The Killing of Three Muslim-American College Students

Updated: Nov 8, 2016

Hashtag: #ChapelHillShooting

The Killing of Three Muslim-American College Students

The Motive and Potential Causal Factor

Three innocent Muslim-American college students have been shot dead in their home at Chapel Hill. Deah Shaddy Barakat was a doctoral student at UNC-Hill’s School of Dentistry, while his wife Yosur and her sister Razan were students of the nearby University of California. The gunman, Craig Stephen Hicks who describe himself as a supporter of an “Atheist for Equality” and a student of Paralegal Studies in Durham Technical Community College gave himself up to the police minutes later. The police initially said that the motive for the killings was a parking dispute.

However, the suspect’s Facebook page showed several pictures of Hicks with atheist slogan and images mocking religion such as the United Atheist of America with “Why radical Christians and radical Muslims are so opposed to each other’s influence when they agree about so many ideological issues”. Hicks also shared a picture of a loaded 38 revolver, a holster, and 5 extra rounds of speed loader.

Speculations about the motive are a hate crime and victims’ Islamic faith while others put the blame on Western media. An assistant professor at the University of North Alabama offered his opinion on Western media’s framing, a concept similar to agenda setting, where media representation of an event affects the choices of people. For example, Anti-Muslim criminals framed as “crazy, misguided bigot who acted alone”.

This framing or generalization practices according to the assistant university professor make the killer act according to the larger and more common perception of himself. Therefore, Western media’s framing of Muslims as “backward, violent, fundamentalist, and threats to Western civilization” was likely causal factors in Anti-Muslim crimes such as the Chapel Hill murder.


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Academic Researchers Findings

Academic studies conducted on Western media’s coverage of Islam and Muslims suggest that they often connect Islam to atrocity; Muslims are people of conflict and violence. Their tendency is to approach Islam and the Muslim from of difference and opposition and therefore creating “Islamophobia” or Anti-Muslim racism in Western societies. A good example is a magazine headline “Islam and Freedom: Are They Destined to Clash” painting Muslims’ as homogenous and zombie like people.

Africa, on the other hand, has been framed as “uncivilized, crisis, and crime-ridden, corrupt, and negative” by the Western media. Other academic studies suggest the media encourage some people’s fascination with crime and criminal offenders. The reason is that public perception of crime and criminal justice system are greatly influenced by media’s presentation of framed ideas.

The”Islamophobia” and frame of mind that was created by Western media may have been in some away accepted by a certain individual true and socially and politically accepted belief. In a similar manner, an Anti-Muslim framed, as a “crazy, misguided bigot who acted alone” would assume his role as an Anti-Muslim crazy and foolish extremist who works alone. Now, if the speculations are true that it is a hate crime and perpetrated because of faith, then is it correct to assume that the causal factor behind the #ChapelHillShooting is Western media?

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