An extreme act of violence gripped the world’s television screens on October 1st 2017, as Stephen Paddock, opened fire on over 22,000 concert-goers at a festival in Las Vegas; massacring 58 people and injuring another 489. Human life is precious, be it one or a hundred, but what caused ripples across the globe was the fact that this incident was the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States. Perhaps we as humans are so immune to massacres and horrific tragedies, that it takes words such as ‘deadliest’ or ‘worst’ to grip our attentions. As per what seems like customary now, shortly after the shooting, ISIS claimed responsibility for Paddock’s actions, saying that he was acting on their behalf and had converted to Islam months ago. Among the euphemisms used by the American media to posthumously describe Stephen Paddock are ‘the typical Vegas guy’, ‘a local individual’, and ‘just a guy… who liked burritos’. In connection with the shooting, Paddock is called ‘a lone wolf’, ‘sole aggressor’, or ‘a gunman’ — anything but a terrorist. Despite the clear and unequivocal admission by ISIS that Paddock’s actions were an act of terror, no serious investigation has been launched into ISIS’s claims while on the contrary, immense weight is given to the possibility that Paddock was suffering from mental illness. There is an inherent unwillingness by the American media to wholeheartedly condemn this incident as an act of terror and to label Stephen Paddock, a white man, a terrorist. This heinous bias is made more obvious if we recall the Orlando shooting in June 2016 by Omar Mateen, a Muslim of Afghan descent. The media was quick to tell the world that Omar Mateen was a terrorist, an Islamic radical, and a Muslim extremist who had pledged allegiance to ISIS. US President Donald Trump called Omar Mateen a ‘maniac’ in a Texas rally in June 2016. He used fiery rhetoric to advocate for gun rights, saying that the incident would not have happened if more people were armed and were shooting back at Mateen. Despite the clear and unequivocal admission by ISIS that Paddock’s actions were an act of terror, no serious investigation has been launched into ISIS’s claims while on the contrary, immense weight is given to the possibility that Paddock was suffering from mental illness He said that if Mateen had been shot straight in the head by one of the potential victims, “that would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight”. However, Mr. Trump reserved an extremely polite tone for Stephen Paddock, describing him as ‘a very, very sick individual’, and a ‘demented man’, with possibly ‘a lot of problems’. The US President and media think that an act of violence by a brown, Muslim man is an act of terror and extremism motivated by Islamic fundamentalism, but a similar act of violence committed by a white man, despite alleged links to ISIS, is not an act of terrorism. The victims of the white man died because of a mental illness, not religiously motivated terrorism, because it goes against the norms of whiteness to give in to radicalism and extremism and commit an act of terror. This is the white man’s privilege. The inability to characterise the Vegas shooting as an act of terror further entrenches the deep-seated biases against American Muslims, and Muslims worldwide, since terrorist attacks are portrayed solely as acts carried out by a Muslim man or woman, never a white man. There is an inherent refusal to recognise that people, irrespective of their religion or colour, may perform acts of terrorism. A white man has an equal potential of butchering innocents on behalf of ISIS as does a brown man. The American media only ever uses the term ‘terrorist’ when a Muslim engages in an act of violence whereas otherwise, if a non-Muslim does a similar act, it is called a ‘hate crime’ or a ‘criminal act’. If a white man is to massacre 58 people, the first point of investigation is that perhaps he was mentally ill; however, if a Muslim man were to kill 50, investigation is immediately launched into links with Islamic terror networks and evidence of radicalisation. No credence is given to the claim that perhaps the latter was suffering similar mental problems. Muslims across the globe will have to carry the stigma of violence and alleged terrorism committed by their fellow brethren, irrespective of underlying motives, much akin to a metaphorical burden on their backs. ‘The white man’s privilege’ will always enable the white man to escape liability for the acts of terrorism committed by other white men, since those acts are likely to be labelled ‘isolated incidents’ resulting from individual cases of mental illnesses. This is despite the fact that terrorism has no religion, that it is a crime against humanity and should be condemned equally, irrespective of whether it is carried out by a white man or a Muslim man. Terrorism is fundamentally an inhumane act; not the act of a Muslim. The writer is a practicing lawyer. He tweets @sahialiafzal Published in Daily Times, October 15th 2017.