Last night around 2,000 people attended a candlelit vigil for the three young Muslim victims of Tuesday night’s Chapel Hill shooting. But the show of sadness and support for the families involved was minor compared to the outpouring of emotion from hundreds and thousands online.
The parents of Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, have issued a joint statement calling on police to investigate their murders as a hate crime, while the suspect’s wife has claimed “this had nothing to do with religion or the victims’ faith”.
Chapel Hill police Chief Chris Blue said an investigation into “the possibility that this was hate-motivated” was ongoing, and a hearing to determine probable cause has been scheduled for 4 March.
But regardless of speculation about the motive of the killer – and suspect Craig Stephen Hicks’ portrayal of himself as a “gun toting”, anti-religious atheist on Facebook – what has really angered people online has been the lack of attention given to the “execution style” deaths of three socially- and charitably-active young people.
In pictures: the Chapel Hill shooting
In pictures: the Chapel Hill shooting
1/8 Chapel Hill shooting
Deah Barakat (centre)
2/8 Chapel Hill shooting
Deah Barakat posted this image to Facebook writing: 'Tonight we provided free dental supplies and food to over 75 homeless people in downtown Durham'
3/8 Chapel Hill shooting
A 46-year-old man, named by police as Craig Stephen Hicks, has been arrested on suspicion of three counts of first-degree murder
Chapel Hill Police
4/8 Chapel Hill shooting
Deah Barakat, pictured here with his wife Yusor, was a keen basketball player
5/8 Chapel Hill shooting
The victims of the shooting, from left to right: Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19
6/8 Chapel Hill shooting
Deah Barakat was a dental student at UNC who worked for a charity giving dental care to Palestinian children and refugees
7/8 Chapel Hill shooting
Deah Barakat and his wife Yusor at an American football match
8/8 Chapel Hill shooting
One of the victims, Razan Abu-Salha, pictured in a post by Deah Barakat describing her as 'the best third wheel ever'
Abed Ayoub, legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), told The Independent it would all have been different if the victims had not been Muslims.
He said: “One hundred per cent this would have been covered differently if the roles were reversed.”
Ayoub Ouederni, the vice president of the UNC Muslim Student Association, acknowledging “increasing Islamophobia” across the US but insisted there had been no evidence of it in Chapel Hill.
He told the Washington Post: “I don’t think it plays a significant part in our relations. They are not us, and we are not them. We lost Muslims last night, but we also lost three great Americans.”
Writing in this paper yesterday, Sabbiyah Pervez said coverage of the incident “proves the West’s dehumanisation of Muslims is almost complete”.
“The more you paint a community as foreign, as a threat, as outsiders, you risk dehumanising them. And this has happened to such an extent that when they are murdered, there is no desire to give them the same sort of attention we would otherwise give all victims of terror.”
And as the #MuslimLivesMatter campaign reemerged on social media, their sentiments were echoed many thousands of times over:
I only heard about the #ChapelHillShooting from some friends posting about it on social media. That's disgusting. All lives are important.— Alex Goldschmidt (@alexandergold) February 12, 2015
Suspect's lawyer said "Victims were in wrong place at wrong time" ... meaning in their home. They were HOME. #ChapelHillShooting— Taz Ahmed (@TazzyStar) February 12, 2015
If this had been a Muslim shooter killing 3 atheists the headlines screaming TERROR ATTACK would be on every front page. #ChapelHillShooting— Charles Edward Frith (@charlesfrith) February 12, 2015
The only reason I know about the #ChapelHillShooting is because of social media. Just like Ferguson, Eric Garner, and numerous trans murders— llüfke (@wjlly2) February 12, 2015
Media will speculate about Muslim involvement in a crime with 0 evidence, but will caution not to speculate on #ChapelHillShooting motives— Remi Kanazi (@Remroum) February 12, 2015
Nothing is scarier than the realization that if I were to be murdered tomorrow, as a Muslim, the world would not care. #ChapelHillShooting— Huma (@libre_huma) February 12, 2015
Deah Barakat and his wife were active volunteers with both local and overseas charities, and activists have called on the public to donate in their honour here.Reuse content