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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