Thursday, February 10, 2005

Fox affiliate apologizes to Muslims

References to holy city for story on snobbery led to complaints


Fox Charlotte (WCCB, Channel 18) apologized Wednesday for airing a spoof on the Muslim tradition of visiting Mecca.

Promoting a news story about elitism and snobbery at upscale SouthPark mall, the station used images of pilgrims coming to Mecca, one of the world's holiest religious sites.

"The hajj, a pilgrimage Muslims take to the holy city of Mecca," the promo said. "Members of Charlotte's elite make a similar pilgrimage to the corporate altar of brand-name merchandise -- SouthPark mall, where believers gather to be among their kind," said a voice-over on the spot, which then showed the mall and the word "Mecca."

"The thing that struck me most was the superimposing of the world `Mecca' over a shot of the front of the mall," said Scott Darden, a Charlotte logistics analyst and a Muslim. "It just didn't sit well."

Islam obliges physically and financially able Muslims to come to Mecca at least once during their lives in a pilgrimage called the hajj. This year's hajj was in January, when more than 2 million pilgrims made the journey to the sacred sites in Saudi Arabia.

The trip is considered the culmination of spiritual life for Muslims, who number about 1.2 billion and comprise the world's second-largest religion.

"Those are very emotional images for Muslims because everyone is eager to complete that duty," said Darden, who moved to Charlotte from Atlanta in October.

WCCB logged about 10 complaints Wednesday from viewers, said Jeff Arrowood, the station's program director and promotion manager.

Arrowood said WCCB strives for memorable promos to break through the advertising clutter. "Sometimes we misfire," he said.

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