Based on the mainstream media reports pouring out of Kenya, it’s clear that the terrorist attacks on the high-end Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi had a lot to do with religion.
CBS News even managed to get one of the most gripping religious details into its lede:
Gunmen threw grenades, fired automatic weapons and targeted non-Muslims at the upscale Westgate mall in Kenya’s capital on Saturday, killing at least 30 people and wounding dozens more, a Kenya Red Cross official and witnesses said.
How, precisely, do two trained squads of gunmen, according to reports, specifically target non-Muslims?
It’s very early for specific details, and I get that. The most common statement in these reports is that the gunners simply shouted instructions for non-Muslims to flee and refused to shoot those who immediately responded. However, do not be surprised if, as the terrorists hunted from store to store, the story is more complex than that. In Syria, rebels have been offering Christians the choice to convert to Islam, on the spot, and avoid death.
This is merely one symbolic detail from a hellish scene. However, it is interesting the degree to which some mainstream news organizations downplayed the religious motives in the massacre, stressing the merely political. Here is typical language near the top of an early Washington Post report:
On Saturday night, the al-Qaeda-linked Somali militia al-Shabab appeared to claim responsibility for the assault, saying it was in retaliation for Kenya sending troops to fight in neighboring Somalia, where it remains a key military actor. In a tweet from the group’s official Twitter handle, @HSM_Press, the militia said that it “has on numerous occasions warned the #Kenyan government that failure to remove its forces from Somalia would have severe consequences.”
“The Kenyan government, however, turned a deaf ear to our repeated warnings and continued to massacre innocent Muslims in Somalia,” it said in another tweet.
The militia said that its “Mujahideen” had entered the Westgate Premier Shopping Mall about noon and that they were “still inside the mall, fighting” Kenyans on “their own turf.” In another tweet, the militia said that “what Kenyans are witnessing at #Westgate is retributive justice for crimes committed by their military.”
Quite a bit later in the story, the Post team notes: