The Times of India report about a Muslim Imam who murdered a married man with whose wife he was having an illicit affair is headlined as follows:
Priest kills lover’s hubby, held in J&K
Neither does the news report stop at just the headline. The entire report refers to the Imam as a “priest.” This is patently misleading because it gives the reader an impression that a non-Muslim was behind the murder. In India, the acceptable usage of the word “priest” is in the context of referring to Hindu or Christian men who perform religious duties like officiating marriages, conducting rituals in temples and/or for private citizens, and other allied activities. Other commonly used names for Hindu priests are Pandit, Purohit, and Shastri.
Indeed, there’s no known precedent of using the word “priest” in connection with Muslim religious figures. Imam is the most widely and commonly term used for a Muslim “priest.” The other term is Mullah, who depending on his level of training in Islamic theology, also performs the role of an Imam.
It is clear that the Times of India has taken political correctness to an extreme by what seems like a willful distortion of terminology. By doing so, it has not only damaged its already-questionable credibility but has further lowered the standards of decency in public discourse.
Sandeep Balakrishna is a columnist and author of Tipu Sultan: the Tyrant of Mysore. He has translated S.L. Bhyrappa’s “Aavarana: the Veil” from Kannada to English.