U.S. media coverage, particularly by right-wing organisations such as Fox News has been conspicuous by its absence. Twitter, on the other hand, has gone into overdrive..
A day, one might think, when humanity would be united in the face of such a senseless act of violence. And yet, on the very day their deaths were announced, I have read comments claiming this is a result of atheism, leading some to question why prominent atheists aren't speaking out against this atrocity.
When a prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins, speaks out about this, he is subsequently attacked for "defending atheism". Dawkins has made an error of judgement, I believe, in leaping on press reports that the murders were the result of a dispute over a parking space. Remaining silent on the reasons behind this senseless slaughter would have been a more sensible approach, at least until we are in possession of all the facts.
Dawkins is right, however, that atheists should not be rushing to apologise for the actions of one man. To do so is ridiculous. One cannot hold an entire group of people responsible for the actions of one man. Equally, let us not be under illusion that atheists are exempt from scrutiny. While it is, I believe, rarer than amonst religious groups, atheists have the capacity to be as bigoted, racist, homophobic, judgemental and intolerant as their religious counterparts. That three Muslims lay dead bears testament to that.
This leads me, neatly, to my next point. Comments regarding atheists have been, largely, from Christians, predominately those who identify as evangelical or fundamentalist. The Muslim community, which has a legitimate grievance on occasions such as this, have, as usual, been more rational than their Christian counterparts. Certainly, there have been fundamentalist Muslims who have blamed atheism, but they are a minority in comparison.
Much worse, however, are the comments I have seen which imply, either tacitly or overtly, that, since the victims were Muslims, they "got what they deserved". "The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim", the killer, Hicks is "a hero" (yes, someone genuinely tweeted that nugget of wisdom), and that this, somehow justifies the taking of three innocent lives.
Some have postulated that the family had "extremist views" with regard to Palestine and Israel. As yet, I have seen no evidence to support this, and in the event of any being presented, it changes nothing. Holding extreme positions is a cornerstone of freedom of speech, and more importantly, of thought. It is when we act on those extreme views that retribution is, although unacceptable, perhaps understandable. Even if we assume that they held a strong position on Israel (again, no evidence to support this), they did not deserved to murdered.
This assassination of the victim's character is nothing new. We saw Trayvon Martin and Michael a Brown portrayed as "thugs" long before any evidence came to light. Only hours after news that the death of ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller had been confirmed, a report emanated from the conservative blogosphere alleging Mueller had served as a "human shield" for a pro-Hamas group. Mueller worked for a pro-Palestinian organisation in 2010-11, and also for a variety of refugee organisations in Israel and Turkey. But her Palestinian activism led to the following reactions, the first from a Breitbart editor; the latter from a self-styled conservative pundit:
“When people ask me what I think of Kayla Mueller, I’ll say, I think she’s incinerated,” Schlussel’s post concluded. “Buh-bye, Kayla. Have fun with your 72 Yasser Arafats.”
Meanwhile, the murders of the three Muslim students in Chapel Hill occasioned this response from would-be vigilante blogger Chuck Johnson:
Johnson retweeted a number of pro-Palestinian posts from Deah Bakarat, the 23-year-old shot murdered in Chapel Hill, despite none being anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.
Incidentally, this was Bakarat’s tweet from two weeks ago:
Naturally, the most tired canard to rear its ugly head, again is the claim that all terrorists are Muslims, as if this serves as some justification for their murders. Again, this is promulgated, largely, by right wing, fundamentalist Christians. I will concede that, if there is an act of terrorism receiving media coverage, chances are, the perpetrators are committing it in the name of one religion. Note my caveat. Media coverage. Certainly, with groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Queda etc, Islamic fundamentalism is a subject we cannot avoid. As I've previously written, the VAST majority of Muslims, particularly, but not limited to, those in Western Countries, are peace loving, kind, decent human beings.
So what of the claim that all terrorists are Muslims? Do you think the IRA were all Muslims? They systematically carried out a campaign against the UK for over two decades. The Oklahoma bombing.. Timothy McVeigh can hardly be described as a Muslim. There are more than enough organisations which have nothing to do with the Muslim faith, all carrying out terrorist attacks across the world. Here's a list of just a few, some disbanded, but most still VERY active. This does not include 'lone wolf' terrorists, such as Anders Brievik, Timothy McVeigh. A list of examples of those can be found HERE
* God's Army A terrorist group in
* Nagaland Rebels (1947-present) Active in predominantly Christian state in Hindu majority
India. Involved in several bombings
in 2004. Goal: Independence from India after annexing parts of neighboring Indian
states and Burma
if it has Christian majority.
* National Liberation Front of Tripura (1989-present) A group that seeks the independence of Tripura from
India to create a Christian
* Phineas Priesthood An American based Christian Identity movement.
* National Democratic Front of Bodoland, active terrorist in the Indian state of
involved in the murder of Bineshwar Brahma, prominent Hindu Bodo activist
* Barisan Merah Putih; ultra nationalist group first recruited by KOPASSUS
* Laskar Jihad; Islamic ultra nationist group.
Leftist, Communist, Leninist, Trotskyst, Maoist and Marxist
* Action Directe - France
* African National Congress -
South Africa (renounced violence)
* Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA, disbanded since 1986) -
Armenia and the USA
* CCC -
* Chukaku-Ha - Japan
* Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) -
Nepal - currently taking part in disarmament and
cooperation in a new interim government for Nepal
* Ejército de Liberación Nacional -
* Forças Populares 25 de Abril -
Portugal (1980 - 1987)
* GRAPO -
* Japanese Red Army (Sekigun) -
* June 2 Movement -
West Germany (disbanded)
* Khmer Rouge -
* Naxals or Naxalites -
* NPA or New People's Army -
* Revolutionary Organization 17 November (17N) -
* Pan-Africanist Congress -
South Africa (renounced violence)
* People's War Group -
* Red Army Faction (popularly known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang) - Germany funded 1967, disbanded)
* Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse) -
Italy (founded 1969)
* Revolutionary Armed Forces of
(FARC) - Colombia
* Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP & DHKP/C) -
* Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) -
since the late 1960s)
* Symbionese Liberation Army -
* Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) -
* United Freedom Front -
USA (founded in 1976, now
* United Liberation Front of
* Weathermen -
USA (founded in 1969, now
o Spin-off: May 19th Communist Movement (active 1978-85)
Ethnic terrorists (including neo-Nazis and white-supremacists)
* Army for the Liberation of Rwanda -
* Aryan Nations -
* Boeremag -
* Combat 18 -
* Column 88 -
* CSA -
* Creativity Movement -
* Jondollah -
* Ku Klux Klan - United States (founded in 1865 and revived several times since).
* Mouvement d'Action et Défense Masada -
This was a French neo-Nazi organization, disguised as a Zionist extremist
group, which attacked Arab targets.
* National Socialist Movement -
* The Order - United States (disbanded)
* Racial Volunteer Force -
* White Aryan Resistance -
* Contras -
* Alianza Anticomunista Argentina - Argentina
* Alianza Americana Anticomunista - Colombia
* Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - Colombia
* Ranvir Sena - India
Cuban exile groups
Further information: Opposition to Fidel Castro
All groups recognised by the International terrorism report from the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The principle aim of these groups is to forge political change in Cuba.
* Alpha 66
* Anti-Castro Commando
* Anti-Communist Commandos
* Brigade 2506
* Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU - includes Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles)
* Cuba Action
* Cuba Action Commandos
* Cuban Anti-Communist League
* Cuban C-4
* Movement Cuban Liberation Front
* Cuban National Liberation Front (FLNC)
* Cuban Power (el Poder Cubano)
* Cuban Power
* Cuban Representation in Exile
* Cuban Revolutionary Directorate
* Cuban Revolutionary Organization
* Cuban Youth Group International
* Secret Revolutionary United Cells
* JCN (expansion unknown)
* Latin American Anti-Communist Army
* Movement of Cuban Justice Movement of the Seventh (M-7)
* National Integration Front (FIN; Cuban Nationalist Front)
* Omega 7
* Pedro Luis Boitel
* Command Pedro Ruiz Botero
* Commandos Pragmatistas
* Scorpion (el Alacran)
* Second Front of Escambray
* Secret Anti-Castro Cuban Army
* Secret Cuban Government
* Secret Hand Organization
* Secret Organization Zero
* Young Cubans
* Youths of the Star
* Animal Liberation Front (ALF) - operates worldwide. Property damage and animal release, related to animal rights issues. Listed as one of the top domestic threats by United States Department of Homeland Security, FBI and ATF.
* Earth Liberation Front (ELF) - Founded 1992; operates in US, Canada, and UK. Property destruction, related to environmental issues. Listed as one of the top domestic threats by United States Department of Homeland Security, FBI and ATF.
* Environmental Life Force - Disbanded in 1972. Used explosive and incendiary devices in defense of the environment.
* Army of God -- anti-abortion, operates in the United States. Property damage and loss of life in attacks on abortion clinics.
* Interahamwe - Rwanda - Hutu nationalist, strongly anti Tutsi. Responsible for the 1994 Rwanda genocide
* Janjaweed - Sudan
* Mungiki - Kenya
* Revolutionary United Front - Sierra Leonean rebels
* Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) - Haiti
* National Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Haiti - Haiti
* Tonton Macoutes - Haiti
* Action Directe (AD), an anti-NATO organization responsible for the 1986 murder of Georges Besse.
* FLAMA Madeira Archipelago Liberation Front, separatist group from Madeira.
* Frente de Libertação dos Açores (FLA) Azores Liberation Front, separatist group from Azores.
* Black Metal Inner Circle (disputable), a group comprised of seminal Norweigian black metal musicians widely believed to have existed in the early 1990's. Some of these members burnt more than fourty churches throughout Norway on the basis of violently expelling Christianity and supplanting it with alternative ideologies such as satanism and neo-paganism - which were endorsed and supported by Euronymous, the alleged leader of the group - hence some have perceived this group a relatively minor terrorist group.
* ETA Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, main terrorist organization in Spain responsible of the numerous bombings, seeking an independent Basque Country. See also Kale borroka.
* GAL Grupo Antiterrorista de Liberacion, terrorist organization of the government in the 1980s.
* GRAPO Grupo Antifacista Primero de Octubre, terrorist organization of extreme left
* FAG Fuerzas Armadas Guanches, terrorist organization of the Islas Canarias part of MPAIAC in the 1970s.
* Terra Lliure terrorist group of Catalonia in the 1980s. and 1990s.
* Exercito Guerrilleiro do Povo Galego Ceibe separatist group in Galicia
* Animal Rights Militia, a terrorist organization responsible for numerous letter bombs in Great Britain during the 1980s.
* Scottish National Liberation Army, a Scottish terrorist organization fighting for the cause of Scottish independence.
* An Gof, a Cornish terrorist organization fighting for the cause of Cornish independence.
* Afro-American Liberation Army (AALA), a terrorist organization active in Los Angeles during the 1970s.
* Aliens of America, a terrorist organization active in Los Angeles during the 1970s.
* American Indian Movement (AIM), originally founded as a civil rights organization, the AIM was involved in the 1972 occupations of the Mayflower II, Mount Rushmore and the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C. as well as the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee during which members were involved in gun battles with federal agents.
* Americans for Justice, a terrorist organization active on the west coast during the 1970s.
* Bay Bombers, a radical terrorist organization active in San Francisco, California during the 1960s.
* Black Afro Militant Movement (BAMM), a militant terrorist organization
* Black Liberation Army (BLA), an offshoot faction of the Black Panther Party reportedly involved in murders of police officers in San Francisco and New York between 1971 and 1973.
* Black Muslims, a separatist involved in numerous shootouts with police and other violent activities including the "Zebra Killings" in which fourteen people were murdered in the San Francisco-area.
* Black Nation of Islam (BNI), a terrorist organization active during the 1970s and 80s.
* Black Revolutionary, a terrorist organization active in New York during the 1970s.
* Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a terrorist organization responsible for the 1973 murder of Oakland school superintendent Marcus Foster and, most notably, the 1974 kidnapping of Patricia Hearst.
* Weather Underground (WU), radical terrorist organization responsible for nineteen bombings between 1969 and 1974, including the U.S. Capitol Building in 1971 and The Pentagon in 1974.
The media loves nothing more than a scapegoat. I have no doubt whatsoever that far right extremists will seek to justify the killing of three innocent Muslims, or to use their deaths as a battering ram against the evils of atheism. The bottom line is these were senseless murders, whether they were motivated by atheism, by racism or hatred of Muslims, or by a parking space dispute. The fact that it is Islam coming under scrutiny from certain quarters, when it is an entirely innocent Islamic family who are the victims is sickening, but unsurprising.
To hear ANYONE describe the animal who killed three people, execution style, in cold blood as a "hero", is disgraceful. To them, I say, look to your own. If you believe your religion, your ideology, your belief structure to be immune from wrongdoing, or incapable of being used as justification for violence, you are wrong. Hands down, wrong.
ANY ideology can be distorted and used to justify the most horrific acts upon our fellow human beings. And all too frequently, it is...
Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.
Rest in Peace