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memri
June 26, 2017 No.
6977

Senior 'Al-Hayat' Columnist Denounces U.S. Media, Authorities For Failing To Recognize Terror As Such When Perpetrated By Non-Muslim Whites

In a June 18, 2017 article, journalist Joyce Karam, the Washington Bureau Chief for the London-based daily Al-Hayat and a columnist for the daily, denounced the double standard which, she said, characterizes the attitude of the U.S. media, elites and authorities towards terrorism and hate crimes perpetrated in the U.S. Karam, who is of Lebanese origin, wrote that while acts of terrorism perpetrated by Muslims are immediately described as such, similar crimes perpetrated by non-Muslim white Americans, for instance against African Americans, are not referred to as terrorism; moreover, they are often treated as isolated acts perpetrated by troubled individuals. Karam called to recognize that all these crimes are terrorism, and stressed that this double standard constitutes  a betrayal of the victims and undermines efforts to combat extremism and terrorism worldwide.

The following are excerpts from her article.[1]

 


Joyce Karam (image: al-Arabiya.net)

"In the last three weeks, two horrific crimes occurred in the U.S. which, in terms of their motivations and goals, have characteristics of terrorism, yet the U.S. authorities and the political elite generally refrained from using this term [to describe them]. The first crime took place [on May 29, 2017] in Portland, Oregon, where a man [fatally] stabbed two men who were trying to defend two Muslim women he was harassing on a train in the city. The second crime occurred last Wednesday, on June 14, 2017, in the vicinity of Alexandria, Virginia, where a man shot Republican Congressmen who were playing baseball. In both cases the motivation for the crime was political or racist, and therefore they correspond to the definition of terrorism.

"According to the international definition, terrorism is an act intended to intimidate an individual or group with the aim of achieving political or social aims, and that is what happened in Virginia when the killer, James Hodgkinson (66), a supporter of left-wing Senator Bernie Sanders, attacked a group of right-wing congressmen after verifying their political affiliation. In the second case, hatred for Islam, as well as sympathy for the White Supremacy movement, were among the factors that motivated the killer, Jeremy Joseph Christian (35), to carry out his attack, as evident from the insults [he had directed at the Muslim women] and from comments he had previously made on social media.

"Nevertheless, the mainstream U.S. media, and even the FBI, refrained from using the term 'terror attack' to describe these events, stating that the Portland [stabber] had acted out of 'a mental disorder'. [In the case of] the Alexandria crime, [the media] is still waiting for the conclusion of the investigation before deciding how do describe it.

"Going back two years, we find the same deception [in the case of the July 2015] Charleston church massacre in South Carolina, in which 9 African-Americans were shot to death by Dylann Roof, a white man harboring racist views against blacks. [This event, too,] was not termed terrorism. Even during Roof's trial, in which he admitted his racism and stated unequivocally that he did not regret his action, the media and authorities did not describe his motivations as 'terrorist' but [claimed he was suffering from] 'a mental disorder.'

"Conversely, the coverage of the [December 2015] San Bernardino and [June 2016] Orlando attacks, and of the stabbings that took place in the last 12 months – in [August 2016] in Virginia and [in September 2016] in Minnesota – quickly described these events as terror. Is it because the names of the perpetrators were 'Omar Mateen, Rizwan and Tashfeen Malik, Wasil Farooqui and Dahir Adan, which indicate that they are members of America's Muslim minority? Or because some of them had pledged allegiance to ISIS and shouted 'Allah Akbar' during the attack?

"In these cases it took [only] a few hours to diagnose the attack as an act of terrorism, and the coverage [focused] on 'the ISIS threat,' while the question of the perpetrators' sanity, the authenticity of their ties to ISIS, and their motivations for the attack never came up. [I] do not mean to argue that 'Omar Mateen, the Maliks or Farooqui are not terrorists. They, their ideas and their motivations all belong to [the realm of] terror, and their attack on civilians and their hiding behind a hate-filled and [morally] bankrupt organization [like ISIS] are likewise [hallmarks of] terrorism. The point is the double standard [applied] in describing terror attacks in the U.S., and [the fact that the terrorist nature of the act] is concealed in the case of some racist or political crimes, [even though they] completely correspond to the definition of terrorism. Is this because the killers are white, rather than Muslim? Or because the act is not directly associated with any terror organization?

"This double standard disregards the definition of terrorism and its political motivations, and constitutes a betrayal of the victims. Political and social terrorism did not start with and will not end with Al-Qaeda and ISIS. The U.S. has a long record [of dealing with terrorism], from organizations that perpetrated [terror] for decades, like the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Liberation Army or individuals such as Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the building in Oklahoma [City] in 1995, or the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, who was active for 20 years.

"This fault in diagnosing terrorism undermines efforts to fight it and plays into the hands of ISIS as it brandishes false slogans about a global war against Muslims. Failing to recognize the terrorism of white supremacists means failing to address it [and instead] treating it as isolated incidents, not as a pervading phenomenon. After all, the terror acts of 'Omar Mateen in Orlando and of Jeremy Christian in Portland both had political and social motivations. Only when we recognize the danger posed by both and call things by their proper name – disregarding the murderer's name, skin color and mental health – will we be able to talk about defeating terrorism for good."

 

 

[1] Al-Hayat (London), June 18, 2017.