The families of British backpacker Mia Ayliffe-Chung and police accountant Curtis Cheng have hit out at US President Donald Trump for claiming their loved ones died in terror attacks ignored by Western media.
The Trump administration referred to both Ms Ayliffe-Chung and Mr Cheng’s death in a list of 78 alleged terror attacks, which was intended to back up the new president’s claim the media has under-reported attacks inspired by the Islamic State militant group.
Ms Ayliffe-Chung’s mother Rosie Ayliffe, 53, has written an open letter to Mr Trump criticising his “vilification” of Muslims, while Mr Cheng’s son has told the ABC it is unfair for governments to “drag” affected families through the incidents again.
— Rosie Ayliffe (@RosieAyliffe) February 7, 2017
Ms Ayliffe-Chung and Tom Jackson, 30, were fatally stabbed in front of about 30 people at Shelley’s Backpackers in Home Hill, south of Townsville, last year.
A 29-year-old French national, Smail Ayad, was charged over the deaths.
In her letter to Mr Trump, Ms Ayliffe criticised the US administration for using her daughter’s death to demonise Muslims.
“This 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,” she wrote.
Ms Ayliffe said she wanted to “point out the facts” about what happened to her daughter.
“Ayad was not an Islamic fundamentalist, he wasn’t even a practicing Muslim,” she told the ABC.
It’s a retrograde step on Trump’s part. Queensland Police have also rejected the claims, saying the crime was not race or religion.”
Earth a ‘very dangerous place’
In a statement, Queensland Police said they had ruled out the possibility the stabbing was terrorism related.
“We are confident [the French national] acted alone and had no known local connection,” police said.
On Monday, Mr Trump claimed news outlets were intentionally not covering terrorist attacks in the West.
The White House then sent journalists a list of terror attacks it believes did not receive adequate attention from Western media.
Other Australian incidents listed:
- The Sydney Lindt Cafe siege in December 2014
- The 2015 shooting of Curtis Cheng, a NSW Police accountant, in Parramatta
- The non-fatal stabbing of a 59-year-old man in Minto, NSW, last September
- The non-fatal stabbing of a Victorian Police officer and an Australian Federal Police officer outside the Endeavour Hills police station in 2014
White House press secretary Sean Spicer today said the administration just wanted to be “very clear” about the under-reporting of terror attacks.
“We wanted to be very clear there were a lot of examples between 2014 and 2016 that occurred and many of them haven’t got the attention that they have deserved,” he said.
“It’s becoming too often that we’re seeing these attacks not get the spectacular attention that they deserve and I think it undermines the understanding of the threat that we face around this country.”
“[Mr Trump] cares about making sure that we don’t have attacks in this country, that we’re protected, that we’re ahead of the curve and I think what we need to do is to remind people that the earth is a very dangerous place these days.
“That ISIS is trying to do us harm and that the President’s commitment is to keep this country safe and I think part of this is to make sure the American people are reminded how prevalent these attacks are.”
Parramatta shooting widely reported by media, son says
Mr Cheng’s son Alpha took issue with the White House using the incident to make a point about media coverage of terrorism.
“[There was] a bit of confusion, a bit of shock and surprise that this has made news again in a very obtuse and sort of illogical way,” he told ABC Radio Canberra.
“Because from my understanding, in terms of my experience, that this one was one event reported quite widely, and discussed by Australian and global media.”
“It’s a painful experience for myself, for the survivors of the Lindt Cafe or other attacks,” he said.
“I think the media has a role to play in terms of not giving focus to the perpetrators but to the experiences of people that have survived or experienced these situations.”
He said the Parramatta shooting, which claimed the life of his father, was widely reported by Australian and global media.
“The White House seems like it has selectively chosen to suit their agenda,” he said.
“We have to also remember that on the same day as the Lindt Cafe siege … that it was also the same day as the Peshawar school massacre in Pakistan, where over 100 children were massacred.
“In terms of that story, it hasn’t got the attention of Western media. It is not based on fact or indeed the reality and it seems like a kneejerk reaction to criticisms … of the approach of the current administration.”