Ghosts of gay-bashing

I’ve let this story percolate for a little while. Still, the story of the three NorCal cousins accused of shooting a man they believed to be gay with a BB gun has gotten only touch-and-go coverage, mainly from the San Francisco Chronicle and the Associated Press.

In multiple reports that the men allegedly video taped more BB-gun attacks, there has been no discussion of the men’s religion. Religion may be relevant because, you know, there are a few belief systems out there that might motivate such an attack.

From the Chronicle‘s first report:

Three cousins from Hayward have been charged in San Francisco with a hate crime and assault for allegedly firing a BB rifle at the face of a man they believed was gay, an attack the men videotaped, authorities said Wednesday.

Mohammad Habibzada, Shafiq Hashemi and Sayed Bassam, all 24, are scheduled to be arraigned today in San Francisco Superior Court. They are free on $50,000 bond apiece.

And a follow-up Friday from the AP:

Really, there’s nothing to share from that report, except that the men are considered suspects in 11 similar shootings.

Of course, bloggers are speculating that these men are Muslim and that that’s why they’re getting the free pass:

Imagine, if you will, that the BB gun attackers had been white. Or from Utah. Or from Texas. Or Laramie, Wyoming. What kind of wild adjectives would have been applied? We can only surmise. Editorializing against mainstream Americans who are now out-of-favor by the media (whites, Catholics, evangelicals, Mormons, conservatives) happens everyday on America’s front pages and network news programs. But when it comes to Arab/Muslim attackers — all silence is golden for the American media.

That’s from Bruce Carroll Big Journalism. These men could, of course, be Christian. But Carroll’s general premise about media treatment is accurate. Reporters are often quick to identify as intolerant fanatics many Christian strains but are more reticent to do so when it comes to domestic members of religious minorities. (This doesn’t necessarily hold when talking and foreign members of the same religious groups.) Over at Beliefnet, Rod Dreher provides a more sober discussion of the “dark side of minority religions.” He begins with another Carroll report regarding a Muslim adjunct faculty member at Vanderbilt University agreeing at a public forum that Islam requires the death penalty for homosexuals:

The Muslim, a chaplain at the university, also said that Muslims aren’t at liberty to question this teaching. In his rather vituperative blog entry, Carroll talks about how a statement like this would have been covered by the MSM and in the blogosphere if it had been made by an Evangelical Christian.

I know what he means. When I lived in Dallas, I ran across this kind of thing with some frequency. It used to drive me crazy how journalists at my own newspaper, and at other media outlets in Dallas, showed little or no interest when leading Muslim figures would say things this outrageous, or affiliate themselves closely with those in their faith who did. If influential Christians in the community had said such things, they would have been ripped, and would have deserved it. But the media have a strong tendency to want to protect minority religions, I find. Moreover, some in the media get caught up in a ridiculous form of zero-sum thinking, assuming that if right-wing Christians are up in arms over what certain Muslims say, then maybe the Muslims aren’t all wrong. It’s seeing the complexities of our religious reality through a culture-war prism, and it’s really distorting.

Which brings us back to the original and now lingering question: What role, if any, did religion play in the anti-gay BB-gun attack?

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  • Jon in the Nati

    While I agree with the post, and a lot of the stuff in Carroll’s take, he goes to a place toward the end of his rant that I don’t really get and I am not sure how it is relevant:

    It is also important to note that the fundamental philosophies of a majority of the American gay activist community have been rooted with elements of anti-capitalism, anti-democracy, anti-war, and anti-Israeli sentiment for the past three decades. [...] In order to be gay and part of “the community” in America, you must first renounce “the mainstream,” your individualism, liberty, capitalism, the Constitution, the basic right to vote and your patriotism. All those checked? Join the club!

    I wonder about this. What does he mean to say, exactly? And how does that fit in with what happened?

  • Perpetua

    The men have been identified as Muslims by the San Francisco District attorney’s office. The AP and the San Francisco Chronicle have neglected to report this. But as I posted on my blog yesterday, local KTVU not only reports this, but also that prosecutors have evidence the men may have committed the alleged acts because they believe homosexuality is against their religion.

  • Dave

    Carroll, per Jon:

    the fundamental philosophies of a majority of the American gay activist community have been rooted with elements of anti-capitalism, anti-democracy, anti-war, and anti-Israeli sentiment for the past three decades

    The Unitarian Universalist church has been very active in support of gay rights for more than a decade and does not fit this frame. Carroll paints with way to broad a brush.

  • dalea

    Jon asks:

    I wonder about this. What does he mean to say, exactly? And how does that fit in with what happened?

    It has nothing to do with what happened. This is a standard feature of right wing gays reporting. Andrew Sullivan used to do so all the time, IGF does this frequently. I have never understood the point of it other than to make a distinction between the commentator and the ‘activist gays’. Nor am I clear as to who the activists are. There are a number of conservative gays who blog or are journalists like AS. They seem to want to be seen as respectable middle class types of people not like the hippy activists. Just standard practice. It looks odd when first encountered, and never improves with age.

  • Sahar In the Morning

    The valid question would be “what role did homophobic talking heads given big splashy headlines have” especially these last 8+ years to those living in the dysfunctional hick towns of ‘Murkistan in which these three cousins reside in.

    There are plenty of non-Christian right wingers who are also rabid FOX viewers.

    The fact that the three cousins are of Iranian decent is also of great import.

    The wealthier Iranians who fled west during the early days of the revolution did so under the threat of being held accountable for their heinous crimes of corruption and violence perpetrated against the general population during the Shah’s era.

    These three cousins are the children of those ‘entitled’ exiles — many of which are rabid fan of hawkish right winger rhetoric… due to the fact they dream of the day they can return to Iran to rape and pillage like the good old days.

  • Perpetua

    I think Carroll is trying to understand why gay activists are also often pro-Muslim/Islam while they are anti-Christian. From current case it is clear that Muslims can be violently anti-homosexual because they believe homosexuality is against their religion. So, it seems like a contradiction to conservative Christians that they and their religion are the targets of the gay activists while what they perceive to be far more dangerous to gays is glamorized by gays.