Outrage at media indifference to “execution” of young American Muslims

27th Feb 2015

Elham Asaad Buaras

The “execution-style” murders of three young American Muslims near the University of North Carolina on February 11, has reignited the debate about media bias towards Muslim victims of violent crimes.

Newlyweds Dean Shaddy Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her 19-year-old sister, Razan were each shot in the head at close range in their home by their ardent atheist neighbour.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who has had previous altercations with the victims fled the scene but later turned himself in to the police.

Police initially said the triple murders was part of an ongoing parking dispute but following an outcry from the victims’ families as well as sustained calls by 149 civil rights groups for a hate-crime investigation to be opened, police conceded there is a possibility the parking dispute was just a pretext for a hate crime.

On February 13, the FBI was forced to open “a parallel preliminary inquiry” after growing national and international pleas, a decision welcomed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.

CAIR’s National Executive Director, Nihad Awad said the case  is “a touchstone for the American Muslim community’s sense of security and inclusion.”

The lack of immediate media coverage of the murders was so evident it had provoked people on both sides of the Atlantic to trend #MuslimLivesMatter and #ChapelHillShooting on twitter.

Heartbreaking video of Deah Barakat’s father asking about his son

Former Editor of The Mirror Piers Morgan was among the 28,000 people to use the ChapelHillShooting hashtag. “If a Muslim executed 3 Christian students in US, it would get a LOT more media coverage than I’m seeing right now. #ChapelHillShooting.” he tweeted.

While US political commentator, CJ Werleman, focused on the type of coverage saying, “If a Muslim had killed three white people ‘execution style’, the media wouldn’t be talking about parking dispute.” As the hashtags went viral, media coverage began to escalate.

The victims’ families have dismissed the explanation that the murders were a result of a dispute over a parking space.

“It was execution style, a bullet in every head,” said the women’s father, Dr Mohammad Abu-Salha. “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime. This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.” Suzanne Barakat, sister of Barakat, called on authorities to “investigate these senseless and heinous murders as a hate crime.”

In his Facebook page Hicks described himself as a supporter of “Atheists for Equality” and one of his last posts included a profile photo from United Atheists of America asking “Why radical Christians and radical Muslims are so opposed to each others’ influence when they agree about so many ideological issues.”

He also wrote, “I have every right to insult a religion that goes out of its way to insult, to judge, and to condemn me as an inadequate human being – which your religion does with self-righteous gusto.”
TV programmes liked by Hicks include The Atheist Experience. He also describes himself as a fan of Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion.

Dawkins, a prominent atheist, has triggered controversy with his comments about Islam in the past. After the attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine office in Paris, Dawkins tweeted that “all religions are NOT equally violent. Some have never been violent, some gave it up centuries ago. One religion conspicuously didn’t.”

He also said he regards “Islam as one of the great evils in the world.” Dawkins condemned the murders tweeting: “How could any decent person NOT condemn the vile murder of three young US Muslims in Chapel Hill?”

However, his follow up tweets cited a number of media reports that the shooting was over a parking dispute. He also distanced atheism and any subsequent influence his views may have had on Hicks.

With no reference to the fact that the police investigation is still ongoing Dawkins said, “The Chapel Hill murderer was an atheist. People are DESPERATE to blame his atheism. But the police now say his motive was parking dispute.” However, Abu-Salha said one of his daughters had said Hicks was anti-Muslim. A week prior to the shooting, he said, she said she had “a hateful neighbour. Honest to God, she said, ‘He hates us for what we are and how we look,’” said  Abu-Salha. Most of Hicks’ many Facebook posts, which have since been made unavailable, railed against religion and the fact the he attacked a family who were visibly Muslim  has arose suspicion that the crime was not about a mere parking dispute.


The White House silence

Muslim Advocates had called on both President Obama and US Attorney General Holder to condemn the attack. They also urged for a federal investigation into the murders. “As countless American Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim worry about their safety and future, our nation needs to hear a strong message: anyone who engages in violence will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Muslim Advocates.

That sentiment was echoed by Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who criticised the White House for not making a statement on the incident. “If you stay silent when faced with an incident like this, and don’t make a statement, the world will stay silent towards you,” Erdogan said during a visit to Mexico.

His criticism forced the White House, which initially said that it would wait for the police investigation’s results before commenting, to finally condemn the murders three days after they were committed. US President Barack Obama has denounced the killing as “brutal and outrageous murders” adding that no one in the US should be targeted for “what they look like” or “how they worship”.  

President Obama’s silence on the triple murders of the young American Muslims did not go unnoticed

Across the pond anti-racism campaigners protested outside BBC HQ in London in condemnation of the lack of immediate coverage afforded to the horrific murders.

In a statement to The Muslim News Stand up to Racism said the protest on February 12 was organised to highlight the “stark contrast” between the level of media coverage between the Paris shootings and the Chapel Hill murders.

Protests against BBC lack of coverage Muslim hate crime

Sabby Dhalu, Organiser of Stand up to Racism, said Muslims “are consistently portrayed as the perpetrators but not the victims of terrorism and hatred. The lack of media coverage in this case stands in stark contrast to the wall to wall top story coverage that the Paris shootings rightfully received. Politicians and influential figures lined up to blame the entire Muslim community for those horrific actions and ‘kill all Muslims’ trended worldwide on twitter without an international outcry.”

He added the attacks against the Muslims are “taking place in a heightened climate of Islamophobia and hatred… Muslim lives matter, all attacks of this nature should be brought to justice and receive equal coverage.”

Joint National Secretary Unite Against Fascism, Weyman Bennett, said the prevalence of Islamophobia means that when Muslims are murdered, “their plight is willfully ignored. To deny Muslim people equal treatment is a reflection of anti-Muslim racism in our society. We must stand in solidarity with the Muslim community. They are today’s scapegoats. Tomorrow it will be others.”

Assistant Professor in the Dept of Communications at the University of North Alabama, Dr Mohamad Elmasry, said western media outlets will frame the suspect of this crime, “in the same way they frame most anti-Muslim criminals – as crazed, misguided bigots who acted alone. If past coverage is any indication, there will likely be very little suggestion that the killer acted on the basis of an ideology or as part of any larger pattern or system.”

Similar observation was made by English comedian, actor, radio host, author, and activist, Russell Brand.

In his weekly youtube upload Brand spoke out about differences between media coverage of the terrorist shooting suspect in Copenhagen and Hicks

In his video Brand points out that the media treats the Copenhagen terrorist as a representative of Muslim culture at large, whereas the alleged Chapel Hill murderer, Craig Stephen Hicks, is labeled a “disturbed individual.”

Vigils for the trio were being held the day after their murder in North Carolina and elsewhere around the US. Barakat and Mohammad helped the homeless and raised funds to help Syrian refugees in Turkey last summer. Razan was visiting them from Raleigh, where she was studying.

– Editorial: Muslim lives worth less than others’

5 Responses to “Outrage at media indifference to “execution” of young American Muslims”

IftikharMarch 1, 2015

Chapel Hill was a terrorist attack by a Atheist against Muslims, this parking dispute is just a bullshit cover up. And while the Chapel Hill police have claimed that the triple homicide of these young Muslims was the result of a parking dispute, the friends and family of the victims claim that their deaths were the latest gruesome manifestation of Islamophobia – and it comes on the heels of close-by Duke University reversing a plan to have the MuslimVillage.com​ call to prayer being recited from the historic chapel after coming under pressure from Christian groups. A poll by the Pew Research Group showed that Muslims are the most disliked religious group in America.

The West has never been at ease with Islam since the Crusades. It is unfortunate that huge oil supplies lie under the Arabian Deserts. It is the West that stirred the trouble that led to 9/11. That attack was a desperate act of by men prepared to lose their life. We need to get to grips on who is the terrorist? On 24 November 1963, Lyndon Johnson said, “the battle against communism… must be joined… with strength and determination. Some three million lives were lost in the consequential battles. The US had to pull out due to Public Opinion. Communism lived on. So who was the terrorist?

The British establishment is wrong in thinking that Imams are to blame for extremism. Imams are not solution to the problem for extremism. Extremism is nothing to do with Imams. Extremism is not created from abroad, it is coming from within. Britain fails to help Muslim communities feel part of British society. Race trouble is being predicted by the Daily Express, because of an ethnic boom in UK major cities. Muslim communities need imams for the solutions of their needs and demands in their own native languages. Muslim parents would like to see their children well versed in Standard English and to go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. The fact is that majority of Muslim children leave schools with low grades because monolingual teachers are not capable to teach Standard English to bilingual Muslim children. A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit.

Terrorism and sexual grooming is nothing to do with Masajid, Imams and Muslim schools. Those Muslim youths who have been involved in terrorism and sexual grooming are the product of western education system which makes a man stupid, selfish and corrupt. They find themselves cut off from their cultural heritage, literature and poetry. They suffer from identity crises and I blame British schooling.

Terrorism, the use of violence against civilians is not new and it is not unique to Islamic extremists. Though we are hyper-aware of this threat from groups that view themselves as the only true Muslims, let us not forget that assaults on civilians have been used widely throughout human existence and was a widespread occurrence in the last century. Dresden, The Holocaust, Biafra, Rwanda, Cambodia, Oklahoma City… None of these had anything to do with Islam. The problem is not that Islam harbours fanatics, that Europeans allow Muslim immigrants to dwell in impoverished ghettos, or that the Western Nations support despots to ensure access to the oil of the Middle East, though all are true. The problem is that people, and states, are all too willing to use violence to advance their own self-interest. Until we eschew violence, it will always be a weapon easily adopted by the least among us to strike at the privileged.

Charlie Hebdo is a disgusting, racist and bigoted satirical publication that has been inviting such a tragedy for many years. What is the point of humour at the expense of others beliefs? The reason we’re not allowed to depict our Prophet graphically is through his own instruction. He did not want to be “idolized” in any way. He even said himself “i am just a man”. These terrorists have done the exact opposite – they have idolized him by claiming a false “vengeance”. Still, i despise Charlie Hebdo. They were asking for it knowing full well the state of extremism in the world today. Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, it has to do with societal problems. That makes sense. That is why we see so many non-Muslim, poor Latin Americans, Africans and Indians resorting to terrorism as a means to vent their anger, right?

In Islam there is no commandment to kill people by making such allegations against them. The cartoonists had exercised their freedom of expression, and freedom of expression is totally allowed in Islam. Even during the Prophet’s time there were several instances of ridicule, however the Prophet and his Companions neither punished such persons nor asked anyone to do so. On every occasion of this kind, the Prophet’s Companions always tried to positively disseminate the message of Islam. They never tried to punish these people. The killing of those people who had published the cartoons is a gravely un-Islamic act in the name of Islam.


Ian Barnettt.March 3, 2015

Iftikhar forgets to mention that ‘muslims’ contribute nothing to American society or indeed to any society including their own. There is no reason why non muslims should respect mohammed …. in the west we live in a free society. Grow up Iftikhar, maybe grow a brain. If you don’t like it here then emigrate.


Ian Barnettt.March 3, 2015

When the Jews came to America and England (1940s) they too didn’t speak a word of English and lived in impoverished ‘ghettos’ but they had and still have ethics. Jews didn’t wage war on their hosts or go around threatening to kill people or actually kill people. They respected the laws of their host country and very few went to prison for any crimes. They earned respect.
Iftikhar, your analysis is completely wrong. Imams preach hate within mosques in America and the UK. Who are you to say that islamic extremists are not true muslims? Perhaps they are right and perhaps you are wrong. Your Imams teach you to keep apart, not to mix with the kuffor and not to go to kufoor schools etc. Non muslims can be lied to and deceived etc ….. its quite an endless list. Most damage to muslims are caused by other muslims burning and destroying each others mosques. If they can destroy mosques and damage quorans in the process, we non muslims should be thanked for offering assistance


jonnyringoMarch 18, 2015

Barnet no is interested in your rubbish , go tell ya mom you stupid muppet .


Ian Barnettt.March 23, 2015

Thanks @JR
You guys are sadly beyond pathetic. If you had a brain you may be considered dangerous.
I just love this video…….


Time for tea and cake…… back later :-) x


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