Terror in Chapel Hill, NC


From left 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19

From left 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19

The lives of three Muslims living in Chapel Hill were taken early last week by someone it was claimed was angry about parking spaces in the community the victims and the killer shared but in reality has turned into a debate whether the murder was religiously motivated.  Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha his wife and her sister Razan Abu-Salha were each shot, some reports have said, execution style in the head in their residence by Craig Stephen Hicks also of Chapel Hill.

46 year old Craig Stephen Hicks

46 year old Craig Stephen Hicks

Shortly after killing the three, Hicks turned himself into Chapel Hill police and no other person has been sought in connection with this crime.  Hicks had been known for causing problems with his neighbors but was also a self avowed atheist, some would have you believe vehemently so, who disliked all religions and made his displeasure known on his Facebook page. In one of his posts he said,  ‘I hate Islam just as much as christianity, but they have the right to worship in this country just as much as any others do’ giving one the impression he was tolerant of Muslims and Christians but it was that hatred of Islam that drove him to kill Barakat and the two Abu-Salha sisters.   A lot of anger has risen in Muslim communities across America about the absence of the term “terrorist” to describe Hicks’ actions.  In a time when violence by so-called Muslims, who some would say are marginally Muslim at best, are quickly and universally called terrorists and have their actions condemned as such, Muslims decried the reticence of media to do the same for this crime.  the 3's silhouetteIt appears, regardless of the label given Hicks or his crime, people of all faiths and colors expressed their sorrow and revulsion for the murders while the district attorney charged Hicks with three counts of 1st degree murder which is a capital offense in the state of North Carolina.  Whether the office will seek the death penalty remains to be seen, but it is applicable for the charge.  However, there is still that nagging issue of whether Hicks was motivated by hate in the killings; the families of the victims have insisted as have others in the Muslim community that the victims’ death were racially motivated and the FBI has said it’s conducting an investigation to determine if that’s the case.  parking
The larger American community however, seems to take umbrage at the notion that Hicks was inspired by hate, instead clinging to the narrative put forth by the police the night of the killing that it was a neighborly dispute over parking spaces that drove Hicks over the edge.  At a time when news about Islam is overwhelmingly negative and spoken of in terms of violence and terrorism by Muslims against others most Americans cannot conceive of themselves as terrorists. Even at the beginning of Obama’s first term in office when Homeland Security talked about the threat of homegrown terrorism unrelated to Islam there was so much opposition to the notion such an idea existed that the Department was forced to

“step(ped) back for the past two years from conducting its own intelligence and analysis of home-grown extremism, according to current and former department officials, even though law enforcement and civil rights experts have warned of rising extremist threats.

The department has cut the number of personnel studying domestic terrorism unrelated to Islam, canceled numerous state and local law enforcement briefings, and held up dissemination of nearly a dozen reports on extremist groups, the officials and others said.

The decision to reduce the department’s role was provoked by conservative criticism”

It is entirely likely it is the same sentiment that causes many people including those in the media and law enforcement not to label this act as terrorism but a look at the facts may reveal otherwise.

Hicks stated on his Facebook account he “hated Islam”; indeed some of his posts seem to be imaginary conversations he is having with his victims:

Of course I want religion to go away. I don’t deny your right to believe whatever you’d like; but I have the right to point out its ignorant and dangerous for as long as your baseless superstitions keep killing people

When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I

Hicks’ adult daughter “disowned” him because of, as she put it, his disrespect for people of other faiths. The victims were aware of Hicks’ complaints in the community and made sure to avoid the parking spaces he contested even to the point of sending detailed maps and instructions to friends visiting them of where they could park and where not to.  The towing company responsible for the compound refused to take Hicks’ calls any more because he was so persistent and annoying and finally on the day of the murders the disputed parking places were empty, there were no cars parked there to cause Hicks to loose it and kill.

shahadaClearly the victims were Muslims, the two sisters wore clothing indicative of their faith and thus much more easy to discern as opposed to others who may or may not be of a particular religious persuasion; they were easy targets for him.  The couple, in their brief life together, had complained to family and friends of Hicks’ intimidating behavior, flashing his handgun at them whenever he spoke to them about parking in the complex. And speaking of handguns, and while they are a part of the American fabric, Hicks had his fair share and didn’t mind letting people know.  Neighbors were aware he carried a gun and the victims clearly felt threatened by him. Indeed, some might say Hicks fit the profile of the type Homeland Security mentioned in their analysis of homespun terrorism that raised so much ire among the Right. While some may say this act of cold blooded murder was done by the neighborhood curmudgeon over parking spaces the motivation behind it was far more sinister and hate filled than that.  Hicks’ neighbors, perhaps ALL of them living in the complex did everything they could to ameliorate his concerns until those concerns became excessive, vengeful, murderous and focused on the three Muslim victims.

However something must be said about who were these three young people so brutally slain by Hicks. They were all model citizens of this country AND Muslim. They excelled in their academic careers, the husband Deah was studying at UNC’s School of Dentistry soon to be joined there by his wife and the sister Razan Abu-Salha was a student at NC State.  That university has gone on to establish a scholarship in their name because

“Deah, Yusor and Razan exemplified the best of N.C. State and will forever serve as role models for our student body, (NCSU Chancelor Randy) Woodson said in a statement. Each was not only an outstanding student, but individually and as a family lived their lives bringing joy to others, helping those in need and making the world a better place.

They did that….making a world a better place….by feeding the homeless in Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina and were involved in building an interfaith Habitat for Humanity home in Wake County. At the time of his death, Deah Barakat was trying to raise $20,000 through a YouCaring.com website (nando.com/xk) to pay for a trip to Turkey to provide dental care for Syrian refugees a dangerous proposition in today’s times.  They were fully engaged in American society as Americans and as Muslims and they were the best this country has to offer but were killed because of the hatred Hicks had towards Muslims who he felt started something with him.  Let’s not let media off the hook.  Today’s America is full of venomous hatred that permeates the ‘net and airwaves.  Every breath one takes they inhale America’s dislike for Muslims and Islam. Even the President of the United States gets called on the carpet for not quickly enough using the word “terrorist” to describe any act of violence against Americans that may happen at the hands of brown skinned people with funny sounding names.  Hicks’ antennae were acutely tuned to this atmosphere; he was conditioned to act the only way America knows how, with violent rage.  Media refuses to call him on it because he doesn’t fit the profile just like homespun extremism is not a narrative we are willing to entertain as a Nation.  As a result three of our brightest are dead. Hear what Yusor AbuSalha had to say about her short life as she talks to her former teacher here.  America is less a country because these three bright, intelligent people are no longer with us.

It’s always darkest before the dawn


Isabelle MaticWe’ve seen this phenomenon before where the worst news about Islam and the atrocities committed in its name are enough to get people to commit to finding out themselves about the religion and eventually accepting it.  It doesn’t seem to matter how heinous the crime and how erroneous the actions of those done in the name of Islam, people of faith and good intention are able to see through the filters of provocation and distortion and adopt Islam as their religion or understand criminal behavior has nothing to do with religion but rather with the followers of that religion.  It has happened again this time with a citizen of France and the massacre at the offices of Charlie Habdo as horrendous as they were did not deter Isabelle Matic a French director from accepting Islam.

French director Isabelle Matic has announced her decision to revert to Islam on her FaceBook account, making the unexpected announcement only a few days after Charlie Hebdo Paris attacks.

“Today, I passed through the first pillar of Islam. There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet,” Matic said in a message posted on her Facebook page on January 11.

In another message, she described how she took the decision and its effect on her beliefs in freedom of expression.

“Between the massacre at the premises of Charlie Hebdo and other event that have followed: I became a Muslim,” Matic wrote.

“Am I still for freedom of expression for all and Charlie Hebdo in particular?! Yes,” Matic wrote yesterday.

“With regard to my position towards the caricatures of the Prophet, I will write you the text of the SMS that I received this morning from a mosque which agreed quite well with my thoughts since the beginning of the cartoons, well before I became a Muslim,” she added

“They are making fun of Muhammad and do not harm Muhammad. They are making fun of a character that they have imagined and to whom they have given a name. This man is not our Prophet,” she wrote.

“The Makkans laughed at Muhammad (worthy of praise) in the appellant Modamam (worthy of name calling). The prophet peace be upon him was smiling. Yes, he was smiling! And he said: They are making fun of Modamam and not me,” Matic wrote.

“The wisdom is the answer to provocations. And this is what our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) has taught us.

 “So when Charlie Hebdo will be published insha ‘ Allah (God willing), do not pay attention. Do not respond to the provocation. And do not give them of importance,” she added.

It’s amazing the clarity she brings to her new found faith; too bad many Muslims who’ve lived long lives worshiping and studying the religious texts aren’t as clear headed as Matic is in such a short period of time. Perhaps she can contribute towards a more correct understanding and application of Islam by her fellow French Muslims.  Congratulations to her!

Context


Cherif Kouachi , on the left and his brother Said

Cherif Kouachi , on the left and his brother Said

This is not an excuse it’s offered to show what made Cherif Kouachi and his brother do such a terrorist type attack on the soul of France.  It like most things that deal with the Middle East, has a history and Cherif Kouachi’s history began with Abu Ghraib; you know that awful part of American history we’d much rather forget and which has been sanitized by media because it was so inhumane and dastardly.  The pictures revealed weren’t even the tip of the iceberg; there were some far more brutal that dealt with rape and bestiality of prisoners…..men, women and children.  In fact they are so bad that the Obama administration has refused to release the remaining ones for fear they would inflame public passions and spark an international outcry.  Abu Ghraib is something we want to forget but the people of Iraq…..God bless them and those who went there like Cherif Kouachi aren’t probably going to forget anytime soon.  Oh forgive, no doubt, American largesse will make them but those like Cherif  who aren’t likely to partake in the purchased conspiracy of silence aren’t going to.

We have this illusion that we, America can do no wrong…that we are the beacon of light for civilization and if we do anything criminal it’s for a greater good or could never equal what others far more barbaric and uncivilized than us could do.  We’re good at setting up false equivalences, but Kouachi no doubt heard it all when he was in Mesopotamia in 2011 and he seethed.  We’ve written about France a lot here on the pages of Miscellany101 and how it’s false claims of liberty and equality are nothing more than sticks they used to beat secularism into their subjects…..Christian, Muslim or Jewish.  For Muslims however there has been a steady eroding of rights to practice their religion, especially for women, like nothing seen since the days surrounding World War II. That fact no doubt also had a lot to do with Cherif’s destructive anger; unemployed and living with or knowing women who might have felt hampered by their government to practice their religion was enough to make him teeter on the edge….until he saw these..

 

 

As you can see they vary in obscenity and many of you depending on your daily diet of murder, mayhem and pornography probably don’t find any of them offensive.  I remember back in the day when the crucifix was submerged in a bottle of what was said to be urine and many people in government were up in arms about that and wanted to cut funding to the arts.  No, it’s not the same thing as what happened in France, not even close, but it underscores the fact that people are entitled to have their religious figures, symbols respected.  Now lest you think I’m trying to make excuses, I tweeted before even seeing these cartoons ‘Did they have the right to publish the cartoons? Yes. Are they offensive? Yes! Should Muslims protest and create acts of violence? No!’…..and quite frankly I stand by that position but before you go off all high and mighty about the right to free speech, think about what you would do if someone willfully posted pictures of your beloved family member for all the world to see and claim to do it in the name of freedom of speech…..

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Modesty, Islam and the streets of NYC


Much has been said about the woman who walked around in the streets of New York city for ten hours while men of all descriptions made unwanted advances to her.  Of course it shows how uncivilized men’s desires can become but it also shows a degree of acclimation and expectation people have when confronted with their notions of beauty and attraction in today’s America. The link to the Hollaback video for your viewing pleasure is here.

However, there is another video in two parts that shows both the predictable reaction of men to women regular wearing regular attire walking for several hours and the same woman wearing a black abaya and hijab walking with vastly different results.  In the case of the woman with the “Islamic” clothes there are no recorded interactions between the veiled woman and men she passes on the streets.  In fact they seem not to even notice her as she walks mere inches away in some cases.  Perhaps the reason is because of the clothes…..Muslim women are told in their sacred scripture, The Quran, one of the reasons for the covering is to be easily identified as women of modesty and faith yet perhaps another reason is because men know that interacting with women like that will result in no reaction at all.  Operating on the principle that if one randomly approaches scores of women solicitously they may get one to accept their advances they have come to realize through interaction with Muslims that no matter how many times they make similar advances with Muslim women they will get no response at all.  If that’s the case, it is a praiseworthy on the part of the Muslim woman not to advance such societal norms with interaction.  Take a look at the video and decide for yourself what is the reason for the difference in how men react to the two examples…..

Did you know the latest American hostage held by ISIS is a Muslim


Peter Kassig, an American is also an American Muslim who went to Syria to HELP Syrians not fight them and he is the latest hostage of the terror group ISIS to be threatened with death.  In a letter to his parents he talks about how he is at peace with his religion and his decisions he made that took him to Syria but also that he is afraid of the uncertainty of death at the hands of this terror group.  Is there anyone who still thinks the group has anything to do with Islam?  It kills its native sons from all over the world; sounds more fascist than Islamist.

Muslims STOP apologizing for the sins of people who call themselves Muslim


muslim-americans-2Stop it now!!  No other group, nation, tribe, religion has borne the burden of the infamy of a small fraction of its associates like Muslims.  No group of people has had to explain the actions of people they don’t know except tangentially as Muslims have had to do and despite their explanations and protestations not have their exposition accepted.

Juan Cole asks, Must Muslim Americans condemn ISIL; see where he takes you to arrive at an answer

Asking people to take stances based on their ascribed identity (what they were born into most often) rather than on the basis of their individual choices in life goes against everything that modern human rights thinking stands for. It is like forcing all Russian-Americans to say publicly what they think about Vladimir Putin.

So if all this is correct, and it certainly is, why do right wing Americans continue to demand that Muslim-Americans condemn Muslim extremists in the Middle East? They have nothing to do with the latter and aren’t responsible for them. Some of the inhabitants of the American Southwest in the early modern period were secret Muslims from southern Spain who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Inquisition. My birthplace, Albuquerque, is an Arabic word (al-Barquqi). Some 10% of the some 4 million Africans kidnapped and trafficked to Southern landowners as slaves in the US before the slave trade was abolished were Muslim. Hundreds of thousands of people practiced Islam in North America long before there was a United States. The White House was built with slave labor and likely some of that was Muslim labor. Some of the founding Fathers likely owned Muslim slaves. As late as the 1930s, elderly ex-slaves reported in interviews that they remembered their mothers bowing toward the east at dawn. Some Arab-American Muslims can trace their family roots in the US back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The religion is an American religion, deeply interwoven with American history and Muslim-Americans are not responsible for developments in the contemporary Middle East.

So they shouldn’t have to, but they do.

When Turkey’s Jews were asked to condemn the atrocities of Israel in Gaza their response was

No citizen of this country is under any obligation to account for, interpret or comment on any event that takes place elsewhere in the world, and in which he/she has no involvement. There is no onus on the Jewish community of Turkey, therefore, to declare an opinion on any matter at all.

“It is anyway not possible for a community of 20,000 to declare a unified opinion. No human community can be monolithic and the Jewish community is not. Its members include people of all kinds, with a great variety of views.

“In the same way the people of Turkey cannot be held responsible for the barbarity of what the Islamic State [of Iraq and Levent, ISIL] does because a number of Turks are among its fighters, the Jewish community of Turkey cannot be held responsible for what the state of Israel does. It is racism to hold a whole people responsible for the actions of a state and we wish to declare that we are opposed to this.

American Muslims  should be equally assertive in saying they are not responsible for nor do they need to explain the actions of people who are in faraway places of the world.  Even though Muslims do try to explain an Islamic position it has never been good enough to get people to accept what are in some cases detailed and pointed explanations of their positions so STOP it!  Stop it now!

 

Bargaining from a position of moral clarity


ramadanThat’s what Tariq Ramadan says should be the attitude of Muslims in the West and anything less than that is unacceptable.

The leaders of ISNA can boast a proud record of service to American Muslims, for which they must be thanked and congratulated. The annual ISNA convention is an important gathering, featuring a multiplicity of participants and a broad cross-section of activities. In recent years, however, the political positions taken by the organization’s leadership have not always been clear-cut. Though it is essential, I believe, to remain open to dialogue with the authorities, it is likewise essential that positions of principle must be maintained, re-affirmed and defended. Not simply for the good of the Muslims, but in the name of the contribution of American Muslims to their society. Criticism of the domestic policy of the current administration, like those that preceded it, is a moral obligation. Summary arrests, arbitrary prison terms, inhuman psychological torture and solitary confinement, the shadowy role of informers and the deeply troubling and unacceptable methods used by the FBI, which has provoked young people to engage in extremist actions, must be unconditionally condemned. Not in the name of Islam, but in the name of the values proclaimed by the United States. However, the ISNA leadership is too often silent, as if paralyzed by fear. It fares no better with respect to American foreign policy. Its silence over American support for the outlaw and inhuman policies of Israel cannot be justified, even less so after attending an iftar organized by the White House during which President Obama defended Israel while the Israeli ambassador tweeted his delight! We cannot be forever silent: what kind of active and responsible citizenship does the ISNA leadership offer young American Muslims? What kind of example? That of silent, fearful sycophants–or of free, public-spirited citizens who, while defending the values of human dignity and justice, serve their country in the most sincere and critical way? That of the unconditional loyalty of the timorous, or the critical loyalty of free individuals? To attend the ISNA convention would be to endorse their silence.

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