On Feb. 10 Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Muhammad’s 19-year-old sister Razan Muhammad Abu-Salha were all fatally shot in the head by Craig Stephen Hicks in their condominium complex in Chapel Hill, N.C. I first heard about the tragedy on not a news station, but on Twitter. Yes, social media alerted me long before any professional news network did.
I always have CNN on as background noise when I’m in my dorm room. When I started seeing Twitter blow up with the hashtags #ChapelHillShooting and #MuslimLivesMatter, I immediately became aware of the terrible news. However, I looked over at my television and did not see anyone mentioning it. In fact, no major news network would mention the Chapel Hill shooting on television until 17 hours later. Yes, almost a whole day after three innocent people were publicly executed, no one in mainstream media seemed to care. If it hadn’t been for the criticism expressed by enraged citizens on social media, I doubt the story would have ever gotten mainstream coverage.
In the past week, debates have stirred as to whether this was a hate crime, as if there’s some sort of gray area. Supposedly, the murders occurred after Hicks and the three Muslim young adults got in a verbal altercation over a parking space. Parking space disputes do not normally end in such a violent manner. Hicks has been outspoken about being anti-religious on his Facebook profile. Mohammad and Abu-Salha were wearing hijabs, making their Muslim faith visible, while Abu-Salha had complained to her parents before about Hicks treating them inexplicably rudely prior to the shooting. I would be utterly shocked if religious bias had nothing to do with what happened.
Of course, had three white people been killed by a Muslim man, there would not even be a thought of an isolated incident. It would immediately be deemed an act of terrorism and the violent Muslim stigma would be reinforced. There’s no rallying cry behind parking spaces, though. That’s why the media can safely call the Chapel Hill shooting the result of a parking lot dispute. Making this into a lone act and one unfortunate incident deflects constructive conversation criticizing the animalistic light in which Muslim-Americans are portrayed.
Barakat, Mohammad and Abu-Salha were all generous, charitable people, according to CNN. They’ve all volunteered in food drives for the hungry and the homeless. Barakat and his wife were praised and loved by everyone they knew. Abu-Salha had just recently been wed herself. Three young people are now dead and the double standard Muslim Americans live under needs to be held largely accountable.