When nobody asked you if you condemn the Germanwings crash


Photo credit: Matthew Fearnley
Andreas Lubitz -born in Montabaur, Germany- was the co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings flight, who according to the French prosecutor, deliberately crashed the plane and took the lives of 149 passengers and crew members with him.

According to current media reports, investigators searching his apartment have found evidence suggesting that Lubitz was hiding his mental illness from his employers.

A simple Google search can offer plenty of details about his life, his city, his studies. Almost everything is already online. However, you are not going to read anything about his religious views. Actually, you will only read a clear statement about his non-religion. There is no clear indication that Lubitz was muslim, so the media do not care for more. Christian Catholic? Christian Greek Orthodox? Buddhist? Atheist? No one gives a penny.

But what if his name was Mohammed Lubitz, a German with a Turkish origin, presumably Muslim? Let’s be honest, it would have been a very different story for the western media. Most of the journalists would have started commenting on his religion and not on his mental condition. His act would have been described as a “suicide attack” and not as a “suicide”. He would have been a “Muslim terrorist” and not a “German depressive co-pilot”. Depression is a Christian privilege, for Muslims there is only “extremism”. During the investigations in his house, the important item would have been a Quran book or a magazine covering the rise of ISIS in the Middle East, not subscriptions from a psychiatrist.

This is exactly what happened during the first hours of the 2011 Norway attacks when most of the mainstream media were waiting for a muslim name for the perpetrator. Finally, a 32-year-old Norwegian right-wing extremist was arrested and nobody spent time to discuss his religion. Historian Shiva Balaghi of Brown University commented the incident as "Tragic Day for Norway; Shameful Day for Journalism" in a great article published in Jadaliyya.

The classical law principle of in ''dubio pro reo'', meaning that doubts act in favour of the defendant and not against her, is almost never the case when western media cover incidents with Muslims involved. A Muslim pilot would have to prove that she was not a terrorist, but a non-Muslim one just does not have to answer such a question. Thousands of Muslims around the world would have been asked: do you condemn the crash of the Germanwings flight?

Now, nobody is going to ask German pilots or people of Montabaur if they condemn Lubitz’s act. How is it possible not to condemn such an act? Who says that people who come from a specific village or professional field are all the same? Oh well.