Describing politically motivated murders as ‘terror’ attacks if perpetrated by Muslim extremists but ‘racially motivated’ if carried out by so-called ‘white supremacists’ is contributing towards rising moral panic against Muslim communities, criminologists at Birmingham City University are claiming.

A new study published this week in ‘The Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs’ by researchers from Birmingham City University, points to the cases of murdered British solider Lee Rigby and Muslim pensioner Mohammed Saleem to highlight the stark contrast between the characterisation of each brutal death.

Rigby’s murder in May 2013, at the hands of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, was repeatedly described by both police and media as an act of terrorism, while the killing of Saleem was most commonly labelled ‘racially motivated’ despite his Ukrainian assailant Pavlo Lapshyn being found guilty under the Terrorism Act.

Mohammed Saleem 75 year old murdered in Small Heath IMG-20130430-WA0002.jpg  mail_sender Marcus Queensborough   mail_subject Fwd:  mail_date Tue, 30 Apr 2013 09:51:07 +0100  mail_body ---------- Forwarded message ---------- From: Fazia_saleem  Date: 30 April 2013 09:45 Subject: To: Sent from Samsung Mobile ********************  IMPORTANT NOTICE This email (including any attachments) is meant only for the intended recipient. It may also contain confidential and privileged information. If you are not the intended recipient, any reliance on, use, disclosure, distribution or copying of this email or attachments is strictly prohibited. Please notify the sender immediately by email if you have received this message by mistake and delete the email and all attachments.  Any views or opinions in this email are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Trinity Mirror PLC or its associated group companies (hereinafter referred to as "TM Group"). TM Group accept no liability for the content of this email, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided, unless that information is subsequently confirmed in writing. Although every reasonable effort is made to keep its network free from viruses, TM Group accept no liability for any virus transmitted by this email or any attachments and the recipient should use up-to-date virus checking software. Email to or from this address may be subject to interception or monitoring for operational reasons or for lawful business practices.  Trinity Mirror PLC is the parent company of the Trinity Mirror group of companies and is registered in England No 82548, with its address at One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AP.  ********************
Mohammed Saleem was murdered in April 2015

Sentencing Lapshyn to a minimum term of 40 years, Mr Justice Sweeney told him: “You clearly hold extremist right wing, white supremacist views and you were motivated to commit the offences by religious and racial hatred in the hope that you would ignite racial conflict and cause Muslims to leave the area where you were living.”

Associate Professor Imran Awan and Mohammed Rahman from the University’s Centre for Applied Criminology examined how UK newspapers depicted the murders in both cases, reviewing over 1,022 articles from UK newspapers in the three weeks following Lee Rigby’s murder. They also studied references to Saleem’s murder in Birmingham one month earlier and later once his killer, Lapshyn, was convicted.

Awan said: “We found that almost all articles we reviewed about the Woolwich murder of Lee Rigby used the term ‘terrorism’ to describe the attack. Yet the attack on Mohammed Saleem was immediately labelled as ‘racially motivated’ by the police, and despite Ukrainian Pavlo Lapshyn being found guilty under the Terrorism Act, many newspapers continued to label him as a ‘white supremacist’ rather than a ‘terrorist’.  A stark difference in comparison to the case of Lee Rigby.

“It is crucial that a more balanced viewpoint of reporting terrorism is adopted otherwise we risk creating further anti-Muslim prejudice and exacerbate the potential for unfair treatment of Muslim communities”, added Awan.

“In the aftermath of the Woolwich murder, evidence showed that Muslims had become targets for a rise in anti-Muslim hate crime. In such times, the role of the media is crucial in projecting a balanced approach and avoid creating a ‘moral panic’.

“A YouGov survey of over 1,839 adults following the Woolwich attack showed that there was clear evidence people felt Muslims were a threat to democracy, and two-thirds of those people believed that Britain was facing a clash of civilisation between British Muslims and white Britons.”