Ugly Betty actor slays Mom in the name of Jesus; what if he were Muslim?

Fans of Ugly Betty, the American dramedy TV series on ABC, were in for quite a shock this week. Actor Michael Brea is being accused of murdering his own mother with a samurai sword while reciting Biblical passages. “Repent! Repent! Sinner! Sinner! You never accepted Jesus!” his neighbor reported hearing at the time the crime took place. Brea is now in police custody and is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, and for good reason. It takes a very evil or very sick mind to do what occurred to Yannick Brea.

An impartial analysis of the situation has led the authorities to believe this is likely a case of mental illness. It seems to be, although we don’t know the details yet. It certainly can’t be used as an example of the inherent violence of Christian teachings. Love thy neighbor, said the Christ. Most people can understand that the actions of a deranged few do not represent the sentiments of the whole religion or the teachings of the founder.

But what if he were Muslim?

Well, if a mentally ill Muslim had murdered people while shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), it would be immediately held up as just another example of the essential barbarism of Islam. The very fact that a Muslim commits a crime while shouting God is great is more than enough to indict all Muslims in all times and places for eternity. No context needed. No facts or explanation necessary. But is that fair?

In fact, an example like this did occur and is firmly implanted in the national consciousness. We all remember when Nidal Hasan opened fire on his fellow soldiers while allegedly shouting Allahu Akbar. The anti-Muslim blogosphere sprung into action at the drop of hat, even before basic factsabout his mental state could be discerned, castigating all Muslims everywhere, even those who unmistakably condemned Nidal’s actions and even though Nidal acted in clear violation of mainstream Islamic doctrine. No need for context, background, or an informed frame of reference for interpreting these events. Why bother with burdensome facts when anti-Muslim ideology can explain everything for you? Why worry about anti-Muslim prejudice when you can exploit this tragedy to make obscene amounts of money or win elections while riding the bandwagon of Islamophobic populism? Prejudice pays more than prudence.

I don’t think we’ll be seeing very many people taken seriously if they cite Mrs. Brea’s murder as an example of the intrinsic brutality of Christianity, even though her son allegedly cited scripture and invoked the name of Jesus as he killed his mother. But for some reason a similar objective, nuanced discussion of Islam and its more than 1 billion followers is off the table for many of America’s finest anti-Muslim pundits.

But hey, it’s not personal. It’s just their world view.


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