Analysis: Students, Muslim community say Chapel Hill is hate crime

Although Americans hold dearly to their freedom of religion, people are still getting killed because of their religious and ethnic backgrounds. Hate crimes against Muslims have been steadily increasing these past few weeks and getting more news coverage. One of which, is the Chapel Hill Shooting.

The loss of the 3 victims, Deah, Yusor and Razan is an example of this type of hate crime. A Caucasian male shot each of them inside their apartment after making vulgar comments and harassing them about their religious background.

As students gather to mourn their loss, their thoughts are provoked. Rasha Almulaiki, Wayne State graduate takes their death as a wake up call that she could have easily been in their place.

“This hit home; they look like me, they look like my siblings, they look like someone who I never thought would be a victim,” she said. “We grew up with this mentality that bad things don’t happen to good people and that’s just not true. It’s a wake up call that this could very well happen to me or anyone else.”

Although most of the students had not met the victims personally, many explained how they felt that they knew them because they endure hate and racism as a part of their everyday lives just as the victims had.

Shaffwan Ahmed, Take on Hate communications specialist and WSU graduate, “hate crimes have dramatically increased recently. It’s steady occurring and I’ve experienced it personally. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and a lot of people don’t know about it, because they’ve never walked in our shoes. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”

These Islamaphobic hate crimes didn’t only begin and end with the shooting, but are still continuing. Along with the shooting, two Muslim schools were attacked, one of which was burned down and the other vandalized. In another incident, an Arab-American man from Dearborn was assaulted and harassed. All have one thing in common: racism.

Almulaiki believes these preconceived views of Islam have changed how she goes about her daily life as someone who wears a headscarf.

“It’s sad that I’m seen before I am heard. Sometimes my hijab speaks for me and I become this political symbol.” Almulaiki said. “I came into college stereotyped as someone illiterate, oppressed and unintelligent, because I wear a hijab. That pushed me even more and I’m sure that’s something that Razan and Yusor went through as students as well.”

The hijab, a headscarf that Muslim women wear in front of men is considered to be an important part of modesty and empowerment in Islam.

She continues, “I feel like I constantly have to over-compensate for my hijab by showing just how ‘American’ I am and speaking eloquently to show that I’m not a threat. I have a need to smile more so that others can understand I’m not oppressed and I’m not threatening,” she says.

Communications director of Michigan Muslim Community Council, Sumaiya Ahmed, relates in a similar, yet different way.

“Just because I don’t wear the hijab, doesn’t mean I don’t get the feeling that I don’t feel heard and that I don’t feel like people look at me differently. When people look at me, I still feel like they’re looking at me as an Muslim-American woman.”

WSU junior, Maisha Rahman believes that a step to a more accepting society and avoiding a repeated tragedy as done in Chapel Hill, is being respectful of others beliefs and religious backgrounds.

“We need a change in collective thought. Racist jokes and religious jokes should not be happening. People should be able to walk around and be comfortable with their faith. This needs to be a change that’s a shift and is long lasting,” Rahman said.

Organizations like Take On Hate have been working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and American Civil Liberties Union to bring attention to these issues of racism and religious intolerance. Striving to change policies, this organization is taking action by campaigning and signing an online petition in honor of the Chapel Hill victims.

“What happened in [Chapel Hill] cannot happen again. Not two months later, when we kind of forget about this,” Rahman said. “We can’t forget about it, because we can’t let it happen again”.

Full article via: The South End

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