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Is the media protecting Muslim extremists?

June 3, 2009

Douglas LeBlanc, a contributor over at Get Religion, a blog that looks critically at the coverage of religion in the MSM, notes how the media characterizes two recent high-profile murder cases. 

He asks:

Why the difference between news coverage about the murders of abortion specialist George Tiller of Wichita, Kansas, and Army Pvt. William Long of Conway, Arkansas?

The difference, LeBlanc observes, is that Tiller’s murder is blamed on religious extremism (the suspect is believed to be a Christian anti-abortion activist) while Long’s shooting is called political, even though the suspect in that slaying is a Muslim convert who reportedly targeted Long and another soldier “because of what they had done to Muslims in the past.”

If that’s the case, why would reporters be afraid to paint Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad with the same brush? I think there may be an impulse among journalists to protect Muslims from negative press (though I know many of my Muslim friends would strongly disagree with this). But I do think we in the media (if I can still use the ‘we’) are more comfortable talking about Christian fundamentalism and extremism because Christians are in the seat of power in the United States.

Muslims, however, are the underdogs, the people who have suffered from stereotypes and suspicion. Those of us who have covered American Muslims know full well that the vast majority of them in the United States are peaceful, enterprising, generous and ethical. On the whole, they don’t drink, don’t get into debt, don’t cause problems. They’re family-centered taxpayers who organize charity drives and promote wholesome values. 

Maybe we don’t trust the non-Muslim American public to know that and to be able to see isolated acts of Muslim extremism as just that — isolated acts and not representative of Muslims in general.

Just a thought. In any case, be sure to read The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg’s take on this, too.

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