Middle Eastern=Evil, Western=Victim

by 7:00 PM 0 comments
Last week on NPR, they ran a story on Elton Simpson, one of the shooters in the Mohammed drawing contest in Garland, TX. The story, much like this one on CNN's website, stressed that he was a good person with a lot of positive attributes who had converted to Islam. His mom cried into the microphone about how he had just fallen under the wrong influences. It was generally conciliatory in tone. Not much about the other guy, who was born a muslim.

And, I know, Elton Simpson was shot to death, which is kind of sad. I guess. Apparently he had some mental issues, too. OK.

But it's one representative of the journalistic style that has come to dominate ISIS coverage when recruitment of westerners is involved. The stories almost uniformly center around ISIS' slick social media operation that lures unsuspecting teenagers and young adults into terrorist activity.

It's not that the stories are wrong. It's all true. But there seem to be two major problems with presenting the story of ISIS recruitment this way.

1. Maybe these westerners were misled about the ISIS lifestyle, but they have to understand that the group mostly deals with terrorizing and killing people. They do have the internet. So why is it that if a teen kills someone in the US they are tried for murder, often as an adult, but if they sign up to murder abroad then they are the victim of a marketing scheme? The westerners that sign up for ISIS almost certainly have some sociopathic tendencies.

2. If western ISIS recruits are victims, that should make middle-eastern ISIS recruits saints. They may not have access to the news. They may not have another way of feeding their families. In fact, it may be a 'join or die' situation for many of them. There may be familial or other pressures making it an easy choice to join.

I'm sure some of the middle eastern members of ISIS are awful, sadistic bastards. But I imagine many more members are caught up in it for various other reasons. Not that they have no choice, there's always a choice. However, I think that they have much less of a choice than westerners do, and it's time for us to either care about all ISIS members as victims of circumstance, or stop having sympathy for any of the western ones.

Marina Gafni

Marina Gafni is a 28-year-old speech pathology student. She lives with her husband in San Jose, CA.

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