These photos are of Mohammed Haitham of Florida, an airman in the U.S. Navy at the time he was gunned down (along with Airman Apprentice Cameron Walters and Ensign Joshua Watson) in an attack at the Pensacola naval base, just a few days shy of his twentieth birthday. He reportedly died trying to stop the gunman, who was also named Mohammed. The latter Mohammed received a great deal of media attention not only because he was an apparent terrorist, but also because he was a Muslim. And Muslim terrorists always get far more attention than other kinds of terrorists, even though most attacks on U.S. soil are carried out by white, right-wing Christians.
But here’s the thing: Mohammed Haitham was a Muslim too. How much media coverage did you see of that?
Of course, the fact that he was a Muslim is not what made him heroic, any more than the fact that the shooter was a Muslim made him a killer. But the latter presumption is consistently spun throughout American media. So if you’re going to call out the Muslims who are bad guys, shouldn’t you also call out the Muslims who are good guys?
Curiously enough, one of the few media outlets to do just that was the right-wing loony fringe website Breitbart. “Curiously” because Breitbart has a history of promoting white nationalism and many other unhealthy isms. On this occasion, however, a writer at Brietbart made a sort of attempt to mend fences a little by praising Haitham, as part of a clumsy effort to distinguish between “good Muslims” and “bad Muslims”.
But that kind of condescending pigeonholing simply stresses the underlying problem. And in making the left-handed compliment to Haitham, the writer betrays the fascist bent of Brietbart by referring to the martyred sailor as a “Muslim-American”. How many times have you ever heard someone called a “Christian-American”?
The writer, noting that “America welcomes Muslims who share America’s values and are prepared to defend them”, also can’t resist getting in a dig at progressives, with their highfalutin education and academia and stuff, because of course he can’t:
The other “Mohammed” believed the lies that circulate within radical Islamist circles — and college campuses: that America is an evil, oppressive place; that America is the cause of suffering, among Muslims and others worldwide; that America must be destroyed through subterfuge and, if necessary, violence.
What he fails to mention is that America, or rather some of its putative leadership, does indeed cause suffering around the world. And rather than zeroing in on the Pensacola shooter being a Muslim, he and others in the media might have paid a little more attention to the fact that the killer was a Saudi.
As you may recall (although many seem to have forgotten), Saudi Arabia supplied 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9-11. The country has a long and proud tradition as a brutal authoritarian police state and a fertile breeding ground for terrorism. Yet U.S. “leaders” continue to suck up to the royal Saudi family. In fact, when the Forty-Fifth White House Occupant received news of the shooting, his first concern was not comforting the grieving or reassuring the public or increasing security measures. It was getting in touch with the Saudi king and making sure everything was still cool between them. But why the hell was a Saudi solider given free rein on an American military base in the first place?
Instead of examining matters like this, however, the media, the politicians and the public continue to obsess over religion as a motivating factor. It’s all too symptomatic of the fact that here in the Twenty-First Century, white Christian nationalism and right-wing bigotry are still dominant forces in American culture.