Recently, the world was shocked and horrified following the May 25 suicide bombing in Manchester, England where 22 people were killed and dozens more wounded at a concert filled with adolescent fans. Scenes of children screaming and crying, parents panicking and shouting looking for their separated children and utter chaos flooded social media in what appeared to be the deadliest terrorist attack in Britain since the 2005 London transit bombings.
Last Saturday night, another terror attacks occurred in London Bridge and Borough Market, killing seven people and injuring 48 others, many of them stabbed. This was the third terrorist attack that Britain has faced in the last three months, the first being the Westminster Bridge attack that killed five and injuring 40 people.
Police believe that Saturday’s attack was part of a series of coordinated attacks as it took on a familiar pattern as that of the Westminster attack in March; a vehicle driven into crowds and then the assailant/s started to stabbing and killing people at random.
World leaders expressed shock and horror at the attacks, calling it “cynical”, “vile”, “inhuman” and “cowardice attack.” Messages of anger, fear, sorrow, grief and hatred flooded social media. The attack also caused a media frenzy as local and international news agencies rushed to cover every angle of the tragedy.
BIASED WESTERN MEDIA COVERAGE
Unfortunately, most Western media narratives seem discriminatory against Muslims and Islam. Fox News, an American based news agency known for its biased and controversial reporting was quick to frame the tragedy as an “Islamic terror attack” even before any group claimed responsibility for the attack. Even the British media such as BBC and The Telegraph, who pride themselves for their ‘political correctness’ and ‘unbiased reporting’ were also guilty of partisan narratives.
What do I mean by biased reporting? Let’s look at two recent attacks that occurred in two separate countries; one in the Europe (Western world) and one in Baghdad (Arab world).
A massive bombing outside a popular ice cream parlour in central Baghdad and a car bomb in another downtown area killed at least 31 people and injuring many more, mostly women and children on May 30, 2017. The deliberate and heinous attack happened as families were enjoying a late-night snack after breaking their fast for Ramadan.
The similarities in both the Manchester and Baghdad attack is that both were planned attacks, targeting mainly children. Both attacks were intended to have the most ‘impact’ on the media. Both of these stories were covered by the Western mainstream media.
What is the big difference between the two? It’s the way Western media narrated and framed the attacks.
The Baghdad ice cream shop bombing was reported with little or no ‘personal-interest’ features. The narrative and reporting were ‘distanced’ and, dare I say ‘cold’. When you watch the news coverage of the Baghdad attack on TV, you feel as if ‘detached’ and ‘disconnected’ from the tragedy that was unfolding. Even some of the news presenters seemed indifferent when covering the news.
It’s a total 180° when it comes to the media coverage and their narratives of the Manchester attack. The media made it their objectives to make the viewers ‘feel’ the pain and suffering of the victims. The videos and pictures were meant to have the most ‘emotional’ impact by focusing on personal-interest features and the ‘human’ side of the tragedy.
Why all the bias? Weren’t all the victims’ innocent human beings too? Why is there an apparent double-standard practiced by Western media when covering an attack on Western country compared to that of the media coverage and narratives when an attack is on non-Western soil?
I can list down numerous lists of articles and studies conducted by researchers and fellow journalist-writers on why Western media is arguably (intentional or otherwise) guilty of biased reporting, sensationalizing violence and at times distorting facts and truths.
LET’S LOOK AT THE STATISTICS AND FACTS
Based on a report by the U.S. government’s National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC), nearly three quarters of all deaths from terrorist attacks occurred in five non-Western countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and Pakistan. Up to 95% of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years were Muslims. Less than 10% of the total numbers of terrorist attack victims in the past five years were American and Europeans.
Since 2015, the Middle East, Africa and Asia have seen nearly 50 times more deaths from terrorism than Europe and the Americas. Data by Europol shows that between 2011 and 2014, there were 746 terrorist attacks in Europe. Of these, only eight were religiously-inspired, even those perpetrators were not all Muslim. The Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) documented 2,400 terrorist attacks in the US from 1970 to 2012. Of these, only 60 were carried out by Muslims. Statistics also show that Americans are likely to die from a household item or a toddler than from a terrorist attack!
So what’s with all the Islamophobic rhetoric, propaganda and biased narrative by the West? If based solely on the data alone, the Arab and Middle-East countries should fear most from terrorists’ attacks than the West should.
WHY ISLAMOPHOBIA? WHY ASSOCIATE TERRORIST WITH ISLAM?
The fact of the matter is, the acts of terrorism committed by misguided Muslims is an outright violation of the Islamic religion, the words of the Quranic, the teachings of its Prophets and established Islamic principles. In my opinion, THEY ARE NOT MUSLIMS AND DO NOT FOLLOW THE WAY OF ISLAM.
Muslim authorities, advocacy groups, and Imams worldwide have denounced the ISIS’s un-Islamic crimes against humanity. There are literally hundreds of statements and speeches by prominent Muslim figures and leaders, not to mention from leaders of other faiths and religion worldwide, agreeing that ISIS and groups linked to it is ‘not Islamic’, and strongly condemns the crimes against humanity caused by these terrorist groups.
Western leader such as George W. Bush and Tony Blair have reiterated time and again that the war against terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. It is a “war against evil”. French President François Hollande declared that “these terrorists, these fanatics have nothing to do with the Islamic religion.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed him, saying that the perpetrators “have nothing to do with Islam.” Secretary of State John Kerry opined that “the biggest mistake we could make would be to blame Muslims for crimes…that their faith utterly rejects.”
It is irresponsible and irrational of the Western media to play the Islamophobia card whenever an attack happens, especially in the West. Facts have proven that Islamophobia is unrealistic. It’s just another propaganda jargon conjured up by Western politicians and media to put some sense into an atrocious acts of violence and hate perpetrated by ‘heathens’ who claims to be Muslims and claims to follow the teaching of Islam.
So, I feel that it is arguably wrong for the media to label the recent attacks in London and Manchester as “Islamic terrorist’ or “Islamist terrorist’. They should just put it as ‘terrorist’.
MEDIA AND ITS ROLE AGAINST TERRORISM
The media has a major role in shaping the public narrative when covering the horrors of terrorist attacks. It is true that news linked to terrorism make viewer ratings surge and profits increase for the news agencies. It has the action, drama, blood, human tragedy, miracle stories, heroes and shocking footages all rolled into one. However, the media also has a responsibility to consciously be unbiased in their narrative and how they cover terrorism.
Experts agree that terrorist uses terror to publicize their agenda. It fuels their operations, information gathering, recruitment, fund raising, and propaganda. It does not help the greater cause if the media covers terrorist acts by sensationalizing the tragedy.
A good way to start is to stop biased news coverage of terrorist attacks.
There is simply no denying that terrorism is a threat. It is inhuman, and in no way whatsoever linked to the teachings of Islam. Everyone should stand united and fight to eradicate this cancerous disease from the world.