This week seems to have been dominated by news of beheadings. Whilst ISIS beheaded another journalist in their state many miles away from us (with a British hostage next on the hit-list), another one took place right on our doorsteps in North London. Palmira Silva, an 82 year old woman, was hacked to death with a machete by an individual who went on a rampage by first decapitating two cats, before butchering the helpless old lady.
The nature of this crime was indeed shocking, but perhaps what was even more sickening was how certain parts of the media used this to fit their Islamophobic agenda. Surely there had to be some link between the beheadings of ISIS and Palmira Silva? Ah yes, the suspect, Nick Salvadore, converted to Islam 5 years ago. Therefore, it must have been that vile, barbaric and medieval faith of Islam which teaches its followers go on the hunt for innocent souls to behead.
As ludicrous as this may sound, that was the logic of ‘The Sun’ newspaper, with a typically sensationalist headline that a ‘Muslim Convert’ had beheaded Ms Silva as soon as the story broke. Perhaps The Sun had a clear link that it was this man’s ‘Muslim-ness’ that motivated this act of butchery? Perhaps he was praying in a mosque before he committed the act? Or maybe he left a Quran at the scene of the crime?
Of course, there was no clear link that his faith in Islam inspired the crime. Reading the testimonies from people who knew the suspect, it seems as if Mr Salvadore was mentally unstable, involved in drugs and an aspiring cage fighter. Put these three things together and you have the recipe for a violent murderer. Whilst most news outlets did focus on these aspects, they couldn’t help themselves (and their profit margins) by slipping in this man’s choice of faith, even though he gambled and played roulette. If it is likely that him being a non-observant Muslim was completely inconsequential to the crime he committed, where was the need to mention it?
Let’s not forget that this was not the only violent crime to have taken place this year. Earlier this year, Judith Nibbs was also beheaded by her husband, who then proceeded to kill himself. The murderer was not a Muslim, and no mention was made of his faith. Or what about the harrowing murder of Nahid Almanea? Whilst some of our writers advised factions of the Muslim community to exercise caution in establishing facts before jumping on the Islamophobia bandwagon, her killer is still out on the loose, and the suspicions that there was an Islamophobic motive to this crime remain.
Above all though, this exemplifies the sensationalism that exists within the media when reporting issues related to Muslims. From niqabs to beheadings, we get a barrage of lies, conflations and false assertions. In some ways, it might be argued that the press is bullying Muslims in Britain. It has got to stop.