US journalists have a hard time knowing what to do with terrorism stories when the culprits are not Muslim, even though, in their own country, the vast majority of terrorism is carried out by non-Muslims (Extra!, 8/13).
Pavlo Lapshyn was sentenced to 40 years in prison in a British courtroom on October 25 (Guardian, 10/25.) Lapshyn was convicted of stabbing to death 82-year-old grandfather Mohammed Saleem on April 29, as he returned from evening prayers at a Birmingham mosque; and planting at least three bombs targeting Muslims, one that authorities say would have been lethal had a scheduled mosque prayer service not been postponed.
“I have a racial hatred,” Lapshyn told investigators. “I would like to increase racial conflict, because they are not white and I am white.”
This story of terrorism hardly registered in US news media. According to the Nexis news database, Mohammed Saleem and Pavlo Lapshyn were mentioned in just 10 US newspaper and news wire stories, most of them brief Associated Press and States News Service wires (e.g., Associated Press, 10/25; States News Service, 19/25). The New York Times was alone among major newspapers, running a detailed report on October 23.
Saleem’s story can be contrasted with that of British Army Sergeant Lee Rigby, murdered by Islamist assailants in a London street a few weeks later. Rigby and his killers, Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo, were mentioned in 570 US newspapers and news wire stories.
There’s more than one reason for that. Rigby’s killers stayed at the murder scene and were videotaped talking about killing the soldier. But it’s hard to deny that one reason Rigby’s story got than 50 times the coverage of Saleem’s is that it fits a false and damaging media narrative about who are the perpetrators and who the victims of such horrific acts.