t he? I don’t believe in the authority of the pope but pretty much everyone refers to him as Pope Benedict, don’t they? (Other than the ones who refer to him as Ratzi the Nazi, of course.) How is the Prophet Mohammed thing different from Pope Benedict, or King George III, or the High Priest Zadok for that matter?

    Juba Doobai! in reply to Belial Issimo. | November 30, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    You don’t understand English, do you? The pope has duties. Therefore ‘pope’ is not an honorific nor is a mere mark of respect. Instead, it is the official title given to the head of the Church of Rome. In the same way ‘president’ and ‘prime minister’ are not honorifics–for Obama it is an honorific because he leaves the work up to everyone else.

    What duties has Mohammed, besides inciting his followers to kill people and have sex with little girls?

    ‘Prophet’ my rear end. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, David, Jesus are all prophets. Mohammed? No. Get real!

    Juba Doobai! in reply to Belial Issimo. | November 30, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Moreover, we are not Muslims and should not have to abide by Islamic norms. We are Judaeo-Christian and you don’t see Muslims rushing to abide by our norms. Instead, they are busy denying Jewish history and claim to Israel, and slaughtering as many Jews and Christians as they can find in the name of Mohammed and his moon god Allat.

    I’m glad Wm called those anti-Judaeo-Christian bigots at the AP on this.

    The next time somebody swears and uses ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’, we ought to abide by an Islamic norms and kill. Lets see how folks like that. Lets see what the AP’s bigots say.

      Belial Issimo in reply to Juba Doobai!. | December 3, 2012 at 1:15 am

      Sorry, I don’t buy it. Prophet is an honorific the same as pope, king, or else it’s a descriptor the same as christ. Either way, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Calling the guy a prophet just recognizes the reality that for a bunch of people he is one, just as Joseph Smith is one for a different bunch of people.

      By the way, you might want to check your prophets. David is not considered a prophet in what you are pleased to call the Judeo-Christian tradition. In fact he passed the greater part of his life in conflict with prophets.

      And you don’t really advance your argument by relying on spittle-flecked bigotry. There’s a perfectly good case to be made against Islam and Moslems based on logic and history, without dragging in the moon god and the meteorite and all the rest of the kind of stuff that we used to see in the prelapsarian LGF.

    “Pope”, “Cardinal”, “Bishop”, etc. are titles of positions within the church. Muslims don’t get overly exercised if you don’t precede their Imams with that term. They don’t seem concerned if you just say “Jesus”, who is also a prophet in their religion. “Prophet” seems to be reserved for just one man. It’s akin to Christians coercing journalists to say “Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” as opposed to just “Jesus Christ”, or off with their heads. A & P uses the word “prophet”, not out of respect, but out of fear. Doing the will of Islam is called dhimmitude. Doing it voluntarily is called cowardice.

    fulldroolcup in reply to Belial Issimo. | November 30, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Why yes, Mohammed IS the prophet for Muslims. So why not refer to him as “the Muslim prophet Mohammed”, or “Islam’s prophet, Mohammed”?

    Not “the prophet”, which conveys upon Mohammed the mantle of truthful,accurate religious prophecy and teaching, which —aside from Muslims — other religions do not accept.

    Muslims do not accept Jesus as THE Prophet. IOW they do not accord him the same reverence they do Mohammed.

    So please: none of this equivalence horse hockey. If you believe that, I’ve got a big black meteorite in Saudi Arabia I’d like to sell you. Cheap.

    The titles “Pope,” “King,” and “High Priest” have an objective reality behind them: one can research the situation and determine whether or not someone was elected pope, has inherited a throne, or is acknowledged as high priest as other priests. Short of God speaking from midair and announcing someone as as his prophet, the title “Prophet” is necessarily subjective.

    TrooperJohnSmith in reply to Belial Issimo. | December 1, 2012 at 6:19 am

    So, in the same vein, should the AP then use, Savior Jesus? Or, how about the somewhat unworldly, but more descriptive, Jesus, the Wonderful, the Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace?

BannedbytheGuardian | November 30, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Nostradamus was a prophet.

And boy was he on a roll!

Can’tthink of anything decent the other guy.

What do you expect, but lies from them.

They should really admit it, and call it what is is: “Mohammad for profit.”

Hey, y’all, they balanced this “prophet” thingy with using the Christian,”LORD AND SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST,”…Right..? Right..? Riiiggghhhttttt…? Ya know, so they could be True PC-Progressives with the whole Fair & Equal Thing, like, EQUALLY adhered to…Right..?


Of course this would all be simpler if we all used my preferred style of calling them Mohammedans.

What do we call Joseph Smith, then? Does he get to be referred to as a prophet?

Why doesn’t AP say “the muslim prophet Mohammed”?

Personally, I’d like to refer to Mohammed as the alleged prophet Mohammed since I don’t believe that G-d chose him to be a prophet and that Mohammed pretended to be a prophet.

As someone who has to use such style books in my job, I would assume that by the way the entry was written that the use of “Prophet Mohammed” was mandatory. How many other editors and journalists would make that same assumption?

So are they going to refer to “Jesus Christ” now? That seems only fair.

TrooperJohnSmith | December 1, 2012 at 6:24 am

Two bumper stickers seen last week on Texas 118 between Ft. Davis and Alpine: My Savior Can Beat Up Your Prophet and One Armed Citizen. TWO Hair Triggers.

At 90 mph I didn’t want to risk getting close enough for a good photo.

If AP will allow one small addition, we can all get along… The Pedophile Prophet Mohammed. I mean, journalism is all about the truth, right?

Can’t wait for the parody of Psy on this: “Prophet, AP style”

There is a story that may be pertinent here:

Big Ed Samuel (no relation) started a sandwich shop (non-kosher) in a small Southern university town before the last recession (2008). His most popular sandwiches were those filled with locally cured ham, piled generously until they nearly tipped over. He became nationally famous for these culinary marvels and used this to advertise and draw travelers from off the nearby interstate. He believed in employees getting shares of the business, believing they would work better if they were invested in their own success. He also believed in investing in the business and personal ethics training of young people, similar to Truet Cathy, founder of ChikFilA.

Over a relatively short period of time, Ed and his employees became quite prosperous as the business grew from one location to dozens in that region, until finally Ed became affectionately known as “The Profitable Mo’Ham Ed.”

The point of the story is, folks become known by what they do and how that affects their culture and future events. Therefore, Mohammed should be known as the Mad, Murderous Prophet, Mohammed.

Seriously – given AP’s track record with reporting (where in theory they’re supposed to tell all the truth, and nothing but the truth), you think that AP management will tell the truth, let alone know what it looks like? We have this wonderful thing called the Internet – there has to be a way to build up a network of volunteer reporters into a news-distribution group. If you want to stop AP’s non-facts, give people something that (a) is cheaper and (b) is actually factual. Build up credibility like snopes – lots of people crave the truth.

Have a single page for each topic – like AGW, then have many subpages covering various items: antartic snow melt, Polar Bear population numbers, etc.

Personally, I would love such a site – I get into so many discussions with people telling them something’s not true, but when they ask for a site that gots all the data (claim/counter-claim and facts), I don’t have a place to point them.