I really feel sorry for the journalists working in Canadian media who are reporting on Wednesday’s tragic shooting death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo. You see, they are apparently required to do actual journalism to determine why the gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed the soldier.
They were obligated to interview family and friends documenting Bibeau’s mental problems. They had to research his extensive criminal past and his struggles with drugs. They even were required to visit the homeless shelter Bibeau had been staying in before the shooting and interview people there who know him.
And, of course, they also mentioned that he was Muslim and the possibility of radicalization. But the Canadian media discussed his religion in the context of offering the public a full portrait of Bibeau and trying to understand his motivation.
In the United States, however, once the media finds out that a person involved in a horrible crime is Muslim, that's the end of the investigation. We don’t hear about mental issues, drug use, family problems, etc. To most in our media, if you are Muslim, then ergo, therefore, consequently, anything you do must, without a doubt, be because you are a Muslim.
For example, NBC news featured an article titled, “Who Is the Canadian Parliament Shooter?” The very first sentence of that article read: “The man who gunned down a Canadian soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Wednesday was a convert to Islam who had already been designated "high-risk" by authorities.” (emphasis added.)
There you go: he was a “convert to Islam.” Who needs anything more? And if you read the entire NBC article, there isn’t even a mention of the religion Bibeau converted from to Islam. But I understand why-no one wants to sully the name of any other faith.
And CNN went as far as to tell us about a new phenomena I never heard of before to explain the possible reason for the shooting called: “Sudden Jihad Syndrome.” Apparently any law abiding normal Muslim could suddenly and without warning become a jihadi! I really hope pharmaceutical companies come out with a medicine to protect me from that condition before I contract it. Maybe they can call it, “Jihad begone” or “Jihad away.”
But as The Daily Banter’s Tommy Christopher pointed out, this term was not created by health care professionals. Rather, it was coined by the worst anti-Muslim bigots as a way to scare people into thinking that any Muslim could suddenly start waging a holy war.
In contrast, Canada’s National Post ran a headline describing Bibeau as "a man troubled by drugs and crime.” The Post gave readers a sense that Bibeau was less of a calculated jihadi and more of a person plagued with a history of mental issues.
Canada’s CBC also offered the public a nuanced view of Bibeau apart from simply being a possible Islamic terrorist so that all possible causes could be considered.
Canadian reporters, as shocking as this may be to American media outlets, even left the crime scene and travelled to a homeless shelter that Bibeau had been living in for a few days before the attack. There the reporters spoke to people who described the gunman as being “very bizarre.” They also noted that the only reference Bibeau made to Islam was that everyone should pray five times a day “because the end of the world is coming.”
And when Islam was discussed by the Canadian media, they noted that Bibeau had been thrown out of a mosque for "erratic behavior." They even included interviews with various Canadian Muslims denouncing Bibeau which, incredibly, media outlets like the CBC posted on the home page of its website.
Don’t get me wrong, the Canadian media did discuss the fact that Bibeau was Muslim and acknowledged the possibility he had been radicalized. But that was not the prime focus of the news reports. Rather, they painted a full picture of Bibeau as a homeless man with a criminal record, a history of drug problems, a person estranged from his family for years and noted the distinct possibility that he was mentally ill.
Of course, apparently to the US media, Muslims can never be insane. I guess we, Muslims, are immune to mental disorders. Thus, everything a Muslim does is part of a calculated jihadi plot, not the work of a madman.
But when a non-Muslim in the United States commits a horrific shooting, such as at the Sandy Hook elementary school, the first thing our media typically does is provide us with a detailed mental analysis of the suspect. Why isn’t that also the case when the suspect is Muslim?
I’m not saying that Bibeau will not ultimately be determined to be a radicalized Muslim. But the Canadian media makes it clear that it will take an actual investigation to determine why this attack occurred besides just focusing on his religion and calling it a day.
Perhaps one-day members of our media will show the same level of responsibility and thoroughness as its Canadian counterparts. But until then, expect to see more investigations by our media end as soon it’s discovered that the suspect is a Muslim.
Dean Obeidallah is the editor of The Dean's Report. He is also is a former lawyer, turned political comedian/writer and a columnist for The Daily Beast. He co-directed the recently released comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" You can follow Dean on Twitter.
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