New York Times Fails to Use 'Muslim,' 'Islamic' in Initial London Terror Coverage

Condemned 'deadly' anti-Muslim 'Hindu extremists' in India

An armed police officer stands guard on Whitehall / Getty Images
March 23, 2017

Thursday's print edition of the New York Times failed to use the words "Muslim" or "Islamic" in its coverage of the London terrorist attack that left four dead, but did not shy away from condemning "deadly" anti-Muslim "Hindu extremists" in India.

The paper of record quoted a law enforcement official who said Wednesday's attack outside Parliament was "inspired by international terrorism," but did not focus on what motivated the attacker. It repeatedly referred to the suspected terrorist—who was shot dead by security after stabbing a police officer to death—as an "assailant" or "lone male" responsible for the "confusing swirl of violence." Even when the paper described parallels with previous terror attacks carried out by Muslim extremists, it refused to say the motivating factors in each case.

"It appeared to be the most serious such assault in London since the deadly subway bombings," the paper said in a front-page story titled "Deadly Rampage in Heart of London." There was no mention of what motivated the July 7, 2005 bombings that left 52 dead and more than 700 injured, nor was there any mention of the identity of the attackers.

The paper referred to terrorist attacks in France and Germany that left hundreds dead as "mass violence" and noted that England has largely avoided such attacks. The 2005 bombings were exceptions the Times linked to "political violence." Gun regulations and counterterrorism measures, rather than tighter border controls, were credited with preventing such attacks.

"Political violence is relatively rare in Britain, where gun ownership is stringently restricted," the paper reports, though it did note the assassination of Labour MP Jo Cox during the Brexit campaign and the 1979 car bomb attack that killed Conservative MP Airey Neave.

The Times also pointed out that Great Britain is no stranger to religious extremism.

"I am of the generation who remembers the [Irish Republican Army] bombs in London during the Troubles," one witness told Times reporters, who later clarified that the witness was "referring to the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland."

The Islamic State claimed credit for Wednesday's attack. Officials identified the suspected terrorist as Khalid Masood, a convicted criminal who had previously been investigated by British intelligence agency MI5 . Officials are now "researching the assailant's background," the Times wrote in a story published online Thursday, "to establish whether the suspect was part of a network, and also to determine if he was on their radar at all, had left a travel footprint, or known to have associated with known radical individuals."

Readers of the online article learned more specifics about what kind of "radical individuals" authorities are investigating. Experts told the Times that law enforcement officials "keep close tabs on potential Islamist radicals and terrorists."

"Efforts to track extremists have become harder in recent years, experts say. For years, the police had been able to keep close tabs on potential Islamist radicals and terrorists, including Anjem Choudary, one of the most outspoken and effective hate preachers in Britain, who for years was the public face of radical Islam, encouraging dozens of followers to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State and vowing to convert Buckingham Palace into a mosque," the Times reported.

"The Home Office made support for the Islamic State a criminal offense in June 2014, when Mrs. May was home secretary, and experts on radicalism said that drove many Islamist extremists underground."

That information is included in the 41st and 42nd paragraphs of the 44 paragraph-long report.

The Times print edition noted the timing of the attack, which "came on the anniversary of suicide bombings in Brussels that killed 32 people, along with the three bombers." In a separate article, entitled "Brussels Marks Anniversary of Attack," the Times noted that the Islamic State "claimed responsibility for the attacks." It focused on geography rather than religious ideology in searching for the root of "European extremism."

"The specter of radicalization still hangs over Molenbeek, a gritty immigrant neighborhood of Brussels that has been trying to shed its reputation as an incubator for European extremism," the Times reported. Readers curious about what kind of "gritty" immigrants live in Molenbeek must turn to the opinion section of the April 11, 2016 edition of the New York Times, which featured a column titled, "The Islamic State of Molenbeek."

"Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving direct participant in the Paris attacks, hid in Molenbeek before his arrest on March 18. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected chief planner of the Paris attacks, lived in Molenbeek," columnist Roger Cohen wrote. "In all, at least 14 people tied to both attacks were either Belgian or lived in Brussels."

Thursday's print edition of the Times carried two letters to the editor about the attack from readers in London and Chicago, but no op-eds or editorials on the subject. The editors instead ran an unsigned op-ed titled "A Perilous Embrace of Extremism in India." The editorial condemned a certain type of religious extremism that stokes "anti-Muslim passions," pointing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's political appointment of Yogi Adityanath, "a firebrand Hindu cleric" who has defended violence in the past.

"Despite worrying signs that he was willing to humor Hindu extremists, Mr. Modi refrained from overtly approving political violence against the nation's Muslim minority," the editorial says. "There is every fear that [Adityanath]—and Mr. Modi's party—will resort to deadly Muslim-baiting to stay in power."

Published under: New York Times , Terrorism