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