I must say, the headline stood out:
Too bad the story had little to do with it. First, I read this Associated Press story about how the family of Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old boy who was wrong accused of bringing a bomb — which turned out to be a clock — to school has decided they’d do better in Qatar. We critiqued some of the press coverage here.
The AP story got some intriguing quotes from two Muslim sources who disagreed with the family’s move:
Yaser Birjas, imam of the Valley Ranch Islamic Center in Irving, said he wishes the 14-year-old well but worries about the stress that can come with celebrity.
"I hope that he does not get overwhelmed and consumed with that because now the expectation of him is so high," Birjas said. "And he's just a kid."
Birjas cautioned that people who move from America to Muslim countries are often disappointed when they discover restrictions they never experienced in the U.S.
"Here in America, you have much more freedom practicing the faith," he said.
For others, the family move to the Middle East sends an unfortunate message.
Yousuf Fahimuddin, a Muslim journalist in the San Francisco Bay area, believes the family's departure will only perpetuate the idea that Muslims are not loyal to the U.S.
"I don't think moving to Qatar, a country with its own share of problems, constructively helps fight prejudice," Fahimuddin said in an email.
Instead, he said, "Muslims should try to share their common humanity with others to demonstrate that they are regular people."
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the U.S. has seen a significant rise in the level of anti-Muslim sentiment — feelings he said were reflected by the political attacks of GOP presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
"The Muslim-American community feels under siege by all this," Hooper said.
The last part of Hooper’s sentence is what the headline writer used atop the story. But the two Muslim sources before Hooper obviously felt the Muslim community isn’t under siege. One wonders if the two reporters who wrote the story are cringing over that one. Reporters rarely if ever get to write headlines for their story, so the writers aren’t at fault.
The headline writer had to dig deep into that story to come up with a scare heading. If you look at what the Dallas Morning News has written about the move — including a list of some of the goodies that have come Ahmed’s way, including a meeting with Obama and a world tour — one doesn’t get a hint of persecution. Neither did a similar story by AlJazeera English.
The Atlantic brought up some of the stranger aspects of Mohamed’s case in this story but again, nothing about how his situation reflects on the larger Muslim situation in this country. The Washington Post talked about why the boy’s family is sick of conspiracy theories.
But the AP story was the only one to seek out Ibrahim Hooper. Just Google Mr. Hooper’s name and you’ll find tons of opinions about him. He’s a very articulate spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and I’ve interviewed him many times. He has been decrying the treatment of Muslims in America for a long time. He’s also pretty quick to label anything “Islamophobia” as you can see in his Twitter account.
And to say that Muslims are “under siege” just begs some proof. Are people really saying that after Ahmed Mohamed was invited to the White House and people all over the world (read about it on his Twitter account) are falling all over themselves to be welcoming to this Muslim child and his family? Once he walked away from the high school that suspended him, he’s never looked back.
The headline writer extended way beyond his or her reach to ratchet up the story’s news worthiness. Next time, instead of adding to the Islamophobia narrative, say what the story was about: local Muslims questioning that move to Qatar. That’s what was newsworthy.