Covering Up Islam

On Sunday, a cab driver in Nashville named Ibrahim Ahmed picked up two college students, Andrew Nelson and Jeremy Invus, at a city bar and drove them to the campus of Vanderbilt University. Along the way, the three got into an argument, apparently leaving Ahmed enraged: after they paid their fare and left his cab, he tried to run down Nelson and Invus. Invus was seriously injured.

What were they arguing about? Nashville’s WSMV reports that “a fight over religion became heated.” Associated Press has it that “police said he ran over one of his passengers after they got into a religious argument.”

Neither WSMV nor Newschannel 5 nor AP give any details about the argument. About who Ibrahim Ahmed is, and what may have led him to try to kill two of his passengers because of an argument, we hear nothing at all. One might suggest to the Nashville news outlets, as well as to AP, that Ibrahim Ahmed’s religion, as well as that of Nelson and Invus, would be relevant to a story about a religious argument that turned murderous. After all, AP has not shied away from reporting on the religion of perpetrators of crimes in another recent case. Around the same time that Ahmed was running down Invus, a man in Chicago apparently bludgeoned three women — a woman, her stepsister, and their mother. AP doesn’t give the suspect’s name, but does tell us that “the family was Assyrian Christian, a minority group in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.” Did the murderer kill his victims because of some imperative he believed arose from his Christian faith? Unlikely: AP notes that “the couple had been having marital problems.” The Chicago Tribune adds that the suspect, Daryoush Ebrahami, “felt ‘disrespected’ by the women, who had told him ‘he was not a man.’”

So why is Ebrahami’s Christian faith relevant? Compare AP’s report on these murders to the initial AP report about the Salt Lake mall shootings: “Police: Teen Shot Mall Victims at Random,” by Jennifer Dobner. All we learn about Sulejman Talovic beyond his name is that he was a “trench coat-clad teenager” who lived with his mother.

When people point out that the religion of nominally Christian murderers isn’t noted in news stories, and that Talovic’s religion should not have been either, they assume that in both instances religion played no factor in the killing, and was hence irrelevant. However, while there is no evidence to suggest that Ebrahami killed his victims in the name of Jesus Christ, or would attempt to justify the killings by reference to Christ’s teachings, it was at very least a possibility that Talovic, like so many others around the world every day, as well as other lone jihadists in the U.S. like Mohammad Reza Taheri-azar, killed in the name of Allah and with justification from the Qur’an and Sunnah. That’s why Talovic’s religion at least merited a mention, and some investigation.

The FBI has ruled out Islamic terrorism as a factor in the Talovic killings. One hopes that agents have done so after sufficient consideration of the possibility — which seems to have been absent from other cases with some similarities to that of Talovic. But in the wake of this, some have rushed to condemn me and others who publicly noted the mainstream media’s reluctance to identify Talovic as a Muslim, and to explore the possibility that his killings were jihad-related. This criticism was misplaced, for that reluctance is real, but it does not apply to all religions — as the Ahmed and Ebrahami cases show. Ibrahim Ahmed is, in all likelihood, a Muslim, and his murderous rage may have been reinforced by Islam’s belief that those who insult Islam have forfeited their right to live. The refusal of the Associated Press even to consider such possibilities, and its inconsistency in doing so, is readily apparent.

While Sulejman Talovic may not have been a jihadist, and Ibrahim Ahmed may not be one, in AP’s selective disclosure of the facts they may find themselves covering up for the next jihadist who does strike. And they may already have done so.