North Carolina shooting shows media’s faults

Recently, a fatal shooting of three Muslim students occurred in Chapel Hill, N.C. and the case has sparked uproar around the world. 

On Feb. 10, Craig Hicks arrived at the  students apartment and fatally shot Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, her husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23 and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. 

Hicks, a self-proclaimed "gun-toting atheist," was subject to search warrants  by police who found more than a dozen firearms, and large amounts of ammunition in his house. When the assailant turned himself in on Feb. 10, he was in possession of a handgun.

Early reports indicated the dispute was over a parking space between Hicks, the victims’ neighbor, but the family of the students’ claim they were targeted because they were Muslim. The Islamic community around the world is outraged at the way the United States is handling the investigation. 

In light of the attack on these Muslim students, many people question the mainstream media for labeling the killings as ‘atheist murder,’ because some believe these murders are an act of terrorism.

This has created controversy around whether the label of “terrorist” is one-sided in that it only applies to people who are not of Caucasian descent.  Criminal justice major Juan Barrera believed the stigma surrounding Islam stems from the media. 

“People will usually first hear about a story from a mainstream media source, and they are easy to believe whatever version of the story that media outlet presents,” said Barrera.

The Islamic community around the world is outraged that the United States is playing this double standard to the word terrorist. 

Hicks made a number of social media posts prior to the attacks where he described his hatred for different religions, and some of which described violence against. Many consider Hicks a terrorist, yet resent that the mainstream media has failed to properly identify Hicks.

Peter Phillips, professor of sociology at Sonoma State and director of Project Censored for 14 years since 1996, believes this issue needs to be looked at in the context of the U.S. global war on terror.

“The president of the United States can reap death from the skies with impunity against Muslims resisting the global empire of imperial power, and the corporate media justifies the murder as the killing of evil,” said Phillips. “Why would a crazed North Carolina white man think it’s justified to kill Muslims over a parking space?” 

This negative stigma to the Islamic community is constantly reinforced by the media showing videos of beheading and bombing by those labeled as Muslim extremists.

The FBI is now involved in the investigation of this case to determine whether any federal laws, including those relating to hate crimes, were committed. Originally the FBI said they would aid in processing of evidence, but wouldn’t conduct a separate investigation. 

After much scrutiny from foreign countries, the FBI has now launched a parallel investigation into the killings. President Barack Obama called the slaying earlier this week as “brutal and outrageous,” but he declined to say if he believes the killings constitute a hate crime.

Nearly 5,000 people turned out for student’s funeral, many of which traveled for hours to pay their respects.

Diversity was embraced at this ceremony, and people from different religious backgrounds all came together to celebrate the life of the three students and the Muslim community.