I was pleasantly surprised to note the level of perception and nuance in Mike Thomas’s column about Fathima Rifqa Bary (“Anti-Muslim bias obvious in girl’s case,” Orlando Sentinel, Sunday). Such professional journalism is sorely missing from the usual media treatment of Muslim-related articles that are too willing to assume the worst.
Thomas is absolutely correct; the mass incrimination of Muslims is common practice in places where it would be far-fetched for followers of other faiths. Muslims receive special flak, not only because we have nut cases in our religion that have given our religion a bad name — though nut cases exist in all faiths — but because the media’s coverage of Muslims seems to be limited to those nut cases.
Pundits often portray Islam as a crazy, murderous cult. Because they rely on the public’s ignorance of Islamic history, culture and contemporary affairs, they do not have to be bothered about their simpleton views being irreconcilable with 1,400 years of solid civilization by Muslims from China to Spain, or with the fact that 7 million American Muslims live among their neighbors in this country as proud, upright citizens.
For those pundits who are pressured to reconcile the two, the escape clause then becomes, “American Muslims may seem admirable on the outside, but they are really stealth jihadists on the inside.” And so Rifqa’s parents are judged not by who they are but by what the pundits say they are.
This serial mischaracterization will not be duly challenged unless more columnists exhibit the journalistic integrity and cultural smarts of the likes of Mike Thomas.
Ahmed M. Rehab Executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations
Copyright © 2009 Orlando Sentinel