WHY DOESN’T OUR MEDIA VALUE MUSLIM LIVES?

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Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were shot dead in their home earlier today, but unlike the Charlie Hebdo murders of last month, there has been a near media blackout around their deaths.

In fact, I only heard about the murders from Twitter, where #ChapelHillShooting is currently trending. Of course there were the usual suspects. British journalist Ben White shared the Fox News homepage, where the murders were given a single line near the bottom of the page. The headline, ‘NC man charged in shooting death of three people’, intentionally erased the Muslim identity of the victims and, by extension, the motives of the killer.

But it wasn’t just the American right who failed to cover the tragedy. The BBC homepage was just as silent. No mention of a ‘terrorist attack’ in North Carolina. No demonstrators taking to the streets of Chapel Hill to show solidarity with the victims. No commentators calling for atheists worldwide to take responsibility for the radicals in their midst.

For make no mistake, Craig Stephen Hicks was a radical. The 46 year old regularly expressed support for the views of Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher and Sam Harris on his Twitter account. On March 26th 2012, Craig Hicks shared a quote from Dawkins, showing how divisive rhetoric has consequences:

My respect for the Abrahamic religions went up in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th. The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the ‘Day of Prayer’ in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place: religion. It is time for people of intellect, as opposed to people of faith, to stand up and say ‘Enough!’ Let our tribute to the dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up to believe.

On Tuesday evening, around 5.11pm, Hicks did say ‘enough’. He walked into an apartment block on Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill and shot dead 23-year-old Deah, his wife Yusor, 21, and her sister, Razan, 19.

The media’s silence around these killings are symptomatic of a much deeper problem: the Western media values Muslim life less than the lives of white Americans and Europeans. On the same day that the Charlie Hebdo attacks took place, there was a suicide bombing in Yemen which killed 37 people and wounded 66. But while one story became an international event, with a trendy hashtag to match, the other barely registered on social media.

The same hypocrisy runs through the media’s coverage of the events unfolding in Iraq and Syria. ISIS, who kill western journalists and aid workers, are presented as an existential threat to Western civilisation. But Bashar Assad, whose regime was responsible for 85% of Syrian civilian deaths last December, is now regarded as a secondary threat. When Muslims kill journalists in Paris, there is international outcry, but when Israel murders 17 journalists in Gaza, Netanyahu joins other world leaders in their support of freedom of speech. The difference is clear for all to see: where ISIS and the Paris killers targeted westerners, the majority of those killed by Assad or Israel are Muslims.

The taking of Muslim life, from Shikarpur to Sana’a, from Gaza to Yarmouk, is regularly given less attention than the deaths of westerners. If the brutal murder of three Muslims in North Carolina teaches us anything, it’s that terrorism has no religion, terrorism has no race and terrorism should be condemned regardless of the victims.

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