How the Media Whitewashes Muslim Persecution of Christians
Gatestone Institute 25 July 2012
By Raymond Ibrahim
When it comes to Muslim persecution of Christians, the mainstream media (MSM) has a long paper trail of obfuscating. While they may eventually state the bare-bone facts—if they ever report on the story in the first place, which is rare—they do so after creating and sustaining an aura of moral relativism that minimizes the Muslim role.
False Moral Equivalency
As previously discussed, one of the most obvious ways is to evoke "sectarian strife" between Muslims and Christians, a phrase that conjures images of two equally matched—and equally abused, and abusive—adversaries fighting one another. This hardly suffices to describe the reality of Muslim majorities persecuting largely passive Christian minorities.
Recently, for instance, in the context of the well-documented suffering of Christians in Egypt, an NPR report declared, "In Egypt, growing tensions between Muslims and Christians have led to sporadic violence [initiated by whom?]. Many Egyptians blame the interreligious strife on hooligans [who?] taking advantage of absent or weak security forces. Others believe it's because of a deep-seated mistrust between Muslims and the minority Christian community [how did the "mistrust" originate?]." Although the report does highlight cases in which Christians are victimized, the tone throughout—and even from the title of the report, "In Egypt, Christian-Muslim Tension is on the Rise"—suggest that examples of Muslims victimized by Christians could just as easily have been found (not true). The accompanying photo is of a group of angry Christians militantly holding a cross aloft—not Muslims destroying crosses, which is what prompts the Christians to such displays of solidarity.
Two more strategies that fall under the MSM's umbrella of obfuscating and minimizing Islam's role—strategies with which the reader should become acquainted—appeared in recent reports dealing with the jihadi group Boko Haram and its ongoing genocide of Nigeria's Christians.
First, some context: Boko Haram—acronym for "Western Education is a Sin", its full name in Arabic is "Sunnis for Da'wa [Islamization] and Jihad"—is a full-throated terrorist organization dedicated to the overthrow of the secular government and establishment of Sharia law. It has been slaughtering Christians for years, with an uptick since the Christmas Day church bombing in 2011, which left at least 40 Christians dead; followed by its New Year ultimatum that all Christians must evacuate the northern regions of Nigeria or die—an ultimatum Boko Haram has been living up to: hardly a day goes by without a terrorist attack on Christians or a church, most recently on Easter day, leaving 20 dead.
Blurring the Line Between Persecutor and Victim
Now consider some MSM strategies. The first one is to frame the conflict between Muslims and Christians in a way that blurs the line between persecutor and victim, as in, for example, a recent BBC report on one of Boko Haram's many church attacks that left three Christians dead, including a toddler. After stating the bare-bones facts in a couple of sentences, the report went on to describe how "the bombing sparked a riot by Christian youths, with reports that at least two Muslims were killed in the violence. The two men were dragged off their bikes after being stopped at a roadblock set up by the rioters, police said. A row of Muslim-owned shops was also burned…" The report goes on and on, with a special section about "very angry" Christians, until one all but confuses victims with persecutors, forgetting what the Christians are "very angry" about in the first place—unprovoked and nonstop terror attacks on their churches, and the murder of their women and children.
This broadcast is reminiscent of the Egyptian New Year's Eve church bombing that left over 20 Christians dead: the MSM reported it, but under headlines such as, "Christians clash with police in Egypt after attack on churchgoers kills 21"(Washington Post) and "Clashes grow as Egyptians remain angry after attack"(New York Times)—as if frustrated Christians lashing out against wholesale slaughter is as newsworthy or of the same value as the slaughter itself, implying that their angry reaction "evens" everything up.
Dissembling the Perpetrators' Motivation
The second MSM strategy involves dissembling over the jihadis' motivation. An AFP report describing a different Boko Haram church attack—another one, which also killed three Christians during Sunday service—does a fair job reporting the facts. But then it concludes: "Violence blamed on Boko Haram, whose goals remain largely unclear, has since 2009 claimed more than 1,000 lives, including more than 300 this year, according to figures tallied by AFP and rights groups."
Although Boko Haram has been howling its straightforward goals for a decade—enforcing Sharia law and subjugating, if not eliminating, Nigeria's Christians—the media with a straight face is claiming ignorance about these goals (similarly, the New York Times described Boko Haram's goals as "senseless"—even as the group continues justifying them on Islamic doctrinal grounds). One would have thought that a decade after the jihadi attacks of 9/11—in light if all the subsequent images of Muslims in militant attire shouting distinctly Islamic slogans such as "Allahu Akbar!" ["Allah is the Greatest!"] and calling for Sharia law and the subjugation of "infidels"—reporters would by now know what their goals are.
Of course, the media's obfuscation of jihadi goals serves a purpose: it leaves the way open for the politically correct, MSM-approved motivations for Muslim violence: "political oppression," "poverty," "frustration," and so on. From here, one can see why politicians such as former U.S. president Bill Clinton cite "poverty" as "what's fueling all this stuff" (a reference to Boko Haram's slaughter of Christians).
In short, while the MSM may report the most frugal facts concerning Christian persecution, they utilize their entire arsenal of semantic games, catch phrases, and convenient omissions that uphold the traditional narrative—that Muslim violence is anything but a byproduct of the Islamic indoctrination of intolerance.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum