Is Western media Islamophobic?
By the end of 2018, the US had a record-high 94 school shootings -- an average of about two school shootings each week. However, every time incidents such as this happened, the attacker would be termed as “a lone wolf” or “mentally unstable individual.”
It’s worth noting that the media isn’t as kind when the perpetrator is brown or an immigrant. The rhetoric in those cases quickly becomes one of vilifying 1.8 billion people, and by some crude logic, warranting an apology from all of them.
It was, without a doubt, a fresh change of pace when New Zealand was quick to denounce Brenton Tarrant as a terrorist. Despite Jacinda Ardern’s honest efforts to show humanity in this time of crisis, the media has been less compassionate.
Many political figures and media personalities were quick to take every trace of the cold-blooded killer off of the internet, citing reasons for not giving him the satisfaction of the limelight -- which, in essence, sounds like an argument that we can buy into. However, the case becomes very different when the killer is a brown man, whose story can be weaponized as an instrument for the war against terror; a war waged by the US and backed by many other countries.
My point isn’t to draw parallels between types of terrorists, because terrorism in any form or shape is just that, and they all deserve nothing but absolute condemnation. But understanding and comprehending the mindset and the thorough planning that went behind this particular terrorist attack is important.
The harrowing events of the Christchurch attack took place on a Friday, during Jummah prayers. Moments before the shooting began, the people present at the mosque were in an entirely different realm. The mosque is a place of community, of peace, a place of solace. The victims were sat in sujood when the terrorist rained merciless gunfire on them.
The attacker knew exactly how defenseless his victims were, but that didn’t matter. Nearly 1 billion Muslims, every week, like clockwork, go to Jummah prayers. This terrorist attack was an act of slaughter by appointment, and what’s frightening is that many more Muslims will continue to attend these appointments.
Despite a death toll of 50 and many more fatally injured, the media hasn’t fallen short to come to the aid of the terrorist. Apart from getting substantial media coverage, which has only proved how much pride the man took in his actions, the media has also worked towards humanizing this cold-blooded killer. An abundant number of articles have been published exploring the “innocent” backstory of the perpetrator of one of the most ruthless attacks in recent times.
Most of these articles have used a baby picture of Brenton Tarrant, others have blamed his journey through Europe as the reason for his demented motives. It is difficult to digest how the media can try to tone down something this abhorrent, a feat that would perhaps put the devil to shame.
The failure of the media goes even deeper. This act wasn’t an individually orchestrated terror attack, this was part of an entire ideology; ideological enclaves such as this find themselves deep rooted in the internet, particularly on certain forums. How is it that, despite having significant online footprint, Facebook and other online platforms consistently fail to detect and weed out these terrorists?
In the words of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, this attack is a disturbing testament of rising Islamophobia.
This can only warrant one solution -- recognition. It is high time that the world recognizes acts of Islamophobic terrorism and calls it just that. Only then can we tackle the political leviathan that is intolerance.
Abrar B Tohid is a freelance contributor.