Three Muslim students were murdered on February 10 in Chapel Hill, N.C. in what can only be described as a hate crime. As usual, the popular media in the USA initially did not mention that it was a targeted murder committed by a gun-toting White racist whose all victims were Muslims. Only after the Internet had cried foul the media pundits corrected their reporting so as not to appear biased. I am sure if the victims were non-Muslims and the killer a Muslim, the media would have called him a Muslim or an Islamic terrorist.
The three Muslim victims included - a man, his wife and her sister - all college students who were all born in the USA and grew up in the North Carolina area. They were shot to death at a quiet condominium complex near the University of North Carolina.
It is worth recalling the recent controversy surrounding the Duke University campus, which is also located in North Carolina where Muslim students were denied the right to broadcast adhan on Friday for the weekly Jumu'ah prayer after a rabid, hatemongering Christian priest Franklin Graham had objected. [He called upon the donors and alumni to withhold their support from the university until Duke had reversed its permission for the Muslim call to prayer. The university authorities caved into his pressure once again showing that the so-called liberal campus is not committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students.] I won't be surprised to learn that the murderer was influenced by Graham's hatred of Islam and Muslims.
Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the Tuesday shooting of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, of Chapel Hill; Yusor Mohammad, 21, of Chapel Hill; and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh. Deah and Yusor were married, and Razan was Yusor's sister, according to UNC (University of North Carolina). Deah was a second-year dental student there, and Yusor was scheduled to begin dental studies in the fall. Razan was a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. The neighborhood where they were found consists mostly of rental apartments and condominiums.
Mohammad Abu-Salha, father of two of the victims and a local psychiatrist, called the shootings a "hate crime" that involved more than a parking dispute. "My daughter, Yusor, complained and she told us she felt that man hated them for the way they looked and the Muslim garb they wore," he told MSNBC's Ronan Farrow Daily. "She felt the heat has risen after she moved into the apartment and her friends came to visit and most of them wore Muslim attire. So she was worried about that."
Police have not released a motive and said the investigation is continuing. The FBI is now conducting a "parallel preliminary inquiry" to determine whether any federal laws, including hate crime laws, were violated in the case.
Search warrants filed in a court last Friday showed Hicks listed a dozen firearms taken from his condo unit. The warrants list four handguns recovered from the home where he lived with his wife, in addition to a pistol the suspect had with him when he turned himself in after the shootings. Warrants also listed two shotguns and six rifles, including a military-style AR-15 carbine, and a large cache of ammunition.
The UNC shooting case spurred international outrage.
"No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship," President Barack Obama said Friday in Washington. And in New York, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "deeply moved" by the thousands attending the victims' funeral this past week.
A press release Saturday from the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world's largest bloc of Muslim countries, says the group's leader thanks the American people for "rejecting the murder which bear the symptoms of a hate crime." Secretary General Iyad Madani also says the slaying of the students has heightened international concerns about "rising anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobic acts" in the United States.
In 2012 when statistics were last available for hate crime tally, law enforcement agencies nationwide reported 5,796 "hate crime incidents." It is unclear though how many yielded criminal convictions.
As if those targeted murders were not enough, last Friday (February 13) Quba Islamic Institute in Houston was set ablaze in the pre-dawn hours in what can also be described as a hate crime. The fire destroyed one of three buildings at the center, which remains fully operational.
In a video on the institute's Facebook page, Ahsan Zahid, son of the imam, said fire officials told him the fire appeared intentional. In an interview with KTRK-TV in Houston, Zahid said a smashed table that appeared to be vandalism was found on the property Friday morning. He also told the station that someone had driven by the institute Thursday evening, yelling "mocking chants," the station reported. Earlier in the week, an unknown masked man had to be chased off the property, according to the TV report.
A day earlier on Thursday, February 12 a Muslim man and his family were attacked inside a Kroger grocery store, located 15255 Michigan Avenue in of the Dearborn, Michigan at the corner of Greenfield Rd., while they were shopping. The incident occurred around 5:45 p.m. when the Arab man and his children were inside of the store purchasing ice cream. Two White American guys passed by the family and began making derogatory remarks about ISIS, according to eye witnesses. The Caucasian men began to physically assault the Arab man, making comments that included "go back to your country" and "you terrorists." One of the Caucasian men told the Arab man's young daughter to "take the rag off your head."
Surely, our world is increasingly becoming a theatre of wanton violence and abysmal intolerance. And who would have thought that the US's claims of epitomizing the notions of diversity and inclusion would be torpedoed by its own intolerant bigots and racists!
The sad fact is such tragic incidents or events, as we witnessed the past week in Houston, Dearborn and Chapel Hill, have a much wider ramification these days when the world is more connected than ever before. What is a tragic event here can trigger a tragedy elsewhere and vice versa! Not everyone in a society filters information in the same way, and some are bound to react non-proportionately. That is why the tit for tat formula cannot be a viable solution.
And yet, President Obama has sought authorization for war against ISIS (also called ISIL). As Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman has recently argued in the Bloomberg View the authorization for the use of military force replaces the 2002 Iraq War authorization. But it leaves in place the 2001 authorization passed immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. That law originally applied to al-Qaeda, but has been extended by interpretation to cover successor organizations including Islamic State. The old authorization permitted war against those whom the president determined to have "planned, authorized, committed, or aided" the Sept. 11 attacks "or harbored such organizations or persons." "The new authorization," says Feldman, "however, extends to "individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners." This language goes further than the old authorization. Fighting "alongside" Islamic State could be almost anyone involved in the fight against Bashar al-Assad, for example. Uncomfortably enough, that would include potential U.S. allies -- and even, bizarrely, the U.S. itself."
In this week we also heard about Kayla Mueller's sad death in Syria. She was a 26-year-old humanitarian aid worker from Prescott, Arizona, who died when her building where she was housed by ISIS had been struck by bombs from a warplane, dispatched by Jordan after one of its pilots was brutally killed by ISIS. Her death was confirmed by the U.S. government. She was captured in August 2013 in Syria, but her captivity had largely been kept secret in an effort to save her.
Kayla was a free-spirited activist (affiliated with the pro-Palestinian human rights group - the International Solidarity Movement), very much like Rachel Corrie of Olympia, Washington who was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer nearly 12 years ago while protesting against demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israeli forces in the occupied Gaza strip. [Note: The Israeli government has refused to be held liable for her murder.]
From Prescott, Kayla helped raise awareness of HIV and AIDS and offered comfort at a women's shelter. Her desire to help others stretched beyond Arizona to Palestinian territories, Israel, India, France and Syria. In 2010, Mueller spent time with the International Solidarity Movement, a group of foreign activists who come to the West Bank and east Jerusalem to show support for the Palestinians. Activists frequently participate in West Bank protests against Israel's separation barrier, and organizer Abdullah Abu Rahmeh said, "We were shocked to know that Kayla was taken hostage, and we were shocked more when she was killed because she came here to help people."
According to her Muslim fianc Omar Alkhani, 'She cared for people so much. She would never buy make-up and extra clothes because she used that money to buy food for the poor children. That's how I remember her.'
Kayla wrote passionately about conditions in war-torn Syria, where she had gone to help refugees. In a blog post, she wrote: "Every human should act. They should stop this violence."
Kayla's clarion call continues to meet deaf ears. Instead of stopping the violence and coming to the aid of its victims, the US and her allies acted wickedly and promoted self-destruction. Their nonchalance attitude to uprooting Bashar al-Assad's murderous regime only emboldened it to practice a scorched-earth policy against the Sunni majority in Syria who were left with no viable option, and led to the creation of the very menace it now wants defeated by hook or crook. Thus, instead celebrating the release of a noble activist Kayla Muller, we must now mourn her untimely death.
There is no doubt that what ISIS did with the Jordanian pilot was absolutely un-Islamic and barbaric. In response, Jordan executed two prisoners, including Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi militant whom it had sought to trade with ISIS, on February 3 only a few hours after Jordanian King Abdullah met in Washington with President Barack Obama. Its bombing inside Syria has also resulted in the death of Kayla.
Jordan's revengeful execution of prisoners is equally condemnable. Surely, when a dog bites you, you don't bite it back to be equal with it. I wish Jordan's Abdullah who claims to be the 43rd generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (S) had instead borrowed a leaf out of the life of his most illustrious predecessor.
The tenth year of Muhammad's (S) prophetic mission was a sad one. He had lost his beloved wife, Khadija (R), with whom he was married for 25 years. He also lost his uncle, Abi Talib, who as the chief of the Hashimite clan had stood by him in times of despair making sure that no physical harm would befall him. Now with Abu Lahab, an ardent enemy of Islam, as the new chief of the clan the Prophet (S) was ill-treated as never before. On one occasion a passer-by leaned over his gate and tossed a piece of putrefying offal into his cooking pot; and once when he was praying in the courtyard of his house, a man threw over him a sheep's uterus filthy with blood and excrement. On another occasion, when the Prophet (S) was coming from the Ka'bah, a man took a handful of dirt and threw it in his face and head. When he returned home, one of his daughters washed him clean of it, weeping while the Prophet (S) reassured her, "Weep not, little daughter, Allah will protect your father."
It was then that Muhammad (S) decided to seek help from the Thaqif, the people of Ta'if - a decision that eloquently reflected the apparent gravity of his situation in Makkah (Mecca). Accompanied by his disciple, Zaid ibn Haritha, Muhammad (S) came to Ta'if. On his arrival, he went straight to the house of three brothers who were the leaders of Thaqif at that time, the sons of 'Amr ibn Umayyah. When the Prophet (S) invited them to Islam and asked them to help him against his opponents, they abused him verbally. So the Prophet rose to leave them, perhaps intending to try elsewhere in Ta'if; but when he had left them they stirred their slaves and retainers to insult him and shout at him, until a crowd of people were gathered together against him who started pelting stones at him. His feet started bleeding. Zaid himself was injured with a head injury. The Prophet could not walk any longer. But the unbelievers put him on his feet and again resumed throwing stones at him. Ultimately, the Prophet (S) was forced to take refuge in a private orchard. Once he had entered it the crowd began to disperse, and, tethering his camel to a palm tree, he made for the shelter of a vine and sat in its shade.
When he felt himself to be in safety and at peace, Muhammad (S) prayed: "O God, unto You do I complain of my weakness, of my helplessness, and of my lowliness before men. O Most Merciful of the merciful, You are the Lord of the weak. And You are my Lord, Unto whose hands will you entrust me, unto some far off stranger who will ill-treat me? Or unto a foe whom You have empowered against me? I care not, so You be not wroth with me. But Your favoring help - that were for me the broader way and the wider scope! I take refuge in the Light of Your Countenance whereby all darknesses are illumined and the things of this world and the next are rightly ordered, lest You make descend Your anger upon me, or lest Your wrath beset me. Yet is it Yours to reproach until You are well pleased. There is no power and no might except through You."
After he had made the supplication, Muhammad (S) looked up. He saw a cloud providing shade to him and in that cloud was seated the Angel Jibril (Gabriel). Jibril (AS) said, "Allah has heard what your community has said and He had also witnessed what the people of Ta'if had done to you. He has sent you the Angel who is entrusted with the mountains. Whatever you command, he will carry it out."
The Angel who is entrusted with the mountains approached Muhammad (S) and said, "O Muhammad, I am the Angle of Mountains. I am at your command. If you command me I shall destroy this town by smashing it with the Mountain Akhshab."
At this moment of trial, what the Prophet of mercy had to say simply surprised the Angel. The Prophet (S) said, "I beg forgiveness for them. Even if these people do not accept Islam, I do hope from Allah that there will emerge from there a people submissive unto Him who will not associate any partners to Him."
No man has ever uttered such words for those who caused so much suffering. But such was the person of Muhammad (S). [Devotional Stories by Habib Siddiqui, A.S. Noordeen, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2011)]
As we try to find answers and solutions to our problems and dilemmas in these times of despair, let's not get carried away by wanton violence which only begets more violence.
Dr Habib Siddiqui has authored nine books. His book: "Democracy, Politics and Terrorism - America's Quest for Security in the Age of Insecurity" is available at Amazon.com.