Just a terrorist or an “Islamic fundamentalist?”
A case of double standards
By Tamim Saidi
Being an American Muslim in a post 9-11 world, I was paying very close attention to the trial of Eric Rudolph and how the local and national media portrayed him. To me it was obvious that his case showed a case of double standards by some in the media.
I think it is very clear to most Americans that when a Muslim, among the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, happens to be a terrorist, he is generally portrayed as an “Islamic terrorist,” “Islamic militant,” “Islamic fundamentalist,” or an “Islamist.” I have become very sensitive to these terms, as they imply that his religion, i.e., Islam, fundamentally supports terrorist actions.
Muslim organizations in the U.S. and around the world, including the highest-ranking scholars in the Muslim world, have condemned terrorism and the killing of innocent civilians in the name of Islam. The list of reputable scholars include the imam (spiritual leader) of Ka’bah, the holiest mosque for Muslims, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia; and scholars from Al-Azhar University, Egypt, one of the most reputable Islamic universities in the world. Other scholars were most other corners of the world, including Pakistan, Indonesia, Yemen, Jordan, etc., have also condemned terrorism. Despite an unprecedented effort by Muslim leaders and scholars to go out of their way to condemn terrorism, Islam is often associated with and blamed for the actions of deviant Muslims.
However, Eric Rudolph, the man who carried out the fatal bombings at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, bombing of a Birmingham women’s clinic, as well as the bombings of gay nightclubs, was not called a religious fundamentalist, or religious militant, or religious terrorist. Instead, it appeared that most writers spent ample time and coined creative phrases for him such as “militant anti-gay,” “anti-abortion extremist,” “anti-government extremist,” and “fugitive serial bomber.” I had to read a number of articles before I could find any mention of Mr. Rudolph’s religious affiliation or a religious motive behind his actions. It was the rare article in which he was linked to a “white supremacist Christian Identity movement,” and the “‘Army of God,’ a group that advocates killing abortion providers.”
I would say, and I think most American Christians would agree that Erich Rudolph man is not a representative of the Christian religion just as the members of Jewish Defense League (whose terrorist attacks were prevented by FBI in December of 2001*) are not representatives of Judaism. Thus Christianity and Judaism should not be associated with their actions. Likewise, any Muslim who breaks the fundamentals of Islam by killing innocent people, even in the name of Islam, is not a representative of Islam, and thus the religion of Islam should not be associated with his devious actions. Calling terrorists who happen to be Muslims “Islamic fundamentalists” or “Islamic militants” is not only a way to insult the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world, 99.9 percent of whom are peace-loving people, but also helps legitimize the terrorist groups. I am certain that journalists are well capable of coining a much more creative phrase than “Muslim fundamentalists.” How about: “anti-American-foreign-policy-extremists”?
Tamim Saidi is an American Muslim and an active member of the Muslim community in Minnesota.