Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Terrorism should be expunged from the dictionary

I don't have any profound thoughts on the Tucson killings. It's a tragedy when murder happens anywhere, and I don't want to trump up this killing over and above the killings happening in other places. This is a sad incident because lives were cut short that had so much potential to contribute to the betterment of this world, full stop. Likewise, the deaths of American soldiers and the deaths of Iraqis and Afghans are deaths that we as Americans should be equally outraged about (as Americans because we are implicated as voters in a democracy and financial supporters of the war through taxes). 

What I do want to bring to the forefront is the way the discourse around this killing was shaped.  The killer, Jared Loughner, was immediately described by the press as being mentally unstable.  That seems to be accurate after seeing interviews with classmates and viewing videos Loughner published to YouTube.  But when Muslims, Arabs, Arab Muslims, or even Arab Americans commit murder,the first thought is never, "oh, this person must be mentally unstable, let's find interviews and videos that might support that claim." The idea is always to find connections to violent Islamic jihadist movements that seek to target sick, free, liberal democracies in the West. I could keep ranting, but for your sake, I will present a few tweets and a blog post that really helped me to frame some of this in my own head.

From Barry Eisler

And an excerpt from Bill Quigley's post at Dissident Voice:
Question:  Why is there so little talk of terrorism?

Apparently when a mentally unstable white male is accused, terrorism is not the first thing that comes to mind.

When Clay Duke, a white male, threatened Florida school board members with a gun and shot at them before shooting himself, in December 2010, he was mentally imbalanced.

When Michael Enright, a white male, was arrested for slashing the throat of a Muslim NYC cab driver in August of 2010, his friends said he had a drinking problem.

When Byron Williams, a white male, was arrested after opening fire on police officers and admitted he was on his way to kill people at offices of a liberal foundation and a civil liberties organization, in July 2010, he was an unemployed right wing felon with a drinking problem.

When Joe Stack, a white male, flew his private plane into a federal building in Austin, Texas, in February 2010, he was angry with the IRS.

When a white male is accused of mass murder, terrorism is not much talked of; rather it becomes a terrible tragedy but not one where race or ethnicity or religion need be examined.

Now if the accused had been Muslim, does anyone doubt whether this would have been considered an act of terrorism?  US Muslims could have expected increased surveillance and harassment at home and the places where they work and worship.  They could have expected a Congressional inquiry into the radicalization of their people.  Oh, Representative Peter King (R-NY) has already started that one!
Update: Max Blumenthal's tweet really brought the point home.

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