Religious hero or just a hero?

Another one from The Times...

"'Hero' takes on subway gang
New York A Muslim man has been hailed a hero after coming to the aid of four Jews who were being attacked by a gang on the New York subway. Hassan Askari, 20, a student, was also beaten but his actions gave the victims a chance to summon police. (AP)"

What is the relevance of religion to this story?

I can guess the writer or editor's intention: we all know that Jews and Muslims hate each other, or are supposed to anyway, so here is a heart-warming account of a Muslim reaching out to help those of a rival faith. I think we should look a little deeper. Are we being asked to believe that this hero helped them because they were jewish? Far more likely is that he was one of those one-in-a-hundred people who would help anyone in that situation, even at risk to themselves. I couldn't do it, I'd be too much of a coward - could you?

The man deserves credit for sure, but I don't believe for a second that he was motivated by a desire for inter-faith harmony.

To attempt to insert religion into an ordinary story of human bravery or kindness is really quite disingenuous, if not actively misleading. To better understand why, lets suppose this man was one of the ninety-nine-in-a-hundred who would prefer not to get involved. How does the story read then?

"Muslim man stands by as four Jews are beaten on New York subway."

Doesn't sound so good, eh? I doubt the writer would have mentioned religion if the story had been like that.

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