Recently a mentally unstable man with anger issues and a history of harassing his neighbors over noise, parking spots, and other rather trivial things, often while making sure to have one of his guns visible at the time, killed three innocent college students. Deah Shaddy Barakat, along with his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were by all accounts, caring, compassionate, bright, and friendly individuals who did what they could to help others. Deah had planned to spend his summer providing dental care to Syrian refugees(please copy and paste this to contribue to the charity that Deah was working with if you can spare a few bucks to help keep his work alive…I can’t get it to actually link)
This tragedy should have been used to reignite the debate over the ease of obtaining guns and mental health, especially about how to prevent those with obvious mental health issues from obtaining guns in the first place.
Instead, the shooter in this case was an atheist, and one who was not afraid to post about it on his Facebook page and the victims happened to be Muslims…so we have different groups who want, or even NEED to make this about religion or atheism and for different reasons.
On the one hand, we have some Muslims who would like to see this portrayed as a hate crime, in part because Muslims do face a lot of anger and hate here in the U.S. since the attacks on 9/11. They do have a point about discussing the victims in this case more though, but the evidence still seems to indicate that this was not about their faith but rather an ongoing dispute over a parking space. Either way, we can, and should be willing to at least talk about the innocent victims this time. Especially to highlight that they were three innocent people who seemed to be caring, compassionate, and desired to help others.
On the other hand are those who see that this was done by an atheist and NEED to be able to say “See! I told you so!”. They find it impossible to believe that this was about a parking space as well, but their motives are different. They are often the same types who see any criticism of their faith as a personal attack. They often like to try to redefine atheism in order to make it a belief system in and of itself, and refuse to accept definitions of words if they don’t support their own view on the matter.
Both of these groups ignore that the shooter posted things that mainly stuck to the criticism of religious ideas, and not the people of faith themselves. They ignore that the shooter had actually defended the so called “Ground Zero Mosque” back when that was an issue, on the grounds of religious freedom. That he had posted about how all are equal, and that Muslims had the same freedom to build houses of worship that Christians had and the same freedom to practice their faith here in America. The shooter, who was clearly an asshole on a level well beyond even my own, also criticized those who liked to claim that President Obama is a secret Muslim. He appears to have actually responded to this claim in one instance with “So what?” going on to talk about how his religion shouldn’t even matter, again, due to all Americans having the same rights to religious freedom.
There is no denying that the shooter had issues. He was an asshole who seems to have had a lot in common with another infamous asshole, George Zimmerman. Both men were angry and seemed to view themselves as the self-appointed protectors of their communities. They both seemed to love their guns and carried them with them, Mr. Hicks, the shooter in this most recent tragedy seemed to be fond of making sure either a rifle was on his shoulder, or his pistol was visible from under his shirt when he confronted his neighbors about whatever trivial issue he felt he had the duty to correct.
Also, according to several of his neighbors, Mr. Hicks didn’t seem to take much consideration for the religious or political views, or the sexual orientation, gender/gender identity, or race when confronting his neighbors. One is quoted as saying he displayed “equal opportunity anger” in his apartment complex. http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/us/chapel-hill-neighbors-say-they-felt-threatened-by-man-held-in-killings.html?_r=0&referrer
While atheists, like all other human beings, are capable of acts of violence, if you find it “impossible” that this was done over a parking space, then you have to ignore the fact that humans kill over trivial shit every single day of the week. The evidence so far (it could change, who knows for sure, and I don’t know that I even care if they charge him with a hate crime or not, because killing three young and promising people such as this is a vile act and I think he deserves the maximum sentence the prosecution can get) just doesn’t support the claims that he A) killed them solely because they were Muslims or B) That he killed them because he was an atheist.
Sure, you can try to go with “the women wore the hijab!” argument, but the shooter had a history of harassing several of his neighbors, and only these three were Muslims as far as I can tell. Also, like many atheists here in the U.S. the vast majority of posts about religion dealt with Christianity. Plus, as already mentioned, on a few occasions, he defended Muslims right to practice their faith under freedom of religion. This doesn’t jive with the alternative narrative you want to push.
If part of your argument is that because he posted articles, memes, pictures, and status updates that were critical of religion, that he has a history of “hate speech”, then maybe you should spend some time reading what is posted by some Christian groups and organizations…then you can see what real hate speech is. While it is true that he posted quite a bit that was critical of, or even mocking, religion, little, if anything has been found that can legitimately be said to promote acts of violence against the people of the faiths he was criticizing.
This is not meant to defend this murderous piece of shit. I honestly hope that he is given the maximum sentence and punishment for his crimes, but we still have to face reality. Just because you may have an agenda that would benefit if you could make this about religion or atheism, doesn’t mean that the evidence supports that claim, and if even a small part of the reason you can’t accept the evidence and what it indicates is because you want to see an end to criticism of your faith, then fuck off. Some of you have a pretty severe persecution complex and desire to silence opposition…freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, and while I wish I had nothing in common with Mr. Hicks, I also support religious freedom. I support it right up until the point where it impacts the rights of others. To insist that his Facebook posts are somehow evidence that he killed in the name of atheism is actually asinine without other evidence.
I know, some of you are sitting at your computer or staring at your phone, steam starting to come out of your ears due to the anger building inside of you, just wanting to scream about how other atheists and myself have repeatedly talked about how religion has motivated some to commit acts of violence, including murder…however, the difference here is that in those cases, it was often the killers themselves who straight up said that they did what they did in the name of Jesus, or Allah. If they had a Facebook account that was used as evidence for this, they often shared articles, memes, and pictures that quoted scripture that talked about killing “the gays”, those who do not worship as they do, or how certain groups were not even human beings, or the articles and memes talked about killing people for being homosexual, atheists, and so on…usually their Facebook not only contained passages that were clear attacks on actual people, and not just a criticism or mocking an idea, but they will have often written their own blogs, or left letters, proudly proclaiming how they were planning to carry out the will of god…and if you can’t see a difference, well, then that is your own personal issue.
So, in closing, fuck the shooter. He was an unstable, angry piece of shit who lashed out at all of those around him. He loved to show off his guns and seems to have relished in intimidating others by making sure they knew he was armed. Also, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Yusor’s husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat were innocent victims who didn’t deserve to die, especially for something as trivial as parking spot.
**In case you want to see what a clear cut case of violence in the name of religion looks like, even when it isn’t national or international news exactly/
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