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Arabs and Muslims Get the Short End of the Stick When it Comes to Terrorism

posted on: Nov 15, 2017

By: Kameron Dreher/Arab America Contributing Writer

Too often people confuse what the definition of terrorism is and treat it as if it is something that comes from foreign lands, cultures, and people. Terrorism is not defined by race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or other categories meant to categorize people. It is defined as a means to instill fear and terror within a group of people.

Networks such as Fox and CNN were quick to mention the assailant in the recent New York City attack as a member of the terrorist organization, Isis (before it was confirmed), and that he (Saipov) gained access to the country through a green card issued by the U.S.

Yet the man who committed the deadliest mass shooting in US history just only a month ago was also an American citizen, so why is it that his status, religion, associations were not mentioned? This is just one of the many examples of racism through the medium of media.

Just as Sayfullo Saipov was cold and calculating in his attack in New York City so was the Vegas shooter, Steven Paddock. The nation reeled after news of the Vegas shooting spread like wildfire and many media outlets were quick to label Paddock as a ‘lone-wolf’, a pathetic attempt to humanize him.

Yet with the New York City attack, issues such as immigration, citizenship, and the travel ban came into play.  Even though the attacker wasn’t Arab, still Arabs have gotten the short end of the stick with regard to this continuing issue and no matter the steps are taken forward, thoughts and ideas stemming from fear and lack of understanding seem to be prevalent.

There is a clear difference in the way incidents like this are presented in the media. People of Color (POC) are targeted in a negative light disproportionately to those that are not. Had the Vegas attack been perpetrated by an Arab it would instantly be called a domestic or international terrorism, it would not be individualized but instead collectivized to the entire Muslim or Arab community.

Studies show that most domestic terrorists have been white. Farai Chideya says, “There is nothing wrong with including human details in reporting…… In many cases there is a white mass shooter or domestic terrorist, we get personal details about them”. As if to think ‘it could have been anybody’ or to personalize them, establish commonalities, and to temper the fear many may have. As if we should have sympathy that this person was driven to do this because they were mentally or emotionally unstable and had no one to reach out to.

Faral Childeya continues by saying, “But how often do we learn personal details about terrorists and mass killers, or even street criminals in the US when they are not white? Who gets humanized in news coverage is important and telling”. There are clear differences in who is honored with the label of ‘lone-wolf’ or ‘loner’ and who is villainized as a terrorist. After Muslims commit acts of violence, the Islamic faith and its patrons are used as scapegoats almost as a pseudo-ethnic cleansing.

However, when white people commit mass violence there is an overwhelming emphasis on the fact they acted alone solely out of their own mental depravity. The media must contain it because they cannot have the assailant represent the demographic group they strive to protect and the facade they fight to preserve. White violence = mental problem whereas Arab/Muslim violence = terrorism. How is it that a man can shoot over 500 people killing 59 and the label terrorist has not officially been stated.

Responses made by Donald Trump when the mass shooting occurred in both the Vegas and the newest US shooting in Texas in comparison to the New York attack. Mental illness and condolences are mentioned when it comes to non-POC, but death sentences and stronger immigration laws are demanded from his computer screen through his Twitter page.

As the recent tragedy of the Sutherland Springs, Texas Church Massacre played on CNN and one could not help but overhear someone say “Is he Muslim?”. Instantly a debate started among their counterparts about this very subject.

It is up to us and the media to stop perpetuating xenophobia and ethnocentrism. Our society is a melting pot, a menagerie of different cultures, creeds, genders, and ideas. When acts of violence are committed it is the specific act of violence we need to focus on. And if details are included they should not be dependent on the citizenship or ethnicity the religion of the person who has done the crime.