The families of the three Muslims murdered in North Carolina are sharing the young victims’ stories with the world. But they’re also calling attention to discrepancies in coverage when Muslims are the victims of terrorism, rather than the perpetrators.
Linda Sarsour, a family
spokeswoman and executive director of the Arab American
Association of New York, spoke to RT’s Ben Swann about the tragic
events on Monday when Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor
Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha,
19, were gunned down in their Chapel Hill home.
46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks turned himself in late Tuesday
night and was arrested on suspicion of three counts of
first-degree murder. Hicks lived next door to the family, in a
condominium complex a few miles east of the University of North
Carolina’s flagship campus.
“The family is absolutely convinced that this is a hate
crime, based on conversations that the father had with his
daughter about a very hateful neighbor,” Sarsour said.
“She told her father, ‘I know that he hates me for who I am
and what I’m wearing.’”
The FBI has opened a preliminary inquiry into whether or not any
federal laws were broken related to the case, Reuters reported.
Those laws could include civil rights violations or the
committing of a hate crime.
“[Hicks] used to see them walking into the apartment complex
and have his hand on a very visible gun in a holster,” she
added. “And that plus very interesting social media posts,
seems he’s a very extremist anti-theist, so he’s very anti- any
religion or anti-religious people.”
Hicks is a self-described atheist who regularly posted content
critical of religion on his Facebook account.
The father of the two women killed, psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad
Abu-Salha, told the Raleigh News Observer that one of his
daughters had told the family a week ago that she had a
Hicks’ wife Karen denies her husband was motivated by
Islamophobia, but rather by an ongoing parking dispute at the
“I can say with my absolute belief that this incident had
nothing to do with religion or victims’ faith, but was, in fact,
related to the long-standing parking disputes that my husband had
with the neighbors, our neighbors of various religions, races and
creeds,” she told reporters Wednesday.
— Ιman | ايمان (@ImaniAmrani) February
But Dr. Abu-Salha said that the fact that his relatives were shot
in the head “execution style” showed the shooter had an
underlying animosity towards his daughters and son-in-law based
on their religion and culture.
Sarsour said it was offensive for Hicks to brush aside the
underlying hatred her husband harbored towards his victims.
“It’s actually quite offensive when you’re telling families
that their three children were murdered ‒ execution style ‒
pronounced dead at the scene over a parking space. You have to
have a lot of hate in your heart for you to be able to murder
young students in the way that they were murdered,” she told
Sarsour then criticized the media for its lack of coverage of the
shootings until an outcry took place on social media – featuring
#MuslimLivesMatter and #ChapelHillShooting – focused their
attention on the crime.
“If the perpetrator was Muslim, we would be having non-stop
coverage of his religion, who he’s affiliated with, where did he
work, who did he speak to, and there really hasn’t been that much
focus,” she said.
— Omar Ghraieb (@Omar_Gaza) February
“I’m happy that the focus now has been on these three lives,
on their beautiful lives — full lives that they’ve lived, on
their families,” the spokeswoman added. “And that’s the
story you want to tell because these were Americans. But not only
were they Americans, they were extraordinary Americans who gave
back to their community, were successful students — and that’s
how their families want them to be remembered.”
The families of the three victims have received an outpouring of
support from around the country and the world, not just with
people sending condolences, but also with people offering to set
up donation pages to helping Syrian refugees ‒ a cause very dear
But despite the silver lining that the support has revealed, the
family still believes that Hicks’ actions were “absolutely an
act of terrorism.”
“Terrorism is a crime that has political or religious
motivations behind it. This guy was an anti-theist. If you look
at some of his social media posts, he was anti-religion and
anti-religious people,” Sarsour said. “These young women
were wearing headscarves; they were identifiably Muslim. And we
should be calling domestic terrorism, regardless of who the
perpetrator is or who the victims are. And in this case, this is
absolutely to me a domestic terrorism case.”