Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 20:05 pm (KSA) 17:05 pm (GMT)

Few tears for crimes against Muslims

Linda S. Heard

As if we needed any more proof that the international media deliberately avoids exposing anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian injustices, its suspect behaviour during recent days has sealed the case.

 Let's be realistic. If just about any other high-profile U.S. politician on any other mission had been detained within a cell block on foreign soil, the incident would have merited headlines 

Even as we were being force-fed minute details of Michael Jackson's colourful life along with endless speculation as to the true parentage of his children, a former U.S. Congresswomen and presidential candidate, Cynthia McKinney, was languishing in an Israeli jail.

Her 'crime' was boarding the Free Gaza Movement's aid vessel The Spirit of Humanity in Cyprus, in an effort to break Israel's cruel siege of Gaza, which even the US President has condemned.

Like several of her sister vessels, The Spirit of Humanity was attacked by the Israeli Navy in international waters before being boarded by Israeli commandos and dragged along with its crew and passengers towards Israel.

Once there, 21 human rights advocates from the U.S., Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Jordan, Palestine and Yemen, including McKinney, Noble Laureate Mairead Maguire, and documentary filmmaker Adam Shapiro, were incarcerated.

Let's be realistic. If just about any other high-profile U.S. politician on any other mission had been detained within a cell block on foreign soil, the incident would have merited headlines.

However, McKinney's abduction went almost unnoticed. Not only was the story relegated to the back pages, if it ran at all, there was a corresponding absence of comment from Congress and the White House.

McKinney is now home after refusing to sign a statement in Hebrew that she was guilty of a violation, but the mainstream media is certainly not clamouring at her door for interviews.

As far as I can tell, her ordeal has mostly been covered by left-wing outlets such as Democracy Now or Middle East networks including Al Jazeera and Press TV.

A number of McKinney's supporters say the reason for the media blackout was the fact that she is a black American. But, in fact, it's her cause that's the problem rather than her colour.

 What were armed officers doing when Marwa was stabbed 18 times and why was her husband shot when he attempted to protect his pregnant wife?  

My analysis is based on the lack of media coverage given to the Viva Palestina aid convoy of trucks and ambulances from London to Gaza, led by British Parliamentarian George Galloway.

The Herculean efforts of hundreds of ordinary Britons to deliver much-needed humanitarian supplies to war-torn Gaza earlier this year was a non-event as far as the media was concerned until Galloway was barred from entering Canada as a result.

Unless you're a person who relentlessly digs on the internet, you probably are not aware that during McKinney's ordeal, Galloway, along with Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, were meeting up with over 200 Americans in Cairo armed with $2 million (Dh7.35 million) that was raised in the US to buy trucks and medical aid destined for Gaza.

The Egyptian English-language paper Ahram Weekly dubs this "the largest grassroots medical relief effort for Gaza in US history" but once again, this doesn't merit column inches in either U.S. or European mainstream papers.

In a similar vein, is the way that the horrendous courtroom stabbing of 32-year-old Marwa Al Sherbini was considered inconsequential by the German media until it elicited angry protests in her hometown of Alexandria.

There are so many aspects to this story, which should have been emblazoned across front pages.

First of all it was a blatant race crime, which Germany is normally sensitive about. Second, it begs questions concerning court security.

What were armed officers doing when Marwa was stabbed 18 times and why was her husband shot when he attempted to protect his pregnant wife?

What kind of editors would bin reports of such a horrendous crime carried out in full view of the authorities? What were they thinking?

Purely coincidentally, I was sitting at a table with one of Marwa's uncles in an Alexandria coffee shop when he received a call on his mobile and had to dash off because of a "family emergency".

Today, this exceptionally close-knit family is devastated and hurt that the murder of one of their own wasn't initially treated with the weight the crime deserved.

Egyptians are outraged at Germany's disinterest and the inaction of their own foreign office. The numbers who attended her funeral, who gathered outside the German embassy in Cairo and who demonstrated in Cairo and Alexandria speak for themselves.

Because Marwa's dispute with her attacker was based on his objections to her Islamic headscarf, the death of the young pharmacist has become an emblem for the rights of Muslim women at a time when the French President is attempting to ban the burqa. Marwa loved life.

She didn't plan to become a martyr. But in the eyes of Egyptians calling for a mosque and a street in Alexandria to be renamed in her honour, she is a heroine.

If the U.S. and Europe are chronically supine when it comes to Muslim causes, then the governments and media throughout the Arab and Muslim world should embrace them clearly and loudly.

With anti-Muslim hate crimes on the rise, Muslims need a strong united voice on the international stage. Shame on the world's media that appears to be united only in its anti-Muslim bias!

*Published in the UAE's GULF NEWS on July 13,2009. Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at lheard@gulfnews.com.

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