The murder of three Muslim Americans reveals an ugly side of the land of the free.
By Sara Almalla, Staff Writer
On Feb. 10, three Muslim university students were murdered in their college dorm room by their neighbor, Craig Hicks. They weren’t terrorists or criminals; they were guilty only of the crime of being Muslim in America.
Deah Barakat, a 23-year-old in his second year of studying dentistry, was still at the prime of his life. He had just gotten married to Yusor Abu-Salha, a 21-year-old about to begin her first year at the University of North Carolina. Yosur’s sister, Razan, was 19 and a sophomore at North Carolina State University.
Major news outlets were quick to jump to the conclusion that the murder was over a parking dispute and Hicks was dismissed by the public as being mentally unstable.
Many in the media even spoke highly of him and went out of their way to find others who would do the same in attempts to humanize him and justify his actions. CNN went so far as to discuss how he was “known for rescuing dogs from puppy mills.”
Following the horrific executions of the three students came an outpouring of both hatred and support. While thousands stood in solidarity with the Muslim community, Muslim women who wear the traditional headdress, a hijab, were harassed on the streets, a mosque was set ablaze and a firefighter posted “Let it burn … block the fire hydrant,” on his Facebook page. Many others responded to this terrible situation by directing ridicule at the Muslim community online and offline.
Most hatred comes from a place of ignorance. Unfortunately, the most exposure to Islam an average American receives comes from the media – and therein lies the problem.
Western media (corporate and social) is notoriously opinionated and often biased. Edward Said states in his book, “Covering Islam” that “the American news media have portrayed ‘Islam’ as a monolithic entity, synonymous with terrorism and religious hysteria.”
Muslims in entertainment are almost always portrayed as backwards, narrow, and savage. One example of many, many instances can be seen in the comedy TV show “Community.” the Muslim character Abed, is not very religious, however, when his cousin visits from Palestine, she is decked in a niqab (cloth covering the face except the eyes) and abaya (long black dress).
Not only do they wrongly label her outfit a “full burqa,” but any Arab Muslim knows that this is not an accurate representation of the way an average Palestinian Muslim would dress. Furthermore, Abed’s father forbids her from playing with the other kids – once again reinforcing the “oppressed Muslim women” stereotype.
Aside from stereotypes, the production of movies such as “American Sniper” furthers contempt for Muslims.
Director Clint Eastwood said, “The biggest antiwar statement any film [can make is to show] the fact of what [war] does to the family and the people who have to go back into civilian life like Chris Kyle did.”
Of course, Eastwood’s film focuses on the anguish felt by the American soldier, conveniently leaving out the 250 Iraqis he killed and the millions whose homes were invaded and destroyed in the conflict.
Furthermore, it is difficult to claim antiwar sentiment in a movie based on Kyle, who has labeled the Iraqis “savages” and stated numerous times that he loved killing them.
Kyle is depicted as a Godsend – everything he does is heroic; everything that happens to him is tragic. Meanwhile, every single Muslim character illustrated in the movie has malicious intent. It is difficult to believe that of the 33 million people in Iraq, Kyle never met a single moderate Muslim.
But arguably the biggest perpetrator of Islamophobia is corporate news. News channels such as Fox and CNN use scare tactics to engage and manipulate viewers. A prime example is the seven-minute rant by Judge Jeanine Pirro in which she repeatedly exclaims, “We need to kill them! We need to kill these radical Muslim terrorists. You’re in danger, I’m in danger.”
Pirro’s screed is an emotional tantrum at best—her claims are ill-founded and unsupported. She, along with many other prominent figures in the media, make wild accusations towards moderate Muslims for not reproving and stopping militant groups such as ISIS — conveniently overlooking every Muslim scholar that has openly condemned these terrorist groups, such as the renowned author, Reza Aslan. The lack of backlash against these glaringly biased and Islamophobic occurrences is frankly concerning.
Muslims are constantly under scrutiny in Western media — whether it be news or entertainment — hardly ever appearing in a positive light. All this has lead to an inarguably dangerous time for Muslims in America.
America prides itself on its freedom — freedom of speech, press, and religion — so when will we accept the Muslim community as we are supposed to accept all others?