Orlando shootings: Yet again the media singles out Islam and Muslims


Maz Saleem is a campaigner against racism and Islamophobia. You can follow her on Twitter @CampaignerMaz


Maz Saleem asks why Muslims and Islam are singled out in the mainstream media when it comes to terrorism in a way other religions and communities are not.

A father said his last goodbye to his wife and four children shortly before they were killed in Sunday’s attacks on the city of Maaret al-Numan in the  Idlib Province, as people bought food to break their fast. They were killed in airstrikes conducted by either the Russian or Syrian regime which left at least 50 innocent women, men and children dead.

Since April 21, Syrian regime forces and Russian warplanes have intensified attacks on opposition-held areas in Syria, killings scores of civilians. Barely any coverage of these attacks on innocent Syrian civilians are shown on TV, let alone around the clock on any of the mainstream news channels.

Only last week a Frenchman was arrested in Ukraine with a massive arsenal of weapons he was reportedly planning to use in attacks in France during Euro 2016. The man, named by the media as Grégoire Moutaux, had three rocket-launchers, around 100 detonators, more than 100 kilos of TNT explosives, and half a dozen Kalashnikov assault rifles in his vehicle when he was detained after trying to cross the border into Poland.

The 25-year-old, had links to far-right groups, and he told police he was planning to use the weapons to attack synagogues and mosques.  Security services said Gregoire Moutaux had plotted to “blow up a Muslim mosque and a Jewish synagogue” during Euro 2016.

There was zero mention of his religion or the word terrorism in any of the mainstream headlines regarding this potentially devastating act of terrorism.

Orlando shootings

Less than 48 hours after the funeral of Muhammad Ali provided a perfect counter-narrative to claims that Islam and America are incompatible, it appears to have been swept away by a senseless act of violence perpetrated by someone who happens to have a Muslim name.

I want to offer heartfelt condolences to all the families and friends that have lost their loved ones in the recent attacks in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub. Any and all loss of human life in such a way is a tragedy, and no religion or law should accept such a callous and heinous act.

omar mateen
Omar Mateen

Police have identified the gunman as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, an American citizen whose parents are from Afghanistan. Authorities in Orlando said they were investigating the shooting as an act of terrorism, not a lone wolf attack.

Mateen was allegedly killed in a shootout with armed officers at around 5am on Sunday morning. He was armed with an assault-type rifle, a handgun and some sort of “suspicious device,” police said.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the FBI had interviewed the Orlando shooter several times and he had been on the terrorist watch list, but how was he still able to get a gun permit? How did he slip through the net just like the Boston bombers, Lee Rigby’s killers, Pavlo Lapsyn, and Anders Breivik?

All of them were known to the secret services before they committed their heinous acts of terrorism.

A heavily-armed man who told police he wanted to “harm” the Gay Pride parade in Los Angeles was arrested in Santa Monica early on Sunday morning on the the same day Mateen carried out his massacre.

James Wesley Howell, 20, was taken into custody after he was reported to police as acting suspiciously. He told police he “wanted to harm” people at the Los Angeles Pride festival this weekend. Unfortunately, this incident has received much less media coverage and not once has the suspect been referred to as a “terrorist.”

Anti-Muslim backlash

Every time an act of terror or shooting occurs, Muslims watch the news closely and with extreme anxiety, praying that the suspect is not a Muslim. This is not because these terrorists are likely to be Muslim, but rather because in the instances where they do identify as Muslims we witness intensified mass media coverage and sharp spikes in Islamophobic attacks.

We must remember there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world; that’s 23 per cent of the world’s population. And somewhere close to 1.6 billion of these Muslims have not committed an act of terror, nor have they directly facilitated any terrorist act.

American Muslims now fear an islamophobic backlash
American Muslims now fear an islamophobic backlash

Non-Muslims have actually carried out more terrorist attacks in the USA – according to the FBI – 94% of terrorist attacks carried out in the United States from 1980 to 2005 were carried out by non-Muslims.

The ex-wife of the mass murderer says Omar Mateen was not particularly religious – he was mentally unstable and violent. I personally find it extremely frustrating and unfair that the actions of one are projected to represent all only when the perpetrator is a Muslim.

We never ask churches to issue condemnations when a Christian fanatic murders black people in a church. So why must we Muslims be asked to take collective responsibility for the acts of a individual who has been described as deranged?

Sadly, with the recent attacks in Orlando, Muslims, and especially Muslim women, will need to be extra vigilant as the backlash against the Muslim community will be felt around the world. May all the victims of terrorism rest in peace, including my beautiful father Mohammed Saleem, murdered in April 2013.

Let’s unite and not divide in such testing and difficult times. What hope is there for the future generations to come if we do not stand against all forms of hate?

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