I received a news alert on my phone on the day it happened about the Copenhagen shooting, of which we all undoubtedly have heard about by now. Yet I received no news alert when, just four days earlier, Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha were brutally murdered by Craig Hicks in a cold-blooded terrorist attack in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
There were no headlines or condemnations, no labelling or profiling, virtually no news coverage, and no assumption of guilt placed on the perpetrator. It took President Obama three days to succumb to pressure and acknowledge the incident, issuing a half-hearted statement of condolence to the families.
This is an indicator of the shameless discriminatory sentiment in the west when comparing the news coverage of incidents where the victims are Muslim and non-Muslim.
It has become clear, and frighteningly acceptable, that the label of ‘terrorist’ or ‘extremist’ is one which can only be applied to those with a Muslim name as well as, more often than not, people of colour. The label is an empty proclamation, reserved for those bearded, turban-wearing fanatics to deprive them of any humanity or rights of defence.
On the other hand, Craig Hicks, a 46-year-old white ‘anti-theist’, will not be branded a terrorist by those speaking or writing about him. He will be humanised, normalised and defended by his white, western counterparts.
The focus on Craig Hicks when covered by the television news outlet CBS, was not on the fact he had carried out terrorising hate crime, ending the lives of three individuals with bright futures, but on whether the murders may have been committed over a perfectly normal dispute over a parking spot, which of course is entirely reasonable.
There is a wide and open tide of Islamophobia crushing the western world. It is pressurising Muslims who are trying to get on with their everyday lives, whilst being soaked up by those non-Muslims who assimilate unquestionably to the dictations of mainstream media and political leaders.
Muslims in the west have become second class citizens, and using the actions of ‘terrorists’ is apparently justification enough to dehumanise an entire religious group. Anti-Muslim sentiment has even been enshrined in legislation, coming in its most recent form as the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, where ‘terrorism’ is yet again used as an excuse to strip Muslims of their civil liberties and freedoms.
Muslim women in headscarves and men in beards are stared at everywhere they go. We are constantly forced to present ourselves as ordinary people, attempting to distance ourselves from ‘terrorists’.
We worry about discrimination when writing our Muslim name at the top of our CVs, and hear the change of tone when we tell a stranger on the other end of the phone our name. The world expects us to explain ourselves when a stranger commits a crime we have nothing to do with. We are subliminally told that our blood is worth less when world leaders gather to show solidarity over the Charlie Hebdo attacks, but ignore the daily massacre of Muslims in western-induced conflicts in the Middle East.
The list of examples of anti-Muslim discrimination in all mediums is vast. Films like American Sniper demonise Muslims and present them as worthless barbarians. Hysteria-inducing articles by mainstream newspapers prompt readers with questions of whether they are “worried about Muslims in Britain”. Hashtags like #killallmuslims and the fact that half of all mosques in Britain have been attacked are all indicators of rising violence against the many who follow the faith of Islam.
When will the oppression and silencing of Muslims stop?