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Was Murder of 3 Muslim Students from Chapel Hill a Hate Crime?
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was their death a hate crime

Summary: The death of three Muslim students from Chapel Hill leads some to denounce it as a hate crime.

Nowadays when a white cop kills a black suspect, or a Christian murders an atheist, or whatever else, we are losing the natural innocence of murder, but must immediately and preemptively interpret it in terms of some ideological dispute. Death is no longer death, violence no longer violence, but they are always symptoms of some insipid hate, politically or ideologically motivated, evidence of a hate crime, racism, sexism or whatever else. This seems to be the sentiment in the murders of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, N.C. after their neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, shot them each in the head, execution style, over a parking dispute.


Hicks’ profile on Facebook reads “Atheists for Equality,” and his posts often times criticized religion. He was also a Second Amendment advocate and was licensed to carry a concealed firearm, and further, bragged about his revolver, saying, “Yes, that is 1 pound 5.1 ounces for my loaded 38 revolver, its holster, and five extra rounds in a speedloader.”

“Anytime that I saw him or saw interaction with him or friends or anyone in the parking lot or myself, he was angry,” said neighbor Samantha Maness. “He was very angry, anytime I saw him.”

Whether or not that was an ideological anger inspired by his preoccupation with an atheists’ desire for equality, or, more probably, because he was an angry guy, has been decided by the father of two of the victims, Mohammad Abu-Salha, who claims Hicks hated the religion and culture of the three victims. They were, after all, “dressed in Muslim attire.”

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“This has all the signs. It was execution style, a bullet in every head. This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was 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. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”

Police, meanwhile, are careful to avoid jumping to this conclusion, saying, “We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated, and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case.”

Hicks’ wife, who has announced she is divorcing her husband, amidst all the ruckus, said “This incident had nothing to do with religion or the victims’ faith but was related to the longstanding parking dispute that my husband had with the neighbors.” After all, his values included respecting individual rights – “everyone is equal” – irrespective of race or sexual orientation.

Her attorney, Robert Maitland, iterated this sentiment: “It is a simple matter that has nothing to do with the religious faith of the victims. It is a mundane issue of this man being frustrated day in and day out, and, unfortunately, these victims were there at the wrong time at the wrong place.”

Perhaps being the victim of senseless violence is less noble than being the victim of a hate crime? Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt has said, “Our community has been rocked by a horrible crime with the shootings of three young people….I share strong feelings of outrage and shock with my fellow citizens and university students – as well as concerned people everywhere. We do not know whether anti-Muslim bias played a role in this rime, but I do recognize the fear that members of our community may feel. Chapel Hill is a place for everyone, a place where Muslim lives matter.”

That we are speaking of “Muslim lives,” rather than human lives bespeaks how thoroughly individuals identify with their beliefs. It might be part of the grieving process to see death in terms of the larger picture (that is, culture wars), but this is not always possible.

Was this a hate crime?

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News Source: USA Today



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