Last week’s Chapel Hill shooting has really shed some light on America and its values. On Tuesday, February 8th, Craig Hicks took the lives of three Muslim college students—Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Hicks is an atheist and known for criticizing religion on his Facebook page. Of course that doesn’t mean he would go and kill people that openly practiced their religion, but he did, so at this point I think it’s safe to say that we are dealing with something a bit more serious than a person who just dislikes religion.
The police and media are trying their best to avoid calling this a religious based attack. By keeping this label away from the incident, the police and media are trying to uphold some part of Hicks’ decency that was never there to begin with. Hicks’ wife, Karen, was quoted saying that the incident “had nothing to do with religion…but was in fact related to the long-standing parking disputes” Hicks had with the students. The saddest part of that statement is that she tries to justify the murders. There is no excuse for what took place, and trying to blow off this act of prejudice is an insult to the three victims that died for their faith.
Some don’t want to make the jump and call this a hate crime, but I am going to go even further than that, and recognize this as an act of terrorism. For those of you who disagree with that statement, I would like to refer you to the definition of terrorism: “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” Killing three unarmed innocent students definitely meets the “violence” criteria of the definition, and I don’t think it is too far fetched to say that Hicks’ political aim was to show Muslims that they aren’t welcomed in this country. If I’ve just proven how this was an act terrorism, surely we all, as a nation, can at least accept it as a hate crime.
If American journalists can cover the Charlie Hebdo attack for weeks after the incident, they should at least be able to give the same respect to an attack that happened in our own country. The number of terrorists involved in an act does not diminish, nor enhance its importance. I did not see heavy coverage of the Chapel Hill shooting for the first 24 hours after the story unfolded. It’s sad to think that the victims of an attack have to be the right ethnicity, or practice the right religion, to get the media attention they deserve.
Unbeknownst to some, Muslims can be terrorized, especially in America. For years after 9/11 Muslims, Middle Easterns, and Indians— three completely different groups—were all looked at as a threat to our national security. Because members of this religion are thought to be at the forefront of terrorism, American citizens have terrorized them for irrational and unjustified revenge. Some Americans just don’t want to see this religion and the people who practice it in America. After 9/11, multiple white extremists murdered on—what they claimed was—behalf of their country. Back in 2003, Larme Price killed 4 people of Middle Eastern origin and told police he was “seeking revenge for 9/11.” This was not an isolated attack, as many extremists have murdered people who appeared Muslim. This has led to mass murders of other innocent groups, such as those who practice the Sikh religion. In 2013 a white supremacist killed 6 members of a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. What seems to be a war against Muslims has expanded into a war against all Muslim-looking people, whatever that actually means.
If a brown person commits a crime, it is a conspiracy against our nation. However, if and when white Christians murder people they think are threats to America, they are looked at as isolated incidents. It seems that threats against America are only threats if white people suffer. Others, who are just as much citizens as everyone else, are being murdered in a country that promises life and liberty.
The Chapel Hill Shooting is not the beginning of this conversation, but yet just one more piece of evidence that helps prove that there are American-based terrorists who attack Americans. Al Qaeda and ISIS are just as dangerous as the Klu Klux Klan in the 20th century, and individuals such as Craig Hicks, who kill groups of people based on their beliefs.
Why does white America get the privilege of picking and choosing what groups of people do and do not get the label of “terrorist”? If people are killed because of who they are or what they believe in, it is terrorism; there’s no way around it.
These people lost their lives because someone didn’t like the way they practiced religion. The list of things not to be in America continues to grow: Black, Hispanic, a woman, and now Muslim. Honestly this list should be deleted and the word “different” should replace it; because if you aren’t a white Christian man, you are not truly “American.” The war on terror starts here; Americans shouldn’t be able to attack Americans. We support the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack on behalf of freedom of speech, but yet we fail to celebrate and recognize the freedom of religion promised to us by the constitution.
A lot of people at Latin question why there is such a strong voice on behalf of social justice at school, and why it matters so much. The fact that people have the audacity to ask why advocating for equality matters is exactly why these conversations, these assemblies, and these articles can’t cease. There is still turmoil in this country with advocates for change, imagine how bad the regression would be if everyone was silent.
*Rest in Peace Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha: your sacrifice will be remembered*