Whenever there is a “terrorist” attack by anyone who identifies as Muslim, the first tendency of the press is to blame some reified, monolitic “Islam” for the event.

By contrast, when there is a mass shooting by a white man in the US, the first tendency of the press is to isolate the individual from American culture, usually by appeals to the discourse of “mental illness.” White men shoot not because of any cultural influences; they only do it because they, as individuals, are sick. Nothing in American culture (e.g., sexism, racism, libertarian paranoia, etc.) have anything to do with the actions of these mentally ill loners.

Thus it was a shock to see this headline after the recent shooting at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida (a case in which the perpetrator self-identified as Muslim): “Attacker appeared to be self-radicalized.”

Apparently we are now including Muslims in the number of folks whose actions we refuse to historicize. Apparently no one perpetrates illegal gun deaths (as opposed to legal gun deaths, which are justified with a totally different, problematic set of discourses) for any reason whatsoever, other than their inner unmoved-mover randomly flips a switch.

So, we’ll proceed to ignore any possible role of Islamic homophobia, gun culture, American Islamaphobia, etc. in motivating action. Once again, we’re all individuals.


About Craig Martin

I am an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at St. Thomas Aquinas College.
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