Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha were shot and killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, last week for one reason—they were Muslims.
Their next door neighbour Craig Hicks has been charged with their murders. It is alleged that he entered their home on Tuesday of last week and shot each in the back of the head.
But the police and the media are refusing to class the killings as racist. Cops say they are looking into it as the culmination of “an ongoing neighbour dispute about parking”.
Two days later an Islamic Centre in Houston, Texas, was burned down in a suspected arson attack. Media outlets debate the possible “motivations” of Hicks.
They say he was a resident known to get into disputes, but after he had shot the three young Muslims he “surrendered without incident”.
They quote one neighbour who said Hicks displayed “equal opportunity anger”.
Deah and Yusor were newlyweds and were living with Yusor’s younger sister Razan. Their family are clear about the motivations for the killings.
“We have no doubt that the way they looked and the way they believed had something to do with this,” Yusor and Razan’s father Mohammad Abu-Salha said.
Mohammad said that when Deah lived alone he did not seem to experience any problems. But trouble started once his daughter moved in wearing a hijab that clearly identified her as Muslim.
“My daughter, Yusor, told us on more than two occasions that this man came knocking at the door and fighting about everything with a gun on his belt, more than twice.
“She told us, ‘Daddy, I think he hates us for who we are and how we look’.”
Over 5,000 attended the funerals for the three University of North Carolina students. And MuslimLivesMatter protests took place outside CNN offices in New York and the BBC in London, Birmingham and Manchester.
Protesters pointed to the hypocrisy in the reporting and investigation of the shootings. If the killer had been Muslim and the victims white it would have quickly been deemed a terrorist attack.
Family friend Sameer Abdel-Khalek said Islamophobia has been a long term problem in the US. “It had got to the point where I think we became desensitised and unsure of how to react in the face of the ridicule. Up until now,” he said.
The Islamophobia that has taken root is starkly seen in the different treatment meted out to the Chapel Hill murders and the killings in Copenhagen, Denmark, last Saturday.
Omar El-Hussein was shot dead by Danish police after they allege he shot two people and injured five. One victim was killed outside a synagogue and another in a cultural centre which was holding a “debate” on Islam and free speech.
El-Hussein’s motivations were already decided upon before his name was even released. Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt said the shootings were a “cynical act of terror against Denmark”.