Originally Published in the Sky Valley Chronicle on March 4th, 2018
America needs to change the way we respond to tragedy and increase our dialogue. We have become far too cynical and it has become a roadblock to any type of progress.
There was a strong reaction last week when National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch commented at the conservative CPAC conference saying, “many in legacy media love mass shootings”.
While this was certainly a provocative statement and understandably offensive to anyone working in the media industry, from a business perspective there is no question that media outlets do very well during such times. This is not the fault of the media alone.
We the consumers raise their ratings when our eyes become glued to our screens awaiting every detail or new development.
The NRA is facing backlash after years of intense lobbying to keep the gun industry as unregulated as possible. The growing national response is not surprising.
Some law-abiding gun owners feel they are being unfairly judged for the actions of a small minority of gun owners. As a Muslim, I can certainly relate to this sentiment. But at the same time, I can’t help but shake my head at the hypocrisy.
Muslims experience the same treatment pushed by conservative media and speakers often featured at CPAC. After each act of terrorism committed by someone who professes to be Muslim there is non-stop media coverage.
We see so-called experts on Islam telling us about the threats that Islam poses to America, how immigration from Muslim nations should be banned, the ridiculous conspiracy theory that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the highest levels government, or that President Obama was a closet Muslim.
We see a rise in hate crimes and experience ignorant and obnoxious comments in our daily lives. We are even told that American Muslims need to do more to prevent extremism—something asked of no other demographic.
Then, we receive comparatively and substantially less media attention for efforts to combat extremism like the True Islam campaign.
Meanwhile, the coverage of terrorist attacks perpetrated by so-called Muslims, on average, sees many times more media attention than attacks committed by white supremacists or other extremist groups.
The editor of the Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro, announced that they would no longer publish the names and photos of perpetrators of mass shootings. It was noted that attention garnered from such attacks can inspire new attacks.
While I don’t expect that this would ever be widely practiced, and while there’s many views of Shapiro that I find untenable—on this matter I think Mr. Shapiro gets it right. We need a media approach that focuses on the problems themselves without bringing so much attention to the killers through tabloid style coverage.
The unnecessary attention that fuels the non-stop coverage of unimportant details will continue if we continue to consume it. As consumers we should reject such tabloid style journalism. Media is a business and will report on whatever we demand.
His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, has stated that “Publicity is the oxygen sustaining most terrorist or extremist groups.”.” His Holiness adds, “Instead of conflict and division, we desire for people to live alongside one another in peace and harmony. We seek to build bridges of love that unite all mankind.”
It is my hope that in the future, when law-abiding gun owners see law-abiding Muslims attacked unfairly and lumped in with terrorists, they will be able to look back at this with some empathy and choose to engage in dialogue rather than stereotype innocent Muslims.
Dialogue is likewise the path to ensuring common sense gun legislation. Far too many Americans, on all sides, have chosen to limit their sources of news to only those that report what they agree with. Social media has amplified these echo chambers creating even more division.
We need to learn to use our media in a way to increase dialogue and understanding instead of blocking out that which we don’t want to hear. We have a responsibility to demand unbiased truth and dialogue instead of just hearing what we want to hear. That fairness is the better way to respond to tragedy, because it better ensures we act with justice and thus better prevent future tragedies.