Chapel Hill shooting illustrates religious, social media influences

Feb. 16, 2015

April Wefler, Eleanor Skelton
[email protected], [email protected]

Three Muslim students were killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on Feb. 10.

If you aren’t an avid Tumblr or Twitter user, you probably didn’t know about it until at least late afternoon on Feb. 11.

The students were Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yussor Mohammad, 21, Razan Mohammad Albu-Salha, 19.

Although there is dispute over 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks’ motive to kill Barakat, Mohammad and Mohammad Albu-Salha, the general consensus is that it was either because of Hicks’ hatred of organized religion or a dispute over a parking spot.

The students were either killed because they were Muslim or because they dared to have the parking spot Hicks wanted. Or perhaps it was both.

But it remains that three students our age are dead. And nobody noticed.

There was no national coverage until Tumblr and Twitter users caused such an outrage that the national news outlets finally picked up the story.

The earliest tweets on the subject seem to have been from Feb.10 around 11:46 p.m. The Chapel Hill shooting took over Tumblr and Twitter with most of the comments complaining about the lack of coverage from the major news media outlets.

The first major news media outlet to pick up the story appears to be ABC News, who reported on the killings at 3:46 p.m. on Feb. 11.

The Washington Post followed nearly three hours later, then The Huffington Post and eventually The New York Times and CNN.

Until that point, the only coverage of the story was local.

People took to social media with their frustrations over the lack of coverage. @Azharyousafazai on Twitter said that “Had it been a Muslim killing three Christians would have been Islamic Terrorism. Muslims lives matter.”

@TSims96 said he “had to google Chapel Hill shootings because it’s hardly received news. Not ok.”

The initial lack of national coverage is unacceptable.

If those students had been three Christians, Catholics or maybe even Jewish, it would’ve been picked up much faster.

But because they were Muslim, only social media’s outrage got them any coverage.

Would the story have been picked up if the social media outlets had not blasted the lack of national coverage? And, if it had not become national news, would Hicks have been arrested and charged like he was?

Why are Muslim lives so insignificant in this country? Why, in 2015, do we still assume that every Muslim must be a member of Al-Qaeda, whether they were born in the U.S. or not?

Finding out that this happened in North Carolina, not the Middle East, to two students our age broke my heart. All that mattered was their ages, not their religion or parking spot.

UCCS has experienced tensions with the Cragmor and other surrounding neighborhoods as the campus grows.

On Feb. 2, The Scribe reported that the relationship with Cragmor was improving, but some neighbors remained disgruntled. One said, “If someday I back over one and it’s because [they’re distracted], I’ll probably get out and kick them to death if they’re not dead yet because they’re not little kids.”

And she added that partying and noise violations haven’t been an issue.

“Not on this street. I’ve shot them all already.”

Jokes are funny. Humor is appreciated. But we hope that the tensions with our neighbors around UCCS never become violent like at Chapel Hill.

It’s not worth the cost of human lives.