.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

US media reluctant to call terrorists "Muslim"

It is a top story across many US news sites this morning:
Four men arrested for an alleged plot to bomb a New York synagogue and Jewish community center are expected to appear in federal court Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

The men also wanted to use surface-to-air missiles to fire at U.S. military planes, according to a criminal complaint filed in White Plains, New York.

James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen are accused of plotting to detonate explosives near a synagogue in the Riverdale section of Bronx, New York.

Each man had at least one alias, according to the office. Three of them are U.S. citizens and one is a Haitian, a statement from the New York governor's office said, citing the U.S. Attorney's office.

The statement said the informant met with Cromitie in June 2008 in Newburgh, New York. During that meeting, Cromitie said his parents live in Afghanistan, that he was angry over the U.S. war there and that he expressed interest in "doing something to America."

They also conducted surveillance, including photographs, of an Air National Guard base where they wanted to blow up planes, the statement said. The informant provided the men with a surface-to-air guided missile and C-4 plastic explosives, none of which could actually be used.
From stories like this one it is very hard to understand motive. At first it sounds vaguely like some sort of skinhead-type group wanting to kill Jews, but why would they also want to blow up military planes? CNN's article only gives a slight hint when it said that the ringleader's parents live in Afghanistan.

Nothing adds up...unless you look for other sources of news. The London Evening Standard puts things in perspective from the first paragraph:
Four Muslims have been arrested over a plot to shoot down US military aircraft and simultaneously blow up two synagogues in New York.
The Daily Mail even puts the dreaded "M" word in its headline:
Four Muslim extremists arrested over plot to bomb synagogue and shoot down planes
One can understand why US media would be reluctant to identify someone's religion for, say, a random murder or a robbery, but in a case like this, their religion is a critical part of understanding the story.

The Evening Standard continues, adding details about the men's aliases and statements that CNN and AP deemed irrelevant:
The alleged plotters were named today as James Cromitie (also known as Abdul Rahman), David Williams (aka Daoud and DL), Onta Williams (aka Hamza) and Laguerre Payen (aka Amin and Almondo). They are all thought to have been born in the US. Cromitie, the apparent ringleader, told an FBI informant he was upset by the war in Afghanistan, where his parents were born, and wanted to “do something to America”.

He was caught on tape complaining that the “best target [the World Trade Center] was hit already”. In the same conversation Cromitie, who has been arrested 27 times, said: “I hate those motherf***ers, those f***ing Jewish bastards ... I would like to get a synagogue.

At one stage he told the informant as they watched Jews in the street that if he had a gun he “would shoot each one in the head”. He also said that if he died a martyr he would go to paradise.

The plotters allegedly planted one fake bomb in the boot of a car outside the Riverdale Temple and two on the seat of another car outside the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center in the Bronx last night. The gang then planned to drive 60 miles north of New York to Newburgh to collect mobile phone detonating devices.

The next stage was to go to Stewart International Airport, also in Newburgh, where they would shoot down a military jet while simultaneously exploding the synagogue bombs. The airport is used by the New York Air National Guard and the US Air Force. But the weapons were supplied by an FBI informant and the gang's movements had been monitored since June last year.
And the Daily Mail adds:
One, of Afghan descent, was Muslim-born while the other three converted in prison, officials said, adding that some were of Arabic descent and one is of Haitian descent.
All of the relevant facts in the London papers were clearly available to the US news outlets - and they were consciously suppressed by the editors as not being an important part of the story.

The American media has spent lots of time in the effort to paint Islam as being just another religion, a highly personal aspect of people's lives that has only a tiny influence on their activities (except when the activities are wholesome and charitable.) News editors so not want to be accused of incitement and Islamophobia, so they play it safe. In this case, it is clear that their refusal to highlight the obvious makes the news suffer.

Once religion becomes part of the story, other uncomfortable questions naturally come up: why would people who choose to be Muslim also choose to bomb Jewish targets in America? Is their anti-semitism a result of their religion, or did they choose the religion because of their existing Jew-hatred? The usual implied reason, anti-Zionism (which for some reason is deemed an understandable and acceptable reason for terror attacks in other cases) does not fit into this story at all. The American press mentions a vague motive about US involvement in Afghanistan, but targeting US synagogues doesn't fit in.

These people hated Jews and America. The most relevant fact about the case is being suppressed. The all important question - motive - is therefore being ignored. And the secondary question of how to connect the dots between their religion and their motive cannot even be asked without this information.

UPDATE: The New York police commissioner, when asked about motive at a press conference a few minutes ago, said, simply, "jihad."