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In hate crimes against Muslims, focus less on media, more on prosecution

Hate crimes against Muslims are higher today than they have ever been since 9/11. According to the FBI, 16.7 percent of religiously motivated hate crimes are committed against Muslims in the United States. The UK shares a similarly bleak vision- over the past five years, the UK has seen a 125 percent rise in hate crimes against Muslims, and in 2016 alone, there was a 78 percent rise in hate crimes against Muslims.

While Western media tends to avoid the topic of crimes against Muslim completely, it occasionally treads, with extreme caution absolute sensitivity to the feelings of the assailant, often replacing the words “terrorist” with “mentally ill”.

The vast difference in terminology used by Western media in describing attacks against Muslims, compared to attacks committed by Muslims, pushes some buttons and immediately turns into a conversation that starts with “if this was committed by a Muslim, the story would have been told differently”. It is time to realize that the “us versus them” mentality does not achieve anything but further division.

In the case of the attack on a mosque in Finsbury Park, London, earlier this week, the Daily Mail editors decided to focus on the fact that the attacker was “clean shaven”, and did not call it a terrorist offence in the early prints of the story coverage.

Combatting double standards with facts

Yes, Western-media outlets clearly exhibit double standards in their coverage of attacks by Muslims when compared to hate crimes against Muslims. What does repeatedly highlighting this fact achieve other than further perpetuating the divide within the Muslim and Western communities?

Yes, Western-media outlets clearly exhibit double standards in their coverage of attacks by Muslims when compared to hate crimes against Muslims. What does repeatedly highlighting this fact achieve other than further perpetuating the divide within the Muslim and Western communities?

Yara al-Wazir

In a world that is becoming increasingly divided by labels – labels of faith, of sect, of gender, of belief, Western-media for opts for divisive ‘click-bait’ headlines. In order to force media outlets to print stories of truth rather than attractive headlines, the public must build bridges with the industry rather than point fingers. Sharing relatable human stories of those who lose their lives, such as their children, their volunteer work, and their passions – that is ultimately what builds the strongest bridges. Fundamentally, Muslims want to feel safe in their communities, both at home and abroad. The way to achieve this harmony is to humanize the situation.

Hate crimes against Muslims will not stop if the media uses strong language to instantly condemn the attackers, or when the media calls on ‘clean shaven white men’ to apologies on behalf of ‘their people’. What will make hate crimes against Muslims stop is when the criminals and attackers are prosecuted to the extent of the law and given tough sentences. Only then will the media be forced to use strong language to describe the attackers for what they are: criminal terrorists motivated by hate.

Rather than taking to social media to rant about the coverage, the angry public must take to their local elected officials and write to them to ensure that criminals are fully prosecuted. In the case of Finsbury Park Mosque and in the case of Nabra Hassanen, the Muslim teen who was raped and killed in Virginia earlier this week, the men who committed the crimes were arrested. When they are charged with a crime, and a conviction is carried out, the media will have no choice but to report the stories and use the correct legal terminology – there is no sugarcoating murder once there is a conviction.

Division is being used as a gruesome weapon to commit atrocities and make people suffer. In a world that is increasingly divided and polarized, there is no better time to build bridges and commonalities through empathy. The “us versus them” mentality, conversations, and tweets of how crimes committed by Muslims are portrayed versus crimes committed by a standard white male do not achieve anywhere near as much as love. Hate cannot be driven out by hate.

In the unfortunate future that will inevitably see yet another crime committed against Muslims, focus on the stories of the victims more, and on the portrayal of the media less. Only then will public sentiment begin to understand that before anything else, Muslims and Westerns share the same fundamental core values: love, passion, family, and faith in a better world.

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Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir
 

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Last Update: Sunday, 25 June 2017 KSA 12:59 - GMT 09:59
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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