Frequently when we’re talking about violence against religious minorities, it’s a foreign issue. But it happens stateside as well, sadly. Recently there have been a few attacks that have received media attention. When Michael Enright stabbed his New York City cab driver Ahmed H. Sharif, for being a Muslim, it was major news. When a fire broke out at a construction site of a Tennessee mosque, it was major news. This weekend word came that the ATF has ruled that fire arson, it was also major news.
The coverage of the cabbie attack isn’t going to win any awards, but I think the coverage of the fire at the mosque construction site has been fine. Of course, there’s not much to go on right now, so the news has been relatively straightforward. Because of the public debate over various mosques, there’s question about motive. But there aren’t any answers right now. Be sure to let us know if you see any particularly good or bad media coverage on that front.
It’s interesting, though, how some violent attacks are national news and others aren’t. Last week I saw the news that a Mormon bishop was murdered at his ward in Visalia, California. I grew up in that county so I was following what little news trickled out. There’s also some lack of clarity about motive since the man who shot the bishop was later killed by police and, like Enright, apparently suffered mental illness.
But by and large, there doesn’t appear to be much major media interest in the story. This is a church body that was seriously targeted in the aftermath of California’s Prop. 8 ruling. So it’s just interesting that at no time did this merit much serious coverage. Sure, there are some local news briefs and mentions on media blogs. The New York Times has yet to mention the killing or even run this Associated Press report, which I saw in the Salt Lake Tribune, from the first day:
A Mormon church official was shot dead between services on Sunday, and less than an hour later, the man suspected of the crime also died after a shootout with police.
Clay Sannar, 42, a lay bishop with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Visalia, southeast of Fresno, died after being shot in his office, said Visalia police chief Colleen Mestas.
Soon after the first shooting, a caller identified himself to police as the shooter. Police responded, and there was a confrontation with several shots exchanged, said Mestas. The suspect was hit multiple times. He was taken to nearby Kaweah Delta Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. He has not been identified yet. No officers were injured, Mestas said.
Tulare County sheriff’s deputies are taking over the investigation of the shootout involving the police officers. The sheriff’s department did not immediately return calls for comment.
Visalia police continue to investigate Sannar’s shooting, but have not identified a motive.
It’s interesting to consider what makes for national news and what doesn’t and how that coverage affects the way we view the world.