Staff Editorial: Media lens distorts nature of terrorism

A Jamaican man was caught in a Florida airport with bomb parts in his luggage as well as bomb-making instructions in his backpack, Reuters reported.

The investigators in Kevin Brown’s case said he was going to use the liquids and pipes in his luggage to make a bomb once he arrived to Jamaica so that he could "show off" to his friends.

What’s baffling, though, is why a person who has intentions to make a bomb would walk around with a "how to make a bomb" book, especially in an airport. And note how investigators or the media did not call the man a terrorist. Yet if he had a Middle-Eastern name, no doubt the word "terrorist" would be plastered all over the news.

This brings into question, then, whether genetic makeup and ethnicity has anything to do with differentiating a terrorist from a criminal.

When three men were arrested in Germany last September for plotting to blow up U.S. targets, two of the men were blue-eyed and blonde native Germans, but here is the catch – they were converts to Islam. They were terrorists, the media said. But what if these two men were not Muslim? Would they still be considered terrorists?

On the FBI’s Web site is a list of the "Most Wanted Terrorists," and every single man listed on the site is Muslim and from North Africa, the Middle East or Asia, except for one man who is an American native convert. Walk up to anyone and ask what a terrorist looks like, and the image would likely look like that of an Arab. And surely most people will think of the image of Osama bin Laden hiding in a mountain in some far Eastern country.

Sadly, the connotation of "terrorist" has come to illustrate that of an Arab or Muslim, when in fact it is not true. What constitutes a terrorist should not be the genetic makeup or ethnicity of a person, but rather the connection to an alleged crime.

All Reuters has to do is call this Jamaican man a terrorist and people would most definitely assume him to be Muslim. But rather than canonize a criminal for whatever religion they follow, the media should just make it fair and call all criminals who have the intent to terrorize a terrorist. Let us hope that our judgments are not too saturated already.

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