I was going to blog about Elizabeth of York, since today is her birthday and the date of her death. However, the news about the murders of three young Muslims in North Carolina has changed my plans inasmuch I feel compelled to address their deaths.
The three murder victims were 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, (a student at the University of North Carolina’s dentistry school), his 21-year-old wife Yusor Mohammad, and her 19-year-old sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Initial police reports said that “preliminary investigation indicates that the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking” and Police Chief Chris Blue stated that “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”.
Initially, all the reports of this murder were done internationally or locally, with almost no coverage in the US nation-wide media. This lead to a volley of criticism on Twitter and cartoons like this:
People also noted that the religious affiliation of murderers only gets attention if that religion is Islam.
In this case, the shooter had no religious affiliation although he was born into a family and community that was at minimum “culturally Christian” . The man who killed them, Craig Stephen Hicks, “describes himself as a vehement supporter of atheism”.
According to Hicks, he considered both Muslim and Christians stupid followers of a mythical deity, yet the only people he murdered were Muslims. Why? Why were their lives worth less than a parking space? Can the omnipresent hate speech against Muslims NOT have played a part in the dehumanization of these three young people? How have radical Christians and radical Atheists teamed up to make Muslims seem less than real people?
Yesterday a Christian relative, a man who in all other respects a decent and caring person who loves his daughters with his whole heart, shared a post on Facebook (written by someone else) called “Rattlesnake Logic” which said “
Rattlesnake Logic…. After the Boston bombing the news media spent days and weeks trying to determine why these men did what they did. They want to know what America did(!) to make these brothers so
angry with us. They want to know why these men were not arrested before they did something so terrible. The media is in a tizzy about this new era of homegrown radicals and about why and how they can live among us and still hate us. A friend of mine from Texas explained it all to me: “Here in west Texas, I have rattlesnakes on my place, living among us. I have killed a rattlesnake on the front porch. I have killed a rattlesnake on the back porch. I have killed rattlesnakes in the barn, in the shop and on the driveway. In fact, I kill every rattlesnake I encounter. I kill rattlesnakes because I know a rattlesnake will bite
me and inject me with poison. I don’t stop to wonder WHY a rattlesnake will bite me; I know it WILL bite me because it’s a rattlesnake and that’s what rattlesnakes do. I don’t try to reason with a rattlesnake or have a “meaningful dialogue” with it…I just kill it. I don’t try to get to know the rattlesnake better so I can find a way to live with the rattlesnakes and convince them not to bite me. I just kill them. I don’t quiz a rattlesnake to see if I can find out where the other snakes are, because (a) it won’t tell me and (b) I already know they live on my place. So, I just kill the rattlesnake and move on to the next one. I don’t look for ways I might be able to change the rattlesnake to a non-poisonous rat snake…I just kill it. Oh, and on occasion, I accidentally kill a rat snake because I thought it was a rattlesnake at the time. Also, I know for every rattlesnake I kill, two more are lurking out there in the brush. In my lifetime I will never be able to rid my place of rattlesnakes. Do I fear them? Not really. Do I respect what they can do to me and my family? Yes!! And because of that respect, I give them the fair justice they deserve….I kill them… As a country, we should start giving more thought to the fact that these jihadists’ are telling the world their goal is to kill Americans and destroy our way of life. They have just posted two graphic videos on the internet showing them beheading Americans. They are serious. They are exactly like rattlesnakes. It is high time for us to start acting accordingly! I love this country. It’s the damn government I’m afraid of! Look who’s new in the White House!”
It then listed people associated with the Obama administration with names of Middle Easter origin, indicating that Obama was in league with the “rattlesnakes”.
Politics and biology aside, a good person had just agreed that Muslims are like rattlesnakes – animals that should be destroyed. This elides the fact that there are 1.6 billion Muslims and mere fraction of 1% of them are engaged in terrorism. Only 2% of terrorist attacks have been motivated by religious reasons (rather than political goals such as separatism). However, these few radical Islamists and the Muslim-motivated terror attacks are the only ones that get coverage at Fox News and the man who shared the “rattlesnake logic” believes that Fox News is telling him the truth. When talking heads say that Islam, as a religion, is devoted to murder and terrorism, he believes them. He has learned that – based on their religion – Muslims are inherently dangerous and even evil.
Am I the only one who sees a parallel between this and Hitler declaring Jews to be a cancer that needed to be eradicated from the state before it destroyed Germany from within? The ideology that “we” must kill them (the animals) before they kill “us” (the people)? Does that scare the shit out of no one else?
Likewise, radical atheists attack Islam. Bill Maher has publically worried that there are too many Muslims nowadays and that they will ‘take over’ the Western world, as well as frequently insisting Islam is more violent than other religions. Sam Harris attacks moderate Muslims as more dangerous than extremists, says that the Islamic religion is the “mother lode” of bad ideas, and yet complains with a straight face that people accuse him of Islamophobia. Sam Harris devotes himself to revealing the “reality” about Islam, saying that you “could hardly ask for a better example of religious dogmatism and its pseudo-morality eclipsing basic, human goodness” than that of a moderate Muslim taking offense at an attacks on his or her faith. Moreover, the atheist movement has been quick to defend the views of Maher and Harris, and has gone “on the defensive, not taking kindly to criticism of their flawed logic and bold bigotry though they have received a lot of support from the far-right, including Fox News.”
My atheist friends often boast that even with the outspoken denigration of Muslims by prominent atheists you never see atheists going around killing people over religion. Many atheists, who are good people and good friends, are quite smug about the fact that their “team” doesn’t do inquisitions and jihads. Considering that an atheist has now gunned down three Muslims for the flimsiest of excuses, atheists can no longer say that their anti-religion rises above the violent was of religion. It turns out hate speech can be just as deadly when used by atheists. Fringes of the team will slaughter innocent people because those people were dehumanized by rhetoric and thus easier to kill.
The man who was murdered, Deah Shaddy Barakat “helped provide free dental supplies to 75 homeless people in downtown Durham … [and] was due to travel to Turkey in the summer to treat children who have become refugees following the civil war. Last month, he tweeted: ‘It’s so freaking sad to hear people saying we should “kill Jews” or “Kill Palestinians”. As if that’s going to solve anything SMH [shaking my head].’”