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Double standards: US & Islam 7, November 2009

Posted by in American ME Relations.
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When a white guy shoots up a post office, they call that going postal,” said Victor Benjamin II, 30, a former member of the Army. “But when a Muslim does it, they call it jihad.



1. Bernard Campbell - 13, November 2009

Come on David, don’t be so quick to jump on the politically correct, thumbing your nose at the U.S. double standard bandwagon. While some media outlets might have been too quick to highlight the religious motivation of the shooting–although it is now clear that his radicalizing religious beliefs were a quite important factor–this quotation is just highly sensationalized rubbish. Who is “they”? Fox News? Is it also even worth noting that Hezbollah’s TV station says mean things about Israel? If anything, my impressions of media coverage was the exact opposite–I thought the majority of coverage was quite professional regarding the religious nature of the massacre, waiting for the evidence before describing the Islamic factor.
It is also important to examine the course of the investigation and the information that became available after the shooting, which in this day and age was quite substantial even within 24 hours. While calling his actions “jihad” might be sensationalized, the information that soon emerged regarding his beliefs naturally led the media to examine the role his Islam played in the act. I’m wondering, does Benjamin, and David as well, take issue with media even bringing up Islam in the aftermath of the shooting? Even when early evidence suggests he was becoming more religious and more radical? At what point can the religious issue be discussed without it being prejudiced? Please answer this question.

davidbroberts - 13, November 2009

Thanks for taking the time to contribute your thoughts, it’s appreciated.

This is clearly a very small post. I saw the quote, thought it was interesting, pithy and a bit cheeky/flippant, and posted it. I do agree that this quote is “highly sensationalized” and hugely oversimplifies a vastly complex phenomenon.

I don’t quite see the Hezbollah parallel.

“At what point can the religious issue be discussed without it being prejudiced…” – now that is a good question. I watched a Bill O’Riley clip yesterday discussing this shooting. He was lambasting the media for ignoring the religious element (as you, I think, are quasi-highlighting). I think that both of you have a point. To some degree, US media outlets have been reticent to mention Islam as a factor in the shooting (though I must say that I have not been avidly following the reporting, so this is just an impression). They were fearful, I would guess, of fermenting an anti-Islamic backlash in the States. I want to make two points on this. First on the role of Islam in his actions and second on the question of covering said role as a precipitant.

So how much of a part did Islam play on this? My guess is not that much. O’Reilly went out of his way to denounce the media for ‘making excuses for him’, as in referring to his job and the horrors that he had to listen to day in day out as the key reason. Instead, he fell back on the notion that the guy is either 1) nuts or 2) a Muslim terrorist. To me, this is a curious position to take. Why would be deny possible effects of hearing – ipso facto – some of the most harrowing stories to come out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Surely it is clear and obvious that these played a large part in his actions? Personally, I see these as the immediate precipitant and Islam as the crutch or framework in which he sought solace.

So then, what ought to be the media’s role in covering this? Essentially, is the media right to somewhat ignore the Islamic element in this? Is there any particular good to be made of the fact that he is Muslim? Does that advance the analysis at all? I don’t think so. All that focusing on this as a factor does, as far as I see it, is make the life of the other x number of Muslims in the US Army (and perhaps overall) infinitely more difficult. What would be gained from discussing at length the Muslim angle? If he were Christian then this would, I would imaging, be mentioned more by the media because people generally speaking have a much greater appreciation that in society there are crazy Christians but they are the lunatic fringe. When it comes to Islam, I think that people are not as quick to make the distinction. Whilst they know that ‘most’ Muslims are ‘probably’ ok, I believe that many secretly harbour doubts and reservations.

To specifically try to answer your last question, religious issues should be able to be discussed without it being dismissed as prejudiced ramblings. This issue, for example, ought to be able to be discussed freely: about the role of Islam in its motivations etc etc, but is society able to listen to such a rational/’grown up’ discussion without prejudging it? Or will innate prejudices simply hear what they want to hear as yet more ‘evidence’ of Islam’s intrinsic hostility?

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