An Angry Man? Or an Atheist Extremist?

By: Bethlehem Belachew, CLASS OF 2016

The horrific murder of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, her husband Deah Shaddy Barakat, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has drawn certain attention, but, sadly, not enough fruitful conversation.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JOE CATRON Protests concerning the shooting in Chapel Hill have been taking place all over the country.

Mr. Craig Stephen Hicks, the killer, was reported to have aggressively approached the young couple numerous times in regard to a parking space. Mr. Hicks turned himself over to the authorities the very same day and confessed to killing them.

Unlike most of the mainstream media who portrays the murder as having no motivation, the family of these youngsters begs to differ. Mohammad Abu-Salha, father of the deceased sisters, affirms that the murder was a hate crime. Hicks targeted the victims because of their religion.

Mr. Hicks has been immediately charged with three counts of first degree murder. According to FindLaw.com, a first degree murder is one that involves willfulness, premeditation and deliberation. A hate crime is often triggered by bias of race, sexuality, religion, and other differentiating factors. Murder and hate crime may not always be mutually exclusive and in this particular case there needs to be an in depth investigation and follow up of the killer’s motivation, as opposed to blindly accepting the event as a tragedy.

This murder raises questions ranging from gun control to Islamophobia in America, yet there has not been enough media attention and public discourse about it. Even though Mr. Hicks’ social media posts indicate his rather extreme atheist ideals, public and media opinions are leaning toward the apologetic narrative of Hicks and his wife, which is that he simply acted out of anger.

Another neighbor reportedly said that Mr. Hicks’ aggression was toward all his neighbors; why then did he choose to kill his Muslim neighbors and their visiting sister on a day where his parking space stayed vacant?

This incident made me wonder how exasperated the media outrage would have been had they been a Christian family, and how America would have reacted if Mr. Hicks had been a Muslim man.

There is an undisputable double standard in the media’s depiction of events. Facts and occurrences indicating anti-Muslim sentiments are being systematically ignored, which is adding fuel to the fire.

This event proves that extremism is not limited to the crazy fundamentalist in Iraq and Syria, but that it extends to non-religious dimensions right here in America. To address this problem, we should stop the apologetic rhetoric toward such realities and start calling them what they are—hate crimes.

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