For a recent show about religion on Channel 4, journalist Mehdi Hasan interviewed Prof Richard Dawkins, in a lengthy back-and-forth on religion and evil. Knowing that Hasan is a devout Muslim, Dawkins thought he’d be clever and ask if he believed that Muhammad really flew to heaven on a winged horse. Hasan didn’t really have a comeback. The audience laughed, I think at Dawks in a dismissive way.
Later on Twitter, for some reason not ‘@’ing Hasan, he complained:
Mehdi Hasan presents on Al Jazeera and writes for New Statesman and Huffington Post. He has a lot to say about being a Muslim in the UK, yet, there isn’t one instance in his work where the belief about a winged horse has jeopardised his journalistic integrity, directly led to irrationality or revisionism, or forced him to make a factual error. Outside of mere matters of the specifics religious belief, and any parabolic moral implications, it is probably a non-factor.
Obviously there are occasions when a personal belief can conflict with a profession. Someone who believes certain sex acts deserve capital punishment is not in the best position to be a human rights lawyer or ethics professor. A medical doctor won’t be taken seriously if they think that the MMR vaccine leads to autism. This specific miraculous belief says nothing about one’s skill as a journalist.