On the Deaths We Choose to Mourn… And the Ones We Choose to Forget

On February 10th, 2015, Yusor Abu Salha, 21, was shot execution-style alongside her husband of six weeks, Deah Barakat, 23, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19, by a man who resembles a potato. The potato-terrorist’s name is Craig Stephen Hicks, a 46-year-old while male who, according to the malestream media, shot the three innocent students over a “parking dispute” while chanting the infinite wisdom of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, renowned leaders in the progressive Islamophobic new atheists movement. Like all white men with grievances and guns, Hicks had harassed the three Palestinian-American students for their religious beliefs incessantly before finally killing them in a pre-meditated “fit of rage,” while their cars were not parked at an empty parking space.

I apologize for waiting to write about this story. As you can tell, I’m still rather upset.

However, I cannot describe the atrocious murder of these three in a clear act of terrorism without mentioning the February 6th assault of a 9-year-old Muslim boy in Sweden, whose head was smashed into the pavement by security as the 9-year-old struggled to breathe whilst reciting the shahada; or the vicious assault on a Muslim family inside of a grocery store on February 12th during which the father of a 10-year-old boy was physically beaten to the ground by a group of white men while his son was held back by bystanders from assisting his father, and while his young daughter was sexually harassed as the men demanded that she remove her hijab; or the 28-year-old Mustafa Mattan who was shot and killed through the door of his apartment on February 9th after he rose to answer a knock. Mattan was a Somali Muslim, a university graduate student who’d found work as a security guard to save for a wedding, and a humble and soft-spoken man whose funeral expenses were covered by donations that his family struggled to raise. And these are only the most prominent of countless hate-crimes motivated by growing Islamophobia. Surrounding these attacks on living, breathing people, most of whom have been made to stop living and breathing, are the February 13th burning of the Islamic Center in Huston, the February 14th vandalism (happy day of love everyone) of an Islamic school in Rhode Island, and the windows shot out of a Muslim secondary school in Montreal on February 10th.

Although the malestream media neglected to report the shooting on Chapel Hill accurately without the criticism of Twitter and independent journalists (that’s embarrassing) the Muslim community was overflowing with enough pain and outrage (and rightfully so) that eventually, reporters from CNN and MSNBC had the sense to realize their mistakes, though not without parading the “parking dispute” proposition for a few more days, checked with the words “police claim” to frame the favored excuse. Unfortunately, some expression of that pain and outrage from the Muslim community involved appropriation of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter–#MuslimLivesMatter—which was also embarrassing, and telling to say the least, considering the death of the Somali grad student had, comparatively, inspired nothing from us but the sound of crickets.

It is inarguable that Yusor, Razan, and Deah had been upstanding citizens, who built homes for those without homes, who raised money to donate to Syrian refugees, who were devoted and kind, who impacted their communities so profoundly that their efforts continued even after their deaths. It is inarguable that this world was better while they lived in it, that the loss of their lives is mourned by those loved best by God, that they were stellar Muslims and stellar human beings. But what if they hadn’t been? What if they hadn’t been the epitome of everything we uphold as ideal? What if they hadn’t been newly weds? What if they hadn’t been accepted into a university, hadn’t been planning to attend next fall? What if they hadn’t been hijabis? What if they hadn’t raised money for refugees, but had been impoverished themselves? What if they had been 16 and pregnant, or LGB or T, or… not Palestinian? —what if they, like the Somali man, shot in his apartment, whom we neglected, had actually fit the profile of the victims in #BlackLivesMatter?

Would Muslim lives matter then?

Before we “borrow” (read: appropriate) from the black community, whose struggles and movements benefit us all, it is crucial to evaluate whether those from whom we are “borrowing” are valued in our own. The relative silence in the death of Mattan, 16 hours before the deaths of Yusor, Razan, and Deah, speaks as many volumes about the racism in the Muslim community as the silence surrounding the deaths of Yusor, Razan, and Deah speaks about the American media. The Muslim community exists in a state of Arab supremacy, in which the devastation to Arab American lives—or Arab lives in a global context—is met with all the heartbreak that embraces an ideal victim, and destruction to all other lives, especially Black lives, is greeted with a shuffle of discomfort. Non-Arab lives are considerably devalued, and consequently, the narrative of their deaths neglected. As hard as it might be to face, our collective sorrow has a color.

The victims of the Chapel Hill shooting garnered this much attention in the Muslim community because the victims were upstanding. And no one should have to be upstanding for their lives to matter. There’s a really horrible sense that some who aren’t directly connected to the victims is publicly indulging themselves in the excuse to behave righteously about how good–and they were good–the victims were… and to credit the entire Muslim community through the good deeds of the respected dead. So that the Muslim American community can itself be depicted as the ideal victim.

But we are not an ideal victim. We are not all Arabs, and we are not all straight, and we are not all young and beautiful and excellent, and we are not all in positions to give rather than receive. And my heart is breaking, for Yusor, and Razan, and Deah, and for Mustafa too, and—forgive me—but especially for him. Because no one but his family is mourning him like they are mourning the victims of Hicks. And it is shattering me to the core.

.إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ‎


17 thoughts on “On the Deaths We Choose to Mourn… And the Ones We Choose to Forget

  1. mmghosh

    Atheists can be lunatics, and gun nuts, too. The point is that there is no text or figure of authority in the religion of atheism that tells one to go out and kill someone else for any reason whatsoever. A triple murderer is simply a triple murderer.


      1. knowthetruth

        Stalin was an atheist:killed over a million Russians…..Mao tse thsung was an atheist killed even more than what Stalin did…..Cambodia,Vietnam,.North Korea..etc…etc..

        But western Atheist including dawkins,M. Namazie..A.hirsi Ali and all atheists blame Islam when a criminal Muslim does a crime.


      2. Apologies. My point really is that poor management of mental health issues and firearm regulation would appear to be a more of an issue here, since addressing these issues would have a more effective impact than polemics against Sam Harris.


        1. Are you a psychiatrist? You’re in no position to diagnose the terrorist.

          It’s funny how revealing a single comment can be of a worldview. You made an attempt to address the ableism, but instead of eliminating it entirely, you allowed it to remain imbued in your comment in a less obvious and more lethal undetected form, much like your argument about the impact of Sam Harris is all-surface. Slurs are not slurs because they’re just hurtful words. They’re indicative of something systematic and sinister. We don’t go around calling people lunatics simply because it hurts their feelings: rather, the more aggravating effect is that it shuts them down, discredits their voices, is associated with physically harming them, and invalidates their existence. When you “diagnose” a person as having “mental health issues” you are criminalizing an entire community (while arguing that another–atheists–should not be held responsible) and what’s most startling is that you are criminalizing an entire community that is statistically more inclined to be the victims of violence, not the perpetrators. At least Hicks is an atheist; what he isn’t, is neurologically atypical. But it isn’t the first time a white man’s crimes have been diminished with false claims to mental health.

          Secondly, I don’t expect everyone to adhere to my schemas of logic, but I (reasonably) expect that they are consistent in their own. An atheist–most of whom would not describe atheism as a religion, like you just have–who does not believe in any deity, would not recognize the existence of any (Godlike) figure of authority in any religion. What they would contend with then, are the texts and the human figures of religious authority, which you’ve implied ask them to “go out and kill someone else.” When our scope of logic overlooks or dismisses the existence of God, figures of authorities such as religious prophets, and figures of authorities that are viewed as leaders in the atheists community, are both capable of commanding the same power. The comparison, then, becomes a reasonable one, especially considering Harris’s rhetoric has involved saying things like, “Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them.”

          You can scramble to say the text was lifted out of context, that Harris is speaking defensively, that he is only attempting to construe a system of justice he’s working to find effective and fair, but these are the same responses of religious adherents when those outside of the religion cite seemingly violent passages. In fact, its been demonstrated time and time again that Muslim terrorists have been bombed to smithereens enough times by Western powers that they are in a state of mind to believe they need to defend themselves, and that’s when these texts are interpreted the way they are.

          Because, as I described before, this phenomenon of relying on the surface alone neglects to understand the root of the issue and the source of the violence. The words of religious text, or any text, don’t have the power to ring true in their violence until the circumstance shifts to allow them–or, as in this case, the perpetrator believes the circumstances permit them. The black community is expected to defend rap and hip hop whenever a black man is arrested for a crime; I have yet to hear any of those same people ask whether American Sniper is responsible for the actions of Hicks because he might have seen it and been made to believe that Muslims trying to kill him was an accurate depiction of the circumstances, and that consequently his actions were justified. We’ve created a culture in which violence against Muslims is normalized, and in which Muslims are villainized to the point at which it’s “ethical” to kill them for their beliefs.

          Thirdly, not every post on this website is intended exclusively for a Muslim audience–but this one is. The point of this post is to consider the dynamics of colorism in the Muslim community; ruminating on whether one thing or another is more of an issue, is (if slightly) off-topic.


    1. knowthetruth

      WHY BLAME ISLAM for some individuals crime?.recently In Ukrain many hospitals, schools and other establishments came under attack resulting destructions and deaths by Atheist or Christian rebels fighting against a government which itself is either an atheist regime or Christian….Nobody on earth mentioned the crime was due to Jesus BIBLE teachings or by influence of Karl Marks books.
      Mass killings occurred under some Atheist / Communist regimes during the twentieth century with an estimated death toll numbering between 85 and 100 million. Scholarship focuses on the causes of mass killings in single societies, though some claims of common causes for mass killings have been made. Some higher estimates of mass killings include not only mass murders or executions that took place during the elimination of political opponents, civil wars, terror campaigns, and land reforms, but also lives lost due to war, famine, disease, and exhaustion in labor camps. There are scholars who believe that government policies and mistakes in management contributed to these calamities, and, based on that conclusion combine all these deaths under the categories “mass killings”, democide, politicide, “classicide”, or loosely defined genocide. According to these scholars, the total death toll of the mass killings defined in this way amounts to many tens of millions; however, the validity of this approach is questioned by other scholars. As of 2011, academic consensus has not been achieved on causes of large scale killings by states, including by states governed by communists. In particular, the number of comparative studies suggesting causes is limited. The highest death tolls that have been documented in communist states occurred in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, in the People’s Republic of China under Mao Zedong, and in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. The estimates of the number of non-combatants killed by these three regimes alone range from a low of 21 million to a high of 70 million.[2][dubious – discuss] There have also been killings on a smaller scale in North Korea, Vietnam, and some Eastern European and African countrie.


  2. It would seem pretty obvious that a triple murderer, prima facie, does indeed have mental health issues – mentally well-adjusted people do not engage in such activity. To identify this clinical condition is not to suggest that this condition be discredited, or invalidate their existence. This particular individual has actually taken the lives of three human beings, for which he does indeed require a psychiatric evaluation, investigation, analysis and, possibly, treatment. This is what is done for all mass murderers and serial killers – many of whom receive lifelong treatment within the framework of a custodial sentence for their own safety and those of others. And not just in the USA – the same would be considered the norm in most systems of justice anywhere in the world.

    As for my other point, a tendency to seek a violent solution to problems and disputes is aggravated by the ready availability of firearms. Appropriate regulation to restrict access to such weaponry would seem to be a fruitful approach both to preventing violence and minimising its effects. It is technically much more difficult to kill three people is high powered firearms are not made available to the general public – as has happened in Australia since the banning of the sale of assault weaponry.

    Your point about violence being justified by atheists or theists in defence of their position – a retaliatory stance, as it were – is correct. Which is why firearms, specifically – because of their lethality – need to be taken out of the equation, and potential mental health issues addressed better.

    Also, you are correct that I am not a Muslim but happen to have several relatives who are – and who are as appalled by this tragedy as most right-thinking people should be, and seek to diminish the possibility of such things happening. The world is much less violent than it has ever been in the past, although certainly not perfect, but progress is an ongoing project.


    1. mentally well-adjusted people do not engage in such activity

      This is incorrect. I am a rather well-adjusted peson myself, and I can’t say that I can’t think of a single scenario in which I would kill. The Native teenager who was left handcuffed and locked in the back of a police van with a known sex offender who was not handcuffed? Yeah, I would’ve killed that guy. And if I’d been angry enough, I could have killed anyone else indirectly involved in her assault. I suppose someone could argue that it would have been to defend her, or in a fit of rage, but the bottom line is that this is a situation where I would have momentarily concluded in the midst of quick evaluation that such action was necessary. This guy did the same thing–the fact that he was ill-informed about the circumstances of the world and how threatening they were to him, a middle-aged white man, is not evidence for his being unwell. It’s only evidence of the sway of his hatred.

      This is not just anecdotally incorrect. There’ve been several cases of mass shootings where the killer was found to be perfectly sane, by people who would actually know. There’s a reason we don’t diagnose people unless we are qualified, no matter how “obvious” we think something might be. Hell, in a world like that I could argue that no well-adjusted person would punch his girlfriend in the face. But that would be easy. This is just a higher degree of violence resulting from hatred and entitlement, not mental health.

      Since you’re refusing to see *how* your comments are presumptuous and ableist, I’m not open to allowing this conversation to continue. Have a nice day.



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