Regarding the Chapel Hill Shooting in North Carolina, USA

Thursday 12th February 2015

Faith Matters and the Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) project were shocked to learn of the tragic murders of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on February 10. The victims of this senseless attack were reportedly killed by a single gunshot to the head and were named as 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his 21-year-old wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her 19-year-old sister Razan Abu-Salha.

46-year-old Craig Steven Hicks is presently in jail without bond on three murder charges but the motive remains unclear at this time. Police have stated that they are investigating reports of “an ongoing neighbour dispute over parking” but “understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated”. But the woman’s father, Mohammad Abu-Salha, disagrees and wants it investigated as 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,” Mr Abu-Salha told local media.

The suspect’s Facebook page appears to show an enthusiasm for firearms and a deep dislike of all religion, with the majority of posts expressing a vigorous support for atheism. One recent post read “Praying is pointless, useless, narcissistic, arrogant, and lazy; just like the imaginary god you pray to.” In late 2013, Hicks shared a meme that denied Islamophobia and any subsequent racism Muslims may experience.

The murders have caused a huge outpouring of grief from people all around the world and prompted a debate about whether the students had been targeted because of their faith. Members of the public from all faiths and backgrounds have taken to social media to express their shock and anger, not just at the murders themselves but also at the lack of media coverage the case has generated and the lack of emphasis placed on the very real possibility that these murders were motivated by anti-Muslim hate and prejudice.

Faith Matters and the Tell MAMA project are very concerned that the victims of these murders may have been deliberately targeted because of their Muslim faith and appearance. For a number of years we have been highlighting the increasing number of anti-Muslim attacks occurring in the UK, and the spread of hateful material online by right wing extremists which divides and harms communities. In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, negative and biased media coverage of Islam and Muslim communities has continued to grow and this fuels the feelings of fear and anxiety experienced by many British Muslims in the current climate.

All forms of hate crime are unacceptable and it is important to remember that acts of violence are not confined to one particular religion, race or ethnic group. Faith Matters and the Tell MAMA project would like to take this opportunity to remind members of the public to report any anti-Muslim hate incidents that you witness or are the victim of:

  • If you are the victim of threats or violence because you are Muslim, call the police (dial 999, or 101 for non-emergencies). You can also report directly to Tell MAMA.
  • If you are the victim of online anti-Muslim hate, report it to the relevant organisation (e.g. Twitter, Facebook). You can also report directly to Tell MAMA.
  • If your child is suffering anti-Muslim bullying or harassment at school, share your concerns with the school staff. You can also report directly to Tell MAMA. 
  • Ensure that any place of worship you attend has an emergency plan that can be implemented should you or others feel in danger.