Western Media Bias Continues in Marwa EL-Sherbini’s Case

Western Media Bias Continues in Marwa EL-Sherbini’s Case

When Marwa Al-Sherbini was stabbed to death by a German fanatic in a German courtroom, Western media decided to turn a blind eye.

I kept following major Western news agencies and broadcasting channels hoping to get some reaction on the crime, but they were all busy reporting funeral arrangements for Michael Jackson, and demonstrations in Tehran.

Al-Sherbini was in court after being publicly insulted by a 27-year-old German who called her a “whore” and a “terrorist;” an accusation most Muslims face in today’s world. The local court fined the man €780. The prosecutor felt the punishment was too soft and the decision was appealed.

The appeal was being heard by the State Court in Dresden when the accused man attacked Al-Sherbini with a knife he had taken into court in front of her husband and 3-year-old son. Suffering more than 18 stabs in less than 30 seconds, Al-Sherbini, who was pregnant, died on the spot.

The court guards’ reaction was quite revealing and disappointing. Not only did it come too late to save Al-Sherbini’s life, but their immediate reaction was to shoot at Al-Sherbini’s husband who attempted to get between his wife and her assassin. Apparently mass media’s depiction of Muslims as aggressors and terrorists blinded them so that they could not see that the Muslim was the victim. The terrorist was then taken into custody while the grieving husband was taken to hospital leaving behind his traumatized son.

Had the Muslim been the aggressor as the guards initially thought, the story would have made headlines in channels like CNN, BBC and of course the infamous Sky News and Fox News. It would have perfectly fitted into the promoted image of Muslims being aggressive, barbaric and uncivilized. But this time, like others, they were the victims. Apparently, these larger-than-life media outlets believe in human rights only for Western humans.

Western media bias has been evident more than ever over the past months.

Following the Iranian presidential elections, reporters in Tehran only covered demonstrations supporting losing candidate Mousavi, claiming — with no evidence so far — that elections have been rigged. They base their argument on the fact that Mousavi’s demonstrations draw thousands of supporters. This is the image they send to millions of viewers around the world, overlooking the fact that there are larger demonstrations supporting conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

There has been harsh criticism for Tehran’s regime for its crackdown on demonstrators. I do believe that no regime should use power against its own people that way. But an immediate question would be: where is this very same media when Egypt’s regime cracks down on demonstrators calling for an increase in salaries or for political reform?

I know Egypt’s regime is a close ally to the West, a “force of stability” in the region as President Barack Obama put it, but if the Western concerns about Iran stem from a belief in human rights then they should have been as vocal with Egypt and other regional dictators (significantly the Saudi monarchy) as they are with Iran.

One could say the same about the situation in Israel and the Palestinian occupied territories. Gilad Shalit’s news is covered by all the big names in broadcasting, although he was a soldier captured in the battlefield. Tens of thousands of Palestinians — diplomats, politicians, women, children and activists — are kidnapped and face the worst forms of humiliation in Israeli prison camps but their misery is not enough to attract some attention from Western media.

Western media constantly points the religious freedom and minority rights issues in the Muslim world. Sometimes the reports are true, and the incidents are cruel, but most of the time they are exaggerated. More importantly, silence is deafening when it comes to the rights of Arabs in Israel. In addition to their daily suffering and enduring social discrimination, some of their political parties were officially banned from participating in the last elections because they are calling for equal citizenship rights.

The notion of “Islamic state” is notorious in Western literature, sometimes for good reasons, including the practices and ideas of some Islamists who adopt discriminatory views. Yet these views are criticized by other Islamists who adopt a discourse promoting equal citizenship rights, engagement and appreciation of diversity.

The notion of a “Jewish state” however is accepted and endorsed by Western media, and widely defended by politicians, at a time when it only means having a 100 percent Jewish population as a prerequisite to equality and citizenship rights.

This media bias does not serve any type of cross-cultural relations. It promotes the discourse of the clash of civilizations and undermines any possibility for an alliance of civilizations. It creates grounds for radicalism to grow, and at a time when the world is becoming increasingly interdependent and closed, the outcome could be dreadful.

Ibrahim El Houdaiby is a freelance columnist and researcher. A graduate of the American University in Cairo, he holds a B.A. in political science and is working towards an M.A. in Islamic Studies at the High Institute of Islamic Studies.