Abdul Jamil Kamawal. Photo: Washington County Land Use & Transportation Abdul Jamil Kamawal. Photo: Washington County Land Use & Transportation

With Islamophobia rising across the world, why do the media continue to ignore the fact that #MuslimLivesMatter asks Maz Saleem?

The Portland area Muslim community is mourning the loss of Abdul Jamil Kamawal, the 68-year-old Muslim man killed last week on his family’s property in Metzger. Abdul Jamil Kamawal, who was known as Jamil, had served as a board member of Masjed As-Saber. A funeral prayer was held Friday afternoon for Kamawal at the Southwest Portland mosque. Kamawal was described by the local community as a “pillar of the Muslim community”. He was found dead in Metzger – Oregon, after police responded to a report of a man being attacked with a shovel.

This murder has taken place a year after three Muslims, Dea Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19 were shot dead “execution-style“ in a suburban neighbourhood of North Carolina, USA, known as the Chapel Hill Shooting, in February 2015. Michael Troxell, 27, is being held without bail at Washington County Jail, facing murder charges. Kamawal was found covered in straw when Police responded to a 911 call of a man being attacked with a shovel. He died soon after from his injuries.

Authorities have yet to pinpoint the cause of death but arrested Troxell shortly after finding Kamawal, the local television station KATU reports. Troxell and Kamawal didn’t know each other, but Troxell was doing construction work on Kamawal’s property, police told reporters.

Kamawal’s friends and family were too grief-stricken to talk on camera. They told the local TV channel, KGW that he was “the type of person you could ask for anything.” Kamawal was a retired survey technician who had worked for Washington County for 22 years. His former employers, the Washington County Department of Land Use and Transportation, released this statement, as reported by KGW:

He often went back to Afghanistan to help rebuild his home village of Kama, and he founded two non-profit organizations – the Afghan Aid Association and the Oregon- based Kama Relief Corp. Both organisations are dedicated to rebuilding lives and communities in Afghanistan. Employees are speaking about how kind Jamil was; former co-workers have said that working with Jamil made them better, kinder people.

Given the perpetrator’s social position and the victims’ religion and ethnicity, many are speculating that the attack was a religiously motivated, Islamophobic hate crime. But mainstream media organisations seem to have ignored this horrific murder. Considering the 24-hour news cycle in the USA the zero coverage since this news broke is deeply troubling.

It is equally puzzling that no one seems to have taken to Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter to attack the mainstream media for this delay and lack of coverage. This killing should prompt a resurgence in the use of the #MuslimLivesMatter social media campaign but it sadly has not done so yet.

The rise of bigotry stirred up by Donald Trump and his supporters in recent months, has given Islamophobes and far-right extremists more confidence to perpetrate such hate crimes. Consistent biased media reporting or lack of reporting when it comes to anti-Muslim hate crimes and murders has been rife in the USA. That is also the case here in the UK. The Conservative government’s constant isolating and targeting of Muslims through the “Prevent” agenda, and David Cameron’s recent accusation against Muslim women, who, he claims, don’t speak English well, that they are the ones preventing integration, have fueled the rise of Islamophobia burning across the UK and European countries right now.

There was little media reporting on the case of 81 year old Muhsin Ahmed who was punched, kicked and stamped on the head which led to his death as he walked to his mosque in Rotherham for morning prayers on August 10th 2015. This case, which has just come to court, bought back memories of my father’s brutal murder in an Islamophobic terrorist attack.

On the 29th April 2013, my father, Mohammed Saleem, 82 years old at the time, was singled out and murdered, in Small Heath, Birmingham, on the very road he had lived on for over 30 years. The motive for his death was allegedly because he was brown and dressed like a Muslim. He was followed from the mosque, after evening Ishaa prayers finished at 10.10pm, by an Ukrainian neo-Nazi terrorist who had been in the country for less than a week. My father was then stabbed brutally three times from behind.

Pavlo Lapshyn, known for his racist and neo-Nazi activity in Ukraine, was awarded a work placement in Small Heath – an area densely populated by Muslims for many years. He was allowed to enter this country to complete a campaign of terror and murder. Lapshyn is now serving 40 years for my father’s murder and three mosque bombings in the West Midlands – all acts of terrorism. He was charged under Terrorism laws. Yet, to this day, the media, the police, and the government have not treated Lapshyn as they would if the terrorist was a Muslim. When Lee Rigby, RIP, was murdered, three weeks after my dad, his murder received global news coverage. My father’s brutal murder on the street, in a similar terrorist attack, received barely any media coverage. Instead of loud and heartfelt condemnation from politicians and the police, there was deafening silence.

My father was attacked because he was a Muslim. Not just because he was Asian, but because of his faith. Islamophobia is rife and Islamophobic attacks continue to rise. They are fueled by sensationalist media headlines and reinforced by the government’s stance that treats all Muslims as potential terrorists until proven otherwise – a stance which suits its authoritarian and war-mongering agenda. 

What hope is there for our kids and generations to come if we don’t make a stand against all forms of hate? And what hope is there, here and now, that we will overcome the pernicious evil of Islamophobia if we don’t name the very problem which we need to confront?

Maz Saleem

Maz Saleem is the daughter of 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem, who was murdered in Birmingham just yards from his house by Ukrainian far-right terrorist Pavlo Lapshyn. Maz is an active campaigner against racism and Islamophobia in Britain.