In FrontPage today I discuss the coverage of some recent cases (news links in the original):
On Sunday morning, a cab driver in Nashville named Ibrahim Ahmed picked up two college students, Andrew Nelson and Jeremy Invus, at a city bar and drove them to the campus of Vanderbilt University. Along the way, the three got into an argument, apparently leaving Ahmed enraged: after they paid their fare and left his cab, he tried to run down Nelson and Invus. Nelson eluded the cab, but Ahmed hit Invus, who was seriously injured.
What were they arguing about? The only widely available news reports on the incident are not very specific. Nashville’s WSMV reports that “a fight over religion became heated.” Newschannel 5, also of Nashville, has little more to add: “Police said Ibrahim Ahmed chased down visiting students Jeremy Invus and Andrew Nelson after an argument over religion.” Associated Press has it that “police said he ran over one of his passengers after they got into a religious argument.”
What kind of religious argument? A comparison of the relative capacity of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism to transport its adherents to Nirvana? A discussion of whether or not Mark 16:18 justifies snake-handling? An examination of Reform and Orthodox Judaism? There’s no telling. Neither WSMV nor Newschannel 5 nor AP give any details about the argument. And all we learn about Ibrahim Ahmed himself is that he worked for United Cab, and that he was charged with assault and attempted homicide, as well as theft, since it turns out that his cab was sporting a stolen license plate. We”re also told that he has previous convictions for “evading arrest in a motor vehicle” and “driving on a suspended license.” But about who Ibrahim Ahmed is, and what may have led him to try to kill two of his passengers because of an argument, we hear nothing at all.
One might suggest to the Nashville news outlets, as well as to AP, that Ibrahim Ahmed’s religion, as well as that of Andrew Nelson and Jeremy Invus, would be relevant to this story, and may help readers understand how a religious argument could turn murderous. After all, AP has not shied away from reporting on the religion of perpetrators of crimes in another recent case. Around the same time that Ibrahim Ahmed was running down Jeremy Invus, a man in Chicago apparently bludgeoned three women — a woman, her stepsister, and their mother — to death and attempted to kill himself. AP doesn’t give the suspect’s name, but does tell us that according to a neighbor and ex-husband of one of the victims, “the family was Assyrian Christian, a minority group in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.” Is religion involved in this case? Did the murderer kill his victims because of some imperative he believed arose from his Christian faith? That seems unlikely: AP also says it was a “domestic dispute,” and notes that “the couple had been having marital problems.” The Chicago Tribune adds that the suspect, Daryoush Ebrahami, “felt “˜disrespected” by the women, who had told him “˜he was not a man.–
So why is Ebrahami’s Christian faith relevant? The Tribune tells us that he was recently granted asylum on the basis of the possibility that as an Assyrian Christian, he could face religious persecution in Iran. That is an interesting detail, albeit irrelevant to the murders, but it is absent from AP”s piece — which mentions Ebrahami’s Christianity anyway.
Now compare that to the initial AP report about the Salt Lake mall shootings: “Police: Teen Shot Mall Victims at Random,” by Jennifer Dobner. All we learn about Sulejman Talovic beyond his name is that he was a “trench coat-clad teenager” who lived with his mother.
Now, when people point out that the religion of nominally Christian murderers isn’t noted in news stories, and that Talovic’s religion should therefore not have been either, they are assuming that in both instances religion played no factor in the killing, and was hence an irrelevant detail. However, while it is extraordinarily unlikely that Ebrahami killed his victims in the name of Jesus Christ, or would attempt to justify the killings by reference to Christ’s teachings, it was at very least a possibility that Talovic, like so many others around the world every day, as well as other lone jihadists in the U.S. like Mohammad Reza Taheri-azar, killed in the name of Allah and with justification from the Qur’an and Sunnah. That’s why Talovic’s religion at least merited a mention, and some investigation.
The FBI has ruled out Islamic terrorism as a factor in the Talovic killings. One hopes that agents have done so after sufficient consideration of the possibility — which seems to have been absent from other cases with some similarities to that of Talovic. But in the wake of this, some have rushed to condemn me and others who publicly noted the mainstream media’s reluctance to identify Talovic as a Muslim, and to explore the possibility that his killings were jihad-related. This criticism was misplaced, for that reluctance is real, but it does not apply to all religions — as the Ahmed and Ebrahami cases show. Ibrahim Ahmed is, of course, probably a Muslim, and his murderous rage may have been reinforced by Islam’s belief that those who insult Islam have forfeited their right to live. The refusal of the Associated Press even to consider such possibilities, and its inconsistency in doing so, is readily apparent.
All this becomes even more noteworthy in light of the recent revelation that Ali Abu Kamal, who killed one person and injured six in a shooting at the Empire State Building in 1997, “wanted to punish the U.S. for supporting Israel” — according to the New York Daily News. The explanation that has prevailed for ten years was that Abu Kamal was despondent after losing a large sum of money, but the killer’s daughter now says that Palestinian officials fabricated that story in order so as not to “harm the peace agreement with Israel.” She added that she tried to make his actual goal known, but no one was interested: “When we wanted to clarify that to the media, nobody listened to us.”
The media should start listening, and stop covering up details that may be pertinent to the cases they report. While Sulejman Talovic may not have been a jihadist, and Ibrahim Ahmed may not be one, in their selective disclosure of the facts they may find themselves covering up for the next jihadist who does strike. And they may already have done so.