It didn’t take long for the left to begin carping about coverage of the shooting in Canada this morning. In fact, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes got the ball rolling before word even broke that alleged shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was a convert to Islam.
That awkward moment when you’re sitting around waiting to find out the shooter’s religion bc it will determine how big a story it is…
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) October 22, 2014
Granted we don’t know for certain that this is a terror attack, thoughthere are already indications it could be. First, there has reportedlybeen an uptick in terrorist chatter aimed at Canada lately. Second, theshooter wore black clothing and a face covering suggesting a plannedattack. Third, he was already on a travel-related watch list and had hadhis passport taken away. Fourth, he was apparently a Muslim convert who took a Muslim name.
Assuming this does turn out to be terrorism, shouldn’t an attack with terror motivations be a bigger deal than, say, a case of random violence in a big city. Why is that awkward? Why isn’t that just common sense news judgment about what may become a significant international story and what may not be?
Hayes may claim he was just stating the obvious but lurking behind his comment is a kind of lament. It’s the oft-repeated claim that Islam isn’t treated fairly in the media. Hayes is hardly alone in that. One of the people making that charge most vocally lately is Max Fisher at Vox. Earlier this month Fisher wrote a piece attacking the media’s Islamophobia. He particularly blamed Bill Maher for saying, during a heated discussion with Ben Affleck, that extremism is not limited to a fringe of Islam.
Of course it’s not hard to check the facts about what Maher said. A 2013 Pew Poll of attitudes in Muslim majority countries around the world found strong support for the imposition of Sharia Law, the death penalty for apostasy, stoning women for adultery, and mutilation for various crimes. Strong pluralities support these ideas in the most populous Muslim country in the world. This is not a fringe, exactly as Maher said. As recently as last year even Max Fisher seemed to agree saying the poll results were “disturbing.”
Fisher was right back then. It is disturbing and not just to Islamophobes. The same Pew Poll found Muslims are far more concerned about Muslim extremism than extremism among any other group. In Indonesia for instance, 53% of Muslims were concerned about Muslim extremism while just 4% were concerned about Christian extremism. So either the majority of Muslims in Indonesia are Islamophobes or this is a legitimate concern people can have.
But Fisher remains defensive. After Reuters broke word that the alleged shooter was a Muslim convert he added this sentence to his story, “Two US officials told Reutersthat he was a convert to Islam, but there’s no public evidence to thateffect nor any indication that the shooting was related to his faith.” The first claim is strictly true at least for the moment but the latter seems a bit more like wishful thinking.
The facts will all come out in the next few hours or days. If this attack turns out to have a definite connection to Islam or, more specifically, to ISIS, we’ll know soon enough. Meanwhile the minders on the left need to accept that the Islamic connection to violent extremism around the world is an ongoing, legitimate story.