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Let us as Muslims not use the Chapel Hill Shootings to demonise all atheists

Tragedy. An absolute tragedy. 3 youths, murdered in cold blood, in what was an islamophobic attack. 

[pullquote]Ultimately, thank God for social media, or these deaths would have passed like a whisper in the wind.[/pullquote]The 3 youths, Deah Barakat (23), his newly wed wife Yusor Mohammad Abu Salha (21) and her younger sister Razan (19) were described as valuable and prominent community leaders in North America, partaking in various humanitarian efforts such as providing free dental supplies and food to the homeless. These innocent youths, guilty of nothing, assets to humanity, suffered fatal gunshot wounds in their home in Chapel Hill, USA, simply because of their faith: Islam. This was unathorised violence, this was in pursuit of a political aim, let none of us be fooled. This was terrorism.

It’s easy to feel hopeless in these situations, as you can’t help but cry out from the inside when 3 such youthful lives are taken, before they’ve barely begun. However what I find somewhat disturbing is some of the reactions I’ve witnessed on social media. Exploiting this tragedy for political purposes, and to promote their own agenda. Several political commentators took to social media and used this horrific tragedy to make facetious comments.

“So when are the world leaders going to do a march for the Chapel Hill shooting??”

“Atheism is clearly in need for reform”

“Are all atheists going to apologise for this massacre?”

Whilst these are valid criticisms of double standards, and need to be put out there, there’s a thin line that needs to be observed. More of an internal check on yourself and your intentions.

If articulated incorrectly, they fuel the ‘us vs them’ agenda these attacks are intended to fuel. You play right into the game without even knowing. Above all else, and forgive me if this seems judgemental, it’s opportunistic and cheap point scoring, which can be see to disrespect the victims of such an attack, whereby there is no concern shown for the actual victims, but just the utilising of their deaths to degrade opponents. 

Where has the humanitarianism gone from politics? Why do some political commentators almost seem grateful that these attacks happen so that they can add it to their arsenal of examples to fire at their political opponents? 

These attacks should make us, the majority peace loving citizens of the world, realise that extremism can take many forms and is not limited to a creed, race or religion. We should use these deaths to stand united as a population who want cohesion in society, who don’t want hatred and intolerance. However, in light of these attacks, we as a society must reflect on the unequal treatment of people from different backgrounds. It’s become clear that non-white lives are considered secondary, at least by the establishment. One needs not look further than their response to when the victims are non-white. Just look at the reaction to Ebola, Charlie Hebdo, Boko Haram and now the Chapel Hill shooting.

Also clear is that attacks done by Muslims are disproportionately covered. When the perpetrator is a Muslim, the story is plastered everywhere, when the victim is Muslim – not so much. If you’re going to raise these points however, do so with the best intention of the victims at heart, to ensure that their story is heard and spread, don’t do so with a political agenda at heart. It’s also counter-productive to drag the average man into this, and demonise whole groups of people. I know it can be easy to respond in this way, especially as opponents of Islam use extremist attacks in the name of Islam to attack Islam and Muslims, but we should be better than that.

As Muslims, we need to have exemplary akhlaq (mannerisms), and not base our response on the response of those who hate Islam, otherwise we are no better than those opponents. Let us, as Muslims, not use this attack to demonise all atheists, but communicate that extremism can come in many forms, and it befits none of us to pitch ourselves against one another, for we are all for the same objective: peace, cohesion and harmony.

As for media double standards, well, the media does a good job highlighting it’s own double standards time and time again. I am not shocked in the slightest that these attacks are not instantly covered. It simply doesn’t play into the anti-Islamic narrative the mainstream media (controlled by a few corporations) is trying to push. 

The media will now cover this story, but don’t be satisfied by it. It will only be covered because of pressure, and this is the type of productive pressure we must keep placing on two faced institutions. Ultimately, thank God for social media, or these deaths would have passed like a whisper in the wind. Join in the discussion using #ChapelHillShooting 

“And a believing man from the family of Pharaoh who concealed his faith said, “Do you kill a man [merely] because he says, ‘My Lord is Allah ‘ “- [40:28]

Al Fatiha for the victims. 

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