What if a Muslim did it? How media bias leaves a tragic impact
Deah Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, three young Muslim-Americans who were passionate about humanitarian work were shot execution style in the head. Who killed them? A 46 year old Caucasian man who was an outspoken atheist. One might automatically conclude that the motive was that three young Muslims were shot in cold blood by a man who hated all religions. However, let’s just hold on for one second, because almost immediately after the incident according to Fox News the police had already concluded that the motive was not biased, but rather ‘a dispute that started over a parking spot.’ CNN’s coverage had generally leaned in that direction as well, even though multiple other sources stated that Chapel Hill Police Department had yet to confirm the actual motive.
Following the tragedy, social media was flooded with positive memories of ‘Our Three Winners.’ It was evident that these three lived a life where they strived to impact others and give back to their community. Barakat was a Dental Student at University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, and his wife, Yusor, had intentions of starting her dental studies at Chapel Hill as well. Razan was an undergraduate student at North Carolina State University, studying Architecture and Environmental Design. Yusor and her sister Razan were both Palestinian-Americans whose parents came to America to provide their children with more opportunities. Deah was a Syrian-American, who worked for the Syrian cause. He was a part of the Syrian American Medical Society. He had started a fundraiser with his friend Ali Heydary, with the intention of raising money and collecting supplies for his humanitarian trip to Turkey this summer.
There is a ridiculously unfair amount of biased reporting about Muslims in the mainstream media, whether they be the victims or the perpetrators. Muslims as the victims would not be immediately labeled as a hate crime (if that really was the motive) if mainstream media can avoid it. If the crime was committed by a non-Muslim, other reasons are used as justification, such as ‘mental illness’ or that the person was ‘deranged.’ They would dig deeper for other reasons to use as justification,especially if the crime were committed by a “right-winger”. If Muslims are the perpetrators, it is seemingly always associated with Islam- always, in one way or another, regardless of any pre-existing dispute or altercation.
Even though mainstream media has covered the tragic Chapel Hill killings, the prominence of the coverage has been poor to say the very least. For example, as of the time this article was written, the story was a shocking #19 on the scroll bar of Yahoo! News, trailing behind headlines such as, “Heinz Gives Ketchup a Kick” and “Uma Thurman’s New Look.”
What if a Muslim did this? Here’s a scenario to illustrate: A man enters a home and shoots three unarmed people – a newly married couple and a relative. We come to learn that the shooter was a far-right Muslim who regularly posted on his Facebook page his extremist views of non-Muslims, especially those who did not believe in God. We also come to learn that the victims were all atheists and that they were committed to humanitarian work within their communities and were passionate about helping others in need. We see that the three victims had promising careers and a bright future. It also comes to light that several days prior, the Muslim man had a verbal altercation with one of those three individuals over a parking spot.
What do you think the media headlines would be? Would it remain the same as a current headline for the actual story, which is, “Parking dispute, not bias, triggered triple murder, say NC police,” or would it possibly fall more in the lines of, “Three atheists murdered by Muslim terrorist in NC”? It’s a given that the article would detail the Muslim man’s extremist views posted on his Facebook wall, in turn equating Islam with violence and terror.
Given the double standards regarding news media coverage of Islam and Muslims, how can we trust media outlets to report fairly and in an unbiased manner? In what ways can we demand the media to be held accountable for the manner in which they choose to report? Considering the impact certain media organizations have, such as Fox News, these questions are too often ignored, thus leaving the viewers at the mercy of the media group they choose to follow.
Rasha Abousalem is a Palestinian-American, who majored in International Criminal Justice with a concentration in human rights and refugee work.