The mother of a young backpacker killed in an Australian hostel has criticized President Donald Trump’s claim that her daughter’s murder was a terror attack ignored by the media.
Rosie Ayliffe said terrorism links were quickly ruled out in last year’s fatal stabbing of Mia Ayliffe-Chung, 20, and a fellow British tourist — Tom Jackson, 30 — who tried to save her life.
The killings were included on a list of 78 attacks the White House says were "executed or inspired by" Islamic fundamentalists. It was distributed to back up Trump’s comment on Monday that the media "doesn't want to report" such attacks.
However, Ayliffe said the connection of her daughter’s killing and Islamic fundamentalism was a “myth.”
A 29-year-old French national, Smail Ayad, was charged over the August killings. He was given a preliminary diagnosis of schizophrenia and remains at a mental health facility in Brisbane.
Police said Ayad shouted "Allahu akbar" — Arabic for "God is great" — during the attack and his subsequent arrest but they could find no connections to radical Islam and treated the case a homicide rather than a terror attack.
“Any fool can shout ‘Allahu akbar’ as they commit a crime,” Ayliffe said in an open letter to Trump posted on social media on Tuesday. “I have spoken to friends of Mia’s and other backpackers who worked for long days in the fields with Ayad, and none of them ever saw him put down a prayer mat.”
She added that the “vilification of whole nation states and their people based on religion is a terrifying reminder of the horror that can ensue when we allow ourselves to be led by ignorant people into darkness and hatred.”
It came after Trump was called out by a woman in Paris who objected to his tweet saying France was “on edge” because a “new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum.”
Egie Wild posted on Facebook that the incident took place in an adjacent mall and that France was “not on edge again, at all.”
“Thank you for your concern, but don't use France as an excuse for your a***holery,” she wrote in the widely-shared post. “You're the one encouraging fear with your distortion of truth.”
Trump did not say why journalists might not report on terrorist attacks, commenting only that media organizations “have their reasons.”
However, his remark echoes a theme popular among some right-wing media outlets that traditional media minimizes the impact of Islamic terrorism, possibly because of a liberal bias.
Breitbart News, whose former executive chair Steve Bannon is now a top Trump strategist, reported a July, 2015 attack on a Marseille petrochemical plant under the headline: “There Was a Significant Terrorist Attack in France This Week and the Mainstream Media Hasn’t Even Bothered Telling You.”
The report said the attack “failed to make the front page of a single English-language newspaper” and that French authorities were “publicly postulating every cause conceivable except for Islamist terrorism.”
A year into the investigation, a Tunisian-born French man with no ties to any terrorist organization admitted carrying out the attack, telling police he had done it to make a political statement, according to French newspaper Liberation. He had already been arrested on another criminal matter.