See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Tragedy in Chapel Hill: ‘If the Murderer Were Muslim the Story Would Have Been Different’

A tribute to Deah Barakat and Yusor and Razan Abu-Salha, by @_mz_cool

A tribute to Deah Barakat and Yusor and Razan Abu-Salha, by @_mz_cool

“We're all one, one culture,” said 21-year-old student Yusor Abu-Salha last year in an interview recorded by the StoryCorps project about growing up in the United States.

This week, Abu-Salha, along with her sister Razan (19) and husband Deah Barakat (23), were brutally murdered in their home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Police have arrested their neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, and charged him with first-degree murder. While stories from the two young women's friends paint Hicks as an angry man who scared them on occasion, Hicks’ wife has portrayed her husband as a tolerant man and claimed that the triple murder was prompted by “a parking dispute.”

There has been an outpouring of reactions in response to what many see as a crime motivated by hate. Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of Yusor and Razan, called on US President Barack Obama from the funeral to investigate the murders as a hate crime; reports state that the FBI has indeed launched an investigation.

Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdoğan criticized President Obama's silence on the killings, stating: “If you stay silent when faced with an incident like this, and don't make a statement, the world will stay silent towards you.” His was a sentiment echoed by many, including politicians in the Middle East, as Juan Cole points out.

On social media, people criticized the media's response, noting that it was both slower than is typical for similar crimes and that the alleged killer's background was not a topic of discussion as it would likely be if he were Arab or Muslim.

Palestinian journalist Ali Abunimah tweeted:

In a series of tweets, Moroccan-American writer Laila Lalami synthesized the reactions of many when she said:

Palestinian-American journalist Sara Yasin pointed to the absurdity of certain media claims with this tweet:

Mohammed Al Shuhail, from Saudi Arabia, remarks:

All adherents of the religion Islam become terrorists when the culprit is a Muslim, but with the Chapel Hill Shooting, it is just a crime and nothing more ..

This tweet by Muthker Ben Samhan, a teacher from Al Qaseem, Saudi Arabia, was retweeted 95 times and reads:

If the murderer was Muslim, the Western media would have waged a war against Islam and Muslims but because the murderer was one of them, this is just an incident

And Saudi Saud Bas tells his 8,000 followers on Twitter:

In the media, the murderer of Chapel Hill is not called a terrorist but just a murderer.
Terrorism is just restricted to Muslims

Our work building bridges across cultures, languages and perspectives is more urgent than ever before.

Learn more about Global Voices »

Donate now

Close