N.C. killings linked to Islamophobia

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at The Baltimore Sun.

As a result of rampant Islamophobia in much of the media, three Muslim-American honors students who extensively volunteered for charities were killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on Feb. 10 ("Police investigate hate crime theory after 3 slain in N.C.," Feb. 12).

Deah Barakat, 23, a second-year student in the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, married Yusor Mohammad, 21, in December, and Mohammad planned to begin her dental studies in the fall, authorities said. Her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, was a sophomore at North Carolina State University. Barakat graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in business administration in May 2013. Yusor Mohammad graduated cum laude with a B.S. in biological sciences in December 2014.


Barakat and 10 local dentists and faculty from UNC School of Dentistry were planning a trip this summer to Rihaniya, Turkey, to provide dental care to refugees from Syria there (a not-so-well-known fact: Turkey is sheltering 1.6 million Syrian refugees — more than any other non-Arab country).

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, a militant atheist, was arrested and is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Police are investigating whether this was a "hate crime" but will probably end up classifying it as a "dispute over parking" — an absurd and unbelievable line. Is the same media that spread Islamophobia seriously trying to convince the readers that someone could have gone to the home of honor students and kill all three of them, including two women, over some parking dispute? Or will that same media try to argue that since Mr. Hicks was an atheist he could not have hated Muslims?


Since Zogby first began polling on American attitudes toward Muslims in 2010, there has been continued erosion in the favorable ratings given, posing a threat to the rights of American Muslims. Favorable attitudes have continued to decline — from 35 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2014 for Muslims.

During the meeting with Muslim-American leaders last week and during the National Prayer Breakfast, President Barack Obama acknowledged the problem of Islamophobia and warned against allowing death cults like ISIS to affect the view and perception of Muslim-Americans and Islam as a religion.

The U.S. Turkic Network unifies people of varied religious and ethnic backgrounds — there are Muslims, Christians, Jews and Buddhists, as well as atheists and agnostics, among it members. And as one of its members, I not just condemn the hate crime with which Mr. Hicks is charged but also join to the Twitter hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter, and express my condolences to the families of the three bright Muslim-American students, but wish all mainstream media will institute more sensitive editorial policies rooted in facts when it comes to the coverage of the Middle East, Muslims and Islam. Also, for all elected officials (save maybe Michele Bachmann and John Bennett) to be mindful of stoking hatred and anti-Muslim feelings.

Serpil Gulsen, Gambrills