The Times Embraces One N-Word: "Nationalists"

Istanbul-based reporter Sabrina Tavernise does her best to avoid casting suspicion on Muslim religious fanatics for the killing of three Christians in the eastern Turkish town of Malatya ("3 Evangelicals Found Slain In East Turkey - Deaths May Be Tied to Nationalism").

The text box to the print edition of the story also tried to blame "nationalists": "Both secularists and Islamists worry about Christian influence." (Turkey's population is almost 100% Muslim.)

Tavernise used the soothing word "nationalists" several times.

"Three people were found with their throats slit in a publishing house in eastern Turkey that printed Bibles and other Christian literature, the authorities said Wednesday. One victim was a German citizen.

"Turkish authorities detained five men for questioning, three 19-year-olds and two 20-year-olds; the five were not identified. The publishing house, in Malatya, a town with a reputation for nationalism, has had trouble in the past over a shipment of Bibles, and it seemed likely that the attackers had a nationalist agenda.

"Change is opening up Turkish society, and the country's nationalist fringe, for whom the ethnic and religious purity of the Turkish state is worth killing for, has been turning to violence more often. Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian descent, who was killed in January in Istanbul, was one of the victims. A Roman Catholic priest was another."

Who is more likely to have "trouble" over a shipment of Bibles? Mere nationalists or radical Islamists?

The Timesstill avoided the M-word: "The publishing house had changed its name recently after trouble with nationalists who had forcefully blocked a shipment of Bibles, said Meftun Kilinc, a reporter from ERTV, a station in Malatya, who spoke in a telephone interview. She said the new name was the Zirve Publishing House.

Finally Tavernise acknowledged that those nationalists are also Muslims, although she was quick to weaken the statement: "Turkish nationalists boast of their Muslim identity, but often have just as much in common with the secularists of the state elite as with Islamists. So it was not clear whether the suspects were motivated more by a dedication to Islam or a longing for a pure Turkish state."

A Thursday morning Associated Press story issued after 10 people were detained in the investigation certainly makes it sound like a religion-based killing.

"Local media said five suspects detained Wednesday were college students who were living at a residence that belongs to an Islamic foundation. Some of those suspects told investigators they carried out the killings to protect Islam, a Turkish newspaper reported.

"'We didn't do this for ourselves, but for our religion,' Hurriyet newspaper quoted one suspect as saying. 'Our religion is being destroyed. Let this be a lesson to enemies of our religion.'"