CAIR’s Ahmed Rehab has three questions, and they’re plausible ones. I’m going to offer answers. You feel free too as well. His questions are blocked out below; my answers follow in between them:
1. 2,000 currently feared dead in unprecedented Boko Haram terrorist carnage in Northern Nigeria this week. Two thousand. No round the clock coverage on CNN or other networks. After all, the victims are African. Imagine if it were 2,000 French or American victims. Would the coverage have changed? Honest question. Really imagine it. If yes, then why?
Of course the coverage would have changed. If 2,000 Americans had died, we in the US would have had far more coverage than if 2,000 Frenchmen had died. People care more about those they identify with, those they consider to be like them. That’s human nature.
Even so, I bet there wouldn’t have been as much coverage of 2,000 Westerners massacred in northern Nigeria by Boko Haram as there is of the Charlie Hebdo and related killings. For one, it’s very, very easy to get news cameras into Paris, versus northern Nigeria. For another, Paris is a major Western capital; Western people who consume this news naturally worry much more about terrorism happening in their cities than in remote African locales.
I imagine that the news coverage in Nigeria and in the countries around Nigeria of the Boko Haram massacre is far, far more extensive than the coverage of events in Paris. This is understandable. According to the Washington Post, Boko Haram now controls an entire region of Nigeria, and has become a threat to Nigeria’s neighbors. It has declared a caliphate. If you are living in that region of Africa, are you more interested in reading about Boko Haram’s Islamist terrorism, or Islamist terrorism going on in Paris?
2. In Yemen, 37 were killed in a terrorist attack on the exact same day as the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack — by the exact same culprit, Al Qaeda of Yemen. No round the clock coverage on CNN or other networks. After all, the victims were all Muslims. Imagine if it were 37 French or American victims. Would the coverage have changed? Honest question. Really imagine it. If yes, then why?
See answer #1. Everyone is equal in the eyes of God, but as for us humans, we understandably feel more connected to people who are more like us. The more interesting test case would be comparing coverage if 13 Muslims were murdered by anti-Islam terrorists in Paris, versus 37 Christians killed in the Middle East by Muslim terrorists. I am certain the attack on Muslims in Paris would receive more attention because even though they belong to a minority religion in the West, the fact that this kind of violence happened in the West would make it more newsworthy for Western audiences. As a Christian, I would feel special grief for the murdered Christians in a Muslim country, but in all honesty I would worry more over the mass murder of Muslims in Europe by right-wing extremists because I would fear it leading to the destabilization of Europe, for which I care far more than any other region in the world. In neither case would it be a matter of me thinking that the lives of adherents of one religion are more valuable than the other.
3. In 2011, the worst terrorist attack in the history of Norway claimed 77 lives and 319 injuries, mostly children. CNN coverage and world outrage and solidarity then does not compare to that now with the Charlie Hebdo and subsequent attacks that had 80 percent less deaths. In the Norway terrorist attack, the media wondered if the perpetrator was deranged before conclusive evidence made it impossible to ignore that he was a White Christian fundamentalist terrorist. Would the coverage, outrage and solidarity have changed had he been a Muslim immigrant? If he had been a Mohamed Abdullah instead of an Anders Breivik? Honest question. Really imagine it. If yes, then why?
Come on, really? For one thing, Breivik was no Christian fundamentalist. In his own manifesto, he identified as a Christian, but said he was not very religious, and only a “cultural Christian.” He saw Christianity as more of a nationalist-racial thing that could unify Europe. He denounced Protestantism and Catholicism.
More to the point, as horrifying and as evil as Breivik’s deed was, he was not part of a cell; he was a lone wolf. How many other terrorist acts of mass murder have their been in the name of white nationalism? It is indisputably established that there are extensive networks of radical Muslims propagating hate ideology throughout Europe — and they have acted on their beliefs many times.
In fact, CNN reports tonight that all French security forces have been put on high alert and told to carry their weapons at all times because in the past 24 hours, terror cells have been activated. Radical Islam is a clear and present danger to the peace in Europe in ways that right-wing anti-Islam groups are not (and, one hopes and prays, never will be). The news coverage of the situation in France is completely justified as a news decision, because of longstanding and well-grounded fears that Europe will become a battleground — especially when its home-grown jihadis start coming back from the ISIS war.
Having said all that, I’m not sure how much more coverage of Boko Haram Rehab would really like to see. The New York Times reports that the Islamic radical group has now begun to use children to kill others. Yesterday a girl no older than 10 detonated a suicide bomb on her belt:
A top federal police official in the capital, Abuja, who once worked in Maiduguri, said Saturday that the terrorist group appeared to have embarked on a new path.
“It’s something quite new, and it’s disturbing, using these young, young girls wearing hijabs,” the official said, referring to the Muslim veil.
“Now, one has to be suspicious of any lady wearing a hijab — whether it’s a young lady, or an old lady,” said the police official, who asked not to be quoted by name because of concerns about his position.
If this tactic starts in France, then God help the Muslims who wear hijabs.