As news of the massacre in Norway broke yesterday afternoon, two broadcasters – ITV and the BBC – immediately began assuming that both attacks were carried out by Muslim extremists.
This doesn’t just show an element of lazy journalism – with an ITV man using a ‘Jihadi Internet Forum’ as his source – but also highlights an underlying assumption attaching terrorism with radical Islam.
Such an assumption before the facts – which are now known – would be expected, I suppose, amongst newsrooms and idle chit-chat. But for both these broadcasters to take the step to run a mini piece with one of their journalists where he runs through possible links between the attacks and Islamic terrorists is a step too far. Some of the most well-known terrorist atrocities to hit Europe in the past ten years have been attributed to Islamic terrorists (9/11,7/7, Madrid). But to automatically assume that any terrorist attack in Europe is the fault of some Islamic terrorist cell only plays into the already unequal perception European society has of Muslims per se.
If any progress is to be made with assimilating islamic culture into Western societies or creating ‘healthy and diverse’ communities – whichever way you choose to phrase it – then a key issue must be tackling unequal perceptions of Muslims as radical fundamentalists.
The immediate linking of the Norway attacks in Oslo and Utoya with Jihadi/Islamic/Muslim Fundamentalists was wrong, even though now no such link is discussed since it is confirmed that this time the guilty party is a lone, white, radical Christian fundamentalist.
But just this small example of lazy journalism highlights the problem of an unequal and distroted perception of Muslims which fosters animosity and resentment; that linking terrorism with Islam.