“Chapel Hill ‘rocked’ by killings of 3 Muslim students” – USA Today
” Three Muslims killed in shooting near UNC; police, family argue over motive” – Washington Post
“3 students shot to death in apartment near UNC Chapel Hill” – CNN
These were just some of the headlines I read hours after first hearing about this horrific shooting on social media. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, three UNC students, Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, were shot to death by Craig Stephen Hicks, a 46 year old in the same neighbourhood, and a self-proclaimed atheist.
I don’t know about anyone else, but to me it seems like with everything happening in the world, too much hate and too much bigotry has worked its way into everyday life. It seems as though anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic violence and protest has spread well beyond a minority, and unfortunately, has worked its way into the status quo.
As the years after 9/11, the day to ruin almost everything, favorability of Muslims in America has dropped down from 47 to 27 percent over the course of 13 years. The tolerance of a religion that once nobody had a problem has slowly become somewhat of a scapegoat for the endless wars and conflicts the West has gotten itself into.
Furthermore, with this increased unfavorability, there also seems to be a spike in violence against Muslims. Crimes against Muslims in America are almost five times higher than pre-9/11, and the examples of hate crimes are many. One example is that of almost a 400 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents after the slaying of British soldier Lee Rigby. Another is that of the attacks on Muslims after the Charlie Hebdo shooting recently in Paris. Another still is the infamous Norwegian shooter that took the lives of 77 innocent people fueled by his own hateful agenda.
Moreover, the most overlooked crimes against Muslims have been those that are ongoing for several years. Most notably overlooked is that of the Rohingya genocide, committed at the hands of radical Buddhists. Another example is that of Israeli Jewish settlers that attack and discriminate against Muslim and Christian Palestinians. Further still is that of Turkic and Muslim Uighur people in China, glossed over and hidden by the media.
Aside from that, what about the rising Islamophobic protests that have started in Germany, or the ones in Texas? What about the campaigns that have been attacking Muslims for a long time like the EDL or even the AFDI? Don’t these facilitate anti-Islamic thinking and in turn promote hate and intolerance?
One result of this thinking is the effect it has had on the government, and how it deals with Muslims. Does wire-tapping mosques or other places for the Muslim community ring a bell? How about the NDAA, a bill that would allow the government to indefinitely detain anyone accused of terrorism, which more often than not applies to Muslims, American or not.
The thing that really strikes me as unjust is that the government has not condemned these killings. I mean why would it, after killing nearly 30 foreign Muslims for every American lost in the foreign wars we fight in? Yet somehow it’s a surprise when the people that we’ve hurt suddenly become radicalized.
When looking at what is truly wrong, we need to focus on the reasons why these hate crimes are happening. One of the biggest reasons is lack of or misrepresentation of information. How else is a country going to justify the war against a group of people? By demonizing them, by condoning the hate and intolerance, all for the sake of precious resources like oil.
Another big reason is that of fear. When we examine human nature, is it not natural to shy away from and even hate something that we fear or are taught to fear? If we just had some open dialogue and talked out the misunderstandings between one group and the “other,” could we not clear up the tension and anxiety associated with a misrepresented group of people?
What we have failed to see through all of this hate and bigotry is the fact that Muslims too are human, making up nearly 2 billion people worldwide, and incorporating every race known to man as equals in the Muslim community. We have the same aspirations and goals as any other person out there, and to see us as anything other than that is unfair if not outright disgusting. Some of us just want to go watch a movie, or get a double chocolatey-chip frappaccino from Starbucks. Some of us want to be artists or astronauts, doctors, lawyers, anything for the betterment of the world.
When I think about how the media nearly disregarded the killings of these people, I think about how my own death could be disregarded at any time. I think about the innocent little kids that will be taught by society to hide their faiths and hang their heads in shame because the world will not care. I think of the ones who are subject to this every. Single. Day, and yet still find their way in this world. I am worried that maybe our lives will not matter.
But all of it must stop. Today.
Going back to the killing of these young, and innocent lives, it’s time to stand firm in the fight against intolerance and injustice. It’s time to stop the spread of hateful ideas, and the fear that keeps different groups apart. It’s time to stop the “random checks” at airports, discrimination on the basis of beliefs, as well as the ignorance that fuels it. It’s time to stop glorifying the killing of innocents in the name of “patriotism.” And it’s time to love one’s neighbor as one wishes to be loved.
So with all the anger and all the sadness I have in my heart, I still wish peace and blessing upon everyone. After all, that is what our greeting means, “peace be with you.” Like one of my friends says, “the world is a fine place and worth fighting for,” and indeed so are the lives that inhabit it.
Just another American Muslim youth speaking out against injustice.