Were Chapel Hill Killings a Hate Crime

By Albert Lin

Members of a North Carolina community are mourning the deaths of three Muslim students who were shot and killed by a white man, with some calling the Chapel Hill murders a hate crime.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the killings of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; Barakat’s wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. Barakat was a grad student in dentistry at the University of North Carolina, his wife of six weeks planned to enroll in the same program this fall, and her sister was a student at nearby North Carolina State University.

The Abu-Salhas’ father, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, told Raleigh’s News & Observer: “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.”

The murders have sparked the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter, a spin on the prominent #BlackLivesMatter hashtag used following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Chapel Hill police released a statement saying, “Our preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking,” but Chief Chris Blue did acknowledge the possibility that the victims’ faith motivated the shootings: “We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated,” he said, “and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case.”

Thomas Walker, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said, “The Muslim community has been good partners with law enforcement on a variety of fronts. It’s vitally important that their concerns not be ignored. We think it’s appropriate to closely monitor the investigation to determine any motivation in this case.”

The reason many are calling this a hate crime is because of Hicks’ anti-religion rants on his now deleted Facebook page. More than just an atheist, Hicks identified as an anti-theist.

He reportedly wrote of religion in general: “I give your religion as much respect as your religion gives me. There’s nothing complicated about it, and I have every right to insult a religion that goes out of its way to insult, to judge, and to condemn me as an inadequate human being—which your religion does with self-righteous gusto.

“When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I. But given that it doesn’t, and given the enormous harm that your religion has done in this world, I’d say that I have not only a right, but a duty, to insult it, as does every rational, thinking person on this planet.”

He also recently posted this photo of his .38 revolver.

Media Bias

Despite the cold-bloodedness of the slayings, local and national news organizations were slow to pick up on the shootings, with CNN not running a piece until 17 hours after the 5 p.m. ET incident.

Their inattention is perhaps best summed up by this tweet, from 4:16 AM ET:

and this cartoon:

Hicks, Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha lived in the same two-story condo building in a complex about 1.5 miles from the UNC campus, with varying reports saying they lived in adjacent apartments or on different floors.

Latest News

women in politics

Women Remain Vastly Underrepresented in Local Government, Despite Conventional Wisdom Suggesting Otherwise

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sat behind President Biden during his first speech to a joint session of Congress on April 28 — representing the first time two women held such important and high-ranking political offices. Even after such a historic moment, the reality…

voter restriction

Florida Follows Georgia’s Lead, Approves Racist Anti-Voter Restrictions Aimed Primarily at Democrats and People of Color

Not content with letting Georgia be the only state in the South demonized for its bigoted and racist attacks on voter rights, Florida has jumped into the fray in issuing its own series of new and highly controversial “Jim Crow-esque” anti-voting restrictions aimed specifically at disenfranchising Democrats and voters of…

Kentucky Derby

Inspired by Protests Over Breonna Taylor’s Death, Humana and Kentucky Derby Festival Launch Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in Louisville

Ahead of the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1, Kentucky Derby officials and Humana (No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) have announced a new equity initiative meant to make the race more accessible and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age…

crimes against human ity

‘Crime Against Humanity’; Global Report Says the US Should Be Prosecuted in International Criminal Court for Ongoing Police Murders of Black Americans

In what has been described as a “devastating” report, human rights experts and lawyers have investigated and released a 188-page analysis of the ongoing police brutality and killing of Black Americans in the U.S. Their verdict: the country is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and should be prosecuted for its…

Tokyo, Olympics

Tokyo Olympics to Encourage Significant Increase in Gender Equality Among Event’s Corporate Sponsors

Besides simply being a showcase for some of the most talented and athletic men and women on the planet, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are hoping their event this summer can also help promote significant change in corporate culture, both in Japan and around the globe. Bloomberg’s Ayai Tomisawa…

AbbVie Joins Over 400 Leading US Employers in the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Business Coalition for the Equality Act’

Originally published on LinkedIn. AbbVie ranked No. 19 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   AbbVie has joined a group of over 400 corporations and leading U.S. employers to support the Human Rights Campaign’s “Business Coalition for the Equality Act,” an initiative advocating for federal…

Accenture and Goodwill Develop Virtual Experience To Help People Impacted by the Criminal Justice System Enter the Workforce

Originally published at prnewswire.com. Accenture is ranked No. 5 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   Goodwill Industries International has teamed with Accenture to develop an innovative virtual experience called Project Overcome. The experience is designed for people impacted by the criminal justice system who want to…