In November 2001, just two months after the horrific terror attack of 9/11, the Washington Post posted a video profile of a local imam who complained about the “association of Islam and terrorism.” The Post followed with a question-and-answer session with the imam on its website.
That imam was Anwar al-Awlaki, a man considered so dangerous that just a few years later President Barack Obama ordered him shot on sight. Al-Awlaki was killed by U.S. forces using a drone-fired Hellfire missile in September 2011. His 16-year-old son Abdulrahman was killed in a separate drone attack two weeks later.
Al-Awlaki is the perfect metaphor for media coverage of Islam in the United States. American journalists bend over backward to treat Muslims in a positive way, even to ludicrous extremes. As a result, terrorists are often called “militants”—even when they are on U.S. government terror watch lists. And any open criticism of radical Islam has typically been treated as “Islamophobia.”
Frank Gaffney, the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, said the problem with journalists’ coverage of radical Islam is that “mostly they don’t” cover the issues. And when they do cover them, they spin the result. “It’s a fictitious depiction of the narrative that is served up primarily by Islamists who are actively engaged in disinforming and subverting us from within.”
Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState.com, blamed the standard media worldview as the leading culprit in the poor coverage. Journalists have “one narrative over all others. It is victim versus victimizer, and the media like Christians as victimizers.” But it’s not just an anti-Christian bias that’s to blame, he explained, the literal danger posed by radical Muslims plays a major role in reporter reluctance to cover the downsides of Islam: “They are scared to death of Islam. First Amendment be damned, they want to live.”
Journalists using their status to push an agenda is nothing new. But they do more than that today. The media have been depicting Islam as a modern David facing off against the Christian Goliath. David, predictably, gets good press no matter how often radical Islamists get arrested for terror plots or riot around the world over cartoons or a YouTube video.
Christians and conservatives, on the other hand, get the exact opposite treatment. They have become the stock villains for both
news and entertainment media. Every critic of Christianity—especially those in the gay community—gets treated like a hero. The institutions themselves get derided as “dictatorial” or worse for not bowing to a liberal agenda. And the faithful are forever the butt of jokes and derision—all without uproar and threats of violence from the victims of the abuse.
The Center for Security Policy’s Gaffney warned that the coverage could get worse in reaction to pushback from Islamic groups. The recent documentary “Silent Conquest” cautioned that there is an “ominous pattern” of not being able to offend Islam. Muslim nations have been working with the United Nations to institute laws against “blasphemy.”
In September, President Obama argued for just that result. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” he told the United Nations.