The massacre in Charleston has been classified as a possible hate crime, apparently by a 21-year-old white man who once wore an apartheid badge and other symbols of white supremacy. The New York Times says civil-rights advocates are asking why the attack has not officially been called terrorism. Against a backdrop of rising worries about violent Muslim extremism in the U.S., advocates see hypocrisy in the way the attack and the man under arrest in the shooting have been described by law enforcement officials and the news media. Assaults like the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and the attack on an anti-Islamic gathering in Garland, Tx., last month have been widely portrayed as acts of terrorism carried out by Islamic extremists. Critics say assaults against African-Americans and Muslim Americans are rarely if ever called terrorism.
“We have been conditioned to accept that if the violence is committed by a Muslim, then it is terrorism,” said Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights advocacy group. “If the same violence is committed by a white supremacist or apartheid sympathizer and is not a Muslim, we start to look for excuses — he might be insane, maybe he was pushed too hard.” Dean Obeidallah, a Muslim American radio show host and commentator, said it should be obvious that the Charleston killer was a terrorist. “We have a man who intentionally went to a black church, had animus toward black people and assassinated an elected official and eight other people,” he said. “It seems he was motivated by a desire to terrorize and kill black people.” Webster's New World College Dictionary defines terrorism as “the use of force or threats to demoralize, intimidate and subjugate, especially such use as a political weapon or policy.”