By Ahmed Tharwat
It’s so sad to hear people saying we should “Kill Jews” or “Kill Palestinians”. “As if that’s going to solve anything SMH (shaking My head)” tweeted Deah Barakat, a 23-year-old student who was shot, according to his father, execution style, along with his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. The shooting took place on Tuesday in their apartment near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus. The suspect, as it was reported, is a 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, surrendered and was arrested on was charges of first-degree murder.
The police investigating the shooting refused to release any details on the nature of the killing, or whether, or who was involved. But after pressure from the family and community, they finally and ridiculously stated that the triple shooting may have been triggered over a long standing parking spot dispute. The media was slow to react and just repeated the police narrative of the story; the slaughtering of the three young Muslims was about a parking space dispute.
I first heard of the Chapel Hill Shooting incident later that evening, although the shooting took place at around 5pm on Tuesday. Activists took their outrage and frustration to social media, using the hash tag #MuslimLivesMatter and #ChapelHillShooting, which became the highest trending on Twitter. I first heard of the shooting incident from a tweet that came from none other than Deah’s cousin Hayat Barakat.
“My cousin, his wife and sister-in-law were murdered for being muslim. Someone tell me racism/hate crimes don’t exist. #MuslimLivesMatter” (sic), the tweet read.
As in the #CharlieHebdo tragedy reaction, people in the West usually command reaction from the so called moderate Muslims, and mandate an instantaneous condemnation and apologies from Muslim communities. Muslims activists emulating by demanding apology from all sorts of other non-Muslim-communities, whites, Christians, even from atheist comedian Bill Maher, who has lately been entertaining America with anti-Islamic ranting.
The media’s meagre coverage of the killing of Muslims, either here or abroad is astounding. I understand this is not on the scale of the Charlie Hebdo shooting that flooded the 24/7 news for weeks. That western media fail on their coverage of Muslims when they are victims who have their own human stories is becoming the norm and a new journalistic genre. The killer of Muslims is usually a loner, a lunatic, a disturbed person. But the media won’t come close to his religion or non-religion, or his race or colour of skin. On his Facebook page, the killer of the three Muslims sheds a little light, but it also paints a convoluted picture of the man.
Hicks wrote: “Some call me a gun toting Liberal, others call me an open-minded Conservative.” Hicks is an atheist who despises all religions, but you don’t have to have a religion to be an extremist or a terrorist, which are qualifiers – like barbaric, savage, jihadists, fanatics – reserved only for Muslims when they misbehave. In his latest column, New York Times liberal columnist Nicholas Kristof paralleled the slaughtering of the three Muslims with Alabama, where we see judges refusing to approve marriages of any kind because then they would also have to approve same-sex marriages.
“These are very different news stories. But I wonder if a common lesson from both may be the importance of resisting bigotry, of combating the intolerance that can infect people of any faith – or of no faith,” he enlightened us.
NPR member station WUNC, which is live-blogging the developments, reports that in a press conference Suzanne Barakat, Deah’s older sister, asked authorities to investigate the incident as a hate crime. But shortly thereafter, the suspect’s wife, Karen Hicks, said that the murders had nothing to do with religion. In the eyes of her husband, she said, everyone was equal.
The killings were “related to long-standing parking disputes my husband had with various neighbours regardless of their race, religion or creed,” the Associated Press quoted Karen Hicks as saying.
Since when, the media thinks, is shooting people in the head over a parking place dispute a plausible story?
“The media was very slow to cover this Wednesday morning and was treating it like a local issue. However execution-style murder of college students across from campus is usually national media. However, the Twitter campaign #MuslimlLivesMatter may have increased awareness,” said Dalia Fahmy, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Long Island University.
And just a few of the unswerving reactions of activists on social media include:
“Not covering the slaughter of muslims in other countries is one thing, but American media ignoring the slaughter of them in the US is vile.” (sic) said Twitter user @SaiyanSyrian
And in efforts to encourage a comparison to the #CharlieHebdoworld reaction worldwide:
“I want to see protests, I want to see news coverage, I want to see marches, I want the same outrage expressed in France. #ChapelHillShooting” (sic), wrote @Adham_Kassem
There was also reference made to the guilt-by-association that only applies to non-white people. Whereas the west tends to define Muslims with their worst behaviour, they define themselves with their ideal text:
“Muslim shooter – entire religion to blame, Black shooter – entire race guilty, White shooter – mentally troubled lone wolf. Just Saying…” (sic), wrote Robert Reid via his Twitter account.
What did we learn from all of this? Who are the three young Muslims whose lives were taken away so early? What did they do, what do they like, and what makes him happy or sad? All we know is that the killer is Craig Hicks, a self-professed atheist who hates religion. Nobody wonders what this atheist said to the victims before he pulled the trigger. Did he chant: “God is not great”? Nobody demands whites for an apology or condemnation, nobody wondered about where the moderate atheists voices are.
Ahmed Tharwat/ host Arab American TV, BelAhdan
Blogs on www.ahemdiatv.com
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