Feature

Demonizing Muslims after Fort Hood

When it was reported that the U.S. Army psychiatrist who allegedly committed a massacre in Fort Hood was a Muslim, that became the most important facet of the story for the U.S. media, said an editorial in Saudi Arabia&rsquo;s <em>Arab

How predictable, said Saudi Arabia’s Arab News in an editorial. The instant it was reported last week that the U.S. Army psychiatrist who allegedly committed a massacre in Fort Hood, Texas, was a Muslim, that became the most important facet of the story for the U.S. media. They assume that Islam, which they consider a “religion of violence and intolerance,” somehow drove Major Nidal Malik Hasan to open fire on his comrades. The bigotry is blatant. “When a white American Christian goes berserk” and kills a bunch of people, nobody ever mentions his religion. What about the Florida man who snapped and shot up his former workplace on the same day as Hasan’s rampage? We never heard what church he went to. “But should a Muslim open fire indiscriminately, it is his religion that is always culprit No. 1.”

The “Islamophobia” in the U.S. media is downright frightening, said Tracy Quek in the Singapore Straits Times. Right-wing websites ran headlines like “Jihad at Fort Hood” and “Terrorist Incident in Texas,” and one network gleefully ran a segment about a group of radical American Muslims who considered Hasan a hero, quoting one man who said he “loved Osama bin Laden” more than life itself. Such a story could easily “incite and inflame viewers” against Muslims. “In Singapore, we have strong laws and policies to guard against anything that would rock the interracial and ethnic harmony the country has worked so hard to achieve.” Americans, though, are free to sow hatred through the media, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.

No wonder American Muslims are “acutely fearful of a backlash,” said Pakistan’s Nation. Ever since 9/11—for which their religion was also blamed—U.S. Muslims have had to put up with “constant surveillance, undue harassment, and even incarceration and torture.” Now that one of their own has killed American soldiers on U.S. soil, they are bracing for retribution, beefing up security at mosques and cautioning women who wear head scarves to be particularly wary. Perhaps they could remind their neighbors that massacres are regrettably common events in the U.S. Hasan’s killing spree should be seen as “no different from the psychotic acts of other Americans who shot down schoolchildren or targeted fast-food restaurants.”

And there’s the crux of the matter, said The Irish Times. The real culprit here isn’t Islam; it’s the “frightening availability of guns in the U.S,” where there are an estimated 97 guns for every 100 people. What’s truly alarming is that gun sales have more than doubled since the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first black president. Gun violence kills 12,000 Americans every year. Yet the U.S. finds it easier to blame the Fort Hood massacre on Islam than on the gun lobby. The one thing that could end the carnage—“greater gun control”—is not even part of the debate.

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