Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Earlier this week in the glittering town of Las Vegas, Nevada, a Christian terrorist unleashed his brand of terror on people attending a concert. At least 59 people were killed and at least 527 were injured in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. The gunman fired on a crowded country music festival from his vantage point in a hotel nearby.
Police identified the terrorist as Stephen Paddock, a white 64-year-old local resident. Authorities believe he shot and killed himself following his murderous death spree. At least 17 guns were found in his hotel room, according to statements from law enforcement officials.
The assault has left the country shell-shocked. Although the authorities have released details regarding the shooting and the victims, one thing they have not provided is a motive. “It’s a dirty shame what he did. A lot of people are upset about it and hurt,” said one of Paddock’s cousins.
This is not the first time terrorism has visited Las Vegas. In 2014 in northeastern Las Vegas, a white married couple, Jerad and Amanda Miller, went on a shooting spree in which five people died, including themselves. The couple, who espoused extreme Christian values, first killed two Las Vegas police officers at a restaurant before fleeing into a Walmart, where they killed an intervening armed civilian. The couple died after engaging responding officers in a shootout; police shot and killed Jerad, while Amanda committed suicide after being wounded.
Two years earlier, another white terrorist decided to take out his murderous rage on three hapless students at a residential complex of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This time the victims were three American Muslims. While the US media initially played down the “hate crime” issue, it soon became apparent that this terrorist suffered from an irrational anti-Muslim obsession.
The terrorist, Craig Stephen Hicks, a white male, revealed his hatred for everyone outside his faith. In a chilling Facebook entry before the killings, he posted: “I’d say that I have not only a right, but a duty, to insult it (Islam), as does every rational, thinking person on this planet.”
Some readers may feel squeamish about my use of the term “Christian terrorist”. By the repeated use of the word “Christian,” I may have succeeded in conveying the impression that there are plenty of Christian terrorists around. And if other writers followed suit and used this label every time a crime was committed by a Christian, it would not take too long for Christians to suffer from “Christianophobia” just as Muslims now suffer from Islamophobia.
However, in reality, both Paddock and Hicks may not have been inspired by Christian teachings to embark on their mission of terrorism. They were simply terrorists.
These examples highlight how Western media quickly talks about “Islamic terrorists” or “Muslim terrorists” when terrorists happen to be Muslim, but conveniently ignores religious affiliations when they are not. Just as Christians may find the title of this column offensive, trust me, so do Muslims the world over when they read not of acts of terrorism but of the religious affiliation of the perpetrators of crime, implying that all Muslims are as somehow accessories to the crimes that have been committed.
Some would argue that my arguments are not convincing as Paddock and Hicks did not go about hacking people with knives or quoting verses from the Bible. My response is that terrorists have no religion except the religion that they create for themselves and they serve only their purpose and nothing else. To dismiss them as lone wolves and not terrorists is an insult, and one that smacks of hypocrisy.
Naef Al-Mutawa, the Muslim creator of the superhero comic “The 99” says: “What worries me is the insistence of some in the media that only Muslims need apologize for the actions of these gangsta Jihadis. That somehow, all Muslims must accept responsibility.
“I refuse to apologize for drug taking ghetto trash that decided to go gangsta in the name of the Prophet (peace be upon him). I refuse to apologize for shoe bombers and underwear bombers who literally stunk it up for the rest of us. I refuse to take responsibility for suicide bombers and illiterate clerics who spew hatred in their respective pulpits. I will not accept to be judged as a Muslim based on the actions of the deranged, the ill-informed and the uneducated. I am no more responsible for their actions, than my Christians friends are for the actions of Anders Brevik, David Koresh, Timothy McVeigh, child abusing priests and countless others. I will only be judged for my actions.”
The media today is not simply a messenger of events created elsewhere but is an active contributor to and shaper of what audiences think. By choosing to highlight the religious aspect of some twisted and murderous terrorists who claim to be Muslim and conveniently ignoring others who are not, they are being untrue to their calling.
— The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena