With the tragic murder of three young Muslims at Chapel Hill University, apparently by an avowed atheist, it will be interesting to see the reactions from the media, politicians and the public. Let us consider some possibilities, based on recent history.
* A new hashtag, #wearechapelhill will flood the Twittersphere, and people around the world will ‘tweet’ their solidarity with the victims.
* Thousands of people will march at Chapel Hill, all carrying placards reading ‘We are Chapel Hill’.
* World leaders will gather at Chapel Hill, far away, of course, from any of the little people, and march together as a show of solidarity against non-religious-motivated terrorism. Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu will not be invited, but will show up anyway, and will push his way to the front of the crowd.
* President Barack Obama will decry this as a terrorist act, saying that while not all atheists are violent, those with violent tendencies must be stopped.
* The media will proclaim that Chapel Hill is now the frontier in the war against atheist-inspired terror.
* Atheists around the world will be the targets of harassment and violence.
Now, perhaps we can return to reality for a moment, and give this more serious consideration.
CNN, in its initial report on the crime, said this: “Police haven’t said what may have compelled the accused, Craig Stephen Hicks, to allegedly carry out the attack Tuesday evening. He turned himself in to police later in the night. But given the victims’ religion and comments the alleged shooter apparently left on a Facebook page, many social media users wondered what role, if any, the victims’ faith played.”
Preliminary, unconfirmed reports indicate that the accused gunman knew the victims, and had some conflicts with them over a parking space. Well, that seems to be a far better reason to kill a person than if he or she made a cottage industry out of insulting one’s religion. It will be interesting to see what the media does with this information, should it be confirmed. Will murderers who have twisted parts of a religion to suit their own bizarre beliefs and killed journalists who insulted their religion be seen as worse than a man who kills three people because of a parking-space dispute?
With the flames of hostility towards Muslims constantly being fanned by the government and media, with prominent right wing extremists even calling for their deaths, can this crime be surprising? Following the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013, the following Twitter exchange, between FOX News contributor Erik Rush and an individual named Bill Schmalfeldt occurred:
Rush: “Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring more Saudis in without screening them.”
Schmalfeldt: “Sweet God are you ALREADY BLAMING MUSLIMS?”
Rush: “@bloodonthemike. Yes, they’re evil. Let’s kill them all.”
Another FOX News political analyst, if such a term can reasonably be applied to a FOX News employee, Andrea Tantaros had these pearls of wisdom to say in August of 2014: “If you study the history of Islam. Our ship captains were getting murdered. The French had to tip us off. I mean these were the days of Thomas Jefferson. They’ve been doing the same thing. This isn’t a surprise. You can’t solve it with a dialogue. You can’t solve it with a summit. You solve it with a bullet to the head. It’s the only thing these people understand. And all we’ve heard from this president is a case to heap praise on this religion, as if to appease them.”
Well, one assumes Ms. Tantaros is gratified that three Muslims from Chapel Hill each did, indeed, receive a bullet to the head. Three down, only 1.8 billion to go.
Prejudice against and corresponding fear of Muslims is nothing new. USA Today reported in 2013 that “Many widely believed Muslims were behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, until American militiaman Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the crime.” And following the shootings at Charlie Hebdo, violence against Muslims around the world spiked.
It is still, as is said, early days in the investigation and reporting of this crime. Perhaps it will be seen as just another U.S. campus shooting, so common now as to be hardly newsworthy. Perhaps the religion of the victims and the atheism of the alleged perpetrator will be ignored; after all, when a parking space is at stake, all other considerations pale.
So while the media is to able to paint all Muslims with the same brush as a few extremists in Paris, when Muslims are murder victims, it is merely coincidence. When a Muslim stands on one side of a gun, he and all Muslims are terrorists. When on the other side, they are merely individuals who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It will be interesting to see who is asked to apologize for this crime; perhaps there will be calls for all atheists to do so, although this is, of course, highly unlikely. Atheism is a respected concept in the west, and we all know that atheists, unlike Muslims, are individuals capable of independent thought. It will also be interesting to see how right wing journalists and so-called ministers respond; they are quick to condemn Islam with every invented opportunity, and since they are no fans of atheism, they will have to engage in some interesting verbal gymnastics to condemn atheism without somehow expressing sympathy for Muslims.
It may be some time, if ever, before the motivation for this savage crime is known. But if stories from the lives of the three victims, who by all accounts appear to have been compassionate, promising young people, can be publicized, perhaps prejudices against Muslims can be somewhat reduced, thus giving the deaths of these three young people some meaning.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).