God and Allah at an Easter service shooting

A church in Ashtabula, Ohio, was the scene of a shooting on Easter Sunday. Just as services had ended, a man arrived and shot his father in the head, killing him. A reporter sent us a link to an earlier version of an Associated Press story that ran in the Houston Chronicle with a headline that read:

Witness: Man yelled about God after church killing

That’s the headline that remains over this Columbus Dispatch version of the AP report. The reporter thought that interesting in so far as the assailant had reportedly talked about “Allah.” The witness actually said — in later stories at least — that the assailant had talked about Allah and God.

Allah is Arabic for God and none of the involved were Arab speakers, near as I can tell, so there was something interesting about the assailant’s choice of wording. Various other interested parties have suggested or denied drugs or mental health may have been contributing factors to this shooting.

All of which is to say, I found the various headlines interesting. Let’s look through them.

The updated AP story in the Houston Chronicle is now headlined “Relative: No motive in Easter shooting in Ohio.” I can imagine more interesting headlines.

(Ashtabula) Star Beacon: Suspect says shooting ‘will of Allah’

A later Star Beacon story:  Man gunned down after church service: Son arrested, says it was ‘will of Allah’

Local CBS: Police: Son Fatally Shoots Dad During Easter Service, Yells Killing Was ‘Will Of Allah’

National CBS: Ohio Church Shooting: Reshad Riddle, Ohio man, shot father to death in church after Easter service, police say

Vindy.com: Horrified church congregation watches son kill father after Easter service in Ashtabula

The Huffington Post:  Reshad Riddle Yelled About God And Allah After Allegedly Shooting Father In Ohio Church On Easter

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Minister recounts Easter Sunday shooting outside his Ashtabula church; one dead

I did find it odd that the last article doesn’t even mention “Allah” or “God,” but was written by the religion reporter who really struggles with writing fairly, objectively or with any nuance (here, here, here).

My own thinking is that the headlines that say “God” but avoid “Allah” are weird. But I prefer the headlines that focus on “father” “shot” “Easter service” — as those seem to be the key details. The rest can be fleshed out in the body of the story.

But what do you think?

The same issues are on display in the video embedded at the top of this post, for what it’s worth.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I don’t find the choice of words weird at all. Many in the media seem determined to do nothing that disturbs the image they want to create of Islam as the “religion of peace.” Thus, even though “Allah” was apparently the shooter’s “battle cry,” that brings up images in the public mind that the media wants to squelch no matter how relevent. Better to use the word “God” and let people think the shooting was done as some sort of Christian act.
    On the other hand maybe it is fear seeping into our media–fear that if they say or write anything that could be disrespectful of Islam there might be violent repercussions. In Europe “freedom of the press” is apparently being slowly strangled on Islamic issues and some other hot-button issues.

  • tmatt

    Rambling on about “God and religion”? That’s in the posted video.

    OK, I will ask: “Reshad” or “Rashad” means “righteous” in Arabic.

    Comments on local coverage also indicate, or CLAIM, that he had been in prison previously. Did he convert to Nation of Islam or to some other form of Islam, causing division in his family?


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