We eagerly await the entrance of Qatar-based Al Jazeera America to the U.S. media family. We’ve been following A lJazeera.com for some time and have found its presentations to be quite refreshingly honest if not balanced.
Although sometimes lambasted as a terrorism-advocate of murky Middle Eastern origins, we have found many items that American media is too shy (too constrained?) to cover. Take its year-end lead, for instance. Its headline, “Anti-Muslim Violence Spiraling out of Control in America.” To most readers it may seem like an exaggeration worthy of Fox News. To many Muslim Americans it carries a heavier ring of truth.
The article uses two illustrations to make its main point. The first: Just days after Senator Joe Walsh (Republican from Illinois) said, “Muslims are here trying to kill Americans every day," a man opened fire on an Illinois mosque while it was packed with hundreds of congregants for Ramadan. The next day, another mosque was hit with an acid bomb thrown at a window while worshippers had gathered for night services. These acts of terrorism received little notice in American national media.
The second illustration of the deep anti-Muslim current creeping through America was the follow up to New York City's resident Islamophobe (Thank you, Huffington Post for the label) Pam Geller’s offensive September subway ad. The City was restrained from stopping it by dint of our free speech laws. By December the anti-Muslim sentiment had become more violent. One murderer stated, “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims… Ever since 2001 when they put down the Twin Towers, I've been beating them up.” (In fact, the victim was not a Muslim.) Also in December three Middle Eastern shopkeepers were murdered in Brooklyn, right in our neighborhood.
The Al Jazeera article points out that anti-Muslim violence is reaching record highs in America. This, despite the fact that one would never know it from following mainstream U.S. media. Opening a public dialogue about the influence of hate-speech and hate-advertising is valuable in a nation supposedly driven by Justice and the Rule of Law. American media have been avoiding such self-investigation. Merely recognizing, admitting, publicly stating that violent anti-Muslim incidents are increasing in frequency is a big plus.
We may not like what Al Jazeera America will bring to our consciousness, but we will be the better for it.
January 3, 2013, by Bruce Wallace, 121Contact