Whitewashing the Thai Jihad

By Robert Spencer
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, May 30, 2008

In a story Wednesday on a jihadist attack on a wedding party and other jihad activity in Thailand, Agence France Presse added a concluding paragraph that was typical of mainstream media coverage of the Thai jihad and of jihad activity in general. For while AP, Reuters, AFP and the rest never saw a piece of Palestinian propaganda they didn’t like, they also never saw a jihad they couldn’t whitewash.

AFP’s concluding paragraph blandly placed all the blame for the conflict on the non-Muslim Thai government:

More than 3,000 people have been killed since separatist unrest broke out in January 2004 in the south, which was an autonomous Malay Muslim sultanate until mainly Buddhist Thailand annexed it in 1902, provoking decades of tension.

All was well, you see, until the Buddhists of Thailand, motivated apparently only by rapacious imperialism, annexed the poor autonomous Malay Muslim Sultanate. AFP does not mention, of course, that the Malay Sultanate at that time was making war against the Siamese during the war between Siam and Burma, and Thailand conquered it in that context — making it Thai by a right of conquest that has been universally recognized throughout human history (except, of course, when it comes to Israel and to any Muslim land that is conquered by non-Muslims).

Along with this come the media’s allergy to the word “jihad,” and its frequent recourse to the passive voice when discussing what the jihadists did. Sometimes inanimate objects act, apparently of their own accord. For example, in a March story on bombings in southern Thailand, Reuters’ lead paragraph stated: “Bombs killed three men and wounded 21 people in three separate attacks in Thailand’s troubled Muslim far south, police said on Sunday.” Reuters gives no hint as to who is doing the bombing and who are the victims – which in itself is a clear indication that the bombers are not the government or pro-government vigilantes, but jihadists.

The story continues in this vein. Its second paragraph tells us that a bomb was hidden in the car, but with no hint as to by whom. In paragraph 5 we learn that in the three southern provinces, “2,500 people have been killed in gun and bomb attacks since a separatist insurgency erupted in January 2004.” The separatist insurgency just erupted, you see, like a volcano. It was an act of God, a force of nature. Here again Reuters gives the reader no hint as to who the separatist insurgents are, or who killed the overwhelming majority of those 2,500 people. In paragraph 6, we learn how the “suspected militants” set off another bomb, but once again are given no hint as to who these militants are.

Same thing in paragraph 7: unidentified “insurgents” ambush the security forces. In paragraph 8, it’s simply a “bomb,” a random, accidental object, that unaccountably wounded four people. But also in that paragraph we learn that this is all taking place in “the three far south provinces which formed an independent sultanate until annexed by Thailand a century ago.” Reuters and AFP are in step on this: the only background they give suggests that Thailand is entirely responsible for provoking the conflict, and should simply have left the Malay Muslims alone.

Only in paragraph 10 of the Reuters story are we finally told that “Buddhist monks” are among the chief targets of the still-unidentified “militants” — which should lead the informed reader to identify them as Islamic jihadists and Sharia supremacists. But they come to that identification with no help from Reuters.

In reality, the Thai jihadists are uniquely brutal even by the standards of their jihadist brethren, and are fighting to correct the outrage, as they see it, of non-Muslim rule over a Muslim population in southern Thailand. But the AFP and Reuters stories exemplify the kind of coverage that jihad activity receives from the mainstream media as a matter of course. The perpetrators of jihad violence are not identified, their ideology is never discussed, and the conflicts they provoke are blamed on their victims. This kind of coverage is of a piece with the U.S. government’s new see-no-jihad, speak-no-jihad, hear-no-jihad policy: both appear to be based on wishful thinking. Both seem to emanate from the idea that if we simply do not allow ourselves to notice jihad activity, it will somehow fade away from neglect. If we pretend that Islam is peaceful, violent Muslims will lay down their arms.

The price we will have to pay for these fantasies could be very high.

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