Domestic Terrorism at UNC-Chapel Hill

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Dear America,

Could you imagine if 300 million of us Americans woke up one morning to the breaking news that a gun-wielding brown Muslim man had killed three white college students in cold blood (including a newlywed couple) at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill by individually shooting each one of them execution-style in the head like he was an assassin named Jason Bourne?

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Could you further imagine that this person’s weird social media postings also recently included a picture of his loaded gun and that many of his online statements were ideological diatribes against the religious demographic “profile” of his three executed murder victims?

If this hypothetical scenario above ever happened in real life, do you think that 300 million Americans (and our mainstream media) would waste any time at all in labeling the aforementioned hypothetical scenario to be an act of “terrorism”?

Of course not.

In real life though, we are actually talking about a 46-year-old white atheist gun-lover in Chapel Hill, North Carolina named Craig Stephen Hicks who brutally murdered three young Muslim college students named Mr. Deah Shaddy Barakat (age 23), Mrs. Yusor Mohammad (age 21) & Ms. Razan Mohammad Abu Salha (age 19) in their apartment complex by putting bullets into each one of their respective heads in a cold-blooded execution.

Yes, you read that correctly.

This deranged psychopath took the elapsed time to meticulously fire three (3) different bullets into the three (3) different brains of three (3) different American Muslim college students.

Then after he was arrested by police, this cold-blooded murderer had the baffling audacity to claim that it was a neighborly “parking dispute” at their local apartment complex which was his sole reason for brutally assassinating these three young Muslim college students during his stone-cold execution rampage.

Please give me a break.

Speaking to the Raleigh News Observer shortly after the murder of his two daughters, the girls’ father (and North Carolina psychiatrist) Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha told the local newspaper that his daughters were killed in a hate crime while he also added this psychiatric expertise about the shooter Craig Stephen Hicks:

“This has all the signs. It was execution style, a bullet in every head,” Dr. Abu-Salha told the North Carolina newspaper. “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime. This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”

Now let’s be honest; the same Americans who would gladly shout “terrorism” from the rooftops if the UNC shooter was a Muslim (instead of a white guy) will likely avoid using the word “terrorism” since the shooter this time was actually a gun-loving militant white atheist dude who hated religions.

According to one of his social media posts widely shared online, media outlets have reported that he allegedly wrote: “When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I…”

Now, since I have spent the better part of the last 15 years of my professional life condemning “terrorism” in thousands of interviews on international television outlets whenever these acts are committed by those who share my Islamic faith; it is also my job as an American Muslim public intellectual (& international human rights lawyer) to “call-a-spade-a-spade” about our current American “terrorism double standard” in the United States today.

For example, in April 2014, I publicly stated that an attack on a Jewish community center in Kansas City, Missouri by a white neo-Nazi should have been framed as an act of “terrorism” within our media landscape. Similarly, if Craig Hicks had instead murdered three Jewish students at UNC-Chapel Hill after posting anti-Semitic statements on social media platforms, I would still be here writing this exact same column that I am writing to you today.

To put it as bluntly as possible:

The February 2015 UNC-Chapel Hill murders of 3 Muslim students is an act of “terrorism”.

That’s right…I said it.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the term “domestic terrorism” means any crime which:

  • Involves acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  • Appears intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population (I can assure you that 7 million American Muslims qualify as a “civilian population” and we were certainly intended to be intimidated); and
  • Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. 

So regardless of whether the 46-year-old gun-loving militant atheist Craig Hicks had executed three Jewish students or three Muslim students in cold blood at the UNC campus in Chapel Hill, we should all remember that this deranged person’s clear “anti-religious bias” along with the brutality of his execution-style murders of these three innocent religious minority college students objectively encapsulates the overall definition of “terrorism” in every normative common-sense meaning of the word.

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    Arsalan Iftikhar

    Arsalan Iftikhar is Senior Editor of The Islamic Monthly magazine

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    • Adelle Michaud

      Absolutely agree

    • Cabbage Head

      I think you need to go on CNN and explain to Don Lemon that not all muslims are protective of their parking spaces.

    • Patently E(uropean)

      Go on. breed some more resentment and paranoia amoung Muslim youth, then claim they’re not really muslim when they act predictably.

      By the way, muslim man killed 13 people, and no one called him a terrorist. Remember:

      • bk

        Your r terrorist

    • Kevin Sage

      Agree. We need to stop the double talk. Regardless of the person, the definition of a terrorist act remains the same.

    • bobbobbobbob

      The difference being that on his Facebook page he had a long rant against Christians opposing building a Muslim center. So here’s the thing, in all likelihood he did not go off on this family because they were Muslim, but because they were openly religious.

      He probably would have been just as happy to target Mormons, Jews, Catholics, Unitarians, Quakers, Wiccans, Buddhists, or Pentacosts. So yes, seriously unbalanced, undoubtedly filled with rage and probably hate, but not in some overarching “terrorist” kind of way.

      • bobbobbobbob

        Also different.

        I have yet to hear one person say that this was “A good thing.” Even the most radically right-wing nut-job in this country sees this person as a complete an utter wacko. Even the most fervent true believer atheist is saying this guy is complete lunatic.

    • O. Locke

      these murders are reprehensible and terrible. the person who committed these terrible acts against human beings should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

      nevertheless these murders had ZERO to do with religion or race.

      these murders occurred over parking spaces. no matter how much the author wants to politicize them or use them as a political cudgel it won’t change the reason for the murders.

      SHAME ON Arsalan for politicizing the murders of three people before their bodies are cold!

    • ncbigT

      Islam is not a peaceful religion, muslims kill everyday!