The Chapel Hill Murders – A Proactive Response

My deepest condolences to the families of the three young people murdered in Chapel Hill last evening. They were 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. They were in their shared home when a man broke in and shot them ‘execution style’.

I can’t even imagine the grief their families are experiencing right now. These three had bright futures ahead of them and seemed to be enjoying life to the fullest. Deah was in dental school and did charity work. His sister in law, Razan, had recently graduated and showed some great creative pursuits. These were not radicalised young people who hated the West. They seem to be fully normalised and were getting somewhere in life. What must have been through in their minds in those final moments? I shudder to think, truly.

In times like this, I believe Muslims need to remind ourselves to be proactive. What can we do to stem the rising tide of Islamophobia? Depend on the media? Probably not. While there are good media framings of Muslims, there seems to be also a huge media bias against us. This is especially true in the States where apparently the Chapel Hill murders are said (at the time of this writing) to be only minimally covered. It is not the same in the UK. When the Charlie Hebdo massacre happened last month, the was plenty of media coverage of Muslims who vehemently condemned the attack.

But what can we really do in the face such hate? According to reports, the man who turned himself in, was an atheist-fundamentalist who read the works of major atheist thinkers. I can easily see how these thinkers can promote hate in their writings. These thinkers have extremely well developed critical thought but when it comes to scrutinizing Islam and Muslims, they have a total Dick-and-Jane approach (These are Muslims. They do X). Such hate rhetoric does not help the situation at all but merely throws fuel upon the already raging fire. Something eventually got burned.

Perhaps there is nothing we can do to prevent Islamophobic attacks. After all it only takes one person who go from ‘Islam is a problem’ to ‘Lets kill Muslims’ (an actual trended hashtag, if you remember). However, I do believe we can go a long way towards diffusing this anger. We need to be more proactive rather than let media portrayals define us. Here are a few things we can do:

  1. There are Muslims who show extreme vehemence and recalcitrance when it comes to the West These Muslims are generally young, born and brought up in the West themselves and well-educated. However, they subconsciously see Islam as a tribe and it is against their tribal pride to admit there is a problem within the Ummah. You will recognise them by their use of their term ‘White’ in a very negative way. When Cathy Newman retracted her ‘ushered out of the mosque’ response, they referred to her as ‘white woman’. Muslims often say that Islam does not recognise racial superiority. Why then do these Tribalist Muslims press that button often?

Not only that, they condemn Muslims who agree that Islam has a problem as ‘coconuts’ (brown on the outside, White on the inside). This is a highly racialised slur which shows that these people are themselves racists. How do we know if the alleged killer did not experience the wrath of these Tribalist Muslims? Their hate rhetoric could easily raze the blaze of his own hatred. Muslims need to identify these Tribalists and abandon them en masse.

  1. Going by the story which is emerging , it does not seem unreasonable to assume that the alleged killer targeted these victims due to their dress. That is the only overt sign I can see about them and that too, only among the Abu Salha sisters who wore the hijab. We have to understand, by adopting a religious uniform, we are enabling general perceptions. It is no different from people condemning Goths even though they are all individuals. The Goth look is the first thing they encounter and so they judge by it first. Is this right? Absolutely not. Does it happen? Well it just has.

I am not saying abandon the hijab (even though I do not think it is a command from God) but I am saying that please be aware – if you have a religious uniform, you will be defined by what the other members do. This is unfortunately how violent people operate. They do not come into your homes, ask about your religious beliefs and have in depth theological discussions. You assume the tribal signals – you become unwitting victims. That is how fast it happens. Even approximate tribal signals get included. Remember the Sikh gas station attendant who was killed after 9 -11?

  1. Finallay and perhaps most importantly, Muslims need to go to our tribal leaders and demand that they reform their views. During the Charlie Hebdo incident last month, no one single leader said a word about the theological causes behind Jihadism. There is a massive number of hadiths and ‘scholarly’ opinions’ which enable violence. When are our tribal elders going to be honest and call for the reform of these texts? This is not about becoming ‘modern’ or ‘westernised’, this is about becoming more islamic in the true sense. I guess these leaders are afraid of losing support from the Muslim populous if they do call for reform. Well they have a choice to make. Reform or continue to feed the Islamofascist narrative. Don’t be surprised then when Islamophobia rises accordingly and tragedies like this occur.

It is perhaps the greatest irony of this tragedy that Deah Barakat, the promising young dental student said on his twitter account in the final month of his life, “It’s so freaking sad to hear people saying we should ‘kill Jews’ or ‘kill Palestinians’. As if that’s going to solve anything.” I think it is even sadder that his rare voice of conciliation and moderation will now be silenced forever.


About Farouk A. Peru
I am a human being in the world, blogging my existence. My thought systems may be found in my website:

3 Responses to The Chapel Hill Murders – A Proactive Response

  1. Daayiee says:

    Farouk, thank you for your great commentary and direct response to at least three large issues within our Islamic religious reference…(1) Tribalists–Muslims must remember no Muslim is better than another Muslim (and in truth any other person) and quality of personality is based upon good deeds; (2) Unity rather than uniform(ity)…clothing does not a good Muslim make; (3) Demanding reform based upon higher standards of Quranic ethics–separating politics and culture from religious teachings and meanings. So glad to see and hear more diverse commentaries that the typical “media” responses, even the more positive ones. More needs to be said in public and private.

  2. Pete Mitchell says:

    I can’t help feeling that Muslims who refer to themselves as part of a “brotherhood” and only post things about Muslims (as with this issue,apparently caused by a long standing parking row and a nut with a gun) cause most of what you describe above. If these people had not been muslims I guarantee there would have been no mention on any of these sites. So you cannot expect not to get pigeon holed together if that is what you do as a “brotherhood” on your own accord

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