This past Saturday, Sept. 11, the Portland Press Herald ran a front-page article about several thousand Muslims celebrating Eid al-Fitr — the holiday marking the end of the month-long Ramadan fast — in Portland.

Absent from the paper that day was any information about local observances of the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks for which that date is now best known.

As journalists, we know what it’s like to have to make decisions about which events we will be able to cover and which we will not. We know what it’s like to have to make judgment calls about where certain stories will be placed in the paper, and we understand that on both those subjects there are others who will see things differently than we do.

To be fair to the Portland Press Herald, there was extensive coverage of events marking the Sept. 11 anniversary in the Sept. 12 edition of the Maine Sunday Telegram, the Press Herald’s sister newspaper. However, as political observer Al Diamon noted in his blog on the Down East Magazine Web site, “It was hard to believe the paper neglected to run a single story on Patriot Day about the pending local observances.”

If that was all there was to the story, the matter wouldn’t merit much additional discussion. However, there was more.

According to the publisher of the papers, Richard L. Connor, “Readers began writing to me and to our paper and website en masse, criticizing our decision on coverage and story play” in the Sept. 11 edition. Connor made this statement in a column that appeared on the front page of the Sept. 12 Maine Sunday Telegram.

Connor began his column, titled “Newspaper apologizes to those offended,” by saying that the paper had “made a news decision on Friday that offended many readers” and that the company offered a sincere apology for that decision.

In the third paragraph of the column, Connor said: “We have acknowledged that we erred by at least not offering balance to the story [on Eid al-Fitr] and its prominent position on the front page.”

This is where we began to be alarmed. A story on a religious holiday needs balance? Would Connor insist on “offering balance” to a story on Christmas? Rosh Hashana? Moreover, is his suggestion in this case that articles relating to terrorist attacks would have provided “balance” to a story on a Muslim holiday?

There are those in this country who seize upon the fact that the men who hijacked the planes nine years ago were Muslims and then seek to paint all others of that faith with the same brush. There are those people who, whether in e-mail or on the back of their vehicle, post a photo of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers on fire with the caption, “All I need to know about Islam I learned on 9/11.”

Such sentiments are abhorrent and reveal the ignorance of those who express them. As President Obama said in his remarks at the Pentagon Memorial last Saturday, “It was not a religion that attacked us that September day — it was al Qaeda, a sorry band of men which perverts religion.”

Islam is not the only religion with a “sorry band,” either. Take, for example, the Westboro Baptist Church. This is the group that, among other activities, sometimes protests at the funerals of fallen American service members. Church members make these demonstrations because they believe such deaths are God’s way of punishing America for what they see as the nation’s lenient stance on homosexuality.

Or, in the words of the church’s leader, Fred Phelps, “Our attitude toward what’s happening with the war is [that] the Lord is punishing this evil nation for abandoning all moral imperatives that are worth a dime.”

Others, rather than paint all of Islam with the same brush, are only a little less direct — but equally off-base — with their criticisms. One person who commented on the online version of Connor’s apology wrote, “Remember — all muslums [sic] aren’t terrorists, but all terrorists are muslums [sic].”

Really? What about Timothy McVeigh, or Ted Kaczynski?

Connor’s statement about “balance” also calls to mind the recent controversies over the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” — more accurately a multi-purpose Islamic community center that would also offer space for prayer, but such a description does not make for an easy headlines in the New York tabloids or on Fox News — and the planned “Burn the Koran” day in Florida.

Conservative luminaries such as Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin sought to link the two proposals — one to build a mosque, the other to burn books — and make them the same. Take, for example, the following post from Palin’s Facebook page:

“People have a constitutional right to burn a Koran if they want to, but doing so is insensitive and an unnecessary provocation — much like building a mosque at Ground Zero,” she wrote.

Hardly. While we understand the sensitive nature of the proposed community center near Ground Zero, we support the proposal and believe that those behind it have good intentions. The same can hardly be said for the Rev. Terry Jones and his sorry band at Dove World Outreach Center in Florida.

Returning to the controversy closer to home involving the Portland papers, we think it is unfortunate that Connor felt it was necessary to apologize and that the way he chose to word his apology was equally unfortunate.

As Diamon wrote in his blog posting, titled, “Connor Apologizes to Anti-Muslim Bigots For News”:

“But the CEO also missed a more important point. By failing to acknowledge and reject the ugly tone of many of the objections to the Eid article posted on his Web site, Connor lent them validity. He should have saved at least one paragraph in his lengthy mea culpa for dealing directly with the deep-seeded prejudices expressed by many of the complainants.”

To that we say, “Amen.”