On Tuesday night, three Muslim students were shot to death near the University of North Carolina campus at Chapel Hill. When you browse the news today, Western media outlets like CNN barely make a whimper in covering this tragedy – and when they do, they cite parking disputes as the possible motive, clearly ignoring the obvious assumption that this murder was, indeed, a hate crime. If the shooter, identified as Craig Stephen Hicks, was Muslim, the campus would be on lockdown right now and every news site in the United States would have the story on their front page. But Western media frames its coverage of the event as it frames most anti-Muslim criminals: racist bigots without any clear indication their actions are influenced by a larger pattern of society.
Western media in the news and in entertainment presents Muslims as violent and backwards. When coverage of attacks by Muslims happens, media hones in on Islam as playing a direct role in the attack. Yet when Christians, Jews and non-Muslims attack Muslims, religion is often ignored as a reason.
Even more, Muslims are pressured by media and public figures to condemn the terrorist attacks, citing it is the responsibility of Muslims to target and crush extremist minorities in their religion. Right-wing media goes so far as to advocate killing Muslims.
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." Ann Coulter wrote in an opinion published shortly after the 9/11 attacks. "We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war."
The media is quick to label senseless violent acts as terrorism, but last night’s tragedy where a white atheist kills Muslims gets no such terrorist label. Hypocrisy indeed.
As a non-Muslim, I condemn the #ChapelHillShooting.— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) February 11, 2015
Aw crap, now atheists all have to make a ritual declaration that shooting people is bad. Oh, wait, we don't? Cool.— Julian Sanchez (@normative) February 11, 2015
In the recent killings of the three Muslim students, no connection to religious identity or ethnicity is mentioned in the news stories – again downplaying the act as a hate crime.
Islamophobia is so ingrained in our culture that Western media’s narrow-minded portrayal of Islam and Muslims as violent and fundamentalist goes without question. The result is a society where anti-Muslim sentiment is the new normal and the coverage’s attitude mirrors the escalation of anti-Muslim violence.