A man carrying six homemade explosives had been shot after he chased an unarmed Transportation Security Administration agent in a lobby packed with travelers at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on March 20. A sheriff's deputy fired three shots at the attacker who died a day later at a local hospital.
As grave as the incident was, it failed to grab headlines or the attention of cable news pundits for perhaps one simple reason: the attacker wasn’t a Muslim.
As Dean Obeidallah from The Daily Beast points out, the man, identified as Richard White, wasn’t termed a terrorist because he was not a follower of Islamic faith. Instead law enforcement immediately cited “metal health issues” as reasons for his behavior.
“….if White had been a Muslim, the investigation into his motivation by the media and maybe even the police would have essentially been over once his faith had been ascertained. If a Muslim does anything wrong, it’s assumed to be terrorism.
“In contrast, when a non-Muslim engages in a violent attack, even on federal government employees, law enforcement and the media immediately look to the person’s mental history, not possible terrorist motivations,” Obeidallah wrote, before stating the press’ association of the word terrorism solely with Muslims perpetuates a dangerous stereotype.
Unfortunately, the New Orleans airport machete attack is just one instance of the Western media’s blatant bigotry. This was, in fact, the fourth time this year that a possible terrorist attack/hate crime was brushed under the rug because the perpetrator wasn’t a Muslim.
Recommended: Here’s What Muslims Fear More Than Islamophobia
The Chapel Hill Shooting
The first incident that comes to mind is the Chapel Hill shooting in which three American-Muslim students were shot to death by Craig Stephen Hicks, an atheist and a gun enthusiast, near the University of North Carolina on Feb.10.
The mainstream media ignored coverage of the possible hate crime for more than 10 hours. This lack of attention prompted backlash, especially from the Muslim community who accused the press of religious bias.
“In much of the western news discourse, the implication always seems clear; western societies should be suspicious of Muslims - all Muslims. Various pundits have taken to prominent media to offer up inflated estimates of the number of Muslim terrorists, with some suggesting that "peaceful" Muslims are, in the first place, a minority, and, more importantly, only peaceful because they have misunderstood the teachings of their inherently violent religion,” wrote Dr Mohamad Elmasry, an assistant professor in the Department of Communications at the University of North Alabama, for Al Jazeera after the Chapel Hill shooting.
Mustafa Mattan Shooting
A similar backlash against media was reiterated by Canadian social media users, who pointed out that a day before the Chapel Hill shooting, a 28-year-old Muslim Mustafa Mattan was fatally shot night inside the apartment he shared with his brother and roommates in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Outraged protesters claimed that it could be a hate crime yet there had been no press coverage of the incident.
Death of #MustafaMattan ignored by Media AND social media.— Abu Typo (@WahidAtTalib) February 13, 2015
Ahmed Al-Jumaili killing
A Muslim Iraqi immigrant, Ahmed Al-Jumaili, who came to the U.S. to flee Islamic State atrocities, was shot and killed by a gunman in Dallas, Texas, as he looked his life’s first snowfall.
He was shot in a “hail of gunfire that left eight bullets lodged in a parked truck at the scene.”
For at least three days, Jumaili’s killing was reported as a man who was shot dead while taking pictures of the snow. Although a suspect was arrested and Texas police ruled out the possibility of a hate crime, many pointed out that wouldn’t have been the case had the shooter and not the victim turned out to be Muslim
Read More: What If The Chapel Hill Shooter Was Muslim?