Bedier: Media distort Islam

Published May 5, 2007

TAMPA - Ahmed Bedier called the horrific acts carried out by the Virginia Tech shooter terroristic.

Yet nothing in the mainstream media described them as such or said Seung-Hui Cho was a terrorist, he said.

Had the shooter been Muslim, Bedier said, news reports would have highlighted his faith.

"If he were Arab or Muslim, he would have definitely been called a terrorist, " said Bedier, executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "I don't remember the last time I saw 'a Christian terrorist, ' 'a Christian thief' or 'Christian child molester' " in a news story.

During his speech Friday at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club luncheon, Bedier talked about stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam and used examples where beliefs about the religion have been taken out of context.

"The majority of people in this country are not Muslims, " he said. "But almost always, when a Muslim commits an act, his faith is tied to it."

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bedier said, he has been busy speaking to groups like Tiger Bay that want to know more about Islam.

"There's nothing in our faith that says it's okay to kill anyone, " Bedier said.

Suicide bombers who leave messages that they are acting on behalf of their religion do so for political reasons. Bedier said Islamic teachings don't justify their actions.

"The No. 1 purpose of Islam is to preserve life, " he said.

Joseph V. Citro, a former Tampa City Council candidate, won the award for asking the toughest question during the lunch, attended by about 30 people. He asked Bedier why he didn't see more Muslim religious leaders coming forward to condemn terrorism and teach their children that it's wrong.

Bedier said they do come forward and they send that message "loud and clear."

"You haven't been able to get it because of the media, " he said.

Kevin Graham can be reached at 813 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com.