12 August 2006

What's In A Name?

One of the suspects taken into custody by British authorities in the recent plot by Muslim terrorists to blow-up passenger airliners en route to the U.S. is named Abdul Waheed. He is mentioned in this New York Times article by Ian Fisher, and in this MSNBC story by Lisa Myers. There is just one small problem: You won't find the name Abdul Waheed in either of those articles.

Abdul Waheed, before he changed his name, was Don Stewart-Whyte, the son of a late Tory party activist and half brother of model Heather Stewart-Whyte. The NY Times and MSNBC pieces that I have cited above refer only to the suspect's name before his conversion to Islam.

This is not the first time that the media has used the former Western name of a convert to Islam, instead of the person's new Muslim name. One example that jumps to mind is the re-routing of United Airlines Flight 919. Back in September of 2004, a flight en route to the U.S. from the U.K. was diverted to Maine after officials discovered that one of the passengers on board was on the no-fly list. The name of that passenger was Yusuf Islam, better known by his previous name of Cat Stevens.

I can understand that the media would want to point out that Yusuf Islam was previously known as Cat Stevens, since most Americans would not have made the connection. It does add to the story. There have been other individuals, though, who have received similar treatment in the press, and who were not famous before their name changes.

Does anyone recognize the name Abdullah al-Muhajir? If you do, I'm impressed. If you don't recognize that name, it's quite understandable. Abdullah al-Muhajir is the Muslim name of Jose Padilla, the former Chicago gangbanger and Islamic convert who is accused of planning to obtain and detonate a dirty bomb in the U.S.

How about Suleyman al-Faris or Abdul Hamid? Those are two of the Muslim names used by "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, the latter apparently being a nom de guerre.

The reverse of this trend is also true. Cassius Clay, Lew Alcindor, Malcolm Little, and Louis Eugene Walcott are not especially familiar names to most people. They are much more recognizable when they are referred to by their more well known Muslim names of Muhomad Ali, Karim Abdul-Jabbar, Al Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), and Louis Farrakhan.

The problem that I see here is that we have a double standard of having the Muslim names of athletes and public figures used in the press when those individuals aren't accused of promoting or colluding with terrorists, but then having the previous Western names of other Muslim converts used in the media when their actions would cast negative dispersions upon Islam. Muhomad Ali, Karim Abdul-Jabbar, and Al Hajj Malik El Shabazz are all relatively respected, whereas Jose Padilla, John Walker Lindh, and Don Stewart-Whyte are not.

If the media says that one of the prisoners taken in the prison uprising in Afghanistan was Suleyman al-Faris, who cares? That sounds right. Isn't that who we're fighting over there?

If the media says that the feds have captured a man named Abdullah al-Muhajir who they believe was planning to obtain and detonate a dirty bomb in the U.S., then maybe Joe Schmuckatelli tells his elected officials that we have to start watching these Muslims in America a little more closely.

If the media says that a flight was re-routed because a man named Yusuf Islam was on board, most Americans are going to wonder which fundamentalist group he is involved with.

If the media says that a man named Abdul Waheed was amongst those taken into custody in the plot to blow-up passenger airliners flying out of the U.K., most people will not be shocked.

That's not what the media does, though. John Walker Lindh is just poor young man from California who was trying to find himself; Jose Padilla is just a minority who has had a tough life, and who is now being disenfranchised by the system once again; Cat Stevens, the man who gave us "Peace Train" all those decades ago, couldn't have affiliations with charities that may be tied to terror organizations; and Don Stewart-Whyte, a young man from a respected family, was either rebelling against his conservative Christian upbringing, or was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When the media uses their Western names, the attempt is to distract from what the individuals did or were planning to do. It is also a move to associate a Western name and face with terrorism; a move that allows the MSM to try to show a "broad strata" of participants, instead of noting the one thing that they all have in common: their Muslim faith.


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