THE BLOG

Chapel Hill Shooting: How Many More Until We Realise This Is A Trend?

17/02/2015 12:02 GMT | Updated 18/04/2015 10:59 BST

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The Chapel Hill shooting is undoubtedly a tragedy, but how many more until we realise it is a trend?

Three young Muslims were killed in their home last week. Deah Barakat (23-years-old), his wife Yusor Mohammed (21), and her sister Razan Abu-Salha (19) were shot in the head "execution style."

Barakat was a second year dental student. Yusor would have started her studies in August. Razan was also a student. They were known for their involvement in humanitarian work, like raising money to provide dental care for Syrian refugees in Turkey, as well as offering free dental check-ups and food to the homeless.

The killer, Craig Hicks, a 46-year-old "fundamentalist" atheist, was known to be "threatening." He had harassed the victims before, and relentlessly posted abusive comments on Facebook against all religion; it is inconceivable to separate this from his subsequent brutality. He also described himself as a fan of Richard Dawkins and Thomas Paine.

Comments on social media, like those of Hicks', have become all too common. They call for the extermination of innocent Muslims; the rape and slaughter of religious women and children; and recommend mass deportations of entire families based on how they look or what they believe.

Social media frequenters will surely be aware of what I am referring to. Especially if they are Muslim. All the more so if they are authors, editors, or publishers.

It seems that when the target is of the correct religious group, we are keen to attach labels of radicalisation and extremism. But these depraved comments, calling for genocide and crimes against humanity, for the killing of all believers, are they not extremist? Are these people not radicalised?

The recent Denmark attacks, deplorable as they are, have once more accentuated a stark contrast in the treatment of shootings. At least initially, corresponding reports seem to rely entirely on the race or religion of perpetrators to assert a motive.

In last week's tragedy: Three horrific executions, with a bullet in each head, a background of personal abuse towards the victims, hateful comments, and self-proclaimed "anti-theist" views have been portrayed by American media as a "parking dispute." Notwithstanding that the parking spot "in dispute" was vacant- i.e. not actually in dispute- at the time of the murders, what kind of bizarre delusion does one have to be under in order to concoct or believe such a ludicrous apologist narrative?

The same week saw a Muslim family attacked while shopping at Dearborn Kroger; a building at Houston's Islamic center destroyed by suspected arson; and in Canada, Mustafa Mattan was fatally shot through his front door. Also, on Saturday night, an Islamic elementary school was vandalised with hostile graffiti.

Perhaps we could view these incidents as hate crimes, imposing against freedom of religion, or we could delude ourselves into labelling them a successive pattern of isolated parking disputes.

Freedom of religion is as much a human right as freedom of expression. They are both enshrined in exactly the same human rights treaty. They are both "our values".

This criminal attacked "our values", just as much as the Paris gunmen allegedly had. A unity march, with world leaders, would be just as fitting; to show solidarity against any compromise of our democratic principles. If it's not too much trouble.

More importantly, why do we constantly search for arbitrary links to deposit Muslims as terrorists, while ignoring substantial evidence of non-Muslims with terrifying tendencies? Is it really okay to deliberately ignore unmoderated hate speech and flagrant calls for violence?

What does that achieve? The maintenance of a blatant double standard? Proof of "freedom of expression"? Or does it simply breed a poisonous atmosphere of innocent targets and blind prejudice?

I am not suggesting any surveillance measures against these commentators, nor any other hasty decisions. Social media already refuses to deal with these issues, despite countless reports.

This problem needs to be dealt with properly, and must be tackled with caution.

However, to resolve it, we must first acknowledge that the problem actually exists. A massive step for the vast majority.

Then again, to acknowledge a problem exists, we must first feel that the grief it causes matters.

And since when have Muslim lives mattered.

I ask again. How many more?