The murder of three American Muslims at a University of North Carolina condominium on Tuesday, 10 February, was no ordinary murder, nor is the criminal who killed them an ordinary thug. The context of the killings, the murder itself and the media and official responses to the horrific event is a testimony to everything that went wrong since the United States unleashed it’s long-drawn-out “war on terror,” with its undeclared, but sometimes declared enemy, namely Islam and Muslims.
Horrific as it was, the killing of a husband and wife, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, by homegrown terrorist, Craig Stephen Hicks, is the kind of violence that can only fit into a greater media and official narrative, which designates millions of innocent Muslims, in the US or across the world as enemies or potential terrorists.
Countless television hours and endless space in numerous media has been dedicated to vilify and demonize Muslims throughout recent years. Muslims’ attempts to distance themselves from every militant grouping, ideology and tendency has done them no good. A Muslim is a terrorism suspect until proven innocent, especially if a bearded, brown man, or a headscarf-clad woman.
The end result of that dehumanization has been racism, racial profiling, extra-judicial killings and war. It was only a matter of time before that violence reached the nominally safe Muslim communities in the US itself.
The episode of dehumanization is long, complex and protracted; also, quite clever, for it involves billion-dollar media outfits and Hollywood itself, which already has an awful track record regarding negative and stereotypical representation of Arabs and Muslims.
The outcome is a whole industry that is predicated on double standards and half-truths.
The ongoing enthusiasm for more military interventions means that supposed “moral awakening” inspired by the advent of President Barack Obama rarely registered in the collective psyche of the nation. While there is ample evidence that Americans are “tired” of war, that very war fatigue should not be conflated with a departure of the type of dialectics that rationalized war in the first place.
In fact, while the cheerleaders for war might change political camps, ideology or even religious philosophy, ultimately, they are the same breed of people: a mostly white, male dominated and chauvinistic tribe of well-funded politicians and media pundits, with an unquenchable thirst for “intervention.”
Hicks, the terrorist who killed the three young Muslims, subscribes to a school of thought known as New Atheism, what religious scholar Reza Aslan refers to as the school of “anti-theism.” It is, in part, another hate-filled platform, and despite its supposed disdain for all religions, their malicious energy mostly targets Muslims.
They, of course, are different from the majority of atheists, who don’t use that designation to foment hate against a specific religious group. The anti-theist idols include the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, who, according to Aslan, respond “to religion with the same venomous ire with which religious fundamentalists respond to atheism.”
In one of his Facebook posts, Hicks, a lover of guns, quoted Dawkins: “The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the ‘Day of Prayer’ in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place: religion.”
But of course, not any religion, but Islam. Let alone that such ignorant breed pay no heed to any relevant political context, they so foolishly blame a whole religion for what is essentially a political conflict. Did they ever pause to wonder if it might be possible that invading countries, killing, raping, pillaging, destroying mosques and churches, and urinating on the dead have something to do with why many Muslims hate US foreign policy and are willing to use violence in response?
Hicks too hated the three Muslim kids based on that same foolish, murderous logic.
But hating Muslims is not your everyday racism and prejudice, which has been “as American as apple pie and napalm” (a funny, sad line from the American comedy, M.A.S.H). It is a readily available fodder for the ongoing war and future war in Muslim countries. It is the required amount of dehumanization needed to wage war.
This is why Islam and Muslims are equated with terrorism, and why terrorism is used almost exclusively to describe violent acts committed or allegedly committed by Muslims.
The same champions of this invalid logic are those who constantly push the line: “All Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.”
The assumption might be inane, but the intention is anything but. It absolves the war criminals, who planned, executed and justified the war; the soldiers who did the fighting, and those who ensured that there can be no legal accountability for its numerous awful deeds—millions being killed, maimed and all.
Instead, it puts the onus on ordinary Muslims who are set up to prove their innocence to no avail, to absolve themselves from a crime they never committed, in fact, to answer for someone else’s crimes.
But Hicks, who walked into the flat of three students in Chapel Hill, NC and shot them, execution style, was not a Muslim. He comes from Christian heritage. He is not black or brown, but white. His name is not Ahmed, but Craig.
That changes everything.
Neither the police nor the media would describe his crime as a hate crime, let alone terrorism, although his terrorism is unique in a way. His type resides on the top of the food chain in terms of race, gender and other criteria. Yet, somehow he is politically frustrated. Go figure.
He is not a member of a radicalized generation born into oppression, foreign invasion, poverty and other untold humiliation. If that were the case, one can, at least to a degree fathom the hate, deconstruct the anger, or even rationalize that violence is a natural outcome of a certain reality.
Hicks is of the Fox News demographic, gun toting unreasonably and immeasurably angry, white American. Self-proclaimed atheist or otherwise, it matters little.
So Hicks, we are told, killed the students “execution style” because of a dispute over parking spaces.
The same way that Chris Kyle—“The American Sniper”—made 164 confirmed “kills” in Iraq, targeting “savages” because that’s what national heroes do.
And US wars and sanctions on Iraq killed, starved and wounded millions to bring democracy to the Arabs.
This selectively insane logic will persist however, because there are millions of unrepentant politicians, extremist media pundits and well-armed men and women who refuse to see the recklessness of their “logic.”
They will continue to feed violence—which unlike what Hicks is led to believe—didn’t start on 11 September 2001—and spit out the most dangerous of militant phenomena: al-Qaeda, IS and all the rest.
It is time for Muslims to demand that Obama issue more than a statement, but call the United States government and hate-filled media to account. These outrageous double standards must end, before more innocent lives are taken.
Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. He is currently completing his PhD studies at the University of Exeter. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).