Concerning the dozens dead in Istanbul: Why religious affiliation of victims matters

Dozens dead at the Istanbul airport.

Hundreds injured.

Are we even surprised anymore when images of yet another terror attack linked (it seems) to the Islamic State bombard our screens?

There is, as almost always seems to be the case, a huge religion angle on this latest attack (and not the one you might think). But first, these latest tweets from major news organizations give a pretty good idea of the suffering and carnage:

The latest lede from The Associated Press:

ISTANBUL (AP) -- Suicide attackers armed with guns and bombs killed 41 people and wounded hundreds at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport, apparently targeting Turkey's crucial tourism industry. The government blamed the attack on Islamic State extremists but there was no immediate confirmation from the group.
Scenes of chaos and panic unfolded Tuesday night as gunfire and explosions on two different floors sent crowds fleeing first in one direction, then another.
Airport surveillance video posted on social media appeared to show one explosion, a ball of fire that sent terrified passengers racing for safety. Another appeared to show an attacker, felled by a gunshot from a security officer, blowing himself up seconds later. A growing stream of travelers, some rolling suitcases behind them, fled down a corridor, looking fearfully over their shoulders.
"Four people fell in front of me. They were torn into pieces," said airport worker Hacer Peksen.
The victims included at least 13 foreigners and several people remained unidentified Wednesday. The toll excluded the three bombers. The Istanbul governor's office said more than 230 people were wounded.

As GetReligion readers know, historic details really matter in Instanbul. 

Muslim-majority Turkey — as our own tmatt pointed out earlier this month — maintains a status, in the eyes of Europe especially, as a secular state that is dedicated to some protection for religious minorities. 

A key detail to watch for in news coverage: The Turkish government has been moving in a more explicitly Muslim direction, away from secularism. Is the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, having an impact there as well as in creating a financial crisis with the collapse of tourism (after a series of terror attacks)?

Most of the stories we've seen so far ignore the religion angle. But wait, this strong, strong New York Times piece nails that perspective:

A big chunk of that important background from the Times:

A majority of the victims appeared to be Muslims, either Turks or visitors from Muslim countries. If the bombings are confirmed to be the work of the Islamic State, it would show once again that the group, which portrays itself as defending Islam and fighting Western powers, kills far more Muslims on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria or in terrorist attacks in the region, than it does non-Muslims.
The attack cast a pall over a city that until recently was brimming with self-confidence, projecting itself as a rambunctious, multicultural hub for the arts, with great cuisine and a dazzling history as a former imperial capital.
But a series of terrorist attacks over the last year, some attributed to the Islamic State and others to Kurdish militants, have decimated Turkey’s carefully crafted image as a haven in a dangerous region, and they have damaged its once-thriving tourism industry.

Note in particular the emphasis that the Islamic State kills more moderate Muslims than anyone else — a frequent theme here at GetReligion.

Kudos to the Times for reporting crucial details that help readers understand more fully the context of the Istanbul airport attack.

Go ahead and read the full story.

Please respect our Commenting Policy