Is media biased again towards Arab Americans with another mass shooting?


Muhammad Musri, the imam of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, denouncing the terror attack at a gay night club in Orlando

Another mass shooting has crushed America in June. Given that the attacker was Muslim, there has been a flood of criticism by American Muslim and Arab-American groups like CAIR, ACCESS, and ACLR. Arab America stands alongside the groups as they aid the injured. They are also helping the families of those affected, to recover from the horrible events that took place in Orlando, Florida on Sunday morning.

The news is full of pictures and articles of the event and the shooter. There is also wide speculation about Mateen’s motives, victims and the aftermath of the event. With the vast amount of information surfacing in the public eye, some crucial parts of information about the event get lots, or even worse, twisted and changed into false statements. Also, newspapers use offensive language aimed towards Muslims and the Arab American community.

Tragic events like these should be used for educational opportunities. The events should not only be a lesson for people to learn about how they happen, but also in what ways they can be prevented and how they should are reported. The people answering such questions are those average Americans using social media, politicians, religious leaders, and journalists.

There are some crucial points of information that they are stating incorrectly.

Firstly, it is correct that the attacker was Muslim. However, many different other adjectives could have been used by the press to describe him. According to Mateen’s ex-wife, Noor Salman, the shooter was an abusive husband and was often violent toward her. Their marriage was short-lived after Mateen learned of his mental health issues and how he was ‘obviously disturbed.’

Security company G4S were also victims of his crude behavior as well. Although the state that he rarely talked about his religion, he was often overheard cursing toward homosexuals, women and African Americans. His co-workers described him as an angry bigot. He was also reported to the FBI on several occasions for his suspicious opinions about al-Qaeda. However, after investigations, the FBI concluded that he wasn’t a terrorist or threat. As a result, he was able to continue working at G4S, a place where he had access to weapons and the necessary training.

Also, the local imam described Mateen as a shy, remote and inactive member of the mosque.

Mateen was an active participant of many LGBT dating apps and regularly attended Pulse nightclub, where he spent his evenings drinking and taking drugs. Given that Mateen was familiar with the people and place that he targeted, it is likely that his actions were far less about Islam than is being reported in the media.

However, neither members of the press, media or politicians have used such words to describe the Orlando shooter. The majority of them choose to stick with ‘radical Islamic terrorist’.

Regardless of his pledge to the ISIL just seconds before the shooting, given the above, it should be argued that ‘radical Islamic terrorist’ isn’t the most accurate or appropriate label for Mateen. When we look into Mateen’s past, it’s clear that his motives are more related to his identity crisis, racism, homophobia, bigotry, uncontrollable anger, access to guns and introverted tendencies.

Too often Arab Americans are incorrectly caught up in the understanding of a shooter, leading the whole community to be discriminated against because of the behavior of one sociopath who by chance is an Afghani-American, not Arab America.