KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 – Today marks the second week since the tragic death of 50 people at the hands of a terrorist in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, has been labeled right-wing nationalist, white supremacist, and anti-immigrant. No report has called him a radical or extremist Christian terrorist though.
However, in the wake of the outpouring of love and support for the Christchurch Muslim community and Muslims in general, from New Zealand and around the world, there has been a backlash from some Christians, including those in Malaysia.
‘Love fest’ towards Muslims
Some have called all the coverage a “love fest” that is seemingly unjustified.
As a result, there has been a rise in Islamophobia being spread on social media channels such as WhatsApp and Facebook, digging out a story from two months ago, when the Catholic Cathedral in Jolo, in the Philippines was bombed during mass and 20 people were killed with dozens injured.
Also “brought to light” was the case of “120 Christians killed” over the past few weeks in Nigeria as reported by some Christian and US right-wing news portals.
One particular video clip of a white American man ranting (pic, left) about why doesn’t the mainstream media go all out, as it did in NZ, to cover the massacre of even more Christians in Nigeria, has also been widely shared in the past week.
He accused the global media of having a bias against Christians.
Malaysian Christians made this clip and a report by right-wing website Breitbart on the same go viral on social media, supporting the view that the global media organisations like CNN, BBC, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, as well as newswires like Reuters, AP and AFP did not care about Christians by not reporting on the Nigeria killings.
Limited access in Nigeria for world media
What they fail to understand is that the international media are given little access, if any, in Nigeria. More so, in the nether regions where tribal conflicts and other fighting between the army and rebel as well as terror groups, such as Boko Haram, have occurred.
While confirming, based on local news reports, that such killings had occurred, fact-check website Snopes.com also pointed out that such reports did not paint the full picture.
“Religious affiliation is a secondary issue in the ongoing Nigerian herder-farmer conflict, which impartial experts consistently describe as being primarily a dispute over natural resources and land usage. Reports in March 2019 failed to properly explain the complexity of the conflict, and Breitbart also did not mention a major reported atrocity perpetrated against the mostly Muslim Fula people in February 2019,” Snopes said.
Doing unto others with Islamophobia?
Selective reporting and the omission of facts and backgrounds to any report can be very misleading. But it seems like in the case of many stories on Malaysian politics, facts and the truth do not matter.
The irony is that the same Christians, who are victims of lies and untruths from some Umno and PAS leaders, as well as certain NGOs over the “DAP-Christianisation” agenda, can so easily fall to the temptation of spreading unverified reports just for the sake of their own agenda.
That agenda is Islamophobia, that is, the need to remind people that Muslims are the “bad guys” and the real terrorists amid all the compassion and empathy shown towards Muslims in the aftermath of the Christchurch tragedy.
Getting back to the Jolo Cathedral bombing, which took place on January 27, some Christians took to sharing screenshot of headlines screaming “20 killed in Jolo church bombing”, making it sound like it was the latest news, and complaining about why there was no widespread media coverage like there was for NZ.
One just had to Google and find all the coverage given by all the prominent global media organisations as well as local media on what happened in Jolo last January.
However, these individuals sharing such reports about the Jolo Cathedral bombing could pass of as just being typical of those who are ignorant and not aware of how a news cycle works.
That is, the terror attack from January not being given wide news coverage now, is exactly how the Christchurch tragedy will hardly get any coverage let alone be news anymore in two months time.
Herald playing up Islamophobia with old news report?
In Malaysia, however, the official news publication for the Catholic Church decided to publish the Jolo church bombing story on its front page last weekend, just below another story on the “International community in mourning” for the Christchurch Muslim community.
The story which was picked up from Catholic News Agency (CNA), a news service provider for the international Catholic community, was just a rehash of a report from January 27, but given prominence on the front page of the Herald.
Herald published the story and just inserted the date Jan 27 at a few instances where authorities are quoted, but maintained the same headline, which made it look as if it is a current story.
Such coverage could play to the Islamophobia spread by Christians on social media.
Even Pope Francis had reacted with great sympathy for Muslims following the Christchurch tragedy. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church had famously washed the feet of Muslim migrants at a Holy Thursday service in Rome in 2016, calling them “children of the same God”.
Pakatan leaders should take lead from Singapore minister
One would hope that Christian leaders in Pakatan Harapan parties would also help to stop such Islamophobia by issuing comments similar to that of Singapore Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam following the Christchurch tragedy.
“I think this is where societies have to face squarely the reality that Islamophobia is rising.
“Just as we come down hard on terrorists who say that they attack on behalf of Islam, you’ve got to come down hard equally on Islamophobic people, and also you’ve got to deal with the ideology.
“It’s not just dealing with specific incidents,” Shanmugam was quoted as saying by Channel NewsAsia on March 16, a day after the attack.
– New Malaysia Times