Flaring Islamophobia

I learned about last week’s triple homicide in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Twitter. Checking Twitter on my phone is one of the first things I do in the morning, and I didn’t have to scroll long to see post after post both about Deah Bakarat; his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha. There was also a lot of talk about the lack of media attention given to their deaths.

All three victims were Muslim, and the man who shot them – Craig Stephen Hicks – was publicly and vocally opposed to religion, which has led many to call the shooting a hate crime, despite claims that a parking dispute was the cause.

The debate over whether or not the execution-style shootings were an anti-Muslim hate crime eventually led to a broader discussion about anti-Muslim thought in the United States – about whether Muslims lives matter, and also about the media’s use of relatively tame words in reporting the crime as compared to the more loaded words (words like “terrorist” and “radicalized”) used when the perpetrator is Muslim.

I watched this debate roll out, and I was so, so sad – sad for the three lives that were taken, sad for their grieving families and friends, sad for whatever it was that led Craig Hicks to believe that he had the right to take anyone’s life. And I was deeply sad for the very real fact of Islamophobia in the United States.

In addition to the normal and awful rhetoric you would expect after an tragedy like this, I also read with absolute horror Christianity Today’s (unrelated but timely) interview with a so-called expert about violence in Islam – an interview in which the expert literally calls Islam a problem and refers to Muslim “brokenness” as an opportunity for conversion to Christianity.

All of it was horrible, and I spent a lot of time last week thinking about what I could do to sow love in the world. I thought about women religious I’ve spoken to in the last few months who minster to Muslims – sisters like the Dominicans in Iraq who, while fleeing ISIS, want to open schools for Catholic and Muslim children. I listened to Yusor Mohammad’s heartbreaking StoryCorps interview, and I pondered what it would be like if we really did consider everyone to be our sister or brother. Would we still have to declare that #BlackLivesMatter? That #MuslimLivesMatter?

This quote didn’t make it into my article about the Iraqi Dominicans, but Sr. Dusty Farnan, one of the American sisters, told me it boggled her mind that for all of the human intelligence in the world, we still think violence is a solution to conflict. It’s a good point, and it’s related to this whole concept of hating that which is different, hating it enough to kill it outright or to slowly squeeze it to death in a web of oppressive laws and policies.

To address that would be a monumental undertaking, and I have no idea how to radically change billions of hearts. But what I can do is pray for peace and to cultivate love and peace in my own sphere of influence, which is what I plan to do.

As-salamu alaykum.

[Dawn Cherie Araujo is staff reporter for Global Sisters Report based in Kansas City, Missouri.]