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Why do we tolerate religious intolerance?

Pictured from left to right: Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, Razan Abu-Salha. (photo/Huffington Post)

Muslim students slain in Chapel Hill.

Pictured from left to right: Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, Razan Abu-Salha. (photo/Huffington Post)

On February 10, 2015, three Muslim college students living near the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus were shot in the head and killed by 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks.

The students, Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were murdered over what the police and the accused claim to be a parking dispute. There has been no official confirmation as to the real motive for the killings.

Hicks, a self-proclaimed atheist, posted several anti-religious messages on Facebook prior to the shooting.

“When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I.”

Other posts include pictures of the revolver used to carry out the murders.

There is a widespread belief that the murders were an anti-Islamic hate crime. The father of Yusor Abu-Salha sees no other reason for the tragedy, as indicated by his interview with CNN reporters.

“Now that we know from the police that they were shot in the head, very quickly, the three of them, one bullet each, in a very small space inside the apartment. That’s execution-style. I don’t know, if that’s not hate, what would be.”

Law enforcement agencies deserve the time and respect required to investigate Hicks’ motive, but the evidence is piling up. Very few people are morally capable of executing three college students over a parking space, so why are those in power so quick to push aside the notion of a religiously intolerant suspect?

The problem comes from our culture’s post-9/11 fear of Islam. According to the Washington Post’s graphic, America’s yearly incident rate of hate crimes against Muslims spiked massively in 2001, and has been nearly five times higher-than-average each year since.

From being constantly stereotyped by airport security to playing the villain in television and film, our nation seems to portray Muslims in a negative light. This perpetuates a fear of Islam in the post-9/11 America – a fear that many translate into violent hatred. We cannot continue to justify the hatred of another religion based on the acts of radical groups.

The context of the Chapel Hill shooting leads me to believe that Craig Hicks acted solely on hatred when he executed the three Muslim students. It is hypocritical of a nation founded on religious freedom to deny the existence of religious hate crimes.


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