A non-prophet organization? A reader objects to “Prophet Mohammad”

January 20, 2011

gbu page 1A reader recently objected to our use of the phrase “the Prophet Mohammad” in news stories, saying that he as a Christian did not consider Mohammad a prophet and many other non-Muslims presumably didn’t either, therefore we should not write about him as if everyone agreed he was one. The reader wrote:

I’ve just noticed recently that Reuters is following in the footsteps of AP and AFP in designating the Islamic prophet Mohammad as “The Prophet Mohammad”. I as a Christian don’t consider him my prophet, and neither do, I’m sure, Jews, atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. Why then have all the mainstream news outlets decided to treat us all as if we are Muslims? Rightly, he should be described as “the Islamic prophet Muhammad” rather than “The Prophet Muhammad”.


Robert Basler answered on his reader feedback blog Good, Bad and Ugly. Normally, we simply crosspost religion-related items from other Reuters blogs (such as Front Row Washington or Pakistan: Now or Never?), but I’m not sure all readers know that Good, Bad and Ugly (GBU) is the blog where we answer readers’ criticisms. So now that that’s clear, here’s what the GBU editor posted in “A non-prophet organisation?”:

Reuters uses a wide variety of official and traditional titles and honorifics without endorsing them.

In the political sphere, if a head of state or government uses the title “president,” we use it as well, regardless of whether he or she is elected or appointed or a dictator, or what the journalist might personally think about it. We also refer to kings as kings, even if there are republicans in the country in question who challenge the monarch’s right to be head of state.

In the religious sphere, we use official titles and honorifics that are common in the faith concerned and widely understood across religious boundaries. We refer to Jesus Christ, even though non-Christians would dispute his honorific “the Annointed One.” The same goes for Buddha, a title (”the Enlightened One”) for Siddhartha Gautama that non-Buddhists could also contest.

I think readers understand that we are simply using commonly understood titles. The title “prophet” indicates which Mohammad we are talking about. This has been our style for many years, and does not “follow in the footsteps of AP and AFP.”

GBU Editor

What do you think? Does anyone else object to this style guideline? And if so, do the objections just concern Islam, or other faiths as well?

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It would be best not to “use official titles and honorifics that are common in the faith concerned” especially considering the fact that they aren’t necessarly “widely understood across religious boundaries”.

Posted by chrono | Report as abusive

I know just how the complaining Christian feels.

As an atheist everytime I see you guys use the term “Jesus Christ” I get annoyed. He’s no “christ” (aka “annointed one”) to me!

So from now on I demand you use the term “Jesus of Nazareth the Christian’s supposed christ.”

Thank you.

Posted by DromedaryHump | Report as abusive