by Faizal Nor Izham

The recent Charleston shootings on June 17th — in which nine people were shot and killed inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — has raised eyebrows from all quarters as to why suspect Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man, has not been labelled by the media as a ‘terrorist’ for his hate crimes.

The reason being, as offered by several news outlets, is that convenient labels such as ‘terrorist’ or ‘thug’ would automatically be applied if the attacker were Muslim or black. However, Roof, like many other ‘lone killers’ the United States is becoming increasingly known for, has instead been given labels such as ‘mentally ill’ and ‘angry loner’.

The politics of labelling mass murderers has become more heated in recent years. Looking at the word ‘terrorist’ in the dictionary, the definition revolved around the following: ‘A person who uses violent and intimidating methods in the pursuit of political aims’.

There is absolutely no doubt that the nature of Roof’s crime reflected his inherent racism towards African-Americans. When victims pleaded with the shooter to stop, the gunman was reported to have said: “No, you’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country … I have to do what I have to do.”

Scott Roof, who identified himself as the suspect’s cousin, told US media that “Dylann was normal until he started listening to that white power music stuff.” He claims that “he kind of went over the edge when a girl he liked starting dating a black guy two years back.”

(© cdn)

So why has the label ‘terrorist’ not been attributed to him, as it probably should have with all the other ‘angry loner’-type murderers America is now so notorious for producing? In fact, such media labels have never been applied to this specific type of individual before, despite America’s well-documented history of producing serial killers and cult leaders throughout the decades. Ted Bundy and Charles Manson are not remembered today as ‘terrorists’. But they were, after all, using fear and intimidation to further whatever causes they were pursuing. Norwegian shooter Anders Breivik was also not labelled a terrorist by the Western media, despite being a white supremacist and anti-Islamic in nature.

He will be humanised and called ‘unwell’ instead — a victim
of social alienation and inadequate mental health resources.

Instead, the go-to explanation for Roof’s actions will be ‘mental illness’. He will be humanised and called ‘unwell’ instead — a victim of social alienation and inadequate mental health resources. This also comes just as David Cameron recently warned of the dangers posed by those who ‘quietly condone” the extremist ideology of the Islamic State. Such comments would surely come across as offensive by any peace-loving British Muslim, who by now would probably be sick of being asked to apologise for the actions of people they clearly and emphatically do not identify with. This prompted an angry response from Labour’s Bolton MP, Yasmin Qureshim, who said white people had not been asked to apologise for the Charleston slaughter either.

(© Associated Press)

The issue of ‘labelling’ in the media is an important one, because the constant usage of certain terms will inevitably lead to an automatic association with specific types of individuals. In fact, a survey this week found that British people associate Muslims with terrorism more than any other concept (at 12 per cent, according to researchers at YouGov. The next most popular terms were ‘faith’ (11 per cent), ‘mosque’ (9 per cent), ‘Koran’ (8 per cent), and ‘religious’ (8 per cent).

Let’s also not forget the frequent prejudice from American policemen, who have a tendency to be trigger-happy by default every time they see an African-American male who may come across as being ‘thug’-like to them. However, in many incidents which have proven to be fatal, this has often proven to not be the case.

No matter how politically-correct Western society likes to see itself today, it can’t be denied that race remains an issue that continues to be deeply embedded in certain aspects of everyday life. This is a painful truth that still needs confronting in this day and age, especially considering America’s dark past with racism.


  1. As far as I’m concerned, he should definitely be called a terrorist. Heck, he should just be called a monster, just as the Islamic State are monsters. These creatures do not deserve to be humanized. Mental illness is neither a sufficent explanation nor an excuse for their actions. There are plenty of people who struggle with mental illness and who are perfectly good people who deserve compassion and empathy. Humanizing what Roof has done as a mere result of “mental illness” not only trivializes what he has done; it also demonizes innocent people who struggle with mental illness.


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