NBC News began constructing a favorite media narrative in the hours following Tuesday’s terror attack in New York City, posting a story about potential “backlash” against Muslims just six hours after a Muslim man mowed down tourists on a bike path in Manhattan.
Shortly after police identified the suspect as 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, an Uzbekistan native who came to the U.S. in 2010 on a diversity visa, NBC posted a story entitled “Muslim Americans Again Brace for Backlash After New York Attack.”
The piece touched on concerns among Muslim Americans and community members, who worried about how Islam would be perceived after another terror attack or that Muslims themselves would be targeted for retaliation.
“My initial reaction was, obviously, concern and shock over what happened,” a Muslim American doctor from New Jersey told NBC News. “And then, basically, I was wondering if it was a Muslim who did it.”
“My biggest concern is that he’s readily identified as a Muslim and then that is extrapolated out to my own faith,” the doctor added.
The Muslim “backlash” story is a common refrain in Western media reporting after terror attacks committed or inspired by radical Islamic groups. After the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, nearly every national media outlet and several local news stations ran stories on Muslims fretting about how they would be subjected to a wave of hate from American society. The story was the same after the San Bernardino attacks in 2015, with dozens of outlets across the country rushing to report on the specter of Islamophobia almost immediately after the shooting.
NBC News appeared to be the first national outlet to mine the “backlash” vein Tuesday. The story quoted a leader from local Muslim organization, who assured the outlet that the Muslim community would do what it could to assist authorities working the truck attack case.
“There has been a history of, sort of, blowback, and that’s obviously going to be something that people think about,” Ali Najmi, a board member of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York, told NBC. “But the primary concern is, usually, and is now, how we can best lend ourselves in this time of crisis.”
Hate crimes against Muslims appear to have climbed in the wake of San Bernardino, where a married Muslim couple killed 14 people and wounded 22 others in a shooting spree. According to data compiled by the Council on American Islamic Relations, hate incidents against Muslims rose 44 percent last year, going from 180 incidents in 2015 to 260 in 2016.
Since 2015, terror attacks perpetrated by Muslims in the U.S. have killed 71 people.
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